Saturday 22nd September 2018
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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...
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
Caters were rung at Lowestoft and The
Norman Tower respectively, whilst
a 5040 was
rung at Clare and
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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...
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.
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!
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!
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.
Inspection negotiated uneventfully, normal life could break out as Ruthie went to choir practice, whilst I put Alfie to bed.
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!
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!
Hopefully we'll be able to pop out of our rented mansion to join you all again soon!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
A singularly unspectacular Friday as most usually are these days, but nice of course to collect Mason for the weekend.
God willing it'll be busier tomorrow...
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 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...
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Injections for Alfie, Pettistree for Ruthie and a quiet night in for me.
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!
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.
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!
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...
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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...
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!
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?
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!
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.
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'!
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!
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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.
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-fiddle or felt left out, all whilst still supporting two local ringing practices, the church choir, carrying out her time-consuming duties as South-East District Secretary and more recently two jobs. It means we have to be more selective and occasionally very vague about potential commitments so as to see each other and not burden others with unreasonable babysitting duties, but she has carried out her role as a mother superbly and I feel blessed and fortunate to be married to her - Happy Mother's Day Ruthie!
As the SE District Secretary, she will no doubt sympathise with South-West District Secretary Richard Gates, who has found that having arranged for their March practice to be held at St Peter's in Sudbury between 7-8.30pm on Saturday 28th, that a concert is taking place in the church and so that event will now take place at St Gregory's across town in the same time-slot. Please take note and do support them if you can.
And whilst at my parents, I was shown the back of The Ringing World from this week, which features a tremendously put together article by Guild and South-East District Chairman respectively, Alan Stanley and Ralph Earey, which was promoting George Pipe's eagerly anticipated exhibition in Felixstowe over the SGR AGM weekend in the town. Apparently George was up SMLT this morning and in good form, in time to show off his collection in person!
Meanwhile, whilst mamas were being celebrated, ringers were marking the day with some tremendous achievements within our borders. The one hundred-and-twenty-six Doubles methods and variations rung to a handbell peal in Bacton is impressive, as is Sal Jenkinson's first quarter-peal on eight in the successful Plain Bob Triples on the ground-floor eight of Halesworth and Jennie Lloyd's first inside and Clare Goodchild's first as cover in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on the east coast at Hollesley. Well done Sal, Jennie and Clare! At least everything went to plan for all of them today!
F-day as friends, football, fancy dress and family were the themes.
It was great to pop round to see Mason's Godfather Toby, Amy and their daughter and my Goddaughter Maddie, not so great to witness another televisual loss for Ipswich Town, as a large number of fellow Blues actually forked out money to travel all the way to Middlesbrough to follow first-hand their 4-1 humiliation. Ah, it's just like the old days!
Thankfully, there was little time to mull over this feeble result as the eldest son was off to a birthday party dressed in army gear and Alfie, Ruthie and I went to my wife's grandparents for a gathering of Mrs Munning's relatives on this Mothering Sunday weekend, with Alfred's brother joining us later to renew his partnership in crime with contemporary Freddie.
As we continue to balance Ruthie's return to work and Alfie's need to be looked after, I was in the office extra early in order to finish soon enough to collect the li'l chap from his great-grandparents not too far into the day - many thanks to them for helping out.
The 11am departure from John Catt also meant I had the chance to pick-up up Alfred's elder brother from school this afternoon, surrounded by painted faces, fancy dress and red noses as Mason and his contemporaries marked Comic Relief Day, the one day that my features didn't look any more peculiar than anyone else's!
My wife picked up at the end of her debut week at John Ives, we had time for some tea and a catch-up before she was collected by Mike Whitby and taken to Rendham for a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major, one of two quarters recorded within Suffolk on BellBoard today, with a Young Ringers success at St Matthew in Ipswich too - well done to Ellie Earey on her first blows of St Simon's Doubles!
Eventually, Mrs Munnings returned home from her tenor ringing alongside the B1119, as we strove to get the right work-child-ringing balance!
Step by literal step, Alfie absorbs everything around him with wide eyes and a big smile and adds skills on a daily basis. Crawling has been ticked off and the time he spends on his feet increases almost hourly, with walking with the aide of furniture, parents or whatever or whoever he can get a hold of now the norm, though carried out with a look of utterly joyful amazement on his face. He can now drink from his beaker without the infuriating interference of his Mummy and Daddy and his vocal chords are getting wrapped around some familiar sounds, though any use of them in the right context is almost entirely coincidental!
So with Ruthie now back at work - albeit in a different environment - and therefore being in need of somewhere to send him whilst we are both out earning the money to pay for the vast amount of food he consumes with delightful abandon, we have arranged for him to go to a nursery. Sensibly, they have a policy of gradually introducing children to the culture shock of being away from their everyday guardians for several hours at a time. Yesterday morning, his mother spent an hour or so with him as he ingratiated himself with his contemporaries and the staff who so superbly look after them. This afternoon, we left him for a further forty-five minutes, as we sat in the office drinking tea, getting periodic reports on how he was getting on, as we coped with our abandonment! As much as we would happily spend all day in his company, witnessing his achievements and enjoying his blossoming personality, we have to prepare him for the wider world, and time here, with other children of his age can - God willing - only do him good.
Following on from his adventures, we made our way to see his great-Nan on the occasion of her birthday. She hasn't been well in recent months, but as she ticks over into another year of her impressively long life, she ironically seemed at her best for a long time today, reminiscing as you may expect at such a landmark. And of course she was delighted to see her great-grandson tottering around happily, before the eyelids dropped for his afternoon nap.
As Alfred reaches his own milestones, others were reaching ringing milestones in Suffolk, most particularly Gill Twissell, as she rang her first quarter inside with the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Campsea Ashe. Gill and her husband David are both very modest about their abilities, but the truth is since they moved from High Wycombe into the area last year - first into the village where Mrs Twissell was ringing today and then Grundisburgh - they have been a useful and welcome addition to our local ringing scene and a lovely couple to boot. And having worked with babies in the past, she is particularly good with AJM when we take him to the little wobbly red-brick tower! Well done Gill!
My wife meanwhile was helping fellow ringers to learn as the li'l chap and Gill are doing, as she attended this month's Surprise Major practice at Ufford, before she returned home, her son already in bed and exhausted from his busy day of new things!
Variety is the proverbial spice of life and it has been as true a mantra in my peal-ringing as in any other aspect of my existence, probably even more so. Personal desire to maintain and add to whatever abilities I may just about have on the end of a bellrope and achieve ringing fulfilment has taken me to towers across Suffolk, from Dalham to Southwold, West Stow to Falkenham and beyond the borders of not just this county but this country. Cathedrals have been metaphorically conquered, but also random villages throughout England's green and pleasant land visited, such as Farndon and Tushingham, two fairly unremarkable sixes in Nottinghamshire and Cheshire respectively, but nonetheless entries in my records that highlight the vast variety available out there. I have had towers that feature prominently and regularly, such as St Philip's Cathedral and the Bullring in Birmingham, St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, all at various points of my peal-ringing odyssey vying for top spot as my leading tower, but no one set of bells has strode as far ahead as The Wolery has in recent years, to the extent that the eight in Old Stoke tonight became the first ring upon which I have rung one hundred peals.
There are those that belittle these and other mini-rings - often with their tongue firmly lodged in their cheeks it has to be said - and claim that peals on such bells should be reclassified or shouldn't count the same as over 5,000 changes on what they claim to be 'proper' bells, and I have gone in depth before as to why that is a dubious assertion, so I shan't bore you again on that! But while I will admit it is easier to reach such a landmark as this evening's on bells that only disturb those loitering in the alleyway behind, it is worth reiterating that since Ruthie and I together rang our first peal in the blue shed at the top of David and Katharine Salter's Ipswich garden on a freezing February Friday night way back in 2007, tentatively dipping our toes into a pool of speed-ringing with a brisk but simple introduction of Cambridge, Beverley, Surfleet and Norwich Surprise Minor, I and my wife - when university, pregnancy and motherhood have allowed - have carried out some of our best and most enjoyable ringing. The multi-spliced Surprise Minor that we primarily carried out in those earlier peals, ultimately building up to our first of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor were immensely satisfying, and some of the Doubles rung (often when my poor communications meant I turned up Ruth-less when our hosts were expecting my talented wife to be with me!) were at times quite exhilarating with their briskness and the tremendous standard essential for ringing at that pace, especially one of sixty-nine methods that goes down as my quickest peal ever at just 1hr33mins. And the Good Friday peal date is peal-ringing at its most civilised! More recently, we have rung a variety of Surprise Major methods, some not particularly worth repeating, but others bringing immense pleasure. All in all, it has been a very pleasant century, including the 5024 of Firebolt Surprise Major that brought up the ton in typically brisk and high-quality fashion at 1hr44mins, which also saw Colin Salter ring his fiftieth different Surprise Major method to a peal, which is pretty impressive for a sixteen-year-old.
It wasn't the only peal rung within the county today, with another fast - and no doubt also high-quality - success on handbells in Bacton, whilst I'm sure the standard was high in the quarters of Cambridge, Bristol, London and Superlative Surprise Major spliced at Bardwell, Norwich Surprise Minor at Pettistree and yesterday in Grandsire Triples at Offton - well done to Tessa Earey on her first of that inside!
For my own particular effort, I was pleased to put a footnote for long-serving Guild member Aunty Marian as her forthcoming birthday approaches, especially as myself, Mrs Munnings and Alfie had paid her a visit this afternoon after another early start and finish at work, my father's sister's half-decorated house providing ample interest to Alfred as he insists on getting on his feet at every opportunity!
It all made for a long day though, so even after my significant peal and the tea and cake that so generously follows it, I was keen to get home to the gal who has not only shared so many of those peals in Rectory Road, but also many more in my varied peal-ringing adventure!
Kudos to Alfred John Munnings, who at the tender age of just eleven months appears to have developed a sense of good timing not immediately obvious in his family line. With his mother at work, he was ready for sleep as soon as I had picked him up from from his grandmother's (thanks again Kate!), as was I after another very early start in the office, enabling us both to get some shut-eye once home.
His lunch devoured, we were now on time to head across the county to join the Second Tuesday Ringing at Cavendish, zig-zagging along the woefully inadequate A1071 through the otherwise beautiful scenery of this inspirational landscape, as it rolls onwards, punctuated with streams and dotted with pretty cottages and woodlands slowly growing into life, before finally arriving at the scene that is perhaps the quintessential chocolate-box image of Suffolk and indeed East Anglia.
Having joined the mix of retirees and those younger and not in work this afternoon, like Craig Gradidge, partaking in a well-executed course of Carlisle Surprise Minor amongst a crowd that included two past Guild Ringing Masters and the present one Jed Flatters, Alfie timed his desire for milk perfectly for the post-ringing pint, drunk outside the front of The Five Bells pub next door to St Mary-the-Virgin and overlooking the green made famous by the tourist trail, as the early spring sunshine enabled us to bask with our drink in the fresh air for the first time this year. Apart from not having my wife alongside me, life doesn't get much better, as I conversed with my brother Chris and also Lawrence Pizzey, who it was superb to see up and about and looking - and according to the man himself, feeling - well. It is marvellous on a sunny Tuesday afternoon when at a loose end and trying to occupy a child who has discovered how to get on his feet but can't be trusted on them, to have an event like this in such picturesque surroundings only an hour's drive from home, where I can meet with friends, enjoy decent ringing and have an ale afterwards. Further proof of ringing's varied reach, and if you do find yourself free on the second Tuesday of a month, look up where this friendly and welcoming bunch are going - next month they are due to go to Hollesley and Pettistree, though it is worth noting that rather confusingly this will be on the first Tuesday of April!
Still, today saw our son's day of perfect timing continue, as having had his fill of milk and his father having had his beer, he was ready for his afternoon nap, dozing off in the car before we'd even got out of this timber-framed, ancient community, and waking up just as we returned to Woodbridge to collect his mother from another day of hard graft at John Ives, ready for a quiet evening in, whilst at the aforementioned Pettistree a quarter was rung in memory of big supporter of SS Peter & Paul, Patience Maxwell.
Meanwhile, if free Thursday afternoons are more your bag, you may be interested in listening to BBC Radio Four at 3pm on the forthcoming day of Thor, as Clare Balding walks the New River with a group of ringers from the Middlesex County Association and London Diocesan Guild. If AJM's timings are still right-on, we may get the chance to listen at some point!
Ruthie's new start at John Ives, combined with my early start at John Catt and therefore my early finish, meant a lads afternoon in for Alfie and me, once I'd collected the li'l chap from his Grandmother, who had very kindly looked after him whilst his parents' shifts overlapped - thanks Kate!
My wife returned from a successful first day to join us for tea before heading out with her mother and Ron to Ipswich for ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and bagpipes respectively, though she was home early as her companions were called away to work, whilst earlier today a peal was rung at Great Barton by visitors from our neighbours north of the border.
All being well there'll be more of the same tomorrow, when we may take advantage of the Second Tuesday Ringing, which is planned for Great Thurlow, Kedington and Cavendish in the picturesque South-West corner of Suffolk and I would encourage anyone else at a loose end to do the same. Whether we or others do make it out to the three sixes, it is the first of a number of forthcoming events pencilled in within our borders over the coming days which would appreciate your support, with the North-West District Practice due to be held this Saturday at Rattlesden, the South-West District ground-floor six recently restored and rehung by Taylor's, which has also been announced along with Lavenham as one of the venues for the new-look 2015 Guild Striking Competitions.
If all goes to plan, the day after sees the Young Ringers' Twelve-Bell Workshop at The Norman Tower at the start of a busy week with the North-East District Beyond Plain Bob Minor Practice at Worlingham, the same District's Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles and the Helmingham Monthly Practice on the evenings of Tuesday 17th, Wednesday 18th and Friday 20th respectively.
None of those events will reach the standard of the Stedman Septuples recorded last May at the Bullring in Birmingham but released upon You Tube today, primarily because they don't have sixteen bells, but it should be inspiration to raise standards to all ringers, something more easily achieved if the aforementioned occasions are supported by ringers of all abilities.
For now though, the main focus for us was on Mrs M's new job and a lively Alfred!
It has been a happy pleasure over the years I have been pontificating through the medium of this blog to report on young Suffolk ringers bursting through numerous achievements on an almost daily basis, so I am delighted to see another to join a healthy list in the form of Lucy Williamson. Since she went to York to study in September, there has been her first quarter on eight, first Surprise, first Surprise Major and only on Friday her first peal. Two of those performances have been so impressive they have reached the top of BellBoard's leader board and she has rung a number of times at the Minster, somewhere a huge number of ringers would like to ring but never get the chance.
Her latest visit to this famous landmark today, also saw her latest personal landmark marked up, as she rang on her first on ten in the 1296 of Plain Bob Caters upon the 59cwt ring. Although these have all been achieved since she left our borders, it is of course a continuation of what she learnt here, particular under the guidance of her parents Jonathan and Sue, two very likeable ringers who have done much for local ringing, particularly at St Matthew in Ipswich. And whilst ringing should be the least of one's considerations when deciding where to go post-uni, maybe we will benefit from her considerable progress one day! Well done again Lucy!
Miss Williamson's efforts put anything we did on this Sabbath to shame, though we were still doing our bit, with Ruthie singing for the choir at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge days after Kev the Rev's first service for the Queen in his role as one of her chaplains, whilst Mason, Alfie and I went to St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh allowing me to help with the ringing on the two twelves. In the process, we took our posters promoting George Pipe's planned exhibition in Felixstowe over the Guild AGM weekend next month, my eldest doing the job with much enthusiasm! Hopefully many more across the county are doing the same, not just in ringing chambers to encourage fellow members to attend arguably the most important date in the Suffolk Guild calendar, but also in churches and any other locations that seem appropriate in an aim to make non-ringers aware of the event. In the process of asking permission to put the posters up and whilst carrying the large, brightly coloured artworks around, I was staggered how many people knew George and asked after him - the wider public will be interested in this event, so let as many of them as possible know about it please! The poster can be downloaded and printed from this website, but if that is not possible for whatever reason, then please contact either webmaster Chris Garner or Ralph Earey, who designed it.
We might have been slightly more productive this afternoon too, as having been given a tip-off that The Mayflower steam locomotive would be travelling through our town of residence, we would've loved to have taken the boys along to watch it pass. However, having trawled the internet for timings we couldn't even find mention that it was coming, let alone at what time and wrongly assumed that our informant had been mistaken, sadly missing the ancient machine passing through.
There was less disappointment for others though, with the monthly second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh typically successful and notable on this occasion for David Salter's first peal in a church for more than two months, all being well a sign that his recovery is coming along nicely. Meanwhile, well done to Ruth Young and George Reynolds on ringing their first of Cinques inside in the 1364 of Grandsire at The Norman Tower, a week ahead of what will God willing be a useful and well-supported Young Ringers Twelve-Bell Workshop at the same location.
It is indeed my happy pleasure to report it.
Today promised much, but sadly didn't quite live up to expectations.
If all had gone as I had hoped, we would've rung Tim Stanford's first peal on twelve at St Mary-le-Tower in the morning, before joining many enthusiastic South-East District members at Earl Stonham and Stonham Aspal, keen to enjoy their laid-back Quarterly Meeting in a lovely part of the world, whilst Ipswich Town would climb back into the play-off positions with a glorious home victory over the team just above them, Brentford.
Disappointingly, the Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at SMLT never really got going, the band as a whole letting young Mr Stanford down badly, though Tim himself rang quite well in the circumstances. It was perhaps not a good sign that the only car-parking spaces anywhere near Ipswich's civic church had a maximum two-hour time limit, even when I had bitten the bullet and began searching for the extortionately-priced paid parking in Suffolk's dying county town. Eventually I managed to dump our vehicle halfway out to Westerfield....
The silver-lining was the extra time spent with my family on a busy day, but unfortunately things continued in a disappointing vein after that, as from a District with nearly three hundred members, just thirty made it out to these relatively easy to access picturesque locations on a beautifully sunny, warm day as after a week of rising temperatures, longer days and lawn mowers being dusted down, spring felt like it had arrived. As with previous rants of mine on the subject, it is to be qualified with the fact that I - and no one else I'm sure - have no desire to twist reluctant arms along to such occasions and of course there were many who couldn't make it for very genuine reasons, like holidays, work and other commitments, but I still find it hard to believe that every single one of the remaining 270 SE members were unable to make any of the day, especially as George Salter made it having been in this morning's peal and not being able to drive, and the few present included a number from other Districts, such as Paul Stannard, Rowan Wilson and Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters. I struggle to understand the mass of apathy to these events and whilst we may struggle if a couple of hundred members arrived (though we'd find a way to accommodate them!), just another twenty-to-thirty would've helped to enhance the ringing, give a greater representation of views at what once again proved a short, brisk and generally waffle-free meeting due to Ralph Earey's light-hearted but firm chairmanship, and would've helped make it a greater social occasion. Instead, the Secretary left feeling extremely down-heartened, perceiving that her considerable efforts over the last few weeks and months had largely gone to waste, and further vindicated her decision to pack it all in at this December's ADM (Saturday 5th, put it in your diaries please!) in amongst the many other things she has to deal with now.
Despite all that, Mrs Munnings' arrangements were appreciated by those present, with ringing on the six and ten enjoyed either side of a nice service, a wonderful bring and share tea, Eric Brown of Cretingham taking over from Anne Buswell as District Treasurer and one prominent member falling in a ditch in the evening darkness round the back of St Mary the Virgin and St Lambert! Thank you to Anne for all her efforts over the last five years and to Eric for taking on this vital role!
Though the Tractor Boys could only draw. There have been better days.
Today could almost be a continuation of my recent entry themed on new chapters
With Ruthie's job at John Ives beginning next week, what to with Alfie whilst she and I go to work is a priority and so to that end we took the li'l chap along to view a nursery, with the outcome being that he will be starting shortly at what is a wonderful little place that God willing, Alfred will enjoy immensely.
However, more relevantly to a Suffolk Guild ringing blog, is the achievements of young Suffolk ringer Lucy Williamson, who today followed up the quarter I highlighted in the aforementioned entry with her first peal, one of a trio of debutants in the impressive success at St Lawrence in York where she is currently studying and thus boosting FirstPeal2015 in the process. Well done Lucy!
Back in her homeland meanwhile, others were ringing, with quarters of Plain Bob Doubles at Acton, Bristol Surprise Major ar Bardwell and Doubles at Earl Stonham, as the FNQPC warmed the bells up for tomorrow's South-East District Quarterly Meeting at the 9cwt gallery six and the 23cwt ten down the A1120 at Stonham Aspal, for which my wife spent the evening making cakes in preparation.
All being well, there is lots to look forward to.
With our bi-weekly logistical contortions, caused by the clash of my late shifts at work and Ruthie and Alfie's busy schedule of baby club and then choir practice and not helped by the li'l chap's atypical grumpiness owing to his discomfort from a teething affliction, there was little opportunity to practice bellringing ourselves today.
As far as I can ascertain, there was a session at Grundisburgh, following on from a number of recently well-attended and productive evening's upon Suffolk's lightest twelve, a situation that God willing will improve further as spring and summer hopefully bring warmer and lighter evenings to entice the masses to travel not just here but to towers across the county that may have suffered with the colder, darker nights that are less appealing to venture out into.
The headline act from an SGR perspective though, is young George Salter's first handbell peal, impressive in its own right, but even more so for being carried out in the heart of ringing excellence, Birmingham and it's handbell HQ The Ullathorne Room at St Chad's Cathedral. It is uplifting to see GMS doing what I try and encourage all ringers to do, taking advantage of all that the exercise offers, which may be the experience and support on hand at neighbouring towers or at District and Guild events or - in George's case - ringing with some of the best ringers in the world. I have been there myself of course, but I don't believe with the abilities of the nineteen-year old from Old Stoke. The sky is the limit! Well done Mr S!
In contrast, ours was a quite night at home, relieved that we haven't got to juggle our arrangements quite as precariously for another fortnight!
Incidentally, following the subject of most memorable peals, Ruthie cited a number, including the one we rang together at Redcliffe, which was a superb exhibition of heavy bell ringing by Andrew Mills and her one and only as conductor, an impressive effort of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus the day after her fifteenth birthday at St Mary-le-Tower. There are many more that I'm sure stand out.
For this evening though, she put peal-ringing to one side to join her mother in helping out at Pettistree practice as I juggled getting Alfie ready for bed and discussing my brother Chris' wedding and stag do on the phone with the man himself on an otherwise depressing night of football as Ipswich Town yet again lost. Though strangely it feels quite reassuring to revert back to having no expectations of my favourite football team, perhaps highlighted by the fact that it is twenty years to the day since their infamous 9-0 defeat to Manchester United, still a Premier League record. On a happier note however, it is also the twentieth anniversary of Iain and Jayne Mitchell's wedding, as marked by the 1260 of spliced at the aforementioned ground-floor six.
Meanwhile, in amongst yesterday's uninteresting ramblings about cars and the more interesting forthcoming ringing events, I remissly omitted to mention the fun and games at The Wolery, where the young at heart Amanda Richmond joined some of Suffolk and Essex's youngsters at The Wolery for a couple of quarters, one of Doubles and one of Plain Bob Minor, the latter of which was made possible by Colin Salter ringing both the trebles. Memorable quarters I'm sure!
Like ships passing in the night, Ruthie and I have barely seen each other for two days. What with my wife's day of church-work-church on Sunday and my late shift and then immediate departure for St Mary-le-Tower and The Mulberry Tree yesterday, our relationship had been restricted to brief interactions and contact via phone, so it was nice this evening just to spend some time together, starting with a pint in Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard as my wife tied up some work-related loose ends and I bumped into an old uni mate Sam, before we settled down for a quiet night in of cheese and wine to celebrate the first anniversary of us moving into our current abode, delayed from the actual anniversary of 1st March, overlooked as it was by a difficult weekend.
Although one of the causes of that downbeat period continued to depress by dropping out of the play-off places (though to be fair they didn't actually play tonight!) they have been so secure in for the last few months, one issue was rectified this morning, as mother-in-law Kate generously diverted her commute to work to take me to the recently very familiar Champkins to collect our revitalised car. There is a new alternator and battery in situ now, meaning that whilst the radio needs decoding, we now have our own transport again!
Most immediately, it allowed Mrs Munnings to drop me off at work before taking Alfie to be weighed and then onto big baby club, where bizarrely but quite pleasantly they and their contemporaries Amy and Maddie were the only ones there, both children and mothers enjoying the extra attention!
God willing, in the long-term though, the return of Aloysius to our family fold will help us greatly with what is planned to be a very busy forthcoming Saturday, which is due to include the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Earl Stonham and Stonham Aspal in the afternoon. There is no need to book as it is a bring and share tea for the yummy part of proceedings at the village hall in the latter community, so you can decide on the day if you are attending, if committing ahead is usually a problem. And your support would be greatly appreciated. The light, easy-going gallery six will give opportunities for learners and more complex ringing alike, but we will need a decent turnout of both to make it worthwhile and whilst the 23cwt ten in the wooden box have a terrible reputation, they are much improved and in my opinion the type of place it is essential for improvers to experience in order to broaden their learning. Again though, they will need experienced support, especially those used to ringing on higher numbers. Please do come along and help if you can, as well as partake in the meeting which shouldn't be a long drawn-out affair, but is normally useful and an vital chance to engage.
There are as well other ringing events pencilled in on What's On that would really appreciate the presence of as many as can make it, including the Ten Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday, the Second Tuesday Ringing in beautiful, picturesque surroundings at Great Thurlow, Kedington and Cavendish in a week's time, the North-West District Practice at Rattlesden on Saturday 14th March and then the next day a session where - if we care about the future of ringing even in the slightest - it is important to get as much support as we can muster, the Young Ringers Twelve-Bell Workshop at The Norman Tower.
By which time, Ruthie and I will hopefully have seen a bit more of each other.
It was a day of questions. Would we be able to go through the last hour of the St Mary-le-Tower practice without a comment having to be made on the striking, thus forcing David Potts to buy us all a drink afterwards? Would George Vant's trousers stay up? Would there be enough to ring at St Lawrence at their weekly session on Wednesday between 12.30 and 1pm? What are Edd Colliss' ten most memorable peals?
The answers to these enquiries were sadly no, mercifully yes, probably and don't know. Still, it was another useful evening upon the county's heaviest twelve, topped off by a well-rung half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, with the aforementioned young Essex lad generally doing well in a number of pieces, whilst any help at the famous ancient five over the road would be appreciated for lunchtime ringing in two days.
As for Edd's Desert Island Peals, as Matthew Higby wittily dubbed the Facebook thread, this was a query put to him following his one thousandth peal on Saturday, an impressive looking success typical of his peal-ringing CV. Although thus far he hasn't come up with a definitive list, he and others gave an insight into why they generally enjoy peal-ringing, such as being able to travel the country with friends, challenging projects and the excuse it gave to get people together for a drink. I can certainly relate, even if it is something that I don't get to do as much of these days. Yes, yes, I know that you don't need to ring a peal to enjoy these aspects!
It certainly got me thinking about my favourite peals and it is difficult to whittle them down to a concise list. Pretty much any of the successes I partook of in Birmingham, with complicated peals rung at a standard that I can barely believe now that I was a party to. Peals at places that many would dearly love just to grab, like St Paul's Cathedral and York Minster. But also many closer to home. A 5100 of Stedman Cinques at Grundisburgh to mark the one hundredth anniversary of Jim Pipe's birthday in 2006. The Horton's Four at Wilby last year. Many of the peals at The Wolery. The project to get to forty-one spliced Surprise Minor. And as alluded to, what makes a peal memorable is not only down to standard of ringing. Others stick in the mind for the occasion and what it represented. The Suffolk Guild's first fourteen-bell peal at Winchester Cathedral for example. Or another peal of Stedman Cinques upon our lightest twelve, this time to celebrate Stephen Pettman's fiftieth birthday nine years ago this month. The last peal on the four at Campsea Ashe, the first-pealers, my debut at Asbocking way back in 1992, my first as conductor in 1995 at Burgh, the ones rung for Mason's birthdays, Munnings Little Delight Major at Ufford for Alfie's arrival into the world, my first with Ruthie in the 5040 of Grandsire Triples at Woodbridge to mark the sixtieth anniversary of VJ Day a decade ago. I could go on, but you'll be glad I shan't. However, I am unable to make up a top ten, so I can entirely understand young Mr Colliss' difficulty with a far more distinguished career in the exercise, quite apart from the fact he has rung nearly twice as many as me. It would be fascinating to hear about other people's memorable peals.
Indeed, memories in ringing aren't made just from peals, and I'm also delighted to hear of any good news stories from the end of a rope that don't involve headlines on BellBoard, Campanophile or in The Ringing World. Like the local band at Huntingfield being encouraged by Hugh Spink, as highlighted on the North-East District FB page. This is a tower steeped in ringing history, which included the late, great Harold Rogers' first peal over seventy-five years ago (how many peal-ringing stories could he have regaled?!), so hopefully there is another chapter beginning at this ground-floor five. Where will they be in a few years time?
That is a question for another day.
I can't in all honesty commend this weekend as my finest. Entirely predictably following yesterday's car malfunction, a similar fate befell Ipswich Town as they were today overcome - again - by our arch rivals and still - until they actually eclipse our achievements which currently they're nowhere near doing - second most successful football club in East Anglia, Norwich City. Even those Town fans wearing the most blue-tinted of glasses would struggle to convincingly argue a case that the Tractor Boys deserved to get anything out of this afternoon's televised match, with the quality of the opposition far exceeding anything we could muster over a long, painful ninety minutes.
That said, I - and I dare say many other Blues - were prepared mentally for such an outcome. Quite besides our conditioning to dismal failure in regards to ITFC in recent years, especially when it comes to our sporting battles with the Budgies, the money spent on their team from the riches gathered from even their brief mediocre period in the Premier League compared to the relative pittance Mick McCarthy has been permitted to outlay on ours after over decade stuck in the Championship, meant this was always a metaphorical David vs Goliath clash and we would have needed an awful lot of luck to come out on par, let alone victorious. And we still remain in our best position for years to join our neighbours in their somewhat inevitable promotion, with a lot of positives to enjoy, at least compared to the dire few seasons that has preceded this one.
My sanguine mood therefore allowed me to negotiate a day that without mechanical transport was logistically difficult. Getting to Ipswich and Grundisburgh this morning to ring was impossible and taking an increasingly weighty ten-month old with no buggy (sat as it was at the beginning of this Sabbath in the boot of our stricken vehicle up at Champkins) and an eight year old still recovering from the recent operations on his foot to St Mary the Virgin in town and back via walking was just plain impractical, so it was a morning in the house for us boys before my mother-in-law Kate very kindly collected us to watch the footy on her televisual box. Despite the result, her hospitality was much appreciated and Alfie in particular enjoyed the company of his Gran and her dog Mia, oblivious to the depressing output coming from the TV.
After a pleasant walk in spring-like conditions to get some tea, we were finally reunited with Ruthie who had spent the day serving downtrodden England rugby fans at work in between singing for the choir at our local church for morning service and evensong on a particularly busy few hours for her.
There were others in Suffolk ringing mind, with quarter-peals of Plain Bob Doubles and Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree and Rougham respectively, the former conducted by our earlier host. And beyond our borders, well done to Tim Stanford, who whilst we were fixed on events north of us, was ringing his first quarter of Cinques in the 1319 of Grandsire, south of us at Chelmsford Cathedral. Well done Tim.
Yesterday too, members were achieving, and well done to Ruth Suggett and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Northumberland Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Redgrave, one of two quarters upon the 8cwt six on the last day of February, with one of York Surprise Minor also rung.
I'm glad at least someone has had a better weekend than us!
A nonchalant turn of the ignition key signalled the beginning of a frustrating and annoying early-evening. What had been intended as a quick trip out to Ye Olde Bell & Steelyard to collect Ruthie from her latest shift and maybe a pint whilst we waited, saw a quick diversion to extract money from a cashpoint to cover the potential drink be enough to tip our car battery from fully functional to dead and trigger over an hour of shenanigans. Thankfully it was only around the corner from my wife's place of employment, so she was able to join us on foot, by which point Kate and Ron had very kindly come out to try and jumpstart us. I say try, as so dead was the battery on Aloysius that the jump leads began melting in their futile but much appreciated attempts to raise our only means of transport back to life. Therefore, instead of that relaxed ale in the pub, we found ourselves towing our car to Champkins to hopefully be fixed and then given a lift home where mercifully there was a supply of much-needed alcohol purchased earlier today.
The one silver-lining to our mildly grey cloud (worse things have happened at sea!) was that at least it didn't happen on the other side of the county in Long Melford, where the boys and I had spent the afternoon in order to support the South-West District Practice on the 15cwt eight at the top of the unnerving stairs that lead you to the ringing chamber here. With Mrs Munnings serving rugby fans all afternoon, it seemed a nice opportunity to get Mason and Alfie out of the house and also meet up with familiar and new faces, the beauty of ringing epitomised by our off-the-cuff expedition.
Sadly, not many joined us, with around fifteen present and my presence enabling them to ring a course of Plain Bob Major in amongst an ocean of its Triples counterpart, call-changes and - as we waited behind the curtain that allows all those entering a show business entrance - Plain Hunt. Although I haven't been to the SW ringing for some time, the low attendance was unusual for this District in my experience, but Ringing Master Derek Rose did well to mould a useful session from those there. It was also nice to catch up with David and Lynda Lee and Richard Gates, as well as seeing Neal Dodge, visiting himself from the North-West District in an encouraging bit of cross-border support. But also, it was nice to be introduced to members I'd not met before, learners taking advantage of all that these events offer, even when as poorly attended as this.
Meanwhile, whilst there was nothing recorded on BellBoard within our borders, well done to the six first-pealers who made their debut in this vital medium across the country, as FirstPeal2015 got a big boost. Hopefully there will be some from Suffolk joining the push and hopefully we'll be able to help them. If we have a car.
Big bellringing PR news reached the digital stratosphere today, with Michael Orme - a member of the Central Council Public Relations Committee - announcing that all being well this forthcoming Monday will see the start of a new feature on Premier Christian Radio called 'Bells of The Day'. My understanding is that each morning at seven, their Inspirational Breakfast Show will be begun with a recording of bells accompanied by information on them and their location, all of which can be nothing but good publicity for bellringing in my humble opinion. In addition, CCCBR President Chris Mew is due to be interviewed as their main guest at 7.50am on Tuesday.
Against this background, it was interesting to see a fascinating report about how ringing is using social media and the internet, breaking it down into the many ways that the web can allow ringers to communicate with speed and ease these days. One sentence about association websites stands out however. Having pointed out their positives, it goes on to say "Members can, however, feel distant from other far flung towers in their Guild so it can be quite difficult to cultivate a sense of belonging to a Guild." Anecdotal perspective suggests that that is as much the case in the Suffolk Guild and perhaps more so as it is anywhere. We cover a large area and those ringing in Mildenhall will rarely cross paths with those ringing in Felixstowe, Beccles ringers will have little to do with those at Cowlinge. But they and all those in between have - or at least should have - the same aims and same needs and in my mind, geographical ringing organisations such as the SGR have rarely been more important to ensure that there are enough ringers and support in an exercise where numbers are seemingly declining, to ring an increasing number of bells. To bring together bands that are miles apart to share advice, financial help and friendship. It should be easier now than ever before with instant communication that can at the press of a button incorporate hundreds of members into debate and inform them of District and Guild events and goings-on. As it happens, I think we do this relatively well, with one of the best ringing society's websites around, which is kept up to date regularly and is backed up by a popular and well-used Facebook page, as well as the Twitter account, but we could do more. There are currently 168 members of the FB page and 72 able to tweet, but that is out of a resident Guild membership of around 800 and includes a number of non-resident members and others who aren't members at all. The website also seems to be getting missed, with the mix-up about last Saturday's South-West District non-Practice perhaps highlighting that quite a few aren't using it to its full potential. Whilst not everyone has internet access and I appreciate that as you are reading this at the moment that I may be preaching to the converted, more need to be encouraged to join in the Guild's online presence and if they're not already on board then it is up to us to make them aware.
The internet was able to impart that a quarter-peal of Armitage-Is-The-Name-Bob Minor was rung at Ashbocking this evening and through this blog that Alfie, Mason, Ruthie and I went ten-pin bowling to belatedly celebrate Ufford ringer Susanne Eddis' birthday with a couple of her work colleagues after work, though Alfred was a bit too small to make his debut today! Happy belated Birthday anyway Susanne!
It kick-started the weekend nicely, and hopefully 'Bells of The Day' will finish it nicely!
Happy Birthday to my mother, regular ringer at a number of towers and dedicated supporter of South-East District and Guild events. I don't know how her day went as I was unable to get in touch with her, but hopefully she had an enjoyable one.
We had a fairly enjoyable one as it happened, with another early shift at work allowing me to accompany Ruthie and Alfie on his return to his smaller contemporaries at The Children's Centre in Woodbridge following his introduction to the older group on Tuesday. Both groups are valuable outlets for both my wife and son, a chance to get out and chat or play and it is always a joy to take it all in when I can.
Later, the Mrs Munnings who wasn't celebrating the anniversary of her birth was making a return of her own, as she was this week able to attend her usual choir practice, allowing Alfred and me a lads night in watching the Liverpool match that was reaching a climax of penalties before ITV went off the air.
I hope that didn't spoil Mum's birthday too much...
Chapters finish, new ones begin, constantly stirring up the pot of life and keeping it fresh. With a turn of the page, such a point was reached by Ruthie today, as having severed her official ties with her employers of seven years with the ceremonial returning of her Boots uniform and such on Monday and attended an interview yesterday morning, she was today offered a job, which of course she accepted. The next few pages of my wife's story is due to be set against the shelves of shoes of John Ives, a homely shop on Woodbridge's popular Thoroughfare and it ticks many boxes, not least that it is close to home and the shifts given her makes arrangements for Alfie a lot easier than if she had remained at her previous employers.
Nonetheless, those arrangements still need making and putting in place and so following a pleasant walk in almost spring-like conditions to Champkins Auto Repairs in order to collect our car now bedecked in new tyres, our afternoon was put aside to setting in motion the process of getting Alfred into a nursery whilst his mother nobly earns a living, as is unfortunately a financial necessity for us and many other couples in similar situations.
An appointment to view and question was made before thoughts moved to this evening, where sadly the chapter headed 'Twelve-Spliced' in the tale titled 'The Suffolk Ringers and The Twenty-Three Spliced Surprise Major Methods' is still ongoing. It is an account of recent disappointment and this evening's never really got going, but it was understandable to a large degree on this occasion, coming as it did at the end of a long - and in some cases difficult - day for many in the band. For once I'm not referring to my early start at John Catt Educational to engage those working in the international schools of Asia and beyond in conversation, though I didn't feel at my most alert, my reactions dragged down by sapped energy. But rather ours was a motley gathering of folk who had arrived at St Mary-le-Tower for this front-eight attempt on the back of travelling to Milton Keynes and Kent and back in the name of work and family since we all awoke this morning and dealing with the terrible illness of a close loved one, so there were a few exhausted glances when the effort was halted in the third part of seven due to a swap.
I returned home to celebrate Mrs Munnings' newfound employment, whilst elsewhere a young ringer from within our borders who is currently embarking upon her own new chapter with her first year of university was today carving out a notable paragraph. Well done to Lucy Williamson on ringing her first quarter-peal of Surprise Major in the 1280 of Cambridge rung at St Lawrence in York, a performance that is deservedly storming BellBoard's 'leader' board!
Back in her homeland, well done too to the Ebsworth's Paul and Pam on a new chapter called 'Ringing Norwich Surprise Minor to Quarters', begun today at a familiar location for such adventures, Preston St Mary. Another page was also filled in the mammoth 'Pettistree Quarter-Peals' collection, whilst others were adding to 'Pudsey - The Unloved Method' with a quarter of it's Surprise Major version at Hopton.
Well done to everyone today on their captivating reads, but especially Ruthie!
Tales of ringing achievement not headlined on BellBoard or Campanophile are always nice to hear, and so it was with last night's youth practice at Sweffling and in particular word of Lucie and Ross' first rounds on six. A small but significant step and something to note, and although one of them is apparently soon moving out of the county it is encouraging to see that the mission to recruit and teach young ringers continues within our borders.
Whatever happens with young Ross and Lucie next, peal-ringing might be a bit ambitious this year, but following all the recent doom and gloom over the decline in numbers of first-pealers, it is worth highlighting the initiative from the Central Council intended to shine a shaft of light through the metaphorical darkness, FirstPeal2015. Designed to coincide with the three hundredth anniversary of the first ever true peal - rung as you will all be aware up the A140 in Norwich at St Peter Mancroft on 2nd May 1715 in what we now know as Plain Bob Triples - this year, the aim is for three hundred people to ring their first peal before we find ourselves ringing in 2016. It is an ambitious target, a figure not achieved since 2002, but I think achievable. You may recall the Suffolk Guild alone had eleven first-pealers in 2009, and although that was considerably helped by that year's Guild Peal Week which contributed seven of the debutants, there is no reason why we shouldn't look to achieve something similar over the next ten months. God willing either Ruthie or I - depending on babysitting, work, etc - will be participating in a first peal for someone in the next few weeks and I have been privileged to ring in the debut peals of twelve ringers, most recently Sean Antonioli's in June 2012, but also Guild Chairman Alan Stanley's at Gislingham earlier that same month amongst a fervour of Diamond Jubilee celebrations, current South-West District Ringing Master Derek Rose's at Kersey at the end of SGPW 2011 and my brother Chris' at Sproughton on 23rd September 1993, so I like to think I am doing my bit and hope that I will continue to do so. Though I wouldn't advocate forcing reluctant participants into their first peal just for the sake of boosting the numbers for this admirable project, I hope it will focus the mind and generate encouragement to get more ringers into this vital medium of our art where there may not have been before.
Even if he transpires to be the next Henry Pipe, Alfie is still some way off his first peal, but he is developing reassuringly. In recent weeks he has been walking with the aide of us and our furniture and so today we took the plunge and took him along to the familiar Children's Centre in Woodbridge for the next stage up from the Thursday afternoon baby club that he and Ruthie have been attending for several months and which I - when on my early shifts - have been lucky enough to tag along to. Our growing lad now finds himself amongst bigger children, some as old as three, but also featuring others that have made the same step up over the last few weeks, including my Goddaughter Maddison and the same lively atmosphere exists! And the li'l chap enjoyed wandering around, a chuffed smile almost permanently on his face!
It may not be a headline act on BellBoard or Campanophile, but it is worthy of recognition on this ringing blog!
A new week underway and it was Ruthie's Monday out and as happy coincidence would have it, tonight was also Ron's bagpipe school's Burns Night gathering at The Mulberry Tree, a few weeks late on account of them all being quite busy at the time for some reason! It worked out well for my wife but also me in truth as with a 4am start this morning and another one tomorrow, I'm not sure I would've survived an evening of alcohol, haggis and bagpipes until the wee hours!
That meant no ringing for either of us this evening, but there will be no ringing at all for the time being at Hacheston. Thankfully nothing to do with the bells, but rather due to some quite frightening structural problems in the church that need urgently repairing and means the entire building - tower and all - is out of bounds until those repairs are carried out. Whilst a blow to the local ringers and of course the congregation, they are a part of an active ringing benefice that means they shall be able to continue ringing elsewhere at places like Campsea Ashe and Parham, but if you had plans to join them it may be worth contacting them first to clarify where and when they're ringing.
My night in with Alfie followed on from an afternoon that finally saw Mrs Munnings break her ties with Boots by handing back her uniforms; and a spot of cake in Cafe Nero.
Also bringing something to an end were the two Georges Salter and Vant, who climaxed a long weekend in Devon and London with fun and games together in a hotel room in Hounslow. Ringing a handbell quarter you understand. A new week, familiar exploits.
New ropes, age-guessing, piano lessons and meetings gives you the gist of the day, but I perhaps ought to fill in some gaps.
The new ropes were being given their first run-thru at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, with the eighth being shorter than we were on numbers in attendance! Many thanks to David Potts for the box and the unheeded warnings! And even with quite a few away, we welcomed back Brian Redgers and were able to pull off some decent ringing on the front eight.
After the obligatory trip to the village's park, Grundisburgh's church was our next destination, where Adrian Craddock's age was the subject of speculation. Here's a clue - it certainly isn't seventy! The affable Mr Craddock took it all in good humour and his presence was again much appreciated in the little wobbly red-brick tower.
A soothing afternoon followed, with Ruthie giving Mason his first piano lesson - at his request - in the dining room, as his younger brother Alfie nodded off in gentle appreciation in the living room, before my wife made her way through blustery conditions to the Earey's abode in Sproughton for the latest South-East District committee meeting. Much was discussed, but the primary issue seemed to have been the forthcoming Guild AGM being hosted by the SE at Felixstowe on Saturday 11th April, God willing. I make no apologies for having mentioned this event several times already, as I feel this an event that every member should attend, if they are able to. The Suffolk Guild is a large organisation, involving funds that primarily derive from its hundreds of members, many of whom often seem unaware that we have an AGM at all, let alone when it is and as such miss out on finding out what they could do for the Guild and vice versa. Yesterday's GMC meeting apparently revealed that with less than seven weeks to go, we are still looking to replace Mandy Shedden and Gordon Slack as Secretary and Treasurer respectively. How many possible candidates are out there amongst our membership that we don't know about and who don't know we need them? Please spread the word, not just about the positions but also this big day in the SGR calendar. It's not just about the meeting, though it will be important, especially with those vital roles being in need of filling, but also about friendship, advice and guidance, about pooling our not inconsiderable talents as a membership to help ensure ringing's future, especially with some of the issues raised on Facebook in recent weeks. And apart from that, there is plenty on offer. All being well a Guild photo, George Pipe's exhibition, a seaside town that whilst perhaps not as quaint as Aldeburgh or Southwold is still a seaside resort with lots to occupy ringers and non-ringers alike, a tea, a choice of pubs and even some ringing! Something for all.
Some ringers are already benefitting from ringing networking that is aided by the SGR. Clare Veal's considerable talents have been helped I'm sure by District and Guild events, introducing her to other ringers who could help advance her ringing through quarters and peals, which has ultimately led to her dabbling in the London ringing scene, joining the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, raising her standard of ringing continually and generally getting some fulfilment from this infinite art. And today she added to this by ringing her first Minor as conductor in the Plain Bob rung at Great Barton, in the process helping Alex Brett-Holt to ring her first Minor inside. Young Miss Veal also contributed to a 1250 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced at The Norman Tower. The more people get involved with the Guild and other members, the more likely this type of achievement will be replicated.
With an early start tomorrow though, I was just glad to have Mrs Munnings return from her secretarial duties at a reasonable hour at the end of a busy day of new ropes, age-guessing, piano lessons and meetings.
With Ruthie working this afternoon, I had considered taking the boys for a sunny drive out to some of Suffolk's prettiest countryside for the South-West District Practice at Long Melford. However, having highlighted the event in the blog a few days ago, my ever alert wife - perhaps with her secretarial senses switched on - noted how odd it was not only that the SW had deviated from 'their' fourth Saturday, but that as well as today's event, there was another one in a week's time at Sudbury St Peter. A reply from District Ringing Master Derek Rose to my exploratory message and a very kind phone call from him this morning revealed that Mrs Munnings' intuition was typically correct and an afternoon's wasted journeying was averted, though a trip to picturesque 'Lovejoy Country' in beautiful winter sunshine wouldn't have been disastrous! Hopefully no one ended up travelling there this week anticipating having a ring upon the 15cwt eight in one of the collection of grand towers in that part of the world, but all being well you'll avoid disappointment if you pop along between 3 and 4.30pm in a week's time, with the evening practice previously advertised upon the 20cwt ten that rings out over the aforementioned town's marketplace actually taking place on the 28th of next month, which may have partly been the cause of the confusion.
It was perhaps appropriate on a day of might-have-beens from a personal ringing perspective, as this evening saw the Rambling Ringers hold their annual reunion dinner at Lincoln, an event that comes at the midway point between the Society's summer tours and which we enjoy going to immensely for its informality and the chance to catch up with friends not seen all that much. Long before my wife's shift at the Bell & Steelyard made it impossible to travel out of the region though, we'd decided that it was probably impractical at this stage to take Alfie in particular and to an extent Mason to what typically ends up being a late event. Whilst it was a pity to miss out on this particular arm of ringing fellowship, the inevitable photographs and comments indicated that our fellow Ramblers were having a lively time, and it was nice to see a peal rung for the Society before lunch, with a 5152 of Double Lincolnshire Delight Major at Caythorpe in the county itself seeing Ringing Master Chris Woodcock calling his 150th in total and ringing his 25th for the Ramblers - congratulations Chris!
For all that, we had a pleasant enough day, despite Ipswich Town building-down to next weekend's looming East Anglian derby with yet a depressing home defeat, as the boys played together and then joined me in partaking in the now enjoyable routine of meeting Mrs Munnings after her shift for a drink poured by her own fair hands amongst the timbers of her workplace and a quiet night in.
And whilst there were no ringing performances within our borders today recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile, a couple from Friday have appeared since I wrote yesterday's entry, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples rung at Rendham and confirmation of Richard Stevens' first of Minor in the success at Brandeston. The county's ringing now seems to be up to date!
The young Georges continued their ringing peregrinations in the south-west of England today, with a handbell quarter of Minimus in St Stephen's ringing chamber in Exeter and a 1308 of Grandsire Minor at Lympstone, where Mr Vant rang his first blows in the method. Well done him!
Whilst these two youngsters were achieving far beyond our borders, congratulations to all concerned on what sounds and looks like was a successful Young Ringers event at Grundisburgh this afternoon, followed by a meal at the East Coast Diner in Woodbridge and preceded by Jack Robinson's first quarter-peal in the success at Tostock and Richard Stevens' first of Minor. Well done to these two youngsters. The only downside to an apparently very positive occasion was that they could have done with more helpers. Admittedly it was a difficult day for most to attend due to work, but that shouldn't be an issue for the majority when the youngsters are due to next meet for the Twelve-Bell Workshop at The Norman Tower from 2 - 3.30pm on Sunday 15th March. Please do support them, especially those experienced on higher numbers.
Regrettably, we were unable to help today, needing support of our own simply to make sure Alfie had someone to look after him as his parents' shifts at work overlapped for the first time. Thankfully Ruthie's mother Kate very kindly delayed her and Ron's trip to London to watch over the ten-month old until I returned home to take over and await Mason's arrival from a day out with his grandparents, who had also generously used their time to keep the elder brother occupied on his final day of half-term. Many thanks to them and Mrs Eagle.
And once my wife had returned from the pub, the boys in bed, we had a relaxed evening, as we anticipated what the Georges would get up to next.
Circumstances dictated that Ruthie was unable to avail her choral colleagues of her vocal skills this evening and thus Alfie and I had the pleasure of her company tonight at the conclusion of a day that got under way in relaxed style with another late start that allowed me to help my wife ready our son for the hours ahead and even catch a polite word with those helping a new neighbour moving in further down our terrace.
It meant a late finish too of course, but there was still ample time for me to aid Alfred's mother in getting the boy to bed before she embarked upon a phone call with South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey as timings for the Suffolk Guild AGM at Felixstowe on Saturday 11th April were discussed, a further reminder of how much behind the scenes arranging goes into these events, with months of phone calls, emails, letters and meetings, calculating timings and the needs of those attending, ensuring as much as possible that they may want is there. Once again, please don't let these considerable efforts go to waste if you can help it.
Certainly not letting their efforts go to waste were the Georges Salter and Vant, who having preceded a road-trip to the South-West of England with that handbell quarter in Old Stoke yesterday, announced their arrival in Devon today with their first QP on eight in hand down in Exeter. Well done lads!
Twas a busy day's ringing on Rectory Road in Ipswich today, as the Georges Vant and Salter rang a handbell quarter seemingly hampered by the domestic duties of the latter's father, whilst at the top of the garden, Simon Veal rang his first peal of Treble Bob. Well done Simon!
We weren't quite as busy within our family from a ringing perspective, though a phone call from the reassured newly appointed Reverend Philip Payne means that all bar an organist for the service (if you can help than please let the Secretary know!) is arranged for the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Earl Stonham and Stonham Aspal on Saturday 7th March. It was also my wife's evening out, so whilst Alfie and I had a lads night in, she joined the practice at Pettistree which had been kicked-off with a 1296 of Richmond Delight Minor dedicated to St Mary-le-Tower ringer and former Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond's sixtieth birthday, as incredible as it seems that she is anywhere near that landmark!
Happy Birthday Amanda and well done Simon!
It is Pancake Day, so on a day that saw others ringing a quarter-peal of Stedman Triples at Elveden, we were consuming pancakes, Alfie for the first time of course - I don't think he was unhappy with the experience!
That it is Shrove Tuesday means that Lent is upon us, which in turn God willing signals that Easter is fast approaching for us and also the Guild AGM, this year booked in by the seaside at Felixstowe on Saturday 11th April, when hopefully springtime sunshine will greet us and encourage at least a hundred members to make what will admittedly be a long journey for those from the west of Suffolk! Apart from lovely, very easy going light bells being on offer and plenty for non-ringers to occupy themselves with, this is planned to be one of a two-day exhibition of George Pipe's vast postcard collection and having mentioned recently how nice it would be to have a Guild photo at the event, it seems plans were already underway for just that, so a big turnout would certainly be good for future generations to look back on. Please get the date in your diaries now!
All being well though, there is plenty lined up before that highlight of the SGR calendar in just under two months, with a quite a lot lined up for the county's ringers even before the end of February in just eleven days. The headline act and one that I'm keenest that people support is the most immediate, as the Young Ringers hold their next event, which is a practice on Friday from 4-6pm at Grundisburgh, followed by a meal. We are extremely fortunate to have a sizeable number of enthusiastic youngsters within our borders, but also to have a number of very proactive and enthusiastic helpers to encourage them, which seems to ensure that every time a youngster disappears from our shores, there is a replenishment of pre-adult ringers to give us hope of a bright future for the art in this part of the world. So if you are a young ringer or are responsible for one, then please get along or get them along to our lightest twelve at the end of the week. And once you're done there, you may be able to catch the end of the nearby practices at either Helmingham or Clopton.
Beyond that, this weekend sees the first of two Saturday South-West District practices in a row, with Long Melford being visited initially from 3 - 4.30pm, before they head to St Peter's in Sudbury seven days later in the evening. In between that, there is a Triples & Major Practice at Halesworth on Thursday 26th where the entry level is just Plain Hunt on seven, so this should be a very useful session for learners who can make it to this ground-floor eight.
As with all our ringing events, your support - whatever your abilities - and company is very much appreciated by those arranging them, often at great trouble. My wife can testify to that, but at least she was able to give it a rest this evening to enjoy some pancakes!
Following on from last night's special practice at St Mary-le-Tower, we continued with our focus on rhythm and striking at this evening's session upon Suffolk's heaviest twelve, with a course of Plain Hunt prior to some pieces as we attempted - with a degree of success it has to be said - to get the required standard going from the beginning.
It was a very productive hour-and-a-half despite a number of regulars being absent, including Diana Pipe, who had travelled with her husband George to Norwich for the launch of the Mancroft Appeal 300, as an exciting year looms for our northern neighbours, with not only the project itself, but also the three-hundredth anniversary of the first ever peal rung at the start of May and the visit of the National Twelve-Bell Final at the end of June. And on Saturday 14th March at 7.30pm in St Peter Mancroft itself, there will be a replica of the concert in 1775 that celebrated the installation of the twelve bells.
Our low attendance of thirteen tonight looks like being the theme here this week, with quite a number away this weekend, so if anyone fancies an early start to their Sunday morning, they would be more than welcome - as they would be at anytime we're ringing of course - to join us from 8.45-9.30am.
By which point, we should have new ropes on, something we prepared for by lowering all thirteen bells, including the back ten in peal, led superbly by George Salter, fresh from his exploits on Shoreditch tenor earlier today, as he tried to disprove yesterday's theory that peal-ringing is in decline!
Talking of yesterday, well done to Neal Dodge and Clare Veal on ringing their
first quarter of Morning Exercise Delight Minor in the 1296 changes of it at
Bardwell on Sunday.
I don't know what they did afterwards, but with Ruthie at home looking after Alfie, Kate and I popped into The Mulberry Tree where George and Di's son Stephen was busy mixing our drinks and in typically good form as we awaited Ron's return from bagpipe practice and reflected on a useful evening of focus.
I am rather fond of an interesting stat, but they don't always make pleasant reading. Today, Anthony Barnfield highlighted on the increasingly interesting Bellringers Facebook page that there has been a very dramatic drop in the number of first-pealers over the last sixty-five years. Using the stat-lovers go-to site Pealbase, he took the total number of first-pealers from 1950 - the earliest year that the site currently goes back to - and then took a snapshot from every ten years onwards and finally then 2014's figures and it isn't encouraging. In fact, even though it has been widely known that the number of peal-ringers has been falling, the figures pointed out were quite shocking.
At the beginning of the twentieth century's sixth decade, 682 ringers rang their first peal, a number that fell only slightly to 637 in 1960. Even though the numbers in 1970 had dropped to 526, the total had risen again to 641 in 1980, but the dramatic decline was well underway a decade later with just 372 newbies in 1990, which fallen quite substantially even in two years with 371 first-timers other than me breaking their peal-ringing virginity in 1992, though there were still 351 taking this rite of passage in 2000. Skip forward to 2010 though, only 153 rang their first 5000+ changes and finally 139 in the twelve months we bade farewell to on 1st January. That's a drop of 80% in that time. Interestingly, the total number of ringers ringing peals has dropped from 4,017 to 2,579, which is a drop of 'only' 36%. Make of that what you will.
It seems to suggest that peal-ringing is in decline, at least in terms of the number of those partaking in it, with the general perception being that there are a smaller number of ringers undertaking a greater number of peals. Such a perception can be borne out here in the Suffolk Guild, with more peals rung for the SGR now than in 1950 - 121 last year compared to just 48 back then - but fewer participants - 98 in 2014 next to 139 in 1950. There are good signs in peal-ringing. What is being rung at the top end is staggering, and it is being done by a generally clever, young demographic, including the likes of Clare Veal, Louis Suggett, Alex Tatlow, Philip Moyse, Robert Beavis and the Salter boys from our neck of the woods, but there can be no doubt that the massive fall in first-time pealers is of concern, especially if it continues to drop. It's all very well pointing out the young element enthusiastically undertaking regular peal-ringing, but even they one day will stop peal-ringing and when they do, who is going to replace them?
Why it is happening is harder to pinpoint. That people have busier lives is almost certainly a big factor, but in the discussion that followed the original post that raised this whole issue, it was mentioned that fewer towers were available for three hours worth of ringing in our increasingly intolerant society. But I would suggest that these reasons alone should be outweighed by the fact that more people have cars at their disposal, communications are now instant and can be carried out in a multitude of ways and the number of private rings means there are numerous places where peals can be carried out with practically no limits. The size of most of these private rings also means that peal-ringing needn't take three or four hour hours if that is your objection to peal-ringing, as seems to be the case for many contributing to the lengthy online thread. Or is it simply that there are fewer ringers altogether?
There are those who will shrug their shoulders and wonder why we should be worried about the demise of peal-ringing, but I think this is a vital aspect of our art. Since that first peal on the treble at isolated Ashbocking nearly twenty-three years ago, peals have taken me across the country and even beyond, to some of the most wonderful venues and with some of the finest and most sociable ringers on the planet, and I am far from the most prolific high quality peal-ringer. I shan't lie and say that every one I have rung in has been a joy, but it has given me the best ringing I have ever partaken in, on several occasions at a standard far, far above anything I have ever experienced generally or even with quarters. It is a standard that those who exclude themselves from peal-ringing are unlikely to ever experience, which in a nutshell should explain why it is a medium so important to what we do, but let me elaborate on how it will contribute further to the overall decline of our unique and wonderful pastime. If ringers don't ever experience the type of ringing that can come about from an hour's or more constant ringing, they won't have anything to aspire to. What is more, they are more likely to therefore grow disinterested in a hobby that offers infinite possibilities.
However, something more needs doing than talking about it on here or even through social media. Many have suggested that the Central Council needs to be more proactive, but whilst I expect that they will attempt to lead the way on this to justify their existence, much like preparing for the closure of rural churches with bells, this is something that will be more effectively dealt with locally in my opinion. At towers where we as members have influence, we need to persuade those that refuse to have their bells pealed to be more flexible, to introduce the notion of sound-control to them if necessary, and whilst we mustn't force people into peal-ringing, we need to encourage more learners into it as something to aim for. And we all perhaps need to be a little less reluctant to help out in peals. That doesn't mean ringing a handful of peals every weekend or even one a month. After all, Ruthie and I know as well as anyone that family and work commitments can make it very difficult to dedicate huge swathes of time to peals. But do what you can, please.
For all the gloom surrounding peal numbers, quarter-peal figures appear anecdotally to be healthy, with another one added today at Hollesley, but there are other ways to try and improve your ringing beyond that which gets recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile. This afternoon saw us attempt to do just that at this month's Special Practice at St Mary-le-Tower whilst my parents very kindly looked after and fed the boys. Although the main focus of these practices is that of expanding method repertoire, there was a particular emphasis on striking that led to one of our most constructive practices for a long time, this time under the view of the newly hung band photo taken back in September, since added to by a beautifully written guide to who everyone is, framed and put alongside its equivalents from the 1990's and 1980's.
It was a picture I hadn't seen in its new position this morning, as Mason, Alfie and myself had joined my chorister wife at church at St Mary-the-Virgin in our town of residence, Woodbridge. Beforehand, I climbed the many stairs to the ringing chamber to help the five manning some of the bells of this 25cwt eight, highlighting further the worldwide need to recruit and enthral more ringers with all that ringing offers - especially peal-ringing.
No grand romantic gestures from either of us on this Tacky Love Day, as my wife so affectionately refers to Valentine's Day as. After nearly nine years together, such shenanigans seem a little unnecessary, though we did give a nod to the occasion with reciprocal cards and a bottle of fizzy at home tonight. Instead, whilst others were taking balloon trips, having meals out or strewing the name of their loved one in rose petals across the living room floor (or whatever the youth of today do for love these days), Ruthie worked a busy shift at The Bell & Steelyard as this ancient rugby-loving tavern rejoiced in England's Six Nations victory over Italy and we did likewise for Ipswich Town's 2-1 win at Fulham, before we were all reunited at Kate's for a roast dinner very generously prepared by her and Ron - thanks guys!
On top of a quarter at Rendham last night, others were also snubbing the patron saint of the plague within our borders today, at least for part of the day, with a 1320 of Plain Bob Minor rung at Woolpit and 5040 scored at St Mary in Newmarket for our neighbours the Ely Diocesan Association. And whilst the North-East District (incidentally, may I point you in the direction of their Facebook page?) were holding their Quarterly District Meeting at Fressingfield, two of the District's young exports were achieving elsewhere. Well done to Alex Rolph on ringing her first peal of Surprise Major in the 5184 of Cambridge at St Olave in the capital for the University of London Society peal weekend, and to Southampton University Guild Ringing Master Philip Moyse on calling a peal of Doubles at Bitterne Park in the city for the SUG on the day of their sixtieth anniversary dinner, where the other five members of the band were ringing their first peal. A brilliant feather in the cap for the Reydon native and a special way to spend Tacky Love Day.
No bad luck befell us on this supposed day of misfortune.
Instead, I enjoyed the end of a week of early shifts by picking Mason up from school and whilst Ruthie was unexpectedly called out to work at short notice, the fact that I haven't got to get up and go to work hours before the sun rises tomorrow morning meant that I had the chance to enjoy some quality time with my wife once she returned, Alfie already asleep and in bed. My wife even had the opportunity to sign-off the completed South-East District section of the Annual Report!
I'd say we we are very lucky!
Whilst Ruthie went to choir practice, then with her mother onto the Surprise Major practice at Ufford before returning with cake to mark Don Price's birthday, Alfie and I went along to Mason's parents' evening. It seems the eldest is generally doing well. Better writing, good reading and with persuasion some decent maths too. He even went on a cross-country run today, which is pretty impressive with his feet and especially after all he's been through in recent weeks! No mention of his backstrokes though.
Definitely doing well with their backstrokes and I assume their handstrokes too, are the band that rang a 1320 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Preston St Mary, with Paul Ebsworth ringing his first in the method. Well done Paul!
Our primary purpose as bellringers - if not as individuals then as a collective - is to man the bells when the church requires. At the very least we rely upon the Church of England and their buildings for the use of most of our bells. When it has been appropriate and when I have had the chance, I have often extolled the virtues of what may be considered the secular aspects of the art, such as the musical, mathematical and physical elements and of course the social nature of the ringing family and this has been perceived by some as attempting to distance ourselves from the church. However, my personal view is that our links with the Church of England and in particular the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich are vital, not just for the use of the bells we so enjoy, but for a supply of newcomers to our wonderful pastime.
So an article in yesterday's Telegraph which came to my attention this afternoon should be of concern to us. It suggests that within a decade, the village church will have disappeared. Whilst the decline of the CofE both in numbers and finances is not a surprise and the timeframe may be a little sensationalist, it raised a point that I had never considered. As these churches close down, what are the implications for bells, ringers and bellringers? Anthony Barnfield, who posted the article onto the Bellringers Facebook page asks what ringing is doing to prepare for what sadly seems the inevitable closure of at least a large number of the churches that house bells. Would we be able to ring the bells? Should they be moved? Would our numbers drop?
It is an issue that looks set to affect us more than most, with the vast majority of our rings of bells in rural settings, but the debate that followed on from the posting of this depressing looking bit of journalism made interesting reading. Of course a church being redundant doesn't mean that the bells will not be rung. Someone mentioned Sudbury St Peter as an example of where bells are still rung, despite the church being closed as a place of worship since 1972. We have other churches of course, such as the waterfront buildings of Ipswich, St Nicholas, St Mary at the Quay and St Clement, as well as Redgrave, though apart from the latter, I'm not aware that any of them have local bands or are regularly rung. There is also the question of whether we'd want to save the bells in some towers. As Richard Grimmett said in the thread, "there have never, in the history of ringing, been enough ringers to man all the bells", so would it be a bad thing to release the burden on ringers who are stretched by keeping several towers ringing, by just letting these bells go? Personally, I think it would. We should always be looking to recruit enough members to ring all our bells and even if we don't achieve that, ringing centres ebb and flow and we must allow new ones to pop up and flourish by having bells available to them. For all that there were once thriving bands at St Matthew in the county town and Bramford, there was silence in places like Pettistree - where they rang what is already the ninth quarter of 2015 before what was no doubt another useful and busy practice this evening - and Gislingham where local bands now enthusiastically ring at least twice a week.
That said, this is something that the Suffolk Guild should perhaps begin looking at. We won't change what is happening with the church and indeed the church themselves probably won't - as others highlighted in the conversation, a contributing factor is the decline in village communities generally, where homes are gobbled up at high prices by second-home owners, with the result being that local amenities like the shop, pub and yes, the church suffer and ultimately close. But we can at least try to prepare for what lay ahead. I'm not sure how exactly, but that in part is what we need to consider.
One thing we may have to use increasingly and possibly add to are private rings, like those we currently have with Janet Sheldrake and Gordon Slack's eight at The Milllbeck Ring in Shelland, Sheila Price's ten at Mindinho-le-Tower in Newmarket and the Salter's eight at The Wolery in Old Stoke, the latter of which I have rung a fair bit at already. Well, ninety-nine peals after tonight's successful 5024 of Wideopen Surprise Major to be precise.
The line for this was a bit too samey and placy (to use a couple of technical terms!) for my liking and in my sleep-deprived state halfway through another week of pre-dawn awakenings it wasn't the easiest concentrate on, but the band rung round me, the ringing improved and about a third of the way in I was really rather quite enjoying myself in an effort that not only marked David Salter's 300th on his bells, but also his 300th different Surprise Major method as conductor - congratulations David! Even his eldest son George seemed pleased with it, despite breaking his sequence of ringing only peals of Stedman and Bristol since 1st January in an impressive start to his peal-ringing year. Though it was best not to stoke the flames of a heated debate between him and Mary Dunbavin on the merits of open fires...
It was a positive way to end what was largely a positive day, even with that downbeat article and its potential implications, as a quarter-peal of London Surprise Major was rung at Bardwell. What really made our day though, was the news that Halesworth ringer Jason Busby and his wife Sarah became the parents of Emilia Anne this morning. Congratulations to this lovely couple on bringing what is hopefully part of the future of the church and bellringing into the world! God willing she'll have somewhere to go!
Since she took on the role of South-East District Secretary at the end of 2012, Ruthie's circumstances have altered somewhat. In that time, she has moved twice, been pregnant, subsequently given birth, looked after an adorable but demanding baby and changed employment. It ultimately means that today - having mulled it over for some time - she has decided to reluctantly step down from the position at the 2015 ADM, especially as she is potentially faced with an increasing number of Saturday afternoon shifts now. Of course that means finding a new Secretary at a time when we are also looking for someone to replace Anne Buswell as Treasurer as soon as possible, whilst the Guild is searching to fill the same roles currently being carried out by Mandy Shedden and Gordon Slack by the AGM at Felixstowe on Saturday 11th April, so we really need more members to step up to the plate, either by standing themselves or finding someone appropriate who could carry out the roles. Admittedly these are quite difficult posts to find the right person for. Whilst I was able to haphazardly bumble my way through being Guild Ringing Master and largely get away with it with considerable support, these roles demand very specific qualities, one of which is organisation, whilst the Treasurer's position obviously needs someone who can understand balance sheets, which isn't everyone! However, they are also roles that without anyone doing them, it is very, very difficult for the organisation to function and therefore whoever takes them on would deserve our considerable gratitude and appreciation.
A prime example of the difficulties that my wife has had to face particularly in recent months was highlighted this afternoon, with the crossings of 't's' and dottings of 'i's' in regard's to the arrangements for next month's District Quarterly Meeting at Earl Stonham and Stonham Aspal, carried out as I occupied the considerable attentions of Alfred, something that was only possible because I was on an early shift at work today and therefore at home for the second half of the day. The vicar was phoned and the enquiries about when, how and where to pick the key up for the latter village's hall made, on top of further work on the SE's portion of the Annual Report on a productive but time consuming afternoon, that combined with my lethargy following a start at John Catt many hours before dawn meant that we decided against joining the Second Tuesday ringers near our border with Norfolk at Hopton and Wingfield. God willing, we might get the chance to join them for next month's trip, though that is also at locations relatively far-flung from us as they travail just north of the Suffolk-Essex border at Great Thurlow, Kedington and Cavendish. These are pleasant leisurely midweek outings when one is retired, got a day off or is on an early shift and worth supporting if you can.
Elsewhere across our beautiful county, there was a 1280 of spliced Surprise Major before the practice at Offton. Such a repertoire is impressive for a rural eight, especially as spliced is not out of the ordinary for these Tuesday night quarters, with considerable credit due to tower captain Brian Whiting.
Our Tuesday night was less adventurous though, as we relaxed after Mrs Munnings' efforts this afternoon. Hopefully we'll get more opportunity to do that after December!
Rarely in ringing has modesty been so disproportionate as it is with Don Price. To believe him, one would assume he is present in the ringing chamber merely to make up the numbers, that he doesn't know one end of Plain Hunt from the other. We all play off it a bit, jokingly reminding him how many bells we're ringing on and trying to get him to ring 'inside' to call-changes, but we know better. Yes, his skills have diminished slightly in recent years, though that could be said for a lot of us and as he turns eighty-five today, his abilities still exceed many of his younger ringing companions. This is a man whom Pealbase reveals has an impressive peal-ringing range under his belt, with peals of spliced, a wide range of Surprise Royal and Maximus methods giving a snapshot of his considerable abilities and that's just post-1950, which is as far back as Andrew Craddock's superb website goes at the moment. Pre-1950 sees even more achievements, including - if my memory serves me correctly - the first ever peal of Albanian Surprise Royal. When we went to Hertfordshire on Rambling Ringers a couple of years ago, his and Helen's name and faces were visible through boards and photos in a number of ringing chambers and it was obvious there was a deep affection for them there, as there is here of course.
Despite his self-deprecation, he willing imparts his invaluable wisdom and experience and we at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh are eternally grateful that he continues to make the long journey down to us from his home in Reydon every Sunday, come rain, shine, fog or snow. Apart from anything else, he is a very nice man, dropping chocolate bars in my hands for the boys nearly every time I see him and never saying a bad word about anyone.
Perhaps understandably, he isn't to be found at SMLT on a Monday night, but he had that much in common with me this evening as it was my turn to stay in with Alfie whilst Ruthie headed out with her mother, first to Pettistree to ring a quarter of Price Bob Minor in honour of the birthday boy, one of two quarters for him, the other being at Southwold and featuring the star himself, before they went on to the aforementioned twelve-bell practice in Ipswich.
Once the li'l chap had gone to bed, the night in allowed me to wander the internet and it was interesting to see the reaction on Facebook to Saturday's peal at Horley in Oxfordshire, featuring some friends of mine including Sue Marshall who only a week earlier had been ringing in our success at Debenham. It was the first on the bells, a special occasion therefore and there was some consternation that it was rung 'Non-Association' rather than for any ringing organisation, I guess specifically the local Oxford Diocesan Guild. However, Sue noted that the rules of any appropriate societies prohibited them from attributing the 5040 to any of them. Such issues highlight how flexible the Suffolk Guild's stipulations for peals rung in its name are. As far as I'm aware, you only need all the band to be members of the Guild for a peal to be rung for the SGR. However, whilst that means we have had some performances strangely attributed to us (many a peal as been rung on our behalf far beyond our borders with no connection whatsoever other to us than the fact that George Pipe was in it!), the money received from peals is a useful boost to the Bell Restoration Fund and it is preferable - in my opinion anyway - where participants are agreeable, for a peal rung by Suffolk ringers in Suffolk to be rung in the name of what is predominantly the county's ringing society. Ultimately though, we aren't in a dictatorship, so if local ringers want to ring a peal within our borders under any other name, they are entitled to and if a band wants to ring a peal Non-Association then that's up to them! Ringing - like life - is a rich tapestry!
Such issues weren't the highlight of our lads night in though, as after weeks of not being bothered to crawl and recent attempts instead to walk, Alfred tried out his new walker with much glee. God willing we'll soon have to be chasing after him! It was soon his bedtime though and after an extremely early start at work and another one in the morning, I wasn't far behind him!
Happy Birthday Don!
There was an encouraging sense of Suffolk's bellringers manning the county's bells for Sunday service this morning, at least in the part that I frequent.
With the new boards for the 1988 peal of Beodericsworth Surprise Maximus (behind the tenth and eleventh) and the 5042 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus we rang for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee three years ago (behind the third and fourth) now overlooking us, we manned all the bells at St Mary-le-Tower and rang a half course of Cambridge Surprise Royal that many a tower would be delighted to manage on the Sabbath. Having handed Mason an owl to take to school where he is learning about birds, his grandparents wandered over to the 14cwt eight at St Margaret's to help service ringing there, whilst the newly be-owled child, his brother Alfie and I headed to Grundisburgh where although we didn't get all twelve ringing, we had enough for Yorkshire Surprise Major and call-changes on ten. And whilst there, Mike Pilgrim was able to report that ringing at Bredfield had just been attended by nine, all of whom were locals, whilst according to Stephen Pettman, Hasketon weren't far behind, with all bar two of the nine there this morning coming from within the benefice.
It was all very positive and hopefully repeated in many other centres of ringing within our borders, and indeed whilst we spent the afternoon at Play2Day in Martlesham Heath for the eldest son to attend his friend's birthday party and at the same give the youngest his first experience of ball pits and the like (both enjoyed themselves immensely!), the county's ringers were busy making a joyful noise. Congratulations to Alan Mayle on ringing his 200th peal at Aldeburgh, a tower he has become synonymous with through the highly successful second Sunday peals upon this coastal eight - not bad for a ringer who resides in the South-West District! Likewise, congratulations to Peter Waterfield, who crossed the border to ring his 1500th peal in the 5040 of seven Surprise Minor on handbells in Bacton, which he immediately followed up with his 1501st at the same venue.
There was also a quarter rung at Reydon, but as impressed as I was with Matthew Lavington's first peal in the success at Skibbereen in Ireland having never before rung for more than fifteen minutes continuously, for me the headline act was once again at The Norman Tower. Well done to Deborah Blumfield on ringing her first of Grandsire Cinques inside and to Wendie and Peter Summers on ringing their first on twelve altogether.
All very encouraging - keep it up folks!
Sometimes you pass places frequently without ever setting foot into them. In your mind you create an impression of what those places are like and when you finally do enter them, you are pleasantly surprised by what you find. We had two such experiences today, as ringing offered forward new experiences with familiar friends.
Located in a picturesque location on a prominent corner by The White Horse and right up against the famous crinkle crankle wall at the heart of the village, I have driven past Easton's distinctive All Saint's church on numerous occasions, usually on the way to ring at nearby Brandeston or Kettleburgh or the Farm Park that gives the community a degree of local fame. But whilst I have rung here before, it was just a name untidily scribbled into my early ringing records by my pre-teen hand and I didn't really remember anything about them. However, courtesy of snatches of conservation, hearsay and the fact that they don't appear to have been rung regularly, with no practice or Sunday morning ringing marked on this website and the only piece of length in recent years being a quarter-peal back in November, my expectations of this ground-floor ring before this morning's South-East District Practice were low, picturing a rough ring rung from an unkempt ringing chamber.
However, with a reasonable crowd of thirty-plus present and including some different faces from just the loyal regulars, what we found was a well kept ringing room and whilst the 10cwt six aren't a walk in the park and would certainly take a bit of work for a quarter and especially a peal, they were a lot easier to ring than I imagined they would be, which shows what I know! Much of the credit has to go to Chris McArthur and Alan Moult, and their hard work ultimately enabled District Ringing Master Tom Scase to run a varied and fruitful session, with a superb touch of Norwich Surprise Minor, some London Surprise, Oxford Treble Bob and young Richard Stevens ringing Stedman Doubles to a remarkable standard for a ten-year-old.
It was an enjoyable morning of ringing and socialising, but we left early with my wife needed back in Woodbridge for a shift at the Bell & Steelyard, leaving Mason, Alfie and me occupying ourselves for the afternoon, which for the youngest meant sleeping, the eldest son watching his Dad's Army DVDs and me washing up whilst listening to Ipswich Town's 2-0 defeat at lowly Rotherham United as our season continues to fall apart and promotion seems to become increasingly distant, albeit still more realistic than at any point for a decade.
Such a depressing outcome wasn't to spoil our evening though, as having met Mrs Munnings at work, we made our way to The Crown Inn at Snape. This is another place I have often driven by without knowing what lay within. With Snape Maltings only just over the River Alde and seemingly closed every time we drove past, my mind had deemed this otherwise delightful looking rural tavern as a run down, quiet place. And yet despite being flooded following the tidal surge fourteen months ago, this is a thriving location, as we discovered tonight as we stepped over its threshold for the first time to attend the annual Pettistree dinner.
The dinner is part of a busy social calendar for a band that for me remains a prime example for other six bell bands in Suffolk and beyond to follow. The ringing is focused, though done with a smile, with one, often two and sometimes three quarters a week upon the bells, a variable repertoire of Surprise Minor methods being the standard on a Wednesday night, made possible by a large number of ringers encouraged along by the promise of a pint in one of the county's oldest and most atmospheric pubs in the form of The Greyhound, outings and this meal. This year's was wonderfully organised by Bill Lloyd who began learning with us about five years ago and has become an integral part of the lively crew that man the ground-floor six, but sadly circumstances mean that he is leaving us for Somerset. He has already begun working down there and happily attended the Monday night practice at his new local tower Westbury sub Mendip, highlighting perfectly how ringing can help any ringer settle anywhere in the UK. We shall miss Bill - thank you for tonight!
Spare a thought for those who rang a quarter at Awbridge in Hampshire today and then had to suffer the shock of one of the band collapsing and dying, despite the best efforts of those present, including a doctor. Thankfully I've never witnessed such tragedy and God willing I never will, but when it does happen it is a shock. The fact that they are ringing in the first place suggests they are of a certain standard of health. I recall hearing of the great Peter Border's death during a peal attempt back in 2000, just days after I had rung one with him on the ten at Staplehurst in Kent, the legend of the exercise seemingly in rude health at that point and for another two peals in the half a week between our 5040 of Anglia Surprise Royal and his untimely passing. It was shocking not just because of its suddenness, but because of the harrowing accounts of those who were there. Ringing is what we do, it just seems normal, so I think it also carries extra shock when something like this happens in such ordinary circumstances.
Mercifully, there was better news closer to home as two-time Suffolk Guild Ringing Master David Salter has been successfully operated on, which will hopefully allow him to return to regular peal-ringing. The more observant of you will have noticed that apart from at The Wolery where the time standing is shorter, DGS hasn't rung a peal since the 5040 at Hacheston back on 3rd January. All being well, that will improve soon - get better soon David!
A late shift at work and of course then picking Mason up later meant that our day was unextraordinary. We are however looking forward to ringing again this weekend. Hopefully safely.
Following on from yesterday's exhibition of ringing online prowess, there was further evidence today of how our art is taking advantage of the technology of our age.
First up, I found an interesting video on You Tube, uploaded almost exactly three years ago, but not discovered on my part until this morning. It stars Rushmere St Andrew tower captain Paul Sharples giving a demonstration upon the gallery-ring of six at Campsea Ashe of how to ring up and is a great example of how the internet can be used to teach what we do.
It can also be used to reminisce and explore our history, as it was today on the Guild's Facebook page. Jonathan Williamson has put up a picture taken of those present at the 1996 SGR AGM, held on 13th April at Lavenham. Unlike when a similar picture from the 1974 AGM in Bury St Edmunds was dusted down two years ago, we have a list of who is in the picture and a map of where about in the mass of smiling faces each person is. Also unlike the aforementioned picture from twenty-two years earlier, and despite the absence of the Munnings' for reasons I can't recall, this is from a familiar and fondly recalled time, and there are many on there that appear just as I remember them even now, for I haven't seen them since those pre-uni days. Some that is for the sad reason that they have since passed away. I smile as I recall one-time South-East District Chairman David Barnard's mild-mannered, polite personality, former Guild Ringing Master Martin Thorley and the wonderful summer holiday peals I used to ring with him and the tenuous footnotes, Tony Warren's incredibly sharp mind, Ranald Clouston's interesting accounts of thousands of bells and Geoff Pulford's Ipswich Town related conversation.
Others are still alive as far as I'm aware, but I haven't seen them - at least in these parts - on the end of a rope for many years, like Val Mayhew, Jane Beaumont and Rod French, though the latter is living and ringing in Lincolnshire these days judging by the regular quarters he is ringing in up there.
More positively, the vast majority are still playing an active part in our Guild some nineteen years on, with some hardly changing in that time. On the front row alone younger versions of those we now know as Alan Mayle, star-of-African-TV Paul Stannard, Bruce Wakefield, Lawrence Pizzey and Winston Girling can be seen.
But perhaps most encouragingly, two of the three babies wrapped up on what looked like a chilly day are now - God willing and if they want to be - the future of ringing, with Lucy Williamson ringing a quarter peal at York Minster on Sunday as she takes advantage of the tremendous ringing opportunities in that fine city and George Salter now an integral part of the exciting London ringing scene, both making a very good name for themselves.
I said it when that 1974 picture was knocking about, but I'll say it again - it would be brilliant to have another such photo as a pictorial record of Suffolk's ringers in the 2010's. Perhaps a gathering on Felixstowe beach for this year's AGM on 11th April?
Less exciting to record was our latest attempts to get around my late shift at work on this Thursday, with Ruthie and Alfie going to baby club and then on to choir before Kate was able to take me from the office to St Mary's Church Centre to pick the li'l chap up.
Elsewhere things were more interesting. Well done to George Vant on calling his first quarter of Minimus and on handbells and to the entire band in the 1320 at Tostock on ringing their first blows of Morpeth Surprise Minor, my favourite of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods, but one of the trickiest! Their success can now be viewed by all on the internet. What an age we live in!
Social media can facilitate and initiate debate and discussion on ringing matters in a much easier fashion than was possible even just a few years ago. Whereas once open confabulations were typically only practical in meeting settings, ideas and responding thoughts can be sent forth into the technological stratosphere instantly now. Or at least on to the Guild Facebook page.
It means that following the BAC meeting last night, Jonathan Stevens was able to bring up a thread raised and put it to those who are members on the page. Namely, the number of towers where the bells are rung regularly, but not maintained. We have a tremendous team on the Belfry Advisory Committee, brimming with qualifications and enthusiasm, happy and ready to offer advice and guidance to towers that may not necessarily have the technological know-how to maintain their valuable equipment. There's no shame in being in that position. I freely admit that I am woefully short with my knowledge of fittings and the like, but I like to think that if I found myself in charge of the maintenance of a ring of bells that I would call on those from the Guild who can help me.
Many it appears, aren't. And in some respects, this is representative of where the relationship between the SGR and Suffolk ringers falls down generally. Here is a service that the Guild can offer and yet many seem so disconnected from it that they either don't know about what is on offer, or - perhaps more worryingly - refuse to ask for it. Either way, I hope that by getting this topic out there, more towers will be reached by this group of willing helpers or the professionals - for example - like Taylor's or Matthew Higby - both of whom offer maintenance contracts - to ensure that their bells can continue to be rung for many years to come.
One place that does get checked regularly is Pettistree, and it was there that my wife headed tonight as it was her turn to go out. Another apparently useful evening was had, beginning with a successful quarter of Durham Surprise Minor - well done to Chris McArthur on ringing his first in the method and to Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend on ringing her third of it! A pint in The Greyhound topped the session off for my wife as I got Alfie to bed and I took in some more FA Cup football (with Liverpool beating Bolton in a dramatic ending for those interested and even for those not!) on the tele.
Not watching the football were those partaking in the 5040 of Surprise Minor at The Wolery, where I'm pretty sure they are on top of the maintenance!
Having yesterday pointed out Paul Stannard's ringing exploits in Africa, it was interesting to see today a news report from a local TV station down there featuring the tour he is partaking in and which also appears to include Tunstall ringer Richard Wilson, judging by the footage of the group ringing at Cape Town Cathedral and the quarter he rang with Paul at Harare today, plus the fact that he had called the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Kilifi on Saturday, something that I missed yesterday! There were other familiar faces caught on film, including Don Bateman from Lancashire who we have had the pleasure of holidaying with on Rambling Ringers for a number of years, and along with the handbell peal rung in India and involving former Suffolk resident John Loveless, it highlights the limitless nature of the art. You don't have to travel the world to get fulfilment out of ringing, but when it is possible to do so, it seems a terrible waste to restrict yourself to your local five-bell tower struggling along with three or four others to master Plain Hunt. There are so many places to go, people to meet, methods to ring, things to achieve! So if you are able, get on out there!
Closer to home, there were others showing precisely that commendable spirit. Well done to David Lord on ringing his first of Stamford Surprise Minor in the 1272 changes of it at Rumburgh and to those who rang their first of Lessness Surprise Major in the pre-practice 1280 at Offton.
With our new routine of going out separately to ringing in order to allow Alfie to get to bed, our Tuesday nights in together have taken on a new importance, and with me on late shifts at work this week, there wasn't much scope to enjoy all that ringing offers on this occasion. However, we are planning on doing so this Saturday, when the South-East District Practice heads to Easton, a tower rarely visited by the District in recent years. Before that, Wednesday evening gives those able and willing the opportunity to progress their ten-bell ringing at Beccles and next week I'm hoping that those not working will take up the chance to explore the wonderful countryside around Hopton and Wingfield when the Second Tuesday Ringing goes to the ancient 6cwt eight and 13cwt ground-floor six.
You don't have to go to Africa to expand your ringing experience!
For all the debate and discord when the subs go up (and a reminder that they are due!), we partake in a remarkably cheap hobby, certainly when compared to some other pastimes. Take up golf and you can expect to spend hundreds on fees and equipment. To take Mason to watch Ipswich Town will set me back £50-£60 for tickets, parking, food, drink, programme and the like each time, regardless of the result or standard of football. For an entire year's ringing however, with your £15 Suffolk Guild membership (or less if you are in full-time education or over sixty-five years old) and donations at your local tower, district and SGR events, you may part with perhaps £70-£80. Of course, that will vary depending on how many towers you ring at and how often, the numbers of quarters and peals you partake in and in theory you can add the cost of the pint of beer that is so appealing after an evening's ringing. But you're still not paying very much for something that can give so much pleasure and stimulation.
So I'm hopeful that there is scope for the £11,000 or so that needs raising for the professional repainting of the frame and the work to the clappers on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower can be met easily by the summer when the work needs doing. Fingers crossed a Guild grant will help and Ruth Suggett has apparently passed on a lot of good ideas gratefully received. But mainly, I hope that between the thirty - forty ringers that regularly enjoy the county's biggest twelve we can help contribute towards the cost without calling too much on others - although all donations would be much appreciated!
The pressure has been relieved somewhat by the PCC indicating in a recent meeting with Owen Claxton that it will meet half the costs if we can raise the other half, something that Owen was able to impart to those of us present at this evening's practice, which was generally a positive one, with a decent repertoire from Little Bob Royal for Felicity whose higher number ringing has visibly improved since she began coming here, to London (No.3) Surprise Royal that Kate rang superbly, to some Yorkshire Surprise Maximus amongst much else, on a night where we were slightly short on numbers.
For whilst we were visited by Helen from Romford - who may become a more regular visitor - and Alex Tatlow on a trip back home, we were missing a few, including Ruthie, whose turn it was to babysit Alfie on a day that ended with a power-cut for us and began with most of Woodbridge being without water - not the utility companies' finest hour! We were also without the Salter boys who were busy quarter-pealing at Harkstead. They haven't been the only ringers busy from within our borders though. Maggie Ross' trip to Lundy with Molly Waterson seems to have been productive, with a peal of Cambridge Surprise Major rung, the first on the bells since the passing last month of Sir Jack Hayward, whose generous gift of £150,000 in 1969 enabled The National Trust to buy this oasis of tranquility in the middle of the Bristol Channel and in turn allowed so many to enjoy this unique place, including us and hundreds of other bellringers.
However, even more impressively and very, very far away, congratulations to Paul Stannard on ringing on his 6,000th ring of bells, an astonishing landmark reached with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Kwekwe in Zimbabwe as part of a trip to Africa that has taken in the first quarter on the bells at St Peter's School in Johannesburg, a 1296 of Surfleet & Beverley Surprise at All Saints also in South Africa's largest city, 1264 changes of Plain Bob Major and 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at St Paul and St Mary in Durban respectively before moving on to Kenya to ring quarters of Cambridge Surprise Minor and Plain Bob Doubles at Kilifi, the latter of which was the first quarter for local Lennox Mwarandu in a fine example of the reach of the ringing family.Mind you, it isn't half going to push up the amount that Paul spends on ringing...
After present opening on Friday and the annual peal yesterday, today saw Mason's birthday weekend climax with a party, a gathering that included his Godfather Toby, family and his partner in crime Henry Salter, as fourteen in total crammed snuggly into our abode. Most importantly, the boy seemed to enjoy himself immensely, with more gifts and cards opened, food devoured and candles blown out, but it was also nice to catch up with all who came along.
Earlier, whilst Ruthie sang at church, the boys and I partook in the usual first Sunday morning three-tower schedule, with some Little Bob Royal and Rounds on Twelve at St Mary-le-Tower, rounds on five and Grandsire and Stedman Doubles at St Lawrence before we left the bells up for a peal attempt this afternoon (which doesn't appear to have been successful judging by it's absence on BellBoard or Campanophile) and a lot of six and seven bell ringing at Grundisburgh with at least one of the eight present needing to Alfie-sit whilst ringing was carried out.
Back at ours, the attendance gradually dispersed, with some needing to get to work, my wife to evensong and Kate to Pettistree for a quarter to celebrate birthdays slightly further along the age spectrum to that which we were celebrating this afternoon, whilst the significant birthday of Norman Cossey was celebrated at Lowestoft with a quarter of Minor.
For us though, it was all about celebrating the eighth birthday of a very happy young boy!
As with each birthday that Mason reaches I aim to ring a peal that is in some way appropriate to his age, the question that comes up (in my own head mainly, but occasionally from the mouths of others!) is whether to do that through the number of changes, methods or the amount of time it takes to ring. OK, maybe not the last one, that may be quite tricky, but the other two do give me options. We rang a 5003 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal for his third birthday an incredible (to my mind anyway) five years ago, but otherwise, it has been the number of methods rung that has been the answer to the question I set myself each year.
Obviously though, that becomes an increasingly difficult challenge as each 27th January passes and another method is added. I have been of the opinion recently that with my eldest son's eighth birthday, I may be reaching the upper limit of what I could easily arrange in Suffolk with quantity of tunes, but after today's superb 5120 of eight-spliced Surprise Major methods at Debenham, I'm not so sure. Admittedly we called on some outside help in the form of Andrew Mills from Nottinghamshire and Susan Marshall from Warwickshire, but that was as much to do with Millsy knowing the star of the show through Rambling Ringers and Sue - who I have rung with a fair bit in the past in Birmingham and also on Ramblers - being at a loose end in the area whilst her other half Graham Nabb was running an ITTS course at Bardwell in a stroke of good fortune.
However, with a ringer who is used to ringing peals of spliced Maximus ringing the second and a ringer who was only the second to pull Liverpool Cathedral tenor in to a peal when he rang it to a 5042 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus back in 2007 and is arguably the finest tenor bell ringer around ringing the 21cwt tenor of this locally famous ground-floor ring, there was a sense of confidence about this morning's 3hrs16mins of fantastic ringing, with minimal, quickly rectified mistakes and good striking throughout, all rung to a musical composition from Alan Reading which made the most of the traditionally unmusical methods amongst the standard eight. Thank you to all the band for agreeing to ring and contributing to a peal that it will be difficult to beat as the best I ring in 2015. Whilst it was a shame not to ring it in our town of residence Woodbridge as originally planned due to rope problems there, it was no hardship to ring these wonderful bells, and although strictly speaking they were booked for another peal that had to be cancelled, thank you to the Scase's for allowing us to use the bells at short notice.
Having dropped me off beforehand, we were met by Ruthie, Alfie and the birthday boy afterwards, before our efforts were topped with a pint in The Woolpack, the choice of hostelry for the locals after their Tuesday night practices. It's understandable to see why, with decent beer and a roaring fire in a bustling tavern run by friendly folk.
Apart from being my two hundredth peal on eight, we also dedicated our success to Robert Beavis, native of this tower, who had a birthday himself this week. Although he wasn't brave enough to arrange one of twenty-five spliced, he did ring a peal himself, as he partook in a 5025 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Barrow Gurney in Somerset, the tenor rung by Alex Tatlow and the effort conducted by the composer of our peal. Happy Birthday Beavis!
Talking of 'our' youngsters going out and about, well done to George Salter on arranging the peals at St Lawrence Jewry (5056 Bristol Surprise Major) and St Magnus the Martyr (5007 Stedman Cinques) in London, the latter of which impressively saw him conducting another peal of Stedman Cinques with his girlfriend Rebecca Meyer and Tom Childs ringing their first on twelve, with another young ringer from the homeland, Clare Veal, ringing. It can only be to the benefit of ringing both nationally and back here that GMS arranges these peals which appear to be progressing the ringing of other youthful participants of the exercise. Keep it up George!
Back within our borders, there were four quarters rung by the same, busy band. Well done to Ann and David Webb on ringing their first of Wooler Surprise Minor in the success at Ashbocking, to David again and Lesley and David Steed on ringing their first of Bacup Surprise Minor in the triumph at Clopton, whilst they also rang an impressive 1440 of twelve spliced Surprise Minor methods at Campsea Ashe and a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pettistree.
There seems no reason why there should be an immediate limit to how many methods this band can ring, birthdays or no birthdays.
The early shift at work allowed me to carry out some PR on the Suffolk Guild's behalf, as I met with Penny de Quincy, a writer in Coast & Country, a magazine funded by Flick & Son and to be found in homes, waiting rooms, pubs and the like in and around Saxmundham, Framlingham and the surrounding villages. She wanted to meet to get some background for an article she is writing about bellringing, which whilst it won't be a large, indepth piece, will be on the front page and seen by a good number of people, so I was delighted to meet her in The Cherry Tree near our home to fill her in. She was keen to highlight the family element of our art and so it seemed appropriate to take Ruthie and Alfie along, as well as telling her about how my parents had met through ringing too and Mason's first steps on the end of a rope. Between us we covered the historical, social, physical and mental aspects of what has kept us enthralled for years and not only informed Penny but reminded us how much this hobby can offer if you allow it.
She was a lovely lady and although we spoke for an hour having only anticipated our conversation taking half-an-hour, we could have chatted for a lot longer, but I needed to pick the eldest son up from school and my wife had a new job to go to, as this evening she undertook her first shift at Ye Bell & Steelyard, another of the many pubs we are extremely fortunate to have in Woodbridge. So well did she do, she was asked back for more shifts, including one tomorrow, which all looks very promising.
It meant a boys night in for us, but elsewhere the county's ringers were ringing. Congratulations to Malcolm Westrup on partaking in his fiftieth successful quarter, six years to the day since his first, rung at Earl Stonham on the tenor as he did back on 30th January 2009, with the same methods and same band, bar Stephen 'Podge' Christian taking Muriel Page's place. And well done to husband and wife team David and Lesley Steed on ringing their first quarter-peal of College Bob IV Delight Minor, to Stephen Dawson, Neal Dodge and David Howe on ringing their first blows at all in the same method and again to Neal on ringing his first of Delight Minor, all achieved with the 1320 at Edwardstone.
All part of the hobby that hopefully Coast & Country's readership will be fascinated to find out about!
Following Saturday's day of Grandsire in South-West England, with quarters of the method rung at every level from Doubles to Maximus and featuring George Salter of Ipswich and Molly Waterson once of the Woodbridge area, a nice montage has been released onto an unsuspecting internet. It seems to neatly capture the essence of the occasion and whilst I still wouldn't want to ring all that Grandsire, it further highlights the endless possibilities of the art socially and in terms of challenges. Importantly, the video shows people enjoying themselves!
There is no video of it as far as I am aware, but I'm sure the quarter-peal band at Tostock today enjoyed themselves on this lovely little 5cwt gallery-ring six, especially as all bar Gordon Slack were ringing their first of Wooler Surprise Minor. Well done to Paul Ebsworth, Ruth Suggett, David Steed, Stephen Dawson and Lesley Steed and Happy Birthday to David Howe!
On a sadder note and just eight miles across the glorious west Suffolk countryside at Bacton, it is a pity to hear that the monthly Wednesday night practices on the ground-floor six have been abandoned due to low numbers. Such setbacks are a reminder of what happens when people organise things - often at great expense to their time and even occasionally to their finances - only for others to turn their nose up at their efforts. As I've recognised before, not everyone can make these events for various reasons and I expect that is especially the case for a midweek practice when ringers will have their own local tower, work commitments or - as is now the case with ourselves - find coming out in the evening a lot less practical when they are charged with the responsibility of sleeping children. However, I would strongly urge those who can support that which is happening in their midst to help further our art to do so, as it will not only enrich the ringing experience of others but yours too if members can mobilise themselves to a greater extent.
That support will be much appreciated at the sessions planned for your enjoyment in the coming week or two, starting at Beccles for the Ten-Bell Practice from 7.30-9pm on Wednesday 4th February, which is due to be followed by the the South-East District Practice at the rarely visited Easton on Saturday 7th and then the Second Tuesday Ringing three days later at Horham and Wingfield.
For today though, there was no ringing for us, though the early shift at work afforded me the opportunity to once again accompany Ruthie and Alfie to baby club. Since I was last able to attend this lively weekly get-together almost four months ago, a number of new faces have appeared, some not even born back then and it all contributed to a big attendance in a week when the future of many Children's Centres was decided. Thankfully, this one has been spared, meaning my wife and son still have this vital outlet for socialising and sharing advice and guidance and this afternoon meant I could aide my youngest in painting his feet so he could graffiti a bit of paper with his footprints!
Sadly there is no video footage of it, so in the meantime, I suggest viewing the Grandsire Day video instead!
Despite a sporadic success-rate in 2014, the front-eight Wednesday night peals at St Mary-le-Tower, we did reach ten methods in our pursuit to catch up Alex Tatlow and ring a peal of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods. Whereas the Great Barton youngster's obvious abilities were complemented by a number experienced in such exploits when he rang his first of the twenty-three in Bristol, for our 'squad' back here in Ipswich where if we'd been successful with this evening's attempt of twelve-spliced it would've been a first for all bar Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters, it is a slower build-up, highlighted by tonight's loss. Halfway through the second part of seven and after much decent if occasionally tentative ringing, it took only a slight kerfuffle on the Ashtead frontwork to quickly degenerate into something more terminal, with a follow-up practice not quite as good, as is often the way after a lost peal, even with the best will in the world.
Still, it was useful experience and a positive night, as it appears to have been in a ringing sense elsewhere today. A handbell peal was rung in Newmarket in memory of Geoff Lucas, one time tower captain at Willingham just over the Cambridgeshire border. Meanwhile, congratulations to Pam Ebsworth on ringing her 450th quarter in the 1320 of Netherseale Surprise Minor at Preston St Mary and well done to Andrea Alderton and David Howe on ringing their first blows in the method, the latter calling it too! And thank you to the band which rang the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree for their birthday wishes to Mason.
Also today, is looking for obituaries for those ringers within our borders who passed away last year as he carries out the unenvious task of putting the next Annual Report together. If you can help him out on that front, then please do get in touch with him. This is a huge task for the Report Editor and despite some issues, I didn't think young George did too badly with his first ever edition a year ago, so I'm looking forward to the forthcoming one, complete with reports of our sporadic success-rate from the front-eight Wednesday night peals at SMLT!
Happy Birthday Mason!
When Alfie was born last year, it may have been easy to have sidelined his older brother, however unintentionally. However, Alfred's birth has given us a refreshed appreciation of how far today's birthday boy has come. Not that we have ever taken him for granted, but when one only sees other people's children every now and then, you notice how much they have changed since you last saw them. With your own child, seeing them constantly, you don't necessarily notice the change, as they occur as the result of incremental steps, things that fill you with pride but which belie the giant strides they've actually taking.
So when AJM arrived nine months ago, we were not only struck by the miracle of the existence of the tiny being we'd just been handed responsibility for, but were reminded of all that his elder sibling has achieved. Eight years ago on this date, Mason too was as Alfie was on 10th April - tiny fragile, entirely dependent. My youngest son is now the same age as Mason was when I began writing this blog and those early mistake-riddled, grammar-impoverished jottings on his early years now make interesting reading - his first attempts at walking, his first utterances, his first day at school. Fast forward, and it is incredible to think what that baby of 2007 has become. Like all of us, he's not perfect - I'm not one of those parents who feels his little angel can do no wrong - but he has developed into a sensitive soul who likes to drop Christmas cards off at Uncle Eric's grave and pray for him and who is distraught when he feels he has upset someone. A helpful child always looking for a task to aide us. A star reader. A bellringer who could probably do more than the backstrokes he currently does if only I got the venue and opportunity to give him a proper lesson. A footy fan who can be found intently studying where his favourite team Ipswich are in the league table. A cheeky character who likes to perform. All contributing to a lovely character built up against a backdrop of frequent operations that have meant that the club foot he was born with has essentially been fixed in the most obvious - apart from his larger physique of course - outward change from Mason of then to Mason of now. We wouldn't have him any other way.
Despite this record of their formative months, we are keen not to compare the two boys, but rather to celebrate how well they get on together - the excitement from both of them when they see each other is something to behold! Mason has been a superb big brother and Alfred has a marvellous example to follow! We have been blessed with two wonderful boys.
We endeavour to treat them both equally, but today was very much Mason's day, and whilst God willing we have a weekend of celebration lined up for him, it is important for me and him to spend a bit of time together on the 27th January. With my early shift at work allowing more flexibility and Ruthie at home looking after a sleeping Alfred, I popped round to his mother's in Hasketon to wish him a Happy Birthday and witness him blowing out the candles on his cake, which followed on for me from an afternoon shopping in Toys 'R' Us and visiting my wife's Nan with Mrs and Master Munnings.
Elsewhere, it seems it is also a time to celebrate.
An article on the East Anglian Daily Times' website celebrates the tremendous efforts of the parishioners of St Mary's church in Erwarton, who - despite numbering only twelve - raised more than £130,000 to repair the crumbling tower which houses a single bell in an effort that should give hope to all those trying to raise daunting sums to restore and/or augment their bells! Congratulations to them - though it may be a bit soon to go in and try and get some bells added to the 5cwt Charles Newman bell from 1700 that features in the photos accompanying the article! It would be nice mind, especially as this is a place with strong Munnings connections.
However, there is one more bell there than there is in the tower of All Saints in Wickham Market currently, though with good cause as the bells are down and being taken to Taylor's in Loughborough for their new headstocks. A blaze of camera flashes greeted the 12cwt six as they were lowered onto the ground, offering up a fascinating record of history as it takes place. Indeed a cause for celebration.
As indeed is the birth of a child. The arrival of Offton ringer Caroline Goodchild's daughter was celebrated at her local tower with a quarter of Ipswich Surprise Minor, the choice of method appropriate for this ardent fan of Ipswich Town! Enjoy this time Caroline - in eight years you'll probably wonder where the time has gone!
Bells were featured in the media today, directly and indirectly, even if they were at no point the main star of the show.
On this day forty years ago, the world got its first viewing of Akenfield, the film version of the book by Ronald Blythe about a semi-fictional Suffolk village and which featured the character Robert Palgrave, a bell ringer who was based upon former Grundisburgh Ringing Master Cecil 'Jim' Pipe, one time Guild Secretary and Treasurer, father of George and Rod Pipe and the beginning of the famous ringing dynasty now being continued by David, Cecilia, Henry and Alfred. So it was hard not to think of the Pipe's and the part that bells play in country life in this rural county, as our local BBC radio station celebrated the film.
Meanwhile, as Libby Lane was being consecrated as the first ever female bishop for the Church of England at York Minster, the famous bells were booming out across news reports on TV and radio to a quarter of Grandsire Caters on the back ten, and were occasionally referred to, although understandably the new Bishop of Stockport was the main focus of their reporting. More good exposure for bells though.
Whilst she was starting her new job, another lady was ending an old one, as Ruthie handed her notice in at Boots after more than seven years loyal service. Those of you who have seen her choosing what to have for lunch will know that she takes no decision lightly, but this one in particular was difficult. However, I think all parties realised it would be quite a stroke of serendipity to find that what this large company needed my wife to work would fit in with the circumstances that she now finds herself in ten months after she last trod the shop floor of the Woodbridge branch in an official capacity. She is sad to leave, pointing out that she has essentially grown up in the role and indeed her time stretches back as far as this blog, as her successful interview to get the job was a feature of my very first entry back in 2007.
The job hunting began immediately - and in truth before today - and unsurprisingly perhaps, with a drink in The Bell & Steelyard in our town of residence as bar work seems one potential avenue worth exploring, as does cleaning. Though professional peal-ringer may appeal for the right price...
Despite the lack of wages for her talented ringing abilities, it was Mrs Munnings' turn this week to travel into Ipswich with Kate and Ron for St Mary-le-Tower and bagpipe practices respectively. The former saw some success apparently, with Newgate Surprise Maximus again rung and the mother-in-law ringing her first blows of London Surprise Royal (No.3) very well by all accounts, as Alfie and I got an early night back at home, thoughts of Akenfield and the sound of York Minster bells echoing around my head.
Congratulations to Caroline Goodchild and her husband William on the birth of their first child, Elizabeth, born a couple of weeks late on Wednesday and after much anticipation, not least amongst the ringers of Offton where Caroline rings, but also those of us fortunate enough to have met this lovely couple. The new mummy has been a brilliant example to all learners since taking up our art three or four years ago, ringing in a number of quarters, as well as visiting other towers and enthusiastically attending District and Guild events when Ipswich Town fixtures have permitted, and whilst Will doesn't ring himself, he has been every inch the supportive ringing widower. Best of luck to them both over what will probably be a tiring but hopefully wonderful few weeks!
News of this happy occasion certainly put our otherwise ordinary Sunday in the shade. That's not to say we didn't do anything. This morning, Ruthie sang in the choir for morning service at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, whilst Mason, Alfie and I went to St Mary-le-Tower where I helped with Grandsire Caters and call-changes on ten for the ever-improving Sonia and then Grundisburgh where a larger crowd than usual enabled my eldest son to do some more bonging behind to Plain Bob Minimus on the front-five (despite the struggles of one of the inside ringers to get to grips with it!), some spliced Surprise Major in six methods and call-changes on twelve.
The latter ringing was sandwiched in between an expedition to the village park for us lads and an early drop-off for Mason ahead of an early start tomorrow morning, but elsewhere there were spectacular feats being achieved, particularly from Bardwell youngster Louis Suggett, who not only rang in today's peal of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods on the back eight of St Paul in Birmingham, but composed and conducted it, a phenomenal achievement. Very well done Louis!
In fact, it's been a busy few days for young ringers hailing from Suffolk. The apparently much anticipated University of Bristol Society of Change Ringers' annual dinner yesterday saw their Ringing Master (and Fireman?) and former Great Barton ringer Alex Tatlow ring in a number of peals, including yet another one of Norman Smith's composition of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major (Smith's is old hat, time to ring Suggett's Tatlow), this time on Wednesday at SS Philip and Jacob in his current city of residence and spliced Surprise Maximus in three methods at St Stephen on the day itself, as he finally got round to pealing all the twelves in Bristol.
Meanwhile, not that far away from AWT's antics, George Salter was successfully undertaking a project to ring quarters of Grandsire at every stage - on even numbers as well as the more common odd numbers - from Doubles to Maximus and which also featured Molly Waterson, once of this parish. Totally bonkers and frankly mind-numbing just to think about, but impressive for the perseverance and concentration required, and judging by the bands, featuring a lot of very good ringing I imagine!
Back within our borders, there were plenty more achievements involving those youngsters still with us and others not quite so young! Well done to Doug Rood on ringing his first of Minor and first away from cover in the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Great Barton, and congratulations to Neal Dodge for circling the tower (ringing a quarter on each bell) for the second time. And there was - in the words of one of those partaking - "a stunning quarter" at Wickham Market, the final one on the bells before they go to Taylor's for their new headstocks.
However, the headline act has to be the quarter at The Norman Tower, where Deborah Blumfield was ringing her first Cinques inside and no less than eight of the band were ringing their first Erin Cinques. On paper, this is an easier version of Stedman, but like Stedman, it requires tremendous concentration as without a fixed treble to latch onto in moments of confusion, it can easily collapse in moments. So well done to Clare Veal, Julian Colman, Abby Antrobus, Brian Whiting (who was calling it into the bargain!), Tim Shorman, Barry Dixon, Richard Walters and Rowan Wilson!
And congratulations again to Caroline and Will!
Through ringing, it's tempting for Ruthie and me to think we've been just about everywhere in Suffolk. But whilst we have been to more places than most non-ringers at least, there are still churches and villages that we haven't graced with our presence. Just this morning, we passed a number of churches on the way to our ultimate destination and for all that we went past towers that we have rung the bells of, such as Woodbridge, Tunstall, Iken (admittedly from quite a distance!) and Leiston, other Christian places of worship were mere landmarks on our journey, buildings that because we couldn't carry out full-circle changing-ringing at them we have never had any call to enter. Like Eyke where the 8cwt three are swung-chimed and don't even have a tower to be housed in. The church of St Gregory which serves the growing community of Rendlesham which surely deserves better than the three swing-chimed bells and the church of St John the Baptist in Snape which sits so prominently on the busy junction of the A1094 and A1069 and yet which neither me nor my wife have ever stepped foot in owing to its ring of just three.
Eastbridge, the small, isolated collection of abodes we ended up in to meet Mrs Munnings' schoolfriends Verity and Vicky for lunch doesn't appear even to have a church and is an end-of-the-road hamlet, which perhaps explains why we have never been here, or indeed really heard of it. We have been missing out though! Judging by the huge numbers lunching with us in The Eels Foot Inn, we are in the minority with our ignorance and it's easy to see why as we enjoyed superb food and nice beer in a lovely pub full of character. Well worth a visit.
It was helped by the fact that this was a leisurely lunch, worked off by a bracing but pleasant walk along the beach a short drive away at Sizewell, a location dominated by the power station, but still a wonderful landscape that we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep.
As ringers, we are lucky to have the twelve at The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds on our doorstep too, a ring that people are prepared to travel to from across the country to ring on, as was the case today as some of the finest ringers in the world rang what would almost certainly have been a brilliant peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus.
Also enjoying all that we have on our doorstep and in particular three of our nicest sixes were the band that rang quarters of Lincoln Surprise Minor at Chediston, six spliced Surprise Minor methods at Rumburgh and Cunecastre Surprise Minor at Wissett. Well done to David and Lesley Steed on ringing their first of Lincoln and Cunecastre.
So whether it is eating in our country pubs, pealing our twelves or ringing quarters in our pretty, rural villages, we are very lucky to have all this close to hand. And some of it no doubt unexplored by us!
Alfie got to spend a bit of time with Granny Kate whilst his Mummy attended to some important business and I finished work late and therefore picked Mason up late for a short weekend on an otherwise unextraordinary day.
More notably, the FNQPC were typically successful with a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the ground-floor six of Ashbocking and the weekly Friday practice at Clopton was enjoyed in revamped surroundings which look very nice! As Mike Whitby quiet rightly says on Facebook, the ringing chamber and restored bells are a credit to all the band, but particularly David Stanford who has led them from the beginning. Well done to all concerned.
At least their Friday nights are more productive than ours at the moment!
We happened upon some logistical challenges today. Typically on a Thursday, when I am working from 9-5, I go into the office, come home for lunch, drop Alfie and Ruthie off at baby club on the way back to John Catt Educational and return to our abode to keep an eye on Alfred whilst his mother goes to choir practice. When I am on my late shifts as I am now, that becomes impossible. I'm not around at lunchtime to drop them off on their afternoon adventures nor am I back before my wife goes to choir practice. When I did these in the summer, the days much warmer and a lot longer, it was nice for Mrs Munnings and AJM to wander the streets of Woodbridge going about their business, but not so pleasant at this time of year when darkness draws in seemingly not that long after lunch and the wind blows chilly.
The result was that I did a lot of walking, and although I did get a lift from my housemates in the morning, with our road shut, the diversion bedevilled with temporary traffic lights and then blocked by the bin lorry in a combined bit of incredibly bad planning, it looked as if our own best laid plans would be scuppered from the off.
Whether it was through plans going awry, logistical impracticalities or other reasons, there seems not to have been any quarters or peals rung in our name or within our borders today, either on BellBoard or Campanophile. The latter site seems to be winding down, but is still giving out useful information, which includes details about Bevan Wilgress' funeral for those who would like to go and who haven't already got them. This will be on Wednesday 28th January at 1.30pm at Great Bromley, with donations going toward the bell funds there and at Ardleigh via the funeral directors. For those wanting to do that in the form of a cheque, it will need to be made payable to East of England Co-operative Funeral Service and have Bevan Wilgress written on the back. I hope this lovely man gets a big send-off and in death is able to raise lots of money for the bells he enjoyed in life.
For the second Wednesday running, I spent the evening at home, caring for Alfie (which was lovely!) and following an Ipswich Town defeat (not so lovely!), this time via Radio Suffolk as the Tractor Boys lost 3-2 in Brighton and missed the opportunity to go top of the league on a chilly night.
Ruthie in the meantime had been collected by her mother Kate for the practice at Pettistree, a well-attended affair by her account and following on from a successful quarter of Westminster Surprise Minor, as the band took note of one of the many significant anniversaries now listed on this website's What's On section, which includes seventy years since VE and VJ Day, three-quarters of a century since the evacuation of Dunkirk and The Battle of Britain and eight centuries exactly since the signing of Magna Carta, who sounds like a midfielder that ITFC could've done with signing instead.
It gives conductors plenty to put in their footnotes and maybe one who will take advantage is David Salter. Tonight though, he already had a perfectly good footnote, as he led a band in ringing the first ever peal of Dotterell Bob Triples, upon the bells of The Wolery, so well done to all concerned there.
Somewhere they haven't been ringing last week and also this is Halesworth, who - having moved their practice from a Tuesday to a Thursday night for an experimental period until the end of February - are very sensibly putting in sound-control at this ground-floor ring. I remember ringing a peal here in 2006 that was interrupted by an irate neighbour and whilst as you know I have little sympathy for those who move to houses by churches and then complain about the bells, it was understandable that she was annoyed as they are very loud outside. Whilst this new development should allow those who desire the freedom to ring more peals upon the 18cwt eight to do so (if the local ringers decree), the most important benefit is that this important cog in the enthusiastic Blyth Valley ringing scene should gain greater flexibility in when these bells can be used in teaching learners in that pursuit of ringing excellence that I mentioned yesterday. I hope that more towers follow their lead rather than shutting up shop and caving in to every sensitive soul who moans about their bells.
And I hope that Ipswich Town can start winning games again soon and that I can enjoy my Wednesday evenings once more!
The relentless pursuit of ringing excellence sees much happening in the coming weeks. That a sizeable core will rarely or even never attend District and/or Guild events aimed at helping those learning our art improve in it, is disappointing, but a notion we have to accept, especially as for some it is down to very reasonable cause, such as work and family commitments.
However, for those who are willing to help or be helped, there are immediate chances to do just that with two events that showcase precisely what gathering ringers together for such occasions is all about. In my experience, South-West District practices have been superb examples of clubbing one's abilities together. There is a more sizeable proportion of improvers than in other Districts, or at least that has always been my perception and so having the ability to gather a number of their membership for sessions such as this Saturday's at Lavenham is invaluable, as is the case with the Young Ringers Practice beforehand just a few miles away at St Gregory in Sudbury. Both will only achieve their full usefulness with help from those able to guide and advise and hopefully there will be a bit of mutual support between the two events.
Whilst our day consisted of nothing more spectacular than a dreaded excursion to Tesco before I went to work on a late shift, other ringers were already pursuing the excellence we should all crave on the end of a bellrope, with the pre-practice quarter at Offton and at The Wolery the first peal of Vindaloo Surprise Minor for the band and the SGR, in the process completing the Surprise Minor alphabet on the bells, with a method that I recall being quartered at Pettistree at the tail end of 2008 when Alan McBurnie was about to embark on his travels - hence the footnote!
All in the pursuit of ringing excellence you understand.
As I set off on weeks more of shift work at John Catt Educational, with early starts and late finishes in order to reach schools around the world when they are awake, it means the usual disruption to my ringing activities outside of work. This week I am working on late shifts into the early evening and with some Wednesday night peals booked in over the next couple of months, it required a slight amendment to our newly established routine of attending St Mary-le-Tower practice on alternate weeks.
Therefore, as Ruthie put Alfie to bed at home, I found myself at SMLT for the second week running, on this occasion witnessing falling trousers and another good repertoire of ringing, before Kate and I made a rare visit to The Cricketers. The last two Mondays have seen us keep faith with The Mulberry Tree, partly because they were very good to have us when accompanied by Alfred, partly because it is actually a nicer place to go and have a pint in my opinion, as well as being where Ron's bagpipe colleagues convene after their practicing. However, with our usual travelling companion feeling a little under the weather, the mother-in-law and I joined some of the others in the Wetherspoons, once everyone in our party had worked out where we were sitting!
On a positive night though, I was sorry to hear later of the death this evening of Muriel Reay, as remembered in the footnote to tonight's peal at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham. She was a true trailblazer for female ringers, the first to ring 1000 peals and when I first came ringing in the second city, she was a sort of matriarchal figure looking over everything, the respect from the talented pool of ringers there - some of whom were and still are amongst the very best in the world - very much in evidence. At ninety-six it could be said she has had a good innings, which is true, even coming just days after the death of Britain's oldest resident at eighteen years Muriel's senior. But this is still sad news.
Following on from the themes of fellowship and relatives from the last couple of blogs, I was sorry to hear that George Pipe has had another setback with his health, suffering another episode similar to the one he had in St Mary-le-Tower's ringing chamber three months ago, though thankfully this time just at home.
It is hard to think of ringers where friendship and family are embedded into the art to the same extent as for George. Not just a figurehead for Suffolk ringing, GWP is respected across the UK for his ringing feats, artistic abilities and entertaining speaking and indeed across the world for the help he gave to ringers at Washington Cathedral when he rang the first ten-bell peal in North America (as told in the latest edition of Awl a'huld) and all he did for ringing in Australia and New Zealand when he and Diana lived in the former, being instrumental in the formation of the now well-established and very successful ANZAB. And of course he is part of arguably the most successful and well-known ringing family in history, from his father Cecil, step-mother Sylvia, brother Rod, wife Di, nephew David and his wife Cecilia and their two boys Henry and Alfred.
Therefore, it is no surprise that no matter where I go, I am asked how he is, so it is always disappointing to hear when he's not doing well, though not as much so as for him and Di. We all still hold out hope that he will improve enough to rejoin us in ringing, especially as his experience and abilities on the end of a rope are invaluable to us.
We could've done with him at the the first special practice of the year at SMLT this evening, as a mixture of injury and illness (Amanda Richmond had gallantly climbed the stairs despite sounding and looking particularly unwell, but understandably had to leave early) saw us somewhat depleted on the twelve that George is so synonymous with. Still, it had been useful for getting us to force Newgate Surprise Maximus further into the mind, even if we didn't ring it on this occasion and it was good practice for Peter Davies in particular. And the range was decent too, one that most towers would be pleased with, as the standard eight Surprise Major methods were rung spliced together, and Cambridge, Yorkshire and London (No.3) Surprise Royal were covered.
Earlier, I had helped the morning ringing on the front six at Woodbridge, with Mason and Alfie accompanying me, before we joined the service downstairs and then looked in on dogs Jude and Mia as their owners Ron and Kate travelled to Liverpool for the day for work.
Elsewhere, a 1320 of Doubles was rung at Buxhall and well done to Clare Goodchild on ringing her first quarter of Minor in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Hollesley, the fellowship of ringing that Mr Pipe so enjoys happily continuing and being passed on.
Get well soon George!
If yesterday was about friendship, today was about family, as Ruthie's gathered in it's local entirety at her grandparents to celebrate the January birthdays of her grandfather, her cousin Freddie and his contemporary Mason. As ever, it was a highly enjoyable occasion as we were fed far too much for lunch and tea, the hospitality superb and the company highly enjoyable, with seemingly everything from Frozen to cricket to Milton Jones to even a little bellringing discussed.
Meanwhile, those we spent yesterday evening with continued their quarter-peal weekend in the county, as 1272 of Forward Minor was rung at Chediston, 1344 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Rendham and 1260 of Zylverne Bob Minor on the little six in the corner at Rumburgh, with the middle performance seeing Nicole Rolph ringing her first of the method - well done Nicole!
Good to see ringers spending quality time with the ringing family whilst we were spending quality time with our family.
Bellringing is fertile ground for lifetime friendships and new acquaintances, with obvious common ground, but not restricted to just that. My years in the West Midlands and peal ringing across the country with 504 ringers in 547 peals means that there are many in the art that I have got to know to varying degrees, but time and circumstances these days mean that it simply isn't possible to keep in close contact with those that I don't see on a regular basis or to make new friends. The chance to pop over to the Midlands for a peal with my Birmingham chums or nip over to Northamptonshire for a Peterborough Diocesan Guild event to catch up with those I grew to know when visiting my late grandparents isn't as practical with Mason and Alfie in tow, especially as our weekends now seem predominantly an exercise in allowing stuff to get done that we're unable to do during the week whilst I'm at work and unable to relieve Ruthie from her duties attending to the lovely but demanding nine-month old Alfred.
So it is always nice to meet up with long-time ringing amigos not seen for a while, and meet new folk when they come over our way, as I had the opportunity to do after work today, bringing Ruthiie and the boys to Maggie Ross and Philip Gorrod's new abode in Beccles where some of my former ringing contemporaries from my uni days were staying as part of a quarter-peal weekend in Suffolk. Tim Palmer, Simon 'Swebb' Webb and Dave Matthews were all ringing in the UK's second city where I was a decade and more ago and much catching up was done, but it was also nice to make the acquaintance of Phill Butler and Gaby Cowcill, as well as seeing Philip and Maggie's recently acquired home, a delightful place with nooks and crannies aplenty and pinned right up to the edge of our county, with the River Waveney at the bottom of the garden and views - if darkness had permitted us - of Norfolk out of the windows.
It was a lively and enjoyable evening as games were played and recollections of rooftop shenanigans on previous quarter-peal trips imparted over much beer and food, at the end of a day that had seen the group successfully ring quarters of Reverse Bob Minimus at Ampton, Bristol Surprise Major at Horringer, Stedman Triples at Ixworth, Aldington Pleasure Bob Minor at Thurston and Kelso Surprise Minor at Yaxley.
They weren't the only visitors from beyond our borders scoring within our borders, as a number of our northern neighbours joined Winston Girling in ringing a peal for the Suffolk Guild at Hasketon, as Peter Sawyer marked his grandfather William's final peal at this same round tower, sixty-six years ago to the day. But there were also some locals ringing in the county today, with a 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Rendham, ringers enjoying the fellowship of ringing friends.
There was more ringing emanating from Rectory Road today, with George Vant ringing a couple of quarters in hand with the residents, one with father David and one with eldest son George on a busy day of ringing in the Salter household. (And one with George & Colin. Ed.)
It wasn't quite so busy in the Munnings household, with Ruthie heading out to choir practice as I looked after, fed and put to bed Alfie and was therefore unable to take advantage of tonight's practice at Grundisburgh. Instead, we left it up to the George's to create the local ringing headlines.
Suffolk ringers have been the subject of footnotes from peals across the country this week.
On Saturday, a peal was rung to the memory of Simon Griffiths, at the tower where his considerable ringing abilities were honed, Erdington. His talents on the end of a rope and personality on the end of a pint are still much missed in Ipswich and obviously in his native Birmingham too, even more than twenty years since he moved to the east.
Meanwhile, George Pipe's sixty years of membership for the Ancient Society of College Youths - which he celebrates on Thursday - was marked in the peal at Spitalfields yesterday. I have to admit, I didn't realise this significant landmark for this significant ringer for both the ASCY and SGR was coming up quite so soon - I hope we College Youths in the county can do something to mark the landmark at some point this year.
North of the border, familiar faces have been carrying out a superb bit of PR, as former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd featured heavily in his current role as Master of the St Peter Mancroft Guild of Ringers in Norwich, promoting Mancroft Appeal 300. This is an exciting and ambitious project that if successful will see the existing ringing chamber floor moved up higher in the tower, not only cutting the daunting long draught that has put the frighteners on generations of ringers, but more importantly making room for a ringing teaching and heritage centre, all tied in with the three-hundredth anniversary in May of the first true peal ever rung, which was carried out within these famous walls. More information can be found on the project's website - it is well worth a look, and I hope we can be generous towards our northern neighbours.
Back down here, Ipswich Town were getting national media coverage, as the
BBC very kindly put Town's FA Cup Third Round replay against Southampton on
their showpiece channel on my night in looking after Alfie. It meant that Gary
Lineker, Alan Shearer et al were down at Portman Road, just below where Mason
and I had been sat just four days ago, but in the end it was a disappointing
damp squib that saw Maggie Ross' superior Premier League Saints win 1-0, with
the Tractor Boys simply not playing very well at all.
Still, it was a good excuse to invite Ufford ringer Pete Faircloth round for a couple of beers, with Ruthie returning early from Pettistree practice having partaken in a quarter of Bacup Surprise Minor, which was apparently useful practice, even if it is unlikely to get a lot of national coverage!
We love Alfie dearly of course, but as most parents will testify, it is nice to have a night off the whole parenthood thing together. Fortunate as we are to have family close to hand to enable us to step out of the door without an adorable but demanding child, we have been keen to avoid abusing their good will, having only left the son behind three times in his nine-month life.
However, evening out number four saw us leave Alfred with his Grandmother Kate who had very generously come round so that we could undertake an annual highlight, as we made our way across Woodbridge to the Seckford Theatre for the Eastern Angles' 2014/15 Christmas show, The Mystery of St Finnigan's Elbow. As is typical, it was a play full of humour and silliness, on this occasion involving nuns, talking rubbers, a singing goose and dancing moles in a lovely little venue that we enjoy coming to. Less typically, we didn't encounter anyone we know, with previous visits nearly always seeing us bump into familiar faces, including ringers Nigel Bond and Chris Barker, but we still departed having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
One hopes they were also enjoying themselves at Offton, where the practice was preceded by a quarter-peal of spliced Surprise Major in the 'standard-eight' methods, as the band took advantage of a childless evening!
More than most activities, bellringing relies on teamwork. Football teams can carry a handful not pulling their weight for example, but a piece of ringing is only as good as the weakest link. If someone isn't striking very well, it doesn't matter how well the rest of the band are striking, it'll sound awful. If even a single member isn't fully on top of a method, it doesn't matter how well their colleagues have got it nailed, they will struggle as a group to ring it.
This is true for any practice of any size, but becomes illuminated to a greater degree on higher numbers. When we grabbed hold for Newgate Surprise Maximus at the climax of this evening's St Mary-le-Tower practice, it was the first opportunity to do so for a couple of weeks, which in turn had been the first time for several months. When I take a rope for something like this after a while since last ringing it, I like to - if I can - have a quick refresher prior to letting my memory go it alone, but there seemed a few of us doing that tonight, so when it collapsed there was an understandable call for more homework to be done. After all, when we're undertaking something like Newgate at the only tower in Suffolk that is practicing it, the only way - unless we have a simulator to hand - to keep on top of the method is to get it committed to mind before climbing the stairs to the ringing chamber. After all, people come a long way to ring at SMLT, we all need to pull together as a team to make it worth their while making the trip, however impressive it is that a provincial tower such as ours is ringing such a repertoire.
That's not to say there isn't room for individual achievements. Just this weekend, George Salter celebrated his nineteenth birthday with a productive couple of days in the South-West, particularly yesterday in Exeter, as he rang the second heaviest bell in the world rung full-circle behind to a 1311 of Stedman Cinques at the Cathedral, conducted a quarter of Spliced Major for the first time in the 1280 at Heavitree and rang his first Royal in hand in the 1440 of Kent Treble Bob Royal in the city. Well done George!
And today, congratulations to Stephen Pettman on conducting a peal on all forty-eight eights in the county as listed on the Dove website, achieved with a 5120 of Bristol Surprise Major at Hopton, rung for the Cumberland Youths. The achievements of both SDP and GMS are to be commended, but neither of them could've succeeded without teamwork.
Je suis Charlie has been the phrase on everyone's lips today as the inspirational 'Unity March' took place in Paris and across the world following the tragic events in the French capital this week. It is a reminder of how valuable the freedoms we take for granted are and that includes ringing and of course people's right to object to ringing.
Somewhere where that has been experienced but thankfully ultimately saw common sense and the majority speak is Aldeburgh, and they were taking full advantage this afternoon as the first second-Sunday peal on the Suffolk coast was rung today. They were taking advantage elsewhere too today. Well done to Adam Shard on ringing his first quarter inside at the first attempt and Barry Dixon on his first of Little Bob Major in the 1344 at The Norman Tower, Andrea Alderton on ringing her first of Annable's London Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Buxhall and to Neal Dodge on ringing his first blows ever of Bourne Surprise Minor in the success at Great Barton.
We too were enjoying the freedoms others would rather we didn't, as Ruthie returned to singing in the choir at Woodbridge and Mason, Alfie and I went to Grundisburgh. In between our attendance at the county's heaviest and lightest twelves, my eldest son rather sweetly suggested we pop into Ipswich Cemetery to see Uncle Eric - gone nearly three years now - and his sister Sheila. We last visited them a few weeks ago around my Godfather's birthday and in the lead-up to Christmas when the l'il chap rather touchingly suggested leaving a card for him, and today he again moved me by requesting we stand by their grave this morning and say a prayer.
Thank God there are more like him and the millions worldwide that showed their support of liberty today.
The law of sods was in the ascendancy today, as Mason and I found ourselves at Portman Road to watch the much improved and - there was a while I thought I'd never get to say this again - promotion-chasing Ipswich Town take on the team just behind them in the league table, Derby County. The Tractor Boys have been impressive in recent months, having only lost once in their last twenty-one matches, and unbeaten at home since they lost against Naaaaridge way back in August. Avid readers of this blog - if there are any - will be aware that that negative result was the last game we watched in the flesh, as it were. So it was highly predictable that having got on just fine without us jinxing them for a few months, the Town suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of our visitors from the East Midlands, who in the process leapfrogged us into second place.
Luckily, the li'l chap seems to have caught the bug, entirely unperturbed by what is hopefully only a glitch for the most successful football team in East Anglia, even pronouncing at one point that "this was the best day ever", in between shouting his support loudly for the boys in blue. Just imagine how much he'll enjoy it if we ever get to watch them win again...
We returned disappointed but not downhearted for a quiet afternoon and evening. However, whilst there was nothing to report on the ringing front from us, the Guild Facebook page highlights the need for help at Bramford at their Tuesday night practices over the next few months, as they are expecting to be short of ringers. It is vital that practices aren't allowed to just drift off into oblivion, because as we've seen at Grundisburgh, it is so hard to get them going again, and apart from anything else it would help the locals get the most out of their sessions. If you can help, please get in touch with John Doy on 01473 742 015 to let them know. Best of luck to them, I hope they don't suffer from sods law along the way.
Ringing satire was alive and well today, and featuring one of our own.
On Tuesday, a 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung at Cudham with the following footnote attributed to it: Chris Rogers has now rung peals on all 26 rings of ten in Greater London except St Barnabas, Pimlico (last peal in 1902).
As it does these days, social media latched on to it, with some asking if Chris would make Westminster Abbey more available to allow them to achieve the same and more than a few being quite disparaging of the claim, especially Ian 'Glint' Fielding, who promptly amended the footnote to a 5019 of Stedman Cinques at Redcliffe from October 2013 to read: Alex Tatlow has now rung peals on all the 12s in the City of Bristol except St. Stephens - (last peal in 2013).
It is worth noting there are only two twelves in Bristol...
Of course, this has propelled the peal onto the BellBoard leading performance board, some fifteen months after it was rung and sees Alex and Ian in line for a spot on Have I Got News For You.
Meanwhile, Mason was making his latest trip down to Great Ormond Street Hospital, meaning he joined us for the weekend without a cast on his repaired leg for the first time for a couple of months, instead accompanied with only a splint to wear at night, as God willing we approach the end of the need for the chirpy seven-year-old to keep going down to London for appointments.
It all meant for a quiet evening as it normally is at the end of the working week, but also as normal for a Friday, the FNQPC were succeeding, with a 1260 of Doubles rung at Tannington. Nothing particularly satirical about it, but worthy of mention!
As Ruthie is already out on Thursday evening's at choir practice and is close by where her mother's commitments for the night of the fourth day of the week are, it makes sense that with our new nighttime routine that she continues on to the Cosy Nostril Surprise Major practices at Ufford as they enter into their fifth different calendar year.
By the time my wife and Kate had arrived, it had apparently been a tough session, but it's still an important aspect of pushing this level of ringing in the area, so hopefully February's will be better! Here's to terrific Thursdays this year!
Whisper it, but on Friday, Mike Whitby will have a significant birthday and one to celebrate. For this is a real character of the Guild, the type of whom we could do with many more of in Suffolk. He it is who has primarily - with help of course, as he would be the first to point out - led the Pettistree band from a bunch of enthusiastic villagers keen to man their then newly restored and rehung bells, into arguably the best six-bell practice in the county, one of the leading and most prolific quarter-peal towers in the world, two-times winners of the Mitson Shield and current holders of both the South-East District Striking Competition trophies, spawning ringers capable of ringing spliced Surprise Minor and Major and who contribute considerably to the SE District and SGR.
MGW is also a big supporter of ringing within our borders, often found in other districts at their events, offering forward his considerable experience in a calm and considered manner and usually also with a considerable dollop of cheeky humour. And he is one of our best conductors and best ringers, part of the hugely talented and successful St Mary-le-Tower band of the 1980s and early 1990s whose impressive peals adorn the famous ringing chamber and who appeared in the final of The National 12-bell Striking Competition.
Understandably therefore, I believe there was a celebration at the ground-floor six of SS Peter & Paul he is so synonymous with, which included a 1272 of York Surprise Minor that also noted the birthdays of Tim Stanford, Iain Mitchell, Hazel Judge, Suzanne Stevens and Micky McBurnie and afterwards in The Greyhound, but we weren't able to be present as we continue our self-enforced regulation of Alfie's bedtime routine. After Monday's trip out to SMLT for my wife, it was my turn to venture out into the dark, cold nights that this time of year offers up, my destination being Old Stoke for the first peal attempt of 2015 at The Wolery, and as is the norm here, it was successfully rung, as a 5088 of Mississippi Surprise Major was negotiated in 1hr47mins with some absolutely superb ringing at times, which was followed by tea, cake and biscuits and an in-depth discussion on last year's poor peal-totals in our part of the world. Of course, along with the birthdays of Rectory Road resident George Salter and this evening's treble ringer Mick Edwards, we also noted Mr Whitby's forthcoming date with destiny.
Happy Birthday for Friday Mike!
The most mundane of days personally. Work, fish 'n' chips and a quiet night in.
Mercifully, others were busier and well done to Laura Davies on ringing her first Minor on handbells in the 5040 in Bardwell.
There are more productive days ahead, God willing, with a Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday night and the North-West District Practice at The Norman Tower on Saturday, followed by a meal at The Bunbury Arms in Great Barton. Having been to one of these in the past, I think this has been a superb innovation, an inviting, warming social element to what otherwise may have been quite an uninviting, chilly experience. If you are planning on going, then please get your names and choices to District Secretary 01359 221722, by this weekend. Especially if all you've got lined up is a mundane day like ours today!
Despite being unable to find twelve drummers drumming for my beloved, the time has come to remove the Christmas decorations. If they haven't already dragged them down on Boxing Day or as Big Ben was chiming the New Year in, some will hold on until tomorrow in the belief that the first day of the season was the 26th, whilst others apparently keep them up until Candlemas on 2nd February, though having had ours bedecking the house since the end of November, even I felt that would be stretching things out a bit too far!
So this evening, I set about taking ours down and packing them away, instantly making the room feel a lot emptier and finally putting a lid on a festival that many had started the ball rolling on back in July. Such an act felt quite liberating, but there was a tinge of disappointment to have to admit that my favourite time of the year was over, exacerbated by the return to work this morning.
It is my good fortune to find myself at an organisation I enjoy working for immensely, but it is rather too easy to get used to spending extra hours with the family, with no pressing time constraints or deadlines, none of the expectations and requirements that are understandably and quite rightly put upon me when I am doing what I'm paid for. The tinsel, lights, presents, indulgence and endless Dad's Army DVD's are instantly forgotten in the more mundane environment of the office and that beautiful crisp, sunny midday departure from John Catt on Christmas Eve, with all the excitement ahead, seemed a long, long time ago on this grey, damp and chilly morning, as I struggled to find somewhere to dump the car with the space around our business park currently crammed with the vans and lorries of the swarm of tradesmen finishing the retirement flats opposite us.
One of the many benefits of being employed where I am though, is that I can at least pop home at lunchtime, with today's reuniting with Ruthie and Alfie enhanced by the presence of his Godmother, birthday girl Fergie. This low-key celebration embodied the feel of today, often considered as one of the most depressing in the calendar, and yet on this occasion giving off some very positive vibes.
Like reading the Guild Twitter feed and seeing someone saying how wonderful it was to hear Ingham's bells ringing yesterday, presumably during the quarter of Grandsire Doubles there. Look further down and it is interesting to see the clip of ringing taking place in Lowestoft and Brian Smith's excitement at accompanying his wife's sister to ringing. And the 'Name the Eight-Bell Towers in Suffolk' looks like it could beguile me for a while!
The first St Mary-le-Tower practice of 2015 was also of an encouraging nature, at least according to my wife. Frustratingly one short for Newgate Surprise Maximus, there was nonetheless decent Yorkshire of the Royal and Maximus varieties rung and Mrs Munnings was delighted to show George Salter that motherhood doesn't impair her ability to ring the 35cwt tenor!
As you will have ascertained from my third-party reporting of the session, I was not present, but though I felt more than a pang of guilt that my absence prevented Newgate being rung as it was so successfully last Monday, it was for a worthy cause, as I was at home with Alfred. For as much as we have enjoyed bringing him out to evening practices and he appears enthralled by it all, he is - as Mason did before him - getting incrementally grouchy and in need of sleep earlier, so with our busiest ringing period out of the way, it seemed a sensible point at which to encourage his night time routine, which sadly doesn't fit in with our usual nighttime activities. That's not to say we won't bring him along on future visits every now and again, but for now it's not really fair on him - or indeed those who have to ring and/or drink through his rare but noisy moans - to drag him out to ringing and then the pub every Monday and Wednesday. Still, we are determined to continue supporting towers where we can, so tonight saw the start of us alternating, with my better half going out with her mother and Ron, the latter of who was returning to bagpipes class after a two-week break for the festivities, leaving me to put the boy to bed, watch some football on TV and take those decorations down. Tis the season.
Back in August 2008, on a light, warm summer's evening when we were all a little younger and in my incapacity as Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, I was invited to meet a film crew at the ground-floor eight of Kersey, as they were in the midst of producing an episode of Escape To The Country (Series 8, Episode 17) in the area. The presenter was Tim Vincent, formerly a Blue Peter presenter, but now based in the USA and apparently carving out a successful career on the other side of the pond. And yet when we met, I was struck by how approachable and polite he was, on and off the camera, chatting freely and posing for a photo with the then eighteen-month old Mason, a photo we still have framed at home.
Those of us present - which included Becky and Carl Munford, David and Lesley Steed (or Wilson as the latter was then!), Crawford Allen, Sue Freeman and Neville Whittell amongst many other locals who had very kindly allowed their practice to be hijacked - knew that the two hours of repetitive filming (the short intro chat alone was filmed several times) would be condensed into a few minutes on the show, but it was a huge disappointment when it was initially aired that our piece had been erased altogether, bar a solitary shot of the church across dusky fields and the sound of a lonely bell. Fearing my promising television career had been cruelly and prematurely hacked short, I was relieved to come across a subsequent screening of it that did feature our efforts and although some of the editing was a bit crude - as it so often is with filming ringing - and my vocabulary limited (try noting the number of times I say 'absolutely' - I lost count!), it was presumably of sufficient quality to keep in for further repeats, judging by the occasional messages I get from friends and acquaintances exclaiming that they'd just seen me on TV.
Tonight saw that same episode on the Really channel, giving me the opportunity to show my now seven-year old eldest son the programme (and which his dulcet tones make a brief cameo) behind the aforementioned picture and the cue for more messages that my appearance in people's living rooms had been acknowledged.
My revived fame came towards the end of a relaxed but busy enough day, that began with the boys and me actually making it to Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, Grundisburgh and - as it is the first Sunday of the month - in between, St Lawrence, prior to we four embarking on the journey across Woodbridge to Kate's, where we had very kindly been invited for a roast dinner, before we left her to get on to Ufford for a quarter to mark the Reverend Michael Hatchett's final service as vicar there. Though not a ringer himself, his wife Ruth is and he has always been supportive of ringing upon the 13cwt eight, so we'd like to reiterate the footnote and wish him a long and happy retirement.
That success wasn't the only one within our borders though. Well done to Laura Davies and Ruth Suggett on ringing their first of the 'Cambridge Twelve' Surprise Minor methods in the 1296 at Tostock and to Neal Dodge on ringing his first blows of Ipswich Surprise Minor at Pakenham on the afternoon that Ipswich's football team did so well in the FA Cup down at Premier League Southampton. All of this whilst another handbell peal was rung in Bacton.
I completed my day by finally writing up the Public Relations Officer's report for the next Annual Report. Reflecting on 2014's PR, I have to say I haven't been as proactive as I would've liked, though I shall give myself the reasonable excuse that I have been rather distracted! But it was pleasing to note that apart from the sad theft of two bells from Little Saxham church, what publicity was generated was positive, though it has only been our local BBC radio station that has given us any sort of platform, with Look East, About Anglia and the East Anglian Daily Times all extremely unresponsive. Hopefully in 2015 I can push them a lot harder.
My report safely sent and received by Report Editor George Reynolds, we sat back with a cuppa and some cheese and watched the gogglebox as I prepared for my return to work tomorrow. It's not all glamour for us TV celebrities you know.
Sitting in the slipstream of a couple of pleasant but uneventful days, today saw more than a modicum of excitement, with broken ropes, daredevil stunts, one of the most notorious bells in the county and a party.
Our first ringing since Monday when we all lived in 2014 was blighted somewhat by the breakage of the treble rope at Copdock during ringing for the South-East DIstrict Practice, the sight of Mervyn Scase climbing a wobbly ladder to encourage the 'new' equipment (those of us who used to ring here regularly about twenty years ago noted that it was probably a few decades old!) through the guides several feet up the long draught from this ground-floor six, as his nephew and District Ringing Master Tom lowered it from above entertaining us during the delay. It's not something many would've been keen to do, so we were grateful to Mervyn for enabling us to continue with the session, at least what was left of it at St Peter.
With my wife having had her maiden ring upon the bells in the fateful piece that precipitated the drama at our first tower of the morning and with the younger son and her mother leaving early to pop over to Tesco on the A12/A14 interchange that carries the village's name, I had a quick go for old times sake at this once familiar location, scooped up Mason and took us over Alton Water Reservoir to Tattingstone, a unique ring most famous in Suffolk for a treble that goes as well with the other five as a bell that doesn't go at all with the other five. No matter how often I've been here, the sound of all six still takes me aback, such is the shocking mismatch, which is a pity, as with a treble that fits in and a bit of work there could be a very nice ring of bells at the gateway to the Shotley Peninsula. No broken rope on the treble here...
Despite the District Secretary's disappointment at all her organisational efforts being wasted upon 90% of the District's membership, an attendance of around thirty wasn't terrible and hopefully it was a useful couple of hours for improvers in particular, when technical issues permitted! Yes, the bells aren't perfect, far from it in fact. But for me the variety of towers that we have at our disposal is what makes ringing so interesting and having a go on such bells should be an essential part of a ringer's learning experience. Besides, it was a superb social occasion, especially for those chomping at the bit to get out of the house after days of indoor indulgence and it was particularly pleasing to see District Chairman Ralph Earey after his hernia operation earlier in the week - though ringing was of course off-limits for him today - and Richard Hobson who let us in at our second tower even though he had only become a father again forty-eight hours earlier, to Joseph. Congratulations Richard and family! And thank you to the locals at our first tower for the refreshments and biscuits!
We couldn't hang around until the bitter end though, as we were partway through one of those busy days that I so enjoy but Mrs Munnings doesn't, as we journeyed from the opposite end of the SE District where we'd been ringing, and just into the North-East District at Blaxhall. Our purpose wasn't ringing upon this hard-going anti-clockwise gallery six though, but rather to attend my Goddaughter Maddison's first birthday party at the village hall, with views across the fields of The Ship Inn and within earshot of some marvelous ringing emanating from Blaxhall which nonetheless hasn't appeared on BellBoard or Campanophile, so was presumably ultimately unsuccessful.
The party was great fun, with the birthday girl enjoying herself, as did the other children present and us adults having fun too! Popping balloons, food aplenty and a lovely cake meant the afternoon flew by, but all this activity meant that I couldn't partake in the George Salter production at St Mary-le-Tower as I was originally due to, so I was delighted to see a 5040 of Bristol Surprise Maximus successfully completed, and judging by the band it was no doubt a well-rung effort too. It wasn't the only success within our borders though, with the first Suffolk Guild peal of 2015 scored at Hacheston and two handbell peals rung in Bacton, one of seven methods which was Cherril and Jeremy Spiller's 750th peal together and another of nineteen methods. Meanwhile, well done to Kay Lucas on ringing her first quarter of Double Oxford Bob Minor at Thornham Magna and her first blows altogether of Pinehurst Bob Minor at Redgrave, on a day that a 1320 of Beverley Surprise Minor was also rung at Gislingham.
As I said, it was a more exciting day than the last couple!
If 2015 continues in this vein, we're in for an intensely unremarkable twelve months. John Catt had very kindly given us today off and thus extended our Christmas holidays, and whilst it meant more quality time with Ruthie, Mason and Alfie, the gradual transfer from festive indulgence to occupying a state fit to rejoin everyday life meant that we had an awfully quiet day.
In fact, if it wasn't for a trip to the doctors to get Alfred's chesty cough examined - thank God there was nothing seen to give us any concern - then my wife and youngest would've probably remained in pyjamas all day as my eldest did and as I nearly did before I got changed to depart for a trip to Tesco that Mrs Munnings undertook anyway.
Mercifully, others were more active, with the first peal rung on Suffolk soil this year, though not for the Suffolk Guild, as David and Colin Salter joined Colin and NIcola Turner and Peter Ellis at Acton for the St Blaise Society, in what was already the latter three's third success since the new calendars were broken out yesterday. On a more local level, it is good to see the FNQPC pick up where they left off in 2014, with a triumphant 1295 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham.
And whilst quiet so far, things should liven up in the coming days and weeks, with tomorrow's South-East District Practice at Copdock and Tattingstone followed by the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice on Wednesday, the North-West District Practice and Meal at The Norman Tower and The Bunbury Arms in Great Barton respectively on the following Saturday, the North-East District Practice at Rumburgh on the evening of Monday 12th January, Second-Tuesday Ringing at Orford and Tunstall the next day, the Bacton Monthly Practice a day further on and then the Helmingham Monthly Practice forty-eight hours later at the end of a busy week. Well busier than this one anyway.
2014 is literally yesterday's news and although there was that usual subdued feeling that you get after the night before, the presence of Mason and Alfie helped reinvigorate us on an otherwise typically quiet New Year's Day.
Elsewhere, as is normally the case - especially on the day after New Year's Eve - other ringers in Suffolk were more energetic than us, with a date touch of 2015 changes of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Offton and a 1260 of Doubles at Old Newton kicking off what will hopefully be a year of achievement for the Guild, though the headline act nationally was the one hundredth peal being rung at St Paul's Cathedral. I have had the privilege of ringing one of those peals when I rang in a 5250 of Stedman Cinques nine years ago tomorrow, but my insignificant contribution to the peal-ringing history of this most famous of rings of bells is nothing compared to what has been achieved on these bells, particularly those who have pealed the tenors in this daunting ringing chamber.
It is a spectacular way to begin the year, but from here on in we have a blank canvas ahead of us, where the only thing we can predict is that there will be much unpredictable about the next twelve months. God willing we will enjoy the friendship and challenges that ringing gives us, most immediately with Saturday's South-East District Practice at the rarely visited Copdock (with tea and coffee!) and the unique Tattingstone, the first of an abundance of opportunities to take advantage of all that ringing offers before 31st December comes round again. Opportunities which will hopefully this time take in striking competitions for all four districts, whilst all being well, it will also be interesting to see how the new timings for the Guild Striking Competitions work out on Saturday 16th May in the South-West District. Hopefully the greater push in recent years to get more ringers involved with these most useful and social of occasions, the call-change element and the greater range of teams challenging and even beating St Mary-le-Tower has put to bed a lot of myths and excuses for non-participation and will encourage more to take part in all the contests.
The AGM is planned for Felixstowe on Saturday 11th April, when hopefully the warmer weather will have arrived and encourage members to combine a trip to the seaside with the most important Guild event of year, whilst Saturday 19th September is lined up for the North-East District's turn to host the Guild Social. I would also urge you all to come along when the biggest ringing event in the world comes to our doorstep, with the holding of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in Norwich on Saturday 27th June, with The Vestey Ring one of the attractions on the day.
This will also be a year of more anniversaries for ringers to mark with quarters, peals and special ringing, with the continuation of commemorations to mark the centenary of the First World War, it is now seventy years since the Second World War came to a conclusion and on 3rd May it will be three hundred years since the first ever recorded true peal, a 5040 of Grandsire Triples in 3hrs17mins at the aforementioned St Peter Mancroft in the county city of our Norfolk neighbours. It would be good if we could do something significant here to mark the occasion.
Beyond ringing, there is a general election marked in the diary for 7th May which will be interesting and Ipswich Town may finally find themselves back in the Premier League after thirteen years, though I daren't believe in the possibility even in their current healthy position.
Whatever goes to plan and whatever doesn't, however things pan out, I hope
that it goes well for you and I hope to do lots of ringing and socialising with
you in the coming months.
2015 is very much today's news.