Tuesday 21st May 2024

Richy's Blog

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New Year's Eve 2016

2016 will go down as an absolutely horrific year for some, whether that is because of Brexit, Donald Trump, the sacking of York Minster's ringers, the recent sorry announcement that Whitechapel will be ceasing to trade on its current historic site next year, the seemingly endless conveyor belt of celebrity deaths from David Bowie and Alan Rickman in January to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds just this week or a combination thereof. Personally though and in Suffolk ringing generally it has been a largely positive twelve months.

There have been the deaths of Guild members, resident and otherwise, such as Winnie Lockwood, Margaret Egglestone, Sal Burrows and Chris Plummer and from a very personal perspective, the passing of Ruthie's Nan was sad, if to a degree a relief after eighteen months of suffering. Yet for us, the main thing we will remember is a happy one, the arrival of Joshua Benjamin in July, a little brother for Mason and Alfie and wonderful addition to our family.

For the SGR too, it has - in my humble opinion - been a good three hundred and sixty-six days. The number of peals rung in our name and numbers ringing them has increased after a dip over 2014 and 2015, although in keeping with worldwide figures (where following the success of First Peal 2015 when 387 rang their first peal only 98 made their debut this year) the number of first-pealers fell from eight to two. Congratulations to Sal Jenkinson and Adrian Craddock nonetheless. Meanwhile, the encouraging activity with quarter-peals has also been an undoubted help to progressing the county's ringing and the latter medium saw a final hurrah in the North-West District with three rung today - Norwich Surprise Minor at Barrow, Doubles at Great Finborough and Single Oxford Bob Minor at Rougham.

Guild events have been successful, with the AGM at Hadleigh reasonably attended and the hospitality of the South-West District much enjoyed. After five years service, it was a shame for the rest of us that Jed Flatters' time as Ringing Master was up, but the election of Tom Scase as his replacement was a super one, with young Tom doing well in his first few months, especially considering he was doubling up as South-East District Ringing Master until the SE's ADM earlier this month.

At Reydon and Southwold the striking competitions were superbly hosted by the North-East District, St Mary-le-Tower deservedly won the Mitson Shield and Rose Trophy, as Hollesley took the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy back down the coast on a hugely enjoyable day and the NW District held an absolutely brilliant Social in September in the beautiful countryside around Thornham Magna.

The Munnings band. Al fresco tea.Pleased as I was to hand it over to Neal Dodge, personally I was sorry to leave the role of PR Officer after five years and ten years in office for the SGR in total, but with all hands needed on deck since Josh's arrival it felt sensible to step back. Indeed, our ringing generally has been restricted somewhat as we have settled into life with three young boys, but I was delighted to still squeeze twelve peals (BellBoard makes it thirteen. Ed.) in amongst sleepless nights, dirty nappies and frequent changes of clothes for Alfred, Joshie and myself. For 2016 though, the ringing highlight was the first ever all-Munnings family QP, although the quarter rung at Offton to celebrate my Mum's fifty years of ringing and the al fresco tea at the SE District Striking Competition in glorious sunshine at Wickham Market comes close! As ever though, it was the wonderful ability of ringing to offer friendship and variety that helped make this a great year of ringing.

Pettistree, Sproughton and no doubt many other towers across the county rang 2017 in tonight, but of course we are in no position currently to go out for the midnight zenith of the party and so we saw it in at home. We did at least spend it in the company of ringers though as Ufford and Woodbridge ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis came round for a heady mix of Harry Potter and Jools Holland, accompanied by nibbles, beer and fizz.

It was a nice way to finish what has been a memorable year. However you will remember it.

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Friday 30th December 2016

Tis the season for panto. Oh no it's not! Oh yes it is! And so on and so forth.

Mason has been to this very British institution before, thanks to the generosity of my parents, but until now Alfie hasn't been old enough to enjoy one and indeed I hadn't been to a pantomime since I were a boy and the Co-op Juniors were still holding their brilliant seasonal offering at The Regent in Ipswich.

This afternoon saw Alfred's first experience of men dressed as dames and girls dressed as boys as we took in the Deben Players' performance of Swan Princess, loosely based on Swan Lake and held at the Seckford Theatre in the grounds of Woodbridge School. Along with his cousin Katelynn and older brother, he did well across the three hour performance, joining in the applause and booing at the appropriate moments and even enthusiastically following other children up on to stage when invited, although his elder relatives stayed in their seats at that point!

After a walk in the chilled darkness, we returned to Edwin Avenue where his Granny Kate extended her generosity in getting the tickets in the first place to looking after her youngest grandchildren Annalise and Joshua during the performance and then providing us with tea afterwards.

The closest we got to ringing was bumping into former Hollesley ringers Ken and Helen Yates at the theatre, but elsewhere in Suffolk there was much more ringing going on, with three quarter-peals and two peals rung within our borders today. Most notable was Adrian Beatty's first QP in the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Redgrave, but there was also a 1320 of London Surprise Minor at Exning and a 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Kersey, whilst there was a 5039 of Grandsire Caters rung at St Peter in Sudbury. Meanwhile, there was a peal on handbells in Bacton for the Guild, which was Jeremy Spiller's five hundredth in hand as conductor and his wife Cherril's seven hundredth on handbells in total. Congratulations Mr and Mrs Spiller. And well done Adrian, hopefully the first of many. First quarter-peal Mr Beatty? It's behind you!

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Thursday 29th December 2016

For the first time in days, we had no engagements. So with Alfie packed off to nursery and Joshua obligingly snoozing for a couple of hours, we took to a winter spring-clean. If you catch my drift.

However, there was some significant ringing in the county, most notably at Clopton where Diana Taylor is to be congratulated on ringing her first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles.

Meanwhile, the sixtieth birthday of Stephen 'Podge' Christian was celebrated with an appropriate 5060 of Plain Bob Major at Henley, deserved recognition for a lovely chap who has done much for ringing, particularly at Henley.

Well done Diana and Happy Birthday Diana!

Nice to see someone ringing in the Suffolk!

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Wednesday 28th December 2016

Having spent the majority of Christmas thus far catching-up with family, this evening it was the turn of friends. Beyond the friendships we are so very fortunate to have through ringing and which are frequently renewed at various events throughout the year, meeting up with chums beyond the world of change-ringing is an increasingly difficult logistical arrangement. If they haven't moved away from Suffolk, they are in the same boat as us, restricted in their social activity by young children.

This time of year offers both opportunity and further complications for the scenario. Those living far away are often back in the area and a number are as lucky as me to have the period off work, but of course also like us they are spending time with relatives. Nonetheless, we, Ruthie's school-friends and their respective partners were able to find a spare few hours to meet in Bramford at the home of two of them as we were drawn together from Somerset, Kent, Stowmarket, Ipswich and Woodbridge and catch-up over nibbles and refreshments.

It was an enjoyable night, with the only downside being missing the last Pettistree practice of 2016 as our unintentional lack of seasonal ringing continued. Of course, they managed perfectly well without us, at least judging by the success of the pre-session quarter-peal.

Further afield, it was nice to see a peal rung in memory of Rambling Ringer Michael Brown at his home tower of Sapcote in Leicestershire. He was a true gent, a super man to know and who will be much missed and having been asked to ring I was disappointed not to be able to take up the offer.

At the moment, it is bellringing we are struggling to find time for.

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Tuesday 27th December 2016

More present opening for Mason and Alfie!After a busy but nonetheless pleasing Christmas Day, it seems to have panned out that yesterday and today have seen us spread our traditional 25th December out over two days. Our visit to Ruthie's grandparents on Boxing Day was followed on this occasion by a day at my Mum and Dad's abode in the company of Aunty Marian and once again it consisted of more food and presents for adults and children alike, enjoyed by us all. Thank you Mater and Pater!

Although it was spent in a household consisting of four current, one former and one part-time ringer, not a single bell-rope was touched by any of us between waking up and going to bed. Indeed, it has been an unusually quiet festive period for us in a ringing sense, perhaps partly because the first day of the season fell on a Sunday, but typically it is an busy time for ringers, especially those ringing quarter-peals and peals, with time off work and a generally watertight reason for ringing them more frequently.

Across the country the output was considerably higher than an average Tuesday and indeed some of it can be listened to in the form of a short clip of the 5184 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Chester Cathedral, a superb 1min3secs of ringing wonderful to listen to and unsurprising considering the band.

It is something for all Suffolk's ringers to aspire to, but some of them were already doing well, with three quarter-peals rung within our borders today. A 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at The Norman Tower, a 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Offton and a 1250 of Superlative Surprise Major at Ufford were all notched up on a pleasingly busy day on the county's bells.

Whilst we didn't do any ringing ourselves, in the relaxed and laid-back atmosphere of the Ipswich house I grew up in, we were able to have a read of the Christmas and New Year edition of The Ringing World and in particular the article of St Mary-le-Tower and York ringer Lucy Williamson. Predominantly on the subject of what she misses about ringing during her current residency in Paris, it is the funniest and best thing I've read in the publication for a long time. She is a super writer and her blog - although not ringing-related - on her life in France is well worth reading if you get the chance.

What a pleasant way to spend part two of Christmas Day Mark II!

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Boxing Day 2016

Once upon a time, waking up on Boxing Day morning represented the end of festivities, the return to school and mundane everyday life already hurtling towards us.

Nowadays, it is an opportunity to continue the feasting and more importantly to catch-up with family. Mason's mother and I take it in turns to enjoy Christmas Day with the eldest and when he has spent the 25th at hers - as he did this year - then the 26th is a chance to do it all over again in his presence.

Mason tucks into his waiting presents.Therefore, once we had left a suitable period to recover from yesterday's excesses before driving back from Chris and Becky's in Bury St Edmunds (thanks again guys!) to home in Woodbridge, we collected him for some more excited gift-opening and then travelled the short distance to Ruthie's grandparents where we were joined by her Uncle Moog and Aunty Ange and their two siblings for dinner. A relaxed but jovial afternoon followed as more presents were tucked into, crackers pulled and silly hats worn and whilst our fellow visitors later departed for a family engagement elsewhere, we hung around like a bad smell for some tea as we enjoyed hospitality typical of my wife's Gran and Granddad, before we returned home to watch, drink and eat some of the presents generously given to us over the last twenty-four hours.

None of it involved any ringing as you will have noticed and judging by BellBoard and Campanophile there wasn't much of it going on across Suffolk generally. Perhaps the Guild's members were also continuing their festivities.

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Christmas Day 2016

At the beginning of this month, when seasonal music was beginning to take over the airwaves, I listened to a version of I Saw Three Ships on BBC Radio Suffolk and in particular the verse where "all the bells on earth shall ring". That bells are heavily linked to Christmas hadn't passed me by, but at that moment especially for some reason, I noted just how much they feature in festive music, particularly in carols like 'Ding Dong Merrily on High' and countless others, but also in commercial songs like The Darkness' 'Don't Let the Bells End' (ooer missus). Almost every seasonal piece of literature, in print, film, on TV or the radio seems to require the sound of church bells ringing out on Christmas morning and they appear to still be a part of most people's perfect Christmas scene. As I considered this, it struck me what a privilege it is to be one of those providing that, especially in light of the silence sadly and unnecessarily brought upon the bells of York Minster today for the first time in almost seven hundred years on the 25th December.

Come this morning therefore and I felt an even greater joy in heading out to ring at the three towers that it has become traditional for me to ring at on Christmas Day, hopefully adding to people's days in Pettistree, Ipswich and Sproughton. The ringing was certainly good enough at each tower for the occasion, with Daphne Rose contributing to some well-struck call-changes at the former and the youngsters partaking in some decent Plain Bob Doubles at the latter. In between, having parted company with Ruthie for her to return to Woodbridge to sing in the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin, we were blessed by another large crowd at St Mary-le-Tower, with an appropriate family feel about it, our numbers including the entire ringing Williamson clan, Roger and Mary Whittell, the Salter brothers Colin and George, George and Diana Pipe and their daughter Alison and indeed myself, Alfie, Joshua and Mum and Dad.

The aforementioned Salter siblings briefly returned to ringing with a brisk nineteen minute quarter-peal of Minimus on handbells at home, the beginning of which can be viewed on YouTube in all its breathtaking glory, but the boys and I rejoined my wife.back in our town of residence and having already opened the gifts left beneath our tree by Santa Claus, we began a busy but immensely enjoyable tour of our families.

Following last year's successful change to the norm, we went to mother-in-law Kate's for our turkey dinner and more present opening, before then moving on to to Mrs Munnings' grandparents for a fleeting visit to catch-up with her close family, with the attendance in their cosy bungalow peaking at nineteen, eight of which were nine years old and under.

Alfie gets stuck into his presents.Joshua eyes his presents with suspicion. Joshua getting his drinking in at Chris and Becky's, under the close supervision of his mother and Granddad.Alfie enjoying his presents with his Uncle Chris.Joshua with his Gran.Alfie with one of his many new toys.

It was a lively but short cameo from us, for we needed to embark upon a slight deviation to our usual Christmas journeying. We are extremely fortunate to have both of our families close in every sense and typically having felicitated the seasons greetings to my better half's relatives in Woodbridge we make the short journey to the county town to do the same with mine at my parent's abode. This time though, the Munnings part of the annual celebrations were moved to Bury St Edmunds and the home of my brother Chris and his wife Becky. This alteration to the traditional order of proceedings was more evolution than revolution, with Mater, Pater and Aunty Marian present, as they have been for every Christmas Day that I can recall apart from the short period I spent in the Midlands. However, apart from Josh on his introduction to the festival, there was also the welcome additional company of Becky's family, including her father Steve Munford and his partner Maddie, her uncle and aunt Maurice and Anita Rose and her grandparents. Food and drink was consumed, more presents appeared (much to Alfred's delight!) and the conversation flowed before our heads eventually hit the pillow as our hosts also provided beds for us four.

Many thanks to Chris and Becky, Ruthie's grandparents and her mother for the sustenance and hospitality on a day when ringers first enhanced the Christmas of others and then enjoyed theirs.

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Christmas Eve 2016

When Christmas Eve falls on a working day - as it mostly does of course - then it can feel a bit rushed. As long as I have worked for John Catt Educational they have very generously released us at lunchtime on the last shift in the office before Christmas, but I think it is more of an unwritten rule than a set policy and I have never been presumptuous enough to assume our early release and plan ahead for the afternoon. Therefore, almost as soon as I leave work, we are thrust instantly into the festive hurly-burly, usually in our case with preparation still to be made, loose ends still to be tied.

However, when the 24th December falls on a weekend as with this year, there is typically a much more relaxed feel to the twenty-four hours preceding the festivities.

Today was no exception, with this seasonal Saturday allowing us to rise in our own time from our slumbers (or at least in Joshua's own time, though that is normally reasonable these days!) and welcome Fergie, Ruthie's best friend, bridesmaid at our increasingly distant but still fondly remembered wedding and Godmother to Alfie, back in her hometown to see family and catch up with chums like us over the next few days. Presents and cards were exchanged, news caught up on and our guest thoroughly run through her paces by her Godson!

A quick solo visit in Woodbridge town centre for some final essentials ahead of the Christmas shutdown covered those last-minute preparations and loose ends, before the traditional evening visit to St Mary-le-Tower to ring for the Nine Lessons and Carols. Ringing for this can be an unpredictable affair, as can any manning of the bells at this time of year. With this being a period for people to travel to relatives, sometimes regulars are away, occasionally to be replaced by visitors, occasionally not. It has meant that at times we have been extremely thin, unable to ring all twelve even, but with a near-full compliment of locals and the presence of those not normally with us, such as Lucy Williamson and her brother Ben, Colin and Katharine Salter, Ellie Earey and indeed my wife, we had a packed ringing chamber tonight and some decent ringing, topped off by some Stedman Cinques.

Elsewhere the ringing was even more expansive, in our county and beyond. Within our borders there was a moving reminder of how exactly a century ago the First World War continued its tragic onslaught throughout what is supposed to be the season of peace and goodwill to all men, as the latest of the quarter-peals rung in memory of those from Buxhall who died in that terrible conflict was rung upon the village's 15cwt six with a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles.

There were also quarters at Halesworth and Offton, as 1264s of Plain Bob Major and Double Norwich Court Bob Major respectively were scored, but perhaps the most notable ringing of the day came elsewhere in the UK. Not just at Long Stratton in Norfolk where a peal was rung upon this 10cwt six on this date for an incredible sixty-second consecutive year, by a predominantly Suffolk-related band in an attempt that even David Brown remarked was his "most stressful peal of the year", but also at Abingdon in Oxfordshire where record-breaker Colin Turner not only rang his 324th peal of 2016, but his 7000th in total. That it was not simply knocked-off with something simple but instead with a 5040 of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor is testament to how much regular peal-ringing has benefited him - a band of us spent the best part of two years building up to the forty-one and for many this is something which can't be done just off the cuff, if contemplated at all. Yet of his seven thousand, this was his seventy-eighth of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor.

What Alfie left for Father Christmas and his reindeer.For us though, our ringing for the day was complete with that pre-service ringing at SMLT, as we made sure we returned home for Alfred to watch the much-anticipated 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' on the TV, before he put out a beer and mince pie for Father Christmas and carrots for his reindeer and went to bed dreaming of the magic of Christmas. Whatever day of the week it falls on.

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Friday 23rd December 2016

The eve of Christmas Eve this year sees the last working day before Christmas and with John Catt Educational closed over the festive period it is also my last working day of 2016. As usual, the final acts of generosity of the year from my employers saw a raffle of the many gifts associates and clients of the company have kindly given us and then a lunchtime finish.

That early finish allowed for a bit of finishing off of seasonal preparations and extra family time for us, whilst elsewhere the FNQPC were doing what they usually do with a 1260 of Doubles at Ashbocking ahead of local ringer Stephen 'Podge' Christian's sixtieth birthday - many felicitations for your forthcoming landmark Podge!

As usual though, this marks the last blog entry I'll get in ahead of the 25th December and so I'll take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Christmas, however you're spending it and whoever you're spending it with. Spare a thought for those less fortunate, count your blessings and enjoy your ringing over the festive period!

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Thursday 22nd December 2016

Listening to the clips online - such as this one via the BBC News website - of York Minster's bells ringing for the first time since the local band was so unceremoniously sacked in October, I felt mixed emotions, as many ringers did I imagine. It should be the YMSCR who are ringing them, especially as they have offered to. However, when this all started two months ago, I was among those who thought that regardless of the outcome of this, it would be a disgrace if these famous bells were silent over Remembrance Sunday, Christmas and New Year. Sadly, the first of those events came far too soon to put anything in place and it remains to be be seen if 2017 will be welcomed by the ancient city with the 59cwt twelve, but it is a positive step of sorts that they are being rung again by a band apparently made up of ringers from Yorkshire who rang them competently (from what I heard), though nowhere near to the standard usually reached by the band led by Peter Sanderson.

Our day was altogether less notable, as I returned to a not unexpectedly quiet day at work that saw us in the sales team use the manager's office at Woodbridge Library for an informal meeting away from the distractions of the office and all of which was followed with an evening in at home.

Meanwhile, yesterday not only saw the usual weekly quarter-peal success at Pettistree, but also a 1320 of Julie McDonnell Bob Doubles at Great Barton. Well done to Pam Ebsworth and Neal Dodge on their first in the variation and Happy 21st Birthday to the latter for tomorrow. Despite not joining this worthy project until November, I am immensely chuffed at how Suffolk has taken to this, with today's being the fifth in the county for Julie.

It is good to see that for all the bad publicity from York, ringing is showing it's true colours with this cause.

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Wednesday 21st December 2016

So it seems York Minster's bells will ring for Christmas, as it was revealed that tomorrow's carol service there will be preceded by at least some of the 59cwt twelve being rung, although it doesn't appear to be by members of the YMSCR, at least judging to the reactions of some of them. My hope would have been to see the band members manning them, but hopefully this will be used as a step forward to an outcome that all parties are happy with.

Thank God no such problems exist at Pettistree, where Ruthie joined another social practice preceded with a quarter-peal and followed by a drink in The Greyhound. From the 1320 of Christmas Pudding Delight Minor to the usual exchange of cards and a busy pub, there was a festive theme to it all, whilst appropriately I wrapped my presents to her back at home.

It all came at the end of another day off, which this time allowed me to listen to new South-East District Ringing Master and BBC Radio Suffolk's 'resident wine expert' Jonathan Williamson over the airwaves and share some more time with my wife, Alfie and Joshua, bar Mrs Munnings briefly singing for a funeral at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, during which time I took the boys for further shopping and bumped into Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend en route to see Santa Clause. I hope she's been a good girl!

Let's hope old Saint Nick brings some joy to the ringers of York Minster too.

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Tuesday 20th December 2016

My quest to use up my annual leave from work before it expires at the end of this week continued today with another day off, which in turn combined with another quest to complete our festive shopping as we plodded the streets of Woodbridge town centre in a process that has become very familiar in recent days!

Meanwhile, ringers have been busy over the last couple of days in Suffolk, although none for the SGR.

Yesterday a quarter-peal was rung at Norwich Diocesan Association tower Lowestoft, whilst an impressive family peal was rung at Bramford as the Hill family and other-halves rang a 5040 of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods for the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild. Today, the Ely Diocesan Association rang a 5280 of seven spliced Surprise Major at Ixworth.

Despite my time off though, there was no time for partaking in any ringing for us today. Instead we spent the evening recovering from a busy day's shopping...

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Monday 19th December 2016

Following on from yesterday’s episode of Countryfile and the subject of young ringers, it was heartening to see such a large number of young twenty-somethings at tonight’s St Mary-le-Tower practice that they needed their own table at The Robert Ransome afterwards, especially as we were deprived access to our usual spot upstairs.

Admittedly - also in line with my musings on yesterday’s blog - it was largely made up of those back from their studies elsewhere and who will be returning there in the New Year, such as Colin Salter and Surrey, Lucy Williamson and France and soon George Salter who will be joining his girlfriend Becky in Bristol, although on this occasion she joined us. There was also a welcome return from George Vant and even beyond them, those of us ageing youngsters present helped contribute to a healthy attendance made up of a diverse range of ages and although that included neither George Pipe nor Melvyn Potts as they recover from their respective health problems, it is encouraging to hear that both are better.

The session itself was a good one and with no ringing here next Monday - as that will be Boxing Day - it was the last Monday night ringing here of 2016. As with most years it has had its ups and downs, but predominantly it has been a positive one in my humble opinion. Where many provincial twelves in my experience struggle even to muster enough to ring on eight, we have maintained and added to a repertoire of methods that enables us to ring Surprise Royal up to London (No.3) and Bristol and Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus almost at the drop of a hat, whilst this evening climaxed in two brilliantly rung touches of Cinques, Stedman and then Grandsire. Primarily that success is down to the leadership of David Potts, who has somehow juggled a job that often requires long-distance travelling, his non-ringing wife and three young children with what I know from experience is a demanding role. However, he will be the first - and usually is - to recognise the help he has received from others, most particularly Owen Claxton, Amanda Richmond, Stephen Cheek and George Salter.

God willing we can continue it into 2017, with the young and not-so-young!

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Sunday 18th December 2016

Mason and Alfie as Joseph and a shepherd respectively in the church nativity.I couldn’t feel much more Christmassy on Christmas Day itself!

The source of my seasonal glow was primarily St Mary the Virgin church in Woodbridge, the scene this morning of a nativity play featuring Mason as Joseph and Alfie as a shepherd in need of some shepherding himself, and in the evening Nine Lessons and Carols where all three boys - and to be fair, their peers too - behaved impeccably, before we retired to the Church Centre for nibbles and mulled wine.

Before the former service, rehearsals for the play was adorable but akin to herding cats and did mean missing the ringing upon the 25cwt eight. However, I made up for that later before the latter service where I grabbed a quick ring whilst the boys were watched over by Ruthie’s grandparents, before I left a healthy number of ringers up the many stairs to ring a congregation in that was so large that we ran out of seats!

Following on from that, we were further warmed by the appearance of Jemma Mills on Countryfile’s Christmas edition on the BBC. Generally the piece was on how rural towers were struggling to attract younger ringers, but the interview with nineteen-year-old Jemma was set-up to highlight that in large urban centres there is huge interest in ringing amongst the youth.

It is a scenario that I and others have long been aware of and I guess it exists for a number of fairly obvious reasons. We in Suffolk are not alone in losing talented youngsters to universities usually based in the big cities, where they will often meet other similarly talented young ringers escaping their rural place of upbringing. As such, the social side - as mentioned in tonight’s programme - makes for a lively, upbeat and youthful atmosphere that is difficult to replicate with a tower full of middle-aged folk exhausted from a day’s work or more elderly people. In addition, whereas getting about when one doesn’t drive - as most youngsters don’t - in counties such as ours is difficult at best and impossible in the main, public transport in places London, Birmingham and Manchester mean it is not only possible but positively easy for them to go miles out of their way to bells of their choice within those conurbations.

That said, I have always argued that whilst the more youngsters we can encourage to the exercise the better, we shouldn’t feel too downhearted when fewer than we hope come through. Ours is a lifelong hobby, where people can start at almost any age and enjoy years of enjoyment and contribute to local ringing and of course the more mature, wiser heads are invaluable to all those less experienced.

Still, I thought the piece came across really well, without falling into too many of the well known traps that the media often do when they report on our art. And having known Jemma all her life and seen her growing up on Rambling Ringers under the superb guidance of her parents Andrew and Sharon, I was pleased at how well her bit went.

Meanwhile, continuing the positive vibes, congratulations and well done to young Yasmin Haddock on ringing her first quarter-peal by bonging behind to a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Grundisburgh. Having witnessed her progress on my visits to her home tower over the last few months, I have been impressed and it has come as no surprise to see her reach this significant landmark. With Stephen Pettman as her tutor, I can imagine that the first peal is already on the radar!

That success wasn’t the only one within our borders recorded on BellBoard and on the shortly-to-be-definitely-this-time defunct Campanophile today, as another 1260 of Doubles was rung at Pettistree.

All in all, an extremely heartwarming day!

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Saturday 17th December 2016

Many years ago, I remember going on an outing around the towers of Ipswich, organised by Ralph Earey on the final Saturday before Christmas Day. Indeed, it may have been more than one if memory serves me correctly. From this enjoyable walking trip around some rarely explored parts of the county town seems to have risen the now well-established part of the build-up to the festivities of ringing at all the ringable town centre towers simultaneously between 11.45am and 12.15pm on that final Saturday before the 25th, apart from when the Saturday falls on Christmas Eve - as it does this year - when many may be expected to be away with family for the season.

It is an astounding feat of organisation that for many years was carried out superbly by Brian Redgers, before Jane Harper picked it up and carried on his good work two years ago and attracts ringers from across Suffolk and indeed beyond, as well as good publicity for ringing within our borders. And judging by pictures and reports that we have seen, it appears that continued today for the 2016 event. Despite St Mary-at-Quay now disappointingly being declared unsafe to ring following the renovation and conversion of the church that once offered hope of an augmentation of the bells to an eight, it seems that a decent crowd turned out to create a joyous sound for the shoppers below to listen to.

More often than not we are there and enjoy it immensely. However, this time we weren't as instead we took the boys to St Mary's Church Centre for a mass, messy making of gingerbread cribs. Icing sugar was everywhere and it was lively, but most importantly Mason and Alfie loved it as Joshua took it in with a look of bemusement. They do get dragged around a number of ringing chambers throughout the year and whilst disappointed to have missed our usual port of call for this time of year, it would've been unfair for the children to miss out on this morning's adventure, which they clearly enjoyed a lot!

Meanwhile, having maintained a dignified silence for the last couple of months - despite no doubt feeling very frustrated and saddened by their banishment from the ringing chamber that would've felt like a second home to many of them - the York Minster Society of Change Ringers appear to have felt compelled to right what they consider to be a number of wrongs, untruths and misconceptions. I have recorded on here before that I am more inclined to believe the YMSCR's viewpoint of proceedings, but I am also acutely aware that I - like most trying to make sense of all of this from afar - don't have an inside track on what is happening over two hundred miles away. This statement may be more personal than the corporate-style ones emanating from the Dean and Chapter, but it is still a statement that I cannot verify. Nonetheless, I hope it helps to bring about a conclusion to this matter that suits both parties and enables them to work together in the future.

For now though, it seems that although the bells of Ipswich were ringing out for Christmas this morning, whether the bells of York Minster do over the next few days remains very uncertain.

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Friday 16th December 2016

Although there was a staggering amount of national media coverage over the sacking of York Minster's ringers when it occurred in October and despite the reigniting of the sorry saga in the ringing fraternity in recent days, I hadn't expected the subject to return to the UK's newspapers and broadcasters. After all, there is a considerable amount more important than this bemusing spat grabbing the headlines currently. The tragic situation in Aleppo, for example.

Yet today it seems to have become newsworthy again. Mercifully not to the extent of the initial coverage two months ago, but still warranting various articles in the papers and a brief piece to camera outside the famous building on the BBC's One O'Clock news. However, centred around the offer to Leeds Minster's ringers to man the 59cwt twelve over Christmas and their subsequent declining of the invite and a statement released by the now very familiar Dean and Chapter, it was concerning to note the allegations that ringers looking to take over at the currently silent bells had been put off by intimidation and even that one helpful member of the clergy had been threatened with legal action.

Of course, the statement was worded in the typically vague business doublespeak we have come to expect from the authorities at the Minster who hide behind such statements, but whether true, exaggerated or simply a lie, such allegations should be a further reminder - following the Facebook statement that I mentioned in Tuesday's blog from a ringer whose intentions and character had been much maligned unfairly - to those who have frankly been at best over the top, at worst unduly vicious and libellous in their denouncing of events in York, however understandable their frustration. If anyone wants to ring the bells of the Minster, they shouldn't be put-off by unpleasant peer pressure, though in the name of quality and more importantly safety, they should be made aware that not just anybody should expect to just turn up and ring these dangerously large bells, something I'm not convinced Vivienne Faull and her peers have yet to grasp.

However, I and many other ringers have learnt to take anything the Minster authorities say with a large dose of salt, especially noting their changing stance in the early days of this sad affair. Generally there seems to be an acceptance that the Church of England - like the BBC, the FA and so many other organisations in British society - have to be more proactive in dealing with abuse against children and vulnerable adults, especially as their previous approach - also like the aforementioned BBC and FA - was so tragically woeful. Knowing many of those in the YMSCR though, I find it hard to equate the serious allegations they have wafted about in public about the entire band with those actually involved.

In response to the D & C's apparent inability to find enough ringers to ring the bells over the festive period, the band who know precisely how to ring them has offered to step forward and ring them on the 25th December. How the Minster reacts to this invitation will be interesting, although sadly for a Christian institution at this time of peace and goodwill, there seems little confidence amongst the close-knit ringing community that York Minster PLC will accept that olive branch.

Thankfully back here in Suffolk, life and ringing seems to have been more positive, if a little quiet for us personally. There was a quarter-peal rung at Wenhaston for the carol service there and a peal at Grundisburgh for the forthcoming significant birthday of Astrid Gale - Happy Birthday for Sunday Astrid! Although it doesn't seem to have made the national news yet.

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Thursday 15th December 2016

After two days off, enjoying the company of my family and getting stuff done that rarely gets done when the only spare time one has during the week is over lunch or in darkness, it was back to John Catt Educational where things in the sales department begin slowing with many of the independent schools who make up the bulk of our clientele already on holiday for Christmas or about to go. It seems we were not alone, with noticeably fewer cars dotted around the business park we inhabit.

Ringing in contrast is due to be getting busier and busier as the festive season sees more services planned to ring for, but unusually there was nothing upon Suffolk's bells recorded online today on a quiet day for us and local ringing.

Perhaps the county's ringers have been taking a day off!

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Wednesday 14th December 2016

A heartwarming evening both in and out of ringing, beginning with Mason's school Christmas Concert and concluding with cake and fizzy at Pettistree's practice.

The former was forty-five minutes of seasonal magic, as the eldest and his peers belted out old favourites like Ding Dong Merrily on High and Silent Night, in between the orchestra exhibiting their musical skills and festive poems being read by various pupils using impressive powers of recall. My own ward sung lustily, beamed away and watched his teacher's instructions attentively.

Pettistree Ringers 14th December 2016.It sent me on my way full of the season's joys to the latter engagement, where the band were celebrating the thirtieth anniversary to the day of the rededication of the six bells, Ruthie, Alfie (showing off his brand new haircut!) and Joshua already there awaiting me thanks to a lift from my mother-in-law Kate. Come the end of the night, she returned my wife and youngest-born after further jollification in The Greyhound, but by that point I had gone home with the middle son after partaking in a small glass and slice of cake in the church, enjoyed a speech by Mary Garner, posed for a group photo and rang in a superb touch of spliced which has become the hallmark of these quality sessions over many successful years at this ground-floor ring.

Earlier, another characteristic of ringing here was carried out as the pre-practice quarter-peal was rung, number seventy of 2016 as 2015's total of seventy-four comes into view.

Another familiar sight on BellBoard and of course Campanophile this year has been peals at The Wolery and tonight the twenty-third in the medium in the little blue shed since 1st January was rung, with a 5152 of Blackley Bob Major being the first in the method for all the band and the Suffolk Guild - well done to all concerned on a heartwarming evening.

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Tuesday 13th December 2016

Following weeks of silence on the matter as discussions understandably and necessarily continue behind closed doors, the issue of York Minster's banishment of their ringers has popped its head above the parapets in the last few days, with two developments bringing forth comment from the seething world of ringing social media forums.

I have already commented upon the recent revelation that the ringers at nearby Leeds Minster had been invited to man the silenced 59cwt twelve over Christmas, but today saw the sorry sight of a prominent ringer who I have had the privilege of ringing and socialising with having to threaten legal action over comments and accusations on Facebook about him and his wife that he had considered false and defamatory. Many have been aghast and frustrated at what has happened in York and in the absence of a running commentary it's not surprising that misinformation has filled the void in the unfettered world of online gossip, but it is completely unacceptable that this couple have been subjected to such allegations that have at times been expressed with a distinct malice, especially as they may have considered a number in the baying mob as friends. It is staggering that one aspect of the allegations in particular has even arisen, let alone gained any currency when it is very easily disproved, so I hope that this intervention will stop any further unhelpful and damaging tittle-tattle.

In the circumstances, the latest update from CCCBR President Chris Mew is well-worded and very welcome, although there appears to be some frustration at how the Minster authorities have handled things since their discussions last month. Whatever the background, whatever the wrongs or rights, this continues to be a sorry situation handled badly from the start in one way or another.

As I look to use my allocation of annual leave before the year is out, I had a day off today which allowed me to take these developments in, but also to enjoy some quality time with Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua, do some festive card-hunting whilst my wife went to an opticians appointment and then join Mrs Munnings in visiting her grandparents.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Suffolk, the pre-practice quarter-peal was scored at Offton with a 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major, something nice to report on social media!

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Monday 12th December 2016

It has been a good couple of days for receiving visitors at St Mary-le-Tower. Hot on the heels from yesterday morning's visit of the Sanderson family from York, we were delighted to welcome Helen Watson and Brian Lockett at tonight's practice.

The former was a member at SMLT for a few years at the start of the Millennium in the period that I was in the West Midlands, before she returned to Newcastle, but it was lovely to see this talented ringer. Even so, her presence was usurped by the arrival of the latter, a one-time ringer at Offton who hasn't rung for decades and yet still managed to hold up his first backstroke when ringing in some rounds on the twelve, in contrast to a few red-faced regulars!

However, we shall soon be losing one of our regulars, as George Salter announced this evening that he will be moving to Bristol in the New Year. For all the ribbing some of us give him, it is a sign of respect for this young lad who it has been a pleasure to witness his progress from those first steps into the exercise to the conductor, composer and accomplished ringer on higher numbers he is now. Whilst I hope that we at the heaviest twelve in the county can claim to have helped him along, apart from his own undoubted talent and determination, much of the credit surely must go to his parents David and Katharine, who I know have been chuffed with his achievements at the same time as trying to keep him in check as all guardians of teenage boys have to at some point! Still, he will find more opportunities in the superb ringing scene he is joining and I believe will be a positive addition for them as much as he will be a loss for us.

His skills as a Ringing Master have also been shown this year as he has stepped into our usual RM David Potts' shoes on the occasions that work has kept him away and George was again in charge this time, with David's father Melvyn still unwell. Our best wishes remain with him and his family.

They were both missed in The Robert Ransome where a nonetheless large crowd reconvened following a productive session that included Bristol Surprise Royal, Stedman Cinques and some well-rung Little Bob Maximus, the last of which was enhanced considerably in quality by an all-female cast on the back three.

Meanwhile, it is approaching that really busy time of the year for ringers and it has been interesting hearing about the various celebrations ringers are planning on having as Christmas nears. The Norman Tower won't be ringing tomorrow night for example as there is a service on and so the ringers will enjoy a band party instead. The Woolpit ringers will be participating in nibbles, drink and handbells next Monday, with David and Lesley Steed supplying the bells which they will also be taking out and about next week, fundraising by playing carols. Various other bands typically do something after their last session before Christmas Day, so it is well worth keeping an eye on what the towers you usually go to are doing! And although with the 25th falling on a Sunday this year it should mean fewer towers cancelling their practice nights, there is still likely to be changes to the normal timings of ringing, as well as additional ringing for carol services and the like, so please check with your local tower.

Please feel free to visit us at St Mary-le-Tower as well. You'd be made most welcome!

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Sunday 11th December 2016

Chuffed with the boys today as Mason and Alfie practised their parts as Joseph and a shepherd respectively for next week's planned nativity play at St Mary's in Woodbridge, whilst later in the day Joshua finally managed to roll over onto his front after weeks of persistent effort. Lots of smiles all round!

Before all of that though, I made it to St Mary-le-Tower for morning ringing considerably aided by the visit of all four of the ringing Sandersons from York, down in the area this weekend for a family event. They were in the public eye a couple of months ago when the Minster band were sacked, with Peter particularly at the forefront as the deposed Ringing Master of the YMSCR and personally - whatever the facts - I have been impressed with the way that they and their fellow band-members have responded in public in what must be an absolutely horrific situation to be embroiled in. They remained dignified when asked about the situation this morning, despite the fact that it must be frustrating for them not to be involved in the current discussions that are going on. Peter, Tina, James and Ruth - like others I know in the banished group - are not only superb ringers who it will be extremely difficult to replace in the long-term and certainly impossible by the Easter deadline the Minster authorities have imposed upon themselves for getting a new band in to start ringing again, but are also thoroughly decent and lovely people. Whatever the outcome, I hope that they are able to be back on the bells they clearly love, if they feel they are in a position to do so.

Their presence certainly helped us on this occasion, as I just about made it in time for a service touch of Stedman Cinques, but despite them making up a third of those ringing it, it shows what potential there is at SMLT with the locals.

Across Suffolk generally there is tremendous talent, as exhibited by the performances from within the county recorded online on this third Sunday of Advent. On the coast at Aldeburgh, the usual monthly peal attempt was successful with another first for the Guild, whilst inland George Salter is to be congratulated on his first handbell peal of Minor in the 5040 at The Willows in Bardwell on the same afternoon that the three young participants also rang in a quarter-peal across the village at St Peter and St Paul.

That was one of a brilliant haul of four QPs within our borders over the course of the day, as an impressive 1311 of Stedman Cinques at The Norman Tower and two 1260s of Doubles, one at Buxhall and one at Pettistree.

We all ought to be chuffed with that output!

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Saturday 10th December 2016

Although the Suffolk Guild's 2016 peal totals have already beaten their 2015 tally, it has been a slow year in the medium personally. I've rarely been what one may consider prolific, especially when compared to Colin Turner who recently broke his own record for most peals rung in a year and today rang his 310th since 1st January. The most I have ever rung in a year was the sixty I rang in 2007, but even by my standards, this has been a quiet peal-ringing year for me, with just eleven until this morning.

Indeed, since Joshua was born in July, I have only rung one, which was the 5056 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Ufford to celebrate his arrival. The transition from one very young child - Mason has become adept at being little trouble in his more 'mature' years - to two has necessitated cutting back on peal attempts. A pair of us are ideally required to attend to their needs and when I have returned from a day in the office during which time Ruthie has had to juggle childcare duties of both Josh and Alfie, it has seemed unfair to then immediately leave for an evening peal, especially whilst our youngest-born has been trying to settle into a bedtime routine and weekends have become my wife's main break from the full-on role of parenthood that she takes on throughout the working week, so peals then can't be a frequent thing. However, JB appears - God willing - to be into the groove of nighttime sleeping and I have been considering a gentle, cautious return in 2017, so this morning's 5040 at Pettistree seemed the ideal opportunity to build towards that.

I was persuaded further by the fact that it was a very special peal. The anniversary of the rededication of this ground-floor six is always celebrated and quite-rightly so, as it not only marked the restoration of a set of bells, but the restoration of these long-dormant bells to the centre of the community, with a brand new band that has continued and evolved, fuelled by a social element that sees the ringers supporting the village pub - now The Greyhound, but previously The Three Tuns - every Wednesday after practice, an annual meal and several laid-back and relaxed outings each year. Combined with a focus on standards encouraged by Mike Whitby, it has spawned numerous striking competition victories and far more quarter-peals per year than any other tower within our borders, even Offton, which is another fine example for bands countywide to follow.

Therefore, with 14th December marking exactly three decades since that rededication, we were particularly keen to score and score well. The 2hrs 37mins of ringing was exactly what we hoped for. Well-rung throughout in a variety of methods that represented the type you might expect at the productive, high-quality weekly sessions.

Our peal was accompanied in the county by a brace of 1260's of Plain Bob Doubles, at Blythburgh and Yoxford which both saw firsts inside on the North-East District's Plain Bob Doubles Quarter-Peal Consolidation Day. Well done to Caron Harris in the former and Sandra Harle in the latter.

I was grateful for a lift from mother-in-law Kate to our success, but also delighted to be greeted at the neighbouring inn by Mrs Munnings and the boys for what proved to be a reassuringly successful morning for them, which bodes well for our potential future peal-ringing exploits!

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Friday 9th December 2016

A highlight of the year for me is the John Catt Educational Christmas meal. For one afternoon of a busy year, we take a break from emails, calls, deadlines and targets and stop as a collective to chat, eat and be merry, all on the company in an extremely generous gesture that I have never experienced at any other companies I have worked for. It is always appreciated and today's at The King's Head in the shadow of the tower that houses Woodbridge's 25cwt eight was no different. Good food, good drink and most importantly of all good company. Crackers were pulled, party hats worn and turkey was consumed - great fun!

In the past Ruthie - along with other partners - joined us well into the evening, enjoying my employer's immense generosity, but whilst she and Joshua made a brief appearance for a drink, we aren't in the position to partake in however much merriment we can manage these days, with the three boys under our care tonight.

I was in no state to ring anywhere, but mercifully other ringers in Suffolk were, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung on the ground-floor six at Wenhaston.

That quarter was rung in memory of Beccles and Worlingham ringer Chris Plummer, who I was very sorry to hear had died recently. He was a lovely chap and hugely dedicated to ringing in the North-East District in particular. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts go to Sarah and his family.

Many of course will be interested to know that his funeral and service of thanksgiving will be held at St Michael's in Beccles at approximately 1.40pm on Tuesday 20th December. Sarah is especially keen to hear from those with tales and stories about Chris and that whether people can make it or not that donations are made either via Rosedale Funeral Home at 22 Hungate, Beccles, NR34 9TT, their website or at the church, which will be shared between Prostate Cancer UK and RNLI.

Hopefully many will be generous.

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Thursday 8th December 2016

Silence has been understandably necessary on the subject of York Minster's ringers and their banishment. Discussions are apparently ongoing between interested parties, including the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, but the subject came into the public forum on ringing social media sites again today as it was revealed that the ringers of Leeds Minster have been asked to ring the famous 59cwt twelve for Christmas. I actually picked this news up on Monday, but wasn't sure whether it was intended for general release to the public. However, in this day and age, such a move was always going to be hard to keep a secret.

My understanding is that they have politely declined, primarily because they already have their own commitments at what is the busiest time of year for ringers, although some have suggested that it is also in solidarity with the YMSCR. Whether the invitation was turned down or not, it unleashed the unholy keyboard verbal jousting that won't help the situation. It may appear that yet again the Dean has misjudged the situation once more, as she seems to have done from the beginning, albeit - if the business doublespeak is to be believed - with noble intentions. One of the objections that many ringers - myself included - and indeed non-ringers have had to this sorry saga is that these wonderful bells were to be mute on Remembrance Sunday and over the festive period. Now attempts are being made to rectify that, many of those same dissenting voices are amongst those decrying this action. Having backed themselves into a corner by banning the local band by - eventually - seeming to claim they were supporting alleged crimes that have never been proven, the Minster authorities now can't be seen to back down and invite the banished ringers back, so this is the only realistic avenue they have left open to them and it may be that this is a course of action suggested to them through the aforementioned discussions. Once again, despite the natural human desire to want to know the ins and outs of this intriguing situation, we have to reserve judgement and hope that the right outcome prevails without our input.

The right outcome seems to have prevailed at Tostock today, with a quarter-peal jointly conducted by the entire band successfully rung on the 5cwt gallery-ring six, a notable success here in Suffolk on a quiet day for us personally. Sadly, it may still be quiet at York Minster over Christmas too.

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Wednesday 7th December 2016

Verily it was a quiet day for us.

As for other ringers, they were busier.

Shelland saw Suffolk's latest quarter-peal rung in honour of the incredible Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer campaign with a 1260 of Julie McDonnell New Bob Triples on Janet Sheldrake and Gordon Slack's mini-ring of eight.

Elsewhere in the county, well done to Andrea Alderton and Maureen Gardiner on ringing their first of Carlisle Surprise Minor in the 1272 of the method rung at Preston St Mary, which was also rung in memory of Cambridge ringer Felicity Webster, who sadly passed away on Monday.Closer to home, the pre-practice quarter was as usual successful at Pettistree, the sixty-eighth here in the medium in 2016, with Grandsire Doubles the tune this time.

Typically Ruthie would be present at the ground-floor six for a session with a wide repertoire of methods rung to a high standard, before joining the majority of those present for a drink next door at The Greyhound. On this occasion though, we were both feeling a little under-par and so passed on the most social of evenings.

Maybe we shall all go along next week when there will be a celebration of exactly thirty years to the day since the bells were rededicated, with cake and bubbly quite possibly on the menu, but for tonight we stayed in with a cup of hot chocolate.

Yes, indeed it was a quiet day for us!

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Tuesday 6th December 2016

Apart from a quarter-peal of Superlative Surprise Major on the ground-floor eight at Gislingham, there was very little to report from ringing in Suffolk, let alone from ourselves personally, but much is planned for the remainder of the month and therefore of the year.

For example, Saturday alone sees the North-West District due to hold their Christmas Social and Practice at Pakenham from 10am to midday, whilst hopefully there will be a glut of quarter-peals of Plain Bob Doubles in the North-East District with their Plain Bob Doubles Quarter-Peal Consolidation Day.

Just six days later, not only will Helmingham be hoping to hold their Monthly Practice, but Anthony Roberts is booked in to recite Charles Dickens' famous festive tale A Christmas Carol at Little Cornard in aid of the Bell Fund there, with mulled wine and mince pies to served in candlelight.

Meanwhile, the 17th December has been put aside for the annual Christmas ringing in Ipswich on the ringing calendar - please get in touch with the organiser, 01394 411355, if you are coming, especially if you want to ring at a particular tower and note that parking will not be available at the school opposite St Margaret's as was once traditional. Of course, we as ringers may be busy with numerous other seasonal ringing for Carol services and the like, but I hope that as many as possible will support as much as possible and ensure that the forthcoming weeks are more exciting than today!

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Monday 5th December 2016

Best wishes to Melvyn Potts, who has had to be taken into hospital, although thankfully isn't as unwell as first thought. Although a Bedfordshire ringer, he is practically a local at St Mary-le-Tower, as he frequently accompanies his son, SMLT Ringing Master David to ringing on Suffolk's heaviest and oldest twelve.

In the circumstances it was understandable that Mr Potts Junior wasn't present at tonight's practice, but we were compensated by the presence of some different faces, such as Louis Suggett who accompanied his girlfriend Laura Davies and mother Ruth who have both become regulars and David from Taylors who is carrying out an inspection here tomorrow morning, having to been to Bardwell earlier today and was able to give an interesting perspective on the current tribulations of their competitors Whitechapel.

A pint in The Robert Ransome followed on a convivial evening, but our thoughts were rarely from the Potts'. Get well soon Melvyn!

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Sunday 4th December 2016

Christmas came early tonight courtesy of mother-in-law Kate, as we enjoyed her festive present to us. In the last few years we have enjoyed many a comedian at The Regent in Ipswich, from Ed Byrne to Bill Bailey, Alan Davies to Dara O'Briain. On this occasion we had the pleasure of watching Geordie funnyman Ross Noble for a couple of hours of laugh-out-loud comedy. Of course, like most of them this show was purely over-eighteen stuff and not repeatable in a family blog like this, but having only seen him in short bursts on TV shows like Have I Got News for You and Ruthie's favourite QI, we were impressed by what seemed an almost entirely improvised performance derived from interactions with the audience.

That audience included Guild Treasurer and fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringer Owen Claxton and his wife Anne, but otherwise this was a rare opportunity for my wife and I to spend some time out together without having to watch what the children were doing. That job was handed to the giver of our tickets and to whom we are extremely grateful, for we had a wonderful night. Thank you Mrs Eagle!

As much as the day finished in unusual circumstances, it started in a more typical fashion as Mason and Alfie accompanied me in helping the ringers at Woodbridge prior to attending the service, although I spent much of that at Sunday school as the eldest two sons made gingerbread donkeys, though we returned in time for the oldest boy to light an advent candle.

Elsewhere in the county, ringers were busier than us in their ringing. There was a quarter-peal at Pettistree, whilst congratulations are due to former Hopton ringer Sam Maynard and his wife Emma on the birth of their daughter Olivia on 25th November, with the 1260 of Doubles at his former home tower dedicated to this wonderful news. And well done to the SGR Secretary The Revd Carl Melville, as well as to Pam Ebsworth, Andrea Alderton and conductor Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of St Nicholas College Bob Minor in the 1440 on the back six at Henley, as the Feast of St Nicholas came early.

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Saturday 3rd December 2016

Part of the gathering for the South-East District ADM at Debenham.Whenever John Girt's familiar dulcet tones rise from the silence that typically meets the points in a meeting when the Chairman asks "are there any questions?" it is usually accompanied by mutterings and groans. This won't be shocking news to him. He has remarked upon it in the past, often with a knowing smile, but a perception prevails amongst some that he is a slightly grumpy old man taking up valuable time on technicalities.

However, that would be unfair on this wise head, with experience on South-East District and Guild matters going back decades, having been SGR Secretary for fifteen years and Ringing Master at St Margaret's in Ipswich for as long as I can recall and attended events with dedicated frequency for years. We need to ensure that we make the most of the experienced expertise that he and his invaluable peers offer. I have a great deal of respect for him.

That's not to say I agree with everything he says - I don't imagine he would expect anyone to - but I concurred generally with his sentiments when he gave his latest input from his prime position in the centre of the compact, cosy L-shaped room in Debenham's Dove Cottage during this afternoon's SE District ADM. His point was relating specifically to ART (formerly ITTS) and generally that those unable or unwilling to use emails, the internet or social media are missing out on practices and the like for the training scheme and things happening in ringing across Suffolk because they either aren't finding out about them at all or are finding out too late. He was a little off the mark with his assertion that nothing ever gets sorted with emails (it is easier to arrange things now than it ever has been because of emails and Facebook), but I believe that although we have to take advantage of modern communications, we mustn't abandon the traditional methods of keeping members in touch. Telephone, What's On posters in all ringing chambers in the county, the magazine Awl a'huld, Area Reps and District and Guild officers visiting towers and gatherings such as today's.

George Pipe speaks at the South-East District ADM at Debenham.For all that they have been cut-back in regularity and that some of their purpose has been rendered obsolete by twenty-first century technology, there is still an important place for the good old fashioned meeting and ringers' tea in a quaint rural venue and this one was in the main a productive one. In the absence of District Chairman Ralph Earey, outgoing SE Ringing Master Tom Scase guided things with purpose and having been faced with a daunting number of vacancies, all of those were filled without too much trouble. Importantly in the context of the aforementioned role, all Area Reps were accounted for, but perhaps the most notable vacancy filled was that of Ringing Master as Tom bowed out after five years to concentrate on his recently acquired job of Guild RM and was replaced by Jonathan Williamson. It's not the first time that Jonathan has been in this position, but having understandably taken a break from regular ringing to raise a family, the return of him and his wife Sue with the addition of their daughter Lucy who has taken to the art brilliantly have been a wonderful bonus to ringing in this corner of the world - the District is in safe hands. I hope he and his fellow officers get the support that they need and deserve, whilst it is also appropriate at this point to thank Tom for his fantastic work in the role over the last half-a-decade.

Beforehand, we made it just in time to ring in a hugely enjoyable course of Yorkshire Surprise Major on this magnificent eight prior to the service and went on to enjoy a superb feast and welcoming hospitality from the local ringers, though with time rolling on and the younger boys in particular tiring, we decided to complete our near-thirty mile round trip back home rather than joining the evening ringing and post-session pint.

Alfie puts the star on our Christmas Tree. The completed Christmas Tree.Earlier, Christmas arrived in earnest in our household as the tree was raised and decorated with much excitement amongst children and adults alike, tinsel thrown on with joyful abandon, lights turned on and the star finally placed on top by Alfie.

For all of that though, it is still over three weeks until the big day and there is still pretty much a month until 2017 and yet today, Colin Turner beat his own record for most peals rung in one calendar year set in 1989 with his 304th in the medium since 1st January with the 5088 of Tuffley Surprise Major at his home tower of Milton in Oxfordshire. As much as I enjoy peal-ringing, I wouldn't ever want to do it to the extent that he does, but clearly he enjoys it and although I've never rung one with him, I can imagine that they are of a high quality. And it is fascinating keeping up with just how far he goes. On top of this broken record, he has already rung more peals than anyone else in history and appears set to ring his 7000th before 2016 is out.

It would be interesting to hear John Girt's thoughts on it.

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Friday 2nd December 2016

Personally it was an extremely quiet day, one of traffic gridlock, focus on accents on the radio and the usual, but much anticipated collection of Mason for the weekend.

However, other ringers in Suffolk were busier today. Having come to it later than most counties, I was delighted to see the third quarter-peal of Julie McDonnell Bob Doubles rung within our borders, as a band at Great Finborough added to the two rung at Pettistree, whilst the FNQPC were successful with a 1296 of Plain Bob Minor at the gallery-ring six of Earl Stonham.

The headline act was at Wenhaston though, where Ed Rolph rang his first QP inside, called by Nicole Rolph who was celebrating her eighteenth birthday. Happy Birthday Nicole and well done Ed!
Their's was a more exciting day than ours!

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Thursday 1st December 2016

The first day of December. When suddenly it becomes normal to start the day with a chocolate from a calendar and it becomes acceptable to hum along to some appalling music, simply because it is a Christmas 'hit'. All being well, the next few weeks will be one of celebration, anticipation, merriment and hope. Especially in these times of parenthood, it is a heart-warming, uplifting day, for us at least, which Ruthie kicked-off with a well-earned night out with her work colleagues from John Ives, who admirably have kept in close contact with her whilst she is on maternity leave.

However, the day took on a subdued tone for myself as I learnt of two deaths this evening, both of friends whose lives have been cut tragically short by illness.

One was of a former housemate and university peer from my days in the Black Country, the same age as myself and one of the nicest men I have ever known, but whom sadly I had lost touch with in the eleven years since I returned to Suffolk from the West Midlands, as one does.

The second was a ringer. Maybe not one who many here will have known, but still a very good one and the second former Rambling Ringer to sadly pass away in the last few weeks. Having been a regular with the Society when we first joined them, Alan Jarvis and his wife Helen took me under their wing when I went onto further education in Dudley nearly twenty years ago, as they lived not far from where I was based and rang at the nearby eight of Bilston where I became a regular at their Friday night practices for a while. In later years they became members of the band at the wonderful ten of Lichfield Cathedral, where only last year he featured on The One Show ringing on the ninth behind his wife whilst she was interviewed live, but my main memories were of a man who came across as a grump, but mostly in a very amusing way, was also a decent sportsmen and who always had joke at the ready about our East Anglian roots!

May they both Rest In Peace.

I don't mind admitting that news of their deaths knocked me sideways somewhat, but also reminded me that we must always make the most of our lives with their unknown spans and appreciate those precious moments all the more. God willing there will be many of them to appreciate and remember this month.

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Wednesday 30th November 2016

Ours is a poorly household presently. Alfie seems to have rid himself of his illness, but his cough continues to concern us, Joshua is now on antibiotics for his cough after our third visit to the doctors for him alone in a week a couple of days ago and Ruthie has had a stinking cold since Monday. And today, having thought my bout of ill-health of the weekend had dispersed, it reappeared with such a vengeance that I felt unable to go into work, instead being restricted to resting in bed for a lay-in before another visit to our local medical centre, where they can't be far off issuing us with an application form for a season ticket.

Still, our minor ailments (God willing!) pale into insignificance compared to the shocking news that emanated - apparently earlier than it should have done - via The Ringing World's website that after hundreds of years of trading, Whitechapel Bell Foundry will be ceasing their work in 2017, once they have fulfilled their current orders, at least on their current historic site. It makes the rescue of their main competitors Taylors just a few years ago even more important, but even they will recognise that this is a devastating blow for ringing. Competition in any business is healthy not just for the consumer but also for the businesses involved, who are kept on their toes, ensuring standards are kept high.

The news was withdrawn almost as soon as it went up as by all accounts it was meant to be revealed in this week's edition of the journal and so greater detail is as yet not forthcoming - hopefully it will be a new beginning in some form though, rather than a sad end.

Mercifully, ringing keeps going for now, as will Whitechapel, with my wife taking my place in this evening's quarter-peal of Julie McDonnell Doubles at Pettistree in my infirmity, as well as joining the practice and social gathering in The Greyhound that followed and which I had planned to take advantage of. Still, Mrs Munnings enjoyed herself, as I hope other ringers in Suffolk did, with a 1280 of spliced Surprise Major scored at Elveden, a 1260 of Doubles rung at Wissett and a 1296 of Moss Pit Bob Minor successfully negotiated at Preston St Mary, the latter being the first in the method for all of the band - well done to them all!

Hopefully I can join you all again in ringing soon!

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Tuesday 29th November 2016

A typically quiet Tuesday night in on a chilly evening at least gave me a chance to read this month's blog entry from Central Council President Chris Mew. It is always interesting, but since his last update he and the CCCBR have been closely involved in trying to resolve the situation at York Minster where the ringers were sacked last month amid rumour, counter-rumour, changing stories and business double-speak. Quite rightly, the discussions are being carried out in confidentiality, but it is good to see there is still work going on to come to what will hopefully be a satisfactory outcome for all concerned.

Closer to home though, it is the South-East District ADM at Debenham this weekend, where a new Ringing Master, four deanery representatives, two Recruitment & Training reps and a GMC rep need finding. Clearly not everyone has the time to do justice to these roles, including ourselves currently, but it still amazes me that there aren't more members within the largest of the Guild's Districts beyond the decreasing circle of dedicated stalwarts can't be found, especially amongst the retired. So SE members, please do go along - and if you want a tea, let Jenny Scase know - and support the District and if possible help out with one of these roles. As with all of the Districts and the Guild itself, they will work best for all members if more of those members offer their support.

There were busier ringers elsewhere in Suffolk today though, with quarter-peals of Lincolnshire and Bristol Surprise Major rung at Bardwell and Gislingham respectively. As ever, I was glad that at least others were busy today and I hope that continues on to Saturday in Debenham.

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Monday 28th November 2016

It is an annual mantra, but I don't mind repeating it - Pettistree's band is an example that needs to be followed by more. A varied and wide-ranging repertoire of methods rung, with experimentation and high-standards expected, all carried out by a close-knit group who enjoy ringing in a sociable atmosphere. They are rewarded too, with good ringing that has seen competitions won and which draws many a visitor.

That is rarely highlighted more than at their AGM, a largely informal occasion that nonetheless gets things sorted out, as did this year's held at Chris and Mary Garner's abode. Mark Ogden filled the Treasurers role having made an impressive return to ringing and dates were fixed for the annual Dinner and the spring, summer and autumn outings for 2017, as well as much else, including a useful reflection of 2016.

As has become the norm with parental duties, only one of us could attend and with the ground-floor six being Ruthie's home tower, it is only proper that she was the one to accompany her mother Kate to the meeting tonight, but I have to admit to still feeling a bit too queasy to go out anyway!

Hopefully though, Pettistree will continue to lead by example.

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Sunday 27th November 2016

In foreign parts with a largely non-ringing crowd, there was no Sunday morning ringing for us today, but for once I was glad, as having woken from an uncomfortable eleven-to-twelve hour sleep during which Ruthie had been woken by Alfie and Joshua, both of us struggled to just deal with breakfast and the other processes required when readying yourself for departure from temporary lodgings with three young boys.

Mason meets Father Christmas at Nene Valley Railway.Alfie on the train at Nene Valley Railway.Nonetheless, we just about managed it and were on our way to the main highlight of our weekend. For the last few years, Kate and Ron have generously treated the children and ourselves to steam trains and Santa Claus at this time of year. Such adventures have taken us around the country and have been great fun for kids and adults alike and on this occasion we were back at the familiar haunt of the Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough and again we had great fun. Advent may have started today, but even mentioning Christmas in November seems premature. However, as the youngsters met old Saint Nick with differing reactions (veteran Mason smiled for photos and collected his present politely, Alfie burst into tears and Joshua appeared completely bemused), Christmas Trees everywhere, seasonal tunes being played by a (I think unintentional) Les Dawson impersonator on the electric piano and alcohol and mince pies doled out on the train journey, it was impossible not to get into the festive spirit, even if my wife and I were still not feeling great.

A quick bite to eat and a go on the playground for the boys and their cousins and it was time to depart, but many thanks to Kate and Ron on another memorable weekend away, especially the bits that were memorable for the right reasons!

Meanwhile, the ringers of Suffolk were busy again in the homeland, with quarter-peals of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Plain Bob Minor at The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds and St Margaret's in Ipswich respectively.

I'm glad someone was ringing whilst we were slacking!

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Saturday 26th November 2016

Being ill is not pleasant. Being ill whilst in a strange place is even worse.

That was the sorry scenario that befell me this evening in the middle of the north-Cambridgeshire countryside at The Elephant and Castle, the village pub of a small place called Woodwalton. This was where we were stopping overnight as part of a group that included Ruthie's sister Clare and her daughters and her mother Kate and Ron, midpoint of an exciting double-bill this weekend, particularly for the children. It was largely basic fare and the food wasn't gourmet, but it was comfortable, our hosts incredibly hospitable and the location picturesque, with the added interest of being right alongside the mainline taking trains at high speed between London and nearby Peterborough. It was a lovely place and I was looking forward to a lovely evening with the excited cousins and a glass of wine, watching some Strictly Come Dancing and the football on a day that Ipswich Town not only won, but won handsomely.

Instead, after tea I found myself suffering some unrepeatable side-effects and was then - whilst in much discomfort - in bed asleep long before even my young sons were taken to bed by my put-upon wife and sister-in-law - thanks girls.

Fun at Sacrewell Farm. Fun at Sacrewell Farm. Fun at Sacrewell Farm. Fun at Sacrewell Farm.

Such a sorry situation was more the pity because we had all had a fantastic day at Sacrewell Farm, the area's answer to Easton Farm Park. Animals were viewed in amazement, the trip around the mill accompanied with squeals of delight, Pooh-sticks played boisterously and marshmallows toasted with enthusiasm, before we made our way to my unexpectedly traumatic night.

Back in Suffolk meanwhile, the coast was alive with the sound of the annual peal for St Edmund's Day at the church in Southwold dedicated to him, particularly notable this year for being Nicole Rolph's first of Surprise Major - well done Nicole! And in the centre of the homeland they were ringing a quarter-peal at Stowmarket to mark the beginning of their Christmas Tree Festival.

Reassuring that whilst I was unwell in unfamiliar surroundings, they were clearly better in more familiar surroundings.

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Friday 25th November 2016

With darkness now fallen when clocking off work, it was nice today to leave the office in daylight as I took some of my remaining annual leave with an afternoon off. It was originally booked to help out relatives with a logistically difficult challenge, but we were recently informed that our services were no longer needed and so instead we spent an afternoon relaxing with Joshua, before collecting Mason from my parents with his school on a teacher training day and then Alfie to gather together the full compliment ahead of what promises to be a busy and exciting weekend.

Meanwhile, it was Margaret Egglestone's funeral down in Devon at Crediton, a long way for people to travel from here in Suffolk, but a journey that I was hoping some would be able to make. Therefore, I was delighted to learn from tonight's quarter-peal rung at Ashbocking to her memory that Jenny Scase made it to the south-west and hope it was possible for others to get there from the county that Margaret and husband Howard are so fondly recalled.

RIP Margaret.

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Thursday 24th November 2016

It is twenty-five years to the day since the famous frontman of Queen, Freddie Mercury passed away. Which means it is also twenty-five years to the day since my granddad Jack Munnings died. Every time I hear the singer's dulcet tones on one of the many songs he fronted, memories of my father's father immediately spring to mind in association. So as the world remembered Freddie Mercury throughout the day, I thought of Granddad a lot and recalled that Sunday when he didn't make it to service ringing at the 14cwt eight of St Margaret's in Ipswich which he had served for decades.

However, it is always reassuring to hear that he is fondly remembered by others. One of my favourite tales involving him comes from Stephen Pettman who recalled my grandfather telling him how good St Margaret's bells sounded from what was once known as The Aboretum, a pub a few streets across our county town from the church by the entrance to Christchurch Park. SDP replied with "yes, they sound lovely from my house too." Granddad apparently agreed before doing a double-take when he realised that Stephen lived in Woodbridge...

He was a loyal ringer to his tower and the Guild and impressing him helped motivate both my brother Chris and I to progress in our ringing in our early days in the art and he continues to inspire me in my ringing now. Almost exactly seven years ago we arranged and rang a peal to mark the one hundredth anniversary of his birth and I had considered arranging some ringing to mark today's anniversary, but current circumstances haven't made organising ringing entirely practical. But still, as fondly remembered as Freddie Mercury has been today, my thoughts have been of Granddad.

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Wednesday 23rd November 2016

Tonight was Ruthie's night off from her parental duties, with a visit to a Pettistree practice typically varied in repertoire carried out in a sociable atmosphere and book-ended as usual with a quarter-peal beforehand and a pint in The Greyhound afterwards, whilst I put the boys to bed.

Their 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor wasn't the only successful performance in Suffolk today either, with a 5040 of Surprise Minor at The Wolery and 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major at St Mary-le-Tower on a day of ringing that the county's ringers should be very pleased with. My wife was delighted to be able to take part.

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Tuesday 22nd November 2016

With Ipswich gridlocked from the Orwell Bridge being closed all morning, journeys that usually take minutes taking hours and the words 'northern by-pass' muttered in a frustrated manner as they always are when the only main route past the county town is shut, ringers appear to have rather sensibly avoided the metropolis and partaken in the exercise elsewhere in Suffolk. As demonstrated by the Ely Diocesan Association's peal at Bardwell and the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton, which was Peter Stock's first of Erin. Well done Peter!

We also avoided the area, though with Joshua now seemingly picking up what his older brother Alfie was suffering from, we feared another trip to the Riverside Clinic. Mercifully though we were spared that by a reassuring visit to the local doctors.

And at least we stayed clear of Ipswich.

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Monday 21st November 2016

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Well, just a little. Or at least as much as it can in mid-November.

A burst of festive occurances today brought about these premature seasonal twitches. The famous 'Holidays are Coming' advert for a certain fizzy drink made it's 2016 debut on our TV and advent calendars for children small and big in the household were purchased over a rushed lunch-break. At St Mary-le-Tower this evening, arrangements were put in place to set up the ringers' entry into the Christmas Tree Festival next week and the first mention of additional ringing for the various services in December was made, although we are still awaiting word of what and when precisely. And although the annual SMLT curry night isn't strictly speaking a seasonal event, it feels like one and with that due to happen at the end of next week and organising of that brought up in the half-eight notices tonight, it was a reminder that ringing's busiest period is almost upon us, not just for us, but for towers across Suffolk.

The practice itself was a productive one, with a varied repertoire from call-changes on twelve to Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques, all rung to a decent standard that bodes well for the future progression of the band, over the next few months, as well as over Christmas.

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Sunday 20th November 2016

Usually on a Sunday morning after ringing upon the 25cwt eight at Woodbridge, one climbs down the long staircase from the ringing chamber high above the church and either melts into the congregation or slips out of the building largely unnoticed. So imagine Gill Wakefield's surprise today when she got downstairs to find everyone looking expectantly in her direction as they waited to congratulate her on winning this year's competition for designing the Churches in Woodbridge and Melton Christmas Card, which will be delivered around thousands of households in the community as we approach the festive period. A well deserved presentation and round of applause greeted her - congratulations Gill!

Meanwhile, it was the feast of Suffolk's patron saint St Edmund today and although it wasn't marked with the same fanfare as it has been in previous years, I was delighted to see a peal rung for the occasion at Grundisburgh, albeit of course for the Cumberland Youths during their annual peal weekend. Well done to the entire band too on ringing their first of Plain Bob Cinques, with - as with the recent 5034 of the Caters version - another composition that made it far from easy for them!

Ruthie and Alfie at The Coach and Horses.Pleasing also to see that after much searching around that George Salter got a decent band for a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major at St Mary-le-Tower this afternoon, but we were unable to partake because we were at The Coach and Horses in Melton with some of Ruthie's family and those of Kev's relatives who had come from Germany, Northern Ireland and his native Scotland for yesterday's Christening. There were tears from most of the children at various points, but they and us enjoyed the food, drink and company immensely.

As I hope Gill Wakefield enjoyed her reception this morning.

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Saturday 19th November 2016

The biggest day of Joshua's life thus far today, as he was Christened at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge today. It was important to us and hopefully to Josh too one day and we were glad to hold it at the church that has become almost a second home to us since we decided to get married there and in the company of family and his Godparents Ron, Kev, Amy and my brother Chris' wife Becky, a ringer at Pakenham. A quartet that we pray will help guide him as he grows up and whom we were ecstatic agreed to the roles.

We were delighted too at being able to have a joint ceremony with his cousin Annalise, even if neither of the stars of the show appeared to enjoy it!

Joshua with his Godmother Becky, Grandfather Alan, me and his Uncle Chris after his Christening.After the vital bit, the relatively large crowd moved onto St Audrey's Social Club for the fun bit, where Ruthie's mother Kate, sister Clare and Gran had put together a superb feast and DriftAway Cakes - Clare's good friend Bex - supplied the magnificent cake, whilst the bouncy castle kept the many children occupied to exhaustion! It was a fantastic afternoon.

There were no bells involved, though the thought did cross my mind to arrange something. However, Suffolk's bells were being rung by Suffolk's ringers elsewhere, with a quarter-peal at Woolpit and a peal at Grundisburgh for the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths and their annual peal weekend.

For us though, it was a special day for another very important reason. Congratulations Joshua!

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Friday 18th November 2016

On this Children in Need day, we had our own child in need. Thank God not as in as much need as those for whom raising money was the focus of the day for many, including Alfie's nursery. Indeed, Alfred went into nursery dressed as a dinosaur for the occasion with much excitement, but sadly lasted just an hour before a call saying he had dipped considerably and so he was brought home.

At least Mason was happier and healthier as I collected him from the birthday party of a classmate at Bredfield Village Hall, but it was another night of concern for his younger brother.

Meanwhile, it is just two days until St Edmund's Day, when Suffolk's patron is celebrated. In the past a big deal has been made of this, much to the benefit of Guild publicity as the main instigator of the push to make more of the 20th November (and even to get him recognised as England's patron saint), our local BBC radio station was keen to involve us and our members. As SGR Ringing Master at the time, it fell to me to arrange the ringing aspect, which initially involved organising simultaneous peals, one in each District. When I became Public Relations Officer, I was keen to continue using it as a platform to promote our art, but gradually the Beeb has placed less importance on the day and the exposure gained from it has diminished to practically nothing. Having passed the PRO role to Neal Dodge back at April's AGM at Hadleigh, it seems natural that this was the year that we let it go as an active publicity ploy.

Still, I hope that the day will carry on being marked by our ringers and so I was pleased to see a quarter-peal of St Edmundsbury Bob Triples rung at The Norman Tower for the forthcoming festival.

It was at least more positive than our son's day.

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Thursday 17th November 2016

Our day was dominated by a very poorly Alfie. For a few days he has been suffering from a nasty cough, but he has otherwise been his usual energetic self, leaping and running around and chatting incessantly but adorably.

A phonecall from nursery this afternoon however, relayed that his condition had worsened, with his demeanour now very subdued as he chose cuddles and DVDs over dashing around with his friends and so Ruthie collected him and although a spectacular bout of illness in the back of the car actually seemed to perk him up, we found ourselves down at the Riverside Clinic in Ipswich this evening for an appointment with a reassuring doctor and then a late-night search of local supermarkets for the subsequent prescription for him that finally ended at the pharmacy in Sainsburys in Warren Heath.

So no ringing for us tonight and there will be no ringing at Bredfield in eight days time either as the visit to the village of their MP Dan Poulter takes precedence over the usual Friday night practice.

There was ringing at though, as another wasted life of a ringer was remembered a century on with a peal for former Pettistree ringer Edward Cooper at his home tower today.

For tonight though, we eventually made it to bed, as did Alfred for some much needed sleep.

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Wednesday 16th November 2016

Not many ringers have a method named after them, but Julie McDonnell has certainly earned that honour. Suffering from leukaemia and brain cancer, she has bravely fought back not just for herself but for others too by raising money and awareness for the Anthony Nolan Register and Bloodwise. It began with a walk on 25th June along the Pilgrims Way from Wye to Canterbury Cathedral, ringing at all the towers along the way, but quickly bellringing has picked up the mantle magnificently with Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer. Then on 3rd July the first quarter-peal of Julie McDonnell Bob Doubles was rung at All Saints Birchington in Kent and the challenge was set to ring one hundred QP's of the variation by Christmas and two hundred of any Julie McDonnell method, with a pledge of tens of thousands of pounds being made if the target was reached.

With those landmarks impressively reached well ahead of the festive season, it seems that a new challenge has been set of a quarter of Julie McDonnell to be rung in every county in the UK, with only a handful of shires yet to have partaken in one. Rather embarrassingly, one of those was Suffolk. Until this evening...

Well done to Pettistree, which this evening put that right with a 1260 of it before tonight's practice, finally bringing our county into the most spectacular and heartwarming fundraising I can ever recall in the exercise and which has contributed to a campaign that has raised over £1m.

One of the participants of the historic performance was later at our house, as mother-in-law Kate came to pick Ruthie up for a welcome night out at tonight's session at the ground-floor six and then in The Greyhound next door afterwards, whilst I spent the evening with Alfie and Joshua and considered just how fortunate we are compared to others.

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Tuesday 15th November 2016

A quiet Tuesday in our household, with the highlight being Alfie spending the day dressed as a dinosaur as he excitedly practised for the forthcoming Children in Need day.

Swan Bell Tower.It appears it was also a quiet day for other Suffolk ringers today, at least judging by BellBoard and Campanophile, but one ringer from within our borders who deserves congratulations - albeit belatedly - is Barrow ringer Paul Stannard, who ten days ago rang his first peal on sixteen in the 5040 of Little Bob on the famous Swan Bells in Perth on the western coast of Australia. The performance was noteworthy for a number of reasons, including being the first on that number for ANZAB and fourteen of the band beside Paul. Well done to all concerned, but especially Mr Stannard.

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Monday 14th November 2016

Unfortunate circumstances conspired against us at St Mary-le-Tower tonight. A cracked stay on the tenth from a lost peal attempt of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the back eight yesterday afternoon made it impossible to pull off and so we were restricted to ringing on the front eight and with Ringing Master David Potts absent through illness it might have been easy for us to grumpily bemoan our vicissitude and begrudgingly go through the motions, disappointed at the lack of the ringing on higher numbers that many travel far and wide for.

With the energetic former Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond at the helm though, there was absolutely no danger of that though as a varied repertoire ranged from Grandsire Triples for Sonia to bong behind to, up to the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced in with Plain and Little as George Salter endeavoured to fashion a touch that came round before 9pm. And it was nice to welcome Rachel, a medical student on a placement at Ipswich Hospital for a while and briefly Mary Garner after she had been singing down in the church with Rose Martin - wife of Wickham Market ringer Derek - who accompanied her in the hope of seeing twelve bells being rung for the first time...

On a sadder note, everyone present was sorry to hear that George Pipe has been taken into hospital again, though relieved to hear from his upbeat wife Diana that he is due to be released at the weekend. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as we wish him a speedy recovery from this latest of far too many setbacks for GWP.

More positively, it was great to learn of positions being filled at the North-East District ADM on Saturday, as Kate Gill and Mike Cowling were elected as District Secretary and Chairman respectively. Congratulations guys and - as with so many others who give up their time, effort and even money - thank you to Michelle Wilkshire and Ed Rolph in the roles before the weekend's meeting at Stradbroke.

God willing the two remaining District ADMs of 2016 at All Saints Sudbury in the South-West on 26th November and then a week later at Debenham in the South-East will be as productive and for that they will need to be well-attended. Of course at the centre of these events there is a meeting, but these are vital for an organisation that deals with thousands of pounds from hundreds of members, is a registered charity, represents bellringing in the county and offers a support network for its ringers, especially if it is the only one of the year. This is an opportunity for those who pay a subscription annually to have a say on what they are putting their money into, but more importantly to my mind, a chance for friends new, old and even yet unknown to each other to meet together for some ringing, eating, mingling and - if you so chose - a pint in the nearest pub. Please do support them.

Hopefully they won't be beset by as much misfortune as SMLT practice was tonight!

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Sunday 13th November 2016

When it comes to muffling bells, the vast majority of towers appear to muffle the backstrokes, the theory being - as I understand it - to symbolise the 'echoes of the dead'. On a practical level it is also less likely that someone will drop their handstrokes and thus crash conspicuously into the muffled backstrokes in a manner more unwelcome than Donald Trump at a Mexican night.

Doing it the other way round can see that unwelcome shrill 'ding' in amongst the mournful dullness of the muffled handstrokes as dropped backstrokes are more frequent, but it does have the benefit of highlighting the music which in most touches tends to come at backstroke. And it does make a nice change.

Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to find the latter scenario played out at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. Even after many years of ringing on Remembrance Sunday at various locations, I never fail to be moved by the sombre sound, handstroke or backstroke and perhaps more than at any other time I am determined to get my striking spot on, not only to do justice to those who have gone to the effort of putting the muffles on (no easy task, even with the superb Wilf's Muffles that SMLT have, as I can testify!), but especially to those we are remembering at this time in particular.

Indeed, the ringing was of a high standard, aided on this occasion by Ruthie accompanying myself and the boys as with Woodbridge holding its traditional community service outside on the Market Hill, St Mary's choir were not required and so we decided to meander through the Suffolk countryside north of Ipswich, resplendent in autumnal colour and make our way to Grundisburgh for ringing there. However, having arrived at the 9cwt twelve after a brief trip to the park, we found a deserted church, presumably because the service was being held elsewhere in the large benefice that stretches from Ashbocking to Hasketon. No obvious source of information on where exactly seemed easily available and we thought it unwise to mingle at the aforementioned outdoor ceremony back in our town of residence with the two youngest lads in particular, so we called an early end to our travelling and returned home, though at eleven our thoughts were never far from the dead of the many regrettable conflicts our country has been involved in.

Nor would they have been far from the thoughts of those who rang in the peal at Aldeburgh and the quarter-peals of Stedman Cinques at The Norman Tower, Doubles at Great Finborough, Plain Bob Doubles at Halesworth and Grandsire Triples at Lowestoft. Congratulations to Stephen Dawson on ringing his five-hundredth QP in the middle performance, a 1320 which must have been especially poignant for Lesley Steed.

Muffled at handstroke, backstroke or not at all, I am glad that as usual and is is right, the county's bells rang out to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

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Saturday 12th November 2016

A truly dull day from a personal ringing perspective. I have extremely fond memories of being taken around the county and even the country to ringing events on childhood Saturdays, seeing different places and different people and looked forward to my weekends out and about throughout the whole week.

These days however, I am on the other side of the fence and with three young boys in tow, gallivanting through the truly wonderful countryside we are incredibly fortunate to have on our doorstep is no longer a practical activity on a regular basis as it once was and so we forsook the opportunity to join the North-West District for their practice at Great Barton and/or the North-East District's ADM later in the day at Stradbroke. Although a huge flock of seagulls gathering menacingly in our garden briefly caused intrigue.

Instead it was a quiet day with a shopping expedition the only escape from the house. However, if I had spotted it beforehand I would taken advantage of the historic chance to watch the peal at St Paul's Cathedral which was transmitted live via the Cathedral's Facebook page. I was able to watch it later though, as indeed you could now if you are on FB. Tremendous stuff, particularly from Paul Tiebout who appeared to ring the 62cwt tenor effortlessly, when clearly it wasn't effortless to pull in a bell for 4hrs1min that many have strapped when 'merely' bonging behind!

Although not streamed live - as far as I'm aware - there was another peal of Surprise Maximus being rung here in Suffolk as a 5042 of Yorkshire was successful at The Norman Tower. Congratulations to Joan Garrett on ringing her four hundredth in the medium and well done to Barry Dixon on his first of Maximus, rung in esteemed company - and I'm not just talking about my brother!

Meanwhile, just up the road before the aforementioned NW District Practice at Great Barton, well done to Sally Veal on ringing her first of Treble Bob in the 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the 8cwt six on a busier day for other ringers than for us.

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Friday 11th November 2016

There has been much debate about the symbolism of the poppy recently and understandably so. I have the utmost respect and admiration for those in our our armed forces, past and present and I have written about it on this blog, especially at this poignant time of year. Yet I feel great discomfort when I hear and see people criticised for not wearing a poppy, as it seems to contradict all the freedoms that many died to protect.

Still, I do think it a pity that some seem - in my opinion at least - to misunderstand its meaning. I am yet to meet anyone who feels the poppy glorifies and celebrates war. Instead, like me, many think of the horrific numbers of young men and women who have departed the safety of our own communities and either not returned or have made it back with horrendous physical and mental injuries. It is a terrible waste, completely and utterly. In fact, it is a quite depressing thought that humankind has been and continues to be capable of causing such pain and carnage and perhaps why even in this day and age of twenty-four news and social media that puts us virtually onto the frontline, it takes Armistice Day, Remembrance Sunday and the poppy to really focus the minds of a society that freely pontificates on the actions of those in the military without having been in a situation more dangerous then kicking-out time on a Saturday night in Swindon, on the danger that others put themselves in on our behalf.

Therefore, I willingly took two minutes out of my working day to sit silently and remember. Remember those who have suffered through conflict. Remember those close to them who also suffer. And although many protest at how imperfect western democracy currently is, I think about how unfathomably worse our world would've been without their sacrifice. I'm glad to say I wasn't alone, as the offices of John Catt Educational fell silent, in line with villages, towns and cities across the UK.

As usual, bells were central to many commemorations, including here in Suffolk, most notably with a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Buxhall, a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Pettistree and a 1280 of Doubles on the front six at Stonham Aspal.

Despite FIFA's entirely hypocritical moralisation on the wearing of poppies by England and Scotland's footballers in their match at Wembley tonight, I was glad to see that they went ahead and displayed the poppy in the televised match that the English won 3-0.

They remembered. And regardless of other's protestations, so shall I.

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Thursday 10th November 2016

As Prince Harry and the Duke of Edinburgh opened the Field of Remembrance on the North Green of Westminster Abbey, the media were of course out in force, including the TV cameras and whilst they interviewed those present with Their Royal Highnesses, some excellent ringing could be heard behind them. Presumably it was the 449 changes of Grandsire Caters rung at the neighbouring St Margaret of Antioch and came across extremely well in the brief extracts I caught whilst we were watching the news today. Well done to all concerned.

There won't have been the same television coverage of the 1296 of Kelso Surprise Minor rung at Tostock, but which is still as worthy - if not more so - of attention, especially as it was the first in the method for Clare Veal and Stephen Dawson - well done to them both!

We meanwhile had a quieter night in, once I had dragged Ruthie away from wine and cake after choir practice in honour of choirmaster Bob's sixty-fifth birthday, but at least we heard some ringing!

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Wednesday 9th November 2016

Whilst the world loudly decried or celebrated the election of Donald Trump as the USA's next President depending on their political persuasion, following the brashest, most acrimonious campaign of anywhere in the 'civilised' world ever, in quiet, rural Leicestershire, a good old boy of the exercise passed away quietly. Michael Brown of Sapcote may not be known to many Suffolk ringers, though with his wife Kathleen he has attended Muriel Page's superb Veteran's Day at Debenham. However, he was a stalwart of the Society of Rambling Ringers, the organisation we join every year on their annual tour and home to some of the very best ringing we do over the course of the year thanks to the standards that he and others had set long before myself, brother and parents first joined them in 1994.

He also had a rye sense of humour and his assertion that if we were intended to bong behind to methods then God would've attached a motor to tenors still amuses me and I always enjoyed conversations with him.

Sadly we hadn't seen him on tour for some time, but news of his death is very sad. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially his wife Kathleen, their daughter Janet Dew and her husband Michael and their daughters Ellen and Isabel.

Another recent sad passing has of course been that of Margaret Egglestone and I'm sure many from within our borders would like to attend her funeral if they can. They would therefore be interested to know that this will be on Friday 25th November at 2pm at Holy Cross in Crediton. Of course distance may restrict some from making their way to Devon, but I hope those who can, do and that the Guild is represented at the farewell of someone who did much for ringing in the county.

Back here today, it was Ruthie's turn to go out ringing as her mother Kate took her to Pettistree's weekly practice, a typically lively session, varied in its repertoire and book-ended by a quarter-peal beforehand and a drink in The Greyhound afterwards.

All reassuringly normal on such a day.

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Tuesday 8th November 2016

As our friends in the United States of America were going to the polls to vote for their next President, a far more important election for ringing was taking place tonight as Robert Lee replaced Tessa Beadman as Ringing Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths, the usual - though not assured - annual order of the Junior Steward taking over maintained. Originating from Lincolnshire, I rang a couple of peals with him back in 1999 when he was a young up and coming ringer on Martin Daniels' yearly peal tour of East Anglia and clearly he was very talented back then. Since then he has gone onto better and greater things and although our paths have never crossed on a regular basis, I have followed his ringing 'career' closely following that early brace of peals at Grundisburgh and Stow Bardolph seventeen years ago and am genuinely pleased to see him in this position.

I was also genuinely pleased to see this evening's weekly pre-practice quarter-peal rung at Offton, with an impressive 1250 of London Surprise Major on a big night for the USA and the ASCY.

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Monday 7th November 2016

St Mary-le-Tower's practice was as all it should be this evening.

The actual session upon the bells was a wide-ranging one, pushing the learners, bringing progress and a high standard of ringing. At least after I'd dragged my sorry behind there, all the ringing was on twelve, from Little Bob and Kent to Yorkshire.

Afterwards, a pint in the Robert Ransome was accompanied by varied and good humoured conversation. Who will be the first to ring a method called Brexit and will they have to wait for the Central Council to trigger approval? Who would be worse as President of the USA out of Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump? And we need to think of a theme for our Christmas tree for the SMLT Christmas Tree Festival, but failed to come to any agreement tonight. This year's Festival is pencilled in from Thursday 1st to Wednesday 7th December and is usually a super event, with the bellringers traditionally placing a tree at the bottom of the stairs up to the ringing chamber. Previous themes have included towers of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, methods and 'Oranges and Lemons', but on this occasion suggestions of a protest tree in support for York Minster's ringers or one featuring members of the Suffolk Guild were sensibly decreed unwise! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Meanwhile, well done to Woodbridge ringer Peter Mayer on ringing his first quarter-peal of mixed Doubles in the 1260 of Stedman, Grandsire and Plain Bob  at Wickham Market.

A night of ringing done as it should be.

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Sunday 6th November 2016

If our experiences of ringing dinners are anything to go by then this morning the towers of London will have been littered with ringers with sore heads visiting from the provinces following a superb evening at The Grange St Paul's Hotel last night.

A rather less uncomfortable byproduct of the 379th Anniversary Dinner of the Ancient Society of College Youths is the video on YouTube of the traditional handbell ringing, which as usual was mesmerising and of a staggering quality. Yet again, it shouldn't deter ringers but inspire them. I shall never, ever reach that standard on handbells (indeed, as Ruthie would gleefully tell you, my coordination is so poor that rounds is a struggle!) and yet rather than being put-off by such seemingly unattainable levels of ringing, it renews my determination to improve my own standards and to do as much as I can to help those I ring with to raise theirs. We can always improve.

There was plenty of endeavour to that end on the Sunday morning routine here and with a large degree of success. The boys and I only just made it to St Mary-le-Tower in time for me to partake in some call-changes on ten, but which Sonia rang brilliantly in and although the raise at St Lawrence was entertaining, the ringing that followed was super and there was a decent repertoire at Grundisburgh from a reasonable turnout.

Meanwhile, whilst a quarter-peal was rung at Pettistree to celebrate Peter Harper's birthday, we travelled over to Bury St Edmunds to pass on felicitations to another birthday boy, my brother Chris. With his and Becky's kitchen being refitted, it was thought wise to meet at her father Steve's abode, thus allowing us to catch-up with him too, as well as her brother Carl, who it was particularly nice to see as he recovers from a recent operation.

Both Peter and Chris are ringers we in Suffolk are lucky to have, with a vast range of experience between them and so I hope they both had a great day, but that tomorrow morning they're not feeling too much like a lot of ringers in the capital will have this morning!

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Saturday 5th November 2016

It goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway. We love Mason, Alfie and Joshua to bits and wouldn't change them for the world. However, if Ruthie and I were footloose and fancy-free together, our day would probably have been very, very different.

If it were just Mrs Munnings and I, we would have either have been on the South-East District Outing to St Albans, the Ancient Society of College Youths' 379th Anniversary Dinner, the Christchurch Park fireworks in Ipswich or a combination thereof.

We have long reconciled ourselves with the realisation that the ASCY's annual showpiece event is not something we can contemplate every year, at least not without making considerable calls upon the goodwill of friends and relatives we rely upon throughout the year, requiring as it would someone to look after the boys for a weekend, which with each additional child makes that a bigger and bigger ask!

And any Bonfire Night event would be a brave excursion currently, especially with the two youngest children, with the risk of it being a cold and wet night obviously being high at this time of year and to what extent they would enjoy or fear the fireworks being a big uncertainty to consider before travelling out to and forking out for such a display. With the county town's admittedly spectacular nod to the 5th November being more expensive and difficult to get to than most and home to huge crowds which would be difficult to escape from if needs be, we decreed it sensible to avoid that for now.
However, I was particularly disappointed to miss the annual treat that is the SE's day out to foreign parts, especially as we were going to somewhere different from the usual - but entirely understandable from a geographical perspective - Cambridgeshire-Essex-Norfolk venues. Admittedly outings have always been logistically tricky with little children and even more so with the addition of others, especially with bells rung from upstairs, but we have always got by and generally they have been enjoyable occasions, albeit fraught with bouts of stress!

Today's one-and-a-half hour journey (at least) to the Hertfordshire city seemed a stretch too far in our present circumstances though. Even if we had made the first tower of the day - and our record suggests that wasn't a shoe-in - then climbing all the way to the ringing chamber at the Cathedral with a toddler and a baby in a car-seat was a daunting and largely impractical prospect, whilst the potential for finding ourselves wandering a nice but unfamiliar community in inhospitable weather conditions finally brought us to reluctantly admit defeat and so instead we found ourselves at home kicking our heels.

It did allow us to keep up with friends and acquaintances preparing for and then enjoying the superior ringing society's yearly gathering for food, drink and handbells at The Grange St Paul's Hotel in London. Once this was a mysterious affair, with little of the night's events revealed until several weeks later when a report and selected photographs appeared in the Ringing World and in recent years on the CY's website. However, social media today enabled us to almost feel like we were there, with photos, videos and comments appearing online from the peals and quarters rung in the morning to (some of) the last shots and musings of the post-dinner drinking that no doubt will go on into the early hours of Sunday.

Alfie enjoying sparklers for the first time at his Granny's house, under close supervision from Mummy! Alfie enjoying sparklers for the first time at his Granny's house, under close supervision from Mummy! And we also managed to take in fireworks too, as along with my wife's sister and her daughters we were generously treated to tea and a colourful display by Ron and mother-in-law Kate as we broke Alfred and Josh into the world of explosions for entertainment. Despite the first couple being a little louder than expected and thus triggering crying children, they quickly warmed to it and were begging for more by the time the final firework was set off. Combined with playing with sparklers, I think they had a fun night! Their smiles are one the many reasons we love them so!

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Friday 4th November 2016

Stephen Pettman. Christine Knight. Brian Whiting. George Thoday. Stephen Cheek. Tom Scase. Brian Meads. Rowan Wilson. These are the octet who launched themselves into a brave new world as they rang their first peal of Plain Bob Caters in the 5034 at Grundisburgh. All joking aside, it was good to see another added to the Guild's columns in the medium for 2016, just two short of 2015's total with more than eight weeks to go until 2017 is pencilled in to arrive.

Perhaps more significantly, it was Rowan's first in twenty-five years. Well done to her and also her fellow PB9 debutantes.

It was also nice that it was dedicated to Margaret Egglestone, at the end of the week in which she sadly passed away and is already the second peal remembering her in Suffolk and third in total with one rung to her memory at Thoverton down in Devon, the county where her and her husband Howard finished their lives.

Things were quieter for us from a ringing perspective, instead spending the night in watching someone on Mastermind whose specialist subject was Ipswich Town Football Club (like the team themselves, he didn't do very well!) and then getting the three excitable boys to bed.

Not quite as exciting as ringing my first peal of Plain Bob Caters would've been.

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Thursday 3rd November 2016

A rare occurrence manifested itself on this biting November night. In the streets and bars of Woodbridge a couple were to be discovered, feeling slightly lost and yet free. That couple was us, as we enjoyed our first night out together without children for months. A pint in The Cherrytree, meal in The King's Head and a final drink before the walk home at The Angel were all partaken in without chasing after Alfie or trying to console Joshua. Conversations were finished, food was consumed whilst still hot and we didn't have to worry about our little 'uns bothering fellow diners. We love the boys to bits of course, but it was wonderful!

We owed our brief release into the adult world of datenight to Ruthie's mother Kate, who very kindly instigated the whole event and volunteered to look after Alfred and Josh whilst we went gallivanting. Mercifully they caused her little trouble - or at least so Mrs Eagle told us - but we were immensely grateful to her for taking a night out to enable us to have much-needed time out. Thank you Kate!

Meanwhile, on the other side of Suffolk a quarter-peal was being rung on the 8cwt six of Great Barton, with a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles successful.

If they enjoyed themselves even half as much as we did this evening, they will have had great fun!

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Wednesday 2nd November 2016

Very sorry to learn today of the sudden death of Margaret Egglestone, wife of more than half a century to the late past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Howard and good ringer in her own right. Although it is nearly four decades since they left our borders for a life that took them to Newbury in Berkshire and then Crediton in Devon and over three years since Howard passed away, they are still quite rightly remembered with much fondness in these parts and even when her husband's life was being celebrated after his passing in 2013, the part that Margaret played was justifiably recognised.

Already our ringers have been remembering her, with the peal at The Wolery this evening dedicated to her memory. I'm sure more will follow.

Appropriately on the day that we learnt this sad news, Ruthie was tonight in Ufford with her mother and Ron at the All Souls service remembering her Nan, a moving service that my wife was glad to have gone to, but which did mean that she missed the Pettistree practice, though they made it to The Greyhound in time to greet the ringers retiring from a session that began with a 1260 of Spliced Plain and Little Bob Minor.

That wasn't the only quarter-peal rung in county on this Wednesday, as a 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was successful at Hopton and a 1320 of Doubles was scored at Preston St Mary.

It is a nice note on which to finish an entry that began so sadly.

RIP Margaret.

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Tuesday 1st November 2016

Joshua getting weighed - at a sizeable 14lb 12oz - and a trip in vain to Kidz Kupboard in Rendlesham over my lunch-break to attempt to rid ourselves of clothes that JB has outgrown but for which they had no space, was the sum of our day, but there was at least ringing of significance in Suffolk today.

Congratulations to Clare ringer and former Guild Peal Secretary Alan Mayle on ringing his 1800th peal as he rang the tenor to the 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major at Helmingham. I have been privileged to ring twenty-four of those with Alan, with the general theme being good quality and high standards and he is quite rightly respected beyond our borders and throughout the ringing world.

And his day was more notable from a ringing perspective than ours.

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Monday 31st October 2016

Leaving behind Ruthie and her mother Kate for a night in at ours with Alfie and Joshua, I was pleased to get out to St Mary-le-Tower practice, especially after last week. And a productive night it proved too, with a repertoire that many provincial twelves would be delighted with, especially as we were a little short on numbers this evening. Little Bob Maximus and Kent Treble Bob Maximus to London Surprise Royal (No.3) and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus meant that everyone got a decent ring and much progress was made before many of us retired upstairs at The Robert Ransome for a post-session pint.

Half-eight notices revealed any help would be appreciated for lunchtime ringing at the neighbouring five of St Lawrence on Wednesday from 12.30-1pm and that evensong at SMLT will now be at 5pm rather 6.30pm in an experiment that will also see the need for Sunday afternoon ringing to be brought forward, including the third-Sunday focus practices that have proved so useful. Though on the plus side their All Souls service will not clash with our practice as it has done for the last few years, so there is ringing planned for next Monday night as usual.

Another Monday night practice is at Wickham Market, where tonight they also rang a quarter-peal to celebrate local ringer Rob Rose's seventy-fifth birthday, with the star of the show himself ringing the treble.

It was a pleasing and productive night all round.

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Sunday 30th October 2016

The clocks going back gives us the only day of the year that lasts twenty-five hours and thus presents the perfect opportunity for ringers so inclined to cram more ringing in then they usually would. 1991 saw an enthusiastic sextet ring twenty quarter-peals at Quex Park in Kent on the final Sunday of October that year, whilst within our own borders at Pretyman Avenue in Bacton, fifteen peals were rung on handbells by Philip Earis and Andrew Tibbetts on the equivalent day in 2004, with a little help from the Spillers.

Today therefore was chosen for an attempt to ring nine peals of Surprise Major on the eight of Dordrecht in the Netherlands that was eagerly kept up with via social media in the ringing community, with a mixture of admiration and disbelief.. Personally, I am in the former camp. It may seem bonkers, but some of the ringing recorded and put online was superb and if it was like that throughout the day - and with the band partaking it is almost certain it will have been - then it would have been an immensely enjoyable, though exhausting experience.

Ultimately, 'only' seven were successful, with Lessness begun bang on midnight, Cassiobury at 4.07am, eight-spliced at 7.05am, Cornwall at 11.10am, Bristol at 2.10pm, Superlative at 5.05pm and Cambridge at 8.17pm, with the quickest at 2hrs18mins, the slowest at 2hrs23mins and four rung in 2hrs20mins in a spectacular display of consistency. Despite the losses, congratulations to the octet on a nonetheless impressive day of ringing.

There was also what was undoubtedly a top-notch peal in the USA where the St Paul's Cathedral Guild rang a 5010 of Stedman Cinques at Trinity Church in New York for the College Youths, but ironically back in the country where change-ringing originated, the bells at one of its most famous rings remain silent. The saga of York Minster's ringers had predictably gone quiet after the initial media storm, with nothing but analysis and speculation in the last ten days on the various twists and turns that occurred in the burst of happenings over the previous week or so. Today though, the deposed YMSCR released a new statement that seems to be looking to sum up their side of events, whilst also trying to put across some background and calling for an independent investigation of the Minster's handling of the ringer apparently at the centre of their decision to sack the ringers.

Perhaps the most important and encouraging aspect of the statement though, was the confirmation that representatives of the Central Council of Church Bellringers and the Yorkshire Association of Change Ringers are due to meet with the now infamous Dean of York in November. Though I imagine that sadly will be too late to get the bells ringing for Remembrance Sunday in just a fortnight, it is a positive step.

Here in Suffolk though, ringing was continuing as it should do on a Sunday. A 1260 of Stedman Triples was rung at Bardwell and a 5040 was successful at Polstead, with Kevin Ward ringing his first of Minor - well done Kevin! However, the headline of the day in our county was Dominic Parkes ringing his first quarter and Ruth Lindsley her first inside in the forty-two minutes of Plain Bob Doubles at Beccles. Congratulations and well done Dominic and Ruth!

I was ringing too though, partaking in a good morning's ringing at St Mary-le-Tower where we were aided in our efforts by a very welcome visit from Lucy Williamson on a trip home from France. From there, the boys and I forsook ringing at Grundisburgh so the the eldest two could do some painting for the service at Woodbridge and though we missed the ringing there, I was heartened by a chance meeting outside with those who had and revealed that ten had gone along, enabling all eight to be rung.

That service, a shopping trip and a shift around of furniture in the living room was just about all that we did do on this long day. I can't say we fully took advantage of our extra hour.

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Saturday 28th October 2016

Anyone who has had to stop in to wait for a delivery or tradesman will understand our frustration today as we waited for a man to come to ours to safety-check our boiler and gas appliances at noon. Midday came and went and eventually we chased him up to discover that he was in Sandy Lane but couldn't find our abode. After a few minutes stood outside chatting to our neighbour on a pleasant autumn day, waiting for our visitor's arrival, another phone-call revealed that he was in the different Sandy Lane, quite a few miles away.

Finally he arrived at around four and once he'd carried out his lengthy but entirely necessary procedures, it was fast approaching six. He was a pleasant chap, a footy fan who enjoyed following this afternoon's matches, though listening to commentary on Ipswich Town's dismal 2-2 draw at Portman Road with bottom-of-the-table Rotherham United (and who incidentally had lost their previous seven fixtures) was painful in a way that has become typical of the last decade and more, even when we did equalise with the last kick of the game.

It was a Saturday generally to be forgotten as with all that waiting-in we were unable to go anywhere.

Elsewhere in Suffolk though, other ringers mercifully had more freedom to go forth and be active, with some Guild representation (of present and past Masters) at Lowestoft for the Norwich Diocesan Association peal of Havant whilst a SGR 5040 was rung at Pettistree for Wickham Market ringer Rob Rose's 75th birthday. Happy Birthday Rob!

I hope he was able to get out of the house for his big day!

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Friday 28th October 2016

Friend of ringing Mark Murphy was discussing driving in the dark on his breakfast show on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning. With the clocks going back in the early hours of Sunday morning, we are due to be plunged into darkness when going to any post-work ringing and I am aware that for some - particularly the more mature of our number - driving outside of daylight hours is something they actively avoid. Therefore, if you know of such a person in your band, perhaps now is the time to offer them a lift to your practice night or help make arrangements for them to get out.

Darkness isn't what has kept us in this week so much as children and with Mason adding to our numbers as usual this evening, it was another night without ringing for us personally, but once again elsewhere they were busier, with a quarter-peal at Woolpit and a peal on handbells in Bacton.

Down in Exeter they were also busy in a different way, as firefighters battled in vain to save a number of historic buildings in the historic city centre, including a hotel reputed to be the oldest in the country. However, it was in close proximity to the famous Cathedral directly opposite and the second heaviest ring of bells hung for change-ringing in the world, the 72cwt twelve in the south tower. Mercifully though, there seems not to have been any danger to them from this ferocious fire which despite starting at just 5am was still going throughout the day and is expected to continue burning throughout the night.

Thank God our local news was restricted to driving at night...

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Thursday 27th October 2016

Tostock was the scene of a 1272 of Carlisle Surprise Minor, not an easy method to ring, so full marks to the band.

Otherwise there was very little to report on the ringing front though. Ironically, having got better herself, Ruthie's planned night out with work-friends was postponed due to her drinking buddies going down with the illness, so she went to choir practice instead.

Exciting times.

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Wednesday 26th October 2016

For the second time in as many weeks, Ruthie was laid low by illness of a very unpleasant and energy-sapping nature. She somehow managed to survive with the two youngest sons and their delightful demands all day and enabled me to remain at work, but she was not in any state to go to Pettistree's weekly practice, which coupled with my reluctant no-show at St Mary-le-Tower on Monday maintained the theme of yesterday's blog.

Still, as per another regular theme of the blog over the last nine years and a day, they managed a quarter-peal at the familiar ground-floor six beforehand, which was also rung for the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, whilst another regular venue in my ramblings features again today, as a peal was rung at The Wolery. Well done to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge who rang his first of Norwich Surprise Minor in that particular success!

In the meantime, we settled down to a quiet and early night as the patient tried to get better.

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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Car fixed without too much trouble (and not too much expense), serviced and MOTed.

Quite a relief and a happy note on which to mark exactly nine years since I began this blog.

Every year on this date I remark upon how much has changed since 25th October 2007 and naturally with each passing anniversary the difference between then and now grows. Never has it been harder to write though.

Since the birth of Alfie two-and-a-half years ago and especially Joshua three months ago we are doing far less ringing personally than we were nine years ago. Whereas then we were out four or five nights a week ringing - with Mason usually with his mother during the week - and somewhere in the Guild or beyond on almost invariably every weekend, we snatch what we are able these days. One of the beauties of a ringing relationship is being able to go out together to enjoy our hobby in each other's company, rather than having to abandon each other to go about our pastime. However, with the introduction of children, there is much ringing we can't do together, such as evening practices, peals and quarters. And even when there is ringing we can do together it can be a difficult experience. Outings are great fun for example, but when there are bells rung from upstairs, one of us has to stay downstairs with the children, whilst the other climbs the stairs to ring, before descending to allow the other to ascend and ring, although we are usually blessed with help from family and friends we are ringing with.

It all means that with less to write from a personal ringing perspective that if I am to keep (or make) the blog of interest to readers, I have to spend a lot more time in finding out what has been going on. In common with most babies of his age, Joshie requires much attention, whilst at the same time we try not to neglect the needs of his older brothers Mason and Alfie and also find time for ourselves and work. That leaves very little time to sit down and write the blog and keep up with what's going on in ringing locally, nationally and globally, especially at the height of the recent controversy at York Minster!

Today essentially summed up our current circumstances. Whilst we didn't touch a bellrope, others elsewhere were busier. Offton ringer Peter Stock has been a new addition to the ringing columns since I began blogging and a very successful one at that. This evening he rang his first of Stedman in the 1260 of the Triples version before the weekly session at his home tower, which also celebrated the seventieth birthday of another local Doug Perry, who in contrast to Peter has been a fixture in my ringing acquaintances long before blogs even existed! Happy Birthday Doug and well done Peter!

Meanwhile, South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight continued with two QP's of Plain Bob Doubles, one at Brandeston and one at Tannington and there was success at Bures with Plain Bob Triples in honour of another seventieth birthday for another stalwart of the art, Brian Lord. Happy Birthday Brian!

I was just happy to have the car fixed!

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Monday 24th October 2016

With the car unreliable and only due to go in for its service and MOT tomorrow, it seemed foolhardy to venture into Ipswich for St Mary-le-Tower practice on this cold night, uncertain of where I'd park the wounded machine and so reluctantly I decided against the trip. It was frustrating to say the very least, as it was to have been the first time in three months that I would have made it to SMLT's weekly Monday session two weeks in a row. I imagine they coped, but it was disappointing personally.

Hopefully by next Monday the car will be fixed and able to get me there.

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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Caution over the car troubles that were the main feature of yesterday's blog meant that I decided against taking the boys out on the usual bi-weekly Sabbath morning circuit of St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, with the near twenty-mile round trip perhaps pushing our luck.

Instead, we played it safe and joined Ruthie at Woodbridge's St Mary-the-Virgin just one mile across town, with me partaking in some well-struck call-changes on the front six with Mason and Alfie swinging on the downed back two, whilst their brother Joshua joined his mother in the pre-service choir practice, before we all reunited for the service itself where the eldest two unusually made up the entire Sunday School!

Elsewhere within our borders, a 1260 of Grandsire Triples was rung on the 14cwt ground-floor eight at Kersey, whilst also in Suffolk but in the Norwich Diocesan Association, a quarter of St Clement's College Bob Major was successful at Lowestoft and a peal of Lessness Surprise Major was rung not far down the road at Pakefield.

We didn't go far though, instead greeting the return of my mother-in-law Kate from a week in the battlefields of the First World War, having looked after her house whilst she was away. Probably sensible not to be too adventurous today...

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Saturday 22nd October 2016

Recent months have seen much monumental occurring, but amongst it all, we have noticed the car - affectionately known to us as Aloysius - has begun faltering at times when accelerating. Not a big cause for concern when pottering around on our daily business, none of which is very far away, but more of a worry when travelling big distances on ringing outings and the like, especially as usually we'd have the boys with us.

At first it was just when sharply accelerating, such as having to join fast moving traffic from a standing start. The engine would carry on, but there would be no power moving the car forward. We'd restart the car (depending on the circumstances, that was occasionally whilst still on the move!) and go on our way. And it would only happen every now and again.

Recently though, it has occurred much more frequently and often just by touching the accelerator and when on a trip to Mothercare on the other side of Ipswich this afternoon it happened three times before we'd even got three miles down the A12 and we were unable to get the beast above 50mph, we thought it prudent to turn around and return to base.

It meant that our already unadventurous plans today were restricted even further, but it did at least give me extra time to listen to 5mins45secs of some superb ringing that has a Suffolk connection. For not only was the recording made by George Salter, but it was an extract from a peal of Avon Delight Maximus that he himself rang in almost a month ago at my favourite twelve, Towcester in Northamptonshire. Of course there is another 3hrs11mins that we can't hear, but looking at the band I think that we can safely assume that the rest of the 5042 was at this high standard. A piece of ringing is only as good as its weakest link, so this is made all the more impressive by the fact that it was a first in the method for a third of the band, including GMS. He, his family and we should be very pleased for him, whilst also aiming to work towards emulating such quality of ringing.

Indeed, this was a peal I was asked to ring in, but with our car's current condition it is probably best that I didn't accept!

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Friday 21st October 2016

South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight continued to pick-up today with another brace of 1260's of Plain Bob Doubles scored today, one at Kettleburgh and one at Monk Soham. The main purpose behind such ventures shouldn't be to notch up as many quarters as possible, though it is pleasing to witness the significant activity, especially when it sees rarely rung bells given a decent workout. Rather, firsts ought to abound and progress be made, but sadly thus far this year's two-week focus appears to have been a little slow on the former, although each and every bit of ringing hopefully sharpens a ringer's skills and thus I believe the latter will have been served over the course of the six QPs rung since the weekend. Still, hopefully the second-half will see more taking part, debuts of some sort and yes, a greater number of quarters to help support not just District Ringing Master Tom Scase, but more particularly the learners of this corner of Suffolk.

It isn't the only event planned for the SE in the coming weeks, with the annual Sproughton Bonfire, Fireworks and BBQ essentially run by the local ringers being advertised for Friday 4th November, the night before the District's Outing is pencilled in for, which this year is taking place entirely in St Albans in Hertfordshire. Whilst the first occasion shan't need to know ahead of time if you can come, I imagine Tom would like to have an idea of numbers for the second, as it is a long way to travel for only a handful of people to turn up. I hope it gets a good attendance as it is nice for an outing from here to travel beyond the counties immediately adjacent to us, to some different towers and - especially with this day out - in a nice city. Having been here on Rambling Ringers just three years ago, we can vouch that the ten at St Peter and the twelve at the Cathedral are worth visiting, the latter rung from an astonishing setting in one corner of the huge central tower, amongst a myriad of beams. Though the climb to it may not be for the faint-hearted! Meanwhile, it would be nice to grab the six of St Stephen and eight of St Michael, both of which we missed last time due to our inability to get going and lack of direction!

Amongst the SE's diary, the other Districts pop up on the calendar. In the North-East, the Triples and Major Practice at Halesworth is booked in for the evening of Tuesday 25th October, whilst the South-West hope to welcome you to St Peter's in Sudbury for their Ten-Bell Practice on Sunday 6th of next month, the Second Tuesday Ringers are planning on being at Henley and Otley two days later, whilst on Saturday 12th the North-West plan to ring a quarter-peal and then hold their District Practice at Great Barton on the same day as the NE ADM is due at Stradbroke.

Dealing with three boys tonight highlighted why we have struggled to get out to partake in the SE District Quarter-Peal Fortnight this year and will likely be limited in what we can get to over the near future, but I really hope those who can, will.

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Thursday 20th October 2016

It was Mason's first parents' evening at school since Joshua was born and as usual it clashed with Ruthie's choir practice, thus presenting us with a new logistical challenge. Since Alfie's birth two-and-a-half years ago, we have got by with one of us taking him with us. Impractical as it was for either of us to take both to our respective duties, we had to decide if was better to take a three-month old to singing and a toddler to speak to a nine-year old's old teacher or vice-versa.

In the end, we opted for the former and both behaved impeccably, but of course as is typical for a Thursday evening, it involved no ringing personally.

Suffolk's ringers were busy elsewhere though, both within our borders and beyond. South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight continued with gusto, as Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Clopton, along with two lots of Doubles, one at Cretingham and another at Otley, whilst the North-East District played host to a 1260 of spliced Plain and Little Bob Minor at Chediston.

Meanwhile, Joan Garrett's tour of Shropshire in the medium this week seems to have been rather successful, with today's 1270 of Plain Bob Triples at Much Wenlock the eighth since the weekend and following on from Grandsire Triples at High Ercall, Yorkshire Surprise Major at Edgmond, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Atcham, Grandsire Caters at St Mary-the-Virgin in Shrewsbury, Cambridge Surprise Major at Oswestry, Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Condover and Superlative Surprise Major at Cardington.

We used to take part in similar tours and it would be nice to partake in another, but for now we're too busy being parents and singing!

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Wednesday 19th October 2016

York Minster.

Something quite extraordinary occurred today. There were no new developments in the sorry saga of the sacking of York Minster's ringers. Hopefully it means there are more constructive discussions going on in private, possibly involving the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers as indicated by previous statements and one made by Vice-President Christopher O'Mahony today.

The general theme to have come from all of this seems to be that many consider it right of the Chapter and Dean to be careful and cautious when dealing with Safeguarding and even their original reason Health and Safety, but that they have - in many people's eyes - at best gone about this in a heavy-handed manner generally lacking in any Christian compassion, at worst in a sinister and deceptive way more associated with politicians or even countries like North Korea. Ideally, the ringers will be restored and the authorities at this splendid building will regain some credibility that will see them revert back to more York Minster CofE than York Minster PLC. Whatever happens, I personally think it is important that the 59cwt twelve are rung for Remembrance Sunday, Christmas and New Year and remind readers of the petition aimed at just this result.

Over the last week, I have tried to cover the new developments that have at times come at a head-spinning rate, not to satisfy some kind of insatiable appetite for tittle-tattle and gossip - though this subject has been brought up at length in every ringing chamber I have entered in the last few days - but also because it has a wider relevance to ringing generally, including here in Suffolk. It is a salutary reminder that in the main we ring bells through the goodwill of the churches in which they are hung and whilst it is well worth highlighting that those bells are more often than not put in and maintained through the time, effort and money of ringers - and others arranged by them - without troubling the church, it is vital that good relations are forged and/or maintained with our clergy.

Pettistree's ringers manage not only that but also effective communication with the community that they ring within, allowing them to practise their art extensively and so this evening the fifty-eighth quarter-peal of the year was rung before the practice and partaken in by Ruthie, as was the session that followed and a trip to The Greyhound afterwards, whilst the fourteenth QP of 2016 was notched up at Preston St Mary, another tower that presumably enjoys a productive relationship between ringers, clergy and residents.

Meanwhile, belatedly, many thanks to the band who rang the peal at The Wolery seven days ago for their birthday footnote. With David Salter choosing not to publish details of peals on BellBoard, I'm afraid I missed this very kind mention that appeared just on Campanophile. Especially as it coincided with the start of a mind-melting week of news from York!

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Tuesday 18th October 2016

York Minster.

The naming of the ringer this morning thought to be at the centre of the safeguarding issue that is the latest reason that York Minster has given for sacking its entire band of ringers has meant that the media interest in this sorry saga has continued into its seventh day. I shan't name the ringer on here, though like me many of you will have known it already and probably suspected that - rightly or wrongly - he was the root of this controversy. If you don't know who it is, reference can be easily found online, as can reports on the past allegations. Also easy to find is that no charges have ever been made against him, so whilst the Minster's caution is understandable - especially with the justified criticism that the Church of England has dealt badly with previous horrid misdemeanours - it still seems harsh that he should have been banned not just from the ringing chamber, but the famous building itself. It seems even more disproportionate that when concerns were raised by fellow band-members - including some who are relatives - of the process used to punish someone for something that he - according to the law of the land at the very least - had not done, that they were then disposed of in a quite callous, brutal and impersonal manner by an organisation supposedly of a Christian nature, but who over this last week have approached the whole affair more like a corporation or politician.

Talking of politicians, even the local MP, Labour's Rachael Maskell has stepped in declaring her displeasure at the Chapter and Dean's measures. Her views follow on from the more strongly worded opinion of the Lord Mayor of York, Cllr Dave Taylor, all of which can be read about in the latest of what feels like an avalanche of newspaper articles on the subject since it came to the media's attention last Wednesday.

However, there is more positive ringing news to report in today's blog.

There was a ringer from Chapel en le Frith in Derbyshire reaching the final in TV quiz show Pointless, prior to me going out to help at Ufford practice in the absence of tower captain and my mother-in-law Kate. On this occasion I left the running of the session to Mrs Eagle's counterpart at Hollesley Peter Harper, which seemed apt tonight as those present were predominantly from the band that regularly mans the 16cwt eight that a good proportion rank as the best in Suffolk. Such support is to their credit considering how geographically isolated they are and they enabled a fairly productive hour-and-a-half of ringing that even included some Ipswich Surprise Minor on the back six, although it took a few attempts to get the hang of it!

And elsewhere in the county, well done to Betty Baines on ringing her first blows of Warkworth Surprise Minor in the quarter-peal rung at Lakenheath.

God willing such positivity will be restored at York Minster soon.

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Monday 17th October 2016

York Minster.

A sorry day for ringing.

At the centre of it all of course was York Minster, where the saga of the sacked ringers took a dramatic, sinister twist. Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu today gave a statement on behalf of the Chapter of York elaborating on their reasons behind their controversial decision last week, saying that the decision was on safeguarding grounds. Entirely reasonable. The Church of England - like many organisations in recent years - have been heavily criticised for allowing much unsavoury and damaging behaviour to go unchecked for decades and so it is expected that they not only look to prevent such incidents, but be seen to do so decisively and effectively. As indeed ringing should be and already is, especially here in Suffolk as the Guild's Safeguarding Officer Mary Garner will testify. It is vital that we take it seriously.

Those who know some of the history behind some of the alleged past happenings at the Minster may also find it a not implausible statement, but for many there is still much that doesn't add up. Not least as to why they have changed their reasons from a mere health and safety issue - which always seemed ill-researched and unlikely - to this much more serious accusation which if they'd come straight out with it from the outset may have garnered more sympathy. It hasn't allayed many ringers' fears that they are making it up as they go along as they attempt to hide a hidden agenda.

Personally, I don't completely dismiss the Minster's side of events, but I also still feel very sorry for the ringers, who responded with a statement tonight that indicated they were aghast at what has been levelled against them and that they have acted upon every policy implemented by the Chapter, although some in the band had "privately expressed concerns to the Dean and Chapter over whether due process was followed during their action regarding a member of the bell ringing community" which they suggested was what led to their dismissal.

It at least provided a footnote for today's 5184 of Vaguely Surprise Major at Grundisburgh, but which was primarily rung to enable Stephen Pettman to finally complete the Surprise Major alphabet to peals after nearly half-a-century's ringing! Congratulations Stephen!

However, the footnote highlights the strong views on Yorkgate. Ultimately it has to be resolved by those directly involved, but such differing positions makes it hard to see where the situation goes from here. It is - whoever is telling the truth - an extremely sad state of affairs.

Also very sad is the death of John Camp, past President of the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers and well known to many for his column 'From the E-Lists' in the Ringing World from 2002 to 2009, an entertaining round-up of the various ringing-related mailing lists. He was also - as a number of ringers are I'm led to believe - a great lover of ale and I was privileged to enjoy quite a few drinks with him, even though I never actually rang with him! Indeed, mine and Ruthie's favourite memory of him was arriving at 10am at the 2009 National Twelve-Bell Final at St Paul's Cathedral to find him already in the pub with a pint in front of him! A witty, intelligent man who will be much missed.

There was further bad news this evening when word came out that Bill Haynes, a renowned ringer from Birmingham who today lost half of his left thumb after a horrific sounding accident with a circular saw. I have had the honour of ringing a handful of peals with Bill, who is good company and a very talented ringer, particularly round the back and indeed only two days ago rang the 39cwt tenor at the Bullring in Britain's second city to a 5060 of Stedman Cinques. God willing his thumb can be salvaged and he can be back ringing as soon as possible.

All this gave us all plenty to talk about in The Robert Ransome after St Mary-le-Tower practice, both of which were a return for me after a lengthy absence. A month has passed since I was last able to attend Monday night ringing on the county's heaviest twelve, due to a combination of illness and late shifts at work, whilst it is over two months since I last popped to the post-session refreshments, with extremely early starts the following day having made a drink afterwards both impractical and inadvisable over that period.

However, a return to a normal 9-5 pattern at John Catt Educational today enabled me to make both. The practice was useful and with Amanda Richmond running it in David Potts' absence, an extremely busy one and the socialising afterwards was alive with the ringing news of the day. Lovely also to catch up with our visitors Laura Davies and Ruth Suggett, over from Bardwell, with the latter imparting that they had gained a new recruit from the recent Heritage Open Days. Well done Ruth and the Bardwell ringers!

It was nice to hear some good ringing news today.

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Sunday 16th October 2016

York Minster.

Media attention at the sacking of York Minster's ringers has been at levels unprecedented for a ringing-related story. Everyday something new has arisen on the subject, keeping it in the eyes of journalists and commentators across the UK. Newspaper articles in all the major newspapers have appeared on a daily basis and yesterday I listened to Friday's interview with Robert Wood from the Yorkshire Association on BBC Radio York. Robert very kindly got in touch with me to offer advice when the second-Sunday peals at Aldeburgh briefly caused controversy and made national news eight years ago and not unexpectedly to me from my dealings with him, his tone was conciliatory and measured, although as he himself admitted he was as much in the dark on happenings at the epicentre as the rest of us.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for the first Sunday since the unexpected events of Tuesday night though, the media coverage went up a notch today. Following the story hitting the BBC's national news earlier in the week, Sky News were reporting on it today, whilst BBC Look North and their ITV equivalent joined the ringers in their enforced exile, whilst the morning saw their Ringing Master Peter Sanderson interviewed on local radio and the BBC's Radio Four and Five (2hrs 28mins in).

In all of this, the ringers seem to have come across as restrained and dignified. In contrast, the Dean and the Minster continue to hide behind corporate statements, unwilling to answer direct questions. There may be good reason why they are taking this stance, but it is hard to not draw negative conclusions on their agenda.

Meanwhile, there was more worrying news involving bells, as it was reported that a fire at St Michael-on-the-Mount in Bristol, an empty church, but home to a 12cwt six had broken out. However, it seems the tower and bells are unaffected in a welcome bit of silver lining.

Live ringing back here in Suffolk was pretty dull in comparison.

South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight continued with a 1206 of Plain Bob Doubles at Hollesley and a peal of Doubles was rung at Elmsett, whilst my ringing experience was even quieter with helping the ringers at Woodbridge before morning worship being the only ringing I managed all day.

How the ringers of York Minster must be wishing for such dullness.

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Saturday 15th October 2016

Thank you to all who sent me messages wishing me a Happy Birthday today, via text and Facebook and on top of the footnote from Wednesday's quarter-peal at Pettistree.

For the record, I have turned thirty-eight, a wholly insignificant age and as such the celebrations were relaxed and fairly low-key, but no less enjoyable. Gone are the days of going out drinking until the early hours as children and my stamina - which decreases as my age increases - diminish my ability to partake in such shenanigans. Instead, it was a day spent with my family as we were visited by other family, first my brother Chris and his wife Becky and then Ruthie's sister Clare and her girls.

It was all rather pleasant, but of course it was to a backdrop of the not-so-pleasant situation at York Minster, which continues to rumble on. Apart from the plight of the poor ringers, another unfortunate byproduct of this whole sorry episode (which is closer to a full series now rather than just an episode) is the personal vitriol against the Dean of York, the Reverend Vivienne Faull who seems to have been pinpointed as the one behind the decision to sack the experienced band in its entirety. Clearly the decision is unpopular, but some of the stuff written and said about her is uncharitable and unfair, especially as much of it has emanated from people who almost certainly are not in possession of all the facts. Name-calling and crude insults won't help the ringers' cause and so it was unsurprising that the YMSCR - who have been restrained and dignified in their commentary of proceedings thus far - today released a statement distancing themselves from such views and called for it to stop. I hope it does.

Still, the Minster authorities haven't helped themselves with the dismissal of John Ridgeway-Wood who has been playing the carillon bells for the last decade, apparently for questioning their decision would sit uncomfortably in even the most disengaged corporations, let alone a Christian organisation, especially as they once again hid behind corporate doublespeak to explain this seemingly draconian and disproportionate action. And their decision to pay a foundry to ring the bells down adds a dash of the daft to it all. Whatever the justifications, it is a sorry position for all of this to sink to.

On a more positive note, it was great to see the peal rung at St Mary-le-Tower this afternoon by just some of George and Diana Pipe's Diamond Wedding Anniversary and it was nice to hear from Mum and Dad who imparted birthday wishes to me from a successful sounding Ipswich St Margaret ringing outing along the A12 north of Woodbridge.

And rather neatly, Woodbridge was where my day was spent, enjoying a laid-back and relaxing birthday. Thank you to all who helped to make it so.

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Friday 14th October 2016

York Minster.Day three of Yorkgate - as no one else has dubbed the media coverage of the astonishing sacking of the York Minster band of ringers - and it is still generating newspaper inches and much comment and speculation on social media from angry, bemused and/or frustrated ringers worldwide.

Whether this situation remains in the limelight has to be led by the disposed ringers themselves. They are the ones who know the most about what is going on apart from the Minster themselves and they are the ones who will have to deal with the consequences of what is eventually salvaged from all of this. And the signs seem to suggest that they want keep this in the public's eye, although it is important that it is them who do it and not the rest of us. Today, James Sanderson followed his father Peter - the Ringing Master of the YMSCR until this whole sorry affair kicked-off - with an open message, which filled in some details on Tuesday's meeting itself and revealed further details on the background, such as the Health and Safety review that the Minster say prompted this decision and yet didn't involve the ringers. And highlighted some of the flaws behind the Dean's reasoning by highlighting that despite the H&S risks apparently revealed at least eight days ago by the Minster, the ringers were still let loose on this 59cwt twelve on the Sunday after that, presumably at much danger to themselves.

It was another well-written, thoughtful response from the ringers, but with each revelation comes a reminder that there is probably so much more to this than the rest of us know and may ever know. Restraint is still required to give York's ringers the best possible chance to resolve this.

All the restraint in the world can't hide that it is a very negative set of circumstances, but the exercise was experiencing more positive exposure on the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Most notably, it was nice to hear the bells of Battle in the background as TV interviews were carried out from the nearby scene of what is possibly the most famous date in UK history. Presumably the ringing was the 5040 of Grandsire Triples rung for the occasion, but it was an event also marked here in Suffolk, with a 1320 of Kent Treble Bob Minor rung at Pettistree and a 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor at Brandeston, the latter of which was Mervyn Scase's first in the method. Well done Mervyn!

My final late shift of the week made it impractical for us to contribute to marking the anniversary of 1066 and all that, so instead our day was another slow one, though one with doughnuts at work as I treated my work colleagues, on the assumption that none of us will be in the office tomorrow for my actual birthday.

What does seem likely to happen tomorrow though, is that we will be hearing more from Yorkgate.

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Thursday 13th October 2016

York Minster.There is plenty genuinely important going on in the world right now, with the awful plight of the people of Aleppo and the depressingly antagonistic US presidential election race between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton quite rightly prominent in the thoughts of anyone who pays attention to world events.

However, the media delights in news stories where new bits of information and insight seep out day-after-day, allowing to fill their online space and twenty-four hour airtime, which is why the bizarre goings-on at York Minster continued to dominate the ringing social media community and be covered by various newspapers and even appeared on the BBC's national TV news.

Most notable of the new developments today was deposed Ringing Master of the YMSCR Peter Sanderson's excellent open letter to the Dean of York Vivienne Faull and entirely unnecessary apology on behalf of the sacked ringers to those affected by the abrupt cessation of ringing, including a couple whose big day will not be accompanied by the bells. Peter and his wife, fellow band-member Tina are regular visitors to Suffolk, with Mrs Sanderson once a member of the band at St Mary-le-Tower and I know how seriously they take ringing at the Minister. Even without knowing them though, the heartache that they and their colleagues are quite clearly feeling cannot be missed.

Even in clarifying the situation a little further though, it also highlights how little the rest of us know about the full background to this, with references to "significant grievances between the ringers and Chapter...over the past 18 months" and a review of the operation of the tower that even the ringers seem to be in the dark over. Whilst we should be supportive of our fellow ringers and hope that a resolution can come to this as soon as possible that will allow the local ringers to return to ringing this 59cwt twelve to the excellent standards they once were, we should all be wary of condemning a situation that we don't know all the facts about.

There is a petition that I am keen to highlight to readers though, one which asks that the bells are allowed to be rung for Remembrance Sunday, Christmas and New Year by the band of expert ringers just disposed of. Some in the ringing community, whilst shocked and concerned, are understandably wary of demanding the reinstatement of the ringers, lest there is some thus-far unrevealed genuine justification for this course of action, but I think pretty much all feel it is shameful that the bells will not play their part in remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to ensure we still have a society where (most) people have freedom of speech. Please do sign if you haven't already.

Amongst the support offered to the ringers was the SGR's Twitter feed, run by Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge, which even made today's article on The Guardian's website and I think sums up the feelings of a lot of ringers, as they wonder if such policy will spread to other towers.

Tweets weren't the only way ringing in our county was showing solidarity, as the quarter-peal at Tostock was dedicated to the barred ringers of York Minster, but generally in comparison to the ongoing situation up north, life was quiet within our borders both elsewhere and personally, with most of my day spent in the offices of John Catt Educational as I took it upon myself to make a bit of the time up following my curtailed shift yesterday.

Hardly newsworthy in the current climate.

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Wednesday 12th October 2016

York Minster.Quite extraordinary word emanating from York with news that was heavily featured in newspapers local and national and which dominated ringing's social media community.

Taking into consideration all that I have read and trying to ignore the conjecture and speculation that has naturally arisen from a situation where little actual information has been imparted, the situation broadly seems to be thus.

Dean of York Vivienne Faull has taken the decision to sack the entire band of ringers at the Minster, in line with a policy that has been carried out with other volunteers in this famous building over the last two years, with a view to training a "more professional " band led by a paid tower captain that will have gone through all the relevant checks and apparently with health and safety at the centre of her reasoning, as laid out in a video (apologies for the title, but I couldn't find it elsewhere without the tagline) and a letter sent to the band.

In many respects it can be seen as a not unreasonable step. If other volunteers have been through it, then surely ringers can't be exempt? These are heavy bells and from the authority's point of view they can't be certain that what happens high up in the south-west tower is in line with H&S regulations.

However, even whilst attempting desperately to keep an objective perspective on proceedings that I am not in possession of the full facts of, there appears so much wrong with this.

The ringers seem not to have been given any warning, doors have been locked on them and they have been informed in business doublespeak that doesn't feel appropriate for loyal volunteers, many of whom have given decades of service almost every Sunday and Tuesday, before you even take into account the additional commitments that they will have been asked to ring for.

From a distance it seems to have been a decision made in ignorance, at least judging by the bells being left up - with the current band barred so suddenly and unexpectedly that they have been unable to get the bells down - with no guarantee made publicly as I write this of whom the next people to happen across the fourteen tonnes or so of bell metal will be and if they are aware of the actual dangers, rather than the perceived dangers. And that not only that she believes that a competent twelve-bell band can be taught by Easter, but that they will be safer on the fourth heaviest ring of bells rung for change-ringing in the world than the band who has an unfathomable combined experience which she has just disposed of.

I know some of the members relieved of their duties, as will many reading this and others across Suffolk, especially as some have close connections to ringing within our borders. They are individually and collectively among the best in the world in the exercise, capable of producing ringing like this and this. They have won the National Twelve-Bell Contest twice, one of only seven teams to win the competition in its forty-one year history and the standards that have long been applied here are a model that would be desirable for many bands nationwide to follow but are unable because they aren't fortunate enough to be in York Minster's position. This is what the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull wants to improve on...

Who will apply as a ringer? Who will be recruited as tower captain and will they be a ringer or a non-ringing manager? Who will teach them? Who will do the interviewing and how will they be judging who are the best candidates?

Also, it seems regrettable to say the least that the 59cwt twelve will be silenced for three months whilst this unprecedented and bizarre recruitment process takes place, meaning that there will be no ringing for Remembrance Sunday, Christmas or New Year.

I have always felt privileged to have a rung a peal there, but especially now. Who knows when the next time someone will be lucky enough to ring one here.

There is much we don't know, so it is sensible not to make snap judgments, even if we as ringers are naturally drawn to support the ringers, who like us carry out the art to the best of their ability twice a week in the ringing chamber and on the bells that they look after and maintain with expertise going back years. However, we all want this resolved as soon as possible.

Vast amounts were written about this online this afternoon after the news broke and was a distraction - if not a welcome one - from a day that wasn't the best anyway as Ruthie came down with an illness not too dissimilar to that which I was afflicted with last week and having much the same effect on her. Although rather fortunately my Mum and Dad had taken Alfie for a day out, it was still unfair to expect my wife to look after a demanding and unsympathetic Joshua on her own when her needs were more unavoidably immediate and so John Catt Educational very kindly released me from the office even though I had only come in at 11am for a late shift.

Of course it meant she wasn't well enough to go to Pettistree practice tonight, but nonetheless proceedings continued without her and mercifully she wasn't booked in for the pre-session quarter-peal which was successfully rung. Thank you for the early birthday compliment guys!

That 1440 of Carlisle Surprise Minor wasn't the only performance recorded online today in the county, with two QP's rung in memory of those who died in the First World War a century ago, with a 1320 of Doubles at Buxhall the latest of a number for this cause at the gallery-ring of six and a 1260 of Grandsire Triples on the ground-floor eight at Halesworth being a first for Sal Jenkinson. Well done Sal!

I only hope that the ringers of York Minster are able to return soon to achieve again on the bells they clearly love so much.

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Tuesday 11th October 2016

If yesterday was quiet on the personal ringing front, today was even slower. Instead, our highlight was getting Joshua weighed before I started another late shift in the offices of Jphn Catt Educational.

There was some ringing of note in Suffolk though, with 1280's of Yorkshire and Warwickshire Surprise Major rung at Gislingham and Hopton respectively, the latter being the first in the method for Ann Webb, Betty Baines, Katie Wright, Alison Daniels and David Webb. Well done to them all and thank you for making today's blog vaguely interesting from a ringing perspective!

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Monday 10th October 2016

At the start of another week of late shifts at work, the closest we got to any ringing personally was bumping into Woodbridge ringer Terry Whale in our local Co-Op, as St Mary-le-Tower practice was again impractical to make, but there was at least some ringing in Suffolk was recorded online, with a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Minor rung at Lowestoft.

It could be a slow week in regards to ringing on the basis of today.

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Sunday 9th October 2016

Ringers at Henley before the Revd Carl Melville's licensing and installation.Congratulations to the Revd Carl Melville on his licensing and installation as Priest in Charge at Barham, Claydon, Great Blakenham and Henley, with the ceremony itself taking place at the first church, but open ringing and a quarter-peal taking place at the last of those churches earlier in the afternoon. Judging by the pictures I've seen and what I have heard of the occasion, it was extremely well-attended and not surprisingly. Carl is a popular young man, a good ringer and was not only a superb editor of the old Guild newsletter in my early days as SGR Ringing Master, but is now as equally accomplished as the Guild's Secretary.

We were disappointed therefore not to be able to attend, especially as even up until lunchtime we had intended to go, but as can often be the way with three boys of varying ages in tow our plans became wayward and so we had to reluctantly admit defeat in our ambitions.

Still, we had at least managed our duties in the morning, with Ruthie singing in Woodbridge and the boys and I joining the Sabbath morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh and elsewhere the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh was successful with a 5024 of Rutland Surprise Major.
Well done to the band there and well done to Carl!

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Saturday 8th October 2016

It was a tale of two open days today. One ringing, one singing.

Unsurprisingly, I was at the former - with the boys - and Ruthie was at the latter.

Amanda Richmond explains ringing to the visitors at St Mary-le-Tower's Tower Open Day. Amanda Richmond explains ringing to the visitors at St Mary-le-Tower's Tower Open Day. Amanda Richmond explains ringing to the visitors at St Mary-le-Tower's Tower Open Day.The Vestey Ring outside in the rain, with Ralph & Ellie Earey manning it with Mason's help.The Vestey Ring outside in the rain, with Ralph & Ellie Earey manning it with Mason's help.

Us lads were at St Mary-le-Tower, where the event here undoubtedly benefited not only from the considerable passing traffic of shoppers wandering into town but also from combining it with the church's open day as the crowds poured in. In fact, it was so busy in the end that we had to stop people coming up! There were enough of us to demonstrate ringing on the middle six, back eight and by tolling the tenor, but it was primarily Amanda Richmond and Owen Claxton for whom the plaudits are primarily due, as they explained our art to the multitude of visitors in the ringing chamber and up amongst the bells respectively across the whole day, whilst special mention has to be made of Ralph Earey and his daughter Ellie who were manning The Vestey Ring in the wet, chilly conditions outside at the foot of the famous tower.

I have always maintained that an open day can indulge itself in a modicum of satisfaction merely by raising the awareness of what we do, even if no recruits at all are gained from it and to that end we can definitely claim that today! However, how successful this exercise has been from an actual recruitment perspective will only really be known over time.

The success of the choral open day at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge for my wife and her colleagues could be measured a little more immediately, as we joined them at the end of their event for a concert involving the choir and all their visitors. Of course it is a little easier to train up groups of several wannabe choristers - many of whom are already members of other singing groups and/or proficient at singing - to perform in a concert in a day than it is to coach a band of ringers - with the one-on-one tuition required to teach a novice to handle - to ring even rounds by the end of the day, but the performance we witnessed back in our town of residence was impressive, with Mrs Munnings in particular shining with a couple of solos.

Almost as impressively, the three boys behaved impeccably for the hour or so that it ran for, as indeed they did throughout our day in Ipswich, allowing me to enjoy both open days without much stress.

Meanwhile, well done to Phillip Turpin on ringing his first on eight in the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Pakefield, whilst a 1350 of the Caters version was rung at The Norman Tower in a tale of two quarter-peals in the county.

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Friday 7th October 2016

Who inspires you?

It was the question asked by Mason and his contemporaries in their class assembly at school this morning, in which his lines were delivered with typical enthusiasm and he was part of a group inspired by David Walliams.

I find it a harder question to answer, mainly because I have largely ordinary ambitions in day-to-day life. Plenty of people are admired by me. Richard Branson, Simon Cowell and any number of other successful business folk. But I have no desires to be a leader in business. Lionel Messi, Pep Guardiola and other footballing successes. But I think the opportunity for me to make my mark in the beautiful game passed me by long ago.

A contented and happy family has been my main ambition and to that end I have been inspired by my parents and theirs too, providing me with a happy family environment that I strive to provide for my children.

Probably the only other thing I have any major ambition in is ringing, mainly because it is the one thing I have any vague talent in and there I have been inspired by many, but most particularly those from Suffolk who have made a name for themselves in the wider ringing world, such as George and Rod Pipe, though there are others I could add.

Meanwhile, the FNQPC were again successful, this time with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham, featuring five members of the Scase family.

Whoever inspired their ringing did a good job!

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Thursday 6th October 2016

Apart from Joshua's twelve-week jabs, Ruthie going to choir practice and another early shift at work for me, nothing much happened today from a personal perspective. Nor from a countywide ringing one, at least judging by BellBoard and Campanophile.

There is plenty ahead of course though. Most immediately this weekend sees the North-East District hold a Focus Practice at Rumburgh and the North-West District hold their ADM at Rougham on Saturday, whilst on Sunday the South-West District plan to hold their Ten-Bell Practice at St Peter in Sudbury and the Guild Secretary Carl Melville is inducted as Priest in Charge at Barham, Claydon, Great Blakenham and Henley, with open ringing on the eight at the last of those between 4-5.30pm and then the service itself at the first at 6.30pm. Second Tuesday Ringing takes place over the Norfolk border at Kenninghall and Garboldisham next week and many may look to mark to the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings on the 14th before the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight runs between the 15th and 30th.

Please support these events if you can and make those days more interesting than today.

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Wednesday 5th October 2016

Feeling much better, I returned to work in the early hours of the morning and enjoyed the afternoon that followed and which included a trip to wish Ruthie's mother Kate a Happy Birthday.

Kate.The birthday girl was a visitor to ours later as she picked her youngest daughter up for the practice at Pettistree, having already rung in the pre-session quarter on the ground-floor six and afterwards retired to The Greyhound next door where proprietor Louise had very generously made a cake for her!

I missed out on it all (though my wife very kindly brought a slice of cake back for me!) as it was my night to be on babysitting duties, so instead I read of others' exploits, especially those in Suffolk, where a 1250 of Rutland Surprise Major was rung at Elveden and a 1320 of Primrose Surprise Minor at Preston, a first in the method for another birthday girl Ruth Young. Well done Ruth and Happy Birthday for Monday just gone!

And Happy Birthday Kate for today!

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Tuesday 4th October 2016

The ringing family was fully in evidence this afternoon as it provided us with a chest of drawers. We were the lucky recipients of this new, useful piece of furniture thanks to Sproughton ringers Phil and Sandy Jones, who also treated us to a cuppa and even helped in bringing some of it back to Woodbridge.

It was lovely to catch-up with them and lovely as well to be feeling so much better after my bedridden state of yesterday, although it took twelve hours sleep in addition to that which I had on Monday and reluctantly calling in sick to the office.

And helped by a drive out to the Jones'. Thank you to them and to the ringing family.

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Monday 3rd October 2016

I hate being laid-up with illness. Daytime TV seems to be a greater wasteland than ever and the notion of escaping the house to get away from atrocious programmes like Who's Doing the Dishes is far-fetched as even if I felt justified in going out to enjoy myself when I have called into work sick or pulled out of a peal due to my affliction, I wouldn't feel physically capable.

Therefore, despite rising pre-dawn for the start of a week of early-shifts at John Catt Educational feeling abysmal, with symptoms not really suitable for reading on such a blog, I forced myself into the office and through my seven hours, but by the time I'd arrived back home I was drained and devoid of all energy. It put paid to my attendance at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, as bar a brief awakening ,the sofa, the bed and the inside of my eyelids were my main company for the rest of the day, whilst poor Ruthie had to handle the boys without any assistance from me at any point.

I hate being ill.

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Sunday 2nd October 2016

View from tower at Woodbridge.View from tower at Woodbridge.View from tower at Woodbridge.

Views from church towers have been a theme online this week and this morning I was able to appreciate one of the best - and certainly the best in Suffolk in my most humble of opinions - as I rang the tenor at Woodbridge, the sound of all eight rolling out across the rooftops and down to the River Deben. It was a delight to hear them all going, but not everyone was pleased, with Alfie disappointed to be deprived of his regular go at swinging the back bells!

It set us up for the Harvest service where Mason in particular played a big role, having already made some of the bread for communion, but the rest of the day was - in contrast to yesterday - an extremely quiet one. Or at least as quiet as it could be in our current circumstances.

Not everyone in the county was as inactive from a ringing perspective today, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung on the front six at St Margaret in Ipswich and a 1264 of the Major version was successfully completed at Lowestoft, joining yesterday's quarter-peal at Woolpit on a relatively active weekend of performances within our borders. Well done to the entire band on ringing their most spliced Plain Minor in the latter.

There are probably some good views from the tower too.

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Saturday 1st October 2016

October and autumn seem to have appeared as a pair judging by the long shadows and nip in the air as we rose this morning, Joshua seemingly getting into the pattern of regularly sleeping through the night, though parental wisdom perceives that it is far too early to claim success in this field. If it is to be as frenetic as today, then it is thirty-one days that will be gone before we know it's even happened.

Such days were once a regular occurrence in my days as Ringing Master, but as our ringing duties have diminished and responsibilities as parents have increased, they have become less frequent, so this first Saturday of the tenth month was a pleasurable treat and of course featured the exercise at its core.

 Mason making bread at St Mary's Church Centre.It began close to home in Woodbridge at the church centre of St Mary-the-Virgin where Mason and some of his Sunday school contemporaries were making bread for tomorrow's harvest communion, producing an impressive batch and garnering much enjoyment and satisfaction from their efforts. There was much going on in this small but historic part of town, as they shared the building with stalls ranging from those purveying books to cakes to local ringer Gill Wakefield's magnificent artwork.

Alfie on the tenor at Woodbridge.Bruce Wakefield on the treble at Woodbridge tower open day, explaining the art to some visitors.Mike Cowling using the live feed to the bells to explain ringing to a visitor on the tower open day.

We have been fortunate that Gill and her husband Bruce's plans to move to Cornwall have changed, meaning the status quo has been retained and the band here has been boosted by their continued presence. However, they recognise that like anywhere that recruitment needs to be a constant process and they were taking a step in the right direction just across the churchyard and up the famous tower with their open day that ran simultaneously with the events in the church centre. Originally this had been planned for the Friday morning of the recent Heritage Open Days weekend but in a stroke of bad luck on every level, it had to be postponed due to a funeral in the church.

This diversion of fate was almost certainly a blessed one though, as the numbers they received on this ante meridiem were surely greater than they would've have got on that workday over three weeks ago, with the crowds taking in demonstrations, explanations and pictures from the live feed of the bells beamed down to a big screen. I'm not aware that our brief visit would've been of much use, though Alfie entertained those present with his chiming of the tenor and it was good to see an effective open tower day in action, although as with all such occasions only time will tell how effective it is.

Ringing at The Norman Tower. Ringing at The Norman Tower.Mason and Alfie making use of the whiteboard at The Norman Tower.

Bread made and visitors informed and our traversing moved us on to the South-East District Practice at The Norman Tower. Odd as it may seem to hold a SE practice in the North-West District in Bury St Edmunds, some twenty miles from the District's nearest tower Earl Stonham, I can see the reasoning behind it. Less daunting for some than ringing within St Mary-le-Tower's history-laden walls and not as flighty as Grundisburgh's 10cwt twelve and with far more room than either ringing chamber, it is perhaps a more appropriate venue for such gatherings and to my mind it paid off, as around twenty-five ringers honed their skills on Suffolk's newest twelve. That figure included some much appreciated support from locals such as Rowan Wilson and Jed Flatters and Colman's Julian and Cathy, as well the visit of Christine and Peter Hill from Hampshire, but most importantly I believe it was of benefit to members from our corner of the Guild, especially those for whom ringing on ten and twelve is not a frequent occurrence.

Whilst in the area, it would've been remiss not to visit my brother Chris and whilst his wife Becky wasn't around and my younger sibling left us hanging on for a bit on his return from work, we enjoyed a convivial hour before returning to our town of residence and particularly mother-in-law Kate's for a celebration in anticipation of her birthday on Wednesday.

Hers isn't the only birthday due this month, with mine coming on the 15th, whilst the clocks will go back and the NW District are pencilled in to kick-off ADM season in a week at Rougham. That is planned with much unforeseen mixed in. But it is certain that it has started frenetically. And autumnal.

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Friday 30th September 2016

Well done to Tracey Scase on ringing her first quarter-peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major in the 1250 rung at Henley this evening.

For us though, it was a quiet day. A late shift at work for me meant that we had a little time this morning to be productive, but once I had happily picked Mason up with darkness already fallen, there wasn't much time left to do anything else, which was in keeping with the rest of a week where we have managed no ringing whatsoever.

Thank goodness for people like Tracey Scase giving me something of ringing interest to mention!

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Thursday 29th September 2016

Choir practice this evening - once Ruthie could get there having collected me from a late shift at work and then left me with Alfie and Joshua - had an extra impetus as they are nine days away from an open day at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. With the bellringers holding their tower open day this Saturday, it will be interesting how numbers compare. One would perhaps expect that there might be more interest in the bells at our nearest ring of bells, with the ringing chamber a more mysterious place to the general public, hidden away as it is halfway up the huge tower that is a landmark overlooking the whole town, whilst everyone can see and hear the choir. But which will get more recruits is harder to anticipate. Singing is something that people are more likely to know that they have a talent for before they even join a choir, whereas for almost everyone ringing may seem a daunting prospect and a real step into the unknown which may put people off, however fascinated they are by the art. We may find out over the coming weeks.

Either way, whilst the Tower Open Day will probably have happened by the time you read this, my wife and her colleagues would be delighted to see you if you are at a loose end on 8th October as they start at 10am with rehearsal workshops and finish with a concert at 4pm.

Meanwhile, I was delighted to see that two quarter-peals were rung in Suffolk, with a 1260 of Doubles at Rushmere St Andrew rung in celebration of the life of Bob Nightingale who was once a regular ringer at the 9cwt six and a 1272 of Bacup Surprise Minor at Tostock which was the first in the method for Ruth Suggett and Stephen Dawson - well done Ruth and Stephen!

Hopefully there will be more successes like this that emanate from people joining us from open days !

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Wednesday 28th September 2016

It hasn't been much of a week from a personal ringing perspective as for one reason and another Ruthie didn't make it to Pettistree, but thanks to the Guild's Twitter feed, I was this evening able to pick up on an appearance of bells on Jon Wright's Sunday morning show on BBC Radio Suffolk. The station are great supporters of ringing within our borders and Jon in particular has regularly had ringers - and bells - in his studio on his religiously-themed programme. This was a more fleeting blast of ringing, as the segment followed the newly ordained vicar of St Mary's in Newmarket, the Revd Max Drinkwater, who also happens to be a talented bellringer making the short move from Cambridge having previously made the rather longer move from Gloucestershire. Part of his morning involved helping ring the 21cwt six of the church under his care, meaning that they rang out across the airwaves briefly three days ago and again from our laptop this evening - listen about 2hrs10mins in.

They were ringing out for a longer period elsewhere, particularly in Pretyman Avenue in Bacton where peals of seven and nineteen Surprise Minor methods were rung on handbells and at Pettistree where the aforementioned practice missed by my wife was preceded by a quarter-peal of Annable's London Surprise Minor. At least someone was ringing this week!

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Tuesday 27th September 2016

Apart from a handbell peal at Bacton that lasted not that much less than Sam Allardyce's reign as England manager, there was very little to report from Suffolk's ringers generally, let alone us on another typically quiet Tuesday for us personally.

There is much lined-up for the coming days and weeks as October gets underway. The South-East District Practice is now pencilled in for 12.30-2.30pm at The Norman Tower on Saturday, whilst a week later the North-West District plans to kick-off the 2016 ADM season with theirs at Rougham and at the same time the North-East District Focus Practice is planned to be taking place at Rumburgh. A day later God willing, the South-West District completes the set by holding their Ten-Bell Practice at St Peter in Sudbury.

Also on that Sunday afternoon, there will be open ringing at Henley, where Guild Secretary Revd Carl Melville will be the Priest in Charge, along with the bell-less - for change-ringing purposes at least - Great Blakenham, Claydon and Barham, the latter of which is due to be the venue of his licensing and installation at 6.30pm.

So there should be much to do for the county's ringers . Though not for Sam Allardyce.

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Monday 26th September 2016

This Saturday, the South-East District is taking its October Practice outside its boundaries and going to The Norman Tower and all help will be gratefully received. Indeed, many will know about it, but they may not be aware that due to circumstances beyond the District's control, the timing has had to be moved from morning to early afternoon (12.30 - 2.30pm) - please take note and still come out to support us!

Unfortunately my late shifts at work again put paid to supporting St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice. Hopefully I can get my twelve-bell fix in Bury St Edmunds in five days time.

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Sunday 25th September 2016

Well done to our friends from Norwich on a superb piece on this evening's Songs of Praise (19 minute 19 seconds onwards) as the long-running religious show filmed inside St Peter Mancroft and outside where a mini-ring was set-up for passers-by and presenter Pam Rhodes to have a go on, whilst former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd was interviewed. Once again he came across brilliantly I thought and as a whole the segment was great PR for the exercise.

On our last day of looking after mother-in-law Kate's abode, we watched this televisual treat with the owner of the house and her travelling companion Ron on their return as they treated us to a Chinese takeaway, but earlier I had partaken in some ringing. However, whilst Ruthie and her choral colleagues were sharing the choir-stalls with a visiting choir from London, we were a little short on numbers upstairs in the ringing chamber, where ringing was restricted to the front five, before we attended the service and a salad-laden Sunday school.

Elsewhere there was a quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Major at The Norman Tower this afternoon, whilst yesterday George Salter impressively rang his first peal of Avon Delight Maximus in the 5042 at my favourite twelve Towcester - very well done George!

But the ringing headline act this weekend is our friends from Norwich. Super stuff!

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Saturday 24th September 2016

On a relaxing, leisurely morning, it was interesting to read the thread on the Bellringers Facebook page about returning ringers. Social media allows such mass interaction on issues like these and it was notable to see the reasons for why people left the art. There were some that we have long known about, such as youngsters giving up whenever the opposite sex, other activities and/or their education pull them away from what sadly seems to them - at the time at least - a stuffy hobby and others who fail to find their way out of their local tower and therefore inevitably lost interest in something that has limitless opportunities.

However, it was surprising and sad to see how many had been driven away because they had felt unwelcome at their tower. Especially when I was a youngster ringing, I frequently came across ringers and towers - not just in Suffolk I hasten to add - where at worst I seemed to be a nuisance and at best was patronised and not taken seriously, but I'd like to think that we are all more aware of the need to be welcoming and encouraging to ringers of all abilities to help the art grow and progress.

The question posed also asked why people returned and whilst this was on a bellinging page and so therefore responded to entirely by returning ringers, it was encouraging how many have found their way back. All is not lost when a ringer gives up!

One of the elements that helps make ringing so varied is one of my favourites, the outing, but we weren't on one today. Rather, we were greeting another outing to Ufford, as the ringers of Coggeshall in Essex visited the 13cwt eight. It was nice to welcome familiar faces like Brian Meads and Anne and Paul Bray, but whilst they were a little short on numbers we couldn't help out as we had promised the boys a trip to the nearby park, a visit we shared with the local football team who were playing - and conceding whilst we were there - against their visitors, before my wife locked up after Brian and co had finished at the end of a day that also saw them go to Tunstall, Blaxhall, Wickham Market, Pettistree and Bredfield.

Maybe their ringing might have enticed some former ringers back...

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Friday 23rd September 2016

When I first started doing the early shifts at John Catt Educational not long after I joined them in 2008, I frequently got lots of ringing done afterwards, taking advantage of the free weekday afternoons that I otherwise didn't get the opportunity to do. I occasionally attended the Second Tuesday Ringing and sometimes helped with ringing at the odd wedding, whilst many of our multi-spliced Surprise Minor peal attempts were attempted after a pre-dawn start in the office.

Nowadays I look back to then and wonder how I managed it. Whether it is age, parenthood or a combination of both, I often have to find time to have a quick nap and so I really look forward to Fridays such as today at the end of a week of earlies, as even with Joshua's broken nights (though those are improving tremendously currently to the extent that he's almost sleeping through sometimes!) it represents an opportunity to grab some proper sleep.
It also allows me to pick Mason up from school, but Fridays rarely offer forth any ringing for us.

Not so elsewhere, as the FNQPC were ringing a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at the isolated 10cwt ground-floor six of Ashbocking, a typical success for this band.

I was busier sleeping though.

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Thursday 22nd September 2016

Happy Eightieth Birthday to Margaret Roberts. Many will know and recognise her from various South-West District and Guild events as well as Second Tuesday Ringing (which is due to go to Kenninghall and Garboldisham in Norfolk on their next outing on 11th October) and I've always found her a lovely woman.

She celebrated her significant landmark with a quarter-peal at Nayland, which also happened to be Vicky De-Vries one-hundred-and-fiftieth in the medium - congratulations Vicky and Happy Birthday Margaret!

However, it was otherwise a quiet day on the ringing front, both for the county's ringers - judging by BellBoard and Campanophile at least - and us, as sleep was more the order of the day after another early start at work.

Hopefully Margaret had a more lively birthday!

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Wednesday 21st September 2016

Quite how she has managed it I'm not sure, but it is exactly a decade today since Ruthie and I began going out together. Even in my blog entries there isn't enough space to express my gratitude for her support, particularly during my time as Guild Ringing Master and then Public Relations Officer, though I hope I was able to repay her to a small extent with offering background help during her time as South-East District Secretary. My blog already records much of what she has had to put up with and frankly I couldn't have done it without her, especially with aiding my raising of Mason in that time.

Ten years on, she is now a mother herself of course, with Alfie and Joshua arriving during the four years since we were married and it was mainly due to them that this particularly significant anniversary was celebrated in a low-key and largely unromantic fashion, with a kebab and just a little beer, following on from an early start at work today and mindful of another one tomorrow.

That pre-dawn entry to the office did allow the time to take in a visit to Aunty Marian, my father's sister and a former ringer herself. Family and bells therefore featured prominently in our conversations over the hour-and-a-half at her north-Ipswich home of many years, but for us the day was all about taking as much time as our young children would allow to look back on one-hundred-and-twenty months of being together.

Ours is a relationship forged in ringing, which came about through the time we spent in church towers and inevitably the pub afterwards. One of those regular haunts is Pettistree, but this evening we forsook the practice night at the ground-floor six for our night in of unhealthy food, drink and baby vomit.
They seemed to survive without us mind, at least judging by the successful quarter-peal rung before their weekly session which seemed to put Derek Martin's considerable practice of Plain Bob Minor at Ufford last night to good use!

Pre-Ruthie though and I spent - as is also occasionally mentioned in this blog -some years in the West Midlands, much of which was spent ringing in Birmingham, a period of time which climaxed in an project that the Bullring band partook in involving ringing the sixteen in various combinations of controlled chords with some spectacular results! I've always found it hard to explain in words, so I was delighted to see a video on YouTube tonight of the current Bullring band revisiting the project with a composition of Alan Burbidge. Listening to it now brings back memories of a tremendously enjoyable afternoon!

It wasn't the only ringing video we caught tonight though, with more conventional ringing recorded by George Salter of the College Youths peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus he rang in at Chelmsford Cathedral on Saturday.
There is much to be got from ringing. Including a wife I'm glad to say.

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Tuesday 20th September 2016

Enthusiastic as we are on ringing, we have rarely gone out ringing every night of the week, feeling it is important to have some time out together. In our current circumstances that has become essential and with St Mary-le-Tower on Monday for me, Pettistree on Wednesday and choir practice for Ruthie and Thursday and Friday seeing Mason arriving, that typically leaves just Tuesday.

However, with Kate away this week, tonight I took on her role as Ringing Master at Ufford. With others away too, I also made up a quorum, as a sextet spent the night doing much on the back six, with Plain Bob Minor to Norwich Surprise Minor rung, though the latter was met with little success!

I think we just about kept our enthusiasm!

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Monday 19th September 2016

Stedman, the arch-nemesis of those suffering from a concentration deficiency. It is essentially a very simple principle, so I shan't bore you with outlining it here. You can look at a line of it and see for yourselves. And if you want to discover how remarkably uncomplicated the calls are then feel free to ask me or any other ringer of Stedman near you. Of course, when first ringing it, there will be mistakes as it will usually be the first change-ringing many will ring without the aid of a treble being on a set path to hang off. But once familiar with it, the only reason for going wrong is a lack of concentration and that is the most easily rectifiable thing in ringing.

Which is why it was so disappointing that tonight at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice the Triples, Caters and Cinques versions of the principle all collapsed as time after time those learning it were let down by those who should have known better.

Our inability to ring it was made to seem all the more bizarre by the fact that most other things were rung very well on a night when we also revisited spliced Surprise Royal and all of which offered a much more fitting au revoir to Colin Salter on his final Monday night here before he departs to the University of Surrey this weekend. He assures us all that his main focus will be his studies, but I'm sure that Guildford Cathedral in particular will benefit from his presence (he is already booked into a peal attempt there!) and I know he will be much missed here too, with his ability to just get on with something new and concentrate.

Hopefully we can learn to concentrate in Stedman for his return!

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Sunday 18th September 2016

The generally bi-weekly Sunday morning circuit was somewhat restricted today. St Mary-le-Tower was visited and call-changes on twelve well-rung, despite Joshua's best attempts to drown us out! But when it came to leaving and negotiating a path to Grundisburgh, we were met with a wall of road closures for Ipswich's Half-Marathon, a worthy event to be applauded but frankly a pain for those of us traversing betwixt Suffolk's heaviest and lightest twelves.

Still, made it we did and Mason and I contributed to the ringing whilst Susie Stafford voluntarily and incredibly willingly took on comforting and feeding a hungry Joshua and Alfie occupied himself, albeit reluctantly at times.

The disruption in the county town was still ongoing when we returned in the afternoon for my eldest son to join his contemporary Henry Salter for the latter's ninth birthday celebrations at Flux, a venue filled to the brim with trampolines and soft balls that the two of them and another the birthday boy's friends - also called Alfie - enjoyed immensely. This is a friendship born out of ringing, even if neither decide to take up the art in the long term and it allows us opportunity to catch up with Henry's parents Katharine and David on such occasions.

We did just that after the boys had finished their dodgeball session as we convened to their Rectory Road abode and whilst the children played, we chatted. It wasn't all ringing, but it was interesting to hear Daddy Salter's take on the recent BellBoard shenanigans! Particularly though, it was good to see him looking better after a recent hospital stay and on top form!

Whilst we were talking ringing, others were doing ringing in the county, with two quarter-peals and a peal rung, as a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor and 1260 of Plain Bob Minor were successful at Pettistree and Rougham respectively and the Ancient Society of College Youths rang a 5009 of Stedman Cinques at SMLT, as part of their annual Peal Weekend, conducted by our very own George Salter, parts of which we overheard as we went about celebrating Henry's birthday.

I'm glad they were able to get there past the runners!

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Saturday 17th September 2016

Whilst there was a game of two halves unfolding at Portman Road, elsewhere in the county we were having a day of two halves.

 Ringing at Eye on Pettistree's Autumn Mini-Outing. Typically for us - especially this morning with three boys to wake, breakfast and ready and Kate's animals to feed and water - we failed to make kick-off at Yaxley, the first tower of the Pettistree band's annual Autumn Mini-Outing. We made it as substitutes at Eye though, the second tower of the day, as I took on the role of player-manager, running the ringing at this 19cwt eight, housed in the imposing tower that looks over this lovely little town and its ruined castle. It was nice to catch-up with St John and Chris, local ringers who came along to spectate and lovely to hear of the young ringers who have been part of the band here. Much like Ipswich Town we made an uncertain start - not helped by a wandering workman dropping a battery charger above us and causing some concern as to what or whom we had broken - but got better, climaxing with a decent course of Little Bob Major, before we made our way to the half-time break at The White Horse in Stoke Ash.

Refreshments consumed, we were then ready for the second-half and the main reason why our outing had been brought to this delightful part of Suffolk - the Guild Social, this year being hosted by the North-West District. Since Philip Gorrod brilliantly reintroduced it during his time as SGR Chairman, this event has had a mixed response, which I simply can't understand. There is ringing of course, but there isn't the slightest degree of formality about these relaxed affairs and the focus is very much on the social side of things, as its title suggests. With each District taking it in turns to hold the occasion once in the years between our quinquennial Guild Dinners, we have a superb range of activities, with barbecues, quizzes, trails and barn dances. Yet it has been a real struggle at some of them to generate enough interest to make them viable, with the nadir reached twelve months ago when such was the unbelievable apathy to the North-East District's wonderful plans of brewery tours and a fun social that all bar the ringing was cancelled.

So it was perhaps understandable that the NW were cautious with their financial outlay today, with the worst that could've happened from an organisational perspective if no one turned up being that they would have lost the deposit on Thornham Magna Village Hall. However, for cheap, please don't read second-rate. For this was a marvellous way to wile away a few hours on a warm - but not too warm - September afternoon. The walk to Wickham Skeith was a super opportunity to chat with friends as we meandered to the ground-floor six surrounded by the beautiful landscape that we are so fortunate to live amongst. Wide open skies above the fields, woodland and streams, quaint thatched cottages and rough pathways cutting through it all.

Walking through Thornham Magna on the Guild Social.  Ringing at Wickham Skeith on the Guild Social.  Ringing at Wickham Skeith on the Guild Social.  Ringing at Wickham Skeith on the Guild Social.  Ringing at Wickham Skeith on the Guild Social.  Ringing at Wickham Skeith on the Guild Social.  Ringing at Wickham Skeith on the Guild Social. Ringing at Thornham Magna on the Guild Social.Ringing at Thornham Magna on the Guild Social.Picnics & Quizzes at Thornham Magna on the Guild Social.

Those rough paths were hard work with the buggy though and after 1.8miles shoving Alfie and Joshua across footbridges, through ditches and over a kissing gate - thank you to Mike Whitby for helping us on some of those - it seemed sensible after ringing for me to somehow return to our starting point to retrieve the car and drive back to WS again to collect the rest of the family to bring them back to the 8cwt six at St Mary Magdalene which will be familiar to those who partook in 2013 Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy competitions. We were grateful to Jane Harper for obliging me with a lift - thank you Jane!

Ringing done for the day, the majority retired to the aforementioned village hall, where we munched on our picnics whilst taking part in three quizzes that required us to work out the names of coastal, Norfolk and Suffolk towns and villages, with differing degrees of success!

Then it was full-time. Thank you to Mary Garner on the first-half arrangements and Rowan Wilson, Ruth Young, David Steed and everyone else involved in the second-half for a fantastic day. It was especially good to see Mike Whitaker who was visiting from his new home in Devon, but generally great to see so many friends from every District of the Guild. Already plans are being put in place for the 2017 Social, with a Barn Dance at Sproughton provisionally in place for Saturday 16th September - watch this space for confirmation and book the date in your diaries now please!

Meanwhile, the best of luck to Alex Tatlow who is leaving us again tomorrow to begin a new chapter in his life at Southampton. Watching his progress from an enthusiastic youngster from Great Barton to the talented composer and conductor already much respected and liked in the wider ringing community has been a privilege and he will be much missed within our borders.

Before his departure though, he conducted a 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at The Norman Tower. So although the Tractor Boys failed to score against Aston Villa, at least Alex and co were scoring in Bury St Edmunds.

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Friday 16th September 2016

New rings of bells can have varying degrees of merit. Whether as a complete virgin set or part of an augmentation, they can be a result of local enthusiasm and/or an impetus for the teaching of a band from the community. Sometimes though, you question the need for additional bell metal in an area where there aren't enough ringers to man the existing bells, if there are any ringers at all, though it would be unfair and probably unwise to name any in particular!

In the case of the proposed new 6cwt eight at St George's Memorial Church in Ypres, it would on the face of it be hard to envisage a native band of ringers blossoming from their historic installation, as it would be the first and only ring of bells hung for change-ringing in a permanent tower in Belgium. And yet there are isolated bands in countries such as Australia, Canada and the USA, whom although they are restricted by geography can thrive and progress and anyone learning in this Flanders tower will be a relatively short one hundred-and-thirty miles away from the well-established ringing scene in the Dutch town of Dordrecht and I imagine will have the support of the Central European Association.

The primary reason for this exciting project is a more profound one though. Sat in the shadow of the huge St Martin's Cathedral, St George's itself was built as a memorial to the half-a-million British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the fighting in the town and the surrounding battle-scarred landscape during the First World War, with the tower actually originally constructed with the intention of housing a peal of bells, but for whatever reason that never happened. Therefore, the centenary of that horrific human catastrophe seems to be an appropriate time to finally realise the ambition of English-style change-ringing in this "corner of a foreign field" in remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

It will take money off course and to that end there is a fundraising page and website which are worth looking at - I hope lots of people contribute for this very fitting memorial to those who died in the fields of Flanders one hundred years ago.

After another week of late shifts and having collected Mason, our evening was a lot closer to home, though not at home as we took up a bit of house-sitting on behalf of mother-in-law Kate, which as usual involved much animal-sitting too, whilst the Guild's peal totals were being added to with a 5040 at Harkstead, a ground-floor six rung from around the font. The addition of the treble there in 1983 seems to have been worthwhile!

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Thursday 15th September 2016

On a day when we did no ringing and there appears not to have been any quarters or peals rung in Suffolk, it seems appropriate to mention that the 16cwt eight of Framlingham will be out of action until the end of the month whilst scaffolding is up to allow the louvres to be repaired.

There is ringing elsewhere before the end of September though. Apart from Saturday's Guild Social at Thornham Magna, there will be a South-West District Practice at Great Thurlow a week later, whilst on the evening of Tuesday 27th you will be able to join the Halesworth Triples and Major Practice.

But nothing today...

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Wednesday 14th September 2016

Since his arrival over two months ago, Joshua has been exhausting. His colic has made just about every evening for the last few weeks a long one. We've long become used not being able to go out together since Alfie's birth, but we are now accustomed to being unable to watch our favourite TV programmes in peace, eat food or drink tea whilst its still warm or simply have a conversation. And whilst the amount of walking we do each night consoling the inconsolable child is giving us additional exercise, it probably isn't doing our carpets any good. Things that used to take minutes - including writing this blog - now take days, if they get done at all.

It has been impossible to commit to anything that late in the day - as much as I am keen to get back into the medium on a regular basis, twilight peals are a distant notion currently for example, involving as it would leaving Ruthie to deal with Josh for several hours at his most demanding time of the day, whilst getting Alfred to bed after she has looked after both of them all day whilst I have been to work. It simply wouldn't be fair.

Hopefully JB will settle down over the next few weeks and make the dusk routine a much more manageable proposition and of course we wouldn't swap him for all the sleep in the world. We have been blessed and smiles of joy (rather than wind!) have begun making an appearance, as have those delightful gurgling noises, whilst we are getting a remarkable five, six or even on occasions seven hours sleep at night rather being woken every hour or two as was the case just a few weeks ago.

Still, ringing offers an opportunity to retain a vague semblance of sanity and much-needed respite and so tonight my wife left me to the nightly battle to restore peace as she took a well-deserved break from it all by joining her mother Kate at Pettistree practice, where I ended up being put forward to run ringing at one of the tower's for the band's outing on Saturday (though not the first of the day, those who know our record on such matters will be relieved to hear!), but my wife enjoyed good fellowship, good ringing and then good beer afterwards in The Greyhound, whilst beforehand the weekly pre-session quarter-peal was rung, the fifty-second on these bells this year, with more than three months still to go until 2017.

Amazing how much ringing can be done when you have the time!

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Tuesday 13th September 2016

I marvel at the change of the seasons. Even though it happens every year and I know full well how it happens, how one day I can sit outside in comfort in bright, warming sunshine after a ringing practice and then just a matter of months later it is pitch dark before I even leave work in cold, wet - or even snowy - weather still stops me in my tracks. When I was a teenager and fortunate - with my brother - to be taken on holiday to Florida by Mum and Dad, I vividly recall meeting a local who had moved to the Sunshine State from further north in the USA and bemoaned the lack of distinction in the seasons in the far southern point of the states.

One can imagine how being roasting hot all year round would get boring, but we get so relatively little of it that I enjoyed this day which was atypically scorching for September as temperatures in the thirties centigrade. Although I spent much of it in the office on a late shift and darkness had fallen at around eight, there was still a sense of summer in the air, which remained warm as I went to Tesco not once but twice on one of those forgetful evenings, the sound of Woodbridge bells wafting across the town unusually clearly on their practice night accompanying me.

The sound of a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles would've have been heard across the rooftops of the picturesque village of Nayland today too - I hope it wasn't too hot for them!

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Monday 12th September 2016

British Sitcom: 60 Years of Laughing at Ourselves is a look back on six decades of sitcoms as part of the BBC's Sitcom Season, from Steptoe and Son to Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads to Absolutely Fabulous to Citizen Khan. Watching it this evening, I was reminded that I've often thought bellringing must be ripe for situational comedy, though the humour of a Surprise Maximus ringer forgetting to turn around in fourths when ringing the treble to Little Bob or someone calling call-changes instructing a fellow participant to follow a bell they're already following would be lost on the general public. And ideally it would need to be overseen by a ringer, judging by the pretty awful efforts of ’Allo ’Allo and Dad's Army when they have featured bellringing at least.

However, we know first hand how funny ringing can be and I'm sure we have the characters. There must be a Captain Mainwaring in the Guild or a Hyacinth Bucket. The county's ringers surely have a Victor Meldrew or Miranda among them. And I can certainly think of one member who brings to mind Father Jack Hackett...

Unfortunately, I was unable to spend my evening with any of these characters tonight, as a combination of an evening finish at work, the additional duties we have willingly taken on since Joshua's birth and the lack of a guaranteed spot anywhere near St Mary-le-Tower to park the car again made attending the weekly practice at Suffolk's heaviest twelve impractical.

Instead, once the boys had been put to bed and food was consumed, we ended up sitting back and laughing our way through the night. Lovely jubbly.

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Sunday 11th September 2016

These have been concerning times at All Saints church in Sproughton, a village on the edge of suburban Ipswich and where my brother Chris and I learnt to ring. A lack of a churchwarden and dwindling numbers amongst other familiar pressures felt by churches has seen a reduction in services held and therefore of course in ringing, though the regular Wednesday night practices have continued and the young band here still thrives. Mercifully though, there doesn't appear any danger of it closing down, as is the very real threat for many rural places of worship. A new churchwarden has been earmarked and there are proposals for a reordering of some of the building as well as for a toilet to be installed under the ringing chamber of this 8cwt six.

Ralph Earey and Joe Lavington ready to launch a teddy bear off the tower at Sproughton.Mason and Alfie at the bottom of the tower at Sproughton.Teddy bears go sailing off into the distance at Sproughton!Mason awaits the arrival of another falling teddy.Ruthie and Alfie flying paper aeroplanes from the ringing chamber at Sproughton.

And the popularity of the annual teddy bear parachute jump from the top of the tower doesn't show any signs of abating judging by this afternoon's latest event. Dozens of children - including Mason and Alfie - gathered excitedly around the bottom of the tower as stuffed toys descended from the hands of local tower captain and Chairman of the South-East District Ralph Earey, some plummeting straight down, getting bashed about against the side of the ancient flintwork, others floating serenely over the churchyard and actually beyond in one case! Alfred's spider Woolly and his older brother's 'Dancing Meerkat' sadly both came more towards the former category than the latter, but the main thing was they both enjoyed themselves immensely, as did their contemporaries and the adults, a good proportion of which were ringers, such as the Earey's, Phil and Sandy Jones and Sue and Jonathan Williamson. With all due respect to the aforementioned who I was pleased to see, I was most delighted to see Alan Foreman, looking well and with that beaming smile that will be familiar to all who know him.

Alan was one of the thirty-plus crowd that learnt to ring at St Matthew's in the county town in the 1990's with his late wife Audrey, but he has been unable to ring for some years and I can't recall the last time I had seen him, so it was splendid to catch up with him in the sunshine as teddies plummeted nearby.

Teddies launched a few times, we retired to the cool of the indoors for throwing paper aeroplanes from the gallery where this six are rung from - something that went about as well for us as the parachuting toys did!

Elsewhere in Suffolk they were enjoying this lovely day in a different way, as four quarters and a peal were scored. Well done to Peter Summers on ringing his first of Caters inside in the 1385 of Grandsire at The Norman Tower, whilst a 1320 of Doubles was rung at Old Newton and across the diocesan boundary at Lowestoft, a 1260 of Minor with the 13cwt tenor bonging behind was successfully completed.

Meanwhile, it was nice to see a QP at Burgh mark the eightieth birthday of Gillian Gurdon. She is notable for being the mother-in-law of Andrew Lloyd-Webber, but she is best known in our circles for being a former ringer at the 8cwt ground-floor six rung from the porch of St Botolph church which sits prominently on a hill alongside the B1079. So whilst the original plan of ringing a peal came unstuck, there were still drinks and the birthday girl to greet the band afterwards.

There was a successful peal within our borders though, as the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh returned to its main location having given the locals their normal break over the summer months, as a 5056 of Lathkill Surprise Major was rung, which as usual was a first in the method for the band and the Guild.

I had managed some ringing myself earlier, as the eldest two sons accompanied me to Woodbridge to ring for the service which we then attended, but otherwise it was a day of standing outside a tower rather than inside one!

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Saturday 10th September 2016

I've been mentioning ringing's link-up with Heritage Open Days on this blog, so I was delighted that we were able to do our bit this afternoon at Pettistree as we opened the doors of ringing at this ground-floor six to the general public. An exhibition of photos and literature from when the bells were rehung in 1986 and a new band taught was magnificent, but the centrepiece was a TV screen relaying live pictures of the 4cwt treble to the audience downstairs and all set up by local ringer Derek Martin.

The exhibition at Pettistree for Heritage Open Day.Alfie having a go on the model bell at Pettistree.Ringing at Pettistree for the Heritage Open Day.Ringing at Pettistree for the Heritage Open Day.

Sadly though, that audience was a small one, bar the ringers present and those there to welcome cyclists on the annual Suffolk Historic Churches Trust Sponsored Bike Ride, though some of the said cyclists did show an interest in what we were doing as the bells were periodically rung. With such open days, especially in rural communities where there is little passing traffic and when it is part of an event where those who may be interested in coming along have many places within a relatively small area to visit there was always the chance that the returns may not have been great.

However, that's not to say it wasn't worthwhile. People who wouldn't normally have taken notice of what we do found out much and publicity was generated, so whilst the merry band here may not benefit directly, ringing generally may.

Besides, we had a highly enjoyable couple of hours, ringing and chatting as Alfie enjoyed chiming the model bell and playing football with Mason and Joshua did all that a two-month old baby does.

It will be interesting to learn how others have done with this very worthwhile event.

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Friday 9th September 2016

Lesley Dolphin's afternoon show on the local BBC radio station has a feature called 'Dolphin's Dart', which over the course of her slot on air sees listeners attempt to guess a location in the county through a series of clues. Although Carlton Colville's bells fall under the Norwich Diocesan Association, they are actually in Suffolk and so when the six bells of St Peter featured as part of a pointer to today's answer that also imparted this particular community was near Lowestoft, it helped guide me to the correct answer. Eventually. Not that I phoned it in. Perhaps I should've.

I was able to tune in on an afternoon that topped off another week of early shifts at John Catt Educational that also allowed me to pick Mason up from his first week back at school, but elsewhere other ringers were ringing. The FNQPC rang a 1296 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Monewden, whilst JJ Ford's Peal Tour visited the ground-floor eights of Gislingham for a 5090 of Cambridge Surprise Major and Offton for a 5184 of Superlative Surprise Major.

Nothing at Carlton Colville though.

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Thursday 8th September 2016

Visiting the graveside of Ruthie's Nan this afternoon was a peaceful experience. At one end Melton Old Church stands in quiet serenity in an enclave of trees overlooking the churchyard with views over the fields and woodland surrounding the River Deben towards Bromeswell. It is a comforting spot to lay a loved one to rest.

In contrast, Joshua's first set of jabs were a less peaceful occasion. They are of course entirely necessary and to give him his dues, for the rest of the afternoon he appeared to have fully got over them. As wary, weary parents though, we suspected that wouldn't last and indeed the evening was a fairly horrendous one.

Not so I hope for other ringers who were partaking in the Challenge 500 Heritage Open Day tonight at 6pm. Whether the total nationwide reached that target I don't know, but I do know that Suffolk's towers were doing their bit, which at Grundisburgh included ringing a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles before the weekly practice there and was Joanna Crowe's first in the principle on that number. Well done Jo and indeed to everyone who took part in the challenge across the county.

Elsewhere within our borders, JJ Ford's Peal Tour took in a 5120 of Rutland Surprise Major at Ufford.

meanwhile were steeling ourselves for a long, stressful night. We are not expecting a peaceful one!

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Wednesday 7th September 2016

More superb publicity for ringing with Southwark Cathedral ringer Rhiannon Meredith's article in The Telegraph yesterday which I had my first opportunity to read today. I don't know Rhiannon personally, but she rings regular quarters and peals, often in more complex ringing on higher numbers and is part of a very active ringing scene down in London and it shows in her superbly written piece which puts across an impression of ringing that I try to impart - the wide variety of opportunities it offers to a wide variety of people in a wide variety of places and in a wide variety of ways. Memories of a job interview where the interviewer and I spent most of the time discussing the episode of QI that features ringing came flooding back, as did the misconceptions that I - and others I expect - encounter from non-ringers. It is certainly a must-read and see if you can spot the Suffolk ringer in one of the photos that accompany this wonderful account of the exercise!

Being a Wednesday, it was my wife's turn to take advantage of what the hobby offers as she went to Pettistree to partake in the pre-practice quarter-peal, the practice itself and then the post-practice drinking in The Greyhound on an evening when all present admired the work of Derek Martin that will allow visitors on Saturday's Heritage Open Day to watch the treble ringing upstairs on a TV screen downstairs.

Meanwhile, JJ Ford's Peal Week continues to epitomise the many elements of ringing that means that - if you allow it - it need never, ever be boring and routine. Friends gathered on a holiday in a nice part of the world, visiting venues largely unfamiliar to them, participating in what one would imagine is some brilliant ringing. Today saw them ring peals of Cassiobury Surprise Major and Spliced Surprise Major at the coastal eights of Hollesley and Orford respectively and whilst not every ringer's cup-of-tea, I imagine these peal-ringers will have greatly enjoyed themselves thus far this week.

It wasn't the only performance in the medium within our borders since the sun rose as I did on another early shift at work this morning, with a 5000 of Little Bob Major rung at The Wolery, though you will have to go to Campanophile to see that it was Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge's first in the method - well done Neal!

And the 1296 of Ipswich Surprise Minor that my wife performed in this evening wasn't the only QP in the county as a 1280 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Superlative and Rutland Surprise Major spliced was impressively rung at Elveden and a 1272 of Queen Bess Delight Minor was rung at Preston St Mary, a first in the method for all the band and the first blows of it for Stephen Munford. Well done to all there, especially my brother's father-in-law!
His son-in-law's nephew meanwhile had been across the Norfolk border, as Alfie was taken out for a day trip by my parents to see the trains at Bressingham, a gesture gratefully received as it allowed us to rest this afternoon as Joshua did. And to read that marvellous article by Rhiannon!

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Tuesday 6th September 2016

A typically dull Tuesday from a personal ringing perspective. Primarily the highlight was snoozing for us when the boys allowed us as a combination of an early start at work for me and a not unexpected broken night's sleep for Ruthie thanks to Joshua's whims meant we were frankly shattered come the afternoon and evening.

Not so elsewhere in Suffolk as JJ Ford's Peal Week contributed to another busy day of ringing in the county, as they pealed Lowestoft with a 5088 of Uxbridge Surprise Major and a peal and a quarter were rung on handbells at East Green Farm in Kelsale, with a 5040 of Surprise Minor and 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor scored. And again visitors were ringing within our borders, though only just as the North-East District of the Essex Association crept over the River Stour to the 20cwt eight of Bures for a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples as part of their Quarter-Peal Month.

At least someone's keeping things interesting!

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Monday 5th September 2016

Today was the first day of the new school year for most children in the UK, signalling the end of the summer holidays and it seems the return of a proportion of attendees at St Mary-le-Tower practice, at least judging by this evening's decent attendance at Suffolk's heaviest and oldest twelve. London (No.3) Surprise Royal was revisited for the first time for a while and whilst it had an understandably rusty start, it metamorphosed into a super bit of ringing. Stedman Cinques was decent and Sonia did brilliantly in some call-changes on twelve where - as requested - I got her going up and down lots! George and Diana were quite rightly thanked for their arrangements on Saturday and willing participants volunteered to ring on Thursday for the Challenge 500 Heritage Open Days.

However, whilst others stomped purposefully towards The Robert Ransome for a post-session drink, I returned home at the end of a long day and ahead of an early one tomorrow, but elsewhere it had been a very busy day throughout the county, albeit predominantly for visiting ringers. JJ Ford's Peal Week continued apace in the North-East District with a 5056 of Bristol Surprise Major at Coddenham and a quarter-peal on handbells at East Green Farm in Kelsale, whilst in the South-West District visitors rang QPs of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Lavenham, Zverinogolovskoye Surprise Major at Long Melford and Ryme Extrinseca Surprise Major at St Gregory in Sudbury. Even the one local effort of a 1260 of Doubles at Iken involved the help of Julian Back, visiting from Wales!

Presumably none of these visitors have children to take to school!

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Sunday 4th September 2016

Magnificent exposure for bellringing this morning across the BBC. Dickon Love was on the national Breakfast show on BBC1, whilst there was a story on the Beeb's website and many of the British Broadcasting Corporation's local radio stations across the UK carried interviews with ringers. For us here though, the most notable piece of publicity on the airwaves was on Jon Wright's Radio Suffolk programme where he interviewed South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey and one of the many youngsters from the band at Sproughton, Joe Lavington. Not knowing it was going to be on, the first I was aware of it was when I heard the super sound of handbells emanating from our kitchen, as Colin Salter and George Vant opened the segment.

There seems to have been two prompts for this wave of interviews, films and sounds of bells. One was a survey that suggested that it is getting harder to attract young ringers to the exercise. It is important to note that the survey seems only to be based on ringers' perceptions, but I expect hard stats will back it up. Much focus is placed upon the recruitment of young ringers and rightly so. If we get it right with a youngster, God willing it introduces someone who will contribute to the art for potentially seventy, eighty or even ninety years. Indeed, with the frightening announcement by Professor Rudi Westondorp last year that the first person to live for a millennium has already been born, who knows how long they could continue ringing? As with most things, they will normally catch on more quickly and often they will add a tremendous energy and vitality to a ringing chamber. And for the youngsters themselves it can be highly beneficial to their general development, socially and in other ways, such as with numbers, concentration and teamwork.

However, to my mind, one of the beauties of ringing is that people can begin at almost any age. For example, Susan Schurr at Pettistree didn't start until she was in her seventies and yet by the time ill-health eventually prevented her from carrying on her ringing, she had rung fourteen quarters and become an integral part of the band at the ground-floor six. Undoubtedly if she had discovered our wonderful hobby decades earlier she would have made an extremely fine ringer, but she still got years of joy from it and we got a loyal and dependable ringing colleague and good friend. She is an extreme example perhaps, but there are countless others who have started at various points of adulthood and contributed much to the Guild.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, that despite most in the survey saying they felt it was harder to recruit under twenty-ones, the majority were optimistic for the future of the art - let's hope they're right! The interviewees put forward for our bit on the air did superbly and I felt put a positive face on things whilst also expressing the need for new recruits and generally I thought ringing came out quite well from all the coverage.

And even if you are feeling gloomy about ringing's prospects, there is an early opportunity to do something about it in the form of the link-up with Heritage Open Days next weekend, with the challenge being to have at least five hundred towers open and a hope for simultaneous ringing at 6pm on Thursday, which was also a prompt and focus for the media coverage today.

Apropriately on the back of this, it was encouraging to meet Yasmin at Grundisburgh this morning, a young ringer who is the latest in the long line of ringers who Stephen Pettman has taught and who did well bonging behind to some Plain Bob Doubles and partaking in some call-changes on twelve.

Earlier, I went to St Mary-le-Tower and then St Lawrence on a very productive routine of Sabbath service ringing, whilst elsewhere ringers were also being productive, with a trio of Norfolk-born thousand-pealers ringing a 5040 at Pretyman Avenue in Bacton, one of two handbell peals rung within our borders by different organisations, with the Norfolk Diocesan Association's effort in the west of the county accompanied by a Hertford County Association success at East Green Farm in Kelsale. And there were resident quarter-peals rung too, with a 1296 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at the aforementioned Pettistree and 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Rougham. None of which garnered the same publicity as ringing got this morning, but which is still worthy of mention on this blog!

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Saturday 3rd September 2016

An outing organised by George Pipe is a distinctive affair. They will take you far and then wide and offer less time to grab a meal in than I would usually get to finish off my sandwiches during my lunch-break at work. Yet they are an adventure that will usually be well-attended. And so it was today as the St Mary-le-Tower outing arranged by GWP took us to Norfolk, from the centre south-west of Norwich to the coast at the far north-east of our neighbouring county.

Unsurprisingly we didn't make the first tower Hethersett, a combination of our usual slow starts for such occasions, waking, jentacularing and dressing three boys and then feeding my mother-in-law's menagerie of animals in her absence meaning we didn't set off soon enough.

As it happened, we didn't make the second tower of the day Wymondham either, having spent an age crawling through Long Stratton as the curse of free-moving traffic the temporary traffic lights brought the A140 to a grinding halt and meant we were still approaching the 26cwt ten as ringing there was winding-up.

Instead, we decided to journey on to Dereham for a longer lunch at The Bull, where despite the absence of all but the Abbots Ale ill-advised for a driver, we enjoyed nice food and a quick chat with the Whitings, David Stanford and Adrienne Sharp outside as they squeezed lunch in, the sound of the 22cwt eight of St Nicholas already audible.

Ringing at Dereham.Ringing at Dereham.This was the first of three towers with stories attached to them for me personally, as it was one of the venues for five quarter-peals that I rang in one day with Beccy Dickenson, Paul Norris, Simon Rudd and Mike Whitby almost exactly a decade ago, but is also memorable for the name of Offton ringer Kevin Hohl being on many of the pealboards in the ringing chamber and the yellow and green sally on the fifth being handled with disdain by a succession of Ipswich Town fans!

Talking of the Tractor Boys' footballing rivals, our next tower of Holt some nineteen miles away stuck in the memory for me for being where a peal of Norwich City FC Surprise Major was rung to celebrate their promotion to the Premier League in 2011, dedicated to ITFC's nemesis of that season Grant Holt. They have since been relegated, promoted and relegated again, so I could look back and smile at the dig (which was admittedly a retort to a peal we'd rung at Grundisburgh two years earlier to celebrate their relegation to League One!) and enjoy this lovely little eight behind the organ, as well as watch the attempts by some to fix Brian Whiting's brake light in the rain!

How many ringers does it take to change a light bulbView from the tower stairs at Cromer.Ringing at Cromer.Ringing at Cromer.Ringing at Cromer.Ringing at Cromer.

That rain continued on to the seaside town of Cromer, where the tower of SS Peter and Paul stood tantalisingly over us on a weekend away here a few years ago. I remember feeling slightly disappointed not to have had the chance to ring there then, but even if we had grabbed them, they would have been a very different prospect, having been rehung and augmented from six to the very pleasant eight that we climbed the eighty-two steps to ring this afternoon.

With time ticking on and a two-hour journey home ahead of us in atrocious weather, we decided against joining the outing at Northrepps and a meal that followed to meander back to Suffolk where another sobering quarter-peal at Buxhall remembering those who died in the First World War a century ago was rung, though this time one more personal to one of the ringers, as the great-uncle of conductor Nigel Gale was recalled. And JJ Ford's Peal Week continued with a 5056 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Henley rung for the Hertford County Association.

Still, despite our early departure and late arrival, we had a lovely day out of good ringing with friends in lovely places. Thank you George for your distinctive but enjoyable arrangements!

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Friday 2nd September 2016

Work continues apace at what has often been referred to as 'Orrible 'Orringer by many for as long as I can recall. They aren't to be known by that affectionate but derogatory term anymore though, as the old 9cwt eight left St Leonard of Limoges this week for John Taylor's in Loughborough, God willing to be recast on 20th October and back in time to ring out for Christmas. If you are on Facebook, it is well worth liking the project's page which is titled 'PEAL APPEAL - St Leonards, Horringer' to keep updated and to see videos and photos of proceedings.

I caught up with it all on a short and quiet evening following the end of a week of late shifts at John Catt Educational - well quiet once the three boys had got to sleep! It was nice just to sit and have some time to ourselves for a while.

Whilst for us that meant having a chat, watching TV and going online, for the Salter boys George and Colin it is an opportunity to pick up handbells and ring quarter-peals of Minimus that take longer to write-up than to ring, at least judging by today's 1274 changes in thirty methods rung in just nineteen minutes!

Taking a bit more time meanwhile was the visiting Hertford County Association band who rang a peal of London Surprise Major at Helmingham as they kicked-off JJ Ford's Peal Week. I imagine there will be plenty more, but they definitely won't be going to 'Orrible 'Orringer on this occasion!

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Thursday 1st September 2016

With Ruthie's choir's annual August break finished - as one would expect now we have entered September - we returned to the logistical challenges that arise when my late shift at work overlaps my wife's choir practice, creating a childcare vacuum. For much of the last year or so that vacuum has been filled partly by my mother-in-law taking Alfie along to Guides upstairs or him accompanying his mother as she sung at the church centre until I finished in the office and was able to collect him, but this evening was the first time that Joshua entered into the equation, meaning that arrangement is now impractical. The only real option tonight therefore was for Mrs Munnings to await my clocking-off to be relieved of child-watching duties and join her colleagues a little late.

It doesn't change the overlap we get at the end of choir practice though, which finishes long after Grundisburgh's weekly session starts, meaning that as usual it wasn't possible for either of us to get along to Suffolk's lightest twelve, but others were busier within our borders as a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at the lovely 6cwt ground-floor six of Theberton, whilst a peal of the Major version was rung just four miles down the B1122 at Leiston.

Nice as it would be to partake in such performances, it would currently be a logistical step too far!

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Wednesday 31st August 2016

Now that it is impractical for Ruthie to go to St Mary-le-Tower practice, our general weekly routine is that I go to SMLT on a Monday whilst my wife undertakes the currently lively task of looking after Alfie and Joshua and she then goes to Pettistree on a Wednesday as the roles are reversed.

Therefore this evening, I stopped in with the boys as I read Alfred's bedtime stories to the backdrop of his little brother Josh filling the air with his screaming, whilst their mother had a deserved night out at the ground-floor six where she joined a session that followed on from the usual pre-practice quarter-peal, both of which were helped by the visit from Saxlingham Nethergate in Norfolk of Ros Burrough.

It was accompanied within our borders by a 1320 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Buxhall, the latest of a large number rung there marking the deaths of soldiers a century ago in the First World War who had connections to the village. I have been generally impressed by the number of quarters and peals rung in Suffolk since 2014 to remember the sacrifice made by ringers and others one hundred years ago in the awful conflict that consumed particularly Europe, but the QPs performed upon the 15cwt gallery-ring of six have been a particularly wonderful tribute to those who lost their lives. Although that six have already been rung for those connected to this small community alone just half-way into the commemorations is a damning indictment of the awful waste of life that occurred on the battlefields between 1914-1918.

I can't say what the band did after their efforts, but I do know that many from the other aforementioned quarter ended their evening in The Greyhound, where they were accompanied by - amongst others - Mrs Munnings. As is often the case on a Wednesday now.

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Tuesday 30th August 2016

Most welcome as long weekends are, going back to work - however much I enjoy it - can be tough, so I was glad of a late start at work and a simply ginormous chocolate cake generously presented by our departing director Derek to be shared amongst our modestly sized workforce and which was still about three-quarters intact after pretty much everyone had had a couple of slices and employees had even taken pieces home for relatives, with Ruthie and Alfie benefiting from some at lunchtime.

The late finish made going out ringing anywhere this evening impractical, but Tuesdays are usually quiet for us anyway. Not so for the ringers of Offton of course, who have their practice on the night of the second working day of the week and who typically ring a quarter-peal beforehand. Though not quite up to the astonishing numbers at Pettistree where already forty-seven QPs have been rung in 2016, tonight's 1260 of Grandsire Triples was still the nineteenth quarter of the year upon the 8cwt ground-floor eight thus far, of which all bar four have been on a Tuesday before their weekly session. Congratulations to Janet Sheldrake on the birth of her granddaughter today!

It is a great start to this short working week!

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Monday 29th August 2016

What a round of drinks at a beer festival looks like for us these days!The August Bank Holiday Monday often has the feel of a swansong to summer. No more lazy bank holidays and the extra time off work it gives most of us until Christmas - behind us those (mainly) sunny days and long, warm evenings, ahead of us (unless there is a dramatic departure from the norm) nights drawing in, leaves falling and cooler climes. So we were keen to take advantage of our local pub The Cherry Tree's beer festival at some point this weekend, possibly a last opportunity to sit outside in what is not only a lovely beer garden, but also a superb playground that allows parents and other associated adults to sup their alcohol whilst the youngsters climb up ladders, slide down slides and ride wobbly ducks - we certainly weren't the only family thinking along the same lines!

Although the range of beers was not unexpectedly limited on the third and final day of this festival, we were afforded the freedom of trying a few of what was left by a late start at work tomorrow and a lack of St Mary-le-Tower practice on what was a quiet day for Suffolk's ringers within our borders, though some were busier beyond, with Colin Salter and his father David partaking in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Royal at Bishop's Stortford in Hertfordshire.

A fine swansong to summer!

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Sunday 28th August 2016

My indulgent ranting on ringing the front six of eights and twelves fresh in my mind, it was nice that all the bells were rung together at Woodbridge for morning service, an increasingly familiar scenario I'm pleased to report, even if we were greeted by the sound of the front seven calling people to worship! It also allowed me to take in the best view - in my humble opinion at least - from on the end of a bell-rope in Suffolk, as I rang the 25cwt tenor from the box that allows vistas of the rooftops of this picturesque market town and the River Deben meandering off towards the North Sea.

In my experience, it vies with a number of spots for the national equivalent, including York Minster, which brings me neatly to a young ringer from within our borders who has become a regular at the famous 59cwt twelve. For both they and St Mary-le-Tower will have to make do without Lucy Williamson, who has just started a year living and studying in Paris, an exciting adventure that she has begun a blog about. It is mainly a blog by a ringer rather than about ringing, but already the exercise gets a mention and there is a growing ringing scene on the continent with the Central European Association at the centre of it, though of course that shouldn't be her priority!

The new resident of France's meanderings wasn't the only reading material I took in over the course of the day. When I was Guild Ringing Master and then Public Relations Officer and Ruthie was South-East District Secretary, we used to get piles of the brand new copy of SGR's triannual magazine Awl a'huld, which we typically read from cover-to-cover before distributing, but these days we don't get that pleasure and so this morning in the ringing chamber of our local eight and then later on this very website was my first flick through the summer edition, the twentieth in total since its inception in the spring of 2010. As usual, it is full of interesting titbits from across the Guild, with an encouraging dollop of youth with reports on our young ringers' efforts at the Ringing World National Youth Contest in London and the South-West District's Young Ringers social get-together. It was nice as well to hear from new Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase who has outlined his plans - please, can as many members as possible support him, as it will be to the benefit of Suffolk ringing if he succeeds. It was also great to a piece on the quarter-peal we rang at Offton back in April to celebrate my mother ringing for fifty years, complete with photo!

With a degree of dampness outside, it was a good afternoon for reading, but we did venture out post-lunch, if only for a family drink at The Mariners. Although the character has been ripped out of this wonderful venue in the main - as previously bemoaned by me - a seat in the window bay is still one of my favourite spots in the town, watching the world going past on New Street, looking up towards the tower of the aforementioned ring of eight. They are a great sound when all of them are being rung!

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Saturday 27th August 2016

Mason pointing out the bit he painted on Pigasus!Mason  Alfie next to Pigasus.Alfie at the playground in Holywells Park.

The Pigs Gone Wild Trail in Ipswich has been going for a couple of months and is only days from being wound up and the pigs being taken away to be auctioned off for charity, a fittingly worthy climax to something that has given a lot of joy to children in particular. However, whilst we have spotted the odd one about town - such as the one at St Mary-le-Tower - as we've gone about other business, we haven't had the opportunity to seek out any of the porky art-pieces, primarily because the tail-end of Ruthie's pregnancy and Joshua's birth have made wandering around the trail impractical. We were keen at least to see Pigasus though, which Mason helped to paint and so finally we specifically sought a pig and criss-crossed our way across the east side of our county town to Holywells Park and most particularly the stables where his work of art was sat.

Not only was it great to find it - although the eldest had already been to see it on a school trip - but also pleasant to look around a part of the community I grew up in that had gone hitherto largely unexplored by us, certainly in my memory. We hadn't expected much. It is situated in an area which is - I think it is fair to say - not the finest corner of Suffolk and we've never had much call to delve into these streets, with the nearest ring of bells hung for change-ringing being the 15cwt six at the redundant - but possibly soon to become an arts centre - St Clement's church up in the town centre. But it was a tremendous oasis akin to the better known Christchurch Park that sits alongside the 14cwt eight at St Margaret's church, with a wonderful play area, streams and waterfalls. We may even come back, God willing.

Whilst we didn't do any ringing, it was a busy day for ringers elsewhere within our borders, with a peal and five quarters rung on our soil. There was a 5040 of Surprise Minor on handbells in Bacton, whilst the latest of a number of QP's at Buxhall to remember the fallen of the village in the First World War was rung, a 1344 of Plain Bob Triples at Debenham remembered Shirley Bignell the wife of local ringer Clive, a 1264 of the Major version was scored at Halesworth and a 1260 of the Doubles equivalent was notched up at nearby Wenhaston. The headline act from a ringing perspective though was at Sweffling, where Barry Kimber rang his first quarter-peal today. Well done Barry - hopefully the first of many!

Meanwhile, we were happy going wild with pigs!

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Friday 26th August 2016

Ringing has had some unusual publicity this week in the form of A Question of Sport. Even if you've never watched it, most will know that this is the long-running quiz on sport featuring well-known sports personalities and a central mainstay of the format is the Mystery Guest round, where contestants attempt to guess the identity of a sportsperson featured in a short film carrying out an activity, but whose features are disguised or partially hidden. This section on the latest edition of the popular show shown first on Wednesday evening and then again tonight featured a sporting character having a go at ringing. I shan't reveal who the star was in case you still want to watch it on BBC iPlayer (the bit in question comes 22mins12sec in), but I shall impart that the filming was done at St Alban's Cathedral, a location we visited almost exactly three years ago on the 2013 Rambling Ringers Tour and which will be familiar to many reading this. On one hand it must have been logistically difficult to get a TV crew up the lengthy, winding and narrow route to the ringing chamber, high above the cathedral aisles. Once there though, it seems the ideal place for housing the cameras and equipment needed to put even this short piece of televisual viewing together, as the 21cwt twelve are rung in an area that takes up just a quarter of the floorspace in the large central tower of this famous landmark and I thought it was filmed well, with no embarrassing stereotypes or silliness entertained.

We watched this unexpected piece of PR for the art at the end of a day that saw me go in for my last early-shift of the week, which also allowed me to join Ruthie and Joshua in hosting my wife's long-time friend, bridesmaid and Alfie's Godmother Fergie as she paid us a visit to meet our youngest son for the first time. It was a lovely afternoon that saw topics veer from her recent promotion to a game show contestant's assertion that Diane Abbott had won Parliament's Beard of the Year contest.

There was no ringing involved, but elsewhere Suffolk's ringers were performing upon the county's bells, most notably at Ashbocking where the FNQPC rang a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor, where all the participants could be easily identified!

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Thursday 25th August 2016

Usually I wouldn't think twice about attending one of John Catt Educational's meals. They are usually hugely enjoyable occasions held in one of the many wonderful pubs in our part of the world and always paid for by the company. My attendance at this evening's latest employee get-together wasn't immediately accepted though, as I consider the imposition it would place upon Ruthie as she dealt with two not necessarily cooperative young boys whilst I made merry.

However, tonight was arranged as a farewell for the organisation's longest serving employer Derek. He has been there for nearly thirty years, a reassuringly experienced and wise hand and as a director he was one of the pair who interviewed me for the job I currently have, setting me on my way to at least eight years of service to JCEL that has transformed my life. So with my wife cheerfully adamant that she could cope with Alfie and Joshua and a lift arranged with someone equally keen as me to return earlier rather than later, I found myself at The Plough and Sail at Snape Maltings, a lovely venue which didn't let us down on food or service, though judging by the quality I'm glad I wasn't picking up the bill!

It meant that there was no chance of going to Grundisburgh practice which apparently continues to attract decent numbers and useful ringing on a weekly basis, but whilst we weren't on the end of a bell-rope today, others were, with the visit of the Yorkshire Association for a peal of Yelford Surprise Major at Kersey, with some local help. Knowing Mr Culham and the Salters, I don't expect they needed to think twice about accepting that invitation!

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Wednesday 24th August 2016

Neither Ruthie or I have had a full night's sleep in the month-and-a-half since Joshua was born. Recall the reluctance you can feel when your alarm awakens you from your cosy slumber and then imagine that happening every two-to-three hours. Depending on what time I've got to be in the office, we take it in turns to attend to Josh's frequent overnight needs, but even if it is one's night 'off', it is nigh on impossible not to have your sleep broken by the piercing screams that fill the house and probably most people's homes within a five-mile radius! It comes with the territory of course and it is pretty much what we had braced ourselves for, but it is exhausting.

So there was an immense sense of respite in the household when our youngest slept for an astonishing six hours last night and whilst we don't anticipate it is the end of the long nights of feeding, nappy-changing and comforting, it is reassuring to know he has it in him to snooze for so long!

It helped give his mother the energy to join his granny in ringing a quarter-peal at Pettistree prior to the practice tonight and then a drink in The Greyhound, but typically his breakthrough came in the midst of a week of early shifts at work for me, meaning that I wasn't able to fully appreciate the extra time in bed afforded us by JB.

No such trouble around the county as another QP was rung at Preston St Mary, the first of Eyam Delight Minor for all the band and the 1500th in the medium for David Steed - well done to the entire band and congratulations David!

Meanwhile, a handbell peal of Doubles was rung in Bacton to celebrate the recently much publicised sixtieth anniversary of Winston Girling's first peal, whilst a 5040 of Minor was successful at The Wolery and was dedicated to middle son of the household Colin Salter gaining a place at the University of Surrey. He is the latest of a number of talented young ringers leaving our borders, but whom we wish the best of luck to - congratulations Colin, but you'll be missed come your departure! I expect you'll have better nights than us!

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Tuesday 23rd August 2016

Weighing in at 11lbs11oz on his latest weigh-in today, Joshua is definitely putting weight on at an encouragingly fast pace, but this was just about the only part of our day vaguely worth reporting on in today's blog.

However, other ringers were busier in Suffolk, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Buxhall, whilst the 81st birthday of Offton ringer Kevin Hohl was celebrated by a quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major. I have a lot of time for Kevin, one of the constants from when I made my first steps into advanced Surprise Major on this ground-floor eight back in the 1990's and a jolly interesting chap to chat to. Happy Birthday Kevin!

There is more due to happen in the coming weeks too, with a South-East District Practice planned for the evening of Saturday 3rd September at Helmingham. Much has been cut from the SE's programme as many of you will know, so I hope that was in put on is supported by its members.

A few days later, many towers in the county will be opening their doors as part of Heritage Open Days where many 'hidden' places can be explored by the public. It should be a tremendous PR opportunity for ringing within our borders and if you are taking part but haven't told Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge, then please do - he'll be delighted to hear from you!

Whilst on the subject of potential future ringing, it is worth noting an occasion when there definitely won't be any ringing. Often St Mary-le-Tower continues its weekly Monday practices on bank holidays, but it is difficult to anticipate numbers for such nights and next week there weren't enough able to commit to attending and therefore have a session on the next bank holiday, so please don't travel to our heaviest twelve expecting ringing!

It's may be another quiet day for us on the ringing front.

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Monday 22nd August 2016

The sound of the front six of an eight or twelve is an uncomfortable sound at the very least, often an assault on the ears. It sounds incomplete and even the best ringing on them can grate. It is occasionally necessary and even useful though, especially on heavy eights where it isn't always practical for the local band to ring a heavy back six when numbers are low, such as at Woodbridge. And this evening, with a typically sparse August attendance at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, there were opportunities aplenty for Sonia, including some bonging behind to Grandsire Doubles. However, the 10cwt eighth which we would usually use in such circumstances was thought to be bit too heavy and so we rang the front six, allowing her to ring the 6cwt sixth to much greater effect - she did very well!

We did manage more advanced pieces though, such as Superlative Surprise Major on the front eight, but it was a generally low-key session that finished a few minutes early with a touch of Stedman Triples on the back eight that sounded nicer than ringing on the front six!

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Sunday 21st August 2016

This Sabbath was wiled away by us by football, zoo animals and Chinese takeaway, but alas no ringing.

The beautiful game came courtesy of the return of the East Anglian local derby, a curious occasion when viewed subjectively. Ruthie and I don't feel the need to get one over our neighbours by getting a bigger caravan than them or sitting outside the front of our house in the rain for the longest. Yet when Ipswich Town play Norwich City, I and thousands of others on both sides metaphorically bay for each other's blood and demand that our team get one over this lot more than any other, simply because they come from the neighbouring county. What makes it all the more preposterous is that Tractor Boys and Canaries get along perfectly well in everyday life - in ringing I enjoy friendly banter, enjoyable conversation and good ringing with Naaaaridge supporters like David Brown, Sue Marsden and former Suffolk Guild Chairman and current North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod.

Yet once I had parked the car up opposite the 10cwt six of St Matthew up the hill from the Portman Road stadium which was the location for today's showdown, there was a deep sense of trepidation as Mason and I joined the throngs making our way nervously down to the ground. For we are fully aware of the gap in finances and therefore quality between us and our feathered friends from up the A140 and so the expectation was that we were in line for a defeat. We could only hope it wasn't too embarrassing.

Mason at the Fanzone before the Ipswich Town-Norwich City.Such fears were forgotten briefly with a visit to the new Fanzone for the boy to enjoy inflatable play equipment and live music and a pint for me whilst we met up with my brother Chris and his friend who we were to sit with for the duration of ninety minutes of expected sporting agony, but as soon as we stepped onto the terraces to be greeted by a mass of yellow and green directly opposite and a wall of noise and activity, the nerves began jangling.

What was to follow was a blast from the past, a return to before ludicrous amounts of pound sterling drowned the game and destroyed any notion of a level playing-field, especially in this particular fixture. An end-to-end exhibition of excitement, even if very little skill came into it, which could very easily have been won by either right up until the end, but ended in a diplomatic 1-1 draw. There was much silliness like people dancing dangerously on rooftops, bottles being thrown at opposing players from 'supporters' and flares set off, prompting much police activity, but it all helped enthral my son!

Such happenings were supposed to be avoided by the ridiculous noon kick-off, but instead it only served to make morning service-ringing impractical for the eldest and me, though it did leave plenty of time to drop Mason off at his grandparents for a couple of days away and for me to rejoin his younger brothers, Ruthie and her mother Kate for that taste of the oriental after they had spent the day on the other side of the Norfolk border at Banham Zoo with my wife's sister and her girls, once my mother-in-law had been to ring at Pettistree for morning worship there.

She wasn't the only one partaking in more ringing than us within the county today, as quarter-peals of Ipswich Surprise Minor, Doubles and Grandsire Triples were rung at Great Finborough, St Margaret's in Ipswich and Offton respectively. Congratulations to Lesley Steed on twenty years and a day of ringing - ringing in Suffolk and the North-West District in particular has benefited tremendously from her two decades in the exercise.

As much as we appreciated our day of football, zoo animals and Chinese food, we were glad that someone was ringing the bells of the county!

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Saturday 20th August 2016

Themed peals and quarters are sometimes looked down upon and for understandable reasons. A disparate band of varying levels of ability whose only connection being that they share the same name, job, age or whatever the theme is, often on unfamiliar bells can lead to reports of some pretty rotten ringing.

Not always though I'm sure. I was disappointed when the organising of a peal attempt of Minor with a band of resident Suffolk Richards collapsed last year due to unfortunate and unavoidable issues and I hope that it is something that can be raised again in the near future when we find more local peal-ringing namesakes and circumstances are kind to us. A 5040 of Ipswich Surprise Minor rung to celebrate the life of Sir Bobby Robson just after his passing in 2009 at St Matthew just up Portman Road from the stadium where he made his managerial name, with a band entirely made up of fans of the town's football club that he led to so much success, was an immensely enjoyable 2hrs33mins of ringing, regardless of the reason for ringing.

The Munnings band.That performance almost exactly seven years ago is the only themed performance I had participated in until this morning, when I was privileged to conduct the first ever Munnings quarter-peal. We are far from unique in such performances. Indeed, just within our borders alone the Scase rang a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Monewden back in 2010 and the Salters have rung five peals of Minimus to date, but our nepotistic performance felt a long time in coming. When Granddad Jack was alive we rang a QP with Ralph Earey as an honorary member of the clan, but we lost my father's father twenty-five years ago this November, so we continued as a quartet for many years, if nothing else useful at most ringing events we turned up at and occasionally performing together as part of a quarter-peal band, most recently back in April when we rang a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Offton to celebrate fifty years of mother ringing. However, with my marriage to Ruthie and brother Chris' to Becky twelve months ago we have gained two more Mrs Munnings' and a quarter on six made up entirely of family members became a realistic prospect, though a peal - at least with this band - is highly improbable unless we persuade Mum and Dad out their thirty-nine year retirement in the medium!

Today's 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the familiar bells of Pettistree gave a good name to the notion of themed performances too, rung at pace (if at a bit too much at times!) with few mistakes and well-struck, justifying this as more than a mere gimmick and we felt our refreshments at Cafe 46 were well deserved, as they were for mother-in-law Kate who very kindly looked after the three boys as we indulged in our special ringing - thank you Kate!

We weren't the only relatives quarter-pealing together in the county today either as Ruth Suggett and her son Louis rang the same number of changes as we did, only to Carlisle Surprise Minor at Hinderclay in another impressive score within our borders.

It was a decent day for Suffolk ringing, themed or otherwise.

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Friday 19th August 2016

They've been going for two weeks and are almost finished, but Ruthie and I are finally getting into the Olympics in Rio. To be fair, they haven't been quite as consuming as the London games four years ago where post boxes were being painted gold, the torch was paraded through the streets of our towns and villages and peals were rung in the capital whilst some of the best athletes in the world ran past in the women's and men's marathons. Also, with Brazil being four hours behind us, many of the events are taking place in the early hours of the morning and of course we have had our hands full with Joshua and his brothers!

This evening though, we took in the beauty of the 'greatest show on Earth', as we watched a range of sports involving a variety of countries. Norway were playing Russia in the handball, Sweden and Germany competed in the women's football, medals were being won by Team GB in the Taekwondo and it was all topped by Nick Skelton's gold in the show jumping at the age of fifty-eight and the lady's hockey team's penalty shoot-out against the Netherlands.

Despite the recent debate on the subject that made the news, bellringing isn't a sport and we don't usually compete with other ringers, but there should be much inspiration to be drawn by the participants of our art from the athletes participating in South America. These are people who have dedicated as much as they can to their sport and the result has been spectacular.

Not many of us are in the position to dedicate quite as much as they can - sadly we don't the funding that the top cyclists, boxers and runners of this country get and so we have to juggle other, generally more important commitments with our ringing. But the best ringing generally - though admittedly not exclusively - comes from those who put the most in. In my experience, it comes through regular peal-ringing and quarter-peal ringing as well as things like striking competitions. Elements of the exercise that are often derided, but which go a long way towards achieving the standard we ought to be striving for and which can only benefit the main purpose of our art - ringing when called upon.

In that spirit, an impressive quarter-peal of Bristol, Superlative and Pudsey Surprise Major spliced was rung at Bardwell today, no doubt featuring some ringing worthy of a gold medal along the way!

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Thursday 18th August 2016

The summer holidays are over for me, but for a brief while at lunchtime today I was able to start them up again as I joined Ruthie and Joshua in glorious sunshine at Kingston Fields close to home as she enjoyed a picnic with her sister Clare and her daughters and work colleagues, whilst hundreds of children celebrated their time off from school around us.

It nicely offset a trip to the dentist and another late shift at work on a quiet day for ringing in Suffolk, with no quarters or peals recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile within our borders today. Perhaps everyone is bathing in the summer sunshine instead!

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Wednesday 17th August 2016

Although abandoning Ruthie for the evening after she had spent a long day looking after the boys, getting into Ipswich, parked-up somewhere vaguely in the vicinity of St Mary-le-Tower all in time for the practice there after a late finish at work on Monday proved ultimately impractical, it was more practical for my wife to get picked up by her mother Kate and taken just a few minutes up the road to Pettistree's weekly session tonight. Indeed, it was more deserved and even essential for her to get out of the house and away from our two lovable but very demanding young boys to somewhere she could have adult conversations and enjoy a chat and a drink in The Greyhound afterwards without having to keep a distracting but necessary eye on Alfie or attend to Joshua's shrill cries, even if the attendance was - perhaps unsurprisingly for the time of year - slightly low and her return was earlier than expected.

Beforehand, a quarter-peal was rung upon the ground-floor six, whilst on the east coast a 1288 of Grandsire Triples was rung at Aldeburgh, whilst I gladly gave Mrs Munnings some respite as I spent another evening in with hours of quality time spent with my two youngest sons!

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Tuesday 16th August 2016

Tuesday evenings have always been quiet, even before children and disregarding this week's late shifts at work and this one was certainly uneventful enough. However, in between Ruthie and I attending to Joshua's needs with Alfie already in bed, I did grab the opportunity to read a link from old ringing chum Tom Griffiths on Facebook. It was an article from the New York Times about the social aspect of ringing and although it slips into some of the usual errors and clichés, it represents this most pleasant of sides to our art and is well worth a read!

Other ringers were actually achieving on Suffolk's bells though - and how! The quarter-peal of Oxfordshire Surprise Major at Hopton is worthy of mention in its own right, but it is put in the shadows by the same band's efforts at Gislingham where they rang a mightily impressive 1312 of twenty-three Surprise Major methods, the most methods for all bar the treble-ringer. Well done to all concerned!

A lovely achievement to read about on this quiet Tuesday evening!

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Monday 15th August 2016

Over the past five weeks, I have been in the office for just one of those. Of course it has been far from relaxing, but punctuating the overnight feeds, broken sleep, piercing cries, mess from both ends of Joshua and the resultant piles of washing of both his and our clothes has been the wonderful amount of time spent together as a growing family that I wouldn't normally dream of getting and it has been a period of Ramblers, BBQs, meals out, trips to the park and parties, mainly in gorgeous weather.

So today's return to John Catt Educational promised to be a tough one in the circumstances, especially as it also marks the beginning of our latest international campaign and the extreme shifts of early starts and late finishes for the next couple of months. This morning's 11am start helped ease my way back into the routine, but the evening finish meant that with two young children to get to bed and the dependent Josh in particular taking much of Ruthie's time, on this occasion at least - and quite possibly on every other Monday until mid-October - making it to St Mary-le-Tower practice simply wasn't possible, especially with the regrettable parking situation there now.

Still, at least I got to spend a bit more time with the family.

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Sunday 14th August 2016

There was an ambience of summer holidays on this second Sabbath of August.

Woodbridge St Mary's choir is having it's traditional August break, but although that meant that Ruthie could accompany the boys and me on our Sunday morning trips to ring at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, both towers were short with people away, though we still managed to ring on the back ten as Jonathan Williamson and Stephen Cheek guided proceedings in David Potts' absence at the former and we got our first viewing 'in the flesh' of the impressive new (and big!) peal-board at the latter.

And on the final afternoon of my two-weeks off work, we were invited round to my mother-in-law's, where our host Kate and her able helper Ron treated us and my sister-in-law Clare and her family to a BBQ in the sunshine.

Meanwhile, the second-Sunday peal-band were taking their usual summer break from Aldeburgh by taking their efforts to Bungay where a 5024 of Crowder Surprise Major was duly rung, as usual serving to be a first in the method for the band and the Guild.

Another sign of the season is when a number of our best ringers migrate beyond our borders for their annual quarter-peal tour and today saw the final success of this year's few days in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester and North Staffordshire, a 1385 of Grandsire Caters at Leek significant for the participation of George Pipe after an absence of a couple years from the QP columns beset by health problems.

It was also notable for Eleanor Earey's first on ten, which followed on from her first Surprise inside in yesterday's 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Gawsworth - well done Ellie!

All in all, it has been a lovely summer's day!

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Saturday 13th August 2016

Much as we enjoy partaking in ringing, occasionally it is enjoyable to listen to others ringing, especially when it is unexpected.

Visiting the new abode of Ruthie's long-time friends Vicky and Gavin in Bramford, our first thought - apart from being staggered at how much more house and land they could get there for their money compared to the Woodbridge area that they would've preferred to have lived in - was of how intrusive the 10cwt six in this village on the edge of Ipswich might be to them. As we sat on their patio halfway down their lovely garden, the top of the church spire was visible, but it was a reasonable distance away on the other side of the busy Norwich-London railway line, whilst in the other direction the noisy A14 was even closer, so we wondered whether they could be heard at all. We soon discovered for ourselves, as whilst we lingered like a bad smell for an extra cuppa, the back five rang out and launched into several blasts of well-struck call-changes, presumably for a wedding and found that from there they were louder than we imagined, but a nice distraction from the roar of the speeding trains dashing along yards away and the constant rumble from the road nearby taking vast amounts of traffic past the county town - well done to those ringing them so well.

Having enjoyed that, we then meandered across Suffolk to Long Melford, where along with Mum and Dad we were meeting my Aunty Janet at Melford Hall and as we arrived the 15cwt eight at Holy Trinity across the green were also ringing out for someone's marriage. Again it was well-struck and again those ringing them are to be congratulated on representing our art so splendidly on such an important occasion, but they were finished by the time we had introduced my mother's sister to her new great-nephew Joshua and enjoyed a chat and drink in the beer garden out the back of the Black Lion Hotel, the top of the impressive bell tower watching over us reassuringly.

Meanwhile, not that far away, a 1260 of Minor was being rung at Edwardstone. It was just a shame we couldn't listen to that too!

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Friday 12th August 2016

The subject of late brides is a well-debated one amongst bellringers. I've always been of the view that we are but bit-part players in the biggest day of someone's life and that we need to approach ringing for something that we are getting paid for with flexibility. Many brides arrive fashionably late, getting to the church five-to-ten minutes after the ceremony is due to start and by-and-large that's fine. However, once it gets past twenty minutes or more (I have rung for one where the bride was forty minutes late and have even heard of one occasion when it was an incredible hour-and-a-half after the planned beginning of proceedings before the wife-to-be joined an expectant crowd), it does creep into the territory of inconsiderate. For all concerned from the choir to the organist, priest to photographers it adds time to what will already have taken much out of the days of people who if they are being remunerated for their efforts, in the main won't have been remunerated much. Some will also have other commitments to get to, with ringers often needing to get to other weddings to ring.

The wedding car with a flat tyre.It's rarely an issue at Woodbridge, where Kev the Rev is strict on bridal timekeeping, insistent four years and one day ago that Ruthie arrive at our wedding fifteen minutes before the 1pm kick-off. Every now and then though, circumstances take things out of the hands of even the most organised wedding party, as was experienced with a union I rang for and my wife sang for at our regular church of St Mary-the-Virgin this afternoon when the bridal car suffered a flat tyre in the Thoroughfare nearby!

Impressively she was only five minutes late after all of that and as the happy couple are friends of friends we discovered it had no negative effect on their special day - if only more were like that!

It meant that we had plenty of time later to read up on a couple of online ringing titbits, most notably the article in today's East Anglian Daily Times and on its website which reported on the sixtieth anniversary of Winston Girling's first peal, rung at Stowmarket where the man himself was joined by the paper for the piece. Not only is it a superb bit of PR for Suffolk ringing, but it is deserved recognition for a character who has done an immense amount for the Guild over many decades. Primarily he has served the SGR through its work on the Bell Advisory Committee and is currently its Chairman as well as the Technical Advisor, the latest of a number of roles he has held within our distinguished ninety-three-year-old organisation, including Chairman, a role he held when I became Ringing Master in 2006 - he was a reassuring presence as I stepped into that daunting job! Congratulations Winston!

On a national level meanwhile, my interest was drawn to an article that Richard Grimmett wrote for the Ringing World recently, but which he very kindly put on the internet for the world to see today. The subject matter was the use of the Strikeometer in judging the National Twelve-Bell Contest and should make fascinating reading for all. However, having rung with the Birmingham band in the competition and seen first-hand much of what Richard talks about (I remember well the specific example he makes in regards to the 2001 contest at South Petherton), I found this a super read and deeply interesting.

If you can't read it now, make a note to read it next time you're waiting for a bride to arrive!

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Thursday 11th August 2016

It is four years since that wonderful day when Ruthie and became husband and wife. Much has changed since then and whilst on this day in 2012 we indulged in an afternoon and evening of celebrating with friends, food and drink, those of you who currently have or once had very small children (and no doubt many who haven't!) will not be surprised to know that today was much less raucous!

Indeed, one of the most notable aspects of this 11th August was due entirely to the biggest changes to our circumstances. For as we sat watching CBeebies - as we we become accustomed to since Mason was born nine years ago, but even more so since the seven-day-a-week presence of Alfie and now Joshua over the last couple of years - after returning from a cuppa at Costa with Ruthie's friend since school Beth and her husband Roderick on a visit to her home town from their current residence in Kent, we came across an episode of Melody, a show about a little girl who explores the world of music through a different theme with each appearance. Typically it passes us by without a glance, a temporary babysitter allowing us briefly to get on with tasks whilst Alfred is transfixed.

However, this afternoon's saw her happen across a group of ringers ringing a ground-floor six, though where I'm not sure as they didn't say and I didn't recognise any of the participants. Entirely necessarily due to its young audience, it was short both in length and detail, but to my mind it explained what we do better than some programmes that attempt to go into greater depth for older viewers. It also shone a merciful light amongst hours of children's programming for us!

This unexpected TV exposure for the art was also an appropriate reminder too that our marriage is one born from ringing, as it is how we met and ours is a relationship strengthened through our common love of the exercise, allowing us to have a hobby and spend a lot of time together!

Happy Anniversary to my darling wife Ruthie therefore and thank you for putting up with me through four years of marriage!

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Wednesday 10th August 2016

Nine days on from our first day on the 2016 Rambling Ringers Tour, today was our final one.

Of course this has been a very different tour for us in comparison to previous ones, as circumstances and good fortune has meant we have dipped our toes in periodically rather than immersing ourselves in it as our annual holiday, but it has been every bit as enjoyable in different ways. We've reacquainted ourselves and met with more people than we would've if we had just gone for the first week and with the weather on occasions over the last two weeks we can't say that we weren't glad that we were 'sleeping' - as much as we can at the moment - in our own bed rather than a tent!

Rambling Ringers Ringing at Pampisford.There have been elements very familiar to our usual experience with the Ramblers, such as missing the first tower and it was no different this time. Still, having missed Sawston, we made it to the lovely ground-floor six at Pampisford and then onto Duxford where I was charged with running the ringing before a mini-tour of local pubs as a group of us sought out somewhere to eat. The village of Whittlesford where we were due to ring after lunch does unusual inn names, but the recommended Bees in the Wall was closed for the day and missed out on the custom of fifteen or so hungry and thirsty bellringers, whilst The Tickell Arms down the road was not only extremely busy but also incredibly pricey (£9 for a sandwich anyone?) and so we found ourselves back in Duxford at The John Barleycorn, a place still expensive but full of the quaint character we search for in our lunchtime tavern.

Rambling Ringers Ringing at Little Shelford.Rambling Ringers Ringing at Great Shelford.Alfie guiding the ringing at Great Shelford with flags!

However, the delays in finding this agreeable venue meant that we missed the first tower of the afternoon and indeed after a long day we passed on going to the last location at Stapleford, meaning that the Shelford's Little and Great rounded off our tour for this year. Our five days have been filled with well-struck ringing with a vast repertoire of methods rung - many, if not all of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods have been covered, plus variations such as King Edward and Superlative (upside down Cambridge), whilst methods of the day like Double Cambridge Cyclic Bob and Ely Surprise Major have helped prevent fatigue setting in as might be expected on such a long tour. We have had the privilege of ringing with others from Newcastle to Wiltshire, Lancashire to Essex and even beyond from the Channel Islands, Ireland and the Netherlands in a diverse range of towers and enjoyed exploring an area that we either only pop into or travel through. Standards are high, but like any ringing organisation, new blood is always welcome, so I would urge anyone reading this to consider joining us in Derbyshire in a year's time. Typically you should be able to ring at least Cambridge Surprise Minor, but some exceptions can be made, though the more you know the more you would get out of the tour. As we have shown, this is an extremely flexible Society - you can do occasional days, a fortnight or anything in between, all for just a fiver a day. Just get in touch with me and I'll guide you to the right person and you could be joining a lively bunch!

We made it back to Suffolk in time for Ruthie to go to Pettistree practice where she was pleased to catch-up with Iain and Jayne Mitchell on their return to what was once their homeland. Earlier, they had partaken in a quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor before the session got underway, whilst elsewhere peals were rung at The Wolery where a 5040 of Minor was rung and Palgrave where a talented visiting band representing the Saint James' Guild rang a 5088 of London Surprise Major on the ground-floor eight with a flamingo. Obviously.

Despite the lack of any flamingos in any ringing chambers we've been to on Ramblers though, we are still sorry that our participation on this year's tour is over.

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Tuesday 9th August 2016

The second week of the fortnight-long Rambling Ringers Tour is a largely unseen affair for us Munnings', our metaphorical dark side of the moon. Ever since Mum, Dad, my brother and myself made our debut on the 1994 tour to Worcestershire, we have traditionally been first-week attenders. To my recollection, we shared our first few days with the Ramblers twenty-two years ago with at least fifteen others who like myself and Chris were under the age of eighteen. Only a handful still ring to my knowledge, such as Jenny Pick, the very accomplished Matthew Dawson and the now married Chris and Ellen Crabtree who were on tour last week, but back then it was the first time I had been ringing with so many contemporaries and it was so lively in comparison to what we we were led to believe the second-week was like when most of the families had left, that it seemed the most obvious time to go ever since, even though the number of youngsters has regrettably diminished since.

Rambling Ringers ringing at Stretham.However, circumstances have allowed us to dabble in the mysterious second-half this year, as today we made our way again to Cambridgeshire to join our ringing friends and colleagues, some of whom we haven't met before, some we had yet to see on this sixty-sixth tour and some who have been on it since it began at Buckden ten days and fifty-eight towers ago. Among those we were greeted by was Mason, after my parents had very kindly given him a holiday where we were unable to on this occasion - thank you guys! He had made a new friend in six-year old Finley whose parents were new to us but not the Society and was dressed in a police uniform from the superb toy corner at the first venue of the day Stretham which we remembered well from a previous visit on a St Mary-le-Tower outing six years ago.

Rambling Ringers ringing at Bluntisham.Rambling Ringers ringing at Wicken.The boys playing downstairs at St Mary's, Ely.Rambling Ringers ringing at St Mary's, Ely.

It wasn't the only location from that day in 2010 that we revisited on this day, with the ground-floor eight at Bluntisham rung upon on both trips. By that point we had been to the unique sounding five rung from a gallery at Wicken and went to another tower familiar from outings in recent years, St Mary's in the shadow of Ely Cathedral, whose ringing chamber's walls are adorned with well-known names from the Suffolk ringing scene, such as Dunbavin, Holland, Salter and Whitby.

We'd also found lunch after a bit of exploring, happening across The Queen's Head in Needingworth, with the The Prince of Wales next door to the aforementioned Bluntisham church looking closed. Important as the ringing is on this ringing tour, it is of course inextricably linked to pubs and finding a suitable tavern for halftime food on any such trip contributes almost as much to the success of the day as the bells, ringing and/or company. Much like exploring the British countryside ringing on bells of all types and sizes in churches of all types and sizes in gems of places rarely known to the tourist, the search for lunch can be as every bit a satisfying way of delving into the hidden rural landscape of our country and although our ideal inn is a pretty village hostelry full of character and more concerned with real ale than gourmet grub, there is a sense of joy at finding the wide range of public houses that - despite the alarming rate at which the numbers closing rises - the UK is still blessed with. Today's spot for beer and sustenance is a suitable example. All character has been ripped out and the atmosphere was more club than pub and yet the welcome was wonderful, despite the proximity to closing time that we arrived (Ufford White Lion take note!), with decent food at reasonable prices - we're glad we found it!

Rambling Ringers ringing at Haddenham.Rambling Ringers ringing at Wilburton.This pleasant experience set us up nicely for an afternoon that also included sharing the ringing chamber at Haddenham with methane emissions machinery (I don't really understand why either) and saw my eldest son make his farewells at Wilburton before we returned him and us home, not feeling in the least bit disappointed with what the second week of the Ramblers Tour offers!

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Monday 8th August 2016

Word of today's blog is 'short'.

As in being short of space to park immediately next to St Mary-le-Tower for this evening's practice as we ringers aren't allowed to use the spaces that remain empty as we are either forced to pay for permits or search the surrounding streets for parking. Though strangely one of those valuable spots was taken up by a skip tonight, so presumably isn't one that must be kept free at all times...

Thankfully on this occasion I found a spot only a short walk away, which was fortunate as the current bedtime arrangements for the boys meant that I was short on time and I arrived to a session short on numbers as the summer holidays seem to be well and truly kicking in. That isn't to say it came up short on standards though, as we still rang a repertoire that many other provincial towers in the same circumstances would be absolutely delighted with, including Stedman Caters and the standard-eight Surprise Major methods spliced. Not bad considering only eleven were present!

Afterwards, the majority wandered the short distance to The Robert Ransome where they were severely short-staffed, though the chairs we ended up sitting on weren't for short people!

They didn't come up short on The Vestey Ring this morning however, as the York Colleges Guild rounded off their long weekend in Ipswich with a third quarter-peal in their temporary home at the Williamson's abode.

And by measure of my usual ramblings, this has been a relatively short blog entry too!

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Sunday 7th August 2016

Especially by our current standards, we have done a lot of ringing this week. A peal, calling people to Sunday morning worship, that superb afternoon celebrating George and Diana Pipe's Diamond Wedding Anniversary complete with ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence, a quarter-peal attempt and three days of Rambling Ringers. So it felt strange that on the one day of the week that at least I tend to ring on without fail every week, that on this busiest of ringing weeks that we didn't touch a bell rope.

Particularly as elsewhere there was much going on upon Suffolk's bells beyond their primary weekly Sabbath duty, with two quarters and two peals rung within our borders and an attempt of 5040 of Stedman Triples lost at SMLT. Once again some of the York Colleges Guild were quarter-pealing on The Vestey Ring, this time with their hosts Jonathan and Sue Williamson, but still generously found time to assist with service ringing at 'The Tower' in my absence, meaning I wasn't missed at all!

There was also a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree and a handbell peal in Bacton, but the headline act was the last peal on the old bells at Horringer, before work gets going on the 22nd of this month to replace the much derided eight with a sparkling new octave. Indeed, a clip from the 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major can be viewed through the project's Facebook page - 'PEAL APPEAL - St Leonards, Horringer'. Well worth looking up if you haven't already.

Alfie at Robyn's birthday party.Alfie at Robyn's birthday party.The reason for our lack of activity on the ringing front was an engagement on behalf of Alfie, who had been invited to the second birthday celebrations of his contemporary Robyn, daughter of our good friends Kala and Nick. It was an invitation that was to take us to Trimley Community Centre for a morning of messy play for the children and some of us adults too! I missed not ringing, but have to admit that it wasn't just Alfred who had fun! And perhaps we have done enough ringing this week.

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Saturday 6th August 2016

During recent orbits of the sun, it has become traditional for the first Saturday of the month named after Augustus to be a busy one. Usually we are with the Rambling Ringers, even making it to the first tower despite having to pack up a tent beforehand and attend the highly informal tour meeting that except for the imparting of appreciation for the officers and those who have made our meanderings possible, is in its rawest form a vote for where we plan to go the following year. At some point after that - depending on where in the country we are at the time - we journey back to Suffolk for the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening, typically listening to Ipswich Town's debut appearance for the new football season, more often than not a painful introduction to nine months of further frustration and disappointment, occasionally punctured by bursts of ridiculous optimism based purely on the odd positive result.

Today largely followed that general pattern, with ludicrous predictions of footballing glory cramming the airwaves post the Tractor Boys' 4-2 victory over Barnsley, which - however insignificant it is one-forty-sixth of the way into our fifteenth consecutive campaign at this level - was nonetheless one of many highlights on an enjoyably hectic day.

Harm Jan de Kok and Chris Woodcock ringing handbells opposite Waresley church on Rambling Ringers Tour.Jim Crabtree (on 3rd) and Mike Dew (on tenor) ringing at Graveley on Rambling Ringers Tour.Mike Dew (on tenor) and Sally Munnings (on treble) ringing at Graveley on Rambling Ringers Tour.Tour Photograph outside Graveley.

In keeping with relative tradition, we reached the first ringing chamber of the morning, the lovely Gamlingay, though only just in time for the final piece as although we didn't have a carload of camping gear and suitcases to gather up we did need to round up three boys and make an hour-and-a-half trip via the increasingly familiar A14. This was followed by the fours of Waresley and Graveley, the former rung from a tiny space and where Harm Jan de Kok and Chris Woodcock partook in some impromptu Minimus on handbells in the car-park of the sadly closed Duncombe Arms to an audience of bemused-looking cyclists and the latter the scene of this year's tour meeting. It was a vaguely straightforward affair that saw occasional St Mary-le-Tower attendee Anne Bray take over the task of finding a campsite for the tour from Janet Dew after years of work that we as regular campers have benefited from, before democracy led to Derbyshire being chosen as the planned destination for the 2017 tour.

From here on in the close proximity to home of the 2016 tour allowed us to indulge in a reasonably leisurely lunch at The Prince of Wales in Hilton before grabbing a quick ring on the 9cwt gallery-ring six at St Mary Magdalene in the village, leaving Mason with his grandparents who are generously giving him a few days holiday whilst we are currently unable to provide him with his annual vacation and then making our way back to Framlingham in the homeland, where one of us was to play our part in the aforementioned SE District QP Evening. Keen to get back into the medium for the first time since giving birth to Joshua, the privilege of ringing in the early-evening's attempt of Cambridge Surprise Major went to Ruthie as I occupied Alfie and Josh. Listening to the bells ringing out across the serene church and picturesque sunbathed Market Hill was an extremely pleasant way to spend the three-quarters of an hour that was to follow, but unfortunately this was to be an unsuccessful effort, some decent ringing interjected far too often with mistakes and choppy striking in the immediate aftermath, the last one proving metaphorically fatal as a wrong was missed in the process of the conductor trying to sort things out, the end firmly in sight.

In The Old Mill House in Saxtead for the South-East District QP Evening Meal. In The Old Mill House in Saxtead for the South-East District QP Evening Meal. In The Old Mill House in Saxtead for the South-East District QP Evening Meal.

Still, the quarters of Doubles and Bourne Surprise Minor at Kettleburgh and Tannington respectively were scored and whilst the ringing is important, it is the meal that follows which is the main draw for this event and so we still made our way to The Old Mill House in nearby Saxtead in good spirit for an enjoyable night of super food, drink and company. Particularly great to see Jimmy Wightman for the first time since his terrible accident last year and brilliant to see and hear what a tremendous recovery he has made.

Vestey Ring at the Williamsons.Elsewhere in the county, another pair of QP's were being rung, with a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles scored at Great Glemham and a 1272 of York Surprise Minor upon The Vestey Ring in its temporary home of the Williamson's abode in Ipswich. The second of these performances was rung by a band of enthusiastic youngsters from the York Colleges Guild who are currently in the area on their reunion weekend and which was accompanied by a lengthy list of footnotes - well done to all concerned!

It has been a typically busy first Saturday of August!

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Friday 5th August 2016

Time and children refuse to stand still, as today reminded us. Joshua is a mere twenty-five days old and yet already he weighs an impressive 10lbs 7oz, at least according to his weigh-in at our local medical centre. To think that Alfie too was that 'modest' size once, but having also been weighed on our visit, he is now of a less fragile bulk, coming in at over two stone.

This mass of youth was added to by their even bigger brother Mason as we attended this evening's annual Woodbridge Ringers' BBQ as a quintet. Generously hosted as always by the incumbent of St Mary's which houses the 25cwt eight at the centre of tonight's gathering, the Revd Kevan 'Kev the Rev' McCormack, the local ringers were joined by a number of supporters from the church for a typically jovial occasion of good company, good food and good drink on a wonderfully warm night that was pleasant to walk to and from the rectory on. Many thanks to our host for his hospitality, Jackie Butcher on acquiring the meat and to the ringers generally for inviting us!

Meanwhile, well done to Ruth Young on ringing her first of eight-spliced Surprise Major methods in the 1280 at Bardwell, one of two quarters rung in Suffolk since the sun rose, with the FNQPC successful at Earl Stonham.

We meanwhile appreciated the frivolities at the barbecue as much as one can with a newborn child screaming in your face and two youngsters dashing about the wonderful venue. As I said, they refuse to stand still!

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Thursday 4th August 2016

It was back on the Rambling Ringers' sixty-sixth tour today, as we again made the journey along the A14 to Cambridgeshire. Once more we were treated to a wide repertoire of methods and good striking with friends and associates from across the country and beyond and which had grown in number since we were last with them on Monday and at towers familiar from previous outings.

That said, although six towers had been listed, our journeying ultimately only yielded four. Typically our tardiness on tour sees us miss the first bells of the day even when we are on a campsite just a few miles away. Therefore, that we missed the six at Toft that kicked things off on this day having had to ready a two-year-old and three-week old and then travel an hour-and-a-half will come as no surprise to anyone.

Ringing at Little Eversden on Rambling Ringers Tour.In fact, we could have missed the second of the day at Little Eversden as we and Society President Chris Birkby sat outside neighbouring Great Eversden for a while, but we eventually made it to the listed ground-floor ring of St Helen where among the additions to the tour's attendance that greeted us were my parents, much to Alfie's delight! And there was time for a quick ring at Haslingford, where Ruthie partook in a superb course of Ipswich Surprise Minor - "now that the Munnings' are here" - which was particularly impressive on challenging bells.

We then made it to The White Horse Inn at Barton for lunch with my Mum and Dad and other Ramblers, but sadly not on to the village's church afterwards as a funeral there put paid to our visit, though the leisurely lunch was appreciated by some!

Ringing at Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge on Rambling Ringers Tour.Arriving unhurried at the lovely and much-pealed eight at Trumpington in Cambridge's suburbs, we then went on to the heavy octave rung from a gallery at Our Lady and the English Martyrs in the heart of this famous university city, where the highlight was a superbly rung course of Double Cambridge Cyclic Bob Major, despite some reservations beforehand!

That was an upbeat note on which to depart the tour for now and return to Suffolk where a quarter-peal of Hoylandswaine Delight Minor was rung at Tostock - well done to all the band on ringing their first in the method!

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our day out of the county and hope to rejoin the tour again soon for more varied, well-struck ringing with friends at a variety of towers!

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Wednesday 3rd August 2016

From a personal ringing perspective, it was a quiet day, though still busy as Alfie had a haircut, we sent our laptop off to computer hospital (combine that with the time that our increased parental duties takes up currently, don't expect us to be any quicker at replying to emails!) and spent the afternoon at Ruthie's sister's, getting fed into the bargain!

Other ringers were busier in their ringing in Suffolk, with the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree successful and a 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Offton in memory of Dr Peter Franks on the day of his funeral.

May he Rest In Peace.

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Tuesday 2nd August 2016

After our travels of yesterday, it was a day close to home for us, but - as much as the Rambling Ringers tour is an annual highlight - a more significant one as we registered our latest born. Joshua Benjamin Munnings is now official. It was nice to bump into Woodbridge ringer Jackie Butcher there in her day job!

Elsewhere, ringers were busy ringing within our county's borders, most notably at Grundisburgh where a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung, the sixty-seventh of the year thus far for the Suffolk Guild, significantly up on this time last year when only fifty had been rung - let's keep it up!

Despite the special peal on Saturday for Josh's birth, neither of us are quite at the stage to throw ourselves back into the medium, even though this one was close to home!

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Monday 1st August 2016

Babies will come in their own sweet time,completely disregarding of commitments or plans. However, Joshua's arrival precisely three weeks ago was perfectly timed in some respects, allowing me to take my two weeks of paternity leave and a week-long return to John Catt Educational to catch-up with my workload in time for a fortnight's annual leave.

In other respects the timing of his 11th July birth hasn't worked out so well, as it was entirely impractical and generally undesirable to go away on holiday at this time of year, let alone go camping with the Rambling Ringers as we usually do. Serendipity stepped in though (as we don't work our family planning around Ramblers, honest), as this year's annual tour - the sixty-sixth of the RR's long and illustrious history - is being held nearby in Cambridgeshire, even dipping every now and then into Suffolk, such as yesterday when they visited Newmarket's St Mary-the-Virgin, Exning and Dalham, even if we were otherwise engaged.

It is nonetheless just a little too far for us in the east of our county to travel everyday, particularly with the children in tow and so therefore over the course of the Society's visitation to the area, we hope to intersperse days closer to home with occasional days out to join ringing friends who due to geography and current circumstances we only tend to see come the end of July and beginning of August. Today was the first of what God willing will be the first of several over the next eleven days.

Ringing at Landbeach on Rambling Ringers Tour.Ringing at Fen Ditton on Rambling Ringers Tour.Ringing at Bottisham on Rambling Ringers Tour.Ringing at Swaffham Bulbeck on Rambling Ringers Tour.

Being only just over the border, most of the towers on the list we received recently won't be new and indeed many have been rung at by us in the last few years on various outings, such as the final three of the day, the awkward going but pleasant sounding ground-floor eight at Fen Ditton, the six in my brother Chris' former village of residence Bottisham and the gallery ring of Swaffham Bulbeck. Grabbing towers is not why we join this collective. Rather, it is the good ringing, wide repertoire of methods rung and super fellowship. Along with the trio of aforementioned peals of bells, the octave at Histon and four at Landbeach (typically for us on Ramblers we missed the first tower of the day Cottenham and first after lunch Horningsea!) saw some well-struck and enjoyable pieces, from Kent Treble Bob Minimus to Histon Surprise Major to Stedman Triples to eight-spliced Surprise Major methods with ringers from across the UK and beyond. Even though it was considered that proceedings were relatively quiet for this popular organisation, there were still high quality ringers from County Durham and Yorkshire from the north of England, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire from the Midlands, Wiltshire from the south of the country and Essex and ourselves from here in the east, as well as from across the waves with members here from the Channel Islands and the Netherlands. A pub lunch was enjoyed in the company of Roger Riley and his sons Alex and Luke as well as Society Ringing Master Chris Woodcock outside the White Horse in Waterbeach, where we shared the space with a wake and Alfie enjoyed the play area, even if he was slightly out-muscled by a group of older Italian kids!

A long day ended too late for us to make it back to Ipswich for St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, which was particularly disappointing as this evening's doubled-up as a farewell to Helen Carter, whose work initially brought her to us eighteen months ago for just a few months. During that time she has helped our ringing and I hope we have helped hers and she has been a regular at SMLT. We are sorry to have missed her departure, thank her for her support and wish her all the best for the future.

Elsewhere back in the homeland, two quarter-peals were rung, with Double Norwich Court Bob Major and Yorkshire Surprise Major scored at Gislingham and Hopton respectively whilst not far away we were enjoying the Rambling Ringers Tour that we had the good fortune to join today - thank you Josh!

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Sunday 31st July 2016

Explaining the significance of George Pipe to ringers is a little like describing to feminists why Emmeline Pankhurst was important or Nelson Mandela's place in history to South Africans. Pretty much all reading this will know what he has done for the art in Ipswich, Suffolk and beyond. The recasting of St Mary-le-Tower's bells and raising of the band from a handful ringing Plain Bob Doubles to one taking part in finals of the National Twelve-Bell Contest. The restoration of the historic five at St Lawrence. A combined ten years of service to the Guild as Ringing Master and Chairman. More than six decades of membership of the Ancient Society of College Youths. The huge part he played in ringing in Australia and the founding of ANZAB. The immense respect he commands across the world, in ringing and beyond. Many will have experienced walking into a ringing chamber somewhere on the planet, revealing that they come from within our borders and then being asked how George is, a phenomenon I have also experienced when with non-ringers! All this and more you will know.

Ringing at St Lawrence for George and Diana Pipe's Diamond Wedding Anniversary.The party underway at St Lawrence for George and Diana Pipe's Diamond Wedding Anniversary.Handbell ringing at St Lawrence for George and Diana Pipe's Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

Yet as he himself recognises, every step of the way, he has needed the support of his wife Diana, herself an accomplished ringer on all numbers and dedicated servant of the SGR, much loved and respected throughout the exercise and yet who is insistent of stepping back and letting her husband loose! May saw them celebrate their Diamond Wedding Anniversary, marked with peals and quarters across the county, country and globe at the time. Today though, saw a fitting celebration of the occasion as friends and family, ringers and otherwise gathered - very appropriately - at the aforementioned SMLT and St Lawrence for an afternoon of ringing, food, drink and socialising, Speeches were made, with GWP's unsurprisingly lengthy but filled with humour and moving words, with both him and Di in their element! We had a wonderful time and I don't imagine we were alone - thank you to Mr and Mrs Pipe for having us!

Earlier, I had partaken in the hobby that they have done so much for as I helped the Woodbridge ringers man all eight bells prior to attending the service and then going on to that fantastic party.

Elsewhere meanwhile, well done to Clare Goodchild on ringing her first quarter-peal of St Clements College Bob Minor in the success at Hollesley, another impressive landmark in her progress.

And congratulations to George and Diana on sixty years of wedded bliss!

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Saturday 30th July 2016

Congratulations to P Mark Ogden on today rejoining the peal columns after a twenty-five year absence, a welcome return for a talented ringer whose comeback to the exercise has been a real bonus to local ringing.

His quarter-of-a-century break from the medium certainly put my own three-month sabbatical in the shade, though mine too came to an end with the same 5056 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at Ufford in which Mark broke his fast and which was also Brian Whiting and Mike Whitby's one hundredth together. Nice as that all was, the main purpose of the occasion was to celebrate the birth of Joshua, very kindly arranged by the conductor with a band that also included JB's Granny Kate and although his Uncle Chris couldn't partake due to work commitments and his mother was supervising the star of the show and his brothers and not quite up to peal-ringing just yet, Ruthie and the boys joined us afterwards for a drink in the White Lion round the corner from the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We felt fortunate to have made it into the village hostelry not only just before a huge downpour but also closing time, close and handy as this inn is to the location of our exertions, as well as a super venue for a post-peal pint. However, having mere minutes earlier served some of our party a second round, when a bedraggled family entered looking for a roof above and a drink within, it was made clear that they were not welcome at that moment and we had outstayed ours and so our relaxed beverage consumption was hurriedly finished, the children scooped up and a swift exit made! Still, it didn't spoil the day. I am delighted that Josh's birth has been recorded in the Guild's peal footnotes and grateful to those who came out to make it possible, especially those who were called up late on! It was nice to ring with Julie too. And nice to ring with Mark on this auspicious occasion!

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Friday 29th July 2016

Over the last two years, ringing has dedicated many a footnote to those who died in the First World War a century ago and with good reason. These are people who paid the ultimate sacrifice and deserve to be remembered, but of course the sacrifice continues.

It felt important therefore to come out and support the local troops as they marched through Woodbridge this lunchtime, along with huge crowds throughout the town of our residence. As it happened, it also turned into a busy social occasion, as we bumped into my work colleague James, Mason and his mother, Ruthie's sister Clare, her husband Kev and their daughters and Mike Whitby, allowing us to communally breath a sigh of relief that between us and Alex Tatlow we had managed to complete a band for tomorrow's peal attempt.

Bands were also completed for the quarter-peals of Cambridge Surprise Minor and an impressive forty-eight Doubles methods and variations at Brandeston and Ingham respectively, with the latter being the most methods and variations that Neal Dodge has rung - well done Neal!

And thank you to our troops, we're right behind you!

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Thursday 28th July 2016

I'd almost forgotten what a faff peal arranging was. However, I was reminded today, when Mike Whitby called me asking if I might be able to find a couple of ringers for a peal attempt this Saturday to celebrate Joshua's birth. Mercifully, Mike had very kindly taken on the task of arranging it after JB's birth, perhaps correctly assuming that I would be in no position to undertake the considerable arrangements needed to get eight ringers together at the same time in the same place at the short notice that such circumstances dictate.

This is a busy time for participants of our art though. Weddings predominantly scuppered Mr Whitby in his endeavours and mine too over the course of a frustrating evening, but there were also outings, training days and holidays that prevented quick progress to completing our band, as well as other peals and family commitments. Hopefully between us we can get something sorted as it would be super for Joshie's arrival to appear in the peal footnotes as the arrivals of his brother Mason and Alfie did with the peals at Monewden and Ufford in January 2007 and April 2014 respectively.

Whatever the background to this evening's quarter-peal at Blythburgh, the important thing is that a 1320 of Doubles was rung upon the 10cwt ground-floor six on the A12. God willing we'll have a similar success story for this weekend!

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Wednesday 27th July 2016

Even in the depths of the night with a screaming Joshua, when eating whilst a pushy Alfie is demanding the food from your plate or when Mason is acting in a defiant manner almost teenage-like, we consider ourselves truly blessed to have three healthy, lovely boys. But it is important that each of us has a break from their beautifully relentless energy and need for our services as parents occasionally, especially for Ruthie who is now left literally holding the baby whilst I go to work.

Therefore, I was delighted that my wife was able to accompany her mother Kate to Pettistree practice, free of the healthy call of the two-week old for milk or the two-year old's enchanting desire for help with his jigsaw puzzles. Whilst there, she joined another lively session, with the visiting Phil Gay present, along with the Harriyots still on their annual holiday to the area and was able to imbibe of an ale at The Greyhound afterwards and earlier her chauffeur had partaken in a 1296 of Cambridge and Norwich Surprise Minor upon the ground-floor six.

Elsewhere, others in Suffolk were also taking advantage of their freedom, with the entire band ringing their first quarter-peal of York Delight Minor in the success at Preston St Mary. Well done to them all and to Lucy Williamson and Helen Carter on ringing their first peal of Cambridge Surprise Major in the 5024 rung to mark the latter's imminent departure. It was also the former's father's first in the medium for a grand 5,793 days - well done Jonathan! Amazing what can be done once your children have grown up and can come out with you!

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Tuesday 26th July 2016

How much is too much to charge a visiting group of ringers?

I believe most are in the region of £3-£5 per rope for a peal or around £20 for a group ringing for forty-five minutes or an hour on an outing, or at least roughly that. George Pipe recently imparted how he had to negotiate the fee quoted for a tower on a day's ringing he is arranging, as the original quote would've been far too much to justify the short amount of time ringing there. Similarly fees on another recent outing were considered to be out of kilter for the numbers ringing and time spent there, especially as the profits were going to charity. And for the last couple of days, one of the Facebook Bellringers pages has been awash with discussion on one tower charging an eye-watering £100 for an hour's ringing.

The justification given in the latter example was that the church was desperately short of money and that the bells, organ and church hall are the only means of raising enough to maintain it and keep it open, which I suspect may also be a reason behind the other two aforementioned examples, especially for rural churches, many of which face a real danger of closure in the coming years. However, I know from years of working in sales that a surefire way of not making money is pricing yourselves out of the market. Sometimes asking for less can bring in more. In this case, the visiting band whose request generated such debate online decided against going to the tower in question and so said venue not only lost out on the £50 they were offered as a compromise, but also a possible £100 from a peal that was suggested for next year and even a fundraising opportunity through a organ recital from a talented organ-playing ringer, as this was all turned down for an apparent insistence on the initial asking price.

My humble opinion is that the visiting of other towers, whether that be for peals, quarters, outings, open days, practices or for any other reason is an essential part of a ringer's progress and therefore to the raising of standards for when we are called upon, such as for service ringing. Most ringers recognise that it is only fair and right to pay for using other people's bells, but we have to keep it affordable to those not overly well-off, such as youngsters, students, the low-paid and in some cases pensioners, otherwise the exercise will suffer.

There was no sign of the exercise suffering at Offton this evening, where a pre-practice quarter-peal of the standard eight Surprise Major methods spliced was rung.

For us personally though, it was a quiet day on the ringing front, though Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua enjoyed a trip to Easton Farm Park, which was apparently worth every penny of the entrance fee!

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Monday 25th July 2016

For all the upheavals cheerfully and willingly accommodated by us in the last fortnight, today was perhaps the biggest test of life with Joshua thus far as for the first time we balanced his needs with the normal Monday morning routine, most notably my return to work. It meant Ruthie having to attend to his understandably impatient and regular demands without me fetching stuff or placating him, whilst also finding time for lunch and shopping.

However, it went well. My day was busy, whilst my wife's was relatively relaxed in the circumstances. So much so that I felt confident in leaving her for the evening whilst I partook in St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, though on the self-imposed proviso that I got Alfie to bed first and then returned straight afterwards - it seemed a little unfair to completely abandon her as JB continues to gradually settle into life on the outside!

I was glad to make it to SMLT too, as in David Potts' absence George Salter again ran things splendidly, with much Stedman practiced! David warned us back at the Tower AGM earlier this year that his work and family commitments meant he may be away more frequently, but in GMS he has a brilliant back-up. With a father who was twice the Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, it is perhaps unsurprising that young George runs a good session and he seemed comfortable guiding a sizeable crowd through an evening which had another encouragingly youthful element, with the stand-in RM joined by his brother Colin, his girlfriend Becca, namesake Mr Vant and Lucy Williamson.

The pub was tempting after all of that, but after a successful reintroduction to normal life today, I didn't like to push it!

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Sunday 24th July 2016

My two weeks of paternity leave has hardly been a holiday. Unless you consider dirty nappies, multiple changes of clothes and bi-hourly wake-up calls in the night from a screaming baby as your ideal means of getting away from it all. However, I have been grateful for the time off work. I certainly wouldn't have functioned to a satisfactory standard in the office if I had been required to return to John Catt Educational immediately after Joshua's memorable birth, nor would it have been fair on Ruthie if I had left her to everything instantly. Quite how new mothers did cope back when that was expected, we cannot fathom and they have our deepest admiration!

That said, the last fortnight has been enjoyable too. Getting to bond with Josh and spending extra time with Ruthie, Mason and Alfie has been a pleasure, as has been welcoming the many visitors to our crowded abode, with more than twenty people popping by since the 11th to see our latest addition in particular. The last of those visits before I am due to return to my paid employment tomorrow was from good friends Toby and Amy and their daughter and my Goddaughter Maddie. It was lovely to catch up with them and for Alfred and his contemporary Maddison to play together, with much having happened and much planned to be happening!

Earlier, we failed dismally to raise ourselves in time for ringing at either St Mary-le-Tower or even Woodbridge following another night of broken sleep, but we did at least make it to the sparsely attended morning service at St Mary the Virgin in our town of residence and it appears - at least judging by BellBoard and Campanophile - that it was a quiet day ringing-wise generally for resident members of the Guild.

Still, there was a noteworthy performance within the county, even if it was beyond the SGR. Congratulations to David McLean on ringing his 1700th quarter-peal in the success at Lowestoft today. Like many from this small corner of Suffolk that falls within the borders of the Norwich Diocesan Association, David also does much ringing within our borders and so I am delighted to congratulate him on this landmark.

My own landmark means that the time to throw work into our busy schedule has almost arrived and so I'll lay my head down hoping to get some shut-eye...

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Saturday 23rd July 2016

In different circumstances, we would have been in Devon at the wedding of Ruthie's school friend precisely two weeks ago. A fortnight on and in those different circumstances we would also have been in Yorkshire for the wedding of one-time Rushmere St Andrews ringers James Smith and Claire Haynes.

Both my wife and I have known the groom as long as we've been ringing and he has known us before then and he is one of the nicest people in ringing. Despite being an immensely talented ringer who has partaken in much top ringing with many top ringers, he has always been willing - if available - to help with even the most mundane of ringing occasions, often with a sense of self-deprecation. As such, he is held in high esteem across the country and indeed the world - especially Australia where he spent many years - as well as in the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers for the tremendous work he has done in his time with ringing's representative body.

And even though we've only known the bride for a relatively short time in comparison, she is a lovely lady, always friendly and seems perfect for James. We really would have loved to have joined them on their happy day, even if the reason for us not being present was a wonderful one.

Still, it was great to see a good contingent from Suffolk present and ringing in both the quarter rung at Market Weighton and peal at Elloughton prior to the ceremony at Welton.

Of course the reason behind our absence was that we were expecting the arrival of the child we now know as Joshua and so therefore we spent the day with him, his brother Alfie, Aunty Clare and cousins Katelynn and Annalise, first with a picnic in Kingston Fields and then later in The Cherry Tree's beer garden for a meal in the late afternoon sunshine with his Granny Kate and Granddad Ron. It was a fabulous day, but we were thinking of the new Mr and Mrs Smith.

Now that Josh is here though, we can plan God willing for the next few weeks, which includes committing one of us to the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening on Saturday 6th August. This is a real highlight of our ringing calendar and particularly the meal that follows and this year's will hopefully be the same, with attempts due at Framlingham, Kettleburgh, Tannington and possibly Dennington, followed by grub at The Old Mill House in Saxtead, a wonderful venue in my experience. Please do let SE District Ringing Master, 07542 470974, know if you can ring in one of the QP's and Secretary 01394 411355, if you are coming for food.

Although we couldn't plan for two weeks ago, at least we can pencil something for two weeks time!

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Friday 22nd July 2016

We love Mason, Alfie and Joshua immensely of course, but we don't intend to add to the family and so when Joshie was 'signed off' by our midwife Beth, it was a relatively moving one, having got to know her well over the last nine months and over Ruthie's pregnancy with Alfred two years ago.

It doesn't mean an end to JB's care though, as in the afternoon a health visitor popped round to weigh the li'l chap and reveal that having lost some weight - as most newborns do initially - Josh had returned to precisely his birth weight.

In between, a trip to Kingston Fields for Mason on another scorcher of a day was in order as the summer holidays got underway for my eldest.

He is due to return to school in September of course, but one person who shan't be is Jenny Scase, whose retirement from teaching was marked by the FNQPC with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Ashbocking - many congratulations Mrs Scase!

Indeed a day of endings, but also hopeful beginnings too.

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Thursday 21st July 2016

After being scuppered on Tuesday in our attempts to visit Aunty Marion to introduce her to Joshua and with our car now fixed and back in our possession, we set out for my father's sister again, passing the offending tree-truck with caution and relief on the way, before this time successfully arriving at our destination with no dramas.

It was also Mason's last day at school before the long summer holidays and so with slightly different arrangements planned for this weekend and me still on paternity leave until next week, I picked him up from school before a typically quiet Thursday evening.

Not so for other ringers, as an unusual 5555 of five Surprise Minor methods was rung at Ashbocking, appropriately enough in precisely five minutes over three hours, whilst in the west of Suffolk, Lucy Dawson was ringing her first quarter-peal of Durham Surprise Minor in the 1296 rung at Tostock. Well done Lucy!

It seems that everything went to plan today at least!

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Wednesday 20th July 2016

In the initial aftermath of our argument with a bus and a tree-stump yesterday, we feared weeks of protracted negotiating with insurance companies reluctant to part with money and even having to write-off the car that is currently absolutely essential for us, even if we weren't enthusiastic bellringing travellers. Therefore, delight and relief abounded in our household as I was able to collect our fully repaired vehicle, courtesy of a lift from Kate as she again came to our rescue - thank you again Kate!

Joshua and me at Pettistree practice.Alfie & Kate at Pettistree practice.With our regained freedom we immediately paid Ruthie's grandparents a visit so that they could meet Joshua, before travelling on to Pettistree practice as originally planned before our motorcar incident. Perhaps ironically having rung the thousandth quarter-peal on the bells on Monday, this evening's pre-session attempt came a cropper, but the elements that I raved about in my blog entry of a couple of days ago remained present, with the repertoire ranging from Morning Exercise Delight Minor to Stedman Doubles to Cambridge Surprise Minor even in the short time we were there, having waited for the end of a spectacular thunder and hail storm and then negotiated the puddles - nay, lakes - that had almost cut-off the village.

Despite the conditions that had seen hailstones put holes through some of the church's windows and the fact that it is summer holidays season for many, there were still about twenty present enjoying the social atmosphere, including the Harriyots, a lovely couple from East Sussex on their annual summer camping trip to the area and who it was lovely to see again tonight.

Though the QP at this ground-floor six was unusually lost on this occasion, normal service was continuing at The Wolery where the fourteenth peal on the bells this year was rung, whilst a 1273 of Grandsire Triples was rung at Rendham.

Our evening was topped off by JB's first ever visit to a pub as we joined other ringers in The Greyhound, although at nine days old he is lagging behind his brother Alfie who went to the same hostelry at just six days old! For Alfred, tonight's festivities were very familiar to him! And at least we could drive home afterwards in our car!

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Tuesday 19th July 2016

With temperatures in their low-to-mid thirties degrees centigrade making today the hottest of the year thus far, where better to spend three hours across the middle part of the day than out in the open with a stricken vehicle? Possible insurance negotiations preclude me from prematurely entering into more precise analysis of how events unfolded, but suffice to say it involved a bus on a road too narrow for it and a neatly hidden tree stump, resulting in our front wheels facing in different directions and - once mother-in-law Kate had very kindly journeyed out to rescue Ruthie and the boys - me keeping poor Aloysius company until recovery could be arranged.

Still, although the visit to Aunty Marion to introduce Joshua to her that was the reason for us being on the road had to be postponed, there were many positives to be extracted from a predominantly unwelcome experience. Thank God no one was hurt, I lost count of the number of incredibly kind people who stopped and even altered the course of their journey to ask if I needed any help and there are worse places to be marooned than in the isolated but picturesque spot that I find myself, on the country route between the 7cwt five at Great Bealings and 6cwt six at Tuddenham St Martin. Laid before me was the glorious Suffolk countryside, with the rooftops and chimneys of cottages of many colours poking above the golden crops, resplendent underneath the completely clear bright blue skies. And once the dust had settled and the car had been transported to its usual haunt Champkins Auto Repairs, it appears that the damage may not be as terminal as we had initially feared, with the prognosis being days without our car rather than weeks.

Nonetheless, it probably means missing tomorrow's practice at Pettistree, but having eventually got home for the afternoon, I enjoyed the clip from last night's silent and non-conducted 5016 of Stedman Cinques rung at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, a ringing chamber very familiar to me after forty-one peals on the bells, though I rang nothing as impressive as yesterday's success. Ringing as well as the clip suggests (and knowing most of the band I don't doubt that the rest was as good) to more than 5000 changes of this principle is a challenge at the best of times, as the ghosts of many decent attempts in it lost in an instant testify. But throw in the added complication of the entire band having to be on top of the composition throughout 3hrs22mins on a humid evening and you get an indication of just how talented this collection of ringers is. As I normally point out, such feats should serve as inspiration and motivation, rather than putting one off trying to push themselves in our limitless art.

It was a better way to spend three hours than the way I did today.

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Monday 18th July 2016

One week into his life and the visits for Joshua continue, as we popped into the offices of John Catt Educational this morning. My employers have been tremendously flexible in my desire and need to attend the many appointments that occurred over the course of Ruthie's latest pregnancy and indeed when she was carrying Alfie two years ago, as well other occasions when I - and indeed any employee - have needed time to deal with personal business. In addition, they sent some beautiful flowers last week and so I was keen to introduce our latest addition to the people I spend more time with than I do with anyone else, bar my nearest and dearest.

Come the afternoon and sleep was the order of the day, as Josh reverted back to staying awake most of last night and feeding almost hourly at times, as one would expect from a seven-day-old child, before I ensured that Alfred was put to bed ahead of me going to St Mary-le-Tower practice, the first time either of us had been left at home on our own with both JB and AJM for any prolonged period. Quite how our usual routine of evening ringing will work in the coming months is something we are uncertain of, but so far, so good as I partook in a useful session in humid conditions aided by the visit of Ruth Suggett and Laura Davies to compliment the large crowd of regulars from far and wide, with no dramas at home this time.

Meanwhile, other ringers in Suffolk were busy too. Well done to those who were ringing their first of Francis Goodwill Delight Minor and Woodbine Delight Minor in the quarter-peals rung at Bacton and Tostock respectively and many congratulations to Pettistree, as the one thousandth QP (The 1st. Ed.)was rung upon this ground-floor six. The regular quarters here have undoubtedly helped make this one of the strongest - if not, the strongest - six-bell practices in the county, providing a focused platform for those coming here to progress their method repertoire and striking, which in turn means the sessions here generally see large attendances partaking in a variety of methods and has lead to a number of striking competition victories in recent years. Long may it continue!

God willing, we hope to pop along to this location most familiar to us on Wednesday, but for now we'll sit back and reflect on Joshua's first week with an exhausted smile!

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Sunday 17th July 2016

Our joy this week has been an exhausting one, a heady mix of emotion, sleep deprivation and the resulting sensation of not living in the real world currently. For the first time since that momentous moment on Monday morning though, we felt a part of the human race again today. Incredibly, entirely out of the blue, we got five hours of sleep out of Joshua and awoke feeling alert and fully prepared for the day ahead.

It helped that the day ahead was one we had been looking forward to for some time, in one way or another.

Josh's first visit to St Mary-le-Tower and then church in Woodbridge, even briefly bumping into Bruce and Gill Wakefield on the Market Hill as they left and we arrived at the latter were memorable landmarks, with the li'l chap even 'witnessing' his mother ringing in a touch of Stedman Caters at the former, the first ringing he has been exposed to in the open.

Crowds gathered for the 2016 Offton BBQ. Alfie blowing bubbles. 2016 Offton BBQ.Handbell ringing with Gill and David Sparling, Alex Tatlow and Philip Gorrod.Serious game of boules with Will Goodchild, Mason, Chris Munnings, Doug Perry & Ralph Earey.Ron playing the bagpipes.Everyone still socialising as evening sets in.

However, the social highlight of this warm July Sunday was the annual Offton BBQ, held as usual at Brian and Peta Whiting's beautiful rural idyll and somehow again plucking a glorious sunny day from another modest summer. Ringers from across every district of the Suffolk Guild and beyond our borders mingled with drink and food aplenty in hand, a game of cricket underway on the adjoining pitch and the sound of handbells and Ron's bagpipes wafting across the warm air and the yearly friendly boules tournament on their vast lawn. Even our low alcohol intake on this occasion added to the quintessential summer's afternoon in an English country garden, as I quaffed some ginger beer for the first time for many years, whilst the children dashed around in safety and JB was passed round to various cooing attendees.

The only damp squib on a roasting day was that a peal attempt at SMLT was lost over two hours into what was presumably an uncomfortable performance in such humid conditions, but there was at least a score elsewhere in the county, with a quarter-peal of Tulip Bob Minor successfully completed at Buxhall and which was a first in the method for all the band - well done to all concerned in the effort at the gallery-ring of six at St Mary!

And well done to Brian and Peta on another superb event and to Joshie on allowing us to enjoy it as fully-functioning human beings!

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Saturday 16th July 2016

Fewer birthday celebrations have been more deserved than Ruthie's today. I've tried to do all that I can to help out since Joshua was born on Monday and even at my most self-deprecating I would like to think that my presence during paternity leave has been of some use. But it has been my beloved wife who has been doing all of the hard work with the birth itself and then ever since with the almost relentless feeding cycle that currently only she can carry out...

Alfie & Mason help Ruthie blow out the candles on her birthday cake.However, after another night of entirely expected but nonetheless exhausting and disorienting sleep-deprived night, it took Mason to remind both of us of the significance of the day. Thankfully all arrangements had been made previously and her mother Kate had already invited us to hers for a celebratory lunch where we were joined by the birthday girl's sister Clare and her husband Kev and their daughters Katelynn and Annalise, as well as Ron, culminating in my better half blowing out the candles on her cake, with a little help from some of the younger attendees of proceedings!

Earlier, we had a bit of a rush of visitors to our humble abode as first my brother Chris dropped in as expected to meet his newest nephew for the first time, before then surprise but welcome visits from Mrs Munnings' school-friend Vicky and her husband Gavin and then whilst they were still there, my eldest's Godmother and close friend Kala. Our living room now laden with flowers and cards gratefully received, our final guest was midwife Beth to do Josh's heel-prick test and to give him a going over before we then continued celebrating the anniversary of Ruth's birth.

Meanwhile, we received the tour list for this year's Rambling Ringers. It seemed impractical to plan on going on holiday in just a couple of weeks time with a child who is currently unaware of the concept of silent nights and considering fellow holiday-makers, but in a stroke of serendipity, the 2016 tour is going just down the road to Cambridgeshire, even dipping into Suffolk for towers such as Dalham and Freckenham. With another two weeks booked off from work, we hope to join them on the occasional day, keen as we are to still enjoy the wonderful atmosphere that can be enjoyed with the RRs and catch-up with ringing friends from across the country and indeed beyond.

Closer to home, the stripy cycling tour held in honour of late St Mary-le-Tower ringer Simon Griffiths was being held, as usual with a tremendous pub-to-tower ratio and hopefully a big crowd. I really enjoyed this last year and when Simon himself used to arrange them, but on this occasion we were unable to partake after a draining though special week. And of course, we had that birthday celebration so well earned by my wife.

Happy Birthday Ruthie!

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Friday 15th July 2016

Ecstatic as we are by Joshua's arrival this week, we are determined not to let the attention he needs currently to push his two brothers aside, especially as both of them have taken it in their stride so tremendously thus far.

Mason in action at his school sports day! Mason in action at his school sports day! Mason in action at his school sports day! Mason in action at his school sports day!

Therefore, Mason's participation in his school's sports day this afternoon was the perfect opportunity to focus my attention on the eldest of my sons. With all that he has been through with his feet, trips to hospital and numerous operations in his nine years, I'm always chuffed merely by his taking part, but even though his team came last on the day, he undertook tasks involving assault courses, dribbling and throwing brilliantly. Ultimately, the important thing was that he and his contemporaries enjoyed being active in the rare sunshine!

Perhaps they're building up to emulating the extremely active Philip Earis who today ran nearly sixty miles from St Bride's, Fleet Street in London to Great St Mary's in Cambridge in just two minutes shy of ten hours before ringing a handbell peal as part of the College Youths' 2016 Country Meeting in the latter city, himself emulating Past Master of the Society Benjamin Annable who made the same journey under the power of his own feet prior to conducting the ASCY's first ever peal outside of the capital in 1727.

We can only dream of having even a fraction of his or Mason's energy currently...

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Thursday 14th July 2016

I now feel reaquainted with overnight television and can report that it hasn't improved in the two years since I last required its company during sleepless nights in the early days and weeks of Alfie's life. However, there seems little that I don't know about Theresa May and her new cabinet or the internal wranglings of the Labour Party, as I was reduced to watching the twenty-four hour news channels to keep me awake with Joshua.

It was a strange but tragic news article from The Telegraph that I saw during the day which mainly caught my attention however, primarily because it not only appeared to initially link in church bells to a murder investigation, but also that the bells in question are the 11cwt six of Rattlesden. The story in question is of a man accused of murdering his wife at their home just yards from St Nicholas, a lady apparently "driven to despair by" the "noise of church bells". Instantly I felt a pang of guilt for the morning of ringing I partook in for the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions on this ground-floor ring last year and indeed it does remind one that we have to be conscious of our neighbours when we are ringing.

However, it doesn't take much reading to realise that this wasn't really an issue about bells, but rather a much sadder tale of a very poorly woman who had also complained about neighbours doing DIY. Indeed, the local ringers appear to have done precisely as they should've in such circumstances by warning the couple in question of when additional ringing to the Sunday morning service session and Thursday night practices was taking place so that the husband could board up the windows, so despite the sensationalist headline, bells and ringers don't come out too badly from this. Still, a very sad situation for all of those involved.

Just three miles away in Buxhall though, a quarter-peal was being rung to mark the exact centenary of the death of the great grandfather of village resident Arthur Hicks, Sapper Ralph Bowes, one of the unfathomable numbers of men killed in the Battle of the Somme.

We meanwhile were having a day of visits from the midwife and Ruthie's workmate Carol and popping in to introduce Josh and my wife's fellow choir members before their practice. And watching more overnight TV.

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Wednesday 13th July 2016

Yesterday we welcomed visitors to our bulging home, today we left the house as we continue our endeavours to fend off insanity amongst a sea of feeds, nappy changes and washing, as well as ensure that Alfie doesn't get bored. Nothing too adventurous mind, with our travels taking us no further than Woodbridge town centre as we accompanied a trip to Ruthie's old employers Boots for some necessary shopping with an introduction to Joshua for her current employers John Ives.

All very pleasant, but as exciting and wonderful as these days are, they are also exhausting as we adjust to our new circumstances and Josh gets used to the outside world, so whilst we're keen to get out and see our ringing friends, we thought it might be too soon to take him and Alfred along to Pettistree practice tonight. We were touched then that they dedicated the quarter-peal beforehand to JB's birth, though sorry that we missed local ringer Pippa Moss's birthday cake in The Greyhound afterwards!

Instead, we spent an afternoon, evening and night grabbing a few winks when we could in between watching political history unfold as Theresa May took over from David Cameron as Prime Minister and promptly sacked or shifted just about anyone in Westminster who moved!

We were very sorry however to read of the death this morning of Dr Peter Franks, for fifty years a dedicated stalwart of Bacton who only left with his wife Sheila for Ardleigh in Essex two-and-a-half years ago, a departure and many years of service to local ringing quite rightly marked by a peal on the 8cwt ground-floor six in December 2013. I will always fondly remember the Franks' warm welcomes whenever we were greeted by them to ring in their corner of the world and particularly recall with a broad smile judging the 2007 North-West District Striking Competition from their caravan on their driveway in the shadow of the church tower with Ruthie and Mason, who was only a few months old at the time and promptly did what babies do whilst we tried to carry out our duties as professionally as possible! Our thoughts - and I'm sure of all the Guild's membership - go to his family, especially Sheila.

It is a sad note in the SGR annals, but a more positive one is the healthy crop of young ringers within our borders currently. Some of them are due to be gathered at Polstead on Saturday evening for the South-West District Young Ringers' Practice, which is combined with a BBQ, surely an encouragement to people at a loose end to pop along to help out, especially if you are a ringing youngster or have one under your care!

That practice upon the ground-floor six of St Mary is one of two SW events pencilled into the calendar before July comes to a close, as a week later the District holding its Mini Tour in the North-West District, with the plan being visits to Ixworth, Pakenham and Rougham before a meal at The Manger in Bradfield Combust. And before the month is out, the monthly Halesworth Triples/Major Practice is due to take place from 7.30-9pm on Tuesday 26th.

There is much going on. God willing soon we'll be able to take part in more of it with Mason, Alfie and Joshie in tow!

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Tuesday 12th July 2016

Even after going through this twice previously, certain aspects of looking after a child in their first hours and days of their life still take me by surprise. Such as just how tiny and fragile they are, even when they're as relatively big for a newborn as Joshua is. Also the broken sleep and the effect which that has and a big reason why it is standard now for father's to have two weeks paternity leave - as I have again this time - following the birth of their child to allow both mum and dad to get reasonable amounts of sleep. And their complete and utter helplessness at this stage, occasionally creating worry and indeed panic - in sometimes seemingly disproportionate measures - that sets in at the slightest deviation from what is considered to be the standard path of progress.

Anxiety of this kind was to beset us in the early hours of this morning, still awake from our late return home last night. Josh seemed reassuringly content, sleeping lots as can be the case in the first twenty-four hours as they rest after the traumatic transition from their cosy enclosed life to a bigger, brasher, busier existence. However, as the hours ticked by since his previous feed to ten hours when five or six hours between food is usually the longest, concern did creep in. A combination of a quick call back to the Brook Ward we had only just left, the subsequent suggestion to strip him down to shock him into waking up and eating and a spectacular and spontaneous clearing of his system got him eating again. The joys of parenthood!

Further reassurance came in the form of a visit from our midwife Beth, amongst a day of visits from family as we returned to a strategy that seemed to work in the first days of Alfie's life. Some suggest keeping clear of visitors and too much activity initially and understandably so. There is no way you can carry on normally in such circumstances, so more time and space is needed. But it can feel a lonely experience when you spend much of your waking hours in a sleep-deprived state consoling a being unable to talk back, often in the middle of the night. The company of other humans to chat with and to help look after little 'uns is a boost in what otherwise could seem an unending conveyor belt of nappy changes, feeds and comforting, however wonderful the joyful reason behind it all is!

Alfie gets to know Joshua.The brothers all together for the first time - Joshua, Mason & Alfie.Joshua & his Grandad.Joshua & his Nana.

Therefore, we were delighted to welcome first Ruthie's sister Clare, nieces Katelynn and Annalise and mother Kate and then Mason - who I picked up from school in a torrential thunderstorm to meet his youngest brother for the first time - and my Mum and Dad, who popped in for their introduction to Joshie in between the Second Tuesday ringing at Felixstowe and Falkenham and the practice this evening at Offton.

Talking of practices, it is important to note that there is not one at Grundisburgh this Thursday, so please don't travel out there this week - weekly sessions are now the norm though, so your support whenever you can would be appreciated!

As is the support we've received since JB's birth yesterday. Thank you for the messages of support and cards - the generosity of goodwill from the many lovely people we know in ringing and beyond is definitely something we remember from before and not a surprise, but very welcome!

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Monday 11th July 2016

Having bemoaned that yesterday's due date had produced no noticeable signs of our son's arrival, today was less than three hours old when he gave his first indications that he wanted to leave the only home he's ever known and brave the big wide world. From there, the speed of progress entirely belied what at times has seemed an extremely long pregnancy. Mother-in-law Kate was called and duly abandoned at ours to greet Mason and Alfie on their awakening and get them ready for the day and we were at Ipswich Hospital just after 5am, contractions increasing in length and frequency considerably even from when we'd phoned the maternity ward to inform them of what was happening just minutes earlier. Barely two hours later, at 7.12am, Joshua Benjamin Munnings was born in the bath of Birthing Room Two of the Brooke Ward, weighing in at an eye-watering 9lbs4oz, heavier than the tenor at Mindinho-le-Tower in Newmarket and almost exactly the same mass as the great bell at The Wolery.

It was certainly a brisker arrival than that of his older brother Alfred two years ago, but no less memorable. This is how we all start of course, a brutal but wondrous entrance into the open and in a split second we were welcoming the newest member of the human race at that very moment, with all the potential and hope which that new life holds. It seemed incredible that I was in bed at 4am (Ruthie very kindly waited until she was sure Josh was on his way before waking me!) and just the length of a peal later we were welcoming our youngest offspring to life in the open.


After that, proceedings slowed somewhat. The usual and necessary medical checks were made and by their nature occurred throughout the day, but it was clear that although the staff on hand were typically superb (especially Shelley who delivered little JB), there weren't enough of them and it took until around 11pm before the paperwork to release us was completed. That meant much passing of time in whatever way we could. A car-park permit needed sorting once the main purpose of our visit had been achieved and as with the births of my other sons I purchased a copy of the local newspaper. I'd brought a book that was almost read from cover-to-cover and the aforementioned East Anglian Daily Times digested a couple of times and much-needed sleep taken. Phone-calls were made and I even strained my ears via the open window in case I could catch the sound of St Mary-le-Tower bells from the practice night we were understandably absent from, though nothing carried on the breeze beyond the noise of traffic, sirens and birds. And all this was carried out to a backdrop of just about every weather phenomenon bar snow and hail, from the sunrise that accompanied the cautious journey in to the darkness we eventually travelled back in. However, although the newest addition to the Munnings clan spent most his Day Zero asleep, the several hours kicking around the ward also proved invaluable bonding time between parents and son.

On the downside, the extra time spent in hospital meant we didn't see Joshie's elder siblings all day, bar putting a curious AJM to bed, so we were extremely grateful to my wife's mother for getting the eldest ready for school and taking the now middle brother to nursery, collecting him and then keeping him in her care through a Guide's party and babysitting duties for her two granddaughters - thank you Kate!

Whilst we were occupying ourselves with new responsibilities, life went on as normal for Suffolk's ringers. SMLT practiced down the hill from us, whilst up in Kettleburgh another special event was being celebrated with a quarter-peal of Layer-de-la-Haye Surprise Minor rung to mark the Ruby Wedding Anniversary of local tower captain Chris McArthur and his wife Mary-Jane. Congratulations to the McArthurs!

And welcome to the world Joshua Benjamin Munnings - we're delighted to finally meet you!

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Sunday 10th July 2016

D-Day. Due date. And yet no sign of anything happening at the moment. My brother Chris rather optimistically predicted 26th June some time ago, which at the time seemed conceivable but a fortnight on seems miles out. I thought last weekend was likely on the basis that Ruthie's grandparents were away and it seems they're always away when babies are born into their vast family. Nothing though and so we now go into the overdue territory that was never experienced with Mason or Alfie with trepidation, just as unaware of exactly when or how things will proceed as we ever have been throughout the last nine months.

Therefore, our Sabbath continued as usual or at least for the last few weeks. Getting Ruthie to choir duties at St Mary's in Woodbridge in her largely immobile state meant missing out on ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh again, but did however allow me to contribute to ringing on all eight at the local 25cwt eight where Mike Cowling filled me in on yesterday's Pettistree outing and then attend the service that followed and which for us included Sunday School that saw the boys drawing with chalk on the steps outside. It did have a purpose and wasn't just unfettered vandalism, honest!

Bramfield.Later we were invited back to my mother-in-law's where Kate and Ron very kindly barbecued tea for us and my wife's sister Clare and her daughters, but elsewhere Suffolk ringers were ringing in Suffolk, as they are prone to do. Well done to Nicole Rolph on calling her most methods in the 1260 of five Doubles methods rung on the ground-floor five in the detached round tower in the churchyard of St Andrew in Bramfield, whilst there were also quarter-peals of four spliced Surprise Major methods and twelve spliced Treble Bob Minor methods rung at The Norman Tower and Redgrave respectively.

The county's ringers were also achieving beyond our borders today - very well done to Ipswich ringer Colin Salter on ringing his first peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus in the 5042 at Selby Abbey in North Yorkshire and congratulations to Great Barton's Alex Tatlow on ringing his two hundredth peal in the 5088 of the Major version of the aforementioned method at Horsley in Gloucestershire.

I meanwhile returned home from our BBQ (thank you Kate and Ron!) with a very tired family, two of whom went to bed whilst my better half watched Portugal win Euro 2016 on a significant day for them and new Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, but not for us.

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Saturday 9th July 2016

In normal circumstances we would have many options available today.

We could've been down in Devon for the wedding of one of Ruthie's long-time friends from school, but we reluctantly accepted that booking a six-hundred mile round-trip on the weekend our child was due was inadvisable some months ago.

Knowing therefore that barring any unforeseen circumstances we would still be in Suffolk, we did have an eye on attending the Pettistree outing to Cambridgeshire if our son had arrived early. Conceivably we could've popped in on the North-West District's Outing being held just on the other side of Cambridge. Or at a stretch experience Module One of the ART Teacher Training Scheme at Reydon.

However, we are still waiting and prepared at a moment's notice to get to Ipswich Hospital and so our day was one of a mundane nature and spent very close to home, as we popped in to town to say hello to my wife's work colleagues, enjoyed some time at Kingston Fields for the boys and dropped in on the mother-in-law for a short period. Still, it was all most pleasant and a small price to pay to be as ready as we can for whatever happens next whenever it happens.

Meanwhile, those who can make more concrete plans were taking advantage, such as Weronika Gale who rang her first quarter-peal in a happy family QP rung at Woolpit - well done Weronika!

Whether in Devon, Cambridgeshire, Reydon or Woolpit, I'm glad others were able to get on with things!

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Friday 8th July 2016

I've become used to parents' evenings for Mason over the last few years, but now it is beginning for Alfie.

To be fair, this afternoon's two-year developmental review for Alfred at his nursery didn't hold quite as much trepidation as one can feel when attending his elder brother's updates in different circumstances and indeed we were met with a beaming 'Room Leader' who was gushing about the happy, laid-back sociable little chap we were there for. Though disappointingly, no mention of his ringing abilities on the end of a balloon.

There is still much to be pleased about with the older sibling though, and we collected a nine-year old buzzing from a week of visiting Foxborough Farm, singing in his choir and his class winning the 'Courtesy Cup'.

And social media reminded me that today is the tenth anniversary of the uber-talented Birmingham ringers Michael and Victoria Wilby. Both are part of the incredible ringing scene in the UK's second city and were members of the Brummies' latest victory in the National Twelve-Bell Contest recently, but have come from different directions to that point. Whilst Mike is part of a famous ringing family that includes his sister Hannah and father Andrew who is a Past Master of the College Youths, Vicky started late and yet quickly made up for lost time, incredibly ringing her first peal only six months after her first lesson and then a quarter-peal of Stedman Cinques just a further six months later, which should be an inspiration to any learners out there. Incidentally, for further inspiration, it is well worth going to the Notable Achievements section on Changeringing Wiki to see what can be achieved in our limitless art.

It all brought up fond memories of that occasion precisely ten years ago, which was a proper ringers' wedding with four peals rung in the morning by their many ringing friends, with a 5087 of Stedman Cinques at Aston that I was privileged to partake in, spliced Cinques and Maximus at Birmingham Cathedral, Bristol Surprise Maximus on the back twelve of the Bullring and London No.3 Surprise Royal featuring the groom at St Paul's where the ceremony took place and where a post-service striking competition was judged by Rod Pipe! And of course there was much drink consumed before and after!

Such shenanigans aren't feasible for us currently, but we don't mind at all. We are fortunate to be in a blessed position and God willing, long may that continue. However, I did ponder how much life has changed in those ten years as we sat cheerfully discussing AJM's progress this afternoon!

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Thursday 7th July 2016

Waiting. And more waiting. Alfie had a day of false fire alarms and power cuts at nursery, Ruthie made her first loaf with her new breadmaker and went to choir practice and I went to work and watered plants with Alfred. But that is as exciting as it got as another day passed without any sign of our baby son arriving as we approach his due date on Sunday, despite a very hot chilli for tea.

The day was more interesting for others in Suffolk, with a 1440 of Chester, Munden and Newcastle Surprise Minor spliced rung at Tostock.

It is reassuring to see the world continue to spin quickly as ours slowly turns whilst we wait. And wait.

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Wednesday 6th July 2016

Seven days from now, the annual Veterans Day at Debenham is due to take place. Much is quite rightly made about the youngsters of the exercise - they are the future of the art, those charged with taking this ancient hobby forward for the next sixty, seventy or even eighty years, God willing. But the older generation are the ones who have maintained it over the last few decades and enabled the young ringers - some of whom represented us so magnificently in London over the weekend - to pick it up and flourish. They have been deservedly celebrated over the last quarter-of-a-century upon this famous ground-floor 21cwt eight, scene of many a moment of Suffolk ringing history.

In itself, this occasion has become part of the Guild story, such has been the time it has been running. Next week's will be the twenty-fifth, meaning that some of the original youthful helpers are now 'veterans' themselves - those in their early sixties now would only have been in their late-thirties when this first started back in 1992, which is frighteningly the same age as I am now! Those future-veterans are still welcome, so if you are about next Wednesday from 2pm then please do pop along and support Muriel Page who has done an incredible job in organising this year-after-year. Long may it continue!

Ruthie isn't a veteran by a long, long chalk, but she professes to feeling like one currently and so she passed on the kind offer from her mother to be taken to Pettistree practice this evening where nonetheless a quarter-peal was scored beforehand, one of two quarters rung within our borders, with a success upon the eight in the detached Memorial Tower of SS Patrick and Andrew at Elveden accompanying the 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor upon the ground-floor six of SS Peter and Paul.

That double of QPs was matched by peals, with a 5040 of Kent and Oxford Treble Bob Minor at The Wolery and a 5072 of Plain Bob Royal at Grundisburgh with a composition prominently featuring a 'shunt' (which upon calling stops the treble in sevenths on its way down and returns it to the back) and which was the one hundredth peal on the bells for Worcestershire ringer Stephen Bedford on his return to his homeland. The peal totals for the first half of 2016 put us on course for a return to an upward trajectory of numbers of peals rung in our name, but things had gone strangely quiet for a few weeks until July broke out, so I am pleased to see things picked up again and hope that we can ring even more 5000+s for the SGR in the second six months of the year than in the first.

No such activity for us at the moment, so we instead we took in Wales' valiant exit from Euro 2016 at the semi-final stage (having showed the England 'players' how it's done) and took in the news reports covering the release of the Chilcot Report at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre as the bells rang out from Westminster Abbey opposite.

I'm sure many the veterans due to be present in Debenham in a week will have approved of such a backdrop.

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Tuesday 5th July 2016

We are doing a lot of waiting around currently. At a moment's notice at any point between now and for the next couple of weeks, we may be required to drop what we're doing and get to Ipswich Hospital, in the process leaving Alfie - and if he is with us, Mason too - with someone willing, capable and legal. And although we have been through this before of course, we are aware that the first signs may be completely different to when Alfred was born two years ago and having already passed the point when AJM was born - exactly a week early, which this time round was two days ago - we no longer have any expectations of when things might happen with this one. All we can do is wait and pray.

I at least get to do that at work, busily trying to get as much done as I can before my unknown time off, but my wife is mainly stuck at home, where despite her efforts to keep busy, boredom has set in. Therefore, with her birthday fast approaching, her mother Kate very cleverly thought of bringing her youngest daughter's present of a bread-maker round eleven days early to help relief those long days of waiting.

It also doubled up as a pleasant social visit before she continued on to Ufford to run the weekly practice on the 13cwt eight, on a day when my parents enjoyed a river cruise on the Orwell, a present from my brother and me for their recent Ruby Wedding Anniversary. Whilst we waited.

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Monday 4th July 2016

It was hard work getting to St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Road closures dragged me all the way around Ipswich town centre before I'd even negotiated the streets around SMLT for a space within an hour's walking distance. But as usual, it was entirely worth it. Even in David Potts' absence, George Salter ran things magnificently - he seems to be following in his father's footsteps as a fine ringing master! Every piece was well-struck and any mistakes easily rectified, with Stedman Caters and Cinques and Yorkshire Royal and Maximus amongst the repertoire.

The half-eight notices also highlighted much coming up, with outings approaching and the Central Council's Challenge 500 HOD coming up. The latter is a challenge to get at least five hundred towers across the country to open their doors at 6pm on Thursday 8th September to the general public in an initiative tying in with Heritage Open Days. I would encourage members to have a look at the information on the CCCBR's website and consider demystifying what we do.

Mandy Shedden is also looking for sponsorship for her attempt - which has already started well - to lose weight in aid of Offton's fundraising efforts for a new sixth. Please support Mandy and if this is also something you are looking to do, consider doing it aid of this worthy cause.

Tonight was indeed a positive one, but whilst many took advantage of a warm, light night to pop into The Robert Ransome for a drink to top the session off, I thought I ought to get home, especially if it was going to be as hard to leave Ipswich as it was to get into it...

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Sunday 3rd July 2016

Plain Bob Doubles and some very well-struck call-changes on the front six at Woodbridge was followed by another service sat alongside Ruthie as she shared her time between choir and the boys and me, with the cautious final stages of pregnancy proving quite restrictive to our usual Sunday morning routine.

Sunday afternoons have increasingly become unproductive anyway, so it is perhaps unsurprising that that was the case on this one, but that wasn't the case for all of Suffolk's ringers, with a 1260 of Double Oxford Bob Minor scored at Pettistree for Chris and Mary Garner's wedding anniversary and the birthday of the former and a 1320 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor rung at Rougham.

A fairly mundane, but reasonably satisfying day of ringing all in all.

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Saturday 2nd July 2016

Well done to Suffolk Young Ringers on once again representing the county's ringers so splendidly in the Ringing World National Youth Contest in London, gaining a grade B for their Call-Changes at St Saviour in Pimlico. Such competitions are nerve-racking for even the most seasoned of ringers and yet invaluable experience, so I am delighted not only that we entered a team after missing out last year, but that they did so well!

They were well supported too, at least judging by the photos put onto Facebook and the Guild's Twitter feed and the sizeable contingent from within our borders in the band ringing a quarter-peal for the Young Ringers Association at St Botolph, Bishopsgate, which was George Salter's first of Grandsire Triples as conductor - well done George, well done to the Young @ Herts Hot Buns on winning the Call-Change category and to Bedfordshire Young Ringers on winning the Method Ringing category and the Whitechapel Trophy. And well done again to our young ringers on representing the SGR so brilliantly and to all who helped them - I hope that the 2017 contest pencilled in for 1st July in Birmingham is already in their metaphorical diaries!

We'd love to attend one year, partly to cheer on our youngsters, partly to soak up the atmosphere of an event that those who have attended always recommended to us and partly to inspire Mason and Alfie onto the end of a rope. Today's occasion was an impractical one to chose for our debut though, particularly with our current uncertain circumstances but also because of the return of the South-East District Practice. Although March's Quarterly Meeting at Hollesley voted with it's tiny but dedicated electorate to significantly reduce the number of events held by the District, we have only had one month 'off' since the Striking Competitions at Wickham Market in May. However, you have to go back to February for the SE's last practice, held at Coddenham, whilst January's at Ipswich St Matthew was the last that we had been able to attend, so this morning's at Henley where we joined the local ringers' weekly session felt like a rare engagement. My understanding of the reasons for the reduction of events in this corner of the world is that it would help prevent people travelling vast distances for a wasted journey and to consolidate the numbers that may have been spread over several months into these single, rarer gatherings.

To an extent, today's two hours at the 8cwt gallery-ring eight seemed to vindicate such reasoning. This was certainly not a wasted forenoon, as much assistance was imparted to the regulars here and some tremendously well-rung Surprise Major of the Cambridge and Yorkshire variety and Stedman Doubles and Triples gave opportunities to some who wouldn't necessarily be able to practice such methods regularly. Once the welcoming locals had left though, it was noticeable that with only a handful of exceptions, this was essentially a Scase-Brown-Harper-Munnings production and it was a pity not to see a lot more of the near three-hundred members of this District offering their support, especially as it is no longer desired on a monthly basis, although of course a number were down in the capital.

Still, it was nice to catch-up with Phil Day and Stephen 'Podge' Christian, meet the local ringers and to get the boys out of the house, as well as to give Ruthie a chance to rest her tired, aching body! And as ever, it was great to get out and have a ring!

Elsewhere on our soil, others were having even more of a ring, with a peal rung at Wissett, the first for Christine Pickup for twenty-four years - well done Christine! And even further afield, an impressive eight-four Treble-Dodging methods were rung spliced in 10,080 changes at St Paul in Birmingham, an effort jointly conducted and - so the footnote intimates - a precursor to even more spectacular attempts. Watch this space!

Watch out too for our talented youngsters and be sure to congratulate them on a superb performance!

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Friday 1st July 2016

The centenary commemorations of the First World War have done much to put modern day life into perspective, especially for those of us who would probably have found ourselves on the frontline if we were the same age as we are now between 1914 and 1918. But thus far no event of this terrible conflict seems to have resonated quite as much as the Battle of the Somme. One hundred-and-forty-one long days of bloody, muddy battle that saw over one million wounded, killed or missing is frankly unfathomable to comprehend now and at 7.30am exactly one hundred years ago this morning it was all started, not to end until the November of that year.

Quite rightly therefore, it was being marked across the UK and at the site of the bloodshed itself in France and as with the anniversaries of big events and individual deaths noted since 2014, many ringers were dedicating their ringing today to the memory of those lost ten decades ago. Suffolk's ringers were doing just that with quarters of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles at Buxhall and Earl Stonham respectively and an entirely appropriate 5100 of Somme Surprise Major was rung at Henley.

Not all ringing had to be for the events of 1/7/1914 and indeed there was a happy occasion being celebrated at Woolpit, as a QP of Cambridge Surprise Minor was completed for the wedding tomorrow of Ipswich St Margaret ringer David Birkby to Robyne Ingle. David is a nice chap with a lovely family and it was great that Chris and Jill - who we know well from Rambling Ringers - were able to ring in today's success with the groom-to-be. We wish them all the best for their big day!

Meanwhile, our evening was altogether more home-based as we - well maybe just I - became Wales fans as they showed their English counterparts how football should be played by progressing to the semi-finals of the Euro 2016 tournament that has had me gripped, despite England's latest dismal failure. And yet those who embarked upon that terrible battle precisely a century ago were rarely far from my mind. After all, the freedoms and peaceful activities of today's blog were what they were fighting for.

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Thursday 30th June 2016

It was a quiet Thursday for us. Ruthie went to choir practice, which meant we weren't able to make Grundisburgh practice, which this evening was being run by Mark Ogden, who has truly been a magnificent addition to the ringing scene in our area.

Those ringing on Suffolk's lightest twelve tonight weren't the only ringers busier than us in the county though. Chediston was the scene of a quarter-peal rung on the eve of the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme, whilst just down the road in Halesworth they were remembering former Tower Captain Doug Crooks who ran the ringing on the 18cwt ground-floor eight from 1989 to 2005. Well done to Fiona Shuttle on ringing her first QP for twenty-three years in that success and also to Ruth Suggett, Andrea Alderton and Nigel Gale on ringing their first of Sandal Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 rung at Tostock.

Not such a quiet Thursday for them!

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Wednesday 29th June 2016

A fortnight has passed since our last midwife's appointment and so therefore this morning was time for our next one. We have been incredibly blessed that during the last eight months and whilst we were expecting Alfie two years ago that almost without exception the many midwife's appointments we have attended have been without incident and today's was in keeping with that, although ideally we'll need the li'l chap to move round into a better position. Even then though, God willing that can be rectified by even more of what Ruthie has already been doing lots of in recent weeks, which involves much leaning forwards on birthing balls, chairs and church fonts, the latter of which she was able to do for much of the evening as she joined the weekly practice at Pettistree, where the session was preceded by a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor and followed by a trip to The Greyhound for a drink, though of course it was strictly a non-alcoholic one for my wife. Which will please our midwife.

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Tuesday 28th June 2016

Child protection is a vitally important issue, especially for a hobby like ours. Whilst we know the downsides of youngsters learning to ring and then leaving for university or disappearing as it becomes 'uncool', they inject a necessary enthusiasm and energy into the art and of course a good number do continue on into adulthood, myself included. Therefore we have to ensure they are learning in a safe environment and in view of that I would urge everyone to look at the Safeguarding page on this website and particularly the Safeguarding Statement & Policy document which has just been added to the page.

I have heard it muttered that such regulations are unnecessary and get in the way of teaching young ringers, but whilst there is much irritating red tape in modern society, this is one aspect of today's civilisation that is needed. Not just for protecting ringers under eighteen years of age and vulnerable adults, which we are surely all agreed is paramount. But also for protecting those mentoring children against false accusations, something that has occurred in the past. Mary Garner is doing superb work in her role as the Guild's Safeguarding Officer and it would help her greatly if all members were familiar with the issue.   Because if we get it right, we get an enthusiastic bunch of youngsters like those travelling down to London for Saturday's Ringing World National Youth Contest to represent the county's ringers. If you can spare a day to support them down in the big smoke then I'm sure it would be greatly appreciated and although we haven't had the opportunity to go to any of the previous five contests I understand they are a fantastic day out.

However, if you only have a morning spare, your presence at Henley for the South-East District Practice - joining the locals for their weekly session - would be much welcomed. The decision back at March's Quarterly Meeting at Hollesley to significantly reduce the SE's programme was a difficult one, though I think correct. Perhaps members felt they couldn't commit to helping every month, which is understandable, but hopefully it will mean that a sizeable number of those will feel able to come along this time and make this rare opportunity for learners and more experienced ringers from across a wide area to pool their resources together a worthwhile exercise.

For today though, there was no ringing for Ruthie and me, which of course isn't unusual for us on a Tuesday, but it did allow me to take in details of the novel 5120 of London Surprise Major at West Bridgford in Nottinghamshire where the band collectively had rung an incredible 1,386 peals of the method between them, including one-time Suffolk ringer John Loveless. Oh, and it gave me time to read up on all that safeguarding information!

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Monday 27th June 2016

Exactly a week ago I had to make a choice between ringing and football and chose football. Tournaments such as the European Championships and World Cup only come round every couple of years and for a short while England matches offer a collective experience that can be electric even if we can only watch them from home as are our circumstances currently. However, having been faced with half a dozen potential dates to pick depending on the Three Lions' result against Slovakia and their final position in Group B, fortune smiled wickedly and plumped for a 0-0 draw that meant that seven days on I was faced with the same footy v bells dilemma.

This time though, I felt it was unreasonable to miss St Mary-le-Tower's practice for a second Monday running and so found myself walking past the pubs of Ipswich packed with English fans filled with anticipation and whilst the first half against Iceland unfolded in Nice and across the airwaves, I partook in a session low on numbers but high on repertoire, with Erin Caters, Swindon Surprise Royal and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus amongst that which was rung whilst I was there. I then made my apologies and left as the final piece of the evening was getting underway and journeyed home to catch the second-half with Ruthie.

Come full-tine though, I was wishing I hadn't bothered. Against a nation with no professional football team, a coach who is also a dentist and a population less than half that of Suffolk's, Roy Hodgson's team of millionaires were already 2-1 down and then conspired to conjure up a second forty-five minutes so bad that in the immediate aftermath it has been dubbed the worst ever by the national team.

There are worse things happening in the world though and at least I shan't have to make the same choice in a week's time!

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Sunday 26th June 2016

It was noticeable at yesterday's National Twelve-Bell Contest Final that some of the participants have benefitted from taking part in the now established Ringing World National Youth Contest, so it is appropriate that attention now turns to the 2016 event being held on Saturday in London. Featuring among the impressive twenty-four teams who will be competing in three qualifiers at St James Garlickhythe, St Saviour Pimlico and the back eight at St Dunstan-in-the-West Fleet Street to reach the final at St Olave Hart Street will be the Suffolk Young Ringers and they held their final practice this afternoon at Rendham, an apparently super session that will hopefully fill them with confidence for their trip to the capital in six days - best of luck guys!

There is nothing quite as exciting for mine and Ruthie's ringing planned at the moment, but I was still pleased to be able to help the Woodbridge ringers man the front six this morning having given my occasionally immobile wife a lift to choir and before she accompanied us at the back for the service and across at the Church Centre for Sunday school. As happy as the reason behind it all is, life is becoming increasingly difficult for Mrs Munnings at the moment!

No such issues of movement for the band who rang the quarter-peal of Swindon Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower this afternoon for the extremely worthwhile Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer which saw a huge number of quarters and peals rung across the world - well done to all concerned!

God willing I'll be saying the same following next weekend's RWNYC!

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Saturday 25th June 2016

Political events of the last couple of days have generated a very strange and different atmosphere across the country, but today was a typically British summer Saturday, as people went to fairs and fetes and/or held barbeques outdoors, despite the fact that it rained pretty much constantly from lunchtime until after the sun slipped beneath the horizon somewhere behind the sheet of grey cloud at the end of daylight hours. We know because we did both, initially as the boys and I went to Mason's school's fair and then as we all visited my mother-in-law's for a BBQ.

School fete.The former was pleasingly busy, but as we arrived, the bouncy castles had understandably been closed down and the many there were huddled beneath the gazebos and tents dotted around the severely sodden playing field. However, the Elvis impersonator (who incidentally was also the Parkrun organiser from Kesgrave who was briefly made 'famous' for rapping a pre-run briefing last month) was still ploughing on, children were dashing about without a care for the downpours and I still won nothing on the raffle, another reassuring dose of normality!

BBQ.Later, the latter saw us gather with Ruthie's sister and nieces as our host Kate and Ron braved the unpleasant conditions outside to cook our food, whilst the rest of us cowered inside, as the children once again interacted excitedly, the wet stuff still falling.

When we weren't dodging raindrops though, we were pottering around the house with Matthew Tosh's excellent live broadcast from the National Twelve-Bell Contest Final at Aston playing out as an extremely pleasant backdrop. I attended my first final when it was held at St Mary-le-Tower in 1991 and been to ten since then and the way the occasion has grown has been phenomenal. The professionalism of everything, huge numbers gathered, quality of the participants and the coverage provided (even in the regular media quite often) means this is a meeting that has more in common with some sporting events than an entry in the ringing calendar. The YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter feed and the competition's website mean that if you can't make it - as we couldn't this year - then it is possible to keep up with proceedings as they happen, but the aforementioned broadcast from Matthew and his team who do this sort of thing for a living (and can be watched again at your leisure) is the best way of keeping tabs in my humble opinion, with live feeds of all the bands' test pieces, interviews with those taking part, doing the judging and other significant figures present. Especially after attending last year's superb final in Norwich, it was a shame not to be there this afternoon, but circumstances of course made a day's boozing 166 miles and three hours drive away from Ipswich Hospital completely impractical and it almost felt like we were there as familiar faces and friends were quizzed by Mr Tosh, such as John Anderson, Mark Regan, Stephen Croxall, David Pipe, Steph Warboys, David Hull, Tom Griffiths and Simon Poole. Well done to all concerned!
And well done to Birmingham on regaining the title they lost in 2015 by winning it for an unprecedented twenty-second time, but also to Bristol on being runners-up and 'little' Melbourne on their fourth place finish. Indeed the quality of ringing that we heard was immense, even from those who finished towards the bottom - judge for yourselves, as recordings can be heard via the competition's website. There were connections to within our borders too, with the Bristol band featuring Molly Waterson who was once of this parish and whose mother Gill is still a regular and important member of the ringing scene in the Wickham Market area, Norman Tower regular Phillip Wilding ringing the eleventh for Cambridge and new resident of the county Laura Davies ringing for Worcester and also designing the eye-catching logo for the event.

Hopefully this competition will return to Suffolk one day for the first time in twenty-five years, but if all goes to plan, the next couple of finals will be within easy travelling distance with the 2017 one due to be at Southwark Cathedral on 24th June and the 2018 contest pencilled in to reach its climax at Cambridge on 23rd June, though the 2019 is hoped to be down at Exeter and next year's eliminators at Sheffield Cathedral, St Margaret's in Leicester and once again back in Birmingham at St Philip's Cathedral on 25th March. I would encourage SGR members to go and see what the fuss is about.

There was a striking competition going on here in the Guild this evening too and very well done to hosts Rattlesden on winning the Call-Change Trophy and Kersey the Method Trophy in the South-West District, judged by David Sparling from Essex and - despite the weather - an apparently much-enjoyed event.

It has been a very British day.

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Friday 24th June 2016

Wow. It's not everyday that the history and course of the country changes so dramatically before I've even left for work, but having woken up to discover that those who made the effort to vote just about decided to take the UK out of the EU and then watch David Cameron resign as Prime Minister, life had to go on and indeed it did, despite predictions of the apocalypse and World War Three.

That goes for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final which takes place tomorrow at Aston in Birmingham. The weekend started tonight with early arrivals convening in The Woodman for a warm-up drink, but for those like us who can't be there but want to keep up with proceedings, you will be as delighted as we are that although the now usual live and continuous broadcast is not possible this year for technical reasons, Matthew Tosh will still be running a highlights show on the competition's YouTube channel, with clips appearing throughout the day.

Ashbocking.Life also goes on in Suffolk ringing, no more so than with the FNQPC who at least for now appear willing to continue in the face of impending independence with a 1260 of Doubles in the beautiful little corner of England that is Ashbocking church. A reassuring way to end a day that started so dramatically.

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Thursday 23rd June 2016

Peal Wheel.We rarely make it to Grundisburgh practice as by the time Ruthie gets back from choir it is too late for either of us to get to the county's lightest twelve to be of any use. For entirely different reasons, we were again unable to get to the little wobbly red-brick tower, which meant that we missed out on seeing it's incredible new peal-board. Thanks to the power of social media though, we have had the opportunity to see what must be a truly unique board, made as it is from an old bell-wheel and featuring four significant peals rung on the bells - Superlative (No.2) Surprise Royal rung on 7th March 1999 which was Stephen Pettman's one thousandth peal, the 5051 of Stedman Cinques on 25th March 2007 that marked his chiliad of peals as conductor, the same landmark for the Suffolk Guild in the form of the 5015 of Grandsire Cinques rung on 19th June 2010 and the spliced Diamond and Bramford Alliance Royal on 22nd August 2014 dedicated to the Diamond Wedding Anniversary of Dick and Daphne Pegg. My wife and I are impressed to unexpectedly feature on a peal-board that I think that all visitors will remember!

Though it would be great to to see it in the flesh, as it were, God willing we will have the opportunity to see it close up soon and we missed out tonight for good reason as we made our second visit in as many days to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law's abode to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the birth of their daughter Katelynn. On this occasion we were joined by Kate and Ron as a lively family event ensued, with the birthday girl being the eldest of the three children present!

Of course though, it wasn't just a significant day for our niece...

For months - it seems much, much longer than that - we have been building towards today's referendum on whether the UK is to leave the European Union. It is quite probably the biggest decision that the British public as a collective will make in the lifetimes of most of us, but like many others I am frankly sick to the back teeth of the whole thing. On both sides crazy figures, threats and downright lies have been flung at the electorate, a sizeable number of whom have never voted for anything more important than the winner of the X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing and the politicians and big-business leaders on each side of the debate have been a huge turn-off for many, myself included. For all that though, I have enjoyed the respectful discussions between people in the Leave camp, Remain brigade and the undecided in between that have been carried out online, at work, the pub, church and even in the ringing chamber and so Mrs Munnings and I diligently wandered into our polling station to cast our vote during my lunch-break. Let's hope the impressive 70%+ doing the same as us across the country collectively make the right decision, whatever that may be.

Bed beckoned us with only Gibraltar having declared their result with a predictable 96% wanting to stay in and thus giving us no real clue as to what we will wake up to tomorrow morning. Whatever happens though, we still want to see that peal-board!

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Wednesday 22nd June 2016

As wonderful as the reason behind it is and mercifully uneventful it thus far has been, this pregnancy is a much tougher one for Ruthie than when she was carrying Alfie in preparation for his entry to the world two years ago. Each day has increasingly been blighted by considerable tiredness, discomfort and pain.

Therefore, it wasn't entirely surprising that after a day spent with her sister Clare at her house controlling an excitable AJM and his cousins Katelynn and Annalise, that once I had joined them after work and enjoyed a tea generously provided by our host, my wife had decided to divert from her original plan to attend Pettistree practice this evening.

Hopefully they coped without her and at least they managed the usual pre-session quarter-peal, which was dedicated to the birth of local Ringing Master Mike Whitby's second granddaughter, Willow Iris, a first child for his eldest son James - himself once a ringer - and his wife Emma. A lovely couple, fully deserving of such a bundle of joy and fortunate to be born with a grandfather who has a wonderful way with all children, Mason and Alfred included!

We both hope to have another safely-born, healthy baby for him to coo over soon - particularly Ruthie!

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Tuesday 21st June 2016

For Ruthie and Alfie it was a day of making cakes and visiting my wife's grandparents and therefore our son's great-grandparents. For me, it was a day of work. We eventually came together for an evening in. Quiet here and across the county on a ringing front, at least from a quarter-peal and peal perspective.

It is due to get busier of course. This Saturday alone the South-West District will be holding their annual Striking Competition, this year at Rattlesden, which I hope is well supported. I have beaten the drum for striking competitions several times in recent weeks as contests have been held at Wickham Market, Wissett, Reydon and Southwold, but I shan't hold back from encouraging still more taking part. They are a superb means of raising standards, regardless of the result, which while fun is the least important element of such events.

Such means are being used by our youngsters on Saturday 2nd July when they partake in the Ringing World National Youth Contest in London and all support would be received gratefully as they represent the Guild.

Meanwhile, The Vestey Ring will be at Blaxhall all weekend for the village festival and offers up some brilliant and vital publicity and help would be appreciated to ensure its presence fulfills its full potential and in a week's time, the Halesworth Triples/Major Practice will also be well worth going along to if you can make it.

There is still plenty going on, if not today!

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Monday 20th June 2016

It is for a wonderful reason, but it is rare for just Ruthie and me to go out on our own together. Sad as it seems therefore, the two of us watching the England-Slovakia Euro 2016 match on TV after getting Alfie to bed tonight was as close as we have got for some time. The 8pm kick-off meant missing the weekly St Mary-le-Tower practice, which is almost as unusual as my wife and I going on a night out, but it was an indulgence now out of the system and - providing we're not otherwise occupied - means I intend to be back at SMLT as usual in seven days time, even though the 0-0 draw and the Three Lions' subsequent second-place finish in their group means that frustratingly their next match is due to again clash with the session on Suffolk's heaviest twelve in exactly a week.

Before this evening's proceedings, another handbell quarter-peal was rung in the ringing chamber, something which is pleasingly becoming a regular aspect of the night at Ipswich's civic church and is to be applauded.

Even more pleasingly, it was but one of three QPs rung within the county today, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles scored at Nayland and the same length of Doubles successful at Thornham Magna, which was Carmen Wright's first on a tenor - well done Carmen!

Such activity was far more productive than we were, but we still enjoyed our night 'out' together.

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Sunday 19th June 2016

It is said that the bells of the drowned churches of Dunwich can be heard ringing out hauntingly during stormy weather. A complete myth of course, but it does underline the mystic of the lost town, overlooked by the picturesque village of about eighty souls that is all that is left of this once important port that was once home to three thousand residents and twelve churches. Just St James with its 4cwt bell cast in 1832 by Thomas Mears II of Whitechapel remains and so this is a corner of Suffolk that we have visited far too infrequently compared to other coastal locations like Aldeburgh, Felixstowe and Southwold with their rings of eight.

Therefore, when Ruthie asked on behalf of Mason and Alfie what I would like to do for Father's Day, it seemed a nice idea to pop up the coast for some fish 'n' chips. And so it was. Blessed with nice weather unusual for the current damp period, we enjoyed the - extremely pricy but immensely tasty - meal we had craved at Flora Tearooms and bumped into Pettistree ringers Mike Whitby and Pippa Moss, before wandering over to the blustery beach and choppy North Sea - still with no accompaniment of submerged tolling you'll be surprised to hear - and then down the road to the local museum, a delightful little place that outlines the remarkable history of the community. And whilst our state of alert sobriety was the main reason for passing by The Ship whilst attempting not to glance enviously at those indulging in beverages of an alcoholic nature, time wouldn't allow it anyway before our next engagement.

For we needed to return south to Ipswich to drop the boys off at their grandparents where they and I were able to confer the sentiments of the day to my Father, before we two left Nana and Granddad to their generous offer of feeding the brothers as we attended this month's special focus practice at St Mary-le-Tower. We were met by a brave band of five - Peter Davies, Stephen Cheek, Amanda Richmond, Colin Salter and George Salter - as they prepared for what transpired to be a decent sixty changes of Grandsire Doubles on the 35cwt back five. Despite the occasional, not unexpected slip-up, this was an impressive display of bell control, particularly by the two tenor ringers and set the tone for a reasonable evening of ringing that was useful to all present.
Also useful for the participants I imagine, were the quarter-peals of Plain Bob Major at Halesworth and Plain Bob Doubles at Hollesley, particularly for Sal Jenkinson who was ringing her first of Major inside in the former - well done Sal!

My own day of ringing started at Woodbridge where I was able to help the locals with a couple of regulars absent ahead of attending the service, all of which followed on from one of my housemates making me a bacon sandwich for breakfast. Thank you to my wife and sons for making this a fantastic Father's Day!

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Saturday 18th June 2016

Our general refusal/inability to commit to anything of much substance over the next few weeks so as to not leave anyone in the lurch at short notice, predictably leaves us with some quiet days. Today was one such day with the main highlight being finally being able to buy new shoes for Alfie after several months waiting for his feet to outgrow his current pair. Cue much flashing souls and stomping around!

It was busier for other ringers in the county and in impressive style too as an all too rare peal of Maximus was rung this afternoon at St Mary-le-Tower, with Mike Whitby ringing his six hundredth in the medium and Diana Pipe and conductor Stephen Pettman ringing their one hundredth on these famous bells - congratulations to three of the SGR's greatest servants.

From a personal ringing perspective it is due to be a similar story in precisely a week, but elsewhere it is lined up to be one of the biggest - if not the biggest - day in the ringing calendar as some of the best ringers in the world gather in Aston just outside Birmingham city centre for the 2016 National 12-bell Striking Contest Final. Even though we shan't be there, I still felt the excitement build-up as I read about the arrangements for next weekend and I would strongly encourage anyone not involved in manning The Vestey Ring in the churchyard of St Peter's church in Blaxhall for the village's Festival or the South-West District's own significant striking competition at Rattlesden and can make it over to the UK's second city to pop along and savour a superb day - and indeed weekend - out, an occasion that showcases what ringing can be, not just in terms of the standard but also the social spectacle as ringers of all abilities descend upon SS Peter and Paul. Travelling there is immensely easy, with public transport frequent and able to take you almost to the door, whilst there is an abundance of accommodation nearby and some of the best eating and drinking venues around, including The Woodman, a pub owned by local ringer Simon Linford and which will be the Friday night venue for early arrivals and The Wellington which offers a massive range of ales. More information can be reached via the homepage of the contest's website.

For those who can't make it, the live broadcast that has helped people keep abreast of proceedings for the last three finals won't be possible this year due to technical limitations at the venue, but plans are apparently afoot to put something together as an alternative. That doesn't change what should be a fascinating competition between the nine teams on show over the course of four-and-half hours of ringing on the 24cwt twelve. Having relinquished the Taylor Trophy they had won a record-breaking five years on the trot by finishing second in Norwich last year, Birmingham will be the favourites again on home soil and they haven't gone two years without winning it since their current dominance began at the turn of the century. However, I expect the College Youths are confident of repeating their 2015 triumph in East Anglia with a 2016 triumph in the West Midlands, whilst their strong rivals the Cumberland Youths will be keen to finish above the ASCYs wherever they end up! Meanwhile a number of 'provincial' teams who have done extremely well in recent years can reasonably expect to have a decent crack at winning, such as Melbourne, Exeter, Bristol and Cambridge, the latter two with Suffolk connections in the form of Molly Waterson and Phillip Wilding respectively. And Guildford and final debutants Worcester will be hoping for a Leicester City style victory in the Premier League of ringing competitions.

Whatever happens, it will be an exciting day. Certainly more exciting than our day today!

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Friday 17th June 2016

Well done to Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase on arranging a band at very short notice for the wedding at Tuddenham St Martin tomorrow that was subject of a plea by the groom on the SGR's Facebook page earlier in the week. It has hopefully salvaged what could've been quite bad PR for ringing and more importantly will help complete the biggest day of the couple's life.

Today's ringing was also of a celebratory nature as a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles was rung on Pakenham's anti-clockwise six for the eightieth birthday of local ringer Joan Tipple - many happy returns to the birthday girl!

Whilst our relatives were busy quarter-pealing though, we were a lot quieter on the ringing front, as is usual for us on a Friday of course.

God willing, things will be busier at Tuddenham St Martin tomorrow however - best wishes to the happy couple and thank you to the ringers giving us a good name!

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Thursday 16th June 2016

This afternoon's Euro 2016 fixture between England and Wales gave employers across both countries a difficult choice. Do you let your employees watch the game or plough on through pretending nothing was happening? It seems utterly preposterous of course that a football match should bring the wheels of industry to a halt, but I am a great believer in smashing the perception that we live to work and such occasions are proof of this. When the national sport allows us to step back and just enjoy a cracking ninety minutes of sporting entertainment, it sticks in the memory. I still remember when I walked past a crowded pub on my way into work ahead of one of the Three Lions' matches when the 2002 World Cup was held in South Korea and Japan and therefore a number of the fixtures were carried out during what was the working day back here in Blighty. My employers of the time put a TV in a meeting room whenever an England game occurred whilst we were in the office and thus a happy workforce took in the match and then carried on about their work afterwards with added productivity.

Today, John Catt allowed those who wanted to watch the big game to come in an hour early and take a two-hour 'lunch-break' to enjoy proceedings in France via the medium of television, but as soon as the draw was made way back at the beginning of December I intended to do what I have usually done in recent years in such circumstances and took the afternoon off work. Usually of course, this has meant frequenting a hostelry with a big screen and enjoying the group participation that makes football so enjoyable, but sobriety is our predominant state currently and so we satisfied ourselves with watching it at home accompanied by Ufford ringer Pete Faircloth and Ruthie's sister Clare and our nieces, whilst I nursed my alcohol and the English were victorious with a very late winner. Tragic events in Yorkshire already marked by a 2016 of Stedman Triples at Great St Mary in Cambridge and a 1250 of Bristol Surprise Major at Milverton in Somerset sadly showed that such frivolity doesn't really matter in the scheme of things, but for those couple of hours the efforts of Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy, Gareth Bale et al gave many an escape from the sometimes grim reality of life.

That escape can also be achieved by our hobby and I imagine that the band at Offton were immersed in some cracking ringing that no doubt kept them solely focused on 2hrs45mins and 5090 changes of Queen Elizabeth II Delight Major on the ground-floor eight. The venue for the fifty-fifth Suffolk Guild peal of the year also serves as a reminder that they are still looking for people to lose weight in order to raise money for the replacement of the sixth - please don't be shy in helping them and you! Check out their website.

Having said that, I can't say that sitting and watching football on TV whilst supping beer will have have contributed anything to the funds...

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Wednesday 15th June 2016

Midwife appointments that were once every few weeks are now fortnightly and so this morning's was an indication that this pregnancy is in its final stages - indeed, the corresponding appointment when Ruthie was pregnant with Alfie turned out to be our last for him. Although we still aren't expecting our unborn son to be with us just yet, but we have entered a strange time that is a mixture of anxiety and excitement. And yet with another mercifully dull appointment, it is also a period of the everyday mundane. Work to be attended, football to be watched and ringing to be done.

Well, actually the last didn't occur as with my wife's need to have an afternoon nap increasing at the same rate as Alfred's need to have an afternoon nap is diminishing, this evening saw her trip out to Pettistree give way to a catch-up sleep. I imagine they coped without either of us, at least judging by another successful pre-practice quarter-peal, one of two in Suffolk today, accompanied as it was by a 1260 of Single Oxford Bob Triples at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland, whilst there was a peal of seven Minor methods rung on the back six at The Wolery in Ipswich.

All a reassuringly exciting but normal day of ringing in the county.

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Tuesday 14th June 2016

Hopefully the Suffolk Guild's Facebook page and its ringers will show their worth over the next few days. Sam Clark is getting married at Tuddenham St Martin on Saturday and found out today that it hasn't been possible to arrange a band through local arrangements. Therefore, he has put a plea out through FB for ringers to help - if you aren't a Facebook member but think you can help then let know and I'll let him know.

That I was taking this in this evening gives some indication that this was a typically quiet Tuesday night in for us, but elsewhere Peter Stock was again achieving at Offton, ringing his first quarter-peal of Treble-Bob Major in the pre-practice 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major upon his home bells - well done Peter! Let's hope for more ringing success at Tuddenham St Martin on Saturday.

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Monday 13th June 2016

Current parking regulations have essentially put paid to Ruthie coming out to St Mary-le-Tower on a Monday night, at least until the church shows some Christian compromise. Or the children are all old enough to take along or leave at home on their own, whichever comes first. Frankly she doesn't feel safe walking on her own across Ipswich at 9pm and impractical in her current condition anyway and I can't say I'd be overly happy about her doing so. Whereas before she could walk the short distance from the tower to the parish car-park safely with other ringers also leaving the practice, since that sort of protection is now only afforded to choir members much earlier in the evening, it is just me able to join family and friends at SMLT on the first night of the working week to practice my ten and twelve-bell ringing for the foreseeable future. Suffice to say I couldn't help but feel a little miffed as I wandered past the empty car-park we once used, feeling slightly damp and bedraggled from my stomp through the drizzle-laden streets of the county town.

However, for all that I am deeply unhappy about the current arrangements, I hope it doesn't put people off - you just need to add extra time to your journey. Because once there, you are still met with a jolly decent session, carried out in a lively and positive atmosphere. Tonight saw a lot of joviality over George Vant's trousers, but also some reasonable ringing. Not everything went - as I've pointed out many times before, that should be the nature of a productive practice night - but we enjoyed some well-rung Little Bob Maximus and Grandsire Cinques and the night started with another handbell quarter, which was George Salter's three hundredth in the medium. Congratulations George!

The positivity continued on into The Robert Ransome with a sizeable crowd, with Italy's 2-0 win over Belgium featuring on the big-screen in the background completing a super day for my Euro 2016 teams from the office sweepstake, with 'my' other team Spain also victorious. It was the fellowship of ringers that was the real reason behind the good vibes though, with conversation, laughter and chips shared over a pint. Just a shame my wife couldn't partake.

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Sunday 12th June 2016

Through the haze of the morning after the day before, I delighted in taking the opportunity of having a read of the latest edition of The Ringing World at my parents, a rarity for this non-subscriber. Predictably the predominant theme was the Queen's Ninetieth Birthday and part of the interesting bumper issue was a series of bios on nine ringers, each from a different age-group from teens to nineties, representing both the long life of ER but also the broad spectrum of our art. It was fascinating to read up on the abridged life stories of some ringers who I have been privileged to ring and socialise with, such as Katie Town, Simon Linford, David Brown and Liz Bowden, as well of others I had heard of and one or two I hadn't. Collectively they are a superb example of the lifetime of joy, stimulation and satisfaction that ringing can give you, amongst much, much else.

Many - if not all - of that nonet will have been ringing today to mark the aforementioned national celebration on a busy day of ringing internationally, nationally and here in Suffolk. In total, an incredible two peals and eight quarter-peals were rung within our borders on this most felicitous of occasions as well as an abundance of special ringing across the county. The monthly second Sunday performance at Aldeburgh doubled up as the opening of the town's famous Festival of Music and the Arts as it usually does every year and the 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Buxhall also followed the village Flower Festival and the annual Flower Service, whilst there were other QPs upon the county's bells, of Little Bob Royal at The Norman Tower, four Doubles methods at Old Newton, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Rougham, two Doubles methods at Wickham Market and Grandsire Doubles at Woolpit rung especially for Her Majesty's buon compleanno.

Wenhastop peal band.However, two successes in particular stood out. One was at Sproughton where congratulations are due to Joe Lavington on ringing his first quarter in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles, whilst the other was the 5040 at Wenhaston which was Michael Cowling's first in half a century, Matthew Rolph's first of Doubles and Sal Jenkinson's debut in the medium altogether. Well done to Michael and Matthew and congratulations to Sal and Joe!


Meanwhile, a merry band of ringers manned the bells of Brandeston, Kettleburgh and Easton, whilst I imagine other places partook in their community's celebrations.

Having bade our farewells to Mum and Dad after they had generously put us up for the night and dropped Mason off at his mother's for a family Christening, we made our way to St Mary's back in Woodbridge where prior to us three attending the morning service, Ruthie joined her colleagues in the choir and Alfie and I climbed the many stairs to help the ringers at the 25cwt eight. Their number included Richard Clement, once of this part of world but on one of his last visits from his current region of residence in North Yorkshire due to a change in family circumstances down here. His presence today was most welcome though.

Earlier, Jon Wright's full report on the band at St Matthew's in Ipswich was broadcast from exactly 1hr10mins into his show, giving ringing six or seven minutes of fantastic PR on top of that which has already been broadcast this weekend - well done to all concerned!

Pettistree QP Band.We had considered popping over to the festivities in Pettistree after lunch, where games, BBQ and an ultimately successful 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor occurred, but with both my wife and Alfred still very tired after a warm night and early start, I instead spent the afternoon in the company of two sleeping beauties and the TV coverage of Croatia's 1-0 defeat of Turkey in Euro 2016. It may be the scourge of those who can't stand football, but I was glad of the tournament on an otherwise slow Sunday afternoon. Especially as I didn't have a copy of The Ringing World to read!

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Saturday 11th June 2016

Exactly forty years ago tomorrow, a touch of Plain Bob Major rung upon the eight at Thrapston in Northamptonshire failed to come round when the bride and groom managed to unintentionally but entirely appropriately swap, following the wedding of Alan and Sally Munnings. Four decades on, their family gathered to celebrate not just the rounds that never came, but the events of 12th June at the gateway to the notorious heatwave of 1976. Their union has ultimately spawned myself and my brother Chris and their grandsons Mason and Alfie, who along with their daughter-in-laws Ruthie and Becky and the latter's father Steve and his partner Madeleine were drawn to the home they have lived in all of their married life amongst the suburbia of Ipswich for food, drink and a wonderful cake made by Ralph Earey's mother Heather.

Mum and Dad cutting their cake.Mason and Alfie blowing bubbles in the garden at Mum and Dad's house.As it happened, it was a double celebration with today also being father's birthday and actually a triple celebration as the day marks the anniversary of the birth of sister-in-law Becky. Indeed, throw in the Queen's ninetieth complete with fly-past and Trooping of the Colour, it was a quadruple celebration and although the England football team failed to make it a quintuple celebration by conceding a late, late equaliser to the Russians in their opening game of Euro 2016, nothing could dampen our spirits nor even the thunderstorms that sandwiched our festivities, but which held out long enough for us to enjoy my parents' garden in a very British manner on a very British weekend.

That very British weekend continued to be marked by further ringing across the country Her Majesty reigns over and indeed across Suffolk, with a peal of Elizabeth R Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower and four quarter-peals, as Grandsire Doubles was scored at Bacton, Plain Bob Minor notched up at Drinkstone, four Doubles methods married together at Hollesley and eleven Doubles methods negotiated successfully at Great Finborough which was not only Andrea Alderton and Neal Dodge's first in Westminster II group methods, but also Andrea's five hundredth QP - well done and congratulations!

In fact, well and congratulations to all who took part in ringing that will contribute to the records of how our county celebrated this historic weekend. Mine and my wife's current circumstances mean we have been unable to commit to any significant ringing, but of course we were otherwise engaged celebrating the Ruby Anniversary of a special and deserving couple who have given my brother and me a superb grounding and platform in life and contributed an immense amount to the South-East District and the Guild as a whole. They've even got the hang of Plain Bob Major!

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Friday 10th June 2016

Today was one of great focus on events not related to ringing, partly-related to ringing and entirely related to ringing.

Upon the opposite side of the English Channel, Euro 2016 was beginning in Paris with a last minute victory for the hosts, the starting gun for exactly a month of what one hopes is a feast of footballing excellence and drama across France, whoever is ultimately triumphant in the final which is due to be on 10th July in the same stadium as tonight's first ninety minutes of the tournament were played out. There will be sighs from those not interested at all as there is when I discover that an Eastenders special has taken over the TV schedules or when a news event simultaneously dominates every channel, but it is for us footy fans an exciting and glorious celebration of patriotism and culture, a splash of colour in the sunshine, despite the 'best' efforts of the thugs in Marseille.

For all that though, the primary headlines in the UK on this occasion was the start of a weekend of celebrations for the Queen's official birthday and therefore naturally an extension of the festivities that marked her actual, ninetieth birthday in April. A special service was held at St Paul's Cathedral with the birthday girl herself present and accompanied of course by the famous 61cwt twelve, bellringing - as has become almost obligatory I'm pleased to report - once again playing an important and prominent role in royal proceedings, both at the main events and across the country, including in the communities of Suffolk, where quarter-peals were rung at Brandon, Lakenheath and Ufford as a means of sending felicitations to the longest reigning monarch in our country's long history. Well done in particular to young Emma Goodchild on ringing her first QP inside in the latter of the trio.

As mentioned yesterday, BBC Radio Suffolk were again giving local ringing positive coverage, with a report on the band learning to ring at the six of St Matthew's in Ipswich with the initial impetus being to get enough together to ring on Sunday for Her Majesty's birthday. Regardless of the piece 2hrs20mins into Etholle George's show this morning being yet more marvelous publicity for ringing in the county, this is a genuinely impressive success story - as Matt Thomas who has been the driving force behind the project pointed out, to reach this point just three months in is a tremendous achievement.

It has been a great day for the ringing-related and non-ringing-related in equal measure. Long may it continue!

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Thursday 9th June 2016

Tomorrow is the Queen's Official Ninetieth Birthday and as you would expect, there is much publicity surrounding it. As the Head of the Church of England, the organisation that we owe the existence of our art to, bellringing is likely to feature strongly in the celebrations, as highlighted by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers on their website. That is certainly the case here in Suffolk, with new Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge continuing his very impressive start through the gratefully received support of our good friends BBC Radio Suffolk. There is planned to be a part of a report on the band learning to ring upon the 10cwt six at St Matthew's in Ipswich on Etholle George's breakfast show on the day itself, with the full piece due to be transmitted on Jon Wright's programme on Sunday morning, a marvelous success story that will give the exercise a really positive spin locally.

However, it is - I am delighted to say - but a small part of the county's ringing output for the occasion, with many towers across the SGR hoping to make a joyful noise over the weekend, from Hollesley to Brandon, East Bergholt to Eye. It is also worth noting that there is other ringing over the next few days, with the North-East District Focus Practice at Rumburgh between 10am and noon on Saturday being something that should garner support from whoever isn't involved in ringing out for our monarch's significant milestone or indeed anything else, whilst the Vestey Ring will be at Halesworth Lions Fete on Sunday and will no doubt be accepting of any help!

For all of that though, today was a very quiet and ordinary day for ringing within our borders and indeed for us personally - God willing, the excitement is all to be in the coming days.

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Wednesday 8th June 2016

Having only partaken in one piece of ringing in the last ten days, there was a sense of release when I made the trip out to Pettistree practice on a lovely, light, long summer's evening and I was delighted to be thrown straight into a mental agility test as my arrival was immediately followed by my participation in courses of Ipswich Surprise Minor, Carlisle Surprise Minor and Morning Exercise Delight Minor. It remains one of the most stimulating sessions in the county, which may explain why it is attracting a number of returning ringers looking to hone their considerable but once rusty skills. Tonight we were blessed with the presence of Joanna Crowe who has returned in the last few years, Michael Cowling who has returned in the last few months and Mark Ogden who has returned in the last few weeks.

Their presence is a considerable bonus for this ground-floor six and indeed two of them partook in the quarter-peal of Hull Surprise Minor beforehand which set the tone for a varied and productive couple of hours that was topped with a drink in The Greyhound, where I enjoyed a pint of beer - another rarity in recent times!

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Tuesday 7th June 2016

Although in my opinion it needs to be done more often by more people to help raise the overall standard, I can understand the reluctance of some ringers to partake in the medium as often as even I do. Even more so those unwilling to do it to the extent that those who ring the most peals do, as I count myself among them! Whilst according to the superb Pealbase I would reach my 7000th peal in just a month shy of three hundred and fifty-seven years time if I continued at my current rate of eighteen peals a year and lived long enough, Colin Turner - who has rung more peals than anyone in the history of ringing - is due to ring his before Christmas, having rung more than half the number I have ever rung in the last twelve months alone. However, I can also appreciate why Colin and his chums - especially the Salter family from our neck of the woods - do it. They travel the country (and indeed the planet) to a variety of venues, in a vast array of different methods and meet more people than even a lot of other ringers will ever meet. And importantly, they hone their skills to an impressive standard and clearly enjoy it.

So congratulations to Ian Campbell who today became the latest to ring five thousand peals with a 5000 of five spliced Surprise Royal methods at Northallerton in North Yorkshire. I expect a peal-band made up of all of those who have rung at least five thousand peals is already being primed...

I wouldn't expect Suffolk's ringers to be inspired to reach such landmarks by this news, but it is an indication of the limitless scope of our exercise and hope that it motivates the Guild's members to push themselves even further, especially those who may be feeling a little lackluster about our wonderful art.

It is motivation that isn't needed by all manning the county's bells since the sun rose this morning on another scorching day, with six quarter-peals of Surprise Minor rung within our borders - Annable's London at Great Barton, Westminster at Rattlesden, Ipswich at Rougham, Norwich at Tostock and Cambridge at both Woolpit and before the practice night at Offton. The latter was notable for another achievement for local ringer Peter Stock, as he rang his first of Treble Bob - well done Peter!

As usual for a Tuesday - and as you may have gathered anyway by my rambling on the activities of others from here and beyond - it was a less active day for us on the ringing front, as we did a bit more sorting and read up on significant milestones in the peal-ringing world.

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Monday 6th June 2016

At the best of times we are a disorganised couple and our house is often cluttered and untidy, but with the only thing that is predictable about the next few weeks being its unpredictably, we need to get ourselves prepared, from bags to babysitters to space in the house. Clothes need sorting, snacks gathered and furniture erecting. God willing our unborn son's arrival won't be immediate, but once at this stage we can't rule anything out, so there is a lot to do in a short amount of time. The plan had been to have gradually readied ourselves over the last month or two, but this pregnancy hasn't been the most comfortable for Ruthie, whilst the understandable demands of Alfie, the care of my wife's Nan required in her final weeks and her subsequent death have meant that spare time recently has been at a premium. With Mrs Munnings's maternity leave beginning today, our short timeframe has been brought into sharp focus and so we decided we needed to make a start.

Ultimately and unfortunately it meant missing St Mary-le-Tower practice, rare even in our current circumstances, but hopefully they coped without us - they certainly didn't need us for handbells, with a quarter-peal rung in the ringing chamber, whilst elsewhere there was a significant QP at Theberton as Caron Harris made her debut in the medium. Well done Caron!

Glad to see others are more organised than us!

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Sunday 5th June 2016

Quite understandably, not everyone is a fan of weather so hot that it feels like you're being followed around by a radiator, but as those who had to make the most of the Suffolk Show in grey and chilly conditions earlier in the week will testify, the conditions we've experienced this weekend are far better for enjoying the great outdoors. We took advantage of the sunshine by sitting in the beer garden at The Cherrytree, as we met up with Ufford ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis for a rare 2016 foray into the world of beer drinking, catching up with them as Mason and Alfie enjoyed the play area. A fun day out for all the family.

Such heat is less than ideal to ring in though, so credit to those who were quarter-pealing in the county, with a 1344 of Plain Bob Major rung on the back eight at The Norman Tower and a 1296 of Norwich Surprise Minor scored at Pettistree. And I managed some ringing myself as I helped out at Woodbridge for service ringing, contributing to some Grandsire Doubles on the front six.

Good to see ringing within our borders continuing, come rain or shine.

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Saturday 4th June 2016

Deliberations on the geographical centre of the county occupied BBC Radio Suffolk's airwaves, but on our behalf, ten talented members were representing the Suffolk Guild beyond our borders at the metaphorical Pluto of East Anglia, Daventry. I compare the Northamptonshire town with the former planet in regards to its position rather than suggesting it is cold and dark of course...

Disappointingly, the impressive second place of last year's competition in Wisbech (the Uranus of the region...) was not followed up by a first place today, as our entry was placed sixth out of seven, but this is a tough contest. There is an abundance of ringing talent on this side of the country, whilst it was a great irritation in my time as SGR Ringing Master that whilst we had more than enough ability to triumph, getting everyone together to practice sufficiently to forge a prepared band was a frustratingly vain occupation ahead of ringing on strange bells that typically none of those in the team had rung on regularly. Add the transfer of RM (although this was dealt with expertly on this occasion by Jed Flatters and Tom Scase) and the far-flung location of proceedings that will have made it a long day for our gallant representatives and it gives you an indication of how difficult it is to come out on top in the judges' opinion. Ultimately though - as cliched as it appears - it is the taking part that matters most, contributing as it should to raising the standards of ringing in our part of the world more than not partaking. Nonetheless, congratulations to the Ely Diocesan Association on winning for the second year running this afternoon.

Sadly we were unable to contribute to or even visit the event due to our current caution towards straying too far from home, but we still made the most of the day to a lesser extent by mingling with family, first by popping in to see Ruthie's mother Kate to collect various bits of equipment that we may need shortly and then dropping by my parents to catch up with them and my Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick who were visiting from Lincoln.

I still don't know what the geographical centre of Suffolk is though.

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Friday 3rd June 2016

The airwaves were alive with the sound of music with the BBC Music Day, and there seemed two predominant themes - choirs on bridges and ringers on bells. Across the country, fellow companions of the art were called upon by radio and TV and it was no different here in Suffolk where this morning the local beeb radio station spoke with North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod. Brief as his chat with Etholle George's stand-in Mark Matthews was, it was carried out with a concise and clear account of what was due to happen at 7pm today in the effective manner we have become accustomed to from the former Guild Chairman and as seems to be policy at the moment, the next big thing was mentioned too, which will hopefully help keep us in the news. Listen out on iPlayer about 1hr19mins in.

Towers throughout the county joined in, including Beccles who posted pictures onto the SGR Facebook page and Clopton who recorded their participants on BellBoard and Campanophile, whilst quarter-peals of W E Tann Bob Minor, Norwich Surprise Minor and Plain Bob Minor were rung at Buxhall, Earl Stonham and Halesworth respectively. Well done to the entire band in the first of those performances for making their debut blows in the method and to Nicole Rolph on conducting her first of Minor in the third of the tremendous trio! And at home at the end of a quiet day at work with schools on half-term, I was entertained by Mason and Alfie taking part too with some 'ringing' on balloons!

Talking of taking part, further to the outcome of the weekend's Central Council of Church Bell Ringers annual meeting in Portsmouth, they are now looking for help from those not currently part of the CCCBR to form an Action Group in a positive move that hopes to have some concrete proposals for the 2017 meeting in Scotland. The full message is:

The Central Council voted to initiate a review of the Council with the outcome of concrete
proposals next year, and is now looking for number of ringers to volunteer for the Action
Group. Members will need to have time available in 2016 to work at getting a wide range of
opinions and ideas from other ringers, ringing organisations and other stakeholders.
If you are interested please email review@cccbr.org.uk by 30th June with a brief statement of
why you are interested and what experience (ringing and outside of ringing) you might bring
to this project.
Ruth Marshall
(CC Representative for the Scottish Association of Change Ringers),
Review Facilitator

Please help if you can and spread the word.

Meanwhile, it was a big day for Ruthie as she completed her final day at John Ives before her maternity leave starts. When she finished at Boots prior to giving birth to Alfred two years ago, it was a cause of celebration and much relief, as for all that her colleagues in Woodbridge did all they could, they were hampered by the rules and regulations that all huge companies of their type have which treat their employees as a number, rather than people with individual circumstances and needs. The family run, independent shoe shop that my wife has been working at for just over a year though has been completely different. Appointments and the like have been easy to arrange with them and they have really gone out of their way to make sure she hasn't been doing anything she shouldn't in her 'condition'. So although it is her intention to return and that she can't really continue in any useful form in this demanding customer service role, she left today with a heavy heart and with much sadness - she will genuinely miss working there and with people that have become good friends. And the feeling seems to be mutual, as she was greeted with cake and drink to see her on her way and balloons, including the one that eventually became the tenor of the light Sandy Lane Balloon Ring. At least it allowed the boys to join others in the BBC Music Day!

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Thursday 2nd June 2016

Five years ago today, I was at The Suffolk Show helping to man The Vestey Ring in glorious sunshine and baking conditions that had me diving into tents to keep cool. It was the second of two very successful days in marvelous weather for the SGR at Trinity Park that saw a steady stream of people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds have a go at our art and the bells quartered for the first time as the showground emptied.

Sadly the next year it was decided that the church tent that we had piggy-backed on didn't have room for us and a stand of our own would simply be too much for the Guild's funds and as far as I know that remains the case. Therefore, as much as the cloud, wind, rain and autumnal temperatures that greeted visitors at this year's show yesterday and today meant that I was glad I wasn't shivering outside trying to coax bedraggled punters over to our main PR tool, it was a shame yet again not to be able to show off the exercise to a wide audience that wouldn't typically approach a church to find out more about us.

The subject of how to attract more ringers was apparently one of the many issues discussed at this year's annual meeting of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers in Portsmouth over the weekend, but as ever quite what has been decided seems limited, with the main talking points appearing to have been whether to keep the word 'church' in the title of the organisation and to allow peals of Minimus rung on handbells to be recognised again, something that Jack Page and Alistair Cherry instantly took advantage of with a 5040 in Edgbaston ringing chamber completed minutes after the rule was passed! I'm sure more details will come to light when our CC Reps report back.

For now, ringing in general is gaining more good publicity tomorrow with the BBC Music Day featuring the art quite prominently. On a local level that means Philip Gorrod will be on Radio Suffolk talking to Etholle George at about 7.15am, with ringing taking place at Bardwell, Halesworth, Earl Stonham and maybe even at East Bergholt. And there has already been further great publicity from the Striking Competitions in the form of a superb article in the Lowestoft Journal - well done to Michelle Williams on organising that!

Today though, the ringing headline within our borders comes from the quarter-peal at Tostock on a much quieter day for us and Suffolk ringing than on Thursday 2nd June 2011!

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Wednesday 1st June 2016

Yesterday's trip to London marked a watershed for our current circumstances, for it is the last time that we intend to travel any considerable distance until Ruthie's pregnancy is completed. It means missing two weddings being held beyond our borders, the Ridgman Trophy in Daventry on Saturday, the Pettistree outing, the National Twelve-Bell Final at Aston and the Ringing World National Youth Contest down in the capital, but with the due date just thirty-nine days away (and a distinct possibility that it may possibly be much sooner than that!) it seems sensible not to stray too far from Ipswich Hospital!

We began this necessary staycation with our latest midwife appointment that as usual saw the unborn's heartbeat listened to, yet more tests and which was thankfully so uneventful that the main point of conversation was our midwife's recent appearance on Question Time with David Stanford!

For my heavily pregnant wife it continued with a trip to Pettistree, courtesy of a gratefully received lift from her mother Kate for a practice followed by a strictly alcohol-free visit to The Greyhound and preceded by a quarter-peal of Ipswich Surprise Minor for local ringer Derek Martin's birthday, one of three performances on Suffolk's bells celebrating birthdays today, with the 1282 of Pudsey Surprise Major at Elveden offering felicitations to Clare Flatters and the annual peal of Bristol Surprise Major of an appropriate length for the anniversary of the birth of Adrian Knights reached 5069 changes at Helmingham this year. And although it wasn't noting any similar occasion, the 1272 of Kingston Treble Bob Minor at Preston St Mary was the first in the method for half of the band - well done to Andrea Alderton, Clare Veal and conductor Stephen Dawson!

Hopefully the county's ringers carry on being this active whilst we wind down!

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Tuesday 31st May 2016

As much of society returned to the daily commute after the long Bank Holiday weekend, only to find their routes blocked by puddles the size of lakes and felled trees blown over in darkness, we continued our time off and were thus able to delay our journeying.

Even so, we were anticipating a difficult trip following the wind and rain that had battered the region overnight and still lingered this morning, especially as we were heading to London. Having ditched the notion of going by train at great cost for three-quarters of our number and thus avoided standing at considerable expense on heaving platforms in the unpleasant conditions for the various delayed and cancelled engines as the network again struggled with weather that wasn't between ten and twenty degrees centigrade, dry and without any breeze, we still anticipated some delays on the often troublesome A12. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to have an incident-free journey that allowed a stress-free arrival at Newbury Park where Aloysius the car was left for the day as we allowed the reliable and frequent underground system to take the strain.

Two twelves from the Shard - Southwark Cathedral at the bottom and St Paul's Cathedral at the top.Mason and Alfie sixty-nine floors from the ground up the Shard.We were a long way up!Looking east towards Tower Bridge in the foreground and Canary Wharf on the horizon.Mason outside Poirot's flat!

Both Mason and Alfie excitedly took it all in as we hopped from train to train, had lunch outside St Paul's Cathedral and even took in a visit to the home of the fictional Hercule Poirot, but the highlight was the main reason we were in the capital on this sodden Tuesday. For at Christmas, my brother Chris and his wife Becky very generously gave us tickets to The View from the Shard, the viewing platform open to the public from floors 69-72 of the tallest building in the UK and today we were redeeming them. And it is well worth it in my opinion, as the whole of this vast city and beyond is laid out before you, with landmarks from Wembley Stadium to the Olympic Park, the Houses of Parliament to Canary Wharf and the various famous cathedrals and churches all visible from this 360 degree platform.

It was a wonderful pinnacle - in every sense - of a grand day out in the big smoke, although we had perhaps underestimated how difficult it is to get around London with a buggy and a heavily pregnant woman, with all bar a handful of tube stations not easily accessible to prams, buggies and wheelchairs. However, it did seem to bring out the best in the much-maligned (including by me) Londoner, as at nearly every set of steps (and there were a lot!) we were offered help with a friendly smile.

Back in Suffolk, ringers were again busy with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton successfully scored and the first ever peal of Battle of Jutland Surprise Major was rung at Grundisburgh to mark the centenary of this horrific battle and particularly to remember survivor James Bennett, once a ringer at St Mary-the-Virgin.

And despite our enjoyment today, it was that homeland that we were delighted to return to, again without incident, to round off our long, long Bank Holiday weekend!

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Monday 30th May 2016

Once we lived yards apart, but we were of course moved out of our abode in Pytches Road for reasons beyond our control three years ago and now our one-time neighbours Toby and Amy and their daughter - and my Goddaughter - Maddie have moved to Leiston as they too look for more space for a growing family. So we used this Bank Holiday Monday to make our first visit to the new home, generally catch-up with them and let the youngsters play together.

Generally it was an incredibly laid back day as remarkably - with his brother Mason already downstairs - Alfie allowed us a lay-in until almost 10am. I suppose we ought to grab such opportunities when we get them!

Elsewhere, ringers in Suffolk were less lethargic, with another quarter-peal rung at Clopton for the Flower Festival showing how bells can be used in harmony with the community to celebrate and promote local events, as this 12cwt six has been so effectively over the long weekend. Meanwhile, well done to young Richard Stevens on ringing his first of Grandsire Triples inside in the 1260 at Rendham, notching up another achievement in his short ringing career thus far.

It was far more productive than our lazy Bank Holiday of lay-ins and visiting friends!

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Sunday 29th May 2016

A slightly truncated biweekly Sabbath morning service ringing circuit on this occasion, as having been to St Mary-le-Tower where the boys, my parents and I were greeted by some well-struck Cambridge Surprise Minor being rung on the back six, I took Mason and Alfie to Grundisburgh via the village park, only to find St Mary-the-Virgin church remarkably deserted for just three quarters-of-an-hour before worship was due to begin. A quick calculation of the date and glance of the calendar at the bottom of the tower revealed that the fifth-Sunday benefice service was taking place at Ashbocking and whether ringing was being carried out there or not, it was too late to travel the six miles to the ground-floor six at All Saints to be of any meaningful use and so we returned home where a poorly Ruthie was so ill that she had unusually decided against going to church to sing in the choir.

Her illness also meant that our day was a less productive one than for many other ringers in Suffolk today. The record-breaking Colin Turner was in town to ring his 145th peal of the year thus far in the 5040 at Whepstead, whilst on a more local level the Flower Festival at Clopton was celebrated again with a 1260, the same number of changes of Plain Bob Minor was rung at St Margaret in Ipswich and the aforementioned Ashbocking were quartered to no fewer and no more rows of Braeside Place Minor, which was a first in the method for the entire band - well done to all concerned.

At least they were all paying attention to when and where they should be ringing!

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Saturday 28th May 2016

We are entering peak wedding season. Not that Ruthie and I are in a position to commit to ringing for any of them as we enter a summer of certain uncertainty, but when Tim Stanford asked me a couple of weeks ago if I could partake in some ringing for the marriage of two of his friends at Framlingham this afternoon I was delighted to be able to say yes to one final ringing engagement before we become even vaguer and non-committal than we usually are!

Apologies are due to my fellow ringers for getting there slightly late, as with my wife at work I came dashing up the stairs with a heavy Alfie in my arms, Mason trying to keep up and then climbed down and then back up again with the buggy, but I'm glad we made the effort to struggle across town to make it to ring beforehand, as I joined a very decent band, including Tim who was smartly dressed in his role as an usher. The boy had done good too, having arranged not only the ringing for today but also the quarter-peal upon this 16cwt eight on Thursday, apparently to the considerable detriment of his nerves!

Having rung them in, Mr Stanford left us to carry out his main duties and his younger brother Richard Stevens stepped in to ring them out in very assured fashion for one so young and small in stature on bells as tricky as these, with some super Call-Changes to accompany the well-rung Grandsire Triples before the ceremony, before then ringing the back two down with confidence.

Once in this pretty market town, it also enabled the boys and I to take advantage of a gorgeous sunny day as the moat around the famous castle was negotiated with difficulty (I suppose it makes sense that defences put up to keep marauding armies out would have a similar effect on buggies!), a fairground next door was explored and milkshake enjoyed at The Dancing Goat Cafe, all of which in turn followed on from a morning at Kingston Fields back in Woodbridge where a six-county junior tennis tournament made things more crowded than usual but didn't stop us using the playground.

Elsewhere, there were two peals rung in the county since the sun rose this morning, one for the Essex Association at Bures and another at Clopton for the Suffolk Guild. Well done to Lynda and David Lee on ringing their first on eight and Ian Culham on calling his first of Triples in the former right on the border with our neighbours from the south. Meanwhile, the 1260 of Doubles at Great Finborough rounded off a busy North-West District Quarter-Peal Week - well done to all concerned on a successful seven days of ringing, brimming with achievement and progression! The members of the NW District will be well prepared for peak wedding season!

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Friday 27th May 2016

Marjorie Joan Eagle.It was a tough, but important day today, as we buried Ruthie's Nan. Funerals are in my opinion a vital part of the grieving process, bringing the passing of a loved one into brutal reality, before gently helping those mourning their departure to move on with tales that remind them how fortunate they were to have known them and show how loved they were by many, often far more than one would realise.

So it was today. Marjorie's death had sadly been long in the coming with weeks and months of illness gradually debilitating a once fiercely independent lady and so therefore I don't think that her actual passing had entirely sunk in until her coffin arrived at St Andrew's church in Melton today, one of the 10cwt three being mournfully chimed as she was lifted from the hearse. However, once fondly remembered stories of wonderful apple pies, her considerable hospitality and excessive use of Germolene had been recounted, it turned very much from the sadness of her death to a celebration of her life. And following those awful final weeks of pain, we were comforted by her beautiful final resting place in the churchyard of Melton's Old Church, overlooking fields and woodlands in this quiet, isolated spot and next to her late husband, as she wished.

Throughout the day, proceedings were made easier by cheerful, upbeat and familiar faces. E.B.Button & Sons the family business carried out arrangements professionally but also with a comforting smile and the good humour that could be afforded in the circumstances, as was the case with the Revd Paul Hambling who officiated at the service and actual burial. For this was a celebration of a lady who reached ninety-six years of age, able to see her granddaughters grow up and great-grandchildren develop lively personalities that always raised her spirits, who lived life in a content and simple manner that I think we could all learn from and there was a very positive vibe at the wake that followed at the Church Room. She will be missed, but we are all the better for having known her.

Meanwhile, the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week had a busy day with four rung. Well done to all who rang their first of Gower Bob Minor in the 1260 at Yaxley and to Clare Veal who was conducting her most methods in the QP at Stoke Ash, which was rung simultaneously with the one at Wickham Skeith, whilst the first Major of the NWDQPW was rung with the 1296 of Little Bob at Gislingham.

The NW weren't the only ones quarter-pealing, with the FNQPC dedicating this week's Plain Bob Doubles at Ashbocking to Otley ringer Jimmy Wightman following his recent operation, positive news in his long recovery.

A day that started so low finished on a high in many ways. RIP Marjorie.

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Thursday 26th May 2016

As is usual on a Thursday due to Ruthie's choir practice, there was no ringing for us this evening. However, it did allow us to watch tonight's edition of Question Time. It's not typical viewing in our household, but on this occasion our attention was drawn not only by it being held in the Corn Exchange in Ipswich, but particularly the presence of Clopton Ringing Master David Stanford's presence on the front row, resplendent in eye-catching red!

Meanwhile, his son Tim was partaking in a 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Framlingham, one of three in Suffolk today, with the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week augmented by QPs of Doubles at Great Finborough and Cambridge Surprise Minor at Rougham. Congratulations to Paul Ebsworth on ringing his five-hundredth in the former and well done to Serena and Mark Steggles on ringing their first in the method in the latter.

Whether it was on TV or on the end of a bellrope then, it was a busier day for other ringers than for us!

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Wednesday 25th May 2016

In entirely practical terms, the Wednesday-night front-eight peals at St Mary-le-Tower are a proverbial pain in the backside. It is a race against time to pop home to change, have a bite to eat if I'm lucky, show my face to the family, bid farewell to a confused Alfie, leave Ruthie to continue attending to Alfred's many needs as she has done so since I went to work over eight hours earlier and then endeavour to get into Ipswich town centre and its multitude of traffic-clogging lights as soon as possible. Invariably I'm the last one there and I have to politely laugh off the rolling eyes, watch-tapping and smart comments before setting straight off into the attempt, my seat in the office no doubt still cooling down. And of course the new parking restrictions haven't made things any easier.

Yet they are a real pleasure to ring in. Occasionally we have had nights that are better best forgotten, but they have been the exception to the rule, as even when we have failed to score a peal, I have enjoyed good ringing with good ringers and good friends. So I am sorry that this evening's attempt was my last for the time being. Indeed, it was my last peal attempt full-stop for now, as with the due date of our unborn son now just a few weeks away, it is preferable for me to be no more than minutes away from the phone.

It was disappointing therefore to lose this final effort as a swap about halfway in put paid to any success tonight, though in keeping with the general standard of these attempts, we enjoyed some very decent ringing beforehand.

And although we failed to get a peal, elsewhere across Suffolk they were successful with the medium, as a 5022 of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at Hadleigh and a 5040 of Doubles was scored at The Wolery, whilst from a QP perspective, a 1260 of St Clement's College Bob Minor was notched up at Buxhall for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week and 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung pre-practice at Pettistree.

Back in the county town though, we didn't let our loss depress us, as I indulged in a pint and some chips at The Cricketers with the majority of the band, before finally getting home after a long day and a long evening!

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Tuesday 24th May 2016

A busy day quarter-pealing in the county, especially for what one may consider a nondescript Tuesday. Congratulations to Alison Daniels on ringing what is already her one hundredth quarter-peal this year in the QP of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Gislingham, having rung her ninety-ninth in the 1280 of Cassiobury Surprise Major at Hopton earlier in the day. Meanwhile, this week's pre-practice quarter at Offton saw Plain Bob Minor rung, whilst a 1260 of Grandsire Triples was scored at Ufford.

For Ruthie and me though, it was a typically quiet evening in, so I shall take the opportunity to do something I've been meaning to do since I heard it and point you in the direction of some superb Stedman Triples, a part of a 5040 rung at Cleator Moor in Cumbria ten days ago. It is rung predominantly by a Birmingham band, but whilst people may scoff at me using leads of Deimos Alliance Maximus as an example to aspire to, excellently-struck Stedman Triples is something that is extremely attainable for most ringers in Suffolk. Listen to the brisk, confident, near-faultless ringing. No hanging-up, no trying to reign it in because it's "not the right speed for the bells" 9it was rung in 2hrs56mins on this 21cwt eight), no constant struggle to get a rhythm going, with the result being a well-struck piece full of life. Take note of what they're doing and apply it to your ringing and hopefully we will have more and more days like today, with quantity and quality!

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Monday 23rd May 2016

Tonight was the first night the ringers who travel from far and wide to ring the famous bells of St Mary-le-Tower were subjected to the draconian and ridiculous parking restrictions placed on them by the church they serve. The general principal behind the new rules are sound. We have no desire for harm to come upon anyone from the choir, but the decision to ban the ringers from using the former social services car-park to accommodate the short overlap period when straggling choristers are leaving and early arrivals for ringing are approaching the sizeable parking area, thus banishing them to the limited space available behind the CAB and the streets around Ipswich suggests that they aren't in the slightest bit concerned about the wellbeing of the elderly, youngsters, pregnant and single women amongst our number who have to fend for themselves much later in the night in the darkness of a town understandably considered as quite an unsavoury area at such times.

The packed parish car-park outside St Mary-le-Tower.Having spent valuable time searching the byways of the car-unfriendly county town for free parking for the evening (I refuse to pay even a £1 for parking in a town centre after work hours), it was also extremely galling at only 7.40pm to walk past the parish car-park devoid almost completely of cars, a wasted vast space that could be used for safe, close parking for visitors not familiar with the town (such as Robert who was visiting from Evesham for the second week) as well as others who have no choice but to drive in. It is obscene and - to my mind - notably un-Christian. I hope - and I don't believe we are - that we aren't going to take this lying down, as I fear it will have a detrimental effect on attendances, especially when the dark, inhospitable winter nights may make travelling distance and then traipsing nervously halfway across town, a deeply unappealing notion for some. Especially when the solution would merely be a common sense compromise with minimal thought put to it.

The situation leaves a sour taste, which is a pity as the actual ringing at SMLT currently is a positive affair. Sitting on top of the bookcase in the corner of the ringing chamber, the Mitson Shield and Rose Trophy act as a reminder of a fantastic day of ringing generally for Suffolk in Reydon and Southwold over the weekend and particularly for us, which in turn has followed on from weeks of consistently top-notch ringing on the 34cwt twelve. And whilst this evening we were a little short on numbers and some pieces struggled, the general standard was still high, especially with the practice touches of Erin Caters that bode well for the SGR entry in The Ridgman Trophy at Daventry on Saturday 4th June.

Some retired to the nearby Robert Ransome for the social aspect that helps make our art such a special one, but I decided to wind my way home, the lengthy trek back to my car accompanying my earlier inconvenience in bookending a pleasant night's ringing with a thoroughly daft situation. Let's hope it's sorted soon.

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Sunday 22nd May 2016

Occasionally, ringing chambers are moved up or down their tower. Great Glemham has gone from ground-floor to gallery ring, primarily to allow kitchen and toilet facilities to be put underneath. Campsea Ashe also became a gallery ring, but moved from the other end of the tower, with the grotty old four that were there before rung from upstairs previously. And St Margaret's in Ipswich are planning to transfer the ringers of the 14cwt eight from their cosy belfry further up the tower with the clock to a gallery overlooking the church.

Often whilst making the long climb up to the ringing chamber at Woodbridge, I have dreamt of bringing the ropes further down this substantial tower. my daydreams have extended to augmenting them to a ten or twelve as well and I could see the benefits of doing both. It would make the bells more accessible to potential recruits, interested parties and less mobile ringers, whilst a lighter front six or eight would make teaching learners easier, although I could also see how a long draught may negate that particularly benefit! In my opinion, this riverside town would also be a great venue for the National Twelve-Bell Final, but that is entirely selfish on my part!

How practical or possible such an ambitious project would be, I have no idea, as even I don't take my meandering fantasies seriously enough to research their feasibility. Quite how the church would react to the notion of their west window being partially obstructed by ropes and guides is not something I have dared to test and whilst the tower is certainly befitting of a ten or twelve, I have no idea if it is capable of taking such an amount of extra swaying bell metal.

If nothing else though, the floor is already there. About a fifth of the way up to the current ringing chamber is a ready-built, sturdy gallery floor. Presently it covers a room that has in recent months doubled-up as the perfect location for the Sunday school, whilst upstairs... Well I didn't know until this morning, when during the service the children who congregate at the bottom of the stairs to the bells were allowed to explore up there, accompanied by us parents. For the first time I got an impression of what ringing from this level might be like. At the moment it is occupied by equipment and cupboards, but the draught didn't seem anywhere as long as I thought it would be and although the stairs take up an entire side of the space, I'm sure the rope circle as it is would at least fit. Whilst I stood there, it almost seemed possible!

Back in the real world, the boys and I did make that aforementioned climb so that I could help out with Stedman Doubles on the front six for morning ringing, whilst across Suffolk there were an impressive six quarter-peals rung, with a 1260 of Southrepps Doubles and 1287 of Grandsire Triples at the ground-floor rings of Barsham and Lowestoft respectively, quarters of St Clements College Bob Minor, eleven Doubles methods and Grandsire Doubles at the upstairs rings of Great Barton, Great Finborough and Pakenham for the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week, whilst a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at the gallery ring of Hollesley. The latter was Clare Goodchild's first of Surprise Minor inside, so well done Clare who along with her daughter Emma has been a tremendous boost to this geographically isolated 16cwt eight. They have both benefitted from getting out and about on outings and in striking competitions, including yesterday's where they were part of the Lester Brett Trophy-winning band at Reydon, so this is a well deserved achievement for Mummy Goodchild! And well done to the entire band in the first QP for making their debut in the variation.

Great to see the county's ringers achieving, whether they were rung from the ground-floor, gallery or upstairs!

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Saturday 21st May 2016

When immediate past Master Jed Flatters pointed out this afternoon that it was essential to be nervous when ringing at striking competitions I entirely agreed with him. Ringing shouldn't be too stressful, but many of us perhaps relax too much with our everyday ringing, be it Sunday morning ringing, practice nights, quarters or even peals. The result is that mistakes creep in, with the consequences not seen as too damning in their own right. After all, there won't be someone judging it against other pieces at the end. But perhaps we should, as judging by the standard of ringing at today's Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions, the concentration produced by a bit of terror is just what is needed to produce consistently excellent ringing!

Despite years of ringing in many contests on all numbers, there is still a fear factor for me. I have let bands down before by messing up their test piece, as the locals at Sweffling will quite rightly be quick to point out after I stood in as a reserve when the SGR competitions were held on their home bells in 2008 and promptly brought about the collapse of a potentially winning bit of ringing by completely losing myself in a touch of Grandsire Doubles. It was the most spectacular example of a handful of occasions where my wandering mind has been detrimental to a competition performance. Therefore, I am always afraid of repeating such a faux pas every time I grab hold for the judges, but although Jed understandably cited this as a reason to dislike such events, it is this edge, fear and focus that I absolutely love about striking competitions. Each row has to be rung with care, with each clean change a cause for increasing confidence and determination to continue the good work.

As with most aspects of the exercise though, it wasn't just the ringing that made this year's competitions in Reydon and Southwold so enjoyable. With nineteen teams and in the region of eighty ringers and groupies present from every District in the Guild over the whole day, it was another immensely social occasion. It was great in particular to catch-up with familiar faces that we don't see regularly, such as Stephen 'Podge' Christian ringing with one of the Debenham bands, Giles Croucher who was partaking with a Rendham & Sweffling entry and Alan Moult who was there with Woolpit, as well as with many other friends and acquaintances we are blessed to have made through this wonderful art.

Jed Flatters carrying out the draw for the Suffolk Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions at Reydon. Mason & Alfie enjoying a bracing Southwold seafront! Mason & Alfie enjoying a bracing Southwold seafront!Suffolk's ringers tucking into the fantastic spread at St Edmund's Hall in Southwold. James Smith at St Edmund's Hall in Southwold giving his comments on the Suffolk Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions. James Smith at St Edmund's Hall in Southwold giving his comments on the Suffolk Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions.Mason helps Jed Flatters make the draw for the Rose Trophy at Southwold.The South-East District band gathered in the ringing chamber at Southwold as they prepare to start the Rose Trophy.The South-East District band gathered in the ringing chamber at Southwold as they prepare to start the Rose Trophy.

When it was first announced that we would be coming to these two towers by the seaside, I expect I wasn't alone in hoping for a pleasant sunny day, but although we were instead subjected to quite a chilly, grey day, it didn't detract from a super day out. The superb facilities at the morning location allowed those present to mingle as tea, coffee and nibbles were provided, whilst one-by-one twelve teams rang either for the Mitson Shield or Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy on the 10cwt ground-floor six immediately adjacent, before we found time to traverse the pier and beach in bracing conditions, prior to St Edmund's Hall giving us the perfect setting for the incredible lunch laid on for us and results from the six-bell competitions, ahead of adjourning to St Edmund King & Martyr next door for the draw and ringing for the Rose Trophy.

Congratulations to Hollesley on winning the call-change contest, but well done also to Great Barton on running them extremely close!
However, personally Ruthie and I were delighted to be members of the St Mary-le-Tower teams that won both the method competitions with very different pieces. Although the morning's 120 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was a slow and considered bit of ringing, the 224 of Yorkshire Surprise Major was a brisk, electrifying few minutes of ringing to take part in, but both were amongst the very best striking competition touches that I have ever had the good fortune to partake in. And they had to be to pip those just behind us!

Many thanks have to be imparted of course, as should be the case with any day as successful as this. Despite finishing his five-year stint as Ringing Master at last month's AGM in Hadleigh, thank you to Jed Flatters who stepped in admirably to carry the role for the day, with new RM Tom Scase understandably otherwise engaged on a work trip in Prague. many thanks to James Smith on his constructive and patient judging, a task that is vital but asks a lot of those able and willing to do it and to George Pipe in accompanying him for the latter contest. Above all others though, gratitude for the occasion should be granted to the North-East District and particularly their team of helpers who poured refreshments, set up our lunchtime feast and ensured the ringing was accurately timed, led superbly by the top table of Chairman Ed Rolph, Secretary Michelle Williams and Ringing Master Philip Gorrod.

And as well as to the participants of one of the best striking competition days in the county, congratulations to new Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge who has already justified my decision to put him forward and the membership to elect him by manufacturing a superb couple of days of publicity for the competitions. Not only did friend of ringing Lesley Dolphin interview him on her show on Radio Suffolk yesterday afternoon from exactly thirteen minutes in, but Matt Marvel spoke with him as we were travelling home from proceedings, about 2hrs43mins into his programme, as a timeslot typically given over to the football scores saw the results from this morning's competitions revealed to the county! Perhaps this could be a much anticipated annual tradition... There was also a visit from the Lowestoft Journal courtesy of Annual Report Editor Michelle Williams. Well done Neal and Michelle!

We missed out on a pint at the Sole Bay Inn and the eight-bell results as my wife needed to be back in time to babysit our nieces, but that won't take away from what was an immensely enjoyable day on the coast with very satisfying results. If I get to take part in another one, I expect I shall still be very nervous though!

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Friday 20th May 2016

When Mike Whitaker leaves us for a new life in Devon next weekend, he will be missed, as with his distinctive beard, he has been a recognisable and invaluable member of Pettistree's band for several years. He is a reliable ringer and conductor and so his birthday party at Chris and Mary Garner's abode this evening also took on the role of a farewell bash, especially for those like us who won't see him before his departure.

Mike's cake.Cutting the cake.Mike Whitaker leads the singing at his party!The band that rang in Mike Whitaker's birthday quarter.

Still, all the traditional elements of a birthday party were there, with a huge number of friends gathered, a singalong had and chocolate cake devoured and in true ringing style a quarter-peal was rung at the ground-floor six just down the road afterwards.

Happy Birthday Mike and best of luck in the South-West!

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Thursday 19th May 2016

When we went to see our midwife for our latest scheduled appointment last week, it was by and large another mercifully uneventful visit. God willing, all - as far as can be told at this point - is as it should be. Except for his size. The measurements taken eight days ago suggested that our unborn son was a little bigger than expected and so we were instructed to have an additional scan to check his size, with the caveat that it was absolutely nothing to worry about. Therefore this morning saw Ruthie and me at Ipswich Hospital for the reassurance that he is actually the correct size, though on the larger side of the line!

So life went on as normal for us and elsewhere in Suffolk as for the fourteenth day in a row there was a performance within the county recorded online with the quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples rung at Ixworth.

Reassuringly normal.

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Wednesday 18th May 2016

QP band at Pettistree this evening.Those at Pettistree practice tonight.It was a ringing shift each for Ruthie and me this evening as I rang the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree - a decent 1296 of London Surprise Minor which blew away some cobwebs for recent returnee to the art Michael Cowling - and once I'd returned home, my wife went to the session that followed. Along the way, photos of the QP band - once Mike Whitby had worked out how his camera and phone linked together to produce pictures - and of those present later in the night, with the aim of putting some of them together for the soon-to-be-departed (to Devon, nowhere worse!) Mike Whitaker.

All in a night's ringing for Mr & Mrs Munnings!

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Tuesday 17th May 2016

Ruthie and her sister Clare found themselves arranging flowers for their Nan's forthcoming funeral this morning. Although they are by no means doing this on their own, it is one of a number of tasks they need to be a part of in the next ten days whilst also continuing their jobs, looking after their young children and generally dealing with the loss of a lovely lady they've known all their lives.

It was no surprise therefore to find them, Alfie and his cousin Annalise all practically asleep when I returned home for lunch today.

Our evening wasn't much livelier, as is usually the case with our Tuesday nights, though as is also usually the case other ringers were much busier elsewhere in Suffolk, particularly at Offton where a quarter-peal of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods was rung before the weekly practice.

Such positive news is cheering to hear right now.

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Monday 16th May 2016

Car-parkgate rumbles on at St Mary-le-Tower. Having been told just days ago that the ringers - and indeed all using Ipswich's civic church - would need parking permits to use the old social services car-park and the one next door behind the Citizens Advice Bureau from tonight, we were temporarily relieved to be given some breathing space as it was imparted through SMLT's increasingly exasperated Ringing Master David Potts that the new restrictions wouldn't be put in place today as had originally been stated.

However, that news was quickly offset at the 8.30 notices by another change of plan. It appears now that the once amply-sized car-park directly opposite the town's biggest place of worship that has been used by ringers and churchgoers with relatively little trouble for decades will now be out of bounds to ringers on Monday nights. A permit can be bought for the trifling sum of £5 for the year to use the CAB spaces, but as far as I can make out that won't guarantee parking in the tiny pocket of land that doubles up as car-parking, quite apart from the principle of having to pay to park in a deserted town centre during the evening, all of which puts me off forking out for one of those.

Those who will be familiar with the unfortunate politics that accompany just about anything that happens at this famous landmark will be largely unsurprised to learn that the reason for our banishment is the choir here. Perfectly reasonable one might say, if they need the car-park too. Except their Monday practice finishes as we gather to start our later session and so once they have left, the space will ridiculously stand empty as ringers visiting from across the county and beyond struggle to find somewhere to park in our extremely anti-car county town and then walk in, including the elderly, children and pregnant women.

To be fair, the reasoning behind it is the safety of those picking up their youngsters (though that suggests that they don't necessarily need a parking space) and leaving choir practice, which on the face of it is entirely laudable until you realise it is based on an unsavoury and disgusting incident that must have been truly dreadful, but happened in the lane round the other side of the church and - as far as I can tell - has nothing to do with the parking situation and seems to suggest that the safety of the vulnerable amongst our number much later in the night is entirely unimportant to them. It seems unfathomable that some sort of arrangement can't be reached, but one wonders if those setting the ever-changing rules are interested in reaching one.

It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and it is safe to say there was a degree of disgruntlement amongst those present at one of only three twelve-bell practices in the Guild, which included the visit of Robert from Evesham. Whether that was a factor in the unusually poor standard of striking tonight I can't say, but it was very out of place in the recent scheme of things. That said, we still had another wide-ranging repertoire that most other provincial twelve-bell towers would be ecstatic with and even managed to fit in another practice of Erin Caters for those of the Ridgman Trophy band who came along, which was particularly useful for new Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase, conductor for this year's competition.

Afterwards we went for a drink in the Robert Ransome nearby to lament parking and striking, but it wasn't all doom and gloom for Suffolk's ringing today. I was delighted to hear of Otley ringer Jimmy Wightman's progress on the end of bellrope since his return to the exercise after his horrific accident last year. Also progressing well is Adrian Craddock, who today rang his first peal at the first attempt in the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor on the back six at Grundisburgh, which was also Joanna Crowe's first since 1981. Jo has been a big instrumental in getting weekly practices at the county's lightest twelve, whilst Adrian has been a regular supporter of ringing in the little wobbly red-brick tower, so congratulations to them both.

The 2hrs53mins of ringing wasn't the only success in the medium within our borders either, with Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung in ten minutes less at Henley, whilst a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles was rung at Nayland to celebrate local ringer Hazel Gardiner's eightieth birthday - Happy Birthday Hazel!

I don't imagine they had as much trouble parking nearby as it seems we will be having at St Mary-le-Tower in the future.

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Sunday 15th May 2016

The Ridgman Trophy is almost upon us. Planned for Saturday 4th June as far west as this ten-bell striking competition for the ringing organisations of the East of England could possibly go, with the Northamptonshire ten of Daventry where the A14 meets the M1 and M6 due to host the event, meaning that Ruthie and I have had to make ourselves unavailable, lest our unborn son decides to announce his arrival two-and-a-half hours drive away from Ipswich Hospital.

However, the intention is to take a Suffolk Guild team, drawn from across the county and so practice is imperative, especially as the test piece is the unfamiliar Erin Caters. Therefore, I was delighted to help fill in the gaps at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, as the majority of the band joined the monthly special practice, including new Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase who is working with the immediate Past Master Jed Flatters on our entry. The result was a decent session, which bodes well not just for our hopes of bringing the trophy back for the first time in twenty-two years, but for ringing at SMLT.

It was a good vibe that continued on from morning ringing at the same tower earlier in the day, helped by a visit from Laith Reynolds from Australia, although numbers were lower at Grundisburgh immediately afterwards.

By that point I had picked Mason up from his mother's as a rare double-booking saw him miss out on Harry Potter yesterday, allowing him to join us as we collected my wife from church in a busy Woodbridge preparing for its annual 10k race and made our way to her sister Clare's for an afternoon of watching the children excitedly play together whilst the sisters reminisced about their Nan as thoughts turn to her funeral on 27th May at Melton.

Elsewhere in our beautiful county, a quarter-peal was rung at Pettistree, but my ringing was complete as I left the county's heaviest twelve this evening to collect the boys from Mum and Dad who had very kindly fed them tea as I did my bit for the SGR's Ridgman Trophy entry.

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Saturday 14th May 2016

There is a magical world out there, one of wizards, witches, broomsticks, flying cars, talking snakes and something called a hippogriff. A world of potions and spells, dementors and death eaters. And it's just off the A41 between Watford and Hemel Hempstead.

Model of Hogwarts School - how many bells could you fit in there?Though not a fan of the Harry Potter novels and films, I recognise the appeal - whilst the account of a young wizard and his contemporaries at school actually tackles some fairly mundane and down-to-earth issues, it is set in pure fantasy, a wonderful escape from everyday life which I think everyone needs at least occasionally. And yet seeing behind the scenes, stepping into the sets made world famous by the movies like the Great Hall and seeing just how unmagical a game of quidditch is didn't appear to be an upsetting experience for Ruthie who has followed the story from the very first printed word to the closing scene at the cinema. In fact she could barely take the smile off her face as she took photo after photo, with something amazing everywhere she turned, from costumes to props to rooms familiar from the big screen. It was climaxed by the huge model of Hogwarts School which is used for those sweeping shots of the exterior and boasts a huge number of towers, most of which look like they could carry heavy rings of sixteen - indeed, a couple of them are modelled on the towers of Durham Cathedral, which of course do amply house a 28cwt ten.

There were a couple of minor negatives. I could never recommend a drink of butterbeer, which frankly got more revolting with every sip and as with most places like this the rate of inflation on the cost of merchandise and food was eye-watering, but we simply didn't care. Alfie was amazed, I was fascinated and for Ruthie it was one of the best birthday presents ever - thank you Kate!

It was appropriate that as platform nine-and-three-quarters and giants are contrasted with Privet Drive in the franchise, our day of awe and amazement was contrasted with a fry-up at Croxley Green's Premier Inn beforehand and an uneventful drive home via the motorways and dual-carriageways of south-east England, topped by discovering that the RNLI mascot collecting outside Tesco was actually Wickham Market Tower Captain Ray Lewis in disguise!

Bert Prewett.Other ringers in Suffolk were otherwise engaged, with a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at Hopton prior to the North-West District Practice and a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Woolpit, whilst our friends and neighbours from the Norwich Diocesan Association were ringing a peal at Reydon, location of course for the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions in exactly a week, thus offering up another excuse to encourage towers from across the county to enter a band - it would be great to see as many as possible at the seaside!

Talking of striking competitions, the North-East District held theirs this afternoon at Wissett - many congratulations to Halesworth on winning the method competition and thus the Patricia Bailey Shield, just pipping Rendham & Sweffling's method team who had the consolation not just of capturing the Harry Archer Trophy as runners-up but of their other team winning the call-change competition. Well done to all the winners in particular, but also all who took part with a turnout of nine teams, including entries from Beccles, Wenhaston and the hosts.

I hope they all had a magical time!

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Friday 13th May 2016

Following yesterday's sadness, we were blessed with a stroke of serendipitous timing as this evening we had a pre-booked night away in anticipation of an exciting day tomorrow. There was nothing particularly romantic about it all, partly because we had Alfie with us, but mainly due to our bed for tonight being at the Croxley Green Premier Inn deep on the edge of Watford amongst the flats, generic offices and storage units that could be just about anywhere in urban Britain. Still, it was nice after the last few days to get away from things and just relax. Or at least as much as we could with Alfred far too excited about the adventure to get to sleep.

Back in Suffolk meanwhile, there was a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Tannington in memory of Walter Chapman, a ringer of seventy years at this 10cwt ground-floor six, as well as at Bedfield, Monk Soham and Worlingworth.

No ringing for us tonight though, as we traversed the A12 and M25 with surprisingly little trouble for a Friday rush-hour and enjoyed just getting away from everything.

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Thursday 12th May 2016

A sad day today as we learnt of three deaths.

One was of Denis Frith who at least some would of known as a Past Master of the Lincoln Diocesan Guild (from 1987 to 1992) and whose death yesterday morning features prominently on their website, as it should. He was better known to our family as a member of the Rambling Ringers and after the deaths of Brian Mills and Denis Mottershead many years ago, his passing is the last of a trio of long-standing stalwarts of the society present when we first joined the tour back in 1994. The high standards they in particular consistently insisted on over many tours across the country are embedded into the Ramblers' ethos to this day.

Closer to home though, I was saddened to learn of Tuesday night's death of Doug Crooks of Laxfield, a former tower captain of the 18cwt ground-floor eight at Halesworth who will be missed by many in the North-East District in particular.

Mourn as we shall for these two dedicated stalwarts though, it was the passing of Ruthie's Nan overnight that hit us hardest today, particularly - and understandably - my wife. At ninety-six years, hers was a long and generally peaceful life and her considerable suffering in recent weeks in particular meant that her departure to a better place was actually an immense relief for her, her other close relatives and especially Mrs Munnings and her sister Clare who have undertaken the bulk of the difficult care she has needed, but it was still an emotionally draining day and no doubt the start of a tough period.

I shall miss the visits we made that were oases of peace, calm and nostalgia in a modern life that even in Suffolk can get hectic with deadlines to be met, bills to be paid and time often at a premium, though sadly that pleasure was lost several weeks ago as her health deteriorated.

On a happier note, today is George and Diana Pipe's Diamond Wedding Anniversary, an event celebrated across the county, country and indeed the world, with Sunday's peal at St Mary-le-Tower and last night's quarter-peal at Pettistree dedicated to this impressive landmark, whilst it was also marked by a 5040 at Great Easton in Essex yesterday and today's 5120 of London (No.3) Surprise Royal at Rothwell in Northamptonshire and on Wednesday on the other side of the planet where this famous ringing couple made such an impact, as a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung at St Philip's in Sydney. May we offer our congratulations too.

Meanwhile, a 1296 of Hull Surprise Minor at Tostock was the only performance within our borders recorded online since the sun rose this morning on a bittersweet day.

Rest in peace Denis Frith, Doug Crooks and Marjorie Eagle.

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Wednesday 11th May 2016

Little Bob Major at The Wolery. Should be a shoo-in surely? However, in an almost reassuring affirmation of what an achievement peals still are even at Suffolk's most pealed tower of recent years, it wasn't the case this evening in the little blue shed.

It was a pity for new Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge though, as this was useful 'inside' experience for a young chap who generally trebles to our peals of Surprise Major so well and he was on form tonight, as we all were in a tremendous effort up until we had to set-up at the start of the fourth part of five with the bells inexplicably in the wrong order. Lindoff the cat - who had spent much of the attempt lurking - didn't look impressed, but we shrugged our shoulders as you have to in such circumstances and delighted in the short walk to the Salter's house for refreshments.

They were more successful at Pettistree with the pre-practice quarter-peal I'm glad to report, as a 1296 of Surfleet Surprise Minor was rung at the ground-floor six, but I journeyed back to Woodbridge heartened by a pleasant trip out and news of Norwich City's latest relegation. Although their impending promotion back to the Premier League in a year's time seems another shoo-in.

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Tuesday 10th May 2016

Well done to Peter Stock on ringing his first quarter-peal of Grandsire inside, achieved this evening at his home tower of Offton ahead of tonight's practice on the ground-floor eight. He seems an affable young chap, so I am delighted his progress appears to be continuing so well.

There was nothing quite as productive occurring in our lives today as we had a quiet night in at home, but we were certainly glad to read of Peter's achievements!

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Monday 9th May 2016

Car-parking. It can be a problem for the modern ringer not experienced by our predecessors and not a particularly exciting one, but it is something that is coming to a head at St Mary-le-Tower. Of course when our churches were built many centuries ago, it wasn't anticipated that future users of these buildings would need somewhere to place their automobile, but it isn't anything to worry about for most rural places of worship. There are usually roads nearby with no parking restrictions in many places and a good number have got ground immediately adjacent to the church to put cars, such as Kelsale, Kersey, Pakenham and Rushmere St Andrew.

SMLT however, suffers as many churches in big towns and cities do, hemmed in on small areas of ground, surrounded by streets either pedestrianised and/or with heavily restricted parking. For as long as I remember and long before then, the church and therefore us ringers have benefitted from being able to use the car-park directly opposite that was once owned by social services when they were based in the adjoining building and to an extent the space round the back of where the Citizens Advice Bureau are housed out of working hours. Last year though, control of the former went to Ipswich's civic church, spaces redesigned and access restricted to just those connected to the church, a move that in principle I welcomed - the spaces before were far too narrow for modern cars and they were filled with dozens of badly parked members of the public using it as a base for their vehicle as they went to shop or work in the town centre yards away. However, to my mind it went a little too far the other way. The redesign of the spaces has seen much of the area completely wasted and only a handful of spots are now available and those have been regulated with at times a confusing and even slightly draconian set of rules and has seen at least one ringer unwittingly fined. And now both car-parks are to be enforced by the council, twenty-four hours a day. Unlikely, impractical and unnecessary as this seems, it does mean that all who want to use the car-park for church business will need to apply for a permit, including ringers. A lot of detail needs filling in (will the permits be for all the time or just Sundays and Mondays, what is in it for the council, what happens if more people apply for permits than there are spaces, etc?), but Ringing Master David Potts today emailed all those he could who regularly ring upon the heaviest and oldest of Suffolk's twelves, but if anyone reading this plans to visit regularly and use the car-parks and hasn't been emailed about it, then please get in touch with him (or if you don't have his contact details then myself or tower Secretary Stephen Cheek) with their car registration number by Friday lunchtime at the very latest so that he can put you forward for a permit.

With a low attendance at tonight's practice, it was an issue that was the main feature of the night, though even with just fifteen present - including the unringable George Pipe - we rang some well-rung half-courses of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Royal and climaxed with a decent touch of Stedman Cinques as the progress of recent weeks took a different route but continued. God willing the positive ringing vibes will continue with a few more people next week. And hopefully we will be able to park close enough to take advantage.

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Sunday 8th May 2016

Following weather so nice yesterday that we were able to have our tea outside Wickham Market church, we enjoyed more al fresco dining this afternoon, some of the firsts of summer exhibited on another scorcher. Alfie and myself got our shorts on for the first time this year, sun-cream was cracked open following its absence over the winter months and we were treated to the debut barbecue of the season, courtesy of the generous hospitality of mother-in-law Kate as the family celebrated Ron's impending birthday - thank you to our host and the birthday boy for a lovely occasion.

As much as I enjoy peal-ringing, whilst I sat back in the roasting sunshine, a beer in hand whilst the children played with each other and we conversed with our good company, I was glad I wasn't ringing in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at St Mary-le-Tower. All peals here now have to be rung in the afternoon, which is disappointing (though not as disappointing as not being able to ring peals at all of course) as I have to admit to not enjoying post-lunch peals here at the best of times - tiredness begins kicking-in just when mental and physical agility is needed, more so on the heaviest ring of bells in Suffolk than at most. In such heat I imagine it was a difficult 3hrs32mins.

So well done to all who rang at SMLT and indeed at Aldeburgh where the stifling conditions wouldn't have made the monthly second Sunday peal a walk in the park either. The soaring temperatures won't have made it easy for the county's quarter-peal ringers either, so credit to those who took part in the Plain Bob Doubles at Beccles, Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower, seven spliced Doubles methods at Great Finborough and a further two Doubles methods at Wenhaston - particularly well done to Matthew Rolph and Sal Jenkinson on ringing more than one method in a QP in that final success!

I did do some ringing today though, my arrival at Woodbridge this morning being particularly useful as I brought the numbers of ringers to five, but as with a couple of weeks ago the ringing was well-struck as we rang in members of the congregation for the service that the boys and I attended afterwards and Ruthie sang for - it wasn't all lounging around in the sunshine!

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Saturday 7th May 2016

Ingenuity and a blessing from up high helped this afternoon's South-East District Striking Competition kick the season off locally with a resounding success. If the rest are even half as enjoyable as today's fun in the sun at Wickham Market, then the next few weeks should be immense - get putting your bands in now!

Yet as we arrived at this recently rehung 12cwt six for the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell Method Competition and David Barnard Memorial Trophy Call Change Competition, there was bad news as it had become apparent that the vicar had double-booked the church just as the contest would be coming to a climax with a reaffirmation of wedding vows. It meant not only that there was some pressure on the eleven teams taking part get a move on as they passed each other in the kitchen that now sits beneath the ringing chamber here, but also saw us 'homeless' for the tea and potentially the results too.

Competitors generally proved efficient in their transition from waiting to participating to leaving and the local ringers leapt into action to ensure that we wouldn't have to hang around for the tea that had so tantalisingly been building on their way onto and off of the short climb to and from ringing. With everything prepared in the magnificent facilities that All Saints now has, they took us outside for some al fresco dining where thank God the weather was not only nice but gorgeous, with those big wide Suffolk skies resplendent in bright, clear blue and the spring sunshine beating down onto the pretty churchyard we were sat in.

Ringing Master Tom Scase making the draw for the ringing order. Ringing Master Tom Scase making the draw for the ringing order. Listening outside. Stephen Cheek, George Pipe and Diana Pipe listening outside The Wickham Market team in a group hug before they go up to ring.
Listening outside.
Al fresco tea. Al fresco tea. Al fresco tea. Gathering for the results back in the church.

As such, we were blessed with the perfect striking competition. The pleasant village offered plenty for those who wanted to wander to do so, with shops, restaurants and a tearoom all within yards of the main venue, but even those who chose to enjoy the garden fete atmosphere outside or - whilst we could still use it - the cool church inside were treated not just to the opportunity to mingle and relax (there were many garden chairs in use!), but also to revel in some marvellous ringing from all the teams. Indeed, once we had devoured the feast laid in front of us, the churchgoers that had unwittingly forced us into the open air exited the building to warm applause from ourselves, thus allowing us to return inside for the comments and results, the judges Jeremy and Cherril Spiller informed us how impressed they had been with the standard of ringing, pointing out that no one had got even remotely close to the maximum 360 faults that they could've allocated under their scoring system.

Therefore, not only were Pettistree and Hollesley's Call-Change team deserved winners of their respective competitions (Full results here. Ed.), but the less-experienced teams like our hosts and Clopton can take heart and encouragement from the valuable experience they gained from this event, further reinforcing my conviction that more learners need to get involved in striking competitions across the county. And the good finish of the young Sproughton Call-Change band bodes well for the SGR's Young Ringers entry into the Ringing World National Youth Contest planned for London on Saturday 2nd July!

Our judges from Bacton were encouraging, constructive and good-humoured in their remarks, which helped a lot of those participating and gave the results a huge amount of credibility - these are two of the finest ringers within our borders and we were extremely grateful to them coming across to give up their afternoon, as of course we are of any judges taking time out to aide the progression of many learners.

Earlier, the day's ringing in this part of the world had begun successfully with a peal at St Margaret in Ipswich, particularly noteworthy for it being George Salter's four hundredth in the medium. That total features a wide range of peals rung, from the shed at the top of his parent's garden to Southwark Cathedral, Minimus to Maximus and a growing number conducted himself, including an impressive performance a couple of years ago when he called Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower in what was his first ever touch of the principle on that number -  I imagine those experiences can only have helped him to become the extremely accomplished ringer he is currently becoming. Congratulations George!

It was an extremely successful day!

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Friday 6th May 2016

Ruthie was metaphorically painting Woodbridge town red on this warm, light evening, deservedly letting her hair down for the occasion of a work colleague's birthday, whilst I had a pleasant night in with the boys and the FNQPC rang a 1260 of Doubles at Earl Stonham. Good fun had by all!

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Thursday 5th May 2016

A quiet day on both a personal and ringing front - perhaps everyone was enjoying the beautiful sunshine!

That sunshine is forecast to continue to the weekend when God willing a large crowd will gather at Wickham Market for the South-East District Striking Competition, so even if you aren't taking part (and indeed even if you aren't from the SE District) it should be a wonderful day for taking in some top-notch ringing and a superb social occasion. Although The George pub sadly still stands ruined and shrouded in scaffolding and tarpaulin following the fire there three years ago, there is still much in this large village to keep ringers and non-ringers amused, with a park, shops, the Teapot Tearoom, The Bengal Indian restaurant, The New Peach Bower Chinese restaurant and The Flaming Fryer all within walking distance of All Saints. And if you are in need of alcoholic refreshment, The Three Tuns and The Greyhound are both to be recommended and both only a couple of minutes drive (even just a few minutes walk) away in Pettistree.

Hopefully there will be many there to take advantage of a busier day than today.

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Wednesday 4th May 2016

Well paint me green and plaster me with ridiculous (more so than usual!) hair. For today I was Mr Clumsy, inexplicably throwing my drink around everywhere at work, as first I knocked a glass of water over my desk and then my fresh, hot cup of tea over myself, scalding a delicate area that meant sitting down was uncomfortable for a while.

Perhaps sensible therefore that Ruthie went out to Pettistree and used her superior hand-eye coordination to partake in another lively and varied practice before popping to The Greyhound for a glass of water.

Beforehand, a 1296 of Norfolk Surprise Minor was rung upon the ground-floor six, one of four quarter-peals rung in the county today, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor scored at Bacton, a 1280 of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major minus London spliced successfully negotiated at Ixworth and a 1312 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Elveden marking Wendie Summers' first of Surprise - well done Wendie!

Well done also to George Vant on ringing his most methods to a peal in the 5040 of twelve Minor methods at the lovely little ground-floor six of Falkenham, as well as Happy Anniversary to local ringer Brian Aldous and his wife Christina.

All very positive, but thank goodness I wasn't doing any ringing in my guise as Mr Clumsy!

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Tuesday 3rd May 2016

Youthful exuberance in the name of celebrating his contemporary Archie's second birthday was undoubtedly the highlight of Alfie's day and indeed for his mother Ruthie who accompanied him to Play2Day in Martlesham.

It was less exciting for this old codger who returned to work after a busy bank holiday weekend before we all reconvened for a typically quiet Tuesday evening within the comforting walls of home.

Not so quiet elsewhere though, with a 1344 of Plain Bob Triples on the Essex border at Bures, whilst the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton saw a 1280 of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major rung. Well done to the young-at-heart!

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Monday 2nd May 2016

India has twenty-one public holidays each year, more apparently depending on which state you live in.

Today, we in the UK used up one of our meagre ration of eight. Well, Mason, Alfie and I did, popping over to Bury St Edmunds where we were generously treated to lunch by my brother Chris and his wife Becky at their abode - thank you guys, it was very enjoyable! Ruthie meanwhile, was working and although it was a shorter day than she usually has, we met again at the end of it with her aching and feeling particularly immobile and very tired, something which has been a not uncommon feature of this thus-far otherwise mercifully uneventful pregnancy. Therefore, it was understandably down to me to put an excitable Alfred to bed and by the time that had been done it was too late for me to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice. Hopefully my presence wasn't too missed, as I was conscious that they would already be missing a few regulars, including my parents who were on the Oxford Diocesan Guild Ringing Day that took in a route from the six at Compton to the eight at East Ilsley - sometimes bank holiday practices yield visitors.

God willing, we shall be joining our ringing companions from SMLT on Saturday for the South-East District Striking Competitions at Wickham Market, where I'm hoping there will be a big turnout of teams inspired by Leicester City tonight winning the Premier League for the first time in their 132-year history. That their success was thought so unlikely that you could get odds of 5000-1 before the start of the season (this article is just one of many from August that are now hilarious in glorious hindsight!) resonates with fans like myself who support clubs similar in stature to what is now officially the best team in England, who like those who have supported the new champions for years will have followed their club through more thin than thick, despaired as they have inexplicably lost to Stockport County, Grimsby Town, Barnsley or the like on a cold Tuesday night in February and ignored by the world. Right now the thought that Ipswich Town could one day play Champions League football and rub shoulders with teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich seems utterly fantastical, but I expect fans of the Foxes thought much the same just a couple of years ago. However, it should also be a reminder to us all that life in general doesn't have to go as expected and that goes for the forthcoming striking competition season - I don't imagine any towers planning on entering a band at any of the contests locally, regionally and nationally in the coming weeks would fetch odds of 5000-1 if anyone was running a book, so please do put a band in and take some of the Leicester spirit with you!

Also achieving today, was the band who rang a 1296 of twelve spliced Surprise Minor methods at Tostock - well done to Lesley Steed on conducting her most Surprise Minor methods.

And well done to Leicester City and their fans, especially those who are ringers, including high profile ones such as Emma Southerington and Richard Angrave. They'll need more than eight Bank Holidays for them to fit their celebrations in!

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Sunday 1st May 2016

Yesterday saw many of Suffolk's ringers performing outside the county whilst we didn't travel too far from home. Conversely, today saw us travelling beyond our borders whilst many Guild members rang upon Suffolk's bells.

Although the peal in Rayleigh conducted by former SGR Ringing Master Stephen Pettman briefly stretched the border between ourselves and Essex to an enclave just outside of Southend-on-Sea when originally recording the 5040 of Banwell Alliance Major online, there was ringing recorded on actual home soil upon BellBoard and Campanophile. Well done to the entire band who rang their first QP of Monewden Bob Minor in the success at Pakenham, but also to Sally Veal on making her debut in Grandsire Doubles in the 1260 at Great Barton and particularly to Carina Winget on ringing her first on a working bell at all in the 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles at St Margaret in Ipswich.

Alfie enjoying Colne Valley Railway.Mason enjoying Colne Valley Railway.Mason and Alfie enjoying Colne Valley Railway.

There was also a 1320 of Bourne Surprise Minor rung at Pettistree for Evensong and the birthdays of local ringer Daphne Rose and Ruthie's sister Clare, the latter of which was the primary reason for us traversing the land of our southern neighbours and in particular Colne Valley Railway near the ground-floor anti-clockwise 11cwt six of Castle Hedingham, as we four joined the birthday girl and her family plus her and my wife's mother Kate and Ron in celebrating the occasion with Peppa Pig. Well, that was mainly for the children, but us adults enjoyed the trains big and small at this lovely location, before we returned to the homeland and a meal at The Coach and Horses at Melton - thank you to Kate and Ron for a grand day out!

Whilst Mrs Munnings carried out her usual Sabbath duties singing for the choir at St Mary's in Woodbridge, the boys and I took in a positive morning's ringing. Although Swindon Surprise Royal didn't go as well as hoped or expected, that it was on the menu at all at St Mary-le-Tower is further evidence of progress here and will hopefully ensure minds are as sharp for Sunday service ringing as they are on Monday nights or for quarters and peals, as they should be. The short walk to St Lawrence enabled us to continue the good work on the famous 13cwt five, particularly with a well-struck 120 of Stedman Doubles, before we three made our way to a busy Grundisburgh, where all twelve were rung for the second time in three Sundays, this time thanks to the presence of three of the Hill family, Christine, Peter and Rosemary as they visited their respective mother, mother-in-law and grandmother Daphne Pegg. We also discovered what SDP would've been called if he had been a girl...

With a bank holiday Monday tomorrow, it will - God willing - be another busy one for Suffolk's ringers, whether they choose to do it here or elsewhere.

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Saturday 30th April 2016

On a day when the only peal within our borders was rung at Great Barton by the Ely Diocesan Association, it was perhaps ironic that there was a bands-worth of Suffolk ringers peal-ringing outside of the county. It was particularly busy for the Salter clan. Between them, David, Katharine and Colin rang in two peals in Lancashire, ringing Turramurra Surprise Major at Chorley and Cambridge Surprise Major at Hoghton, whilst 250 miles south of them in West Sussex, George was impressively calling a 5007 of Stedman Caters. Meanwhile, Clare ringer Alan Mayle was conducting a peal of thirty Surprise Minor methods spliced at Inworth in Essex, whilst Alex Tatlow from The Norman Tower was in Wiltshire ringing a 5040 at Lacock and as her son Louis was successfully negotiating 3hrs28mins of Cambridge Surprise Royal in Wigan, Bardwell Ringing Master Ruth Suggett was trebling to Yorkshire Surprise Royal at Soham in Cambridgeshire.

In my opinion, it is great to see members in demand across the country and I believe it helps to raise standards in the towers back here that they return to ring regularly at, but there was also achievement by Suffolk ringers on Suffolk bells today that will also benefit local ringers - well done to Woodbridge Tower Captain Peter Mayer on his first Minor inside in the quarter-peal of Plain Bob at Campsea Ashe.

It was all far more productive than our day, at least on the ringing-front. That's not to say we weren't productive in other ways, with birthday money spent for both Mason and Alfie and Ruthie babysitting our nieces. All done very close to home.

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Friday 29th April 2016

All the H's for Suffolk's ringers today as heavenly happenings honed happiness at Halesworth and Henley with healthy Grandsire Triples at home upon the former's heavy eight and heartening Plain Bob Major fun had at the harmless latter, where Elizabeth Christian was ringing her first Major inside. Well done Elizabeth! And practices hopefully happened at Higham and Hollesley.

Hardly the same for us however, having a quiet night at home and elsewhere it was likewise - nothing was heard from the bells of Hacheston, Hawkedon, Hinderclay or Hoxne.

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Thursday 28th April 2016

It is a week on from the national celebrations for the Queen's ninetieth birthday that was the cue for many ringing performances, but I only came across a YouTube clip this evening of the most eye-catching of them all - the 4hrs32mins of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the 82cwt back six of Liverpool Cathedral. At just twenty-five seconds it is brief, but gives some indication of just how much hard-work this success was, if that isn't understating it at all!

No such exertions for us tonight, but having highlighted the striking competitions lined up for the coming months earlier in the week, it is worth pointing out that there is plenty more going on in Suffolk over the same period, starting with a handbell concert at Needham Market Community Centre on Saturday 7th May, then the Second Tuesday Ringing in North Essex in twelve days, the North-West District's Practice and Quarter-Peal at Hopton on Saturday 14th May, the South-West District's Ten-Bell practice at St Peter in Sudbury the following day, before the NW's QP Week starts on Monday 23rd May, during which time there will be a Triples/Major Practice at Halesworth on Tuesday 24th and a SW District at Acton on Saturday 28th.

God willing, busy times ahead, if not today!

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Wednesday 27th April 2016

Those good times at St Mary-le-Tower that I spoke of in Monday's blog continued this evening as a peal of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods was rung on the front eight of the 34cwt twelve. The 5024 flowed nicely, was well-struck and was generally a very satisfactory 2hrs53mins of ringing, a real vindication of why those of us who ring peals regularly, ring peals regularly.

It was nice not only to ring with former SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd in the ringing chamber where he did so much for twelve-bell ringing in Ipswich in his time in charge in the late-1980s and early-1990s, but also to catch-up with him over a pint and a bowl of chips in The Robert Ransome afterwards and particularly good to hear that the fundraising efforts at Mancroft in Norwich where he is now a leading light are right on track.

Nice too to see peals of seven Surprise Minor methods and the same number of Treble-Dodging Minor methods on handbells in Bacton, a 1320 of Ipswich Surprise Minor at Preston St Mary and the first quarter-peal of A Midsummer Night's Dream Delight Minor at Pettistree before practice, a method name that wouldn't have been out of place in our post-peal jovialities as we pondered how practical it would be to splice methods with long names, such as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. A positive way to top a positive night. Not for the first time this week, these are good times at St Mary-le-Tower.

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Tuesday 26th April 2016

Sad to hear of the passing of Ixworth ringer Ken Brown, but pleased to see a quarter-peal rung to his memory at his home tower immediately prior to his funeral.

The 1280 of Plain Bob Major upon the 13cwt eight wasn't the only QP upon Suffolk's bells on a day of impressive endeavour across the county, with forty-six minutes of fifteen Surprise Major methods spliced at Gislingham and a 1312 of Glasgow Surprise Major, whilst peals weren't to be outdone as a 5040 of Surprise Minor was rung at The Wolery.

Personally though, it was not unusually quiet for a Tuesday, but God willing more exciting days lay ahead as we approach possibly my favourite period of the ringing calendar, with the striking competition getting underway locally with the South-East District's annual contest due to get things underway at Wickham Market on Saturday 7th May. A week later, attention hopefully turns to the North-East as they host theirs at Wissett, seven days ahead of the Guild's competitions at Reydon and Southwold and whilst the North-West District doesn't appear to be holding a competition, they are focusing on striking with a Training Morning at The Norman Tower on Saturday 18th June. Beyond our borders, the Ridgman Trophy - the ten-bell contest for East Anglian ringing organisations - is planned for the first Saturday of June as far to the west as it could possibly go as hosts the Peterborough Diocesan Guild take the event to Daventry on the Northamptonshire/Warwickshire border, the National Twelve-Bell Final is pencilled in for Aston just forty miles further on for the last Saturday of the same month, whilst all support would be appreciated in London for our Young Ringers as they represent us in the Ringing World National Youth Contest on Saturday 2nd July.

These are - in my humble opinion - fun opportunities to improve your striking. Especially on a local level, they are primarily about helping to improve striking - it doesn't matter how many bells you have at your tower, if you think you can win or not or even how many teams you ring for. It is about giving focus to ringing on however many bells are being competed on, so please do help raise the standard of ringing within our borders and enter a band into your District and/or the Guild competition.

But also, please don't stop ringing those quarter-peals and peals.

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Monday 25th April 2016

These are good times at St Mary-le-Tower. Last Sunday's monthly focus practice was superb, Monday's session pretty decent, yesterday's dinner showed what a happy and talented collective we are and tonight we enjoyed ringing that was compared favourably to that of the 1980s, the modern peak of the ringing history on this famous twelve. To my mind, the repertoire and standard of ringing in recent weeks is certainly the best we have had here consistently since I returned from the West Midlands more than a decade ago and arguably in my memory.

Gathered for the 2016 St Mary-le-Tower AGM.Apt timing therefore for the SMLT AGM, not just to reflect on our successes which also include the long-awaited work on the frame, but also to remind ourselves that we have to maintain this by supporting practices and Sunday service ringing when we can, doing our homework and concentrating when on the end of a rope. Things appear to be going in the right direction to such an extent that the topic of entering an Ipswich band into the National Twelve-Bell Contest was raised with purpose, though this was rightly tempered with the realism that this would require dedication, lowered initial expectations and a recognition that 2017 would likely be too soon. However, we are currently blessed with an enthusiastic core that includes a youthful spine. The Salter brothers are now accomplished twelve-bell ringers, whilst George Vant and Ian Culham improve week-on-week on twelve. it would be marvelous to not only see the competition return to the county - which is long overdue, especially with a new ring of twelve installed within our borders since its last time here for the 1991 final - but also an entry from this part of the world for the first time since our entry in the 2007 eliminator at Kingston-upon-Thames.

That the meeting was the shortest I can recall since we started these again a few years ago was testament to the fact that much is rosy in the Tower garden, with thanks passed on to the officers who carried out their roles brilliantly with the support of others at times such as George Salter, Amanda Richmond and Jed Flatters. Jonathan Williamson and his daughter Lucy - who in recent days has continued her impressive progress in York with her most Surprise Major methods to a quarter-peal and by trebling to her first peal on ten - were elected as members of the band and there was generally a very positive vibe to proceedings. These are indeed good times at St Mary-le-Tower - long may it continue!

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Sunday 24th April 2016

It was a very definite case of quality over quantity at Woodbridge this morning. Having listened to some well-struck Stedman Singles on the substantial climb to the ringing chamber, I made ringer number five with the boys watching on. Not a great turnout, but those there produced some marvellous Stedman Doubles before the treble ringer went over the balance and was unable to retrieve it! To prove that was no fluke, we went again and repeated the performance through to the end during a very satisfactory twenty minutes of service ringing.

St Mary-le-Tower Dinner at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club.Come the afternoon and there was quality and quantity at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club for one of the highlights of our ringing calendar, the St Mary-le-Tower Annual Dinner. All in all, about forty friends gathered to celebrate the fellowship we enjoy at the county's heaviest twelve, with the regulars welcoming our visitors, former SMLT and St Peter Mancroft Ringing Master Simon Rudd accompanied by Ros Keech, Brian and Peta Whiting from Offton, Adrienne Sharp, Melvyn and Pat Potts from Bedfordshire and Mike Burn a year after he left us for a new life in Staffordshire. It was a talented collection of ringers partaking in fine carvery food whilst taking in views of the choppy North Sea just beyond the golf course that was laid out before us. A hugely enjoyable occasion as ever - thank you to Diana Pipe and David Potts on organising and arranging it so superbly!

Meanwhile, well done to Colin Salter on calling his first peal of Triples in the success for the Suffolk Guild over the border in Essex at Ardleigh as well as to Kevin Ward on ringing his first of Grandsire and congratulations to George Thoday on circling the tower in the same 5040, whilst back within our borders there were two quarters rung with a 1250 of Superlative Surprise Major at The Norman Tower and a 1440 of Buxhall Surprise Minor at the tower of the same name which was clearly a very special performance for David and John Steed, the latter of whom is also celebrating his sixtieth birthday today - Happy Birthday John.

Good to see quantity and quality being demonstrated by our members.

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Saturday 23rd April 2016

Ringers are busy people, especially the keen, active ones who get out and about and so perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise when their paths cross unexpectedly. All the same, out of the ringable towers in Suffolk and even more so all the pubs in the county, the odds must have been long on those of us on the Pettistree outing and those on the Norwich Diocesan Association Eastern Branch outing converging upon the Shepherd and Dog in Onehouse this lunchtime. As David Steed pointed out, it is unlikely there has ever been so many ringers gathered in Onehouse at once!

The latter was in fact what should've been an outing, but following a disappointing lack of interest from their members was positively turned into a very successful quarter-peal day, with Durham Surprise Minor at Buxhall, Doubles at Great Finborough, Bourne Surprise Minor at Rattlesden and Combermere Delight Minor at Tostock, the latter performance being the first in the method for all of our lunch companions.

Ringing at Great Finborough on the Pettistree outing.Ringing at Great Finborough on the Pettistree outing.Ringing at Great Finborough on the Pettistree outing.View to Buxhall from Great Finborough ringing chamber.

Those first two venues were also venues that our schedules and theirs had in common, albeit at different times to them. These are very close, so much so in fact that the tower holding the 15cwt six rung from a balcony at St Mary can be viewed from the upstairs ringing chamber of the distinctive tower that houses the 12cwt six of St Andrew, but to an extent the go of each set of bells is metaphorically much further apart. The former are very easy-going, especially for their weight and are a lovely ring of bells, whilst the latter are more challenging.

Ringing at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.Ringing at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.Ringing at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.Alfie having a go at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.Mike Cowling putting the tenor rope back on its wheel at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.

It is such variety that makes outings so enjoyable in my eyes though and there was plenty more as we traversed the centre of the county. Having rung upon Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake's mini-ring - indeed I pealed them on eight occasions - when they were in The Folly in their old garden at Claydon, this morning was the first opportunity I had had to ring upon the 15lb 9oz eight in their current home in Gordon and Janet's garage in Shelland. The setting is very different, but the bells still a pleasure to ring on. Well, for most at least, as we had the usual problems encountered when those not used to ringing on such small bells look as if they are fighting tigers rather than just adjusting their handling, leading to the tenor rope slipping off its wheel at one stage. However, as that was being sorted, Alfie enjoyed chiming the second incessantly as others watched on with a mixture of amusement and earache! With cups of tea and coffee served up, the warm welcome is also something that hasn't changed with the move up the A14 - many thanks to Gordon for your welcome!

Ringing at Buxhall.Ringing at Buxhall.Ringing at Buxhall.Ringing at Stowmarket.Ringing at Stowmarket.

The day was topped at an eight at completely the opposite end of the spectrum, one that is housed in one of the landmarks of the Guild and steeped in history and weight, as we manned the 20cwt ring at Stowmarket and although we really struggled with Stedman Triples here, it shouldn't detract from a day of enjoyable ringing with a varied repertoire that mirrored what you will usually get at Pettistree on a Wednesday night - thank you to Mike Whitby for running that ringing, to Elaine Townsend for looking after Alfred and Mason whenever I was called to ring with Ruthie at work, to Gill Waterson for organising a splendid day out and to the Eastern Branch of the NDA for sharing part of it!

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Friday 22nd April 2016

More use of the bells of Suffolk to celebrate yesterday's ninetieth birthday of the Queen, as a peal was rung at Felixstowe and quarters of Doubles were successfully completed at Brandon and Lakenheath, with Plain Bob at the former and Grandsire at the latter. Indeed, a clip of the 5090 of Bristol Surprise Major on the coast can be viewed on the Guild's Facebook page and makes for pleasant listening.

Personally though, it was a quiet day as I collected Mason from school after my final early shift for a few months, always a source of (tired) relief. All in all then, a very positive day.

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Thursday 21st April 2016

Another royal occasion, another opportunity to put ringing in the limelight.

Whatever your view of what she represents, the Queen's ninetieth birthday today garnered blanket TV coverage, at least until news of the death of the musician Prince reached the twenty-four hour news channels. The cameras followed her through the streets of Windsor and the bells of the famous castle in the Berkshire town could be heard, presumably as a 1260 of Grandsire Triples was being rung there. As usual for such events, a peal was rung at Westminster Abbey and was not only caught on the news coverage but on a clip on YouTube. Personally, a rare peal (the first for a decade) rung at the Northamptonshire eight of Thrapston where my mother grew up, my Christening took place and I had my first handling lessons grabbed my attention, but the headline performance was the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung on the 82cwt back six of Liverpool Cathedral in 4hrs32mins, the heaviest set of six bells rung to a peal and an incredible physical feat.

There were no peals rung within our borders for the significant anniversary of the reigning monarch's birth, but Suffolk certainly didn't let it pass unmarked, with six quarter-peals rung on our bells since the sun rose on another lovely spring day. Grandsire Triples was rung at Bardwell, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Buxhall, Queen Elizabeth II Delight Minor at Offton, two Doubles methods at Rougham and five Doubles methods at Woolpit, whilst Jenny Scase also celebrated a special birthday today, as her sixtieth was marked alongside QE2's with Plain Bob Minor at her home tower (Jenny's, not the Queen's) of Debenham.

As ever for a Thursday, there were no ringing opportunities for us, though Ruthie did get to sing for Her Majesty's big day in the middle of this evening's choir practice.

Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II and well done to ringing.

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Wednesday 20th April 2016

When we started the current international campaign at John Catt Educational in the depths of January, I didn't see daylight until several hours into my early shifts. Today the sun was already rising as I rose for an early start at the office and it made such a difference - it felt almost civilised! And I still had the advantage of leaving work with the afternoon ahead of me, free to do with as I wished.

On this occasion that meant celebrating our niece Annalise's first birthday with a trip out to get balloons, a visit to the birthday girl's great-Nan and a lovely meal at her Granny Kate's where our host and Ron regaled us with tales from their recent trip to India, their absence to visit the subcontinent meaning this was a joint celebration with Alfie whose second birthday they'd missed whilst they were away. It was all topped brilliantly by a superb Mr Tumble cake made by Ruthie's sister Clare's friend Bex who has set-up her own cake-making business under the name of DriftAway Cakes and is clearly in the right business! Thank you to her for her cakes and to Kate for her hospitality!

It meant missing out on ringing for the second Wednesday running of course, but once again Pettistree seemed to be coping without us, at least judging by another successful pre-practice quarter-peal there and it was worth it to finish the day in the same uplifting style that it began.

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Tuesday 19th April 2016

It was a night of nostalgia laid on thick. Fifty years ago today, my mother Sally began a metaphorical 'journey' (as the X-Factor might coin it) that was to provide years of physical and mental exercise, friendships by the bucketload worldwide, holidays and even a family, which I am particularly grateful for!

Therefore on a light, warm evening in the quiet village of Offton, Mum, Dad, my brother Chris and I gathered to ring a quarter-peal together for the first time for... well, since I can't remember when. Over the years my younger sibling and I have lived away and even now we are both back living in Suffolk our individual ringing paths in Bury St Edmunds and Woodbridge rarely cross with each other, let alone simultaneously with that of our parents in Ipswich, so this was a rare event.

The band that rang in the quarter-peal at Offton.Ringing at Offton on their practice night.Ringing at Offton on their practice night.

The location was appropriate though. Not only was this light ground-floor eight the scene of much of our ringing together - including many QPs - as us boys learnt the ropes back in the 1990s, but it is one of many towers that our mater and pater support on a regular basis. And handily, their practice tonight coincided with this significant anniversary, with the tower captain Brian Whiting very kindly allowing their weekly quarter beforehand to be used by Ma Munnings to celebrate her half-century of ringing and so a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major was duly rung with little incident as her grandson Alfie and daughter-in-law Ruthie made use of the picturesque churchyard surrounding this pretty little church on the entrance to the community hidden in the rolling landscape of this part of the world. In fact the only doubt to scoring this came before any of us had even arrived, as an overturned lorry in neighbouring Somersham blocked the route that half the band would be taking to get to the performance and whilst we had heard about this afternoon's accident beforehand on our ever useful local BBC radio station and thus diverted ourselves through the isolated Nettlestead and its St Mary's church with its single, 4cwt 1618 Miles Graye bell, but sadly the rest - including the star of the show - of those traversing that highway weren't so lucky and as a result a late start meant we only just squeezed in our success before familiar faces such Kevin and Janet Hohl and Joanna Gray began arriving for the session that followed, much as they used to do twenty years ago when Chris and I accompanied our folks to the practices here on a bi-weekly basis.

Also much like then we partook in a cuppa, but unlike back in the day, we couldn't join them for a pint afterwards as we left early to get Alfred home for bed. We enjoyed our nostalgic trip out though - congratulations Mum on fifty years of ringing!

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Monday 18th April 2016

It can often be difficult to follow-up a really-good monthly third-Sunday practice at St Mary-le-Tower like we had last night with an equally high-quality Monday evening session twenty-four hours later. This is to be expected though as they are both different in nature. The hour-and-a-half before Evensong is an opportunity to focus on the more complex stuff that we simply can't afford to do to the same extent at the end of the first working day of the week without excluding those progressing up to that point and thus cutting-off the supply to our future progression. The weekly gatherings have to be more of a mixture and therefore the standard is always going to be more up and down.

Tonight though, we gave it a great shot in my opinion. We were a little short on numbers but there was still a wide repertoire from Swindon Surprise Royal (which is really coming together now) to Call-Changes on Twelve to London (No.3) Surprise Royal to Plain Hunt on Nine to Cambridge Surprise Royal which was ringing out over Ipswich as I left, helped with another visit from John Proudfoot from Carlisle only three weeks after his last visit!

For anyone planning on going along in seven days though, it is important to note that it is planned to have the band's AGM following the practice. Whilst as always all are welcome, we are due to finish the ringing early at 8.30pm, though this will be partly offset by a 7pm start.

Hopefully we will be building on the decent couple of days ringing we've had yesterday and today at SMLT.

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Sunday 17th April 2016

The frustrations and joys of being the ringing master at a tower will be familiar to many, including me. One week you will have a full-quota of regulars, maybe even a visitor or two, everyone is at the top of their game, the ringing is brilliant and you go for the post-practice pint in ecstasy. Next week some are away and those there - if the session has even been able to go ahead - are fatigued by a day at work, every piece of ringing collapses and that pint serves more to drown your sorrows then enhance your satisfaction.

I could empathise with St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master David Potts as he experienced both extremes in one day today!

Except for a nice sounding touch of Grandsire Caters as Diana Pipe, myself and the boys waited on the stairs, this morning's efforts on the heaviest twelve in the county weren't the best, far more of a struggle than it should've been as David was badly let down by those present. It happens from time-to-time everywhere of course, but it was frustrating. Come this evening for the monthly special practice though and Ruthie and I were delighted to be present at some of the best ringing you will hear on higher numbers almost anywhere. An eclectic repertoire too, as some well-rung eight-spliced Surprise Major kicked things off and once the decision between ringing four-spliced Surprise Royal and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus saw the latter plumped for as being more use to Peter Davies' progress, it was topped off by a very decent half-course for the service touch. And in between, a couple of pieces of Swindon Surprise Royal were confidently rung, with the second rung faultlessly and struck superbly - it wouldn't have been out of place alongside the lead of Deimos Alliance Maximus from the Bullring currently doing the rounds on YouTube.

We didn't partake in an ecstatic pint afterwards as we needed to get back to my parent's where we'd spent the afternoon and Mason and Alfie had generously been given tea - thank you Mum and Dad - and which followed on from us hosting a visit from my wife's sister and her girls that had the children in an excitable tizzy. In turn that was preceded by that morning ring at SMLT and then the ringing of all twelve at Grundisburgh. All in a day's work for a bellringer, but I'm glad I haven't had to run any of it!

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Saturday 16th April 2016

Alfie enjoying the birthday party.Alfie enjoying the birthday party.A week after his own second birthday party, Alfie had been invited to another second birthday party, this time that of his contemporary from nursery Olivia. As much as it was for him and his friends, Ruthie and I are fortunate to have been acquaintances of the birthday girl's parents Ash and Franki for several years through Mason's Godmother Kala who was also there with her daughter Robyn and so us adults had a good time too at the star of the show's lovely abode in Earl Soham, a place ironically last visited just before Alfred's birth when we attended the South-East District's Practice at the 10cwt six in the centre of this picturesque village five days before his arrival into the world.

Sadly we missed this year's April SE event at Grundisburgh where a session on ringing up and down was led by District - and now Guild - Ringing Master Tom Scase today. Although the two events didn't directly clash, it proved impractical for us to attend both, especially as my wife didn't feel she would be particularly useful in her current condition to quite an energetic and physical occasion! We were delighted therefore to see and hear how well attended and successful it was - well done to all concerned.

And Happy Birthday Olivia!

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Friday 15th April 2016

One of the aspects of pregnancy is the tendency for the woman carrying the developing child to 'nest' by excessively tidying up, which in our case means tidying up at all. Hence when I went for my late shift at work this morning, I left Ruthie sorting out Mason's bedroom, which unfortunately for the poor boy has in part become a dumping ground as we have endeavoured to reorder our house in recent weeks.

Much of it was cleared by the time I picked him up later, but by that time of course it was well into the evening and meant no ringing for us.

There was little other ringing going on elsewhere in Suffolk either it would seem, with no quarter-peals or peals recorded online today. Perhaps the county's ringers were too busy tidying up.

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Thursday 14th April 2016

Unsurprisingly, with his second birthday comes Alfie's two-year review, a laid-back informal affair held in surroundings familiar to the li'l chap in the Children's Centre in Woodbridge that he visited weekly in his early months to play with his contemporaries, but was approached with a little trepidation by Ruthie and me - we'd heard others who had come out of the same process with their children labelled with all sorts of unexpected diagnoses and wondered what they might come up with as far as Alfred was concerned. Ultimately we needn't have worried. His speech and behaviour are as one would expect of a child his age, although he is shorter than he ought to be apparently, which isn't surprising with his parents. However, you could've knocked us over with the proverbial feather when we were told that this boy who hardly ever stops eating wasn't eating enough!

Still, he's healthy and that is the main thing, but there were other surprises in the quarter-peal at Tostock. Well, two actually - Beverley and Surfleet to be precise.

We were quiet on the ringing front mind as Ruthie even passed on going to choir practice to babysit her nieces who were as lively as ever. No surprises there.

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Wednesday 13th April 2016

Parenthood is a wonderful thing, but it has restricted our social life somewhat. However, unsurprisingly many of our contemporaries are in the same happy boat and so occasionally we can meet up together without feeling guilty about having conversations interrupted by one of us chasing after a wandering child and so we took advantage of the warmer, lighter, later evenings that we are beginning to enjoy by meeting Toby, Amy and their daughter (and my Goddaughter) Maddie at The Cherrytree after I'd finished today's late shift and chatted and drank in the beer garden until darkness fell, interspersed with guiding the two-year-olds down the nearby slide.

It was a thoroughly pleasant night out, but of course meant missing Pettistree practice. They appeared to be managing alright without us though, at least judging by the 1296 of Belated Birthday Compliment Delight Minor rung there beforehand, which - as is often the case on a Wednesday - was accompanied in the Suffolk quarter-peal records by a success at Preston St Mary. Meanwhile, well done to the band at The Wolery who were all ringing their first peal of Fishwick Bob Major, whilst we were enjoying parenthood!

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Tuesday 12th April 2016

A quiet day on the ringing front both personally and across Suffolk.

We did nothing much following another late shift at work for me and for the first time this month - and indeed since 22nd March - there was no quarter-peal or peal rung within our borders recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile.

God willing there'll be more interesting days ahead.

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Monday 11th April 2016

With me on late shifts and Ruthie on holiday from work this week, this morning was a relaxed affair, allowing us to take in the radio debate centred around research that suggested ageism exists for youngsters as much as for pensioners and the suggestion that interaction between the young and old has never been poorer. Not being a sociologist, I can't comment on that with any expertise (not that that has stopped me in the past!), but it does seem that ringing bucks the trend somewhat.

In ringing the mutual respect between the youngest and oldest participants of our art is something to marvel at. The likes of George Pipe, Don and Helen Price are treated with deserved reverence by young ringers coming through into the exercise, whilst the retired members of the Guild make no effort to hide their admiration of what youngsters such as George Salter and Alex Tatlow are achieving within our borders and beyond. Perhaps society could do with studying ringing more on how to cure some of its ills.

There was plenty of that wonderful mixture of youth and experience on show at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice this evening, although we were a little thin on the ground, with many away including Ringing Master David Potts. Stand-in Amanda Richmond didn't let that deter her though and a productive session was topped by a pint in The Robert Ransome, though with only five others.

Encouraging to see that mixture in evidence in the quarter-peals rung in Suffolk today too, with 1260's of Plain Bob rung in the North-East District, Doubles at Reydon and Minor on The Vestey Ring in their temporary home in Halesworth. A glorious interaction between youth and experience that seems sadly lacking from society generally.

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Sunday 10th April 2016

In the scheme of things, two years is but a blink of an eye. We are still living in the same house as we were on 10th April 2014 (incredible by our standards!), I am still happily plying my trade at John Catt Educational as I was twenty-four months ago, Mason grows and learns at primary school, Ruthie still enjoys singing in the choir, Ipswich Town still provide me with my weekly dose of depression (that hasn't changed for over a decade!) and ringing continues to offer us a social outlet and mental and physical exercise primarily through St Mary-le-Tower and Pettistree.

Things have changed considerably in other ways though. My wife's employment has shifted from the giant number-crunchers at Boots to the family-run, local John Ives, I am no longer Suffolk Guild PR Officer and it is rare now for Mrs Munnings and I to go out ringing - or indeed anywhere - together. However, the reason behind the last change is the biggest change of all, as it is two years ago today that Alfie made his first appearance to the outside world. That short brace of orbits around the sun has seen Alfred transform from the fragile, light human being that arrived a week ahead of his due date at 7lb 14oz at 2.04am on 10/4/2014 to the boisterous food machine who is now much, much heavier than 7lb 14oz, very definitely has his own personality and bounds around on his feet with such confidence and abandon that it is at times impossible to reconcile that he is the same child as was born that short span of time ago.

Alfie enjoying his birthday.Alfie enjoying his birthday.That was all in evidence as he excitedly welcomed his cousins Katelynn and Annalise, Aunty Clare and grandparents to our abode for an afternoon of frenzied present opening, party food and impressive blowing out of candles. That in turn had followed on from him rising to open a mountain of gifts awaiting him in the living room, which filled him and us with joy but unsurprisingly meant we didn't make it to SMLT's Sunday morning ringing slot of 8.45-9.30 eight miles away beyond the dozens of traffic lights that hold us up even on the empty streets of the Sabbath. Instead, we made it to the later ringing from 9.30-10 on the 25cwt eight of Woodbridge less than a mile from our front door and then to the service afterwards where AJM was serenaded to a burst of 'Happy Birthday' from the large congregation present!

There was at least more ringing elsewhere, with an impressive 1280 of five spliced Surprise Major methods at The Norman Tower, the second-Sunday monthly peal at Aldeburgh notching up another success and in the process sharpened the talented band's skills with a 5088 of Alloa Surprise Major that was a first in the method for all - well done to today's participants.

However, the headline act on the county's bells was the quarter-peal at Sproughton, which not only saw Elizabeth Sparling ring her first of Plain Bob Doubles, but Eleanor Earey calling her first QP. Well done to both these youngsters on a super achievement. As we can relate with Mason and particularly today Alfie, they grow up fast!
Happy Birthday Alfie!

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Saturday 9th April 2016

Watching that clip of brilliantly rung Deimos Alliance Maximus from the Bullring on YouTube last night regurgitated the feelings of apprehension and even mild fear that tended to envelope me as I stood on the stairs waiting to enter this famous venue. Even by the end of my time in the West Midlands when I had been ringing on the country's only sixteen once or twice a week for almost a decade and been made a band member, those sensations were generated by the knowledge that I was about to step into a ringing chamber that has always been friendly but nonetheless daunting for all the feats of ringing that have been achieved and the history stored within the four walls bedecked with wood panelling and peal boards recording just some of those feats and that history. They were also brought on by knowing that I was going well beyond my comfort zone. Even I'm not bashful enough to pretend that I'm not chuffed to bits with what I managed on the end of a rope in this magnificent centre of ringing, I am the first to admit that I always felt a little out of my depth, accompanied as I was by some of the very finest ringers ever to have graced the exercise - I was certainly not anywhere near being in their league, welcoming and accepting as they always were and still are when I see them.

Such emotions are a good thing in anything you are looking to improve in as it is only through pushing yourself and all the associated discomfort that progress can be made, but I have experienced it far too infrequently in recent years. I encountered that much-missed trepidation this morning though.
Ever since Mason was born, I have attempted to arrange and ring a peal to mark his birthday with a theme related to his age, whether it is with the number of changes or number of methods and by and large I've managed it one way or another, with the latest being the 5040 of nine Surprise Minor methods at Hasketon to mark his ninth birthday just over two months ago. So it is only fair to do the same for his younger brother Alfie and with tomorrow marking two years since his birth, I had arranged a peal attempt at Grundisburgh, the venue chosen to widen my options when putting a band together with half-an-eye on a possible 5002 of Caters, Royal or Cinques in particular. However, with eight ringers gathered and usual fall-back conductor Stephen Pettman unable to ring, I eventually plumped for calling two-spliced Surprise Major methods from the standard eight and with a superb band in place I then had to decide whether to go for relatively easy with something like Cambridge and Yorkshire or more complex with Bristol and London or something in between, also taking into account what compositions could be found that were reasonably enjoyable to ring but not too this complex for this particular ringer who doesn't consider himself a natural conductor. In the end I found a composition of Bristol and Superlative from Don Morrison, the well-known composer from the USA, a straightforward composition broken down into six parts that nevertheless needed much learning and considerable concentration - it was against this backdrop that I approached this morning's effort.

As it happened, I needn't have been worried as with the experienced conductors Brian Whiting and David Salter reassuringly following things, the peal not only largely passed without incident but was one of the best peals I have rung on these tricky bells for some time - thank you to all the band for helping me to celebrate Alfred's birthday!

Although the star of the weekend is obviously too young to ring himself, courtesy of his mother and older sibling he joined us in The Dog across the village green for a drink, a rare opportunity for Ruthie and me to sit in a pub together and catch-up with friends and conversation ranged from the understandable reasons why the South-East District Striking Competition on Saturday 7th May has been moved from Bredfield to Wickham Market and the origins of Brian's beard.

Not all those who rang could join us in the hostelry after our 2hrs45mins of ringing, as Colin Salter and Simon Edwards - who had very kindly agreed to ring as part of his weekend up from Swindon - needed to be at St Mary-le-Tower by 2pm for a peal attempt of Newgate Surprise Maximus. Sadly that appears to have failed judging by the 1584 that was recorded online, but that in itself is still an impressive result, especially as it was a first in the method for all bar two of the band - well done to all concerned and congratulations to George Salter on calling his one hundredth quarter-peal.

The Salter brothers and their guest Simon were back in Rectory Road to complete a busy day of ringing for the three youngsters as they rang a handbell quarter of Doubles, but even then that wasn't the sum of the county's ringing as new Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge rang his first of Norwich Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Barrow and he and the rest of the band rang their first of Hoo Bob Minor in the 1260 at Great Barton - well done particularly to Neal on his double achievement, but also to Andrea, Maureen, Pam, Lesley and David!

My ringing was limited to the pre-lunch 5184 in the little wobbly red-brick tower as we returned home to meet good friend and Godmother to my eldest son, Kala - cue more present opening and catching-up to end a day made all the more satisfying for getting over those nerves.

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Friday 8th April 2016

This weekend sees the second anniversary of Alfie's birth and God willing it'll be a busy few days of folk popping round, a peal in honour of the occasion and of frenzied gift opening and it began this afternoon as I collected Mason at the end of his Easter holidays from school and my latest week of early shifts at work and we welcomed my brother Chris to drop the birthday boy's present and card off.

Come the evening and it was a brief period of quiet marked by my learning of a composition for tomorrow morning's peal attempt of two spliced Surprise Major methods, inspired by a clip on YouTube from this week's practice night at the Bullring in Birmingham. The clip is of a practically faultless lead of Deimos Alliance Maximus on the back twelve of the UK's only ring of sixteen at the end of a touch that highlights what we all ought to be aiming towards. Now I'm not expecting us all to aspire to ring Deimos, but rather to aim to take the aspects of this brilliant ringing and apply it to our ringing. Listen to the fluid, brisk ringing, the accuracy applied, the joy it imparts, the way it makes you tap your foot. There is no hesitancy, no painful gaps or floating backstrokes that crash into the bell or even bells below them. The band is going with the flow, ringing at the speed that is comfortable for the tenors - the right speed here is the speed the band feels happy at, not what the perceived 'right' speed of the bells are. It ebbs and flows magnificently and of course it comes together beautifully. Exactly the same application can be applied to a 120 of Plain Bob Doubles at any of our five or six-bell towers.

Hopefully that is what was happening with the various performances on Suffolk's bells today recorded online. The Martin Daniels Peal Tour saw another peal rung, this time at Tostock as well as a 1440 of Primrose Surprise Minor at Wickham Skeith - well done to Rhona McEune on her first in the method in the latter. Of our local ringers, well done as well to Ed Rolph on ringing his first of Minor in the quarter-peal at Wenhaston and congratulations to Liz and Stephen 'Podge' Christian on the recent birth of their granddaughter Mollie, marked this evening by the FNQPC's success at Monewden.
It is already a busy weekend!

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Thursday 7th April 2016

A perfectly mundane day, with the continuation of my early shifts at work sapping my energy and pregnancy sapping Ruthie's and so neither of us went anywhere, unusually so for my wife who is a constant at choir practice.

Still, Martin Daniel's Peal Tour continued with peals rung upon two of Suffolk's toughest fives, St Nicholas in Ipswich and Little Glemham, rather sensibly plumbing for the dodgeless Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles at both! And on a more local level, a quarter-peal of St Aldhelm's Treble Bob Minor was rung at Great Finborough.

Reydon.Southwold.On such a quiet day therefore and with one Guild event just gone in the form of Saturday's AGM at Hadleigh, it is worth bringing people's attention to the SGR Striking Competitions on Saturday 21st May. Once again it is being held in the morning-afternoon format that I felt worked so well last year, with our hosts the North-East District taking us to the seaside with the Mitson Shield and the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy competitions being held at Reydon just outside of Southwold where in the afternoon lunch, results and the Rose Trophy contest will take place.

Such venues tick all the boxes in my view. The easy-going, 10cwt ground-floor six and similarly weighted eight should encourage bands of all abilities to enter this highly enjoyable occasion, whilst the location should offer plenty for those not partaking - ringers or otherwise - to enjoy, especially if the weather is good! Granted they are a considerable distance for those from the west of the county, but so were Rattlesden and Lavenham eleven months ago and Exning and Dalham in 2009 for those from the east, so I hope that we get some competition from the talented ringers of the North-West and South-West Districts, especially as the call-change contest gives more bands the scope for silverware. In 2015 it was super to see Great Barton and Woolpit put in entries for the six-bell and the SW District ringing in the eight-bell, whilst in recent years both Stowmarket and The Norman Tower have come close to winning. Perhaps towers like Polstead and Lavenham might consider entries, whether that be in the call-change or method competitions?

I have harboured a desire for these to be similar in nature to the National Twelve-Bell Final. Those who went along to Norwich last summer will recall a smorgasbord of ringers, friends and family gathered within the sound of bells, catching up with each other, being found in every corner of the venue where the contest is being held, trying to predict the results and then the climax as the actual results are revealed. There may be less beer devoured than at the biggest event in world ringing (although I imagine the Sole Bay Inn won't be short of custom from the odd ringer or two), but that sort of atmosphere has prevailed at our own smaller version in recent years and I hope will be this year. And don't assume the expected will happen. Following on from the end of Birmingham's domination of the aforementioned twelve-bell and in the year where 5000-1 shots Leicester City may well be on the verge on winning the Premier League, who knows what surprises may await us on the coast in forty-four days time? So long as teams enter that is - you have to be in it to win it and it would be disappointing for the same old excuses about people being in several teams (which is minimal these days), it being too far (as already mentioned it is the same for everyone at some point) or the same teams winning it (in the last few years Pettistree and The Wolery in the six-bell and the North-East, North-West and South-East Districts in the eight bell have dispelled the myth that St Mary-le-Tower always win, whilst the call-change competition gives more scope for others to leave victorious) preventing more to take part. Let's see as many as possible there and make it less of a mundane day than today!

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Wednesday 6th April 2016

Among my ramblings on Saturday's AGM, I noted how my ten-years of officership for the Suffolk Guild was to my mind merely a payback for all that I owe the Suffolk Guild for the opportunities it has given me. In my time away from the county, I may have partaken in some pretty special stuff, but none of that would've been possible without the grounding that the SGR gave me in the exercise, especially through peals. Before I had even entered the incredible Birmingham ringing scene, peal-ringing with our members here upon the county's bells had already allowed me the chance to ring several peals on twelve in many different Surprise Maximus methods, including spliced amongst much else. Such opportunities are rare for our local ringing youngsters of today, which is one of the many reasons I'd like more to use peal-ringing to get the same chances as I have been blessed to have, but the peals I have rung for the Guild have done much for me.

The Wolery.So I was therefore delighted to reach another landmark in my peal-ringing for the organisation this evening as the 5088 of Regent's Park Surprise Major at The Wolery represented my four hundredth for the Guild that started it all at Ashbocking back in 1992. It has been a relatively slow process. Tonight's success comes four years after my three hundredth at the same venue with a 5040 of Kelso Surprise Minor, seven years on from 2hrs51mins of Grandsire Triples at Orford and a decade since a 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Hollesley and it isn't a noticeably significant milestone. However, it gave me an excuse to reminisce on the previous three-hundred-and-ninety-nine, whether it be our thus far sole effort on fourteen bells in the grand surroundings of Winchester Cathedral or any one of the efforts of Doubles and Minor on our fives and sixes in the many picturesque locations across the county.

Our success in Old Stoke is worthy of mention in its own right, a nice little method rung extremely well and it was part of a busy day of ringing across the county that included three other peals and a trio of quarter-peals. Granted, two of those peals were rung for the Lancashire Association as part of Martin Daniels' peal tour, with eight Minor methods rung at Bacton and nine Doubles methods achieved at Whepstead, although the former did see two Suffolk residents ring their one hundredth together - well done to Jeremy Spiller and past Guild Chairman and current Chairman of the Belfry Advisory Committee Winston Girling. However, there was also another peal in the Guild's name as the second peal on the SGR's mini-ring The Vestey Ring was rung in the same venue as the first one we rang almost exactly four years ago and was rung by an encouragingly youthful band.

The quarter-peals were all very much home-grown too, with the pre-practice QP at Pettistree successful as usual, an impressive effort of six Surprise Major methods rung at Ixworth and Craig Gradidge ringing his first of Rutland Surprise Major in the 1282 at Elveden. Well done Craig and I suppose congratulations me!

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Tuesday 5th April 2016

Alfie after his haircut.Alfie's hair has been getting out of control recently, with a little of the mad professor look about him at times, so with the second anniversary of his arrival into the world approaching, we gave him an early birthday treat by getting his haircut. He looks a very different lad to the one many of you will have seen at Hadleigh on Saturday!

Otherwise though, it was a quiet day for us and - according to BellBoard and Campanophile at least - for Suffolk's ringers, although Martin Daniel's Peal Tour saw two 5040s rung within our borders, with Plain Bob Minor successfully scored at Earl Soham and eleven Doubles methods negotiated at St Lawrence in Ipswich, which were the eighth and ninth peals in five days on a busy holiday. No time for any haircuts for them!

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Monday 4th April 2016

For the first time for a while, Ruthie was able to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice, aided by her mother Kate also going along and partook in an impressive repertoire that included Newgate Surprise Maximus.

They were joined by Roderick Bickerton, who is in the area taking part in the annual Martin Daniels Peal Tour of Suffolk and which has already taken in peals of seven Treble Dodging Minor methods at Ashbocking and fourteen Minor methods at Kettleburgh on Friday, a 5040 of Ipswich Surprise Minor at Great Barton on Saturday and performances of Grandsire Triples and Yorkshire Surprise Major at Gislingham and Ixworth respectively today.

Such adventures are part of what makes ringing so varied and interesting. I am glad that my wife could take advantage of that tonight.

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Sunday 3rd April 2016

Yesterday could've been my final blog entry. I have pondered it in recent weeks in anticipation of the cessation of officership for the first time since I began writing it nigh on nine years ago, but a number of things have staved off its final curtain. The kind words by Mike Whitby at yesterday's AGM and the general reaction amongst those present helped sweep any thoughts of retirement away, but I would never have needed much persuading to continue. I enjoy writing my daily jottings, reflecting on what is going on and putting across my thoughts. Although I enjoy my work immensely and am very fortunate to earn my daily bread where I do, I am under no illusions that when all is said and done I shan't be remembered for my paid career. Indeed, by the nature of sales much of my day is spent spelling my name as people struggle to get their head round it, if they even give me the time of day and I can sometimes be met with considerable rudeness, so ringing offers me something that I get a modicum of respect for and therefore it is cathartic for me to be able to comment on it and be listened to! New readers still keep appearing and just from those that I know of there are in the region of a hundred readers from across Suffolk, the UK and indeed the world at various points and I enjoy getting feedback, from those just starting out on their ringing career (and indeed occasionally non-ringers!) to some of the most famous names in ringing.

It's purpose and feel has changed dramatically. When I started out the entries were sparse compared to the rambling monologues top-heavy with extraneous verbs, nouns and adjectives padding out unnecessarily lengthy paragraphs of a tenuous nature that I now peddle in. We were busier ringers back in 2007 when I was Guild Ringing Master, traversing the county and country in the name of ringing and so there was much to report on just from what we were doing, but since I stopped in that role five years ago and with parenthood delightfully taking an increasing amount of our time, what we do is of less interest and it has become more about what we as an organisation are getting up to. Indeed, one of the most common compliments I receive is how it gives a useful insight into ringing within our borders and its many characters.

Mary Garner is one such character who has featured frequently. Partly that is because I ring with her regularly and have known her for many years and not just through ringing, as I am eternally grateful to her for guiding me through my GCSE maths retake when she was teaching at Westbourne High School in Ipswich when my education continued there in my sixth form days over twenty years ago. But throughout this blog's life, she has been instrumental in the affairs of the Guild. She was Secretary when I started out as Ringing Master and was an immense help in me getting settled into the role at a time when it seemed a daunting task. Since then she has been the South-East District's Chairman when we desperately needed one and is currently carrying out two vital jobs for the organisation in the shape of Membership Secretary and Child Protection Officer, all whilst being heavily involved in her local community, including being Treasurer for the PCC and with singing. Her election as a Life Honorary Member at 2011's AGM in Henley was truly deserved!

The Cake.The Birthday Girl.Gathered to celebrate Mary Garner's 65th birthdayGathered to celebrate Mary Garner's 65th birthday

Also deserved were the celebrations for her sixty-fifth birthday, hosted this afternoon by the birthday girl herself and her husband Chris and which we were delighted to be invited to, along with just a fraction of her friends from the various aspects of her busy life, prior to some of them joining her in ringing the first quarter of 65th Birthday Delight Minor at the tower where she learnt to ring and still rings every week, Pettistree and was one of two QP's rung within our borders today, with a 1320 of Kent Treble Bob Minor scored at Rougham. Happy Birthday Mary and well done to Mark and Serena Steggles on ringing their first in the method in the latter performance upon the 15cwt six in the North-West District.

As typically occurs when you gather a flange of Suffolk bellringers together the day after the Suffolk Guild AGM, talk turned to the day before and in line with various Facebook threads today, two themes in particular came up. One was the tiny number of members in attendance at Hadleigh who attended post-meeting ringing as apparently out of the hundred or so there, only ten made the short journey upstairs to man the 22cwt eight in new Ringing Master Tom Scase's debut session in the role. Not entirely encouraging for him, but it isn't a new phenomenon. When I was Master, apart from a huge turnout at Chediston following 2009's AGM just after they'd been done up, it was a real struggle to run things in the evening due to the thin attendances. Now of course, not everyone can stick around and we were among them yesterday, what with having to get the boys home for bed, but there was a degree of consternation that quite a few ringers who could've benefited from the ringing or benefited others through the ringing were to be found already well ensconced in the pub. For me the drink (or drinks if you're able) are a vital part of the social element of the day and the perfect way to round off proceedings, but perhaps a piece or two up the tower before their well-earned pint would've been of use. Or perhaps we should consider scrapping the evening ringing at the end of a long day for those who take it all in?

The other theme which was not directly related to the AGM but came up over the course of the day was the decline in peal-ringing within the county and especially the numbers of ringers partaking and of venues being used. My position on this has always been clear - the more taking part regularly in peals (whether that is two or three a year or two or three a week), the better. Others say that the focus should be on Sunday service ringing. The two are not mutually exclusive though. In fact, quite the opposite. The top-quality peal-ringing that can come about from regular peal-ringing can help hold the interest of ringers who may otherwise become bored with our limitless art and be lost to towers that then become silent on the morning of the Sabbath. And by practising our ringing to the extent that regular peal-ringers do, the standard of ringing can be raised for service-ringing. No one should be forced into it (that would be utterly counter-productive), but more need to be encouraged to take advantage of all mediums that the exercise offers, including peal-ringing.

Alfie and Mason getting grass after church.I'd like to think that my 574 peals thus far have accumulated to my being of some use on a Sunday morning, whether that is at Ipswich's St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence, Grundisburgh or as with this morning, Woodbridge before St Mary-the-Virgin's weekly 10am and some grass-cutting for the boys in their recreation of Jesus' tomb. It may take a while for them cut our vast amount of lawn with a pair of scissors though...

Something that highlights the correlation between regular peal-ringing and high standards is the handbell activity at Bacton and today was a busy and significant one in Pretyman Avenue, as Peter Waterfield rang his 1,600th peal, Cherril and Jeremy Spiller rang their 800th together and the latter his 1,000th as conductor. Well done and congratulations to all concerned, but particularly Suffolk resident Jeremy.

And at least it gives me something to put in the blog!

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Saturday 2nd April 2016

Hadleigh.On a gorgeous sunny day like today, the lead spire of St Mary's church in Hadleigh stands out like a shining beacon across this otherwise low-lying town and beautiful surrounding countryside, appearing to float across the horizon when one is travelling along the A1071 which bypasses this community, much like Wickham Market's octagonal tower does from the A12 and the central tower of St Edmundsbury Cathedral does from the A14.

Perhaps apt therefore that the Suffolk Guild gathered there for their 2016 AGM, but whilst I look forward to this event immensely, I arrived feeling apprehensive. Whilst it would be an exaggeration to say there were dark clouds looming over the organisation as we approached this date, in contrast to the warm, bright weather that met us in the west of the county there were a lot of metaphorical grey ones lurking overhead. For all that it seems to have improved thus far this year, peal-ringing for this ninety-three year-old institution seems to have been in decline, with fewer peals being rung by fewer members at fewer towers, which can only be bad for standards of ringing generally. After a wonderfully encouraging few years, the apparent slowdown of activity from our youngsters and the subsequent lack of an entry from them at the 2015 Ringing World National Youth Striking Contest was a cause for some concern. The apathy that afflicts events put on at much wasted time and effort by some and saw last year's Social having to be scaled back and more recently the South-East District abandon three-quarters of their meetings and a range of practices is a worry. Half the Central Council Representatives were stepping down with seemingly no one to step in to fill the gaps. And with Jed Flatters five-year reign as Ringing Master coming to an end this afternoon, many were at a loss as to who - if anyone - was going to replace him.

Philip Gorrod giving a handbell lesson.Ringing at Hadleigh.Ringing at Hadleigh. Ringing at Hadleigh.

That was all for the meeting, but as I have been at pains to stress for bygones now, there is more to AGM day than the business. If circumstances permitted, I would love to take everything in from the moment the tower door was open for the first ringing of the day to the final pint being pulled after the evening ringing, but that wouldn't be fair on Mason and Alfie and so we didn't make the initial session at Boxford. Myriad episodes of activity were occurring with varying degrees of sedulousness from the moment we stepped into the primary locale of proceedings however. Former Chairman and current North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod was running attendees through their paces on handbells, whilst members of the Belfry Advisory Committee were on hand to offer advice. In the corner, a table of raffle prizes was building (take a wild guess at what theme was developing!) as nearby members from our hosts the South-West District were busying themselves preparing tea led by District Ringing Master Derek Rose and across the building ringers from Haverhill to Halesworth, Hollesley to West Stow (I couldn't think of anywhere out that way beginning with H represented today!) mingled and caught-up. It is the socialising that I enjoy most with these occasions, but also the ringing and there was plenty of that going on too, with the afternoon rope-related business climaxing in a decent service touch of Bristol Surprise Major.

After the service and waiting for the tea.After the service and waiting for the tea.The queues for tea!The queues for tea!Prizes being given out for the raffle.Chairman Alan Stanley addresses the meeting.

Still important as a reminder of why we have the opportunity and means to enjoy this wonderful hobby, the service was nice, the food a twist on the usual with soup served up for the masses and the raffle a success with the Young Ringers earning £191 including a generous donation from one individual as the youth appear to be on the up again, before the meeting got underway. Even this was largely positive. Yes, there were a few grumbles, but I'd be worried if from around a hundred members at a forum for them to put their views across publically nothing was raised - as I said a few days ago, I wouldn't want to see this becoming just a rubber-stamping exercise, but I believe the ease with which the majority of the membership can communicate in an instant with the many across the year means those torrid two-hours-and-the-rest meetings that still give this event a bad name among some are a thing of the past. News of this year's Guild Social was revealed, with the North-West District planning a Ring & Ramble followed by a picnic or BBQ in the lovely Gislingham area on Saturday 17th September, new members were elected, Neal Dodge gallantly took on one of the CC Rep roles and I was delighted to see current SE District Ringing Master Tom Scase take on the same role for the Guild. Others will have to judge what - if any - impact I had as RM in my time, but over the last five years Jed has shown what a difference can be made, particularly in his pushing of ITTS in the county and I know I'm not alone in wanting to thank him for his efforts since he took over from me in 2011, whilst also wishing Tom all the best for what lay ahead.

Personally though, the most significant item of business was finishing my time as Public Relations Officer after five years and thus a decade of holding office in the SGR altogether along with being Ringing Master and three years as a CC Rep. Ringing has given me so much (indeed, given that I was born of parents who met through the exercise I owe my very existence to it) and the Suffolk Guild has been central to that, so I see it as returning the favour for all it has given me and I hope that more will find themselves so inclined so that it isn't just the same few passing between the different roles. To that end I was pleased my proposal of the aforementioned Mr Dodge to take over was accepted - I thank him and hope he gets as much support as I've had. As much joy as I've extracted from the last ten years, I'm sure most of you will appreciate that my focus may well need to be elsewhere for the foreseeable future!

If there was one disappointment from what we experienced today was that due to what was perceived to be prohibitive costs, the meeting couldn't be held in the splendid surroundings of the Guildhall alongside the churchyard. Personally I much prefer to have the tea and business in a separate venue to everything else, partly because it breaks up the day rather than being in the same spot for six or seven hours, partly because I feel it adds to the sense of occasion, but also because the acoustics are usually pretty rotten for such formalities. Despite a sound system being set up that allowed us to hear the top table, we at the back struggled to hear much of what was being said by those in the congregation.

Still, that shouldn't detract from the superb hospitality offered us by the SW, with an encouraging number of locals present whom I hope will also make the journey to the North-East District for the 2017 AGM, which is due to be held on Saturday 22nd April. Although the need to return the boys home for bed prohibited our participation in the evening ringing and the drinks that followed and our departure was marked by darkening skies and persistent rain, I felt lot more hopeful for the Guild than when I arrived in the sunshine!

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Friday 1st April 2016

On the morning of fools, nothing particularly stood out as a prank, bar BBC Radio Suffolk's claim that red lights were to be put on top of the central tower at St Edmundsbury Cathedral to warn low-flying aircraft of its presence.

In fact it was a very quiet day generally, with nothing recorded on BellBoard or Campanophile as having been rung within our borders. I'm not joking!

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Thursday 31st March 2016

It is a slow week in the world of international education in the Americas as pretty much almost all of them are on holidays and so for these last couple of days of the week it seemed pointless John Catt Educational's sales team coming in late to speak to their voicemails, so it was a 9-5 in the office today.. Along with Ruthie being given a week off with her colleagues in the choir following the their busy Easter weekend and thus not needing to attend their practice today, it allowed us to take advantage of the lighter evenings for the first time this year by taking Alfie and our temporary houseguest Sasha the dog out for a walk in the picturesque Broom Heath area we are so fortunate to live within walking distance of. Warming sunshine and blossoming woodland made for a beautiful evening - it feels like spring is here.

Meanwhile, Happy Eightieth Birthday to Woolpit ringer David Lambeth and congratulations to Lesley Steed and Stephen Dawson on ringing their three hundredth quarter-peal together in the 1260 of Lambeth Bob Minor rung for the aforementioned birthday at his local tower. Not such a slow week in Woolpit I imagine!

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Wednesday 30th March 2016

It is for a wonderful reason, but the aches, pains and tiredness Ruthie is suffering currently makes everyday life increasingly difficult. Work at John Ives is hard, though to their eternal credit they have done all that they can and much more to make sure that she doesn't do anything she shouldn't even in the unlikely event that she would do anything she shouldn't. Mercifully, Alfie is as energetic as any other nearly two-year-old, but it is exhausting keeping up with him, especially for someone in her condition. And getting out to ringing in the evening and then partaking to a productive level gets tougher, especially as driving has become one of the things less easy to carry out . For the last year or so we have attempted to alternate our nights out on the end of a rope to enable us to still take advantage of the exercise we are blessed to be able to do whilst also ensuring Alfred still has a regular bedtime routine, but in recent weeks that has become distorted and more and more I have been the only one of the pair of us enjoying all that our art offers, including crucially the social aspect.

Therefore I was pleased she managed to make it out to Pettistree practice tonight where she was able to take part in another productive session that had as usual been preceded with a successful quarter-peal, which along with the 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Preston St Mary was one of two performances in the county recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile. Mrs Munnings topped her night out with a drink at The Greyhound. A non-alcoholic drink of course. Another thing Ruthie has to 'suffer'. It is all entirely worth it give this wonderful process its best possible opportunity though.

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Tuesday 29th March 2016

Despite an early start to see off Mason with his grandparents for a couple of days away, the return to late shifts today didn't seem so bad with the change in clocks that we had this weekend which saw it still light when I eventually left the office, but it did make it difficult - as it always does - to make it out to any ringing in the evening, though Tuesday's are usually a night off anyway.

Not so for everybody of course and there was ringing at Buxhall at least, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor successfully rung on the 15cwt six, aided no doubt by having more light in which to ring!

Easter Monday 28th March 2016

Storm Katie blasted its way through the UK this morning, rattling our windows violently, rushing down our chimneys, testing the strength of the leaves appearing in the woodlands, bushes and hedgerows surrounding our besieged but sleepy abode, seeing a spate of events cancelled and John Ives decide not to open as planned. It gave Ruthie an unexpected day off which was a wonderful byproduct of the brutal climate, but such early decisions seemed premature as by lunchtime the forceful nature of the wind had faded to not much more than a stiff breeze and pretty pleasant afternoon.

The debilitating conditions were certainly long gone and of no hindrance to St Mary-le-Tower holding a practice tonight. For those towers who hone their skills regularly on a Monday night, bank holidays offer a dilemma. Regulars can often be away on such occasions or doing something that they wouldn't typically be doing on the first working day of the week. Alternatively, you may benefit from visiting ringers or those whose own Monday night session has been cancelled but still want to ring somewhere. SMLT's stance has long been to carry on as normal and it paid off tonight, with most of the usual attendees - including my parents who were fresh from the Debenham ringing outing to Cambridgeshire - complimented with a couple of visitors, including that of John Proudfoot from Carlisle who is a face familiar to many within Suffolk. The second's backstroke caused much excitement and a varied repertoire ensured a productive and interesting evening, whilst elsewhere in the county a quarter-peal was rung at Horringer by our friends from the NDA, ensuring that the weather didn't completely stop play.

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Easter Sunday 27th March 2016

Refined by three peals, a quarter-peal and practice night in four days, it was time to put my ringing to good use this morning for one of - and arguably the - most important days of the Christian calendar as I took the boys to St Mary-le-Tower where the ringing was of an appropriately high standard for the occasion.

In keeping with yesterday's theme of maturing, these days I like to go to church on this day if I can, especially as the service at our usual location for such occasions of St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge is often an uplifting event with a packed church and so it was this time, with Kev the Rev his usual thoughtful but witty self, although there wasn't time to travel from the centre of Ipswich following our 9.30 finish at SMLT to make ringing upon the 25cwt eight upstairs.

Ruthie returned there later to again sing with the choir for evensong, by which point we had stuffed ourselves with chocolate Easter eggs and a staggering five quarter-peals had been rung in Suffolk. Two were rung for the Norwich Diocesan Association's Quarter-Peal Week at one of the towers in our county that fall within their boundaries, St Margaret in Lowestoft - one of Stedman Triples and one of Grandsire Triples, the former of which was Jo Asquith's first in the principle. Well done Jo!

Meanwhile, Buxhall Delight Minor was rung at Buxhall, more Grandsire Triples at Long Melford and Doubles at Pettistree on a busy day for the county's ringers after a busy few days of ringing for me.

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Holy Saturday 26th March 2016

Ten years and one day ago, when I was a lot younger and lot more immature, I woke up ahead of a peal to celebrate Stephen Pettman's fiftieth birthday with a sore head. As was usual for a time when I was footloose and fancyfree, pre-children, pre-Ringing Master and pre-blog, I had travelled down to Woodbridge from my then abode in Tunstall for Friday night drinks with my friends, but not made it back to the village that was and still is home to a lovely 7cwt gallery-ring of six and therefore 'rose' on the Saturday morning in a part of the town that I was unfamiliar with, having only moved to the area a few months earlier. A call to the birthday boy eventually got me to Grundisburgh to ring in the 5090 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus that was notable for significant firsts for now established twelve-bell ringers Rosemary and Katharine Hill and I imagine was a very decent effort, although I felt so poorly that I can't really recall. After 2hrs59mins of ringing, we all returned to the nearby market town for my first visit to the now extremely familiar Saffron Indian restaurant for a celebratory curry, before many of us reconvened in Liz and Stephen's then house in Mill View Close just round the corner for more booze before I got into a taxi back up the A1152 and B1069 to no doubt join my fellow villagers in The Green Man.

Mercifully, a vast amount has changed since then. I enjoyed the lifestyle at the time and like everything else that has gone before now, I wouldn't change it, as whether I regret it or not it has brought me to this very happy point. I look back and cringe at much and can't say I'm awfully proud of a lot of what happened, but I'd like to think I have matured and now approach life from a very different perspective. My preparations a decade on for SDP's sixtieth were more - indeed entirely - sober and I got out of bed in our family home of more than two years and went through the joyful routine of readying Mason and Alfie for the day ahead prior to arriving at a venue that now has a heavier tenor than back then and is less used to twelve-bell peals (whilst this morning's success was the first on all the bells for more than two years, the aforementioned performance in 2006 was the first of six on twelve rung that year) well in time. Though admittedly fresher in the memory than that peal 3,654 sleeps ago, I feel confident that God willing I will remember more about today's 5060 of Grandsire Cinques, a decent 3hrs11mins that was a particular achievement for those less used to ringing on twelve let alone peals on twelve.

Stephen Pettman speaks at his celebratory curry at Bombay Nite.Apart from the conductor and myself, only Brian Whiting and my now mother-in-law Kate Eagle rang in both and another sign of the changing times was the absence of Ruthie from today's performance. In 2006, she was the leading peal-ringer for the Suffolk Guild, but since then, university (with at times an excessive workload), years of weekend working with Boots, choir commitments, parenthood and pregnancy has reduced her peal-ringing to nothing for the last couple of years, bar our lost attempt at Bristol Surprise Major for Alfie's first birthday last year.  This afternoon, having looked after the boys as I rang, she was committed to practising for tomorrow's services at St Mary-the-Virgin in the town that we are now resident in and so I collected them to accompany me to another celebratory curry, though in another shift in circumstances, we were at Bombay Nite - via a brief gathering in the Half Moon down the road - in Walton, near to the Pettman's current Felixstowe abode. As with the celebrations of Stephen leaving his forties ten years ago, a jolly few hours was passed with friends, the afternoon being topped off by Mr P doing a humorous and at times touching introduction of those gathered there. It was a well-deserved celebration of a significant landmark for this two-times former Ringing Master of the SGR, who has done an immense amount for the organisation.

Someone else who has done much for the Guild is North-West District Chairman David Steed, who enjoyed his own landmark today by ringing his 1,400th quarter-peal with a 1260 of Doubles at Great Finborough. Many of those QP's have been to the benefit of the county's ringers and got some rarely rung bells within our borders. Congratulations David!

And of course Happy Sixtieth Birthday to Stephen Pettman. I'm sure many went on to his and Liz's for post-curry refreshments as they did ten years ago, but I wasn't one of them as I returned home to have a quiet evening in with the family. Just the way I like it these days.

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Good Friday 25th March 2016

We are fortunate that the calendar throws up a number of ringing events over the course of the year that since I returned to Suffolk a decade ago have been annual highlights. The Pettistree Dinner and outings, the first of which we have already enjoyed almost a month ago at The Greyhound. The Guild AGM at Hadleigh in a few days that is so important not just for the small matter of electing a new Ringing Master but for the social aspect that I spoke of yesterday. The St Mary-le-Tower Spring Dinner and Christmas Curry that offer the opportunity for us to get-together away from the high-intensity that comes with a ringing environment that draws people from long distances on a weekly basis to improve their ten and twelve-bell ringing. The District and Guild Striking Competitions, which in our case is for the South-East at - I understand - Bredfield on Saturday 7th May and then for the SGR two weeks later as this year's hosts the North-East District take us to the wonderful coastal locations of Reydon and Southwold. The Offton BBQ at Brian and Peta Whiting's beautiful idyllic rural home for which our presence may well depend upon how and when our son is born, with his due date being only a week beforehand. The SE's Quarter-Peal evening in August and then it's ADM in December.

The Good Friday Peal Day at The Wolery is another such occasion that I look forward to with much anticipation. Although Ruthie's singing commitments with Woodbridge St Mary's choir on a busy weekend for them means that these days she is unable to participate, this is still normally a pleasant day out, peal-ringing at its most civilised and today was no different.  A 5024 of Eastwood Surprise Major and then a 5040 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major were duly dispatched with little trouble, with the latter in particular an extremely enjoyable effort. In between we were treated - as we are every year - to a wonderful lunch and then afterwards with doughnuts. Nice as well to have a rare ring with George Thoday - very fresh from his holiday in Portugal - and Alan Mayle and to see Mick Edwards looking well. It is also a day that Mason looks forward to as he gets to play with his contemporary Henry, which saw them playing computer games and going down the park whilst we rang.

There were other successes within our borders today, but with many church bells still out of bounds for this week, it is not surprising that those successes were on handbells and another mini-ring, with a 5040 in Bacton and 1260 of Plain Bob Minor on The Vestey Ring - the Guild's mini-ring - in its temporary home in Halesworth. Congratulations to Jeremy and Cherril Spiller on the four hundredth peal being rung in their abode in the former and well done to Matthew Rolph on ringing his first on a mini-ring in the latter.

Meanwhile, many thanks from my eldest son and me to the Salter family for their magnificent hosting and for providing a real highlight of 2016 thus far!

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Maundy Thursday 24th March 2016

For a brief period this afternoon, we at John Catt Educational were without internet access. Typically it would be a cause for annoyance and frustration, but if it is going to happen then post-lunch on Maundy Thursday when schools have closed down for the long weekend and indeed for the holidays and therefore not answering calls or emails anyway is the ideal time. And by the nature of our business we have plenty of superb reading material.

During our electronic downtime, I found myself reading one of our best, the 2016 Which School? Guide. Apart from ourselves, it's mainly of interest to parents looking for public schools to send their children or teachers searching for somewhere to work, but even if you fall into neither of those categories it is a fascinating insight into independent education. Primarily it features schools promoting and showcasing themselves through eye-catching profiles, but we do also allow those places of learning to write editorial on subjects that will be of interest to our readership. One such article by Walhampton Prep School's Headmaster Titus Mills caught my eye because it could just as much be applied to the Suffolk Guild AGM. It asks what the point of the school assembly is. Much like the ringer's meeting, the notion of an assembly could be questioned and presumably as the author felt it necessary to write this piece it has been. Like most things in modern society, communication is quick, easy and instant in schools. They all have websites and the majority have Twitter feeds and Facebook pages that are used by the educators, mothers, fathers and even older students of the institutions. Much like the SGR's annual showpiece event, a gathering of those involved at the same time in the same place may seem somewhat antiquated.

However, for me one paragraph in particular sums up why it is still important in this day and age to have a Guild AGM.

It is a missed opportunity if an assembly is simply reduced to a series of notices and admin. Whether part of a faith school, or not, assemblies provide a fantastic opportunity to build a strong sense of community. They help reinforce a school’s ethos, its values and its mission statement. They help develop identity - so often the hallmark of a strong school. This is who we are. This is what we stand for. When I deliver an assembly, I am talking as much to the staff, as I am to the children. We’re all in this together. We all belong to something with a common purpose. Let’s be clear about that.

Adapt that to a Suffolk Guild perspective and the sentiments are the same. At our AGM at Hadleigh on Saturday 2nd April, there will be notices and admin I'm sure, but God willing it will also help build a togetherness throughout ringing in our county, reinforce our ethos, values and 'mission statement'. Arguably on a day-to-day basis ringing is best served by smaller groups, whether that is a band at a tower or a collection of towers as demonstrated by a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major at Halesworth this evening, but my belief is that ringing within our borders would be stronger and better if we pull together (not in an literal sense of course!), especially with our expertise and sheer numbers, but also in regards to maintenance, financial support and networking. So please do come along and help us to achieve that.

We were quickly up and running again in the office, but soon enough the long Easter weekend had arrived, four days to be spent with family and friends and in our case a dog as in addition to collecting Mason we also took delivery of Sasha, one of the canine companions of Ruthie's sister Clare and her family whilst they go on holiday. I'm sensing there won't be an opportunity to do much reading over the next few days...

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Wednesday 23rd March 2016

Daffodils have been out since before Christmas in many places, temperatures have been milder than some summer days of the past (the wet, cold 'summer' of 2012 springs to mind in particular) and bar a couple of brief flurries there has been almost as much chance of snow in East Timor as in East Anglia in recent times. Yet for me, March still represents an uplifting gateway from the dark winter months into spring and it's longer, warmer days. Even this year the changing of the seasons is apparent, with the hedgerows and trees of our rural county filling out increasingly with fresh green leaves in their infancy, the spring equinox has passed and the clocks go forward one hour in the early hours of this Sunday (so those going ringing for morning service make sure you're not an hour late as has often happened before!), which will deprive us of an hour's sleep but push daylight an hour further into the evening. Therefore, I consider this month a delight...

Appropriately enough and after grabbing some sausage and chips from The Flaming Fryer in Wickham Market we arrived at Pettistree for the pre-practice quarter-peal in daylight for me to partake in a 1320 of March Delight Minor. It was a delight to ring in too, as once I had realised that the place notation at the half-lead was 56 and not 36 - having learnt the method as Bourne/Hull Surprise below and Kent Treble Bob above - we rang it practically faultlessly until Mike Whitby called "that's all" at the required moment.

After an afternoon spent with his mother, cousins Katelynn and Annalise and Aunty Clare, Alfie had had a very late afternoon nap which encouraged us to embark upon a little family outing to St Peter and St Paul and so we were met by my wife and youngest son after they had played in the church throughout the duration of our QP, before enjoying a rare opportunity to enjoy a practice night together, something this ground-floor ringing chamber, open church and it's wide selection of toys is ideal for, even if it was chillier inside than out!

We returned early enough to get Alfred to bed at a reasonable hour and take in the latest edition of Awl a'huld. Although now that Mrs Munnings is no longer South-East District Secretary we aren't surrounded by copies to export around the District, the wonders of modern technology mean we can read it online through this very website. Once again Richard Gates and Sue Freeman have produced another brilliant magazine with varied content. Further details of the Guild AGM at Hadleigh on Saturday 2nd April - another sign of spring - sits alongside Roger Coley's memories of learning to ring, Kevin Ward's trip to Australia, the peregrines of Lavenham, a bit on the Young Ringers and Lucy Williamson's account of university ringing in York, amongst much, much else. The last two pieces are welcome examples of the youthful element of our art and a timely reminder that the aforementioned YR's will be holding an outing in Ipswich on Thursday 31st March - please find out more from What's On and 01359 251896, and help out our youngsters. Even better, if you are a ringing youngster or know a ringing youngster, then bring yourself and/or them along!

It will be a fine way to finish March.

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Tuesday 22nd March 2016

Having awoken to the terrible but all too familiar news of bombings, shootings and deaths on the streets of another European city, it was lovely to take the afternoon off work to attend Mason's school production of Little Red Riding Hood, entitled for this occasion as Wicked Wolves and Terrible Twits and inspired by the works of Roald Dahl whose birth was one hundred years ago - September 13th to be precise, for all of those looking for a footnote to peals or quarter-peals on that day - and who my son and his contemporaries have been learning about over the last few weeks.

There was no ringing for us today as indeed there wasn't at The Norman Tower or Offton unlike most Tuesdays as it is Holy Week, but it is worth noting that Grundisburgh will be practising on Maundy Thursday from the usual time of 7.30-9pm.

For today though, the highlight was the eldest's moment in the limelight. He carried out his part magnificently in a wonderful performance and although I've long been dubious of the feelgood factor of a story of cannibalism, wolf-shooting and stalking, it was a nice bit of escapism for any day, but especially today.

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Monday 21st March 2016

I don't expect the public noticed, but there were no bells ringing out across Ipswich tonight as the weekly Monday practice at St Mary-le-Tower was cancelled for Holy Week as it usually is, which meant a night in at home, but that didn't mean nothing ringing-related occurred.

Suzanne Stevens very kindly put an article from the Telegraph entitled 'Doctor's Diary' onto the Suffolk Guild Facebook page which amongst much highlights the health benefits of bellringing, such as improvements to one's coordination, muscle endurance, cardiovascular fitness, back pain and even in preventing lymphedema following breast cancer surgery. Imagine how much harm not ringing tonight did to our health!

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Sunday 20th March 2016

The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra are playing to a large crowd and are partway through Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 85 in B flat when a man walks in, interrupts them and asks when they'll be finished. The Choir of King's College in Cambridge are in full flow singing Gregorio Allegri's Miserere Mei Deus as a woman clatters in and tells them they have to be finished in the next five minutes. It simply wouldn't happen.

So why do people think it is acceptable to barge in - however politely - on a piece of ringing and start asking questions of those partaking? As a reasonable half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was ringing out across Ipswich at this evening's special practice at St Mary-le-Tower though, someone felt it necessary to open the noisy door into the ringing chamber and drag Mike Whitby from his duty of watching over Peter Davies to inform him that we would need to be finished by five-to-six in readiness for a concert starting in the church at six. Of course the promising ringing collapsed in a heap with Peter particularly and understandably distracted by the conversation being undertaken just behind him as he tried to concentrate on something he wasn't one hundred-percent confident of, though he wasn't the only one thrown by the entrance of our unexpected visitor. It wasn't as if we didn't know about the event curtailing our activities which would otherwise have run until half-six either. Granted we had missed that it was happening despite it being on a handy list of services being held over the Easter period that is sat on the table in the middle of the rope circle, but Ringing Master David Potts had been informed on the way and Ruthie and I helpfully accosted prior to climbing the stairs, so we were already well aware of it.

Still, despite the shorter period of time at our disposal and the sabotaged Yorkshire Max, we fitted in some reasonable London (No.3) Surprise Royal and Stedman Cinques and it remained a useful fifty-five minute session, especially as tomorrow night sees a break from the weekly practices for the annual Holy Week silence and spring clean. It is one of a number of practices cancelled this week, with no practices as far as I'm aware at The Norman Tower or Offton on Tuesday night, though there will be one at Pettistree as usual on Wednesday. Hopefully towers will take the opportunity to put any changes on the Guild's Facebook page, but if they don't it is worth checking before setting off for a tower - or indeed not setting out for a tower!

Wherever is silent, there was definitely not silence at Buxhall, Hollesley and St Margaret's in Ipswich today as quarter-peals of Grandsire Doubles, Plain Bob Minor and five Doubles methods were rung respectively. Well done to Jenny Lloyd on ringing her first of Minor inside in the middle success! And whilst half-muffled for Lent, the front six at Woodbridge weren't quiet this morning for this Palm Sunday as with the boys watching on I contributed to some call-changes and some well-rung Stedman Doubles before we went downstairs to attend the service and Sunday school where Alfie appeared again, brandishing a homemade palm branch with unintentional viciousness!

In between that and our lively get-together at SMLT, we were very kindly treated to dinner at my parent's abode and enjoyed a relaxed afternoon at my childhood home in the suburbs of Suffolk's county town. Whilst there I couldn't help having a quick read of The Ringing World, especially with it's future and content a particularly 'hot' topic. There were some articles of interest that I haven't come across online, such as the report on the Saint Paul's Cathedral Guild's trip to Dordrecht last month, although even then I - and the rest of the world - was able to note the successes on BellBoard and Campanophile almost as they happened and viewed photos on social media and even watched video on YouTube from their adventures in the Netherlands weeks ago. I've said before that I would be sad to see it go, but there was still nothing that I read that would persuade me to subscribe to it. In our laid-back surroundings, Mason and Alfred occupying themselves and their grandparents satisfactorily, it was pleasant enough to catch-up on the publication, as well as read a bit more of the Cumberland Youth's 2015 Newsletter where ringers from within our borders feature positively in the 'Anniversaries of membership' section. Congratulations to Joan Garrett from Bury St Edmunds on twenty-five years since her election, Richard Knight of Poslingford and my mother on forty years, Kevin Hohl from Offton on fifty years and most impressively George Fry of Tunstall on sixty years of being a member of one of the elite societies. Thank you to my Mum and Dad on their hospitality!

We eventually settled in for an evening in back in our cosy house as the boys slept through an extremely loud and busy fireworks display nearby. It wasn't interrupted...

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Saturday 19th March 2016

It was yet another depressing afternoon to be an Ipswich Town fan to join the many others from the last fourteen years, as a performance so bad even Mick McCarthy admitted it coupled with a 1-0 home loss to Rotherham United almost certainly means there will be no promotion for my favourite team this season. There was hope for all teams of our size though, as Leicester City went eight points clear at the top of the Premier League that I would be delighted for the Tractor Boys to merely be in, showing what can be achieved if things are done right.

Similarly, Ipswich's twelve-bell centre St Mary-le-Tower are some way off partaking in the National Twelve-Bell Contest (though unlike the town's football team, I believe we are going in the right direction), but can draw inspiration from some of the teams taking part in the eliminators of the competition today at Amersham, High Wycombe and Reading. Bands from areas not too dissimilar in geography and circumstances. Competitors such as Birmingham, Cambridge, the College Youths, Cumberlands and Bristol clearly benefit from large populations and/or some of the best and smartest workers and/or students coming to them and all qualified for the final at Aston on Saturday 25th June as largely expected. Exeter though have the same handicap - in this respect - to us, being as much out on a limb from the main centres of UK ringing geographically as we are and with a set of bells more than twice the size and yet booked their place amongst the nine due to metaphorically battle it out for the Taylor Trophy in ninety-seven days time. As are Worcester, Melbourne and Guildford - the latter of whom impressively pipped two former champions St Paul's Cathedral and York to a top-three place in the toughest looking group - who to a lesser degree could also suffer in comparison to the aforementioned 'big boys' in terms of size of the pool of ringers, opportunities and location and show us what can be achieved at SMLT if we get things right.

Congratulations to those who won through to the showpiece event in the summer, especially those with Suffolk connections like Philip Wilding ringing for Cambridge and Molly Waterson for Bristol, whilst commiserations to those who missed out such as our neighbours and friends from Norwich and Louis Suggett who was partaking for Macclesfield.

Whilst a couple of handbell peals were rung in Bacton of fourteen and nineteen Surprise Minor methods, in keeping with recent entries, Ruthie and I were following events in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire online on another quiet day that was nonetheless quality time spent with the boys. Apart from having to listen to the football that is.

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Friday 18th March 2016

Ironically for this digital medium, it was the printed word which caught the eye today.

The Cumberland Youth's annual newsletter is out and whilst I am of the College Youths persuasion, this publication always holds my attention when I see it, reading up on what my Cumberland friends (which round here is most of them!) are up to, but even before you look inside this year's magazine, the cover grabbed my interest as it features a distinctly Suffolk flavour in the photos that adorn it. Bardwell ringer and Young Ringers' Co-ordinator Ruth Suggett can be seen collecting her membership certificate from Alan Regin, whilst Offton tower captain Brian Whiting, South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey and his wife and fellow Sproughton ringer Tessa are snapped at last year's Triennial Dinner at Norwich, appropriately enough standing with Essex ringers with strong connections to our county, Gill and David Sparling.

As you would expect, the four resident members also appear in the brand new, yellow Suffolk Guild Annual Report which we received this morning and spent much of the day outside of work reading. I am full of admiration for anyone taking on the role of Report Editor because to this outsider it seems a logistical nightmare, gathering reports from officers across the county, stats, figures and dates, most of it over a relatively short timeframe between the end of the year and well ahead of the AGM. Michelle Williams is to be congratulated this year in particular on getting it out in plenty of time for this year's showpiece event, which falls much earlier than usual due to the early Easter and on her debut edition! She is also the first to thank the many people that have her put it together, so well done to all concerned! It looks great, with a layout evolving as the Guild and the way it stays in touch evolves.

It is the last one that Ruthie and I are planning on contributing to for the time being, with my wife's report being almost her final act as SE District Secretary and my time as PRO due to finish at the main event at Hadleigh on Saturday 2nd April and of course it was Jed Flatters' final write-up as Ringing Master - it will be interesting to find out who will be writing next year's report. Thank you to Chairman Alan Stanley for his kind words in his foreword and Chris Garner for his mention of the blog in his Webmaster's report, though it was Christine Knight's words as Peal Secretary that I thought rang most true. She is absolutely correct that the annual peal total is not the only indicator of the Guild's health, but that the more members partaking in regular peal-ringing will help raise the standards of ringing throughout the county, which includes on Sunday mornings.

They are wise words in a good - printed - read.

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Thursday 17th March 2016

Aptly following yesterday's blog entry, it was an extremely quiet day on a personal front, but there was still ringing to report in Suffolk with a 1296 of Surprise Minor rung at Tostock.

Therefore it is worth mentioning events forthcoming, such as the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday night and the Halesworth Triples/Major Practice on the evening of Tuesday 29th, whilst it is worth reiterating the availability of The Vestey Ring over Holy Week if you contact Tel. 01986 875354.

Even if today's blog isn't that interesting, hopefully future entries will be!

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Wednesday 16th March 2016

I am due to finish as PRO at the Guild AGM at Hadleigh on Saturday 2nd April, thus ending ten straight years of being a Suffolk Guild officer and I am likely to be faced with a decision on whether to continue writing this blog. Much as I enjoy it tremendously and anecdotally it seems an increasing number are reading it, I'm aware that due to our happy circumstances as full-time parents that it must be becoming quite a dull read at times. We still ring more than many, typically attending a couple of practices a week, Sunday morning ringing at four different towers, quarters, peals and various ringing events, but there is much it is impractical for us to get involved in currently and report on from a personal ringing perspective.

However, I am delighted on this occasion to write a perfectly boring post, as we attended our latest midwife's appointment to find that thus far everything seems as it should be. Alfie listened on as his little brother's heartbeat rang out across midwife Beth's room, tests were passed without any signs of anything untoward and questions answered by Ruthie without the questioner even so much as raising an eyebrow, let alone an issue. God willing, the remaining three or four months of my wife's pregnancy will continue in much the same, uninteresting style.

If I am to carry on with this blog though, I'm hoping our ringing might be of more interest to read than tonight's as neither of us made it out to Pettistree. Mrs Munnings had been due to pop along, but alas a combination of the aches, pains and tiredness that one may expect her to be experiencing in her condition and her feeling a bit under the weather anyway meant she sensibly elected to stay in and having left her for an evening on Monday it didn't feel entirely fair to abandon her to putting Alfred to bed on her own again.

Not that they seemed to miss us at the ground-floor six as the pre-practice quarter was successfully rung, but it wasn't the only QP of the day within our borders, with Brian Whiting conducting two 1280's of Surprise Major - one of Bristol on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower and earlier at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland. All of which made today's blog a bit more interesting than the otherwise dull entry I'm glad to say it was!

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Tuesday 15th March 2016

There is a proposal to set Easter to a particular date, currently being discussed by various Christian denominations. For now though, we have to keep our wits about us and be prepared for it to come anytime from late April to late March. This year it falls pretty much as early as it can, with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday easing their way into the end of next week, which means that it will also be Holy Week. The biggest impact that will have on ringing is that many practices will be cancelled or moved elsewhere, whilst many towers will continue as normal, where services allow as the annual debate about whether to hold to the tradition of silence at the conclusion of Lent predictably raises its head.

Whatever one's thoughts, it will pay to check before you go out to a session or think you haven't got to go to one in a week's time. At last night's weekly gathering at St Mary-le-Tower we were reminded that next Monday will see the yearly spring-clean rather than the opportunity to hone our skills on higher numbers, though ringing for the morning service on this forthcoming Sabbath - Palm Sunday - will be held at its usual time of 8.45-9.30am, which hasn't always been the case in the past, whilst it is hoped to hold a practice on the evening of Easter Monday. The Norman Tower is - so I understand - holding a social event for its ringers in seven days time rather than its usual training, but Sproughton and Pettistree are still planning on holding their practices on Wednesday 23rd.

The Easter weekend itself will see extra services, ringing at different times and extra chances to ring on outings and the like - once again, please check to avoid disappointment!

And as is typical with every year, the Saturday after Easter sees the Suffolk Guild hold its AGM. This - as most will know - rotates around the four Districts of the Guild and 2016 sees the SGR's showpiece event hosted by the South-West at Hadleigh. God willing, there will be much going on over the course of the afternoon and evening, including a raffle for our Young Ringers that will hopefully be supported by a huge turnout buying tickets and voting in a new PR Officer and Ringing Master - please, please come along and support it if you can.

This early Easter also means that the eliminators for the National Twelve-Bell Final that would normally have been held on the fourth weekend of March have been pushed forward to this Saturday on the twelves at Amersham, High Wycombe and Reading. Following last year's breaking of Birmingham's domination in the competition it will be an intriguing contest with the main event due to be held on bells familiar to them at Aston on Saturday 25th June. First though, the twenty-four teams entered into this weekend's semi-finals will have to be whittled down to nine, with the top three from each group qualifying and it will be interesting to see who makes it, with two teams making their debuts this year, thus introducing a little of the unknown to proceedings that have often proved to be unpredictable down the years.

One of those debutants are the hosts at the first venue, but they will have their work cut-out in a draw that includes the twenty-one times winners from the UK's second city, who one would expect to qualify along with another of the favourites Cambridge. Depending on how they fare on their own bells though, they may surprise most by settling into a third spot that Exeter, Oxford or Towcester otherwise might expect to grab and I suspect will anyway, though don't entirely discount Southwark or the University of London Society who have both been improving on their placings over the last couple of years.

Other contest 'virgins' Walsall will also offer unpredictability and whilst they won't have the benefit of ringing on their own bells like Amersham, having been drawn at Reading, they are arguably - with all due respect to their fellow competitors - in the easiest of the selections, with not a single former winner in amongst them on the 21cwt twelve at St Laurence. That's not to say there aren't good bands in there. Regular finalists Bristol, Leeds and Melbourne appear to be favourites here, but will face stiff competition from Worcester which is home to a thriving young centre of ringing led by Mark Regan and of course our near neighbours Norwich, with many of our members having experienced first hand on Monday nights the excellence on show at St Peter Mancroft. The hosts may use home advantage to their benefit and prove to be dark horses, but it is hard to see either them or Macclesfield being in Brum in a competitive capacity in three months time.

However, the hardest group to call is the High Wycombe one, where four past champions could be considered favourites for the three places on offer, with St Paul's Cathedral, the Cumberland Youths and York metaphorically battling it out with current holders the College Youths, before we even consider the not inconsiderable pedigree of Guildford and the hosts. It will be hard for outsiders Hursley and Liverpool to sneak through, but in a year when Leicester City could win the Premier League, then who knows...

With no District or Guild events on in Suffolk, I would suggest those who are in a position to do so to pop along to these destinations not too far away and watch it unfold.

There was plenty going on within our borders today though and it featured some ringers who will be pencilled in to ring in the aforementioned eliminators, especially the peals of London and Gippeswyck Surprise Major at Coddenham and Henley respectively. There were plenty of quarter-peals too, again by a band of visitors, though ones more regular to our shores. Well done to Alison Daniels and Janet Garnett on ringing their first of Felkirk Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 at Barking and of St Albans Delight Minor in the 1296 at Wetherden and along with Katie Wright on their first of Norcroft Treble Bob Minor and Braintree Delight Minor in the successes at Earl Stonham and Great Finborough respectively.

Our bells will need the week off to recover!

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Monday 14th March 2016

St Mary-le-Tower's ringing chamber has played host to many different nationalities over the years. American, Australian, Italian, Polish. Heck, even people from Norfolk. Tonight we welcomed a group of Belgian students on an exchange with Colchester Institute who are involved with designing some kind of software that is something to do with banking, as explained with enthusiasm by George Vant, the man responsible for their being at SMLT this evening.

Even discounting their presence, we had an attendance brought together by ringing from across a wide area. There was the usual gratefully-received help from Stephen Cheek, Ian Culham and the aforementioned Monsieur Vant from Essex and Julian Colman and Mandy Shedden from Bury St Edmunds way, the latter of whom was fresh from a marvellous interview as Lesley Dolphin's 'sofa guest' on BBC Radio Suffolk, with our art getting some more excellent exposure to a wide audience. Well done Mandy!

But we also had visits from Bedfordshire's Stephen Stanford who accompanied his brother and Clopton Ringing Master David and also Lucy Williamson, back from York for the Easter holidays, bringing her parents Jonathan and Sue along. Once again her progress since I last rang with her on her previous trip home has been impressive as she partook in London (No.3) Surprise Royal and Stedman Cinques on a night that was also climaxed with a decent few leads of Newgate Surprise Maximus, but also included call-changes on ten and Little Bob Royal as David Potts did a tremendous job of keeping the large crowd happy. Wherever they'd come from.

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Sunday 13th March 2016

Amongst the plethora of impressive but largely everyday achievements recorded on BellBoard and the revitalised Campanophile, the occasional truly remarkable performance stands out. Today there are two.

One comes from the capital, where twenty-four Major methods were rung spliced at Garlickhythe. Top stuff in its own right, but what was special about this peal was that each lead for every bell - including the treble - was entirely different and it is believed to be the first time such a peal has been rung.
On any other day this would be streaking far ahead on the leaderboard of the aforementioned BB, but quite rightly vying for top spot with the incredible efforts of the College Youths in London are the band who rang one-hundred-and-twenty-six Surprise Royal methods spliced at Ecclesfield in South Yorkshire. Both successes seem light years away from what the rest of us are doing, but many of those reading this will have rung with someone from these two bands or the bands that produce staggering performances increasingly frequently. They are immensely intelligent and talented ringers, but they have been given or created opportunities to progress and taken advantage of the endless possibilities that our art offers and that is something that is open to all willing and able to make the most of our hobby.

There were Suffolk ringers doing just that today with a quarter-peal of Doubles at Great Finborough and a peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six at Aldeburgh, whilst - as Ruthie rested from singing in the choir feeling poorly -I like to think that I was at least maintaining what skills I might currently have with a decent morning's ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, the latter of which saw Mason do likewise, hopefully sowing the seeds for a future concerted effort at the pastime that has given me so much.

Nothing quite as spectacular as those peals at Garlickhythe and Ecclesfield though!

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Saturday 12th March 2016

This weekend sees an abundance of birthdays being celebrated in ringing circles as highlighted by the peal rung at Chapel Allerton in West Yorkshire by a band who were all celebrating the anniversary of their births today, including Suffolk's very own David Salter and Kathy and Penny Thorley, daughters of former Guild Ringing Master Martin.

As impressed and delighted as I was to read of that success, it is tomorrow's birthday of former ringer, brother of my father Alan and therefore my Aunty Marion that was the focus for the boys and me on this day, whilst Ruthie went to work. We three popped round to drop off a card and our felicitations, coincidentally at the same time as my brother Chris who was doing likewise. Despite no longer being an active ringer, she was as ever interested in the local going-ons in local ringing, whilst Alfie and Mason were lively but generally well-behaved, this week's copy of The Ringing World sat on the side already well-read.

She isn't online, so she will have to wait a few weeks to read of today's exploits on the county's bells, which included a 5040 of Bristol Maximus at The Norman Tower by some familiar faces from the St Martin's Guild, but also a quarter-peal at Buxhall which was the first blows of Birkenhead Mollington Street Bob Minor (what have they been doing not to have rung that yet?) for the entire band - well done all!

However, I was particularly pleased to see Louis Suggett successfully ring a peal to mark the tenth anniversary of his first peal, which was Plain Bob Minor on the third at Barrow, as was today's effort. Louis has built himself a tremendous reputation nationally, becoming an accepted member of those lucky enough to be regularly ringing peals of quality and complexity across the country and has called several of them, whilst his compositions are frequently rung throughout the UK, with his most impressive to my mind being his 5152 of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods, which was rung at the beginning of last year at St Paul's in Birmingham. It is primarily his considerable skill and ability that has seen him reach these levels, yet he has always remembered his roots and was keen that this peal would recognise the influence that Suffolk and its ringers have had in helping him reach the heights he has, most particularly the likes of Maurice Rose who conducted today's success and his debut and of his mother Ruth who was ringing her one hundredth peal. Congratulations to both the Suggetts!

And Happy Birthday to Aunty Marion, David Salter and the many other ringers celebrating aging another year this weekend!

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Friday 11th March 2016

Many thanks to Past Chairman of the Guild and current North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod on bringing to my attention the remarkable seventy-two year age-gap between Matthew Rolph and Don Price in the quarter-peal rung at Halesworth six days ago. What other similarly active hobby can claim such a wide range of ages between its participants?

The Vestey Ring.In the same email he also mentions that over the whole of Holy Week he will have The Vestey Ring at his Halesworth home and would be delighted for those deprived their usual dose of ringing during this traditional silent week for many towers to bring a band along. Having partaken in the first peal on the bells in the same location I can confirm it is jolly good fun and would be more useful than just having a night off! Please get in touch with Philip, whose details can be found under 'Contacts' elsewhere on this very website.

Suffolk's bells were being used whilst they still could today, with a peal rung at Hartest being Neal Dodge's first of seven Minor, whilst the FNQPC rang a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Ashbocking, which was Mervyn Scase's first blows in the method. Well done Neal and Mervyn!

We meanwhile were extremely unadventurous in comparison, as Friday evening's usually are, though we briefly popped in to see Ruthie's Nan to deliver her birthday card following another early shift at work.

The pastime that allows us to ring with people of nearly all ages will have to wait for another day.

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Thursday 10th March 2016

As Alfie's full-time parents, one of us getting out for a single occasion in an evening is difficult enough. He has to be fed, regularly bathed and put to bed just at the time when we would've been preparing to and then going out before he was born. Occasionally Mondays at St Mary-le-Tower and Wednesdays at Pettistree have been missed as time simply gets away from us. But Thursdays have been the hardest to make it out to ringing, whether that be at Grundisburgh or for the Surprise Major practices at Ufford as Ruthie goes to choir practice until after 8pm. Back in the day on evenings like this I would go to the 'Cosy Nostril' sessions upon the 13cwt eight at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and my wife would arrive with mother Kate after singing, but that isn't practical these days and so it was tonight.

It is entirely worth it of course as Alfred continues to grow, learn and entertain and the alternative of a night in with Mrs Munnings isn't a bad way to pass the time!

Other ringers without the responsibility of children were busier within our borders though, as two peals were rung for the Suffolk Guild. Well done to Neal Dodge on ringing his twenty-fifth for the SGR in the 5040 of Doubles at Great Livermere, which he quickly followed-up with a repeat performance at Whepstead. Wonderful to see and perhaps we could join in with Alfred when he is old enough to come with us!

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Wednesday 9th March 2015

We didn't lose the peal at The Wolery in the last few changes. In fact we scored an extremely good 5184 of Aswarby Surprise Major and apart from a brief period when the ringing inexplicably slowed down and become less free-flowing, we set off with purpose and just got on with it, with what few mistakes there were instantly corrected and done with the ringing barely missing a beat. Highly enjoyable stuff and a nice way to welcome David and Katharine's great niece Olivia to the world, just in case there weren't enough mid-March birthdays in their family!

Ours wasn't the only Suffolk success recorded online today as after a two-day hiatus following thirteen consecutive days of quarter-peal ringing within our borders, the QP ringers of the county were back with another brace of ringing triumphs as a 1320 of Sandiacre Surprise Minor was rung prior to Pettistree's weekly practice and a 1260 of Derby Etches Park Bob Minor was rung at Preston St Mary. Well done to all the entire band in the latter as they rang their first in the method. And well done to Julia Brown on ringing her first quarter away from cover in the Plain Bob Doubles at Theberton on Saturday but not put online until yesterday.

I'm glad there were no last-minute losses there or in Ipswich tonight!

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Tuesday 8th March 2016

I've lost peals very close to the end and others even closer. But tonight's late capitulation to bottom club Bolton Wanderers by Ipswich Town felt a little like a band of Surprise Maximus ringers losing a peal of Plain Bob Minor in the 5,039th change because one of the band started going in the wrong direction, broke the stay trying to retrieve the situation and then took out their colleagues either side of them. If it wasn't so frustrating it would be hilarious.

It came at the end of a long, long day that began with going to work in the dark on another week of early shifts and so the full-time whistle moments after the Tractor Boy's 2-0 lead had become 2-2 seemed a good time to have a rant to at a bemused Ruthie and go to bed.

Hopefully we don't lose our peal at The Wolery tomorrow in the last few changes...

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Monday 7th March 2016

Strange how something entirely unconnected to ringing can spark ringing memories. Such as the death of Bryan Knights. He was once a teacher at my primary school Dale Hall before I was born, let alone attended there and he is best known to those within the county for his reporting on local sports, but as ringing isn't a sport (yet!) I'm not aware he was in any way interested in our art. However, as the radio commentator for Ipswich Town matches in my youth, his voice was as familiar as that of John Girt, Maurice Rose, George Pipe, Trevor Hughes and others whose sage words I had the privilege of listening to at the many ringing events I was so fortunate to attend across Suffolk, as I tried to keep up with the Tractor Boys' fortunes outside churches and village halls. With the demise of the SE District Quarterly meetings, it hasn't been a great few days for my fondly held childhood memories.

The sound of St Mary-le-Tower remains much the same as from my early days of ringing, with the obvious exceptions of the fifth, ninth, tenth and eleventh newly hung for the Millennium. As I sat in the corner behind the tenor next to the band photos of years gone by, those back bells booming out and that sad news from earlier still fresh in the mind, there was quite a sense of nostalgia. This is very much a tower looking forward though. We were unfortunate not to ring Newgate Surprise Maximus tonight as we have done in recent weeks, in part due to David Potts' continued absence, but in his place Amanda Richmond led things in her usual energetic manner as a wide repertoire was still rung, from Little Bob Max to Erin Caters - and briefly Cinques -and Stedman Caters and Yorkshire and Swindon Surprise Royal on a largely positive night.

It was great to have visitors, ringing and non-ringing and to impart some words of 'wisdom' to Mandy Shedden ahead of her slot as Lesley Dolphin's sofa guest on BBC Radio Suffolk in a week's time - do listen out for it, as briefly she speaks across the airwaves as the late Bryan Knights once did.

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Sunday 6th March 2016

Motherhood. It is in so many respects an attitude. Not only it is possessed by biological mothers (but not all it has to be said), but by those who wish to be mothers but can't be, those who are stepmothers and Godmothers. And those who are sadly no longer here. They all deserve to be celebrated as so often they have made us what we are today and I hope that they all were on this Mothering Sunday.

I'd like to think they were in our family. The boys and I popped along to morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower which was being run by Amanda Richmond in the absence of David Potts and where we were able to deliver our cards to their Nana and my Mum in person before she and Dad went to Bury St Edmunds to be fed by my brother Chris and his wife Becky.

Ruthie was treated royally too, with breakfast in bed and presents delivered with great excitement and love by Mason as Alfie watched on in bemusement, before she was given flowers in church at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and we took her to a fry-up breakfast in the Whistle Stop Cafe. Such treatment was the very least she deserved for years of being a wonderful stepmum and now mother.

My eldest had returned to his mum's by the time we joined Ruthie's sister Clare and her family round at my mother-in-law's, where the two young mothers and us hangers-on were fed by their mother - thanks Kate!

The day was being celebrated aptly by ringers with the 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Lowestoft rung for the Mothering Sunday service and a 1274 of Surfleet Surprise Minor at Pettistree dedicated to local ringer and South-East District Magazine Correspondent Elaine Townsend's daughter becoming a mummy to Harry just in time!

Happy Mothering Sunday to her and all you mothers, in whatever form you come.

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Saturday 5th March 2016

Not often can I use a lyric from a Bob Dylan song to describe Suffolk ringing. But today it is apt. Not 'Ring them bells ye heathen from the city that dreams,' appropriate as that may seem. Rather 'the times they are a-changin'' in the South-East District as today the District - or rather the twenty or so that turned up - decided to cut the programme drastically, removing a number of practices and the Quarterly Meetings from the calendar at what transpired to be the last business meeting until December's ADM which it is obliged by the constitution to hold.

Ralph addresses the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Hollesley.Alfie offers some advice to the top table at the South-East District Quarterly Meeting at Hollesley.I am sad not just that the monthly opportunity for the District's membership to meet, socialise, learn and help has been lost, but that the quarterly gatherings that I have long been so fond of have essentially faded away. Not for the meeting itself, which is never going to be exciting though with the instant mass communication now available it has over the years become a shorter and shorter part of the day, though - as was rightly pointed out by some - it is still a chance for members to put forward in a formal setting what they want the District and Guild to be doing. However, the occasion that it should be and has been in the past is now going to be something reduced to that one Saturday at the end of the year. An occasion when large numbers of members of all abilities from towers from across the District can gather to eat, drink and importantly ring together in one of the many picturesque locations that I think far too many take for granted. For all that was on offer to a young ringing man in the West Midlands when I was there in a different lifetime, there was many a time that I longed to be transported from the grey, gloomy and often dangerous urban surroundings of that part of the world to somewhere like Hollesley, even in wet and wild conditions as there were in this village by the North Sea this afternoon, but it seems that too many others don't appreciate it.

And that is the problem. Far too many members simply aren't interested. Many can't make it at various times and that was recognised during today's debate that made today's meeting unusually drawn out. For all that some managed to fit this event in around other happenings in their lives - Micky McBurnie very kindly played the organ for the service before having to go to Snape to play, local ringers Clare Goodchild and her daughter Emma contributed to the pre-service ringing upon this marvelous 16cwt eight before going to a family commitment and Robert Scase joined us having cheered on Ipswich Town to a 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest at Portman Road - we like the other districts, other ringing organisations and indeed like most hobbies that demand a degree of dedication to enjoy to their potential have to realise that modern life places demands on people that far exceed that which our predecessors experienced even in my early days of ringing when I first fell in love with these gatherings, let alone decades ago when the traditional ringing tea and meeting were first set up as a means of keeping members up to date with the happenings of their guild, society or association. But beyond that are just as many - if not more - who consider their ringing is little more than something to do on a Sunday morning and on their practice night at a tower near them. They have no interest in progressing or getting involved in any ringing outside of their local ringing chamber and so they'll never be enticed to District events, whatever they do. It is frankly pointless officers spending much time, effort and even sometimes money in arranging the events, only for practically no one to turn-up.

Likewise with the practices in July and October that have been subject to some frankly embarrassing turnouts, which along with the quarterly meetings of March, June and September have suffered the chop. It makes sense to focus therefore on the events that do work, such as the January and February practices that for some reason attract decent crowds, the hugely popular Striking Competition in May, the Quarter-Peal Evening in August and Fortnight in the autumn and highly enjoyable outing in November and I hope now that we can get even bigger attendances at those.

This afternoon's final hurrah was - despite the importance of what was being decided - more of a whimper. About 10% of the membership shivered in the church - I've always been much keener on convening in a village hall - as the main business stretched out. Vital as it was, I could see why so many weren't lured out to the coast on this bracing late winter's day. But whilst much of the rest of the meeting was a recapping of what many already knew through this website, Facebook and Twitter, there were snippets of information I hadn't been aware of prior to our travels through the agenda. Such as the Guild AGM being at Hadleigh this year and the news that at St Matthew in our county town, Jonathan Williamson has begun teaching a band from the congregation, though not with the same numbers as he had to do last time! And the obituary to the immensely talented former Bredfield ringer John Pilgrim, written by George Pipe but read by my mother was something that wouldn't be the same in mere written form.

Of course such events aren't the only aspect of ringing to help progress one's standards. Quarter-peals have been coming through thick and fast within our borders over the last week-and-a-half and the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Halesworth this morning was the twenty-second in eleven days. Hopefully it's not a case that 'Time passes slowly' for those taking part!

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Friday 4th March 2016

It is twenty-one years since Ipswich Town lost 9-0 to Manchester United. Which also means it is twenty-one years since Iain and Jayne Mitchell - once ringers in the Wickham Market area but now of the Midlands - were married and as part of that, the peal rung the following day at Grundisburgh was put up on Facebook by the groom of the 4th March 1995 today. It brings back many memories. Mr Mitchell not being able to ring due to injuring his ankle a couple of days earlier in a masterful bit of timing. The name of Rodney French who last time I heard of him was ringing in Lincolnshire. And the general memory of the excitement of being a young lad ringing peals of Surprise Maximus on my doorstep and ringing new things.

My life is very different now of course and from a ringing perspective much less exciting, but others are still ringing things they have never rung before and there was the perfect example of that tonight as all of the band bar Tom Scase rang their first quarter-peal of Lightfoot Surprise Minor in the success for the FNQPC at Earl Stonham. Well done to the wife and husband Elizabeth and Stephen Christian and the conductor's Mum, Aunt and Dad Jenny, Tracey and Robert on their achievements. Perhaps in twenty-one years time they will look back on this with as much fondness as I do on that 5044 of Lincolnshire Max. Though more so than that 9-0 loss.

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Thursday 3rd March 2016

When your one-year-old son's favourite book character is Thomas the Tank Engine, how do you dress him up for World Book Day as his favourite book character? Ultimately we gave up considering ideas of funnel hats and cumbersome wheels and instead sent him dressed to the nines in a fraction of his Thomas regalia - there was no doubting who his favourite book character is!

Ruthie and I meanwhile went dressed up as a shop assistant from One Thursday at John Ives and I as Richard Munnings from A Salesman Calls. Our day was less exciting than his!

Meanwhile, well done to Andrea Alderton and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first quarter-peal of Hull Surprise Minor in the success at Tostock. Whether they did it whilst dressed as their favourite book characters, well you will have to ask them!

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Wednesday 2nd March 2016

When I'm on my late shifts at work, the combination of my evening finishes in the office, getting Alfie to bed and Ruthie's increasing size and the aches, pains and tiredness associated with her pregnancy makes getting out to practice nights more and more difficult. Neither of us managed to get out to St Mary-le-Tower on Monday and to be fair it was only geography that allowed me to make it to Pettistree tonight for a worthwhile period of time.

It was worth it though, as with a sizeable crowd huddled into the ground-floor ringing chamber around the heater, I partook in plenty of Surprise Minor, with courses of Bourne and Sandiacre and some Durham and York spliced, whilst I also called some Grandsire Doubles and rang in a short touch of Stedman and down at the climax of the session. Much of it very well rung - particularly the spliced Durham and York - and with a smile on participants faces, just as ringing should be done.

Beforehand the quarter-peal was dedicated to the marriage today of Mike Whitby's son James to Emma. Though not a ringer now, Jimmy has dabbled in the exercise, even ringing a couple of peals, so there are many Guild members who will wish this lovely couple all the best in their new life married together and I expect his father was chuffed to call today's effort for the occasion.

The 1250 of Norwich Surprise Minor wasn't the only success in Suffolk since the sun rose this morning, with an impressive 1280 changes of five Surprise Major methods spliced at Bardwell, as a busy week of quarter-pealing within our borders continues.

My evening out ended with the aforementioned Reverse Uppingham (ringing down before anyone looks up the place notation), as I sought to spend a bit of time with my wife after that rushed post-work return home. However, it also allowed both of us to enjoy various bits of online ringing titbits. Such as the great news of Past Master of the College Youths Andrew Wilby's tentative return to change-ringing with six changes of Plain Hunt on three on the bells at Taylor's Loughborough Bellfoundry, something that many feared may never happen following the horrendous-sounding accident he suffered towards the end of last year.

More bizarrely though, we stumbled across a You Tube video from someone called George Hancorn, who appears to post various videos on his YT channel doing all sorts of stuff and who stumbled across bellringing recently. The resulting piece filmed at St Mary's Redcliffe in Bristol is actually surprisingly good and has given ringing some rare 'cool' coverage. At first I thought it would take the micky out of our art, but actually it does seem to offer up a decent bite-size introduction to what we do, accompanied with doses of humour which some will find funny, even if others find it quite silly! Well worth a watch though, depending on how much time you have spare after work!

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Tuesday 1st March 2016

Two years is practically a lifetime in terms of how long we stay in a house, but we managed it today, with no immediate plans to move out!

Someone who has visited us more often than most in that time is Ruthie's long-time best friend, bridesmaid from our wedding and Godmother to Alfie, Fergie and so it seemed appropriate that her visit from Brighton allowed us to celebrate the anniversary with a curry for the three of us after she'd spent the afternoon walking with my wife and Alfred along the River Deben that we have been so fortunate to live near to for the last twenty-four months. Convivial as it was, it didn't involve any ringing, but others made up for that during another busy day for our art in Suffolk.

Quarter-peals of Surprise Major were rung at Gislingham and Hopton with seventeen methods rung at the former and 'just' Lessness at the latter, whilst the entire band were ringing their first of St David Doubles at Great Finborough as they marked St David's Day - well done to all concerned!

Hollesley.Though we didn't partake in any ringing ourselves today, we hope to ring upon the glorious eight bells at Hollesley on Saturday when the South-East District holds what is proposed by the District's committee to be its last Quarterly meeting, with the suggestion being that the only business meeting from now on would be the ADM on the first Saturday of each December. It is but one possibility to arise from the recent survey of SE members and there is much that needs discussing about the future of the District and how it serves its members and helps raise standards in this corner of the Guild. We still need a new Secretary really, but more pressing is how the District connects with more of its near-300 membership. It can only be of benefit to not just the District but all its towers and ringers for it to be of use to them all, but unless it gets more input from those towers and ringers then it will continue to fail them. This Saturday is the opportunity for those very towers and ringers to say what they need - please do come along and have your input, whilst also enjoying the company of fellow ringers, a good tea and also being helped by those more experienced or helping those with less experience on a fine eight. This is your event.

There are reasons why members might not make it along, but I will remind readers of my blog from exactly two years ago today when with Ruthie even more heavily pregnant than she is now, we moved house as well as attend that year's March South-East District Quarterly Meeting all in the same day. At least we shan't have to do that on Saturday...

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Monday 29th February 2016

Every four years, an additional date appears. The twenty-ninth day of the second month arrived for only the tenth time in my life and offered up rare opportunities, including for ringers.

A day for those born on 29th February to celebrate their birthday actually on the day and point out how they are a quarter of the age of their contemporaries and whilst I haven't sent any cards to anyone in such a position, it was delightful to listen to the lady on the radio born seventy-two years ago today rejoicing in finally being 'legal' to drink alcohol in a pub!

Traditionally a date where women turn the tables and ask men to marry them and although there was no one I knew of who took advantage of this chance today, Guild Report Editor and North-East District Secretary Michelle Williams had already asked her other half and NE District Chairman Ed Rolph as we entered this leap-year, so many congratulations to them!

And of course it also allows quarter-peal and peal-ringers to complete the calendar in their chosen medium and whilst neither of the 1260's of Old Oak Common or Welle Manor Bob Minor at Bredfield and Clopton respectively saw such a footnote, there were far more performances recorded worldwide than on your average Monday, many of them celebrating participants having rung a QP or peal on each of the 366 dates available. Well done anyway to the band involved in the two efforts within our borders on ringing their first blows in both methods and congratulations to Andrea Alderton and Pam Ebsworth on ringing their fiftieth together in the latter.

For us though, it was just a normal day. Our birthdays all fall on dates that have thus far come round on an annual basis, we are already married following my more traditional man-to-woman proposal in the heady summer of 2010, whilst I added 29/2 to my peal-dates back in 2000 and Ruthie has no desperate desire to add it to her records.

Instead, we went about our usual business for the first day of the working-week to the extent that my biweekly late shifts again made it impractical to make it to St Mary-le-Tower practice. It did enable me to take an unexpected but lovely call from someone looking to find out more about practices in their local area as they look to take up our limitless art though, a chance to impart what is wonderful about it and hear them get enthused. Such calls are something I will miss when my time as Public Relations Officer comes up as they are a joy to take, whatever the date.

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Sunday 28th February 2016

Boys falling off bikes and hurting themselves is par for the course for growing up and long may it continue. There were tears and trauma briefly from Mason on him doing just that on an aborted trip to Kingston Fields this afternoon, until we gave him a choice between a plaster and amputation, but the main thing is that he gets on his bike again.

That is as true of ringing as it is for nine-year-old boys and so it was encouraging to see the various learners at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh continuing their endeavours this morning, despite suffering the various setbacks and 'falling-off-the-bike' moments that we have all had. If you are a learner reading this, then please do not be put off by a handling incident, bit of rope-burn or the seemingly impossible Plain Hunt that you currently feel you will never get.

Eventually you can - and with perseverance you will - reach the standards on show on BellBoard and Campanophile from across Suffolk today. Such as the five Doubles methods rung to a quarter-peal at Ipswich St Margaret, the 1440 changes of Oxford Treble Bob Minor at Rougham that was Serena and Mark Steggles' first in the method and 1284 of Cambridge Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower which was Craig Gradidge's first of Surprise Royal. Well done to Serena, Mark and Craig!

The latter was rung to mark the installation of the new Bishop of Dunwich, The Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison yesterday at St Edmundsbury Cathedral and it was nice to hear the bells of Westminster Abbey being rung in the background of an interview with the Suffragan Bishop after his consecration service there on Wednesday played this morning on BBC Radio Suffolk. Brisk, clean ringing with no mistakes and rung by ringers who have no doubt had to get back on the metaphorical bike having fallen off at some point through their ringing 'careers'. Perseverance is the key

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Saturday 27th February 2016

Gathered together from the chill outside beneath the timber beams of The Greyhound pub, candles at the table, drinks in hand, good food in front of us and super company besides us, the annual Pettistree Dinner was a picture of how a band of ringers should be more widely. This is but one element of a social calendar that ensures that our art remains enjoyable for those who ring on the 7cwt ground-floor six at St Peter and St Paul, the attendances hold strong and quality of ringing maintained, keeping everyone interested. If we had more towers like this, then we would have more ringers, I'm convinced.

The Pettistree Ringers' Dinner at The Greyhound in Pettistree.The Pettistree Ringers' Dinner at The Greyhound in Pettistree.Mary's 'Monthly' Plate.Mary Garner speaks at the Pettistree Ringers' Dinner.Chris Garner receives Mary's 'Monthly' Plate from Mike Whitby at the Pettistree Ringers' Dinner.Ron plays the bagpipes at the Pettistree Ringers' Dinner.

As ever, it was immensely enjoyable, with Chris Garner receiving Mary's 'Monthly' Plate this year for his services as steeple-keeper make all our ringing possible, Ron playing the bagpipes and Mason and Alfie revelled in the company of cousins Katelynn and Annalise. Thank you to Mike Whitby for making the arrangements - it was a fantastic night!

Earlier, we four had visited my Mum and Dad to give felicitations in person to yesterday's birthday girl and for a cuppa, biscuit and a rare read of the Ringing World, including the latest edition featuring an article on the Charmborough Ring which highlights the PR power of such a ring and letters on the debate on whether ringing is a sport from last week. And from a previous edition it was interesting to read the Q&A with Barry Peachey following on from him reaching his one thousandth peal. For all that I don't subscribe and feel it really needs to work hard to make it more appealing, I would be sad to see this ringing resource disappear as it is in very real danger of doing so one hundred and five years after its inception.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, a future edition will feature the quarter-peal rung at Buxhall today to mark the installation as Bishop of Dunwich of the Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison at St Edmundsbury Cathedral and much more too. It's not just dinners that hold the interest of ringers in ringing.

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Friday 26th February 2016

Happy Birthday to Sally Munnings, aka mother to myself and my brother Chris. I'd like to think that both of us have grown into relatively respectable participants in civilised society, in settled jobs, homes and relationships and we have our Mum and of course father Alan and the stable, secure upbringing they gave us to thank for much of that. And now she is a much loved Nana too.

Beyond our family though, she and Dad have supported the practices and Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Sproughton for decades, as well as the ringing and ringers of Debenham, Grundisburgh, Offton and St Margaret's in Ipswich regularly over the years and it is rare indeed for a South-East District or Suffolk Guild event to pass without their presence. Before she moved here forty years ago after marriage to pater, mater was also a leading light in the Peterborough Diocesan Guild, particularly at the 14cwt eight in Thrapston, the market town in Northamptonshire that she grew up in, where she learnt to ring and was instrumental in teaching an enthusiastic band. She is still fondly remembered in the PDA now. Whilst her period as Secretary of the Society of Rambling Ringers was gratefully received from its members across the UK and beyond.

Though we didn't see her on her big day today, we did phone to send felicitations from her eldest son and grandson after I'd picked him up from school complete with his bike for one of those pleasant long weekends between an early Friday shift and late Monday shift at work, whilst another dedicated member of the South-East District and Suffolk Guild Robert Scase has also been celebrating a birthday, with his marked by the FNQPC with a 1260 of Doubles at Ashbocking which was also Elizabeth Christian's most methods. Well done Elizabeth and Happy Birthday Robert, who like my mother has been a much-needed supporter at various towers, for District and Guild, though in a much quieter and less talkative manner than my Mum! The SGR would struggle to function without the dedication of such members and I wish there were more in the same mould within our numbers.

Beccles.Meanwhile, further north on the border with Norfolk, well done to Nicole Rolph and Peter Lock on ringing their first on ten in the 1278 of Grandsire Caters at Beccles as they rang for the service of installation of Rev'd Rich Henderson as Rector at St Michael & All Angels across the churchyard from the famous bell tower.

What a day of celebration!

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Thursday 25th February 2016

Ruthie had a day off today, whilst I was finished at lunchtime after an early start at work and so a productive afternoon of getting stuff sorted out whilst Alfie was at nursery was enjoyed, but it was otherwise a quiet day, especially on the ringing front. Grundisburgh practices continue encouragingly, though my wife's choir practice again made it impractical for us to attend with one of us having to put Alfred to bed.

But following an extremely busy day of ringing in the county yesterday, there was nothing recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile today.

Come Saturday though, there is ringing for all to join if they would like, as the South-West District hold their monthly practice at Polstead from 3-4.30pm - your support would be much appreciated I'm sure!

Most of the interest from a ringing perspective this evening for me though, came through a heated discussion on the Bellringers Facebook page. The thread was begun by someone bemoaning that their efforts to peal every six in their county had been thwarted by tower correspondents who refused use of the bells for what this person considered ridiculous reasons. As keen as I am on peal-ringing, we have to be careful not to hurl blanket criticism in regards to such tower correspondents, as there may - and sometimes are - perfectly reasonable circumstances behind refusals, especially as the reasons behind the original post that started the debate today seemed to be for largely selfish reasons. But I also tire of those who dismiss peal-ringing as a nuisance rather than embracing it as an opportunity to bring positive publicity to a tower if dealt in the right way, as well as helping raise standards in ringing. The rebuffs that the poster received when offering to help with recruitment, teaching and other sweeteners came from people who frankly are the type that are doing more harm to ringing than any peal. We need to ensure that unless there is a genuinely good reason, as many towers as possible are available for peals, quarters and other aspects that help to hold the interest of ringers and progress the art and where issues exist that they are overcome, if necessary with help from local ringing organisations such as the Suffolk Guild.

Hopefully then, there will be fewer days as quiet as this in the SGR.

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Wednesday 24th February 2016

Last week the airwaves and internet were alive with the debate of whether ringing is a sport. Well with sport comes defeat, as us Ipswich Town fans can testify. And tonight I and seven others suffered defeat.

It was a valiant defeat though, as the hour-and-a-half of quite decent and at times superb ringing of the eight 'standard' Surprise Major methods in our peal attempt on the front eight of St Mary-le-Tower's twelve bells meant that even after a collapse triggered by myself, that we departed with our heads held high. Our efforts were all the more impressive for a delayed start as we awaited the arrival of Amanda Richmond who had been called in at extremely short notice to replace George Salter who had missed his train from Manningtree following a 5040 at Cavendish - many thanks to Amanda!

Normally I wouldn't mention the guilty party when a band meets short, aware of the embarrassment it can cause having been the one at fault myself in the past, but young Mr Salter deserves special mention for making it up by waiting for us to depart the tower and buying us all a drink in The Robert Ransome - thank you George, all is forgiven!

Our efforts and that aforementioned 2hrs46mins of ringing on the 11cwt six along the Suffolk/Essex border weren't the only performances within the county, with some of our band at SMLT this evening also partaking in quarter-peals of Surprise Major in the Ashtead and Bristol versions at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland earlier in the day. Meanwhile, the practice at Pettistree was preceded in typical fashion with a QP, though dedicated for sadder reasons on the day of Webmaster Chris Garner's mother's funeral. On a happier note, the consecration at Westminster Abbey of the Revd Canon Mike Harrison as the tenth Bishop of Dunwich today was marked by a 1260 of Ribchester Bob Minor at Preston St Mary which was the first in the method for the entire band - well done to Pam, Paul, Lesley, Andrea, Clare and David and welcome Canon Mike!

Ringing - like sport - has its victories too.

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Tuesday 23rd February 2016

God willing, on 10th July - there or thereabouts - we are due to welcome an addition to our growing family. And yet apart from Ruthie's expanding belly, the need to be cautious of all she eats and drinks and currently being unable to commit to anything in the weeks and months from the summer onwards, life goes on as normal. We go to work, go ringing, transport Alfie to nursery, enjoy Mason's energetic company at weekends and generally go about the frugal and quieter existence that we have enjoyed since Alfred's arrival twenty-two months ago.

Our son at twenty weeks.Occasionally though, my wife's 'condition' comes to the fore. Midwife appointments every few weeks, the twelve-week scan at the end of 2015 that was the green light for announcing our little miracle to the world and this afternoon - as my Mum and Dad very kindly looked after AJM, so thank you to them - saw one of the most eagerly awaited point of any pregnancy - the twenty week scan. For this is when - for those who want to find out - the gender of the expected child is typically revealed. So at just past 3pm today in a darkened, windowless room in the depths of Ipswich Hospital, these impatient expectant parents discovered that the child currently developing out of sight is... another boy! Even more importantly though, he is thus far healthy and doing what he should be doing, meaning we left relieved and happy, returning to our normal everyday lives.

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Monday 22nd February 2016

When I lived in the Black Country and travelled into Birmingham city centre for the bulk of my regular ringing many, many moons ago, a regular sensation would be the nervous anticipation ahead of ringing at the St Martin's-in-the-Bullring, especially at the band practices every other Tuesday. Those sessions in particular were unashamedly elite and for band members and others, essentially if they could ring at least Bristol Surprise Maximus and on the journey in via bus, later by train and then by car and as I stood on the stairs waiting to get in, my head would be swimming with any number of methods not entirely familiar to me. It is a buzz to be pushed at something that you have even an ounce of ability in and it should be the aim of bands everywhere to generate that same sense of nervous anticipation that I used to have in my days of weekly ringing on the UK's only ring of sixteen.

I got that feeling for the first time in a long. long time tonight as I prepared for this week's St Mary-le-Tower Monday night session, with Swindon Surprise Royal and Newgate Surprise Maximus ingrained uncertainly in the mind. For all of SMLT Ringing Master David Potts' endeavours in ensuring a band would be available to ring the latter in particular, I didn't know for sure that I would be called upon to ring them, but I was ready to ring them along with London Surprise Royal (No.3) and it felt good. In the end, Swindon wasn't rung, but Newgate was in an eclectic repertoire that pleasingly also included something for those not yet up to those more complex aforementioned methods, such as call-changes and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and - before I arrived - an apparently superb half-course of Cambridge Surprise Royal amongst much else, including Erin Cinques. There will be few twelve-bell towers doing that in provincial centres like ours, I'm sure. Long may it continue offering that nervous anticipation.

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Sunday 21st February 2016

Helping man the half-muffled bells of Woodbridge for service ringing this morning reminded me that we are now well truly in the depths of Lent and apart from the religious aspect, that means of course that soon Holy Week, Easter and the Guild AGM will be upon us. The first will see a variety of practices cancelled, moved, shortened or remain as they are, so I would urge those not already so minded to check with towers they may be going to on the week beginning Monday 21st March so as not to have a wasted journey nor leave a band short. The weekend itself will see extra services to ring for and the Bank Holiday conundrum most towers that usually practice on Monday nights have on whether to hold a session or not. And as always, the Saturday after is due to be the Suffolk Guild AGM, this year to be held by the South-West District, though as I write this I am unaware exactly where we hope to be gathered in forty-one days time.

In its own right this is an important event, an opportunity for members from across the county to meet and catch-up with each other and the greater details of the goings-on in the SGR. As unnecessary as it may seem in this day-and-age of modern communications, even in the business world it is preferred to meet face-to-face with clients and colleagues. This is an arena where decisions can be made after discussion between members, but for me it is the social aspect of mingling with hundreds of ringing counterparts of all ages and abilities, faces familiar and new. From a membership of 700-800 we ought to have hundreds attending this day, but as ever a more realistic aim should be over one hundred. Please come along and encourage those in your towers to come along.

On 2nd April though, this annual showpiece carries added importance as a vital position will become vacant. God willing the PR role that I am finishing with will be filled as I have someone ready to fill it, so even if no one else steps forward for it that job is hopefully taken. But having served his five years, the Ringing Master's role that Jed Flatters will be vacating will also need filling. I know from experience how demanding this job can be and it undoubtedly suits either a younger person with transport, an abundance of energy and ideas or someone retired or at least with enough time on their hands to show their face and offer support to members and fellow officers, but it does also offer the flexibility for the incumbent to make it what they want. Don't imagine that the RM needs to be a regular peal-ringer or expert on twelve bells - this role needs filling in just under six weeks time by someone willing to give it a shot and put something back into the Guild and in the process enjoy the ride - you don't have to do it for as much as five years! Ruthie may not entirely agree having had to traipse round from venue-to-venue and look after Mason whilst I was taken to one side for chats, but my stint in the job was a fascinating half-a-decade of seeing the inner-workings of our organisation at close quarters, going to the most wonderful places and meeting some super people. So if you feel you can do it or know someone who else who could and would, then step forward or put them forward - if they are willing of course! And no, I won't do it again!

Today was largely a more sedate affair in comparison, once my ringing at our local tower was complete and morning service and Sunday school (complete with much running around at the bottom of the tower which houses this 25cwt eight!) were attended. Elsewhere though, they were busier as a quarter-peal was rung for Evensong at Hollesley. Good to see ringing keeping busy during Lent.

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Saturday 20th February 2016

Standing on a chilly, sodden and muddy Kingston Fields at 5pm on the cusp of a February evening at the end of a damp, windy day is hardly my dream location, especially as I looked across our local park to the inviting lights of the neighbouring homes. It was worth it though, simply for the look of delight on Alfie's face as he enjoyed his obligatory marathon on the swings and Mason's enthusiasm as he took advantage of the playground being completely devoid of any contemporaries getting in the way!

My endurance test came as the climax of precious time spent with the boys on an otherwise slow day, with Ruthie at work and the weather - as alluded to -pretty grotty and uninviting. There wasn't even any ringing to go to. At least not round here anyway. Had it been more practical we would've very happily joined the Society of Rambling Ringers for their annual reunion, a dinner held for members halfway between the summer tours that are primarily this wonderful organisation's purpose. Indeed it was particularly tempting as they were holding this informal occasion in my old stomping ground, Dudley. In fact very much my old stomping ground as the venue for tonight's festivities, the Station Hotel practically backs onto my old flat in the Black Country's heartland. However, with Alfred too young to be taken along to such a meal and then the brief 'meeting' that follows, it was impractical to travel to the other side of the country this time around.

Still, they clearly had enough in attendance to ring the Society's first peal of Cinques at Stourbridge, a venue where I rang six peals in my time as a resident in the area at the turn of the century, but never one on the twelve, so I wouldn't have minded going over just for that! Nice to see former Suffolk resident Claire Roe given a deserving footnote following her recent efforts!

Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute of my day with the boys - even the cold, damp ones at Kingston Fields!

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Friday 19th February 2016

Frozen ground under my feet, clear blue skies and a winter sun above my head and empty fields, bare woodlands and stunning views all around me. Those of us able to take in something as wonderful as this merely by filling in time between dropping the car off for its service and getting into work should count ourselves considerably blessed. By the end of my working day it was dark, but the car was available again, God willing ready to take us ringing again for at least another six months.

Apart from enabling Ruthie and Alfie to pick me up from a late shift, its first task in its newly serviced form was to help us collect Mason for the weekend having missed out on his company a week ago and it was good to have him back, with his younger brother in particular pleased to see him!

Presumably no transport issues - or at least none that couldn't be overcome - for the band who made it out to the isolated village of Offton to ring a 5024 of Lessness Surprise Major on the 8cwt ground-floor eight. Maybe, on the frozen footpaths and in the empty fields and bare woodlands surrounding St Mary's quaint little church, there was someone enjoying the ringing. If so, they were very lucky.

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Thursday 18th February 2016

In forty-four days time, I am due to hand over the reins of the PR Officer's role at the Guild AGM. Who to and where at, you will have to wait for, though I have someone who has kindly agreed to be nominated as PRO on 2nd April and I have no doubt that our hosts the South-West District are on top of a venue for the day's proceedings!

Today though, I was reminded that I am still very much in the job!

As the story broke in The Telegraph and The Daily Mail this morning that there was a 'ding-dong split' in the world of ringing over the desire among some for the exercise to become a sport, my phone began buzzing. BBC Radio Suffolk invited me to speak on Mark Murphy's show (About 2 hours 10 minutes in. Ed.), which I duly did, with the help of Ann from Bury St Edmunds, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Even just for myself I had an invitation from the Beeb's Radio Two lunchtime show to speak with Vanessa Feltz, who was sitting in for recent Strictly Come Dancing participant Jeremy Vine, emails, voicemails, numerous missed calls and when I asked on Facebook for more details on a topic I was sketchy on, I was bombarded with advice, all gratefully received and preparing me for my spot on the local airwaves.

My national appearance never materialised as I got back to Eleanor there too late, but the piece was still covered extensively with the help of others from just after 1hr35mins into the show and my contribution was quite simply dwarfed as the British Broadcasting Corporation went nuts on the subject, with Dickon Love appearing on Radio Four, another report featuring on Radio Five accompanied by an interview with Christopher O'Mahony, Mark Regan and Rod Ismay doing the same as me on BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester and BBC Radio Leeds respectively and Phil Tremain booked in to speak on BBC Radio Cornwall tomorrow. It didn't stop there though. There was a report on Sky News and apparently something on ITV news too and I suspect that this is not a comprehensive catalogue of the publicity our art received in incredible doses throughout the day. The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers were on the lips of journalists not dragged to Brussels to follow the Prime Minister and households nationwide were filled with the faces and voices of figures well-known within our hobby, such as Ringing World Editor Robert Lewis and my counterpart at the CCCBR Kate Flavell, whilst the governing body's President Chris Mew's quote of "where are the David Beckhams of the belfry" caused a stir and was met in some parts by the link to the handbell peal rung on holiday in East Sussex by David Pipe and his son's Alfred and Henry, the former of whom was ringing his first of Treble Dodging Minor at the age of ten. Well done Alfie!

In the main it was priceless PR, though with so many ringers and journalists involved there were some truly cringeworthy moments, but after all of that, should ringing be reclassified as a sport?

Well, as good friend of ringing and award-winning presenter Mark astutely picked up on, I am on the fence. "Shock, horror!" I hear you exclaim, but for all that the arguments seemed to suggest that making ringing a sport would cut its ties with the church or reinforcing our links with the CofE would prevent us attracting new recruits, I'm not convinced either are the case. To my mind, it is only right and proper that we maintain and even strengthen our links with the organisation whose buildings predominantly house the bells we ring and for whose services we ring for. And it offers the ideal pool from which to gain recruits as they are people already comfortable in a place of worship, used to coming out on Sunday mornings and valuable links to the church authorities. However, as we know, church attendances are dwindling and aging and so if ringing is to survive we need it to offer more than just ringing for the church. We need to stress the musical, scientific, mathematical and social elements of what we do and if needs be make it a sport. I'm just not convinced it is. Yes, it is physically healthy, it involves teamwork and it can be competitive as anyone who has been to a striking competition will testify. But that competitive aspect is just a by-product of our hobby, a vital element among other elements like outings, quarter-peals, peals and much, much else that contribute to this being such an absorbing pastime, if you allow it.

A status as a sport may apparently offer greater opportunities for funding and if this is the case, I'm all for it so long as it doesn't mean a departure from our links with the church. But if it isn't the case then I'm not really sure what the point would be. I can't imagine Sky Sports converging upon Aston on the 25th June for the National Twelve-Bell Final or anyone put off by ringing for whatever reason suddenly changing their mind because it is a sport. If it were a sport, would there have been TV cameras outside Tostock after today's QP, as reporters from Anglia TV and Look East jostled to grab a word from Lucy Dawson on ringing her most Minor methods? Probably not, but well done Lucy nonetheless!

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. And interesting to see what occurs at the Guild AGM in forty-four days time.

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Wednesday 17th February 2016

For parents of young children, it is vital to get out of the house and - as much as you love them - away from the kids on a regular basis apart from going to work and ringing offers that outlet. It works even better when both mater and pater partake in the exercise as Ruthie and I are in the fortunate position to do and so after my trip out to Ipswich for the St Mary-le-Tower practice on Monday night, my wife was having a dalliance with Morning Exercise and Bourne at Pettistree's weekly session.

Her evening was topped with a drink in The Greyhound afterwards and preceded by a quarter-peal of Double Court Bob Minor, but that was not the most significant of the two QP's rung in Suffolk today. Instead, that honour goes to the 1260 of Doubles on the back six at Grundisburgh that not only saw Stephen Pettman very unusually ringing a quarter (that didn't follow a lost peal attempt at least!) but more importantly Susie Stafford making her debut in the medium. It has been a pleasure to see Susie's progress over the last year or so as she has picked up the art in the little wobbly red-brick tower and those more sturdy structures of Burgh and Hasketon nearby and this success is well deserved. Well done Susie!

I meanwhile had a pleasant evening in with Alfie, happy to let Mrs Munnings have all the fun on this occasion!

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Tuesday 16th February 2016

Amongst the byways, leafless woodlands and thawing fields of Suffolk, it was a very busy day of ringing. There were practice nights at Debenham, Halesworth, The Norman Tower and Offton amongst others and there was a quarter-peal before the latter as is usual, which was one of five QP's rung in the county today. Well done to Alison Daniels, Janet Garnett and Katie Wright on ringing their first of Combermere Delight Minor at Rougham and of Abbeyville Delight Minor at Thurston and to Janet again on ringing her first of Sandal Treble Bob Minor along with Betty Baines at Woolpit, whilst the same band also rang a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at the ground-floor six at Rattlesden.

Meanwhile, the peal columns were also occupied as a 5040 of Surprise Minor at The Wolery saw the Guild's twentieth peal of 2016 rung, a total that it took until April to reach in 2015, but rung on exactly the same date as number twenty in 2013, the most successful year of peal-ringing for the SGR in this century. Hopefully we can keep this up, because I feel it can only benefit our members.

There was no ringing for us this time round, but we were kept busy with the visit of Ruthie's sister Clare and her daughters Katelynn and Annalise which certainly kept Alfie happy!

God willing, up ahead lie more busy days of ringing. The Helmingham Monthly Practice is planned for Friday evening, the Halesworth Triples/Major practice is due to take place in a week's time, the South-West District Practice is pencilled in for Polstead a week on Saturday and then as we creep into March, it is important to note that the South-East District Quarterly Meeting that was previously advertised as being at Parham and Framlingham is now lined up for Hollesley. With the results in for the District's recent survey, this will be a genuinely significant event, more of which should become clear on the day. It at least suggests it will be another busy day's ringing.

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Monday 15th February 2016

The late start at work gave me a little spare time this morning to peruse the world of bellringing from the comfort of our sofa and through our laptop. The fun had by the St Paul's Cathedral Guild of Ringers in Dordrecht over a busy weekend in Holland for example. But in particular the exploits of one time Suffolk ringer Molly Waterson who rang her first blows of Rigel Surprise Maximus and her first peal of spliced at that level in the 5088 rung yesterday at Shepton Beauchamp in Somerset with a band that also featured Katie Hill in another link to here. And whilst I am on the subject of ringers from within our borders achieving beyond them, I was also pleased to see that Lucy Williamson further expanded her ringing CV with her Bristol debut in Friday's quarter-peal of the Major variant at St Lawrence in York where she is carrying out her studies. Well done to Molly and Lucy!

The achievements continued today back here in the homeland with Ruth Suggett ringing her first of London Surprise Major in the 5184 at Kersey - well done Ruth! - and later I attended another very decent practice at St Mary-le-Tower where the method repertoire is being expanded, the striking is going in the right direction and George Vant invited the gathered company to kick him, before hastily qualifying it with "if I go wrong" when a considerable number stepped forward. In fact, so much is that repertoire expanding that having rung both Cambridge and Yorkshire Max this evening and with Swindon Surprise Royal already on the menu, Ringing Master David Potts has ensured there will be enough - barring any unforeseen circumstances - to attempt Newgate Surprise Maximus next Monday, so if any Surprise Max ringers fancy having a go at this and in the process helping us out, then please do come along in a week. Whilst some are understandably wary of feeling like they are jumping too fast into new methods before getting the hang of the methods being rung already, I'm all for it as I feel it helps raise the bar of familiarity. Delve into the nuances of Newgate and then ringing Cambridge, Yorkshire and Stedman should feel simpler and - so my theory goes - one can concentrate more on the striking in those methods whilst still progressing. There are a lot of factors that will go into whether this happens, not least if those who come along are prepared to put in the learning and concentration for this, so I hope that everyone gets on board.

God willing I'll get the opportunity to refresh my memory on this method over the next few mornings!

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Sunday 14th February 2016

No one seems quite sure who St Valentine is or why 'his' day has become the one when couples are forced to talk to each other and provide gifts and cards for their loved ones, but it comes round every year and of course this year is no different. Cynics as Ruthie and I are to the 14th February's annual rituals, we still marked the occasion with cards and treated ourselves to a nice meal at home this evening, but it didn't stop us getting on with our usual Sunday, albeit minus Mason, which felt very strange and less fun. Whilst my valentine was singing in the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, I partook in some good quality ringing on ten and twelve at St Mary-le-Tower and joined thirteen others at Grundisburgh in contributing to a positive morning's ringing.

And the day of love didn't prevent other ringers from manning the bells of Suffolk, including couples. Paul and Pam Ebsworth and David and Lesley Steed rang together in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Woolpit, which remembered the sad passing of local ringer Martin Turner, whilst the latter pair also rang in quarter-peals of Hasfield Bob Minor at Great Barton and Hull Surprise Minor at Redgrave. Well done to Ruth Suggett and Neal Dodge on ringing their first of the method and congratulations to Neal and the aforementioned David on ringing their 75th together in the last QP and well done to the entire band on ringing their first blows of the method in the success at Holy Innocents.

Meanwhile, the monthly second-Sunday peal was successfully rung at Aldeburgh as the SGR's peal totals reached eighteen (BellBoard still has The Wolery peal on 6th Jan. duplicated. Ed) for 2016 thus far and puts us in a top ten of leading peal-ringing organisations for this year that also includes the catch-all Non Association, the international societies of the College and Cumberland Youths, Colin Turner's regular flag of convenience the St Blaise Society and the Yorkshire Association, the biggest geographical territorial society in the UK. It is an impressive start to the year.

There is a lot to love about St Valentine's Day, whoever he is.

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Saturday 13th February 2016

With illness and recovery still dominating our current states, it was another quiet day. We popped out to return the car seat of our niece Katelynn, which I had accidentally driven off with to Wednesday night's peal at The Wolery and briefly considered making the short journey to Yoxford where the North-East District were holding their Practice and Meeting, but time and lack of energy eventually put paid to that.

Elsewhere I was glad to see a peal at Bredfield was added to the recent quarter-peal in ringing to John Pilgrim's memory at the tower that he learnt to ring at. It will seem strange to those outside of ringing and even to some within ringing, but such a thing can help as part of the grieving process, at least in my experience and I hope that has been the case for John's parents Mike and Ann.

Again it puts our own 'suffering' completely in perspective, but on this slow day personally I was afforded a little time to read an excellent article on a site called Atlas Obscura, the topic of which was ringing at Trinity Church in the heart of New York. I was once invited on a trip out there in the early days of peal ringing on this still relatively new ring of bells, but regrettably I was unable to go along and I have always harboured an ambition to go to the Big Apple, so anything connected to this famous US city and particularly their ring of twelve is of interest to me. However, in its own right this is a great piece that is about as accurate as journalism from non-ringers is going to be and gives an interesting insight into how our art is carried out overseas where ringers aren't in the same fortunate position as us of having several hundred towers to ring at and fellow participants to ring with in easy reach. Well worth a read, especially if you're feeling under the weather.

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Friday 12th February 2016

It was a subdued day in the Munning's household of Woodbridge. Ruthie and Alfie stopped in looking after each other and I got through my final shift of a week of earlies with the help of some lozenges and plenty of water. And with Mason not coming round this weekend it was that bit quieter. Though the events of yesterday on the A12 in Martlesham near us that I caught up in the gridlock of and its awful consequences gave us pause to consider how fortunate we are, even in our various states of illness.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

We felt we should have had a red cross painted across our front door as illness plagued our household. It began overnight with Ruthie developing a nasty sickness bug and continued before the morning was out as a call from nursery confirmed that Alfie had seemingly picked up the same affliction. Fortunately, as I was on another early shift at work I didn't have to sacrifice too much time from the office to collect him and look after the patients. Or sleep as they slept.

It put paid to attending the Surprise Major Practice that had been moved from Ufford to Hollesley and also meant that we agreed with Mason's mother not to take him this weekend, lest he catch the bug and take it back to his three-week old brother at hers. However, it didn't stop me getting along to his parent's evening tonight, where his handwriting, spelling and reading came in for praise, but his maths, concentration and motivation continue to let him down and probably explains why he hasn't yet fully embraced ringing!

I returned from that particular appointment to our diseased abode, feeling myself going down with something.

At least others were feeling better and well done to Ruth Suggett, Nigel Gale and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first quarter-peal of Cunecastre Surprise Minor in the 1272 rung at Tostock today.

As for us, hopefully tomorrow will be better.

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Wednesday 10th February 2016

Today was a long but enjoyable day. In fact, it felt like two days.

Even before lunch I had done a full day's work, arriving in utter darkness to only the sound of an owl hooting in the nearby woodland. Gradually a slight outline could be seen of the still bare branches of the trees opposite against the lightening sky. Eventually the sun rose from beyond Sutton Hoo on the other side of the River Deben, birds began singing, the builders working on the houses being constructed next door started up their machines and others who ply their trade upon the Deben Mill Business Park arrived by foot, on bike and in cars to get their working day underway just as mine was coming towards an end.

My shift done, there was still thirteen hours before I would return to bed. And those thirteen hours incorporated much. A good deed, time spent with family at three different houses, more pancakes, a peal and socialising with friends.

Our good deed saw us pick someone up from an appointment at Ipswich Hospital, as a cold-looking group of striking junior doctors huddled together with placards in hand outside, in between us hosting Ruthie's sister Clare and her daughters Katelynn and Annalise and them returning the favour along with man of the house Kev, before we all made our way to my mother-in-law Kate's where we were joined by Ron and treated to a feast topped with pancakes.

From there I left my family to head to The Wolery for what should have been a peal of Aswarby Surprise Major. However, as we got under way it was apparent that the treble's backstroke was barely audible. Much fiddling with pads upstairs from Colin Salter and then his father David was interspersed with attempts to get started, but all to no avail. With the clock having ticked over 7.30pm, it became clear that success on eight was not to be tonight and so nobly Colin stepped aside to do coursework in an important year for him, with his mother Katharine joining him in returning to the house, allowing us to squeeze in a 5040 of Minor that probably proved more useful for Neal Dodge than trebling to the original plan. And it transpired to be a relatively significant peal, being the 350th on the bells and my 150th with the conductor.

It wasn't the only ringing within our borders recorded online since the pre-dawn wake-up call that I had to endure, with an impressive peal on handbells rung in Bacton and a quarter-peal of Norfolk Punch Bob Minor at Preston St Mary seeing all six ringing their first blows in the method - well done to all!

After our efforts at The Wolery, I enjoyed the company of our hosts and fellow band members as the family histories of those present and other Suffolk ringing families were discussed, before I eventually returned to my present-day one at the end of a very long day. But, yes, also very enjoyable day. Or two.

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Tuesday 9th February 2016

Shrove Tuesday, so pancakes were the order of the day, both savoury and sweet, but otherwise it was a quiet day for ringing, both for ourselves and on BellBoard and Campanophile, at least from a Suffolk perspective.

Therefore, I should point out busier times ahead, most specifically Saturday where there are two events planned within our borders. If you so desire - and all support would be welcome - and God willing you could in the morning attend the North-West District Practice at Elveden and then after lunch join the North-East District for ringing, a service, tea and meeting at Yoxford. Though I doubt pancakes.

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Monday 8th February 2016

A windy girl called Imogen stopped play tonight. It had been Ruthie's intention to join her mother Kate in going to St Mary-le-Tower practice as I got an early night ahead of an early shift tomorrow and after an early start this morning. However, with the winds so strong that they had a name not showing any signs of abating come departure time, the ladies sensibly called their trip off as once again our windows rattled and chimneys howled. I lament modern day society's utter feebleness any time anything other than dry weather and temperatures between ten to fifteen degrees centigrade occur. Within reason, heavy snow, ice and rain and excessive temperatures in either direction can be negotiated easily enough by being extra cautious and allowing more time for your journey, but if in the wrong place at the wrong time it is much more difficult to dodge heavy objects like trees, fences and even - as was the case in Levington today - roofs flying at speed from every conceivable direction, no matter how prepared you are.

Still, it was disappointing that neither of us was able to help out at SMLT's weekly session for the second week running. I know from my time as Ringing Master at this famous twelve how frustrating it was when attendances were up and down, especially as with everyone present more regularly we could have achieved some wonderful things and that is as much the case now as it was then in my humble opinion. Hopefully others - especially those with less distance to travel - felt able to go along, but it was understandable that my pregnant wife felt nervous about stepping out into the storm.

Maybe the weather conditions contributed to a day devoid of any quarter-peals or peals in Suffolk - at least any recorded online - though a quiet Monday in that respect isn't unusual, even in the context of this thus far busy year of ringing within our borders. God willing we'll all be in a position to be more active next Monday!

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Sunday 7th February 2016

We have been fortunate to watch a number of comedians at The Regent in Ipswich and enjoyed every one of them. None of them have made Ruthie and me laugh as much as Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer did tonight though. On the face of it, it is utterly daft watching two men in their fifties prancing around doing sketches and performing characters that were silly when they were in their thirties, but in my opinion - and that of quite a lot of other people - it was hilarious on the TV then and even more so watching them live and made all the better for Bob being there at all after the triple bypass surgery that saw their previous date here in December that we were originally going to cancelled. Many thanks to Kate for our Christmas present and sister-in-law Clare for babysitting whilst we were out enjoying themselves!

This is a ringing blog though, so you'll be glad to know there is ringing to report on and largely positive too. Before another exhausting church service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge that I largely spent chasing after an energetic Alfie, he and his brother accompanied me upstairs to man the front six of this 25cwt eight where we were joined by a friendly chap called Mike from Blaxhall who returned to ringing in November after a break in the region of fifty years and has done precisely what all learners should do if they are able by getting out and about. Thus far Campsea Ashe, Grundisburgh, Leiston, Orford, Tunstall and Wickham Market have benefited from his renewed interest in our art and hopefully more will in the coming months.

Elsewhere there was more good news as the eighth quarter-peal of 2016 at Pettistree thus far was successfully rung, as was the fourteenth peal for the Suffolk Guild in the same period as Ruth Suggett rang her first of Royal in the 5040 of Yorkshire at Grundisburgh - well done Ruth!

By that point we were back at home as Mason hosted his contemporary Henry Salter whilst we pleasantly whiled away the afternoon with his mother Katharine over a cup of tea or two before that evening with Vic, Bob and our aching sides.

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Saturday 6th February 2016

Even in this age of matches being shown at all sorts of times on any day of the week, Saturdays still see football fans criss-crossing the country to watch their teams. Even just in this part of the world, Ipswich, Norwich and Colchester fans passed each other on the UK's road and rail - or in the case of those heading to London, bus replacement - network on the way to ultimately fruitless afternoons. Having done it occasionally in following the Tractor Boys on their travels, I can vouch for how exciting it all is, with the anticipation and sense of stepping into the unknown, especially if the destination is one new to you and often accompanied with a pint or three.

And so it can be with ringing. Across the land, Cumberland Youths were making their way to the capital to partake in peal attempts for their 'Not The Dinner Day', members of the Oxford University Society gathered in the city for the society's annual dinner and a number of QPs and peals for the occasion, as did those attached to the Southampton University Guild in that city for their dinner, a College Youths' band travelled to Hereford Cathedral to ring a 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Royal, a group came down from north of the border to ring a 5042 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at Lincoln Cathedral for the Scottish Association, some of the most frequent peal-ringers in Britain were ringing a couple of peals of spliced Surprise Minor in Yorkshire that took their collective tally to a staggering 24,653 and our own leading peal-ringer David Salter took his individual total to an impressive 3,342 with one down at Highgate in the big smoke.

Like the journeying to support what remains the most successful team in the region, I have also spent the start of many a weekend making my way to an unfamiliar location for a peal attempt and enjoyed trips to places from Staplehurst in the south-east to Bolton in the north-west, Exeter in south-west to York in the north-east and several places in between. It was every bit the fun day out as going to the footy, but both pastimes have been rendered largely impractical by the greater responsibilities I have these days.

However, this morning I at least got to help others indulge in one of them. Nope, I wasn't driving one of the ITFC supporter's coaches to Loftus Road for them to watch the 1-0 defeat to Queen's Park Rangers, but rather I was hauling the tenth at St Mary-le-Tower in to a superb 5009 of Stedman Cinques, as a band gathered from across East Anglia and beyond rang as a collective magnificently. Louis Suggett conducted his own excellent composition excellently and I got a whiff of that sense of adventure, ringing with friends not seen often, such as Simon's Rudd and Smith and particularly Alban Forster, a contemporary from my days in Birmingham whom I hadn't rung a peal with for over a decade before today and making new associations in the shape of two of ringing's most promising youngsters, Jack Page and Craig Homewood.

In the past, I would have continued on to the pub probably not to exit until darkness and indeed most of the band did move on to The Robert Ransome nearby, but in a sign of the times I was returned thanks to Ruthie to Woodbridge for an afternoon at her mother Kate's abode to spend time with them, the boys, my sister-in-law and her girls that I enjoyed every bit as much as any post-peal booze-up down the years. Thank you Kate for the food and beer!

Though there wasn't as much traversing required, there was still the same spirit involved with the six that rang their first blows of Indian Garden Delight and Ty'n-Y-Graig Bob Minor at Greats Barton and Finborough respectively. Well done to them all.

As if to underline that rarely need a Saturday be dull as a ringer, if I hadn't have been at SMLT ringing a rare twelve-bell peal, I could've gone to Coddenham for the South-East District Practice. It was unfortunate that the two events clashed, which I didn't realise when I gave a positive reply in answer to Laura Davies' request several months ago, but I hope others who could go did. Just because my wife is no longer SE District Secretary it doesn't mean we will stop supporting events in our corner of the Guild - God willing we intend to be at Parham and Framlingham for next month's Quarterly Meeting, though under no circumstances is she getting involved in minute-taking or any other secretarial duties! We may not be able to go to the other side of the country watching football or ringing peals, but we can at least do that to occupy our Saturdays.

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Friday 5th February 2016

Another late shift, another quiet day on the ringing front personally. Alfie's pick-up from nursery was disrupted by a dog injury (thankfully not as bad as first feared!), but otherwise it was an unremarkable day in the Woodbridge branch of the Munnings family.

Other ringers were busier elsewhere in Suffolk though, as the FNQPC did what it does best, scoring a 1260 of Doubles at Earl Stonham.

Bredfield.There was a quarter-peal too at Bredfield, rung in memory of John Pilgrim with a band including his parents Mike and Ann. Even though it was expected as he was fighting illness, words can not truly express how tragic the death of a thirty-eight year old father of three young children just before Christmas is, so I shan't attempt to do the impossible. I remember John well as a fellow young ringer and contemporary and as such his passing is sobering, but nothing compared to how his family must be feeling, even some weeks on. Please hold them in your prayers and thoughts.

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Thursday 4th February 2016

Many congratulations to former Walsham-le-Willows ringer Claire Roe and her husband Tom on the birth of their son Jacob in the early minutes of yesterday morning. Some will remember her better as Claire Monk, who along with her sister Sarah were behind the successful Young Ringers Practices at Tostock that were such a highlight of my time as Guild Ringing Master to visit. She has long since moved from Suffolk oop north and become very adept at brewing fine ale at the Welbeck Abbey Brewery, but we have kept in touch through Rambling Ringers and their wedding back in her home village nearly two years ago, so as with another ringer once from within our borders Jonathan Slack becoming a father last week, we were delighted to receive this happy news today. Congratulations from Suffolk Claire and Tom!

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Wednesday 3rd February 2016

Occasionally I hear of complaints about ringing and that bells have kept their children awake. I've always been curious about what we have done differently with Mason and Alfie or what is different about my two sons. Both have slept in ringing chambers with ringing going on with all the noise associated with our art, such as calls and the occasional friendly but necessarily sharp instructions made loudly across the same room if someone has gone wrong or the striking needs adjusting and yet some of these sensitive children are awoken by the gentle sound of bells being rung several hundred yards and even further away on the other side of double-glazed windows. As if to further highlight this astounding anomaly, at two o'clock in the early hours of this morning, we were disturbed by the deafening and initially quite frightening sound of a neighbour's car alarm going off several times and for quite a few minutes at a time, penetrating our walls with considerable intrusiveness. Yet our twenty-one month old didn't even flinch. I say this with no sense of superiority or authority, aware as I am at how quickly a child's sleeping habits can change, but if I could give one bit of advice to new parents, it is to not try and protect their newborn from the everyday noises of the world. Indeed, I would encourage you to expose them to as much as possible, within reason! Entirely up to you if you use the sage advice of a father - who along with my wife - is still essentially making it up as I go along!

Mercifully I am on late shifts at work today and so with Alfred occupying himself cheerfully with Thomas the Tank Engine books in his bed, we enjoyed a lay-in before I made my way to the office. It meant a late finish of course and only a brief dalliance with Ruthie's acquaintance before she saw that at least one of us got out to some ringing this week as her mother Kate took her to a Pettistree practice that was preceded in typical fashion with a quarter-peal, but was unusually accompanied by some dancing by Mary Garner and Elaine Townsend! And no complaints as far as I am aware.

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Tuesday 2nd February 2016

Personally it was another quiet Tuesday, but across Suffolk there was more to report I'm glad to say, as quarter-peals were rung of Aldenham and Ashtead Surprise Major at the ground-floor eights of Gislingham and Palgrave respectively and of the 'standard' eight spliced before practice at Offton.

And on a slow news day from a Munnings perspective, I shall encourage readers to be inspired by the spectacular 5040 of one-hundred-and-five Surprise Royal methods rung at Sheffield Cathedral on Sunday and featuring in the band a number familiar not just to me, but to many within our borders. It may not be a record (apart from notably for the Yorkshire Association, an organisation steeped in a long and significant history), but it should still serve to show that one has never achieved everything in ringing.

It is certainly more than Ruthie or I are likely to achieve in ringing this week!

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Monday 1st February 2016

Great to see peal-ringing in the Guild's name start February in the same vein as it was carried out in over January with a 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Ixworth.

Those participating - and no doubt many others too - were being more active in the ringing stakes than Ruthie and me today, but our inactivity was largely due to a busy weekend and the start of another week of late shifts at work which meant that once I had returned home this evening we ran out of time to eat, get Alfie to bed and pack one of us off to St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice which was a pity. Hopefully they managed without us!

And hopefully SGR peal-ringing will be as successful this month as it was last month!

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Sunday 31st January 2016

Mason's birthday weekend climaxed with a lively afternoon involving Ruthie's family, his Godparents and five children aged three and under! Once the dust had settled, food and toys were left strewn everywhere and we were ever so slightly exhausted, but it was worth it for a get-together that we enjoyed every bit as much as the star of the show. He acts almost like an uncle figure to those present just embarking on their first steps literally and figuratively and so whilst he entertained them, us adults chatted and caught up, with the now sadly late Sir Terry Wogan, rugby and - strangely - 1990's game show You Bet! subjects of conversation.

Burgh.Ringing at Burgh this morning.Ringing at Burgh this morning.Ringing at Burgh this morning.

Prior to that, the boys and I had been on the Sunday morning ringing circuit at St Mary-le-Tower and then - after sitting outside Grundisburgh for twenty minutes having forgotten it was the fifth Sabbath of the month - Burgh. This difficult 8cwt ground-floor six is one of the most pleasant spots to undertake our art on a warm, sunny day, but on a wet, chilly and windy one like today it is less so, placed as it is atop a hill, with the ringing chamber doubling up as the porch with a through wind and bare, tiled flooring freezing ringers from the feet up. Still, the views remain splendid, despite its location on a busy corner along the well-used B1079 the spot is one of the prettiest and most peaceful around and the ringing conditions remind me of the variation that helps make what we do so interesting.

Across Suffolk, others were taking advantage of the interest our hobby holds, with three quarter-peals rung within our borders this side of the 30th and before January exits in less spectacular fashion than it entered. A 1296 of Single Oxford Bob Minor was rung at Great Finborough and 1260's of Doubles were rung at St Margaret's in Ipswich and at Rushmere St Andrew, with four methods at the former and Plain Bob at the latter. Happy 70th Birthday to the conductor of the middle QP Roger Coley, a ringer who has been tremendously useful to the 14cwt eight by Christchurch Mansion and to the South-East District since coming here from Northamptonshire two decades ago and I remember gatherings at the Westerfield home of him and his much-missed wife Jenny with fondness from when I was a boy. I hope he had as nice a birthday as Mason!

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Saturday 30th January 2016

Most of us deserve a bit of the limelight occasionally and for those who don't enter the realms of fame, that time generally comes at your birthday. It might have been easy for Mason to have been pushed to one side with the arrival of Alfie or at least for him to feel that was the case, but there is an utter determination on our part for that not to happen. We love him now as dearly as we did when he was born and are therefore delighted to dedicate this weekend for his moment in the spotlight as we celebrate his ninth birthday.

Today that continued as we spent the morning allowing him to spend the money so generously given him for this landmark and over Christmas, before a rare trip to KFC for lunch and then the first of two planned parties for him. You don't always appreciate such things at his age - though I hope he does - but we have never taken it for granted how fortunate we are to have so much family and close friends nearby. Such an abundance is wonderful, but might have been a bit too much to host in our humble abode all in one go, especially as many of our associates now come with lovely, but exuberant and not always overly careful children under the age of four to join our own youngsters!

Mason opening more birthday presents!As such, we decided to split the gatherings. God willing tomorrow afternoon will complete the celebrations, but today we had the pleasure of the company of my family. That said, sadly two members of the Munnings clan were unable to make it as they were feeling under the weather, but although we wish my aunty and my father's sister Marian and my brother Chris' wife Becky speedy recoveries, those present still had a lovely afternoon, with gifts opened with excited enthusiasm, snacks devoured, Happy Birthday sung with gusto and chocolate cake enjoyed.

Hopefully also having as much fun were the band quarter-pealing their way across four towers not that far away from us, as the communities of Easton, Monewden, Pettistree and Wickham Market were alive with the sound of Duke of Norfolk, Norbury, College Exercise and Ockley Treble Bob Minor respectively. I hope they enjoyed their forty-five minutes in the limelight.

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Friday 29th January 2016

Great to hear that tonight's Early Learners Practice at Wenhaston went so well. Such events are invaluable as everyone turns up knowing that the learners are the focus pure and simple. There are no expectations of complex method ringing and therefore no disappointment when none is forthcoming and I hope encourages those learners who may be frightened off by the fear of judgment. This evening's session certainly appears to have been a success, with the teaching offered by Veronica Downing, Trevor Hughes and Michelle Williams in particular benefiting Ann and Graham from Chediston and Jane and Jenny from Beccles. We need more of this and I'm glad to report that that is what we're getting with further opportunities at Chediston on Thursday and Wenhaston again on Friday, both from 7.30-9pm. I would strongly urge learners to take advantage and those who feel they can help to do so.

Mason opening his birthday presents.Mason sadly isn't keen enough to have taken up our limitless art thus far and so such practices are yet to bolster the abilities I believe he has locked up in there, but of course we don't love him any less for it. Therefore, we were almost as excited as he was at the start of his birthday weekend at ours as he ripped into the presents and cards that have gathered in our abode in recent days.

But whilst my nine-year old son hasn't got the ringing bug at the moment, I'm glad to report others have with a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor on the back six at Gislingham with a band that no doubt have been helped by those more experienced than them at various points, just like those in Wenhaston tonight.

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Thursday 28th January 2016

I've managed for eight years to post a blog entry for every single day without fail. On some days though, I feel a bit of a fraud for doing so. Today is such a day. My early shift left me with a free afternoon, but after four days of them and my endeavours yesterday, I hadn't the energy to take advantage. Ruthie went to choir, Alfie went to bed really early and to be fair I wasn't far behind him.

In such circumstances though, I like to remind readers that there are busier days ahead planned and to urge those who can to support the various events that others have spent much time, effort and occasionally even money arranging. Such as the South-East District Practice at Coddenham on the first Saturday of February from 10am - noon, the Second Tuesday Ringing at Boxford and Edwardstone and then three days later you can occupy yourself in the morning with a quarter-peal with the North-West District followed by their Practice at Elveden and then post-lunch travel over to Yoxford for the North-East District Practice and Meeting. God willing the month is concluded with the South-West District Practice at Polstead and follows on from two staples of the monthly menu with the Helmingham Monthly Practice on the 19th and the Halesworth Triples/Major Practice four evenings later.

So your days needn't be as slow as ours was today.

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Wednesday 27th January 2016

Nine years ago today, a child was born into the world. Nine years on it is hard to believe that tiny bundle is the same lanky, generally helpful but also grumpy teenage-like boy that today celebrated his birthday with pizza and an abundance of Star Wars-themed presents. He has had to endure more than most in his time, though thank God not as much as some poor mites have to go through, but he has done it in the main with little complaint and much cheerfulness and has been a wonderful (if at times a bit over-enthusiastic!) big brother to Alfie.

Hasketon.God willing there will be a weekend of celebration when he comes to us in a couple of days, but this afternoon I marked the occasion in the same way as I have marked every one of his birthdays - with a peal of a number of changes or methods corresponding to his age. Today's seemed particularly appropriate though. Apart from the nine methods we rang, it was rung on the big day itself, the first time that has happened since a 5040 of Burgh Surprise Minor at Burgh itself on his first birthday and it was scored on the six bells in the round tower at St Andrew in Hasketon in earshot of the birthday boy's weekday residence. Indeed, he was able to hear the end of our efforts when he arrived back from school.

Ringing here can appear a little on the rough side. The ground-floor ringing chamber feels almost forgotten about behind the organ and the bare floor make it a chilly experience on a day like today with a strong, cold wind whistling through the nooks and crannies of this ancient building. But whilst these aren't the easiest going bells in the county (as some who rang here for the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions in 2010 will testify!), as we showed this afternoon with our 2hrs 41mins of Surprise Minor, with a bit of hard-work these go round really nicely and I was delighted with the ringing - many thanks to the band for coming out to ring. It was a wonderful way to spend a Wednesday afternoon following an early shift in the office - with good friends and good ringing.

With Ruthie and Alfie meeting us afterwards, some of us nipped to The Turks Head on the other side of the village for a drink, whilst some went to collect travelling husbands from the railway station and Brian Whiting made his way into Ipswich for a peal attempt of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower which turned into a nonetheless respectable 1632 of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower. That wasn't the only success on a busy day of ringing within our borders, with another quarter-peal rung at Preston St Mary as all ringing rang their first blows of Hayling Island Bob Minor - well done Pam, Andrea, Lesley, Steve, Stephen and David.

Meanwhile, there was also a second peal of the day and eleventh of 2016 for the Guild (Bellboard shows a duplicate. Ed.)with a 5152 of Plain Bob Major at The Wolery, as the SGR's fine start to the year in this medium continues. Gratitude is also extended to the band who celebrated the anniversary of the birth of my eldest son with the pre-practice QP at Pettistree which was also Derek Martin's first of Treble Bob - well done Derek!

As for Mason himself, following our drink in the pub to thank those who rang in his peal, we three popped round to see him as he deservedly lapped up the attention. Happy Birthday Mason!

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Tuesday 26th January 2016

Congratulations to London ringer and once of this county Jonathan Slack and his wife Natasha on the birth of their son Jamie this morning, a first grandchild for immediate Past Guild Treasurer Gordon. The new granddad was part of the band who dedicated their pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton to the happy occasion this evening with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six of this ground-floor 8cwt eight, but it wasn't the only performance on Suffolk bells recorded on BellBoard and Campanophile today. I was glad to see Alex Tatlow's appeal on the SGR's Facebook page for a ringer for this morning's peal attempt at Bardwell was rewarded with a 5024 of Uxbridge Surprise Major in memory of the much missed Sal Burrows of Pakenham.

We were altogether quieter as I enjoyed an afternoon snooze on the sofa with Alfie following another very early shift at work and ahead of another very early night. I imagine I got more sleep than Jonathan and Natasha!

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Monday 25th January 2016

The ringing family has always been a strength of our art and has only been enhanced by social media in recent years in my humble opinion. Thus, Tom Farthing from Chicago can put a video of him carrying out a novel handling lesson on YouTube, which has been shared on Facebook and ask for opinions and advice from the wider bellringing community across the world. If you have a spare quarter of an hour or so to watch the video, then please do and if you feel able to contact Tom with your thoughts on it, then please do as that is why he has left his contact details below it. We are extremely fortunate - more so than we ever realise I believe - to be in the position that we are to have hundreds of towers and ringers within an hour or two to call upon if we want help with teaching or learning, but in places like the USA, Africa and Australia they don't have that luxury in most centres of ringing. Even a quick glance at the map of towers on The North American Guild of Change Ringers' website will show how isolated Tom and his local colleagues are compared to the majority of towers in the UK, so I hope the wealth of teaching and ringing experience we are blessed to have in the Suffolk Guild is able to contribute to Tom's request.

At St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, more traditional examples of the ringing family were in evidence, as we were joined by friends from across the county and beyond to enjoy an extremely productive and positive session. Usual participants such as Mandy Shedden, North-West District Ringing Master Rowan Wilson and Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters from Bury St Edmunds and Ian Culham and Stephen Cheek from Essex were of course welcome as usual, but it was lovely to see Ruth Suggett over from Bardwell amongst the many from closer to home. And whilst George Salter was present having played host to Swindon ringer Simon Edwards for quarter-peals at St Peter in Colchester on Friday, Coddenham and Henley on Saturday, Mistley, Stutton and on handbells in Rectory Road yesterday and peals of Stedman Triples at Helmingham and Tattingstone Surprise Minor at Tattingstone itself, others had been enjoying the reach of our hobby on the other side of the country. George Vant was with us at SMLT fresh from a weekend in Bath that saw him ring a 5376 of Cambridge Surprise Major at St Michael in the town, whilst Alex Tatlow was even busier as he returned to his old haunt to attend the University of Bristol Society of Change Ringers' annual dinner and partake in peals of 5184 of Glasgow Surprise Major at the Cathedral and a 5056 of Dereham Surprise Major at Mangotsfield in Gloucestershire.

Their presence tonight combined to allow first attempts at Swindon Surprise Royal which went extremely well, three leads of Kent Surprise Maximus that improved greatly after I bungled the initial go from the treble, a superb touch of Stedman Cinques called by GMS and all climaxed with a decent couple of courses of Little Bob on the twelve.

I imagine it was all very pleasing news for Diana Pipe to take back to her husband George as he prepares for an apparently straightforward but painful operation at Ipswich Hospital tomorrow to prevent the leg ulcers that have troubled him so. I'm confident that the ringing family will hold him in their thoughts and wish him all the best.

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Sunday 24th January 2016

Whenever I attend Sunday service - or indeed any church ceremony - these days I rarely get time for prayer, reflection and peace. Instead, I'm usually chasing after Alfie as he excitedly explores the vast space he finds himself in. So it was this morning at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, exasperated by the delightful presence of his contemporaries and his older brother leading him astray! Come the end I was exhausted!

It would be the same in ringing chambers, especially when I am manning bells in Ruthie's absence, which means dragging Alfred's buggy around to the belfries I attend. Not only does that mean it frees all the ringers present to ring without one having to babysit only , but it is becoming increasingly unfair to expect others to keep hold of him as he gets bigger, stronger, more inquisitive and determined to wriggle free and it works a treat, particularly if he has a rope attached to a downed bell to 'join in' on! However, the act of getting the buggy up stairs at our local ring of bells is in itself exhausting, especially this morning having climbed the many, many stairs up the even taller tower at Lavenham yesterday! I am eternally grateful to those who help me in such circumstances - on this occasion the new Ringing Master of the 25cwt eight Peter Mayer.

Copdock.The afternoon that followed wasn't entirely restful either as we popped over to Mothercare to get AJM's feet measured and neighbouring Toys 'R' Us in anticipation of Mason's birthday on Wednesday, all within site of the structure that houses the 9cwt six of Copdock. Rest was to come eventually once the youngest was in bed and the eldest returned to his mother's in anticipation of the start of my early shifts at work tomorrow, but it was a tiring Sabbath.

Other ringers weren't getting rest either on a busy day for some. Following on from yesterday's Society of Stowmarket Youths peal at Gislingham, there was another peal on Suffolk's bells rung by a visiting organisation, though also with ringers from within our borders with a 5040 at Tattingstone for the Essex Association. Congratulations to St Mary-le-Tower regulars Ian Culham and George Salter and Jon Waters on ringing their fiftieth, one-hundred-and-fiftieth and two-hundredth peal for the Association respectively. From a financial point of view it may seem a pity that peals rung on our soil are not benefiting SGR funds with peal fees, but importantly local bells are getting a good run-out and giving our ringers invaluable experience.

Quarter-peals were doing their bit too, with the Salter brothers and the very welcome Simon Edwards from Swindon taking advantage of being on the Shotley Peninsula with a 1272 of Carlisle Surprise Minor at Stutton, following on from a handbell QP back at base in Rectory Road.

They were almost busy as we were!

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Saturday 23rd January 2016

Mason counting cattle near Kingston Fields in Woodbridge.In the clear winter sunshine on Kingston Fields in Woodbridge this morning, there was a wide variety of youthful enthusiasm being channelled in the most wonderful ways. As Mason made new friends in the superb playground there and Alfie refused to leave the swings whilst trains trundled past, across the field small boys were playing in a six-aside game of football with a sizeable attendance watching on and on the tennis courts nearby a quite strict coach was running a session with a handful of children listening, watching and participating intently.

It was a lovely sight to behold, just as it should be, but had me wondering about ringing's place in the scheme of the pastimes of our youngsters. We do have the benefit of being a hobby for all ages, all mingling together and as being something that one can start at seventy-seven as well as seven, though usually with differing results! And there was a good proportion of young members in the bands who rang the quarter-peals of five Surprise Major methods spliced at Coddenham and Lincolnshire Surprise Major at Henley and the peal of Stedman Triples at Helmingham, as well as in the QP attempt of Grandsire Maximus at Grundisburgh sadly brought to a premature end by the second coming completely untucked on George Salter.

However, have we got enough? When I travelled with my sons to Lavenham for the South-West District Practice this afternoon, I was - apart from my eight-year-old and one-year-old and a couple of tourists who popped up to watch - the second youngest present after Neal Dodge, with neither of us being members of the host district. What does the future hold for the SW? They certainly aren't unique in those circumstances either.

Derek Rose threading the second rope back through the guides at Lavenham.Derek Rose threading the second rope back through the guides at Lavenham.As alluded to though, the beauty of our art is that once one has begun, even if it is at a relatively mature age, one can benefit from and contribute to it for several decades, if one desires and if God wills it and so the present is - in my opinion - fairly healthy in the pretty corner of the Suffolk Guild I found myself at 3pm. The numbers in attendance were good and whilst the repertoire was limited to Call-Changes and Plain Bob of the Triples and Major varieties, it felt as if everything being rung and the occasion overall was genuinely useful to all the vast number of learners present in this famous old ringing chamber. Even a broken stay on the second and the operation to rethread the ropes back through the multiple wooden guides between the ceiling far above and the ringers far below failed to set things back too much!

Important as well was that it was a nice social get-together. I was delighted to see Ringing Master Derek Rose - and to meet his wife Penny - as he led the large party splendidly, as well as familiar characters like Angela & Crawford Allen, Richard Finch (many thanks to him and Neal on taking Alfred's buggy down and up the large number of steps in this tall, tall tower respectively), Richard Gates, David & Lynda Lee, Alan Moult, and Neville Whittell, to chat peregrine falcons with Awl a'huld editor Sue Freeman (look out for an article on that subject hopefully in a future edition!) and after corresponding via email in the past, it was nice to talk face-to-face with Haverhill Tower Captain Brian Mills and to discover that this 12cwt six are regularly fully-manned on Sunday mornings. We three left early to pick Ruthie up from her day's work, but thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so we spent in the presence of friends, new acquaintances and this 21cwt eight.

Elsewhere, the aforementioned performances within our border were accompanied by a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Old Newton and a 5088 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds as the Norwich Diocesan Association took their number of peals in our county in 2016 to four thus far, as the boys and I enjoyed that morning in the sunshine with the youth of Woodbridge.

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Friday 22nd January 2016

An excited Mason was dropped off to us this evening as he has become a big brother to another sibling, with his mother giving birth this morning to Max.

At ours though, it was a lot quieter as another late shift ate into our evening.

No such problems for the FNQPC though, as a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was successfully rung at the wonderfully isolated Ashbocking.

A life-changing day for some, a particularly normal day for others.

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Thursday 21st January 2016

Dawn broke and Woodbridge was white, so white that when I drew back the curtains to welcome in daylight I initially thought snow had fallen. It hadn't of course, mercifully as experience proves everything grinds to a halt in such circumstances and that all must be banished to the indoors on instructions delivered through journalists pointlessly shivering by the side of snow-covered roads, in case we don't know what snow-covered roads look like.

Grundisburgh.Still, it was apparently the coldest night for three years last night and made for a chilly start to the day and that chill had not left us completely come the darkness of evening as I wandered the cold, dark and ancients streets of our town of residence with an aim to overcome the practical hurdles presented by a clash of my late shift at work and Ruthie's choir practice. Having collected Alfie from St Mary's Church Centre as he patiently played with crayons whilst his mother and her colleagues sang in harmony around him, we had got over that particular hurdle before another shortened evening that couldn't include a trip to Grundisburgh. It is worth reiterating though, that they are practising every Thursday in the little wobbly red-brick tower for those who can help and are looking to be helped. For all the mocking of these bells, the opportunity to ring on six, eight, ten and twelve on light, manageable bells in one session has been extremely useful to many learners over the years, including myself and could be again if experienced ringers and improvers can support Jo Crowe there.

There was useful ringing going on in the west of Suffolk meanwhile as a quarter-peal of Warkworth Surprise Minor was rung on the 5cwt gallery six at Tostock. Well done to Ruth Suggett and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first blows in one of the trickier of the forty-one 'standard' Surprise Minor methods.

It takes more than a bit of frost to stop ringers I'm glad to say!

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Wednesday 20th January 2016

Having rushed about to get out the last couple of evenings, we failed tonight as neither of us made it to Pettistree for the weekly practice after my late shift at work and a busy day for Ruthie with her sister, nieces and Alfie.

We were clearly not needed for the quarter-peal beforehand as an impressive 1272 of Bourne Surprise Minor was successfully rung. With Mike Whitby conducting it, the performance is an echo of the figures highlighted at the weekend on the Suffolk Guild's Twitter feed that revealed the leading venues, methods, conductors and participants involved in QPs within our borders over 2015. The aforementioned ground-floor six and MGW top the leaderboard of the towers rung at and those who called quarters respectively and perhaps also unsurprisingly Plain Bob Minor was the most rung and Lesley Steed rang the most in total, whilst Minor leads the way by a country mile as the stage most quartered.

Looking ahead, the South-West District Practice is planned for the famous big eight of Lavenham from 3-4.30 on Saturday afternoon. These are a wonderful ring, but very daunting and if members are to get the most out of them it will need numbers and help from beyond the SW is sure to be welcomed, so if you are at a loose end and are able to make it over to this beautiful corner of our county then please do.

Back across in the east meanwhile, there is lined up two events in the North-East District next week, with a Triples/Major Practice at Halesworth on Tuesday evening from 7.30-9 and then on Friday at the same time at Wenhaston there will be an Early Learners' Practice, both sessions that could be absolutely invaluable. Please do support these occasions if you are able.

Hopefully there won't be too many late shifts getting in the way!

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Tuesday 19th January 2016

The cold, dark, short days and long nights of January, with the Christmas and New Year celebrations a distant, almost unreal memory could be very depressing, with not much to look forward to. Yesterday has officially been dubbed the gloomiest day of the year, spring, late evenings and holidays are still months away and tonight Ipswich Town subjected their long-suffering supporters to their annual departure from the FA Cup at the first opportunity (it is six years since we last won a match in the competition) by losing at Portsmouth from a couple of divisions below.

In recent years though, the first month of the year has given us events to anticipate keenly. Primarily, Mason's birthday on the 27th is the pinnacle of these thirty-one days, but tonight we enjoyed something that has become an annual highlight - the Eastern Angles' seasonal show at The Seckford Theatre. I like our visits to this tiny venue, hidden away in the depths of the pretty grounds of Woodbridge School. The stage sits in between the two sides of the audience and for a couple of hours you can forget the world outside as you are drawn into the performance being carried out by actors clearly enjoying themselves a lot just feet away. Those performances are usually hilarious, often panto-like and performed by just a handful of actors all playing multiple-characters, which leads to the occasional mishap that only adds to the hilarity and this year's play entitled Holy Mackeral - a tale of East Anglian fishermen invading the Cornish port of Newlyn's waters, Wesleyanism and featuring Stephen Pettman's 'twin brother' - was no exception.

On previous visits we have often bumped into familiar faces, including bellringers, but as with last year the audience were complete strangers to us. However, we had Ruthie's sister Clare to keep us company on this occasion as their mother Kate bravely looked after our collection of children - thank you Mrs Eagle both for that and for the tickets to another fun-filled evening!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, well done to Janet Garnett and Alison Daniels on ringing their first of London Scholars Pleasure Treble Bob Minor and Alison again on her first of Oxford Treble Bob Minor in the quarter-peals on the 21cwt six of St Mary-the-Virgin, Newmarket and the 14cwt six of Exning respectively, as the bells of the far west of the county were given a runout.

See, January's not that bad!

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Monday 18th January 2016

If my time ahead is to be mapped out, than the next three months will have at its spine a return of my shift work at John Catt Educational, arriving in darkness one week, leaving in darkness the next (though that is still the case at 5pm anyway at the moment) in behaviour necessary to contact thousands of schools across all timezones when they are in and able to answer the phone.

Week one consists of late shifts and began today and whilst it made the usual Monday morning race to get children and adults ready for the day ahead less of a rush, it also meant that my evening consisted of a quick tea and hello to Ruthie and Alfie and getting to St Mary-le-Tower practice as soon as possible.

I'm glad I did though, as the session was an encouraging one, with a wide variety of methods and good focus on Stedman Cinques, as well as some call-changes and Grandsire Caters for our visitor Val from Boxted. With the pub calling, I chose to make my way home, further fuelling rumours that I have given up alcohol, but tonight it was more to do with that late finish at work. Only another three months of this go...

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Sunday 17th January 2016

The seemingly limitless possibilities of ringing were in evidence today.

I would dearly love to ring a peal of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major, even to call it one day. To ring Norman Smith's famous composition for example, let alone conduct would be - and is - an incredible achievement. Those who attempt to learn one Surprise Major method, indeed the standard eight spliced will appreciate the powers of recall, memory and concentration required for 'just' that, let alone an additional fifteen methods on top.
This afternoon's 5152 of twenty-three largely unfamiliar - and in the case of most of them newly rung - Surprise Major methods spliced at Yardley in Birmingham makes the aforementioned endeavours seem positively ordinary in comparison. As if that wasn't hard enough, the composition was a one-part, meaning the conductor Simon Linford had an added level of complexity to contend with. Most peals of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major are rung to a seven-part composition, meaning that what you have to learn as conductor is reduced to seven equal parts repeated and identical in every aspect apart from the order of the bells which will 'rotate' with each part until they have all done every bit of line of each method. For example, have a look at Don Morrison's more 'standard' composition of the peal of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods rung in New York - extremely impressive in its own right - today and compare to Mark Davies' one-part rung in Britain's second city. Well down to all concerned in both successes.

Yesterday's failed attempt to ring a record length of Zanussi Surprise Maximus was another example of ringers pushing ringing's limits and so it was perhaps appropriate that whilst others were straining their brains this afternoon that during my more relaxing but less energetic pursuits I came across an interview on page eighteen of the latest edition of the Coventry Diocesan Guild's Newsletter with Tom Griffiths. He was a member of the band taking part in proceedings at St Magnus-the-Martyr yesterday, but he was being quizzed on this occasion about the successful attempt to ring the longest peal on twelve, rung at South Petherton back in October. It is a fascinating insight into the professional preparations required for such a performance. I have been involved with two long length attempts, one of which was to be a 11,111 of Stedman Cinques at the Bullring that never started and another which would have been an extent of Kent Treble Bob Major (40,320 changes) on Stuart and Liz Hutchieson's mini-ring when it was in their old abode in the Staffordshire village of Armitage and which came to grief a couple of hours into what would've been around sixteen hours if successful. But neither compared in their preparation to that as described by Tom in the superb Q&A with Simon Rogers.

These exploits are not something that most ringers will be involved with, but they should inspire all of us to push ourselves. If someone can ring faultlessly for over fourteen hours or successfully memorise dozens of unfamiliar methods and/or what order they come in, then there is no reason why you can't ring Plain Bob Doubles on a different bell or call your first quarter. The important thing is that we keep improving to raise our own standards and those around us and in Suffolk today there were those doing just that.

Well done to Neal Dodge on his first quarter of Minor as conductor in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Great Barton, on circling the tower at Ingham and along with his bandmates on ringing their first of Ingham Doubles in the 1320 rung there and congratulations to Edith Robinson on conducting her five hundredth QP in the 1440 at Tostock.

Mason with Lucy the dog in Grundisburgh ringing chamber.All of this came after a lively period on my usual Sunday morning circuit. Grundisburgh was boosted by the visit of Molly Waterson and Adrian Craddock's son's dog Lucy, but missing the presence of Gill Twissell after Stephen Pettman (accidentally he swears!) dropped the rope spider at Burgh on her head. The boys and I weren't at the 8cwt six rung from the porch as we had been at St Mary-le-Tower where South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey was in trouble for parking in the organist's space and a decent half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal disappointingly collapsed with those who should know better losing concentration.

Things had improved when I returned to SMLT with Ruthie that evening for the monthly ringing for evensong where the focus was Erin Caters, as Ringing Master David Potts looks to vary things. He has made a good choice in Erin too, in my opinion. For those with even a basic understanding of Stedman, this should be a far simpler variation. The dodges are all identical, as are the calls, but the main difference is that instead of having to remember whether you are going into the slow or quick frontwork, you have just the one, simple frontwork to recall and in my experience that has always produced much better ringing than you often get with its more famous counterpart. And whilst we made far harder work of it than anyone should ever make of this incredibly straightforward line, we eventually began producing some relaxed, enjoyable ringing, helped by the welcome presence of Cath and Julian Colman.

Importantly, we were pushing our limits.

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Saturday 16th January 2016

Since Alfie's birth, lay-ins have been a rarity, for obvious reasons. But with Alfred sleeping through and late into the morning for the second night in the row (though we are already too long in the parental tooth to announce victory on getting him settled into his new bed), Mason taking our phone calls and - unusually for us - absolutely nothing planned or to get up for this morning, we didn't drag ourselves from our cosy bed until well after nine. Some way off my uni days when it wasn't unknown for my contemporaries and me to rise until the evening episode of Neighbours (when the BBC used to show it at 5.35pm!), but still a luxury for us these days!

By that point, the band attempting the longest length yet rung of Zanussi Surprise Maximus in a performance at St Magnus the Martyr in London that would've taken in the region of 8hrs15mins if successful had started out on their endeavours. Though fairly standard fare for ringers at the top of our art, this would've still been an incredible feat of physical and mental endurance. Sadly, by the time we had actually got up to do something and personally deliver a birthday card to Ruthie's granddad, their efforts had finished prematurely, mercifully 'just' 2hrs30mins in rather than 7hrs30mins in. Cue the jokes about it not making the first cycle and suggestions that they should've rung Bosch instead, but whatever the reason for it finishing early, it is a pity, though I imagine the ringing would've been superb.

Our day was less momentous as once we'd sent felicitations to my wife's grandfather for the anniversary of his birth earlier in the week, we set about using today as one of those mundane, but nonetheless invaluable sorting out days. Perhaps others in Suffolk were doing the same as apart from a handbell peal in Bacton there was a distinct lack of activity from within our borders in the quarter-peal and peal departments, atypical for 2016 thus far. At least it allowed us a bit longer in bed though.

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Friday 15th January 2016

Did you know that in Denmark, it is a tradition to gather your unwanted crockery over the course of the year and then on New Year's Eve wander the community smashing it in the doorway of the home of someone you like? Or that in Spain at the stroke of midnight as the old year passes and the New Year arrives, it is a custom to eat twelve grapes - one with each chime? I didn't until this morning when I attended Mason's class assembly. Every day - in this case quite literally - is a school day.

The subject - as you will have worked out - was New Year's celebrations around the world, complete with a lively dance to Kool & The Kang's Celebration and my son delivered his lines superbly, with typical volume and enthusiasm to set my day off nicely ahead of me heading into work where John Catt Educational had very kindly allowed me the leeway to see the boy's performance first.

Meanwhile, I received an email in my role as Suffolk Guild Public Relations Officer from my counterpart at the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, Kate Flavell. It was in regards to two PR opportunities later this year, one being the Queen's ninetieth birthday celebrations in April and June and the other being the Heritage Open Days in September. Both give us a chance to promote our art through wider events. Hopefully by then I shan't be in the job and I won't pre-empt what my successor might like to do in regards to the two dates, but it may be worth planning what your tower might be doing in regards to both.

God willing, they will be two occasions we will look back on with satisfaction come New Year's Eve.

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Thursday 14th January 2016

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Well sleet. I'm never entirely sure what the difference is precisely or where 'wintry showers' come into the equation. Either way, as fleeting and light as it was, it is the first time for a couple of years that anything resembling the white stuff has fallen in these tropical parts for at least a couple of years to my memory and certainly in Alfie's lifetime, hence the look of wonderment and excitement on the twenty-one month old's features anytime we went outside as we went about our post-work business.

The conditions weren't enough to prevent either Ruthie or me going to the Special Surprise Major Practice at Ufford, but my wife's choir practice and this evening's attempts to ensure Alfie was well settled in his new bed meant that neither of us made it to this particular Suffolk eight tonight.

Meanwhile, at another Suffolk eight, fundraising continues apace to raise enough money to replace their sixth, with a sponsored weight loss! More can to be found on Offton Bell Fund's Sponsored Weightloss website where two so far have signed up. Well done to Adrienne Sharp and Peta Whiting! However, more are needed to lose as many lbs and raise as many £s as possible! So if your New Year's Resolution is to lose some weight, why not tie it into this worthy cause!

What else are you going to do in the Great Snow of 2016?

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Wednesday 13th January 2016

I like Adrian Craddock. He may lead us to occasionally tear our hair out, as this self-deprecating, softly-spoken learner himself often points out, but he is enthusiastic, inquisitive and willing to get around to many towers. His is an example I wish more learners would follow as it is working as his ringing has steadily improved. It doesn't seem all that long ago that he was struggling with Plain Hunt and yet this evening he trebled impressively to a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree before the practice, his first of Treble Bob. Well done Adrian!

Delighted as I was to partake in his achievements, that was my ringing for the day done as I swapped with Ruthie and she joined the session that followed and a drink at The Castle in Bredfield with landlords Stewart and Louise taking a well-earned break at The Greyhound alongside SS Peter & Paul, whilst I took on the task of getting Alfie settled in his increasingly familiar bed.

Our success on the ground-floor six wasn't the only one in the county today, with another quarter rung earlier in the day at Bardwell and what is already the seventh Suffolk Guild peal of the year, less than two weeks into it, with a 5040 of Surprise Minor rung at Campsea Ashe.

Hopefully there will be more successes to report from Adrian and others in the coming days, weeks and months.

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Tuesday 12th January 2016

It was a largely uneventful day in the Munnings family Woodbridge branch, bar a fleeting visit from bridesmaid, Godmother of Alfie and Ruthie's long-time best friend Fergie as she visited her hometown exactly a month after we had visited her at her Brighton abode.

Quiet as well on the ringing front in Suffolk, at least from a peal and quarter-peal front, but it hasn't always been like that as a couple of tweets on the Guild's Twitter feed highlights, as tonight I was interested to read that 166 peals were rung in the county in 2015 and yet only 96 for the SGR, whilst an impressive 591 QP's were rung in the county, sixty more than in 2014. Without going into much research on previous years, I'm not sure what conclusion can be drawn from the stats. Quarter-peal ringing is clearly thriving, which can only be good as to my mind it offers a valuable gateway for learners and though so many peals rung on Suffolk soil didn't benefit Guild coffers, they were still benefitting Suffolk ringers through the Youths of College, Cumberland and Stowmarket. Still, I hope that the SGR continues its impressive start to 2016 peal-ringing and God willing there are busier days of ringing ahead to report on this blog.

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