Thursday 23rd May 2024

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New Year's Eve 2015

Whilst it is the seventh day of Christmas when my true love should be sending me another impractical present of seven swans-a-swimming, it is also the three hundred-and-sixty-fifth and final day of the year. When Ruthie is presumably supposed to give me three-hundred-and-sixty-five penguins-a-peddling or something equally daft.

Ringing and it's performances over that time give a good idea of a year's events. In Suffolk's quarter-peal and peal footnotes of 2015, reference can be found to happy and sad national and international events. Such as the 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Bardwell last month for the terrible events in Paris of 13th November, but also the QP's of Bluntisham Bob Minor at Blo Norton, Grandsire Triples at St Mary-le-Tower, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree and Southery Bob Minor at Wickham Skeith for the happier occasion of the birth of Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge back in May.

Events in ringing themselves were marked too and most notably for the three hundredth anniversary of the first recorded true peal which was rung at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich on 2nd May 1715 and saw quarters of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Woolpit and Plain Bob Triples at Halesworth over that weekend, as well as 5040 of PB Triples at Ixworth on the Saturday and at Bardwell on the Sunday. Those latter two performances saw Ruth Eyles and Adam Shard ring their first peals as part of FirstPeal2015, a project aimed at getting three hundred first-pealers across the world this year, a project that has succeeded spectacularly as that target was smashed by eighty-five. The SGR did it's bit, with Ruth and Adam joining Bill Lloyd who made his debut at Pettistree in March, Kevin Ward who made his bow at Hadleigh in mid-May, Peter Davidson who joined the ranks at Wickham Skeith at the end of the same month, Matthew Kemsley who was introduced to peal-ringing at Tostock in September, Matthew Rolph who got on board at Rumburgh at the beginning of November and Malcolm Westrup at Tannington at the end of November. A tremendous effort - well done to all!


The footnotes on BellBoard and Campanophile also note the highs and lows of ringers themselves. Beyond our borders I was extremely sorry to hear of the nasty car accident suffered by Past Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths Andrew Wilby recently that now sees him in a wheelchair and with a long recovery ahead of him, as alluded to by the many peals and quarters from across the world wishing him a speedy recovery. However, in a heartening development he was able to attend his daughter Hannah's wedding at Southwark Cathedral just over a week ago, an event also marked in performances worldwide. Many congratulations to Hannah and all the best to Andrew.

Closer to home, the thoughts of many within our borders have been with Jimmy Wightman, a popular ringer from Otley who suffered horrendous injuries from an accident with a bonfire over the summer and whose fast recovery was wished for with a 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Pettistree in June. That recovery - like that of Andrew Wilby's - has been and will be a lengthy one, but having been stuck in hospital for some time down in East Grinstead he is now back home, the very real threat of having a leg amputated removed and by all accounts he is cheerfully facing the future. Hopefully 2016 will be much better for both these well-liked characters.

Happier news has also been reported through the medium of quarters and peals this year. Such as the birth of Ruth Young's great nephew celebrated with a 1320 of York Surprise Minor at Redgrave in February, Mike Whitby's granddaughter which was noted by a 1274 of Plain Bob Triples at Ufford in April, where later in the month the arrival of Kate Eagle's granddaughter and our niece Annalise was greeted with a 1260 of Doubles. The birth of Peter and Kay Lucas' grandson was marked by them with a quarter-peal at Gislingham in May, David and Claire Potts son was announced to many through the peal of Superlative Surprise Major we rang at Henley in June, the appearance into the world of Ruth Darton's great nephew was felicitated by a QP of Plain Bob Doubles at Kettleburgh a few weeks ago and only yesterday the dramatic birth of Philip Gorrod's grandson was noted by the 1440 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree. Congratulations and best wishes to all.

And more personally my brother Chris' marriage to Becky Munford in August was celebrated with quarter-peals of Lincolnshire Surprise Major and Stedman Triples at Rendham and Hopton respectively and a peal at Great Barton on the morning of the big day itself, whilst the birthdays of Mason in January, Alfie in April and Ruthie in July were celebrated with a 5120 of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced at Debenham, a 5056 of Quarry Hill Surprise Major at The Wolery and 1272 of Munden Surprise Minor at Pettistree respectively.

The boys have been the real highlight of the year for us, watching Mason's recovery from 2014's operations and his younger brother Alfred get to grips with walking and talking, whilst the potential arrival of a sibling for them in 2016 was a superb way to end 2015.

Our ringing for the year finished with me ringing in the annual New Year's Eve peal at Grundisburgh. This tends to be Grandsire Caters or Cinques and whilst three hours of Grandsire on the lightest twelve within our borders can't really be sexed up, it used to have a sense of occasion, with the bells half-muffled for the passing of the old year, a varied band and - particularly until recent years - typically rung late in the day, a final hurrah for the year. In comparison, this morning's 5088 of Xerxes Surprise Major on the back eight seemed positively underwhelming, but I still enjoyed it all, from 2hrs42mins of thoroughly decent ringing to - once my Mum and Dad had passed Alfie to me outside the church afterwards having very kindly picked him up from nursery - a pint and some chips in The Turk's Head in nearby Hasketon. This is a place that has almost literally risen like a phoenix. It's outlook was once bleak, but now refurbished and extended with a restaurant it appears a thriving venue and an appropriate place to catch up with Adrian 'Arnie' Knights, who it was an absolute joy to ring and socialise with today.

Elsewhere in the county, the ringing year was topped off with handbell peals of seven and fourteen Surprise Minor in Bacton and of Plain Bob Minor in Bardwell. Congratulations to Alex Tatlow who was ringing his first in hand and Laura Davies who was ringing her fiftieth peal of 2015 in the latter performance. Meanwhile, well done to David Steed on his first of Plain Minor as conductor in the 1260 of St Clement's College Bob Minor at Hartest, one of three quarters in Suffolk today, with Plain Bob Doubles rung at Stansfield and eleven Doubles methods and variations rung at Poslingford.

Ruthie getting into the spirit of things with her alcohol-free 'beers'.Pete enjoying proceedings.Susanne being less keen to be pictured...

2015 finally finished for us quietly but in good company. These days, going out on 31st December is not really an option and so we were at home as hotel fires burned spectacularly in Dubai, Jools Holland Hootenannied, well-known Suffolk Guild members played with masks in Sproughton and London and other cities worldwide lit up with huge firework displays. We were accompanied by Ufford ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis (hi to her students who are apparently avid readers of my ramblings) for a night of food, drink and chat to see out another splendid year.

Happy New Year to you all!

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Wednesday 30th December 2015

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me...
Not six geese-a-laying (that would never be a wise present for me), but something far, far better. Confirmation of another child brewing. Of course we and our close family have been aware of this potential addition to our brood, but today's twelve-week scan at Ipswich Hospital gave us the first sight of the tiny human growing within my wife and presented us with a due date of 10th July, though as Alfie showed us that is more a guide than a definitive ETA!

The first picture of our unborn child.Despite being old hat to us now, the scan was still anticipated with some trepidation. God willing all will go well as we were so fortunate to experience with Alfred two years ago, but my memory from awaiting the arrival of him and his older brother Mason from a father's perspective is one of nervous helplessness, with each appointment and scan approached with niggling fears of worst case scenarios, every utterance of ill-health from the expectant mother becoming an exaggerated cause for concern and eating and drinking developing into an everyday minefield. But thus far it has been entirely worth the anxiety as we have been blessed with two wonderful boys and for all that there is a long way to go, this afternoon's trip into the bowels of this huge hospital and its myriad of corridors was reassuring. In a darkened room a monitor revealed in black and white a squirming life trying to get comfortable as the sonographer measured him or her and did the necessary tests for this stage of proceedings, before we traipsed over to another part of the building for my beloved to have what is already her second lot of blood tests since we discovered of the child's existence a couple of months ago. Such attention to detail and extensive observation gives much assurance at a wonderful but uncertain and nervous time.

We were grateful to my Mum and Dad for looking after the unborn being's older brothers whilst we did what needed to be done and as we drove from one side of north Ipswich to the other, our nerves were settled by the familiar tones of Jonathan Williamson, ringer, singer and wine expert who was being interviewed by Simon Talbot on BBC Radio Suffolk as we prepared for the momentous event we were about to undertake. Jonathan has many strings to his bow, which is what makes him such an interesting listen, but I always think he explains ringing from both a technical and social side so well, as he did on this occasion. Well worth listening again if you didn't hear him first time round, from 1hr31mins in until 1hr39mins.

By the time our late-afternoon appointment had finished, we'd picked the boys up and returned home for tea, it was too late to get out to the final Pettistree practice of 2015, but I'm glad to see the quarter beforehand was scored as a suitable and appropriate finale to another busy year for the county's leading QP tower, as the seventy-four rung since 1st January smashed their previous annual totals. As I have said before, this is a tower whose example more should follow.

I pray that one of their 2016 successes can welcome the safe arrival of our next child.

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Tuesday 29th December 2015

It is the fifth day of Christmas and we are still enjoying the presents so generously gifted to us last Friday. For Mason and Alfie that has consisted of anything to do with Star Wars and Thomas the Tank Engine respectively, but Ruthie and I we have primarily been reading books and watching DVD's and tonight we got round to one given to me by my wonderful wife and that I have been wanting to watch for some time but only now have the opportunity to so.

John McCarthy's Woodbridge does what it says on the tin. The respected journalist and broadcaster spent many years living in the town and gives a fascinating insight into the community that may be of more interest to residents such as us than to others not as familiar with this riverside settlement. However, the DVD is in aide of the Friends of St Mary's Church and so the well-known local building features heavily throughout, as do the bells, which should make it more interesting to all readers here. Indeed, John joins Bruce Wakefield and the ringers and has a go himself in a well done few minutes.

Whilst we were watching ringing, others in Suffolk were actually partaking in ringing - well done to Peter Stock who was ringing his first of Major in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton. I did do some ringing myself this afternoon though, as I rang for a wedding at the aforementioned 25cwt eight, with some of the stars of my Christmas present, whilst Mrs Munnings was singing in the choir downstairs. It may not have quite been five gold rings, but I hope we added to the couple's big day and helped them to look back on this fifth day of Christmas with particular fondness.

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Monday 28th December 2015

There were no calling birds on the fourth day of Christmas, unless you're being particularly un-PC. Instead a calling lad was conducting at Ixworth where I was delighted to be ringing in a 5120 of Bristol Surprise Major, a pleasingly brisk and well-rung effort which in places produced some superb ringing. In many respects that how it should've been as the attempt was originally arranged as one of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced and at one point I was learning and revising methods over advent as if they were behind seasonal calendar doors. However, a mysterious affliction to the organiser Alex Tatlow put paid to that, so after much discussion it was decided to continue with more modest aims. It could have felt a bit of an anti-climax after that, but whilst I'm not convinced we would've succeeded with our original aim on the basis of this morning's standard, once we had worked out the sound-control, just about remembered to take off the clock hammers and moved the furniture, this was a peal that was never in any danger of being lost and I came away having thoroughly enjoyed my 2hrs56mins of ringing with a band mixed and drawn from distance but bulging with talent. Well done in particular to Nicholas Elks who was ringing his first in the method before heading on back into Cambridgeshire with Sue Marsden to ring a peal of Minor on the back six of Soham.

Our performance on the 13cwt eight wasn't the only one in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile today. Well done as well to Peter Doy on ringing his first of Minor inside in the quarter-peal of Plain Bob at the ground-floor 10cwt six of Reydon and to Ruth Suggett and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first QP of Lightfoot Surprise Minor and to Lucy Dawson on ringing her first blows of the same method in the 1296 on the gallery-ring 5cwt six of Tostock.

Although in the end we didn't make it to the final St Mary-le-Tower practice of 2015, I was delighted to see Lucy Williamson's message on Facebook saying how much she had enjoyed not just tonight's session on the county's heaviest twelve, but all the ringing she has done there since coming back from university in York for the festivities. Having been SMLT Ringing Master myself, I can appreciate David Potts' frustration in running the ringing there. There are considerable difficulties in continually and consistently improving a large band from a wide area on a number of bells that it is hard to keep well-practiced on regularly, but sentiments such as Lucy's hopefully make it all worthwhile. Good luck back in York Lucy, where the ringers there must also take considerable credit for her progress!

Meanwhile, back in Woodbridge, I rested my battered hands and prepared for the next day of Christmas.

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Sunday 27th December 2015

It tis the third day of Christmas and the previous two days have clearly done much for the ringers of our part of the world and their ringing, at least judging by today's efforts. With the choir of St Mary-the-Virgin at Woodbridge given a break after a busy few days, Ruthie was able to accompany me this morning to St Mary-le-Tower where we rang a good half-course of Cambridge Surprise Royal that got better and better and then onto Grundisburgh where a decent couple of touches of Stedman Triples sandwiched a well-rung course of Norwich Surprise Minor. It is something that God willing will continue to improve with practices due to be held upon Suffolk's lightest twelve every Thursday from the New Year.

As for today, the high quality of ringing continued for a significant performance at Clopton this afternoon, as I was honoured to ring in a first quarter, that of one of the local learners Aisha Gilbert. In the circumstances it was a very assured effort and I couldn't help but take my mind back two years to those early days of teaching the group who stepped forward to learn our art on the recently restored and rehung 12cwt six. The task ahead must have been a daunting one for David Stanford who took on the mantle of guiding the raw recruits en masse. One improver is difficult enough, but the several he was faced with meant he needed help and whilst I was pleased to aide him when I could, I have felt guilty that I haven't been able to over the last eighteen months, so I am glad that others have supported David in the superb job he has done here and was delighted to partake in today's 1260 of Plain Bob Minor. Mr Stanford is to be congratulated on what he has achieved here, with not just this debut QP but also introducing them to the District Striking Competitions at Monewden back in May, whilst of course the ringers themselves are to be given much credit for their enthusiasm and progress and on this occasion especially to Aisha who has continued her ringing in Derby where she is currently studying at university. I would strongly encourage those who can to support the practice nights on a Friday - you will find a welcoming bunch and extremely easy to ring bells.

Those of us who rang this afternoon were treated to a cup of tea and - for those who like the things - mince pies, before negotiating our exit out of the churchyard. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience - well done Aisha!

Ours wasn't the only ringing from the county recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile, with a peal of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Hopton, celebrating the recent wedding of Sam Maynard, once of these parts and partaking in today's 5088. Good to see you back round here Sam, even if just for the festivities and congratulations again on your marriage! Three French Hens for your efforts?

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Boxing Day 2015

The second day of Christmas brought us no turtle doves, but did bring us three relatives from Ipswich as Mum, Dad and Aunty Marian came round for Boxing Day tea, something that is becoming a pleasant tradition for the 26th December. Despite a cupboard door falling off in the kitchen with all the timing of a bad actor, more food and drink was consumed in good company, whilst elsewhere Buxhall was the word. Not just in the village itself where 1440 changes of an eponymous Surprise Minor method were rung for the first time, but also at Great Finborough where a Delight Minor method of the same name was rung to a quarter-peal for the first time as well.

Otherwise it was an unusually quiet second day of the season. God willing there are ten more days in which to be busier.

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Christmas Day 2015

Our tree after Father Christmas had visited.You could be forgiven for thinking we were several weeks and even months into it already, but today is of course the first day of Christmas, once upon a time the beginning of twelve days of festivities. Not these days though. Even for those of us fortunate enough not to have to return to work until after the first weekend of New Year, the twelfth day should see us well and truly back into the normal routine as if nothing had ever happened and indeed some will be shopping as if their life depends on it before the sun rises tomorrow.

Still, today genuinely is a day of celebration for us personally, an opportunity to appreciate many of our friends and much of our family all within a busy, but relaxing few hours and I hope also to spare a moment to remember the true meaning of the day.

As for so many other ringers and those with children, the day started early with the excited squeals and cries of "wow" from Mason and Alfie as they began a day of present opening, the former well versed in the occasion, the latter somewhat bemused by the constant supply of parcels presented to him for unwrapping. It set proceedings off perfectly and at least had the effect of getting the family up and ready to head to Pettistree for ringing at this ground-floor six so familiar to us, preparations for the service being busily made around us. Whilst Ruthie then departed with her mother to sing in the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin back in Woodbridge, we three boys made our way to St Mary-le-Tower, where despite only having eight ringers - and the bow-tie bedecked George Pipe watching on exactly seventy-eight years to the day since his father Cecil 'Jim' Pipe first brought him into this famous ringing chamber - we produced some well-rung Cambridge Surprise Major on the front eight and then once my parents headed to ringing at Sproughton, some highly enjoyable call-changes on the back six caught on camera by George Vant, whose presence from Essex we were extremely grateful for.

Our morning's ringing wasn't done though, as we joined Mum and Dad at the aforementioned 8cwt gallery-ring six that I learnt to ring at, before we returned to our town of residence to collect my true love from her duties. It topped a morning that it's hard to imagine many other activities can offer you on 25th December, as I spent time with a wide range of chums doing something that I enjoy immensely, travelling across beautiful Suffolk as I passed heart-warming scenes of small gatherings of people walking the streets or getting into cars laden with gifts in readiness for spending the day as we were planning to spend ours from hereon in. I pray they had as nice a day as we did.

Ruthie & Alfie at Kate's.Mason with his new scarf.It was a day broadly familiar from previous yuletides, but also significantly different. With my wife's sister Clare, her husband and their girls Katelynn and Annalise now living down here again, it added another four to an already huge progeny at my better-half's grandparents where we usually gather for our seasonal lunch, so my mother-in-law Kate cooked a superb meal for her offspring and their family plus Grandad Ron. More presents were opened and the children and adults alike played with their new toys and read their new books whilst crackers were made.

We still went to my grandparents-in-law for a couple of hours and were part of a crowd of nineteen, including eight children aged from eight months to eight years. It was lively but lovely!

Alfie & Mason ripping into their present's at Chez Ashcroft. Our traversing wasn't over however, as it was then on to Ipswich with our traditional end to Christmas Day - tea and bed at Chez Ashcroft as my mater and pater hosted us with their usual fine spread of food and hefty pile of gifts under their sizeable tree, shared with father's sister and one-time ringer Aunty Marian, but not this year with my brother Chris and his wife Becky as with a very early start at work tomorrow morning for my younger sibling, they had understandably decided on remaining in Bury St Edmunds for the evening, though my parents and aunt had been royally hosted by the newest Mrs Munnings and her father Stephen Munford.

Thank you to all our hosts today, who helped make it a wonderful Christmas Day. A day most importantly of friends and family, but also enhanced by good food, good drink and presents from the new 2016 Ringing World Diary to a trip up the Shard. Though no partridge in a pear tree.

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Christmas Eve 2015

When I was a little boy, Christmas seemed to take a lifetime to come around again, but I recall my elders bemoaning how it was here all too quickly. As we arrive at another Christmas Eve, I can well see what they were referring to. It makes perfect sense of course. When I was six, the time between one 25th December and the next represented a sixth of my life, but it now equates to a mere thirty-seventh of my existence.

Despite its apparent regularity though, I still love this particular day, as normal life finally gives way to the festivities. That said, today was a bit more rushed and fraught than I had anticipated, despite the traditional and gratefully received lunchtime finish at John Catt Educational. Alfie was collected from a sparsely populated nursery and Mason from his mother's, before we welcomed their Uncle Chris and Auntie Becky, but from there my timing and organisation went more than a little awry as the boys and I made our way to Felixstowe to see their respective Godparents Nick and Kala and their daughter Robyn for a present swap and a catch-up and then back to Woodbridge to pick Ruthie up from work in an ambitious timescale that I miscalculated to the understandable annoyance of Mrs Munnings.

It also meant that I was running late to get to St Mary-le-Tower for ringing for the Carol Service, though I was able to contribute to a very well-rung touch of Stedman Caters as a climax. By the time my wife left to sing for the choir at Midnight Mass at St Mary-the-Virgin in our town of residence, we had just about caught up with ourselves and elsewhere in the county they seemed to be better organised, with quarter-peals of Plain Bob Major rung at Halesworth and Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Offton. Well done to Matthew Rolph on ringing his first of Major in the former and well done as well to Neal Dodge who today rang his first peal as conductor in the 5040 of Doubles at Great Livermere.

Meanwhile, bellringing got a bizarre dose of publicity through today's episode of Would I Lie To You? where comedian and former ringer Jo Brand used her experience of our art as the basis of one of the stories that the other guests had to ascertain the validity of, a section that starts at 10mins 50ecs in. It can be contentious as to whether this kind of publicity is good publicity and I don't think it does any harm for ringing to be touched by celebrity and indeed she isn't the only famous face who has partaken in our art, with both gardener Alan Titchmarsh MBE and former children's presenter Timmy Mallett (of 'Mallett's Mallett fame) having rung quarters and the latter peals.

A more conventional and local form of publicity could be found via the Suffolk Guild Twitter feed which earlier this week gave a link to a story in the Diss Mercury about the annual Christmas Eve peal attempt at Long Stratton, north of the border in Norfolk. So it was great to see that the sixty-first consecutive success was scored today, a phenomenal example of consistency achieved in no small part to Suffolk ringers and especially the Salter family. It doesn't seem that long since the last one though...

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Wednesday 23rd December 2015

Not everyone agrees, but it is a wonderful time of year. I generally enjoy life and have been blessed with work, a home, a family and food to feed us all. As is highlighted in the news from Syrian refugees to Cumbrian residents currently experiencing seemingly endless floods, we are very fortunate to have that. But it is constant. Deadlines to meet, targets to beat, bills to pay, places to be, things to organise. So rarely do we actually stop and just enjoy what we have and who we share it with, so when we do at Christmas - and especially on the big day itself - it is something that I enjoy immensely. Typically the 25th allows Ruthie and I to take advantage of the fortunate circumstances that mean both are families are close by, seeing most of them with an abundance of food and finishing up in good company with a few drinks in the same house that we lay our head for the night. God willing that all awaits us in just two days, but with my day of annual leave today, I was able to get an early taste of what is hopefully to come - valuable time spent with family and friends.

There was still shopping to be endured with Woodbridge, Toys 'R' Us and Tesco providing us with sustenance for our planned entertaining on Boxing Day and final presents, but we were also able to fit in a visit to my wife's Nan and then Mason's Godfather Toby, his fiancée Amy and their daughter, my Goddaughter and Alfie's contemporary Maddie, with more cards and gifts exchanged.

And Mrs Munnings still had time to pop along to Pettistree practice where a quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor was rung beforehand and drinks enjoyed in The Greyhound afterwards.

So for us, it is a wonderful time of year and as ever this will be my last blog entry to get up before it all starts, so to all reading this, have a very Happy Christmas!

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Tuesday 22nd December 2015

The vast majority of John Catt Educational's clients and potential clients are independent schools, for whom we publish a fine range of successful publications. However, many of them finish for the Christmas holidays a full week ahead of the big day itself at least. Indeed, the earliest I came across one finishing up was at lunchtime on the 4th December, not to be seen until 2016 of course. It does rather mean that things quieten down somewhat for us in the sales team at this point every year, especially when the 25th falls at the end of the working week as it does this time around. So when I discovered I still had a day and a half of holiday left on top of that which I shall get next week when the office is closed, I figured I may as well take it during this, our quietest period. At 12.30pm today therefore, having done my obligatory bit of annual desk tidying, I bade my farewells until Christmas Eve and joined Ruthie and Alfie for an afternoon of last-minute seasonal shopping, along with most of society it seems.

We managed to fit in a visit from my wife's sister Clare and her family for a present exchange and a cuppa, but otherwise we sat back and recovered from our ordeal amongst the masses. Other ringers were busier though, with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton this evening being an impressive 1280 changes of the standard-eight Surprise Major methods spliced and a peal of Doubles was rung in the name of the Surrey Association at Badingham.

However, on our night in, my attention was caught by a performance beyond our borders last night as twelve-year-old Henry Pipe rang his first peal of Orion Surprise Maximus. As with any method, this is something that is perfectly achievable for anyone with the opportunity, but also the right understanding of place-bells, course-bells and method construction, but is still an immensely complex construction, with a multitude of points, fishtales and about-turns and a staggering achievement for one so young. When I was his age I was yet to ring my first peal and I'm not even sure if I had rung my first blows of Maximus, let alone Surprise Maximus, as is the case for most of us I imagine. This is clearly a very intelligent, talented boy - and from my meetings with him and his brother Alfie, also one of two very polite brothers - from an intelligent and talented family that includes his sometimes overlooked mother Cecilia. His father David - who was calling last night's 5088 at Birmingham Cathedral - is already embedded in bellringing history along with his father Rod as a genius of the art and serial achiever of incredible acts of ringing, but there is of course also a Suffolk link with legendary Ipswich ringers George and Diana, HJWP's great uncle and aunt, who must be chuffed to bits! Well done Henry from your ancestral county!

Hopefully such achievements won't depress those who won't ever match the youngster's early progress - which is basically 99.9% of us - but rather inspire them to better themselves in a discipline that the Pipe family have shown to be limitless.

For now though, I'm concentrating on Christmas!

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Monday 21st December 2015

After my work's Christmas do on Friday, it was Ruthie's turn tonight, as her employers John Ives took their staff to Trinity Park, home of the Suffolk Show but this evening home to workers from many various companies letting their hair down for the season.

It meant me stopping in to look after Alfie and do a spot of present wrapping and neither of us making it to St Mary-le-Tower practice, but there is of course plenty of ringing planned for the days ahead at SMLT, with the bells in need of manning from 6-7pm for the Christmas Eve Carol Service, whilst it is important for those planning on coming along to ring for the morning service the following day that the ringing is due to take place later than it usually does on a Sunday, from 9.45-10.30am. Also worth noting is that ringing is also lined up for the Sabbath at the usual time on the 27th and a practice is planned for a week's time.

Elsewhere, Pettistree and Sproughton will - like many other towers across the county - be hoping to ring for Midnight Mass leading into the big day and a lot of towers have cancelled their normal weekly sessions over the next week and a half. There is no practice at Rushmere St Andrew for the next two Fridays and I'm guessing that goes for all towers who typically practice on a Friday night, at least for this week. But there is also no practice at Gislingham on Wednesday 23rd, nor at Beccles a week later or at Halesworth on Tuesday 29th. Please check with bands near you, either to help out with extra ringing or to ensure you don't turn up somewhere to be disappointed! After all, as my wife will tell you after tonight, it tis the season!

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Sunday 20th December 2015

On the basis of tonight, Mason and Alfie should God willing be deemed good enough to receive a visit from Father Christmas in four days time. Whilst Nine Lessons and Carols is a seasonal favourite for many of us adults, with a timely reminder of why Christmas is celebrated and the magic of the season and - in my humble opinion at least - there being no more festive a climax to such occasions as rousing renditions of O Come All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald Angels Sing and topped off with mulled wine and nibbles as it was at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge this evening, it is a long evening for young children, especially those of Alfred's age who have no understanding of why giant trees covered in tinsel and lights have grown indoors suddenly.

However, both the boys - and a number of their contemporaries it's only fair to say - exhibited good behaviour beyond what any of us had dared to hope as they patiently sat through readings and wonderful pieces by the choir, of which Ruthie was an integral part and were rewarded with space to run in and food to eat over at the Church Centre afterwards. Beforehand, my sons had accompanied me up the tower as I partook in some Grandsire Doubles and I wasn't the only one ringing for a seasonal service in Suffolk today, with quarter-peals of Armitage-Is-The-Name Bob Minor at Great Finborough, Doubles at Pettistree and some very Christmassy Doubles variations at Woolpit. Congratulations to Pam Ebsworth and Stephen Dawson on ringing their fiftieth and one hundredth QP of 2015 respectively in the first of that trio and well done to Pam again in ringing her first of Holly, Nowell, Ivy and Mistletoe in the latter.

Earlier we three lads had been to St Mary-le-Tower for morning ringing, though we missed out on Grundisburgh as clearly I missed an email somewhere about there being no service ringing, judging by the locked church when we arrived! At least the boys were well behaved about it - I hope you're reading this Santa!

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Saturday 19th December 2015

I didn't get to listen to my interview with Lesley Dolphin on her BBC Radio Suffolk show yesterday afternoon as I was otherwise engaged, but the wonders of technology allowed me to listen today to my five minutes of fame on the iPlayer from almost exactly 54 minutes into her programme.

By that point I had already partaken in the event I was telling the listenership about, the annual Christmas ringing upon the bells of all of Ipswich town centre's ringable towers. Although St Nicholas and St Mary-at-Quay were unavailable, bells could be heard from St Clement's church down at the far end of the waterfront by the UCS to St Matthew's yards from ITFC's Portman Road stadium as it braced itself for the Tractor Boys' 1-0 defeat to Derby County to St Margaret's at the entrance of Christchurch Park to the dominant towers amongst the busy and many shoppers, St Lawrence and St Mary-le-Tower. The latter was where Mason, Alfie, Ruthie and myself went to for some call-changes on the twelve, all topped off by some really rather quite good Yorkshire Surprise Royal, after we had done a bit of seasonal shopping ourselves.

Alfie partaking in the Christmas ringing at St Marty-le-Tower.Those who rang at St Mary-le-Tower for the Christmas ringing in Ipswich.South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey speaks at the post-ring gathering in St Margaret's church.Everyone gathered post-ringing in St Margaret's church for mince pies, biscuits, tea & coffee.Everyone gathered post-ringing in St Margaret's church for mince pies, biscuits, tea & coffee.

Our efforts were witnessed by a couple of visiting non-ringers who entered cautiously but seemed to enjoy the spectacle and hopefully the variety of ages and personalities manning the bells will have left them with a positive impression of our art. Photos were taken by Mike Whitby of that gathered group before most of them joined other participants of this festive tradition at the aforementioned St Margaret's. One of the wonderful things about this occasion is the ringing friends that you see that you often don't find all together at any single gathering. It was nice to chat with husband and wife Roger and Mary Whittell who I haven't seen for ages, enjoy discussing cheesecake with father and daughter Paul and Jo Sharples from Rushmere St Andrews, arrange important quarter-peals with David Stanford from Hasketon, and catch up with Rebecca Meyer from Sussex, visiting her boyfriend George Salter, along with the many others from across the Guild and beyond who were tucking into the tea, coffee, biscuits and mince pies so generously supplied by the local ringers of the 14cwt eight hosting this most social of get-togethers. Thank you to them and to Jane Harper who has so superbly picked up the organisation of this from Brian Redgers and ensured towers were open and ringers were around to ring the bells simultaneously either side of and at noon.

With the usual car-parking across the road not available due to the building work going on at the school, we had decided to head in via the Park and Ride from Martlesham and so we returned that way too, accompanied by the Harpers and Wakefields on the way in and Jo Crowe and the Twissells on the way out, to complete a super day. I was glad that Radio Suffolk's listeners got to hear about it!

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Friday 18th December 2015

For most at some point, going into work can feel like a bit of a drudge at various points over the course of a year, perhaps when the workload gets heavy or things aren't going right. For all of us workers the reward is the wages we receive to help pay the bills and to eat and drink and depending on how much we have left over after those essentials to run the car, go on holiday and enjoy the occasional meal or night out. Not many will get treated as well as the grateful employees of John Catt Educational though, especially at the end of the year. Already this week we have each been given a bottle of Adnams' Prosecco to take home and this morning the annual company raffle was held, along with Secret Santa, meaning that God willing I shall have some whiskey and Christmas Pudding fudge to enjoy during the festive period that is due to kick-off in a week, whilst a calendar now sits patiently on my desk awaiting the start of 2016.

However, the real highlight is the Christmas meal - three courses and all the drink we can manage on the company tab, a generous gesture that I've yet to come across anywhere else that I or others that I talk to about such matters have worked and this afternoon saw the 2015 version come round. We have explored many of the pubs in Woodbridge and the local area for this event in the eight-and-a-half years I have worked for this friendly local company, from The Cherrytree and The Crown in the town to The Coach & Horses in Melton and The Froize in Chillesford. This time we were at The Table back in our town of residence and whilst I had been here once before for Ruthie's Uncle Moog and Aunt Ange's wedding reception nearly a decade ago, this place had closed and reopened under different management a number of times since then, so I was in the dark as to what to expect today.

Having been under the weather during last year's meal at The Crown in Ufford though, I was determined to enjoy this occasion all the more and I wasn't to be disappointed. Though it was a shame there wasn't any ale on draught, I enjoyed bottles of Ghostship and a cheeky glass of wine with good food and company, the latter of which continued on to The Mariners before I made the short walk to John Ives to meet my hard-working wife and accompany her to pick Alfie up and await the arrival of Mason for the weekend. It is a weekend that has started very well, thanks to John Catt Educational!

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Thursday 17th December 2015

The annual tradition of ringing all the bells in the churches of Ipswich town centre simultaneously on the Saturday before Christmas is just two days away and even though we'll be down a couple of towers with both St Mary-at-Quay and St Nicholas out of action currently, I'm sure the organiser Jane Harper would be more than happy for any latecomers to join us - just let her know in case certain towers need more support.

As has also become traditional, I am due on BBC Radio Suffolk informing their listeners why many of them will be accompanied by a combination of joyous bells whilst they do their shopping in the county town on Saturday lunchtime. This time it will be on Lesley Dolphin's Friday afternoon show between two and five, but it was actually recorded just after I'd finished work today, with Alfie sat in the back of the car behaving impeccably and it is due to be squeezed into a busy programme. It hadn't been possible to speak live on the show this afternoon as I was at work, but in many respects it was a lot nicer to chat with Lesley without the pressures of getting on with the next item on her show. She is a good friend of ringing and many will recall that she learnt to ring as part of a project for the radio a few years ago and very well she did at it too. It was lovely to discuss plans for Christmas and how much we enjoy her show and particularly Dolphin's Dart and if you haven't listened before then tomorrow is a good opportunity to do so.

Meanwhile, well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first quarter-peal of Stamford Surprise Minor in the success at Tostock today in a busy week for ringing within our borders, that God willing will end with a tremendous event in Ipswich on Saturday.

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Wednesday 16th December 2015

It was a mixed day for Suffolk ringing.

At The Wolery tonight, most things that could've gone wrong did go wrong, including myself. An extremely rare slip-up on the babysitting front meant that with the band gathered for a peal attempt of Selly Oak Surprise Major we were a woman down as one of our hosts, Katharine Salter, stood down and with enthusiasm for a go at Plain Bob Triples all-in (so with no tenor knocking behind) non-existent, Mary Dunbavin also stepped out, leaving us to try for a 5040 of Minor methods requested by Neal Dodge. A useful experience for the young lad it was too, working his mind and reactions at speed and for a prolonged period. However, it wasn't prolonged enough as the ringing collapsed during Oxford Treble Bob during the fourth extent as the familiar confusion caused by having to make thirds-fourths-thirds at a bob that I have often seen bring a performance to a shuddering, premature halt before, reared its ugly head and most - me included - fell into the vacuum that developed from it.

Even oldest Salter son George was not immune from the bad luck, despite being over eighty miles away at St Dunstan-in-the-West in London, as his peal attempt was also lost, though the disappointment there was softened by a QP of Cambridge Surprise Royal.

Mary had been spared such shenanigans with her early exit, but could be excused for being so keen to get away having been locked in Stowmarket ringing chamber for half-an-hour earlier in the day after someone trapped them in when locking up the church. Her escape - and that of the other seven band members with her - was facilitated with a call to superhero Captain Carol Girling who came to the rescue to catch the keys as they were dropped from the belfry window and was able to release the relieved ringers from their captivity, all without the need of a cape or wearing her underwear over her trousers. Well done Carol!

And well done to those same inmates whose ordeal came at the end of where this blog becomes a bit more positive, as they had just completed a peal of Plain Bob Major and a significant one at that. For not only was it rung exactly two-hundred years since the first peal on the bells, but also saw Winston Girling equal Harry D Lister's record haul of eighty-two peals on this 20cwt eight. Congratulations Winston!

Also on a positive note, Elaine Townsend celebrated her 65th birthday by ringing a 1320 of St Martin's Doubles before Pettistree practice and well done to the entire band on ringing their first of Stepney Bob Minor in the quarter-peal at Preston St Mary.

For the frustration, our evening ended well too as cake and biscuits were devoured in good company. Even on this mixed day, the positives outweighed the negatives.

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Tuesday 15th December 2015

The loss of Matthew Warner at a tragically young age has clearly - and understandably - had an impact of the ringers of the North-West District who rang with him, as today the fourth quarter-peal in as many days was rung to his memory, this time at Tostock.

A few miles away at another wonderfully isolated Suffolk church with bells, well done to Peter Stock on ringing his first of Minor inside in the pre-practice quarter at Offton, as his steady progression continues.

Our evening wasn't quite so productive as an attempt to get Alfie to make his own Christmas cards didn't quite go to plan as he refused to get his hands and feet mucky, but it was a quiet night for us during busier times for other ringers.

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Monday 14th December 2015

Another useful practice night at St Mary-le-Tower tonight as once again we enjoyed a repertoire that most provincial twelve-bell towers would be extremely pleased with. London (No.3) Surprise Royal was accompanied with Cambridge Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques, the latter of which Lucy Williamson did extremely well in. Her regular ringing at York Minster is clearly doing her a lot of good!

It was followed by a range of festive beers to chose from at the now usual haunt of The Robert Ransome before returning home, whilst elsewhere Matthew Warner understandably continues to be remembered in the North-West District, with a quarter rung in his memory at Thornham Magna.

Meanwhile, Ralph Earey very kindly sent me a programme of the ringing due to be taking place and not taking place at Sproughton over Christmas and the New Year. As with many places there is ringing planned for a Carol Service on Sunday from 6-6.30pm, there are refreshments after the practice on Wednesday 23rd (which in my experience is always great fun!), the bells have been requested for between 2.30 and 3pm on Christmas Eve and then later from 11-11.30pm for Midnight Mass, between 10.30-11am for the service on Christmas Day and then from 11.40pm on New Year's Eve to see 2016 in, whilst there will be no service to ring for on the morning of Sunday 27th. Whilst all help would be appreciated, it highlights the change from the norm that the season presents for towers and their ringers. Please do support what towers you can for any extra ringing and check whether ringing that would normally be taking place is taking place and at the time it usually happens!

God willing there will of course be extra ringing over the same period at SMLT and judging from this evening we're well prepared for it.

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Sunday 13th December 2015

It is always awkward when staying with non-ringing friends and family to disturb their usual Sunday morning lay-in and abandon their hospitality to go ringing at the local church. Therefore, despite the proximity of the 25cwt ten of St Peter, our day in the company of Fergie in Brighton was a bells-free one.

Not so back in Suffolk where Matthew Warner was again quite rightly remembered at one of his local towers, as this time a 1260 of Doubles was rung at Stowmarket, whilst impressively a 1299 of Stedman Caters was scored at the Norman Tower and Lesley Steed rang her 1500th quarter-peal as Simon Veal called his first QP, both in the success at Great Livermere. Congratulations Lesley and well done Simon!

We meanwhile had as straightforward a journey home as we had coming down yesterday - thank you Fergie for a lovely weekend, with or without bells!

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Saturday 12th December 2015

The closer it gets to Christmas, the less inclined we are to travel far from Suffolk. Whether it is the colder, more inhospitable weather (though that isn't an issue for this remarkably mild December) or that it is a time for being with family and friends and it is our good fortune that those close to us in both categories are very local to us, I don't know, but as Advent progresses we just don't feel the same sense of travel and exploration that we typically have during the long, hot days of summer. There's no jetting off to Dubai for us on the 25th.

However, this weekend we have made an exception to our normal unadventurous travel arrangements for the time of year, as we travelled to one of the south coast's most well-known resorts, Brighton to visit Ruthie's long-time best friend, our bridesmaid and for a year now Alfie's Godmother, Fergie. It is almost three years since we last stopped with her, but much has changed since then. Mason is much more aware of where we were going this time, we have Alfred of course and our host has moved to her own flat. It is alongside the busy Lewes Road and its bus lane, amongst the bars, furniture shops, undertakers and churches of the area, but even at 135 miles and two hours away it is a delightful little corner of familiarity in a foreign community, with pictures of the homeowner's home town Woodbridge and even of our wedding which she had played such a big part in mounted upon the walls.

Mason with his 'small' milkshake at the diner.Also familiar from our last trip here was JB's American Diner, home to huge burgers and bottomless milkshakes and a welcome shelter from the strong and bitterly cold wind outside which were particularly strong and bitter on the seafront and the famous pier, all of which was surprisingly busy for a blustery midwinter evening.

In our absence from the homeland, there was plenty of ringing, with 38-year-old Matthew Warner remembered at one of the towers he rang at on a Sunday morning as a 1320 of Plain Bob Minor was rung at Bacton. Another quarter was rung at Polstead, whilst it was nice to see the annual peal at Pettistree to mark the anniversary of the rededication of the bells was successful.

Great to see that even when we are far from home, there is much ringing going on back there!

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Friday 11th December 2015

It's only taken all week, but for the first time in that period normality was returned to our family today, with Alfie finally well enough to return to nursery and Ruthie to work, thus giving me the pleasure of the usual weekly Friday-post work collections of them and Mason, though slightly delayed somewhat by someone breaking down and blocking one of the A14 roundabouts on the edge of town. Still, it's nice to have everyone together for what - God willing - will be an adventurous weekend, at least by our current standards!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, ringers were busy ringing, with a 1260 of Grandsire Triples rung at Ixworth and the same number of changes in Plain Bob Doubles from the FNQPC at Earl Stonham, succeeding as they usually do at the start of the weekend. It has indeed been a reassuringly normal Friday.

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Thursday 10th December 2015

Alfie. October 2015.It has been a long week for Alfie and for us. Compared to Monday when he resembled a zombie, he is a lot better, improving gradually as the week has worn on, bit by bit becoming more like the Alfred we know and love. However, he still isn't one hundred percent, with regular coughing fits meaning he hasn't been getting a proper sleep and also meaning that neither have we and so it was another day off for him and Ruthie as I sleepwalked into work.

My wife and I swapped roles briefly when I returned home, as I looked after the understandably grumpy, tired twenty-month old whilst his mother went out to choir practice. God willing he's on the road to recovery, but for him and us it was a long day in a long week.

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Wednesday 9th December 2015

I was beginning to think that our Wednesday evening peals on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower were cursed, though the truth is that none of the losses were particularly unlucky as such. But tonight's 5024 of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods as downstairs they packed up the Christmas Tree Festival was a fitting end to a pretty decent year for this project. Six have been scored at Ipswich's civic church in 2015 and at other towers such as Ardleigh and Henley when SMLT have been unavailable, all bar one of which were spliced, including two in twelve methods and this effort was an assured, well-rung attempt that never seemed in danger of being lost due to human error. And it was nice to finally ring a peal with Nigel Gale at the fourth time of asking as he was beginning to consider he was the curse!

It wasn't the only peal in Suffolk today though, as our friends and neighbours from the Essex Association rang a 5040 of Surprise Minor at Bildeston, whilst there were quarters of Stedman Triples at The Millbeck Ring at Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake's abode in Shelland and Grandsire Doubles before the practice at Pettistree, the latter of which saw a visit from former local Bill Lloyd. Welcome back Bill!

At least their Wednesday nights are most definitely not cursed!

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Tuesday 8th December 2015

As we approach Christmas 2015, thank you to my brother Chris and his wife Becky for our Christmas 2014 present, which we finally used today. Trying to coordinate babysitting and a day off with a tour of the Greene King brewery in Bury St Edmunds which the new Mr & Mrs Munnings presented us with tickets for nearly twelve months ago has been trickier than we imagined, but our afternoon wandering around the inner machinations of one of the biggest names in the UK pub and brewing business was well worth the wait.

From the roof of Greene King brewery.It's safe to say that their showpiece beer IPA isn't a favourite amongst real ale drinkers, including ourselves, but GK are a Suffolk success story and as is usually the case with such visits behind the scenes it was fascinating to see what and who goes into making the beer that most of us will have sampled at one time or another and the history of it all, like the fact that monks at the abbey once had an allocation of eight pints a day, which rose to twelve when they were ill! You can't get that advice on the NHS... Also fascinating was the unique view of St Mary's church which houses the superb sounding but sadly long unringable 27cwt eight, the Cathedral just beyond and in between them The Norman Tower, home of the county's youngest twelve as our brilliant guide Henry took us to the roof to enjoy tremendous views of the town and the magnificent countryside further afield.

Ruthie at the beer tasting after the tour.And of course it was all topped off by some beer testing in their training academy, before we met up with my younger sibling to impart our gratitude in person for our festive gift and then returned to Ipswich where Mum and Dad had very kindly looked after a better but still poorly, subdued and grumpy Alfie - thank you Mum and Dad!

No ringing was involved (I'm not sure our tipsy presence would've been appreciated at the practice of the aforementioned Norman Tower!), but there is much planned for members over the coming weeks, starting with the North-West District Practice at Bacton on Saturday between 10am and noon, then the Second Tuesday Ringing (confusingly on the third Tuesday of the month!) at Hopton and Bardwell in a week, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday 18th December, the annual seasonal ringing at the towers of the county town in eleven days and the Halesworth Triples/Major Practice in a fortnight, before we reach the season itself, where it is worth noting that the just mentioned ground-floor 18cwt eight will not be holding their practice on the 29th. Almost certainly there will be other sessions cancelled, so please do check before travelling out in the cold.

At least it might give you more time to enjoy your Christmas presents before December next year.

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Monday 7th December 2015

At the moment, it's a poorly family ours. Mother-in-law Kate is laid so low that she took a very rare sick day today, whilst Ruthie was so unwell yesterday that whilst we boys went out ringing, she passed on her usual Sunday morning choir singing. However, Alfie is our biggest concern at the moment. On Saturday afternoon at the South-East District ADM at Rushmere St Andrew he was clearly not himself, being unusually clingy and instead of exhaustedly tracking his extensive explorations, he was unusually unadventurous and miserable. As the weekend unfurled, his cough got worse and prevented him getting his daily dose of sleep and his lethargy has increased to the point that when we rose from our disrupted night we decided he shouldn't go to nursery (our call was the fifth on the same subject they had received before breakfast in a sign of how many of AJM's contemporaries are going down with identical symptoms), so with his Mummy still not one hundred percent, the two of them stayed in the warm at home whilst I departed for the offices of John Catt.

By the afternoon though, Alfred was almost zombie like, deprived of essential shuteye and looking red, snotty and generally very sick and so I was grateful to my employers once again that they allowed me to leave work slightly early to join my wife in taking our son to the doctors. It was a reassuring trip, justifying our taking him there, but not resulting in any alarming diagnosis, though a return visit in the morning was requested to be on the safe side.

Still, with neither Mrs Munnings nor the li'l chap feeling well, it wouldn't have been overly fair to abandon them for the evening to go to St Mary-le-Tower practice, so reluctantly I passed on my weekly dose of ten and twelve-bell ringing that I so enjoy. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks we'll be healthier and return to help out.

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Sunday 6th December 2015

Alfie admiring our new Christmas Tree at home.One of my family highlights of the year was ticked off for 2015 today, as we raised the household Christmas tree with true ceremony. It was all the more exciting for it being the debut of our new tree purchased with uncharacteristic forethought at the end of last December and is so big that Mason and I had to nip out to Tesco to get more lights, but it was worth it as there is now a reassuringly and cosy festive feel about our corner of Woodbridge.

The ringers tree by the door to the stairs up to the ringing chamber at the St Mary-le-Tower Christmas Tree Festival.There was a very similar feel about St Mary-le-Tower this morning which is currently in the midst of its annual Christmas Tree festival and where the ringer's tree stands splendidly at the bottom of the stairs to the ringing chamber. That very ringing chamber was the scene of a visit from George Vant, my mother going to the extremes of grabbing hold of the 35cwt tenor to get out of ringing Stedman Caters and a splendid half-course of Cambridge Surprise Royal that - for what its worth - was finished with some excellent rounds.

The range was slightly more limited by numbers at Grundisburgh, but still saw some well-rung Stedman Doubles on the back six, whilst across Suffolk there was a wide repertoire being rung, with a 5250 of Plain Bob Major at Debenham to mark a quarter of a millennium to the day since the first peal on this superb eight in the same method and quarters of Hadleigh Bob Minor, Doubles, Single Oxford Bob Minor and Plain Bob Minor at Edwardstone, Great Finborough, Pettistree and Rougham respectively were rung, with the latter being Neal Dodge's seventy-fifth since 1st January. Congratulations Neal!

Meanwhile, I was impressed to read about the 1296 of two lots of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung simultaneously on the twelve at Surfleet in Lincolnshire yesterday, one on the front six and one on the back six rung to different compositions but both called by Bjorn Bradstock in an impressive bit of conducting.

But for us, the most fun was had in our living room with a tree, some tinsel, fairy lights and multi-coloured baubles!

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Saturday 5th December 2015

Rushmere St Andrew.From now on, the South-East District no longer has a Secretary, at least not in a satisfactory sense. Nor are a number of the Deanery Rep positions filled. And there is still no Technical Officer for the District. To say it is a disappointing situation for the District with by far the biggest membership of the Suffolk Guild with the best transport links at their disposal is an understatement of epic proportions and having seen the outgoing Secretary's work at close quarters, I know what a considerable frustration it is for those officers who are putting much time and effort into running the District.

The main problem seems to be that for all the large membership of this corner of the SGR, a relatively small percentage of it regularly attend the District's events, let alone are prepared to take on the responsibilities of being an officer. That is why the survey being distributed amongst the SE is so important (The link to the online survey will be emailed to all SE District members. Ed), questioning as it is what members want from their District. Far too often we go to places and are left by the locals to get on with 'our' ringing, despite the fact it is often ringers like them - more often than not learners restricted by what can be managed within the confines of their home tower - that the District and Guild is there for and for whom the various events are aimed at helping. Yet clearly we are not offering what they want and/or aren't getting the message across to them. If we can encourage more of them along, not only could it benefit their ringing, but the ringing of the towers and ringers in the District - from the fives and sixes in our midst to St Mary-le-Tower and the many quarter-peal and peal-ringers - and of course may even find some different people to be an officer!

In many respects, today's District ADM in the superb facilities at Rushmere St Andrew church summed up the situation. There were between forty and fifty present, including some locals who were extremely hospitable and welcoming and a decent enough number, but generally consisting of many of the same faces who have frequently kept the District running for several years now. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, it is in danger of running out of steam, with most in the room either in District or Guild positions already or having been in them before. Therefore, the future of the District and its 2016 programme rests upon the result of the survey.

Ringing at Rushmere St Andrew before the South-East District 2015 ADM.Before the South-East District 2015 ADM.Gathered at Rushmere St Andrew before the South-East District 2015 ADM.The South-East District Top Table as it was for the last time.

There were positives throughout the afternoon. Eric Brown gallantly added Ruthie's now former role to his own as Treasurer, the ringing was good and varied with a superb course of Norwich Surprise Minor a real highlight for me whilst I was present in the cosy ringing chamber of this 9cwt six, the service was perfectly pitched with Mary Odam stepping brilliantly into the breach when the arranged organist failed to show, tea was vast and scrummy (including Paul Sharples' devilishly tasty white chocolate cheesecake!), Mason had a tooth come out and it was all spent in fine company.

Mine and Ruthie's presence was fleeting in comparison to our usual commitment to these occasions, as with Mrs Munnings at work she was only able to get there in time for the end of food and the business part of proceedings themselves and I responsible for leaving this suburb/village on the north-east fringes of Ipswich to collect her from her duties in Woodbridge. And with Alfie seemingly coming down with something and becoming increasingly and understandably grouchy as the meeting edged further into when he would usually be winding down for bed, the boys and I left as the subject of subscription payments got going, leaving her mother Kate to very kindly bring her home.

Some in attendance had impressively been taking part in a 5040 of Surprise Minor at Clopton earlier in the day, one of three peals within our borders today, the other two coming on handbells in Bacton with nineteen and forty-one Surprise Minor methods rung.

But for us, today saw a large degree of relief for us and particularly my better half. It was apparent at the meeting that if the SE District is to move forward, more may be needed from the already stretched top table, particularly in getting out and about to the District's towers, though personally I believe this should be a job shared amongst as many regular District participants as possible, especially Deanery Representatives. My wife simply hasn't got the time and opportunity to continue doing the role justice, with today perfectly highlighting her circumstances as she fitted her District duties in between working at John Ives and babysitting her sister's daughters, but which are just a small part of her everyday life, with singing, ringing and Mason and Alfie taking up much time too, though delightfully so of course. I am biased obviously, but she has to my mind carried out the role magnificently over the last three years, spending hours each week making sure events and the District ran smoothly, with correspondents contacted (sometimes needing repeated badgering!), reports put together and much, much more, all whilst we experienced two house moves, she three different jobs and we were blessed with the arrival of Alfred. Her fellow officers seem to agree too, as she was sent on her way with six gratefully received beers that will be enjoyed when she gets the chance! As much as it is a shame that the South-East District is left without a Secretary, we are relieved to get some time back - I only hope somebody different is soon able to help fill the void.

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Friday 4th December 2015

Mason came to us relaxed after doing yoga at school (I know!), Alfie had enjoyed a hat-wearing day at nursery in aid of charity without actually wearing his hat, Ruthie enjoyed an evening babysitting her nieces and the Christmas tree went up in the office adding sparkle to our everyday surroundings.

So a positive day, spoilt only of course by Ipswich Town losing, but even this was a cloud with a silver lining as our commitments tonight meant that I was unable to endure watching it on TV.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, ringers were more active, with another impressive peal of Doubles on handbells in Bacton.

I don't whether it was relaxing though!

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Thursday 3rd December 2015

There was printing galore going on in our tiny corner of Woodbridge tonight, as agendas, a BAC report and deanery reports were transferred from digital to paper in readiness for Saturday's South-East District ADM at Rushmere St Andrew. Hopefully it will be met by a large crowd.

A large crowd was present last Saturday at Offton for the concert in the church, which raised over £1,000 towards the cost of replacing the sixth of this 8cwt ground-floor eight, a huge success. Part of the entertainment on show was occasional local ringer Ted Sampson, who has amused us with his ditties at many of Brian and Peta Whiting's splendid summer BBQ's and celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday and his input is available for the world to view on YouTube. Well worth a view.

Meanwhile, well done to Ruth Suggett and Lucy Dawson on ringing their first quarter-peal of Sandiacre Surprise Minor in the success at Tostock today. I think they were having a more interesting evening than us!

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Wednesday 2nd December 2015

We should have been taking in the well-established and popular comedic talents of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer at The Regent (or The Gaumont as those with long enough memories still often call it!) in Ipswich tonight, a now near extinct opportunity for Ruthie and I to go on a night out, courtesy of an early Christmas present from my mother-in-law Kate. Sadly, a triple heart bypass for the latter of the comedy pairing recently put paid to that, though God willing they are due to return in February, for which thankfully we've been able to transfer our tickets to.

Instead, I found myself in the company of the extensive wit of Mike Whitby as I went along to Pettistree practice, but despite our previous plans for this evening, it was no hardship to end up at a typically lively session for the ground-floor six. Beforehand, I partook in a well-rung quarter-peal of Annable's London Surprise Minor which saw Chris McArthur ringing his first blows in the method in impressive style - well done Chris! It also highlighted the worth of a pre-practice QP as those already gathered for this performance were able to form the basis of the ringing that followed, with London and Norwich Surprise Minor kicking-off a two hours that also saw Grandsire Doubles, Cambridge Surprise Minor, Single Oxford Bob Minor and a superbly rung touch of Stedman Doubles negotiated amongst much else, before I led the bells down as a climax and joined the merry band in The Greyhound for a pint

It all came at the end of another day of annual leave and whilst it wasn't as productive as Monday's as we had Alfie with us, it was still a useful day, as Ruthie endured appointments with her hygienist and dentist whilst Alfred and I played with trains in the waiting room and we took a trip to Felixstowe to measure AJM's feet.

Other ringers in the county were having useful days too, especially David Salter who was calling two peals in the county, with a 5040 of Surprise Minor at Barking and a 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at The Wolery, the latter of which was Simon Veal's first in the method - well done Simon! And to top off a busy day in Suffolk, a quarter was rung at Preston St Mary.

Twas a grand day of ringing - Vic and Bob will have to wait!

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Tuesday 1st December 2015

December. When I suddenly find it acceptable to eat a chocolate donkey for breakfast, simply because a calendar offers it to me. It is also - as I mentioned recently - when I really start to truly get into the Christmas spirit. It is a month that God willing will end with quality time spent with family and friends, celebrations, gifts and the good fortune to consume more food and drink than even I would be able to cope with on a daily basis.

It is of course - for all the commercialism, Santa, presents and rare excessive consumption - a Christian festival, a rejoicing of Christ's birth and that will mean that the church bells that we are blessed (in most cases!) to ring will be very much in demand, as will us ringers. All being well, carol concerts, Midnight Mass and the 25th itself will be interspersed in amongst the usual Sunday ringing, weekly practices (those that don't fall on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year's Eve that is) and District events, as well as seasonal activities such as the festive theme to the North-West District's Practice at Bacton on Saturday 12th and the traditional ringing of the season in Ipswich exactly a week later. Please do contact Ruth Young about the former and Jane Harper on the latter if you can help with either.

The month started well on the quarter-peal front with a 1280 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Offton before the practice night, but for us it was a quiet day at the start of what will hopefully be a busy month.

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Monday 30th November 2015

It goes without saying that we love Mason and Alfie dearly. But with both of us needing to use up holiday before the end of the year, we both took today off, dropped the eldest at his mother's ready for school and the youngest at nursery and unashamedly made the most of a day without children.

The house was blitzed, the dump visited, Alfred's new bed delivered by his Granny Kate as an early Christmas present and even Ruthie's sister Clare and her daughters Katelynn and Annalise were hosted briefly in a day more productive than pretty much the previous eighteen months combined.

Many copies of the Winter 2015 edition of Awl a'huld, ready to leave our living room and go out amongst the South-East District membership.That productivity continued into the evening as my wife went to St Mary-le-Tower practice and then the Robert Ransome for a drink, in the process distributing most of the supply of Awl a'huld's latest edition in her care, whilst I helped her in her final days as South-East District Secretary by getting in touch with some tower correspondents in the District to check that they are still the contact, that their details are correct and if they are happy to have an email address put on the website in their name. For those not in the know, this would be a generic address along the lines of or and should make it a lot easier to communicate with towers. It would be good if as many towers as possible cooperated.

Rushmere St Andrew.It afforded me the chance to have a lovely chat with Rose Godfrey from Bramford who expressed her gratitude at the help they receive but imparting that they still struggle with numbers and indeed that tomorrow night's practice has had to be cancelled due to just one band member being away, a scenario familiar not just across the county but the country. That said, at least they are being rung regularly, unlike down the A14 at Copdock where during an otherwise very pleasant chat with the new correspondent, it was reiterated that tower inspections are more frequent than ringing, which has only occurred for weddings and visiting ringers such as when the SE District started its 2015 programme of monthly events with a visit to this ground-floor six for its January Practice, a timely reminder for members to head along to Rushmere St Andrew for its final monthly event this year on Saturday.

Hopefully it will be as productive as today.

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Sunday 29th November 2015

I adore Christmas. The day itself in particular and those around it are a rare period doing what we should do far more off throughout the year, with time off work, society slowing down and every year I feel transported back in time with a familiar festive traditions and gatherings and the magic it induced in me as a child fondly remembered and rekindled by Mason and Alfie.

Mason on the merry-go-round at Bressingham.Alfie getting very excited about seeing Thomas the Tank Engine and his friend Toby.Mason with Father Christmas.Alfie sat patiently watching the children's entertainer.

But even I don't tend to consider the wider season to have truly got underway until December. And yet Advent began today, a fast increasing number of homes are now bedecked with decorations and today we met Santa Claus. It was courtesy of Kate and Ron's annual treat for the children as we mixed trains and presents, this year at Bressingham, complete with children's entertainers, lights and seasonal tunes belting out from every speaker and the merry-go-round manned by a former Framlingham ringer called Ray who enjoyed a conversation with the mother-in-law who can't go anywhere without bumping into someone she knows!

The eldest son was delighted by the Dad's Army Collection, the youngest by acres of space to run in and both them and their cousins Katelynn and Annalise by the choo-choos. Thank you Kate and Ron.

We don't get around the county as much as we once did and whilst that is for utterly delightful reasons, I do often miss our travels through Suffolk and its countryside, which in my humble opinion is beautiful all year round. The wide expanse of fields and bare-branched woodlands as far as the eye could see is dreamy even on a cloudy winter afternoon such as this and I was reminded of the range of bells we have at our disposal in such wonderful surroundings too, as the journey to the outskirts of Diss and back saw us pass the neighbouring sixes of Burgh and Clopton, the ground-floor ring at Otley, the famous eights of the rehung Helmingham, sadly still derelict Framsden and superb and well-used Debenham, the fantastically isolated five of Winston, the grand tower of Eye and just before we snuck into Norfolk, the 7cwt eight of Palgrave.

Others of our varied peals within our borders were being used today. Well done to Maureen Gardiner on ringing her first blows of the Doubles methods and variations in the 1320 at Great Finborough, but even more so to Carina Winget on ringing her first quarter in the success at St Margaret's in Ipswich and to Malcolm Westrup on ringing his first peal and thus contributing to FirstPeal2015 hitting its target of three-hundred first-pealers in a year with more than a month to go! Congratulations to all concerned, but particularly to the eight from the SGR who have made their debuts since 1st January! I have been delighted to help, though my contribution to the cause by participating in Bill Lloyd's bow at Pettistree back in March is meagre in comparison to others, including Philip Moyse who has been especially busy! It has been a staggering success that I hope is the start of an upward trend rather just a blip and it is encouraging that a number have rung other peals since, with Bristol youngster Lucy Warren having rung an amazing forty-five further peals since her first!

At the very least, the organisers can relax and enjoy Christmas now!

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Saturday 28th November 2015

I dislike ringing Saturday afternoon peals. Occasionally I have enjoyed them as part of a pair during my footloose and fancy-free days when my only responsibility was generally how to get myself back for the pub in the evening. But generally I much prefer morning peals where the rest of the day is free afterwards or even weekday evening peals where it is usually a happy release at the end of a day in the office phoning those less than amiable long-suffering people I mentioned in yesterday's blog.

I can't quite put my finger on what it is about them. Whether it is spending the first half of your weekend hanging around waiting for and then ringing the peal, that I am perhaps more lethargic than I might be if I was pealing in those first enthusiastic waking hours of the two-day break from work or even if I am on the end of a rope after a day warming my mind and body up with a busy working day, that it is several hours out of valuable family time or a combination thereof, I simply do not know. Whatever the reason, I struggle a bit, though others may argue I do at anytime!

Quite how I ended up in this afternoon's peal attempt of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at St Mary-le-Tower heaving around the often unpredictable eleventh that will one minute go over the balance and within moments drop from underneath you therefore, is a mystery even to me. It arose from a request from George Pipe, a difficult man to say no to and quite rightly so. For all that he has done for ringing in Suffolk, on ten and twelve bells, at St Mary-le-Tower in particular and for my own ringing, he elicits positive responses to requests that others probably wouldn't. However, as many of you will know, once such a general request is made, details for those of us more used to finalising details with instant, fluid and brief messages via email and Facebook become slightly vague and it isn't entirely unheard of that the next you hear about your participation is when GWP informs you at the end of one of his famous firm handshakes that you are ringing a peal in a few days!

This one wasn't at such short notice, but having already had to let him down in such circumstances as aforementioned when an attempt clashed with our recent trip to Duxford, I felt I couldn't refuse him this time around. Not that I particularly wanted to. Despite my reservations about abandoning Ruthie and the boys for potentially up to five hours and the timing, I still very much enjoy peal-ringing per se. When it goes well, the ringing I participate in in peals is at its best far better than I would ever normally get in pretty much any other area of my ringing and I love the feeling of satisfaction from a well-rung peal that I simply don't get to the same extent in any other medium, especially when it is followed up by a pint or three! From first pealers to complex peals of spliced on every level from Doubles to Sixteen, peal-ringing has given me much joy and we should be doing far more of it in the SGR. It is simply that circumstances don't permit me to to undertake it to the same extent, though those circumstances offer up an abundance of joy in other ways!

Sadly, this afternoon wasn't to be one of those memorable occasions in my peal-ringing annals. Despite a late kick-off due to one member of the band understandably struggling to get into this gridlocked, traffic-light infested town centre after an earlier engagement, we'd got off to a good beginning and the first hour was well-rung. Perhaps though, this was where the 2.20pm start set in and gradually it seemed tired limbs and minds set in, the rhythm broke up and the ringing gradually disintegrated before conductor George Salter quite rightly set it up in the ninth course and over two hours in. I felt for young George, who had rung the 35cwt tenor almost metronomically, with each course lasting exactly fifteen minutes without fail, but ultimately he was let down by the rest of us who weren't as consistent and another attempt was lost.

The silver-lining was that I made it back home earlier to a cheerful welcome and news that Ipswich Town had completed the job they had started in their lunchtime kick-off that had seen them 2-0 up at Charlton Athletic before I'd even parked the car for my failed attempts at peal-ringing to eventually win 3-0 by the time they had finished not long after we'd started.

And though partaking in our loss, Mike Whitby had at least one peal to his name today, calling the first on Wickham Market bells since their recent rehang and All Saints Day rededication. It wasn't the only success of the day either, with quarter-peals of Plain Bob Triples at Stowmarket, Rossendale Surprise Minor at Great Barton and well done to Stephen Dawson on his first of Bristol and congratulations to Jeremy Warren on his seventy-fifth QP of 2015 in the 1280 at the grand tower of Elveden in the far north-west of the county.

Clearly they all picked the right time to ring!

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Friday 27th November 2015

Even when going well, in sales you are confronted with a steady stream of people that aren't entirely friendly towards you. It is a role where abuse and rudeness is par for the course and something you have to take in your stride, but come Friday at 5pm, it is even more of a joy to be able to collect Mason, Alfie and Ruthie together for a weekend with those who are actually pleased to see you! Usually.

With a day-off on Monday, it will be a pleasure that will last longer than it does most weeks, but it began in a relaxed and pleasantly quiet way after the hullabaloo of the working week.

Not so for other ringers in Suffolk, as a visiting band rang a brace of quarter-peals of spliced Surprise Minor, with twelve methods at Chediston and four at Rumburgh, whilst Ruth Darton celebrated the birth of her great nephew Alec with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Kettleburgh and the FNQPC were successful at Ashbocking. Meanwhile, well done to Ruth Suggett on ringing her most methods and congratulations to her son Louis on pealing his fiftieth different tower in the county with the fifteen Surprise Minor methods rung in the 5040 at Brandeston.

A great way to start what will hopefully be a great weekend!

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Thursday 26th November 2015

When I arrived home last night after my ultimately failed peal attempt at St Mary-le-Tower, there was a healthy looking boxful of the winter edition of the Guild magazine, Awl a'huld sat at our back door, dropped by stealth by one of the dedicated editorial team from across the other side of the county - thank you, whichever one of you it was!

As ever, it is a super literary trip around Suffolk ringing and even beyond in the case of George Pipe's fascinating account of his and his wife Diana's time living, working and ringing in Australia in the 1950's and 1960's, and reports on the SMLT outing to Norfolk and Brian Whiting's trip to Peak District. The South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening back in August, learners at Bardwell, the work that went into removing, rebushing and replacing the clappers at Lavenham and recollections of the Guild Social in the North-East District. There is also some interesting background to recently-elected SGR Treasurer Owen Claxton, a history of Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrakes's mini-ring in Shelland and a piece attributed to my mother but looking more like one written by my wife amongst much else! A superb effort again by Richard Gates and Sue Freeman. Take the time to have a read, but also to make sure copies get out and about into the non-ringing community!

Pete Faircloth reading Alfie stories in The Red Lion.I took the time to read it as Alfie was having his breakfast this morning before a day at work that was followed immediately with a rare meal out as Alfie, Ruthie and myself joined Ufford ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis and her former work colleagues for a pie and a pint at The Red Lion in Woodbridge. It was a pleasant and enjoyable evening, though not as productive as other ringers were having, as what I imagine was a non-too-easy quarter-peal of St Clement's College Bob Minor on the back six at Hadleigh was successfully rung.

There is a lot going on on bells within our borders, as Awl a'huld testifies.

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Wednesday 25th November 2015

A week ago I articulated at length the relaxing merits of peal-ringing at The Wolery. Wednesday evening peals at St Mary-le-Tower are less relaxing, but at their best both are equally satisfying and enjoying. With peals on the front eight taking an hour longer than the successes in Old Stoke, it is a considerable rush from my 5pm finish at work to get home, grab a bite to eat, get changed, show my face to Ruthie and Alfie and get into Ipswich town centre by 6pm, which is the latest that we ideally want to be going into changes by. However, when the ringing is good as it was tonight, it is well worth it, even when the peal is lost, as it was tonight.

Once we had realised that the two members of the band that we were waiting for - Nigel Gale and Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters - had been waiting for us for almost twenty minutes, we were attempting the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods and attempting them well, with few mistakes - and those were quickly put right and often by those who made them - and good striking at a brisk pace for these bells. I still think they would be better rung quicker, but when the ringing was as accomplished as it was this evening it would be foolish to jeopardise it and ultimately it was confusion over whether a couple of bells had swapped that sowed the seeds of this particular performance's doom.

At least they had better luck elsewhere, with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree successful. And I'm sure it was satisfying, enjoyable and maybe even relaxing!

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Tuesday 24th November 2015

Offton.On Saturday, there will be a Candlelit Concert at Offton in aid of the Bell Restoration Fund to initially replace the fifteenth century sixth of the ground-floor 8cwt eight here and for just £10 a ticket, you will get what looks like being a tremendous evening of entertainment and for a very good cause too. Seats can be purchased through the event's MyDonate page and if you can make it your presence and donation would be much appreciated, I'm sure.

And you can fit in following an afternoon at Long Melford for the South-West District ADM if you like, where I hope as many as possible within the District and beyond can help out - these are important events for keeping in touch with the membership, making sure the right people are guiding the District into the next twelve months and above all else superb social occasions. Please don't let the work of Chairman Pauline Brown, Secretary Richard Gates, Ringing Master Derek Rose and Treasurer David Lee go to waste - make the organisation of Saturday's gathering worthwhile.

For us though, it was a typically quiet Tuesday night in, bar a visit from a new neighbour, but the aforementioned bells of Offton were being rung tonight of course, with Tuesday being practice night and as is often the case it was preceded by a quarter-peal, which on this occasion saw Peter Stock ring his first inside - well done Peter! I enjoy these bells and my visits here, but hopefully soon the bells will be just that little bit better for him to progress on!

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Monday 23rd November 2015

It was a productive night at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. As a burly bunch of boys climbed down into the church to help the vicar Charles Jenkin raise the huge tree that will be the centrepiece of next week's Christmas Tree Festival (the opening of which will be marked by ringing between 6.30-7pm on Wednesday 2nd December if anyone can help), us weaklings left behind rang a well-rung half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal and once the muscle-men returned, Ian Culham eventually got the hang of the treble for some Kent Treble Bob Maximus, Sonya contributed to some superb rounds on twelve and the session climaxed with a good touch of Stedman Cinques that George Vant did very well in, all despite a relatively low attendance.

Elsewhere in the county, a quarter-peal of St Simon's Bob Doubles was successfully rung at Hopton, where it seems today was also productive!

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Sunday 22nd November 2015

'Back ten and front two are up' was the confusing message on the whiteboard in Grundisburgh ringing chamber, home of course to just twelve bells...

It seemed to be related to a Cumberland Youths peal lost yesterday during their annual peal weekend and ahead of an ultimately successful attempt this afternoon for the same organisation at the same location and one of two peals rung in the county for visiting societies, with the St Blaise Society responsible for the 5040 at Freckenham.

In turn, they were just two performances from a happy glut of successes within our borders. Well done to Clare Goodchild on her first of Triples in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Hollesley, and to Neal Dodge on not only his first of spliced Doubles in the score at Stoke Ash, but also his first blows in all the methods and variations rung in the 1440 of Doubles at Old Newton and congratulations to him as well on ringing his 150th quarter-peal in the latter performance.

For us, morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and that seemingly unnecessary communication in the little wobbly red-brick tower were but the start of a busy though enjoyable day that next took us to church in our town of residence to meet Ruthie after her duties at St Mary-the-Virgin, before some seasonal shopping rural Suffolk-style. Rather than the bustling streets of Ipswich town centre and streets and streets of homogeneous shops and goods or Black Friday madness, my wife suggested the wonderful Christmas Gift Fayre at the picturesque Wantisden Valley, surrounded by farmland and forests in my favourite part of the county. We weren't alone as many hundreds converged upon this isolated corner where the fields and pretty little communities and cottages lead towards the North Sea and there were many faces familiar to us in the crowds, including ringers. Hollesley ringer Sue Bowerman was on one of the stalls exhibiting her pottery, whilst we also bumped into former Sproughton ringers David and Pam Lugg amongst my better-half's schoolfriends and those we have passed time with in the pubs of the area.

Woodbridge Ringers Gathered at Bruce & Gill Wakefield's home.Woodbridge Ringers Gathered at Bruce & Gill Wakefield's home.Gifts purchased for some, we continued our travels across the beautiful countryside we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep as we paid a visit to my wife's sister Clare and our nieces Katelynn and Annalise for tea and biscuits ahead of jumping in the car again and returning to Woodbridge for a gathering of local ringers at Bruce and Gill Wakefield's soon-to-be-former abode. As we caught up with our hosts' plans and Alfie and Mason played with toys, mulled wine and cakes were to be found in abundance and good company enjoyed before we finally called it a day.

God willing, we'll see what journeying and strange notices tomorrow brings.

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Saturday 21st November 2015

Ipswich, St Lawrence.Ipswich, St Mary-le-Tower.Dr John Blatchly was popular and respected in so many aspects, particularly in Ipswich and the local area. Headmaster at the independent school named after the town for twenty-one years, honorary Wolsey Professor at UCS, President of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History for twenty-six years, Chairman of Suffolk Records Society for exactly a quarter-of-a-century, chair of the advisory committee of the Centre for East Anglian Studies for six years, a member of the Committee of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the East of England for five years, instrumental in the founding of the Friends of the Suffolk Record Office thirty-two years ago and Chairman of Ipswich Historic Churches for twenty-two years. It was unsurprising and entirely fitting therefore that a large crowd gathered at St Mary-le-Tower for his memorial service this lunchtime and having played a huge part in the funding and publicity of the restoration and rehanging of St Lawrence's medieval bells, it was also appropriate that the 13cwt five were ringing half-muffled ahead of the service and then the twelve of SMLT he so loved at the church where he was being remembered were rung afterwards.

The former were calling out mournfully across the busy but chilly town centre as myself and the boys arrived for some shopping, before I partook in the ringing at the latter and felt honoured to be able to so.

As this was all happening, more St Edmund's Day ringing was being carried out across the county of which the saint is patron of. Most notably, the annual peal at St Edmund King and Martyr in Southwold was successful - well done to Elizabeth Allen on ringing her first of Grandsire Triples and congratulations to Craig Leach on ringing his twenty-fifth peal in total and to his mother Diana on ringing her twenty-fifth for the Norwich Diocesan Association, for whom the 5040 was rung.

Elsewhere, quarter-peals were rung for yesterday's occasion, with Lakesend Bob Minor rung at Bredfield, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Clopton and seven Doubles methods at Rushmere St Andrew - well done to Andrea Alderton, Kevin Ward and Stephen Dawson on ringing their debut blows in the method in the first performance. And though not rung for St Edmund (not everything has to be!), congratulations to Andrew Lubbock and Maureen Gardiner on ringing their fiftieth QP together in the 1260 scored at Buxhall.

My ringing wasn't the end of our day though, as we three met up with Mason's Godfather Toby, his fiancee Amy and their daughter - and my Goddaughter - Maddie at The Ship in Blaxhall, a rare return visit for my long-time chum Tobes who used to work there. A lively afternoon seeing the wide skies outside dark was had, before we were briefly reunited with Ruthie after her day at work and prior to her then going to her sister's to do a spot of babysitting.

It was a busy day, but also reflective as Ipswich remembered Dr Blatchly.

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Friday 20th November 2015

Happy St Edmund's Day!

Despite a recent request for Suffolk's ringers to mark the county's patron saint's day so we could get some PR with his biggest fans BBC Radio Suffolk, I wasn't expecting too much. The marking of the occasion both by Mark Murphy and ourselves has diminished after those early years of campaigning to help him usurp St George as England's patron saint and I hadn't received a huge response from ringers nor any at all from RS.

Band.Nonetheless, come today, we got a favourable mention on Mark's show this morning, particularly ringers at The Norman Tower who rang for a special service at lunchtime and managed 924 changes of St Edmundsbury Bob Triples before the Wolf Auction got underway! Despite the bizarre reason for the early finish, they are to be congratulated on doing their bit, as are those who rang the quarter-peal of Rossendale Surprise Minor at Preston St Mary, particularly Andrea Alderton, David Howe and Stephen Dawson, who were ringing their first in the method. Well done Andrea, David and Stephen!

I am pleased to say that after my pleas that I played my part too, as I partook in a well-rung 1344 of St Edmund Surprise Major at Ufford, with the method being familiar enough with it's Cambridge-above work, but different enough to keep people alert. The band photo taken afterwards was fun too!

I'm just glad we did something for St Edmund though - and thank you to everyone else who did too!

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Thursday 19th November 2015

Chediston.It is still over a month until Christmas. Even December itself is nearly a fortnight away. But in a society where cards featuring robins, carol singers and snow-topped village scenes are available in some shops in July and adverts aimed at the 25th of next month have been gradually infiltrating our TV screens for weeks, it was perhaps not surprising that this evening had a considerably festive feel about it. The lights were being switched on in Ipswich, the trees are up and lit in Woodbridge, one of my work colleagues was getting very excited about the John Catt annual meal being 'only' four weeks away and Ruthie returned from choir practice having spent the session singing seasonal tunes.

Far too early as it is even for me to getting into the spirit, it is a reminder that God willing in the coming weeks there will be additional ringing, cancelled practices and changed ringing times, so it may be as well to begin finding out what is happening at your tower(s) and put some dates in your almost expired 2015 diaries. For today though, it was a very quiet Thursday autumnal night. It tis the season. For November.

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Wednesday 18th November 2015

Peal-ringing at The Wolery is quite possibly the most relaxed of the evening form of the medium. I have time to get home from work, spend some quality time with the family, have a leisurely tea and watch The Simpsons before meandering to Ipswich for a sub-two hour peal usually consisting of great ringing that is under no pressure to finish by a certain time due to put-upon neighbours and all topped off by cake, biscuits and a cuppa (or glass of water/squash if you prefer) in good company.

It is also a platform to give ringers opportunities. Simon Veal has benefitted in particular over 2015, with his first of Treble Bob back in February, first of Little Bob in March, first of Surprise Major in August and just last month - with everyone else in the band - his first of 'combined'. Previously his sister Clare has progressed considerably in part due to the chances she's been given in the blue shed, as has Tom Scase, the Salter boys, myself and Ruthie and many others since the first peal in Old Stoke in 2002. And as we come towards the end of this year, it is Neal Dodge who is taking advantage of the laid-back nature of pealing these bells and tonight he rang his first of Major in tonight's 5184 of Kent Treble Bob Major. Very well he did too, in a method that allows for some hypnotic ringing, but which in turn also allows for concentration to dissipate, so all the band are to be complimented for keeping their focus to produce some superb ringing.

Another aspect of visits to Rectory Road is the entertainment, usually provided by the sons and on this occasion saw young Henry smash a glass on the floor and George return from a lost peal attempt in Essex to ignite a lively debate on the merits of Thorrington's 9cwt six!

Peter Harper.Pettistree Quarter Peal Band.Meanwhile, at another relaxed ringing venue, congratulations to Peter Harper on ringing his one thousandth quarter-peal in the pre-practice success at Pettistree. I've mentioned before the dedication of Peter and his wife Jane to local ringing since they moved from Hertfordshire almost nine years ago and in particular their service to the South-East District as Chairman and Secretary respectively and their arranging of the Second Tuesday Ringing, which incidentally is due to be visiting Hopton and Bardwell next month on the third Tuesday of December if you fancy a festive day out - please get in touch with Ruth Young about lunch at The Mill at Market Weston by the 8th and Peter about the ringing.

That will God willing fall ahead of my next planned visit to ring a peal at The Wolery and indeed the one after that as already my first peal attempt of 2016 has been logged and the cycle hopes to start again, offering opportunities to ringers in its relaxed atmosphere.

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Tuesday 17th November 2015

Tuesday night is typically when we get the chance to spend an evening together at home and tonight we were glad of it!

Partly to witness the uplifting show of solidarity and defiance at Wembley Stadium on TV as England played their suffering visitors France in an international friendly which was a rare good bit of news in amongst a lot of bad, not just in recent days but I imagine in the times ahead. But primarily for being indoors in the warm as Storm Barney furiously whipped around with frightening noise outside, rattling windows and doors and racing down our chimneys with ferocity.

Others were braving the winds though and kudos to the bands who rang quarters of Lightfoot Surprise Minor at Lakenheath, Doubles at Old Newton, Hindley Bob Minor at Wickham Skeith and Ipswich Surprise Minor at Woolpit as the weather across Suffolk deteriorated. Particularly well done to the band in the third QP who were all ringing their first blows of the method.

For once though, I was glad we weren't out with our fellow ringers! 

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Monday 16th November 2015

It was my turn to stay in looking after Alfie tonight, whilst his mother did some well-earned gallivanting to Ipswich for St Mary-le-Tower practice, a mixed evening of minor injuries, well-rung Stedman Cinques and a request for ringers at SMLT from 1-1.20pm on Saturday to ring after a memorial service for Dr John Blatchley. If you can help, then please let George Pipe know.

Others in Suffolk were ringing as well, with three quarters rung in the county today. Well done to Lyn Clackson on ringing her first of Double Oxford Bob Minor in the success at Great Barton, whilst a 1260 of Grandsire Triples was rung at Ixworth and a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Bardwell, joining a growing list of performances worldwide rung for the victims of the terrorist atrocities in Paris on Friday.

Stoke Ash.Old Newton.Thornham Magna.Southwold.Ufford.

Meanwhile, it is good to hear of more ringing that is planned to be rung for St Edmund's Day at the end of this week and over the weekend, including quarters planned for Stoke Ash, Old Newton and hopefully Thornham Magna on Sunday, the traditional annual peal pencilled in at St Edmund King and Martyr in Southwold for Saturday morning and a QP lined up at Ufford on the evening of the day itself. Please let me know if you are planning something, in something or know of something that is being rung in aide of the county's patron saint so that I can let our local media know.

Even I'm being allowed out for it!

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Sunday 15th November 2015

Weekends never go slowly in my experience. In fact they always seem to go far too quickly. Precious time spent with loved ones and the freedom to breath without deadlines is never long enough. But it has been an extremely quiet weekend.

I did make it in time to ring some call-changes and some Reverse Uppingham (ringing down for those unaware!) on the front five at Woodbridge for the service, before I accompanied the boys to Sunday school, but following that burst of activity it was an afternoon at home, though Ruthie did spend some time doing South-East District business in her role of Secretary, a further reminder that in three weeks time we will need a new person for the role. SE members get thinking about who can replace her!

It has even been a quiet weekend on the peal and quarter front, with the only performance in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile being the nonetheless impressive 5040 of three Treble Dodging Maximus methods spliced rung at The Norman Tower yesterday by the Cumberland Youths.
3hrs32mins of undoubtedly high-quality noise on an otherwise quiet weekend.

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Saturday 14th November 2015

Although we aren't as active in a ringing sense as we once were, this weekend is still a highly unusual one. One where we have absolutely nothing planned whatsoever.

Of course we could have gone to Palgrave for the North-West District Practice or Blythburgh for the North-East District ADM in theory, but this in fact God willing the last weekend before Christmas where we have prolonged periods of time to spend together as a family and get stuff done and so instead we found ourselves at the seaside in a cold, blustery and wet Felixstowe as they battled to raise the seasonal decorations in the streets, whilst we did our first festive shopping this year.It was a productive afternoon, as it seems the NE's Annual District Meeting alongside the A12 was, at least judging by the draft minutes. Most notable outcome from the gathering was former Suffolk Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod being elected District Ringing Master, replacing Michelle Williams who has understandably stepped down after a couple of years in the role in order to continue in her other two roles as District Secretary and Annual Report Editor!

With their ADM done for 2015, it means there are two more planned for this year, with the South-West District's due to be held in a fortnight at Long Melford and then the South-East District's pencilled in a week later at Rushmere St Andrew on Saturday 5th December. There will be plenty being discussed and decided at both, not least at the latter where Ruthie will be stepping down as Secretary. No ifs, buts or maybes and no hanging around to find someone if no one is elected - if no one steps forward or is put forward for the job, the same few who always seem to do the hard graft will have to pick up the slack. So if you are reading this and feel you can step into the position or know someone who could or would, then please, please let SE District Chairman 01473 743812, know.

Both events should be highly enjoyable social occasions, as will the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday 20th November, the Halesworth Triples & Major Practice on Tuesday 24th and the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice on Wednesday 2nd of next month. Do help out, unless of course it is the only spare time you have to yourselves!

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Friday 13th November 2015

Despite being a parent and the father of a child who has had need of the wonderful facilities and staff at Great Ormond Street Hospital, I find the evening of television put on for Children in Need tedious and expected it would be even more so tonight in the absence of the superb Sir Terry Wogan and so as usual we didn't watch. We did donate to an event in aid of CiN though and it is of course a very worthy cause. But it does highlight how difficult it is for bellringing to fundraise, especially in these tough times of austerity. It's not just that there are so many charitable causes out there. There are so many that it is hard to argue aren't far more worthwhile causes. Why would a member of the public with a few spare quid - and even less so someone without any spare cash - give it to a tower looking to augment their ring of bells ahead of gravely ill children, lonely elderly folk or families relying on food banks?

The answer is most wouldn't, but there are some who may be able to donate some money once they've transferred funds to Cancer Research, the Red Cross or any number of other charities that quite rightly tug at the heartstrings. For more of them to do so though, perhaps we need to highlight the human side of our projects more readily. Even when we justify schemes by saying it is for training, it can sound quite vague and businesslike. Maybe if we highlighted how an easy-to-ring set of bells with a greater range of bells to use and/or a new simulator can offer up opportunities to the youth, vulnerable and lonesome of our communities and give families something to do together, we might raise more money and encourage greater recruitment.

It would certainly make for good publicity for our art, as I hope that St Edmund's Day in exactly a week will do, but thus far the response to my request for what Guild members are doing for the county's patron saint has been lukewarm at best. There are provisional plans for quarter-peals, not just on the day but over the weekend that follows and I am extremely grateful to those who have responded, but there isn't enough yet to take to our local media.

On this Friday though, all such publicity understandably and correctly will have been completely lost in amongst the horrific events that unfolded tragically in Paris this evening, a scene more akin to war-torn regions and destabilised far-off countries being carried out on streets that many of us have traversed at some time or another and closer to us here in Suffolk as the crow flies than many parts of the UK, to people just like us, doing things that we do, like eating and drinking out and going to football matches and concerts. Like those that Children in Need and other charities are fundraising for, we pray for them and count our blessings that it's not us. God willing it will remain that way.

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Thursday 12th November 2015

When I was Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, I didn't get out and about as much as I would've liked, but wouldn't have got to most of the towers and events that I did between 2006 and 2011 without Gav, my trusty maroon Vauxhall Cavalier, my car of the time. From Stradishall to Worlingham, Exning to Felixstowe, it was a useful beast to have until age and too many failed MOT's caught up on it.

These days though, our current runaround Aloysius is not just useful for getting us around ringing, but essential for our day-to-day life, now that our abode is just too far to reach John Catt Educational on foot (especially on those early and late shifts!), Mason resides in Hasketon when he is with his mother and Alfie goes to nursery out of town. So we were relieved that our automobile passed its latest MOT with little trouble, certainly compared to my Mastermobile.

Such little trouble that having dropped it off just before work and failed to heroically stop a stray dog wandering into the busy Melton Road - no vehicles, people or animals were harmed as far as I'm aware - on my walk to the office, it was ready for me to collect immediately after a day on the phones and to show its worth by taking Ruthie to her choir practice and then the Surprise Major Practice at Ufford.

It was an apparently productive session too, with the standard eight rung spliced and Bristol and London rung individually by a crowd including a sizeable deputation from the North-East District - whose ADM is this Saturday at Blythburgh for those looking for something to do over the weekend - and Bruce and Gill Wakefield. They are a couple who we will have to make the most of as they are due to be leaving us for Cornwall shortly to be nearer their daughter and her family. Not only will they be missed at the Cosy Nostril get-togethers every month, but also on Wednesday lunchtimes at St Lawrence in Ipswich and at Woodbridge where Bruce has been tower captain for many years, with the latter two venues in particular in need of help to fill the void left by their departure when they go. This husband and wife team have also served the SGR to a considerable extent, the former as Secretary for a decade from 1989 to 1999 and then later as Public Relations Officer until I took over from him four years ago, the latter as Librarian as they patiently allowed their home to be taken over by the organisations substantial collection until Abby Antrobus took the role on. They will be missed.

Meanwhile, there was another quarter-peal rung in the county yesterday for Armistice Day but not mentioned on the blog, as a half-muffled performance of Grandsire Minor was carried out at Buxhall. Well done to the band and their cars on getting them there!

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Wednesday 11th November 2015

I and others have said much about the bravery of those fighting on our behalf in warzones in recent days and I imagine that quite rightly much more will be said in the coming days and beyond as we continue to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War. But today, the nation simply stopped and stayed silent for two minutes at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, as it has done for every year for generations and as I hope it will in the future as we strive into a future where the living memories of the all-consuming World Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45 will diminish until gone completely.

And once the silence had passed, the air was filled with the sound of bells across the county, country and world. Here in Suffolk, two places were particularly active with a brace of quarters each. The Millbeck Ring in Shelland was the scene of a 1260 of Erin Triples and 1282 of Pudsey Surprise Major, whilst the QP of Grandsire Doubles rung at Pettistree preceding the Act of Remembrance at the village's war memorial was later followed up with a 1440 of Wickham Market Surprise Minor ahead of a practice that Ruthie attended and enjoyed prior to the obligatory trip to The Greyhound. I'm sure others elsewhere will also have been busy ringing for Armistice Day and as PR Officer I thank them for it.

Meanwhile, whilst we remember those who lost their lives in war, we remember the also sad passing of Stowmarket ringer Matthew Warner, who passed away last week in his Needham Market home and whose funeral will be held at Elmswell on a currently unspecified date. Please ask for more details.

As with all those we have mourned this week, rest in peace Matthew.

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Tuesday 10th November 2015

Thank you to John Taylor for his kind words on the Guild Facebook page about Sunday's blog and for highlighting the half-muffled ringing at Debenham for the regular morning service and then after the congregation had gathered around the war memorial and who he was remembering as he rang. But his post and Jeremy Warren's mention of the peal rung at Tibenham in Norfolk last year to remember the band there, are a reminder that currently those who sacrificed their lives in warfare are being remembered beyond just 11th November as we mark the First World War which was mapping its terrible course exactly a century ago.

As I trod my weary way from the office after another hard day at work - though still infinitely better than ten minutes in a wartime trench - on a dark, windy autumnal evening, picked Alfie up from nursery, breaking into a smile and a toddle with arms outstretched endearingly as he clocked me, was met with a warm greeting from Ruthie as I collected her from John Ives and recalled time spent and looked forward to time God willing to be spent with Mason, I was reminded even on such a mundane day of how lucky I am.
That good fortune extends to the friends made in ringing and the act of ringing itself and there were plenty of those friends and acquaintances enjoying the freedoms hard won by others as bells were rung across Suffolk today. Appropriately the handbell peal at Bacton remembered John McCrae's poem 'In Flanders Fields' - which clearly describes the horror of war with far more eloquence than I could ever muster in my blog entries - one hundred years on, whilst Peter Stock was ringing his first of Triples on a working bell in the pre-practice quarter at Offton which also celebrated the second anniversary of local ringer Caroline Goodchild to her husband Will in the same church as tonight's performance, Betty Baines her first of Watford Surprise Major in the 1280 at Hopton and Patricia and Ian Cresshull their 1200th QP together in the success at Gislingham. Congratulations Ian and Patricia and indeed Caroline and Will and well done Peter and Betty.

We have a lot to be thankful for and as John highlights, many to be thankful to.

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Monday 9th November 2015

Stedman is one of those things that is fine in theory, but has to be practiced. In theory, it is simple and exactly the same from Doubles to infinity. Just two different front-works, one of which is simply lead full. Double-dodge from 4-5 upwards. That's it. In practice though, throw in bobs and singles, put yourself in amongst bells not necessarily coming at you in the order you expect and all without the benefit of the treble being on a fixed path to hang off if you get lost or if you are simply looking for a guide and it can fall apart in moments. And it frequently does.

Yet we don't really ring it all that much in Suffolk. And we're not alone. A glance at the peals of Stedman rung this year reveal that they are predominantly rung in the big-city centres of excellence such as London and Birmingham. Or by John Pladdys who has rung over three thousand peals of it since his first over fifty years.

So turning over tonight's St Mary-le-Tower practice entirely to Stedman was a much-needed move by SMLT Ringing Master David Potts, especially under the guidance of George Pipe, who has rung a bit of the principle! All in all, the session both highlighted the need to practice it more and showed that we can ring it well. Numerous conductors had a shot at calling it and there was some good ringing over the course of the evening, even if by the end I was suffering with Stedman-fatigue!

There was greater variety at the 378th College Youths Anniversary Dinner on Saturday night, held at the Grange St Paul's Hotel for the first time and as usual featuring some spotless handbell ringing, which on this occasion was spliced Deimos, Maypole, Phobos and Zanussi Maximus, which can be listened to here. Even for ringers of this ability though, I imagine some practice was required beforehand!

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Sunday 8th November 2015

For most, life in the UK is safe. We work in offices, go about our business in a generally secure environment and if we choose can criticise those in authority with no risk of reprimand from the law. That is down to those who through the decades have put themselves in harm's way in complete contrast to cowards such as I who would sooner avoid such danger. Those who have been bogged down in muddy, disease-ridden trenches whilst others just yards from them try to kill them. Those who have faced the enemy thousands of feet from the safety of the ground in fighter planes to protect our homes and businesses from bombs. Those who have trodden roads in Afghanistan littered with mines laid to injure, maim or bring their lives to a violent and brutal end. I couldn't even comprehend putting myself in that position.

Some completely misunderstand the meaning of Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day as an occasion to glorify war. But for me and most people, it is an opportunity for quite the opposite. A chance to mourn that war has to happen at all and the lives that have been lost and changed irrevocably for those wars to happen and be brought to an end. This morning, bells played their part in proceedings, from Big Ben to Grundisburgh tenor to the half-muffled bells of St Mary-le-Tower.

Delightfully, Ruthie was able to join myself and the boys for the latter two as the choir weren't needed for the outdoor festival on the Market Hill in Woodbridge, helping contribute to enough at SMLT and a reasonable crowd in the little wobbly brick tower, where those who had been ringing in Italy over the last two weekends returned to bolster numbers, before we returned home to relax for the afternoon.

Elsewhere, ringers in Suffolk continued to mark today as it should be, with half-muffled bells for the peal at Aldeburgh, the NDA quarter-peal at Lowestoft, the 1280 of Grandsire Doubles at Ingham and the QP at The Norman Tower, where Maurice Rose and Julie Lawrence were ringing their first of Erin Caters or indeed of Erin on any number - well done Maurice and Julie!And well done and thank you to all who rang bells today for those who risk their lives so we can enjoy ringing.

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Saturday 7th November 2015

There's a reason why I so rarely put myself in the hands of public transport. Because it nearly always lets me down. For today, we had booked the train from round the corner from our house in Woodbridge to the centre of Norwich for the South-East District Outing to the city, primarily because the cost of the tickets was almost entirely covered by vouchers I'd received for the debacle of a journey back from my brother's stag do in Edinburgh in July, but also to allow us a rare opportunity to both have a drink without having to worry about driving anywhere.

Of course, the trains let us down. Straight away in fact, as the train from our town of residence to Ipswich on the very first leg of our journey was cancelled. It was only through a kind message from the Garners that we knew it wasn't to be our transport for the initial part of our trip, so having taken our car to the railway station of the county town, we were only too glad to offer a lift to Chris after he had travelled back on the same train as us to discover that the connection to Melton where his car was stranded had also been cancelled.

Ringing at Coslany.In the waiting room at St George's .Ringing at St George's.The entrance up to the ringing chamber at St George's .Ringing at St Giles.Ringing at St Giles.Ringing at St Peter Mancroft. The daunting draught at St Peter Mancroft.Ringing at All Saints.

Thankfully such inconveniences didn't prevent us from enjoying the proceedings between our disrupted journeying. Although the rough, oddstruck and uncomfortable sounding eight of St Michael and All Angels in Coslany had us wondering why we were so keen to get in on time, they were a valuable experience for learners, a wonderful example of the variety in ringing that makes it such an interesting way of life and the first of a good range of towers across the cathedral city. St George Colegate in contrast were a lovely little six and St Giles where I ran the ringing are a nice eight that many had missed out on due to a lockout on a previous outing and so much enjoyed. And though we were unable to ring all twelve at St Peter Mancroft as a result of the clapper of the fourth breaking last Sunday - thus leading us to try some truly awful sounding combinations on ten - and the queues at the final tower All Saints proving to be just too long with our journey back to Suffolk preying on our minds, District Ringing Master Tom Scase is to be congratulated and thanked for his magnificent organisation and arrangements, including lunch in the Golden Star, a character-filled pub in the back streets.

They were arrangements deservedly rewarded by a large turnout and some really good ringing, from call-changes to an attempt of eight-spliced Surprise Major, whilst it was nice to see Stephen Day and Simon Rudd who let us in at some towers and though we booed and hissed under our breath at the floodlights of Carrow Lane as we passed them when pulling out of the station (to no avail as the Budgies beat Swansea 1-0 with a goal that appears to have been scored exactly as we were cursing them from the tracks, though Ipswich winning 5-2 more than made up for it!), even I will admit that Norwich makes a fine day out, with its ancient streets, alleys and buildings spared the ravages of wartime bombing and 1960's planners that sadly befell Ipswich.

It's just next time we might drive.

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Friday 6th November 2015

Readers will have noticed that we have been less active in the ringing stakes on a personal level in recent months. The reason has primarily been Alfie and the need for someone to be looking after him (I know, what is the world coming to?!) in the evenings, but it has meant that the focus has been less on what we have been doing and more on what others have been doing and the internet and social media has played a big part in that. And so it is with today's blog...

Firstly, thank you to David Salter on his very kind words about this blog in his blog. There are few regular ringing blogs that I have found. As a writer by trade, the blog written by Hampshire ringer Robin McKinley is an entertaining read, though even by my standards it is light on the ringing content! Matthew Turner's excellent musings can be read via the Llandaff & Monmouth DACBR website, with his frequent updates about his busy ringing life in the Newport area. But it is David's I read the most, with interesting reports on his his peal-ringing exploits across the country and other aspects of his ringing life. I think these blogs can be important for giving an insight into ringing in 2015, not just for updating readers of current goings on, but - providing a place can be found to store them - maybe for future generations. I love reading and hearing about life in Suffolk ringing from times of yore and often wish we had more to fill in the gaps, give us a ringside seat on the day-to-day life in different times. Along with Mr Salter's online entries, I hope that we can put more flesh on the bones of what is going on currently in local ringing, where it is being done, how it is being done, why it is being done and the characters who are doing it.

The world wide web can of course show us far more than ringers could ever have got access to even just twenty years ago. Some of it is daft, like the link to Wednesday's Radio Six Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie show, which essentially consists of a bizarre, vaguely comprehensible rant about bellringing from the latter and his inability to understand bellringing terms. I'm in two minds as how to react to this. My natural instinct is to chuckle and indeed many ringers have been joking that they will be ringing quarter-peals and peals named after the various random words he cobbled together, and ringing has greater troubles than the throwaway remarks of a DJ in its recruitment, training and retention, but I'm not sure the image it paints is entirely helpful. Anyway, if you do want to listen, clutch on to your sense of humour and listen to it on iPlayer from about 2hrs19mins in.

A more positive and sensible bit of ringing-related online content that I also took in tonight was a recording of the longest peal yet rung on twelve bells, 21,216 changes of Cambridge Surprise Maximus rung at South Petherton last month. It isn't (you may be relieved to hear!) the full 14hrs26mins, but rather three snippets worth listening to not just as a standard of ringing to aspire to, but to highlight the quality of the band ringing, many of whom I have had the privilege of seeing first-hand the immense abilities that they have on the end of a rope. In the first lead when others may still be settling in and five and eight-and-a-half hours in when most mortals would have been merely hanging off the end of the rope, the ringing is faultless, full of pace, flow, rhythm and accurate striking.

Also via modern technology, I was able to read about the impressive achievements of David and Lesley Steed, who today completed the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor to quarter-peals since 1st January with the 1296 of Canterbury Surprise Minor at Tostock. Well done David and Lesley - I am more than happy to report it on this blog!

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Thursday 5th November 2015

What I learnt tonight.

Rumburgh.The first two facts were indicative of another quiet night in as Ruthie went to choir practice and then sang for St Mary Woodbridge's All Souls service, whilst the latter was the good news that young Matthew Rolph joined Bill Lloyd, Ruth Eyles, Adam Shard, Kevin Ward, Peter Davidson and Matthew Kemsley in a thus far impressive haul of SGR members contributing to FirstPeal2015, with a 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at Rumburgh. Congratulations and well done Matthew!

Hopefully he has learnt a lot from it!

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Wednesday 4th November 2015

Illness in our unassuming Woodbridge household is disrupting our week somewhat.

Whilst Alfie is better, he still isn't one hundred percent and now his mother Ruthie is feeling very poorly. Fortunately it wasn't her day at work, but that also meant that Alfred wasn't at nursery and when I returned home at lunchtime to find my wife looking exhausted and generally not at her most mobile as AJM lurched from manic energy to grumpy and clingy displeasure, I felt I ought to relieve her and so the ever-patient John Catt Educational had to make do without my presence this afternoon.

It also meant that a visit to Pettistree for practice this evening wasn't advisable, but they seemed to be coping, at least going by the successful quarter-peal beforehand. As is often the case on a Wednesday night, it was accompanied by a similar success at Preston St Mary, where all the band were ringing their first of Double Platt Bridge Bob Minor and Stephen Dawson was ringing his 400th QP. Well done to all the band and congratulations Stephen!

Whilst our midweek was quiet though, there is much planned in the coming days on the Suffolk ringing front. There is Saturday's South-East District Outing to Norwich where as much support as can be mustered would be very much appreciated, sentiments that are true of any event, including the Second Tuesday Ringing at Long Melford and the aforementioned Preston St Mary in six days time and on the following weekend with the North-West District Practice at Palgrave on the morning of the 14th, followed by the North-East District ADM at Blythburgh later in the day. Meanwhile, I could still do with hearing about any ringing being done for St Edmund's Day on the 20th.

And though not a ringing event as such, this Friday's Bonfire, Fireworks and BBQ at Sproughton is essentially run by the local ringers, led by Tower Captain and SE District Chairman Ralph Earey. Having been to many of these both as helper and punter and with and without children, I can highly recommend going along. If you're not too ill that is...

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Tuesday 3rd November 2015

Late last night, a young ringer named Simon Lipscombe-Smith from Hampshire lost his battle with cancer. I didn't know him, but many ringers I know did, including from Suffolk and I was moved this evening by the tributes on social media to a man who was clearly held in very high regard by those who knew him and seems to have been an enthusiastic, energetic and keen member of the ringing community who will be sorely missed. What particularly caught my eye was the fund-raising page to help raise funds for his funeral, as being a young man he had no savings to speak off. There are sadly far too many charitable causes for any one person even of substantial wealth to donate to, so I bring your attention to it not to force anyone's arm to contribute to this worthy cause, but rather to make you aware of it in case you knew him and feel this would be fitting way to remember him or even if you didn't know him and would like to help raise money for what would appear to be a very fitting send off. As is often the case with such tragedy, the silver lining is the good it brings out in people and this shows the ringing family at its best.

It was nonetheless extremely sad news on an otherwise positive day full of positive results. Following a disturbed night with a poorly Alfie, we were relieved that he awoke more like his usual chirpy, hungry self, which persuaded us to take him into nursery and allowed us both to go to work today. Ipswich Town finally won again after months of trying and quarter-peals of spliced Surprise Major in the 'standard' eight methods and Plain Bob Minor were rung at Offton and Brandeston respectively, though the latter was for the loss of Hilary Stearn from the local ringing scene, albeit to the benefit of ringing in the Cratfield area. Best of luck Hilary!

And RIP Simon and condolences to his family and friends. I hope the support of the ringing family offers comfort and solace.

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Monday 2nd November 2015

Today didn't go as Mondays usually go. Of course there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower due to the All Souls service being held on the same night as the ringers have always practiced on again, even more frustrating following the disrupted attempts at regular ten and twelve-bell ringing this year at one of only three twelve-bell towers in Suffolk.

Of more concern was getting a call from nursery suggesting we collect Alfie and get him checked by the doctors as they thought he had hand, foot and mouth. It was an accurate diagnosis as it happened, confirmed by a reassuring trip to the doctors later in the day and it meant more time out of work as my patient employers allowed me out to look after an unusually subdued eighteen-month old.

Things appear to have gone more to plan at Great Finborough, where the entire band were ringing their first quarter-peal of Corse Bob Minor - well done to them all!

God willing tomorrow will go better.

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Sunday 1st November 2015

With regulars including the Twissells, Jo Crowe, Mike Pilgrim and Ringing Master Stephen Pettman still travelling back from the latter's biannual ringing trip to Italy, we disappointingly met so short at Grundisburgh this morning that all notion of grabbing hold to ring the locals in for the service was abandoned. It should be a timely reminder that in a week's time that we will need all hands to deck for what is one of the most important occasions in the ringing calendar, Remembrance Sunday. Across the county, bells will be half-muffled and/or an integral part of a moving event as society remembers those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us and reminds us of the futility of war. It would be good to have as many of those bells being manned as possible, so please support those towers near you if you can.

Somewhere where we did manage ringing today was St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence, but there shan't be any at the former tomorrow night when the practice would typically be held, as the All Souls service that Sproughton are holding today and Woodbridge on Thursday and thus avoiding any activities usually held in the building is yet again held on a Monday night at Ipswich's civic church.

The boys and I returned to Suffolk's county town to its railway station after collecting Ruthie from church as we prepare for something else planned for next weekend, Saturday's South-East District Outing to Norwich. As much as I enjoy traversing through rural idylls ringing bells that waft across beautiful countryside and my natural inclination to dislike everything connected to the city's football team, holding the outing there has considerable benefits, not least that there are a number of ways of getting there. Whilst some are using the park and ride and others are driving into the centre, we have decided to allow the train to take the strain, particularly as we had vouchers burning a hole in our pockets that were given to me following the debacle of our return journey from my brother Chris' stag do in Edinburgh over the summer, but could only be redeemed in person at a ticket office. Hopefully many others will join us, especially at St Peter Mancroft, providing they have fixed the clapper in the fourth that broke there today! Either way, all ringers, experienced or learning, from the SE District or elsewhere will be needed and welcomed and if you are planning on eating with us at the Golden Star then District Ringing Master Tom Scase would appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible.

Our travels took us back to our town of residence to visit my wife's Nan, before Mrs Munnings went back to St Mary-the-Virgin to sing for the choir at evensong, but others continued their ringing with a quarter-peal at Pettistree and one at Great Barton, where Neal Dodge was ringing his most methods as conductor - well done Neal!

I only hope the county's ringers are even more active in a week's time.

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Saturday 31st October 2015

As another over-egged Halloween was played out, the outline of a woman could be seen flying over East Anglia. But whilst this is the day of witches levitating upon broomsticks, the female dashing through our skies was someone well known in this Guild, my mother-in-law Kate Eagle. Being uber-careful to make no connection at all between the symbol of this American tradition exported and hijacked in the UK in recent years and the immediate past South-East District Ringing Master, my wife's mother was at the controls of a Tiger Moth over Cambridgeshire as a surprise for her birthday earlier in the month, an experience that she was kept entirely in the dark about until we all arrived at the famous Duxford Imperial War Museum.

Alfie & Mason 'flying' a plane at Duxford's playground.Kate getting briefed before she went up.Kate getting briefed before she went up.Spitfire taking off.

This is a place that I have always fancied going to, but have never managed, although I have rung at the 8cwt six of St Peter's church that overlooks the airfield. I was therefore delighted to support the star of the show in her maiden voyage as a pilot, along with her daughters, grandchildren and Ron, the latter of whom was responsible for this exciting occasion. Mrs Eagle loved her journeying in the air and we all enjoyed the many planes on view, both grounded like Concorde and in action like the Spitfire, which flew a number of times whilst we were there, evoking images of this corner of the planet during the Second World War. And the kids enjoyed the novel playground! Thank you Ron for a great day out, before we returned to Woodbridge for tea and a beer in Edwin Avenue, a lovely way to end a lovely day - thank you Kate for that!

Other Suffolk ringers were travelling beyond our borders today too. Mike Whitby was in Norfolk ringing peals of Yorkshire Surprise Major at East Harling and spliced Surprise Major in eight methods at Quidenham, Maggie Ross rang a 5007 of Stedman Cinques at Sheffield Cathedral and George Salter conducted a 5042 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Southwark Cathedral. Perhaps ironically, the only peal in the county recorded on BellBoard on this All Hallows' Eve was rung by the Norwich Diocesan Association at Lowestoft, though a quarter-peal was rung at Wickham Market, whilst the most eye-catching ringing on the internet was the Simon peal rung at Aston featuring a talented array of the name, including former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Mr Rudd.

However, our day was all about Ufford's current airborne Ringing Master.

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Friday 30th October 2015

Alfie wore green for Halloween to nursery and in a (very) tenuous link, a peal was rung by a village green today, upon the 19cwt ground-floor six of St Mary-the-Virgin in Dennington.

It was South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight that was making headlines upon the bells of Suffolk though. Well done to Tracey Scase on (probably) ringing her first of Ipswich Surprise Minor in the success at Monewden and to Philip Mutton on his first QP not rung on the treble as he covered to Plain Bob Doubles at Tannington.

Whether they wore green or not, I don't know.

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Thursday 29th October 2015

Over the last couple of days, Ruthie has - in her soon-to-be former position as South-East District Secretary - been going through the details of the towers in our corner of the Guild following a request from SGR Secretary Carl Melville and Annual Report Editor Michelle Williams, both voted into their respective roles just six months ago at the Guild AGM at Felixstowe and now finding their feet. The aim is to ensure there are email contacts for every peal of bells and that details such as their go, whether they are rung from the ground-floor or upstairs, when and if their practice night is held, time of Sunday morning ringing and if there are accessible toilet facilities, are as up to date as they can be. It is a lot to find out in a short space of time and the District Secretaries are going to need the help of Deanery reps and those with their ears to the ground. So please check the Annual Report for details of the towers that you know well and if you can fill in any holes or there is anything that needs correcting, then let your Deanery representative, District Secretary, Carl or Michelle know!

Some of those towers were being checked out today for the SE District QP Fortnight, with a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Ashbocking, 1280 changes of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Henley and a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Offton all completed successfully, whilst meanwhile an impressive peal of Doubles was rung on handbells in Bacton.

We meanwhile were resting up, particularly my wife after a busy couple of days of research!

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Wednesday 28th October 2015

Peal-ringing and following your favourite football team have certain parallels.

With both, you often find yourself wondering why you put yourself through it, before being reminded why when it goes well. The burst of elation at the end of a peal and the full-time whistle when your team gets a positive result is - for me anyway - the same. But so is the despair of a last minute goal conceded by your footballing heroes and the loss of a peal close to the end.

Having experienced the frustration of Ipswich Town letting in an equaliser five minutes into injury at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, the same sensation came to me as a peal attempt of four spliced Surprise Major methods was miscalled just two or three courses from completion on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. However, much like the weekend's disappointment, tonight's subsided after the initial annoyance. I have been involved in attempts stopped over three hours in and at least one member of the band tonight has been denied a success in the very last lead before, so it could've been worse and the conductor isn't the first and won't be the last to have suffered the same fate, especially in an attempt at the end of the day when the body, mind and concentration are more likely to be flagging. Indeed, I have lost count of the number of times I messed up some pretty decent attempts of spliced Surprise Minor by miss-calling them when we were on that particular project a few years ago. If we had succeeded on this occasion, the conductor would've quite rightly been given the bulk of the credit for negotiating a composition that required a change of method every lead and had managed with no sign of hesitation or deviation for over two-and-a-half hours.

There was at least one silver lining from the gathering too. Although he - and we - would've have preferred to have gone the distance or at least lost it a couple of hours earlier, what we did ring was invaluable experience for young George Vant who rang splendidly in an effort that overall was decent, if a little rough around the edges at times and God willing will stand him in good stead for a future attempt.

And we had enjoyed a jovial session. We tried to work out what colour the original wall-paint revealed by the recent removal of a peal board was, chuckled at one band member missing their sally and the noise they made as they chased after it and adjusted our eyes to Alex Tatlow's shirt, an item of clothing that can be seen in all its brightness in the photo that accompanies the report on BellBoard of the quarter-peal at Great Barton earlier today.

Despite our loss at SMLT, that 1260 of Doubles at the 8cwt six was one of three successes on another positive day of ringing in the county, as the pre-practice QP at Pettistree was rung with the help of the visit of one-time locals Jayne and Iain Mitchell, whilst David Salter called a peal composition by his three hundredth different composer. Congratulations David, especially on a night we were reminded that conducting isn't as easy as some make it look!

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Tuesday 27th October 2015

Those who have rung regularly at the 6cwt eight of Horham and 20cwt ten of Stradbroke over the last thirty years and indeed many other Guild members will I'm sure be sorry to hear today of the death of the colourful and eccentric Rev David Streeter, priest-in-charge and then rector at the above two churches along with Athelington (an unringable three) and Redlingfield (home to a single 4cwt bell) from 1982 until his far too recent retirement just two years ago and rural dean of Hoxne between 1991 and 2000. He was an instantly recognisable fixture in the area and I recall meeting him on a number of occasions, including when we rang a peal at All Saints to celebrate a quarter of a century service to the benefice by him, which just happened to be on the same day as Mason was born!

On a happier note, welcome back to peal-ringing to Mick Edwards, who this evening made his return to the medium by trebling to a 5040 of Doubles at The Wolery, a positive note on a positive day's ringing in the county that also saw the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton scored and a 1260 of Isle of Ely Bob Minor rung at Great Finborough, a first in the method for all the band and the first blows of it for Josephine Beever, Lesley Steed and Nigel Gale - well done Josephine, Lesley and Nigel!

For us though, it was a typically quiet Tuesday night in.

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Monday 26th October 2015

It was my turn to stay at home putting Alfie to bed tonight, whilst Ruthie went out with her mother Kate to a St Mary-le-Tower practice being run apparently marvelously by George Salter and heaving with participants, including a young chap called Ewan Grant-Richardson visiting from Hampshire and fresh from an impressive weekend of peal-ringing in Guildford and a friend of George Vant's from south of the Suffolk-Essex border. She deservedly topped the evening off with a pint at The Robert Ransome before my mother-in-law very kindly brought her back.

Earlier in the day, a band had rung a quarter-peal of spliced Surprise Major in twelve methods at Gislingham, with guest to our county Simon Edwards ringing his first of spliced Surprise Major - well done Simon. That success was part of what seems to have been a very positive day of ringing within our borders.

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Sunday 25th October 2015

Still it rolls on. 25th October 2007 was the first day covered in this blog, which means that today is its eighth birthday. I can't say it was my intention to still be filing a daily entry on ringing life in Suffolk when I first suggested the idea to Webmaster Chris Garner in the pews of Pettistree church at a Wednesday practice there in the autumn of the blog's year of conception. At the time I was Guild Ringing Master and I imagined it would be a good way of demystifying the role and/or keeping in touch with members across this vast county and that it would probably finish when my time as RM came to an end. Demand (?!) on my departure from the job in 2011, my taking up the position as the SGR Public Relations Officer and the fact that I enjoy writing it meant that it has continued. Barring any unforeseen circumstances the next natural point to bring it to an end may be when I finish as the PRO at the next Guild AGM on 2nd April and - as far as I intend - I shall be without a Guild role for the first time in a decade, but as things currently stand I am happy to carry on writing if people are happy to carry on reading it.

And it seems people have been. I have never pretended that this is read by thousands or even hundreds, but I am aware of at least a hundred readers and things I have mentioned in my daily ramblings are frequently mentioned to me as I go about my ringing and even occasionally my non-ringing socialising. The focus has changed along the way, beginning as a more personal account of our daily life and how it fitted in amongst a lifestyle that saw us ringing three or four nights a week and pretty much every weekend. As Mason has grown and Alfie has arrived and particularly since I finished as Ringing Master, our own ringing has become less frequent, though still regular and so it has gradually become more about ringing in the county generally and many have commented at how the blog keeps them in the loop.

Every now and then I read some of my past entries too. Not so much out of vanity - in fact quite the opposite as I cringe at a lot of what I did, what I said and how I said it. But like reading past editions of the Annual Report and The Ringing World, I've found it interesting to delve into the past, to read about the characters of years gone by - some of which we have since lost - and the ringing we used to do and the stories behind them. Therefore, I've tried to be as expansive and informative as possible, without boring folk. Whether I succeed or not is up to others to judge!

George Pipe reading Thomas the Tank Engine to Alfie at St Mary-le-Tower on Sunday morning.Today was typical of Sundays for us. Once upon a time I would've been peal-ringing on the afternoon of the Sabbath, but like most in the last couple of years, it was a quiet one in the Munnings household. Some things haven't changed since my first words though. St Mary-le-Tower, Grundisburgh and Pettistree feature prominently throughout my musings and so it was today, as the boys and I took advantage of the extra hour from putting the clocks back overnight to make it into Ipswich to allow me to ring, Mason to play and Alfred to have Thomas the Tank Engine read to him by George Pipe. We then carried on to the county's lightest twelve. Things have changed a lot here in eight years. Back then, they were the lightest twelve in the world and well attended on Thursdays and Sundays. This morning, with Stephen Pettman's latest biennial ringing trip to Italy having taken a large proportion of the local band, we were grateful to the visit of Peter Hill from Hampshire and the return of David Stanford and Adrienne Sharp from a Suffolk quarter-peal tour of Cumbria, where Adrienne rang her first of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Bridekirk a week ago - well done Adrienne! Having spent the first twenty minutes wondering if we would ring at all, we eventually mustered enough to climax with some Cambridge Surprise Minor which was perfect except for a mistake I made as I marvelled at how good the ringing was and some rounds on the back six with the eldest son leading! Then having picked up my wife Ruthie (another considerable change from that first entry!) from singing at St Mary's in Woodbridge, she was unexpectedly called out to the aforementioned ground-floor village ring for a 1415 to mark the six hundredth anniversary of Henry V's victory at the Battle of Agincourt.

It was but one of a number of performances inside our boundaries today to celebrate this significant part of British history. 1260 of St Clement's College Bob Minor was rung at Buxhall, 1600 of Little and Plain Bob Minor at Wingfield and 5600 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Offton, whilst other quarters were rung of Plain Bob Triples at Kersey, Yorkshire Surprise Major within Suffolk but under the NDA's geographical spread at Lowestoft and Little Bob Major at Halesworth where Sal Jenkinson, Nicole Rolph, Michelle Williams and Hugh Spink were ringing their first in the method. Well done Sal, Nicole, Michelle and Hugh!

A busy day as worthy of mention as any other on this blog over the last eight years.

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Saturday 24th October 2015

When I was first entrusted with ringing for weddings in the early 1990's, typically at Sproughton and nearby Copdock where there was - and still isn't - a band, I earnt �3, a bounty I was delighted with as a teenager with not much to fork out on. This afternoon saw me earn - though as yet, not collect - �25 for an afternoon's ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for a rare marriage ceremony at Ipswich's civic church. It is the most I recall receiving for contributing to the aural backdrop to a couple's big day since we rang for one at Orford a few years back, a post-lunch period on the coast that turned out to be a very long one as a lengthy service followed on from the bride arriving twenty minutes late, despite only departing from the edge of the churchyard! And having discovered that she had paid for an extra seat on a plane from Paris solely to transport her dress, tower captain Richard Moody was cursing that he didn't ask for more money!

Generally though, the current going rate judging by a busy year of matrimonial unions in Suffolk's churches appears to have been between �15-�20, which actually doesn't seem that much in the scheme of an event where some couples are spending several tens of thousands of pounds, especially as many ringers take a considerable amount out of their free time to travel, ring, wait for the service to finish and then ring again, before travelling home, something that is almost invariably elongated by late-arriving brides. �25 is more like it, but would couples think it outrageous if we were asking for �30, �40 or even �50 a rope?

That said, we do need to ensure that we provide a better - indeed professional - standard of ringing more consistently. Of course we should be looking to produce as high a standard as possible whenever we grab hold, but whereas at practices we can be excused for imperfect ringing in the pursuit of progression, at the other extreme when ringing for weddings, funerals and other occasions when we have been specifically requested, are a part of the occasion and especially when we are being paid for our efforts, we need ensure the eradication of mistakes and concentrate a lot harder on striking.

To that end, I often prefer to ring call-changes for weddings, as they can be fitted with more flexibility into proceedings which can be unpredictable in their timings, but more particularly because they minimise the potential of errors and should allow participants to focus on their striking. Today we rang changes and it didn't always go to plan, though when it was going well it was going very well and on this day our performance may well have been missed by and large by our intended audience, as the type of cold, wet weather you may expect on a late October Saturday came to be. Nonetheless, I hope they enjoyed their day and that they appreciated the respectable noise emanating from SMLT's front eight courtesy of a band who had travelled from as far afield as Essex.

These are but one element of our art though. Today was the South-West District Ten-Bell Practice at Sudbury. Tomorrow will see towers across the county ringing for services in the morning and evening. And since the sun rose on the last day of British Summer Time 2015, there have been peals and quarters aplenty within our borders. There were three QP's rung, each for a different organisation, with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Blythburgh for the Norwich Diocesan Association, a 1320 of Surprise Minor for the Ely Diocesan Association at Great Barton and a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor on handbells in Old Stoke for our very own SGR. Congratulations to Vanessa Webster on scoring her 500th quarter in the middle success.

There were peals too, with a 5040 at Weybread, but the headline act was at The Norman Tower, where Richard Walter was ringing his first on twelve, Ian Culham his first of Maximus and Colin Salter his first on twelve as conductor. Super effort and much deserved success for three of the most enthusiastic ringers in the area - well done Richard, Ian and Colin! They won't have got paid for it, but I'm sure it would've been worth paying for!

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Friday 23rd October 2015

The main reward for ten weeks of early and late shifts, disrupted evenings and general exhaustion is primarily financial and very useful it is too, especially with our lives joyfully filled with children but less so with disposable income! Every year though, John Catt Educational has thanked the sales team for our efforts on this international campaign with a meal out at a local pub and so a week after the latest one finished, we were generously taken out for lunch at The Duke of York, a hostelry much enjoyed by Ruthie and me - when we get the chance - as it is the closest to our current abode.

It was a strange affair mind. We were there for over an hour-and-a-half but only managed a main course, unusually slow for this particular establishment and half our drinks order was thrown on the floor by the waiter, but what food we did have was very nice and we were extremely appreciative of our employers generosity.

Ashbocking.Otherwise though, it was a typically quiet Friday night in for us, but elsewhere they were busier as FNQPC contributed to the South-East Quarter-Peal Fortnight with a 1260 of Doubles at Ashbocking, deserved reward for their efforts.

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Thursday 22nd October 2015

Ruthie returned to choir practice after a three-week hiatus, so I was on Alfie controlling duties. Though my wife was disappointed that they weren't starting on the Christmas songs just yet, these are the sorts of nights we have become used to, but other ringers were actually ringing. Well done to Andrea Alderton on her first quarter-peal of Norfolk Surprise Minor in the success at Tostock.

God willing, busier days lay ahead however.

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Wednesday 21st October 2015

Happy Back to the Future Day!

For those who haven't caught on, today is the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived when they went forward in time thirty years in the film Back to the Future II. All pure fiction obviously, but it spawned a day of looking back three decades to 1985 and forward to 2045 across the media traditional and social. Whilst the makers of the movie never foresaw things like the internet and were off the mark with flying cars, they did appear to predict 3D cinema, video calls and even - sort of - hoverboards, meaning that journalists in particular couldn't resist what our society might look like when it approaches the halfway point of the twenty-first century. Computers in tables and a robotic Arsene Wenger were amongst the predictions put forward in equal measures of seriousness and jest on that subject, but it all got me thinking along similar lines with bellringing.

Much like society, ringing in Suffolk probably hasn't changed that much in many respects since 1985. A look down the list of Guild Officers from that year's SGR Annual Report reveals names like Stephen Pettman, John & Shirley Girt, George Pipe, Alan Mayle and Sally Munnings that are still prevalent within our borders today. Towers like The Norman Tower, Aldeburgh, St Mary-le-Tower in Ipswich and Lavenham link us not just with the 1980's but the 1880's. But much has changed of course and although none of us can claim to know the future even a second ahead with any certainty, things are likely to keep changing through to 2045 and beyond. Thirty years ago, 153 peals were rung in our name by 186 members at 79 towers. Last year saw just 121 rung by 98 at 51 venues and this year it looks like those figures will drop further. Even accounting for peaks and troughs in numbers over the years, one wonders where peal-ringing will be in the future and the fear for the subsequent drop of standards that seem to accompany a less active peal-ringing scene. Where we are ringing in thirty years will be interesting too. In recent months it has been suggested many rural churches will shut down in as a little time as over the next decade, with one report suggesting the Church of England carry out a Beeching-style cull. This would of course effect where we ring our bells more than most ringing organisations and I can envisage a lot more private rings springing up if we are to flourish. And will the Suffolk Guild itself be around?

It doesn't have to be bad news of course. One of the themes of the 1985 report was the then planned restoration of Pettistree's bells, underlined by questions of whether anyone would ring them! As the fifty-ninth quarter upon this ground-floor six this year alone was rung ahead of a well-attended practice that Ruthie contributed to, I think those concerns have been well and truly answered! And young talented ringers continue to learn and though as always happened some move away and benefit ringing elsewhere, others return and will God willing be the stalwarts of what I pray will be a thriving Guild in its 122th year.

In the more immediate future, if you can then please support the South-West District Ten-Bell Practice at Sudbury St Peter on Saturday, the Triples/Major Practice at Halesworth next Tuesday and the illustrated lecture being held by Alec Greenwell and Ed Cooper at Framlingham College on Thursday 29th October to help fundraising for the sixth bell at Cretingham. No one knows what benefits having a six here will have over the next thirty years, but for now the future slips into the past...

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Tuesday 20th October 2015

It is exactly one month until 20th November. 'Well obviously' I hear you say. No really I do. But as most of you are hopefully aware after the last few years, it is also a significant day for Suffolk as it is St Edmund's Day, a day celebrating the county's patron saint, who some desire to see holding that position for England in place of the current incumbent St George.

Since 2008 when we as a Guild were asked by one of the saint's - and local ringing's - biggest supporters in the shape of BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Mark Murphy to mark the occasion with bells, we have done just that. The plan that year was ambitious, especially by the standards of 2015 peal-ringing, as a peal was attempted in each District and although we were only 50% successful that day with peals at Edwardstone and St Matthew's in Ipswich, there were also two quarters at Barrow and twelve months later we completed four peals, at Barrow in the North-West District, Cavendish in the South-West District, Falkenham in the South-East District and Metfield in the North-East District, plus a quarter from the FNQPC at Ashbocking. Another four peals were rung on the day in 2010, with 5040's of Minor at Edwardstone, Saxmundham and Sproughton and a peal and quarter apiece of Major at Fressingfield and Southwold respectively, before my time as SGR Ringing Master came to an end and I drew a line under the extensive arrangements required to set up multiple peals. But I'm glad to say that we have continued to celebrate the day with peals and quarters, importantly garnering valuable PR along the way, though I sense that the Beeb's own coverage of St Edmund has waned somewhat, with less of the fanfare that once greeted the twentieth day of the eleventh month and our own exposure diminishing in that time from countywide peal-watching on the airwaves, interviews and even a place for myself and then Guild Public Relations Officer Bruce Wakefield on Lesley Dolphin's famous sofa to a mere mention last year, though that was as much to do with the fact that now that Mark's show is on later in the morning it proved impossible to arrange a time to chat.

Either way, with me due to finish as PRO at the Guild AGM on Saturday 2nd April, this will be my last St Edmund's Day in the role, so God willing it'll be the last one that I will be responsible for the PR of. Whether my successor feels fit to carry on using 20/11 as a platform to promote Suffolk ringing will be entirely up them, but regardless I hope I will be able to report ringing from across the county to our local BBC radio station for one last time, so please let me know if you are doing anything and if you're not then I would encourage you to arrange something for Friday 20th November. And then let me know about it!

There was nothing about our day worthy of mention to the local media, but it was pleasant enough as we sat down to a Tuesday night in not curtailed by late finishes or early starts. Hopefully a month from now will be busier!

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Monday 19th October 2015

With the ringing carried out at pace and with life, last night's special practice and tonight's usual practice at St Mary-le-Tower have - in my humble opinion - been the best that I have been present at since ringing returned to Suffolk's heaviest twelve a few weeks ago. There are still too many mistakes by people who should know better, though my perception is that they are diminishing in number and appear to be more quickly dealt with, but generally the rhythm and feel of the pieces rung were uplifting. A half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus in particular was a joy to ring in, as it ebbed and flowed, making ringing the back bells a heck of a lot easier, but there were other successes over the evening that gave this a very positive vibe, which was nice for our visitors Chris Caryer and Liz Thornton from Hampshire and Nigel Gale, a talented ringer who has moved into the North-West District and who we will hopefully see more often on a Monday night here.

All three of them went to The Robert Ransome for a drink afterwards, as did I as following a day that saw me at John Catt Educational between nine and five for the first time for almost three months, I took advantage of spending some quality time with Ruthie and Alfie between work and ringing and not having to be up in the middle of the night to go in for an early shift the next day.

Taking advantage of the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight meanwhile was Hilary Stearn, who today rang her first QP of Double Oxford Bob Minor in the 1320 of the method at Brandeston. Well done Hilary!

It has been a decent day of ringing within our borders.

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Sunday 18th October 2015

It was a disrupted night with Alfie, so once again the 8.45am start at St Mary-le-Tower passed without us even leaving the house and Woodbridge again 'benefited' from the presence of Mason, Alfred and myself, meaning that along with the visiting Richard Clement, we were able to ring some pretty decent Grandsire Doubles on the front six. With the clocks going back next weekend, God willing we'll stand a chance of making it to SMLT!

Mason & Alfie at their Nana & Granddad's this afternoon.Still, it wasn't too long before we made it into Ipswich, as straight after a post-service cuppa and biscuit we were on our way to Suffolk's county town in an unsuccessful search for new muzzies (if anyone knows anywhere we might find thick muslin cloths in the local area we'd be ever so grateful to hear from you!), but more importantly for an afternoon at my Mum and Dad's, as they very kindly cooked us four a lovely roast dinner to celebrate my recent birthday. Thanks guys!

And we made up for my absence from the 35cwt twelve this morning by attending an extremely useful and very good special practice there for evensong, before we finally left the town and returned home.

Meanwhile, well done and congratulations as well to Clare Goodchild and her daughter Emma on ringing their first of three methods and first as cover respectively in the quarter-peal rung at Hollesley, as the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight began with this and a 1260 of Doubles at Cretingham. Hopefully SE Ringing Master Tom Scase will get lots of support for this from now until its planned conclusion on 1st November and we'll get up in time for Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower next week!

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Saturday 17th October 2015

South Petherton.Whilst the band who today were ringing the longest peal yet rung on twelve bells at South Petherton in Somerset that started at 7am and finished at about 9.30pm, I was catching up on an hour or two of much needed sleep, we raised ourselves and the boys from their slumbers and breakfasted and dressed them, welcomed my brother Chris and his wife Becky to our abode, went on a virtual tour of Italy as my younger sibling guided us through hundreds of ceiling shots from their honeymoon, consumed a fair amount of caffeine, lunched, headed to St Mary's in Woodbridge for Ruthie to sing and me to ring for a wedding, taken in Ipswich Town's appalling 0-0 draw with 'uddersfield Town over the radio, popped into Tesco, had tea, wrote Friday's blog, bathed Alfie, put him and Mason to bed having read the latter four stories and downed a beer.

I have rung a peal upon this 22cwt twelve and won my first National Twelve-Bell Contest there, all over a glorious summer in 2001 and enjoyed ringing on them immensely, but many would be within their rights to question the mental stability of the band who spent 14hrs26mins ringing 21,216 changes of Cambridge Surprise Maximus. However, there is much to be admired about the concentration and physical stamina. It is an ambition of mine to partake in a long-length one day, especially having been booked in for an 11,111 of Stedman Cinques at The Bullring in Birmingham which was called off and been in a lost attempt of the extent of Major at Stuart and Liz Hutchieson's mini-ring at their former address in Abbots Bromley. There is of course the nightmare scenario of losing a performance after the best part of a day's ringing, but the nature of the beast is that in order to be successful, these attempts have to be absolutely superb, practically perfect and will produce the standards that simply cannot be reached over shorter spurts.

From this particular success, most College Youths reading this will have rung with and certainly know of the ASCY's immediate past Secretary John Hughes-D'Aeth. Our family have known Andrew Mills for over twenty years from our annual Rambling Ringers holidays and he will be familiar to many a SGR member through his tremendous work in bellhanging in the county, such as at Parham. Paul Mounsey's novel style - the exception to the rule that bad handling will prohibit one from progressing in our art - lives long in the memories of all of us who have rung with him, as do his considerable abilities. John Loveless grew up within our borders and is well known in Suffolk, Martin Whiteley is one of the most grounded star ringers in the world in my experience, whilst Roy LeMarechal was a regular on our local ringing scene recently as he and Chris Bennett did brilliant work in painting St Mary-le-Tower's frame. I've shared many a peal, pint and football discussion with Bolton Wanderers fan Robin Hall, known Tom Griffiths since we were boys and rung much with Michael Wilby during my time in the West Midlands and enjoyed many drunken away days across the country and Lundy Island with him. This was a super band and you can pretty much guarantee that this would have been a magnificent morning, afternoon and evening of ringing and I imagine it was a joy to ring in, listen to and watch, with a live picture feed enabling the public to watch the band ring on a big screen down in the church, as outlined by the BBC's coverage on their website. Well done and congratulations to all involved.

As for our day, it was great to see the recently married Mr & Mrs Munnings and catch-up for the first time since their big day and nice to provide the backdrop to another couple's big day at our local church. But most of all, it was fantastic to see that the record-breakers were successful!

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Friday 16th October 2015

The end of something long-running is usually memorable. The culmination of the school summer holidays were usually met with melancholy. I remember the late Brian Clough's final match as Nottingham Forest manager after eighteen years and twelve trophies at the unfashionable East Midlands club, which happened to be at Portman Road and it was an emotional occasion as one of the greatest and most famous characters in football bowed out of the game. Ruthie is just about holding it together having learnt that Stephen Fry is retiring as being quizmaster of her favourite show QI, though she was buoyed by the start of the new 'M' series tonight. We await the Munnings episode with eagerness!

But as our latest international campaign at John Catt came to an end today, I mainly felt relief and elation, as I usually do after these, draining as they are. Ten weeks of being in as early as 3.45am and as late as 8pm came to an end with one final entrance to the office whilst the vast majority of Woodbridge's residents - including two-thirds of my household - were very sensibly still wrapped up warmly in cosy beds. We can now arrange things for our weekday evenings again without wondering if I'm working a late or need to be in bed early ahead of a pre-dawn start hours later. They are a necessary evil for these international campaigns when with thousands of schools in timezones across the planet in need of prodding to part with their quite-rightly carefully guarded money for a place in the IB World Schools Yearbook (or when we do the winter campaign, the Guide to International Schools), the two months actually isn't that long, but at this point I can't wait for my return to a 9-5!

Still, the endmost week of earlies caught up with me and our evening finished as so many have since those first shifts back at the beginning of August - early!

Other members were more active though, with a quarter-peal of Doubles rung at St Lawrence in Ipswich. Thankfully no sign of young George's Salter and Vant's enthusiasm coming to an end!

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Thursday 15th October 2015

It was one of those dates that so please me today. Like the 15th of every month this year, 14th last year, 13th the year before and so on, it was a date that - to me at least - was pleasingly neat. But more notably for even me was that it is thirty-seven years since I was born into this world. Exactly thirty-seven years of treading a path through life as best I can, making mistakes along the way but hopefully learning from them and making up for them where I can and making more people happy than those I've upset or offended.

Alfie and me in The Cherrytree celebrating my birthday.Birthdays are entirely personal. Apart from myself and those close to me, the 15th October is an entirely unremarkable date. Yet in my little corner of life, this ordinary autumnal day comes alive with gifts, cards, treats and compliments. Once again I have been humbled by the numerous felicitations from friends and family in and out of ringing, face-to-face, via phone and Facebook and I am extremely grateful for them. Doughnuts were consumed at John Catt - once everyone made it in as the annual marking of my birth was no excuse for not coming into work in the pre-dawn darkness - and my big day was even worthy of mention in the company's monthly meeting, but as ever though, what made the day really special was those closest to me. Phone calls from Mum, Dad, Chris and Mason were lovely, as was a trip to Buttons to see Kate and Ron and even a fleeting greeting from my wife's Uncle Wob. The highlight though was being treated to a meal at The Cherrytree in Woodbridge by Ruthie and Alfie - well, Ruthie mainly, but it was nice that Alfred was there - before we simply relaxed on the sofa, choir practice sacrificed for the second week in a row by my wife. Thank you darling!

Meanwhile, it was good to see a message from James Smith on the Guild's FB page reassuring us that his injuries weren't as serious as the Chinese whispers made out, which is a relief. And whilst it underlines the need for even the best ringers to be careful when ringing, it also highlights how rare really serious injuries are in a hobby where tens of thousands partake every week. Glad to hear you're OK James!

As if to prove that point, ringers were carrying out their ringing in Suffolk perfectly safely, with friends from Norfolk travelling south of the border to ring quarters with Yorkshire and Rutland Surprise Major at Framlingham and Helmingham respectively on this pleasing date.

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Wednesday 14th October 2015

Thank goodness this is the final week of my 'international' working shifts for this year. As much for you who read this and see me constantly bleating on about going into a cosy office for a week at a time for a couple of months for hours that many have to put up with on a permanent basis. But yesterday afternoon's sleep didn't seem to have touched the sides judging by my widening yawns and heavy eyelids during the successful peal of Rotherfield Surprise Major that started at The Wolery tonight over fifteen-and-a-half hours after I'd awoken in the middle of a cold and wet night for another early stint at John Catt Educational and a day looking after Alfie, taking over from his grandmother (thank you Kate!) whilst Ruthie had a rare Wednesday at work.

I managed to stay awake long enough to partake in a very decent effort. Many thanks to the band for the footnote too, a band in which perhaps appropriately I found myself being one of the elders as I hurtle towards my thirty-seventh birthday tomorrow, the 'celebrations' for which started early with a Facebook greeting from Australia where it was already 15th October. Thank you Margaret!

There was also an impressive quarter of spliced Surprise Major in four methods rung at Ixworth marking the more sombre but far more important reason of remembering Sue Munford, a lovely lady still quite rightly missed five years on.

Back in Old Stoke, cake was consumed and entertaining banter exchanged between our hosts, but I was flagging by then and so home - and bed - was calling. Thank God there isn't much more of this to do!

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Tuesday 13th October 2015

This morning was the twenty-first time I had risen from my comfy bed before dawn in the last fifty-seven days, pretty hard for someone as fond of lay-ins as I am. Even taking into account early nights and the occasional few winks grabbed post-work, I reckon I've lost about two days worth of sleep in that period. Or the same amount of sleep I lost in two days just after Alfie was born. Time without child is usually the only chance one has to get some stuff done, meaning that when I've got back from the office I have lived life in a zombie-like state instead of getting shut-eye as I should be. So it was perhaps unsurprising that this afternoon I got the best night's sleep I've had for a long time. So to speak. A spot of lunch was had, TV turned on, even an episode of Marple put on as I lay back exhausted upon the sofa, only to wake up with the two-hour adventures of Agatha Christie's elderly sleuth long finished and only a few minutes to wake myself and collect Alfred and Ruthie from where they'd spent the day.

Thankfully others were more energetic in Suffolk ringing. Well done to Alison Daniels and Betty Baines on their first quarter of Ashtead Surprise Major in the 1312 at Gislingham and to them and David Lord and Ian Cresshull on their first of Winchester Surprise Major in the success at Palgrave. Meanwhile, congratulations to former Stowmarket ringer Hannah Khan - nee Kidger - and her husband Nick on the birth of their second son Gregory, a happy event marked by the eleven Doubles methods rung at Old Newton, whilst the pre-quarter at Offton was also successful.

For us though, it was a quiet and very early night. For all that my post meridiem nap was welcome, there was still plenty of sleep to catch up on.

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Monday 12th October 2015

St Mary the Great.On a good weekend for ringers of Suffolk extraction beyond our borders, it is worth congratulating another one as John Loveless rang his one thousandth peal on twelve bells in the 5184 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Great St Mary in Cambridge. It is a testament of his well known abilities that he has reached this landmark, only the eighth ringer ever to have achieved this. You simply don't ring that many on twelve if you aren't a ringer of the highest calibre, so congratulations Jake!

However, it wasn't such a great weekend for another star name of our county's ringing history, James Smith. He suffered a nasty sounding injury whilst ringing the 22cwt tenor at Great Waltham in Essex to a peal when an attempt to remove his shoes saw him get his foot caught in the rope, bringing the performance to an abrupt and early end and more seriously meant he had to be taken to hospital. This is an extremely rare example of a serious ringing injury and I'm sure James will be the first to admit that it was a silly thing to do, but as the stairs from the ringing chamber at Monewden will testify, he has been unlucky with ringing-related medical trauma and of course his many friends within our borders wish him a speedy recovery.

Talking of recoveries, it has been heartening to hear of Jimmy Wightman's since his horrific accident with a bonfire four months ago. He is apparently now back home and the leg that was in danger of amputation has been saved to such an extent that he has been out and about walking, though he still has a long road ahead of him. However, this real country boy and character of the Guild has been much missed at his local towers of Otley and Clopton as well as at South-East District events, so this is encouraging news.

In a seamless link, there is a South-East District event in a few weeks as the District outing is planned to be a day in Norwich on Saturday 7th November. With a visit to St Peter Mancroft amongst those booked up for a visit, experienced members will not only be appreciated but needed and not only is the trip to the heaviest twelve in East Anglia a superb opportunity for ringers of all abilities, but with a pair each of sixes and eights also on the list this will be an invaluable experience for learners in particular. What is more, though I despise their football team, even I will concede that Norfolk's county city is a fine day out, not just for ringers, but importantly non-ringers, hopefully meaning that those who understandably have to balance their ringing with non-ringing relatives can make a day out of it and boost our numbers. Please, please, PLEASE support it!

There are many other events happening throughout the SGR before that of course, most immediately the North-East District's Practices at Halesworth and Southwold on Thursday and Friday respectively and the Helmingham Monthly Practice on the same night as the latter. But the SE's journey to our northern neighbours was highlighted by myself at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening during the 8.30 announcements that also saw Amanda Richmond inform us that tonight was her last session before she goes on her winter migrations to places warmer and more exotic, in the process wishing us a Happy Christmas and prompting the first mention this year of ringing (and related) for the 2015 festivities, such as the Christmas Tree Festival, the seasonal band curry and the numerous carol services we are often required to man the bells for at Ipswich's civic church. Cards are in the shops and it is being increasingly mentioned in the media, but it feels far too early to mention what is my favourite time of the year, even if it is something that most towers ought to start planning for in the next few weeks.

The announcements came during an extremely useful practice, particularly for Helen Carter and George Vant and climaxed with a very well rung touch of Stedman Cinques that followed on from the Caters variation and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus. For all that is said about SMLT by ourselves and others, most provincial twelve-bell towers would be delighted with that.

I'm sure the visiting band that rang quarters of Surprise Major in five-spliced, Preston, Christopher Robin and Stonehenge at Bardwell, Elveden, Hopton and Palgrave respectively were also delighted with their efforts, which were impressive. But in the scheme of things, not as impressive as Mr Loveless' efforts on Saturday!

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Sunday 11th October 2015

Plan A was morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. However, following a late night for Mason and Alfie yesterday and a long and exciting day for the former in particular, waking these tired boys, dressing, feeding and driving them into Ipswich in time for the 8.45 start this morning was ambitious and so instead it was to Woodbridge's 25cwt eight to undertake the same job and stop for the service.

Even with the near extra hour in bed, it was still difficult dragging them from their slumbers, but we made it, with Ruthie downstairs in the choir and the boys watching on as I contributed to some call-changes on the front six. I also made the acquaintance of that dream of every ringing chamber - a ready made ringer moving into the area. For our local tower that is a nice chap and competent ringer called Roy who has come across from Wickham Skeith and is a protege of former Chairman of the Guild and current Technical Adviser and Chairman of the Belfry Advisory Committee, Winston Girling. He helped make seven, enabling me to ring whilst Adrian Craddock kindly looked after Alfred, before we climbed down the many stairs to church and God willing he will be a useful addition to the band here for the next few years.

Elsewhere within our borders, the second Sunday Aldeburgh peal was successful at Rendham and quarters of Cambridge and Beverley Surprise Minor were rung in memory of former Bishop of Dunwich the Rt Revd Clive Young at Great Barton and Bardwell respectively, the latter being Ruth Young's first in the method. Well done Ruth.

It was a busy weekend for young ringers of Suffolk origin beyond our borders too, with Robert Beavis, Tim Stanford and George Salter partaking in a 5184 of Grandsire Major in London at Garlickhythe, the day after GMS conducted another peal down in the capital, this time of London No.3 Surprise Royal at St Clement Danes in Westminster, whilst Alex Tatlow and Louis Suggett followed up a 5091 of Stedman Cinques on the back twelve at the Bullring in Birmingham - with Louis calling his own composition - with a QP of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Worcester Cathedral this afternoon.

I'm glad their Plan A's worked!

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Saturday 10th October 2015

Mason as a page boy.It was strange to awake on a Saturday without Mason bounding into our bedroom to wake us first, but it was for good reason. Having become well practiced in the role at our wedding over three years ago and most recently a couple of months ago at his Unky Chris and Aunty Becky's matrimonial unification, the eight-year-old was today being a page boy at his mother's marriage ceremony at Hasketon. We weren't invited (as well as Kara and I get on, why would we be?), but at the li'l chap's insistence we were ringing the 9cwt ground-floor six for the occasion, so we were able to see him in all his finery, looking very smart!

Our presence there meant we were unable to attend the Hollesley outing, but we were kept busy with Alfie, searching for names in the graveyard that also belong to Guild members mercifully very much alive and kicking (with apologies, we found John Girt, George Pipe, James Smith, Alan Stanley and John Taylor), and a logistically difficult evening that saw me drop Ruthie off at her sister's in deepest, (very) darkest Suffolk to babysit her nieces, then return to Hasketon to collect my tired eldest and await my wife's return thanks to her mother.

It was a strange day indeed.

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Friday 9th October 2015

A typically quiet Friday made all the quieter for the absence of Mason ahead of a big day for him and his mother tomorrow and my final planned late shift of this particular campaign, the tenebrous night protruding ever deeper into the end of my stint in the office at the same time as a summer's evening was just beginning when our work on this publication began two months ago.

Busier in the darkness were the FNQPC who were ringing a 1260 of Doubles at Tannington and the band who rang a quarter-peal of St Clement's College Bob Minor at Tostock, where conductor Stephen Dawson is to be congratulated on keeping on top of a composition that required a call every lead. Just a typical Friday in Suffolk.

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Thursday 8th October 2015

Bishop Clive Young.I was deeply saddened - as I am sure many other members will be - to hear today of the death of Bishop Clive Young, former Bishop of Dunwich and until his retirement from that role - still not filled - only two years ago, a Vice-President of the Suffolk Guild. It is with much fondness that I recall his amusing yet thoughtful sermons at the dedications of the bells at Campsea Ashe and Stradishall and it seems an utter tragedy that he only enjoyed such a short amount of his richly-deserved retirement, but the county was blessed to have him and from what I understand the feeling was very much mutual. Whilst the funeral is likely to be in Herefordshire, there are apparently plans being laid for a Thanksgiving Service at the cathedral in Bury St Edmunds at 3.30pm on Sunday 15th November.

It was a bit of a downbeat note on an otherwise surprisingly upbeat day considering it was the day after the night before. We were helped by the luxury we awoke in at The Limes Hotel in Needham Market, our comfortable, spacious room filling with sunlight and the sound of the clock bell from St John the Baptist across the road easing us into life and tempting us to the window to take in the busy street outside and the old Bull pub directly opposite our rooftop accommodation. This is a community we only tend to pass through rather than stop in, bereft as it is of any bells upon which to partake in full-circle change-ringing, even if it is home to one of the county's best ringers, Arnie Knights, so it was quite nice after a full English breakfast to wander along the High Street in warming autumn sunshine on the way to collect the car from its overnight stay at the Barrandov Opera, taking in this bustling country town and many independent shops.

We were flagging a little come the evening, but we weren't the only ones as by that point we were around Ruthie's school friend Verity's abode in Ipswich where some of my wife's other educational contemporaries from her childhood and their other halves had met for a post-wedding get-together. Nonetheless it was a typically fun evening in good company, with Alfie entertaining the masses, but it did also mean another day of no ringing.

I'm sure there will be more in the coming days as Bishop Clive is remembered.

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Wednesday 7th October 2015

It feels such a privilege to be invited to someone's wedding. This is one of the biggest occasions of most people's lives and as we know from drawing up a guest list for our own marriage ceremony, there are always more people that you'd like to invite than can be invited. So to make the shortlist is very special. And as I've mentioned on here before, it is a fascination and a joy to witness how differently couples arrange their big day.

A smartly dressed Alfie at Vicky & Gavin's wedding.Today saw the latest variation as we travelled to Needham Market for the uniting in matrimony of Ruthie's school friend Vicky with her boyfriend of ten years Gavin. Gavin has hearing difficulties, as do a number of their friends and so there was the nice touch of a friend signing the service and the speeches, one aspect of an occasion that was formal and traditional in places - the bride looked stunning and glamorous in her dress - and yet very informal and untraditional in others, such as the best man being a woman, one of the bridesmaids giving a speech and the consumption of afternoon tea rather than a sit-down meal. And it was all jolly good fun and importantly very them.

The whole event from arriving to greetings from friends not seen as regularly as is desired to drunken dancing and fond farewells was held at the Barrandov Opera, a converted barn on the way out of this pretty town and just a few hundred yards along the B1078 from the 11cwt ground-floor six at Barking. It is a stunning location, a beautiful spot in deepest rural Suffolk and within these grounds we enjoyed the food (especially the cheese and biscuits!), drink, dancefloor and of course the company before we wandered a few minutes back into the big NM to The Limes Hotel, our accommodation for the night.

There were no bells involved as you will have probably ascertained, but in our absence from the ringing chambers of the county there was success, with a 1260 of St Nicholas College Bob Minor rung before the practice at Pettistree, but we were delighted - and privileged - to be where we were. Congratulations Gavin and Vicky!

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Tuesday 6th October 2015

An indication of how unremarkable our day was, is that the most momentous aspect was Ruthie getting her first haircut since before Alfie was born. My wife was delighted with it and the new owners at Hairways Hair Salon at Ufford Park Hotel did a wonderful job, but of course it isn't the most exciting thing ever mentioned in a ringing blog. Not that that has stopped me in the past.

Still, hopefully North-West District members will be busier on Saturday when their ADM is held at Hopton, with ringing from 3pm, the service at 4.30pm, a bring a plate to share tea from 5pm and the important meeting at 6pm. Especially with recent poor turnouts, I hope a huge number come out to this to show support to their officers who will have spent a lot of time preparing for this event.

Hopefully Saturday won't be as unremarkable for them as today has been for us.

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Monday 5th October 2015

Since we began taking it in turns to go out ringing and stop in to look after Alfie, our attendances at our regular practices of St Mary-le-Tower, Pettistree and the Surprise Major practice at Ufford has on occasion been sporadic, not helped by my international shifts and the SMLT Roadshow that saw Monday night sessions be held as close to home as the aforementioned 13cwt eight at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and as far flung as the ground-floor ring at Kersey. There have been weeks when we have been unable to take in any ringing at all, once almost unheard of for this keen ringing couple.

This week looks like being such a week. It is all for good causes though. Our presence at the Cosy Nostril practice is due to be prevented by meeting rarely seen friends and our trip out to our usual Wednesday night venue is planned to be usurped by a wedding. Tonight though, our ringing at Suffolk's heaviest twelve was replaced by a visit to mother-in-law Kate's abode to celebrate her birthday with her daughters, grandchildren and Ron. Many thanks to the birthday girl for her hospitality in keeping us all well fed as the weather finally turned to autumn on a cooler, wetter day. Happy Birthday Kate!

As much as we enjoyed this evening and God willing will enjoy the events marked in our diary in the coming days, all being well (depending on how you view it!) we shall be able to help our fellow ringers next week!

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Sunday 4th October 2015

The aftermath of yesterday's dispiriting South-East District Practice at Holbrook was the predominant issue at the District's Committee meeting this evening at Chairman Ralph Earey's abode in Sproughton, which of course Ruthie was present at in her capacity as Secretary. There seems no disagreement that it can't carry on like this, but positively it seems the committee were united in how to go ahead from here. The plan is to continue with the next practices being planned in January and February but for a questionnaire to be produced to find out from members what they want to do and take things from there, which seems sensible and which I hope as many as possible partake in.

Sunday morning ringing carried on regardless for now as the boys and I took in the Ipswich rings of St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence along with visitors Enid Roberts from Sydney in Australia and Rebecca Meyer from a little closer to home in West Sussex as she accompanied her boyfriend George Salter, before Mason, Alfie and I meandered to Grundisburgh where it was nice to see Stephen Pettman for the first time for a few months.

And elsewhere throughout the county, Craig Leach was ringing his 150th quarter at Lowestoft, Nicole Rolph and Jonathan Iles were ringing their first of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Bob Doubles in the 1260 at the 12cwt five in the detached round tower of Bramfield and the same number of changes were rung in Thelwall Bob Minor at Pettistree to celebrate tomorrow's birthday of Kate Eagle. Congratulations Craig, well done Nicole and Jonathan and Happy Birthday to the mother-in-law!

No such excitement for us this afternoon as my wife prepared for that meeting and hopefully a better future for the SE District.

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Saturday 3rd October 2015

If yesterday's mumblings on the hows and whys of enjoying ringing were the theory, today's was the practical. This morning's South-East District Practice at Holbrook was arranged - amongst other reasons - for the enjoyment of SE members, but following a paltry turnout of just nine of the three hundred or so of those who hold membership of the District with the best transport links and a recent report I heard of a North-West District Practice at Exning that attracted just two, it seems that these sorts of events are simply not serving their purpose and it is now time to reevaluate what is offered to members to enable those learning to progress and those looking to maintain and expand upon more complex and high quality ringing to meet together for their mutual benefit. I still maintain that such practices are a good way of doing just that if people actually turn up. A chance not just for someone who is getting to grips with Plain Bob Doubles in a tower where no one else can ring more than that to move on to the next stage, and therefore potentially become another ringer who could join those more experienced ringing quarters, ringing peals and ringing at places like The Norman Tower and St Mary-le-Tower and ultimately help raise the standards there. However, with those learners not coming and not enough more experienced attending regularly enough in recent years, those connections and those opportunities haven't happened and I'm convinced some will have sadly slipped through the net. Is it a coincidence that we now find ourselves with fewer peal ringers, fewer peals, fewer people able to achieve more complex standards and fewer people coming through to ring consistently well on higher numbers?

However, what do we do instead? Having attended every South-East District occasion since we missed 2014's equally poorly-attended October practice at Tuddenham St Martin, I worked out that about eighty SE members have been along to the monthly soirees in their various guises, whether that be practices, meetings, striking competitions, quarter-peal evenings or outings. If they had all turned up to one of those we would have been ecstatic, but it still means there are about two hundred ringers who pay a gratefully-received subscription but who we never see and who I can't help but feel we are letting down. And amongst them entire bands have been unseen. East Bergholt's is understandable, but it is disappointing that towers like Badingham, Felixstowe, Framlingham, Hacheston, Orford and Tattingstone amongst others haven't been represented even once to my knowledge in the last twelve months. How many ringers at those towers might gain greater satisfaction and enjoyment from their ringing and benefit the Guild as a whole but will never realise that potential because they rarely if ever get the chance to ring more complex methods to a higher standard with more experienced ringers. But do they not come along because they aren't interested in what we put on or because they simply aren't interested in leaving the four walls of their home tower? And if the latter, is that because they only ring out of a sense of duty, because it is something to occupy whatever time they have spare or because they don't know that anything better is out there? Because there is so much out there.

We undoubtedly missed the handful who went on the SMLT outing today, but as mentioned earlier in the week, it shouldn't be down to the same few to turn up all the time and the foreknowledge that we would be missing so many should have encouraged others out.

Mason & Alfie enjoying the play area at Holbrook church!Mason & Alfie enjoying the play area at Holbrook church!Ringing at Holbrook for the South-East District Practice.

Whatever the reasons for another appalling turnout, those of us who had travelled out made the most of it, if nothing else for the benefit of John Taylor who as usual came out with the aim of improving himself and - in a silver lining - got plenty of opportunity to do that! And Mason and Alfie still enjoyed being the first to try out the church's play area's new floor!

With a enough to man the 8cwt six, we had to leave early as Alfie had been invited to a second birthday party over lunchtime, held at the church rooms at Melton church and where his fellow contemporary party-goers included my Goddaughter Maddie.

Elsewhere, well done to David Steed on ringing his 1300th quarter-peal, nearly two weeks after his 1296th, as Josephine Beever rang her twenty-fifth in 2015, both in the QP of Merchants' Return Delight Minor at Great Barton, which was also the first in the method for all the band. Well done to them all, but particularly congratulations to David and Josephine.

Let's hope there will be others in the future to help them to future landmarks.

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Friday 2nd October 2015

Great Finborough.Tonight we watched The John Peel Lecture. Fond as I was of the legendary DJ and resident of Suffolk until his death, whose funeral at Great Finborough in 2004 was immediately followed by a 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Minor upon the 12cwt 1908 Taylor's six in the name of the SGR, and as someone occasionally interested in such creative musings, this wasn't our usual type of Friday evening viewing. But the 'lecturer' for this was the famous musician and producer (and much else for that matter) Brian Eno, born in Woodbridge, educated in Ipswich and a figure I have been fascinated by ever since I watched Another Green World, a documentary on him named after one of his albums, which caught my eye on a cold, dark winter's night a few years ago with its images of dreamy summer days in our local countryside and town of residence and featuring ringing upon the 25cwt eight starring amongst others the now mother-in-law Kate Eagle, Pete Faircloth, Susanne Eddis, Peter & Jane Harper and on the tenor the much missed Mike Warren and can still be viewed in its entirety on You Tube, though bar a brief burst about halfway through, the ringing doesn't come until right at the end.

Anyway, the Woodbridgian's general theme was the importance of art, which most interestingly he defined as 'anything you don't have to do', as opposed to something like eating for example. I couldn't help but wonder about ringing's place in this definition and how we and others view what we do. We don't have to ring peals, grab towers, go on outings or attend District practices. Indeed we don't have to ring at all. And many of the public will wonder why we do, often whilst also doing something that they don't have to do, like playing football, riding bikes or watching Big Brother. They do all those things because they enjoy them, which is hopefully - to varying degrees - why we ring. It made me think whether we can make the art more enjoyable for our members and if so how. Do they want it to be more enjoyable? Are there enough others similarly minded?

There were many within our borders seemingly enjoying their ringing today and Earl Stonham seems to be the go-to place for them to do it. Hot on the heels of yesterday's quarter at this 9cwt gallery-ring six that sits directly alongside the A1120, the FNQPC were there twenty-four hours later for another QP, whilst earlier in the day a peal was rung there. Bucking the trend, a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was rung not at the big ES, but rather at Wenhaston. All the more worthy because they didn't have to.

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Thursday 1st October 2015

There is something about stepping into October that feels very different. I begin getting the sense that the year is running away. It only felt like the other day that it was summer, wandering the streets and parks of Woodbridge with Mason and Alfie in roasting temperatures, sat in the Whiting's beautiful rural garden with a beer in hand at the Offton BBQ and enjoying the family holiday and (eventually!) sunny campsite evenings. Now we are in the month of my birthday, putting the clocks back, Halloween and God willing on the threshold of Bonfire Night, St Edmund's Day and - dare I whisper it - Christmas and New Year when the cycle starts again.

However, it was something from yesterday's East Anglian Daily Times, written back in those dreamy September days, that caught my eye today. On the face of it, the news that a formal planning application has been submitted to turn St Clement's church in Ipswich into an arts centre is good news and and the proposal was revealed last year. I'm sure none of us wants to see churches standing idle and disused, especially if there is a ring of bells in the tower. With nothing happening in the building to ring for, justifications for ringing them can become often spurious and far between and often - though it doesn't have to be so - the bells can gradually fall into disrepair. In theory at least, the regeneration of this landmark of the county town's docks could make current minder and maintainer of the 15cwt six here Stephen Pettman a helping hand and may give more opportunity to ring what are certainly the best of the redundant rings and arguably in the centre. But the current happenings of St Mary at the Quay just a few yards along the inner ring road looms menacingly large, where in amongst the metamorphosing of what Simon Knott calls a 'grubby little jewel' on his superb Suffolk Churches website into a Wellbeing Heritage Centre, exciting proposals for not just restoration and rehanging of the difficult (especially the fourth!) 7cwt six, but even augmentation to eight and using them as a training centre have disappeared to such an extent that with an office being put in the ringing chamber there seems there will be less chance to ring on them. It will be interesting where the bells, ringers and ringing fits into this latest, otherwise fantastic looking project.

No such issues at Earl Stonham and Wilby where a quarter of Plain Bob Doubles and peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major were rung respectively and looking ahead, there is a busy month all being well, though sadly the South-West District Practice at Edwardstone for Saturday 10th has been cancelled. Still, October promises much - let's hope it delivers!

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Wednesday 30th September 2015

Ruthie went to Pettistree this evening as I took on babysitting duties and in the process she partook in the pre-practice quarter to celebrate Wickham Market Tower Captain Ray Lewis' forthcoming seventieth birthday. Happy Birthday to Ray who has carried out sterling work leading the band at the recently rehung 12cwt six for many years, as well his work as a Deanery Rep and in supporting the South-East District and the aforementioned ground-floor 7cwt six in the neighbouring village that my wife was present at tonight. Happy Birthday for Saturday Ray!

The appropriate 1270 of Cambridge Surprise Minor wasn't the only performance within our borders though, with another Suffolk Guild success on the Salter peal week, this time at Tostock.

Quite a satisfactory and productive day really.

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Tuesday 29th September 2015

As someone who isn't a morning person and suffers terribly when he has been deprived of sleep, if I had to choose between my early shifts and late shifts for the international campaigns at John Catt, the latter would for the last few years win hands down simply for the lay-ins. Now that such a thing has in the last seventeen months has become almost unheard of in our household, I've increasingly found myself appreciating my earlier starts. Not just for the afternoons off (though they are often spent sleeping!), but also for the actual mornings themselves, once I've dragged myself from bed, which is still difficult! Arriving at the office in darkness, in my dozy state it is uplifting to see the forms of the buildings and trees surrounding my place of work gradually appear from the night, before dawn breaks on another day, a glimpse of the railway track as it bends round towards Melton Station covered in mist floating across from the nearby River Deben and even the sound of the builders arriving on the neighbouring site where in recent months they have begun constructing houses raising flagging spirits.

Whilst I was working, the Salter's annual late September/early October peal week continued with a 5040 at Acton, notable not just for David circling this ground-floor 8cwt five, but also for Alan Mayle ringing his 150th of Doubles and his 1750th peal. Congratulations and well done to both David and Alan, but particularly Mr Mayle.

It wasn't the only ringing in the county recorded on BellBoard and the revitalised Campanophile though, with an impressive quarter of fourteen Surprise Major methods spliced at Palgrave and the pre-practice success at Offton duly noted by this blogger.

I meanwhile was glad of a laid-back post-work break before collecting a typically and wonderfully exuberant and enthusiastic Alfie and a quiet evening, one that ended far too soon ahead of another early start tomorrow. That's one aspect of the earlies I shan't miss!

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Monday 28th September 2015

There was a red supermoon at just before three this morning, a rare occurrence apparently not due to happen again until 2033. Sadly, I was on an early shift this morning, so stopping up to witness it wasn't really possible and although I was up again before the sun had risen, the moon was nowhere to be seen..

Still, the earlies have their benefits, not least the pre-lunch finish, that today allowed me a snooze ahead of a busy night of clapper talk. It finished of course at St Mary-le-Tower for my first Monday night practice at Suffolk's heaviest twelve for almost three months, where Amanda Richmond ran the session energetically in David Potts' understandable absence, as we entertained three non-ringing visitors on the back of Saturday's Open Day and welcomed ringer John Proudfoot from Carlisle and rang a varied repertoire that climaxed in an extremely well-rung three leads of London (No.3) Surprise Royal. But naturally there was much discussion on the new clappers, which I think have in the main improved the striking of the front eight, with even the barely touched back four showing a difference - even the eleventh is now relatively easy to ring!

Ringing at Wickham Market.Ringing at Wickham Market.Ray Lewis trying the tenor out.

That said, I only got an hour's benefit having arrived late after visiting Wickham Market for more clappers. After their return from Taylors, it had been discovered that the clappers on five and six weren't quite the right size, making the tenors difficult to ring up. With the new clappers now put in, we had been invited to try them out and pass our thoughts on the recent restoration and rehang, in the presence of Andrew 'Oggy' Ogden from the Loughborough foundry, fresh from his own impressive exploits on Southwark Cathedral over the weekend. I've known Oggy for years from my days in the Midlands and shared many a peal and beer with him, so I was relieved that the feedback we were able to give him was predominantly positive. This 12cwt six will never be perfect due to the relatively tall, slender tower and more particularly the extremely low ceiling and they've never been terrible, but what Ray Lewis and his band now have is a vast improvement on the slightly sluggish bells that many will have been more familiar with over the last thirty years, though we were all puzzled by a bizarre kick that the tenor rope has developed!

I imagine that they will feature on the South-East District circuit in the near future, but more immediately the next SE Practice is due to take place in five days time at Holbrook between 10am and noon. The SMLT outing to Norfolk is unfortunately clashing with the event, which will deprive us of several regulars and others who might have supported us, making it even more imperative that if you can make it that you do. Last year's corresponding fixture saw a paltry eight members attend at Tuddenham St Martin and whilst we were amongst those absent because of Kate's fiftieth birthday celebrations in Yorkshire, it did highlight - much as those from SMLT who will be missing does - that we can't continue to just leave these events to the same circle of members who nearly always make these occasions happen. Enjoyable as it is to meet with friends at these practices, these are opportunities for ringers of all abilities to ring stuff they might not normally get the chance to do in their own towers, but they need the learners and they need the experienced help. There are many bright spots within the Guild's ringing. Despite numbers taking a dive over the last couple of years, we're still in the top twenty of leading peal-ringing organisations thus far in 2015, with much spliced rung and Surprise Major successfully scored, with another 5040 rung at Higham this morning. Quarters are rung on an almost daily basis in a wide variety of methods, with a 1260 of Stedman Triples rung tonight at Southwold. And numerous centres of relative ringing excellence. But what happens when the core of those bands undertaking these important aspects of our local ringing move away or can no longer ring? The increasing isolation of members from each other when they might once have met together at District and Guild events doesn't suggest there will be bands to continue and expand the good work being done in places and already the signs are there. Fewer people rang a peal for the SGR in 2014 than in any other year recorded on Pealbase, all the way back to 1950. Despite having more twelve bell towers at our disposal than ever before, there are fewer experienced higher number ringers than I recall at any point since I started in the late 1980's.

So South-East members, show support for the work of Tom Scase, Ralph Earey and Ruthie on Saturday, South-West members likewise for Derek Rose, Pauline Brown and Richard Gates a week later at Edwardstone, North-West members for Rowan Wilson, David Steed and Ruth Young later the same day at Hopton for the first ADM of the season, North-East members for Michelle Williams and Ed Rolph at Halesworth on Thursday 15th October and for the Young Ringers at Ashbocking on Sunday. Indeed, anywhere you can help, please do.

Then maybe we'll stand a chance of having a thriving Guild when that next red supermoon comes along in eighteen years time.

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Sunday 27th September 2015

Though I had 'helped' in putting the clappers back in and partook in yesterday's Open Day, this morning felt like my real reintroduction to ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. Eight Sunday's and eight Monday's have passed since I last rang on these bells that are typically a weekly destination. Mid-summer has - despite the recent warm, bright weather - turned to early autumn, holidays have been enjoyed, Mason has finished one year at school and started another, the football season has begun and been going on long enough for Ipswich Town to raise everyone's expectations and then lower them again and I feel like I have been on early and late shifts at work for what seems a lifetime. They have been a long time gone, but it has been entirely worth it as we now enjoy the fruits of the labours of particularly Roy LeMarechal, Chris Bennett, Owen Claxton and Jed Flatters, as well as all of those who aided in the disassembling and reassembling amongst the bells and I got my first proper experience of it when ringing for the 9.30am service today.

The earlier start than I have grown used to in recent weeks meant that getting the two boys breakfasted, dressed and into Ipswich in readiness for the 8.45am start proved as ambitious as it always did before, meaning that once I'd taken in the glorious sound of the back bells ringing out over the town to a touch of Grandsire Caters, I only had the opportunity to pull the tenor into a well rung half-course of Cambridge Surprise Royal. It's great to have them back and it'll be even better to have a big turnout at practice tomorrow night to take full advantage.

I had also had the same period of abstinence from ringing at Grundisburgh, with the usual Sabbath routine replaced for the last two months by ringing at Woodbridge and staying to church afterwards and whilst I would be lying if I said that I had missed this twelve as much as it's bigger counterpart just to the south, it was nice to meet up with those who ring there. They weren't all there mind, but we coped in Stephen Pettman's absence as David Stanford ran a reasonable session on eight and ten that culminated in a very decent half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Major on the back eight, as various bystanders took it in turns to keep Alfie in a pen made of boxes behind the trebles!

Alfred lapped it all up of course, as he would do if he was at all aware that his performance yesterday had become BellBoard's 'featured performance' - well done him and the Salter boys! I was able to congratulate them on this and their success at Southwark Cathedral, George at SMLT at the aforementioned ringing and Colin this afternoon at the unusual surroundings of Snakes & Ladders, an indoor playground where their younger brother Henry was having his birthday party and for which Mason was a guest. A fun couple of hours were had by children and adults alike, topped by a table of food devoured by the kids as us grown-ups salivated at the spread - some more than others! Thank you Henry for inviting Mason and to David and Katharine for a lovely party!

Such shenanigans and the need to drop the eldest back at his mother's ahead of another pre-dawn start for me tomorrow prevented us from being able to ring in the quarter-peal at Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells for the civic service, impressively one of two QP's of Surprise Royal in the county, with Yorkshire rung at The Norman Tower. Well done to Tim Stanford on ringing his first in the method in the former and to the entire band who rang the 1320 of Duke of York Delight Minor at Great Barton, the first blows in the method for all of them.

More of the same next Sunday would good!

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Saturday 26th September 2015

After more than a decade working in sales, I have come to realise that it is predominantly a business of rejection. In fact, almost entirely. For every joy-provoking yes you get, there will be at best dozens, but more often than not hundreds of dispiriting no's. Frequently the nays will receive you well, but circumstances will defeat the hopes of you and them.

It is much the same in ringing recruitment. You'll attempt to entice so many people into an art that we know to give a lifetime of infinite friendship and opportunity, but we all know that a tiny proportion will give it a concerted go. Of those who do dare to venture into the exercise, the vast majority will at some point succumb to other circumstances.

But we have to keep trying to attract new ringers. The first point we have to reach as we strive to recruit is that the public - and in particular the local public, our neighbours - gain a better understanding of what we do and why, hopefully giving us greater flexibility to progress our ringing. However, it is recruits we are looking for.

George Pipe in full flow talking to visitors in the ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower Open Day.Ringing demonstration at St Mary-le-Tower on the Open Day, whilst Amanda Richmond explains to the visitors what's going on.Amanda Richmond turns the tenor over for the watching visitors at the St Mary-le-Tower Open Day.Amanda Richmond teaching a visitor at the St Mary-le_tower Open Day.

At this stage, it is far too soon to see if today's St Mary-le-Tower Open Day has been a success on the latter, though the signs are promising with at least one. On the former though and as with last year's corresponding event, this can be classified as a success. There weren't quite the same numbers as twelve months ago, but that was a phenomenal turnout and there were still a good number of visitors climbing the stairs to the ringing chamber and belfry where George Pipe, Amanda Richmond and Owen Claxton brilliantly explained bells, ringers and what we do.

George & Colin Salter playing a form of ringing 'twister' on THe Vestey Ring outside St Mary-le-Tower.George & Colin Salter playing a form of ringing 'twister' on THe Vestey Ring outside St Mary-le-Tower.Alfie ringing with George & Colin Salter on The Vestey Ring outside St Mary-le-Tower.Alfie ringing with George & Colin Salter on The Vestey Ring outside St Mary-le-Tower.

Downstairs in the churchyard, The Vestey Ring was doing its job by grabbing the attention of the masses that walked past the notable town centre church on their way to their shopping and Ipswich Town's disappointing 2-2 draw with Bristol City, manned superbly first by the Salter brothers before they nipped off to London for a successful peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Southwark Cathedral and then Ralph Earey and my mother Sally, as huge numbers of youngsters were guided and (when really busy!) marshalled through. Even during the quiet moments much fun was had, as prior to their efforts in the capital, George and Colin played some ringing 'Twister' as they tried to ring Minimus on unnatural pairs of bells that saw some strange contortions! And whilst Mason generally made himself useful gathering in and then encouraging the visiting non-ringers, Alfie took to the mini-ring like a duck to water, even helping me to strap the third to his first blows of Stedman on the back five, an attempt that floundered when his more experienced colleagues in the band panicked at a single, but is still - as I speak - climbing the BellBoard charts!

Congratulations, well done and thank you to those who helped make this such a success, which apart from the aforementioned also included David Potts for cajoling people together at a time when the bells were out of action, Stephen Cheek for collecting the mini-ring in logistically complicated circumstances and Diana Pipe, Peter Davies and my father Alan who apart from being on hand to answer questions enabled the bells to be rung for demonstrations.

It all gave me a warm glow on a pleasantly warm day as I departed the busy streets of the county town to the extreme opposite of such a setting, as the boys and I headed out to Little Glemham. The village itself sits astride the busy A12 which has long been in need of diversion past this community, but the local church of St Andrew is placed in glorious isolation alongside the estate of Glemham Hall and in the late afternoon sunshine was a refreshing change from the bustle I had just left.

Ringing at Little Glemham for the Guild Social.Ringing at Great Glemham for the Guild Social.Ringing at Great Glemham for the Guild Social.Novel view of ringing at Great Glemham from below!Novel view of ringing at Great Glemham from below!The new ringing gallery at Great Glemham.

I was there for this year's Guild Social, hosted by the North-East District, but sadly much watered down from the original plan of brewery tours and a fun social after ringing due to the type of apathy that has disappointingly become all too familiar across the SGR and to my mind threatens ringing and certainly the quality of ringing in the county as its members become ever more isolated from each other. Still, I enjoyed the ringing on the tough five here and a few miles down the road at Great Glemham where the relatively new balcony has not only replaced the platform of scaffolding necessarily put together when toilets were built in the then ground-floor ringing chamber with apparent disregard of how the bells would be rung, but offers - to my memory - the only view of  ringers from directly underneath. Women - and men for that matter - ringing here in skirts be aware when grabbing hold of the treble and fourth. A reasonable crowd from predominantly across the east but also Neal Dodge from the North-West District and even Philip Erith from Essex, as well as a good number of youngsters who managed brilliantly on these two sets of hard rings, made for a lively and jolly atmosphere that left me wondering how magnificent this event could have been if members from across the county had supported the tremendous efforts of the NE District.

Those I left behind were later convening in a local hostelry, but we left before the end to collect Ruthie from work ahead of an evening that saw her shoot straight off to babysit her nieces whilst I took in England's defeat to Wales in an exciting Rugby World Cup clash. You can't win them all.

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Friday 25th September 2015

Even with our more restricted lifestyle these days, it is still rare for us both to go through an entire week without even touching a rope, but such a week finished this evening as I picked Mason up at dusk and we settled down to a night so quiet that we ended up watching the opening dances of Strictly Come Dancing on TV. I hope next week is a bit busier on the ringing front!

As has also been the case on pretty much every day of this personally bell-less week, others were putting us to shame and with it being Friday, that meant the FNQPC of course, who on this occasion rang a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Ashbocking.

At least not every Guild member has had such a quiet week!

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Thursday 24th September 2015

Another bell-less day for us personally as my latest late shift was finished off with me picking Alfie up from Ruthie's choir practice which begins before I leave the office.

Still, others were ringing and quite notably so, with Stephen Dawson and Ruths Suggett and Young ringing their first quarter of Wearmouth Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Tostock. Well done guys!

Meanwhile, in light of the recent thefts of lead from several church roofs in the county in recent weeks, it is worth noting that a fund has been set up by the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust to offer financial help for parishes towards the cost of security. With a number of bells sat on church floors within our borders and indeed some stolen last year, perhaps the ringing community should be contributing towards this, either as individuals or as a Guild? Donations can be sent to or in the form of a cheque sent to The Secretary, Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, Brinkleys, Hall Street, Long Melford, CO10 9JR.

Hopefully then not every day will be a bell-less day for somewhere.

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Wednesday 23rd September 2015

The theme of the week has been waylaid plans caused by either the car, Alfie, my late shifts at work or combinations thereof. This evening they all combined to ensure that neither of us made Pettistree practice.

At least the car has been fixed, but following a walk from John Catt's Melton offices to Champkin Auto Repairs to collect it, darkness had already fallen and the evening was well matured before I had even got home to a wide-awake Alfred reluctant to sleep.

Still, at least it allowed me to keep tabs on Ipswich Town's Coronation Street-bothering visit to Manchester United in the League Cup. I have to admit to feeling slightly embarrassed about the local media overkill on a match that even within the limited importance of football generally was a quite unimportant fixture in the scheme of things. We aren't going to win the cup and I expect that our illustrious opponents see this competition as far from a priority compared to battling the likes of Chelsea, their neighbours City, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich for the Premier League and Champions League titles. Indeed, whilst Man Utd's followers are mocked for being detached from everyday football, they could be forgiven for not registering - as many hadn't - their team's game against their lower league fodder on this occasion.

But it was nice after over a decade of visiting the likes of Barnsley, Millwall and Plymouth Argyle with monotonous regularity for the lads that usually ply their trade down the road from the 10cwt six of St Matthew's in an uninspiring part of an uninspiring town to pit their wits against England's leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney and the collection of World Cup winning internationals and multi-million pound teammates, some of whom earn more in a week than ITFC paid out in transfer fees for their entire starting eleven tonight in one of the planet's most famous - and with a 75,000 capacity, biggest - stadiums.

The 3-0 defeat to the team currently second in the top flight therefore was neither a disgrace nor unexpected and in some respects I'm just glad they've got it out of the way with minimal damage.

Meanwhile, the practice at the aforementioned ground-floor six we missed seemed to get by without us, at least judging by the quarter-peal rung beforehand, one of three quarters rung in Suffolk today, in addition to one rung at Bures yesterday that didn't make it into the blog. Commiserations to the band who lost the peal attempt of Uxbridge Surprise Major on the newly restored front-eight at St Mary-le-Tower, but still got a QP of Superlative Surprise Major and well done to David Howe on ringing his first of London Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Preston St Mary.

Glad that went to plan!

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Tuesday 22nd September 2015

With taking the car over to Champkin Auto Repairs for its explorative surgery after work putting paid to any notion of the three of us attending Revd Paul Hambling's service of licensing at Melton this evening, it is tempting to bewail scuppered plans for the third day running. However, although losing our transport for the night and the subsequent walk home under darkening skies with an empty buggy (poor planning on my part!) made it impossible to attend the much-anticipated occasion, another late finish in the office contacting schools from across the Americas would have made it very difficult and more than a little impractical anyway.

Which is a pity, for we would've liked to have welcomed this popular young man of the cloth back to the area, a friend not just of ringing but of ringers too, which bodes well for the future of the art upon the 13cwt eight of his other parish Ufford. So it was pleasing to see the quarter-peal arranged especially for his arrival was successful at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary beforehand with some of those friends.

Also pleasing to see, is the pre-practice attempt at Offton successfully rung to celebrate local ringer Janet Sheldrake becoming a Grandmother for the first time - many congratulations Janet!

I'm glad others' days are going to plan!

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Monday 21st September 2015

For the second day running, plans were scuppered. Whilst our car can't be seen until Wednesday and is therefore restricted to the streets of Woodbridge, it wasn't Aloysius who was the cause of today's tribulations and the subsequent hasty replanning of our day, but rather Alfie. A phone call from nursery asking someone to come and collect him just three hours after we'd dropped the uber-excited seventeen-month old off with his contemporaries and their guardians meant that for the second time in ten days I had to stretch my employer's generosity once again and take custody of our son. The reason was some altogether unpleasant symptoms, but although Alfred was perfectly cheery and any grumbles he had could be put down to teething rather than illness, with one child already sent home with the same complaints their caution was understandable and necessary - better that a couple of sets of parents are inconvenienced than dozens due an epidemic that would spread like wildfire in such an environment.

Still, having taken me days to catch up in this busy international campaign from my last enforced absence from the phones and emails to look after the li'l chap and with the office keys burning a hole in my pocket and a sales team in need of me to come back with them so they could stay late, I was keen to reseat myself in front of my computer, as much as time in AJM's energetic and cheerful company is always a joy. So we were once again grateful to Ruthie's mother Kate for picking her grandson up to allow me to reacquaint myself with John Catt Educational and IB World Schools Yearbook.

However, with a busy afternoon carrying out the funeral of Doug Button - whose family started EB Button before selling it to my wife's grandparents - she was unable to help us out until 4pm, so conscious of all that was awaiting me at my desk, I decided to stop in until 8pm, meaning that having missed the return of service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower yesterday morning, we frustratingly missed the return of the practice night this evening. Hopefully there will have been a good turnout as we shall need as much support as is available to get up and running on ten and twelve after the two-month absence. The temptations of Great St Mary in Cambridge, St Peter Mancroft in Norwich and Chelmsford Cathedral all nearby on a Monday are great, but there is tremendous potential at SMLT if everybody comes along together and is prepared to push themselves so that we can continue to grow as a band.

That's providing everything goes to plan.

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Sunday 20th September 2015

The idea of cars having a personality is complete and utter tosh. They are functional machines that it is understandable that one can become attached to, but only because of what one experiences in the time one is driving it about. Emily - the car we ran until last year - is remembered fondly as it was in Ruthie's family for two decades, was the first car that my wife drove in and which took us to hospital for Alfie to be born. Gav - my car before that - enabled me to go about my business across Suffolk as Guild Ringing Master and took me to meet Mason for the first time. But they were just tin cans with an engine.

However, if they do have a character of their own, our current automobile Aloysius has a particularly vexatious one with the most deliberate inconvenient timing. Six months ago, its battery died on a Saturday evening, wiping out all our plans for the following day at a stroke. Funnily enough, that had followed a trip to Long Melford, which must disagree with our vehicle in some way, as having returned from yesterday's traversing to the south-west of the county that took in the aforementioned 15cwt eight, warning lights began lighting up our dashboard alarmingly. Mercifully it wasn't until we had returned to our town of residence, it is still going and God willing there isn't anything seriously wrong, but with nowhere close by opened today, all that we had planned on this Sunday was scuppered.

Disappointingly, that included returning to St Mary-le-Tower to ring for the first time for just under two months, as with the work completed and clappers put back in by Jed Flatters, Owen Claxton and their band of helpers the bells rang out over Ipswich for the Sabbath once more. Hopefully our transport will be able to take us back to the first SMLT practice on home turf tomorrow evening and this morning our zemblanity turned out to be a stroke of serendipity for the ringers of Woodbridge where I was in a position to make four before the boys and I joined Ruthie in attending the service, but it was frustrating to say the least.

Our lack of wheels also put paid to our attendance at a family gathering we had been looking forward to, as my brother Chris and his wife Becky had very kindly invited us to their Bury St Edmunds abode for champagne and cake left over from their wedding a month ago and to take in tales and pictures of their subsequent honeymoon in Italy.

Still, at least others within our borders could get out and about to ring. Congratulations - I think - to David Steed on ringing in his 1296th quarter in the 1296 of Bourne Surprise Minor at Buxhall and well done to Clare Goodchild on ringing two methods in a quarter for the first time in the 1260 of Doubles at Hollesley, whilst there was also success at Pettistree for the Harvest Festival.

Their cars must have been more obliging than ours.

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Saturday 19th September 2015

Last time I visited Cavendish, it was a bright, sunny and warm spring day, summer was on the horizon and we were weeks from putting the clocks forward an hour to BST and Suffolk's landscape - particularly in this, arguably its prettiest and most picturesque corner - was coming to life encouragingly. Once we'd rung on the easy-going 11cwt six, we enjoyed a drink outside The Five Bells next door, overlooking the green made famous by millions of calendars and postcards, the first al fresco pint of the year.

Six months on I was there again on a bright, sunny and warm day, autumn now on the horizon and weeks before we are due to put the clocks back to GMT, that same landscape now beginning to fade and bed in now for the colder months ahead. Yet after ringing across the road at the much photographed St Mary the Virgin church, Alfie and I were outside The Five Bells with a pint again in a satisfying bit of symmetry, this time with well-portioned, tasty food and Mason and Ruthie at the halfway point of the Pettistree Outing to the far south-west of our delightful county.

Richard Knight and Mike Whitby entertain Alfie between the seventh and tenor boxes at Clare on the Pettistree outing.Peter Harper on the tenor box at Clare on the Pettistree outing.Earlier, Clare had been visited and the 28cwt eight managed well, especially by those less used to ringing on bells of this size. This is one of the most daunting ringing chambers within our borders, a huge gallery ring with a long draught and big boxes on the tenors that are probably a bit too close to the balcony into the church for some people's liking! But they are always worth a visit and when well-rung a glorious sound.

And after lunch we were at Long Melford, another location visited earlier in the year, though in much chillier and darker conditions than today. Here, the ringers are to be congratulated on their proactiveness in promoting the art, with appearances in the local media, handbell ringing and tours and indeed as we were departing they were about to embark upon a privately booked tour of the tower. Keep it up guys!

Ringing at Lavenham on the Pettistree outing. Treble Elaine Townsend, 2nd Pippa Moss, 3rd Mary Garner, 4th Jane Harper, 5th Anne Buswell, 6th Ray Lewis, 7th Chris Garner & Tenor Mike Whitby.Ringing at Lavenham on the Pettistree outing. Treble Elaine Townsend, 2nd Pippa Moss, 3rd Mary Garner, 4th Jane Harper, 5th Anne Buswell, 6th Ray Lewis, 7th Chris Garner & Tenor Mike Whitby.Ringing at Lavenham on the Pettistree outing. Treble Elaine Townsend, 2nd Pippa Moss, 3rd Mary Garner, 4th Jane Harper, 5th Anne Buswell, 6th Ray Lewis, 7th Chris Garner & Tenor Mike Whitby.Me watching Alfie on Lavenham tenor.The Pettistree ringers at LavenhamMason at Lavenham.

The day was rounded off by another tower being revisited from earlier in the year, Lavenham, scene of the very successful Rose Trophy Striking Competition in May. Since then though, the church has been one of a depressing number of churches where the roof lead has been stolen by those who sadly can't put their ingenuity, guile and nerve to more legitimate purposes, meaning the pews in the northern aisle are covered in tarpaulin and surrounded by buckets.
Upstairs meanwhile, this 21cwt eight are to be out of action for a month from the end of September whilst the clappers are rebushed, so please take note if you were planning on joining the ringing here during October. We were delighted to grab the opportunity to ring on them before we thanked Mary Garner for a fantastic day and winded our way east back home.
Elsewhere, peals of Minor and Doubles were rung at Bramford and Elmsett respectively and a quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor was successfully rung at Bardwell to celebrate the wedding of Sam Maynard to his fiancee Emma. Sam is now down in Berkshire ringing, but will be familiar to many here as an affable young man talented on the end of a rope, so I'm sure I'm not alone from here in extending my congratulations to the new Mr and Mrs Maynard.
Talking of affable young men from within our midsts, it was nice to see Louis Suggett ringing a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus in New York today, an effort impressive for that part of the world where geography means opportunities are not as abundant as here in the UK where we seem to take them for granted. It may take a bit longer than six months for Louis to return there though!

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Friday 18th September 2015

My biweekly dose of elation at the finish of another week of early starts was a highlight of an otherwise quiet day, though the exhausting rise from bed in morning darkness facilitated a free afternoon to collect Mason from school, another highlight of the day.

A ringing highlight has to be young Nicole Rolph's first quarter-peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Major in the success on the 10cwt ground-floor eight of St MIchael's Rendham this evening - well done Nicole! It was one of two quarters within our borders recorded online, with the other being a 1260 of Doubles at Easton rung by a band of our neighbours and friends from Norfolk.

Meanwhile, a smaller highlight was Ipswich Town not losing in a televised match, though as with a week ago practicalities made finding our way to tuning into their home draw against Birmingham City too difficult in the end.

Still, it felt like a day of highlights.

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Thursday 17th September 2015

It is with a large dollop of guilt that I heard today that the Guild Social on Saturday 26th September has been scaled back by the North-East District who are organising it. Gone are the brewery tours and the social is no longer being held in the Riverside Centre in Stratford St Andrew, simply because once again a ringing event in Suffolk has been met with apathy. This was a superb idea - brewery tours, ringing and fun in relaxed, easily accessible surroundings. And all for prices barely troubling even our currently tight, child-tapped wallets. What more could they have offered?!

Little Glemham.Great Glemham.But we felt partially responsible, having not got round to booking our places, despite having every intention of going or at least to the bits that Ruthie could make after work. God willing, the boys and myself will be at Little Glemham between 4 and 5pm and Great Glemham between 4.30 and 5.30pm for the ringing and will be keeping our eyes peeled for where and when the post ringing entertainment will be. Please offer forth your support if you can.

Generally life for us on the ringing front is quieter, for obvious - though delightful - reasons, as most readers will have noticed if they haven't disappeared through boredom, so the Social is planned to be an opportunity to let our hair down with Mason and Alfie, with many days like today. Ruthie went to choir practice, whilst I remained at home looking after Alfred, meaning Grundisburgh practice wasn't possible.

Once again though, others provided interest for a blog entry, with the quarter-peal band at Aldeburgh ringing a 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles for the centenary of the Women's Institute a nice one to note, especially as it was a performance requested by the local WI.

But it doesn't stop me feeling guilty about our lack of activity.

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Wednesday 16th September 2015

I must have been ill. Last night I went to bed without even a second thought for the result of Ipswich Town's fixture earlier in the evening, such was my state of fatigue. As I rose for another early shift at work in the pre-dawn darkness, the discovery that they had defeated their hosts Leeds United 1-0 was an additional and welcome filip on a morning where I was already feeling the benefits of the ten hours sleep had got on the sofa and then in bed due to my wonderful wife taking Alfie out to Ufford and generally giving me space to rest.

In fact such was the boost to my energy levels that once back from the office, I even had the vigour to join Ruthie and Alfred in the torrential rain as we were forced to return to the hell on Earth that is Ipswich town centre to replace the li'l chap's week old shoes that were already too tight for him. Jones - the shoe shop we had purchased the footwear from - were perfectly obliging, but it came at the end of a long day for my wife this time and such was the reversal of our respective verve that tonight I took a wide awake AJM to Pettistree practice to allow Mrs Munnings some downtime in peace.

With the downpours still continuing and the roads fast filling with puddles that were combining to form new lakes, the attendance from places as far flung as Hollesley and Shottisham at the rural ground-floor six was impressive in the circumstances, with Surprise Minor and Stedman still managed when people weren't cooing over our son's shenanigans and kicked-off by a successful quarter-peal - Happy Birthday for Friday Lemmy and Ellie-Mae!

That wasn't the only performance within our borders either, with a 5040 of Plain Bob Triples at The Wolery another making an appearance on BellBoard and Campanophile as the SGR's peal total continue to pick up after a slow, slow start to 2015, though it is still mainly via a relatively small number of members in Old Stoke and is unlikely to stop us falling below the century mark over a calendar year for the first time for nine years.

At least I noticed the peal before I went to bed...

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Tuesday 15th September 2015

My early early shift at work today was both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing because it allowed me a free afternoon to return to St Mary-le-Tower for the first time since the end of July to do my bit in putting the clappers back in on the front eight now that the frame has been painted. And well-painted it has been too, indeed the best that Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters - a voice of considerable experience in these matters - has ever seen, further vindicating the decision to cease ringing here for such a lengthy period to allow the project to be undertaken.

Hopefully I was of some use, especially as having mistakenly thought proceedings weren't starting until today, my expected presence was absent yesterday afternoon. Not that I think I would've managed two afternoons in hindsight. Most of you who know me will know that I'm achingly impractical and not really a manual enthusiast and this two-hour session was hard for my feeble body, as I attempted to defy gravity by balancing incrementally heavier clappers into holes above me in dark bells in some kind of extreme form of fairground game.

Most of the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower with its newly painted frame. Clockwise from middle front - treble, third, fourth, fifth, seventh and sixth.The two seconds at St Mary-le-Tower - sharp one on the far sideTreble on the left, third on the right - the back four are above the green mesh.Newly painted frame at St Mary-le-Tower.Sound tubing at St Mary-le-Tower.Owen Claxton working on the third.The ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower looking a little untidier than usualThe ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower looking a little untidier than usualThe ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower looking a little untidier than usual

Thank God I was in the experienced hands of Owen Claxton and Jed therefore, who expertly guided me as between the three of us we gave sound once more to the front six, including both of the seconds. My limited 'help' is minimal in the scheme of things, with my two cohorts having been here twenty-four hours earlier and due to be back here later in the week to ensure that we will be able to begin ringing upon Suffolk's heaviest, oldest twelve on Sunday morning. Much credit is due to this pair, with much climbing, clambering and lifting required for hours on end in dim, dusty conditions high above the bustling, noisy streets of Ipswich as they try - and from what I witnessed this afternoon they are succeeding - to make sure that what we are left with are well-struck bells that will be easier to ring. There was no 'that'll do' attitude here!

Unfortunately, the curse of my pre-dawn start in the office was to take hold as darkness began to encroach back upon us. As I went to and from the car on my commute to John Catt Educational, there was a vast array of stars that I couldn't help but marvel at. Not as many as I recall seeing regularly on my late night walks years ago from The Green Man to my little pink cottage in Tunstall where the view of the wide skies was completely uninterrupted by artificial light, but enough to evoke the same sense of perspective that I got back then when a large part of the universe was laid before me. But it also meant that I was up for the start of my working day in the middle of the night again and as we approach the halfway point of the sales campaign that has seen me in at the extremes of my usual waking hours, it finally caught up with me this evening. Following Alfie's spectacular illness towards the end of last week, Mason has now suffered the same fate and it seems to have befallen me too, not helped by only a few hours sleep over the last two nights. The result was that as I prepared to go to Ufford to help out the practice there in my mother-in-law's absence, my body shut down and plans changed. Food was left unfinished (I know!) and I fell asleep on the sofa, meaning that it was Ruthie instead who had to go along to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to open up and with Alfred still wide awake and me in no state to look after him, take him too.

Other ringers were having a better day though, with a peal of Doubles at The Wolery - it was a mixed day!

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Monday 14th September 2015

The subject of what equates to a successful tower open day and how to make them as successful as possible is something that has been much pontificated on this blog before. To my mind, if they even just raise the understanding of what we do and why we do it in the minds of the public then it has been worthwhile. Get a recruit from it that is great, more than that, superb! And in my opinion, this is more likely to be achieved if the tower is open as part of a wider event.

So it was reassuring to hear that Halesworth's Open Tower Weekend backed me up on my unqualified assertions, held as part of the recent Heritage Open Weekend and seemingly benefitting from the publicity that came with that, with four potential recruits and a moving moment that saw a lady from Wales who once rang at the ground-floor eight of St Mary - and indeed who features in a photo in the ringing chamber next to the rope used to control the 18cwt tenor - have a ring for the first time for forty-seven years with some apparently well-rung rounds.

It whets the appetite nicely for St Mary-le-Tower's Open Tower Day on Saturday 26th September, where all visitors and help would be welcomed, though of course it is the same day as the Guild Social, this year being held by the North-East District, featuring ringing at the Glemham's Little and Great.

Before then, there is plenty to help out and participate at within the SGR, with the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday from 7.30-9pm, South-West District Triples Practice at Boxford on Saturday from 7-8.30pm and a Triples/Major Practice from 7.30-9pm on Tuesday 22nd September at Halesworth, where they will be looking to build upon that Open Tower Weekend.

For us though it was a quiet ringing day, as I popped in on Aunty Marian briefly on the way to checking in on Mum and Dad's place whilst they are away, as the final SMLT Roadshow Monday night practice at Kersey proved just a bit too far at the end of a long day for both of us as I began another week of early shifts. God willing the weekly sessions will return in seven days time as work on reassembling at the county's heaviest twelve begins this week, hopefully meaning a reacquaintance with twelve-bell ringing ahead of a successful tower open day.

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Sunday 13th September 2015

Ruthie and I are often conscious that when Mason comes to see us, he hasn't got as many contemporaries to spend time with as he does when with his mother where through family and school he regularly sees others of his age. Gatherings of my wife's family see him and her cousin Freddie as thick as thieves. In ringing though, there aren't as many in his age-group, whether that is here in Suffolk or on Rambling Ringers. Whilst that is not an entirely bad thing and that cross-generational interaction is something that is a massive strength of our art that I feel I benefitted from at his age, he is always keen to know if Richard Stevens or Henry Salter will be at a ringing event, so it was nice this afternoon that the latter was able to come round for an afternoon of play today.

The original plan of football in the back garden was scuppered by the rain, but they made up for it with hours of table football, Lego construction/destruction and taking turns on the Wii U, whilst we nattered with his mother Katharine, the pair of them dropped off by paterfamilias David and Great Uncle Roger Whittell on the way up to the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh.

It was a pleasant way to wile away a rainy Sunday that had started with ringing first on the front five and then the front six at Woodbridge before stopping to service, a happy routine that has become very familiar since ringing at St Mary-le-Tower was suspended back in July for the planned painting of the frame and rebushing of the front-eight clappers. God willing the end is sight though, as following what is planned to be the final Monday Night Roadshow at Kersey tomorrow, work is due to start on Tuesday to reassemble everything, which should mean a return of the county's oldest, heaviest and most famous twelve for Sabbath ringing in a week's time.

All being well, Mason, Alfie and I will be there, with my contemporaries at least.

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Saturday 12th September 2015

Tour of Britain, Last Night of the Proms and more reflection on the Queen becoming our longest reigning monarch. It's easy to feel patriotic at the moment, but today there was no ringing within our borders to mark any of the three events. To be fair, there has been plenty to celebrate the latter event this week and I can't really think why anyone would specifically ring for the nonetheless glorious annual display of patriotism through the medium of music held at The Royal Albert Hall.

However, there was a slight pang of disappointment as Guild PR Officer that we were unable to use the country's premier cycling race coming through Suffolk to get local ringing on the airwaves as the peloton made their way past numerous towers with bells in the county. It wasn't entirely surprising though. Whether it is because I have become aware of them more since I took over the SGR's public relations in 2011 or it is genuinely the case, but there seems to have been a significant rise in the amount of things we are expected to mark with bells. Sometimes on a daily basis there is an anniversary to mark or 'significant' occasion to celebrate and this race was the second national one to pass through our green and pleasant part of England in the last three months. Simply, it is not possible for ringers to turn out for everything.

And that goes for Ruthie and me too, as today we were occupied with my wife singing for a wedding at St Mary's in Woodbridge and then immediately afterwards with meeting Alfie's Godmother, our bridesmaid and Mrs Munnings' near-lifelong friend Fergie as she was visiting her childhood town from Brighton. Having discovered that The KIng's Head and The Angel didn't serve food until 6 and 6.30pm respectively, we made the pleasant walk down the hill to The Cherrytree, where we enjoyed a convivial couple of hours in the garden. We adults were entertained by beer, grub and conversation as we caught up and the boys by the play area, and even more so when Mason's Godfather Toby, his fianc�e Amy and their daughter and my Goddaughter Maddie unexpectedly turned up.

St Matthew's, Ipswich.As pleasant as that was, it did mean missing out on any ringing opportunities, but others were helping to make up for our absence from the end of a bellrope, most particularly the Williamson and Earey families who partook in Ben Williamson's first quarter-peal. It was most appropriate that his family rang their first quarter-peal all together at St Matthew's in Ipswich, where his parents Jonathan and Sue first met and appropriate too that Ralph and Ellie rang, as it was also through that same teaching of a new band here in the 1990's that the future Mr & Mrs Earey met. A hearty well done to all then, but especially Ben, for whom I hope there are many more to come!
What a time to be British!

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Friday 11th September 2015

There are some truly terrible things happening in the world. The atrocities being committed in the Middle East and the resulting exodus that currently sees Europe overrun with refugees of all ages experiencing horrendous circumstances. And of course it is fourteen years ago to the day since those devastating events in the USA.

Within the parameters of our cushy existence though, it wasn't a great day. Alfie's ill-health last night meant he had to forsake his day at nursery, which in turn meant that we had to adjust our plans at work. With me on a late shift at John Catt, we decided it was more practical for Ruthie to go to work for a while and then for us to swap so that I could go into the office. Whilst it felt odd to be arriving as most of my colleagues were leaving, I at least felt I was being productive by popping in and tying as much up as I could before the weekend and on the last day that I could talk directly to the Americas for at least another ten days. Except just an hour in, the internet packed up on my computer, meaning I had no access to any customer details or emails.

After all of that, we were ready for a relaxed evening putting our feet up with a beer and some tea. Only Alfred had other ideas and decided he didn't want to go to sleep, resulting in us not getting any food until after ten. To top it all off, Ipswich Town got battered 5-1, though we were at least spared watching it on TV as finding somewhere to view it seemed impractical on this occasion!

Still, we were cheered by the arrival of Mason for the next couple of days, news that the last practice of the St Mary-le-Tower Roadshow is planned to take place at Kersey on Monday (any help people can give us to put everything back together at SMLT next week is encouraged to get in touch with David Potts) and the FNQPC succeeding at Brandeston with a 1260 of Doubles. There have been worse days.

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Thursday 10th September 2015

A combination of my late shift at the office, having to collect Alfie from his mother's choir practice and Alfred being spectacularly poorly meant that we missed another practice, a not uncommon occurrence as we try to juggle parenthood, work (particularly when I'm in at opposite ends of the working day), ringing and singing.

Tonight it was the Surprise Major practice at Ufford that lost out (or benefitted depending on how you look at it!), but others were able to partake in our glorious pastime, with further quarters within our borders rung to mark the monarch's record-breaking reign, as a band rang a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Kessingland and another aptly rang a 1320 of Queen Elizabeth II Treble Place Minor at Woolpit, which was also a first of Treble Place for all of them - well done Paul, Pam, Lucy, Lesley, Nigel and Stephen. Having rung an entire peal of it for Her Majesty's eightieth birthday nearly a decade ago at Monewden, I hope they enjoyed it more than Ruthie and I did!

After a day when my wife was called into the shop to help on what would normally be her day off and with that impractical beginning to our evening, we were extremely grateful to mother-in-law Kate not just for looking after her grandson and taking him to The Suffolk Punch Trust at Hollesley, but for making our tea for us too! Unfortunately it wasn't quite enough for us to be able to make it out to ringing. Hopefully we'll have better luck next time out.

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Wednesday 9th September 2015

The National Anthem includes - amongst what is otherwise a dirge I'm not much fond of - the lines 'Long live our noble Queen' and 'Long to reign over us'. At eighty-nine years old, Queen Elizabeth II was already our oldest ever monarch, something she became some eight years ago, but today she took over from her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria as Britain's longest-serving monarch.

Despite her protestations and those of all republicans, much fuss was made today of the landmark, including by ringing, not just in the UK but in Australia and New Zealand as her role as Head of the Commonwealth was also highlighted. A suitable length of 1263 of Stedman Caters was rung at Westminster Abbey and featured prominently across the media's reporting of this historic occasion and a well-publicised 5042 of Bristol Surprise Maximus was successfully rung at Worcester Cathedral. Pleasingly though, there was much ringing in Suffolk to mark the day, with quarters of Norwich Surprise Minor at Great Finborough, Grandsire Triples at Lowestoft, pre-practice at Pettistree and Plain Bob Doubles at Wickham Market, which also doubled up as the first on the bells since their recent rehang, as well as for the Silver Wedding Anniversary of local ringers Rob and Daphne Rose - congratulations guys!

Congratulations as well to Matthew Kemsley on ringing in his first peal in another performance in honour of Her Majesty, the 5040 of Doubles at Tostock which along with the Minor at Barrow was one of two peals rung in the county today.

As I was on a late shift, we didn't have the chance to do any significant ringing for this momentous point in history, though my wife did go along to the aforementioned Pettistree for practice low on numbers with a number of the regulars on holiday and a drink in a crammed Greyhound next door. Instead, our morning was spent reluctantly travelling into Ipswich to be robbed of our hard-earned cash for parking in this dying centre of shopping, all in the name of getting Alfie's first proper shoes, something more significant to him than QE2's celebrations. And in amongst pictures of the Queen from over the decades of her reign, the East Anglian Daily Times even found time to include us, as the picture taken on Sunday outside church found it's way onto the paper's website.

I know that some would begrudge Lizzie her moment and I'm inclined to agree with those who have pointed out that it is not so hard to stay sixty-three years in a job you were born into when you have all the healthcare and protection she has to hand. But she is in my opinion an integral part of what so many around the world admire about Britain and has carried out her role with little fault and when all is said and done, few if any of us are ever likely to witness this record being broken again in our lifetimes so it is something worth marking. It is sobering to think that the vast majority of those alive today have known nothing but her as our Queen. One of my earliest memories is celebrating her sixtieth birthday at primary school when I was about Mason's age and at probably about the same time I remember being in the ringing chamber at Helmingham when she visited St Mary's church for a service. And yet thirty years on she is providing early memories for my son. My Aunty Janet has worked for her and has nothing but compliments for her personal interactions with the most famous women on the planet and of course she is the Head of the Church of England, the body to whom we owe the existence of our art. So on balance, long may she reign!

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Tuesday 8th September 2015

With Alfie and Ruthie dropped off at nursery and work respectively and a late start at work, I took a few minutes to enjoy a 120 of Stedman Cinques upon handbells on You Tube, impressive not just for its sheer quality, but because it was performed in front of nearly 2,000 people at the Utrecht Early Music Festival in the Netherlands by a band from the Society of Cambridge Youths. Not only is it currently hurtling towards the top of BellBoard's leader board, but - as I write this - has been viewed over nine hundred times online and was by all accounts a big hit at the festival which this year was focused on the Renaissance and early Baroque. Even more encouragingly, the band is genuinely youthful, including Rambling Ringer Stephen Croxall on 11-12 and it is well worth taking the time to listen to the near six-minute video.

God willing it is promising for the future of ringing, but my morning also saw me enjoy a bit of ringing's past as I became engrossed in the latest copy of the Suffolk Guild Annual Report to be scanned and uploaded onto the website by Neal Dodge, 1990. This was a special one to me, as it covered the year that Alfie and Mason's great-grandmother, mine and Chris' grandmother and Dad's mother Lilian Munnings died. Often people fondly remember my Granddad Jack and quite rightly so, but his wife is sometimes overlooked which is a shame, though in some respects understandable in a ringing sense. Whilst my father's father was synonymous with ringing at St Margaret's in Ipswich for many decades, Nana 'Green Door' as we called her (due to the colour of their front door in Beechcroft Road) never really took to the art in the same way, but she did take it up relatively late in life, was a great supporter of District and Guild events, particularly with her teas and as George Pipe very kindly says in the obituary he wrote in the report, "what joy it gave her to know that her two grandsons are now ringing." I hope our ringing still gives her joy. It was nice to note a couple of peals rung to her memory, a 5040 of Stedman Triples at Hadleigh on Saturday 10th November called by Simon Rudd and a 5057 of the Cinques variety at St Mary-le-Tower exactly a week later and called by John Pladdys.

My interest wasn't just held by this family link, but also where things have changed, things have remained the same and in some cases both co-exist. For example, David Salter was a prominent member of the SGR, but was Ringing Master of the South-West District and living in Hintlesham. His is one of many characters who feature then and a quarter-of-a-century later, such as Stephen Pettman, Brian Whiting, Mike Whitby, Katharine Whittell (now David's wife and mother to two current prominent members in the form of George and Colin), Josephine Beever, Mary Garner and then Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond, among many others. There were second Sunday peals at Aldeburgh - though not every month by any means - and Grundisburgh is one of the leading peal towers for the year. SMLT were winning striking competitions, there were concerns over recruitment and training and ringing on the 16cwt ten at Mildenhall was restricted to the front six.

But many aspects have completely changed. Names familiar then and now not to be seen in the ringing columns for various reasons such as Andrew Fisk, Mark Liebenrood, Pat and Trevor Bailey, Robin Allum, Michael Baldry and Harry Archer. There were a lot more peals in our name but rung beyond our borders, such as at Bedford and Chester although some of those were very tenuously connected to us! The aforementioned Grundisburgh was still a ten and Monewden had only just been rehung. And no sight of a website or email address anywhere!

More recently though and bringing us bang up to date, quarters were rung at Thornham Magna yesterday and Offton this evening to mark Queen Elizabeth II becoming - all being well - our longest reigning monarch tomorrow. All enough to keep me interested before a day at work!

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Monday 7th September 2015

Helmingham.The St Mary-le-Tower August Roadshow this evening continued on into September, as Helmingham became the latest Suffolk eight to kindly allow us the use of their bells on a Monday night. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, with next week pencilled in for putting everything back together again, though that does mean that the practice in seven days will again be relying on the generosity of another tower.

For tonight though, we enjoyed this grand 17cwt ring in the gloom that rather romantically exists in a ringing chamber laden with history. With the nights now drawing in and darkness enveloping this isolated spot well before the end of ringing, it was easy to feel transported back decades and even centuries, especially with some of the peal boards adorning the ancient walls, which include the first of Grandsire 'Tripples' rung within the county accompanied by a footnote that appears to have been written in the local dialect!

Holidays and distance for many that typically travel from far and wide to further their ten and twelve-bell ringing in Ipswich meant that understandably the attendance was quite a bit lower than we would've preferred, but despite this it was still a productive session, with useful practice at Superlative for Peter Davies, Bristol for Helen Carter and Ashtead and Uxbridge for most of the rest of us, with a repertoire that most eight-bell practices would be delighted with, interrupted for David Stanford and me by a couple of walkers who had parked up in an empty car-park and returned to find themselves blocked in by mine and David's cars and surrounded by a dozen others. Not something they were expecting in this rural outpost on Monday night.

Thank you to Helmingham for putting us up, but we'll be pleased to get back on our bells and finish the Roadshow!

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Sunday 6th September 2015

A day after getting all eight bells at Woodbridge ringing, it was delightful to do it again this morning. The band here are in the main more mature and in some cases quite frail, exhibiting wonderfully how ringing is not just for muscle-bound beefcakes, but also making it impractical most of the time to pull up and man the 16cwt seventh and 25cwt tenor, so to have these back bells booming out over this pretty riverside market town across the weekend was superb and made possible today by the presence of Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis and Alfie's buggy!

Whilst the service was climaxed by a photoshoot outside for the handing over of a cheque to Kev the Rev from the Friends of St Mary's and Ruthie returned later to sing for Evensong, it was otherwise a laidback, relaxed Sunday afternoon as Mason and Alfred played and we took a rare bit of downtime.

There wasn't as much downtime available for the bands ringing quarter-peals of Cambridge Surprise Minor and Grandsire Doubles at Lowestoft and Pakenham respectively though - congratulations to Sally Veal on ringing her twenty-fifth quarter in the latter.

Nice to see at least some of Suffolk's bells being rung

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Saturday 5th September 2015

A week ago, Ipswich Town lost 3-2 at home to the cumbersomely named Brighton & Hove Albion to end their impressive start to the 2015-16 football season. It was a deceptive defeat though, with a full whack of the proverbial rollercoaster of emotions. For having gone 2-0 down within the first twelve minutes, the Tractor Boys encouragingly fought back to 2-2 in a display of determination we could've only have dreamed of three or four years ago, but we still lost. It had started abysmally, spawned a comeback to be to be applauded, but it was ultimately still a very disappointing Saturday afternoon.

Seven days later, Ruthie and I came away from Orford with much the same feelings. As we stood around awkwardly at 4pm with no ringing upon this 10cwt gallery-ring eight on the coast some half-an-hour after the advertised start time with just a handful of members present (of which all were our family, an officer or playing the organ for us), I don't mind mind admitting that I and the South-East District Secretary who had spent so much time organising the event were despondent. Here we were, having scooped up two children with a car load of food and secretarial accompaniments to this geographical outpost and yet almost the entirety of a SE membership that numbers over three hundred were absent from what had been intended to be a useful event for learners and experienced ringers alike.

Ringing at Orford for the South-East District Quarterly Meeting.Ringing at Orford for the South-East District Quarterly Meeting.Ringing at Orford for the South-East District Quarterly Meeting.The South-East District Quarterly Meeting in Orford church.The South-East District Quarterly Meeting in Orford church.

However, by the time we'd contributed to a touch of Grandsire Triples and a course of Yorkshire Surprise Major and partaken in a well-pitched service led by Hollesley ringer the Revd Ruth Hatchett, our numbers had been tripled to an almost respectable quorum for a lovely 'bring a plate' tea and a productive meeting. The business part of proceedings is perhaps the most questionable element of these occasions. After all, we live in an age of online communication and social media where almost anything could in theory be arranged or imparted in an instant without anyone involved having to see each other. But there are those who don't live on the internet and stuff that sometimes is best brought up in such a setting as this afternoon's. At least when a decent sized attendance turns up. George Pipe's obituaries for Mike Warren and John Blatchly, an instant and controlled debate and discussion on issues like recruitment and training, election of new members and subscriptions that didn't result in childish insults and swearing as can often be the case on Facebook. And it was an opportunity to encourage members to mark Queen Elizabeth's forthcoming record-breaking week (God willing she makes it!), the Tour of Britain cycle race travelling through the county on Saturday, join the District Quarter-Peal Fortnight from Saturday 24th October-Sunday 1st November, the outing to Norwich that offers the chance to participate by Park & Ride or train on Saturday 7th November and the Christmas ringing in Ipswich on Saturday 19th December, the final on the list again being generously arranged by Jane Harper - it's never too early to volunteer your services for any of these gatherings!

Yet this was still an astonishingly poor turnout from the biggest District in the Guild, with the best transport links of all the Districts. This community is out on a limb and oft-visited over the years, but there was a chance for learners to gain some invaluable experience and experienced ringers to meet up and mix helping improvers with some more advanced, complex ringing to offer satisfaction to themselves and ringing to aspire to for those learning. Guild AGM's have shown that we can cope with crowds of a hundred and indeed even two hundred in the past to these sorts of occasions, but realistically it would be nice to get fifty or sixty to these social events that are generally unique in their nature to the art that we all have a foothold in. There were many reasons for absence this afternoon. Holiday, work, ringing for weddings, family, etc, but also I'm fairly confident in saying that not all of those that didn't make it couldn't make it. To reiterate previous rants, attendance at these events isn't a demand, but it would just help if more could make it. That goes for all get-togethers on What's On. We have a unique network amongst our hobbies and yet we don't seem to want to take advantage.

And it is possible to fit other activities in beforehand, which we did ourselves today as we rang before and after a wedding at Woodbridge. Well, I rang before and after, whilst Ruthie - who hadn't originally been able to commit to ringing - answered my call for help afterwards, as I hadn't realised until we grabbed hold to ring the bride, groom and their guests in that tower captain Bruce Wakefield had - despite his best efforts - only been able to gather seven together to man this 25cwt eight, not helped by the fact that neither he nor Gill could make it. Still, we did our bit with enough time to spare to butter some scones and make it over to Orford in time to welcome the masses.

Elsewhere in the county they had a bit more success it seems, as a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was rung at Great Barton and with it being an international weekend in the footy, England made English fans' weekend by qualifying for next summer's European Championships in France by winning 6-0 in San Marino.

And at least it meant that Ipswich Town weren't spoiling our day!

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Friday 4th September 2015

St Lawrence.Associate member John Blatchly will be a familiar name to many members for his association with the project to restore and rehang the historic bells of St Lawrence in Ipswich, the oldest ring of five hung for full-circle ringing in the world. It received generous funding from a public appeal by the Ipswich Historic Churches Trust, of whom John was the Chairman, but beyond that he has done much more, including being Head of Ipswich School from 1972-1993 and editor of Conference & Common Room, a magazine published by my employers John Catt Educational, though before my time at the company. As a profile on him on the University Campus Suffolk website shows, he has had a busy life!

It is a life that I was sorry to hear this evening has run its course and although not a ringer, it is a sad loss to the art locally for his support of it, so I'm sure I'm not alone amongst the SGR membership in offering my condolences to his family.

Today saw the end of another week of earlies, offering forth the opportunity this afternoon for a brisk walk to pick Mason up for the first time in the new school year, but other than that it was a slow day for us and it would seem ringers within our borders generally, so it was a quiet evening in, remembering the work of DR John Blatchly.

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Thursday 3rd September 2015

An early shift at work paved the way for a productive afternoon that saw us clothes and food shopping on the cheap, as we meandered out to Kidz Kupboard in Rendlesham for clothes and meat at Swiss Farm Butchers yards round the corner from the ground-floor ring of six at Ashbocking.

It was a quiet night for us in a ringing sense, as it will be on Monday evening at Rumburgh for the local ringers as the weekly practice will not be running.

No such silence today in Bacton's Pretyman Avenue though, as Jeremy Spiller rang his thousandth peal of Surprise with a 5040 of Thousandth Surprise Minor on handbells, the first in the method. Congratulations Jeremy!

Though I'm not sure it was as productive as our afternoon!

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Wednesday 2nd September 2015

As I made my way to Rectory Road for this evening's peal attempt at The Wolery, it appeared that a rainbow was rising from the old Tolly Cobbold Cliff Brewery on the other side of the River Orwell. It seemed a good omen for what I was about to embark upon with seven friends and so it proved, as following our disappointing and highly unusual loss here two weeks ago, normal service was resumed with a very decent 5088 of Ouseley Surprise Major, an improvement on the Westray we were attempting last time out. At times the ringing was sparkling, tapping along almost hypnotically, due in no small part to Neal Dodge's increasingly confident treble ringing as he became the 509th different ringer I have rung a peal with. Trebling is not necessarily the easy way out as some may suggest and it is imperative when ringing an unfamiliar method that the lightest bell is in the right place, but it becomes a harder task the faster the ringing gets, with ropes darting up and down at speed and in an order not entirely familiar, so we were glad that he so ably stood in for the still injured Mick Edwards.

I was also grateful to young Mr Dodge for reminding me that very soon the Tour of Britain cycling race will be riding through Suffolk, featuring the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish and I imagine big crowds and lots of media coverage. The route can be found on the Tour's website, but on Saturday 12th September it will be going right past ringable bells at Elveden, Fornham St Martin, the Norman Tower, Stowmarket, Barking, Hadleigh and Holbrook before finishing in Ipswich town centre. Obviously it may be difficult to get to some of those towers with road closures and the like and I guess some members will understandably want to watch the race, but it would be great to hear bells as the cyclists go past, so if you are planning on ringing at one of the above sets of bells whilst the peloton dashes by, then please let me know - it would be great to get a bit of publicity for local ringing through this!

The Mlilbeck Ring.For now, the county town was quite a bit quieter then it'll probably be in ten days time, so after the typically generous hospitality from the Salters I made my way home, where it was nice to hear of success not just at Pettistree where a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was rung before the practice night, but also in Shelland upon Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake's mini-ring, The Millbeck Ring, as Maurice and Anita Rose's forty-third wedding anniversary was celebrated in style with two quarters of Major, one each of Double Norwich Court Bob and spliced Surprise in four methods. We would have offered them anyway of course, but now that we are related to this lovely couple through my brother's marriage to their niece Becky, we simply must extend our congratulations to them!

And thank God there was further good news from Beccles, where following an inspection to this famous tower yesterday, ringing was given the all-clear to resume.

That rainbow must have been exuding a lot of positivity!

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Tuesday 1st September 2015

Orford.September is here and although last year saw it fall on the last Saturday of August, this time round that means the South-East District's autumn Quarterly Meeting at the weekend. On this occasion we are visiting Orford and it would be nice to have a better attendance than the last time we went to this coastal eight for the same event three years ago when it was a frankly dire turnout. I have seen firsthand the effort put in by Ruthie in her role as District Secretary to arrange this in between work and looking after Alfie, so we're desperately hoping it has all been worthwhile. Yes it is out of the way, being a geographical outpost miles from even its closest communities, but it is worth the journey to not just support SE members and their hard-working officers, but also to visit one of Suffolk's most wonderful locations.

There is plenty in the village to make the long journey worthwhile. Three great pubs, a castle, the quay and Orford Ness mean that you could make a day of it - just remember to bring a plate of food! Seriously though, this will be an opportunity to catch up with friends and make new ones, for learners to take advantage of the experience to hand and for experienced ringers to help those learners, so please support it!

For today though, it was a very early start at work for me and an early night in anticipation of another early start tomorrow. God willing, September can only get more interesting!

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Monday 31st August 2015

It must be a Bank Holiday Monday. From the moment we woke at Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick's pretty cottage and had breakfast in the conservatory to a soundtrack of the clouds relentlessly unloading their contents upon the glass roof to unpacking our car in the same sodden conditions back at home in Woodbridge and getting an early night in readiness for an early start in the morning, there was not barely a break from the downpour.

In between, we had to make our way through the atrocious conditions all the way from Lincolnshire to Suffolk as the roads kicked up spray that at times made it almost impossible to drive. If it wasn't for our various commitments tomorrow and the fact I needed to drop Mason off at his mother's this evening, it would have been tempting to stay on in Brampton, especially as we have had a wonderful weekend of good company, lovely food, fascinating model trains, strangely dressed characters and avoiding explaining the purpose of the bidet to the eldest boy! We are - as we always are when we visit my mother's sister and her other half - extremely grateful to the hospitality of our hosts for a relaxing but varied couple of days.

Polstead.Still, we were relieved to get back after that perilous journey, to a county where again ringers had been busy. A peal was rung at Polstead and quarters scored of Doubles and Plain Bob Major at Great Barton and Ixworth respectively. Well done to Simon Veal and Craig Gradidge on ringing their first of St Simon's and St Martin's Bob and Neal Dodge on his most methods as conductor in the former and congratulations to Neal again for his twenty-fifth on eight in the latter. And Happy Eightieth Birthday to Kenneth Brown!

Good to see members still achieving even on a wet Bank Holiday Monday!

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Sunday 30th August 2015

When in Lincolnshire visiting Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick, we like to join the ringers at Lincoln Cathedral for service ringing. Usually it is comparable to many provincial twelves on a Sunday morning, including St Mary-le-Tower. Typically all twelve would be rung, perhaps some Surprise Maximus or at least Surprise Royal. Grandsire and Little Bob may feature strongly.

 Sunday morning service ringing at Lincoln Cathedral. Sunday morning service ringing at Lincoln Cathedral. Sunday morning service ringing at Lincoln Cathedral.

This time though, we approached the south-west tower of the city's - and indeed county's - most famous landmark with a degree of trepidation. Without going into details, we had heard much about the politics that has sadly ripped the band here apart and had been warned to expect only a handful of local ringers. Which was what we were met with. However, in a stroke of serendipity our visit today coincided with the visit of the University of London Society of Change Ringers on their summer tour. It meant that instead of five Lincoln ringers plus us, the ringing chamber was filled with a twenty-five strong crowd of predominantly youthful enthusiasm. In a timely follow-up to yesterday's subject, it was wonderful being able to join in with a roomful of ringers of whom only Rambling Ringer Jemma Mills and Tim Forster whom I rang a peal with at St Mary-le-Tower eighteen months ago we were known to. So instead of our fears that we may end up ringing on only six or - even worse - seven of this 23cwt twelve, we were treated to some very well rung pieces of Grandsire and Stedman Cinques and were able to enjoy Yorkshire Surprise Maximus from the sidelines as a young band showed us how its done! Proof that the future of ringing is not necessarily all doom and gloom.

There was an encouragingly youthful feel about today's ringing back in Suffolk too, on another busy day. Simon Edwards - a talented young ringer from Swindon - was ringing his fiftieth peal of 2015 as he conducted the 5040 of Doubles at St Lawrence in Ipswich and he was part of another predominantly young band that saw Lucy Williamson and her father Jonathan ring their first quarter on a mini-ring in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at The Wolery, whilst there was more youthfulness on show in the 1288 of the Triples variation of the method at Halesworth which was rung for the happy occasion of the Christening of Emilia Busby, daughter of local ringer Jason and his wife Sarah. That was Matthew Rolph and Jonathan Iles' first in the method, but the achievements didn't stop there as at Hollesley, Jenny Lloyd and Clare Goodchild were ringing their first of Minor and first of Minor inside respectively in a quarter of Plain Bob Minor. Well done to Clare, Jenny, Jonathan I, Matthew, Jonathan W and Lucy and congratulations Simon!

The Steam Punk outside LIncoln Cathedral.Our ringing however, was done as soon as we'd descended the many stairs from the ringing chamber at the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary to meet our non-ringing hosts for a wander around this beautiful city, which this lunchtime was teeming with what must have been thousands of people dressed in many bizarre variations of historical and sci-fi costumes for something called the Asylum Steampunk Festival, an annual event that appears to be very popular!

There are some things that we won't be taking part in when in Lincoln though!

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Saturday 29th August 2015

It is nice to get away every now and then. And it is nice to catch-up with family not seen regularly. So it was lovely to be beginning the last bank holiday weekend of 2015's summer with a trip up to Lincolnshire to visit my mother's sister Janet and her other half Mick. Well once we'd negotiated overtaking lorries, middle-lane sitters and accidents. The planned improvements to the A14 through Cambridgeshire can't come soon enough...

The journey was - as ever - well worth it. Their local village Brampton is very different in appearance to the colourful communities of Suffolk, but is picturesque nonetheless, with abodes of various sizes, a golf club and old-style red phone-box straddling the quiet rural lanes to nowhere and my aunt and uncle's pretty cottage in the heart of the hamlet was a welcome retreat at the end of a long journey.

Mason enjoying the set-up at the Gainsborough Model Railway Society open day.Mason enjoying the set-up at the Gainsborough Model Railway Society open day.That said, with a rested Alfie and excited Mason in tow, there wasn't an opportunity to put our feet up and converse with our hosts too long yet, as they had lined up a trip to visit the Gainsborough Model Railway Society who had opened their HQ up for the public to look around. I've often vented my opinions on model railway enthusiasts and how their pastime makes me feel less of an anorak for being a bellringer, but they always seem to get the crowds in for these sorts of events and I can see why too. It's a young boy's dream and indeed as the eldest son darted about chasing trains, his younger brother took it all in with a bemused smile and us adults marvelled at the incredible detail of the stations modelled exactly on the stations along the East Coast Main Line from London's Kings Cross to Leeds Central. It is interesting to note the similarities between their hobby and ours, such as the dedication of the most passionate proponents of the two pastimes, the connection with history and tradition and the poor image problems that both have. But whereas ringing offers almost limitless opportunities to progress and a huge global network of ringers who can gather anywhere there are bells and ring together, building and playing with model trains - as fulfilling, satisfying and enjoyable as I imagine that can be - doesn't seem to hold the same possibilities as ringing.

Those possibilities were being realised to a degree back in the homeland on a busy day of ringing. For example, ringers from Bedfordshire, London, Norfolk and other far flung locations converged in friendship upon Bardwell to enjoy a peal of Bristol Surprise Major for the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, whilst ringers from Sheffield, Devon and north of the River Waveney joined SGR resident members in ringing a 5088 of the same method at Wilby, a handbell peal was rung in Bacton for the Society of Stowmarket Youths and a quarter-peal was rung at Horham. It's a variety that can't easily be replicated by model railway enthusiasts!

Still, we enjoyed our afternoon with the GMRS, especially the boys, so much so that even they were ready for a relaxing evening, with a much-needed tea, a beer and Mason's Del Boy reenactment when he leant on what he thought was a closed shower door in the bathroom! A nice start to what will hopefully be a nice bank holiday away catching up with relatives.

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Friday 28th August 2015

As we enter a bank holiday weekend, it is important to note that there will be no St Mary-le-Tower practice on Monday evening, either upon the 35cwt twelve or anywhere else. Indeed, it would be worth checking with any tower that typically practices on the first day of the working week, such as Aldeburgh, Polstead, Tostock or Wickham Market amongst many other places, with many bands cancelling their usual weekly sessions.

SMLT's is due to be back on a week later, but with it anticipated that the work on the bells at Ipswich's civic church will still be ongoing at that point, the roadshow continues on into September, with the plan being that Helmingham will be the next - and hopefully last - destination on this tour of the county to have to generously lend us the use of their eight for the night.

Beccles.However, as the closure of one set of famous Suffolk bells nears the proverbial light at the end of a tunnel, another set of well-known bells within our borders are entering a metaphorical tunnel of uncertain length, as this week bits of masonry have been found to be falling off the bell tower of St Michael and All Angels in Beccles. Understandably the area around the notable structure has been cordoned off and ringing suspended until an inspection on Tuesday at least. We'll keep our fingers crossed that this 25cwt ten don't stay silent for too long, but if you want to join the locals for their ringing in the near future then it is best to contact the correspondent there.

One place they are ringing as normal is Ashbocking, where this evening the FNQPC were carrying on in their conventional manner with a 1260 St Martin's and Plain Bob Doubles - no problems there then!

So enjoy your bank holiday weekend, but check before you travel to ringing!

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Thursday 27th August 2015

There are many similarities between my employers of seven years John Catt Educational and Ruthie's of six months John Ives, apart from a name and that they employ a Munnings. Both are small, well-run, long-established Woodbridge companies, respected in their field and if you are prepared to put your all in for them, our respective management are always happy to be flexible for us, whether it is to allow a bit of time off for a funeral, something to do with the children or if you just need to get off early for something important. In turn, it encourages their staff to do a little extra, as was shown by my wife willingly going in on Wednesday to help out on her day off or my cheerful readiness to come in at all hours for our international publications.

The one thing they both excel at in regards to employee treatment though is the social aspect. For the best part of a decade I - and Mrs Munnings too - have benefitted from meals out and jollys such as bowling in Alderton, pop-up cinema in Framlingham, trips on the River Ore, tours of Orford Ness or parties in Aldeburgh, but it seems my better half's bosses are also proving themselves in this department. Recently she was taken to The White Horse in Sibton for dinner, plans are already in place for their Christmas party and this evening I met her after my late shift at The Cherrytree round the corner from our home for a company gathering. And very pleasant it was too, first outside and then - when the rain drove us from the garden - inside, though space was pleasingly at a premium in anticipation of the establishment's popular quiz night.

Whilst our respective employers sometimes feel like family, there was actual family activity on the county's bells, with two Stevens-Salter quarter-peals of Plain Bob Minor at The Wolery, a 1272 called by one of the hosts David and a 1260 called by his middle son Colin. Jonathan and Suzanne were later back near home at Rendham ringing in Nicole Rolph's first quarter of Yorkshire Surprise Major. Well done to Nicole not just on this, but especially on her extremely impressive GCSE results!

Meanwhile, well done as well to Ruth Suggett and Andrea Alderton on ringing their first of Grandsire Minor in the 1440 at Buxhall. A note of credit to Stephen Dawson too on keeping on top of the busy composition!

Looking ahead, the National Heritage Open Weekend is due to occur over the weekend of the 12th and 13th September and as part of that a magnificent PR opportunity has presented itself at the ground-floor eight at Halesworth, where they have been asked to open the tower and ring the bells, some of which date back to around 1500. They could do with some help though and it would be good to put on a strong and enthusiastic show for the public, so if you can aide them, then please do contact Catherine Draper on

It is important that if our art is to thrive that we put as much as we can into it to get more out, something that the John's Catt and Ives do very well.

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Wednesday 26th August 2015

Whilst Manchester United fans around the world were whipping themselves into a frenzy of excitement at the prospect of their team facing the mighty Ipswich Town following last night's League Cup draw, Alfie was spending the day at his grandparents as Mum and Dad very kindly looked after him whilst his mother helped out a short-staffed John Ives. It meant a trip to Ipswich for me to drop him off and Ruthie to collect him either end of the working day, but we were extremely grateful to Alfred's Nana and Granddad for their time in aiding us.

It also gave us the opportunity to be a little more prepared for the evening than we have been recently after my late shifts at work, the result being that I was able to make it out to Pettistree practice, though not much of it mind. However, in the brief three-quarters-of-an-hour I was present I participated in the ridiculous to the sublime, from a handful of attempts at Morning Exercise Delight Minor (or 'Evening Hassle' as the exasperated conductor Mike Whitby renamed it!) to a touch of Stedman Doubles which was absolutely faultlessly rung until the third ringer failed to leave the front right at the end! Even that and my attempts to lead down afterwards didn't spoil a very enjoyable piece of ringing.

Earlier, a quarter had - as is typical for a Wednesday - been rung, one of a number of successes within our borders and beyond in our name. It was particularly pleasing to see the 'St Mary-le-Tower Front Eight' peal successfully rung south of the border at Ardleigh in Essex in the absence of the bells at SMLT and without me hindering them, but closer to home George Thoday had made the reverse journey to ring his 1750th peal in the 5152 of Cambridge at The Wolery, which was also Simon Veal's first of Surprise Major. Congratulations George and well done Simon!

And as well as the aforementioned QP upon the ground-floor six of SS Peter & Paul, another typical Wednesday score was the 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Preston St Mary. Not quite as exciting for any Manchester United fans reading this, but your time in the spotlight will come!

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Tuesday 25th August 2015

There is another new feature on Andrew Craddock's superb Pealbase and it makes for fascinating - though in parts alarming too - reading. For he has introduced graphs to highlight trends in various areas of peal-ringing since 1950. In short, it shows that generally, far more peals are being rung now than sixty years ago and yet far fewer ringers and - despite the fine efforts of FirstPeal2015 to buck the trend - first-pealers are ringing them. Why this should be can only be speculated from these results, but perhaps less spare time could be a contributing factor. Compared to the 1950's, there are more pressures on people's hours from work and other hobbies.

However, my personal perception is that those who are ringing lots of peals are enjoying a higher quality of ringing, something that should be the case if someone is ringing hundreds of peals each year and that in turn draws them back and makes the medium a more pleasant and enjoyable experience. In Suffolk generally - and across the country - there is amongst the majority a huge amount of apathy to what I still feel is by far the best way to raise ringing standards and to an extent it seems a Catch-22 situation. If you and your fellow ringers only ring a handful of peals, the chances are the quality won't be as high as it would be if you gathered for regular peals. Of course, the two-and-a-half/three hours of ringing that follows probably isn't very nice and won't enamour you to take up more regular peal-ringing. Widespread reluctance to peal-ringing then makes it harder for organisers to get bands together and often someone not ready to partake is dragged in reluctantly and so the cycle continues.

In addition, more towers appear closed to peal-ringing and so more and more peals are being rung on handbells and mini-rings at private residences, which in some cases seems to be perceived - wrongly in my opinion - as a closed-shop, an elite group pleasing themselves rather than embracing the progress of as many ringers as possible. Whatever the reasons, we need to get more people peal-ringing, because like all other aspects of our ringing, it can't and shouldn't come down to just the same handful of members. If you can, try and keep your toe in occasionally, even if you're not looking to hand your life over to peal-ringing and don't be discouraged from arranging attempts. We need more opportunities for all and more enthusiasm to help ringing standards rise.

As alluded to earlier though, it isn't always possible and Ruthie in particular and myself are prime examples. My wife once - along with her mother - rang more peals for the Guild than anyone else during one year and I have rung sixty over twelve months at my peak in numbers, but Alfie and my extreme shifts at John Catt Educational have by and large curtailed our involvement. To ram home that point, even on our traditional night in after a late finish at the office for me, we found ourselves - willingly it must be pointed out - babysitting our nieces Katelynn and Annalise on behalf of Ruthie's sister Clare and her husband Kev, meaning that there was no time for peal-ringing this evening.

God willing, as time goes on, we'll get the chance to contribute more in the future.

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Monday 24th August 2015

Many congratulations to Steven Tye, who yesterday rang his first quarter-peal in the 1320 of Doubles at Kersey, one of a number who have encouragingly made their debut in the medium in Suffolk. God willing the first of many!

It was a happy note to read about on an otherwise frustrating day ringing-wise, as a combination of my late shift, our bad organisation and trying to get a lively Alfie to bed meant that yet again we missed the St Mary-le-Tower Roadshow, which this evening returned to Henley. Combined with the further distance we need to travel to places like the 8cwt eight at St Peter and Coddenham, it has meant that when I am on late shifts the roadshow is problematic to get to, but I am determined that when my next late Monday is due to come round in a fortnight, I can make it out, especially as it appears that the SMLT ringers' nomad existence is due to continue after that. As ever, watch this space.

Coronation peal band at Redenhall from 1937, featuring Frederick W Munnings.Still, once AJM was in bed and a late tea purchased and shovelled down, I was able to take in an interesting bit of Munnings-related Facebook discussion, as Australian ringer Margaret Callinan very kindly pointed out that she had come across an Alfred Munnings painting in the National Gallery of Victoria on the other side of the world. It led to Norfolk ringer Steve Rabong bringing up Redenhall's Frederick W Munnings, who he believes was the brother of our son's more famous namesake and whose picture hangs up in the ringing chamber of the 22cwt eight north of the border, along with the rest of the band who rang a peal there to mark George VI's coronation in 1937. A fascinating bit of family and ringing history revealed thanks to modern global communications! Many thanks to Margaret and Steve for generating it all!

What a positive way to finish an up and down day!

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Sunday 23rd August 2015

Grand plans went to waste after another disturbed night for Alfie, so our intentions to go along to Pettistree and then Woodbridge to ring for - and in the case of the latter to also attend - morning service got no further than beyond our duvet.

However, we did make it to St Mary-the-Virgin in our town of residence later in the day, as we attended the Christening of one of Alfred's contemporaries, Archie. He is the son of one of Ruthie's work colleagues and was a regular at the baby club that AJM used to go along to before he got too big for it and it has been wonderful to see friendships blossom, both with the children and parents, so we were delighted to be present at this important occasion.

Ruthie & Alfie at Archie's Christening.Afterwards, we retired to the familiar St Audry's Social Club, the go-to venue for any sizeable party in the area, before we then continued our journeying, this time to visit my wife's sister Clare and her family in their new abode. They really have landed nicely on their feet too, certainly in regards to location, tucked away at the far end of their local village opposite the church and looking out over fields, but most importantly of all, it is their own space after a logistically difficult few months sharing a house with my patient mother-in-law Kate!

Again we weren't on the end of a rope, but also again others were elsewhere in Suffolk, with another impressive handbell peal in Bacton, quarters of Plain Bob in the Doubles variant at Wenhaston and the Triples one at St Gregory in Sudbury, whilst congratulations are due to Neal Dodge on ringing what is already his fiftieth quarter this year in the success at Acton.

At least his grand plans got further than his bed!

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Saturday 22nd August 2015

We here in Suffolk are blessed to have a myriad of places on our doorstep to go to, but when the the sun shines as brightly as it did today, one place above all else calls loudest - the coast! And so it was today, as whilst Ruthie was working the only Saturday available to her in the whole of August to undertake her duties at John Ives, the boys and I descended upon the nearest point to us where the sea meets land, the quay at Bawdsey.

Mason at Bawdsey, overlooking Felixstowe Ferry.Mason at Bawdsey, overlooking Felixstowe Ferry.Alfie & Mason at Shingle Street.Alfie & Mason at Shingle Street.

Having had a wander along this oft-overlooked stretch of beach and watched the ferry cross the river to Felixstowe Ferry a few times, we made our way up the coastline to Shingle Street, via a quick trip down memory lane to remind Mason of our former abode in Hollesley. The sound of the bells on the buoys out in the North Sea was eerie even on this bright, roasting day - I remember the sound well from my time in this corner of the county and how atmospheric it was on a wild winter's night!

It involved no ringing, but others were on the end of ropes, as at the other end of our coast in Lowestoft, a quarter-peal of eleven Doubles methods was rung. However, it was in the west, far from the ocean breeze that ringers were busier, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Lavenham and the same length of Stedman Triples rung at Hopton, very kindly rung in honour of Chris and Becky's wedding. Well done to Pam Ebsworth on ringing her first of cover on eight in that performance.

A wonderful day to be in Suffolk.

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Friday 21st August 2015

Rarely has the end of a week of early shifts been rejoiced so exuberantly as it was in our corner of Woodbridge. Well, I displayed some relief at not having to get up in the middle of the night to go to work, but our good mood was enhanced by feeling properly human for the first time this week and even dipped our taste buds into a shallow glass of wine, our first foray into alcohol since Saturday's wedding.

Talking of which, for those interested not just at how well the happy couple scrubbed up but also in a game of 'spot the ringer', then their official photographs are up and available for the general internet-using public on Lavenham Photographic's website. That was a great start to a poor week that has ended well!

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Thursday 20th August 2015

This week has generally been a poor one. Whether it has been the early starts, looking after an energetic Alfie, recovering slowly from Saturday's excessive merriments or more likely a combination of all three, we have spent this week feeling lethargic, aching and generally feeling under the weather. Domestic ambitions have been left largely unfulfilled, practices have gone unattended and a peal lost. Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that it all built-up to a pretty awful day.

Alfie's inexplicable and unusual awakening on what was already due to be a short night of sleep set it off badly, but with Ruthie falling ill and another 6am start in the office for me, our day was completely unproductive - bar my seven hours at John Catt Educational - when in fact we were due to be at our most helpful by helping my wife's sister Clare, our brother-in-law Kevin and nieces Katelynn and Annalise to move house.

Tostock.No doubt in a better condition were those partaking in the 1320 of Chichester Delight Minor at Tostock, especially Pam Ebsworth who was ringing her 475th quarter-peal and Andrea Alderton, Lucy and Stephen Dawson who were ringing their first in the method. Congratulations Pam and well done to Andrea, Lucy and Stephen.

At least the week has been better for some!

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Wednesday 19th August 2015

Pettistree quarter-peal losses. Ipswich Town promotions. And lost peal attempts at The Wolery. They happen occasionally, but if they didn't then success wouldn't be such an achievement.

The Wolery.This evening, we experienced the latter rarity, an unsuccessful peal attempt in Old Stoke. Westray Surprise Major was the method, a line differing from Superlative only in as much that the two and five-pull dodges on the front are replaced by places (bar the half-lead dodge) which was forgotten on more than one occasion, as is so often the case with such trivial variations of familiar methods and even David Salter, our host, conductor and selector of tunes alluded to a degree of regret of his choice, but it would be unfair to blame it on that alone. It was merely a single factor in many that contributed to this rare failure. Post-work peal attempts can often be difficult, with fatigue setting in more easily if one was ringing in a morning or afternoon peal, though these aspects are diminished with the shorter timespan involved in peals on this 9lb 8oz eight and later, 7pm starts in Rectory Road. Personally tonight's effort came at the end of another early start at work and therefore a long day - I certainly wasn't blameless! And even the most experienced mini-ring ringers can find it difficult to negotiate the sea of fast moving ropes when things go astray and ultimately it was that which finally did for us tonight, as a small hesitation turned into a mistake and eventually took everyone else in, with people on different strokes and differing views of where the lead-end was as the treble was understandably dragged in with the commotion.

It was a pity, especially as it would have been nice to have a footnote for Chris and Becky's wedding and as it would have been my first peal with Neal Dodge, one of Suffolk's many talented young ringers and who was on this occasion standing in for Mick Edwards who is suffering with a bad back at the moment - get better soon Mick! However, there was a commendable c'est la vie attitude amongst the band as we returned early for tea, cake and biscuits and a recognition that if we scored them every time, there wouldn't be as much satisfaction at the successful peals. The babysitter was quite surprised though!

Ipswich Town's lofty position at the top of the Championship league table following last night's 2-0 victory over Burnley not too far away at Portman Road is also a rare anomaly to the natural order of things, though three games into a forty-six game season is a bit early to say our fourteen-year wait for promotion to the Premier League is over!

However, the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree was scored. Indeed, the fact that this was the 950th on the bells shows that the norm was at least being maintained somewhere!

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Tuesday 18th August 2015

My abundance of sleep yesterday seems to have done the trick as I felt a lot better today, although it was another early night as this morning's early-early naturally caught up with me.

Gislingham.Others were again busier on our behalf within our borders though, with Nathan Colman, Helen Carter and Chris Bennett ringing their first peal on five in the 5040 at St Lawrence in Ipswich - well done guys! Elsewhere, a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was rung before the practice at Offton and an impressive-looking quarter-peal of spliced Surprise Major in six methods at Gislingham.

However, the headline act involving a Suffolk ringer didn't occur in the county. Well done and congratulations to George Salter on ringing his 350th peal with a 5056 of Yorkshire Surprise Major on handbells at St Magnus-the-Martyr that was also his first of Surprise and of Major in hand and rung with an extremely good band.

There is much planned for the coming days too, with another Great Barton Summer Practice on Thursday afternoon from 2 - 4, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday evening from 7.30 - 9 and the South-West District Mini-Outing on Saturday afternoon to Cowlinge, Barrow and Horringer. The latter is often a very pleasant few hours out, finished off at The Manger in Bradfield Combust, so if you can go along, not only will you be helping out, but you should enjoy yourself immensely!

Get some sleep first though.

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Monday 17th August 2015

This morning I woke at almost the same time as I had gone to bed twenty-four hours earlier. As I made my way to the office for an early shift, it was chilly, it was dark, the only sign of life was the milkman out on his rounds and frankly I was still suffering from Saturday's celebrations. So once back home, today was mainly spent sleeping, as pretty much the entirety of my afternoon was located in bed and then following a waking break to collect Alfie from nursery and Ruthie from work and have some tea before another early night.

Coddenham.Henley.My wife wasn't much better having been woken at six by Alfred and not having had the benefit of a post-work snooze and with the effects of the weekend still consuming us, neither of us made the St Mary-le-Tower roadshow, with Coddenham the latest tower to generously allow us the use of their bells as work continues as planned at SMLT. Hopefully with a return to late shifts next week we'll stand a better chance of making it to the practice which is due to take place at Henley and at least other ringers were being more active in Suffolk, with a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles.

All being well, tomorrow will be less sleepy!

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Sunday 16th August 2015

Rarely has the 'morning after the night before' felt a more apt phrase. Yesterday's merriment didn't feel particularly excessive, but it was lengthy in its duration and late in its finish, so it is perhaps unsurprising that our early wake-up call from Alfie was uncomfortable. Still, a superb breakfast in the grand surroundings that hosted the reception helped ease us back into life, catching up with those others who had stopped overnight, including Mum, Dad, Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick, a rare opportunity to speak at leisure with family in a more subdued but less frenetic atmosphere as twenty-four hours earlier.

As the day gradually reached lunchtime, we had gathered our belongings, bade our farewells - particularly to the newly married couple - and eventually departed. It has been a wonderful weekend, a joy to see Chris and Becky's big day come together and we were genuinely touched by the gifts the boys and me received from them for carrying out our duties, especially the signed Ipswich Town shirts for Mason and me.

However, the festivities were catching up with us, so once my eldest had been dropped off with his mother in anticipation of an early start at work tomorrow, our day mainly consisted of shamefully slumping on the sofa feeling sorry for ourselves, whilst Alfred cheerfully pottered around us in the safety of our living room.

Wenhaston.Thankfully, other ringers were being more active in Suffolk, including some of those who had also been in attendance at the marriage of my brother and our new sister-in-law, as the Guild's Young Ringers preceded their practice with a jointly-conducted quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles at Wenhaston, which saw Simon Veal and Craig Gradidge conducting their first QP and Neal Dodge ringing his 125th. Congratulations Neal and well done Simon and Craig!

It was certainly more than we were capable of today!

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Saturday 15th August 2015

Memories of our wedding day three years ago have been pleasantly stirred this week, with our anniversary on Tuesday. It was a wonderful, special day for us, because it was our big day, planned in the way we wanted, with - thank God - even the weather as we had desired following an atrocious 'summer'. No two weddings from the ones we have been privileged to be invited to or the many we have sat in on as ringers manning the bells for numerous couples' happy day have been exactly the same. Variations in venues, size, type of ceremony (some clearly have little knowledge of hymns beyond 'All Creatures Great and Small', whilst others seem to have put more of an emphasis on the service itself, whilst still others have no religious aspect to their big day at all), the style and many more variables means that newly-weds are able to put their mark on proceedings and make it personal to them, which - apart from the fact that they're tying the knot - is the most important thing and the variation is what I so enjoy about such occasions. For example, Ruthie's Uncle Moog and Aunty Ange were married with a simple registry office affair, followed by a meal in Woodbridge at what was then The Captain's Table for the relative few invited and then a few drinks in The Mariners in a very laid back and informal event, but we loved it, because it was very them and we were delighted to share in what felt like a very intimate day.

In almost every way, the uniting of my brother and Becky Munford as the newest Mr & Mrs Munnings today was the complete opposite to that day many years ago. A service laden with Christian significance in one of Suffolk's many pretty village churches, followed by a sometimes lavish reception at a stunning location where we were met with wine and a string quartet and we enjoyed it just as much because it was what they wanted and it was very them!

This wedding stands out from most because it involved someone I have grown up with and who has been there for me and hopefully vice versa during good times and bad and who - my wife and sons aside - I am closer to than anyone else, for all our perceived differences, so it was an immense honour to make my debut as a best man for him and for Mason and Alfie to be their page boys.

Of course, because of our involved roles, this was far from a pop-along-and-go-with-the-flow type of day, so having impressively (if I do say so myself!) got the youngsters under our care breakfasted and out of the door early, we were at Chris and Becky's Bury St Edmunds' abode by 9.30 to help get the final preparations going. That began with our first viewing of the venue that was to host the reception and where we would be stopping tonight, Boxted Hall. This is a quintessential big old English country home and almost fairytale-like, with our accommodation being attic rooms that were simultaneously quaint and vast, reached not just by a grand staircase at one end of the house, but also a servants stairs and surrounded by a moat and substantial grounds alongside the River Glem and all overlooked splendidly by Boxted church, a gem largely unfamiliar to us, presumably because it only has two bells.

Packenham.A more familiar church is Pakenham's, the scene of the ceremony itself, once the groom, ushers, page boys and best man had readied themselves and home of a superb anti-clockwise 12cwt six, which were ringing out magnificently as we arrived, with the ringing being run by Ralph Earey and Jed Flatters, Guild Ringing Master and one of four past and present SGR RM's in attendance. Chris and I managed a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor before descending to the church below this central tower for the main event.

The bride looked wonderful and the service was led brilliantly by the Revd Lawrence Pizzey in a nice bit of symmetry, as he was best man for our father at our parents' wedding thirty-nine years ago. As we found with Kev the Rev, it is reassuring to have someone familiar guiding you through this daunting experience!

Ralph Earey & the groom discussing tactics at the pre-ceremony ringing.Mason looking very smart as page boy.The other page boy Alfie with a drink in his hand.My father Alan Munnings with Ann Pizzey.View of Boxted church from the front of Boxted Hall.Mrs Munnings playing croquet on Boxted Hall's lawn.The first dance.Snooker!

Vows were made, the register signed, our new sister-in-law surprised by petals falling from the ringing chamber and many, many photos taken - which should be available to view publicly on Lavenham Photographic's website in the next week or so - and we were onto the reception, where following food, speeches crept into view. Frankly my job was easy. Find something amusing about my brother (a bit like shooting fish in a barrel!) and raise a toast to the new husband and wife, but the stars were the groom and his new father-in-law Steve, who mixed humour with moving poignancy perfectly when Becky's much-missed mother Sue was mentioned. I imagine she was looking down and enjoying it all.
A quick change-around in the hall and the real party began, as the evening's guests complimented those of us already there, already drunkenly playing croquet and snooker, as the beautiful surroundings came into their own.

Earlier, local ringers did their bit to celebrate the occasion with a peal rung at Great Barton, but it was just one of a number of performances within the county today, as it was also the seventieth anniversary of VJ Day.  Pretyman Avenue in Bacton resounded to what was no doubt an excellent handbell peal, whilst I'm sure the same could be said in Bures where an appropriate length of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung. Meanwhile, well done to Matthew Rolph on ringing his first on eight inside in the quarter-peal at Halesworth and to Michelle Clutten on her first of Allendale Surprise Minor in the 1296 at Wissett, the two most notable quarters on a day when there were also ones of Plain Bob Minor at Hintlesham, Doubles at Pettistree and Wells Surprise Minor at Rumburgh.

But whilst we couldn't partake in ringing to mark the end of the Second World War, today's wedding in a picturesque corner of England's green and pleasant land was perhaps an apt and appropriate way to remember the freedoms fought for with much sacrifice seven decades ago.

Congratulations to Mr Christopher & Mrs Rebecca Munnings!

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Friday 14th August 2015

As Suffolk Guild Public Relations Officer (until the next Guild AGM don't forget!), I regularly get emails from my counterpart at the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, Kate Flavell, usually highlighting forthcoming events that she considers ringing could mark for a bit of PR. The latest arrived in my inbox this afternoon and points out - as Jonathan Williamson did some time ago - that if our eighty-nine-year-old Queen makes it to the 9th September, she will become Britain's longest serving monarch, something that we are being encouraged to ring for. Whatever your views on the monarchy - and I know (Robert) that there are some (Beavis) that aren't keen on them - this is a significant event that our twenty-hour hour news channels will be falling over themselves to cover as they struggle to fill their airspace, unless anything more unexpected and newsworthy occurs. Therefore, it is in our interests to associate ourselves with proceedings and put ringing in the minds of the public who are following this bit of history, so do let me know if you are planning on doing anything for Her Majesty becoming a record-breaker.

Another date she brings up is 25th October, which this year will mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, another metaphorical circle on the calendar that may offer forth some positive PR for ringing. Again, if you have any plans for this occasion, then please let me know.

Tomorrow is of course the seventieth anniversary of the oft-forgotten VJ Day, so I imagine there will be many quarters and peals tor the occasion, but it was a busy day today as well, with a visiting band scoring quarter-peals of Doubles in four methods plus Stedman at Elmsett and five methods and the famous principle at Acton, as well as Kirkstall Delight Minor at Bildeston and Norwich Surprise Minor at Parham. There was also a 1280 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major at Rendham to celebrate Chris and Becky's wedding, the reason we shan't be doing any ringing to note seven decades since the Second World War ultimately ended.

It seems anniversaries are the in thing these days, driven no doubt by those aforementioned news channels looking to fill airtime with something they know is coming and that they can plan for, but not all anniversaries are merely a matter of convenience for the media. We enjoyed our third wedding anniversary earlier this week, but today is also exactly a decade since Ruthie and I rang our first peal together, a memorable Sunday post-lunch performance upon Woodbridge's 25cwt eight for many reasons beyond it being the first of 159 peals with my now wife. Having returned to the county and set up home in Tunstall only a couple of weeks earlier, it was my peal-ringing return in the homeland, delightfully reached with a brisk two-mile walk through green and pleasant countryside in the sunshine to Wickham Market's railway station in Campsea Ashe and - with time on my hands as in those days trains only stopped in the riverside community that is now my town of residence every couple of hours - a pint in The Anchor beforehand. And the 5040 of Grandsire Triples itself lives in the memory for being the quickest on the bells at 2hrs54mins, meaning that I came off the seventh afterwards wearing a pair of shorts that gave the appearance that I had had a nasty and embarrassing accident, the mumblings of Arnie Knights ringing next to me still making me chuckle, none of which is mentioned on the peal board that records the performance behind the sixth these days. A memorable occasion was topped off by a lift from my future mother-in-law and her youngest daughter to The Turk's Head in Hasketon where Annie Brechin was working at the time, before the Eagle girls very kindly gave me a ride back to my little pink cottage. A lot has changed in ten years. Though not as much as has happened during Elizabeth II's reign.

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Thursday 13th August 2015

Destinys were revealed to thousands of eighteen-year olds today as A-level results were announced, dashing dreams and confirming ambitions. For those of them who are bellringers, it can also mean the beginning of an exciting adventure in the art. I remember being as excited about new opportunities on the end of a rope as I was about any other aspect of this new chapter in my life eighteen years ago and so it will be for many others. Hopefully there will be some that find themselves in Suffolk to help contribute to our ringing, though it hasn't been a particularly fruitful avenue of additional ringers within our borders. It has at least opened doors for a number of youngsters who have learnt the basics in the SGR and departed for various institutions of further education across the country from here in recent years. Best of luck therefore to any members who have received their results today. To that end, they may be interested in University Bell Ringing.

For me, it is another significant, life-changing event in two days time that was my focus this evening. Typically I'm quite casual about my appearance, as many will testify. I dress respectably at work, though what I look like in a role that in its everyday form is carried out on the end of a phone isn't its most important aspect, and I don't exactly dress like a tramp (keep it kind folks!), but before tonight I hadn't shaved since before our holiday and my hair needed a bit of controlling, especially as in less than forty-eight hours I need to be at my smartest in my role as my brother Chris' Best Man for his wedding to Becky Munford, so there was a fair bit of preening being carried out once I'd returned from another late shift at John Catt.

Typically of course, having got back into a routine following our camping trip and gone to bed early just about every night for the last week-and-a-half, Alfie decided he was going to stay awake even after darkness fell, meaning it was a long, late night and also scuppering any plans to attend this month's Surprise Major Practice at Ufford.

Preston St Mary.Meanwhile, well done to the band who yesterday rang their first blows of Hempsted Bob Minor in the quarter-peal at Preston St Mary. It may not be quite as significant as A-level results or getting married, but is certainly worthy of a mention!

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Wednesday 12th August 2015

By and large I avoid leading down, primarily because I never feel particularly confident about it. Of course that is completely the opposite attitude to the one I try to foster in other ringers, where pushing one's self helps to raise standards and along with calling Stedman is something I actually need to do more of. Still, I have dodged the task rather successfully over the years, particularly in Birmingham where it was rarely a skill called upon, though an abiding memory of my time in the West Midlands was a marvelous exhibition of leading down by Alban Forster as he led all sixteen at The Bullring down in peal.

It has therefore been a bit of a culture shock to be called upon twice this week to carry out the job I have so diligently avoided far more often than not in my quarter-of-a-century of ringing, first at Woodbridge on Sunday morning when I led the front four down and then this evening at the climax of the Pettistree practice. On both occasions, I have pleasantly surprised myself with vaguely coherent lowers that haven't resulted undignified collapses, but it is perhaps something I need to persevere with!

The aforementioned session at the ground-floor six of SS Peter & Paul that I finished off had begun with a successful quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor and in between an attendance depleted by holiday absences saw a nonetheless productive couple of hours, with the highlight for me being a faultless, well-struck course of London Surprise Minor for Elaine Townsend - well done Elaine!

We were aided considerably by the presence of Hampshire and Sheffield ringers Roy LeMarechal and Chris Bennett respectively, who continue to occupy themselves through the generosity and open arms that only bellringing really offers in such a way whilst they spend their weeks here in Suffolk as they paint the frame at St Mary-le-Tower. It seemed rude not to have a pint with our visitors outside The Greyhound afterwards, but it was a relatively quick one as I aimed to return home after only a brief visit home following another late shift at work to recover from leading down!

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Tuesday 11th August 2015

Three years ago, Ruthie made me the happiest man on God's Earth. The man upstairs smiled on us with sunshine, family and friendship and wedded bliss began in the stunning location of Woodbridge's St Mary-the-Virgin church and The Abbey School and its grounds at the heart of the wonderful market town we have made our home together.

Sickly, but heartfelt and even more so for the arrival of our son Alfie last year, after years of proving her worth with Mason who was a smart-looking and magnificent pageboy on 11th August 2012, a role he is set to reprise with his younger brother on Saturday for the wedding of their Unky Chris and Aunty Becky. The organisation, conundrums and stress that they have been experiencing have been a reminder of all that we went through back then and what a relief that everything went so well.

As they continue their preparations, we relaxed and celebrated with a four-course meal and some wine at home, Alfred already in bed by the time I got home from a late shift at work, with a successful peal for the Suffolk Guild at The Wolery and even Ipswich Town winning to complete a celebratory evening. Though with leather as the symbol of this particular anniversary I dodged a themed present!

Not everything was positive, with Thursday afternoon's summer practice at Great Barton cancelled, though that was balanced with the good news that the regular evening practice is still due to go ahead. Not a lot could dampen today's celebrations!

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Monday 10th August 2015

St Mary-le-Tower's August roadshow rolled on into Ufford this evening as we continue to compensate for the twelve back in Ipswich being out of action for maintenance work. It was Ruthie's turn to head out this week as I put Alfie to bed and understandably the turnout wasn't as high as it usually is when held at its home tower or indeed as when we went to Henley last week. This delightfully peaceful, quaint corner north-east of Woodbridge would be quite far for some who regularly come from the Bury St Edmunds area and south of the Stour in Essex in particular, holidays mean many are away and although we have felt it important to keep SMLT sessions going until the work is done, others may have nobly decided to help towers closer to home on a Monday night as no doubt attendances everywhere struggle a little as may be expected for the time of year.

For the same reasons, assistance may well be needed for the replacement ringing at St Lawrence on this coming Sunday morning, between 8.45 and 9.30, so if you are able to pop along it will be much appreciated!

Numbers of ringers has been something at the forefront of The Ringing Foundation's thoughts and having seen it's promising start as part of my first Central Council meeting in Newcastle back in 2008, I was sorry to hear via our Guild Twitter feed that Saturday's AGM in London saw it wind itself up. Such a scenario is not unexpected, with much disappointment expressed that the Foundation hasn't followed up those auspicious beginnings and it has brought up much discussion at how useful such centrally driven initiatives are. My personal thoughts are that the best and most enthusiastic ringing comes from smaller groups of like-minded people. The quarter-peal bands that tour Suffolk and Norfolk, the Blyth Valley Ringers, dare I say the handbell ringers in Bacton. I have fond memories of the half-lead spliced Surprise Major quarters Ruthie and I were involved in a few years ago that I felt raised the standard of eight-bell ringing in the area and the weekly peal attempts at Birmingham Cathedral drove - and I imagine still drive - the incredible ringing scene in Britain's second city. There are many other examples locally and nationally that I could use. But in a lot of cases, those groups can benefit from larger organisations such as the Suffolk Guild, with the network of ringers, funds for training and work on bells and towers to enable such assemblies to flourish and a framework in which to spread such success. In turn, associations like the SGR can benefit from initiatives like ITTS and even the CCCBR, though whether the latter is doing that effectively is a debate to have on another occasion!

Such issues were food for thought on an evening shortened by the beginning of our international sales campaign at work, as I returned to John Catt after my fortnight off to a late shift, the first of many starts and finishes at opposite ends of the day over the next ten weeks. By which time the St Mary-le-Tower August roadshow should be long over!

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Sunday 9th August 2015

Ten years ago, I rang in a peal of spliced Surprise Major in the 'standard eight' on the back bells at Grundisburgh, a peal topped by a pint in The Dog across the green from St Mary-the-Virgin, but more memorable for an exchange that occurred halfway through, as a splendid 5184 unfolded. Mike Whitby was conducting rather brilliantly, but had a bit of a senior moment when he asked James Smith if he had swapped with the third. What followed was a couple of glances from Mr Smith either side of him reminiscent of schoolchild making doubly sure the busy road they are about to cross is clear and an understandably confused reply of "I am the third". It still makes me chuckle.

I was reminded of this near decade old memory this morning at service ringing at Woodbridge, when Bruce Wakefield had a Mike Whitby moment as he attempted to put local ringer Terry Whale right by telling him he was following the second, only for it to be pointed out that Terry was on the second on an occasion that saw us only manage ringing on the front four in a complete contrast to a week ago. It is such an easily done thing in the heat of the moment - I remember once telling someone to dodge with a ringer who was sitting out at the time!

Such amusement and the spiritual fulfillment of the service afterwards sustained me until the very welcome afternoon return of Ruthie from the apparently enjoyable hen do of her friend Vicky, but others were ringing post-lunch, with the second-Sunday Aldeburgh peal of Surprise Major successfully completed with a 5040 of Minor at Henley, whilst Craig Gradidge rang his first quarter-peal of Surprise Major in the 1250 of Yorkshire at The Norman Tower. Well done Craig! Hopefully scored with no confusion as to who was ringing which bell!

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Saturday 8th August 2015

As with a couple of weeks ago, weddings were again a theme. As we prepare ourselves for the uniting of my brother Chris and his fianc�e Becky in a week's time and whilst Ruthie was in Thetford celebrating her friend Vicky's hen do, I was answering a call for help from Paul Sharples to make up the numbers for the ringing at a couple of weddings at Rushmere St Andrew this afternoon, as the Suffolk Guild Facebook page showed its worth again this week.

The ringers outside at Rushmere St Andrew during the second wedding.It was a pleasure to ring with some of the locals, Ringing Master Paul and his daughter Jo who is excitedly planning her wedding, Liz McLeod and Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend, as well as with Caroline Goodchild, together producing some excellently struck call-changes before and after both ceremonies, refreshed by a sit and a chat in the churchyard whilst the services were ongoing. Though the ringing chamber and climb to it are cosy and littered with strategically placed obstacles like the bellows pipe leading to the organ that overwhelms the sound of the bells when it gets going, I managed to fit Alfie in his buggy behind me on the fourth as Mason carried out his usual useful duties of watching out for the bride.

The facilities in the rest of the church are marvelous - although apparently the church these days is often far too big for the congregation sadly - and so this seems an appropriate moment to remind readers inappropriately early that the hope is to hold the South-East District's ADM in these facilities on Saturday 5th December, so if SE members are busy booking up their festive diary, don't forget to find room for this important date.

This church mirrors the village that surrounds it, a seamless mixture of the modern and the ancient, from the medieval tower and Norman south door to the well-established but relatively modern extensions, in line with a community that still retains a rural feel around St Andrew's with a green and pond, but is now essentially a sprawling suburb of Ipswich, which incorporates the training ground of the town's professional football club, who today began their quest for promotion on the first day of their fourteenth consecutive season in the Championship, but only served to leave me yearning the stress-free Saturday afternoons of the summer as they threw away a 2-0 lead in the injury time played at the end of their opener at Brentford.

Action shots from Hasketon Fete.Action shots from Hasketon Fete.Action shots from Hasketon Fete.Action shots from Hasketon Fete.

Still, at least there was plenty to keep my mind off the latest footballing-disaster from my favourite team, with our second trip in six days to the Felixstowe abode of Kala and Nick - Godparent's of the eldest and youngest sons respectively - being our first port of call whilst my wife was still in our company, the happy reason being to celebrate their daughter Robyn's first birthday. Her parents had hit upon a rather clever idea of an open house, day-long party that enabled their many friends and family to come and go and we took full advantage by being the first to pop in as we shoehorned our visit in before Mrs Munnings had to depart for her girly adventures, leaving us lads to embark upon our busy day. That day even managed to squeeze in the end of the Hasketon Fete in the shadow of the round tower of St Andrew that holds the 9cwt six there, a productive half-hour that saw Mason win a bag of sweets and a coconut. Well worth the visit!

Also being productive were the handbell ringers at Bacton who rang a peal in Pretyman Avenue and a Norwich Diocesan Association band that rang a 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major at Debenham, with particular congratulations to one of ringing's good guys Simon Smith ringing his seventh-hundredth peal into the bargain.

Our day ended with a lad's night in and lots of football, with more than the occasional thought given over to weddings.

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Friday 7th August 2015

It was a day of two halves.

Morning - park and Tesco with Alfie.

Afternoon - park and Tesco with Alfie and Mason.

The former saw Alfred and me at Elmhurst Park having dropped Ruthie off at work and with my eldest collected, the latter gave the boys and I the opportunity to enjoy a spot of footy for AJM and bike-riding on a roasting afternoon at Kingston Fields.

Meanwhile, word came through that Monday evening's St Mary-le-Tower practice will be at Ufford, as the work on the front eight at SMLT continues - as far as I'm aware - to plan and forces it's ringers on the road, with the generosity of towers near Ipswich.

Whilst we weren't ringing today though (I know, again. As ringing blogs go this hasn't been the best week for me to write about!), other ringers were performing within the county. The reasons were extremely sad though. When I read about the tragic passing of Dr Ronak Patel in a road accident in Ixworth last week, it was devastating in its own right. A sudden death of a young man who had dedicated his life to helping others, but having noted the news I didn't think anything more of it, a depressing indictment of the familiarity of such incidents. However, the realisation from the footnote 1344 of Pudsey Surprise Major at the village's parish church that he was the son-in-law of one-time Suffolk ringer Stephen Bedford brought the tragedy closer to home. I didn't - to my knowledge - meet Ronak, but I remember well ringing a quarter at Pettistree for their wedding at The Hungarian Hall nearby two years ago and am deeply saddened that such joy has turned to this far, far too soon. My - and I'm sure everyone's - thoughts are with Helen, her parents Stephen and Penny and indeed all their and Ronak's family at this awful time.

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Thursday 6th August 2015

Whilst Stuart Broad was destroying Australian batsmen at Trent Bridge, our day was less spectacular but still pleasant. With Mason and Alfie due to be Page Boys at their Uncle Chris' wedding to Becky Munford in nine days, our morning was taken up with shopping for a white, long-sleeved shirt for a one-year-old, a task not as simple as it may sound. Too small to take advantage of the back-to-school shirts that have been enticing parents and tormenting schoolchildren since well before their holidays got underway, the only options we discovered in the real world came with unneeded suits.

Thankfully the virtual world of the internet came to our rescue, so with some relief we met the groom-to-be outside The Duke of York back in Woodbridge for a spot of lunch, quite possibly for the last time before the big day itself. By which time, England will hopefully have The Ashes in the bag!

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Wednesday 5th August 2015

Breakfast for lunch, a kickaround in Kingston Fields and the beginning of this year's Great British Bake Off quite correctly indicates that today was again a very relaxed holiday, this time with Ruthie accompanying me! Lucky that it was relaxed though, as with no vehicle for most of our waking hours our options were delightfully limited, though it was still a relief to be reunited with Aloysius the car at Champkin's Garage, thanks to the generosity of mother-in-law Kate, whose kind offer of a lift saved me an hour's walk in the rain.

Pettistree.Experiencing a more significant day though, was former Suffolk Guild Secretary, current Child Protection Officer and since 2011 deserved Life Honorary Member Mary Garner, as she rang - and in the process called it too - her 1250th quarter-peal, appropriately enough at the tower it all started and has predominantly continued at, Pettistree. Congratulations Mary! As enjoyable as today was, I'm glad someone was busier than us!

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Tuesday 4th August 2015

Like the vast majority of Suffolk, Woodbridge is a pretty place to be at any time of the year in almost all conditions, but there can be few better times than on a warm summer's evening whilst wandering alongside the River Deben as the bells of St Mary's carry across the still air on their practice night. The reason for my meanderings was a mundane one as I'd dropped Aloysius the car off at Champkins' Garage in Melton in readiness for a service tomorrow, but that didn't lessen the dreamy nature of my lengthy walk home.

Earlier, further quality time was spent with Alfie and an opportunity to get him officially weighed for the first time in five months was presented. His mass of twenty-five-and-a-half pounds suggests that he is still on the right track, the words "keep doing what you're doing" from the health worker at the doctors ringing in my ears as I continued on to John Ives to let the working Ruthie know the good news, whilst post-walking saw a quiet night in front of the TV, taking in the latest edition of Awl a'huld, delivered to our front door yesterday by Sue Freeman.

As ever, it is a fascinating metaphorical trip around the Guild, with articles on the Woodbridge band's outing to Cambridgeshire, edible certificates in Thornham Magna, the Maintenance Get Together at Long Melford exactly a month ago, FirstPeal2015 news in the county and the South-West District Striking Competition won by hosts Nayland - congratulations Nayland! In addition, there is an introduction to new SGR Secretary Carl Melville and useful guidance and advice on maintenance and conducting by Jonathan Stevens and David Salter respectively, as well as a caption competition and further details on the much-anticipated - by me certainly - Guild Social due to be held by the North-East District on Saturday 26th September and involving brewery, vineyard and distillery tours to cover all alcoholic tastes in a beautiful part of the world.

Suffolk is indeed a lovely place to be.

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Monday 3rd August 2015

Henley.St Mary-le-Tower practice at Henley. Mike Whitby on the treble and Diana Pipe on the second as David Potts and Alex Tatlow watch on.Although St Mary-le-Tower's bells are out of action, their ringers - as should be well-known now - are not and this evening saw the start of the SMLT August Roadshow, begun this evening at Henley and with a large crowd in attendance. Amongst them were those working on the frame and bells on behalf of John Taylor & Co, including Roy LeMarechal, who it was lovely to see. Various Surprise Major was rung, featuring Cassiobury and the standard-eight spliced, as well as some Triples which memorably included a touch of Stedman and Grandsire spliced!

Alfie enjoying Kingston Fields.Alfie enjoying Kingston Fields.It was a pleasant way to finish a hot, sunny summer's day that saw me continue my two weeks holiday from the office. Though Ruthie had to return to John Ives and sadly couldn't spend the day with us, Alfie and I nonetheless enjoyed a day out at Kingston Fields playing more football and popping in to see Mummy at work!

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that there will be no practice at Rendham on Friday, though as with the Tower's ringers, they hope to be back in action next week, God willing.

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Sunday 2nd August 2015

There was enough to ring ten and have a singalong in the ringing chamber at Woodbridge this morning, as with the choir on their well-deserved annual August break, Peter Shipley and Ruthie swapped singing for ringing and bolstered the numbers, enabling us to ring all eight for the service and giving me the rare opportunity to ring the tenor, the bell with the best view in Suffolk whilst ringing in my opinion, though I'm aware others may disagree!

It was nice to share the Alfie-chasing duties in church afterwards, but even nicer later to sit in the sun in Felixstowe in the back garden of the new home of Kala and Nick, Godparents of Mason and Alfred respectively, as well as with their daughter Robyn. With my eldest's Godfather Toby, Amy and my Goddaughter Maddie also present, we enjoyed a BBQ in glorious weather with good friends and toasted their abode, whilst the children all played together. As I reflect that I have now been back in the county of my birth for a decade, today's gathering born of a friendship formed between Kala, Toby and me at the bar of The Green Man in Tunstall in my first week of living back here has shown just how much has changed in those ten years!

As we basked in heat, others were ringing in it though, with a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor successfully rung at Pettistree for Evensong. Maybe there was a singalong afterwards too!

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Saturday 1st August 2015

Our Rambling Ringers tour finished today as it usually does, with morning ringing, the tour meeting and a journey back to Suffolk for the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening, all carried out in a reflective mood. It has been a strange tour in many respects. Some familiar faces were missing, in particular the Mills' who - bar a brief appearance from Andrew on Saturday before we arrived and after he'd pulled the tenor in at Guildford Cathedral to a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus and his mother Christine over the last couple of days - have been unusually absent from a tour that they have been synonymous with since I first joined the Ramblers twenty-one years ago. Another family who have en masse been a fixture since my debut tour to Worcestershire in 1994 is the Crabtrees, but they too have been noticeably missing, though Tony and Erica joined us towards the end of the week. And although relatively recent additions, St Mary-le-Tower members Stephen Cheek and Anne and Paul Bray have been missed this year, though the latter pair did make it along today for the start of a weekend's ringing.

Nonetheless, newbies have joined us, so much so that I had to double-check that we had gone last year when we were confronted with a sizeable number of unfamiliar ringers when we eventually tagged along on this year's tour on Monday, with an encouraging splash of youth. It has been a joy to ring with Roger Riley and his talented sons Alex and Luke for example, whilst also nice to see Andrew Blacklock and Ellie Maude return after their virginal participation in Yorkshire last year.

As such, the ringing has been a little more hit and miss than it typically is, as the Society continues to strive for ringing excellence whilst also introducing new talent, but it has as usual been a super few days of ringing, drinking, eating and socialising, with a variety of methods rung at a smorgasbord of towers, some superb pub lunches and most importantly all done in good company with members from Essex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Yorkshire amongst others and as well as from beyond our shores, with the de Kok's making their usual journey over from the Netherlands and Kacey from the USA joining us as she studies bellringing. Yes, that's right, studying bellringing! Perhaps that's what I should've done for my degree...

Kent has been wonderful, if a little windy at times and gridlocked pretty much all the while and we shall miss it and it's novel range of tower designs of which the only common denominators are that they are short and yet still all manage to fit upstairs ringing chambers, which hasn't been entirely easy with Alfie! And despite that awful start, Alfred's first camping trip can be logged as a success, I think!

Rambling Ringers ringing at Little Chart.My father the joker at Hothfield.Voting for the next destination of next year's tour in the Tour Meeting in Hothfield church.

Our holiday was topped off by getting the tent down, missing the first tower of the day (of course!) at Egerton, before ringing at St Mary's at Little Chart where the church was rebuilt after the old one was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War and the gallery ring of Hothfield where the tour meeting took place. This lone piece of formality on an otherwise relaxed tour saw Geoff Wells and Mike Dew thanked through the medium of bottled ales to mark their long services as Secretary and Assistant Ringing Master respectively and the membership voted to take the 2016 tour back to East Anglia and in particular Cambridgeshire, as Hampshire and Dorset were both outvoted.

The last extent of the quarter-peal at Harkstead being rung for the SE District QP Evening.By this point Alex Riley had left us briefly and in more of a hurry than intended (the panicked cry of "Alex, you've got to catch your train in fifteen minutes" followed by the sound of rustling from our neighbours and car hastily pulling away was both audible and amusing as I lay in bed contemplating getting up!) in order to ring a peal at St Lawrence Jewry in London, and having departed from us yesterday to bus it up north to partake in the Around Ringers annual peal tour, it was heartening to see Harm de Kok got his first notch under his belt with a 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major at Welbourn in Lincolnshire. And whilst a Society peal attempt at All Saints in Birchington this evening is ominously missing from both BellBoard and Campanophile, we were by that point back in the homeland via more delays at the Dartford Crossing for Ruthie to partake in a quarter-peal of Grandsire Doubles at Harkstead, a first for Catherine Looser, so well done Catherine!

I was outside with the boys on another beautiful summer's evening in a wonderful location that reminded me that while it is great going away on holiday, it is also nice to return! With Mason and me spotting the rounds and counting the extents whilst we escorted the increasingly confident walker AJM around the churchyard, the time flew by as the 1260 unfolded with decent ringing throughout and before we knew it, we were in Stutton where John Pallant had rung his first of Minor in a 1272 of Plain Bob - well done John!

Quarter-pealers and hangers on gathered at The King's Head at Stutton for the SE District QP Evening.Quarter-pealers and hangers on gathered at The King's Head at Stutton for the SE District QP Evening.Our destination wasn't the 11cwt six at St Peter, but rather The Kings Head in the village down this delightful peninsula for the highlight of the evening, as quarter-pealers and hangers-on gathered to enjoy superb food and fantastic company. Well done and thank you to Secretary Ruthie, Ringing Master Tom Scase and Kate Eagle on arranging the towers, ringing and meal respectively, as once again this date proved to be a huge success, continuing a tradition started by my mother-in-law during her time as District RM in a brilliant flash of inspiration. Whether successful or not with their QP, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves - it was certainly worth coming back from the Rambling Ringers tour for!

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Friday 31st July 2015

This week has taken a while to get going, but as we undertook our final full day on the 2015 Rambling Ringers Tour and last night on the campsite, it was living up to expectations.

Rambling Ringers ringing at Newnham.Rambling Ringers ringing at Tunstall.Rambling Ringers gathered outside listening to the ringing at Tunstall.The unusual entrance to Teynham.The unusual entrance to Teynham.

A near full day's ringing (bar us missing the first tower of the day Sheldwich and the tower immediately after dinner Lynsted, as the normal order was restored) as lunch at The George Inn at Newnham followed ringing at the 7cwt ground-floor six across the road and at the 12cwt eight in Throwley and preceded an afternoon's ringing at Tunstall, Rodmersham and the difficult to find St Mary's church 'in' Teynham where Society Ringing Master Chris Woodcock took the quick route down the ladder at this unusual entrance to the ringing chamber. The namesake of the 7cwt six in Suffolk is somewhere - along with the eight in Staffordshire - that I have wanted to ring at ever since I moved into the village of the same name just a few miles north-east of Woodbridge exactly ten years ago, so it was a great pleasure to ring on the ground-floor eight in Kent's Tunstall.

Alfie the footballer on the campsite.And after another day of ringing various methods at various locations, we returned to base at the campsite for another wonderful summer's evening where Mason enjoyed his traditional last night late stop-up playing with the older kids Thirza de Kok and the Riley brothers Alex and Luke, Alfie went to bed with no trouble again after more football and Ruthie and I convened overlooking the scene in young Mr Woodcock's reinforced tent with Paul de Kok, Roger Riley, Andrew Blacklock, Sue Waterfall, Ellie Maude and her mother Cindy.

Meanwhile, back in Suffolk where God willing we'll return tomorrow, Stephen 'Podge' Christian celebrated thirty-five years of working at Jackson Civil Engineering and his appearance on Channel Five programme 'Stop! Roadworks Ahead' with a quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor with the FNQPC at Brandeston, whilst the Ladies Guild rang a 1260 of Doubles at Thornham Magna.
Now it is ending, this week is now really getting going!

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Thursday 30th July 2015

It was a day of things finally coming together.

The view down the stairs from the entrance to the ringing chamber at Monkton.Finally, we made the first tower of the day, a four at the top of a very long ladder at Monkton, just a few miles from the campsite.

Finally, Ruthie's school-friend Beth and her husband Roderick were given the go-ahead on buying a new house after a lengthy wait.

Finally, we got to a beach in this county almost entirely surrounded by water.

And finally we had an evening nice enough to sit outside our tent and mingle with our fellow ringing campers for a convivial night.

That first tower of the day was one of three we made this morning, along with St Nicholas At Wade where James Ramsbottom made the controversial claim that no one likes Cambridge (the method, not the place!) and Chislet where I was kept on my toes by a touch of Double Canterbury Pleasure Bob Minor, before we curtailed our ringing for a trip into Canterbury to meet the aforementioned Beth and Roderick. Beth went to school with my wife in Woodbridge, but now lives down here in Kent and having been to their wedding in Maidstone last year, we were delighted to help them finalise their house-move to Deal by acting as official witnesses to the signing of the all-important paperwork for their new home.

Alfie, Mason & Ruthie on Broadstairs beach.Mason on Broadstairs beach.Alfie & Ruthie on Broadstairs beach.

They were the formalities of an otherwise laid-back and relaxed meal with the understandably excited couple in The Old Buttermarket in the shadow of the famous cathedral. Sadly, the shadow was as close as we got to the heart of the Church of England, as actually getting in appears to need a family to remortgage in order to afford the entry fee, so we instead explored the centre of this historic and beautiful city, before we headed on to Broadstairs for some constructing in the sand on the lovely beach there.

Mason looking forlornly out at Broadstairs beach from The Tartar Frigate after rain stopped play.Alfie enjoying his play/eating pen.Evening fun on the campsite.Evening fun on the campsite.Evening fun on the campsite.

Although rain eventually stopped play and drove us into The Tartar Frigate nearby, it was still a pleasant afternoon that set us up for a lovely sunny and warm evening that again saw the boys get to bed with no problems and us enjoy a night of conviviality with the Ramsbottoms and Paul de Kok, as we worried over one of our party's paraffin lamp and the rude tent belonging to another member of our gathering provoked much laughter. All rather silly, but jolly good fun!

Taking things rather more seriously were the band ringing a quarter-peal of Norfolk Surprise Minor at Tostock back in Suffolk, a first in the method for Lucy Dawson - well done Lucy! A nice way to finally sign off for today!

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Wednesday 29th July 2015

They have lasted me through peals, quarters, outings, tours and other ringing where keeping cool was necessary, as well as BBQ's, holidays and whenever I needed air to my pasty legs since the last millennium, but my trusty beige shorts finally met their match on the 12cwt fifth at Ulcombe, a nondescript 14cwt six in the middle of nowhere overlooking the Kent countryside. As we approached the end of a course of Northumberland Surprise Minor, the rope slipped the wheel on me, stuck and then unpredictably sprung into life again and as I attempted to get it back under-control, staggeringly ripped one of the pockets off my beloved shorts, firing its contents at an unfortunate Mike Dew ringing the tenor to the left of me and finishing that particular bit of clothing off and bringing to an end over fifteen years of history.

My battle with the offending rope brought ringing at All Saints to an end, but I hadn't been the only one to have slipped wheel on this bell, though certainly the one to have done it so spectacularly! Indeed, my father was the only one not to suffer the ignominy. From now on Alan Munnings is the go-to for handling lessons in the Suffolk Guild!

Alfie enjoying lunch at The George Inn at Leeds.Rambling Ringers ringing at Leeds. l to r; Andrew Blacklock, James Ramsbottom, Roger Riley, Geoff Wells & Ellie Maude.Rambling Ringers ringing at Lenham.

Being the second tower of the day and our first, the rest of the day's ringing was always going to struggle to top my wardrobe malfunction, but it was still a pleasant day's touring, taking in Otham, the ten at Leeds where I tenored to an exhilarating if not entirely well-struck few leads of Cambridge Surprise Royal, the surprisingly quiet 21cwt eight at Lenham and Harrietsham where we found ourselves ringing for a funeral, with a very nice meal at our second The George Inn of the week, as we ate before grabbing Leeds.

And it was all topped off by another successful evening with the boys back at the campsite, even if heavy downpours forced us inside for the evening.

Back in the homeland, it was pleasing to see the usual Wednesday quarter-peal successes, with a 1284 of Plain Bob Minor rung before the practice at Pettistree and a 1320 of Primrose Surprise Minor at Preston St Mary. Hopefully neither of them were scored at the expense of any clothing!

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Tuesday 28th July 2015

Following yesterday's traumas, we awoke with some trepidation. That in part was caused by the fact that this morning we were heading to Folkestone, at the mouth of the Channel Tunnel and the heart of the traffic troubles that had beset this corner of the UK due to the issues at the other end of the tunnel in Calais. Having sat in long, slow-moving queues twenty-four hours earlier, it was far from an appealing prospect.

We needn't have worried though. The first tower of the day was missed of course, as is normally the case with us on these trips - trying to get the boys ready in time is an ambitious target! Nonetheless, with ringing at Cheriton already underway nearly thirty miles away, we pointed our SatNav in the direction of the aforementioned coastal town and the 25cwt eight at the unusually dedicated SS Mary & Eanswythe, where I tried my hand at the Major method of the day, Hythe Surprise. Whilst the quality of ringing is paramount, as with every tour, there is an extensive variety of lines to learn, most of which are relatively simple to learn and helps to prevent fatigue on what is for some, a two-week tour taking in over eighty towers.

Rambling Ringers ringing at Hythe.Whilst our participation isn't quite as involved as that, we were on our way to Hythe, the next tower and one familiar to a certain Maggie Ross, as a peal board from 1996 with her misspelt name on in the ringing chamber testifies. Enjoyable as they were, we didn't get as familiar with this 19cwt ten as 'Margret', as lunch was calling. Not an entirely easy and quick operation anyway with an eight-year-old and one-year-old in tow, today's half-time break wasn't helped by making our way to Saltwood where the afternoon's ringing was planned to start, only to find that The Castle Inn - which had been suggested as the pub to eat at - wasn't serving food due to some work in the kitchen. Leaving behind a landlord cursing their luck that their ovens were out of order as dozens of hungry and thirsty bellringers were descending upon them, we returned to Hythe and found The Bell, an unpretentious looking place that served good grub at low prices and where we were therefore unsurprisingly joined by my parents!

Rambling Ringers ringing at Newington-next-HytheViews from Lympne.Views from Lympne.

Sustained by a hearty meal, we negotiated the many parked lorries containing forlorn-looking drivers in the area, grabbing multiple rings at the ground-floor six at Newington next Hythe and eventually - having had to return to Newington to collect Ruthie's handbag - Lympne, where we were let in by Brian Butcher, a regular on Stephen Pettman's biannual Italian ringing trips, the next one of which is lined up to take place at the end of October this year.

Sadly, with time ticking on and concious of getting the boys back to the campsite to be fed and put to bed, a late arrival from the local keyholder at Aldington meant we gave up on waiting for a ring at the 13cwt six, instead returning to Manston where later we were joined by Society Ringing Master Chris Woodcock stormproofing his tent and thus causing widespread panic across the site, only for everyone to realise that after his tent suffered more than others last night, his actions were more reactive than in anticipation of a hurricane!

Fun at the campsite playground!Fun at the campsite playground!Fun at the campsite playground!

That we didn't have a hurricane probably contributed to getting Alfie asleep with much more ease than last night. With him and his brother Mason both in their respective rooms snoozing, we finally sat back and relaxed with a drink, though with the weather still not pleasant outside the late-night communal aspect that is so enjoyable on these holidays will have to wait until another evening.

Others back in Suffolk were taking advantage of ringing's social element though, with the first quarter-peal being rung at Stoke Ash since the restoration of the bells and Lucy Williamson ringing her first of spliced in the pre-practice quarter at Offton - well done Lucy!

All in all, a much better day than yesterday!

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Monday 27th July 2015

We've had better starts to holidays.

Our anticipated five days in Kent had long given us visions of clogged up roads due to the well-reported Operation Stack that had turned much of the M20 into a lorry-park and blocked up any available road within miles, so when on our way down to the so-called 'Garden of England' for our participation in this year's Rambling Ringers Tour and found ourselves stuck several miles into a long, long queue caused by an accident at the Dartford Crossing, we were overcome by a sense of foreboding.

Alfie & Ruthie getting excited at the first pub of the holiday!Our plans of getting to our campsite near Ramsgate, putting the tent up whilst Alfie slept, finding a pub at or near the first tower of the afternoon, having lunch with some of our fellow Ramblers and enjoying some well-struck, varied ringing at four towers and then settling down outside our already-constructed home for the week with the children asleep and a beer in hand were scuppered. So much so that after a change of plans and direction that saw us remissly cut through Canterbury and end up in the increasingly familiar position of being sat in traffic queues, that we scrapped the notion of making it anywhere near Great Mongeham where we'd planned to begin our tour and instead pulled up just outside the historic city at The Evenhill in Littlebourne for lunch, a delightful venue with good food that pretty much proved to be the only positive to come out of today.

Still, we did make it for some ringing, though the 8cwt six at the top of a wobbly spiral staircase at Northbourne was the only ringing we made before we decided to make our way the not inconsiderable distance to Manston Court Caravan Park, our home for the next few days. Or at least once we'd raised our tent.

With Mason entertaining a restrained Alfred in the car, we attempted through my general incompetence and the gusting gales to construct our canvas abode, though we were considerably aided by our RR colleagues Mike and Janet Dew, who along with a number of other members are stopping on a field put aside just for us.

Our home for the next few days!Even with the tent up, the wild winds made sitting outside and inside an extremely uncomfortable experience, no more so than for AJM for whom this was his first experience of camping. A combination of the noises, the moving walls and everything being new and strange to him meant that our plan to get him asleep in his own bed in his own compartment was a non-starter and so with tired minds and bodies we all succumbed to sleep by 9.30, entirely sober.

There was more positive news from back in Suffolk though, most particularly that Otley ringer Jimmy Wightman has been moved closer to home from hospital in East Grinstead to Chelmsford and in the circumstances is making a decent recovery with typically good humour, though there is still a long, painful road ahead of him, so any visits to see him in Ward E221 would undoubtedly be appreciated.

Meanwhile, in Ipswich, the initial preparation work at St Mary-le-Tower that the whole of this week was set aside for has pretty much been completed, with the sliders, slider blocks, wheels and stays already removed, leaving just the pulley blocks to be taken out and a bit of tidying up left to do. It is a magnificent result, due to the determination, dedication and teamwork of all involved and means that the bells are on course to be up and running again at the start of September and quite probably earlier. Whilst the bells are out of action, the Monday night practice will be taking place at nearby eights, starting with Henley in a week on 3rd August, where we will also go on the 24th, with the special methods being Lincolnshire and Cassiobury Surprise. As always, all are welcome, but as with throughout this project, watch this space for dates and locations.

It all has to be better than today.

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Sunday 26th July 2015

So that's it until at least September. Suffolk's heaviest, oldest and arguably most famous twelve will now lay silent whilst the frame is painted and the clappers of the front eight - bar the recently replaced seventh - are replaced. The back four, middle six and treble and two seconds rung down and the project begins. The initial work relies on us ringers carrying out some of the preparation this week, so if you are available to help out, then please do not hesitate to let David Potts know!

That leaves The Norman Tower and Grundisburgh carrying the county's twelve-bell ringing for the next few weeks. Well, The Norman Tower. As has long been the norm, we didn't get anywhere near ringing all the bells at the little wobbly red-brick tower at Sunday morning ringing today, though in Stephen Pettman's absence we were helped by the presence of Peter Emery and both Don and Helen Price.

Still, ringing was thriving elsewhere within our borders, as Pam and Paul Ebsworth and Neal Dodge rang their first blows of Lakesend Bob Minor and Pinehurst Bob Minor in the quarters at Great Barton and Tostock respectively - well done guys! Along with Clare Veal, Neal was also celebrating five years of ringing with the first quarter-peal of Surprise on Thurston's recently augmented six.

We were productive in other ways, as a reluctant trip into Ipswich at least saw us solve yesterday's issues with suits for Mason and Alfie, and I seem on the way to arranging a peal for Chris and Becky's wedding.

All being well, they'll be productive in other ways at SMLT over the coming month.

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Saturday 25th July 2015

Weddings were the theme of the day, as you may expect for the time of year.

Predominantly, the marriage ceremony we were most concerned with was one that doesn't take place for another three weeks as we joined my brother Chris and his betrothed Becky in Bury St Edmunds to pick up the suits that the groom and I are due to wear on 15th August. A more urgent task though, was to measure for and find suits for Mason and Alfie in their role as page boys. As with our step into this life-changing event three years ago, we had all agreed there was no point in doing this earlier only for them to grow out of their clothes for the day, but it does leave time tight, so when we came away from Suffolk's second town this morning without anything for them - though waistcoats were arranged at Gerald Broughton with no trouble - it required a trip to Next back in Martlesham Heath later on in the day. The search remained fruitless, so it carries over into tomorrow, God willing.

These excursions bookended ringing for an actual wedding as we diverted to Ufford, where tower Ringing Master and my mother-in-law Kate had done well to get eight ringers in peak holiday season, as a sizeable delegation from Hollesley helped not just to make up the numbers, but to produce some very decent ringing, as Grandsire and Plain Bob Triples were rung for the gathered guests.

The theme even continued into the quarter-peals rung in the county over the last twenty-four hours, as the union of Jennie Fisher and James Parker was celebrated by a 1260 of Doubles at Buxhall, whilst fifty years of wedded bliss between Hal and Maria Humphreys was marked by the former ringing his first quarter in the success at Yoxford. Congratulations on both fronts Hal!

A handbell peal was also rung in Bacton, but it was all about weddings today!

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Friday 24th July 2015

EADT article.Having plucked stories from the media yesterday and a week ago that were more on the negative side, albeit not directly connected to ringing, I was delighted to see a positive report in the East Anglian Daily Times, directly linked to ringing. The article in question is about the project to augment the five at Cretingham to six, at the cost of �10,000, with the aim of having the six ring out on 11th November 2018 and features South-East District Treasurer Eric Bull. It is a great bit of PR that even advertises the first fundraising event, a talk by Alec Greenwell at Framlingham College on 29th October and signals another ringing project that I hope members will get behind for this delightful corner of Suffolk.

It was a nice thing to read once I'd put Mason and Alfie to bed and awaited Ruthie's return from her own bit of family babysitting on a day of heavy rain and autumnal conditions. It beats reading about noise complaints!

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Thursday 23rd July 2015

One week ago I highlighted a news report on complaints against noise in Suffolk as a warning that our need to work with the communities we ring within is constant. Another story in the local news today underlines just how difficult that can be. The latest chapter of a story I have mentioned before was widely reported, as the Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the owners of Mildenhall Stadium would have to pay legal costs - of between �500,000 and �1m depending on who is reporting the sorry tale - for a noise complaint that seems to have got completely out of hand.

Each side is claiming different things about what the other side has offered and we are of course not privy to most of what has been said and done behind closed doors, but what appears clear is that a couple moved in to a house just yards from the well-established, well-known and popular stadium and then complained about the noise in circumstances that are alarmingly familiar to us bellringers. It seems utterly ludicrous that they should make the complaint in the first place, let alone that anyone in authority would uphold it and their reasoning that they hadn't realised how noisy it would be points more - to my mind at least - to how little research they must have carried out before making what is the biggest investment most people would ever make.

It all goes to show the environment that we are ringing in and why measures to prevent such complaints coming up in the first place should always be at the forefront of each tower. As bizarre as it may sound in this context, we need to try and maintain regular ringing at as many towers as possible, to make sure that the bells are known to residents. Sound control is a must at churches where regular ringing is being taken up where it hasn't been in recent times, but arguably at a lot of other towers too. But first and foremost, good relations with your neighbours is vital. Hold open tower days and invite them in. Let them know when extra ringing is going on, especially longer than usual performances such as quarters and peals. Even encourage them to join you. And if a complaint is made, try not to create a 'them-and-us' scenario - work with them to help them understand more about our art. It needn't turn out as things have so sadly turned out in West Row.

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Wednesday 22nd July 2015

They say bad things come in threes and we are currently praying that is true. A couple of weeks or so ago, friend of the family and indeed ringing Ron lost his canine companion Jude, upsetting for all of us who had got to know him over the last few years. As with his one-rime partner in delightful doggy doziness Max, his passing reminded me of how much animals can touch you. This can go for cats as much as dogs, which was why this morning's death of Kate's feline friend Billie was met with more sadness. Ruthie has grown up with the cats that strut around her mother's abode and the foursome of Billie, Benny, Bertie and Tiggy have become familiar to me since I first started going out with the girl who has since become my wife.

And the loss could have come on a better day, as today was already a sad entry in the diaries of Mrs Munnings' family's diaries, as this afternoon we bade farewell to my beloved's great-Uncle Ray, husband of her grandfather's sister Shirley and one of my favourite members of their family. With the service held at Seven Hills Crematorium late this afternoon and wake for this London-born, Liverpool FC-supporting, golf-loving resident of Otley taking place at Cretingham Golf Club, it all meant for a bit of a rush for me this evening. For leaving a well-behaved Alfie and his mother there, I headed into Ipswich as our monthly spliced Surprise Major peal attempts on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower were ratcheted up a notch. Twelve methods bagged in recent months, we added Cassiobury this evening as we aimed for thirteen. Sadly, it wasn't to be on this occasion, though a quarter of the added method was useful and very well-rung, as reluctant as I was to ring it with my usual disliking of trying to pick yourself for more ringing after a lost peal.

The rest of the band went for an apparently unenjoyable drink at The Cricketers, but I returned to Woodbridge to be reunited with my tired housemates and to hope for better times ahead.

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Tuesday 21st July 2015

Hopefully the clapper in the second at The Norman Tower that was broken a week ago will have been fixed for this evening's practice at Suffolk's youngest twelve, or at least hasn't disrupted proceedings too severely, but it was another non-ringing night for us as instead we paid a visit to Ruthie's Nan. Our visits with Alfie seem to give her considerable joy, particularly this one as her great-grandson showed her his walking skills for the first time.

Having yesterday looked ahead to this week's planned events at Great Barton on Thursday and Poslingford on Saturday, it is worth noting that following next week's summer practice on the 8cwt six at Holy Innocents, there is a North-East District Practice at Theberton and Rendham planned for the Friday to finish July, before God willing August begins spectacularly with a real highlight of the South-East District calendar as it's Quarter-Peal Evening takes place on the Shotley Peninsula on Saturday 1st, followed by a meal at The King's Head at Stutton. Since being introduced by previous Ringing Master Kate Eagle, her successor Tom Scase has continued her fine work with this event and is keen for as many District members as possible to take advantage of what is the ultimate mix of ringing usefulness and ringing socialising, so do let him know if you can ring and/or attend the dining afterwards.

All being well, there won't be more clapper problems!

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Monday 20th July 2015

With an eye on our forthcoming camping trip, we made a trip to Kate's post-work to account for, gather and take away the equipment that she so generously allows us use of, on the only evening that our combined calendars would allow in the near future for such an involved operation. And it is involved. Extra thought has to be put into what we take, as we prepare to embark upon Alfie's first experience of tenting it. We will have less space both in the car and the tent, extra safety aspects to take into account and what he'll need to get to sleep in alien surroundings. It was an understandably lengthy process after we had very kindly been provided with tea too, but that holiday feels a little bit closer!

On the down side though, it meant Ruthie didn't get out to St Mary-le-Tower for what was the final practice on the twelve before the bells are put out of action for the whole of August, whilst the frame is repainted and the clappers on the front eight (bar the seventh of course!) are replaced. The exact date of return depends on a number of variables, and will hopefully become clearer as the work progresses, but in the meantime, the usual 8.45-9.30 Sunday morning slot will move a few yards down the road to St Lawrence, whilst plans are in place to visit a number of centrally located eight-bell towers on Monday nights to keep our eye in. Watch this space or get in touch with David Potts if you would like to join us.

Before that, there is the opportunity to go to Great Barton on Thursday afternoon from 2-4 and the South-West District Practice at Poslingford on Saturday, so there is no excuse for anyone getting withdrawal symptoms!

And for those on Facebook, the Suffolk Guild page has been illuminated with some superb photos taken by Richard Bufton at last week's Veteran's Day at Debenham. Apparently it was another brilliant afternoon, though by all accounts Muriel Page who has so marvellously organised this event for more than a quarter of a century was slightly disappointed by the turnout compared to previous years. It isn't an easy occasion to get to for most who are working, but if you can make it next year, all help would be appreciated, even if you don't consider yourself an old fogey! There's no need to camp there either, you'll be relieved to hear!

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Sunday 19th July 2015

Could there be any event that sums up so concisely bellringing and all that it offers us here in Suffolk than the Offton Ringers BBQ? Held at Brian and Peta Whiting's delightful home in beautiful gardens, neighboured by a cricket pitch and surrounded by nothing but countryside and a small gathering of cottages, along with the journey there and back that took in views of Burgh, Clopton, Otley and Coddenham towers poking over golden fields and vivid green woodland and hedgerow, it accentuates the magnificent environment in which we are so fortunate to carry out our hobby in.

 Crowds gathering at Kimberley Hall for the 2015 Offton Ringers BBQ. Crowds gathering at Kimberley Hall for the 2015 Offton Ringers BBQ.Ringing on The Vestey Ring.Handbell ringing.Handbell ringing.Alfie amusing himself.Doug Perry doing the familiar all important measurements in the vital bowls' game!Mason on The Vestey Ring.Alfie on The Vestey Ring.

To a backdrop of the UK's most popular summer sport being played on the other side of the hedge and stream, the sound of The Vestey Ring mingles with that of handbells, drifting across the narrow, winding lanes nearby as I discovered when I took Alfie for a short walk, but the best aspect of our art that this event highlights is its fellowship. Ringers from across the county and beyond, gathered in the sunshine for great food, superb beer and marvellous company. It was wonderful to see Mike Whitby's daughter Sarah and in turn her daughter Eliza, at three months the youngest of a number of children there, that included six month old Elizabeth with her parents local ringer Caroline and Will, the Sparling's and Earey's older kids and of course Mason and Alfred.

Over the course of a relaxed four or five hours, it is possible and usual to chat with dozens of friends in the kitchen, by the BBQ, by the flowerbeds, under the trees and out on the vast lawn as fiercely fought games of bowls, carefully adjudicated by Doug Perry's feet pan out to a sunbaked audience clutching drinks and catching up. Some people we see regularly, though it is always nice to see them again, whilst others are often only seen by us at this annual get-together, but it was nice too to meet Peter Stock, who has been active in the quarter-peal stakes at the ground-floor 8cwt eight of St Mary since his debut in the medium only at the end of April. He's not bad at bowls either!

But in some respects this is a pleasing constant. For all the new faces willingly welcomed and changes in circumstances since I first recall coming along to these, many of the familiar characters remain. Such as the Rose's, Pipe's, Knight's, Sparling's, Earey's and most pleasingly Arnie Knights, all in a location that feels just the same now as when I was a youngster.

Thank you to our hosts on yet another triumph, which importantly will have raised a lot of money for the Guild's Bell Restoration Fund and probably means that Mr Whiting will be bringing and then taking the St Edmund's Clapper to and from next year's AGM. Though we are more than happy to attend further barbecues to help other towers to break Offton's dominance of this worthy competition!

I was also extremely grateful to Ruthie for driving this year, as was my eldest for her allowing him to win 'Profiterole' the donkey from the raffle - for those wanting to know what AJM's polar bear is to be called, we're still working on it as suggestions such as Icy, Peter and Paul were sifted out on our car trip back...

Meanwhile, not that far away, the exercise that binds those present at Kimberley Hall this afternoon was being carried out with great success at Buxhall, as a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung for the licensing of the Revd Rachel Cornish at Combs, a church so prominently visible as we travel to and from the Whiting's. There were other performances within our borders, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Hollesley for evensong and a 1440 of spliced Plain Major cored at Elveden following a lost peal attempt.

And earlier in the day, before the morning service the boys had accompanied me up to the ringing chamber at Woodbridge so I could help contribute to some Plain Bob Minimus with cover, another wonderful place in which to partake in our ringing.

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Saturday 18th July 2015

Simon Griffiths is still much missed. Most reading this blog will have been aware that he was taken in just his mid-fifties last October, a sudden and shocking loss for those of us who rang with him regularly at St Mary-le-Tower, but in some respects it doesn't feel like it has properly sunk in. He had a habit of disappearing for a few weeks or even months at a time and it was during one such period that he died and with the family's understandable and entirely respected desire for a private funeral, many of us have been left with a sense of not having paid a proper farewell to this popular member of the SMLT band.

However, he left a tremendous ringing legacy for those of us ringers fortunate enough to socialise with him, with his annual cycle ringing tours held at this time of year, usually close by and containing a pub-to-ringing ratio not often seen these days, for obvious reasons! So it seemed entirely appropriate to hold such an outing today, with the additional tribute of wearing stripes in honour of a man who had a seemingly endless supply of stripy t-shirts.

Ringing at Great Bentley - 2nd Adrienne Sharp, 3rd Rowan Wilson, 5th Alan Munnings, 6th Paul Bray & 7th Jonathan Williamson.The location for the occasion was suitably nearby as we headed to north-east Essex, with Colin Salter even cycling from Old Stoke to our opening tower Great Bentley. It was the first of just four towers today, with lunch coming after only the second tower of the day, Thorpe-le-Soken. Simon would've approved I'm sure!

 In the beer garden at The Crown in Thorpe-le-Soken following ringing at St Michael.Mike Burn being a big kid at the playground at The Crown in Thorpe-le-Soken.In the shadow of the tower of St Michael, we enjoyed a leisurely break at The Crown, with Mason, Alfie and big kid Mike Burn enjoying the play equipment in the sunbathed beer garden! It was nice to see Mike after his recent move to Staffordshire, but he was one of a number of guests amongst the resident members of the Suffolk Guild present, as we were also joined by the Sparling family and Jonathan Slack, whilst it was also typically entertaining catching up with star of the radio Jonathan Williamson, as well as his wife Sue and daughter Lucy.

At Great Holland. Left to right - Jonathan Slack, Paul Bray & Colin Salter.Such a gathering were well equipped to ring on the post-lunch towers, two rings of bells familiar to me, especially the marvelous 15cwt gallery-ring eight of Great Holland, not just the scene of a well-rung peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major that I rang in more than six years ago, but more recently where Ruthie, Mason and I judged the Essex Association North-East District Call-Change Striking Competition on one of the many abysmal days of the 2012 'summer'. This afternoon though, the weather was at completely the opposite extreme, with clear skies and roasting sunshine allowing us to fully enjoy the beautiful spot that All Saints sits in, overlooking the North Sea.

My peal at Kirby-le-Soken was more recent, but my visit this time was more fleeting as us three lads left the others to curry it up at the end of proceedings, as we returned to Woodbridge to meet Ruthie after a day at work and then welcome Ufford ringer Pete Faircloth round ours for some grub, drink, Father Ted and Family Guy (the boys had gone to bed before the latter three!). It was great to catch up with Pete, not something we get the chance to do that often these days as popping down the pub isn't so easy!

Meanwhile, whilst I was galavanting south of the border, back in the homeland a peal was being rung at Monewden for the wedding of the son of local ringers Brian and Kathleen Martin, Daniel. Daniel indeed is an interesting note in the history of the SGR, as his first peal was rung at a younger age than anybody else has ever rung a peal for the Guild, when he was a mere nine years old, a record that I believe still stands, so I'm glad a peal was rung for this happy event. Many congratulations Daniel!

I imagine some of the band ended up in the pub afterwards, which Simon would've probably given an approving nod to.

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Friday 17th July 2015

After all he has been through, Mason's day of sporting prowess was one to behold for his father. From his sport's day at school that saw him undertake multiple activities, culminating in a sprint that he was competitive in, to trying out the football goalposts that he got for his birthday, it was all a far, far cry from the brave lad who returned twice from Great Ormond Street Hospital in plaster and confined to a wheelchair following operations on his left foot just last year.

Mason at his busy sports day!Mason at his busy sports day!Mason at his busy sports day!Mason at his busy sports day!

All the old favourites that I remembered from my own sport's days of many, many (many) years ago at the wonderful Dale Hall Primary School were on show at my son's seat of learning on this mercifully dry afternoon, with objects balanced on heads, nets clamoured through and lots of weaving in and out of cones with a variety of sports equipment, in addition to less familiar tasks like throwing sponge javelins, but it was all a tremendous occasion as the boy's red team came joint second!

Mason in front of his newly constructed goalposts.The construction of his goalposts that followed in what had turned into a magnificently roasting day had been plenty of time in coming. Most of you will recall that my eldest's birthday is 27th January, but finding a long enough period in which to put this present together in suitable conditions whilst also looking after Alfie has been more difficult than envisaged, so with a couple of hours until we needed to collect his younger brother up from nursery, we grasped the proverbial nettle, even having time to test it out afterwards! It was a process made all the more enjoyable by listening to Ipswich ringer Jonathan Williamson's appearance on Lesley Dolphin's sofa in the BBC Radio Suffolk studios, as he was interviewed by her sit-in Simon Talbot. It was a fascinating listen, with Jonathan's familiarly jovial but informative tones conveying his varied life of wine, barbershop singing and his ancestor's part in the First World War, and his coverage of bellringing was superbly done, not only explaining the science of ringing in easy-to-understand language, but also brilliantly describing the physical and mental elements of our art and highlighting the social aspects in the best possible way as he recounted how he and Ralph Earey went to St Matthew's in the county town to teach a band and came away with wives and twenty years on ringing families!

Talking of ringing families, three of the Salter family were today helping Kevin Ward ring his first quarter-peal of Surprise Major in the 1280 of Cambridge at the 14cwt ground-floor eight at Kersey. Well done Kevin, Jonathan and most of all Mason!

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Thursday 16th July 2015

Happy Birthday Ruthie!

My long-suffering wife had some deserved attention lavished upon her today, mainly by me as Alfie is still understandably oblivious to the significance of such occasions, but she did spend the afternoon with her sister and nieces and was serenaded by the choir at this evening's practice after person or persons unknown tipped them off!

I couldn't quite top that, though we had a pleasant night in with a meal and a bottle of red that Mr Tesco very kindly replaced after I had smashed our original purchase across their parent and child car-parking spaces and in this day and age no birthday seems complete without the world of social media conveying its wishes, one of the nicer aspects of Facebook being the messages my beloved has received from across the county, country and indeed the world, alongside cards. Thank you on her behalf for it all.

There was also that quarter-peal footnote at Pettistree yesterday and hopefully that won't have been any cause for complaint in a village very used to long periods of ringing every week, but somewhere in Suffolk there have been complaints, according to an article on the county's section on the BBC News website today. That said, the ten complaints from the near 18,000 made about noise generally to the councils within our borders over a five year period that saw over six-hundred peals and nearly three thousand quarters rung on our church bells in addition to the regular weekly practices and service ringing, District and Guild events and outings, isn't that many and the comments that followed on the station's FB page were all - as I write this at least - entirely supportive of ringing and disparaging of the mysterious ten. Delighted as I am to see such unanimous support from the public for the exercise however, it is ten more complaints than I would care for and is a reminder that the instruments we use are loud and often intrusive to local residents, so in order to be able to continue enjoying that privilege we have to maintain good relations with the communities we ring amongst.

Thank God that currently there are no serious issues in regards to this area as far as I am aware, so hopefully the events planned for the coming days will carry on unabated. For this evening though I was more focused on helping the love of my life enjoy her big day.

So to my beautiful wife, I say again, Happy Birthday!

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Wednesday 15th July 2015

Turn your wireless dial to BBC Radio Suffolk on Friday afternoon, as from about 3pm, Ipswich ringer Jonathan Williamson's fiftieth birthday treat is due to be appearing on the holidaying Lesley Dolphin's sofa as the guest of her covering colleague Simon Talbot. Jonathan's is a varied life not restricted just to ringing, taking in wine and barbershop singing, but one would suspect that our art will crop up. Even if it doesn't, I imagine it will be well worth a listen, either in realtime or later via iPlayer.

His forthcoming birth anniversary was one of three celebrated by this evening's pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree, with Pippa Moss' today and Ruthie's tomorrow duly noted. Both birthday gals were ringing in the 1272 of Munden Surprise Minor before my wife returned early with Kate at the end of long days for mother and daughter, but not before enjoying chunk of another typically industrious session and that well-rung QP.

Having dealt with autograph hunters and posed for selfies with new fans, it may have been a long day for Jonathan come Friday evening too!

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Tuesday 14th July 2015

Another quiet night in the Woodbridge Munnings household, though begun briefly with some tea in Edwin Avenue with Ruthie's sister Clare and family, before mother-in-law Kate departed to The King's Head at Stutton to do some research ahead of next month's planned South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening in the area. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it...

On a serious note in regards to this highlight of the SE calendar, District Ringing Master Tom Scase would be delighted to hear from those wishing to partake in a quarter, whether that is to do something new or help out and indeed apparently a number of ringers from the Shotley Peninsula have expressed an interest, which is encouraging.

There was quarter-peal ringing already happening today in the District though, with the pre-practice attempt at Offton successful. Happy Birthday to Sylvia Perry too, a fixture from my younger ringing days on this ground-floor 8cwt eight.

Our evening was far less active though, instead taking in others' ringing achievements, most notably former Birmingham ringing colleague Mark Eccleston's phenomenal conducting exploits in Britain's second city in calling the mind-blowing Triples three-spliced composition tonight. Mark was the first conducting and composing genius that I saw emerge first-hand into a scene of well-established and well-known conductors and composers - I still recall meeting him when he was an unknown youngster at a Lichfield & Walsall Archdeaconries Society event during my blurred uni years and have therefore followed his achievements with considerable interest. Well done on this latest pinnacle Mark, from this quiet Woodbridge household!

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Monday 13th July 2015

Deprived of each other's company for the entire weekend, we took the rare decision to stop in on this Monday night.

In fact there isn't much to report from a ringing perspective generally, nor indeed any other perspective for that matter, unless saving Greece or Prince William starting his new job at the East Anglian Air Ambulance is your bag. For all that I enjoyed the weekend, on this occasion I am happy for it to be that way.

God willing, it should all get a little more interesting as the week proceeds though, with the Great Barton Summer Practices continuing on Thursday afternoon, the Helmingham Monthly Practice is due to take place on Friday evening and then the following day there will be a Stripy Cycle Tour around north Essex in memory of the man who seemed permanently attached to stripy t-shirts, Simon Griffiths. He is a man still much missed among those of us who used to ring regularly with him since his death in October and his summer cycle tours were a real highlight of the year, so this seems an appropriate tribute to him. Although organised around people on bikes, cycling is not obligatory, though if you can wear or take something stripy it would be much appreciated!

It should all be more active than today anyway!

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Sunday 12th July 2015

Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike public transport? Well after today, I really dislike it.

The day had started so well. Ralphy, Chris, Alex, Phil and me had helped the locals for service ringing at the Cathedral and St Cuthbert's, enabling the 41cwt twelve to be rung at the former and a bob course of Grandsire Caters on the 21cwt ten at the latter. Breakfasts had been devoured, Edinburgh explored and bags packed. We were at the station at platform two well in time to catch our 12.30 train and take our seats. Except that train had broken down and was going nowhere. So hundreds of passengers were shifted to platform nineteen to catch a new train. Minutes later and with the expected departure time getting later and later, an announcement was made that it would now be departing from platform eight, some way across the large station, an instruction met by collective groans from our fellow sufferers laiden - as we were - with luggage, along with others trying to guide children around, the youngsters tired and grouchy before we'd even laid eyes on our train.

We were relieved to eventually get going, but with our original transport laid stricken back at platform two, we no longer had our reserved seats and with only fifteen minutes to change trains at Newcastle, we had left - you've guessed it - fifteen minutes late. Even then we were reassured by the ticket collector's insistence that our connecting train wouldn't leave ahead of the train we were on and then further as we approached the land of Geordies when it was announced that the train would still be there for another couple of minutes, only for us to then sit outside the station for one of those inexplicable waits that didn't see us move for another ten minutes.

Not that we needed to worry as our train was still waiting on the adjacent platform. Except we had every reason to worry, for the train was still there because the carriage that our next set of reserved seats were in had lost power and we weren't allowed to sit in it. Briefly, things again looked up as we were moved to First Class, but when nearly an hour later we were still sat in exactly the same place, time punctuated by frequent updates about the search for a faulty door, the second of our trains to be abandoned before it had even left. In the end, we were hurried - along with many of those same fellow travellers who had been shunted around back in Scotland's capital - onto a London-bound train that would make added stops, including - importantly for us - Newark and Peterborough. There was barely a seat available, let alone nine together and so our second set of reserved seats became a corridor outside the toilets, accompanied by a handful of bags full of rubbish. But we were finally on our way home.

Of course it all had a knock-on effect, with Lee, Dan and Phil all missing connections which further lengthened their journeys and even though the rest of us were generously driven back to Bury St Edmunds and I to Sproughton by Ralphy, our returns home were quite a while later than we cared for, though earlier than we had sometimes envisaged throughout the day.

It shouldn't take the gloss off a brilliant weekend though. Importantly, Chris seemed to enjoy himself and strangers were friends two days on after good drink, good food and good company in a lovely city. Thanks Chris for the invite and to Ralphy for the lifts!

Nonetheless, it was lovely to be back on Suffolk soil where today the second Sunday peal was successfully scored at Orford and a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters was rung at The Norman Tower. But most of all, it felt wonderful to be reunited with Ruthie and Alfie. A super way to end a long day.

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Saturday 11th July 2015

Congratulations to the young ringers of Bedfordshire and the Gloucester & Bristol on winning the Call-Changes and Method striking competitions respectively in today's Ringing World National Youth Contest in Oxford. Disappointingly there was no entry from the Suffolk Guild, but that didn't mean our ringers weren't there, with the SGR Twitter feed giving a superb flavour of the grand day out.

I wasn't there either as I had once considered doing, as my brother Chris' stag do continued into its first full day and probably the bit that many of us were looking forward to the most - go-karting! Though the stag's assertion that these hard-working but small machines can do 70mph is dubious, the sensation you get racing furiously just inches from the ground is a fast-paced high-octane one, an excitement fuelled not just by petrol but adrenalin. The views across the track and over the famous Firth of Forth from the magnificently named Raceland were spectacular, but there was no time to admire them once in race mode. There was some brilliant driving on show and some shocking driving too, with plenty of spins to keep us all on our toes, but after three heats and a final, Dan (well done Dan!) came out on top with me finishing sixth from the eight racing. This was all about the thrill of the chase though and a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours.

The Scottish Real Ale Festival.Chris studying the form guide.Feeling battered, bruised and quite elated, we needed beer, so it was fortunate that our next location was... a beer festival! Having failed to get to the Scottish Real Ale Festival yesterday evening, we gave ourselves an entire afternoon to make it to the Corn Exchange for a couple of hours of beer and bagpipes. Despite leaving Alex and Phil behind when we caught the bus, we did all eventually enjoy a fantastic session of testing real ales from across Scotland, some good, some an acquired taste, but all worth the testing!

A return to the hotel for a quick freshen up, we were off out again in pursuit of more ale and again we got lucky, this time with The Royal Mile pub, the perfect precursor for a tapas curry at Mother India. Stuffed, we finished at The Inn On The Mile and then at Monteiths. It was a long, late night, but a blast and much enjoyed. Hopefully those who travelled to Oxford felt the same.

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Friday 10th July 2015

Even if they haven't been to the wilderness of the Scottish Highlands to ring there, many ringers will have become familiar with the Ringing Centre in Tulloch, the world's most northerly ring of twelve and apparently a very useful training resource. Well now there is an eight there too, yards away in what has been named 'The Last Tower' (perhaps sensibly altered from the initial name of 'Bell End'!), an apparent mish-mash of a 1cwt ring that failed to find a home at the other end of the British Isles on Alderney and that already features in a couple of You Tube videos (Test ring, First Quarter Peal) as well as having been quartered earlier this week by familiar faces Matthew Higby and Graham Wright.

It is a place that remains untouched by my presence, but as Scotland's ringing scene is added to, I was at least in the same country, as what will hopefully be a fun weekend got underway.

Indeed, it should be if today is anything to go by, as we launched my brother Chris' stag do. I have to be honest and admit to severe pangs of guilt as I left Ruthie and a sleeping Alfie until Sunday evening, especially knowing how exhausting it can be to keep an eye on Alfred on one's own for even a few hours as he careers around on his increasingly confident but still occasionally unsteady feet. However, this is for a good cause. It is exciting to think that my younger sibling's wedding to the lovely Becky Munford is but a month away and having been a part of my own pre-marriage boys' trip away three years ago, I am delighted to return the favour to the groom-to-be.

We were with a noble crowd too. As you may expect, it is primarily made up of ringers, with Ralph Earey, Alex Tatlow, Phil Wilding and Becky's brother Carl and father Steve joining us and Mr Munnings Junior's uni friend Dan and former work colleague Lee on the adventure. The centre for this traditional rite of passage is Edinburgh, which of course meant that most of the day was taken up with travelling there, leaving Suffolk behind on a day when quarters of Doubles and Yorkshire Surprise Major were rung at Great Finborough and Rendham respectively. My journeying began earlier than anyone else's as I awoke before six to catch a train to Ipswich Station where I was met by Ralphy for the first stage of the journey, a roundabout one to Peterborough Railway Station, via his office in Cambridge to drop his daughter Ellie off for the final day of her work experience and then back to Bury St Edmunds to collect Carl, Steve, Alex and the stag.

Durham Cathedral from the train.Newcastle Cathedral from the train.Thanks to the South-East District Chairman's generosity in picking us all up, the six of us got to the station with no trouble and in plenty of time not just to catch our train but to meet Dan and Phil. With Lee collected at Newark, the fun could begin, with introductions made and by the time we had reached our destination - following a journey that took in some fantastic sights such as that superb view of Durham Cathedral that will be familiar to anyone else who has travelled through the city's railway terminal and Newcastle Cathedral - everyone was getting on and raring to get going with the festivities.

Chris and Steve in Ryries trying to find the way to the restaurant.Chris in the restaurant.Those festivities weren't to disappoint either, as despite failing to get to the Scottish Real Ale Festival due to the city's tramway being to tram travel what Ryanair is to air travel, we still found decent beer and great food, as first we discovered Ryries on the walk back to the city centre, then enjoyed a fantastic meal at the busy Italian restaurant Vittoria On The Bridge, before finishing up at another pub with proper beer, Deacon Brodie's Tavern. The latter venue is named after William Brodie, a deacon of the Guild of Wrights in the eighteenth century, a respectable citizen by day, but a disreputable character by night, partaking in gambling, drinking and even burglary under the cover of darkness, a contrast in lifestyles so marked he was apparently an inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde. With my previous visits to Scotland's capital having been passing through its airport and a fleeting day trip for work, it is nice to explore the history of this fine place, especially with a pint in hand!

We were too busy to make it that bit further to Tulloch!

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Thursday 9th July 2015

It was a day of fun for Alfie and Ruthie as Alfred had a haircut and accompanied his mother to Colchester Zoo, though not at the same time. Tigers are not the most reliable with a pair of scissors...

The evening wasn't quite as successful though, with the Surprise Major practice at Ufford moved to Hollesley on the night as those holding a play in the village hall on the edge of the churchyard asked if the ringers could refrain from ringing the bells through their performance. It was very kind of the locals from the 16cwt eight at All Saints to take in the Cosy Nostrils at the last moment, but it did make it even more impractical for either of us to pop along as we were running late anyway, a fate which also befell my parents, who instead popped in to see us and bring presents and a card for my wife's forthcoming birthday.

Still, others in Suffolk did some ringing today, with a quarter of Munden Surprise Minor rung at Tostock - Happy Birthday David!

A day of fun indeed.

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Wednesday 8th July 2015

With Ruthie being asked to help out at John Ives in addition to her usual shifts, we were grateful to her mother for looking after Alfie - thank you Kate!

Alfred collected, my wife was then on her way to Pettistree for a successful and seemingly well-rung quarter of Bourne Surprise Minor and a chunk of the session that followed, before returning home to join me for an evening in the dark, with our living room light having packed up for some reason, even after changing the bulb and checking the fusebox, before some smarty asks!

Mrs Munnings' pre-practice success at SS Peter & Paul wasn't the only one in Suffolk today, as a 1280 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung upon The Millbeck Ring in Shelland which were once at The Folly in Claydon.

No problems with illumination there then!

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Tuesday 7th July 2015

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about the London Bombings of exactly ten years ago. Serving a typically long queue of customers in the HSBC branch in Washwood Heath, a delightfully multi-cultural inner-city part of Birmingham with wonderful characters and nice folk, but to look at was the kind of rundown, uncared for, crime-ridden mass of urbanity that one would expect to find in Britain's big cities. Woodbridge it ain't.

The shock even in this community where many an anti-terrorism operation has been centred was palpable. The atrocity that occurred on the public transport network of our capital was at the time - and still is - a regular occurrence in some parts of the world and in terms of size, loss of life and sheer carnage was dwarfed by the September 11th attacks in the USA less than four years earlier. But that it happened on familiar streets, on underground lines that many of us will have used at some point, to people that we could relate to or even knew made it difficult to take in. People I knew who worked in London and could well have have been caught up in the blasts. Thank God, one who was on a train that was to be hit directly got off a stop or two earlier, as was her normal routine. Another was stuck in his office, unsure how he was going to get home. Stories abound of near misses and what ifs. There but for the grace of God...

A decade on, it was all remembered with a minutes silence, services and the recounting of those terrible events, but also with bells. Once again, they were most prominent at one of the city's landmark cathedrals, this time St Paul's, as the 61cwt twelve were rung half-muffled before and after a service of commemoration in this famous old church, welcoming and seeing off relatives, survivors and various dignitaries, such as David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Tony Blair and Prince Andrew, all heard on TV coverage and given a good airing in this video on You Tube.

Such poignant reflection was a mainstay of the televisual offerings on a quiet evening in for us, but all being well, there are busier days ahead for ringers in Suffolk. For example, the summer practices at Great Barton on Thursday afternoons from 2-4 are due to get underway this week. And whilst Veteran's Day is being held the day before that at Debenham, this weekend sees the other end of the age spectrum take the limelight, with the Ringing World National Youth Contest at St Thomas the Martyr in Oxford. Although sadly there is not an entry from the SGR this year, this will be a wonderful occasion I imagine, well worth going along to take in, especially if you have children under your care.

However, closer to home on Saturday, the North-West District are going on an outing to South Norfolk on what should be a lovely sunny day, whilst in the evening the South-West Practice will be taking place on the 8cwt five at Stradishall. Although worded carefully, my rant on the blog after the poor attendance for the South-East District's visit to Tunstall and Iken still reads a little like a telling-off, which it really isn't meant to and I have had some gratefully received feedback questioning whether the events work, as District and Guild committees should always be looking to do of course. But I simply think that if more did take time out when and where they could, such occasions would be highly beneficial to all concerned, especially if there is a variety. For every single person that attends, the practice/outing/training day becomes that bit more useful. So if you can help out either the NW or SW District this weekend, please do.

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Monday 6th July 2015

A positive evening in Ipswich, as a crowd of nearly thirty crammed into St Mary-le-Tower's famous ringing chamber for the return of the Monday night practice following our enforced break due to the loss of the seventh clapper. The atmosphere was jovial and the ringing good, particularly the Stedman Cinques. David Stanford - the destroyer of the clapper - returned to much gentle ribbing, congratulations were passed to David and Melvyn Potts in person on the recent birth of Thomas (son to the former and grandson to the latter), Nigel Newton was back after a few months off ringing through an injury sustained in a rather nasty bike accident, whilst it was encouraging to see a youthful vein running through the attendance, with regulars Craig Gradidge, Colin and George Salter joined by Lucy Williamson fresh back from her studies in York and Alex Tatlow, repatriated to Suffolk from Bristol for now, with a degree to show for his three years of studying. Well done Alex!

Sadly, it isn't entirely good news from our county town. The plans to rehang and even augment the rough-going 7cwt six at the redundant St Mary at the Quay appear - if the information from reliable sources are to be believed - to be stalling and worryingly going in the opposite direction. With work ongoing to renovate the church into a Wellbeing Heritage Centre for Mind, it had been hoped by now that the enthusiastic plans for the bells laid out and encouraged when the project was started would be up and running, but it has been suggested that English Heritage's insistence on impractical and expensive demands have put any idea of refurbishing this ancient ring of bells well and truly on the backburner, with instead an office - albeit we have been told only a temporary one - allegedly planned for the ringing chamber, which would make ringing there difficult, if not impossible. I'm sure there is more to this then meets the eye and that it may not just be EH's unhelpful interference that has dashed these exciting plans to bring this particular bit of history to vivid life and these things have a habit of being embellished, particularly when bellringers are dealing with the organisation, but if true it would be another dreadfully sad case of English Heritage achieving exactly the opposite of they presumably aim to achieve. Anyway, various people are on the case on our behalf for this, so we will watch this space and hopefully find out more about what is really happening at this church down at the docks.

To bring the blog back round to positive vibes, it is great to see reports and photos of two events from over the weekend, the Maintenance Get Together at Long Melford on Saturday and the Young Ringers Practice at Ufford yesterday, both of which appear to have been big successes and can be found through this website and the Guild Twitter account.

God willing, holidays are also on the way and we were getting it excited as we received our copy of the Rambling Ringers Tour to Kent, but before that there is another event to look forward to as Veterans' Day takes place this Wednesday at its usual venue of Debenham. You don't have to be a veteran to go along, so please feel free to go along and experience a special occasion.

Nice to finish positively!

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Sunday 5th July 2015

Ruthie was back on South-East District secretarial duty this evening with the latest committee meeting at Chairman Ralph Earey's Sproughton abode. As they battled falling puddles, ways to encourage ringers at towers hosting District events to join in with proceedings rather than treating us as visiting ringers were mentioned, as the committee look to overcome paltry attendances such as yesterday's at Tunstall and Iken. Certificates for next year's District striking competition, plans for November's outing and before that Quarter-Peal Fortnight and even more immediately next month's Quarter-Peal evening on the Shotley Peninsula. And as an aside it was good to hear that Jimmy Wightman is making an encouraging recovery after his recent accident.

Earlier, the boys and I returned to St Mary-le-Tower for the first ringing there for almost three weeks following the loss and subsequent replacement of the seventh clapper, though after increased ringing at St Lawrence in the last few weeks we decided to give the ancient five a rest on this first Sunday, whilst at Grundisburgh, one of the ringers was trying to figure out what being referred to as "homespun" might mean!

Elmsett.However, the headline act was undoubtedly the first peal on Elmsett's bells, a new tower in the Suffolk Guild peal columns at a time when the range of towers within our borders being used in the medium seems to be dwindling. But there were quarter-peals too. Norwich Surprise Minor was rung at Pettistree, and the entire band were ringing their first blows of Double Canterbury and Double Court in the 1272 of Minimus at Ampton which also saw John Ramsbottom ring his first on four, whilst Stephen Dawson rang his first of Buxton Bob Minor in the success at Great Finborough. Well done to all concerned, but particularly John and Stephen!

As important as my wife's meeting this evening was, it was probably not quite as enjoyable as those!

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Saturday 4th July 2015

Tunstall.Iken.I fear that in the past when lamenting a low attendance at a ringing event, I have come across as rather demanding on here, that somehow it is every member's duty to attend something put on in the District or Guild's name. It's not exactly what I have meant. We know ourselves that ringers have busy lives. Children, work, family commitments, holidays, non-ringing friends - the list of understandable reasons why people can't always get out to these occasions, including us sometimes. Therefore I shall try to word my thoughts on this evening's extremely poorly attended South-East District Practice at Tunstall and Iken very carefully.

The purposes of such practices are to connect members across a District that covers ringers of all abilities at a wide range of towers, from the coast to far inland, from the Essex border to the depths of rural central Suffolk. An opportunity - if used to their full potential - for learners to step outside of the limits of their home tower to help progress the ringing of them and those they ring with. A chance for more experienced ringers to get together and ring stuff they might not usually get to ring and to a standard not always possible at any one tower. Importantly, it allows those further along the ringing 'journey' to connect with those just starting out on it, to not only give those improvers a helping hand to grab on to and pull them along, but to rejuvenate what a dwindling number of the more experienced are doing, something the SGR's peal-ringing scene could do with now more than ever after the appallingly low number of the membership partaking in the medium last year. Furthermore, those reading this blog will know how much effort Ruthie has put into arranging this just this week alone.

So that only thirteen or fourteen - one of which was Neal Dodge visiting from the North-West District - made it out was disappointing and frustrating. Yes, the two towers were in the far corner of the District, closer indeed for many within the North-East District than for a lot in the South-East, but to my mind they were entirely worth the effort just for the surroundings on this gorgeous, sunny summer's evening. I may be biased after a year or so living in the village that hosted our first ringing, but there is something wonderful about this area, almost other-worldly. Perhaps it is because I spent eight years living in the West Midlands, surrounded by concrete that got too hot in the summer and was simply depressing during the winter and on the doorstep of some truly awful, ugly places, but I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to come out to these beautiful locations if they were able, especially the latter, sat overlooking the River Alde and Snape Maltings. It was noticeable that we were missing quite a lot of regulars, but this only served to highlight the absence of others to back-up these dedicated attendees for whom everything always seems to fall upon.

In Tunstall ringing chamber.In Tunstall ringing chamber.However, it isn't obligatory of course - nor should it be - to support these practices, and whilst some extra numbers would've been useful, we made the most of who was there. At the 7cwt six of St MIchael at least. With my once regular ringing companions of Susan Dalziel and Richard Wilson opening up and offering gratefully received refreshments, John Taylor got some concerted practice at Grandsire Doubles, whilst at the other end of the spectrum Surprise Minor was rung, including Ipswich and a faultless and well-struck course of London.

At Iken.vMike Whitby not looking too happy with it all!

The 8cwt five of St Botolph was a different story however. Having arranged for parking in a nearby field and after the considerable hurdles overcome, my wife thought that the troubles associated with coming to this delightful spot were over with Mr Wilson kindly letting us in. However, as the bells were rung up, it became clear that the third clapper was sticking due to the heat, only occasionally striking and when it did strike it was very, very late, particularly at backstroke. David Stanford made a valiant and quite excellent attempt at putting it in the right place for some rounds, bending the laws of ropesight considerably, but even then he was eventually silenced and having spent most of our forty-five minute slot getting to that point we decided to call time on a disappointing session.

The view from outside The Ship Inn at Blaxhall - if you look carefully, you can make out the tower of the church!Drinks outside The Ship Inn at nearby Blaxhall made up for things to an extent, finishing proceedings off very pleasantly, but Mrs Munnings left feeling very disillusioned once again and wondering why she bothered.

It all came at the end of a long day too, which had seen us purchase Alfie's first proper shoes, though the short, wide feet that he has inherited off his mother made it quite a difficult search. With endorsements from her John Ives' colleagues noted by my better-half, we made our way initially to John Self in Framlingham, where Alfred's wide feet were almost "off the scale" and meant they had nothing in stock, forcing us reluctantly into Ipswich and to Jones', where our search was completed.

Sadly our search for the missing near three-hundred South-East District members hasn't been completed yet.

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Friday 3rd July 20215

When I was a young ringer forging a path in the art, I looked forward to the arrival of the Ringing World at Mum and Dad's. We had been blessed - and still are - in enjoying friendships and acquaintances with ringers across the country and the world and we took great pleasure in catching up with what they were up to, whether it be peals, quarters, outings, dedications or anything else that was being reported in what is affectionately dubbed 'The Comic'. As an ambitious boy dreaming of ringing complex stuff in famous places with well-known people, I awaited the new edition on a Thursday each week to read up on what those already in that position were doing and where and who with, the 'celebrity' names almost as elusive at that point as the footballers that I also looked up to. For David Brown and Mark Regan, read Paul Gascoigne and Bryan Robson.

Of course though, back then the RW was essentially the only way of finding this information out and we thought nothing of the fact that we had to wait for weeks for debates to pan out through the letters pages or who had won the National Twelve-Bell Final. Now such discussions can - for better or worse - escalate within minutes and even if you can't make it to the Twelve-Bell, you can listen to it as it happens. Peals and quarters are reported instantly through BellBoard and Campanophile and any events can be reported on with hundreds of photographs immediately on Facebook and Twitter. It is hard actually now to see the point of The Ringing World as a printed magazine.

So I was interested this evening to read - online as I long stopped subscribing to it - the article by RW Chairman Nigel Orchard on the front page of the edition that will still have dropped through about three thousand letterboxes worldwide mostly today, which outlined the plans for the future of this century-old publication. For the next six months, they are challenging ringers to send a donation of at least 50p per ringer for 70% of all quarters and peals submitted. If that doesn't happen, The Ringing World board intend to implement an obligatory charge for all quarters and peals to appear in print.

Views - as if to highlight the world the RW now finds itself in - have been instantly imparted upon social media and it is a stance that has understandably divided opinion. Some seem to care little for the magazine, seeing it as an irrelevance these days and don't see why they have to pay extra to appear in something they are unconcerned by. Others see it as an important link to the wider ringing world for those who can't and don't use the internet. Surprise, surprise, I sit somewhere in the middle. I have a fondness for it as alluded to above and would be genuinely sad to see it cease to be and I see first hand the joy and interest that it brings to someone unconnected to the worldwide web whenever I speak with Aunty Marian. But because of the reasons I mentioned above, I'm not particularly fussed about seeing my ringing performances published in the magazine several weeks after it has been on BB and Campers, let alone pay extra for the 'privilege'. And it does feel a little like peal-ringers being picked upon again. Why not - as many have asked - also charge people sending in the lengthy reports of ringing outings and augmentations or their rants that take up large amounts of space in the letters pages? And in the end, is it likely to raise any significant extra funds to simply raising the subs slightly for those who do want to use it?

Much more sensible in my view is the suggestion that it may become a fortnightly publication. Though I would go further and make it a monthly one, with more for everyone. More advice and tips for learners, such as explanations of terms and compositions. Perhaps some case studies of ordinary ringers, of how they became ringers, what they do and maybe more on famous ringers and towers and why they're famous. Something like in fact, the stories behind people's first peals, which can be found via the FirstPeal2015 website and held my attention for quite some time this evening on another quiet night with no ringing for us.

StMary-le-Tower.That will change on Monday though, as the seventh clapper at St Mary-le-Tower has been replaced, which also means there will be ringing there on Sunday morning too. And today others were ringing too in Suffolk, with the FNQPC succeeding at Earl Stonham and the handbell ringers scoring in Bacton. Happy Birthday Winston! Which all followed on from a peal at Offton yesterday, rung by a visiting band.

Which The Ringing World readers will find out about in a few weeks...

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Thursday 2nd July 2015

On 25th June, people were having 'half-way to Christmas' dinners. Honestly! Today at 1pm, some - probably those same folk actually - were wishing others a Happy-Half Year, as we got to exactly half-way through 2015.

We whimsically noted the occasion in the office, but most understandably had their eye more on their sandwiches and a cuppa than a glass of bubbly and a party popper, so the day continued with little significance, for us at least.

More significant was a quarter rung at Tostock and God willing that there will be Young Ringers at Ufford from 3-4.30 on Sunday afternoon. Having had to cancel the last one and with no Suffolk Guild presence amongst the record entry for the Ringing World National Youth Contest at St Thomas-the-Martyr in Oxford, it would be good to get a decent turnout on the 13cwt eight of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary to kick-start the second-half of the year for our young ringers!

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Wednesday 1st July 2015

Lundy.It was nice to see the mother-in-law Kate this evening, fresh from a trip to the Royal Norfolk Show on the hottest July day ever recorded (somewhere in the UK they noted thirty-seven degrees centigrade) and before that a week away on Lundy, where her visit coincided briefly with the end of a peal-ringing excursion featuring some familiar names in the exercise, including Colin Turner, as he took his totals up to a staggering 6,527, though he has already since rung another seven! Whilst Mrs Eagle studiously avoided any ringing, she was able to hear apparently very nice peals of Cambridge Surprise Royal and London No.3 Surprise Royal upon the 13cwt ten as she arrived and before the peal-ringers left. In addition, her travelling companion Ron ended up playing his bagpipes for a wedding on the island when it was discovered he was a player of the Scottish speciality on what sounded like a fun holiday!

All this was imparted by Alfie's gran as she very kindly came round to babysit him whilst his parents set out on a relatively rare evening out together, with my employers John Catt Educational at their usual generous best. It has become traditional to have a summer get-together not just for the staff but for their partners too. Last year it was the quaint mobile cinema in a barn on the outskirts of Framlingham, this year it was to be a meal at the Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, but last week's fire that has sadly closed that establishment down for the foreseeable future put paid to our booking for tonight, so instead we found ourselves at The Crown in Great Glemham. When I first started working for the JCEL way back in May 2008, they were based in the old school house on the edge of the village, the most picturesque location I have ever had the the good fortune to work at, sat as it was on the way out of this pretty community and surrounded on three sides by open fields and footpaths, providing wonderful lunchtime walks. The building itself, was no office though. Too big for the fourteen or fifteen of us working there at the time, freezing in the winter (though fortunately the three months I spent there coincided with a lovely summer) and the internet connection was quite unreliable, but  the company had been there for some decades before we moved to our current offices in the altogether more conveniently placed Melton nearly seven years ago and even though there are now only five of us left within the ranks that worked at what has now been converted into a couple of homes, the expedition to this peaceful corner of rural Suffolk idyll on a warm, barmy evening felt a little like a homecoming.

The pub itself was a third home for some at the time, being just yards up the lane, but since then it has changed hands, closed for periods and been the subject of a well-publicised campaign by the villagers to save it from becoming a house and thus ripping the soul out of another country community, so this was going to be a new experience for all in attendance tonight. It was a pleasant one too. The food is what one might term 'posh nosh', more quails egg and duck and port parfait than egg, ham and chips, the portions perhaps a little small for my liking and though everything was on the company I imagine it was probably quite expensive, but it was exquisite, with great service and good beer (Adnams and Green Jack amongst the purveyors of ale here) in a a building which has retained its character even after renovation. It's great to see it thriving, with quite a number of others in apart from our twenty-plus crowd. Well worth a visit if you find yourself ringing on the nearby 13cwt five at All Saints, if that is still even possible since toilets were built at the base of the tower some years ago.

On the downside, it did mean I was unable to ring at The Wolery this evening as had originally been my intention, though I am pleased to see a peal was still scored in my absence, one of three performances within our borders today recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile, with the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree successful and the entire band ringing their first blows of Xanten Bob Minor in the 1260 at Preston St Mary. Well done to them all.

Meanwhile, arrangements for the South-East District Practice at Tunstall and Iken on Saturday have now been finalised, with the plan now being ringing at the former from 6-7pm (as originally arranged) and then the latter from 7.15-8pm, with parking arrangements in hand and shortly to be revealed! Well done to my wife on her persistence and considerable efforts to make that all possible - now let's hope her efforts don't go to waste!

Her mother's efforts certainly didn't go to waste, as we returned from a fantastic evening out to find a happy boy - many thanks Kate and nice to see you again!

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Tuesday 30th June 2015

The negotiations on the Greek bailout have nothing on it. Several phone calls and emails involving five people later, and it seems an agreement may have been reached for the South-East District ringing at Iken on Saturday evening, much to Ruthie's relief. Nothing that can be confirmed just yet, but there will be a change to the arrangements currently published on What's On, so watch this space!

That essentially filled our evening, but elsewhere others were actually ringing, most notably Peter Stock who rang his first of Minor in the pre-practice quarter at Offton - well done Peter! Meanwhile, a peal was rung at The Wolery, the second performance in as many days upon the bells on Rectory Road, following on from yesterday's 1296 of London Surprise Minor in a busy couple of days in Old Stoke.

God willing we'll be busy ringing at Iken this weekend too.

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Monday 29th June 2015

If as expected the mercury soars into the thirties Celsius (or eighties Fahrenheit if you prefer) this week, it may not be such a terrible week to discover we have no ringing on, though it would far from surprise me if something crops up. Hopefully Wednesday should see us making merry with the John Catt collective, but this evening we were struck silent in a ringing sense due to the continuation of St Mary-le-Tower's seventh's incapacity, though with those temperatures already rising very high today, if we had to pick an evening off from heaving a 35cwt twelve around, it would be this one!

That said, inspired and energised by all that I saw over the weekend, I would've enjoyed getting on with trying to emulate the magnificent participants in Norwich on our own bells, so hopefully we will be all set to go again in the next few days.

Iken.God willing, also set to go in the next few days is the South-East District visiting Iken on Saturday, but at the moment communication is proving a stumbling block, so it isn't 100% certain yet. Despite weeks of trying to make contact with John Calver the correspondent, the named churchwarden and the Reverend David Murdoch who covers this picturesque outpost along with - it seems - half the Suffolk coast, Ruthie - in her role as SE District Secretary - has had no response bar David referring her back to the aforementioned churchwarden! However, even if the isolated 8cwt five doesn't pull through, there will still be ringing at Tunstall (though the timing may alter slightly if plans have to change), so please do come out to support the event anyway! I know my wife would be delighted if her not inconsiderable efforts don't go to waste.

You could do so after taking in the Bell Maintenance Get Together at Long Melford earlier in the day if you so wish, with Winston Girling and the Bell Advisory Committee leading the first of what is hoped to be a series of such events aimed at teaching those who want to maintain their bells and fittings but need to learn how to. This is such an important area of our art. It is all very well aspiring to complex and well-struck ringing, but we won't be able to if the bells that we do it upon aren't fit for purpose, so if you want to learn more on the subject, this will be well worth the effort attending.

And whilst we may not be ringing on Wednesday, others are planning to, with the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice lined up for between 7.30 and 9pm, another worthwhile occasion, especially for those looking to progress on higher numbers.

Lavenham Ringers jigsaw.Should you still find yourself with time on your hands after all of that, you may want to purchase a jigsaw based on an oil painting of the ringing chamber at one of the Lavenham Ringing Days of the 1960's, an event held on the Saturday nearest to Midsummer's Day that at its peak apparently attracted in the region of two hundred ringers! What some of those events above wouldn't do for attendances like that! Proceeds from the £23 puzzle go to the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers Bell Restoration Fund, so it is another worthy cause. Perhaps we will get one to occupy ourselves on these quiet, hot evenings!

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Sunday 28th June 2015

One of the many conversations I had at yesterday's National Twelve-Bell Final in Norwich was with Paul Mason from Taylor's, who informed me that we will get the seventh clapper back at St Mary-le-Tower at the end of next week, whilst also kindly explaining why. Of course it meant that there was no ringing upon the county's heaviest twelve this morning and nor will there be a practice tomorrow night. Watch this space.

Instead, we four went to the service at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, as I joined Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis in helping out the locals in the Wakefields absence as we improved upon last week's four-bell ringing.

Despite the more subdued weather conditions twenty-four hours on, today still centered around Saturday's events, with photos aplenty on Facebook and although there are problems with listening back to the feed to the You Tube radio channel covering proceedings at St Peter Mancroft, Matthew Tosh has begun putting recordings online in parts, some of which I spent this afternoon listening to, especially the winning College Youths test piece in part two (at 29 minutes), seeing as I didn't get the chance to take it in at the time!

And a footnote was recorded at Kirby-le-Soken in Essex to celebrate the ASCY's victory featuring a number of local members plus our friends from Rambling Ringers and visiting Dutch ringers Paul and Harm Jan de Kok, with the latter ringing his first of Double Norwich Court Bob Major - well done Harm Jan! But there were also performances within Suffolk today, with a quarter of Grandsire Doubles at Pettistree, a peal of Surprise Minor on handbells in Bacton and a 1320 of Little Bob Maximus at The Norman Tower. Well done to Deborah Blumfield, Abby Antrobus and Craig Gradidge on ringing their first of Maximus in the latter!

Meanwhile, in further throwbacks to yesterday, whilst some of us were soaking up the tremendous atmosphere north of the River Waveney, a peal was rung at Tannington and a quarter-peal at Hintlesham, but in the here and now we spent the day in from the occasional rain, admiring the pink dusk and enjoying social media's take on yesterday's big event.

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Saturday 27th June 2015

The first National Twelve-Bell Final I ever went to was in 1991, when it came to St Mary-le-Tower. At just twelve and barely two years into my ringing odyssey, I wasn't involved in the ringing nor of course the drinking, so instead I occupied myself manning Ralph Earey's famous demo bell at the bottom of the tower and taking lunch up to the judges who included Stephen Pettman, accompanied by Alan Patterson and Christopher Wulkau. But I recall witnessing the satisfaction of the Ipswich band on finishing fourth in what is to date our best result in the competition, the joy of the Cambridge band on winning their second title in a row when they were the team to beat and the frustration of Rod Pipe on Birmingham's seventh place finish. Yes, seventh! I was hooked.

I was therefore privileged and honoured to ring for SMLT later in the 1990's and then in the final for Birmingham in the following decade as well as leading my home team back into the competition in 2007. And I've never experienced in the art anything quite like the emotions I felt when I was actually part of a winning team in what is the biggest ringing competition in the world! But even when not taking part, this is the highlight of the ringing calendar for me and many, many others. I would go every year if I could, but circumstances have prevented that being possible, meaning that the only one I've been able to make in the last decade was the one down at St Paul's Cathedral in 2009, pleasingly joined by Ruthie. The atmosphere, the vast swathes of friends and acquaintances that there simply isn't time to catch-up with in their entirety, the superb ringing and the excitement of who will win, especially when it really matters to those who take part. Though raising the standards of twelve-bell ringing is the premise of the competition - one which has certainly succeeded - the emphasis is far more on the actual winning than the average local striking competition. As I've said on here before, this is the closest that the art comes to professional sport and winning is something that those lucky enough to have won can tell their children and grandchildren in the same way as a footballer might impart that they have won the FA Cup, a tennis player can point to winning Wimbledon and an actor can justifiably live off clinching an Oscar. It is all relative in comparison to those obviously, but this is as big as it gets on the end of a bellrope.

Today's 2015 final at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich had all of that and arguably more, with hundreds swarming - including a considerable turnout from Suffolk alone - this already busy sunbaked city, providing a jovial buzz as ten of the best twelve-bell teams on the planet rang half a course of Lincolnshire Surprise Maximus each brilliantly and someone other than the Brummies won for the first time since I was last in attendance on that marvelous day in the centre of London six years ago. I hope the Brums don't consider my presence a bad omen!

To give my former teammates their dues, they were tremendously magnanimous in defeat and had expressed doubts throughout the day about their chances this time out, despite thorough preparations that had taken them to Liverpool and Leicester in addition to the practice on the 37cwt twelve hosting proceedings in the weeks leading up to the main event, as every finalist was able to have. In fact, Stephanie Warboys went as far as telling me "we'd even have you back." Thank you. I think.

The Vestey Ring.The Chantry Bar.The Chantry Bar.The Chantry Bar.The Chantry Bar.

Steph and her husband John were amongst so many familiar faces that it would just take too long to list, as we bumped into an almost constant stream of friends from across the country and indeed beyond, whether it was on the streets, in the churchyard, on The Vestey Ring or at The Chantry Hall, which had been set up as The Chantry Bar for the day and was the main centre of the gathering, being in sight of the tower, if not in sound due to a band playing just round the corner. Even then, Matthew Tosh's magnificent live stream of the occasion allowed those queuing at the bar for the various beers being provided by the Wolf Brewery to listen to the test pieces as they happened.

Gathered in St Peter Mancroft church for the draw.Gathered in St Peter Mancroft church for the draw.Gathered in St Peter Mancroft church for the draw.At The Forum listening to the results.At The Forum listening to the results.At The Forum listening to the results. Katie Town & Rob Lee of the College Youths lift the Taylor Trophy.

At either end of all this, the draw took place in the packed church to the traditional howls of those subjected to waiting until the end to ring and the results in the impressive Forum familiar to anyone who watches BBC Look East who broadcast from there, as the Ancient Society of College Youths pipped Birmingham to win for the first since 1998 when the final was last held here, one of two potential perfect outcomes for this member of the ASCY with a considerable affection for the Brummies and their team members.

And either side even of that, I managed to travel on the trains with two children, a buggy and three bags due to the considerable kindness of strangers, Alex Tatlow and most of all Ruthie, who sadly couldn't come along today as she had to work and yet still came to Ipswich to pick the boys and me up from the station at the end of an extremely long but immensely pleasurable day. Congratulations don't just go to the victorious College Youths, but also to Bristol featuring child of Suffolk Molly Waterson, who came third and again impressed, with many sensing their day will come in the very near future. This year's dark horses were Exeter, more traditionally bringing up the rear, but who on this occasion came fourth in their highest ever finish and also demand credit, but most of all, well done to our hosts, not only in exceeding their own expectations by not coming bottom, but for putting on an absolutely fabulous day out, a success from start to finish. And the publicity - predominantly led by former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd - has been incredible, raising the status of the competition even further by putting it into the consciousness of many members of the public.

I hope one day in the not too distant future that this competition can return to our own fair soil at one of our three twelves, especially as it hasn't been here since that first final that I went to twenty-four years ago. Even more pertinently though, I hope that we can put a band forward - whether that is as Ipswich or Bury St Edmunds - to try and work our way up to hopefully partaking in the final. Many folk asked me when we might be entering again, but whilst we are not ready to try again just now, the general advice imparted was that when the time comes we ought to use the competition as part of our progress rather than the point of our progress. If Exeter with their 72cwt twelve that is hardly conducive to training a competition standard band, in a location that means that just about every eliminator and final is a daunting distance away, then we ought to be capable of doing it too. Many of the teams outside of the big ringing centres that reach the final regularly like the aforementioned Exeter, Leeds, Melbourne and Towcester spent years - and I mean years - struggling in eliminators before they eventually qualified for the final, but it was all invaluable experience that they needed to be in the position they are now. We have to be prepared to do that and I certainly think we have the right man to lead us in that aim with David Potts.

If and when we qualify for the final though, I shall try and enjoy this occasion whenever I can, starting with the 2016 final due to be held at Aston on 25th June, when hopefully I can celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of my first final!

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Friday 26th June 2015

It's almost here. My Facebook feeds are alive with photos and comments from those already in Norwich in readiness for tomorrow's National 12-Bell Final at St Peter Mancroft. One was asking if any other ringers were on the 1.30 train from Liverpool Street. Another was in Thetford drinking Pimms on the way to the main location. Two were on the ferry from Holland. Radio interviews for the Twelve-Bells' You Tube radio channel were made. And many more were already in the city centre beginning the drinking, predominantly at the recommended Platform Twelve, whilst pictures were circulated of the many barrels of beer that will hopefully keep everyone going - 2,300 pints worth of it!

Following on from last week's interview on Radio Norfolk, the competition featured prominently on both the lunchtime and teatime editions of Look East and those of us not planning on going up until the morning have been eagerly studying the railway timetables and routes from the station to the action! The banter is flying with suggestions of how to stop Birmingham ranging from dodgy curries and copious amounts of beer, but the reality is that a Brunny win for the sixth year running is widely expected. However, as with anything that relies on human skill, anything can happen!

Sweffling.Back here in Suffolk, very well done to another first quarter-pealer, as John Massey made in his debut in the medium in the 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles at Sweffling. Meanwhile, congratulations to Cherril Spiller and Winston Girling on ringing their one hundredth peal together in the 5040 of Doubles on handbells in Bacton, whilst the FNQPC were in action at Ashbocking and others were welcoming Philip Moyse and Alex Rolph back from university for their summer holidays with a 1260 of Doubles at Wenhaston. Welcome to East Anglia as well to those already in the region for the big event tomorrow.

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Thursday 25th June 2015

Having been spared the fierce scrape and polish last week due to their equipment not working, I had to return to the dentist today for the painful procedure, before my customary telling-off. And I paid for that! I'm in the wrong job...

Barrow.At least others were having more fun as Ruthie and Alfie joined an expedition to Play2Day in Martlesham Heath and a band rang a quarter-peal of Grandsire Doubles at Barrow, continuing the positive feel to this week, which also saw the internet awash with more pictures from Wickham Market (Iain Mitchell's facebook page. Mike Whitby's facebook page.)as the 12cwt six are put back in and a sneaky peek of the official pint glass for Saturday's National 12-Bell Contest in Norwich.

All of which is a superb tonic to a trip to the dentists.

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Wednesday 24th June 2015

Wickham Market bells.It has been a very positive few days for Suffolk ringing and its ringers. Wickham Market's bells are back from Taylors, in a week that has seen Nicole Rolph's first quarter as conductor, Zoe Wright's debut in the medium, Mary Dunbavin's 1500th peal in the 5040 at The Wolery today and the arrival of Thomas to the Potts'. And this evening we rang a peal to celebrate the latter as the monthly St Mary-le-Tower Surprise Major peal overcame adversary to register a success for the third month running. With SMLT unavailable due to the breaking of the seventh clapper last week and David understandably and quite rightly engaged with fatherhood, we were short of a couple of regulars who were originally going to attempt thirteen-spliced Surprise Major in Ipswich, so we were extremely grateful to Henley for the use of their bells and Nathan Colman for the use of his ringing skills to enable us to score a 5184 of Superlative.

For all that it was an emergency back-up, going to the 8cwt eight of St Peter suited me just fine on this light, late summer's evening, allowing me to meander through the glorious countryside north of the county town, the fields full of crops and the sides of road abundant in wild plant life underneath that big wide sky.

Meanwhile, well done to George Vant on ringing his first handbell peal, rung for his native Essex Association but on our soil in Bacton and to visitor from Kent David Chesson on ringing his of Ipswich Surprise Minor in the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree, in a wonderful example of how ringing cross boundaries and forges friendships.

It has indeed been a positive few days within our borders.

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Tuesday 23rd June 2015

Unusually, I shan't go into great detail here, but it is well worth reading the reports on the discussion on the future of change-ringing, which can be found on the homepages of BellBoard and Campanophile. In a nutshell they are encouraging greater co-operation between territorial ringing organisations, which I am in favour of to an extent, though some have mooted scrapping such organisations, which I am completely opposed to. I actually feel we do very well as a Guild and indeed our What's On and Young Ringers were mentioned as examples of good practice. We have a decently-sized membership, healthy finances, well-supported striking competitions and AGM and generally a positive peal-ringing scene, even if the last year has seen a downturn from the high numbers we have reached in recent years. And there is also considerable cross-border co-operation with practices, with quarters, peals and the very successful Ridgman Trophy. That's not to say that there aren't aspects we couldn't improve on and we ought to constantly be looking how not only we can be helped by our neighbours, but how we can help our neighbours.

Nayland.As mentioned, within our borders, two of the things that we generally do well are communication and striking competitions and the aforementioned 'What's On' reveals that the domestic season ends with the South-West District Striking Competition on Saturday. Hopefully lots of teams are entering, not just in order to win some silverware, but more importantly to focus on striking and progress their ringing. There was the best turnout for some time from the SW at the SGR competitions last month, so I'm looking forward to hearing how the event at Nayland goes. Best of luck to all who enter!

'What's On' also imparts that there is the opportunity to attend Music for 10 Strings at Little Cornard on the same day in aid of the Bell Restoration Fund, a worthwhile cause and another thing I feel we get right!

For us, our ringing today was restricted to me running a very productive practice at Ufford in the absence of mother-in-law Kate, as Granville and Lyn Lindsay practiced Plain Bob Doubles and Cambridge Surprise Minor inside respectively, Derek Martin and Adrian Craddock had a concerted effort at treble-bobbing and Elaine Townsend and Pete Faircloth had a shot at Ipswich Surprise Minor, whilst visitor David Chesson who is holidaying in the area from Kent aided us in ringing two very well rung touches of Grandsire Triples. Mrs Eagle has them all well-trained!

Talking of well-trained, well done to Richard George and Chris Davies on ringing their first of Plain Bob Triples in the successful quarter at Hopton yesterday. And keeping up the positive news, congratulations to St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master David Potts (and particularly his wife Claire!), who took advantage of SMLT bells being out of action to become a father for the third time, with the birth of Thomas!

Our main focus meanwhile, was celebrating the anniversary of a birth from three years ago, as we celebrated our niece and Alfie and Mason's cousin Katelynn's birthday with delicious cake! It helped ease me into those reports!

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Monday 22nd June 2015

Congratulations to Zoe Wright on ringing her first quarter-peal, achieved by ringing the treble to Plain Bob Doubles (as all the best ringers do!) at Thornham Magna. For all that FirstPeal2015 is understandably and quite rightly a big focus this year, ringing your debut quarter is perhaps the biggest breakthrough you'll ever make in ringing, opening the door to a new world of opportunities that you simply can't get at most practices, so it has been heartening to see a number make the leap since New Year's Day. Keep going Zoe, I hope to be able to mention you again on here in the future!

St Peter Mancroft.Such achievements were a world away from our evening in, as the incapacitated seventh at St Mary-le-Tower saw no practice and meant that we - and more particularly Ruthie for whom tonight was to be her turn to be released into the wild for a few hours - were without our weekly twelve-bell fix. However, God willing that'll be rectified this Saturday as some of the best bellringers in the world gather in Norwich for the biggest ringing occasion in the world. And I mean the best. I often allude to what I have achieved in ringing, including in this competition, where on the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest website I still sit at joint-twelth in the table of participants who have won the greatest proportion of the finals they have taken part in. The regular mentions are partially inexcusable vanity, but primarily to remind me that it actually all happened as I don't exactly consider myself one the exercise's leading lights - seems like a different life now! Plus it may inspire more ringers out there - if I can do it, then anyone can!

No, my meagre contribution - as much to do with being in the right place at the right time as anything else - to the art that has nonetheless given me so much is very firmly put in its place by a quick glance at BellBoard and Campanophile on a near weekly basis and the achievements of many very talented ringers, including some of those raised in Suffolk, such as Louis Suggett, Alex Tatlow and increasingly George Salter. Look at the table of the those who have won the most contests in total and you'll see where I really come in the scheme of things. In a list unsurprisingly dominated by those who have rung for the Birmingham team I was privileged to have been a part of briefly, Fran Dodds leads the way having rung in every single one of the Brummy's twenty-one victories since that first one at Southwark in 1977 and having written them off last year on the basis of the law of averages, it would be a brave person to bet against Birmingham and Fran getting their twenty-second title at St Peter Mancroft in five days time.

Quite who might stop the dominant team from the second city winning for an incredible sixth year in a row is a tough call, seeing as neither of the only two teams to have won it apart from them in the last sixteen finals - St Paul's Cathedral and York - are in this year's showpiece event, having been knocked out of the competition at March's eliminators. Cambridge - led by David Pipe who led many of Birmingham's successes - stand as good a chance as any, having come second in Ripon two years ago and the College Youths may take confidence from the last of their four victories coming the previous time the final was held in the county city of our immediate northern neighbours in 1998. The Cumberlands may too fancy their chances of coming out on top for the first time since 1997 and whilst Bristol have never won the famous Taylor Trophy, in recent years they have got close, with third place finishes in the last two finals and a second place finish eight years ago on home turf. Whilst Exeter and Leeds are probably the considerable underdogs having never finished above fifth and fourth respectively  in their appearances at this stage, Melbourne and Towcester have a history of upsetting the applecart with second place finishes on home turf in 2012 and 2005 respectively, which in turn should give heart to this weekend's hosts!

Whatever happens, it should be an exciting and lively day out, with much to do. Details of what is going on can be found on the St Peter Mancroft Guild website, but there is plenty on offer if you want to eat, drink and ring, including our very own Vestey Ring being on site. It is well worth the trip up there, even with children, as I intend to do, all being well. And if you can't make it, there is once again a live broadcast from the event from Matthew Tosh on the competition's own dedicated YouTube channel, with a trailer whetting the appetite nicely!

It is all slightly more exciting than our otherwise pleasant evening in!

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Sunday 21st June 2015

Thank you to Ruthie, Mason and Alfie for making today a wonderful Father's Day. From breakfast in bed and my card, to drinking the beers they very kindly purchased for me, I fully enjoyed every moment of the longest day of the year, a reaffirmation that I am in a very fortunate position.

With no ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this morning - nor tomorrow night when the practice would usually be, so please don't make a wasted journey into Ipswich - I had decided to join my wife at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, allowing a little extra time to savour that first meal of the day without my feet even touching the floor, even taking into account helping the local ringers man the 25cwt eight. Not that I succeeded in that aim as I only made the fifth ringer and as Alfred needs supervision that meant ringing on four, but it was in the main well-struck, meaning the bells rang out for the service that the boys and I attended afterwards and where it was superb to see Kev the Rev make his return after a couple of months off ill. This charismatic and popular leader of the parish has been much missed, not least by us as the rector who married us and Christened AJM, so it was unsurprising that his first greeting at the start of proceedings this morning was met by rapturous applause.

Mason on a ride at Woodbridge Regatta.The crowds at Woodbridge Regatta.The way to enjoy Father's Day & the Woodbridge Regatta.The way to enjoy Father's Day & the Woodbridge Regatta.Mason on the slide at Woodbridge Regatta.What my lovely family got me for Father's Day.

His is still a gradual recovery of course, so he needs to continue to take it easy and relax, which is what we did on his behalf this afternoon, or at least as much as one can with a one-year-old and eight-year-old in tow. Yesterday I waxed lyrical about our town of residence and twenty-four hours on there was further evidence of its allure as our little riverside community held its annual Regatta. I say little, as of course there are thousands who live within its boundaries and it felt like they were all out along the Deben for the occasion as we bumped into and conversed with dozens of familiar faces from the eldest son's school, our respective places of work (past and present), family, church and of course bellringers, with it being our good fortune to encounter Burgh ringer Lindsay Bingham, Pettistree ringers Mike Whitby and Pippa Moss, local ringing nomad Adrian Craddock and former Hollesley Ringing Master Alan McBurnie, Peggy and Wickham Market RM Ray Lewis. It was a very social occasion, as meandering our nearby streets usually is and whilst the eldest son took in the rides and inflatables available to him and his contemporaries and his younger brother took it all in and then slept, we also partook in a couple of pints, one outside the Ferry Quay Cafe and then at the Cruising Club as we took the scenic route from and to home along the river bank.

It was an upbeat day for ringing too, with our kitchen this morning filled with sounds of The Norman Tower bells ringing for yesterday's enthronement of The Right Reverend Martin Seeley as the 11th Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, as reported on Jon Wright's Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Suffolk. Well done to the band in Bury St Edmunds on some great ringing and to young Nicole Rolph who conducted a quarter-peal for the first time in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Huntingfield.

A nice note to round off a lovely day!

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Saturday 20th June 2015

Alfie.Mason.This week we booked our summer holiday. It is in Kent and we are looking forward to exploring an unfamiliar area and generally at this time of year we feel a bit more compelled to travel, at least within our limited remit. But we are fortunate to have much on our doorstep, so whilst Ruthie sang with the choir for a wedding at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, I wandered our town of residence, first to KIngston Field with both of the boys and then - whilst Mason went to a birthday party where another of his teeth came out - around the ancient streets of the centre whilst the front six rang out before and after the ceremony.

Also ringing for a wedding were the band at Halesworth where a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung, whilst a couple of handbell peals were also rung in Newmarket in seven and eleven Surprise Minor methods, which followed on from yesterday's in Bacton of Doubles. And talking of performances from earlier in the week, it was good to see that Mike Whitby was able to complete the band for the quarter at Ufford on Thursday to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, as Suffolk ringers continue to enjoy their local surroundings. 

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Friday 19th June 2015

St Peter Mancroft.God willing, a week from now, huge numbers of bellringers will be gathering up the A11/A140/A146 (depending on what part of our county you are in) in anticipation of the National 12-bell Final at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich. As I have alluded many times before in this blog, this is no gentle striking competition helping to occupy bored ringers for an afternoon as some appear to be (in counties other than Suffolk I hasten to add!), but rather a major ringing event, the closest that the art gets to professional sport. Some of the very best participants of our art will be present, either partaking in the contest, the convivialities surrounding it or both, along with hundreds of other ringers, potentially 500-600 in number. The ringing will be superb and I would encourage all those aspiring to improve their ringing (surely all of us?) to go along to listen if they can. And the atmosphere will be every inch of what ringing should be in its social role - a massive gathering of friends from across the country and indeed the world with a common interest and then the anticipation of who will win it - Birmingham have to slip up at some point, even if I hope they don't (unless it is to the College Youths or - when we hopefully re-enter proceedings one day - Ipswich)!

On a typically quiet Friday evening in whilst the boys slept upstairs, I took the opportunity to listen - via the Contest's Facebook page - to the appearance on BBC Radio Norfolk last Sunday morning of immediate Past Ringing Master of the Mancroft Guild and former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd, Jon Spreadbury and David Pipe from the Cambridge band on iPlayer, about 2hrs44mins into the Breakfast Show. This is a competition that is forty years old this year and so has a real history that I feel privileged to have had a tiny part of, and the interview really caught that, without dumbing it down for the non-ringing public - who incidentally have had a tremendous education in ringing this year with the superb PR done on behalf of the Mancroft Appeal 300 - whilst hopefully still whetting their appetite. It has certainly whetted mine!

Everything really gets going in seven days with early visitors encouraged to visit Platform Twelve for evening socialising before the main event the next day. I remember a number of contest-eves in the past that included some great ringing at St Wilfrid in York in 1999 and a karaoke night in South Petherton in 2001, so if you do want to make a weekend of it I'm sure you won't be disappointed!

For this week though, very well done to young Richard Stevens on ringing his first Triples inside in the 1344 of Plain Bob rung at Rendham and conducted by his father Jonathan. Who knows, he may well play a big part in future National Twelve-Bell Finals!

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Thursday 18th June 2015

It is the three day anniversary of the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. And also the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.

Helmingham.Appropriately - for the latter anniversary at least - the first peal of Waterloo Bob Triples for the Suffolk Guild was rung upon the 17cwt eight of Helmingham that were cast to mark this historic event, whilst it was also marked by Ruth Young, Ruth Suggett and Stephen Dawson's debut in Newcastle Surprise Minor at Great Finborough - well done Ruth, Ruth and Stephen!

Yesterday's pre-practice quarter at Pettistree was also successful and was rung as a get-well compliment to Jimmy Wightman, who had a very nasty accident last week from which he suffered a considerable amount of burns. I'm sure they and I are not alone in wishing this popular and dedicated member of the SGR from Otley a very speedy recovery.

On Sunday afternoon meanwhile, a Young Ringers Practice is planned at Ixworth between 3-4.30pm. If all goes ahead as planned, there will be a number at the GMC meeting, so I'm sure that if you can come along to help the future of ringing, then you would be extremely welcome.

Whilst the last couple of days have seen ringers being busy and the weekend suggests others will be too, for this evening it was a quiet night in, once Ruthie had returned from choir practice. Prepare to mark the anniversary of this momentous day.

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Wednesday 17th June 2015

The day was one of visitors to Woodbridge.

Most of the headlines were made by the visit of the first stage of the Women's Cycling Tour of Britain to the town, part of a mammoth trek across our beautiful county that began in Bury St Edmunds, wound its way through Stowmarket, Ipswich, Kesgrave, Saxmundham and Leiston before reaching a spectacular climax in Aldeburgh as the winner Lizzie Armistead crashed into a photographer just past the finish line outside the Moot Hall whilst celebrating her victory. It was an unfortunate way to end what had been a great advert for Suffolk, with the TV coverage featuring many local landmarks, like Snape Maltings and Thorpeness, but also venues quite personal to Ruthie and me. Perhaps worryingly, most of those were pubs, with The Cross Keys at Henley, The Red Lion in our town of residence, The Coach & Horses in Melton and The Crown Inn at Snape appearing on the television screens of millions across the UK, but at either end of the contest The Norman Tower and SS Peter and Paul stood out too.

The peloton approaching us outside the Suffolk Coastal offices on Melton Hill......and passing us...and passing us

Fleeting as it was, the peloton's passage through our community was convenient and even vaguely exciting for Ruthie and myself who had a passing interest in the sense of occasion rather than the race itself. Though it actually passed right outside our house, we positioned ourselves with Alfie opposite Suffolk Coastal District Council's offices near John Catt's offices, as conveniently the racers were making their way past over my lunch break. We shared the scene with hundreds of excitable children from the nearby primary school, which made for a super atmosphere from the moment that the first of dozens and dozens of police motorbikes and support vehicles came through until all the riders and back-up vehicles had been by.

For us though, the visitors we were most looking forward to welcoming were my university chum Wellsy, his wife Katy and their daughter Alice who is just four months older than Alfred. It was the first time we had met their little 'un and they ours and with them on their holidays in the area there were lots of positive vibes bouncing around our living room as the two youngsters played 'together.' It is almost twenty years since Wellsy and I met in our ageing, dilapidated, but fondly remembered Queen's Hall of Residence in Dudley as youngsters freed into the wild, so today's meeting of responsible (at least compared to back then!), married parents provided a reminder of how life evolves. Some of the stuff we and our contemporaries did as eighteen-year-old students make us cringe now and undoubtedly we - like all of us I'm sure - have made mistakes and misjudgements along the way, but those have contributed to us hopefully becoming more mature people. I hope I can remember that if Mason and AJM exasperate us as they grow up!

As enjoyable as that was, it meant that Ruthie missed out on Pettistree practice, but elsewhere ringing achievements were occurring. Well done to all the band who were ringing their first of Reverse St Martin's and Reverse St Simon's Bob Doubles in the quarter at Preston St Mary. With that sort of form, they're more than welcome to visit us in Woodbridge!

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Tuesday 16th June 2015

We are all guilty of taking our ringing for granted at one stage or another, even considering it a chore from time to time, so the words that John Taylor put on the Guild's Facebook page is a wonderful reminder of what joy it can bring. Following the peals at Monewden and Framlingham over the weekend to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the latter location's famous college, of which John is a former pupil, the organiser Robert Beavis - another former pupil - had written to thank those who had partaken in the two successes, with Mr Taylor ringing in the former. It is his reply to Robert that he has put online and which makes such lovely reading.

Robert, I should have said a bit more just to tell you how much pleasure all your efforts give to many of those who are listening. As I walked in the town it was a bit emotional. I loved to hear those bells ringing in that super tower when I was a schoolboy and it took me back to then in maroon school blazer, short trousers, dirty knees and not allowed to be seen with hands in pockets or without a cap or tie. The organ once stood on the north side of the Chancel behind the pulpit. I was having violin lessons and practiced there sometimes with a friend who was learning to play the organ.

To me this is bells as such a lovely part of village/town life and Fram is such a beautiful place. No wonder the school loved it all so much.

As the writer himself said, bellringing creates that emotion in lots of people and it needs to be said occasionally.

It was a warming sentiment to consider whilst I sat in the dentist chair, getting my regular dressing down about flossing and the like, though I was spared the polish that is usually undertaken as their equipment wasn't working this afternoon, though I shall have to return for that next week.

I had our typically quiet Tuesday evening in to recover with Ruthie and Alfie, whilst elsewhere the ringers of Suffolk were marking the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, with Matthew Rolph and Jonathan Iles ringing their first of Grandsire in the 1280 of its Doubles variation at Halesworth today. Well done Matthew and Jonathan!

No sooner have the celebrations to mark all things Magna Carta passed, then Thursday is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, with probably more ringing being done to mark a decisive moment in the UK's history - indeed, as I write this Mike Whitby is looking for a ringer for a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples being attempted at Ufford at 7pm if anyone can help - and appropriately there is a chance to ring on bells originally hung to celebrate the victory at Waterloo, with the Helmingham Monthly Practice due to take place on Friday between 7.30-9pm.

Meanwhile, following last night's clapper breakage, there will be no ringing on Sunday morning at St Mary-le-Tower - though it will be replaced by ringing at St Lawrence - and no practice there on Monday next week. SMLT is one place that we're definitely not taking our ringing for granted!

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Monday 15th June 2015

David Potts taking delivery of the broken clapper ball as Owen lowers it downstairs.The broken clapper ball.The sound of leather on willow, shortly followed by the drip drip of rain. The collective groan of the home crowd at Portman Road. Birds tweeting in the trees at this time of year. And the thud from above as another clapper at St Mary-le-Tower breaks and the silent swinging of a bell. It is a noise almost as familiar to our ears as those aforementioned sounds and the bells themselves and instantly we set up in a routine well-known to us, one moment about to launch into some Little Bob Maximus, the next playing a form of ringing roulette as one-by-one the band tried out their instrument to ascertain which one exactly had been silenced. Loser of that game was David Stanford on the seventh and the evidence of the destruction was lowered down into the ringing chamber by steeple-keeper Owen Claxton, the ball sheered off the offending clapper coming into view slowly and almost majestically.

Apparently, the cause is probably a forty-year-old one that Taylor's are actually planning on rectifying for us later in the summer, whilst the frame is painted and the bells are out of action after Sunday morning ringing on 26th July and throughout the whole of August and Owen was magnanimous when pointing out that in some respects it is incredible that some of the fittings have lasted as long as they have seeing as that the bells have turned millions of times since being installed in 1976, but the loss of clappers here is staggering and seems completely out of proportion to even other regularly rung 30cwt+ twelves that I know of. That it is the seventh - in keeping with any bell from the fifth round to the eighth - is particularly awkward as it means we can't ring on the front eight, middle-six or even back six, eight or ten and is fairly disastrous timing, as with less than six weeks until that work on the frame and clappers is due to begin, we will need to get a replacement clapper arranged sharpish or face not ringing here for another three months, unless we fancy doing lots of Doubles on a 35cwt five. It was suggested that whilst the bells are out of action for the work later in the year, that we ring at St Lawrence on a Sunday morning when we would've otherwise have been ringing at SMLT, so this may be something we do for the forthcoming Sunday(s), but much is uncertain as I write this - watch this space!

Ready for the St Mary-le-Tower AGM.Ready for the St Mary-le-Tower AGM.In a more immediate sense, the timing of the latest mechanical failure upon Suffolk's heaviest twelve was about as perfect as you can hope for if you are going to suffer such an occurrence, as it happened just a few minutes before we were going to stop anyway for our AGM. This has become a useful annual opportunity to reflect and plan with as many members as possible gathered and this evening's was no different. We reflected on the departure of Mike Burn who rang with us for the final time yesterday morning, leaving for the Midlands with our best wishes hopefully ringing in his ears louder than the seventh now rings in ours. And of course we remembered Simon Griffiths, still much missed since his unexpected death in October at a shockingly young age. Ringing Master David Potts reported thoroughly, highlighting that whilst the end of 2014 finished well and we made a clean sweep of the local striking competitions for the first time in many years last month, ringing in 2015 had been largely and inexplicably unsatisfactory by the high standards we set.

But from this there was guidance given by the one man best placed to offer it here, George Pipe. He commented on the happy band and how fortunate we are to have the help of our friends from across the county and from Essex too, whilst imparting how he felt we could take things forward. I'm not sure my wife or mother were overly keen on the idea of a night of Stedman though!

Nice as well to see Sean Antonioli making a return for the evening, to welcome George Vant to the membership and to thank our officers David, Owen and Secretary and Treasurer Stephen Cheek for all their hard-work over the last twelve months, in a productive meeting kindly chaired by Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin that saw maintenance a topical and big issue, though also drawn out as healthy debate and discussion saw us eventually finish at quarter-to-ten, daylight still just clinging on as I made my way home to Ruthie and a sleeping Alfie.

Of course, for all the ringing in recent days and even weeks and months for the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, today is the exact date that this historic moment occurred in 1215, with more touches of eight-hundred changes in length and further peals of Runnymede and Magna Carta rung. Again, members were doing their bit within our borders, with a quarter of Lincoln Surprise Minor at Bardwell which is either 1,260 or 1,320 changes long depending on which entry you believe and a 1250 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pettistree.

And it was also brought to my attention today the achievements of former Reydon youngster Philip Moyse who rang his first of Bristol Surprise Maximus in the 1344 at St Magnus The Martyr in London on Saturday - well done Philip! At least they didn't hear that familiar thud there...

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Sunday 14th June 2015

St Paul's Cathedral.The 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta has been quite rightly celebrated across the UK and ringing has been doing its bit. Headline acts nationally include a 5800 of Stedman Cinques at St Paul's Cathedral yesterday, a 5040 of Runnymede Surprise Maximus at Guildford Cathedral - the cathedral whose diocese covers Runnymede - and a 5007 of Stedman Cinques at Worcester Cathedral where King John is buried, along with numerous quarters and peals of Magna Carta Alliance, Delight and Surprise and many performances of eight-hundred changes in length.

Here in Suffolk we've been busy too. As well as for the birthdays of Dad and Becky, yesterday's peal in Bury St Edmunds was also attributed to the occasion (and not to mark the 800th anniversary of the birth of Alan Munnings as one scallywag suggested!), whilst today quarters of Plain Bob Major and Grandsire Caters were rung at Lowestoft and The Norman Tower respectively, whilst a 5040 was rung at Clare and 5150 at Framlingham to mark this historic event. Congratulations and well done to Diana Leach on ringing her 500th QP and her first as conductor on eight and to her son Andrew on ringing his 325th in the success within the NDA's borders.

The 3hrs7mins of the eponymous method at St Michael and All Angels was also rung to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the famous local college, as was the peal at Monewden twenty-fours earlier featuring three Old Framlinghamians, Robert Beavis, Allan Gould and John Taylor, which along with the monthly peal on the coast at Aldeburgh for the opening of the sixty-eighth annual Festival of Music and Arts in the town shows there was lots to be celebrated apart from the events of 1215.

Neither Ruthie or I took part in any of it today, as instead we had a quiet day after our hectic but enjoyable Saturday. Once we'd undertaken our usual Sunday morning duties of me and the boys going to St Mary-le-Tower (don't forget it is the SMLT AGM tomorrow evening, so practice will finish at 8.30pm) and Grundisburgh for me to ring and my wife singing in the choir at St Mary's in Woodbridge, we relaxed in front of the TV watching the Miss Marple marathon that is on this weekend, whilst outside it drizzled drearily. I can't envisage today being celebrated with quite as much gusto in eight centuries time as the sealing of Magna Carta is currently!

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Saturday 13th June 2015

In another life, I was privileged to be in such a position that peals of Maximus were the norm. I rang seventeen in both 1999 and 2000, primarily on a Monday night at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, but also around the country at places such as Amersham, Bolton, Cambridge, Peterborough Cathedral and Towcester, as my ringing took on probably its most interesting and exciting form. Since I returned to Suffolk ten years ago though, the numbers of Maximus peals I have rung in have dropped off, though the ringing has been more relaxed and at times more enjoyable for it. That's not to say the county is a backwater of twelve-bell ringing. We're never going to be ringing the numbers rung in some parts of the country where they have more twelve-bell towers and as result often more well-practiced twelve-bell ringers, but over the years we have had a decent record at this level, with seven peals of Maximus rung for the Guild as recently as 2006 and there were ten rung just in 2000. However, the numbers of peals involving twelve working bells rung by both the SGR and myself has gradually slowed, to the extent that the last one in our name was rung in November 2013 and my last one was almost two years ago in September of the same year.

Until today...

The Norman Tower.For this morning with the (hopefully) soon to be graduated Alex Tatlow at the helm, we successfully negotiated a 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise on our youngest twelve, The Norman Tower. Encouragingly, I noted eight of the band were younger than me and combined we produced a decent effort that finished confidently. It wasn't an entirely resident band and unusually for these days I added three new names to my peal records, with varying of degrees of familiarity. I didn't really know much about Helen Mansley for example, other than that she was a ringing colleague of AWT in Bristol, but she did tremendously well in her first on twelve.

Yorkshire Surprise Maximus band.I'd never - to my knowledge - met Laura Davies before, but I felt like I knew her, partly through the occasional Facebook thread usually at the expense of George Salter. Primarily though, this young Worcester ringer has built up a fine reputation as a ringer of back bells and whilst the 13cwt tenth wasn't the biggest challenge she's had, it was a joy to experience her effortless ringing this morning. I hope she doesn't mind me saying, but she doesn't look like a pealer of big bells, petite as she is and whilst some strength is required to ring round the back at the heavyweight twelves at the cathedrals of Southwark and Worcester as she has done or to become the first 'wench' to peal Hereford Cathedral tenor, she is further proof that technique is all important. That isn't meant as a patronising, 'doesn't she do well for a girl' way either. There are and have been many fine female ringers of heavy bells, not least the late, great Alison Regan, who I'm sure Laura must have learnt a lot from. Rather, she joins the likes of Andrew Mills in showing that it is how you handle a tenor rather than how hard you pull it.

Completing the trio of newbies though was someone I have known for a couple of decades. Matthew Dawson was one of dozens of children on Rambling Ringers when the Munnings first joined the tour in 1994, brought along by his father George who many reading this will know. However, before this morning, I hadn't seen him for many years, so it was great not just to finally ring my first peal with him, but to catch up with him before and after, as the majority of the band convened in The Dog & Partridge for a drink afterwards.

Ringing at Ardleigh on the Pettistree outing.It wasn't the only peal of the day for the Guild today either, as 2hrs35mins worth of Doubles was rung at Monewden and I'm sure there was a lengthy session in the pub after that, but for me my post-peal drink was but a brief one, as I needed to get to somewhere else on one of those busy days I so enjoy. For whilst I was pealing, Ruthie was valiantly occupying the boys by taking them on the Pettistree outing to Essex, thanks to her mother's generosity with a lift. By the time I caught up with them, they were approaching the final tower of day, Ardleigh. Despite running slightly late due to a double-booking at the previous ring of Galleywood that saw them have to wait for a Christening to finish first and an initial electricity issue that Stephen Cheek very ably dealt with at the 13cwt eight that was the climax of the outing, I was able to partake in a decent half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Major (I hope I've got the hang of Yorkshire now!) in a curtailed session.

Guests gathered at Sproughton Village Hall for Dad's 70th birthday party.Sandy Jones entertaining Alfie.Dad's Birthday cards.Dad's Birthday cake... ...and Dad cutting it!Ruthie, Mason, Alfie and me at Dad's birthday party.

Even then our day was not at an end, as following a brief freshening up at home, we made our way to - with all due respect to our previous engagements - the most fun part of the day, joining a large crowd of familiar faces at Sproughton Village Hall to celebrate my father's recent seventieth birthday. Hopefully he enjoyed himself and was heartened by the obvious affection he is held in, shown not just in the huge numbers in attendance, but also the messages of goodwill that followed on from the footnote attributed to our success in Bury St Edmunds and sizeable collection of presents and cards he received, though in a nice touch he requested donations to EACH. Members from across the county were there, as well as neighbours, Aunty Marian and Northamptonshire ringer and longtime family friend Len Hallifax, who along with my brother Chris and his wife-to-be Becky had generously helped my parents set everything up. That help was much appreciated, as were the efforts of Ralph Earey in arranging the music and those who helped pack everything away, but it was mother for whom most of the credit must go to for making the arrangements. It was a great evening for a deserving cause. Happy Birthday again Dad - I'm glad we were able to ring a peal of Maximus for you!

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Friday 12th June 2015

Mason with the class bear Alvin.The day started with Alfie getting a cut lip after getting a little too cocky with his walking, meaning a reassuring visit to the nurse at the local doctors was in order and ended with Mason triumphantly revealing Alvin, the class bear won by a different pupil each week for good behaviour and achievements and coveted by the eldest son for some months and which he had finally deservedly won this week for being well behaved and "not whinging" (in his own words). Well done Mason!

The feel-good factor continued elsewhere in Suffolk, as quarters of Cambridge Surprise Major and Plain Bob Minor were rung at Rendham and Tannington, to finish the day better than it began!

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Thursday 11th June 2015

A quick journey through the corridors of Google appears to suggest that not a lot happened on 11th June 1945. The Second World War had finished in Europe only a few weeks earlier, but was still to continue in the Far East for another couple of months and the technological all-seeing eye of the world wide web can tell you it was a Monday and there have been 866 full moons since then.

St Mary-le-Tower.Debenham.Offton.Sproughton.Grundisburgh.

But of course, it was a significant date for the Munnings family as my father Alan was born to well-known ringer Jack and his wife Lilian. Seventy years on and he is now a much loved father, grandfather, father-in-law and husband and friend to many, particularly through ringing and his dedication to the Suffolk Guild, something that was recognised at the AGM in Felixstowe in April when he was one of many deserving recipients of long-service certificates. Rarely is a Guild or South-East District event held where he and my Mum aren't present and as the ringers of St Mary-le-Tower, Debenham, Offton, Sproughton and Grundisburgh will tell you, their regular support is much appreciated. Nearly everything he does in ringing is for someone else's benefit and he gave up peal-ringing before I was born, but he has notched notable personal achievements on the end of a rope along the way, not least being part of the spliced-Surprise Major peal-band at Grundisburgh of the early 1970's that peaked at an impressive twenty-four methods, something that I and many others can only aspire to at the moment!

I rang him this morning to send my felicitations, but God willing, celebrations including a peal attempt and party lay ahead on Saturday to mark the landmark age, so for today his treats were limited to a visit into town to mend one of his presents and a trip out to Ufford for the Surprise Major practice, where he and mother were joined by a decent crowd that included Philip Gorrod and Ruthie, whilst I babysat Alfie.

Meanwhile, well done to Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of London Scholars' Pleasure Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 at Tostock and Happy Birthday as well to soon-to-be-sister-in-law Becky Munford and also Maggie Ross on a busy day of birthdays for Suffolk's ringers! But most of all, Happy Birthday Dad!

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Wednesday 10th June 2015

When the weather is nice, this time of year is magnificent. Compared to the short, cold, dark days of midwinter when daylight goes missing either side of a day at work, the long, sunny days of June seem abundant with freedom, in terms of both the huge outdoor arena which is now more enticing and the illusion of the extra time that we feel we have to take advantage of it. From the warming glow of the sun already up for several hours when we awake making rising from our slumber a lot more bearable, to the beautiful sunsets as it finally dips below the horizon as 10pm approaches, there is something distinctly dreamy about the time of year. After all, when people reminisce about their youth, it is often done against a backdrop of 'those hazy summers.' And here in Suffolk of course, we have the best scenery in which to fully appreciate it, with wide open skies sitting atop the fields, hedgerows and forests of our local landscape, with pretty villages, cottages and churches dotted throughout.

Just such a scene was enough to entice Alfie and me to join Ruthie for a now rare foray out to Pettistree practice tonight. Since the start of the year, we have been taking it in turns to go out ringing, with Alfred's bedtime getting earlier - it wouldn't be fair on him or our ringing colleagues for him to be trapped in a ringing chamber when he needed to get to sleep, with all the disruption that would accompany such a scenario. However, on a lovely evening like this, the session upon the ground-floor six at SS Peter & Paul, with the church and churchyard laid out in front of AJM to explore with his new-found ability to walk was - as a one-off treat - perfect for him, as it was for his older brother Mason when he was that age and he was even agreeable to popping over to The Greyhound, though eventually even the li'l chap had to succumb to his tiredness.

It followed on from a successful quarter-peal beforehand that my wife had partaken in and climaxed with some excellent spliced Doubles and Minor, something I've missed doing in recent months!

Hopefully the sunshine and good vibes will continue to the 27th when the National 12-Bell Striking Contest Final is held up the A140, an event given tremendous coverage today in the Norwich Evening News with an article - which can be found via the SGR Twitter feed - featuring former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd who now holds that position at the host tower St Peter Mancroft. It is another superb bit of PR from our friends in Norwich for a day that - God willing - will be a magnificent way to enjoy a magnificent time of year.

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Tuesday 9th June 2014

The main focus of our monthly company meeting at John Catt this morning was the ill-health of the various pot plants dotted around the office, which intimates that things weren't at their busiest at JCEL. Nothing could be further from the truth of course, as several successful publications get pushed through and we in the sales team valiantly try and contact as many independent schools as we can before they wind down for the summer holidays in the coming weeks.

Euston.That was in stark contrast with my evening in with Ruthie and Alfie, but other bellringers were busier in the county today, as a band made up predominantly of our friends from north of the Suffolk-Norfolk border rang a peal at the wonderfully isolated estate church of St Genevieve at Euston. There have also been other performances within our midst over the course of the last couple of days that I remissly missed mention of in my blog entries, with a 1300 of Doubles rung for Evensong at Pettistree on Sunday and an appropriately lengthened 1268 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Grundisburgh rung yesterday. The latter was in fact a lost peal that followed on from another loss last week, but was nonetheless heartening for the appearance of Adrian 'Arnie' Knights, for whose sixty-eight birthday the attempt was in aide of. It was nice to see something was scored and to hear that everyone had a good time after both attempts!

Not sure if pot plants would have come up in conversation though.

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Monday 8th June 2015

If not so grounded, Craig Gradidge was in danger of not getting his head out of the St Mary-le-Tower ringing chamber this evening! As the afterglow of Saturday's super performance overflowed into tonight's practice where a number of the band were present, and Jed Flatters and David Potts had quite rightly been congratulated on the parts that they played in leading us, attention turned to Craig, who trebled so superbly at Wisbech two days ago. Not only was his contribution to our second place finish noted but also the progress he has made in recent weeks and months. The superlatives aimed in his direction were also offered up for Clare Veal and George Salter who partook in the Suffolk Guild's entry to the 2015 Ridgman Trophy too, but they weren't at SMLT on this occasion so missed out on their deserved tributes. However, their continued rise and that of other youngsters in the SGR bodes well for the future, God willing.

On a sunny midsummer's evening and with a non-ringing visitor watching on fascinated, it all made for a very positive session, even if Little Bob Maximus took an absurd amount of time to get right. There was an eclectic repertoire, from Plain Hunt on Nine to London Surprise Royal (No.3), as David continues to guide people along the daunting path onto ten and twelve-bell ringing. All very enjoyable.

Of course it all spilled over into the pub, which following a successful recce last week saw us spurn The Cricketers and reconvene in its Wetherspoon's counterpart just yards away across the Tower Ramparts Bus Station, The Robert Ransome. Having experienced The Mulberry Tree frequently over the last year or so due to Wethersppon's ban on children after 9pm and its proximity to Ron's bagpipe class - I had neither him or Kate with me tonight - I have often wondered why we have stuck with what has become the default watering hole post-ringing for several years. Yes the beer is cheaper, but the clientele have sometimes left a lot to be desired (a view they no doubt shared of us!), it takes an obscene amount of time to get served and generally feels a bit shabby and all after dodging the traffic to get across the busy Crown Street that separates the church and pub. Not that it is a terrible venue (there are pubs that you simply wouldn't advocate anyone going in and it isn't one of those), but it has been all the more baffling that we have continued putting up with all its faults as we have had to walk past the RR to get to the Big C, which although part of the same company and almost literally a stones throw away feels a much more pleasant location for our weekly convivialities. There was much more space, has a cleaner appearance, better atmosphere, still retains that cheaper pricing, we got served immediately and it is less dangerous to walk to. In addition, from our spot in the spacious upstairs that I had last been to after the Symphony of Bells four years ago, we had a fantastic view of Ipswich's civic church.

After a pint of May Bee (sadly at 6.0%, the aptly named Maximus was far, far too strong to drive home on!), I left my friends and associates to ponder bells, next year's competitions and to shrink heads.

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Sunday 7th June 2015

St Mary-le-Tower.St Lawrence.Grundisburgh.

Following our busy day of ringing, competing, socialising and travelling yesterday, today was an altogether more sedate affair. There were positive vibes at St Mary-le-Tower, St Lawrence and Grundisburgh where some of the band who represented Suffolk so well yesterday were partaking in the Sunday morning circuit, but nothing particularly extraordinary to report from the ringing itself, though it was good to see George Pipe in the ringing chamber at SMLT.

Wallington.Other than that, our day consisted of a family BBQ that didn't really materialise as a BBQ but was enjoyable nonetheless, so I was delighted to hear of the personal ringing anniversary of Mike Whitby, who today marked the day exactly forty years on from his first peal, rung at Wallington in his native Hertfordshire with a 5040 at the same venue with all bar one of the original band. Mike of course is now well ensconced as a bona fide legend in these parts, often to be found encouraging learners and others at District and Guild events, through quarters and peals, at practices and in striking competitions, including as a vital member of our band in Wisbech in The Ridgman Trophy. It is all carried out in good humour, laced with gravity when needed, making him a very approachable man for ringers of all abilities, so I'm very pleased for him on this otherwise quiet, nondescript day.

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Saturday 6th June 2015

In a far-off foreign land, ten brave warriors prepared on behalf of their people to battle an army of vast numbers to win the approval of the House of David. They acquitted themselves valiantly, but ultimately the favour of David and his empress Caroline went to the tribe of Ely.

SS Peter & Paul, Wisbech.OK, so I may have over-egged the Suffolk Guild's participation today in the Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell striking competition for territorial ringing associations bordering the Ely Diocesan Association, including us. However, although pompously overblown, there were aspects of the above on show for the occasion. We - and most other teams - had traveled some distance, at least in the context of what is essentially an East Anglian contest, as we traversed the byways - good and bad - of the glorious countryside of our region for the best part of two hours to get to Wisbech, location of the 2015 gathering, a place with the feel of a true outpost, sitting in a small pocket of Cambridgeshire squeezed in one direction by Norfolk and in the other by Lincolnshire, The Wash just a few miles away. And we were in metaphorical opposition to seven other teams and seventy ringers to challenge for the impressive trophy that the SGR hasn't won since it triumphed in 1993 AND 1994, as we attempted to impress David House and his wife Caroline with a half-course of Cambridge Surprise Royal, whilst they sat exposed at the bottom of the tower after their gazebo had blown away! Ultimately, we did indeed acquit ourselves valiantly and finished second behind the hosts who featured a number who should be representing Cambridge as one of the favourites to usurp the dominant Birmingham team at the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in Norwich in three weeks time.

The Suffolk Guild band waiting in the ringing chamber at Wisbech to ring.The Suffolk Guild band waiting in the ringing chamber at Wisbech to ring. Listening in the churchyard.Some of the band in the church hall after ringing.Awaiting the results in the church hall.

But of course this wasn't war, but rather one of the many social highlights that bellringing can offer if you allow it, as we whiled away the afternoon chatting with familiar faces from across the vast area that makes up the competitors who had gathered here. Ruthie and I enjoyed catching up with Sue Marsden (and reluctantly offered up our congratulations to her football team of choice on their recent promotion), David and Henry Pipe and Phillip Orme from the eventual victors, John Loveless and Linda Garton from the Bedfordshire Association, Anne and Paul Bray, Colin and Vicki Chapman and David Rothera from the Essex Association, Jennie Paul, Brenda Dixon and Alan Marks from the Peterborough Diocesan Guild and Les Townsend from the Lincoln Diocesan Guild, among many others and of course the enjoyable company of our teammates, predominantly in the church hall where tea, food and even beer from the local Elgood's Brewery were available for a reasonable donation, but also in the churchyard. This was a marvelous occasion hosted magnificently by the locals who even went beyond the call of duty by looking after Mason and Alfie whilst we both rang and which also included open ringing at Wisbech St Mary (though not Walsoken after a lock-out) that others from our compliment took advantage of. It was bellringing at its best and congratulations to the Ely DA.

We also came away feeling very satisfied with our performance and result. True, this is a competition that we are long overdue to win and which is within our capabilities of triumphing in and it would be nice to complete the 'family' from six to twelve if I get asked to ring again, but I know from my own time as Guild Ringing Master how difficult it is to gather ten disparate ringers from across a county as large as ours and get enough practice in to mould a band coherent enough to challenge the top of the leaderboard. Jed Flatters very nearly managed that with his last Ridgman as our RM and is to be given much credit not just for this year's very credible effort but for putting a proper emphasis on the contest that I hope his successor continues, as does David Potts for his conducting and guidance.

However, particular note needs to go to the youngsters in the band, Craig Gradidge, Clare Veal and George Salter on their debut and who contributed to a youthful vibe that ran through the entrants generally and bodes well for the future of the competition and more importantly ringing in East Anglia.

Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Helmingham.Even following the results, that wasn't the end of our day's ringing, as we dashed back to the homeland for the South-East District Practice at Helmingham this evening, but despite the presence of ourselves and others who had come straight from Wisbech there was still a large of proportion of the membership missing who could've benefitted from or helped with this useful event and probably could've made it. That said, much was rung from call-changes to Bristol Surprise Major on this famous 17cwt eight and on a beautiful summer's night the eldest son and his contemporary Henry Salter made the most of the surroundings! It was nice too to see local ringers there.

It was a satisfying end to a pleasant day's warring.

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Friday 5th June 2015

Dame Edna Everage. That is the only Edna that we know of. So as Alfie munched on sand, pulled a face to suggest it wasn't pleasant and then consumed another handful as we collected him from nursery, there was no answer to the question from the staff there, "who's Edna?" For the li'l chap has learnt how to say Edna and has spent the day asking for her, much to the bemusement of those looking after him at nursery and us.

Earl Stonham.Whether Podge and Liz Christian's grandchild is also asking after her I can't say, but I can say that Aeryn's first birthday was celebrated today by the FNQPC with a 1272 of Plain Bob Minor at Earl Stonham. Edna passes on her congratulations. Whoever she is.

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Thursday 4th June 2015

St Mary-le-Tower.We are a welcoming family at St Mary-le-Tower. As mentioned on this blog frequently, we need as many ringers as possible, not just experienced higher number ringers, but those looking to progress onto ten and twelve and God willing become the future experienced higher number ringers. We cannot survive by being an elite band and we know it, with everyone who now walks through the famous wooden door in the north-east corner of the ringing chamber given an opportunity to ring and learn by Ringing Master David Potts.

However, please don't come along at any point in August this year. Not because we're running a closed shop, but rather because there will be no ringing on Suffolk's heaviest twelve during this traditionally quiet month at all, as the frame is repainted and the clappers for the front eight and sharp second are re-bushed. Though if you are bringing a paint brush, I'm sure you'll be let in!

There were no bells for us this evening either, as Ruthie went out with her work colleagues from John Ives, as they celebrated the memory of Mr Ives, the company's owner who sadly passed away recently. The location was the White Horse at Sibton, such a favourite of the late Mr Ives that there is to soon be a plaque put up in his honour there. Meanwhile, whilst my wife was enjoying Woodforde's Bure Gold and an apparently lovely meal, Alfie and I were having a lads night in, though I was able to do my bit for local ringing by taking a call from some visiting ringers who were visiting Ipswich on their boat for the night. They wanted to know if there was anywhere within walking distance that was practicing tonight, so I was very happily able to point them in the direction of the 14cwt eight at St Margaret. Presumably it was an enjoyable session - as I've usually found it - as I even got a text from them thanking me for my recommendation! I just hope they don't find themselves in town on a Monday in August.

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Wednesday 3rd June 2015

There are towers where it is almost, if not actually impossible to have the bells for a peal and of course we have all heard of occasions when complaints have been made against those partaking in the medium, though that is statistically rare when put in the context of the thousands of peals that are rung across the country and indeed the world every year.

The report on the home page of the reenergised Campanophile of the first ever peal at Cleator Moor in Cumbria by an all-ladies band should offer guidance and inspiration in both sets of circumstances. Though not a rare venue for peals, the bells are apparently very loud outside and as a 21cwt eight anything over 5000 changes is going to be a lengthy affair and therefore quite intrusive to the local community, so the 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major and the story behind it - that it was rung to mark one hundred years since two-hundred-and-fifty women and twenty boys went on strike at the local mill for fairer pay and better working conditions - was well-publicised beforehand and during the 3hrs16mins of ringing, the result being that instead of complaints and bad press, they got compliments and even a box of chocolates! Not only does this show that with the right management no tower should be unpealable due to fear of a backlash, but how such performances can actually be used as great PR!

The rather lighter eight at The Wolery can be heard outside, though only to those stalking the alleyways at the back of Rectory Road's properties or trespassing in their gardens, so publicity isn't necessary for peals here, giving the freedom to ring pretty much when they like, hence it's position as the leading tower for peals in the county in recent years. Our latest one was of King Alfred Surprise Major, a relief to our hosts after several days of ringing Stedman with John Pladdys in Scotland, with 5040's of Doubles at Dunkeld and Stirling, Triples at Paisley, Dunblane and Alloa, a quarter of Caters at Glasgow Cathedral and two of Cinques at the Tulloch Ringing Centre with 5007 a week ago and a 5051 the next day. It all followed on from another peal of Triples at Tadcaster which topped off another busy few days in Yorkshire for the Central Council's annual meeting, with various members of the Salter family ringing in peals at Pontefract, Knottingley, Patrington and Grimsby, with George even finding time to squeeze in a 1259 of Plain Bob Caters at St Mary in Beverley.

Perhaps this hectic schedule explained in part the more sedate pace of this evening's success in Old Stoke, requested beforehand by the conductor as we strive to perfect our ringing as best as possible, as should be the case with all pieces. That said, the best ringing of the peal was when it was at its quickest, and everyone was in the groove, as it ebbed and flowed with life, but overall it was a decent effort in another unfamiliar method, despite the slipping of the trapdoor above our heads with a tremendous bang partway through after it hadn't been put back in place properly by GMS following his seeing to a rope that had slipped wheel before we had even started. It gave a few of us a fair old shock!

Ours wasn't the only success of the night in the county, as you may expect for a Wednesday, with the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree duly scored in a place where the ringing is very much known about in the community and the bells very available!

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Tuesday 2nd June 2015

As the now departing Sepp Blatter, the grieving family of Charles Kennedy and the unfortunate users of The Smiler rollercoaster at Alton Towers will all today testify, the unexpected will always be, well, unexpected.

However, you can at least plan and pray that things go to that plan and Suffolk Guild members have been doing just that, in some cases - as I know from Ruthie the South-East District Secretary - at the expense of much time and occasionally money. It means that God willing there is as usual much lined up for us all over the next few weeks. In the coming days, the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice is booked in for Wednesday evening, the SE District Practice is due to take place on Saturday from 7-8.30pm at Helmingham, all being well the Second Tuesday Ringing will be at Southwold and Blythburgh in exactly a week and four days later the North-West District  Introduction to Conducting at The Norman Tower from 3-5pm and the South-West District Practice at Bildeston later from 7-9.30pm are lined up.

Further ahead, there the National Twelve-Bell Final is on in Norwich on 27th June and the Halesworth ringers have arranged a minibus to the event, leaving Beccles at 9.30am and coming back straight after the trophy presentation. There are a couple of seats available if anyone would like to tag along, so it is well worth getting in touch with if you want to join them in travelling to what will be one of the ringing highlights of the year. If all goes to plan that is!

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Monday 1st June 2015

According to the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers press release sent to me today by their Public Relations Officer Kate Flavell, "Magna Carta mania is starting to sweep the land." I can't vouch for how true that is, but for those interested in the country's history and how we came to be at this point (and I am), this is one of the most significant events logged in the primary school memory bank. And of course ringing is doing its bit. The aforementioned press release brings our attention to planned peal attempts over the second weekend of this month at Guildford Cathedral, St John's in Egham, Barnes, Worcester Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral, whilst there will be ringing along the route that King John took from Odiham to Runnymede, with the bells of the former due to be broadcast on 'Bells on Sunday' on BBC Radio Four at 5.45am on Sunday 14th. Generally that day has been designated the Grand Ringing Day in conjunction with LiberTeas, where communities across the UK and even beyond are being encouraged to organise or attend events to celebrate the momentous anniversary.

Watching this evening The Last Journey of the Magna Carta King, a programme on the subject of King John's final days eight centuries ago, it highlighted the part that Bury St Edmunds and Framlingham played in the lead up to the signing of the Magna Carta and his death, so it is appropriate that the weekend of the 13th and 14th celebrating that which he is most associated with sees peal attempts booked in at both the twelve of The Norman Tower and the eight of St Michael and All Angels, but it would be good to hear from members what other ringing is being done throughout the Guild for the Magna Carta's birthday - please let me know!

The reason I was consuming television about thirteenth century medieval kings was because it was my Monday night in looking after Alfie, whilst Ruthie partook in an apparently well-attended and productive practice at St Mary-le-Tower, which came with glowing references from my returning wife. It is worth noting that the SMLT AGM should be taking place in two weeks time on the 15th and as usual that will mean an early 8.30pm finish to that night's session, so if you are planing to come along to ring then get there early!

That's if you've recovered from Magna Carta mania.

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Sunday 31st May 2015

I have heard much about the fabled Strikeometer at The Norman Tower, but never knowingly experienced it in action and had my striking tested by it. Recollections creep through the haze of my distorted and ailing memory bank of ringing at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London many, many years ago with a similar system in place and more vividly using the simulator at Hollesley where one can test their accuracy alongside an almost infinite number of computerised ringing companions.

The set up at Suffolk's cathedral is different, certainly to that which I have worked with at All Saints' 16cwt eight on the coast. Ringing upon the bells that make up the county's youngest twelve, the 'strikeometer' can measure how accurate the striking of a collective of real human beings is and so I have to admit to being quite daunted as I encountered it first hand for the first time this afternoon. I have won striking competitions before and partaken in some superb ringing with brilliant ringers over the years, but I'm aware that I'm not as sharp as I may have once been, so there was a pang of trepidation when the first half-course of the Cambridge Surprise Royal we were there to practice for ahead of next Saturday's Ridgman Trophy at Wisbech was brought round and set up and we gathered around the laptop to see the results from our electronic judge.

They weren't brilliant and from a personal perspective I was staggered to find that my biggest fault was that my backstrokes were too slow. Anyone who has rung with me will find that hard to believe, with the opposite issue usually being my downfall! It will sound like sour grapes, but this is where I began questioning our robot friend in the corner, especially as in subsequent touches I got the same complaint despite smashing my backstrokes in even more than I usually do. Although no one seemed entirely sure what the machine takes its cue from when setting the standard we should be attaining to, I concluded it probably sets a framework of some sort within which each corresponding bell should fall. If someone is late in front of me, depending on the general structure and quality of the ringing, my habit is to try and accommodate them and avoid any nasty crashes. In this instance however, that seems to mark me down as being slow at backstroke as it appears to judge on where I am in regards to the structure rather than the bell in front of me. Ultimately, what you are looking for is for everyone ringing to the same pace and after a while of this particular session it became clear that we were focusing too much individually on our own marks and not collectively on what we as a band needed to do to improve. It was interesting to note that the two who most consistently came out on top were musicians David Stanford and Ruthie, suggesting that - as I have always believed - that rhythm comes first and then the striking should follow.

From that and my far from spectacular results, you may deduce that I'm not a fan, but actually it was clear that this has its place in refining striking and I was impressed by the depth of analysis that you can go into and there is obviously something in it as the programme is used to help the judges in the National 12-Bell Contest. Today I felt our ringing wasn't cohesive enough to use it to its full potential, but anything that can be used to help focus on striking gets my vote!

Our time spent testing ourselves against RoboJudge was neatly sandwiched between a morning at church in Woodbridge where I helped the ringers before service, and a visit from Alfie's Godmother Fergie as we shared tea and cake. And thank you to Mum and Dad for not only looking after Mason and Alfred as we went to Bury St Edmunds but for putting us up last night.

Theberton.That night in Ashcroft Road was a hangover - as it were - of our activities of yesterday and talking of yesterday's activities, congratulations and well done to Julie Brown on ringing her first quarter in the 1260 of Doubles at Theberton. Happy Birthday as well to former tower captain at this delightful ground-floor ring in its wonderful round tower Dr Ben Powell, who at one hundred years old is the oldest member of the North-East District, so apt that the youngest, Richard Stevens, was partaking in the performance to celebrate the occasion.

Whilst perhaps not as headline grabbing, there were two quarters rung today too, for ringers synonymous with the towers that those quarters were being rung at, with Ray Fordham remembered a year on at Rougham and on a happier note the recent birthday of Alan McBurnie noted at Hollesley. All carried out without the aide of a Strikeometer, for better or worse!

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Saturday 30th May 2015

Whilst Ruthie and my mother were having a girls day out in Norwich for future sister-in-law and daughter-in-law Becky Munford's hen party, the lads and myself had a lad's day with my father doing blokey things like watching the very one-sided FA Cup Final between Aston Villa and Arsenal on the TV. We did also throw in a visit to Aunty Marian and the local park that I grew up with whilst the girlies were having tea, watching Carousel at the Theatre Royal and dining out, but in the main it was a relaxing day at the parent's before I picked up Mrs Munnings and Mrs Munnings from Ipswich Railway Station at the end of their adventures north of the border.

Meanwhile, in Bacton, handbell peals of Surprise Minor and Glazgow Surprise Minor were rung and beyond the borders of Suffolk and even this region, Ewan Hull was conducting his first peal. Impressive in its own right, but especially so when you realise he was calling Stedman Cinques, was ringing his first of Cinques and he is just twelve. He does come from good stock in as much as he is the son of David Hull, one of the best ringers, composers and conductors in the world and always good company, but his efforts in leading the appropriately lengthened 5012 at St Magnus-the-Martyr in London is still a phenomenal achievement. Along with his contemporaries Henry and Alfred Pipe, it seems the years ahead for ringing are bright if they continue as they are.

It's a shame his father's football team lost in the FA Cup Final, but they still provided us with some entertainment on our lads day in!

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Friday 29th May 2015

Wickham Skeith.Congratulations to Peter Davidson on ringing his first peal in the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at Wickham Skeith, the fifth member of the Suffolk Guild to contribute to FirstPeal2015. Making it even more special is that he is the first of the local band to achieve this landmark, achieved on the tenth anniversary of the debut performance in this medium on the restored bells at this ground-floor six. Well done to all concerned, but particularly Peter.

It quite rightly grabs the headlines today, but there were a number of quarter-peals within our borders worthy of mention. The North-West District Quarter-Peal Week again graced the QP columns with another brace of successes, as a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Hopton and 1320 of Ipswich Surprise Minor at Hinderclay were rung simultaneously. Meanwhile in the South-East District, there was a notable score at Henley for the Scase family which does so much for the District, as Tom conducted a 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major that saw his Uncle Mervyn first of Surprise Major inside and which celebrated his parents Jenny and Robert's wedding anniversary. Congratulations Scase family and particularly well done Mervyn!

However, having collected cycling extraordinaire Mason (who gave me a demonstration when I picked him up!), increasingly confident walker Alfie and hard-working Ruthie, we had a typically quiet Friday evening in and raised a glass to Peter!

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Thursday 28th May 2015

It was the second day of the Suffolk Show. The day after dozens were arrested from its hierarchy, the undesirable governing body of world football was collapsing in on itself in a mire of corruption allegations. Maybe the Central Council aren't so bad after all...

There was stuff going on in the world, including on the end of bellropes within our borders, with a talented band representing the Saint James' Guild ringing a peal of London Surprise Major at Bardwell and another talented band ringing a 1296 of Alnwick Surprise Minor at Tostock as part of the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week. Or Weeek as they seem to have very excitedly renamed it. Well done to Stephen Dawson and the Ruth's Suggett and Young on ringing their first in the method. In addition, the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree was scored last night.

For us though, it was a very mundane and quiet day. Ruthie went to a choir practice low on numbers and then we watched wall-to-wall QI.

They were making up for it elsewhere on the planet though.

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Wednesday 27th May 2015

Alfie has delighted us (and at the same time put us on edge!) with his walking abilities. Primarily it is with the aide of someone or a bit of furniture, but the number of steps he is taking without any assistance is increasing each week.

Such feats are something that his big brother Mason wasn't in a position to do as freely at the same age, having spent much of his life at that point in plaster as Ipswich Hospital began the task of straightening out his feet, which were pointing inwards when he was born. When in his casts, he managed to learn the art of that which most of us take for granted whenever we stand up, with helping hand or the nearest sofa, but when those were taken off, he lost his support and had to start again. The operations have continued periodically over the years and more recently have seen him in a wheelchair and prevented him at times from partaking as much as he would like in that which boys of his age do, like running around in the playground, playing football and learning to ride his bike.

So imagine our delight today at seeing - via the medium of a Facebook video posted by his mother - him finally being able to master the latter task entirely unaided. It was a process I recall helping to begin before his trips to Great Ormond Street Hospital took over, so this feels a real success a long time in the making. Well done Mason!

It puts my own exploits entirely in the shade, but they're worth mentioning in a bellringing blog. For tonight we succeeded in ringing a peal of twelve-spliced Surprise Major methods on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower for the second month running and not in entirely easy circumstances. I've mentioned before how peals at the end of the working day aren't the easiest even at the best of times, with only a quick greeting to the family and often no chance to grab a bite to eat before I depart to undertake 5000+ changes of ringing whilst most are putting their feet up. But on this occasion it was made even harder for those of us travelling in with our automobile, as having battled the traffic-light fuelled jams made up of those departing the first day of the Suffolk Show in their thousands and which blocked just about every artery of the town centre, we then had to seek out somewhere to dispose of the car for the next three or four hours, with our usual oasis of close, handy and free parking amongst the Ipswich jungle of restricted and paid parking up to six and even eight o'clock being closed until August whilst building work is carried out.

Trusty stead Aloysius was ultimately found a spot alongside Christchurch Park, which meant a lengthy walk but a pleasant one as I took a brisk short-cut through the green lung of this urban community. It was to all intents and purposes the perfect summer's evening, with the tailend of the beautiful weather that those at Trinity Park had been enjoying extending towards nightfall, as people straddled in a relaxed manner across the vast acres of grass, children played and hobos drunk from tins of strong lager. Even when I had to divert around the closing park after our success at SMLT, the good vibes continued, with many sat outside The Woolpack as daylight was only just succumbing to darkness.

By that point I had partaken in our 2hrs56mins of ringing with a band that unusually had to call upon outside help with a number of the usual 'squad' unable to make it. That help came in an impressive form though, with Tim Palmer from Sheffield stepping in to complete the octet. Some will know Tim as the son of Michael, a conductor of some repute, but it has always been vice versa for me, having first met Mr Palmer Junior during my time in Birmingham and he is a tremendous ringer and well-known in his own right. His increased presence on the peal-ringing scene at the epicentre of ringing excellence coincided with me taking a step back from the medium, so I'd actually only rung three peals with him before this one, but they'd all been on twelve and of high quality, including that special one at St Paul's Cathedral almost ten years ago and his presence tonight came on the back of impressive peals in Phobos Surprise Maximus and forty-nine spliced Surprise Royal methods at the Cathedral of his city of residence in recent weeks.

However, it is worth noting that those that he was joining were of good stock too, with a Past Master of the College Youths, the current SGR Ringing Master, his predecessor, one the county's (and indeed country's) most talented composers, some with a couple of peals of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods under their belts, some who had won three striking competitions since the last time we met and of course the majority of those who partook in last month's success. It shouldn't be a surprise that we scored therefore, but I think it is still a magnificent notch upon the metaphorical ringing bedpost, especially for Maggie Ross for whom this was her most Surprise Major methods. Well done Maggie!

Personally I was chuffed that we had shown that April's peal was no fluke and that the four methods - Ashtead, Cornwall, Lindum and Uxbridge - that had been added to the 'standard' eight had required little or no revision. I certainly feel ready to move onto the next level and I think the squad as a whole are, so it'll be interesting to see what we go for in June.

As is the norm for a Wednesday, our performance wasn't alone within our borders and this time it was accompanied by the 1260 of Doubles at Gislingham, rung to celebrate the birth of Kay and Peter Lucas' first grandchild Daniel. Congratulations to this lovely couple and enjoy the achievements along the way, whether it's him walking, reading or riding a bike!

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Tuesday 26th May 2015

If you've ever wanted to sense what it is like to sit through the annual Central Council of Church Bell Ringers meeting in real-time without actually having to sit through the annual Central Council of Church Bell Ringers meeting, then the closest you'll probably get is by reading the updates on the CCCBR 2015 Meeting's Facebook page as the business in Hull proceeded yesterday. Starting from 9.30am and finally concluding at just before 5pm, you too can see the type of drudgery that I had to sit through for three years and that Veronica Downing, Peter Harper, Stephen Pettman and George Salter now studiously endure on our behalf. Report after report and technicalities abound in the thread, much of which is largely irrelevant to everyday ringing.

The Methods Committee and their decisions were a big debate leading up to this weekend and this seems to have the most substantial entry in the lengthy reporting of proceedings, though perhaps typically nothing much seemed to have been decided except that more consultation and another meeting were needed. The Ringing Trends Committee also appears to have generated more lengthy discussion then other reports.

It wasn't all dull and negative though. The Public Relations Committee's report was positive, including the most recent bit of PR, the service at Holy Trinity in the host city, which was broadcast on Radio Four on Sunday and where ringing and particularly the presence of the Central Council in the area got good exposure, including a blast from the bells at the beginning, all of which got mentioned to Ruthie and me when I met her after church later in the morning!

And it is the work of the committees away from this gathering that will God willing meet in the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild in 2016 and then in Scotland in 2017 that sees the real strength of the CC, if you consider it has any. It was never something that I could commit to in my time on the Council and probably why I found it such an unfulfilling experience. To that end therefore, it is pleasing to see local ringers doing their bit, with Suffolk Guild rep Ronnie elected to the Education Committee and St Mary-le-Tower regular Anne Bray elected to the Biographies Committee, whilst George Salter is already on the Compositions Committee.

As with 'my time', the day was mercifully punctuated with lunch and a cuppa as well as the Ringing World AGM, which this year took on a really critical status. As has been well documented in the RW itself, the publication is in financial trouble inasmuch as it simply can't sustain its current budget in the long-term, hence the proposal to only publish peals and quarters which come with a 'donation', which although postponed from the original start date of 1st June is still due to happen in the next few weeks. Judging from the meeting, it may be that a fortnightly edition rather than the current weekly one is also on the cards. The other interlude that existed when I attended these occasions was the Ringing Foundation meeting, but that is now held on a separate day, which this year is on Saturday 8th August at 2pm, somewhere in central London.

For all that I never enjoyed this most bureaucratic of days out though, it has been interesting to catch up on events in this less wordy report of the day, a snapshot rather than having to trawl through pages and pages of minutes. Or indeed blog entries.

This insight into what was happening at the meeting just over twenty-four hours earlier in the Beverley & District Ringing Society made for a bit of light reading on our traditional evening in, as we waited for a bottle of wine to defrost. Such are the adventures of the parent.

Again, others were more active, with another success for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week recorded, as a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Buxhall which must have been poignant for Andrea Alderton in particular. Elsewhere in the District but not rung for the QP Week as the bands were from beyond our borders, there were two nonetheless impressive quarters rung at Gislingham and Ixworth. Well done to Ann Webb, Katie Wright, Patricia Cresshull, Janet Garnett, David Webb and Ian Cresshull on ringing their most Surprise Major methods in the performance of seventeen of them at the former and to Ann, Patricia and Katie again for their first of Watford Surprise Major at the latter. Meanwhile, there was also a pre-practice success at Offton in Double Norwich Court Bob Major, as the bells of Suffolk rang out on an otherwise nondescript Tuesday.

Such activity felt a little more relevant to local ringing than that meeting up in Hull.

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Monday 25th May 2015

Aside from our feathered 'friends' from up the A140 getting promoted again - my dentist will despair at the amount of times I've had to congratulate them through gritted teeth - it was a very pleasant bank holiday Monday catching up with friends not seen for a while, from meeting up in Elmhurst Park with Mason's Godfather Toby, his fiancée Amy and daughter - and my Goddaughter - Maddie for a picnic, to a curry in Saffron with Maggie Ross and Tim Palmer preceded with pints in The Anchor and The Angel on the way up the hill from the railway station.

Bertie.The latter pair were fresh from a quarter-peal at Wenhaston to celebrate the life of North-East District mascot Bertie the dog who sadly died ten days ago and was a familiar and loveable face at various ringing and drinking get-togethers. He will be much missed.

It was one of a number of quarters rung in Suffolk today, with the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week providing the rest, the headline acts being Clare Veal's first of Surprise as conductor in the success at Great Barton and the entire band ringing their first of Duke Of Norfolk Treble Bob Minor in the 1296 changes of the method at Tostock. There was also a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pakenham, but well done particularly to Clare, Andrea, David, Lesley, Neal, Josephine and Stephen on their respective achievements.

And sigh, well done to Norwich City too...

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Sunday 24th May 2015

A different view of St Mary-le-Tower.For the last few days it has felt like the only time I've got out of the house is to go to work. So it was great to get out and about today. It was particularly good to be ringing again having not touched a bellrope for a week, as with parking permit now in hand and a new view of the tower from the Ipswich & Suffolk Club car-park taken in I took the boys along to St Mary-le-Tower so I could partake in Sunday morning ringing on the county's heaviest twelve. Not that we rang on all twelve, as we were unusually short, though there was some decent ringing on the back eight and ten.

The story wasn't any better at Grundisburgh numbers-wise, but as with at our previous location we weren't short on endeavour, with the ringing here climaxed with a well-rung course of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six.

That was it for us from a ringing perspective however, though others were doing more within our borders. Well done to Craig Gradidge on ringing his first of treble dodging Royal in the 1284 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower and to Simon Frost and Stephen Dawson on their first of Triples inside and first of Plain Bob Triples respectively and congratulations to Neal Dodge on circling the tower in the 1260 at Bardwell as the 2015 North-West District Quarter-Peal Week gets under way, whilst there was also a quarter of Doubles at Pettistree.

For us though, it was the start of what God willing will be a couple of days of catching up with friends not seen for too long, as we paid a visit to the new abode of Ruthie's school friend Vicky and her fiancé Gavin in Ufford, the top of the tower at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary that holds the 13cwt eight here in sight, standing tall over the trees now fully fledged in their greenery in this rural idyll. With this being a BBQ, there was rain of course, but it didn't spoil an afternoon of catching up and Mason leading the games.

It was great to get out.

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Saturday 23rd May 2015

A quiet week for us was topped off with a quiet Saturday.

Ruthie went to work to discover that dear old Mr Ives, the owner of her employers, sadly passed away yesterday, whilst travellers invaded the Budgens car-park in Woodbridge with dozens of caravans for the morning. But for me and the boys it was a day in at home.

Still, at least other ringers were busier within our borders. Well done to David and Lesley Steed on completing the 'standard forty-one' Surprise Minor methods to quarters, with successes in Bamborough at Monewden, Coldstream at Ashbocking and Kelso at Clopton. In addition, well done to Ann Webb on ringing her first in the method in the first two aforementioned performances and to her husband David as well as Katie Wright on ringing their first in the 1320 rung at the 5cwt gallery-ring six at St Mary, all part of a busy band that also rang Newcastle at Pettistree.

Meanwhile, the handbell band in Bacton repeated their impressive 5040 of one-hundred and sixty-eight Doubles methods and variations with a peal in 1hr39mins today. Not so quiet for them!

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Friday 22nd May 2015

So, did the earth move for you? This morning's earthquake may have emanated from that hotbed of tectonic trauma Kent and measured only 4.3 on Richter scale (roughly about 260,000 times weaker than the one that caused such devastation in Nepal last month), but it was apparently felt as far away as here in Suffolk, with 'terrifying' reports of mythical burglars, vibrating picture frames and shaking "crystal dangly bits on the lights" relaying the terror of those who didn't - like us - just sleep through the whole thing. When I lived in Wolverhampton, I was just miles from the epicentre of the great Dudley earthquake of 2002 which measured a massive 5.0 on the aforementioned scale and woke me by rattling the radiators vigorously but failed to bring down my oft-criticised pile of clean washing-up, so I can't quite imagine how distressing this particular quake could have been for those hundreds of miles away from its centre, but I suppose it gave the local media something to talk about!

Ashbocking.As such, life went on, including on bells within our borders, as the FNQPC continued through the carnage by ringing a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Ashbocking, whilst we collected Mason for the long bank holiday weekend, as we all struggled to carry on from the great Kent earthquake of 2015.

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Thursday 21st May 2015

Inspection negotiated uneventfully, normal life could break out as Ruthie went to choir practice, whilst I put Alfie to bed.

Grundisburgh.As is now also the norm for the third Thursday, there was a practice at Grundisburgh. Whilst our usual arrangements on the fourth working day of the week makes it difficult for us to get along to the little wobbly red-brick tower for their bi-weekly sessions, I know Joanna Crowe would appreciate any support people can provide and it offers a tremendous opportunity for learners and improvers of all abilities to progress on numbers up to twelve in a venue less daunting and bells much lighter than St Mary-le-Tower and The Norman Tower, though as I mentioned last week, all are welcome there too.

There was progress being made elsewhere as well, with a quarter within our county's borders involving ringers who often ring in Suffolk, but within the NDA's geographical dominion at Pakefield with Andrew, Craig and Diana Leach ringing their first of spliced Surprise Major and Stephen Rabong calling his first of the same. Meanwhile, well and truly within our midsts at Brandeston, Chris McArthur, Hilary Stern and Geoffrey Durrant were ringing their first of Oxford Treble Bob Minor in what must have been a poignant performance for the latter pair. Well done to Andrew, Craig, Diana, Stephen, Chris, Hilary and Geoffrey on your achievements.

Like us now, you can hopefully relax, for a little while at least!

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Wednesday 20th May 2015

There are of course advantages to renting rather than owning your own house. Not having to worry about paying for and doing those big jobs, like replacing the boiler or fixing the roof. Being able to quickly fend off cold-callers when they ask if I am the owner of the home. The ability to move without all the hassles that come with selling and buying a property, with chains and solicitors getting involved and the inevitable fees that come with that.

However, there are plenty of negatives too. Essentially throwing money away every month rather than it going towards paying a mortgage off and - as we discovered to our cost a  couple of years ago - the potential of getting pushed out from under your own roof through no fault of your own. Another aspect is the inspection. Rather than just meandering along living in your abode, dealing with things as and when you are able, there is periodically a big rush to make sure that everything within 'your' walls is shipshape and in accordance with demands. To be fair, we are fortunate with our landlords and letting agent in that they have been nothing but fair and responsive with us since we moved in over a year ago, but with such an inspection due for tomorrow morning, this evening was spent ensuring the place looked respectable and that there wasn't any damage that we could fix!

As such, it meant another night in on a week that looks like it is going ringing-free. I can't say I enjoy such weeks. I like to get out, though since Ruthie and I can't step out together in the evening these days it's not quite the same anyway. But needs must. Besides, they seemed to cope at Pettistree without us, at least judging by the pre-practice quarter that celebrated Mike Whitaker's 78th birthday. Happy Birthday Mike!

Meanwhile, there was also success at Preston St Mary, where Stephen Dawson and David Howe were ringing their first blows of Sandiacre Surprise Minor in the 1320 of it today.

Hopefully we'll be able to pop out of our rented mansion to join you all again soon!

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Tuesday 19th May 2015

Red tape and bureaucracy are sadly familiar to many of us, but according to an article in The Telegraph on Monday but not seen by me until today, the disease was taken to extremes by the Co-operative Bank when the ringers of Chartham in Kent wanted to move their tower account to them. Apparently they were made to fill out a 'FATCA' form which probed them on issues such as their involvement with the nuclear power industry, before they were then asked for a letter of reference from the vicar and finally it was demanded of them the names, addresses and date of birth of all the ringers at this 13cwt six in a case of overkill and irrelevance akin to requesting your mobile phone statement and the deeds to your house the first time you buy a pint in a pub. The crazy thing is that the Co-op were operating entirely within their legal requirements, so whilst I'm sure there's more to this story than meets the eye, it may be something for treasurers to consider and take into account, when they are considering moving their account.

No red tape involved in the ringing successes in Suffolk this evening, as Peter Stock quickly followed his first and second quarters with his first on a working  bell in the pre-practice 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at the scene of his previous triumphs, Offton. From the rural idyll and wide open spaces of that pretty village to the tightly packed terraced houses of Old Stoke, where the other recorded performance of the night within our borders was taking place, as an impressive peal of spliced Surprise Minor in twenty-six methods was taking place at The Wolery - Happy Birthday Clare! And not a nuclear power station involved anywhere.

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Monday 18th May 2015

Twitter isn't really my thing. One hundred and forty characters for someone who rambles as excessively as me would probably be a very frustrating experience, but of course we do have an informative and interesting Guild account, run by Neal Dodge. Typically it posts links to the peals and quarters being rung in Suffolk, but increasingly it has featured photos from various events, has been sharing ringing news and generating conversation. Pictures from SGR get-togethers like last month's AGM at Felixstowe and Saturday's Striking Competitions appear, Johann Tasker shared some images and words on Polstead's ringing for VE Day recently and a photo of The Vestey Ring outside St Peter's Mancroft in Norwich for the Bank Holiday weekend tercentenary celebrations of the earliest recorded true peal was brought to our attention.

Pleasingly, there is also positive comment from non-ringers and last week a message from the account belonging to the Castle Bromwich ringers in the West Midlands that congratulated us on the quality of our ringing! It should act as a reminder that we do alright in our ringing. We don't reach the dizzying heights that those at the upper echelon of the art do, but we should be grateful that we're not in as sorry a state as some other comparable ringing organisations. You hear of striking competitions with just three teams participating and see few peals rung and many reports of occasions like outings seem to consist entirely of dwindling numbers of grey-haired retirees, whilst their websites are often quite dry and often very out of date.

Within our borders though, we have a sizeable - albeit I wish it was larger - proportion of the membership which is very active, with big turnouts at most District and Guild events, ringing regular peals and quarters, we have proactive and busy youngsters, that Twitter account, a well-used Facebook page and - in my humble opinion at least - the best ringing website around, chocca with goings on, pictures and links, regularly updated. There are things we could be doing better. As I understand it, there will be no entry from us this year in the National Youth Striking Competition, which I hope will be rectified for 2016. Whilst their officers are responding to it magnificently, the apathy towards striking competitions in the North-West District is something that will hopefully be overcome by the current project to focus on striking. And the dramatic decline in the numbers of peals rung under our name is very worrying.

In all cases, it will need a greater number of members doing a little more, rather than the same few doing a lot more. For example, Ruthie and I have done much in the past and continue to do what we can, but we have had to cut back since Alfie was joyfully introduced into our lives, which means that only one of us can go out ringing in the evening. Tonight was my wife's turn to go to St Mary-le-Tower, but a combination of her not feeling 100%, Kate and Ron not going out, the need to make sure our house is in order for an inspection later in the week and a fallen tree that blocked the main route through Woodbridge over the afternoon rush-hour and turned the town into a huge car-park all contributed to us instead having a night in after a miserable day of autumnal weather.

Still, I guess the fallen tree kept Twitter busy for a while, even if we didn't.

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Sunday 17th May 2015

A first quarter or first peal is a notable achievement. It will have been the longest that that person has rung, a test of stamina and mental focus that by making it to 'that's all' means they have passed that test, a culmination of months and sometimes even years of practice, occasionally going backwards, disappointments and low moments along the way. It is all made worthwhile when you set your bell afterwards and are able to relax and look back on what you have just achieved, whether that is in amazement, with satisfaction or both! And don't underestimate how much it means to those who have taught and guided them along the way.

So to get one of each in Suffolk today is special. Congratulations to young Emma Goodchild on ringing her first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Hollesley and on the other side of the county to Kevin Ward on contributing to FirstPeal300 by ringing his first peal in the 5040 of the Triples extension of the same method at Hadleigh. Well done too to Emma's mother Clare on ringing her first inside, but the stars of the show are her daughter and Kevin. Hopefully they are both the first of many!

Emma seems to have benefited from the opportunities that ringing at the 16cwt eight at All Saints by the coast offers, which includes outings and striking competitions, including being a part of the victorious band representing her home tower in the South-East District call-change competition for the David Barnard Memorial Trophy at Monewden a couple of weeks ago.

We are - as you may have noticed - in the midst of the striking competition season. As mentioned, the SE have held theirs, as has the North-East District and the Guild competitions were enjoyed yesterday. The North-West District are admirably tackling the apathy that has gripped them in regards to the medium in recent years with a striking project and the South-West District will be holding theirs at Nayland on Saturday 27th June, the same day that some of the world's finest participants of the exercise will be competing against each other in Norwich in the National Twelve-Bell Final.

Then there is the Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell competition for ringing associations in East Anglia and due this year to be held at St Peter & St Paul in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire on Saturday 6th June. Personally this has been the elusive one. I have been extremely blessed over my ringing 'career' to have won striking competitions on six, eight and twelve, but ten has eluded me. However, it is also a competition the SGR is capable of triumphing in. For all that there is a lot of very accomplished ringers in the east, with the Cambridge and Norwich bands inspired by Davids Pipe and Brown being regulars in the final of the aforementioned Twelve-Bell and the Bedfordshire Association led by the likes of Andrew Keech and John Loveless having dominated this contest over the last decade, there is talent within our borders and we have been runners-up a number of times in recent years. Often though, our lack of preparation has left us down. Guild Ringing Master Jed has had trouble getting a county-wide band together in their entirety to practice enough for the big day and I had the same problem when I preceded him in the role, which is entirely understandable, but not ideal.

With that in mind, I was pleased that part of this evening's special monthly practice at St Mary-le-Tower was put aside to prepare for the contest in just under three weeks time, as we ran through a couple of half-courses of Cambridge Surprise Royal, the test piece on this occasion. I can't say it went entirely as we hoped, with too many method mistakes and indecisiveness over the best speed, which might be expected as we anticipate how we may ring on a set of bells that are 15cwt lighter than the back ten at SMLT. Generally though, it is positive that we are identifying and then hopefully ironing out these issues before we ring for the judges.

The session also saw us ring a touch of Stedman Caters to be recorded by George Pipe's cousins to send to Australia for the family of their cousin Miriam, who learnt to ring at Grundisburgh and moved to Brisbane in the 1950's and who recently died agonisingly seventh months short of her century, but our primary purpose as always was to complement what we do on a Monday night and to that end it was a reasonable hour-and-a-half - many thanks to Mum and Dad on looking after Mason and Alfie whilst we rang!

Mason watching the Woodbridge 10k from the East Coast Diner.Earlier in the day I took the boys up to the ringing chamber of Woodbridge's 25cwt eight where I helped man the front six for morning service ringing before then attending the service itself. And once in town we decided to hang around for the annual 10k run that takes runners meandering through the winding streets of the centre, enjoying a good vantage point from the East Coast Diner that came highly recommended by the Suffolk Young Ringers following their visit there a couple of months ago! Whilst in there, we of course took advantage of the food on offer, munching our way through as we watched hundreds of exhausted participants trudge heroically past the window, helped on no doubt by Mason looking out for his teacher as he held a hot dog and milkshake!

In all seriousness though, such dedication to raise money for various worthy causes is to be congratulated. As are Emma and Kevin!

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Saturday 16th May 2015

I awoke a bag of nerves. That uncomfortable feeling in the pit of the stomach that unsettles you, that distracts you and makes you feel slightly unwell.

No, not for the big match at Carrow Road that saw an entirely predictable outcome and which I had absolutely no control over. Rather, it was for the Guild Striking Competitions at Rattlesden and Lavenham. These sorts of days out are ones that I look forward to immensely, but despite having rung - and indeed won due to being in the right places at the right times and with the right people - in many, many striking competitions, I still feel on edge ahead of ringing competitively. Take your mind off the task in hand for just a moment and it can be the difference between winning or not and whilst the results are not the most important aspect of the contests, I never like to let others in the band down.

So come the end of a wonderful day out in the South-West District, I felt relieved to not only have got through the day without making any more of a fool of myself than I usually do, but to have come out on the winning side twice, in the Mitson Shield and The Rose Trophy, both with St Mary-le-Tower, as well as partaking in the Pettistree bands that finished as runners-up in both. Of course we weren't the only winners on the day, with the Rendham & Sweffling call-change team to be congratulated on winning the Lester Brett Trophy.



That said, all the teams of ringers are to be congratulated on contributing to a highly successful day, that saw a total of eighteen bands enter across the three competitions, with limited crossover of members in teams meaning there was a large turnout of ringers and pleasingly every District was represented, giving it the feel of a truly Guild occasion. It was superb to see Woolpit enter and come fourth too, as well as two teams from Great Barton who also did well, with their method team coming fifth out of eight and their call-change team coming second in their respective contests. Additionally, it was fantastic to see the host District enter a team in the eight-bell. Generally though, it was fantastic to get a sizeable representation from the west of Suffolk after last year.

The new format of the six-bell in the morning and eight-bell in the afternoon allowed Mason, Ruthie, Alfie and me the chance to pop over to the Bury St Edmunds abode of my brother Chris and his fiancée Becky to watch as much of the second-leg of the Play-Off Semi-Final against Norwich on the TV as we good, appropriately enough leaving for the 21cwt eight down the A134 as a sending-off for the Tractor Boys and penalty for our East Anglian nemesis finished the game as a contest. Even after last Saturday's encouraging performance and result at Portman Road, I had spent the week expecting the worst from this lunchtime's encounter, so having finally been scuppered by our wealthier neighbours only by a slight turn of fortune, I took the end of our 2014-15 season in a positive stride, hoping for more relaxing Saturday afternoons over the summer before God willing a 2015-16 season as enjoyable - and may be even more so - as the last few months since last August. Despite the unfolding reversal of footballing fortunes on the television, thank you to Mr Munnings and particularly Miss Munford for our fine sustenance.

Such devotion to following - one needs to remind our friends from north of the Waveney - what still remains the most successful football team from this region, did mean that we had to forsake what was apparently a fantastic and well-received spread at the village hall at the first venue, as well as the results, which did lead to much confusion as we arrived at the post-lunch venue whenever anyone asked who won...

Well done to Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters and his glamorous assistant Rowan on organising the day brilliantly, especially in attracting not just two judges, but four and at that four of the very best. Ably led by Philip Wilding, young Henry and Alfie Pipe and their father David popped over the border from Cambridgeshire to deliver some expert and constructive judging. The two youngsters have been stunning the ringing world in recent years with their exploits, whilst their adult helpers are part of the Cambridge band that have been doing extremely well in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition in the last decade. Indeed, DJP has won the biggest competition in ringing ten times, two of which I have been privileged to have shared with him when we won with Birmingham at South Petherton in 2001 and Surfleet in 2003. There can be few more qualified than these guys to judge our competitions and it showed - we were all very grateful to them for taking the time out to offer forward their advice.

They joined us outside The Greyhound down the road from SS Peter & Paul as the sun shone at the end of a format that seemed to work very well and a day that also saw quarters of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Bures and Grandsire Doubles at Orford, the former of which was in memory of local ringer David Reeve. Our thoughts go out to Evelyn.

For us though, our drinks were drunk before we made the long journey back to Woodbridge for cake at Kate's, thoughts already turning to the 2016 competitions, due to be be held in the North-East District on Saturday 21st May. The nerves haven't set in just yet.

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Friday 15th May 2015

A singularly unspectacular Friday as most usually are these days, but nice of course to collect Mason for the weekend.

Others were more productive elsewhere, as a quarter of Plain Bob Major was rung at Rendham and an impressive peal of 168 methods and variations was rung on handbells in Bacton.

God willing it'll be busier tomorrow...

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Thursday 14th May 2015

The endeavours of some ringers were in evidence tonight as I made a now rare trip to the Surprise Major 'Cosy Nostrils' practice at Ufford, with Ruthie having finished at choir early for the Ascension Day service at St Mary's in Woodbridge at the end of an exhausting day nurturing a teething Alfie. On a wet late spring evening, this charming isolated village in the valley resounded to the sounds of Cambridge, Yorkshire and regular, persistent and frustrating attempts at Bristol before the latter finally came round as a climax to the session. It was nice to have Mum and Dad come along, on a night that I hope was useful to the likes of Jo Crowe, Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth, when he wasn't bleeding profusely following a bread-making incident. A dangerous endeavour.

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Wednesday 13th May 2015

Sifting through the myriad of Wednesday evening 'entertainment' thrown up by a multitude of insipid channels, it seems that even television is doing its bit to remind us of this Saturday's Guild Striking Competitions, with the latest repeat of Escape to the Country introduced from in front of Lavenham church, location of course of for the eight-bell contest for The Rose Trophy, following the 2pm draw, if all goes to plan! A pertinent moment to refresh the memory in regards to lunches and teams that both need to be booked in by Thursday to Pauline Brown and Jed Flatters respectively.

However, for all the excitement that the weekend God willing has in store for us, tonight was an altogether quieter affair for me, hence the highlight being a rehash of someone house-hunting. It was - as has become the usual routine - my turn to babysit Alfie as his mother went out to Pettistree practice, bookending the session with a successful quarter-peal and a visit to The Greyhound and other ringers were also more productive than me in a ringing sense today, with a 1344 of Rutland Surprise Major at Hopton and a 5040 of Plain Bob Major at The Wolery.

For now though, don't forget to get those names for lunch and team entries in!

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Tuesday 12th May 2015

Congratulations to Wenhaston on winning the Pat Bailey Shield on home turf in Saturday's North-East District Striking Competition, along with Halesworth on securing the Harry Archer Trophy as runners-up and Reydon and Southwold on winning the Call-Change Trophy. It ought to offer motivation and inspiration to all the teams that partook to represent this talented District at the Guild competitions on Saturday at the rehung and restored Rattlesden.

On that subject, information has been imparted relating to some of the practical arrangements, most notably that there will only be roadside parking in this picturesque village, so allow some time for that before the 10am draw.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I am a big fan of the medium as a way of progressing a ringer's abilities, but there are other ways of course and as a phone call from Richard Walters this evening reminded me, one such example can be found at The Norman Tower on Tuesday 19th May, when the local ringers will be holding an open evening for primarily North-West District members but also anyone else from across the county in a bid to encourage learners to come and have a go on twelve. Both here and at St Mary-le-Tower both have - quite wrongly in my opinion - long-running reputations of being quite unwelcoming venues for those not experienced at ringing on higher numbers. This may hark back to many decades ago when perhaps both towers and ringing generally could afford to be a little more selective on who they allowed to come along, it may be because of the sheer numbers and weight of the bells at these famous urban locations to those maybe more used to ringing on an isolated little six in the countryside, it may be because of the large, daunting ringing chambers that both have, peal boards bedecking all four walls and huge ringing circles with long draughts or combination thereof.

However, empathetic as I am to these reservations, they are quite unwarranted. Both bands are more enthusiastic than ever to welcoming new blood and understand that no one is going to become a ten and twelve-bell ringer without being a chance to give it a go. Each tower has members who came to us as six and eight-bell ringers and are now progressing nicely on ten and twelve. In both belfries those ringers have quickly realised that for all the space, lengths of rope, numbers of bells and heavy metal, this is merely an extension of the skills they have already been developing. So if you have always wanted to try ringing on higher numbers but never plucked up the courage, you know for sure that a warm welcome is awaiting you in Bury St Edmunds in a week's time and indeed every Monday and Tuesday night at Suffolk's twelves. Likewise, if you know of someone in that position, then please prod them to go along.

That's not to say that ringing on eight and below is to be abandoned of course, so it was heartening to see a successful quarter-peal of Stedman Triples completed before Offton's practice, which will hopefully motivate them to partake in Saturday's striking competitions!

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Monday 11th May 2015

I journeyed into Ipswich alone this evening, with my usual travelling companions Kate and Ron having only just arrived back from a weekend away to celebrate the latter's significant birthday. However, that didn't detract from a useful practice at St Mary-le-Tower that whilst low on method repertoire was high on attendance and more importantly high on quality. In recent weeks, Ringing Master David Potts has deliberately restricted what we ring in order to focus on how we ring it and on the basis of tonight it appears to have worked, with David now ready to reintroduce a greater range of method ringing again.


Appropriately therefore, the main topic of the 8.30 notices was the forthcoming Guild Striking Competitions, due to be held at Rattlesden and Lavenham on Saturday. This is of course the first time this event will have been held in the new format, with the six-bell competitions being held in the morning and the eight-bell after lunch, with names for the half-time refuelling needing to go to Pauline Brown, whilst entries for tea are required by Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters by Thursday at the latest.

If all goes to plan, this promises to be a memorable occasion, with friends from across the county gathered for friendly competition and socialising, God willing with sunshine, but certainly in wonderful surroundings in the picturesque South-West District. Hopefully it will be more representative too and not just just a South-East District vs North-East contest, especially as there is the talent to win silverware from the west, as the North-West District showed in last year's Rose Trophy at Helmingham. With the call-change element there is chance for teams who previously may not even have considered entering to not only participate, but also to win something, in the shape of The Lester Brett Trophy. So please, please do get a team together!

By that point our future President Canon Martin Seeley will - all being well - have been ordained and consecrated as the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich in a service at Westminster Abbey on Thursday, for which it appears tickets are still available. Hopefully the beginning of a relationship that if half as good as the one the SGR had with Bishop Nigel will be a fruitful one.

For this evening and with no one to go to The Mulberry Tree with, I made a rare visit to The Cricketers, still a pleasant enough location for a post-practice pint, especially a practice as satisfying as tonight's.

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Sunday 10th May 2015

Quite an ordinary day in the Munnings household. The boys and I went ringing and to church at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, with my application for a parking permit for Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower still sat in the car and I fielded enquiries along the lines of "aren't you that guy from off the tele?" A lawnmower was purchased and put together and as the temperatures begin climbing, a pint was sought in The Duke of York nearby. Such excitement is par for the course for TV celebrities such as I.

Whilst call-changes on five at our nearest ring of bells was my sole contribution to our art today, others were thankfully more active on the end of a bellrope throughout the county. Nationally, the exercise was again a focus for the media's reporting of the VE Day celebrations and once again we in Suffolk were doing our bit, with 840 changes of Grandsire Caters rung at The Norman Tower, 1287 of the Triples variation at Lowestoft which was also Craig Leach's 250th quarter (congratulations Craig!), 5120 of Quex Park Surprise Major negotiated on the coast at at Aldeburgh and a peal of Bristol Surprise Major was rung at another extremity of the county at Bures, which was rung for the big anniversary marked nationally, but was arranged specially to celebrate the life of John Loveless' mother Barbara, who sadly passed away on Boxing Day and was well known and well thought of by many ringers.

It brought to a close a busy weekend of ringing - well done and thank you to all who took part and helped give ringing, ringers and bells a good name, even if we weren't doing much of it ourselves!

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Saturday 9th May 2015

With the taste of hot dogs, burgers and beer prevalent, Mason, my brother Chris and I made the final climb into the arena, a wall of noise increasing in volume until almost deafening as the vast majority of the 30,000 present sang along to 'Singing The Blues' and 'Hey Jude' in unison, a sea of blue and white laid out in front of us, interrupted only by a block of yellow and green in the corner of the ground and a smattering of hi-vis jackets belonging to the many stewards and police present to prevent the trouble that has sadly beset meetings between East Anglia's two most successful teams on previous occasions.

The Championship Play-Offs are amongst the most watched football games in the world, the winner reaching the Premier League, considered the biggest - and by some the best - league in the world, the chance to watch your team pit their wits against and in some of the most famous teams and stadiums on the planet, to watch first hand the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger in action. That alone is enough of a prize for the fans, especially those of us who have followed Ipswich Town over some truly dull and dreadful seasons since we were last there in 2002, but of course these days there is the money element too. Even if a team went up, finished bottom and came straight down again, the club would earn in the region of £120m, before you even take into consideration the extra revenue from merchandise, ticket sales and the like. It is massive and so with the most important 'Old Farm' derby between the Tractor Boys and our arch rivals Norwich City thrown into the mix, this otherwise nondescript corner of Suffolk's unspectacular county town became the main focus of the footballing world's focus for a couple of hours. And we three were in the middle of it.

Portman Road.Portman Road.As such, it was an electrifying Saturday lunchtime, strangely enhanced by our visitors taking the lead. This has become sadly an all too familiar scenario over the last four or five years and most Town supporters went into these fixtures not really expecting our cobbled together, cheap team of other club's rejects and youngsters we had moulded ourselves to stand a chance against our neighbours enjoying those aforementioned riches accumulated from their recent stint in the top flight. So although a roar of encouragement went up around Portman Road following that first goal, most - myself included - feared the worst. Therefore, when just a few minutes later Paul Anderson equalised, the place exploded in joy and to no small degree, relief. It was a reminder of why even in some of those darkest days, we carried on supporting them, hoping for moments like this.

1-1 was how it finished and whilst generally it would be considered disappointing for the home team not to win, there seemed a general delight amongst us Blues that we didn't lose and that we go into the second leg in exactly a week still in with a chance. I still can't imagine us getting through to the final at Wembley, but we stand more of a chance then I thought we would, but I left feeling upbeat, which was fortunate, as whilst waiting for my younger sibling to make it downstairs, Look East thrust a camera in my face and asked for my opinion on the result. It meant that I appeared on their evening bulletin, about one minute and thirty-five seconds in, for those who want to watch it on iPlayer. Dont blink mind, you'll miss it!

Returning home, we avoided traffic jams and road closures by negotiating a route that took us through Grundisburgh as the bells were ringing for a wedding, a reminder that for all that today was a big one for fans of ITFC and NCFC, it was also a significant one for the country and ringing generally, as bells played a huge part in the celebrations of the seventieth anniversary of VE Day. The sounds emanating from St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey made the headlines nationally of course, but as previously mentioned, members were doing their bit within our borders. As us lads set off for the footy, Ruthie and Alfie went to Pettistree to ring at 11am, whilst quarters of St Clement's College Bob Minor, Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Doubles were rung at Great Barton, Great Livermere and Ingham respectively. Congratulations to Neal Dodge on ringing his one hundredth QP in Suffolk and to him and Clare Veal on ringing their seventy-fifth together in the middle success and to Neal again and Simon Veal on bringing up their half-century together in the latter performance. And to Sally Veal as well on scoring her twentieth quarter-peal not just once, but twice! Meanwhile, well done to Hadleigh on ringing, adding to those towers already mentioned over the last few days for ringing for this important anniversary.

What a memorable day!

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Friday 8th May 2015

It was appropriate that as the nation digested the unexpected election result and Paddy Ashdown digested his hat, we remembered the seventieth anniversary of VE Day and the end of the war in Europe which was fought to maintain the kind of democracy we have just seen in action. Taking a break from resigning or celebrating, the political leaders of various colours stood shoulder by shoulder after weeks of denigrating each other to remember that whilst 8th May 1945 was a joyous day, it was but the end of part of another bloody conflict that cost many lives and left physical scars in the make-up of just about every town of any size across the continent.

Ringing in Suffolk did its bit too, as alluded to recently, as the bells of Bures and Lavenham rang out, along with quarters of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Buxhall, Matthew Rolph's first inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Halesworth and Grandsire Doubles at Pettistree. Very well done to Matthew!

Ron.We found ourselves present at the latter performance as we gathered at The Greyhound across the churchyard from SS Peter & Paul to celebrate the sixty-fifth birthday tomorrow of Ron, non-ringer but good friend of ringers and familiar to many members. Prior to Kate popped over to the ground-floor six to ring, we enjoyed a meal in this popular and delightful country inn, before moving to the church to watch and listen to the weekend's birthday boy playing the bagpipes for this significant day. We then returned to the pub with the band for cake, beer and a lively evening with family and friends of different faiths and none, different political persuasions and none.

These are the freedoms we should be remembering today.

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Thursday 7th May 2015

Tomorrow is the seventieth anniversary of VE Day and like 8th May 1945, there will be bells ringing out across Suffolk to mark the occasion, not just on the day itself, but across the weekend. It is a good news story and so therefore it felt worthy of being imparted to our local media. Once again there was no reply from the East Anglian Daily Times, but as is typical, BBC Radio Suffolk was obliging. Nothing big, no interviews or handbell ringing, but ten minutes from the end of her breakfast show, Etholle George gave the towers ringing individual mentions, as the Friday ringing at Bures, Halesworth, Lavenham and Pettistree, that on Saturday at Cavendish, Haverhill, Hopton, Mendham, Polstead, Sproughton, Stowmarket, Thornham Magna, Wenhaston and Woodbridge and The Norman Tower on Sunday were advertised across the airwaves. Since then, I have also heard from Fressingfield and Hadleigh who are ringing on Saturday too and from Neal Dodge who says there will be quarter-peal attempts at Great Barton, Great Livermere and Ingham. In addition, there are hopes to ring at St Mary-le-Tower as well in two days time. Phew! A brilliant response from the county's ringers and many thanks to all who have got in touch to let me know what they will be doing.

Of course, it was but a brief cameo on a day when the news was dominated by what is predicted to be one of the closest general elections in history, as the electorate - or at least those who could bothered - aimed to determine the UK's future for the next five years. I delight in such communal events, the sensation of a large group partaking in something all at once and from that the individual tales that come out. As Christmas gets everyone chatting about their plans for the big day the closer to the 25th December you get and the play-off first leg between Ipswich Town and Norwich City has seen conversation turn to where fans are watching it, the talk of the office today was of where work colleagues were voting, what the potential outcome might be and the permutations that could arise from that, though etiquette saw us refrain from prying into each others voting intentions.

That said, in our constituency of Suffolk Coastal, I have as much chance as any of the other candidates of getting into parliament ahead of the Conservatives and their representative Therese Coffey, a scenario common across East Anglia and with the inadequate and unfair voting system we have it feels like any vote is a wasted vote. Still, once I'd finished my day at John Catt Educational we bound down to Woodbridge Community Hall where we had been summoned to make our democratic choice, Alfie eyeing the ballot papers up for destruction, before we settled down for an evening that climaxed in watching those first few results coming in. Only five had been done and dusted before we called it a night, so we await what the masses have decided.

Preston St Mary.Whatever happens, it is unlikely that everyday life will noticeably change and indeed ringing went on within our borders as a 1320 of Surfleet Surprise Minor was rung at Preston St Mary as it usually does. God willing tomorrow, whoever is in charge of the government, VE Day will take centre stage, with the bells ringing out!

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Wednesday 6th May 2015

This morning, thanks to the time that my brother finished his night shift and his patience, myself, Mason and Chris beat the mad rush that today essentially saw all 30,000 tickets for Saturday's play-off semi-final first-leg at Portman Road between Ipswich Town and Naaaaridge City sold and grab three of them for ourselves. Ominously, the purchase was made against a backdrop of dramatic winds and dark clouds, but whether we are to be commended or committed may become clearer by 2pm. I feel a little like the families that accompany contestants with dubious abilities onto the X-Factor, who feel they ought to support little Johnny in his attempts to become the next Olly Murs (let's not set their sights too high now), but in the back of their mind sense they should discourage him from making a fool of himself.

The Wolery.Pettistree.The big game was a topic of conversation in Rectory Road overlooking the ground when I arrived there this evening for the latest peal attempt at The Wolery, where at least two of tonight's band are due to be supporting the Superblues in three days time. Our 1hr48mins of ringing in the little blue shed wasn't the only success in Suffolk marked on BellBoard and the reinvigorated Campanophile, with the pre-practice quarter of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pettistree being the first in the method for Ray Lewis - well done Ray!

Such achievements are a nice distraction for the foreboding event at the weekend...

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Tuesday 5th May 2015

Well done to the band who yesterday rang their first quarters of Rising Brook Bob Minor, Southery Bob Minor and Bluntisham Bob Minor at Bacton and Wickham Skeith on this side of the border and Blo Norton north of the Waveney respectively and to those who rang the peal of Stedman Cinques at St Paul's Cathedral tonight for the birth of Princess Charlotte. And particularly well done to Janet Sheldrake, Gordon Slack, Doug Perry, David Stanford and Tim Stanford on their first of Cornwall Surprise Major in the pre-practice 1280 at Offton.

For myself, Ruthie, Mason and Alfie it was a quieter day of cautiously returning to work, school and nursery and a quick chat on the phone with my brother Chris after he had been to The Norman Tower practice.


God willing there'll be busier days ahead, with the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice on Wednesday from 7.30-9pm and three District events all lined up for Saturday, with the North-West Practice at Hopton in the morning, the North-East Striking Competition at Wenhaston in the afternoon and the South-West District Training Practice at Cavendish in the evening, all in amongst a busy weekend of ringing within the county to mark the seventieth anniversary of VE Day. Many thanks to all those who have replied to my request for details of what ringing members have got planned.

All being well and as far as I'm aware, bells will be ringing out at East Bergholt, Haverhill, Polstead, Sproughton, Stowmarket and Thornham Magna on Saturday, with ringing at Bures, Halesworth, Lavenham and Pettistree on Friday. Thanks also to all who got in touch with me about ringing for the tercentenary of the earliest recorded peal, even - as I suspected - no publicity came of it. It was great to see Suffolk doing its bit!

Hopefully there will be much more to come to join all that which was achieved yesterday and today!

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Monday 4th May 2015

The illness that has ravaged the family over this largely unpleasant bank holiday weekend reached Mason today. His was more poorly timed too, as its rough for him came whilst we were already out at the East Anglian Railway Museum just south of the border in Essex, courtesy of the mother-in-law Kate's generosity. It meant that the poor lad, Alfie and I had to leave our companions to it after only a couple of hours and return to another afternoon of duvet-hugging before we picked Ruthie up after her first bank holiday Monday shift at John Ives.

St Peter Mancroft.Whilst the last three days have been uncomfortable for us, the St Peter Mancroft Guild of Ringers in Norwich is to be congratulated on a superlative weekend of well-publicised celebrations for the tercentenary of the earliest recorded true peal, rung of course in their tower. The coverage they got on BBC Radio Norfolk (Starts at 02:23:00) yesterday morning was marvellous, with even a bit of handbell-ringing (and more, starts at 02:26:53) no doubt inspired by our turn last month on their sister station here in Suffolk! It has been accompanied by quarters and peals across the world being rung to mark the anniversary, including within our borders, so they should be chuffed with their efforts! Hopefully it has given the Mancroft Appeal 300 as much of a boost as it seems to have given First Peal 2015!

Of course the birth of the royal baby that we today learned has been named HRH Charlotte, Princess of Cambridge continues to be a source of footnotes for many a performance, including the 1260 of Grandsire Triples rung at St Mary-le-Tower in the absence of a practice this evening. Well done to Mike Burn on ringing his first in the method in that success. The new addition was also the reason for the peal at Westminster Abbey which came round during one of those pointless out-and-about broadcasts on BBC News 24 and was a welcome backdrop for us, despite the presenter's daft protestations!

It was a nice end to a weekend to generally forget!

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Sunday 3rd May 2015

The illness that has already befallen Alfie and Ruthie this weekend predictably came my way in the early hours and it made for a truly awful Sunday.

Morning ringing went out the window, as did attending Alfred's mate Archie's first birthday party, as instead I spent the entire day indoors, aching, feeling freezing one moment, roasting the next and sleeping for much of the day, at least when I didn't feel in considerable discomfort. And the less said about the other effects the better...


Thank God others were well enough to help another first-pealer, as Suffolk's ringers once again marked the tercentenary of the earliest recorded true peal rung, as a tremendous number have been doing across the world. Very well done to Adam Shard whose contribution to First Peal 2015 came in the 5040 of Plain Bob Triples at Bardwell, which was also dedicated to the Royal birth. The twin footnotes of the three hundredth anniversary of that historic peal in Norwich and the arrival yesterday of the as yet unnamed Princess were also visible in the recording of the two quarters in the county today, with a 1440 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Pettistree and a 1260 of the method of the weekend, Plain Bob Triples was scored at Halesworth, which was also Sal Jenkinson's first inside - well done Sal!

I'm glad not everyone was feeling as rough as me!

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Saturday 2nd May 2015

It was a day of mixed emotions.

Ipswich Town lost, but qualified for the end-of-season play-offs.

Ruthie and I came second in the South-East District Striking Competition at Monewden with Pettistree, but won with St Mary-le-Tower.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcomed their daughter into the world, but within our family our health was struggling.

The main focus of our day centred around two draws at 2pm. One was the hoped for draw that the Tractor Boys needed to get at Blackburn Rovers to guarantee a place in the play-offs for the first time in a decade and that they still made it despite losing and thanks to the failings of others is typical of their season, as is the fact that they will have to beat Norwich City over two legs on the next two Saturday lunchtimes when we haven't done it even once for six years. How we succeeded in our original aim may have been far from ideal and I'm not exactly brimming with confidence that we can get to Wembley, but it is incredible to be where we are at all after the last few, long footballing years.

The other draw was that for the ringing order at the pleasant little gallery six in the midst of dreamy Suffolk countryside. It seems every time I come here the route gets longer as you twist and turn along the lanes that weave in between the hedgerows, forests, fields and cottages that lead to this community which is delightfully miles away from the 'main' roads, but it is always worth it, especially on a sunny spring day like today.

However, with the lunchtime kick-offs in the Championship coming to a climax as the eleven teams participating in the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell Method and David Barnard Memorial Trophy Call-Change competitions were being drawn out, I nipped into the car with AJM to listen to the end of proceedings in Blackburn, Brentford, Derby and Wolverhampton, an idea amusingly shared by Podge and Liz Christian! No draw for ITFC, but an encouragingly lengthy draw outside St Mary's church.

Ringers gathered outside Monewden awaiting the draw.Ringers gathered outside Monewden awaiting the draw.It was great to see such a variety of teams from across the District, including the two Clopton teams, Clangers and Soup Dragons, as their progress only about eighteen months after they began continues. Soup-er to see them!

Three generations of the Munnings family - Mason, Mum, Ruthie and Alfie.As the ringing continued, members mingled in the churchyard, lovely quaint village hall and the byways, before it was all done and the time came for food, more socialising done, a wonderful spread devoured by the sixty present aged from one to a hundred and a building anticipation of the results. There was much competition for the two trophies, with an extremely good standard, though more importantly was vital experience for all taking part, myself included. Even now I am still nervous throughout the test piece and it reminds me of the kind of focus and concentration I should be taking into all my ringing.

The judges John Girt and Roger Coley give the results at Monewden Village Hall.There had to be winners though and well done to SMLT and Hollesley's call-change team who won the respective contests. As ever though, well done and thank you for all those who took part, especially the youngsters - these events are rarely as enjoyable when hardly anyone takes part! Many thanks as well to the Martins for the use of the bells and hall, to those who put together the tea and to my wife on getting it all organised!

In the pub at The Cretingham Bell at the end of it all!Mrs Munnings, Mason, Alfie and I continued onto The Cretingham Bell, but over the last couple of days Alfred had picked up a bug from nursery and very kindly passed it onto his mother and now it seems other relatives, which saw Kate leave early after a spectacular incident involving one of the youngest of our party, but all in all it was a brilliant day out, kicked-off with the news of the birth of the nameless Princess in London, which could've threatened to overshadow that today is the tercentenary of the earliest recorded true peal ever rung, carried out on 2nd May 1715 at St Peter Mancroft in Norfolk's county city. However, it did mean there was much already arranged to welcome the royal birth and the well-publicised celebrations north of the Waveney appeared enhanced by the morning's news. I'm glad to see we were doing our bit here too, with the headline act being the 5040 of Plain Bob Triples at Ixworth. Well done, firstly to all of the band for marking the occasion on the SGR's behalf, but also to Neal Dodge on ringing his first on eight inside and especially to Ruth Eyles on ringing her first peal, as First Peal 2015 was also given an appropriate boost.

There were quarter-peals rung too, with a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Woolpit for both the three-hundredth anniversary of that first peal and the much-anticipated birth, whilst the latter saw quarters of Plain Bob Doubles and four methods at the same stage at Gislingham and Tannington respectively.

Well done to all who ultimately turned this day of mixed emotions into a very successful one.

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Friday 1st May 2015

God willing, there is much to look forward in the month we began today.

Hopefully Ipswich Town will be a Premier League team by the time June makes its introduction, though I remain cautious and far from expectant, especially as we haven't qualified yet for the play-offs that we will need to negotiate over the coming weeks if we are to take our place alongside Chelsea, Liverpool and the Manchesters City and United in August.

By 31st May the government and parliament will probably have a very different shape, perhaps considerably so.

All being well, May will see the safe birth of the next royal baby.


On a ringing front, we have the three hundredth and seventieth anniversaries respectively of the earliest recorded true peal this weekend and VE Day next weekend to celebrate, whilst on a local level striking competitions are planned for Saturday 2nd in the South-East District at Monewden, the 9th in the North-East District at Wenhaston and a week later for The Guild at Rattlesden and Lavenham in amongst a busy thirty-one days of planned ringing.

For now though, it has all started well with FNQPC scoring at Earl Stonham, whilst we celebrated Ruthie's sister Clare's birthday with chocolate cake as Mason showed the gap where the latest of his teeth to drop out once sat.

As for the remaining thirty days of May, we shall just have to see how they go.

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Thursday 30th April 2015

With Ruthie at choir and Alfie in bed, what better time to undertake a bit of PR business. As I mentioned on here earlier in the week, I am bracing myself for potential enquiries about what Suffolk ringers are doing to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the earliest recorded true peal this weekend, so this evening I sent out an email via the Guild Webmaster and put a message on the SGR Facebook page appealing for information on what we are planning on doing within our borders.

Likewise, with the seventieth anniversary of VE Day approaching and national plans to mark that, I thought I ought to also gather in what people are hoping to do to mark that occasion, so out went another request, all from the comfort of our sofa.

Nothing may come of it all, but just as likely it may, so thank you to those who have responded, it will certainly give me something to tell the local media if they come calling!

Meanwhile, for those not on FB, I point you in the direction of St Mary-le-Tower ringer Sean Antonioli's brilliant essay on ringing which he entered into a competition recently, for which he finished an impressive second. It really captures the scene of his experience ringing generally and particularly of his first peal which I was delighted to call back in the hazy summer of 2012. A physical copy is apparently at the till in Ipswich's Waterstones. Sean has been understandably missing from SMLT in recent months as parenthood and a considerable change of direction in his career take up considerable amounts of his time, but he is much missed at the county's heaviest twelve and we're hoping when things eventually settle down he will be in a position to return to an art that he appears to enjoy and which he did very well at.

Tostock.For now, those who can find the time for ringing have been taking advantage of that, with another method and variation laden spectacular on handbells in Bacton and a less method laden but nonetheless worthy of mention effort at Tostock. All of which was more interesting than my relaxed evening in of carrying out PR business!

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Wednesday 29th April 2015

Injections for Alfie, Pettistree for Ruthie and a quiet night in for me.

Wickham Market.For Alfred, his jabs passed - for today at least - without effect, whilst my wife joined her expanding family for an evening at SS Peter & Paul and then The Greyhound, which was apparently reassuringly packed, a night that began with Derek Martin ringing his first of Treble Bob in the pre-practice quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor. I've witnessed first hand Derek's progress from first coming across him when we went over to help the Wickham Market band a few years ago and his company is always enjoyable. His progress has been steady and his enthusiasm to get it right is just what any learner needs, so this is a deserved landmark along his ring odyssey - well done Derek!

Back at home, I was less productive, apart from putting AJM to bed. Hopefully things will get busier soon!

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Tuesday 28th April 2015

An impressive day of quarter-pealing on eight within our borders. The bands who all bar one rang their most Surprise Major methods in first the 1312 of fifteen methods at Bardwell and then 1280 of sixteen methods at Gislingham are worthy of commendation, as are Ann and David Webb and Katie Wright in particular for their first of Lindum Surprise Major in the success at Ixworth, on a day when this collection of ringers also rang Jersey Surprise Major at Hopton.

Offton.However whilst not as advanced as what those seasoned ringers were partaking in, the headline of the day has to be Peter Stock's first quarter at the first attempt as he bonged behind to Grandsire Triples in the pre-practice attempt at Offton this evening. Very well done Peter, hopefully the first of many!

It was a less exciting twenty-four hours for us, but we're happy to sit back occasionally and let others do all the hard work!

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Monday 27th April 2015

Having to converse with a jobsworth from Suffolk Constabulary over a ticket for parking out of the way on a dead bit of land wasn't the best start to the week, but it got better with a productive practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Hopefully it was unrelated to the inaccessibility from now on of the usual haven of parking opposite the church (especially as that is due to continue until the end of August!), but there was a lower than usual attendance. Still that didn't affect the quality of ringing, which was of a good standard tonight, with the striking competition touches for Saturday's South-East District contest practiced and practiced well. This in turn seemed to encourage further well-struck ringing as we began on higher numbers, appropriate perhaps after my ranting on yesterday's blog.

Those planned competitions at Monewden in five days time will require team entries' and names for tea to District Ringing Master 07542 470974, and his mother 01728 860323, respectively by Wednesday, with the latter also looking for help with putting together the food for the event. Please do get in touch with her if you can help.

Our afternoon of fun comes on a significant day in ringing history, as it shall be exactly three hundred years since the earliest recorded true peal was rung. You will be aware by now I'm sure that this momentous landmark was reached up the A140 at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, with a busy and exciting looking bank holiday weekend planned in the county city of our neighbours just north of the border, but it is something that will likely see an upsurge in peals rung across the country and indeed the world, with potential interest from the general public. To that end, the Central Council Public Relations Committee Chairman Kate Flavell has emailed us PR officers to tell us to expect possible media enquiries following a piece being commissioned for the Church Times by Prudence Fay and an interview with Kate herself which may possibly be broadcast on the forthcoming Sabbath on BBC Radio Four's Sunday Programme. Significant as it is to us, personally I'm not sure how interested the general public will be in this very specific bit of bellringing calendar-watching, so I have restrained from bombarding the local media outlets with explanations of true and false compositions and the ins and outs of the peal-ringing world, which can sometimes prove divisive, as misplaced as that is, especially coming so soon after a flurry of activity on Radio Suffolk in the last week or two. However, if I were to get emails and calls on the subject, it would be useful to have an idea about what we in the SGR are doing to mark the occasion. If you are ringing a peal to celebrate what happened on 2nd May 1715, then please let me know so that I can be armed if I am approached!

This weekend's events are but the centrepiece of a year of celebrations, which will continue on Saturday 27th June with the National Twelve-Bell Final. Details have now been released of the what's, where's and when's of the day, which will feature The Vestey Ring, with drinking and eating venues also announced. God willing, it'll be a thrilling day that we hope to attend.

Before then, there is much of life to negotiate, including next Monday's bank holiday. There will hopefully be a practice at SMLT, but numbers are currently teetering between making it worthwhile holding it and not, so if you are planning on coming along, please let David Potts (or if you haven't got his details then me) know by Thursday at the latest please!

In the meantime, I shall be looking for a legal parking space. To hell as to whether it's safe or not...

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Sunday 26th April 2015

Sunday morning service ringing. In my opinion the main purpose of the exercise, but even if you disagree, it is important that at the very least we provide good ringing as worshippers flock to church. That requires method knowledge and accurate striking and for that, we need to use the many mediums available to us as ringers. At a local, District and Guild level, practices will help with both elements, as will quarters and peals. Outings should be useful for helping striking, as a variety of towers with varying levels of oddstruckness and go are visited, taking learners in particular out of their comfort zone and encouraging them to listen to their striking, something that doesn't always happen in the bubble of their home tower where it is sometimes all too easy to just go through the motions on familiar bells in familiar surroundings. Of course, striking competitions are the most obvious opportunity to focus on striking where with the call-change competitions, members of all abilities can benefit from a friendly, social day with advice and guidance from numerous sources to hand and the possibility of winning silverware too!

However, despite our best efforts and as we approach the striking competition season, they still seem to have a bad name amongst many. Multiple myths pervade the consciousness of large swathes of the membership. It's always the same teams that win. A few elite members just ring for several towers. The judges remarks are usually withering and cutting. We're not good enough.

There are answers to all these points that bust those myths. In the last decade, there have been five different winners of The Mitson Shield, with three different teams triumphing in the last three contests. Three different teams have won the Rose Trophy in the last five years. The South-East District has had numerous victors over time, despite the apparent dominance of St Mary-le-Tower. The South-West District has competitive competitions. The North-East District has produced four separate champions in their last five competitions and before last year's cancelled event, the North-West District had at least three different winners in the same period.

Ringing in more than one team is discouraged, though sometimes necessary to make up bands that give others a chance to participate that they otherwise wouldn't get. The worst you are ever likely to get from the judges is constructive criticism, with anything harsher than that severely frowned upon. And with the call-change competitions teams like Debenham, Hollesley, Otley and Stradishall have won trophies, so that should give you inspiration if you're doubting your abilities. Besides, these are aimed at raising your abilities, which in itself should be reason enough to participate if you can.

The Norman Tower.Still, deep-rooted suspicions remain, it seems in particular in the west and in recent years in the NW especially and I can fully appreciate the frustrations of their Ringing Master Rowan Wilson in whipping up interest in competitions in that part of the world. However, even if a competition doesn't take place, that same focus on striking needs to be replicated somehow, so I applaud her efforts in going about things in a different way in using modern technology to her advantage by using the strikeometer and simulator at The Norman Tower to encourage local bands to focus on their striking and ultimately to enter the striking contests. Use of such technology is vital in my opinion if we are going to get learners ringing as much as is needed to properly aid their progress.

It appears that the District is certainly using other mediums to further their abilities, with Ruth Eyles ringing her first quarter-peal on eight in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Ixworth. Well done Ruth!

I meanwhile was doing my bit to contribute to Sunday morning service ringing as with Mason and Alfie I climbed  the many stairs to the ringing chamber where the 25cwt eight of Woodbridge are rung from, on this occasion with brand new Ellis ropes, a set to replace the previous new set that were an experiment gone wrong! They were settling in nicely as I partook in some call-changes on the front six as others kindly placated an unusually distraught Alfred, before we three then climbed back down to the church for the service where Ruthie was singing in the choir.

The afternoon saw my eldest son meet six day old Annalise for the first time on an otherwise quiet day, but God willing things will be busier six days into the future as the South-East District holds its 2015 Striking Competition at Monewden, with Pettistree looking to retain both the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell Method  and the David Barnard Memorial trophies they won at Campsea Ashe in 2014. I would urge teams to put entries forward to give them some competition and to help raise your standards even more on a Sunday morning!

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Saturday 25th April 2015

The residents of Lowestoft and the surrounding communities are apparently fiercely keen to remain as part of Suffolk, and generally speaking, Suffolk is equally enthusiastic to keep hold of the UK's most easterly point. From most other perspectives though, this peninsula of our county is an anomaly. Ipswich and Norwich fans can be found in equal numbers, it turns to the town on the Orwell as its county town and the city on the Wensum for most of its everyday business. It has more in common with Norfolk's most famous seaside resort Great Yarmouth a few miles up the coast than Aldeburgh and Southwold within our borders. And its churches fall under the Christian direction of the Cathedral of the Holy and Undivided Trinity to the north-west rather than the Cathedral of St James to the south-west, which in turn means that although they sit to the south of the Waveney, its towers come under the NDA instead of the SGR.

Today, the Pettistree ringers chose to visit some of these towers for their annual spring outing, as Ruthie, Mason, Alfie and I stepped into foreign territory on home turf with them for a highly enjoyable day of good ringing, company, food and drink.

Ringing at Lowestoft on Pettistree outing.Somerleyton's six offered my wife and I brief ring by the time we'd made it to this isolated ring and Lowestoft's ground-floor eight and its Noah's Ark play area were revisited as some of us reacquainted ourselves with a venue where we partook in a quarter of Horton's Four and/or a pub crawl two years ago before we gathered at The Trowel and Hammer for a lovely lunch.

Ringing at Pakefield on Pettistree outing.Handbell ringing at Pakefield on Pettistree outing.A walk in the sun to Pakefield''s 8cwt eight saw us ringing as far east as it is possible on tower bells in the UK, but things didn't go to plan here. Trouble with the third that made its handstrokes extremely difficult led to us to think long and hard before carrying on, with a diagnosis from our resident BAC member and the discovery that a peal was rung on it a week ago ultimately convincing us to continue with caution.

Ringing at Kessingland on Pettistree outing.Our final tower of this leisurely tour was Kessingland, a tower which highlighted the borderland nature of the area, with impressive views that include one of the tower that houses Covehithe's 11cwt five, drawing to a close a day out marvelously organised by Mary Garner - thanks Mary!

We returned from our exertions, exhausted, but happy with our trip to the anomaly that is Lowestoft.

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Friday 24th April 2015

The day started with Ed Rolph entertaining us and finished with Dara O Briain entertaining us.

Though I'm sure Mr Rolph's future in comedy is an assured and bright one, it was promoting Wenhaston's ringing recruitment efforts on Radio Suffolk that his moment came on this occasion and a fine job he did of it too. A four or five minute slot just over eight minutes into Etholle George's breakfast show that put across the fun that can be had being a bellringer. All who spoke did it well and passionately, with the reporter Guy Campbell putting across an accurate report which put their BBC colleagues on The One Show to shame. Well done to all concerned.

Well done also to all involved in the quarters of Norwich Surprise Minor at Ashbocking and Grandsire Doubles at Buxhall, the latter of which was the latest effort from members to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom exactly a century ago. This evening, the sacrifice made by Private James Hurrell was quite rightly noted.

By the time these quarters were taking place, Ruthie and I were on a rare night out without the children, as we went to The Regent in Ipswich to watch Ed Rolph's showbiz companion Dara. A familiar face on shows that we enjoy like QI and Mock The Week which he presents, this Irish comedian offered up an hilarious three hours of intelligent comedy that covered the freakish alphabetic seating arrangement of the audience, cabbage-wielding, limboing killers and insincere sincerity, topped off by a quick pint in The Mulberry Tree nearby before we returned home to the mother-in-law Kate who had not only generously bought tonight's tickets as a Christmas present, but had very kindly babysat Mason and Alfie for us - thanks Kate!

It was a night out that we shared with familiar faces, from the Henry family who we shared Stephen Pettman's ringing trip to Italy with ten years ago (incidentally, Mr P is organising another one this October, so do get in touch with him if you want to join him) and Orford ringer Richard Moody and his wife.

A day of the famous indeed.

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Thursday 23rd April 2015

For those English of a patriotic persuasion (and I include myself in that), 23rd April is a notable date, a day to celebrate England's patron saint, St George. Though round these parts St Edmund is the patron saint of choice, as his feast day of 20th November is a wonderful PR opportunity for ringing locally, today is similarly so for our art nationally and there was evidence of that this evening, as muddled and confusing as the preparation appears to have been and mixed the reviews were.

Having apparently arranged to be at various places from Birmingham Cathedral to Merton College in Oxford to Garlickhythe in London and either cancelling or simply not showing, the BBC's The One Show popped up at the fine ten of Lichfield Cathedral with the appropriately named Angellica Bell right at the end, with clips of ringing being carried out in the name of St George at the suitably far apart Newcastle Cathedral and Dover. Following a slightly bizarre tower-grab that by all accounts cut out ringing at St Bees in Cumbria that the ringers there had gathered together on this Thursday morning for and that was met by the exercise's social media fraternity by a range of responses from accusations of dumbing down to praise for making ringing look fun (I think both could be fairly levelled at the Beeb on this occasion!), Angellica stood in the centre of the ringing chamber at Lichfield as - according to BellBoard at least - seventy-two changes of Grandsire Caters was rung, interviewing Cathedral Ringing Master Helen Jarvis, who along with her husband Alan who was ringing the ninth, used to holiday with us on Rambling Ringers. Other familiar faces to me were noticeable in the background, including Helen's sister and brother-in-law Rachel and David Everett on the second and eighth respectively, both of whom with the aforementioned Jarvis' were regular belfry companions of mine when in my uni days I went along to Bilston, a nice if undistinguished little eight in the mass of urban life between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

If you missed it all, then it can be found on iPlayer (Starts at 25:15), but I suspect - if it hasn't already - it will find its way onto You Tube, which on this day ten years ago shared its first video with the world. A decade on, it has of course been the purveyor of much wasted airtime, but also hilarity and of course it has given ringers an opportunity to record the art visually and aurally in a way and on a scale that was never possible before. Even I have managed to upload a video before, adding a snippet of a quarter that Ruthie was ringing in at Theberton three years ago as I sat out in the car with a snoozing Mason. I appear in at least a couple of others to my knowledge, when I was partaking in three leads of Bristol Surprise Major at The Wolery and on a Ramblers tour when we rang some Rutland and Water Surprise Major spliced at Oakham in 2011. But it is generally a mine of fascinating clips of ringing and ringers, some good, some bad, some - like Paul Sharples tutorial on ringing up recently highlighted on this blog - useful and if you have a spare few days to waste, it is well worth exploring all that is up there (Many more links to clips here).

Once I had finished taking in all of this evening's publicity, put Alfie to bed and welcomed my wife back from choir practice, there wasn't time to trawl the digital archives, as I sorted out the first steps of getting my permit to be able to dispatch our vehicle in the car park of the Ipswich & Suffolk club for Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. The club is very kindly providing this facility to the church on the morn of the Sabbath from this weekend until the end of August whilst building work makes the usual social services car-park inaccessible. Even then, it will mean that if you are coming to SMLT at any other time of the week - including Monday nights for practice - that I and anyone else will have to find alternative parking, so please consider that if and when you journey in to ring at Suffolk's heaviest twelve.

No such problems for those ringing quarters within the county on this St George's Day as far as I'm aware. Though not within the SGR, well done to Craig Leach on calling his first of Yorkshire Surprise Major at one of the NDA towers within our borders and to Josephine Beever on ringing her first of both St George and The Dragon Bob Minor for the apt 1260 changes at Preston St Mary. Glad to see the county's ringers marking this notable day!

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Wednesday 22nd April 2015

The best performances often come when the pressure is off. After failing the first driving test before I'd even left the test centre when it was still on Woodbridge Road, I perceived that my second one had begun badly and that I had already fallen foul of the furious scribblings of my examiner, so I took the decision to relax and enjoy the drive. I passed.

In my decade and more of working in sales, it has always been infinitely easier to sell when a target has already been met, the spectrum of financial failure lifted and every sale from there on in being quite literally a bonus. Football teams whose fate has already been decided for a season frequently play with more freedom, no longer fearful of the consequences of a stray pass or missed shot.

So it can be with ringing. I've often been involved with quarters and peals where it fires out on a number of occasions in the first few leads, prompting the conductor to suggest a practice. With everyone relaxed, the ringing improves and before you know it you've scored!

St Mary-le-Tower.That was what happened at St Mary-le-Tower this evening for the April front-eight Surprise Major peal attempt. Following last month's abysmal loss at what should have been a straightforward success in the standard eight spliced and a string of failed endeavours at eleven and twelve spliced, two aborted shots at the latter before we'd even got through a course in either didn't bode well. With six o'clock already a part of history, David Potts suggested we only had time for one more go, but there seemed a sense of resignation that once again, this wasn't going to be our night, the sound of pints being pulled over at The Cricketers metaphorically floating through the air of this famous ringing chamber.

With that though, everyone relaxed. The fear of making a fatal mistake appeared to dissipate and exactly three hours later this seven-part came round following - at times - some of the best ringing I have partaken in for a while. Yes there were mistakes and things got nervier towards the end as tired minds contemplated victory and therefore also the possibility of defeat with even the slightest slip of concentration. To return to a footballing analogy, it was a little like a team playing brilliantly and generally being in control, but only scoring one goal, the knowledge that just one error could negate all the good work from earlier growing the closer it gets to full-time.

The worst case scenario didn't materialise though, as the entries on BellBoard and Campanophile testify and we left feeling - quite rightly if I may say - very pleased with ourselves for our considerable efforts, with Brian Whiting worthy of particular credit for his role as conductor.

As is typical for a Wednesday, it wasn't the only successful ringing performance in Suffolk today, with Pettistree being the scene of a 1272 of Oswald Delight Minor prior to another weekly session at this popular ground-floor six.

I imagine the majority of the band there ended up relaxing in the pub, as most of those ringing at SMLT did too, the pressure well and truly off. For now at least!

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Tuesday 21st April 2015

After the drama of the last twenty-four hours, we were hoping for an altogether quieter, straightforward day today. We didn't get it.

Having very kindly allowed me to disappear yesterday afternoon, John Catt Educational again generously freed me from my duties as the nursery called to tell me that I ought to take Alfie down to the doctors. They weren't alarmed, as he was his usual cheery, hungry self, but his hands seemed quite puffy and his extremities tinged with blue and as a precaution they felt more comfortable with him getting checked over.

Mercifully, his doctor couldn't find anything of concern and the symptoms were gradually getting better, so I duly returned him to his contemporaries and I returned to mine.

Ufford.Later, we were to all be reunited to meet - or in Ruthie's case be be reacquainted - with Annalise, whose birth was celebrated with a quarter-peal at Ufford, where her grandmother Kate is tower captain. It was good to meet up with Kev again too in a busy household of children, exhausted adults and excited dogs!

It made all the drama of yesterday worthwhile!

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Monday 20th April 2015

Right, a context. For the last few days, Ruthie's heavily pregnant sister Clare and her daughter Katelynn have been down from Scotland. With their mother Kate away in Egypt and my brother-in-law Kev still north of the border working, Mrs Munnings was on call to go in with her elder sibling should baby arrive and in turn I would be responsible for looking after our niece.

With Mrs Eagle returning today, it was a scenario that we thought we had avoided or at least would have less of a practical impact. However, with Grandma on the plane returning, the miraculous process of birth began. Thank God both my wife and I have understanding employers, because on this Monday afternoon we needed them to be, as I dropped the sisters off at Ipswich Hospital with memories of just over a year ago flooding back and then spent a sunny few hours looking after Katelynn, with a trip to the park a highlight.

I have to admit to thinking I wouldn't see my better half until at least tomorrow, aware of how long we were in awaiting Alfie's arrival, but such was the speed of Annalise's arrival that she was in Suffolk long before her granny or father made it back to her county of birth, both of whom were travelling with haste to greet her and Alfred and I were reunited with her aunty before bedtime, as we combined tales from Birthing Room 3 (where in a pleasing coincidence AJM was born!) with tales from the Nile, with Kate having left on the birthday of one grandchild and returned on the birthday of another!

All of this meant that Mrs M was unable to make it to St Mary-le-Tower practice, but there was ringing going on elsewhere, with a quarter of White Colne Surprise Minor rung at Harkstead to celebrate Jane and Peter Harper's wedding anniversary.

We meanwhile were glad to get back to our own beds at the end of an exhausting but wonderful day.

Welcome to the world Annalise!

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Sunday 19th April 2015

The fellowship of ringing is one of its major USP's. It is difficult to develop the cross-country and indeed global friendships that can be easily established in a hobby like bellinging, in other hobbies. As far as I'm aware, you can't just turn up at a foreign bowls club unannounced and join in, but you can go to pretty much any ringing chamber anywhere they are practicing the art of full-circle change-ringing, join in and typically leave after a pint or cuppa with new friends.

SMLT Annual Dinner.Alfie & Richy.Thus, at St Mary-le-Tower, one of only a handful of twelve-bell venues in East Anglia, we enjoy the company of ringers from across Suffolk and beyond and the fellowship developed on Sundays, Mondays and for the Wednesday night peals saw a crowd of more than forty gather at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, with attendees from - amongst other places - Bury St Edmunds, Reydon, Stowmarket, Essex and Bedfordshire, and ages ranging from Alfie's one year to Lilian Caudle's 100+, as we celebrated each other's company at our annual dinner. Ironically, the ones with the shortest distance to travel will soon be the ones who would have to travel the furthest distance if they were to join us next year, as Mike Burn and his wife Margaret filled us in on their imminent plans to move from this seaside town to the Midlands. Mike himself will admit he can be erratic at times in his ringing, often lambasting himself with a varied vocabulary, but when not on his boat, he has over the last few years been one of the most dedicated in supporting SMLT, so his presence will be missed.

In contrast though, it was wonderful to see Ian Culham again after a few months working in Kenya and no doubt chomping at the bit to catch-up on his ringing! Whether leaving us, returning to us or simply remaining with us, it was a superb, leisurely lunch had with friends in a lovely spot overlooking the North Sea, the pretty golf course that takes you down to The Ferry and the famous Bawdsey Manor in the distance, a Martello tower overlooking the entire scene.

It followed on from the main business of ringing for Sunday service upon the twelve that is the bond between today's diners, which followed a remarkably similar path to that followed later in the morning at Grundisburgh, with both enjoying healthy attendances, issues with call-changes and well-rung Little Bob to finish, with the park at the latter offering entertainment for Mason and Alfred in between.

Some returned to the county's heaviest twelve in the evening to ring a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters on the back ten which saw Helen Carter ring her first on ten. We've been extremely fortunate to have Helen ringing with us in recent weeks whilst she has been working in Ipswich and happily it appears we shall have a while longer than originally planned, so it is pleasing that we have been able to do something for her whilst she is with us. Well done Helen!

She wasn't the only one achieving within our borders today though, with another busy day of performances. Well done to Sally Veal on her first of Minor inside in the Plain Bob rung at Great Barton and to Sue Bowerman on her first quarter inside altogether in the Doubles variation of the same method, completed successfully at Hollesley.

Meanwhile, a half-muffled quarter-peal was rung at Sproughton in memory of Stephen Woolf. I remember well Stephen and his two sons Ben and Joel first learning to ring at what was then my home tower of All Saints in the 1990's. As is often the case, the sons caught on quicker than their father, with Joel being one of the thirteen peal ringing debutants I have rung with and Ben partaking in three peals for the Warwick University Society with the likes of Tom Griffiths and John Thurman when his studies took him to that part of the world, before life took over and they drifted from the exercise. Stephen stuck at it, but unfortunately his extreme height made it very hard for him to make much progress and sadly illness meant he hadn't been able to ring for a long time. Still, he was a huge supporter of the ringers and their endeavours, including the annual Fireworks Night and I have fond memories of working on his farm over a roasting hot summer, which included my first (and so far only!) go at driving a tractor! He was a lovely man and gentle giant who enjoyed the fellowship of ringing as much as anyone.

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Saturday 18th April 2015

An element of my wife's recently found employment is working one Saturday a month, a far preferable alternative to the every other Sunday she would've had to have done if she'd returned to the payroll of Boots and of course infinitely better than every Sabbath being taken up by working there as it once was, meaning that going away over a weekend was stuff of pure fantasy.

Monewden.In her new role at John Ives, she has done well to avoid recent AGMs and planned striking competitions, meaning that God willing we can be present at the South-East District's competition at Monewden on 2nd May and then the Guild ones at Rattlesden and Lavenham two weeks further on, but today saw her take her first Saturday shift, leaving Alfie, Mason and me to have a lads' day, doing bloke-type activities such as watching Ipswich Town's respectable 1-1 draw at fellow play-off chasing Wolverhampton Wanderers on the TV.

It involved no ringing, as on another gorgeous sunny spring day I couldn't find any to partake in, so whilst instead we went out for a walk, others were more active on our behalf, with a peal rung beyond our borders yet within at Pakefield, Neal Dodge ringing his first quarter of Grandsire Triples in the success at Bardwell and Michael Royalton-Kisch having a particularly notable day, ringing his first of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Bob and Southrepps in the 1260 of Doubles at Great Livermere and his first of St Martin's Bob Doubles in the 1320 at Ingham. Well done Neal and particularly Michael on a pleasant and successful day!

I'm glad that Ruthie only works one Saturday a month though.

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Friday 17th April 2015

Rendham.Stedman. The nemesis of many a ringer. With no treble with a set route to hang off and offer guidance if lost, the slightest hesitation can develop into a catastrophic collapse of even the very best ringing. Concentration throughout from all is key in this more than almost any other principle, method or variation and despite its deceptively simple looking line, success in this is an achievement. So well done to Tim Stanford on ringing his first of the principle in the 1260 of its Triples version at Rendham this evening. But for all that ringing it is hard, conducting it is something else, a skill I have struggled to acquire, so very well done to Jonathan Stevens on calling this institution and benchmark of the art in the same performance in this pretty village between Framlingham and Saxmundham.

It came on another unremarkable and quiet day for us personally, at the end of an unremarkable and quiet week, though I have enjoyed looking through the latest past Suffolk Guild Annual Reports scanned and added to the collection on this website by Neal Dodge, including two significant years for me, 1978 and 1992. The former was my year of birth and it is fascinating to look back at the state of the SGR when I came into being. Apart from noting that a peal of Doubles was rung at Stutton six days into my life to welcome my arrival by a band that featured Jenny Scase (or Barnard as she was then), Pat Bailey, Peter Archer, John Blythe, Trevor Bailey - for whom it was his one hundredth as conductor - and the master of knocking behind Harry Archer, the officers' reports were interesting to read. John Girt in his position as Secretary congratulates my parents on my birth (if only they all knew then what they know now!) and notes a 5% rise in membership to over five-hundred, with a fifth of those being junior members.

Those who remember him will be unsurprised that Ranald Clouston's Technical Adviser's report was typically in depth and included details on Sudbury St Peter's augmentation to ten and the possibility of adding two trebles to turn the six at Offton into an eight. I wonder whatever happened to that idea...?

Ringing Master Lawrence Pizzey commented upon the reorganisation of the Guild into the now familiar four District's and that encouragingly they were all planning individual striking competitions, whilst also pointing out the 500th peals of Ernie Pearce and Stephen Pettman and the thousandth for Cecil Pipe, as well as the first on the bells for more than forty years at Baylham and the aforementioned Rendham.

1992 meanwhile was the year of my first peal, rung at Ashbocking on 8th May on the same day as Joan Garrett was ringing her 150th in a 5040 of Doubles rung at Fornham All Saints and and sandwiched in between Cecil Pipe's son George's 1000th peal and 1000th tower-bell peal, at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh respectively, both of Stedman Cinques, the former of which is celebrated with a peal-board behind the ropes of the back bells at SMLT. Also tying up nicely with the 1978 AR, the year saw Pat Bailey become the first East Anglian lady to reach that same landmark.

Secretary Bruce Wakefield remarked upon the success of moving the AGM to the afternoon, though that year's at Long Melford was most memorable to my brother Chris and I for Ipswich Town getting promoted whilst the meeting was on! Then Ringing Master Amanda Richmond highlighted the tremendous success story at St Matthew in Ipswich that saw Ralph Earey and Jonathan Williamson form a band from a huge response from the congregation for new recruits at the previously silent six, Stowmarket's victory in the Mitson Shield at Tannington (will we see another western winner this year?!) and the now sadly lost Guild ringing outing, which always used to be fun! Ralphy's famous demo bell and efforts to make Falkenham the first full-circle ringable tower on the Felixstowe peninsula are mentioned and whilst happily the state of the bells at Old Newton, Orford, Rendham and Rumburgh are mercifully better and numbers augmented at Dalham and Reydon, I'm not aware of what happened to the intentions laid out in Mr Earey's Maintenance Officer's Report to turn Combs into a six, possibly in an eight-bell frame!

In a week when the role of organisations like ours has been questioned, it is a reassuring look back at snapshots in time to shore up all that the Guild has done - and I hope continues to do now - for Suffolk's ringers, regardless of their competence in ringing and calling Stedman!

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Thursday 16th April 2015

AGM Photo 2015.It has been doing the rounds this week, but if you haven't already seen the group photo taken at Saturday's AGM in Felixstowe then it is worth searching it out, along with the list of names to identify the mass of heads. Whilst such snapshots of our ninety-two-year-old organisation will be of most interest in years to come when the characters of the SGR will be fondly recalled and the hair lost and weight gained in the intervening years chuckled at, even now just five days on it highlights the diversity of our group and the vastness of the county we cover in our regular ringing exploits.

Every District is amply represented, stood side by side, friends brought together by the Suffolk Guild from the coast to the borders with Cambridgeshire. The area we ring in is massive, from Exning in the west to Southwold in the east, Brandon in the north to Nayland in the south and the types of rings varied from big, famous rings at Beccles, St Mary-le-Tower, Lavenham and The Norman Tower, to smaller, oft-forgotten towers like Iken, Eriswell, South Elmham St Cross and Assington, the latter of which we were informed has a new tower correspondent, Roger Britcher who is a churchwarden at St Edmund King & Martyr. Unfortunately it is just too late to be amended in the new Annual Report, but it is worth noting as the correspondent we did have sadly died some four years ago. It highlights how we need to try and keep up with any changes at local churches that may effect who we have as tower correspondent, especially in the case of someone passing away where upset and embarrassment can be caused. Where a non-ringer is the point of call for a set of bells, the first thought - particularly in cases such as this - is unlikely to be to contact the local ringing society, so if nearby ringers are aware of the identity of correspondents at ringing chambers around them and are able to keep an ear to the ground in regards to any changes then it will help the webmaster Chris Garner and Report Editor Michelle Williams keep details as accurate as possible.

Apart from our size, what the weekend's picture also reminds us is the sense of family in ringing and specifically within our borders. Not just in the literal meaning, with the Pipes, Salters, Knights, Scases, Roses, Hughes, Girts, Harpers, Wakefields, Prices, Stevens, Williams, Pilgrims and of course the Munnings. But we also invest our hopes in every youngster that progresses, even when they depart to university with their talents. We're often asked how Mason and Alfie are getting on - Mason is back at school this week and Alfie partook in his very last visit to baby club this afternoon - and members look out for each other in many cases as if they were related. We rally round those who are ill. And when a member passes away, the sense of loss typically resonates from the Waveney to the Stour, the North Sea to Newmarket. With that in mind, many will I'm sure like to know that Mike Warren's funeral is due to be held at Stutton where he rang, at 10am on Friday 1st May, a moment to remember one of the true characters of the Guild, one who will be much missed.

There will be many in the ringing family there I imagine.

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Wednesday 15th April 2015

With another late shift and Ruthie not feeling 100% still, neither of us went anywhere this evening, so on the occasion of an entirely uneventful day personally, now is perhaps as good a time as ever to mention those who were doing something today and what may be done in the coming days from a ringing perspective.

As far as today's ringing was concerned, with the tenor clapper back in, the quarter at Pettistree before the practice that we didn't make was one of Doubles as the QP total at SS Peter & Paul for 2015 reached twenty already. Meanwhile, last night saw the return of what is hoped to be regular Tuesday night sessions at Leiston, whilst this coming Friday the Helmingham Monthly Practice is pencilled in, the North-East District Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham is planned for the evening of 21st April, before the South-West District Practice at Bures on Saturday 25th and the Halesworth Triples and Major Practice on the 28th are due to round the month off.

Please do support these events where and when you can - not every day has to be as quiet as this!

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Tuesday 14th April 2015

A number of things appear to indicate that we are closer to summer than winter today. The temperatures have gradually increased, whilst the layers of clothing have simultaneously decreased in number. The heating has been turned off in cars, offices and at home. The evenings are getting lighter later. The cricket season has begun. The football is beginning its exciting climax. The Guild AGM is done and dusted for another twelve months.

Today saw much of that go a step further. The mercury soared far higher than at any point thus far in 2015, seeing jumpers dispatched unceremoniously and windows flung open. This evening's round of footy matches saw some of those teams very far ahead or behind the rest being promoted and relegated respectively and Ipswich Town win and hold onto a play-off position for now.

From a ringing perspective, the later, warmer nights hopefully make popping out to practices more appealing, and some seem to  be taking advantage of that. A quarter-peal of Rutland Surprise Major was rung prior to Offton's practice and well done to Ruth Suggett and Andrea Alderton on ringing their first of Allendale Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Tostock on Sunday. But now that the aforementioned AGM is done with, thoughts begin turning to striking competitions, surely a sign that the ringing summer is hopefully on its way. We've already had the National Twelve-Bell Contest eliminators, with the final due to be held in Norwich on Saturday 27th June and earlier in the same month The Ridgman Trophy - the ten-bell competition open to organisations in East Anglia - is pencilled in for Saturday 6th at St Peter and St Paul in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire.

In Suffolk though, the District striking competitions are fast approaching. The South-East District are booked in the diary for Saturday 2nd May at Monewden, whilst the North-East District is planning on holding theirs a week later at Wenhaston. No sign as I write this of details for the western District's competitions, but of course the big one in these parts is the Guild competitions, this year being held by the South-West District on the newly restored and rehung six at Rattlesden and the famous eight at Lavenham. In recent years these have become tremendously successful, some may argue too successful. However, especially with the new timings that should avoid the same scenario as last year when we ran out of time at Helmingham, I would argue that you can't get too many teams or at least ringers. We need more representation from all Districts, especially in the west of the county, as the more members that take part in striking competitions the better. Even if the result was the most important aspect of the day, win or lose, this is fantastic experience for any learner, the chance to focus on striking in a fun environment, to take in advice and guidance that will help improve their everyday ringing and I hope also giving them the motivation and inspiration to delve further into this limitless art. There is the excitement of finding out who wins and the social element is highly enjoyable, with the opportunity to chat over a pint, cuppa, bite to eat or just in the sun as good ringing belts out.

Don't let issues like ringers ringing for more than one team cloud your judgement of these events either. It is necessary in some cases to make some teams up and allow ringers who wouldn't otherwise take part the chance to do so, but is discouraged otherwise and is quite rare these days. Simply get a team together - apart from The Rose Trophy, as far as I'm aware all the local competitions have a call-change element if you don't feel up to method ringing - and enjoy the occasion!

God willing, it'll be a summer of ringing to remember with a smile!

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Monday 13th April 2015

St Mary-le-Tower.Grundisburgh.The Norman Tower.

With a late shift at work and Ruthie feeling unwell, I had to pass on going to St Mary-le-Tower this evening in order to look after Alfie. It was a shame, primarily because of my wife's ill-health of course, but also because I don't like missing too many SMLT sessions. With Grundisburgh no longer functioning as a higher-number practice, The Norman Tower on Tuesday nights not entirely practical for us to commit to regularly in our current circumstances and twelve-bell peals becoming increasingly difficult to arrange (and when they do get arranged hard to score as shown by our loss in Ipswich last month), ringing on ten and twelve is a rare indulgence for me now, where it used to be something that I did a lot, feeling all the better for it too.

God willing I'll get the opportunity when my turn comes up again in two weeks time, but for now as the sun dropped late, my priority was looking after the child and the infirm.

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Sunday 12th April 2015

After a day yesterday spent with over a hundred people on a busy and enjoyable occasion, today was always going to be a bit of a comedown. There were still remnants of all that happened in Felixstowe this morning with a decent crowd at St Mary-le-Tower including a delighted George Pipe in an understandably upbeat mood with the success of his exhibition, which continues into this afternoon and Laith Reynolds who had travelled over to support him. It was interesting to note that of the seventeen present at SMLT between 8.45-9.30am, fourteen had been at the AGM less than twenty-four hours earlier. If that sort of ratio had been repeated across the Guild, we may have had to extend St John's church!

There was still a reasonable quantity of the fourteen present at Grundisburgh who had been on the coast for the SGR's showpiece event, but the main thing was that there were plenty to make a pleasant sound in Stephen Pettman's absence, as I oversaw some well-rung Grandsire Triples and Yorkshire Surprise Major and a go on ten for Mason!

The general positivity of the weekend continued on with a busy day of ringing. A couple of quarters in Lowestoft contributed to the quarter-peal week for our neighbours in the Norwich Diocesan Association, including a first of Surprise inside for Jo Asquith. Well done Jo and well done to Ruth Suggett and Neal Dodge on ringing their first blows of London Scholars Pleasure Treble Bob Minor and Stephen Dawson on ringing his first quarter in the method in the 1296 changes of it rung at Great Barton. Well done also to the band at The Norman Tower which rang the first quarter of Grandsire Cinques by a Sunday service band at the Cathedral. Since being augmented three years ago, this twelve seems to have genuinely helped progress the local band. This has been no vanity project, but rather the ringers here have used the extra couple of bells to expand their repertoire and abilities - this afternoon's quarter (minus it is worth noting others who could also have rung in a nod to the tremendous strength in depth developing at St James') is just the latest of many other achievements since the installation of the new trebles in 2012.

Bramfield.Whilst perhaps not having quite the same impact, the quarter of Doubles on the five in the detached round tower of Bramfield and the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh will also help contribute to a raising of standards in Suffolk. It may not have been quite as busy as yesterday, but it has still been a good day of ringing to round off a good weekend of ringing.

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Saturday 11th April 2015

We should feel extremely fortunate to have George W Pipe in our midst. Here is a giant of the exercise. His brother Rod's achievements have often hidden the fact that GWP is a man held in huge regard throughout the world, respected for his tremendous ringing achievements in every corner of the globe that the art is practiced. It is basically because of him that ANZAB got going and he has rung peals at pretty much everybody's 'bucket-list' towers here and overseas. I suspect that I'm not alone in stepping into ringing chambers outside of the county, announcing myself as being from Suffolk and then almost immediately being asked how George is.

Sadly, I think it has taken his increased absence through ill-health in recent years to truly appreciate his importance not just at St Mary-le-Tower where on his and Diana's return from living in Australia he dragged the band from a trough of badly rung Bob Doubles to one of the best twelve bell bands in the country, but also across the Guild, but this weekend offers up an opportunity to celebrate what he has achieved with his exhibition at St John's Masonic Hall in Felixstowe.

It is of course - in case I hadn't mentioned it enough in recent weeks - part of today's SGR AGM, a highlight in the calendar in its own right for me, but made even more special by walking through the front door of the hall to be met with an exhibition of simply staggering proportions. As Mr Pipe himself was keen to point out, this wasn't just about him. Postcards of churches adorned the cavernous room, books, clappers, ropes, certificates and just about anything else you can think of relating to bellringing and the buildings we carry it out in was there, giving something for everyone - whether a ringer or not - to engross themselves in. But the theme that jumped out was all that which highlighted what this ambassador for Suffolk ringing has achieved in ringing. The peals, newspaper articles, photos of him with some of the best ringers ever known - it all added up to an amazing collection that I am pleased he decided to share with us.

Pipe family.As if that didn't produce enough star dust, some of those famous ringers were there supporting him, as he was joined by his family. Former sister-in-law Gillian Fielden and her husband John from Birmingham were there, as were her son David, his wife Cecilia and their sons Henry and Alfred who have been amazing the ringing world over the last few years. The latter seemed delighted to meet his namesake as my youngest tried to destroy Mrs Pipe's necklace, but it was fantastic to catch up with old friends who I used to regularly ring with.

It was also fantastic to see this seaside town swarming with current friends from all over the county, as we convened for the annual gathering of the membership. Many were exploring George's exhibition, but also taking in the seafront on this beautiful afternoon, as well as mingling in the church where the tea and meeting were to be held, whilst others crammed into the tiny belfry. I eventually made it up myself, only to arrive just as the stay on the treble was broken, meaning a considerable delay whilst two prominent young brothers scrambled upstairs to unravel the rope, take it off, put it back on the wrong way round, take it off again and then finally pull it up far enough for Mike Whitby not to have to lay on the floor to catch the sally. Grandsire Triples and a decent service touch of Bristol Surprise Major then completed and it was time for the service which was led superbly by Rev. Rachel Cornish and a marvellous tea organised primarily by Jane Harper but involving far too many to be named, though we were eternally grateful for the fine spread!

Gathering for the Guild photo.Gathering for the Guild photo.Gathering for the Guild photo.

In between, we gathered with a sleeping Alfred and excitable Mason at the west end of the church for a group photo of those present, one that will hopefully offer a lineage through from those earlier pictures from the 1974 and 1996 AGMs and which was shepherded tremendously by Ralph Earey and Peter Davies.

Mason & Alfie.As sure as night follows day, the feasting was wound down and the business of the day commenced. Typically the meeting has become a relatively sedate affair, with perhaps the rise of social media and faster, easier communications negating the need for much that was discussed at such events in the past to be brought up now, but today's was a bit livelier. We knew that Secretary Mandy Shedden and Treasurer Gordon Slack would have to step down after five years dedicated service and they were duly replaced by Carl Melville and Owen Claxton respectively. Sincere thanks have to go to Mandy and Gordon for serving in and Carl and Owen for taking on what are two of the toughest but most important roles in the organisation.

What I hadn't been expecting though, was a contest for the role of Report Editor. There had been some issues raised surrounding the last two editions published by George Reynolds and so Michelle Williams was put forward and after a paper ballot elected to take over from young George. Whatever the validity of the points raised, I would like to thank Mr Reynolds for his efforts in another time-consuming role. Two years ago he stepped forward when no one else would and ensured that this vital tool of communication and record of Guild life continued. However, I also wish Michelle the best of luck and gratitude for being willing to carry this difficult job out.

All the other officers continue in their roles, including myself as Public Relations Officer, though I have made it clear that this - my fifth - year in the job will be my last, even though I don't have to step down. Five years is quite enough I feel, for me and for everyone else! I have already begun looking into finding a replacement, but it goes without saying that if you fancy it or know someone that may be right for the position then please do feel free to put them forward and if you need any further information about it then do get in touch and I will try in to fill in as many blanks as I can!

Another current servant of the Guild who will have to be replaced at the 2016 AGM due to be held in the South-West District on Saturday 2nd April (mark the date in your diaries now!) is Ringing Master Jed Flatters. Jed has been brilliant since taking over from myself in 2011, particularly in regards to championing the ITTS in the county, so he will be hard act to follow - please get your thinking caps on and please don't be afraid to put yourself or someone else (with their permission of course!) forward for it.

The remainder of the meeting was generally quite straightforward, with the main moments of note being the announcement that the Guild Social is pencilled in to be held by the North-East District on Saturday 26th September with promising mentions of brewery tours and the handing out of certificates to those who have held membership of the SGR for fifty years or more, including my father and Aunty Marian. A wonderful initiative from Peter Harper with the help of Neal Dodge and David Salter.

With it getting late, we decided to call it a day as others began climbing the stairs to the 7cwt eight and no doubt then onwards to the pub and whilst we also didn't make the apparently reasonably-attended morning ringing at Falkenham, from what we experienced, this was a hugely successful day. The exhibition, the ringing, the socialising, the food. There was that ton+ attendance that we strive for at this occasion, including Alex Tatlow who travelled up from London having rung a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Cornhill and a number who had given the Guild's peal records a boost with 5000 changes of St Edmund's Abbey and Yorkshire Surprise Royal spliced at The Norman Tower. Well done to Richard Walters on ringing his first on ten, Tim Stanford on ringing his first of Royal and congratulations to Joan Garrett on ringing her fiftieth on the bells. Most of all though, thank you to those from the South-East District for organising today, including Ruthie.

And thank you George for sharing your amazing collection.

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Friday 10th April 2015

Anniversaries and dates are often a cause for pause, an opportunity consciously or otherwise to look back. Few as much as birthdays though, especially those of your children. It still amazes me when I take a step back and think about the fact I have an eight-year-old son, each passing anniversary of his birth seeing me shake my head in disbelief and wondering where the time has gone and it now begins with Mason's younger brother Alfie who today turned one.

One year since that bright, sunny day not unlike today. One year since that tiny fragile creature shot into the world with a flourish and slept intermittently. One year in which that fragile creature has developed into a smiling, crawling, walking boy fascinated by everyone and everything, giggling his way through life. It has been a joy.

Of course he himself is entirely unaware of the significance of 10th April to him and us, but we wanted to mark the day and so after an early shift that saw me wake up earlier than I had got to bed exactly twelve months earlier, we took him south of the border to Colchester Zoo. It is years since I've been to any zoo, let alone this one and I'd forgotten how much fun they are! For Alfred it was just yet another new experience among so many others, so the sight of a real-life monkey, lion or giraffe was of no more and no less interest to him as the lady carrying dozens of balloons or the fact that the back of the bench we lunched next to felt different, but it was fantastically stimulating for the one-year old and an enjoyable afternoon out for us in gorgeous weather, allowing us to escape to a more exotic world we don't usually get to see.
Once home and Mason collected from his own week of safari and steam trains with his Nana and Granddad, we opened the many presents and cards so generously given to AJM for his landmark occasion and settled in for a slightly more relaxed night in than this time in 2014!

The ruined church of All Saints Stanway on the grounds of Colchester Zoo, next to a silver giraffe of course.Alfie measuring up against the world's penguins at Colchester Zoo.Alfie telling a lion off at Colchester Zoo.

Meanwhile, as we prepare what we hope will be a memorable AGM day tomorrow, it seemed appropriate that the ringers of Suffolk contributed to one of the busiest days ringing within our borders for a while. As usual, the FNQPC were successful, on this occasion scoring a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham in the South-East District, whilst a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Wenhaston in the North-East District. However, the headlines of the day go to those in the west of the county with Sally Veal ringing her first inside in the forty-five minutes at Pakenham and the entire band ringing their first blows of Powderhouse Bob Minor in the success at Tostock that also marked David Steed's 1200th quarter-peal, whilst the impressive handbell peal in Bacton saw Winston Girling and Jeremy Spiller ring their 50th and 750th in hand respectively and their 50th together in hand. Well done particularly to Sally and congratulations to David, Winston and Jeremy!

And Happy Birthday Alfie!

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Thursday 9th April 2015

Beccles.When I received a message from Radio Suffolk asking if I could appear on Mark Murphy's show to put forward bellringing's perspective on complaints made in Beccles about the ten there, I don't mind admitting to my heart sinking. What minefield was I about to step into? Was I going to have to draw on the strength required to spend time on the 'Thick Skinned Bellringers' Facebook page? Being at work as my second turn in less than a week on our local BBC radio station was being arranged, I had no details of the story until I sat in my car on a break from work to take the call and listened to the introduction to our interview.

As it happened, it was a very positive story, presumably inspired by yesterday's article in the Beccles & Bungay Journal which I have since come across featuring the scheme to put sound control in at this famous tower, being led by Chrissie Pickup, widow of the late, great J Barry and sister of immediate-past Chairman of the Guild, Philip Gorrod. This is something I would like to see more - if not all - towers do, regardless of whether local complainants have been stirred. It becomes clearer with each ITTS-filled year that our learners need to be practicing more, particularly in the early stages and frankly if we want standards to rise we generally need members ringing more if they can, at practices, on outings, District and Guild events, striking competitions, quarters, peals and the rest. We can't expect the general public to put up with that though and so in order to offer us greater flexibility we need the ability to dampen the sound of our bells when necessary whilst also being able to ring them openly when desirable.

In the relatively short time I had on air, I tried to intimate as much, attempting to strike a conciliatory note whilst also making it clear that we are determined to protect what we do and our right to do it. I then left it to the general public to make the point that I often make on here that if you move in next door to a church you should expect bells to be rung and that if you are investing huge sums of money on buying a house you maybe ought to do some research first. Nonetheless, as I also point out on here, we have to be considerate of our neighbours, not just because there are an increasing number of people with far more attitude than common sense terrorising speedway tracks, pubs, music venues and even level crossings, but also just because it is common courtesy to treat others as presumably you yourself would like to be treated. That is far from the same as capitulating to every disgruntled resident within earshot of your bells. Sound control needn't be expensive, so there is no reason why a tower can't be fitted with an effective system, whilst simulators also offer opportunities to teach without disturbing the cottage backing onto the churchyard or the old people's home next door. But if that is not possible or is unlikely to happen immediately (and even if it is!), try and maintain good relations with your surrounding community. Hold open days, if you can, get involved with parish events, use the pub. When there is extra ringing, advertise it and don't be afraid to compromise where it is reasonable. The SGR will be here to support you if needed.

Whilst I was partaking in an unexpected bit of ringing public relations, a presumably more expected and slickly planned bit of publicity was occurring at Taylor's Bellfoundry in Loughborough, as Prime Minister David Cameron visited on the General Election campaign trail and even used it as a backdrop for a campaign video. He was shown around by Andrew Wilby, a director at the company, past Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths, someone I have had the privilege of ringing with much and well-known to many reading this I'm sure. Quite possibly the PM may have seen Wickham Market's bells which are currently there for some work, but some who definitely saw the 12cwt six yesterday was a delegation from the big WM, checking up on how the loudest instruments in the village were coming along!

Back here though, I followed up my ringing PR with actual ringing as with Ruthie and her chorister colleagues being given a week off following a busy Easter, she stayed at home with Alfie whilst I attended the Surprise Major practice for the first time this year and a jolly good evening it was too, as a large attendance allowed for a repertoire that reached the heights of Bristol and eight-spliced. With the tenor clapper out (Now refitted. Ed.) at Pettistree, their weekly session was held at Ufford last night, which in turn meant that new Granddad Mike Whitby was running tonight's 'Cosy Nostrils' practice at Grundisburgh on this occasion. Which is handy, because they have some very decent sound-control...

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Wednesday 8th April 2015

Mine and Ruthie's grateful thanks extend to the band who rang this evening's peal at The Wolery with me, for agreeing to dedicate it to the forthcoming first anniversary of Alfie's birth. It tis a pity that Monday's attempt arranged especially for the milestone with his mother Ruth, grandmother Kate and uncle and Godfather Chris was lost unceremoniously, but tonight's footnote negates the need for me to arrange something which due to circumstances over the next couple of weeks wouldn't have included his mummy or granny anyway and would have been difficult to fit in, so thank you guys!

Besides, tonight's success was certainly worthy of Alfred's significant landmark and was one of the best efforts I have rung in for some time, not because of its brisk speed which - as far as I can make out - is the fastest of Major on the bells, but because of the superb ringing of which that swift pace was a consequence. From the off we didn't hold back with an enjoyable method that saw the multiple dodges on the front build momentum that was largely uninterrupted by errors across the 1hr43mins of ringing and topped off with cake, biscuits, tea and tales of the exploits of George's Salter and Vant and Craig Homewood over a busy Easter weekend in this Rectory Road household! Congratulations as well to Katharine Salter, for whom the 5056 of Quarry Hill Surprise Major was her 1500th peal.

Meanwhile, memories of almost a year ago were further evoked by the birth today of Eliza, first daughter for Sarah Whitby and first grandchild for Pettistree Ringing Master Mike. It is a long time since the new mother touched a bellrope in anger and I don't expect parenthood will hasten any return to ringing, but my wife and I still enjoy our friendship with her and are delighted for her and her other half Olly, as we are of course for her father, one of the best ringers and conductors in Suffolk and to be regularly found at practices in our area, helping others through quarters and peals and not just at South-East District and Guild events but in other Districts too. It was pleasing therefore to see he was able to conduct a quarter at Ufford prior to the relocated practice (Back at Pettistree next week. Ed.) from SS Peter & Paul to mark this happy day for him and his family.

The aforementioned brace of performances weren't the only ones recorded on BellBoard within our borders since the sun rose early this morning. Although rung at Kessingland, one of the Norwich Diocesan Association towers this side of our frontier with Norfolk and for the NDA Quarter-Peal Week, Julie Moore's first of Minor is worthy of mention, but there was much activity in the SGR too, where having been unable to replace a late dropout due to my commitments in Ipswich, I was pleased to see the quarter at Halesworth scored, even if Stedman Triples wasn't the original plan! And well done to all those partaking in the 1260 of Prickley Green Bob Minor at Preston St Mary on ringing their first in the method.

For all the lost peal attempts, dropouts and no doubt tiring months of pregnancy, there is a sense that it all turned out alright in the end!

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Tuesday 7th April 2015

Questions pervaded the air today, poking, prodding intrusively, demanding answers whether you care or care not.

Which hypocritical, two-faced political party tugging our sleeves incessantly and craving our vote in exactly a month is best trusted with running society? Would a referendum on our membership of the EU be a reckless business-destroying move reeking of xenophobia or democracy in action? Why do Ipswich Town play like champions one week and then Cheltenham the next? When did Tony Blair start looking like an eighty-year-old and why has he been released from the home? According to QI, which creature has the shortest memory? Why is someone using a fresco painting as inspiration for killing in Midsomer Murders? According to QI, which creature has the shortest memory? Most importantly though, have you booked your tea for the Guild AGM at Felixstowe on Saturday?

Falkenham.Felixstowe.Worry ye not if the answer is no on the final query. Whilst not wanting to encourage a flood of late requests for food in the church attached to the 7cwt easy-going eight that rings out over this coastal resort, I'm sure Jane Harper won't turn away the odd post-deadline order and besides, regardless of whether you are dining with us, your presence will be most welcome at other points across the day. Hopefully the planned group photo will give those who will be charged with the running of - God willing - a thriving Suffolk Guild in decades to come a sense of the history and heritage they are taking forward as I hope we the present members will be aware of as we take in George Pipe's exhibition. As a former SGR Ringing Master who once had to shepherd the ringing at these events, I feel duty bound to exhort members to partake in the sessions in the ringing chambers of the main venue and earlier in the day at nearby Falkenham. My memories of such occasions range from pitiful turnouts at Bardwell and Ixworth for the 2010 AGM to an almost overwhelming attendance at the then newly restored and rehung ground-floor ring at Chediston. One was a real struggle to keep going, almost a chore and not very useful or entirely enjoyable for anyone there, the other was dynamic and from my perspective exciting and exhilarating as I tried to ensure all those there - many of whom I didn't know the abilities of - had an effective and pleasurable go on them. I know which I would prefer for my successor Jed Flatters and those who attend the ringing this weekend, so please do support them.

As the least enjoyable food is the best for you, the meeting itself is arguably the least interesting and yet most important aspect of the organisation's day of fun by the sea. The Guild exists not to dictate to or demand of its members but to support them in their aims to help ringing flourish in their various pockets of our vast and beautiful county, through finances and a network of support on matters of recruitment, teaching and maintenance. Ringing within our borders would continue without it I'm sure, especially in these days of instant communication and social media, but would - I believe - be poorer for it. In this context therefore, it is vital that officers are held to account by those financing the SGR and what it is doing is scrutinised, debated and discussed, though this will typically be done with humour and often brevity - as far as I am aware, there is no great controversy looming and set to push the meeting over the four-hour mark!

On top of all that, it looks like the weather may be perfect for a day by the seaside, with temperatures 'soaring'!

In summary then - please turn up on Saturday if you can!

For now though, ours was - as is usual for a Tuesday - a day off ringing, but others were more active. Practices at Halesworth returned to their traditional slot at the end of the second day of the week and on that note it is worth pointing out that with the tenor clapper at Pettistree being taken for a more long-term repair, this week's practice will instead be at Ufford (The repaired clapper is back in Suffolk and will be installed for service ringing on Sunday.Ed). Meanwhile, well done to Kate Gill who rang her first quarter inside in the successful Plain Bob Doubles at Worlingham - at least according to the North-East District's Facebook page, if not the footnote - and to Ellie Earey and her mother Tessa on ringing their first of the Major version of the same method in the pre-practice 1264 at Offton. Oh, and Happy Birthday Rona!

No question it was a successful day of ringing!

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Easter Monday 6th April 2015

There is a quote for pretty much everything.

For example, it is oft quoted that there is a thin line between success and failure, but on this bank holiday Monday that line was thick and insurmountable.

With the forthcoming Friday being the first anniversary of Alfie's birthday, I had arranged a peal attempt to mark the occasion, as I have done for the last eight years for his elder sibling Mason around the end of January. All the familiar tribulations of peal-arranging and particularly peal-arranging in Suffolk reared their tiresome head, with dropouts and considerable arm-twisting. Come this morning and the boys dropped off with their grandparents in Ipswich (thanks again guys!), I found myself inflicted with illness and tired after the type of broken night's sleep that most parents will relate to, but surrounded by a sound band for an attempt at Stephen Ivin's familiar composition of Bristol Surprise Major from the Ringing World Diary on the back eight at the also familiar Grundisburgh.

Also familiar is the saying about the best laid plans, etc, etc, and disappointingly this was one that we did fulfil, as after all that organising the effort crumbled, the ringing never really getting going on these awkward bells, blighted by too many mistakes and so after over an hour of hoping things would improve, a mass tumult proved too much and I reluctantly set things up. Particularly in the circumstances, it was a pity. We had a band that included Alfred's mother, grandmother and uncle and it will be difficult to rearrange such a gathering again in the near future, so I will probably need to go through the hassle of cobbling something together. My eldest son is now beginning to appreciate our annual birthday peals for him and it would be lovely for his younger brother to have a similar tome of peals to look back on later in life in a similar manner. I am of course grateful to those who took the time to come out over this Easter weekend, some from the other side of the county and these things happen, but combined with a lost attempt at Ashbocking this afternoon - though a quarter was scored afterwards - it sums up the year thus far in regards peal-ringing in the Guild.

That said, as well as that consolation quarter, there were other successes within our borders in the medium. A 1260 of Buxton Bob Minor at Thornham Magna saw Pam Ebsworth and Alan Moult ring their first in the method, whilst those two also joined Paul Ebsworth in ringing their first blows of Badgeworth Bob Minor in the performance at Redgrave, which also saw Andrea Alderton and Lesley Steed ring their first quarter of the method and Paul notching up his 450th. Congratulations Paul and well done to him, Pam, Alan, Andrea and Lesley!

By the time the unsuccessful peal-ringers were ringing upon the isolated 10cwt six of All Saints, Ipswich Town were embarking on stretching the phrase 'snatching defeat from the jaws of victory' as they lost once again, meaning that what was not that long ago our brightest season for years is looking like fizzling out into one as much of a damp squib as any over the last decade and more.

Some of the crowds in our living room for Alfie's birthday party.Alfie with his birthday cake and his Nana.Depressing as that was though, we largely didn't care by that point, for as the full-time whistle blew in Huddersfield at the scene of the Tractor Boys' latest capitulation, we were far into the one positive that overrode the negatives of the day, as we celebrated AJM's forthcoming anniversary with a party as our housed heaved with family and friends, including his contemporaries Madison and Robyn, the boys earlier collected from Polstead (with stunning views across to Stoke-by-Nayland's fine tower) on the popular Debenham outing they had joined my mother and father on. Though we would normally hold such an event on or after the actual birthday, some relatives will be away then, next weekend is planned to be a busy one and of course the star of the show was unconcerned with such details anyway, instead enjoying the occasion with bemusement and joy in equal measure!

Hopefully he will enjoy the day out by the seaside on Saturday too, as I hope as many of the SGR's membership as possible do too. Much has been made of George Pipe's exhibition and rightly so. But there is much else for ringers and non-ringing company to take in. There is the ringing, which kicks-off at Falkenham from 11am to noon, which may seem early, but leaves a gap big enough between ringing at this lovely little ground-floor six and the 3-4.30pm ringing in Felixstowe to take in the exhibition, grab some lunch, enjoy the coastal setting and look around a community that suffers in comparison to places like Aldeburgh and Southwold further up the coast, but is still a lively little place brimming with pubs, cafes and shops, all easily accessible even to those in the far corners of our Guild, via the A14 and train. There is also the meeting, which whilst not the most thrilling part of the day is important, especially as amongst much else, a new secretary and treasurer need voting in to replace Mandy Shedden and Gordon Slack after their five years service. Also lined up is a group photo in the tradition of those from Bury St Edmunds in 1974 and Lavenham in 1996 that have received much interest - it would be great to have a truly representative turnout for that! Much, much organisation has gone into this, as I know first hand from my wife, so please don't let all of that go unappreciated. If you are planning on coming along for the tea though, you will need to let Jane Harper know by Tuesday 7th April. Otherwise - to paraphrase another well-known quote from the bouncers of the land - 'if your name's not on the list, you're not getting any tea'!

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Easter Sunday 5th April 2015

Us at Radio Suffolk.Competing with the birds singing early on this spring morning was the sound of handbells ringing (Starts at about 02:39:30), as the Guild enjoyed some of its best publicity for a long time. A small gathering of bellringers had taken over Jon Wright's studio at Radio Suffolk to promote George Pipe's much anticipated exhibition at St John's Masonic Hall in Felixstowe as the centrepiece of Saturday's SGR AGM in the seaside town. I spluttered out a few words (it never comes out as I plan!), but I was merely the facilitator for the occasion. The main star of course was GWP, looking reassuringly well and orating superbly, (Starts at about 02:42:15)as he always does, imparting not just information about his huge collection but also a snapshot of his wide and varied experience in the art, from his humble beginnings learning at Grundisburgh to his participation in the historic first peal at Washington Cathedral to his love of the magnificent ten at Lichfield Cathedral.

However, he was accompanied by some marvelous Norwich Surprise 'in Minor' rung by the image enhancing three young lads, Colin Salter on 1-2, his elder brother George on 3-4 and George Vant on 5-6. At the time, sat in the sound-proofed room from which the morning show was being broadcast, the only reminder of the outside world being a glimpse of the St Matthew's Roundabout, you forget - or at least I do - that anyone else can hear what is going on within those walls and despite the tight schedule and many clocks synchronised to within an inch of their life, once in full-flow you lose all concept of time, just aware that you are given a rough outline of what will be happening and you have to be prepared to respond at any moment on the live show. Yet when I got home later and listened back on iPlayer, it struck me that thousands will have been listening, in their kitchens, in their cars, as they were jogging or even in their workplace if they were unfortunate enough to be one of the view to be working on a day when pretty much everything shuts down in a pleasant break from the busy, hectic norm. And I'm pretty sure they would all have noticed it. There was no way this was going to be easily discarded as background noise like the pop songs on a loop or even George's words might have been without this attention grabbing intro, as fine as those words were. There was huge pressure on these youngsters to perform and they are to be commended on pulling it off brilliantly, especially as they didn't exactly go for an easy option.

Mason had his first experience of witnessing the inside workings of the place that typically blares out from our radio as we travel our vast county and as disappointed as he was that he didn't get asked a question, his behaviour was impeccable and he even got a couple of mentions, which pleased him no end! All in all, we were extremely pleased with the PR not just for next weekend's exhibition but for ringing generally and my thanks to the many George's (as commented on by Jon!) and Colin for making it a success, as well as to Katharine Salter for helping the boys and handbells get to the the location of our session on the airwaves and to our local BBC radio station for yet again supporting ringing within our borders yet again. It is their twenty-fifth birthday in a week and it would be great to see our members mark the anniversary, if not next Sunday, then at some point this year - where other local media have been extremely lax in supporting a hobby that involves almost a thousand of its residents, RS have found time for us almost without fail when we have asked.

Having promoted ringing, it was time to do some ringing on one of the most important dates in the church calendar, with our fifteen minutes of stardom finishing in time for us to make it to St Mary-le-Tower for service ringing, meeting up with Alfie again after his grandparents very kindly looked after him (I wasn't overly confident of him being as radio-friendly as his older brother!) whilst we were communicating our message to the wider world, before bringing him to a pleasingly packed ringing chamber at SMLT.

From here we diverted to what has become our traditional venue on Easter Sunday, St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, where Ruthie was already with the choir. As usual it was standing room only as Alfred slept and was apparently a busier than a typical evensong when my wife returned later and although all eight were ringing in the morning we didn't quite make it ourselves, though I enjoyed a catch-up with Bruce Wakefield when he came downstairs.

However, Suffolk ringers were doing their bit on the end of a rope, with four quarters rung today, as Mrs Munnings partook in a 1272 of Easter Day Surprise Minor at Pettistree first thing, our radio stars rang a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on handbells in Rectory Road, and then the Salter brothers joining their mother in ringing the same number of changes of the Triples version and more Doubles at Buxhall.

It was a day when bells could be heard in every corner of the county - thank you to all!

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Holy Saturday 4th April 2015

I well remember the build-up to our wedding. For months and indeed years, an increasing proportion of our time was taken up with some task in need of undertaking in order to make the big day run smoothly. So I can certainly relate to my brother Chris and his fiancee Becky as their wedding day later this year rapidly approaches as the list of jobs to deal with grows and so quite apart from being the best man to my younger sibling I am keen to ensure that all my role entails is carried out as efficiently as possible. That is easier said than done with the happy couple nearly an hour away in Bury St Edmunds, Mr Munnings on shifts as always and mine and Ruthie's life currently being a delicate balancing act between two (and at one stage three) jobs, nursery and school drops, ringing and choir, but this afternoon I managed an important element of the preparation as whilst my wife was singing with the choir back in Woodbridge, the boys joined me in travelling to west Suffolk to visit their uncle and his better half for me to get measured up for my suit for the day. That's one task underway...

The Wolery.Elsewhere. there was ringing going on not too far away as a handbell peal was rung in Bardwell, whilst they were busy again at The Wolery as the nineteenth and twentieth peals for the SGR in 2015 were rung, of which thirteen have been rung in the little blue shed in Old Stoke - the bell restoration fund will have a lot to thank the Salters for by 31st December at this rate! One of Minor in five methods was successfully completed in 1hrs56mins, whilst a 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Minor saw Mary Dunbavin ring her 900th for the Guild, a landmark well deserved for a member willing not only to help out for peals, but also in quarters, at District and Guild events and in teaching our art - well done Mary!

For us though, we returned to meet Mrs Munnings for an evening in, satisfied that I have carried out at least one of my duties as best man.

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Good Friday 3rd April 2015

Whether Good Friday represents the day of Jesus' crucifixion to you or whether it is nothing more than a bank holiday, whether of faith or not, for those who knew him, Mike Warren will live on in the memory even after his passing this morning following a battle with cancer faced with typical chirpiness. Always ready with a quip delivered dryly with a knowing smile, his humour livened up no end of occasions where we found ourselves fortunate enough to be sharing a ringing chamber, pub or village hall with him and his entertaining company will not be forgotten. But he was also an extremely useful ringer and over the years as the Suffolk Guild and in particular the South-East District have struggled to engage with the ringers on the beautiful Shotley Peninsula that he lived upon with his wife Jenny, he was an invaluable link between them and us, supporting ringing events and a regular at Ufford and once at Felixstowe as well as his home tower of Stutton. He will be very much missed and our thoughts of course go to Jenny and their family.

That family includes his stepdaughter Katharine Salter, her husband David and their sons George, Colin and Henry, whose house Mason and I found ourselves today for an annual highlight of my ringing calendar, The Wolery Good Friday Peal Day. This has long been an enjoyable occasion, but it is now enhanced by it also being something that Mason looks forward to as much as me as he gets to spend the day with his contemporary Henry, though since Ruthie joined St Mary's choir a few years back her Good Friday is now taken up with singing duties and means she is unable to partake in peal-ringing at its most civilised.

As ever, the ringing was superb, and consistent too, with both coming in at 1hr51mins, starting with a 5056 of Unsworth Surprise Major in the morning and a 5152 of Gainsborough Surprise Major in the afternoon, the latter of which saw Katharine join Ruthie, Stephen Pettman, Mary Dunbavin, Tom Scase, Brian Whiting and her husband David in ringing a hundred peals with me. In between we enjoyed a leisurely lunch and chat and the day was topped with some cake. It was particularly nice to ring with Alan Mayle and Sue Marsden for the first time for a while on a day that showed how peal-ringing can be used to gather friends together.

Ron playing Happy Birthday.Mary & Michael Barton.Birthdays can do the same of course, and having returned from Ipswich as thousands entered for the football, the boy and I joined his brother Alfie, my wife, mother-in-law Kate and Ron at Pettistree ringers Chris and Mary Garner's abode for a get-together to celebrate the anniversary of MSG's birth, with tea and cake very kindly laid on by our hosts and entertainment provided by some piano playing. Happy Birthday Mary!

It was an event that I imagine MIke would've enjoyed. RIP.

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Maundy Thursday 2nd April 2015

Alfie prepares for his first ever haircut...With a long, busy weekend off ahead of all the family if all goes to plan, today appears to have been a good day to subject both sons to haircuts. Alfie was having his first ever and it was far from an easy experience for Alfred, the hairdresser who happened to be in  the wrong place at the wrong time or us, but the short and the shorter of it is that his hair now looks quite trim where once cute but invading curls had hung. That his elder brother Mason had also had his latest mop chop this particular Thursday was pure coincidence as the deed was already done when I collected him after leaving work and dropping AJM off at the doctor with his mother to have his eyes and particular their conjunctivitis-like appearance looked at.

Bardwell.Parents reassured by the marvelous qualified NHS staff for the second time this week, Ruthie partook in choir practice before we settled in for a quiet evening in avoiding the seven-way pre-election political leaders bunfight, but elsewhere others had been busy ringing for Maundy services and in the case of the quarter-peal band at Bardwell ringing a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples. Hopefully it'll be even busier over the long weekend ahead.

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Wednesday 1st April 2015

April began as it traditionally does by letting the jesters loose on the madhouse for a morning. Usually po-faced businesses and scientists suddenly become comedy geniuses. Ipswich Town announced their Good Friday game against Bournemouth at the end of this week was going to be postponed due to a pitch infestation of moles at Portman Road. Ed Milliband had dyed his hair blond to attract the 'yoof' vote. Though the news that a ban on unlicensed dancing in Sweden has been upheld is entirely serious!

I once played an April Fools prank on my school friend Carl when I was a young teenager, phoning him up and pretending to be from the now defunct SGR (Suffolk Group Radio, not Suffolk Guild of Ringers!) offering my Formula One-mad contemporary the opportunity to win tickets to that year's Silverstone Grand Prix, which surprisingly he fell for judging by the Anglo-Saxon invectives uttered when I revealed my true identity. Twenty or so years later, I hadn't got the time or motivation for such frivolities, but I've always been a fan of an increasingly serious society letting its hair down.

Bill Lloyd.Mary Garner.There was further joviality at Pettistree come the evening, as Ruthie joined an upbeat but also slightly sad occasion. For whilst Mary Garner was celebrating her forthcoming birthday, the locals were saying goodbye to Bill Lloyd at his final practice before departing for Somerset to live. Quite apart from his superb company, it has been been a joy watching his progress from nearly hanging himself and us when he began to entering the world of peal-ringing in accomplished style. He topped his five years of ringing upon this ground-floor six appropriately, with another step forward in his progression as he rang his first of Grandsire inside in the pre-practice quarter, the latest of a number of quarters he has successfully undertaken. Best of luck to Bill, his wife Jo and their children down in the south-west.

The sandwiches, cake and presentations in The Greyhound that marked Mary and Bill's respective landmarks in their lives were brought forward somewhat by the clapper coming out of the tenor about twenty minutes from the end of the session, but that doesn't appear to have diminished the enjoyment that those present had, at least judging by the photos taken and my wife's account of proceedings.

April has certainly started well, God willing it'll carry on that way!

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Tuesday 31st March 2015

There appears to have been much soul-searching in ringing in recent months. It seems to correlate with a similar phenomenon throughout society and probably has as much to do with the internet as the issue at hand. Problems within any organisation, whether it be a bank, social services, the BBC or in ringing get out a lot easier than they used to, spread a lot faster and are subjected to a larger body of opinion, instantly willing to give their extremes of furious condemnation or passionate defence, in some cases fuelled by the twenty-four hour news channels desperate to fill a void that is usually filled by mundane reports and multiple talking heads discussing the same 'story' for an age.

Whilst in most instances it leads to a disproportionate response to these matters, it has had the effect of ensuring that that which is undesirable isn't just swept under the carpet, as seems to have been the case in the past. As much as Top Gear is one of my favourite programmes on TV and Jeremy Clarkson's sacking by the Beeb has saddened me, it has to be said it was only right to sack someone for punching a work colleague and it is highly unlikely that such justice would've been meted out before an age of online juries. More pertinently to our art though, it has brought to the attention of a wide number of ringers who would never previously had a forum to debate together the problems that we face.

Peal-ringing is one aspect that has been much discussed on Facebook and I have brought it up with increasing frequency on this blog, but the world wide web doesn't just allow for the questions to be raised, it can also help answer them. Therefore having thrown the decline in first pealers into the mix, the net now gives a platform to FirstPeal2015 to promote its worthy cause. The aim - if you don't already know - is to get three hundred people ringing their first peal before the party poppers and champagne come out for the arrival of 2016, the number being linked to the three hundredth anniversary of the first recorded true peal ever rung on 2nd May. According to the graph that is recording the progress of this project, the ringing family thus far is above what it typically achieves this year, but below the targeted rate, so more needs to be done. Suffolk has been doing its bit, with Ipswich ringer Lucy Williamson ringing her first in York where she is studying and Bill Lloyd achieving his in consummate style at Pettistree earlier in the month we now find ourselves at the end of, but  generally it has been an extremely poor first quarter of the year for the medium in the SGR, so Mike Whitby's sharing on the Guild FB page of Kate Flavell's message to inject a bit of extra support for the FirstPeal2015 project is a welcome shot in the arm for us here.

-------Sometimes though, it is the internet itself that can be seen as the problem. The article in the Ringing World that can also be read in its entirety on the publication's website (and I would strongly urge you to if you haven't already) highlight's its alarming decline and in no small part that has been down to digital competition. Why would you look in the RW for peals and quarters that have been on BellBoard and Campanophile for days and even weeks before your copy of the 'comic' is sat in your hands? Why wait to read the letters page and then another week or two for the retort when social media allows you to immediately read and join in with a debate as it is ongoing?

In my job though, I see on a daily basis how print and digital can work together successfully. Each of John Catt Educational's main guides and magazines come in eBook format and online and this publishing firm is more successful now then we have ever been. And as mentioned a week ago, the internet doesn't necessarily reach out to more ringers than printed publications. For example, the random peal from a not particularly notable six in a far off county from eight years ago plucked from obscurity on here seven days ago has yielded an additional forty-three views and even five likes on BellBoard since I brought it to my readership's attentions. Even taking into account that some people may have viewed it more than once, that is more than I imagined would be reading the blog and then viewing the performance, but it is still a fraction of the numbers of those who will be reading the Annual Report and soon Awl a'huld, the latter of which was delivered to us by Richard Gates this evening at the end of a windy day that saw an old work colleague pop into our office to bring cake for his birthday.

As with its previous fifteen editions, the sixteenth edition of the magazine manages to cram in much news from across the county, alongside advertising forthcoming events and offering forth useful advice, such as the latest of David Salter's superb articles on conducting. Beyond even that though, is the fascinating insight into Mancroft Appeal 300 and particularly its launch night, written by Simon Rudd - as he says, this is a project  to benefit not just Norwich, but the whole of East Anglia, so it is important that we give whatever support we can. After all, this is something that can truly answer some of that soul-searching in a positive fashion.

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Monday 30th March 2015

Following yesterday's concerns, Alfie awoke as he usually does, cheerful and excited, and well he might, as after his gentle and gradual introduction over recent weeks, today marked the official beginning of his nursery odyssey, God willing a long and enjoyable one for him as we strive to balance both finances and time around his need to be looked after!

Judging by the beaming smile and toothy grin we were greeted with when we collected him and the near paean dedicated to him by the staff who had been playing with and feeding him since we had dropped him off, I'd say it went well and at least we don't feel like we've abandoned him!

Pettistree.Sproughton.It was certainly preferable to the other thing that started today, as a hole in the fence around the Houses of Parliament allowed hundreds of MPs to escape to prey upon the general public, with it being feared that it will take until May to get them all back in. And whilst Big Ben presides over an empty, silent house, there is also silence from many more towers than usual this week as Holy Week gets under way. Not all towers will stop ringing. Pettistree and Sproughton on Wednesday night are two places that I am aware will still be ringing and perhaps those who are manning others will advertise the fact on the facebook logo. Guild facebook page.

As is traditional, St Mary-le-Tower was one of the places not practicing and as is also traditional we didn't go along to the spring clean of the ringing chamber that was carried out instead - motivation to tidy our own place is a struggle, let alone somewhere else! That said, well done and thank you to those who did dust the room down. Rather, we had a lazy night in together for once, a happy and content Alfred put to bed and ready for more adventures at nursery!

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Sunday 29th March 2015

It was a day that saw the beginning of British Summer Time and the reason why Mike Burn arrived for ringing at St Mary-le-Tower an hour late this morning - not the first time that's happened to ringers on such occasions and it probably not the last time it will happen!

It was a day when I took in the sad news that John Armstrong has become the latest Essex ringer to pass away in an awful period for our southern neighbours. A lovely chap and respected ringer nationally.

It was a day that saw the heaviest ring of bells in the world hung for full-circle ringing on primetime TV, as the 82cwt twelve at Liverpool Cathedral were featured on Songs of Praise (about twenty-five minutes in for those able to watch it on iPlayer), giving an impression not just of the size and booming sound of this huge peal, but even more so of the vastness of the massive tower they sit in!

It was a day when I received an email from Kate Flavell, Chairman of the Central Council Public Relations Committee, highlighting some important dates for ringing to note, with the three hundredth anniversary of the first peal at Norwich on 2nd May now - I hope - fully engrained in your mind being the most immediate one, closely followed by the seventieth anniversary of VE Day on 8th May and the national celebrations for the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta on 15th June. I hope that we in the SGR can do something for all three events.

It was a day when Mason went to another football party at Northgate Sports Centre, another party for the popular young chap.

But for all that, our abiding memory of this day will be of sitting in A&E at Ipswich Hospital with Alfie, after he gave us a bit of a scare. For having woken up from his afternoon nap screaming and unusually inconsolable even after a trip in the car to take his older brother to the aforementioned party, Ruthie and I were concerned. Whilst never taking his health for granted, we aren't the type of parents to trouble the stretched but wonderful NHS with every sniffle, bump and troublesome bout of teething, but this was so completely out of character for the normally happy-go-lucky chappy typically distracted with ease from that which children of that age find so traumatic, so we decided to make the short journey across town to Heath Road. Of course, when we reached there, he had settled down and even raised a smile or two that had been so worryingly and atypically missing, but he was obviously still not the full ticket and we felt in need of reassurance.

Thank God, we got that reassurance as a nurse took a temperature, his weight and further details and then later a doctor looked him over as between them it was ascertained that there was nothing seriously wrong with him and we breathed a sigh of relief. The only downside was that with a heaving waiting room in the main department, once it was clear there was no urgent need to deal with him we were there for a while, though it was a trade-off we were more than happy to make in the circumstances!

Still, it meant our plan to deliver the final Suffolk Guild Annual Reports in our care whilst my eldest son was partying went out of the window and we were indebted to my Mum for fetching him at the end at short notice - thanks Mum! A quick catch-up back in Ashcroft Road and we eventually made it home, relieved and aware that things could've been a lot worse.

Earlier, the ringing at SMLT coped with Mike's absence and we managed with the eight present at Grundisburgh, though with the need for one to look after Alfred we only had seven available, with both towers quite short today.

Mercifully, elsewhere things appear to have been less fraught with worry, at least on the face of it, as quarters of Oswald Delight Minor, five Doubles methods and Grandsire Triples were rung at Great Barton, Halesworth and Lavenham respectively, with the first one upon the 8cwt six seeing youngsters Neal Dodge and Clare Veal ringing their first blows in the method - well done Neal and Clare.

Hopefully that means today was memorable to them for the right reasons!

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Saturday 28th March 2015

Well just call me Mystic Munnings! Congratulations and thank you to the Exeter entry into the National Twelve-Bell Contest for making it look like I knew what I was talking about when I made an educated guess and 'predicted' that they may pip York to a place in the final in Thursday's long-winded and rambling blog. They will join Birmingham and Cambridge from their eliminator in Shrewsbury, Melbourne, Bristol and Towcester from the Liverpool group and the College Youths, Cumberlands (note the former finished above the latter!) and Leeds from the section in Wakefield, all making it through to compete with the hosts in Norwich on Saturday 27th June. Well done to all!

It was commented - as it occasionally is - that this is just the elite having a jolly day out, bracketed in with the leading peal-ringers, a selfish snub as ringing generally declines. There are so many things wrong with that misconception that it is hard to know where to begin. These ringers tend to be the most enthusiastic of the ringing family, often to be found teaching others and keen to support practices, whether they are weekly ones or events for their local ringing organisation and the standard that they ring at is something to aspire to and has been responsible for offering interest to huge numbers of ringers who may well have got bored with merely going through the motions locally, thus keeping the art alive and developing. So the big event up the A140 in the summer will see not just some of the best ringers in the world, but some of the most motivated and important ringers in the world, deserving of your support - don't grumble and mock, be inspired!

Oakley.As interested as I was in the biggest ringing competition in the world, we were involved in no ringing today, instead partaking in a leisurely lunch at The Cherry Tree in Woodbridge with our bridesmaid and Alfie's Godmother Fergie as she visited her hometown, a jovial afternoon of catching-up enjoyed, but elsewhere in Suffolk there was ringing, with the South-West District's Practice at St Gregory in Sudbury and a quarter-peal of Durham Surprise Minor rung at Oakley, a success for a talented band that you didn't have to be mystic to see coming!

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Friday 27th March 2015

Ashbocking.As Ruthie worked one final shift at Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard, I got Alfie to bed before Mason and I watched England demolish Lithuania - in a footballing sense - 4-0 on TV with a confident performance carried out with little fuss, echoed I'm sure by the FNQPC in their scoring of the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Ashbocking. A very positive evening all in all.

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Thursday 26th March 2015

Parish magazines and websites are a wonderful source of local information and news. When I lived in Hollesley, I delighted in Village Voices dropping through the door of my tiny but fondly remembered one bedroom flat that doubled as a family home at weekends for the majority of Mason's first two years. Tales of the heathlands and forests that surrounded us on the picturesque Sandlings Peninsula, informative articles on badgers, deer and the other wildlife that roam the community and adverts for quiz nights seemed a pleasant escape from the wider, furiously paced world of metropolises such as Woodbridge and Ipswich and more particularly beyond. Currently its website is refreshingly chaotic and cluttered with country kitchen recipes, walks and the picture of the month which as I write this features a photo entitled 'Garden Fungi' taken by Micky McBurnie, deputy Ringing Master tower correspondent at the 16cwt eight!

They are also an effective platform from which to promote ringing more directly, as I hope to do with The Felixstowe Magazine, Lavenham Life and on Rattlesden's village website to attract residents' attentions to the Suffolk Guild's intended arrival en masse for prolonged periods in the coming weeks and months for the forthcoming AGM and Striking Competitions. As much as going on Radio Suffolk or having an article in the East Anglian Daily Times (whenever they bother getting back to me!) does no harm and can result in bringing recruits in, but if non-ringers are being reached out to by their neighbours, even someone they know and have specific details of when, where and with whom they can take up ringing in their local area I feel we stand more chance of getting newbies into our ringing chambers. There is plenty that the SGR can do to support them, with a network of members willing and able to provide advice, guidance, (wo)manpower and opportunity, but often local knowledge and a familiar face is invaluable in enticing people in to learn our art.

Wenhaston Warbler.Therefore, well done to Michelle Williams on her front page piece in the Wenhaston Warbler, a wonderfully named publication that conjures up images of a village sat amongst the birds and the bees in a peaceful rural setting, which it is of course. The North-East District Ringing Master has written a brilliant bit aimed at getting villagers along to the 12cwt ground-floor six at St Peter that some may recall hosted the 2009 Guild AGM. To my mind, it hits the right balance between being upbeat and encouraging, but also upfront about the commitment needed and all topped off with the promise of cake! It is an example I would encourage more towers - especially the many set in our beautiful but isolated countryside - to follow.

Michelle was also busy further up the road today, as she partook in a Norwich Diocesan Association quarter at Pakefield, an NDA tower but within our borders in that little pocket around Lowestoft, so worthy of mention for that and that it was the first of Surprise Major as conductor for Craig Leach, a young ringer who does a fair amount in our county as well as with our members. So well done Craig!

Much further inland meanwhile, at the lovely light six of Tostock rung from a gallery, well done to Andrea Alderton and Ruth Suggett too on their first of Westminster Surprise Minor.

It is all part of a world that Michelle is looking to introduce the residents of Wenhaston to and is one that doesn't have to stop there and who knows, there may be among those coming over for refreshments on 17th April a future participant in the National Twelve-Bell Contest. Even if they're not, they - and indeed any ringer - would be well advised to keep an eye on Saturday's eliminators. I expect any from round here planning on journeying out to these far flung exotic locations have already made their plans, so I hope I'm not going to cause a mass exodus from the South-West District's Practice at Sudbury St Gregory, not St Peter as originally billed!, (Hasn't anyone in the SW got a camera to take a picture for the web page? Ed.) but if you get the chance to go along to one of these in the future then I would strongly recommend it, to soak in the atmosphere not just in the pub (though that is a big part of it!) but around wherever the competition is taking place and perhaps even more so to take in the top-class ringing you will hear, something that should inspire any aspiring ringer of any ability. Indeed, there is a marvellous opportunity at the Final in just three months on 27th June as the biggest event in the ringing world comes to Norwich, where amongst much else The Vestey Ring is due to be awaiting the hundreds who attend. But what bands will be joining the hosts in awaiting them?

Well barring any extraordinary circumstances, almost certainly Birmingham, winners of the competition (by far) more times than anyone else, including for the last five years in succession. From their group in Shrewsbury, one would expect a strong Cambridge team featuring the likes of David Pipe and Norman Tower regular Philip Wilding to follow them and in theory probably York, though past experience suggests this may be where a surprise may occur, with Exeter having a decent recent record and probably the most likely to usurp the Minster band.

Pettistree ringer Gill Waterson's daughter Molly offers further local interest as a member of the Bristol team who have done extremely well in the last few finals and they are surely favourites to win their eliminator at Pier Head in Liverpool, which looks a very open one, whilst I shall be cheering on the College Youths as they battle it out with the Cumberlands at Wakefield Cathedral where former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd will be among the three judges. Leeds, Oxford and St Paul's Cathedral are the other 'big' teams who will fancy their chances of being one of the three getting through to that summer date in Norfolk from their eliminator, with at least two regular finalists missing out. As with any competition though, anything could happen, so it'll be fascinating to see it all unfurl.

It will be a big day for those ringers, but today was a big day for Alfie and his parents as he had his final integration session into nursery and the first time he had stayed there for a whole day. It went reassuringly well and God willing he'll be ready to start full-time next week, meaning Ruthie headed off to choir practice in high spirits and I dealt with some more PR for the Guild, which I will hopefully be able to reveal more on soon. For now though, well done to Michelle on her bit of top PR.

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Wednesday 25th March 2015

St Mary-le-Tower.The Wolery.Disappointing, frustrating, annoying. Entries that could be sourced from the dictionary to impart the emotions of the band that lost a peal of spliced Surprise Major in the standard eight methods at St Mary-le-Tower this evening and no more so than for David Rothera, who I really felt for as Brian Whiting finally had to call a halt to proceedings after about two-and-a-half hours of deteriorating ringing from a band who really should have done far, far better. It is just a week since David's wife Sue expectedly but sadly died after a soul-destroying battle against cancer and I got the sense that tonight's attempt was rather cathartic for him. This is what he loves doing, giving a knowing smile when a particular change or roll-up comes up and enjoying the satisfaction of a peal well-earned. It may not be for everyone and some might even consider it odd for him to dive back into a medium that many appear to find so unappealing, but it is clearly something he enjoys, having rung nearly two-thousand of them, almost two hundred with his wife and after seven days of performances across the country dedicated to her memory - including a 5040 of Doubles at The Wolery yesterday also rung for the passings of Noel Orman, Dennis Allcock and Adrian Semken in a footnote highlighting the hit that ringing has taken recently - that shows how much affection she was held in, he was especially and understandably keen to ring one himself and said as much partway through in an attempt to gee us up.

Unfortunately it didn't work. That's not to say we didn't have decent ringing - in fact at times it threatened to break out into a reassured performance, as it should have been anyway with a band that has been attempting twelve-spliced in recent months and there were signs that the previous attempts with extra methods had done us a lot of good, which I still think they have. Tonight though, there were too many mistakes that broke up what reasonable stuff we did produce and ultimately we didn't deserve to score, no matter how much we desperately wanted to for Susan. You get occasions like that from time to time, bands don't perform to their best - it happened in Birmingham when I was there and I'm sure it still does, as undoubtedly it does in London and everywhere else and I have travelled quite long distances for much poorer efforts than this was. We simply have to dust ourselves down and make sure we do better next time out.

Thankfully, there has been more success elsewhere, with a quarter of Double Bob Minor rung at Preston St Mary that saw Paul and Pam Ebsworth and Andrea Alderton ring their first in this deceptively simple method, a 1274 of Cambridge Surprise Minor scored before the weekly practice at Pettistree, whilst Netteswell Surprise Minor was successfully negotiated at Harkstead on Monday. Well done to all, but particularly Paul, Pam and Andrea.

At least their efforts weren't as disappointing, frustrating or annoying as ours.

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Tuesday 24th March 2015

East Bergholt.The machinations of Suffolk Guild Annual Report distribution across our vast county is well underway, certainly in the South-East District judging by how our living room has become littered with piles of the glossy purple booklets and lists of where they need to go, mingling with multi-coloured building blocks and singing garages whilst a bemused and curious Alfie watches on. As SE Secretary, Ruthie has been charged with orchestrating their delivery to the far corners of our quarter of the organisation, from East Bergholt to Hollesley, Debenham to Stutton, taking in almost three hundred members. As soon as she received the many boxfuls that were handed to her by SGR Secretary Mandy Shedden at last night's St Mary-le-Tower practice, copies were put aside for members there, Pettistree's quota were taken for distributing at the ground-floor six and piles left for Offton and The Wolery in anticipation of representatives from there partaking in a planned peal attempt on the bells tomorrow. And mother-in-law Kate combined looking after Alfred for the day with taking the publications out to Orford and Tunstall, before taking more to Ufford practice this evening, from where they will then fan out to further towers.

By the sounds of it, the operation is also advanced in the North-West District from whence the Report Editor George Reynolds and the aforementioned Secretary Mandy reside, whilst I imagine there will be reports changing hands in the North-East District at Thursday's Triples and Major Practice at Halesworth and in the South-West District at their monthly Practice at Sudbury St Gregory on Saturday from 7-8.30pm. With Holy Week and Easter meaning that many practices will be disrupted by bank holidays, cancellations and locals going away, there will need to be some logistical contortions and in some cases delivery through several people in order to ensure they are available to all members before the AGM at Felixstowe on Saturday 11th April. That's Saturday 11th April in case you hadn't realised. Saturday 11th April.

It may be tempting to consider that all this time and travelling on a printed review of the year is wasted in an age where social media dominates much of society's communications. But whilst news came through today that efforts are being made to prolong Campanophile into 2016, despite being given a finish date of the end of this year at the end of last year, it is worth noting that the internet isn't entirely universal, at least not in ringing and certainly not throughout our membership. When noting those who have mentioned that they have read this blog, there are the best part of a hundred from those alone that can be counted amongst my readership over its near eight-year existence, which whilst reasonable perhaps for a niche subject is still only a fraction of the Guild's membership, even more so when one considers that of those near-hundred giving their feedback, a few are from beyond our borders and others are sadly no longer with us. On a more daily basis, I figure it is a decent handful who read fairly regularly, judged mainly on how many extra views a historic peal linked on here gets on its BellBoard entry when there is no other reason why such numbers would be looking at it. For example, if I was to tell you that there is something quite extraordinary about the 5040 of Minor rung at Coddington in Nottinghamshire way back on 16th April 2007, I would anticipate - as much as I am able - that the eighteen views of the performance thus far on BB may rise by another ten, possibly twenty and maybe even thirty in the coming days based on past experience, but certainly no more than that. And whilst there may be some cheeky likes, I wouldn't expect the currently like-less 2hrs25mins of ringing to make a mad and unexpected dash towards the site's leaderboard, so I'll perhaps leave that experiment to another time! The point is that my readership is far from extensive.

The Annual Report though, reaches hundreds and will be read at least fleetingly by pretty much all of them and thoroughly by many, so this is an opportunity for many to be informed of what is going on in the Guild and hopefully motivated and inspired to join in more. It offers in one easy to view snapshot details of all quarters rung in this beautiful county of ours, the SGR's peals and compositions, an overview of how the various District's have fared in 2014 and how we're getting on financially, something that isn't always available online and if it is requires much clicking and trawling, comprehensive and easy to use as our superb website is. So please do all you can to get this vital tool out to every member you can as soon as possible.

We are expecting that we may have to make a journey later in the week to do just that, but for tonight, it was a rare night in together on an otherwise unremarkable day - at least we have the Annual Report to keep us interested!


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Monday 23rd March 2015

Technological tribulations today saw the printed word triumph over the digital counterpart it is often assumed it was killed off by. Mason dropped off at his mother's and Ruthie and Alfie left at home awaiting the arrival of Kate to generously take the former to work and the latter under her care for the day, I arrived at work for my first 9-5 for a couple of months to be greeted to an office that had been thrust back into a dark ages of a pre-1990's world with no internet, with reports of Woodbridge being isolated from the world wide web. As the day slowly progressed, the Chinese whispers suggested that the outage also included half of Ipswich, before then only effecting those with a certain provider and eventually a national problem with the said provider. Whatever the reason or extent, we weren't back online until after 4pm, meaning we spent most of the day trying to do what we could without the tool that we almost entirely rely on, but happily John Catt Educational have a fine selection of reading material to make use of in preparation for when the net returned to us!

I also enjoyed reading the printed newsletter pushed through our door recently from the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths for Mrs Munnings. Whilst a member of the 'rival' tribe, I have many ringing friends as well as my wife who are members of the SRCYs and I enjoy reading what they are up to. There was a report on their exploits in the 2014 National Twelve-Bell Contest, apt in its timing as some of the best ringers in the world limber up for this Saturday's eliminators at Pier Head in Liverpool, St Chad in Shrewsbury and Wakefield Cathedral as they aim to qualify for the final up the A140 from us at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich on Saturday 27th June.

And in a busy year for our northern neighbours as ringing marks the anniversary of the first true recorded peal at the aforementioned twelve rung on 2nd May three hundred years ago, Norfolk's county city happens to be the location for the Cumberland's triennial formal dinner on Saturday 19th September too - a date for Suffolk's members to note. There was lots related to ringing within our borders as well, with Robert Beavis and Clare Veal mentioned on the back page for becoming members last year, alongside John Girt and Stephen Pettman for forty years of membership, whilst the all-ladies band who rang a peal at Grundisburgh for the society's peal weekend in November got a deserved mention and their photo on page eight. Well done to all from our county getting recognition for the second most prestigious ringing society!

Fekixstowe.More significantly though, was my first read of this year's SGR Annual Report, brought back by my better half from her night out at St Mary-le-Tower practice and resplendent in purple! Again, we should be eternally grateful to George Reynolds for not only taking on the role of Report Editor but producing a superb publication that we as a Guild should be very pleased with. As with all previous editions, there is help in putting together the stats from the Guild's peals and quarters rung on our soil and checking compositions put into the publication, but it should be known that this is a huge undertaking, with months of emailing and putting together, chasing officers, with a tight timeframe to get it out ready well ahead of the AGM, which this year is being held in Felixstowe on Saturday 11th April. Well done George on producing a fine publication on a day of triumph for the printed word!

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Sunday 22nd March 2015

It is not unknown for we ringers to have a bad reputation for ringing for a service and then leaving immediately. Whilst there is an element of that as we know, it is a rather unfair assertion in many cases, made without considering that a lot of those responsible for manning the bells that ring out to call the congregation to church also have to go onto another tower and even two or three more in some cases and sometimes at evensong later in the day. Such views also seem to ignore those who do attend worship immediately afterwards and are very involved in their local parish, but it appears to be a perception that holds nonetheless.

With that background, I don't mind admitting a rye smile when I heard that were it not for the ringers at Rendham, there would've been a congregation of just one, with the number present in the ringing chamber numbering as many as the officiant, organist and congregation put together. Good to see the ringers supporting their local church - hopefully it will be noted!

There was evidence of both the tower-hopping Sabbath ringer and dedicated churchgoer on my morning rounds with the boys, with a large contingent of Anne Buswell's friends from the Isle of Man gratefully received at St Mary-le-Tower before they went on to St Lawrence and then Coddenham and other locals travailed on to places like St Margaret and Sproughton, and we ourselves meandered through the country lanes and road diversions to Grundisburgh, where others had already been to Burgh/Hasketon and the Twissells attended the service we were ringing for, as they usually do.

Later, I lived up to the stereotypes by meeting Ruthie in Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard in Woodbridge with Mason and Alfie, but even this was to pick her up from another shift behind the bar, which in itself had followed straight on from singing in the choir for the service at St Mary the Virgin a few yards up the hill.

And others were doing further ringing, singing out the loudest voice of the church, with our neighbours the Ely Diocesan Association ringing a peal at Tostock, and quarter-peals in Chester Surprise Minor and Carlisle Surprise Minor at Redgrave and Buxhall respectively, with the latter being Laura Davies' first in the method – well done Laura!

Far, far away meanwhile, beyond our borders and indeed our shores, there was a peal being rung in an unfamiliar location with a familiar band. In fact, the 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Sabarat in France seems to have been a largely East Anglian production, with a strong Suffolk link running through it, with local-born John Loveless, one time SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd and former SGR RM and current SMLT member Amanda Richmond ringing in this notable success. I can't vouch to whether they went to church afterwards though.

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Saturday 21st March 2015

Win or lose, late drama has provided some of sport's most memorable moments and we had two to remember this afternoon, initially as Ipswich Town won 1-0 at top-of-the-table and general 'bogey' team Watford with a goal scored with practically the last swipe of a boot amid scenes of ecstasy both at the ground and in our kitchen where I could be found dancing around the washing-up bowl whilst listening to it on the radio! A couple of hours later, the rugby-loving clientele of Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard in Woodbridge were captivated as England attempted to beat France by at least twenty-seven points to win the Six Nations at the climax of an exciting day in Rome, Edinburgh and London, as Mason, Alfie and I arrived at a lively tavern to pick Ruthie up following another shift at this popular pub. Sport at its very best.

Pettistree Peal Band.Of course, late drama is less welcome in peal-ringing, so I was delighted to partake in a mercifully uneventful beginning in the medium for Pettistree ringer Bill Lloyd at his home tower this morning. I remember well some of the hairy moments he had when he began learning five years ago and yet today he was a consummate professional as he trebled to our 5040 of Minor, coming out with better hands than he had feared before we began and seemingly enjoying the experience! And it vindicated my view of why more should be peal-ringing, as he improved throughout the 2hrs37mins of ringing, contributing to some really very good ringing at points that we would struggle to get to the same extent at a practice night or even in a quarter-peal. No one now expects William J Lloyd to appear in the peal-columns every week, but hopefully he will use the medium to continue his progress, even if that will soon be to the benefit of Somerset rather than us. Still, well done Bill!

The champagne and nibbles that greeted us after this morning's peal at Pettistree!His debut wasn't the only thing to celebrate afterwards, as we were greeted by villagers and churchgoers Jeff and Maggie Hallett with champagne and nibbles as they marked their forty-fifth wedding anniversary - congratulations to them and thank you for the fizzy! We could have done with some more after the dramatic finish in the football!

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Friday 20th March 2015

With the sun partially eclipsed by the moon and totally eclipsed by cloud, the newsworthy event to be mentioned on this blog has to be Linda Goodban teaching the Girl Guides to ring at Long Melford, something featured on the East Anglian Daily Times website and all superb PR. Well done to all concerned, especially Linda!

Annual Reports.Another headline is the grand revealing of the Annual Report, looking resplendent in its glossy purple covers. George Reynolds debut last year had some issues, but to give him his dues he has been accepting help and support for the difficult second album. He is have our gratitude for taking it on in the first place, for this is still - even in this day and age of social media - a vital way of communicating across the Guild's membership. As with every year, the race is now on to get it out members before the AGM at Felixstowe on Saturday 11th April and it is going to need those charged with their distribution to be flexible as we approach a time of holidays, Holy Week and Easter with practices cancelled and moved and ringers not necessarily where you may expect them!

Rendham.And not to be outdone, young Richard Stevens got in on the act with his first quarter of Triples in the 1260 of Grandsire at Rendham - well done Richard!

For us though, Ruthie was working all day at John Ives and then all evening at Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard, meaning we yet again needed the generous help of her mother, primarily to look after Alfie from when the skies darkened from the cosmic maneuverings above the grey this morning to when darkened through night taking over, but also to collect Mason from school and later me from work - thanks again Kate! No headlines from us!

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Thursday 19th March 2015

Continuing his impressive initiation into nursery, Alfie was once again entirely unmoved by his parents' departure into the wider world as he got on with the business of interacting with his contemporaries. This was a slightly later start for the li'l chap, to allow him to experience lunch in his new surroundings, so we didn't have as much spare time as yesterday before I went on to work, though we still grabbed the opportunity of a liberating cup of tea at home without having to keep it away from the curious and unsuspecting hands of an eleven-month old.

With my son and wife later going to baby club, I wasn't reunited with them until this evening once I had wandered up to St Mary the Virgin's church overlooking our town of residence, where AJM was accompanying his mother to choir practice prior to me taking him back to our abode for an evening in enlivened further by the discussion on the Suffolk Guild's Facebook page about the decline in peal totals and ringers, something I have touched upon recently on this blog. Jonathan Stevens asked us if we should be worried that only fifteen peals have been rung for the SGR in 2015 thus far and that all bar three of those (and perhaps also worryingly none since January) have been rung either at Aldeburgh or The Wolery and the response was mixed, with generally - though not entirely - those who regularly ring peals saying yes we should and those who don't being more vocal on their lack of concern for this aspect of our art.

It was suggested that we should be less fussed with peal-ringing and concentrate more on the numbers ringing on a Sunday morning or the number of ringable towers with bands, as if they were entirely unrelated. Not every peal I have rung in has been brilliant ringing, but I have never even got close to partaking in the quality of ringing I have in a lot of the peals I have rung in (not just in Birmingham, but also here in Suffolk with many of you reading this) with Sunday morning, everyday ringing and even quarter-peal ringing carried out increasingly with those who are ringing fewer and fewer peals. Perhaps if more rang some peals (not necessarily regularly, but at least occasionally), the standard of ringing on Sunday mornings might be better and there may be more ringers who have held their interest in ringing and thus we'd have more ringers to man those silent towers.

The practical aspect of putting aside time for a peal and the extra physical element are understandable reasons for why many don't ring peals, with others holding unfounded, preconceived and misleading notions of peal-ringing, usually from bad experiences and in cases misguided attempts to force them into it when they're weren't prepared, which is a shame. But whilst quarter-peals undoubtedly offer an opportunity to progress ringers, we need more members ringing at least some peals if we are to raise standards across the county.

It is a medium through which I have made many friends from beyond our borders that I might not have made otherwise, including Sue Rothera, whose death yesterday I was sorry to hear of. An extremely good twelve-bell ringer at Chelmsford Cathedral, she wasn't a prolific peal-ringer, at least not compared to her husband David, but she helped when she could, including in peals here in Suffolk. She had sadly been very ill in recent weeks and months and her condition was obviously taking its toll on David when I last saw him a couple of weeks ago, but as she is released of the worsening pain, our thoughts go out to him and the whole of this well-known ringing family, particularly so soon after the passing of David's brother Philip.

There were a number of peals rung to her memory across the country today in memory of her, and lots of peals generally across the country, but no performances marked on BellBoard from our own turf, which is perhaps apt in light of the debate alluded to further up. Hopefully things will pick up soon. Once AJM has worked his way up to it, it would be nice for there still to be peals to ring in if he chose!

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Wednesday 18th March 2015

Alfie's gentle integration into nursery continued this morning as we dropped him off and left him to play, eat and sleep with his new friends and carers. With varying degrees of trepidation mixed in with a sense of liberation, we faced the next couple of hours with uncertainty. However, with my late shifts it gave us a unique opportunity to carry out some mundane tasks not usually compatible with a dependent child. In an exciting twist to our normal Wednesday morning, town was visited, the dump frequented and breakfast grabbed at the new cafe at Tesco before I finally made my way to John Catt and Ruthie returned to our son to discover he is settling in better than almost any child that they can recall. Whether we should find his apparent ease at being parted from us as a damning indictment of our company or an encouraging sign that God willing he'll be able to integrate into the society we are charged with introducing him to, vexed our thoughts for a period, before we decided to plump for the latter on a largely positive day that seems to have extended to Suffolk ringing.

Ringing at the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles this evening.Indeed, judging by the North-East District's Facebook page, the Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles appears to have gone splendidly, whilst meanwhile, well done to Simon Veal on his first peal of Little Bob Major in the 5040 at The Wolery, another notch for this enthusiastic youngster on an evening that also saw the weekly quarter at Pettistree successful and dedicated to loyal and talented local ringer Gill Waterson. The ground-floor six at SS Peter & Paul was the location my wife found herself at after the 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor on her ringing night out for the week and prior to a beer at The Greyhound next door, whilst I put Alfred to bed, apparently unperturbed by his adventures without us.

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Tuesday 17th March 2015

Our continued gratitude to our relatives, as on this fine day of St Patrick, Ruthie's mother Kate kindly took control of Alfie-watching duties, taking him to baby club and then even making him and us some delicious shepherd's pie for tea, before reuniting him with his mummy and going on to run Ufford practice.

Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham.Whilst she was running ringing on the 13cwt eight at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we - as is typical for a Tuesday night - didn't touch a rope as we settled down for an evening of Midsummer Murders and keeping abreast of a rare Ipswich Town victory. Though there appears to have been a successful Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham this evening, it seems that apart from the usual weekly sessions for the day named after Tyr (I aim to educate!), not many ringers were ringing, at least according to BellBoard, but there is still plenty lined up up with the intention of keeping you busy and more importantly progressing ringing in the area, with planned practices at Beccles on Wednesday for the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice, Helmingham on Friday, Halesworth on Thursday next week and two days later and the new venue of St Gregory in Sudbury for the South-West District. Please do support where you are able. We know first hand at the moment how a little help can go a long way!

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Monday 16th March 2015

We are extremely fortunate and blessed to have family close by. Not just for occasions like Christmas where we are able to spend considerable quality time with mine and Ruthie's family on the same day, but also for circumstances such as those we find ourselves in currently. For as my wife began her second week at John Ives this morning and all being well Alfie's gradual integration into nursery school continues later this week, what to do with the entirely dependent li'l chap could've have been a very difficult conundrum to answer. Thank God we have relatives close by however, not just willing to look after Alfred when needed, but typically proactive in offering their considerable time as we um and ah about what to do with the boy without feeling like we are burdening them.

Last week, my mother-in-law and her parents generously came to the rescue. Today, it was the turn of my Mum and Dad, who very kindly took on the boy all day as I returned to my late shifts at John Catt Educational, even going as far as dropping AJM off in Woodbridge for his mother when she finished work. It meant that we could go about our business as we contributed to the world of commerce and lunch, without having to attend to his understandably constant needs, delighted as we usually are to do so.

By evening, things had reverted to what is now the norm, as my better half put the boy to bed whilst I was taken by Ron and Kate to what was - in my humble opinion - a most positive practice at St Mary-le-Tower. There were mistakes of course, as you would expect at a practice and there is still improvement needed, though any band worth their salt is always looking to improve anyway. But the most encouraging aspect of tonight's session was the thought being applied to the striking, which resulted in some largely very good ringing, the highlight of which for me was a mistake-free, well struck four leads of Yorkshire Surprise Royal.

No doubt this application was aided by the presence of a sizeable number of youngsters, all brimming with youthful enthusiasm to learn and better themselves. It was good to see Craig Gradidge with his mother Mandy Shedden, Tim Stanford still improving and no doubt helped by the experienced gained through our otherwise unsuccessful recent peal attempt up here, the Georges Salter and Vant, fresh from toting up another handbell quarter of Minimus, this time in the church yard of nearby St Margaret and Lucy Williamson, York Minster regular, newcomer to peal-ringing and now Secretary of the York Colleges Guild. She very kindly brought along her father Jonathan, who along with Anne Buswell and his daughter were among the visitors present on very enjoyable night.

It was a decent way for me to sign off SMLT practices for the moment at least, as my next turn falls during Holy Week, an important period in the church calendar but which in ringing circles seems to induce much soul-searching as to whether the bells should be ringing and producing a generally friendly difference across the county, in line with the views of fellow ringers all over the UK. The result is an unpredictable mixture of cancelled practices, continuing practices, practices moved to mini-rings and meetings put on in their place amongst other combinations and meaning that if you are planning on going to a practice in a fortnight - whether it be one you regularly go to or a visit to somewhere - it is even more important than usual to contact them first to check they are ringing.

As is traditional, Suffolk's heaviest twelve will be silent on the final Monday before Easter, the ringing chamber instead buzzing with hum of the vacuum cleaner and the sound of dust hitting the floor as the locals spring-clean a room that is well used by many throughout the year. Your help would be appreciated if you fancied operating a duster, I'm sure!

Tonight though, with our chauffeur unable to loiter in the pubs of the county town on this occasion, we concluded our trip to Ipswich with a rare pint in The Cricketers, before I was returned home, not for the first time today, grateful for the help of relatives.

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Sunday 15th March 2015

Young Ringers at The Norman Tower for their Twelve-Bell Workshop.Depending on how long Ruthie would be working at Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard this afternoon, we were faced with two, possibly three options. Going to The Norman Tower for the Young Ringers' Twelve-Bell Workshop, St Mary-le-Tower for the Special Monthly Practice or both. If my good lady wife was working until three, Bury St Edmunds wouldn't be possible, but Ipswich would. Until six then vice-versa. With a bit of sweet-talking from her, a finish in between would - at a push - give us the opportunity to attend both very important and worthwhile events. As it happened, confusion reigned and a fourth unforetold option came to the top - we made neither!

Originally, I had thought that Mrs Munnings was bar-tending until the later time and so had gladly said I would come along to help the youngsters, aware that with anyone looking to find their way on higher numbers, as much experienced support would be welcomed and indeed essential. However, over the last couple of days it became apparent that my better half would only be working until three, meaning that I had to reluctantly withdraw my presence at Suffolk's newest twelve. The silver lining to that cloud was that it would be possible to make it to SMLT, with the help of some very kindly offered babysitting from Mum and Dad. Until Mrs M Junior got into her shift and discovered that actually she was working until six, meaning that the county's heaviest ring of bells wouldn't be getting a visit from us this evening, and with confirmation of her later finish not coming until just half-an-hour before the session at the Cathedral was due to finish an hour away, it meant both practices missed out! Or benefitted, depending on how you look at it! Although it looks like there was a good turnout, particularly from the youngsters!

Still, it wasn't an entirely wasted day, as on this Mothering Sunday, Mason, Alfie and I nipped over to their grandparents' abode to offer salutations to Mater on a special day for mothers across the country, especially Alfred's Mummy. She has been a much-loved mother-figure to my eldest all his life and was pregnant with our son for last year's maternal festival of flowers and gifts, but this was her first as a fully-fledged mother in her own right, so we boys were keen to make it a special one, starting with breakfast in bed and the delivery of cards and presents, which consisted of chocolate and two bottles of beer that I thought were very appropriate for her - Clearwater's Real Smiler and Hogs Back T.E.A.

Having rung upon Woodbridge's 25cwt eight - half-muffled for Lent - we joined her for the morning service that followed, where she came away with the daffodils that are so encouragingly popping up in our towns, villages and countryside, an uplifting sign that God willing spring is on its way. And once she had finished attending to the needs of the community's rugby-loving drinkers, we partook in a drink with her at her place of employment - well one of them! We then climaxed the day with one of her favourite treats - cheese, biscuits and red wine! To my mind, she was entirely deserving of all the drink, food and adoration, not only spending a huge amount of time raising Alfie into thus far an incredibly cheery and laid-back child, but also ensuring that Mason hasn't played second-fidd