Thursday 23rd May 2024

Richy's Blog

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New Year's Eve 2017

New Year's Eve is a strange mixture of anticipation and reflection.

Anticipation, as for all that experience tells us the actual ticking over from one year to the next is a bit of an anti-climax, at least it offers an opportunity for a party with food, drink and good company, a party that is pretty much guaranteed to last until midnight at least.

Reflection as of course we usually take this moment to look back on the previous 365 days and 2017 is no different.

Personally it has been the most expensive year of our lives so far and God willing ever. A new house and car on top of the usual expense that three boys incure with just about everything, which this year included a new, bigger tent for Joshua's first camping trip. Although the less said about those travels to Derbyshire for Rambling Ringers the better...

It has been an overwhelming year for us though. Actually owning our own home feels liberating, the trio of brothers have been growing up and progressing, albeit not without more than the odd tantrum.

From a personal ringing perspective I worry that we don't do enough to justify writing a daily ringing blog on it. However, whilst clearly we don't do as much as we did when I started writing a decade ago, I would argue we still do more than many. Over sixty towers have been rung at in five counties. Ruthie has rung eight quarter-peals, whilst my five QPs have been complemented with fifteen peals, with the three rung for Mason, Alfie and Joshua's birthdays particularly memorable. We have made most South-East District and Suffolk Guild events, with particular highlights being the Guild AGM at Beccles, SE District Striking Competition at Bredfield, the SGR ones at Walsham-le-Willows and Horringer and our District outing to south Essex in a still busy year of ringing.

The Guild Annual Report will - I imagine - remember members that have passed away since 1st January far more eloquently than I ever could, but I was particularly sad that the passing of Felixstowe's Frank Bloomfield went almost unnoticed, whilst the sudden death of the ultra-fit and larger than life Derek Martin from Easton was the biggest shock to us. We miss him a lot at Pettistree.

Today summed up our year really. The only ringing I did was at Woodbridge for morning worship ahead of attending a sparsely populated service and was then followed by the very mundane task of buying a new laptop and then slightly more exciting job of buying a birthday present for my Goddaughter Maddie.

Across the world ringers were ringing the New Year in, with those at Peterborough Cathedral even getting paid to do so with 2018 being the 900th anniversary of the famous old building. Lack of payment wasn't stopping others from doing the same, not just at cathedrals and minsters in Liverpool, Worcester, York and the like, but also village rings all over, including here in Suffolk at places like Stoke-by-Nayland, Woolpit and Sproughton

Ruthie and me primed for the evening ahead. Pete Faircloth enjoying himself as we see 2018 in. Susanne Eddis hiding. Not very well...These days going out to welcome 1st January isn't practical for us, but we are fortunate that Ufford ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth normally join us and this year was no different as we ate, drank and chatted into 2018, with Jools Holland's Hootenanny - complete with local resident Ed Sheeran - and the spectacular fireworks on the River Thames on in the background.

Our guests gone, the anticipation made way for reflection of a lovely night.

Happy New Year!

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Saturday 30th December 2017

Yesterday's news of Alan Regin's MBE in the New Year's Honours List strangely overlooked two other ringers also honoured. Congratulations to Thomas Frederic Metcalfe on gaining an MBE "for services to bell ringing in Cumbria and Bryan Birkett for getting a BEM "for services to bell ringing and the community in Nottinghamshire". Although I don't know either, I am sure they are deserving of these honours.

Certainly far more deserving than I am of such titles, especially on the basis of today where with Ruthie at work I was in sole control of the three boys and therefore practically nothing got done.

Still, other ringers in Suffolk were more active with a quarter-peal of Norfolk and Norwich Surprise Minor rung on the back six at Bardwell where at least one of the trio of recognised ringers was celebrated. Well done to them all though.

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Friday 29th December 2017

Many congratulations to ringer Alan Regin on being awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours List for "services to camponology and its heritage". I don't know Alan well, but I know that this is very much deserved. A superb ringer and a wonderful speaker when presented to the media on ringing's behalf, his work on finding out more about and commemorating ringers lost in the First World War has not only ensured that they are appropriately remembered, but has given the exercise the platform from which to promote itself so positively over the commemorations marking the centenary of that dreadful conflict and also inspired the project to recruit 1400 ringers before the anniversary of the end of the war next year, a figure based on the number of ringers lost in fighting between 1914 and 1918, something which was featured in a brief report on our local BBC radio station today. Well done Alan from us in Suffolk!

Two of the more than five thousand peals he has rung were rung within our borders this year, including one for the SGR at Ixworth composed and conducted by Louis Suggett, which brings me seamlessly to the St Mary-le-Tower ringer's latest achievement. Not on the end of a rope this time, although there are many of those for him to look back at over 2017. Rather, his incredible feat of running his twelfth marathon this year is worthy of plaudits, especially from someone like me who only runs when he's late for work! Well done Louis!

All of which puts my day firmly in the shade, but there was activity beyond the housework that I was able to complete on another day mainly in my own company. BBC Radio Suffolk are planning on launching Suffolk Day 2018 (21st June, put the date in your new diary!) on Tuesday and they are keen for bells to play their part. Presumably because mine was a number they had I got a call from Mark Murphy's producer Linda asking if someone could come on to speak to Mark on his first show of the New Year. Having passed them onto Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge, I believe that something will indeed be happening on the show, so listen out on Tuesday morning!

Meanwhile, those who knew former Kessingland ringer Nancy Taylor who recently passed away will no doubt be interested to know that her funeral will be south of the border at Reydon on Friday 5th January at noon, with food and drink afterwards at the Angel Inn at Wangford. Hopefully there will be a big turnout.

Buxhall.On this Friday though, across the county at Buxhall, a quarter-peal was being rung to celebrate the seventieth birthday of former local ringer Malcolm Manning with St Clement's College Bob Minor the method of choice for the occasion. Happy Birthday Malcolm!

Meanwhile we welcomed Ruthie's schoolfriend Vicky and her husband Gavin to our home for their first visit to our current abode. A convivial evening was had until the early hours as we celebrated friendship.

I hope Alan celebrates his honour too - it is richly deserved.

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Thursday 28th December 2017

I experienced a rarity today. With Ruthie returning to work and the boys going back to nursery, I had an entire day to myself, with John Catt Educational closed until the first working day of the New Year as it usually is.

As much as I missed them all, I think I made the most of it, getting jobs done when they needed doing and even finding time for relaxation. A new Christmas tree was received to replace the current one which isn't looking so good following the housemove and weeks of abuse from Charlie the cat, with time even to check it over. The dishwasher was unloaded, loaded, unloaded, etc. Likewise the washing machine was in constant use and clean clothes hung on every available surface to dry, the bins emptied and the house tidied.

Melton Old Church from across the Ipswich-Lowestoft railway line. Melton Old Church. On a chilly but sunny winter's day, it seemed a pity not to use my freedom to take a walk, which took me up to The Wilford Bridge pub and along the River Deben and views across the railway line to Melton Old Church, sadly bereft of bells bar a single 5cwt one cast by Miles Graye of Colchester in 1618.

On the subject of bells (and I suppose some reference should be made to them in a ringing blog), the only regret was that I didn't have the forethought to arrange some ringing, but others were making up for it across Suffolk, especially at Horringer where Jimmy Yeoman was ringing his first quarter-peal on eight and Joshua Watkins his first of Major in the 1264 of Plain Bob. Well done Jimmy and Joshua!

There was also a QP in the same method rung at Kersey, whilst the first peal at Thurston since their augmentation to six in 2012 was successfully scored. Now that really is a rarity!

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Wednesday 27th December 2017

The day after Boxing Day - like the other weekdays between the Bank Holidays at this time of year - have an odd feeling about them. Half back to normal, half still very Christmassy. Many who had the 25th and 26th off will have returned to work, but even then for a good proportion of those it will be a quieter time than usual and for others as fortunate as me to have this week off there is still opportunity to enjoy the aura of the season.

There were elements of both the mundane and the seasonal today. After two days of being very generously fed and watered in a relaxed atmosphere of overindulgence and gay abandon, it was back to feeding ourselves and the boys, amongst tidying up of the leftover mess from the last forty-eight hours.

Alfie and Joshua enjoying the piano playmate - they hadn't quite managed Stedman Triples on it before it was put away!However, we also had a visit from my brother Chris and his wife Becky bearing more presents as we met up for the first time over this Christmastide. A lovely couple of hours was had reflecting on recent days and discussing hoped for plans in 2018 with some significant birthdays due between now and then. And across the day gifts received from Santa Claus were played with by the boys (especially the piano mat that their aunt and uncle brought Alfie this afternoon!), eaten and watched, including a wonderful DVD called Life on the Deben, very kindly gifted to me by Ruthie. As the name suggests, it is about the River Deben, presented by journalist John McCarthy and whilst it doesn't feature ringing or ringers, it does feature some of the towers along the river with bells such as Debenham, Cretingham and of course Woodbridge, as well as an interview with Roger Townsend, husband of local ringer Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend. Well worth a watch if you get the chance.

Other ringers were actually ringing in Suffolk today, with a peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower, whilst Richard Stevens was ringing his first quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor in the 1272 rung before the usual weekly Pettistree practice during his school holidays. Well done Richard on a day both ordinary and different for him as well.

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Boxing Day 2017

For all that yesterday was a collective experience of celebration with most people off work, the streets quiet and folk spending time with loved ones (and probably not so loved ones in some cases!), today saw many desperate to get back to everyday mundanity for reasons that I still can't entirely fathom but respect.

Shops were heaving not only with low-paid workers on a slightly higher pittance than usual being forced in hours after the festivities wound down, but also a mass of shoppers anxious to get trampled on in the early hours to grab a 'bargain' which in reality is probably a false one and is almost certainly available throughout the year in this age of internet shopping and struggling businesses.

Football stadiums were heaving again too and although this was once a pleasure on Boxing Day, Ipswich Town's apparently very dull 0-0 draw against QPR in a half-empty/full Portman Road was a reminder that as we approach 2018 very little appears to be changing at our once successful poverty-stricken club.

Quarter-peal and peal ringers were a little busier than on Christmas Day too, although not by much and not in Suffolk it would seem, at least according to BellBoard.

And yet the Feast of St Stephen is still a Bank Holiday and for the majority a day to be spent with family and friends and that included us I'm pleased to say. We woke at Mum and Dad's where we had very kindly been put up overnight and having been fed (despite a misunderstanding over toast!) and more importantly sobered up enough to safely drive, we went on to Ruthie's mother's to wash in the continued absence of hot water at home and then onto my wife's grandparents for lunch and tea, the former shared with her Uncle Moog and his family, the latter with my sister-in-law Clare and her family.

It was a lovely, chilled day and although it didn't involve any ringing, it was far more preferable than going to the shops or football.

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Christmas Day 2017

I can entirely understand people who can't stand Christmas. Even putting aside those of other religions and non (although many of those will also celebrate the sentiments of the season) and those on their own, many just get plain fed up of it getting shoved in their faces on every day pretty much from early autumn onwards which can get a bit much even for an enthusiast of the festivities like me.

It is a shame though, for as we criss-crossed the south-east of Suffolk through town centres and villages, surburbia and gloriously isolated countryside, there was a wonderful sense that unlike the disparate and often lonely state of our society, there was a collective gathering of humanity to enjoy family and friends.

We experienced this both in passing as strangers gave yuletide felicitations and we drove by people carrying bags of gifts, but also first-hand through ringing and time spent with both our families.

Presents under the tree. The aftermath of present opening...We did briefly get some time with just our household as two very excitable boys and a bemused but amazed Joshua awoke in the darkness of 7am to race downstairs to see what Father Christmas had brought them, but having turned our living room into a recycling plant littered with ripped paper, we rode out into the wider world to share our 25th December with many of those we are blessed to know.

Ringing at Pettistree.There was a slight shortage of ringers at Pettistree, but not on quality with some superbly struck Plain Bob Minimus and Grandsire Doubles amongst the repertoire. Ruthie was dropped off at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge to join her fellow choristers in singing for the 10am service whilst the trio of brothers and I continued on to the later ringing at St Mary-le-Tower where well-rung Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung but the highlight was Sue Williamson ringing in her reindeer slippers, a video of which can be viewed on the Guild Facebook page.

Ruthie entertaing Mason & Alfie. More present opening at Kate's. Alfie & Mason ready for their dinner! Joshua getting stuck into his dinner. More present opening at Mum & Dad's. More present opening at Mum & Dad's.

I passed on a sip of the sherry very kindly offered me, as I had a limited time to fulfill my plan to make my usual Christmas Day visit to Sproughton where it was nice to help out with some St Clement's College Bob Minor before the merriment began, first at mother-in-law Kate's where we were part of a crowd of eleven, then my wife's grandparents and an attendance of twenty-one and finally my parents as part of a group of eight. Turkey was consumed, a constant stream of presents were opened at each new location and my mother's much anticipated punch was enjoyed, along with the numerous Christmas beers that we also carry around each year. Immense thanks to our various hosts.

Unsurprisingly it is a quiet day for peal-ringing and is often the last date to be secured for those looking to complete the quest of ringing a peal on every day of the calendar. Today saw three of the five peals achieving this landmark (for the second time in one) for a member of the band, including within our borders where Peter Waterfield got there with a 5040 on handbells in Bacton - congratulations Peter!

I am still some way short of such an achievement and so I was more than happy on this occasion to spend it as we did. We had a wonderful day and I hope you all of you did too, whether you like Christmas or not.

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Christmas Eve 2017

We may be in a new house and celebrating the big day itself - and therefore today too - with five of us, but this Christmas Eve was reassuringly familiar. The peal at Long Stratton just over the border in Norfolk was successfully rung for an incredible sixty-third consecutive 24th December in a row, whilst personally our day was topped with ringing for Nine Lessons and Carols at St Mary-le-Tower and kebab meat and chips!

Well done to the band that rang in the 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods that extends a sequence that goes back to 1955 and which again included a strong Suffolk presence with Katharine and David Salter ringing alongside Paul Norris, once of Pettistree. God willing it has several years left to run!

It was a good day for ringing at SMLT generally, with the evening ringing including a decent half a course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, aided by the return of Colin and George Salter and following on from usual Sunday morning ringing that saw us ringing Yorkshire Surprise Maximus extremely well, especially considering the ropes were stiffer than... Well a very stiff thing.

With no ringing at Grundisburgh and Ruthie accompanying us in the absence of a service at Woodbridge, we followed our earlier ringing on the county's heaviest twelve with a drink and cake at Costa Coffee and a bit of last minute shopping in a not unexpectedly busy Ipswich, before returning home to host Ruthie's best friend Fergie.

Elsewhere within our borders, congratulations to Philip Gorrod and Nicole Rolph on ringing their one hundredth quarter-peal together in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples in Halesworth on a busy day of ringing in the county, with the length and method replicated at Gislingham, a 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Palgrave, a QP of Minor scored at Pettistree and a date touch at Offton successfully clocking in at 2017 changes of Double Norwich Court Bob Major.

It has been a lovely, reassuringly familar Christmas Eve.

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Saturday 23rd December 2017

With the two-and-a-half hour long Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the centre of it, an early arrival and the usual abundance of adverts (it appears that advertisers believe that all cinema-goers need new cars) beforehand, I worked out that I spent about 3hrs10mins in the quaint Riverside Theatre by the River Deben in Woodbridge this afternoon. By my reckoning, only five of the twenty-four peals recorded on BellBoard today took longer, with one being particularly significant as Ruth Curtis became the first lady to ring five thousand peals with the 5000 of London No.3 Surprise Royal at St Mary the Virgin in Nottingham. Congratulations Ruth!

Star Wars has never massively been my thing. I've rung in quarter-peals of Return of The Jedi Surprise Minor and Star Wars Surprise Minor at Pettistree and Kettleburgh respectively, the latter even being rung on May 4th with a knowing nod and wink and the first three films were entertaining as a child, but I only recall seeing one or two of the near half-dozen made since it was decided to milk the franchise to death. Therefore in isolation, I know which I would prefer given the choice between sitting in a darkened cinema being transported to a galaxy far far away or a decent peal in any galaxy then I know which I would prefer.

However, this was a big treat for Mason who is absolutely nuts about the films and having long ago resigned myself to the fact that parenthood trumps peal-ringing a few years ago, I actually quite enjoyed it. A bit too lengthy it may be and there were quite a lot of periods where I was entirely clueless as to what was going on, but if you've never watched a Star Wars film and spectacular CGI scenes (including more than a few high-octane battles that assault the senses when sat in the front row right next to a big screen) are your thing, then this could be the way to while away a few spare hours.

With Ruthie at work, I was extremely grateful to her mother Kate and Ron for looking after Alfie and Joshua as their older brother and I were watching Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and co and even more so for the tea put together for us afterwards, once I had collected my wife from her final stint at John Ives before Christmas, with festive hats and jumpers in evidence.

St Lawrence. St Clement.Meanwhile, it was good to see George and Colin Salter back in Ipswich ringing today in the 1296 of Netherseale Surprise Minor at St Clement and 1260 of Doubles at St Lawrence.

Top headliner in Suffolk ringing today though has to be Mark Steggles who this afternoon rang his first peal in the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at Bacton - congratulations Mark!

And as this blog entry will be the last I get in before the big day, I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy your ringing on the day and that it enhances the festivities for those listening. It doesn't have to last longer than The Last Jedi!

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Friday 22nd December 2017

It is at Christmas that I appreciate my blessings the most, such as family, friends and ringing. But also my employment. As ever, the last working day before the 25th December was marked at John Catt Educational with a raffle that on this occasion saw me supplement the bottle of Prosecco that had already generously been left on my desk between leaving yesterday afternoon and arriving this morning with a bottle of red wine, before we were released for the season at lunchtime.

It gave me an afternoon to get some bits and pieces in my own time before eventually collecting Ruthie, Mason, Alfie and Joshua for what God willing will be a wonderful weekend and festivities. I'm feeling very blessed.

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Thursday 21st December 2017

It is the shortest day of the year and appropriately this is one of the shortest blog entries of the year.

There was no choir practice tonight and so we could have joined Grundisburgh practice for mince pies and hot punch, but having been out every night this week between us we decided instead to settle in watching the Christmas episodes of The Vicar of Dibley on DVD whilst wrapping presents.

We still have no hot water though as the latest visit of our friendly plumber Paul resulted in lots of head scratching and the ordering of another part.

In order to let him in I was very generously released by John Catt Educational at 4pm, darkness already fallen, but not unexpectedly for a sales team which mainly works with independent schools it was extremely quiet.

More surprisingly it was also quiet in the county's quarter-peal and peal columns on BellBoard. Perhaps everyone is waiting for more daylight hours to ring in.

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Wednesday 20th December 2017

Thank you yet again to mother-in-law Kate for the use of her hot water as ours again disappeared despite being fixed last week at great expense. At least the heating is still working as previously and having a dishwasher means there shouldn't be any huge piles of washing-up piling high uncontrollably, but the prospect of having to get a new boiler for eye-watering sums looms ever larger with each failure.

Along with Ruthie's attempts to construct a bigger hand-me-down cot for Joshua being scuppered by a lack of the requisite number of bolts, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was a bad day for us.

Yet, frustrating as the above is, the rest of the day was actually another productive one, as my midweek weekend continued with a trip to troubled Toys R Us to purchase a mattress for the aforementioned cot, the Christmas cards that needed posting were sent off just in the nick of time and Alfie painted the nativity set he'd been given at church.

And once the children and us had been washed thanks to the generosity of Mrs Eagle, Ruthie went off in higher spirits to Pettistree for the practice and a drink in The Greyhound and although it appears the pre-session quarter-peal attempt was unsuccessful, there were successes on bells in Suffolk today, with a QP of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced rung at Horringer and a brace of peals of Surprise Minor rung on handbells in Bacton, with seven methods rung in 1hr44mins and thirty methods in 1hr46mins.

Hopefully they had hot water to greet them afterwards.

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Tuesday 19th December 2017

As I look to use up my remaining holiday allocation at work, today marked the first of a brace of days off that not only served to make a midweek weekend, but also almost signal the start of my time off for Christmas. It is traditionally a quiet week for us in the sales team anyway (hence why I leave a couple of days for now) and once back experience shows that Thursday and Friday will probably be even quieter, relaxed and possibly truncated,the sparse workload punctuated by excited chatter about colleague's festive plans.

Today’s activities did little to dissuade me of my seasonal mood, with trips to the local Adnams shop, Grange Farm Shop and Wyevale Garden Centre (where we were able to pick up a cask of Henrietta brewed by former Waltham-le-Willows ringer Claire Roe’s Welbeck Abbey Brewery!) enabling us to complete shopping for presents, before a visit to Felixstowe to get new shoes for Joshua gave us the chance to see how they are celebrating on the coast.

Tucking into the refreshments at Woodbridge practice. Tucking into the refreshments at Woodbridge practice. Alfie trying to chime the service bell. Joshua having a pull, whilst eating of course!

It was all topped off with a rare visit to Woodbridge practice where with it being their last of the year the table in the middle of the ringing chamber was bedecked with nibbles and mulled wine. We don’t usually make ringing during the week at our local tower as typically at least one of us is out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, whilst Friday nights are usually quite hectic with the collecting of all three boys from their various locations of the day and so Tuesday night is normally the only one we have left to just sit and relax together. However, following a very kind invitation from the band and with refreshments available to keep Alfie and Josh happy, we thought it a good opportunity to join them, managing some ringing either side of consuming the scrumptious offerings as we partook in some well-rung Stedman Doubles and Plain Bob Doubles. Even the boys had a ‘ring’, with Joshua pulling on a rope for the first time - of course that was just on the downed tenors with the other six ropes hung out of the way!

Although it all started with a dentist appointment first thing, even this was straightforward, albeit painful, as is the norm and at least I had plenty of festive tasks to carry out at my leisure afterwards to help me forget about it!

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Monday 18th December 2017

God willing, in precisely a week's time we shall be enjoying a packed day of present opening, food, drink and of course ringing in the wonderful company of the many friends and family we are blessed to have. It will mean the usual cancellation of ringing and additional manning of bells across Suffolk. For example, there is no Sunday morning service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and therefore no ringing and the weekly Tuesday practice next week won't be happening as it falls on Boxing Day. However, they are being asked to ring from 5 - 5.30pm for the Service of Light on the 24th and then later that day from 11 - 11.30pm for Midnight Mass and from 9.30 - 10am for the Parish Eucharist the next day.

The Norman Tower have no practice on the 26th either, but have been asked to ring before the 7pm Nine Lessons and Carols on Saturday.

I'm guessing that this will be the case at many towers, so please check in case ringing isn't happening or extra is occurring.

Likewise at St Mary-le-Tower, Christmas Eve will be busy, with morning ringing at the normal time, but then more planned for 6 - 7pm for the Nine Lessons and Carols, before Christmas Day has us booked in for 9.45am - 10.45am, an hour later than we typically ring on the Sabbath.

There will also not be practices at SMLT next Monday on the 25th or the following week, New Years Day, which meant that not only was tonight's session the last for three weeks but also the last of 2017. Appropriately it summed up our year in a nutshell. Some was disappointing, but far more was good and even superb. Most importantly there was progress for those present of all abilities from those ringing in the decent Little Bob Maximus to those partaking in the well rung Yorkshire Surprise Maximus. And that for me has been the most pleasing aspect of Monday nights over the last twelve months - the welcoming nature of our band. We have lost the Salter brothers and what they have achieved since shows just what a loss they are, but we have also had the bonus of the arrival/increased presence of Abby Antrobus, Laura Davies, Louis Suggett and Jonathan Williamson to our number as well as those feeling their way into higher number ringing such as Richard Weeks and Sue Williamson. As a result, not every practice is perfect, but we aren't the Bull Ring in Birmingham or St Paul's Cathedral. However, I think that for a provincial twelve geographically isolated and sharing our practice night with three other twelves in the region we do really well and it has been another super year. David Potts has to take much credit for leading us so successfully, especially with his other commitments, although he is always quick to thank the likes of Owen Claxton, Amanda Richmond and Jonathan for running things when work has taken him away.

As usual we finished with a drink in the pub, something else that has progressed from the largely unwelcoming Robert Ransome to The Cricketers, although not unexpectedly seven days before that metaphorical partridge appears in its metaphorical pear tree, we struggled to find seats and some of us had to stand.

Nonetheless, it was a great way to finish our Monday nights ahead of Christmas.

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Sunday 17th December 2017

When this blog recently turned ten, I found myself looking back a little on the evolution of the content within it and it does rather seem that I spend almost as much time covering my failure to get out to ringing as much as I do on the ringing I get to. Today was such an example as with Ruthie singing in the annual Nine Lessons and Carols at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, we aimed to be back from our weekend in Norfolk to feed the five of us, get my wife to the pre-service practice and therefore me to the ringing beforehand.

We did indeed get back in time, even with a soggy but enjoyable visit to Banham Zoo on the way back. Tigers and giraffes were gazed at and a show that featured various animals doing all sorts of amazing things achieved the almost impossible of getting the complete and utter attention of the five children in our party.

However, despite making it back to Melton in plenty of time, getting the boys fed and out of the house when it came to leaving just proved too much and so instead, having dropped Mummy off, the boys and I had fish and chips in the car, the sound of the bells in the background. They were ringing down by the time we finally made it into the church and so instead we took the opportunity to grab some seats in the packed congregation, with Kate, Ron (thank you for a lovely weekend guys!) and Mrs Munnings' grandparents already seated.

The service itself was typical warming seasonal fare with the usual favourites bellowed out lustily by many who wouldn't normally set foot in the building, the readings telling the still wonderful story of the birth of the baby Jesus and the choir performing magnificently, particularly my better half with her solos. Throughout it all the trio of brothers generally behaved impeccably with only the occasional need to tell them to keep quiet and even then mainly for the youngest. And it was all topped off with the usual post-service nibbles and mulled wine. It's just a pity I didn't make the ringing beforehand.

Others were ringing though, apart from those who manned the 25cwt eight upstairs. We never expected to make the third Sunday ringing at St Mary-le-Tower as that was on in the afternoon with evensong there again reverted to daylight hours during the winter and elsewhere in Suffolk still other ringers were busier in the hobby we are blessed to do, with a quarter-peal rung before the Nine Lessons and Carols at Great Finborough.

However, the ringing headline of the day didn't happen within our borders but did involve a superstar of the exercise who learnt to ring on bells in this county. Congratulations to John Loveless, who with the 5056 of Bristol Surprise Major at his home tower of Campton in Bedfordshire has now rung four thousand peals, an impressive landmark and well deserved for one of the very best tenor ringers (he has turned in every bell over 40cwt to peals) who is prepared to help out where and when he can - he is one of the nicest people in ringing. Well done Jake, from us in the homeland!

And at least he made it to ringing, unlike us.

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Saturday 16th December 2017

The view from our bedroom window this morning.We awoke to stunning views across the Norfolk countryside this morning ahead of what was a wonderful day out.

Alfie in the eyeline of a menancing snowman at Thursford. Some early present opening.The main part of it all was a trip to Thursford, not only to see the spectacular array of steam engines and organs (the largest in the world according to their website), but on this occasion to meet up with Father Christmas again. Having had a brief meeting with him at the boys' nursery earlier in the month, he had even more time for us today after a walk that took us through a magical world of lights, bear families, elves, snowmen and jugglers. Although Alfie waited until we had got round all of that and were at Santa's door to announce that he needed the facilities on the other side of the building, the big man very kindly waited for us and chatted before photos were taken. Every year you hear of seasonal specials being set up and transpiring to be nothing more than a depressing and disappointing mire of mud, grumpy elves, badly dressed Santas and goats wearing antlers in a thinly disguised attempt to pass themselves off as reindeer, but there was never any danger of that being the case at this popular venue. Nonetheless I was taken aback by just how much effort they'd gone to and how well they had done. Us adults enjoyed it immensely, but more importantly so did the children. Thank you Kate and Ron!

It involved no ringing and indeed there doesn't appear to have been any quarters or peals rung back in Suffolk today (according to BellBoard at least) and we were sorry to miss the Christmas ringing in Ipswich, but we returned further enthused with the festive spirit to our mansion of a home for the weekend for some early present-opening, food, drink and the Strictly Come Dancing Final, before we went to bed in anticipation of more stunning views in the morning.

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Friday 15th December 2017

The announcement today that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding in Windsor is due to take place on Saturday 19th May caused a stir amongst football fans who noted that is also the day of the FA Cup Final, but it didn't escape my notice that it is also the same day as the Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions, on this occasion being held by the South-East District. Of course these days this is a morning and afternoon event rather than the afternoon-evening schedule that it once was and that may open up some logistical challenges for those hoping to mark the Royal Family's big day with peals and/or quarter-peals, whilst others may even want to watch it. This would be understandable, but I hope that it won't have a big effect and the thought has occurred to me that this time round we may have to revert to the old set-up to allow for pre-lunch peals and the like. Perhaps the marriage of the fifth-in-line to the throne (indeed by then he should be sixth in line) may not be seen as such a big deal, but experience suggests otherwise. Still, this is as good a time as any to encourage people to think about putting a team in if you don't usually - it may be a good year to have a shot at some silverware, although Pakenham showed this year that any year can be your year!

Long late spring/early summer days chatting in the sunshine listening to great ringing seemed a long way away this evening though, as we made the lengthy journey to the depths of north Norfolk in the darkness that is usual after work with the shortest day of the calendar just days away and the rain that one would expect for the depths of winter. It was all for a jolly cause though as our destination was a big house on Manor Farm in the middle of nowhere but most closely associated with a sparse hamlet called Oxwick not far from Fakenham, where we are staying the weekend with Ruthie's Mum Kate, Ron and my wife's sister Clare and her family. With eleven of us present, my mother-in-law very sensibly and kindly picked upon a large self-catering venue and the seven bedrooms, two sitting rooms, four bathrooms, huge dining room, games room, kitchen and long corridors not only offer us space but seemed agreeable to the curious and excitable youngsters! Sadly we will be the last to stay in it as a holiday let as the wife of the couple letting it out recently died and so the plan is to let it on a long-term basis, but it should provide the perfect base for our planned weekend of festivities, not least seeing Father Christmas again!

No sign of Harry and Meghan joining us so that we can persuade them to change the date of their nuptials though.

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Thursday 14th December 2017

This was the kind of day that you only really get at this time of year, as a relaxed morning in the office (with most schools closing for the holidays this week if they didn't last week), was followed by Alfie's nativity play and then the annual John Catt Christmas meal.

Alfie in his shepherd's costume ahead of his nativity play.Our son's first steps into acting with his nursery peers was sweetness personified, with angels, kings and the like wandering loose and the straw bales bravely supplied as seats for them gradually pulled apart and thrown about as the magical performance progressed. For his part, Alfred didn't partake in any such behaviour in his role as a shepherd, instead following instructions and singing along to all the songs, which he has been practising over the last few weeks. And impressively this was all done in front of a huge audience, including his parents and all four of his grandparents, the size of which the children could rarely have seen before, at least not focused on them.

It all put me in a suitably festive mood for my next engagement as Ruthie very kindly dropped me off at The Unruly Pig in Bromeswell to join my work colleagues who had already got stuck into Prosecco and homemade sloe gin at the end of their truncated shift back at JCEL and had their starters whilst I was enjoying AJM's starring moment. Crackers were pulled (prompting bald men to attempt to fashion a use out of the combs and hair ties that came as the gifts inside), turkey consumed and conversation indulged away from the everyday pressures of our employment. This is the tenth such meal I have partaken with the company since I joined way back in 2008 and yet I am still taken aback by my employers' generosity in covering the cost of the vast amount of food and drink that we collectively consume over the course of the afternoon.

These days of course, I have to leave proceedings earlier than I once did and my wife is unable to join in to the extent that she and other partners did in years past as we needed to collect the actor and his younger brother from nursery, but it was still a gratefully received gesture from those who pay my wages.

Meanwhile, other more sober ringers were ensuring that Suffolk's bells were ringing out at this time of year when arguably it is most appreciated, with a quarter-peal and two peals rung within our borders today. Whilst the 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major at Hopton and 5088 of London Surprise Major at Ixworth were rung by an impressive array of visiting talent for the Saint James' Guild, the 1440 of twelve Surprise Minor methods spliced at Buxhall was rung by a band entirely resident in the county.

A day of high quality ringing on our bells. The kind of day I'm glad to report you don't just get at this time of year!

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Wednesday 13th December 2017

We love the boys more than words can say of course and are praying for a wonderful Christmas with them, but today we experienced just how productive our time can be without them.

They were present having their breakfast whilst our hot water was finally restored this morning, but after that we were grateful to my parents for looking after Alfie and Joshua for the day as Ruthie and I travelled into Ipswich town centre and then Sainsbury's at Warren Heath to more or less complete our Christmas shopping as well as getting other more mundane bits and pieces (screen wash seeing as you ask) and even grabbing a Big Mac and hot chocolate along the way, all in our own time and without tantrums. Thank you Mum and Dad for allowing us to do that.

Come the evening, my wife was clearly feeling in a generous mood as she suggested - as her logic went to balance out her long night out on Saturday - that I go to Pettistree tonight for the weekly practice. Therefore I found myself squeezed in with others present in the ground-floor ringing chamber as we huddled around the limited warmth being pumped out by the small heater between the tenor and treble. It was freezing, a downside to the setting that is so wonderful over those bright summer evenings, but I was delighted to be there with good friends partaking in good ringing. Following on from the successful quarter-peal, Bourne Surprise Minor, Double Oxford Bob Minor, Bourne again, Stedman Doubles, Norwich Surprise Minor and a suberbly rung touch of spliced Doubles and Minor were all included in an eclectic session before we retired to The Greyhound for a drink and conversation which covered the Tractor Boys' footballing fortunes, people's festive plans and yesterday's apparently very successful Second Tuesday ringing, which went to Badingham and Framlingham and was extremely well attended.

However, for all of that I was glad to return home to a peaceful home where the children were asleep. I can't wait to see them again though!

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Tuesday 12th December 2017

A slight change from the norm as Alfie and Joshua spent the day with Granny (thank you Kate!) and Ruthie went to work as we battled another dusting of snow on the archetypal picture-perfect winter's day.

Offton.Admittedly we didn't have to do too much travelling today, with no ringing for us personally. However, there were tales of rural minor roads being difficult to get about on, so very well done to all who made it to the idyllic but isolated Offton in the depths of the beautiful Suffolk countryside for the practice there and particularly those who got there early to ring the quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major beforehand.

I was reassured to see that the norm was maintained somewhere!

Second Tuesday Ringers' Annual Lunch

Dennington. Framlingham. Lunch at The Mill House, Saxstead. Lunch at The Mill House, Saxstead.

The Second Tuesday Ringers held their annual lunch at The Old Mill House, Saxstead after ringing at Dennington and Framlingham. The Second Tuesday Ringing is organised by Peter Harper. The next gathering is on Tuesday 9th January at Henley and Clopton.

Chris Garner

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Monday 11th December 2017

I may have told this story on the blog before, but years ago I was ringing a peal with the much-missed Simon Griffiths where one of the ringers we were ringing with consistently went wrong in exactly the same spot in each course. As it progressed, myself and SPG found ourselves chuckling in anticipation of that same point being reached, as did the afflicted wrongdoer and every time they would go wrong as we struggled to stay upright through the laughter. Tonight at St Mary-le-Tower practice I recalled that occasion with much the same effect as we attempted to climax the session with a simple and straightforward 'touch' of Plain and Little Bob Cinques spliced. Over four attempts, the ringer of the eighth simply couldn't get the dodge at the end of the first lead of Plain right. With each go they grinned in anticipation as some of us chortled in that same anticipation as Simon and I did all those years back and with each go they had to be told to dodge! Ultimately we were successful in bringing the three leads round and in reasonably respectable fashion all things considered, but it caused some hilarity in the process!

In fact, the night as a whole was a little stretched, simply because numbers were low, with snow and ice still laying around and following some difficulties getting out of the Ipswich & Suffolk Club car park yesterday morning, but of course that opened up opportunities for others who might not get as much chance when numbers are high. Even with the dearth of ringers we managed some Yorkshire Surprise Royal as well as plenty of Little Bob Royal and Maximus and Stedman Triples. I think many provincial twelves would be delighted with that in such circumstances.

Elsewhere in Suffolk there was a full compliment for the quarter-peal of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles in the delightful village of Nayland on the Essex border, where I hope their efforts were followed by their choice of post-ringing relaxation. Only seven ended up at The Cricketers after our efforts in Ipswich this evening and yet still an enjoyable drink was had in social company, with Christmas plans relayed and memories of Ralph Earey's demo bell from the early 1990s recalled with fondness. And on a night when Simon Griffiths was brought to mind, it was nice that recollections of another sadly departed Grundisburgh ringer Tony Warren were imparted, ten years after he left us far, far too soon. He went in a terribly sad manner, but was a lovely chap and fine ringer and it is wonderful that several years on both he and Simon can still be remembered with smiles and laughter.

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Sunday 10th December 2017

St Mary the Virgin church and Market Hill in Woodbridge. The view out of our window on a snowy morning.It has been nearly five years since our corner of the county has had settling snow and so I was genuinely excited as a carpet of white descended upon us whilst we were at church in the town this morning, not least because this was the first time Alfie or Joshua had seen such a sight! In the churchyard and at home with the neighbour's children, snowballs were thrown, snowmen were built and footprints made with unadulterated glee from the youngsters old enough to partake in such shenanigans.

However, it didn't take long for me to recall why I also dislike this winter wonderland. Almost within minutes of what was - all things considered - still a relatively light dusting, the radio was awash with events being cancelled as if these local occasions were expecting busloads of travellers that now had to negotiate mountain-sized snowdrifts and icy ravines rather just a layering of snow and bit of ice that merely called for some extra time and care to one's journey instead of complete abandonment.

Even I though recognise that for those making a long journey for something that isn't vital that a judgement to sit tight in the warm safety of home is sensible. Us ringers are used to travelling the length and breadth of the country for the exercise and so it wasn't a surprise that it took a bit of a hit today, with George Vant's peal attempt on twelve at St Sepulchre in London mothballed with ringers coming from far and wide, some in areas where the conditions were really bad, for example.

Still, some ringing was managed, including here in Suffolk, where a quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung on the back eight of The Norman Tower, whilst I made it upstairs back in Woodbridge to help man the front six there for morning service ringing.

Indeed, the 'treacherous' (oh how I've missed that word...) conditions didn't effect our day at all, with our friends Toby & Amy, Kala & Nick and their young children joining us for a lively afternoon at our home having somehow made it through the blizzards.

For all the snow woes perceived and real, it pales into insignificance compared to Blyth Valley ringers Graham and Veronica Downing who suffered the agony of seeing the outbuilding in Chediston that houses her successful business gutted by fire overnight on Friday and Saturday. I'm sure everyone's thoughts are with them, but speaking in an article on the East Anglian Daily Times website today it was encouraging to read of their determination to rebuild.

With that in mind, I felt grateful that all we had to worry about was snow. I hope we don't have to wait so long for the next snowfall, but equally I hope it doesn't come too soon.

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Saturday 9th December 2017

The boys and I hardly saw Ruthie today. Spending the day helping John Ives satisfy the shoe needs of Woodbridge's shoppers in the busy lead-up to Christmas and then attending her well-earnt work's festive bash at Trinity Park until the early hours meant that it was a predominantly all-boys day.

That day took in a mixture of everyday and seasonal shopping at Tesco, the Grange Farm Shop in Hasketon and Wyevale, the latter seeing the trio of brothers entertained by Punch & Judy and a balloon artist on a more enjoyable trip out than I had bargained for.

It involved no ringing though. I would have dearly loved to have partaken in the annual anniversary peal at Pettistree marking the rededication of this ground-floor six and subsequent first peal on them after that rededication, both at this time of year in 1986 and 1987 respectively. Congratulations to Peter Harper on ringing his three hundredth in the medium with this year's performance.

Ultimately the vast distance to Lakenheath for the North-West District Christmas Social made it impractical to travel there on this occasion and I was tempted by the celebration of the anniversary of the dedication of Reydon's bells, but I decided that whilst I would have enjoyed it, it was a bit unfair to force Mason, Alfie and Joshua to sit through it after they obliged us during last week's South-East District ADM.

Still, others were busy apart from those already mentioned, with a 5040 also rung at Woolpit for the Suffolk Guild, where talented ringing couple Laura Davies and Louis Suggett were partaking together. No time for Ruthie and me to ring together for 2hrs 43mins though!

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Friday 8th December 2017

A quiet day on the personal front from a ringing perspective, instead simply enjoying a night in together for the first time this week.

At this juncture therefore it is worth promoting a Guild event for 2018 that will hopefully be a lot busier than today. Running from Saturday 10th February to Sunday 18th February, the SGR Peal Week has been reintroduced by Ringing Master Tom Scase.

I remember from my time as RM and Jed Flatters after me just how much hard work these can be if members don't get into them. Of course all year round there are opportunities for peal-ringing and I have always made it clear how valuable I feel the medium is to progress individuals and the collective. However, nine days of focus on peals with a network of the membership across the county supporting the same initiative can bring spectacular results, as it often has on previous Peal Weeks.

This is a chance for first-pealers, first as conductor, themed peals (we've had District peals in the past) and unashamed number-crunching. Most important though, it is a chance for progress for ringers of a wide range of abilities. Please make the most of it. Arrange something, partake where you can and let Tom know if you can help or want to do something in particular.

Hopefully it will be nine days of more ringing activity than today!

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Thursday 7th December 2017

A lack of hot water at home meant a brief trip home to meet a plumber, the result being that we have to wait for some parts before this particular facility is available to us again.

Mercifully we have a dishwasher these days and so we don't face the prospect of mounting washing up and excessive use of takeaways, but we did face a quandry on how to keep our family of five clean over the next few days. We were grateful therefore - for the second day running to Ruthie's mother Kate who offered her bathroom for our needs in that area, before my wife headed off for choir practice as things hot up for her and her singing colleagues at this busy time of year.

Busy as well for us ringers. I have mentioned already the hectic schedule at St Mary-le-Tower and of course there won't be a practice there on Monday 25th December for some reason. But of course that is also the case for towers across Suffolk, such as The Norman Tower where there won't be a practice on a couple of Tuesdays this month, so please check with them beforehand if you intend to join them. Halesworth also won't be practising on Boxing Day.

There are festive-themed ringing events to take advantage of too, with the ringing on the bells of Ipswich town centre planned on the morning of Saturday 16th and a Young Ringers Outing pencilled in for Thursday 21st, taking in Great Barton, Horringer and Tostock.

Please do support such events where and when you can and make sure you also know where isn't ringing.

We hope to get involved as much as we can, hot water or not.

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Wednesday 6th December 2017

My peal-records are an eclectic mix. I have been fortunate and privilged to ring in peals at Exeter Cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral and York Minster and of spliced Sixteen as well as pulling in the tenor at St Mary-le-Tower, opportunities far beyond what my meagre abilities deserve. However chuffed as I am with those though, I love that they jostle for space with a peal of Minimus at Campsea Ashe, Doubles at Bramfield and Minor at Tushingham, a not particularly notable six in the depths of Cheshire.

However, I had to chuckle to myself when I found myself knocking behind to a 5040 of Plain Bob Triples on the 9lb 8oz tenor of The Wolery tonight, especially when it occurred to me that purely from a numbers perspective this will count as one, precisely the same as the 4hrs 13mins of five Treble Dodging Maximus methods spliced at Worcester Cathedral on Saturday, the forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced at Greystoke in Cumbria eight days ago and even the 25,056 of Bristol Surprise Maximus in Alderney a few weeks back. Such is the varied beast of peal-ringing and the exercise generally.

Of course one can see what this is and compare the respective merits of our - and particularly my - efforts this evening to others and it is clear that my 1hr48mins of bonging at the back isn't the pinnacle of even my ringing week, let alone of the other ringing carried out within our borders and beyond over the last few days. But I enjoyed this performance, which got better and better as it progressed and it had a purpose too, offering Suffolk Guild PRO Neal Dodge some invaluable experience inside on eight.

Not that our intentions were to ring Plain Bob on this occasion. Rather, we were initially going for Pinehurst Bob Major, a fairly straightforward blue line to my mind but which caused this good band of ringers a disproportionate amount of trouble, to the extent that after a handful of attempts lasting just a few minutes in total, David Salter and I swapped bells and we launched into Plan B.

It was the correct decision and meant that we had something to show for our efforts, no doubt allowing my fellow bandmates something positive to discuss over tea and cakes, but I wasn't in a position to join them this time.

Ruthie had been called into work to help set up the sale in the shop, a long job that went late into the night and so that I didn't have to let down those in Old Stoke, mother-in-law Kate very kindly looked after the boys, even taking them to the Seven Hills Carol Service where by all accounts they were excellently behaved. It didn't seem fair to leave her with them any longer than necessary though, especially as they needed to get to bed and so the wonderful post-peal refreshments had to be politely passed on this month.

Hopefully that wasn't the case after the numerous quarter-peals rung across the county today, especially at Elveden where Joan Garrett, Clare Veal, Julian Colman, Clive Dunbavin and Rowan Wilson were ringing their first of spliced Triples and Pettistree where Vince Buckman was ringing his first of Minor. Well done Joan, Clare, Julian, Clive, Rowan and Vince!

Elsewhere, the Ladies Guild rang a 1260 of Doubles at the ground-floor six of Thornham Magna, whilst there were a brace of QPs in the seasonally named Christmas Time Delight Major on the The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.

I don't think I could claim to have matched their endeavours this evening!

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Tuesday 5th December 2017

Apparently there were once enquiries made about putting a six in at St John's church in Woodbridge, it's spire-topped tower one of the landmarks of the town's skyline, along with the structure that holds the 25cwt eight at St Mary-the-Virgin nearby. However, by the accounts that I heard it all came to nothing, with the notion of such things not really fitting in with the congregations high position on the religious scale. In some ways it is a pity as a little light ring here may have been the ideal venue for teaching learners ahead of letting them loose on the heavier ring further up the hill, but it could also have been an expensive folly, especially with the building surrounded by tightly-knit streets packed with houses. And they seem to do quite well there without bells.

Either way, it meant my first visit inside this venue tonight was more church-grab than tower-grab, but the reason for my presence meant I could cope with the that, as I sat amongst the thronging crowds for a Christmas concert that Mason was singing in as part of his school's choir. Being in aid of the East Anglia's Children's Hospices, there were plenty of reminders that this time of year isn't smiles and reindeer dust for all children, but it did also highlight the marvellous work that this organisation does for those kids less fortunate and how the magic of the season can cheer even the gloomiest of situations at times. And it further reminded me of the good fortune we are blessed to have currently, including a ten-year-old with a big voice!

Elsewhere, it was a day of high-end Surprise Major ringing, with quarter-peals rung at Gislingham and Hopton of Glasgow and London respectively, methods that also featured in an impressive peal of fourteen-spliced at Elveden rung for the Ely Diocesan Association.

It is the type of ringing I would dearly love to get more involved with in different circumstances, but for this evening I was delighted to be supporting my eldest son and taking in the large dose of festive spirit that included 'Jingle Bells' and 'Ding-Dong Merrily On High'. Down in the church at least, even if not in the tower.

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Monday 4th December 2017

Observant readers (or those not sent to sleep!) would've noticed reference to us winning a prize in the raffle at Saturday's Christmas Fair held by the boys' nursery. Having spent years with appalling luck in such matters, this year has seen us benefit very nicely from alcohol at the Offton BBQ to a trip to the Matlock Illuminations. Winning the top prize at the weekend has topped all of that though.

However, until today, we hadn't fully appreciated what we had won. When we entered we didn't pay much attention to any of the prizes, simply paying up for the good cause and a bit of fun without any thought being given to what we could actually win. And when they called to inform us of our winnings I was so shocked that I didn't really take in any details.

It transpires that we are now the surprised owners of a voucher entitling us to four nights of glamping at the nearby Summer Meadows in what will be an exciting first.

Our good news sent me on my way to St Mary-le-Tower practice in good cheer for a session that was productive and despite Ringing Master David Potts' absence due to a minor injury. Get better quickly David and thank you to Jonathan Williamson for leading things tonight.

A sip of Racous Reindeer in The Cricketers followed as did conversation covering a wide range of topics with friends before returning home to Ruthie and a pair of sleeping brothers. It doesn't get much better than this.

Glamping can wait for now.

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Sunday 3rd December 2017

BristolStThomasTheMartyr20171203.Tis the season for competition draws. The World Cup Draw on Friday and tomorrow's planned draw for the third round of the FA Cup are very exciting to the footballing side of me, but there was another draw announced today that was equally exciting to the ringing side of me, as the eliminators for the 2018 National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest were drawn. It makes for interesting reading, with a trio of debutants - Chester, Chilcompton and Wimborne - featuring across all three groups and offering hope for teams such as ourselves in Ipswich as we aim towards an entry in the next couple of years. On paper, our neighbours and friends in Norwich have done alright, booked in for the eliminator at the anti-clockwise twelve of Southwell, where Suffolk representation will potentially feature beyond former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd's participation with the Mancroft band from north of the Waveney, with Colin Salter ringing for Guildford this year and Molly Waterson a regular in the Bristol team for some years, where Colin's elder brother George must surely stand a good chance of breaking into the twelve after a spectacular few months down there that includes this afternoon's impressive pulling-in to a quarter-peal of the notoriously difficult 27cwt tenor at St Thomas-the-Martyr in the city. Well done George!

Likewise the eliminator at Ossett appears wide-open behind what one would expect to be the College Youths' group to lose, but the one at Selby seems to be the metaphorical 'Group of Death' with holders Birmingham likely to be 'fighting' it out with St Paul's Cathedral, the Cumberlands and possibly this year's hosts Southwark for the three places up for grabs to the final being held just across the border from us at Cambridge on Saturday 23rd June, unless of course there is a shock or two in store!

Ringing at St Lawrence - Alan Munnings on 3rd, Stephen Cheek on the 4th and Peter Davies watching on.Whether we get to make it will likely be dependent on family arrangements that weekend due to our niece's birthday being on the same day, but for today I got my higher number fix on two visits to SMLT, one for the morning's regular worship where Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was rung, the other this evening for the Advent service, accompanied by Ruthie and three well-behaved boys. From a ringing perspective, these trips bookended morning ringing at St Lawrence where a large crowd partook in good ringing on this ancient five and Grundisburgh where lower numbers restricted us to ringing on the back eight, led by Mark Ogden in usual Ringing Master Stephen Pettman's absence.

It was a relatively busy day on bells for us and the patient Mason, Alfie and Joshua, although we still found time to make our own pizza for tea and a wander down to the Cornhill of our county town to see the new, proper, natural Christmas Tree there.

Whether they also took in such extracurricular activities is unknown to me, but other ringers on our soil were busy too, with a brace of 1272s rung at Great Finborough and Pettistree, ringing Advent Sunday Surprise Minor and two Surprise Minor methods spliced respectively.

I wonder where they'll be drawn to ring at next?

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Saturday 2nd December 2017

Christmas Tree up and decorated!As Perry Como, Bing Crosby and many others have sung, It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. Some neighbours have had their decorations up for about a week already and the big towns like Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich turned their lights on nearly a month back, but this morning we put our tree up and decorated it, adding sparkle and colour to the living room that after over four months has become very familiar to us.

Alfie and Ruthie meet Father Christmas.Following on from the Christmas Fair at Alfie and Joshua's nursery where as well as meeting Santa Claus and Alfred getting his face painted as Batman, our remarkable and entirely out-of-character run of good fortune in raffles continued with us winning the top prize of a glamping holiday, we were well and truly in the festive spirit as we headed out to this afternoon's South-East District ADM.

Ringing at Kettleburgh for the South-East District ADM.Even this feels mildly seasonal, having been a part of the hectic December schedule pretty much every year for several years and although due to having to fix our Christmas tree (which doesn't appear to have fared too well in the housemove!) and allowing Josh his afternoSuffolk Guild of Ringerson nap we didn't make it to Easton, we did get to the lovely little gallery-ring six of Kettleburgh for some immensely enjoyable London Surprise Minor and Grandsire Doubles.

The service that followed was impressive for Roger Coley leading it at just ten minutes notice and the good singing in the absence of any musical accompaniment, but I have to admit that we didn't intend to witness it, instead intending to take the boys onto the warmer Brandeston Village Hall where the tea and meeting were to be held afterwards. However, having left the book he had only been given by Father Christmas at the fair earlier at the front of the church, I ended up returning to St Andrew's to sit in on the end of the evening prayer before we all eventually made it to the next village for food and business.

Looking from the outside in on members gathering for the South-East District ADM at Brandeston Village Hall. Outgoing South-East District Chairman addresses the District ADM at Brandeston Village Hall.That business was somewhat dragged out by the logistics of GMC attendance, but was generally a useful gathering that saw updates on St Margaret, St Clement, St Nicholas and St Mary-at-Quay in the county town, those we've lost in the last twelve months remembered and new officers elected, with Mark Ogden replacing Ralph Earey as Chairman, Abby Antrobus taking over from Jane Harper as Secretary and Eric Brown passing the role of Treasurer to Tracey Scase. With such a large turnover it is difficult to adequately thank this trio individually for all their efforts, but hopefully they realise how grateful we are for all they have done, as we are to the newbies for taking the jobs on! Nice as well to see some different faces at the top table.

There were a lot of youngsters present too, although with Mason the veteran at ten-years-old, the most impressive thing was how well behaved they were throughout the formal proceedings rather than any ringing ability. God willing that's for the future!

Many went on to The Queen's Head for a drink and more socialising, but it was time for us to get the children home for some much-needed sleep.

To complete a successful day, it was great that a peal was rung at St Mary-le-Tower for it's Christmas Tree Festival, which was well received by those in the church who felt the bells encouraged more visitors in.

It is indeed beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

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Friday 1st December 2017

Although most of us England fans don't expect our team to play a major part of it, God willing a festival of global football awaits in the summer when the World Cup is held in Russia. With the annual struggle to get into our Advent calendars begun this morning, a biting chill outside and darkness fallen well before we finish work, it all seems a long way off, but it felt a little closer this afternoon with the draw made for the tournament starting in June.

Our boys have been drawn in an easy looking group that should offer ample opportunity for embarrassment, but more importantly it gives us something to potentially plan around. Incredibly none of the games that the Three Lions are due to play in or could play in afterwards will require me to take time off work, but it appears that at least one St Mary-le-Tower practice will be missed and if progress is made then there is the potential of a clash with the South-East District's July event, unless that is organised for the morning.

In the here and now though, there were no worries about World Cup football getting in the way of ringing in Suffolk, most notably at Earl Stonham where the 1260 of Doubles was the first quarter-peal at the first attempt for Joe Findlay. Many congratulations Joe!

And well done to Hilary Stern on ringing her first of Grandsire Triples in the QP at Aldeburgh, whilst the same number of changes in spliced Minor was rung yesterday at Great Finborough.

Hopefully England's footballers will be equally successful in the summer.

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Thursday 30th November 2017

Get the bunting out, sound the fanfares and pop the champagne corks. Surely a peal at Westminster Abbey is in order?

OK, all a bit OTT and it has been a very First World problem, but since Woods Lane in Melton was closed at the beginning of the month, for those of us who live near to it and use it as the only practical way to get to most places the last few weeks have been wearing to say the least. Therefore the reopening of this vital route this afternoon was met with much relief and even celebration as once clogged roads were released, the air became a little less polluted and our normal journeys no longer took an extra twenty minutes or half-an-hour.

It is worth noting - almost as much for many wanting to ring at Hollesley and Orford as us locals - that it is due to be closed again in the New Year for three months, I imagine compounding the usual post-festivity blues, but for now we can all get on as normal.

Whilst that isn't really a reason to break out the ringing footnotes, the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has given ringers a more sensible dedication to their performances. That included at The Wolery yesterday where a peal of Doubles (the ninety-sixth this year for the SGR, leaving us with twelve to score in December to beat last year's total) was rung in honour of Monday's news.

Nothing as yet to mark the reopening of Woods Lane though.

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Wednesday 29th November 2017

A day of firsts started with Joshua's first haircut, continued with Mason's first parent's evening of this school year and finished with a first of Essex Girl Treble Place Minor for the entire band ringing the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree, rung for Elaine Townsend's recently operated-on finger.

Well, it wasn't quite the end of the day, as Ruthie was collected by Kate and Ron to go to the session that followed the aforementioned QP at the ground-floor six and drinks at The Greyhound. That definitely wasn't a first!

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Tuesday 28th November 2017

If I told you that - apart from my everyday blessings - the highlight of my day was Ipswich Town's surprising 1-0 victory at Derby County tonight, you would quite rightly assume it wasn't the busiest of days from a personal ringing perspective. Indeed, there weren't any quarters or peals rung in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard.

God willing it should be busier for us and our fellow South-East District members on Saturday with our ADM due to be held at Brandeston Village Hall after a tea and a service at Kettleburgh as well as ringing at the 7cwt gallery-ring of six and more ringing prior to that at the 10cwt ground-floor six of Easton. With a new Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer needed and proceedings being carried out in such picturesque surroundings I hope there will be a big crowd there in the relatively modern, warm hall. I understand there are people potentially lined up for the vacant roles, so don't be put off by the fear that you might end up with a job! Please do get your name in for tea to 01394 411355, as soon as possible.

Hopefully it will be an enjoyable afternoon's ringing, complete with an Ipswich Town victory!

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Monday 27th November 2017

Spring 2018 is looking like being a busy time for the Royal Family and therefore bellringers. With the expected birth of a third child for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge already well publicised, the announcement today that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have got engaged with an eye to getting married as nature awakes from its hibernation at the end of this winter means that there is likely to be lots of organising taking place amongst ringers in the coming months. As last week's celebrations of the Queen and Prince Philip's Platinum Wedding Anniversary showed, such occasions can be good publicity, with the ringers of the peal at Westminster last Monday even getting a mention on tonight's Have I Got a Bit More News For You.

It is clearly an exciting time for many, not least the happy couple who are rumoured to be lined up for the titles of Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but Alfie was far more excited that he was having a sleepover with his cousins at his Granny's house as Kate very kindly (and bravely!) offered to have all three over for the night.

The knock-on effect was that with just the one son to ready for bed, I could leave Ruthie with Joshua and get to St Mary-le-Tower a little earlier to partake in the weekly practice. I was glad to as well, but it was an odd session in some respects, with a poorly rung three leads of Kent Treble Bob Maximus collapsing in a heap after two attempts, whilst a touch of Stedman Cinques and half-a-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus were rung superbly, with some regulars away.

There was nothing odd about the post-ringing socialising as we gathered in The Cricketers for a drink though!

I imagine they were having one or two in Kensington Palace too.

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Sunday 26th November 2017

Wonderful bit of PR for Suffolk ringing on the East Anglian Daily Times website today with an article on a unique project to teach five scouts the art for their music badges. It is all centred on Horringer with some teaching done at The Norman Tower over a six week course of ninety minute sessions led by North-West District Ringing Master Rowan Wilson, Past Guild Ringing Jed Flatters and tower captain Sally Crouch, all of deserve immense credit along with everyone else involved.

Elsewhere in the county there was more positive news to report with a quarter-peal rung at Stowmarket and a peal at Lavenham laden with landmarks and achievements. Well done to Nicholas Elks on ringing his first of Double Norwich Court Bob Major and congratulations to Laura Davies on her 200th in the medium on tower bells, David Salter on his 3500th peal and Louis Suggett on ringing his 500th and at the same time conducting his 100th and all his birthday too! Happy Birthday Louis!

We were less active on the ringing front, although I did manage some as I joined the service ringing at Woodbridge where encouragingly all eight were rung for the third time running when I have attended on a Sabbath morning, before going downstairs for the Christening of one of the boys' peers which was the reason for not making it to St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh on this occasion.

Unusually at this point though, Ruthie went to work on the first of two Sundays that John Ives will be opened as businesses try to take advantage of the increasingly frenzied Christmas shopping, fuelled by the rather dubious Black Friday that seems to infected the British High Street.

Sadly it meant missing the Pettistree Ringers' ADM, especially as almost as soon as my wife was home from her day's work then she was out again to babysit her nieces.

At least there was plenty of good news from the county's ringers to keep me occupied.

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Saturday 25th November 2017

Quite a weekend of landmarks for Jeremy W Spiller. Hot on the heels of his eight hundreth in hand yesterday, the 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods on handbells in Bacton means he has now conducted a peal on every date in the calendar. Congratulations Jeremy!

Meanwhile, it has been a difficult week for former Suffolk ringer and good friend to many of us in the county Maggie Ross with the sad loss of her mother. She was a lovely woman and I was very sorry to hear of her passing, but it was lovely that Maggie was able to dedicate the 5000 of Bristol Surprise Royal at Basingstoke in Hampshire to her mother's memory. I hope she is aware there are a lot of friends here thinking of her at the moment.

Two of those friends joined us at our home for the first time since we moved to our current abode, as we welcomed Ufford ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis for an evening of frivolity and laughter and plenty of drink as conversation ranged from ringing to Strictly Come Dancing to current affairs and much in between.

Elsewhere there were more extraordinary ringing achievements as a band rang four peals at Ston Easton in Somerset. In its own right a notable feat of endurance, but it was more what they were ringing that makes this quartet of 5040s most remarkable as it involved ringing the standard 147 Treble Dodging Minor methods in their respective subsets of thirds place Delight, fourths place Delight, Surprise and Treble Bob. Staggering mental capacity over nine hours of ringing across the day and yet another reminder of the limitless nature of our art. As Jeremy Spiller is showing closer to home.

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Friday 24th November 2017

It was a relaxing morning off as I took in a presentation by Mason and his classmates in their school assembly as they relayed the importance of online safety before I joined the boy in his classroom to help him with a challenge to decipher a code. I say help...

Mason with his model at school.At least I got to see his Second World War project, a model depicting the D-Day landings which he has been working on for several weeks and which he is quite rightly pleased with! And it was a nice break from the norm.

Also having a break from the norm was Pretyman Avenue in Bacton, usually a venue of handbell ringing on six, but today playing host to a peal of Major with the 5008 of Plain Bob being Jeremy Spiller's eight hundredth in hand - congratulations Jeremy!

We meanwhile had a quiet night in every bit as relaxing as my morning.

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Thursday 23rd November 2017

Nothing of note to report personally, especially on the ringing front, but across Suffolk ringers were busier with three quarter-peals rung and an array of achievements.

Well done to Sal Jenkinson on ringing her first of Surprise in the 1272 of Cambridge Minor at Wissett and to Joshua Watkins on his first of Grandsire Doubles inside and Jimmy Yeoman on his first on the tenor behind in the success at Horringer. Meanwhile a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was rung at Rougham to celebrate the birth of Robert Watkinson's granddaughters whose births on the same day as cousins even made the local TV news! Congratulations Robert and all of your family!

Quiet as it was today for us, there are opportunities - if we chose - to be busier on the end of a rope, even before what will hopefully be a typically hectic December.

We could join the Eight-Bell Practice at Leiston on 24th November, as we could on the fourth Friday of each month, whilst the South-West District are due to hold their ADM at Boxford the following day. There are celebrations on Sunday to ring for at Southwold for the rededicating of the church and then the monthly Triples and Major Practice at Halesworth on Tuesday.

Please do support where and when you can and hopefully your days needn't be as quiet as ours was today.

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Wednesday 22nd November 2017

Being a wife-husband ringing team can have its advantages, even if currently one of them is not usually being able to ring together due to someone needing to stop at home to look after the children. This evening, Ruthie was booked to ring in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree, but having spent the day feeling very poorly whilst also looking after Alfie and Joshua, she reluctantly decided to drop out. However, she didn't need to carry out extensive searches for a replacement as of course I was more than willing to step in and thus it was I who found myself ringing the fourth to a 1320 of Platinum Delight Minor in honour of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh's seventieth wedding anniversary. Jolly glad I was too, as despite a restart after a collapse in the second course, it was an enjoyable bit of ringing in a method featuring the nice below-work of Wells Surprise Minor (one of my favourites of the 'standard' forty-one) and the not-so nice above work that included places in fifths, which I'm rarely fond of in Minor away from the half-lead!

Sadly though, tempting as it was to stick around for what I imagine was another productive, jovial session, I felt I ought to return home to help the patient put the boys to bed and generally keep her supplied with what she needed to feel better.

Hopefully no such issues for those who partook in the other QP rung in Suffolk today, although I was sorry to read through the footnote to the 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Worlingham that Philip Moyse is departing our beautiful county. That said, exciting times in ringing and other aspects of life should lay ahead for him in Bristol, as I'm sure Robert Beavis, Alex Tatlow and George Salter will happily testify. Good luck Philip!

And get well soon to Ruthie so that our ringing team can be up and running again!

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Tuesday 21st November 2017

Apart from accidentally finding a glossary of ringing terms that some may find useful, it was a quiet, insignificant day on all fronts.

That is except at Offton where the weekly practice was again preceded by a quarter-peal. 'Like a peal, but a quarter of the length.' As the aforementioned glossary of ringing terms will tell you.

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Monday 20th November 2017

Happy St Edmund's Day!

Although it no longer represents the same huge PR opportunity it once did, I was still pleased to see the 90 changes of St Edmund Slow Course Doubles rung during the practice night at Woolpit for the county's patron saint.

However, on this occasion his big day was rather overshadowed by the impressive Platinum Wedding Anniversary of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. As has pleasingly become par for the course with big Royal events, bells made the headlines, with the peal at Westminster Abbey garnering significant publicity. The band ringing featured ringers that will be familiar to many reading this, such as the son of the late, great Suffolk-born ringer Harold Rogers, Chris and father and son Chris and Alban Forster who judged the Guild Six-Bell Competitions in 2010. Stuffing them into the toy cupboard at Hasketon Victory Hall to carry out their duties seems even more unceremonious now!

There was also ringing within our borders to mark Phil and Lizzie's seventieth, with the peal of Platinum Surprise Major at St Gregory in Sudbury also marking the aforementioned Feast of St Edmund as well as being twice Past Ringing Master of the Guild Stephen Pettman's 1300th in the medium as conductor - congratulations Stephen!

The 5070 joins the peals at The Wolery and Felixstowe and quarter-peal at Hollesley in being rung for the anniversary in recent days in our county, but neither Ruthie or I partook in ringing to mark this or St Edmund's Day today as work and then St Mary-le-Tower practice took up our day.

Christmas Tree at St Mary-le-Tower that some of us helped to put up.That session on the 34cwt twelve was a bit low on numbers, with several regulars away, but that gave the trio of visitors - Hadleigh learner Martin who has been up before, Sue McCouaig who was once of St Margaret's band but now rings in Oxfordshire and David Lugg who was a regular at Sproughton when I was learning to ring there - more opportunities to ring. It meant the repertoire of ringing wasn't quite as eclectic as usual and yet we still managed to ring half a course of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal on an evening that also saw some of us go down to the church to help Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin to put up their main, huge Christmas tree.

After all of that, a drink was very much needed and so I joined others in The Cricketers afterwards before returning home to enjoy what was left of St Edmund's Day.

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Sunday 19th November 2017

Alderney, St Anne.We don't subscribe to the Ringing World, primarily because it has been an unnecessary expense when times were tighter and we've never felt inclined since with content a bit hit and miss and most of it online well before it goes into print in the 'Comic'. I was pleased to read the latest edition though, not for the revelation that former Shadow Chancellor and 2016 Strictly Come Dancing contestant Ed Balls used to be a ringer and was enticed to have a go again at a recent wedding, but rather for its comprehensive coverage of the recent record peal rung on Alderney.

Although this may have seemed overkill for some, the 25056 of Bristol Surprise Maximus that was the longest peal yet rung on twelve bells was not only a phenomenal achievement but also a magnificent bit of positive PR and it was a fascinating insight into every aspect of the performance including the preparation, hosting, publicity, the peal's compostion and of course the actual ringing of the peal, in the words of some of the ringers themselves. And although it is all on another level to what most of us will experience in ringing, what was noticeable to me was how all ringers could relate to how they felt before, during and after the 16hrs7mins of ringing on the 13cwt twelve and what means they used to get through. Many a peal and even the occasional quarter-peal that I have partaken in has been broken down in my mind into what I have perceived to be more manageable bits of ringing, whether that be individual courses, extents, everytime I'm in the hunt in Grandsire, etc. Much like many other ringers I still feel the same sort of trepidation and nerves ahead of a significant attempt (firsts, ringing for special occasions) and that same elation after a success, some more than others!

Not much of the above applied to the 1282 of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal on the back ten at St Mary-le-Tower that I am pleased to report was a pretty straightforward affair with Peter Davies watching on, although there was still an immense sense of satisfaction when it came round.

Rarely do Ruthie and I get to ring together in QPs, but we were able to do so this afternoon thanks to my parents who looked after the three boys whilst we rang. Not only that but they very kindly cooked us dinner and let us read their copy of the aforementioned RW! Thank you Mum and Dad!

Earlier I carried out my Sunday morning ringing at Woodbridge - pleasingly with all eight rung again - before attending the service and later it was interesting to note that a quarter was rung at York Minster yesterday, with at least some of the new band. I've never hidden that from all that I know of this far off situation involving decent people that I and others know, I think that the treatment of the old band was shameful and did no credit to the Chapter and Dean and indeed the Church of England as a whole. However, I have also been clear that whilst it should be at least the majority of the old band doing it, it was for the best that these famous bells ring again and that nobody in the new band should be criticised for enabling that to happen and so when all is said and done I am pleased to see this latest development.

There was further quarter-peal activity here in Suffolk too beyond our efforts at SMLT as a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Hollesley. God willing I shall get the opportunity to read about them in a future edition of the Ringing World.

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Saturday 18th November 2017

A burst water main on our street was as exciting as it got for us today, with Ruthie at work and the temperatures cold enough to make any prolonged outdoor activity with three young boys less than enticing.

There wasn't even any ringing events on within our borders to rescue us, but it wasn't the case for Suffolk's Cumberland Youths on the Society's Peal Weekend, with eight of them ringing in a 5056 of Bristol Surprise Major at Felixstowe in a performance caught on film and put on the SGR's Facebook page.

Meanwhile, another peal was being rung by an outside organisation as the Oxford Diocesan Guild rang a 5040 of the same method in the Maximus variety at The Norman Tower.

It is nice of the SRCY and ODG to make a big splash on the county's bells. Though not as big a splash as we could make on our street tonight.

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Friday 17th November 2017

Alfie's face painted as Pudsey Bear for Children in Need.Children in Need day saw the usual sort of activities today. Across the country adults were dressing up and carrying out wacky challenges (though Ruthie and I avoided such shenanigans), whilst Mason paid a donation for the privilege of going to school dressed in 'civvies', and at nursery Alfie had his face painted like Pudsey Bear and Joshua made Pudsey Bear biscuits.

Something different was happening though and it involved ringing. #APealForPudsey was launched on 5th October with the idea being that ringers carried out sponsored performances in aid of CiN. I'm not sure what response was expected, but to my mind it seems to have got a reasonsble one, with the Relay Call Changes rung at Old Brampton on 5th November impressively raising over £1000 - well done them!

A notable peal rung today was also attributed to this very worthy cause, namely the 5040 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Liverpool Cathedral, which at 82cwt are the world's heaviest ring of bells hung for change-ringing, so even though the tenor was rung with a strapper this is still a big achievement.

Otherwise it was a quiet day of ringing round here, personally and across Suffolk, with no quarters or peals rung within our borders according to BellBoard.

At least those raising money for Children in Need were more active!

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Thursday 16th November 2017

A week ago I made mention of the ringers of Durham Cathedral partaking in an art project called Methods as part of the city's Lumiere Light Festival. I hoped to see video of it as it sounded spectacular project - sensors on the fittings of the bells would set off light displays in and on the famous old building as the ringers rang. Well today I got my wish as I was able to watch a video of it in action and an explanation of what was going on from the artist Pablo Valbuena and Bell Major (his actual title, not a mainstream media mistake!) Chris Crabtree, who I have known since we were both boys through Rambling Ringers. Through this and other video I have seen on Facebook, it has been fascinating to watch, the effect being an eerie display. Well worth a watch and well done to everyone involved!

Meanwhile, whilst there were no quarters or peals in Suffolk today on BellBoard, two of the county's young ringers - one former, one current - were showing off their credentials, with George Salter ringing a handbell peal with Philip Earis and Ian Fielding in Bristol and Louis Suggett down in the capital at St Mary-le-Bow ringing in a 5009 of Stedman Cinques. Neither is new territory for either young lad, but along with Alex Tatlow's handbell peal in Hampshire earlier in the week, it is great to see our young ringers out in the big wide ringing world, ringing with some of the best in some superb locations and doing clever stuff. Let's hope there are more coming through.

And I hope to see more video from Durham Cathedral!

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Wednesday 15th November 2017

Pealbase hasn't been mentioned on this blog for a while, but I can't help but check it regularly, especially when I have a peal coming up. Andrew Craddock has done staggering work in recording details of all peals rung since 1950, which is useful for keeping personal records updated. However, for me, the most fascinating part are the new categories that he adds and two of the most recent caught my eye today.

One was suggested by Graham John and inspired by Andrew Mills' staggering week of ringing recently, where he rang an amazing 90,914 changes to peals alone, which included that famous record-breaking peal in Alderney and the nine in one day in Dordrecht. The new category lists all of those who have rung 50,000 changes or more to successful peals over any period of seven consecutive days and reveals that incredibly there are some who have rung even more than long-time friend and fellow Rambling Ringer Millsy. Indeed seven beat him, with Philip Earis and Andrew Tibbetts joint top with the two of them each ringing a mind-blowing 102,976 changes in seven days back in 2004 which included a record fifteen peals in one day, rung on handbells within our borders at Bacton.

That isn't the only connection to our county in the list, with some on there courtesy of the packed L Martin Daniels Peal Tour of the area and a number of Suffolk residents past and present featuring. Jeremy Spiller, Martin Thorley, David Salter, Barrie Hendry, Barry Pickup, Alan Mayle, John Loveless, Cherril Spiller, Katharine Salter, Stephen Bedford, Vernon Bedford, Lawrence Pizzey, Howard Egglestone, Cecil Pipe, Simon Rudd, Pat Bailey, Trevor Bailey, Peter Mayle, Mary Allum and Robin Allum for the record.

I've never got close to such figures even in my most active peal-ringing days, but one list on Pealbase I might make one day is another one I noticed today - those who have rung one hundred or more different Surprise Major methods to peals, not including spliced.

Tonight's 5088 at The Wolery saw me ring my eighty-first different Surprise Major method, a musical little ditty called Eves and although I don't think we entirely did it justice, I enjoyed it very much, as I did the biscuits, cake and tea that followed.

Meanwhile, a 1296 of Netherseale Surprise Minor was rung prior to the practice night at Pettistree and well done to Maureen Gardiner on ringing her first quarter-peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Major in the 1280 rung at Henley.

And across the country there were fourteen peals rung to add to Andrew Craddock's superb Pealbase. Which I am more than happy to mention!

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Tuesday 14th November 2017

It was a very pleasant day hosting the visit of Ruthie's best friend, bridesmaid at our wedding and Godmother to Alfie, Fergie. Although I was at work, she'd brought cakes that I could enjoy at lunchtime and once I'd finished my shift at John Catt Educational I was able to join in the lively fun that she, my wife and two youngest sons had clearly had all day, as we got some fish and chips in.

Nonetheless, it involved no ringing, although it rarely does on a Tuesday anyway.

Not so for others in Suffolk I'm glad to report, particularly at Offton where the pre-practice quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was the first in the method for Peter Stock - well done Peter!

A very pleasant day for all concerned!

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Monday 13th November 2017

Best wishes to Suffolk Guild Librarian and St Mary-le-Tower band-member Abby Antrobus as she recovers from a recent car accident. Thank God she isn't as hurt as she could've been, though she she thinks she may have a fractured nose and is apparently sporting a black eye.

And of course she wasn't present at SMLT's practice tonight, but the relief at her lucky escape came during a session laden with fullgood. Primarily that was due to a night of some superb ringing. With the muffles still on from yesterday's Remembrance Sunday ringing, one scallywag suggested that it was because we could only hear half of the changes! In reality though, ringing with muffles on - especially at the less familiar handstroke - is quite difficult. As obvious as it appears, the sound of the bells help with one's rhythm and when that partially disappears every other row that can be disorientating, especially on twelve and that appeared to have a positive effect as it seemed to focus people's minds and the result was brilliant.

More upbeat vibes were provided by the approach of Christmas. Most reading this will be aware of how much I enjoy the festive season, but I've never been the type to have a turkey dinner with all the trimmings on 25th June as a half-Christmas or hum Jingle Bells everyday from January. It is special because it comes but once a year and for a relatively short period at that. However, there has been no missing that December is coming with Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds decorations being turned on this week and apart from being a nice reminder of God willing anticipation and celebrations over the coming weeks, it is a busy time for ringers and preparations need to be made. For 'The Tower' that means the Christmas Tree Festival due to run from 30th November-6th December and picking a theme for our tree and getting bands for extra services on the evenings of Sunday 3rd, Tuesday 12th, Wednesday 13th and - although it wasn't mentioned this evening - I imagine Christmas Eve and we are keen to get an experienced band together to put on a good show for the public for the seasonal ringing in Ipswich on Saturday 16th. This isn't an appeal for people to help (although any visitors would be most welcome, especially on those midweek commitments, so please let us know if you want to come along), but rather a reminder for towers and ringers to prepare for the extra services and changed routines to ensure there are enough to ring and nobody finds themselves somewhere expecting ringing when there is none!

Once we had got out of the churchyard - where we were locked in, presumably in connection to keeping others out following the Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin's appearance in the media today - the good vibes continued on to The Cricketers where it was interesting to hear about how John Girt is keeping the band at nearby St Margaret's going whilst the bells are out of the tower. It involves handbells and DVDs and has even seen one learner who hadn't touched a bellrope already doing Plain Hunt on Five!

Elsewhere in the county and involving SGR members, a quarter-peal of Doubles was rung on the back six of the ground-floor eight of Lowestoft, a happy way to round off a generally happy blog.

Hope to see you back soon Abby!

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Sunday 12th November 2017

Ambitions of the exercise to recruit 1400 ringers in 2018 to symbolically replace the 1400 ringers tragically lost in the First World War a century ago and mentioned in yesterday's blog made the national news on this Remembrance Sunday, with our friends from Norwich being the poster boys and girls of the BBC report on their website, whilst the Beeb also did an interview with Alan Regin and there was an article in the Guardian. Meanwhile, one of Taylor's Director Andrew Wilby was interviewed by Radio 4 in regards to the company's involvement in the recent successful project to install the bells at Ypres in Belgium, accompanied by the brand new eight featuring on this morning's Bells on Sunday.

It is all wonderful publicity of course and absolutely to be encouraged, but first and foremost we ring on this important day to remember the lives needlessly lost in conflicts. Not as a celebration of war, as some would increasingly have you believe, but - for most ordinary folk at least - to ensure that men and women whose lives ended often far away from home or whose lives have been turned upside down are not forgotten. In fact, most hope it somehow inspires the end of war, however unrealistic that currently seems.

Today, ringing did its bit across the land, with videos popping up online of various towers ringing half-muffled, including one made by Jonathan Williamson of Little Bob Maximus at St Mary-le-Tower this morning (which can be seen on the SGR's Facebook page), where the bells were muffled at handstroke in a sound that never fails to move me. I arrived after that bit of ringing, bringing with me not just Mason, Alfie and Joshua, but also Ruthie with the usual service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge replaced by a ceremony on the Market Hill. Her presence enabled us to help not only in ringing some call-changes on twelve but also some Stedman Cinques.

Gathered at the war memorial at Grundisburgh.Having joined some of fellow ringers in Costa Coffee for refreshments, we then made our way to Grundisburgh where we had the pleasant surprise of finding my mother-in-law Kate - with Ron playing the bagpipes for proceedings there this morning - but also the Hill sisters Katie and Rosemary and their respective other halves Tom Waterson and Martin Cansdale, the latter of whom is a Past Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths and who I haven't seen for ages.

As is usual - whether it is here or at any of the other towers in the benefice when the Act of Remembrance is carried out - the bells were used as an important part of the ceremony by the war memorial on the village green, with the eleventh tolled on this occasion at the appropriate moment.

And all over Suffolk, bells were also rung, including with a peal at Aldeburgh and quarter-peals of Erin Caters and Coed Craigyrogof Bob Minor rung at The Norman Tower and Buxhall respectively. Congratulations to twice Past Guild Ringing Master David Salter on calling his five hundredth peal of Surprise Major in the 5056 of Yorkshire and well done to the entire band on their first in the method in the success on 15cwt gallery ring of six.

Most of all though, well done to all who rang today to remember the sacrifices of others. Let's hope the art has another 1400 ringers to help us do it next year.

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Saturday 11th November 2017

Fond as I am of a busy Saturday, I also recognise that occasionally we need to use them to catch-up on jobs around the house. Today was one such day with work surfaces in the kitchen decluttered and bins emptied amongst other dull but necessary tasks.

We still took a couple of minutes out of our morning to mark the silence at the eleventh hour on this eleventh day of the eleventh month as Big Ben's chimes were brought out of temporary retirement across the airwaves as the nation remembered those who have died in war, most particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice in actively putting themselves in harm's way for us.

Other ringers were marking the sombre anniversary with actual ringing, especially here in Suffolk where five quarters and a peal were rung half-muffled for the 11/11. This includes a 5040 of Doubles at Poslingford and QPs of Plain Bob Doubles at Exning, more Doubles at Great Finborough, even more Doubles at Pettistree, some Grandsire Doubles at Thornham Magna and even even more Grandsire Doubles at Gislingham for the Ladies Guild, which was a first in the method for Zoe Wright. Well done Zoe!

There was some Minor at Woolpit where the Cambridge Surprise was Alex Brett-Holt's first of Treble Bob. Well done Alex too!

For all the ringing achievements of Zoe and Alex are quite rightly celebrated, I was most pleased on this occasion to see the ringers of the county doing their bit for this important event, but of course next year promises to be even more poignant and significant as this day will mark precisely a century since the end of the First World War. I imagine many will already be considering how they will mark it and there is much that could be done. Peals, quarters, special lengths, general ringing, involved with the community, as part of a wider arrangement or something more personal.

However, there is information that I came across on the Central Council's website, with two projects in particular standing out to me. One is part of a large-scale nationwide project called Battle's Over - A Nation's Tribute. The plan is that the day will start with bagpipes and after the Last Post is played at 6.55pm and beacons lit at 7pm across the country, bells will be rung at 7.05pm. Apart from how fitting this will be, this is another tremendous PR opportunity for ringing nationally and locally, so I hope that as many towers in Suffolk as possible take part.

A more lasting tribute though, is the other project (Ringing for Peace - Armistice 100) that caught my eye. Apparently 1400 ringers were lost in the fighting between 1914 and 1918 and the CCCBR Public Relations Officer Caroline Stockmann has suggested in the article on the website that the exercise aims to recruit 1400 new ringers in 2018, which I think is a lovely idea. Watch this space for more information as it comes!

For now though, we can be pleased with our county's contribution to the art today, with former St Mary-le-Tower ringer George Salter impressively calling a non-too-easy Mark Eccleston Stedman Caters composition in the 5016 rung in Swindon and which he was clearly chuffed about, with good reason! And in London, current SMLT band members Laura Davies and Louis Suggett partook in a peal at St Paul's Cathedral. I remember how physically and mentally exhausting my peal was there. The draft is long and every bell rung from a box, whilst every row seems to take an age as you hold it off, all the while conscious of the high standards expected, all for nearly four hours of ringing that feels like four days. And at least I didn't have the extra pressure that Laura and Louis had of ringing it to a wide audience as the City celebrated the Lord Mayor's Show below! I can imagine their sense of relief, satisfaction and elation. Well done to them and George on their achievements, especially as it made up for our very quiet Saturday!

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Friday 10th November 2017

We are in the midst of ADM season throughout the Guild, as I'm sure you have gathered with the excited chatter and glint in the eyes of expectent children, but the destination of the last of the four Districts' biggest annual event in the South-East on Saturday 2nd December has remained a mystery.

The revealing of our destination for just over three weeks time was understandably delayed as it transpired that the original tower selected - Brandeston - has very unfortunately suffered with a cracked bell and so an alternative venue needed to be considered.

As it happens, the meeting and tea is due to still be in the Village Hall that sits between the currently stricken 7cwt six and The Queen. The pub that is, not Her Majesty. However, the ringing is planned for Easton between 2.30-3.30pm and then from 3.30-4.30pm at Kettleburgh, with the service booked in at the latter afterwards.

By the time you read this, the North-East District ADM should have taken place in Halesworth, whilst the South-West's is pencilled in at Boxford a fortnight later. These are such important occasions, an opportunity for friendships to be renewed and established and the membership to have their say on how the District should be run, as well as the time for electing officers - in the SE for example, there is a need to elect a new Treasurer, Secretary and Chairman. Please do support these events where you can and make the efforts of those who have put them together worthwhile.

For today though, the main ringing of note was Phil Sweet's first of Minor in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Tannington - well done Phil!

And for us it was a typically quiet Friday from a ringing persepective. Such days are possible, even amidst the thrilling ADM season!

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Thursday 9th November 2017

News today of two positive bits of good publicity for ringing planned for the fairly immediate future.

One is at Durham Cathedral, where it has been shared by Secretary of the Durham Cathedral Guild of Bell Ringers Ellen Crabtree - daughter of Rambling Ringers Mike and Janet Dew and sometime Rambler herself - that the ringers will be partaking in a "major installation" for the city's Lumiere Light Festival next week, aptly titled 'Methods'. It appears to involve sensors attached to the fittings of individual bells setting off light displays as they ring traditional methods alongside "more experimental pieces". Carrying this out sounds a demanding task involving six-hour performances on four nights, so I'm relieved to read that about sixty ringers are undertaking it! All very exciting and I hope there will be some video uploaded somewhere for those of us unable to make it to the north-east of England to watch and listen.

The other PR to hit the headlines today is that the newly installed eight bells in Ypres - the first bells hung for English-style change-ringing in Belgium - are set to feature on this weeks' Bells on Sunday on BBC Radio Four, which of course is appropriately Remembrance Sunday. Do listen out or listen again!

For us and the bells of Suffolk it would seem, it was an altogether quieter day, except to note that now the clocks have gone back, Bardwell's Wednesday night practices will be held from 7-8.30pm until the return of British Summer Time, which also counts as some excellent public relations!

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Wednesday 8th November 2017

Ruthie's ill-health persists and so for the second week running she reluctantly missed out on her night out ringing at Pettistree.

Hopefully the pre-practice quarter-peal of Ipswich Surprise Minor indicates that the session that followed didn't suffer too much for her absence and at least it was one of a pair of quarters rung in Suffolk today, with the 1320 of Dover Delight Minor at Great Finborough being the first in the method for the entire band. Well done to them all and Happy Birthday to Pam Ebsworth for yesterday!

On a more positive note than his mother's affliction was that Alfie had a grand day out with my parents which apparently took in a trip to Ipswich Museum where he got to see the "elephant" on display!

Thank you to his grandparents for that and get well soon to his mummy.

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Tuesday 7th November 2017

When feeling as groggy and under the weather as both Ruthie and I were tonight, then the only place to be is away from the cold and darkness outside, wrapped in a blanket on the sofa and watching TV that requires little concentration. To that extent, the old episode of Escape to the Country shown deep down in the TV schedules on Really was perfect viewing. Featuring a couple looking for properties in sunbathed Suffolk of summer, awash with all the colour of the season and the picturesque and calming scenery of our county, it had all the ingredients for warming the cockles as our bodies fought varying temperatures and also importantly didn't need any thinking to be applied to its viewing.

Except unexpectedly it did give us some food for thought. Throughout the programme, one of the house-hunters professed to being sensitive to noise and appeared put off one property near Mildenhall by the potential of the sound of jets going about their business from the nearby airbases there. It suggested that they were looking for one of those largely fabled entirely silent communities that exist only to offer retreat for townies bored of the sound of traffic in the city. I was worried therefore by the fact that one of the properties visited was one immediately adjacent to the east side of the churchyard surrounding the church of St John-the-Baptist in Badingham, location of a famous sloping aisle and of course an 8cwt ground-floor five. Romantically shot views of the ancient place of worship through one of the house's windows suggested that its proximity was a big selling point for this particular plot. And yet no mention of bells was made, at least on camera and presumably not off camera either as they voiced their enthusiasm at revisiting it.

Badingham.Which is a concern, as the bells are regularly rung here according to the tower's entry on this very website, indicating that there is a practice night every Thursday and occasional Sunday service ringing and although it is not a frequent entry on BellBoard, there have been a number of quarters and peals rung there over recent years, including a 5040 that I rang in 2009 which was memorable for the complainants who entered to voice their displeasure at what we were doing and turned out to be someone - if I recall correctly - that used their 'home' next door as a holiday let when they made their rare visits to the village.

It is unlikely that this was the same couple whose hour of stardom was revived this evening as the show was filmed two years later in 2011 and if they have since moved into the barn conversion overlooking the church then they have either made their peace with the occasional shattering of the peace or come to an arrangement and/or understanding with Ole Jensen and the other ringers as there have been further QPs and peals rung there since.

However, whilst this possible nightmare scenario for local ringers appears to have been avoided in Badingham, I noticed that a house is currently up for sale beneath the tower which holds the 12cwt eight of Worlingworth, where it is interesting to note that no mention is made of bells despite the fact that someone is being asked to part with £300,000 for this idyllic spot.

There are hundreds of towers within our borders, surrounded by homes that are being moved into. Some of those bells are rung more regularly than others, but we ought to be doing all we can to ensure that they can be rung regularly without upsetting our neighbours. You may think that you have your neighbourhood on your side, but what if an intolerant household moves in (and let's face it, the irony in a society that preaches tolerance is there seems even more of them about than ever before) and kicks up a fuss? I've long been an advocate of effective sound-control and good relations with existing residents, but it is perhaps important to keep an eye on where 'For Sale' signs go up and contact estate agents to make sure all parties are aware of the activity that is carried out on the bells that ring out over those houses.

Somewhere that seems to have done that quite well is Gislingham, where after the bells were rehung and augmented in 2006 the locals were very careful not to upset the villagers with too much ringing and it seems to have worked with the gradual increase in quarters and peals not just involving local ringers but also visitors, such as today's 1344 of six Surprise Major methods spliced. It was one half of a brace of performances that also saw them go to another octave rehung and augmented in relative recent history and where the regular activity suggests they also have the right safeguards in place for a harmonious relationship with nearby residents, Hopton, which was the first of Topaz Surprise Major for the entire band. Well done to them all.

We were a bit too poorly to be quite as active though.

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Monday 6th November 2017

Those of you who follow the news in Suffolk through the East Anglian Daily Times, the local BBC radio station and/or social media will probably be aware that from today until the end of the month, Woods Lane in Melton will be closed to allow for work connected to a new housing estate alongside it to be built. This is essentially a northern bypass for Woodbridge, the main route for traffic going to and from the Sandlings Peninsula and so its closure potentially means gridlock in the town as thousands of extra vehicles (including lots bigger than would usually be seen there) are diverted through. The fears amongst locals include increased pollution, businesses suffering, lives put at risk by delayed emergency services and the general inconvenience of travelling miles out of the way to make the simplest, shortest journeys.

Melton Hill after Woods Lane closure.And it seems that such fears are not without foundation on the basis of today. Dropping the boys off at nursery became a logistical nightmare, miles of tailbacks choked the area and already there appears to have been an accident judging by the mangled wreckage of a car by the side of the now infamous junction where the road is closed.

Of course this won't have any impact on most reading this, although anyone approaching from the south and west wanting to ring at Hollesley or Orford will almost certainly use this route and so will have to leave extra time for their journey.

For me it meant a diversion on my usual journey to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice, but I'm glad it didn't put me off as I partook in a productive practice topped off by the lowering of the bells in anticipation of putting muffles on for Remembrance Sunday, with the back ten lowered in peal, always a spine-tingling sound when done as well as it was tonight.

Afterwards in The Cricketers it was entertaining to hear about Saturday night's College Youths Dinner from those who were there and great to catch-up on plans for the Essex & Suffolk Twelve-Bell Striking Contest that is all set for The Norman Tower on Saturday 17th February 2018 and involving four teams from the organiser Ian Culham. Note the date.

Today was also a date to note as it is my brother Chris' birthday. Happy Birthday Chris. I hope he had a better day than anyone trying to go anywhere near Melton today.

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Sunday 5th November 2017

All eight bells were rung at Woodbridge for service ringing this morning, giving me the opportunity to ring from what I consider to be the finest view whilst ringing in Suffolk and arguably beyond as I rang the 25cwt tenor to a couple of pieces of call-changes before joining the worship downstairs and Junior Church where Alfie spent his time dressing as a rabbi!

Charged with endeavour as it was, the ringing was a world away from the handbell ringing produced at last night's College Youths Anniversary Dinner in London, as highlighted with the now traditional sharing of a video of the touch on YouTube the day after. Featuring East Anglian representation with Norwich ringer David Brown and George and Diana Pipe's nephew David from Cambridge, they produced a staggering display of Maximus methods most ringers have never even heard of (Aracar Surprise, Kabru Surprise, Jomolhari Surprise and the more familiar Little Bob for the record) spliced, resulting in a deserved boisterous round of applause from the several hundred present in the huge hall at Grange St Paul's Hotel that included many from our part of the world, including David Stanford, Adrienne Sharp, Ian and Claire Culham.

As ever, I hope those watching don't get depressed by the notion that they won't reach that standard. Most of us won't. I know I shan't. Rather, I hope all ringers take inspiration from the fact that this - like the recent record peal on Alderney - again shows the limitless nature of the art that we are so fortunate to be a part of. Take advantage and do all you can to progress. Who knows, maybe one day you may find yourself in front of hundreds partaking in some magnificent handbell ringing!

Within our borders there were ringers doing just that today. A handbell peal was rung in Bacton, whilst quarter-peals of Doubles, London Surprise Minor and Cambridge Surprise Minor were rung at Great Finborough, St Mary-le-Tower and Pettistree respectively.

Alfie with a sparkler.We weren't ringing anywhere this afternoon though. Rather, being the 5th November, Alfie and his cousins Katelynn and Annalise were enjoying waving sparklers around (Joshua is just a little too young for such activities!) in mother-in-law Kate's garden whilst Ron lit a bonfire and we enjoyed the fireworks going off around us, with hot dogs also thrown into the bargain - thank you Kate and Ron!

From the ringing chamber of Woodbridge to the colourfully lit skies, it was a day of great views.

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Saturday 4th November 2017

One of the many things I like about ringing is that it takes you to places that I would never imagine going to otherwise.

Such as today's South-East District Outing to the south-east of Essex. It is a pleasant enough area in many respects, but largely built-up with London overspill in a largely ugly manner and if I wasn't a ringer I'm guessing if I found myself in that corner of the world it would be in Southend enjoying the seaside, the pier and everything else there.

The ringing chamber at Canewdon from below! The ringing chamber at Canewdon from inside!I can't envisage that I would ever go to Canewdon, a village - like so many in this area - more 1970s housing estate than rural community, but actually in a picturesque location with a lovely church and superb ten that is less than a decade old which replaced the old unringable five that now sits above the current ring. Nor would we have enjoyed the tea and biscuits that our hosts so generously put on for us, overlooked by the balcony that unusually sits in the centre of the ringing chamber.

Rayleigh ringing chamber. Ringing at Basildon. Ringing at Basildon. Ringing at Basildon.

We wouldn't have gone to Rayleigh either, which doesn't offer anything in particular and yet - as with previous visits - I was impressed by the facilities attached to Holy Trinity and the nice octave here. With absolute certainty I can proclaim that we would never have had cause to go to Basildon for any other reason apart from ringing upon the eight uniquely housed in the glass tower there. Although in a typically grim new town surrounded by soulless square, concrete buildings with zero character and being ear-splittingly loud, this has always struck me as a wonderful place to promote ringing as everything can be seen at once from outside, from the ringers downstairs to the bells themselves up above.

On the assumption that we wouldn't even be in the area, I don't expect that we would have come across The Bull in Corringham, a village swamped by the town of the same name that has nearly all been built in recent decades. And yet having been too late to book in with the other ringers at The White Lion at Fobbing where the next tower was, we were delighted to find this old inn at the heart of what appears to be the original community directly opposite the church (which apparently only houses three bells) and which serves great food, even if it was at the same time trying to be a sports bar for the locals!

Ringing at Fobbing.  Glenys Fear ringing at Fobbing. Ringing at Galleywood.

Lunch devoured over a leisurely break, we headed to another pleasant venue that would probably have been missed by us, as we went to the 11cwt eight of St Michael, a nice place of worship that sits overlooking the valley towards the River Thames below it. Here I swapped with Mike Whitby to run the ringing, recognising how much easier it would be to help Ruthie look after the boys from this gallery ring just behind the organ than from the more tucked away ringing chamber of Galleywood where we reached next, despite a satnav malfunction that took us several miles out of our way.

Ringing at Writtle. Ringing at Writtle.Finally, we completed a day of visiting places off the tourist trail by ringing on the ten of Writtle in the suburb of that well-known city of the holiday-maker, Chelmsford. They also completed a day of mainly super bells, decent ringing and brilliant company, with at least thirty from across the District and beyond - such as Rowan Wilson and past Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters from the North-West District, North-East District Chairman Mike Cowling and Stephen Cheek from north Essex, though a big and invaluable part of the scene at St Mary-le-Tower. In addition, the ringing family once again opened its welcoming arms for Graham and Harry from Hampshire, who having seen the event advertised asked District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson if they could tag along. For anyone considering attending next year's outing, it is worth considering that there was something for ringers of all abilities from Call-Changes to Surprise Major to Stedman Caters.

Very well done to Jonathan and his wife Sue on arranging and managing an extremely fun day out. I know from personal experience and of those that I know well how difficult arranging such things are. The original plan rarely pans out with so many logistical challenges, so when it all works then it is very satisfying for the organiser and those who joined in. Thank you to the Williamsons for a day in some places that we would never usually go to!

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Friday 3rd November 2017

He is much better now, but just to make sure of his recovery and with the plan to be out all day tomorrow on the South-East District Outing to south Essex, Joshua had a day at home with Ruthie today.

It meant that a much cheerier JB greeted my return from work on what was a typically quiet Friday from a personal ringing perspective, though also typically for Friday the FNQPC were being successful as they rang a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham.

And further afield College Youths are preparing for the Society's 380th Anniversary Dinner in London in twenty-four hours time. Many seem already ensconced in hotels and pubs in the capital, whilst various peals have been rung for them by members in anticipation for this grandest of ringing occasions. I suspect there will be more rung in the morning.

Our ringing ambitions are limited to hoping that Josh is recovered enough to accompany us on tomorrow's outing.

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Thursday 2nd November 2017

After a day when I had to collect Joshua up from nursery early because he was still very unwell, I found myself traipsing across Woodbridge in the darkness of a late afternoon in November to meet Ruthie and the patient at the doctors for his second appointment there this week.

The diagnosis was equally as reassuring as Monday's, especially as the one-year old is unable to vocalise his symptoms and gets more distressed about his illness in his lack of understanding and vocabularly, thus making it seem worse than it actually is.

With this good news, we returned to nursery for the li'l chap's parents evening. As with his older brother Alfie last night, it was largely positive, with his communication "ahead of the curve", his walking amazingly confident having only relatively recently started and his love of music shining through. All stuff we had noticed of course, but it is always nice to get these things confirmed by people qualified and unbiased!

And as he seems to recover, Ruthie went to choir practice and I got the boys to bed, which was all rather lovely, but meant that as usual we did no ringing on a Thursday. However, other ringers in Suffolk made up for our absence, as a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Bardwell, whilst yesterday a 1344 of Julie McDonnell Delight Minor was rung ahead of Pettistree's practice.

Well done to all concerned and get well soon Josh.

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Wednesday 1st November 2017

It can be quite exhausting looking after a poorly one-year-old, especially when also trying keep a bored three-year-old happy, so after a day of doing just that on her own, it was understandable that Ruthie didn't feel up to going out into the November night to Pettistree's practice.

Even more so as earlier we had been to the boys' nursery for Alfe's parents evening, although that was a shining positive on a difficult day, with Alfred getting glowing reviews of his numbers, writing, personality and even his French!

Positive news also from Ixworth, where a quarter-peal of four-spliced Surprise Major methods was rung, but otherwise it was a relatively quiet day on the ringing front, both countywide and personally. God willing there are better days ahead, especially for Joshua.

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Tuesday 31st October 2017

With falling temperatures and more darkness, it is that time of year when people start picking up nasty bugs more easily and there is certainly a fair bit of it going around Guild members.

Following her grandson Joshua's lead, mother-in-law Kate Eagle wasn't very well at all today. So much so that she wasn"t able to go to Ufford practice tonight where she usually runs proceedings and therefore I was asked to take on the role. Except more illness meant that only five of us made it to the 13cwt eight for the weekly session. Despite offering the Hollesley bunch who had travelled the furthest the option of some Doubles ringing, there seemed little appetite for it on this chilly night and so after about half-an-hour having a chinwag whilst waiting for a sixth ringer that never materialised, we called it a day.

Offton's new sixth.Better news though for another Suffolk tower that practices on a Tuesday, Offton, with the new sixth now cast. It is exciting news, especially after all the hard work that has gone into fundraising for it and I hope to hear it in action in the near future.

Of course there is no escaping that it is also Halloween, especially with young children about. Mercifully I avoided all the ghosts, ghouls and witches on the loose whilst I was out and instead Alfie got into the modern-day spirit of the occasion by helping Ruthie carve a pumpkin.

Perhaps pumpkin soup is in order to fend off all that illness.

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Monday 30th October 2017

Friday I had to take Charlie to the vets, today I had to take Joshua to the doctors. He hasn't been his normal self for the last day or two, but mercifully the qualified medical opinion was that it is merely a bug rather than anything more serious, unpleasant as his current condition is for the poor li'l chap.

It meant that I had to take the day off from John Catt Educational - who as usual were very good about things - to look after him, although he improved significantly throughout the day and by the evening and with Ruthie back from work I felt happy enough leaving her to get the boys to bed whilst I went to St Mary-le-Tower practice.

It was another good session too, with Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, Stedman Cinques and Lincolnshire Surprise Royal amongst the repertoire, along with some more handling lessons for our pair of new learners and all topped off with a drink and some socialising in The Cricketers.

Earlier in the day, a peal was rung at Great Thurlow for the wedding of Suffolk Guild Patron George Vestey to Nicola, who reside next door to this 12cwt six. Congratulations to these tremendous supporters of the SGR.I hope they had a much, much better day than Joshua did.

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Sunday 29th October 2017

Social media and the internet generally helped most ringers track Wednesday's extraordinary record peal on Alderney in a way that our not-too-distant forebears couldn't even begin to fathom. A couple of decades ago, most would have to wait until their copy of the Ringing World dropped on the doormat to find out it had even happened and read a dry report on proceedings. Over the course of the 16hrs 7mins it took to ring the brilliant 25056 of Bristol Surprise Maximus though, we were all able to follow everything to the extent that we could almost - only almost mind - imagine what it is like ringing in such an attempt.

Although not quite to the same extent, most of those interested were able to follow the progress of another astonishing ringing feat today, as the same band of eight ringers rang an amazing nine peals over this twenty-five hour long day, with regular updates with video through Paul de Kok's - and then in turn Bellringers' - Facebook page, including the last lead of the last peal.

As with midweek, it is a phenomenal achievement which - even if such extremes are understandably unappealing to many - yet again shows the limitless nature of the art. It is so much more than struggling with Plain Bob Doubles with the same five ringers in the same four walls and it is immensely satisfying.

What makes the achievements on the continent even more incredible is that one of those participating was also in the record on the Channel Islands four days ago. I have known Andrew Mills for nearly twenty-five years and he has ringing running through his veins, taking full advantage of what the exercise offers, including taking his employment through it. He is one of the best - arguably the best - tenor ringers around, one of the few to have pulled in Liverpool Cathedral tenor - at 82cwt the heaviest bell in the world hung for change-ringing - single-handled to a peal, the youngest person to ring a thousand peals (until Adam Crocker did it even younger just four years ago), is an effortless double-handed ringer (indeed he rang double-handed in the only long-length I have attempted) and partaken in many record peals that have been rung in recent years. So it doesn't surprise me he has been involved in both. To do both in the same week is bonkers even for him though!

Well done to all concerned in today's 40,570 changes and 20hrs14mins worth of ringing - especially after falling short a year ago - but as with Wednesday I found myself considering all that I did in the time that some of the art's most extraordinary ringers did their thing. In this case that's essentially everything I did today and some of last night as they started at midnight Dutch time and brought the ninth one round at 11.15pm their time. That included a decent night's sleep, the usual extensive morning operation of getting the boys breakfasted, dressed and out of the door and ringing at St Mary-le-Tower.

Ringing at Hasketon this morning. Ringing at Hasketon this morning.It also included a misguided trip to Grundisburgh, whereupon meeting Daphne Pegg leaving a deserted church, I checked the board and discovered that we should have been ringing for the fifth Sunday benefice service at Hasketon. Although Daphne decided to cut her losses and return home, we made it in time for me to be of some use at this ground-floor six, before returning to Woodbridge to collect Ruthie from her singing duties at St Mary's.

Lunch was devoured and then the afternoon spent in Bury St Edmunds at the home of my brother Chris and his wife Becky, who very kindly fed ourselves, Mum, Dad and Aunty Marian. We then travelled back across the county in darkness, with British Summer Time already a distant memory, enjoyed watching the results of Strictly Come Dancing and put the boys to bed, all before that 5088 of Superlative Surprise Major came round and brought an end to proceedings in Holland.

In between living life, we enjoyed following it all on social media!

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Saturday 28th October 2017

Little Thurlow.With all due respect, when I decided to go to the South-West District Practice at Little Thurlow today, I wasn't neccessarily expecting one of the best pieces of ringing I have had the pleasure of partaking in this year.

This gallery ring are a lovely five, but like most rural rings have some oddstruckness, whilst the SW seems to be have more learners than most, which is encouraging but also means that by their very nature such practices can be choppy at times - in fact, if a practice features only perfect ringing then I question if any progress is being made!

Yet on this chilly afternoon, I rang the fourth as I called an almost faultless 120 of Stedman Doubles, the climax of my presence at this well-attended event. It should offer up motivation for more members to take advantage of more of these occasions.

Apart from the good ringing, it was lovely to catch-up with Philip Erith, Neville Whittell and District Ringing Master Derek Rose amongst others, even if a grumpy Joshua made conversation difficult! Also great to see was cross-District support, with Peter and Jane Harper from Hollesley joining me in travelling from the South-East and Guild PRO Neal Dodge came down from the North-West.

And although it is always a longer journey that I anticipate, it is always nice to come to what I think is the most picturesque part of Suffolk.

The boys enjoying Suffolk Punch Trust. The boys enjoying Suffolk Punch Trust. The boys enjoying Suffolk Punch Trust.

My traversing to the far side of the county was an attempt to get the boys out of the house and occupied as I had sole charge of them with Ruthie at work and was neatly balanced out with a trip to the aforementioned Harpers' part of the world to visit the Suffolk Punch Trust. This is a wonderful venue, even on a cold, windswept morning, with horses, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs and all manner of other animals spied. With it being that time of year, there was also a Halloween theme, particularly on the Woodland Walk and although Alfie was a little upset at the witches, by the end of the walk he was cheerfully greeting ghouls hanging in trees and skeletons poking out of the ground!

Pity as it was that my wife couldn't join us, it was a day where there was something for both the boys and me to enjoy!

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Friday 27th October 2017

Following his operation on Tuesday, today's 'highlight' was taking our cat Charlie to the vets for his three-day checkup over my lunchbreak, a sure sign it was a quiet and mundane day on the personal front in pretty much every respect. Although that is just fine - all three boys together for the weekend, a 9am start and 5pm finish at work on a Friday for the first time in three months and a warm, cosy home to shelter in from the autumn chill - it admittedly doesn't make great reading for a ringing blog!

Therefore I'm thankful for the quarter-peals of Doubles and Plain Bob Minor at Wenhaston and Ashbocking respectively for giving me something ringing-related to talk about in today's blog!

The latter was attributed to the South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, which has sadly been a little disappointing this year. That isn't a criticism of anyone. After all, whilst Ruthie partook in Wednesday's QP at Pettistree, I haven't contributed anything to it, although I would've willingly if offered a rope in any attempts I could make. And after years of arranging Guild Peal Weeks as SGR Ringing Master, I know just how difficult in can be getting enough ringers together over a wide area for a concerted effort. Herding cats comes to mind.

However, it does make me wonder why more across the Guild's largest District haven't taken advantage of this focus on the medium. This time of the year seems to be reasonable to me - members are less likely to be on holiday and half-term potentially gives younger ringers and teachers more time to join in, although I imagine some members who may have taken part have been on Stephen Pettman's biannual ringing trip to Italy. I hope it doesn't stop us trying again in 2018, as the North-East and North-West Districts have shown they can be extremely productive occasions.

And it would at least give me more ringing to write about in the blog rather than trips to the vets.

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Thursday 26th October 2017

Readers will no doubt be relieved that today's blog isn't as torturously long as yesterday's.

Partly because there is no anniversary to be self-indulgent about but also because there were no astonishing historic ringing records to attempt to encapsulate the spirit of.

Yesterday's 25056 of Bristol Surprise Maximus on Alderney was still making headlines today though, literally in the case of the ITV report on the success. Meanwhile, whilst some of the band celebrated this evening with a curry, others had clearly not had enough as they rang another - admittedly much, much shorter - peal, this time at the Channel Islands' Ringing Centre. And St Anne's itself further highlighted the benefits of effective sound control with a quarter-peal rung there the day after that sixteen hours of ringing!

There was a QP here in Suffolk too and it was a significant one too, as the 1296 of Coldstream Surprise Minor at Tostock saw Stephen Dawson complete the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods to quarters - well done Stephen!

Meanwhile there was good news from Taylors Bell Foundary as well, with a press release on their website announcing that a project to regenerate the site, with all sorts of improvements including a new walkway, a ringing chamber and more outlined. Following the loss of Whitechapel Bell Foundary earlier this year - for all that has been salvaged from that - this is very postive.

And all wrapped up in much less space than yesterday's!

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Wednesday 25th October 2017

I recall my mother describing one of the many reasons she gave up peal-ringing being her experience of wandering the streets of Great Yarmouth during a peal having accompanied one of the members of the band and all the many things that she and her fellow hangers-on were able to do whilst the three-and-a-half hours of ringing went on.

The record breaking band. Today's record-breaking peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus rung at St Anne on Channel Island Alderney - the longest peal ever rung on twelve bells - put that well into the shadows though. Whilst the 25,056 changes were rung from 6.30am to 10.37pm - 16hrs7mins - we completed our night's sleep, woke up, fed and breakfasted the boys. I went to work to do a full day's shift, whilst Ruthie entertained Alfie and Joshua. Three meals were consumed and whilst I put our sons to bed and watched a large proportion of the Vicar of Dibley DVD set I was bought for my birthday by Kate and Ron, my wife rang a quarter-peal at Pettistree, attended the two-hour practice that followed and had a session in The Greyhound and still made it back home just in time to watch the climax of this extraordinary performance. Nationwide, BellBoard records that ten peals were rung - including one on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower - and twenty-three QPs scored. The sheer physical and mental feat of ringing to that standard over such a long period of time is unbelievable and while some - indeed many - thought them bonkers with some justification, this is something to be admired, the kind of 'black zone' ringing that should encourage and inspire others to improve ringing, to help it grow as an art. Very few of us are ever going to achieve anything to this standard - though with the right circumstances, there is no reason why anyone with even an ounce of ringing ability shouldn't - but it shows how the exercise is limitless and if you are getting bored of it or feel that you have reached your limit, then there are chances out there to go even further. Go to a different tower (ideally in addition to your current one, rather than abandoning them!), join in the many opportunities to ring with other ringers who can help you progress, such as District and Guild events, quarters or peals. If you can't find or join in with those, then create your own - anyone who cares about the survival of ringing will gladly help out if they can!

After all the preparation and travel tribulations and their efforts throughout the peal, this band deserved the acclaim they received both in Alderney and from those keeping up with proceedings online and it was nice of them to ring it for the tenth anniversary of my blog starting!

They didn't of course, but today's amazing success neatly allowed me to reminisce about how ringing has changed, even 'just' in one decade. When I started this blog on 25th October 2007, Facebook and YouTube existed, but were in their relative infancy and frankly the notion of people across the globe being able to follow such a record-breaking attempt live, as it was happening would've seemed fanciful to most. And yet throughout the day, updates were posted on the Bellringers FB page and the Alderney ringers' own website that included biogs of the band-members and umpires, a superbly written explanation of what was happening for the uninitiated and the composition, with snippets of how things were going and even interviews with children of some of the participants. Videos can be viewed on YouTube of the ringing at various stages from downstairs in the church with a TV screen relaying pictures of the ringers ringing and even from within the ringing chamber itself, with the noticeable thing being just how good it was throughout. Peter Bevis did a video explanation at 7.30am about an hour in and a further clip popped up about 2hrs30mins in. After seven hours the ringing was still flawless, as it was nine hours and roughly 14,000 changes in and then an hour and about 1,000 changes further on and even at just under 20,000 changes. And the climax on the Bellringers Facebook page and the rapturous applause that greeted the setting of the bells was spine-tingling.

Not only the ringers need congratulating. Umpires had to concentrate and the locals did a magnificent job not just on keeping the world updated but also putting on refreshments before, during and after for those present and - importantly - making sure sound control was put in to ensure that nobody beyond the churchyard would be disturbed by this ringing lasting two-thirds of the day. And I think that Matthew Higby was relieved that there were no mechanical failures following the service he gave them ahead of the attempt!

Ringing as a whole got some great PR too, with both the BBC and ITV reporting on it and come the final few minutes a huge crowd had gathered in the church! Everything about this was phenomenal and I feel privileged not just to have rung with many of them but also to have been friends with some of them for twenty years or more. Very well done to all concerned!

Quite rightly, it all overshadows the anniversary of my blog's beginnings, but even amongst catching up on happenings on Alderney, I found myself considering why I write it, how it has evolved and how long I might carry on writing.

Initially I wrote it to give an insight into what the Suffolk Guild Ringing Master got up to when I was in the role, but once I finished in the position in 2011 it gradually became about how a busy ringer fits ringing into everyday life, which it continues to do in the present with more everyday life than ever before to ring around! However, it has also become an account of ringing, especially local ringing, an insight of the art in 2017, almost a gossip column without the salacious details! Births, marriages and deaths have been covered. Personally with Mason's growth from a baby wearing casts to a ten-year-old in his last year at primary school, the arrivals of Alfie and Joshua, our 2012 wedding and the loss of family members like Uncle Eric. But also amongst ringers too. Although I failed to mention the peal at Horringer and the QP at Offton in yesterday's entry, many firsts have been reported along the way, some which have since become quite significant events. Like George Salter's first quarter-peal on 18th March 2009, Louis Suggett's first peal of Surprise Major on 26th November 2009 and Alex Tatlow's first 5040 on 15th February 2010. Looking back - especially at some of the first few years of the blog - now makes fascinating reading, in some places at least.

Who knows how long it will continue? Not me. I find it therapeutic to write - when I find the time - and still I come across new readers and am regularly told by people who say how much they enjoy it. As long as that is the case, I shall continue writing if I am able.

Thank you to all who do read it and to Ruthie who puts up with me metaphorically disappearing to write this. But most of all thank you to Webmaster Chris Garner who has to put my ramblings together on the website, sticking links in where appropriate - I don't think he's ever had his work cut-out as much as today!

And on that note, thank you to the band of record-breakers on Alderney on giving me something so spectacular to write about on my blog's tenth anniversary!

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Tuesday 24th October 2017

Thank God it seems that all the band for tomorrow's record peal attempt of 25,056 changes of Bristol Surprise Maximus have made it to Alderney following their travel tribulations, at least judging by the test ring being carried out on the 13cwt twelve of St Anne tonight and which was broadcast on the Bellringers Facebook page.

These are exciting times for ringing beyond the UK's mainland, with some present on the Channel Islands also present in Ypres on Sunday for the dedication of the brand new eight installed at St George's Memorial Church in Belgium. This is a fulfillment of the original plan to hang a ring of bells to be rung in the English style of change-ringing when the church was originally built to honour those who lost their lives fighting in the First World War in the area and yesterday the BBC did a report on it, which I got the opportunity to read and watch today. It is a wonderful project and it was great to see Andrew Wilby looking and sounding so well two years on from the horrific accident that initially left him in a wheelchair and still restricts his ringing.

Amongst all the overseas ringing excitement, our day was particularly mundane, the only noteworthy aspect of it being Charlie our cat going to the vets for a delicate operation that will ultimately mean he will be free to wander the neighbourhood without being a bother to the female felines nearby...

The quiet evening in allowed me to read the email from the Guild's Safeguarding Officer Mary Garner and to brush up on the SGR's Safeguarding Policy & Statement. Please read, print and put up in your tower and look at the organisation's Safeguarding page and make sure you're up to date on this vital, vital issue.

Meanwhile, it has been heartening to see that some who have made it to Alderney for that big attempt have been helping out the locals on the island in quarter-peals of the standard eight Surprise Major methods, Plain Bob Royal and Cambridge Surprise Major.

God willing tomorrow will go just as well.

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Monday 23rd October 2017

When I arrived at St Mary-le-Tower practice tonight as Tessa Earey and Amanda Richmond were exiting, I briefly wondered if I done something to upset them! Of course they are far too polite for such behaviour and in any case the latter returned later, accompanied by her Aunt Ivy on what is the ninety-sixth anniversary of her birth, as we rang a touch of Stedman Cinques to greet her and sang Happy Birthday to hail her entrance into the ringing chamber.

That touch of Stedman Cinques was one of two rung tonight, along with a brace of pieces of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal and a half-course of Cambridge Surprise Royal, as well as some Rounds on Twelve for Martin, our very welcome visitor from Hadleigh. In addition, we gave a lady a go who had been drawn back after attending the recent Tower Open Day.

It was a positive evening further enhanced by my being able to go to The Cricketers after ringing for the first time in months. Indeed, the last time I made it to the pub on a Monday night for a drink and socialising it was outside on a warm, light summer's evening. Being inside on a cooler night didn't diminish my enjoyment though, especially after such a long absence!

The autumnal weather has been having an effect on ringers and their activities today though. On Wednesday, an attempt to break the record set a couple of years ago at South Petherton for the longest peal rung on twelve is due to be attempted at St Anne on Alderney, but it is safe to say that the stormy conditions have put the plans in jeopardy. Three members of the band have made it, but others were stuck on Guernsey and some were still on the UK mainland, although six of those aiming to get to the Channel Islands made use of the unexpected spare time by fitting in a hastily arranged peal at North Stoneham in Hampshire.

Let's hope that everyone who needs to makes it and that no one is leaving as they arrive!

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Sunday 22nd October 2017

For football fans like me, the 'beautiful game' can be all-consuming. If I felt it was at all fair on Ruthie - who to her credit enjoys it up to a point - or Alfie and Joshua - who are more interested in Laa Laa than La Liga - then I would happily watch it wall-to-wall, whoever was playing wherever they were playing. Sometimes one wishes one wasn't so consumed, on other occasions one is glad that one is. Today was strange because I felt both.

There's no disguising how disappointing it was that Ipswich Town lost to Norwich City at Portman Road in our lunchtime meeting, even if it was entirely predictable and par for the course these days. Congratulations again to ringing Canary fans Philip Gorrod, Sue Marsden, David Brown et al. In this respect I wished I couldn't care less.

Norwich fans at The Station Hotel. Mason at the Ipswich-Norwich match. Portman Road in all its glory.

However, everything else about the day reminded me why I so enjoy the sport, even after years of misery following ITFC. From the bus ride in there was a marvelous atmosphere as we walked across the town centre to the railway station to get our tickets home. Pubs were heaving with lively home fans who had clearly been drinking for a while (I'm not sure why this game is put on at noon to stop everyone getting drunk if the pubs all open early!), the police were out in force blocking roads (which appealed to Mason's sense of adventure!) and the visiting supporters were in raucous voice as they drank in The Station Hotel, caged in in what seemed like a win-win situation for all concerned! The fixture itself was intense and entertaining and the noise deafening at times and even what could have been a depressing train journey back to Melton was cheered up by an incident that had us chuckling. We were stood next to the toilets, one of those sliding door operations where buttons need to be pushed to open, close and lock. It was all too much for one slightly tipsy chap who despite helpful instructions from the boy managed to push the button that stopped the train! He did shut the door at least, but when an annoyed conductor turned up the door was flung open much to the embarrassment of the man relieving himself and amusement of those of us in the carriage! And importantly it was great to spend time with the eldest son doing something that we both enjoy.

However, without the car - partly because it is a huge hassle getting it in and out of Ipswich on matchdays but also so Ruthie could use our vehicle to get the youngest boys to church back in Woodbridge - it meant that morning ringing was out of the question as public transport was unable to get me in early enough. However, I still came across ringers, as greetings were exchanged with Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase and his father Robert was spotted through the crowds, whilst I caught up with Jon Spreadbury in the Fanzone who was there as a neutral with fellow Norfolk ringer - but Tractor Boy - James Laughlin having popped along to SMLT earlier.

And elsewhere in Suffolk, ringers were ensuring that the county's bells were being rung, with quarter-peals of Grandsire Cinques and Kent Treble Bob & Plain Bob Minor at The Norman Tower and Kersey respectively.

Hopefully we shall get the opportunity to consume ourselves in some ringing again very soon as well!

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Saturday 21st October 2017

A busy, busy day of ringing on Suffolk's bells with a peal and six quarter-peals rung within our borders. Amongst them were some notable footnotes. The 5022 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Coddenham was the 750th different peal-length composition that David Salter has called, whilst the 1320 of Nelson's Victory Treble Bob Minor rung at Great Barton on the 212th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar was the first in the method for Janet Garnett, as well as Patricia and Ian Cresshull's 1500th QP together - congratulations David, Patricia and Ian and well done to Janet!

In addition, a 1296 of Durham Surprise Minor at Euston, 1260 of Doubles at Great Finborough, 1280 of Glasgow Surprise Major at Horringer, 1312 of Dysprosium Surprise Major at Ixworth and 1272 of Stamford Surprise Minor at Tostock were all rung on this autumnal Saturday.

Pleasing activity, but we weren't involved in any ourselves. We did spend the afternoon with ringers though as we visited my Mum and Dad and inevitably ringing came up as a subject, with last weekend's St Mary-le-Tower Open Tower Day and the ongoing project at St Margaret in Ipswich notable mentions, whilst enjoying a gratefully received cuppa and biscuit.

Pleasant, but not as busy as our ringing peers.

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Friday 20th October 2017

Whenever I do these extreme shifts at work on our international campaigns, I dread the early shifts. The night before is curtailed (no pub after ringing if I get to ringing at all) in order to get a good night's sleep and as I age ("poor old boy" I hear you say!), I am absolutely shattered come the afternoon and not really useful for anything, even peal-ringing as I once did on such occasions. I rise in darkness at a time when it feels like the rest of the world in is in bed, essentially in the middle of the night and make my way in solitude along the empty byways between home and office in a depressing journey.

One thing that has helped though is that the weather has been dry and even unseasonably warm as I have departed the house and wandered in. Until this one, final pre-dawn start of the year. As the wind blew the fallen autumnal leaves across the otherwise silent streets and bent the increasingly bare branches of the creaking trees and the rain came at me sideways accompanied with a chill more befitting of the time of year, I was glad that from Monday I am due to return to the more usual 9-5 routine.

Mason flying his kite at Melton Park. Mason flying his kite at Melton Park. Mason flying his kite at Melton Park.

That said, the free afternoon enabled me to collect Mason from school and brisk breeze to help him fly the kite he had made at school in Melton Park on the way home.

Still, once all the children had been put to bed, I was glad that I could enjoy a beer or two without the worry of having to get up in the middle of the night to go to bed.

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Thursday 19th October 2017

Sunday noon at Portman Road is the planned rendezvous for the next meeting of great footballing rivals Ipswich Town and Norwich City. Mason and I have got our tickets for this sporting torture, where the pinnacle of hope for us blues is that we aren't humiliated rather than actually winning, but the intense atmosphere is something that I still enjoy, as does the boy importantly.

This week that intensity has diminished slightly with the tragic news of the death of former ITFC and England captain Terry Butcher's son that has seen both clubs express their condolences at a time when usually hostilities would be at full tilt.

And of course, for all of the bravado and pantomime hatred of the occasion, most fans of both clubs get on perfectly well in real life, at places of work, pubs, even in the same house as each other. And bellringing, demonstrated today as Tractor Boy Simon Rudd and Canary David Brown rang a handbell peal together in Suffolk's county town, the 131st that this pair of fans who society perceives should be enemies have rung together.

Indeed David and other ringing friends from Norfolk were on 'enemy' territory already partaking in quarter-peals of Double Norwich Court Bob Major and Stedman Triples at Horringer and Ixworth respectively.

Hopefully they'll be welcome back after Sunday's match!

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Wednesday 18th October 2017

Kent Treble Bob Major at The Wolery isn't the pinnacle of peal-ringing. Even just this week a 5152 of eighteen Surprise Major methods were rung at Saddleworth near Manchester, six Maximus methods were spliced in a 5016 at Birmingham Cathedral and two peals of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods have been rung at Alveston and Hillmorton in Warwickshire.

Ringing is a varied beast though I'm glad to say and this 5184 served a purpose, offering Neal Dodge some useful inside experience. Besides, as with most 'simple' methods, this needed focus. It is easy to lose concentration, especially with something as monotonous as Kent and so I was pleased with the discipline of the band and indeed after an unsettled beginning this performance improved to the extent that by the end we were ringing at a brisk pace, accurately and with confidence. And with the band very kindly ringing it for my recent birthday, I was just grateful that conductor David Salter didn't opt for a 5039 of Triples...

Of course, regardless of perceived worthiness of method, peals here are always topped off with superb hospitality afterwards and tonight was no different with cake, biscuits and refreshments aplenty provided when we returned to the house.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, thank you also to the band who dedicated the pre-practice quarter-peal of Netherseale Surprise Minor at Pettistree to the latest anniversary of my birth, whilst there were more successes within our borders, with a 5040 of Surprise Minor rung on handbells in Bacton and a 1280 of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced at Ixworth marked Lynda Rochester's birthday and was also conductor Stephen Dawson's first of spliced Major. Happy Birthday Lynda and well done Stephen!

Arguably they rang more interesting methods than we did in Old Stoke, but I'd like to think that we all had an enjoyable and worthwhile day of ringing.

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Tuesday 17th October 2017

The last of the three local primary schools that we plan to consider for Alfie's first formal seat of learning from next September was visited this morning as Melton was toured. The buildings are not as full of character as those at St Mary's or as modern as those of Woodbridge - the other brace of primaries taken in thus far - and it is an unfortunate geographical feature beyond their reasonable control that their location is a noisy one, sat as it is right on the overloaded junction where traffic coming in and out of the town and towards and away from the popular south-east Suffolk coast crosses and which is strangled further by the ineffective traffic lights there.

However, as with the other houses of education we have seen, as we wandered from classroom to classroom in the company of Deputy Head Mrs Thornton - in the absence of the poorly Head Mr Girling - we were greeted by polite smiling children working hard and clearly enjoying their learning, with some of them already known to Alfred. And of course this is the closest of the trio to home, an important aspect for parents as occasionally rushed as us!

It was back to work afterwards having happily interrupted an early shift to undertake this important appointment, but I still returned home to spend some more quality time with the family and give some thought to the big decision we have to make by January. Not an easy one, as we would be pleased for AJM - and Joshua after him - to go to any of the places we have viewed.

There was no ringing to distract us though, either personally or from BellBoard on a quiet day for ringing across the county. Even if it was busier on the school visiting front.

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Monday 16th October 2017

I'm not sure why, but we were very thin on the ground at St Mary-le-Tower practice tonight, with only just enough to man the twelve. And yet we managed a wide repertoire of methods over a productive session as South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson ran things magnificently with usual RM David Potts one of those absent. Sue Williamson rang inside to Grandsire Cinques, whilst Ruth Suggett and Richard Weeks rang inside to half-a-course of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal.

It was a useful night, but felt a little low-key, not helped for me personally by passing on a social drink in The Cricketers at the end of a day that started with a very early shift at work, saw me have to pick an out-of-sorts Joshua up from nursery prematurely, witness the eerie red sky caused by Hurricane Ophelia and exhausted myself watching our own localised hurricane of Ruthie trying (ultimately successfully!) to get money back from BT in a painful process! With another pre-dawn clock-in at John Catt Educational tomorrow, a pint seemed unwise!

For all of that though, I enjoyed this evening. I just hope there are more there next time out!

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Sunday 15th October 2017

The 15th October is a date almost entirely insignificant to the vast majority of the population. Yet it is a special day for me and - I feel blessed to say - a number of those close to me as it marks the anniversary of my birth and even though today was my thirty-ninth and the magic of the day is perhaps not as it was when I was eight or nine and the age not as much of a landmark as eighteen, twenty-one or thirty, this was still a memorable one.

It began in Derbyshire, pleasantly awoken by my lively family bearing gifts and cards, a full English breakfast from our superb hosts at Crich Lane Farm and even a slice of chocolate cake following the traditional rendition of 'Happy Birthday' and the obligatory blowing out of candles, helped by the children.

Alfie on the trampoline at Chatsworth House's adventure playground. Joshua on the swings at Chatsworth House's adventure playground. Alfie & Mason reading their new books outside Chatsworth House. Mason in the gardens at Chatsworth House.

It continued on to the main treat of the day, a visit to Chatsworth House and its substantial gardens, beautiful courtyard (with expensive cafe!), farmyard and adventure playground, before we eventually made it out and back home via the Hartford Mill pub between Hartford and Wyton near Huntingdon for some tea where we finally bade farewell to our companions for the weekend.

It involved no ringing, but other Suffolk ringers were ringing in the county that we returned to today, with a 1259 of Grandsire Caters rung at The Norman Tower.

Thank you to all who called me, texted or emailed me or left a message on Facebook with felicitations. And thank you to Kate and Ron for a lovely weekend.

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Saturday 14th October 2017

We had a spot of car trouble when we went on holiday in Derbyshire earlier in the year. I might have mentioned it. Those of you who could face reading my long-winded meanderings of the time all the way through and haven't since discarded it for more important information may recall that our convulted arrangements for getting home saw Mason and I return to Suffolk  on the Saturday and Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua follow us a couple of days later. In that brief period of separation they joined Ron and mother-in-law Kate in exploring the area we had been stranded in and whilst doing so, Mrs Eagle contrived to win tickets to Matlock Bath Illuminations.

Therefore today we found ourselves on the road to the Peak District again on a journey that was as stress-free as the one back in July was laden with stress as we drove at leisure in convoy with my wife's sister Clare and her daughters Katelynn and Annalise who were all accompanying us on this weekend away.

It wasn't the only thing that was a vast improvement on our last visit to the area. Having endured a cold, wet and windy week on Rambling Ringers at what should've been the peak of summer, we arrived on this autumnal day - a fortnight from Halloween, three weeks before Bonfire Night and just a month until the Christmas lights are due to go up in Ipswich - in roasting sunshine and warming temperatures that we would have been delighted with when camping a couple of months ago.

Out on the patio at Crich Lane Farm in the autumnal sunshine.So nice was it that once we had got settled at the delightful Crich Lane Farm in Wessington near Alfreton - our accomdation for the night - we were able to sit out on the patio behind our room in perfect comfort as the children put jigsaw puzzles together.

Not that the weather mattered for tea which was enjoyed in the basement of the village pub, The Horse and Jockey before we made our way to the illuminations that we had come to see on the River Derwent, where the balmy evening was perfect for looking around the brightly-lit town and mingling with the thousands of visitors taking in the same thing.

Although we didn't do any ringing, there was plenty going on around us as the Derby Diocesan Association Derbyshire Peak District Quarter-Peal Day notched up an astonishing fifteen successes, whilst back in the homeland a 1260 of Doubles was rung at Westhall.

We were just glad to get to Derbyshire without the car breaking down though.

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Friday 13th October 2017

BBC Radio Suffolk were reminiscing about the Great Storm of 1987 this morning, inviting listeners to impart their memories of that night and the aftermath. Those reading this who were living here then will recall the carnage that greeted us as the sun rose after the gale-force darkness. Trees were down, cars crushed, roofs torn off, roads major and minor blocked and public transport more or less non-existent, meaning that many couldn't get to work and my brother Chris and I got a day off school as Dale Hall was forced to shut.

It didn't actually occur until the night of my 9th birthday on the 15th October, reeking its destruction right through into the early hours of the 16th and so the anniversary doesn't occur until the end of the forthcoming weekend, but this early bit of nostalgia did make me wonder how ringing coped in our rural landscape immediately afterwards.

Of course there was no blog back then, but thanks to the work of Neal Dodge, we can through this very website bring up that year's Guild Annual Report at the click of a button and tap of a screen. What that revealed through Secretary John Girt's report (p. 10) was that almost the entire GMC impressively managed to gather on the 17th in Buxhall for their pre-planned meeting, pressing on in candlelight, but through Ian Whitear's Technical Advisor's and Ralph Earey's Maintenance Officer's reports it can be seen that there was also damage to the towers of Baylham and Southwold, as well as to the netting on the south louvre at St Clement's in Ipswich. It was also noticeable that there was no peal or quarter-peal activity until the twenty-fifth anniversary of Adrian Knights' first peal was marked with a 5040 at Theberton three days after the winds had first started to get up.

No such problems today though, as the FNQPC rang a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham, as thank God the weather caused us no problems today.

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Thursday 12th October 2017

As usual with a late shift at work which cut deep into our evening, no ringing was possible on this autumnal Thursday, but elsewhere in the county, a quarter-peal was unusually rung muffled but for the tenor's backstroke following a Mass for the late Reverend Canon Geoffrey Cobley Smith at St Mary the Virgin in Newmarket where he was rector between 1985 and 2000. I imagine it was a very moving sound.

Meanwhile, well done to Chris Davies on calling a QP for the first time as he conducted the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Redgrave and congratulations to David Lowe on becoming a grandfather for the first time. And well done also to the entire band who rang their first in the medium of Snowdon Treble Bob Minor with the 1320 at Tostock which also saw Stephen Dawson and Lesley and David Steed ring their 400th quarter together.

In addition to this, a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung before Pettistree's practice last night, but was missed off my ramblings in yesterday's blog to complete a successful couple of days of ringing in our towers.

Beyond our borders too, a young ringer with strong Suffolk ancestry was making waves once again. Most will be unsurprised to know that I am referring to a member of the Pipe clan, this time Alfred who today rang his first peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus in the 5040 rung just down the A14 in Cambridge at Great St Mary. Well done Alfred!

All of this activity puts Ruthie and me to shame somewhat, but God willing we shall have busier days of ringing than this one!

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Wednesday 11th October 2017

Time overtook us somewhat this evening as we got the boys fed and readied for bed, meaning that we had an unusually quiet Wednesday evening with neither of us ringing anywhere.

Not so elsewhere. Congratulations and well done to Joan Puckey, who today became the second ringer in Suffolk this week to ring their first quarter-peal as she trebled to a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Bardwell.

It is a promising sign of progress being made in our county and there is an opportunity for more to be made for some, at least if you have a spare £75 and can travel up to the Tulloch Ringing Centre in Scotland for a week-long course from the 2nd to the 6th of July next year, titled Beyond Bob Minor. Big commitment that it would be, with ART Trainers to hand on remote, light bells that are perfect for concerted, concentrated practice, if you can take advantage of this then please do!

Closer to home and more immediately, District ADM season is due to kick-off with the North-West's at Buxhall on Saturday, with the North-East and South-West's planned for next month on 11th at Halesworth and 25th at Boxford respectively, before the South-East aim to hold their's on 2nd December, although the venue for that has yet to be announced.

These events appear to have a bad name and it has been suggested that they are a little out of fashion, but I really enjoy them and one of my favourite aspects of being Guild Ringing Master was going round to them all. Yes, the meetings are more boring than exciting, but modern communications mean that they rarely get dragged out as they once did. And because there is more time set aside for the overall occasion, I find there is a more leisurely nature to it all. There is the chance to have a ring or two, catch-up with friends established and new, have a cuppa, a bite to eat, take in and contribute to the 'business' of the day and top it all off with a pint in rural pub full of character without feeling rushed. There are usually more ringers present than at most ringing events and therefore more opportunity to progress one's ringing, whatever your ability. Please do support where and when you can.

Do not go to Offton for the practice next Tuesday, 17th October though, as there won't be one. Perhaps pop along to one of the other Tuesday evening sessions who I'm sure would welcome you with open arms. If you can manage your time better than we did this evening that is!

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Tuesday 10th October 2017

After our tour of St Mary's last month, this morning saw us look around another of the many schools we are fortunate to have in our local area, as we visited Woodbridge Primary, the institution from which Ruthie received her first formal education. However, the building she was taught in has since become the town's library, so although the new one was built on the school's sports field so familar to my wife, this was as much a tour of the unknown for her as it was for me.

It left a good impression though. An immediately obvious plus point is that it is within walking distance from home and both our workplaces, but more importantly - as much as I enjoy a bit of time-worn character - the modern facilities mean that just about everything is thought of here and the pupils seemed to be responding well to these surroundings. Although, unlike the church school we went to recently which would have seen Alfie join a number of ready-made friends from Sunday mornings, he would have to make completely fresh friendships at Woodbridge Primary.

In addition I lived in Tunstall at the same time as the headteacher Mark Krisson and shared the occasional conversation over a pint in The Green Man when that was my second home! Not that that should or will have any bearing on our decision!

Still, we were left with a lot to ponder ahead of my late shift at work, which again left evening ringing largely impractical.

There was much ringing in Suffolk though, with three quarters and a peal rung here today. A 5088 of London Surprise Major was successfully completed for the Society of Cumberland Youths at Ixworth, a further 1280 changes of the same method were negotiated at Hopton, an impressive 1344 of six Surprise Major methods spliced was tapped through at Gislingham and 1260 rows of Plain Bob Minor were notched up at Bures for the Essex Association's North-East District Quarter-Peal Month.

God willing Alfred may want to partake in such activity one day, but he shall have to wait for now as we haven't spotted lessons on change-ringing on any of our school tours yet.

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Monday 9th October 2017

There was a lovely article on the East Anglian Daily Times website today about the Reverend Canon Geoffrey Cobley Smith, a member of the Suffolk Guild for forty-four years, no doubt familar to ringers across the county and whose recent and sad passing has been marked by peals at The Norman Tower on Saturday and at Litlington in his native Cambridgeshire last month.

I personally didn't know him, but I can only imagine that he would have been delighted to see today's ringing-related headline-making as Dave Goodlad rang his first quarter-peal - at the first attempt - in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Woolpit, a good result for ART. Very well done Dave!

Our day was a lot quieter from a ringing perspective, with a late shift at work meant I missed another practice at St Mary-le-Tower.

It did allow time to read that lovely article about the Reverend Canon Geoffrey Cobley Smith though.

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Sunday 8th October 2017

With age I find myself mellowing slightly on subjects that I used to be relatively hardlined on, although I'd like to think that I have always been fairly objective on most things.

I no longer get as frustrated by dawdling drivers when I'm in a hurry, although I occasionally find myself muttering behind the odd car! Football no longer gets me as hot under the collar when it doesn't go well, although that may be because I have become resigned to disappointment after years of failure from both Ipswich Town and England.

However, I surprised even myself with my reaction to Neal Dodge's link from the Guild Facebook page to an article in the Suffolk Free Press yesterday. It reported on a resident of Cavendish who had complained about last month's peal on the back five here and I found myself feeling a pang of sympathy for him, especially as he wasn't against bells per se, but rather the length of ringing. A decade ago I would probably have dismissively pronunced that one shouldn't live next door to a church with a bell tower if you are bothered by bells ringing. I still hold to that, but I am also aware that when it comes to ringing peals in particular - but also anything else that may be considered additional ringing such as quarters and outings - that we have to be considerate to the neighbours.

That doesn't mean stopping ringing peals anywhere. Indeed I think more towers need to be encouraged to allow their bells to be pealed, even if just from time to time and more ringers need to be ringing peals. They are to my mind the best way of getting better ringing, not just in the peals themselves but also in our general ringing with increased skills honed with regular peal-ringing. In addition, ringing at different towers is part of what holds peoples' interest in the art, as are the kind of achievements that peal-ringing offers and all of which ultimately helps the exercise thrive. To allow this to happen though, we as ringers have to be prepared to consider a number of things.

First and foremost I would urge towers to consider sound-control, as well as simulators to enable the additional ringing that is needed to progress learners to be carried out - not just peals, but QPs, practices, etc.

However, nothing beats old-fashioned good relations. Warn local residents of extra ringing, where possible explain the reasoning behind it, try and maintain regular communication, even invite them to watch what you do. Judging by the upbeat ending of the article, it seems that this sort of approach has been used here and as Neal points out, the reaction from villagers is also a reminder that ringing still carries a lot of support.

Aldeburgh is familiar with complaints over peals, yet is an example of how to maintain cordial relations with their community. The second Sunday afternoon is - or at least should be - cemented in the minds of those living in the seaside town as when the monthly peals are rung. Even then they take a break over the summer and they often use them to ring for local events, like the opening of the famous music festival. And today, the 5088 of Tring Surprise Major was rung for the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, a century after her death.

Alfie and Mason on Felixstowe beach. Alfie watching one of the machines on Felixstowe Pier in amazement. Meanwhile, we were further down the coast at Felixstowe. Not ringing on this occasion, but promenading along the seafront, bumping into our neighbours, taking in the recently refurbished pier and enjoying some ice cream. Our main reason for going there was to get Joshua's first shoes, with his walking becoming increasingly confident as many present at Ashbocking yesterday will testify!

I did manage some ringing though, as I took the boys with me on a mixed morning on the county's twelves, with only enough present to ring eight at St Mary-le-Tower and yet a band present to ring all the bells at Grundisburgh, either side of some duck-watching on the village green.

Like I said, I've mellowed.

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Saturday 7th October 2017

Traversing across Suffolk's beautiful countryside to the South-East District Practice today, we were slightly worried by what would greet us.

The premise was sound. A focus on striking, a vital building block for one's progress. As an experienced member has often said to me, "you haven't really properly rung something if you haven't struck it well."

Ashbocking.The location was perfect too. Ashbocking sits in glorious isolation and I have fond memories of the place from it being where I rang my first peal. Far more importantly though, these are an easy-going ground-floor six.

However the aforementioned isolation also makes it more difficult to get to and the timing of 4-5.30pm made me wonder if it would interfere with people's evening meal (we got round that by just bringing food for the boys), whilst the October practice has never been the most popular in the calendar and with the rain pouring down and the weather pretty miserable we envisaged being greeted by seven or eight others, double figures if we were lucky.

Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson addresses attendees to the South-East District Practice at Ashbocking. Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson addresses attendees to the South-East District Practice at Ashbocking. Advice being imparted at the South-East District Practice at Ashbocking. South-East District Practice at Ashbocking.

Imagine our surprise and delight that once we had travelled down the long tree-lined lane to All Saints church we found the usual parking space overflowing to the extent that the neighbouring field was very kindly opened and also heaving with cars. Entering the church, we could see why. Around thirty members were present, with ringers from Offton to Hollesley, Debenham to Felixstowe, but crucially a good range of abilities and experience, with new faces - to me at least - from Bramford and St Matthews in Ipswich aided by more familiar, but vitally more experienced ringers from towers such as St Mary-le-Tower, Pettistree and Sproughton as District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson did a superb job in encouraging people along.

He also did a superb job in running proceedings, with the learners present appearing to get much from it, calling upon the wealth of advice available to them. It was wonderful to behold, even if worries about the stay on the third meant someone had to hold it even between pieces.

The late afternoon session gave us most of the day to do as we wish, although we didn't particularly take advantage.

Others did though, as they rang a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at The Norman Tower to celebrate Paul Stannard's forthcoming significant birthday and the life of The Reverend Canon Geoffrey Cobley Smith, a member of the Guild for forty-four years.

The only disappointment for us was not to follow-up our efforts with a visit to a pub with our fellow ringers, but ten minutes stood in the rain waiting for Alfie to do what he needed to do in a potty after ringing reminded us why we rarely end up with a pint in hand after such events!

Besides, everything else about our trip to Ashbocking exceeded our expectations!

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Friday 6th October 2017

Ruthie was off work today and so I returned from my early shift at work to find the childrens' toys all separated into piles as she sought to sort the mountain of them at far end of our living room. It is amazing what can be achieved when the boys are not around.

Happily all three were gathered together for the weekend come the evening but it was a quiet day from a ringing perspective, both personally and in terms of quarters and peals in Suffolk, with nothing recorded on BellBoard.

Much is lined up for next week though, with an Eight-Bell Practice at Bungay planned for Monday from 7.30pm, whilst on the following day the Second Tuesday Ringing is due to go north of the Norfolk border to Pulham Market and then Scole. God willing in eight days time, if you wish, one could attend the North-East District's Method Building Blocks (potentially an extremely useful session for anyone who feels they are struggling to get to grips with method learning) at Worlingham in the morning and then travel over to Buxhall for the North-West District ADM in the afternoon. All support would be most appreciated so please help and/or take advantage of what's on offer if you can.

Surely it beats sorting through toys.

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Thursday 5th October 2017

Congratulations to Alan Reading who in calling the peal at Caerphilly in Wales became what is believed to be the youngest person to have conducted a thousand peals, at the tender age of just thirty years and three hundred and one days. He hasn't exactly done it the easy way either. Most of those he has led have been of spliced and/or rung to one of his own compositions, which are usually crammed full of music, but are also normally extremely complex to call, at least for most of us!

It is perhaps a sign of just how long I have been away from the national peal-ringing scene that even though he rings in a lot of the sorts of peals that I was privileged to once ring in and with a lot of the top ringers that I was honoured to ring with and that he has long been established as one of the best ringers around, I have never actually ever rung with him, let alone rung a peal with him! Others have participated in the medium with him - he has rung seven peals in this county with three of his thousand as conductor being called for the Suffolk Guild - and they have only been glowing in their opinions of this immensely talented proponent of the art.

Others were also achieving here within our borders though, particularly Joshua Watkins, who rang his first quarter-peal inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at his home tower of Horringer - well done Joshua!

In addition, that success celebrated the sixtieth birthday of Paul Stannard, a stalwart of the SGR - serving as Treasurer between 1995 and 2000 - and invaluable to ringing in the west of the county over several decades, especially at The Norman Tower and Barrow. Happy Birthday Paul!

Meanwhile, today marks the start of A Peal for Pudsey, an opportunity not just to raise money for Children in Need but also to garner some superb high-profile national coverage for the exercise. It would be superb if our members could get involved - see the Central Council's website for more details and sponsorship forms.

Not that we were contributing to this worthy cause today on a typically quiet Thursday, with Ruthie's attendance at choir as usual precluding us from joining Grundisburgh practice. Instead, we watched England's footballers scrape a 1-0 win over Slovenia on TV that nonetheless saw them qualify for next summer's World Cup.

'Congratulations' to them, but well-earnt congratulations to Alan Reading.

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Wednesday 4th October 2017

At 8.38am I was already in the John Catt offices. Indeed I had been in for quite some time on another early shift, but work colleagues were starting to arrive and settle down when suddenly there was a loud bang, louder than anything I have ever heard, shaking the building.

Heads popped out of office doorways and quizzical glances were exchanged over the top of computer screens. Initially we thought something big had had fallen over upstairs, but an immediate enquiry ascertained nothing untoward had happened up there and our colleagues above us were just as puzzled. When one of the directors came in and said the sound had come from outside somewhere, thoughts briefly turned to something more sinister, especially in the current climate. However, a terror attack in Woodbridge and Melton seemed unlikely - although I guess one can't be too complacent in such matters - and if it was an explosion deliberate or accidental one would expect a multitude of sirens to be wailing across the autumn air within minutes. Without any sign of those or smoke we happily discounted such notions and got on with our work.

Other fellow employees began arriving to the office and said it had been as loud across the town and soon word got round that it had been heard all over Suffolk. Theories abounded from the humourous suggestion it was a backfiring tractor to the more serious rumour that something big had happened at Sizewell Power Station after the emergency services were coincidentally released from Leiston just after the bang.

Very quickly though the truth emerged and it was both dramatic and undramatic in equal measure as a security scare on a Luton-bound passenger plane from Lithuania required Typhoon jets to intercept it out off our coastline, causing a sonic boom as they raced to meet it as urgently as possible and escort it to Stansted Airport, where the threat all transpired to be a hoax.

Suffice to say it was the talk of the county, including at The Greyhound in Pettistree where Ruthie found herself after joining the weekly practice at the neighbouring ground-floor six, which in turn had been preceded by a rare lost quarter-peal for this tower, as an attempt of Netherseale Surprise Minor fell by the wayside.

There was better luck at the grand detached tower of Elveden though, where a 1260 of St Clement's College Bob Triples was rung.

It's lucky that no calls were drowned out by a sonic boom!

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Tuesday 3rd October 2017

In just over three weeks time, it will be ten years to the day since I began writing the blog and today perhaps symbolised better than most how our circumstances have changed in that time.

With my role as Guild Ringing Master, Mason spending most of his time with his mother, Alfie and Joshua not even thought of and Ruthie also a regular peal-ringer, we were out ringing together in some capacity on most days in 2007. In 2017, our ringing-free days are more frequent, but unlike a decade ago, such days - like today - are easier to make relevant to ringing and there is less filling with inane tales of trips to Tesco. For even if we haven't done any ringing pesonally and there are no quarters or peals recorded within Suffolk on Bellboard, there is usually something of interest to ringers on social media.

So it was on this quiet Tuesday. We still carry out those mundane, everyday tasks, which on this occasion required a trip to Woodbridge town centre for nappies, birthday cards and wrapping paper following an early shift at work, but Facebook provided content of more interest to anyone still reading this.

Indeed, two topics stood out. Ringing is a hobby that can take you around the world and there has been plenty of that going on in recent days. Some UK ringers are in Ireland, whilst a College Youths peal tour of Canada has just finished, as has a weekend of peals at Dordrecht in the Netherlands. And one of those peals rung yesterday in continental Europe particularly caught the eye as it consisted of a band of six ringers who have rung an astonishing 31,060 peals between them - an average of 5,176 each.

Cue much rolling of eyes and disbelief, but whilst I have never felt inclined to ring peals to the extent that they and others do, I can understand why they ring as many as they do. Having rung with some of them and knowing others who regularly ring in their peals, these will be generally well-rung, almost professional performances rung in all sorts of places, with all sorts of people, ringing all sorts of things. And whilst there was a perceived inference - not for the first time - that they do this at the expense of helping learners and Sunday ringing, regular peal-ringers often dedicate more time than most to these other elements. Many a ringer's progress within our borders - mine included - has been aided by the likes of Stephen Pettman, David Salter and Brian Whiting.

Another subject vexing the art's online community was that of how female ringers are treated in the exercise. It arose from someone who felt she had been overlooked for conducting duties at a practice in favour of her male counterparts, including even a visitor who she claimed no one else knew. Whilst gender inequality is certainly not something we should claim to have conquered, I was heartened by the responses that seemed to suggest that this was a less than common experience in ringing chambers. And here in our county we benefit greatly from talented ringing women like Rowan Wilson, Ruth Suggett, Laura Davies, Jenny Scase, Amanda Richmond, Mary Garner, Katharine Salter, Ruthie and so many more.

God willing this will continue to strengthen ringing here and elsewhere and at least it gave me something ringing-related to mention on a quiet day!

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Monday 2nd October 2017

Erin made its return to the repertoire of St Mary-le-Tower practice tonight, at the request of Rosemary, a ringer visiting from Stoke-on-Trent.

It's announcement caused much furrowing of brows and double-checking. Yet this is a simpler version of Stedman, which in itself is not complicated. Like its more regularly rung counterpart it is simply double-dodging in 4-5 upwards (6-7, 8-9, etc), but unlike Fabian's more famous invention the frontwork is exactly the same every time one gets down there. Without the doubt of whether you are going in quick or slow I find the ringing is often better - indeed I still count a peal of the Triples variant at Grundisburgh that I rang way back in 2010 as one of the most enjoyable I have ever taken part in. I can't understand why it isn't rung more often.

For example, it wasn't included in the quarter-peal of Doubles rung at Nayland today.

This evening we rang the Cinques version during a session that also saw us ring Stedman on the same number and Maximus in the form of Little Bob and Cambridge Surprise.

I enjoyed the Erin the most though.

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Sunday 1st October 2017

A slightly busier day on the quarter-peal front in Suffolk, with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Pettistree and 1260 of Abbeystead Bob Minor rung at Great Finborough, the latter of which was the first in the method for the entire band - well done to all involved in that particular success! Added to that, a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at The Norman Tower yesterday means that the county's ringers have been more active this weekend than I initially gave them credit for!

Not that we were, although I did manage some call-changes on the front six at Woodbridge before attending the Harvest Festival downstairs where there were so many children in attendance that the Junior Church was bulging out of the side of the bottom of the tower as they made shelters out of cardboard boxes - two of which have now ended up in our living room at the mercy of the equally destructive Joshua and Charlie!

Protecting them did - as looking after the three boys and a cat usually do - take up a lot of time though, so no time to ring any quarter-peals!

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Saturday 30th September 2017

Most of our friends are from ringing, but our very closest friends are from beyond ringing. Most particularly my former Tunstall drinking buddies and long-time friends Toby and Kala and their respective other halves Amy and Nick. Our relationship has not only changed with the addition of husbands and wives who have become part of the close-knit group, but subsequently children too, who in turn have grown into friends. And today we met the latest of the growing brood, as we visited Oscar, recently born to Toby and Amy.

The morning flew by as their daughter Maddie and the boys played together and us adults cooed over the newborn and caught up, whilst reminiscing over how we used to meet in the pub after Ruthie and I had finished ringing. How things have changed!

The rest of the day was far quieter and involved no ringing for us personally nor for many others in Suffolk, at least according to BellBoard, although a peal was rung at Harkstead yesterday.

Elsewhere in the country they weren't having much better luck, with the attempted record of 25,200 changes in 210 Surprise Minor methods at St Paul's in Birmingham sadly lost. Although I suspect the band was glad to have lost it after an hour and fifteen minutes as they did today with a swap rather than after ten or eleven hours, especially as it seems to have opened the door to some all-day drinking instead!

Not the sort of thing that Amy, Kala, Nick, Toby, Ruthie or I can do currently!

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Friday 29th September 2017

One of my clearest memories of ringing here before I left for university is of a conversation between Stephen Bedford and Adrian 'Arnie' Knights on the way to a peal somewhere in the county. It was an autumn or winters day and the weather wasn't particularly pleasant when one of them commented on how Suffolk wasn't as a nice a place as it is usually portrayed in such conditions.

"It's still nicer than being in London or Birmingham in this weather" was more or less the reply.

I was reminded of that mid-1990s exchange as I had reason to be sat overlooking the landscape of our county this morning. Although things picked up later, it was dull, misty and murky at this early point of the day, the sky grey as far as my eyes could see. Yet it was a wonderful sight. The fields were still and the leaves were a sea of colours, from the glorious reds and yellows of the season to those still stubbornly holding onto the green of summer, albeit faded.

We do indeed have a beautiful county to live and ring in and God willing there is plenty of opportunity to do the latter in the coming weeks.

Hopton for example will be hosting their first Monday practice to kick-off October's events on the 2nd, the pretty market town of Beccles overlooking the Norfolk border is the venue for this month's Ten-Bell Practice where the focus method is planned to be Kent Treble Bob Royal and the rural iydll of Ashbocking's isolated church is due to be the location of the South-East District's next Practice between 4-5.30pm on Saturday 7th.

That is just the first week of a busy month - please support what you can and in the process enjoy our beuatiful county. Come rain or shine.

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Thursday 28th September 2017

Modern media and its sheer abundance has given ringing more opportunities to get in the news than ever before, but the exercise did feature on television in the past, even back in the day of black and white when airtime was particularly restricted.

Two films from that era were being shared with ringing's Facebook community today. One was from what appears to be the dedication of the new bells of St Mary-le-Bow in 1961, but the video that really caught my attention was one from 1954 of the attempt to ring the full extent of Major - all 40,320 combinations of changes on eight - at Loughborough Bell Foundry, featuring as it did a number of familar faces of days gone by. King's Lynn ringer Norman Harding will have no doubt crossed the paths of some reading this, whilst I was privileged to ring a number of peals with Cliff Barron (or Barrow as he is called by the commentator and in the information given with the clip) and Peter Border.

Sadly they failed on this occasion and although they returned the following year as the report promised, it was going to be 1963 and nine attempts before this record-breaking feat would finally be achieved.

Coming in at 39,024 fewer changes, the quarter-peal of Killamarsh Treble Bob Minor rung at Tostock today perhaps grabs fewer headlines, but is just as worthy - if not more so in the context of this blog - of mention, especially as it was Andrea Alderton's first in the method. Well done Andrea!

It's just a shame the news cameras weren't there to catch it for posterity.

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Wednesday 27th September 2017

Circumstances mean that we shan't be able to celebrate the occasion with her when it comes round next week, so this evening we marked Ruthie's mother Kate's forthcoming birthday at The Greyhound in Pettistree with Ron, Clare, Kev, Katelynn and Annalise.

A lovely meal was enjoyed with good company and interspersed with the occasional excursion outside where we could listen to some of the practice at the ground-floor six next door, as well as the quarter-peal that preceded it, which was a very special one. For it was conductor Mike Whitby's 2000th QP, a well deserved landmark for someone who has done so much not just for ringing at this tower for decades but local ringing as a whole. Indeed, many of those two thousand quarters have been rung to help progress others. Congratulations Mike!

Meanwhile, well done to Abby Antrobus on ringing her most methods to a peal in the 5056 of five Surprise Major methods spliced rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower tonight.

And Happy Birthday for next week Kate - thank you for inviting us out to celebrate it!

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Tuesday 26th September 2017

I've brought up before the parallels between ringing and my other most consuming pastime, that of following Ipswich Town's footballing fortunes. Or more typically ill-fortunes. And tonight's 5-2 victory for the Tractor Boys against Sunderland under the floodlights of Portman Road highlighted them again, bringing out the type of statisticians and number-chasers that can be found amongst ringers and football fans alike as brains were wracked as to last time the Blues scored five goals.

The answer is nearly two years ago, but the last time at home was a staggering half-a-decade back in time when West Ham United were dispatched 5-1 in a match that Ruthie and I happened to be present at.

In that time, 708 peals have been rung in the name of the Suffolk Guild (although even that is half of Colin Turner's 1,428 over the same period) and 3,153 quarter-peals have been completed within our borders, all whilst the Town have toiled away attempting to reach such dizzy heights again.

Those ringing numbers included QPs today of Cambridge Surprise Minor and Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Long Melford and Offton respectively, whilst a 5040 was rung at Monewden.

As has become the norm in our current circumstances, we were at neither the football nor any ringing, although my wife and two youngest sons entertained her best friend Fergie who is currently up from Brighton and was pleasingly still present on my return from work.

Perhaps - for once - it wasn't as exciting as the evening at Portman Road, but hopefully we won't have to wait another five years, 708 peals and 3,153 quarter-peals for another one like it.

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Monday 25th September 2017

If you have a copy of Jasper Snowdon's Diagrams book, you may not have considered selling it. After all, the red book that was once so familiar in ringing chambers (I think there is one still kicking around Grundisburgh's, which has been fingered through by many including a younger Mason) isn't really any use to anyone apart from the aspiring ringer and is largely obsolete due to modern technology.

Yet Oxfam are selling a 1972 edition - with loose and discoloured pages - for a staggering £75 (Price changed to £7.99 whilst I've been putting up Richy's blog on Wednesday morning. Chris.) , a price that had ringing's social media classes chattering in disbelief today.

I don't imagine that there was any need for it amongst the experienced and talented band that rang this morning's peal at Elmsett though, which was Peter Harper's 150th for the Suffolk Guild - congratulations Peter!

And congratulations to anyone with an aging copy of Diagrams on your forthcoming windfall!

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Sunday 24th September 2017

In the lead-up to today's inaugural Great East Run through the streets of Ipswich, there was a bit of a stink kicked up by some in regards to the many road closures required to let the participants run the course safely. As such, there was some initial trepidation on my part about getting to St Mary-le-Tower for this morning's ringing.

However, it didn't take long to realise that the areas closed off didn't affect our journey into the county town and indeed, bar the occasional numbered runner wandering towards the startline, there was no sign that anything was happening until the boys and I joined our fellow SMLT ringers in having refreshments at Costa Coffee, with cones and marshalls readied as we entered and the first of thousands of participants jogging past to applauding crowds as we left.

By that point we had finished the ringing on Suffolk's heaviest twelve that had earnt us our drinks, with Grandsire and Stedman Caters rung in separate touches, as well as a course of Little Bob Maximus, whilst later I partook in some Bristol Surprise Major on the back eight at Grundisburgh, where we benefitted from the visits of Peter Emery and Christine Hill, before us lads picked my wife up from church.

From here though, our day ground to a halt somewhat, as a combination of yesterday's late night and this morning's early start meant that the two youngest boys were asleep for most of the afternoon, spiking any contemplation of going out and enjoying the Indian summer we are currently basking in, but elsewhere in the county they were busier. There was a quarter-peal rung ahead of the Harvest Festival at Pettistree, with the ringers tucking into the feast that followed and well done to the entire band that rang in the 1260 of Christchurch Bob Minor at Henley for ringing their first blows in the method. Meanwhile, particular note ought to be made of former local ringer George Salter on ringing the 20cwt fifth to a peal of Surprise Minor for 4hrs4mins on the world's heaviest six, St Buryan in Cornwall. No mean feat, with a lot of control and stamina required by all of the band.

With Alfie, Joshua and Charlie the cat snoozing away, Mason, Ruthie and I just chilled though. As - I suspect - did those who took part in the Great East Run!

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Saturday 23rd September 2017

The chocolate cake we won pre-devouring!An aside to Mason's tremendous efforts yesterday was that there was a competition to guess the weight of a huge cake which the boy also helped to make, with the winner getting to take it away. Hot on the heels of our recent unexpected victory in the Sproughton paper aeroplane throwing, we came away with the chocolate-laden beast after Ruthie guessed to within 8g of the 1564g mass.

Fortunate therefore that we had some help to begin devouring it tonight as we were visited by Ruthie's sister Clare and her daughters Katelynn and Annalise ahead of an evening where I was tasked with babysitting the youngsters and our boys whilst their mother and father went to work and my wife accompanied their Granny Kate and Grandad Ron to Trinity Park in Ipswich to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of a good friend getting a new liver.

Daunting as looking after five kids for several hours might have seemed, they were remarkably little trouble, with tiffs rare and brief and all of them asleep by the time that the partygoers returned and the mother-in-law took the girls to hers for a sleepover.

Earlier in the day, as the eldest son attended an eleventh bithday party at Fynn Valley Golf Club for a spot of footgolf, the rest of us popped in to see Aunty Marian, where conversation veered from catching up to the restored bells of St Margaret's in Ipswich which are apparently now at Nicholson's in Dorset ahead of their return to their home tower.

We weren't involved in any actual ringing though, unlike quite a lot of current and former resident Suffolk ringers who were branching out across the country and even beyond to do their ringing today.

Certainly in terms of geography, past Master at St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd takes top marks by partaking in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus on the back twelve at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, but peals were also rung by Sam Maynard and Maggie Ross at Bray in Berkshire, John Loveless at Clifton in Bedfordshire, Barrie Hendry at Midsomer Norton in Somerset and George Salter conducted one at Penzance in Cornwall. Meanwhile, Laura Davies and Louis Suggett were ringing a quarter-peal at St Clement Danes in Westminster ahead of attending the wedding of Phill Ridley and Hannah Smith, Philip Moyse pulled the tenor in at St Michael Archangel in Southampton to a 1280 of Clare Surprise Major and Lucy Williamson called the QP at St Martin le Grand in York, which was only the second time she has led the line to Major.

Ironic then that there was no activity within our borders. Quite why that was I don't know, though in our case it was partly because we were too busy eating our way through chocolate cake!

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Friday 22nd September 2017

Mason with his array of cakes at Hasketon Victory Hall. Well done to Mason and his sister Brooke on an incredible effort this afternoon as they hosted a cake sale in aid of Macmillan Cancer Research at Hasketon Victory Hall, literally in the shadow of the ground-floor six in the round tower of St Andrew's church as the evening sun lowered across the fields and woodlands that surround this village.

This is a venue that will be familiar to anyone who attended the 2010 Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions or the occasional South-East District event over the years, but today it resounded to my eldest's peers and their excitable siblings and a stream of adults that included Mum, Dad, Kate and of course Ruthie and myself and the sound of cake being munched satisfactorily.

The goods laid out were delicious and mostly homemade, including some made by Mason himself, with ultimately £225 made for a great cause, even before any funds raised via text message have been added. The boy - and girl - did good!

Also doing well were the FNQPC who rang a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Ashbocking, where incidentally the next SE District Practice is being held between 4-5.30pm on Saturday 7th October.

But today was all about Mason and his sister's efforts - well done guys!

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Thursday 21st September 2017

St Helen's, Lundy.Like me, there will be some reading this who have experienced the chilling discomfort of ringing on the ten bells of St Helen's church on Lundy Island and will be pleased to hear that work is underway to make the building a warmer and more energy efficient place. Their efforts would be sped up somewhat by the awarding of £12,000 by M&S Energy if enough people vote for their project - please vote and help make it a more comfortable place to ring for you and/or your ringing colleagues in the future!

There are no ringing visitors - at least not ringing any quarters or peals being reported on BellBoard - on the isle at the moment, but there are on the Suffolk/Norfolk border and they popped into our county today as ringers from Surrey rang a quarter-peal of eight spliced Surprise Major methods at Palgrave on the same day that they rang one at Diss just over the River Waveney.

Elsewhere within our borders, local ringers were also quarter-pealing, with an impressive 1440 of five Surprise Minor methods rung at Tostock.

Meanwhile, over in Cambridgeshire, George and Diana Pipe's youngest great-nephew Alfred rang his first peal on twelve at the tender age of twelve, as this family continues to amaze.

Hopefully it wasn't too chilly!

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Wednesday 20th September 2017

On Friday, Mason is - along with his sister - holding a cake sale in aid of Macmillan Cancer Research between 4-7pm at The Victory Hall in Hasketon. Too far I expect for many to reach practically, but hopefully some of you reading this can support it. If you can't though, you can donate £5 via text to 70550, quoting JAM UVE1.

Today though, his younger brothers Alfie and Joshua were keeping me occupied with their enthusiasm after I'd finished another early shift at work.

By the evening and with them put in bed, I was so tired that I was under the duvet for the night myself before Ruthie had even returned from Pettistree practice and a drink in The Greyhound, which had all followed on from the pre-session quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor, a first in the method for young Richard Stevens - well done Richard!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, an extent of Plain Bob Doubles was rung on the far western six of Exning in memory of Private Albert Edward Langley of Newmarket, precisely a century on from his death in the First World War.

Thank God one hundred years later that we live in a society that no longer sees so many of its young men slaughtered on a daily basis, where the bells ring out freely and where a ten-year-old boy can bake cakes and sell them to help others less fortunate.

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Tuesday 19th September 2017

Frightening and exciting as it is to consider, in a year's time Alfie needs to be placed in a primary school. It sounds a long way off and of course it is, but time has got a habit of running fast if one isn't paying attention (despite feeling like I've only just got over the brussel sprouts and turkey from last year, I've already heard Christmas mentioned on several occasions in the last few days) and those who know the school system will be aware that we will need to have selected our school(s) of choice by January.

We are fortunate to have a number of schools in the Woodbridge and Melton area. On the plus side that means we have plenty to choose from, but on the debit side that means we have plenty to choose from. Indecisive as we are though, this is a vital decision, possibly the most important we will make on behalf of our children and so we figured we ought to have a look at some of these local seats of learning, starting today with St Mary's School.

There is much going for it. Apart from anything else, with the school being affiliated to the church of the same dedication in town that we spend so much time at, there are already plenty of Alfred's peers in residence there. And we wouldn't anticipate him having many problems with eligibility due to our regular attendance at the church, Ruthie's participation in the choir there and my biweekly ringing on the 25cwt eight.

However, it is the furthest away of all the schools we are considering and indeed the only one we would have to get in the car for. Still, we enjoyed our tour with the new Headteacher Karen Read and were impressed by the well-behaved and obedient children we came across - I wouldn't be disappointed if AJM and Joshua ended up here on what we saw this afternoon, but we shall see what the others bring.

In its own right this would be notable activity, even more so today as there was so little else to report on bar Robert Mackman talking to Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk about the bells of Little Cornard and their restoration.

God willing in a year's time we will be close to hearing those bells ring out, as well as seeing Alfie at primary school - whichever one that may be.

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Monday 18th September 2017

We were spread thinly at St Mary-le-Tower this evening and stretched as a result. And yet we managed a decent half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus with just about the only twelve present capable of ringing it, with one or two of those learning the ropes on this. And it was great to see Amanda Richmond ringing again on a night of more positives than negatives.

They were spread thinly at Cavendish too where what was presumably going to be a peal of Minor turned into a 5040 of Grandsire Doubles due to the ill-health of Guild Technical Advisor and BAC Chairman Winston Girling - get well soon Winston and well done to the rest of the band for scoring a special peal.

No such problems at Hasketon where a 5100 was rung to celebrate the centuries of two villagers, whilst across the water in Belgium, the first ringing was done on the brand new eight at Ypres, with those who are friends with Norwich ringer Neil Thomas on Facebook able to listen to a video of the sound of English change-ringing reverberating through the streets of a typical continental European town.

No matter how thinly spread or stretched we were in Ipswich tonight, I'm happy to report that the sound of English change-ringing was reverberating through the streets of this typical British town too.

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Sunday 17th September 2017

In theory I could've rung in the peal attempt at St Mary-le-Tower for the College Youths Peal Weekend. I was invited and I would like to ring another one for the Society with it being three years since my last one, but having missed out on the company of Ruthie for most of yesterday whilst she worked, at the end of a week of late shifts at John Catt Educational which means we don't see much of each other anyway and an early night ahead of a pre-dawn start tomorrow, I felt it might be a bit much for me to disappear to Ipswich for an entire afternoon.

As it happens, sadly it doesn't look like it was scored with no mention of it on BellBoard, but Suffolk's ringers were contributing strongly to the event over the course of the weekend. Indeed, Ian Culham - along with Essex ringer Brian Meads and Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock from Lincolnshire - rang in four successes south of the River Stour at Toppesfield and Ashdon on Friday, Hatfield Heath on Saturday and Mistley sadly, accounting for a fifth of the organisation's entire worldwide output over the last few days.

And there was non-ASCY related activity within our borders too. Congratulations to Andrew Leach on conducting a quarter-peal for the seventy-fifth time by calling the 1260 of Minor at NDA tower Lowestoft and well done to Josephine Beever and conductor Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Corse Bob Minor in the QP at Buxhall.

Even with Mason having been collected beforehand, my ringing was less broad in the end, although I was just as happy to help out at Woodbridge ahead of the morning service that Ruthie sang for and Joshua, Alfie and myself attended, as I would've been to ring a peal at SMLT for the Ancient Society of College Youths.

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Saturday 16th September 2017

"Variety is the spice of life", so the well-worn saying goes. Today offered me a sizeable taste of it, as it took us to Mendham, Metfield, Wingfield, Wilby, Ipswich and Sproughton, as we zigzagged through the beautiful Suffolk countryside in torrential rain and bright sunshine, accompanied by dozens of my ringing friends from across the county.

Ringing at Mendham on the Pettistree Outing. The ringing chamber at Mendham from the church. Ringing at Metfield on Pettistree Outing. The entrance into Metfield's ringing chamber. The organ at Metfield. Ringing at Wilby on the Pettistree Outing. Ringing at Wilby on Pettistree Outing.

The brace of sixes at the two 'Ms' right up on the Norfolk border were the morning towers of the Pettistree Outing where the highlights included Surprise Minor of the London and Norwich variety respectively before we dined at the De La Pole Arms in the third village in the shadow of the 13cwt ground-floor six of St Andrew. Although we didn't ring there we did manage one more tower, the 15cwt eight of the Blessed Virgin Mary that many consider one of the finest sounding within our borders, even if they aren't amongst the easiest!

Dancing at the Guild Social Barn Dance at Sproughton Tithe Barn. Alfie & Mason dancing at the Guild Social Barn Dance at Sproughton Tithe Barn. Some of those present at the Guild Social Barn Dance at Sproughton Tithe Barn. Some of those present at the Guild Social Barn Dance at Sproughton Tithe Barn.

That was it for what is always meant to be a leisurely occasion and so began the rest of the day, starting with a trip down to my parents' home to drop Mason off to help them set up for the main event of the day, the Guild Social being held at the Tithe Barn of the final community listed above. As with five years ago almost to the day) when the South-East District last hosted this highlight of the calendar, it came in the form of a barn dance, again with Inertia Reel providing the music to some energetic dancing from young and not so young! And also like last time, despite concerns over numbers there was still a lively atmosphere with every District represented at this easily accesible location for most resident members.

There were some differences from 15th September 2012. The food came courtesy of takeaway fish 'n' chips and there was additional entertainment in the shape of barbershop acapella quartet Acafella, featuring SE District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson. And we even managed a ring at the gallery-ring six of All Saints across the road beforehand.

Well done to all concerned on arranging this, particularly District Chairman Ralph Earey, although I could produce a huge list of people who contributed to making this such a big success.

Meanwhile, very well done to Jimmy Yeoman who today rang his first quarter-peal at the first attempt when he trebled to a 1260 of Doubles at his home tower of Exning.

Welcome to a new and different aspect of a limitless art Jimmy. Variety is the spice of ringing.

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Friday 15th September 2017

It was quiet today.

My late shift at work was accompanied by nothing of note at either end, bar collecting Mason for the weekend of course.

Nor was there anything recorded on BellBoard as having been rung in Suffolk.

Instead, I was reduced to amusing myself (it doesn't take much!) by selecting a random performance from the aforementioned website and 'liking' it. Join me in the 'fun' if you wish by clicking on here and 'liking' it.

As I said, a quiet day.

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Thursday 14th September 2017

A substantial number of boxes have made a couple of house moves with us without being unpacked and have been sitting in our garage since we moved to Melton. With Ruthie on a day off and me on a late shift at work though, we took the opportunity to sort through them.

Amongst the stuff sifted were various ringing related items, some going back several years. Quarter-peal and peal cards, annual reports from the Essex Association and even St Agatha's Guild, photos from the try-out of Campsea Ashe's then recently augmented ring and a copy of the Ringing World from 1989 that included a report of the peal rung at Thrapston in Northamptonshire where my grandparents lived and mother grew up, which was rung in memory of my Nan and also noted my eleventh birthday.

It is just a tiny fraction of ringing's vast, varied and far-flung history, but today in Suffolk it was a particularly unspectacular extension of that history, with no entries on BellBoard in the county, at least as I write this.

Still, it was a good day for sorting the garage out.

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Wednesday 13th September 2017

There was a useful announcement made today on the Guild's Facebook page, especially if you were contemplating going to Offton practice next Tuesday. Namely that there isn't one!

No night off for Pettistree this evening though. And my wife was more than happy to take advantage of that by going to her first session at the ground-floor six for a month after twice sacrificing her main night out in recent weeks so that I could indulge in some peal-ringing and enjoying a rare excursion as a couple without children. Despite the break, she was instantly put through her paces with some spliced and a couple of pieces of Stamford Surprise Minor, which appears to have been the method of the night with the quarter-peal pre-practice also being in this Wells below, Norwich above line.

It was all topped off by socialising in The Greyhound as per usual after ringing here. Just don't go to The Limeburners after 9pm next Tuesday expecting to find Offton's ringers!

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Tuesday 12th September 2017

Another late shift at work again enabled me to enjoy most of the morning with Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua and most particularly to accompany them in taking our recently acquired cat Charlie to the vet for more jabs. There was a sombre mood there with another feline sadly put down whilst we were in the building, but nonetheless life had to go on for us, with Ruthie and the boys welcoming my wife's workmate Carol to the house whilst I wandered off to John Catt Educational to contact the schools of the Americas, or at least those not closed down for Hurricane Irma.

Of course that same late shift which enabled me to go about family life also makes evening activities like ringing more difficult, although we are notoriously quiet on the bells front on Tuesdays anyway.

God willing other days will be busier in the art. Indeed just this weekend sees the Helmingham Monthly Practice kick things off on Friday evening, a quarter-peal and then open ringing at Exning on Saturday morning, before the main event, the Guild Social in the evening, which this year is a barn dance at Sproughton. It was so much fun last time five years ago, an opportunity to catch-up with and make friends, where ringing ability matters not a jot. If you haven't already, then please get your ticket!

One should be recovered from that sufficiently by Tuesday when the Monthly Breakthrough Practice at The Norman Tower is booked from 7.15 - 8.30pm, with this occasion being focused on Stedman and Erin Caters.

From there September is due to be rounded off by the South-West District Practice at Stratford St Mary in the evening of Saturday 23rd, the Halesworth Triples/Major Practice from 7.30pm on Tuesday 26th and the Cretingham Charity Golf Day at Seckford Golf Club on Friday 29th in aid of the Peace Bell Fund. Please help out where you can.

For now though, we'll continue living around my late shifts, for good and bad!

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Monday 11th September 2017

With impeccable timing, I left work at the end of a late shift in the midst of a thunderstorm as the rain poured down and wind gusted through the trees and around the buildings I passed on my walk home. Of course it is nothing - absolutely nothing - compared to what those unfortunate enough to have been in the path of Hurricane Irma over the last few days have endured, but the drenching I received and subsequent drying off required was another hurdle to the already slim chance of me getting to St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice.

Instead I made do - from a ringing perspective - by reading a link put online from a site called wikiHow. This is a website I had heard of, but knew little of, but it appears to be a genuine site aimed at showing readers how to do anything. Sadly, its attempt to describe 'How to Ring Church Bells' is laughably wide of the mark, although it contains some elements of truth and at least alludes to listening to a tower captain. I don't suppose anyone would read this and feel they could ring church bells, but it doesn't really do our art justice.

Still, it was something to read whilst the weather knocked on the window.

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Sunday 10th September 2017

Henley's bells were well-used today! Quite apart from any ringing for the morning worship, a quarter-peal and a peal were successfully rung during their Wedding Fair across 6316 changes.

It was a busy day for Sproughton's ringers too, although ironically there was no ringing at all on the gallery ring of six. There was no service at All Saints, but the band had their annual meal at The Chequers in Great Blakenham, newly extended but apparently chocca! Still, some were back at the church in time for the yearly Teddy Parachute Drop and Paper Aeroplane Competition, which we were delighted to be in attendance for again. Mason is too old to provide a teddy for South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey to launch from the top of the tower (although there were entries from more elderly 'children'!) and Joshua is too young to fully appreciate the excitement of the occasion, but this was perfect Alfie territory as he brought his bear Jack complete with the St George's flag that had worked so well previously.

Alfie's teddy Jack's descent from the top of Sproughton tower. Alfie's teddy Jack's descent from the top of Sproughton tower. Alfie's teddy Jack's descent from the top of Sproughton tower. Local ringer Phil Jones retrieving a stranded teddy. Mason, Ralph Earey, Alfie and Joshua throwing paper aeroplanes from Sproughton ringing chamber.  Frantic paper aeroplane making in Sproughton church!

On a grey, slightly chilly day numbers were down on past years, but those of us there enjoyed ourselves immensely and we even got a trio of jumps done (two of which can be viewed here and here if you are keen on watching helpless fluffy toys being hurled from the top of a church tower!) before the rain came and we all retreated inside for paper aeroplanes. As usual these took off from the balcony of the ringing chamber, but unlike the norm we were victorious, winning ourselves a slab of chocolate which was quickly devoured after tea by us lads and then Ruthie after she had returned from singing for evensong at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge.

Earlier, the boys and I had been to St Mary-le-Tower where some very decent Little Bob Maximus and Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung, Grundisburgh park where bouncy castles were being set up for an event much to the curiosity of the children and finally the 9cwt twelve, where we were helped by the visit from Buckinghamshire of long-time ringing friends of David Stanford and Peter Emery from London on one of his regular trips to his boat nearby.

Elsewhere within our borders there was much activity with QPs of Plain Bob Major at Beccles, Plain Bob Minor at Blaxhall and Grandsire Doubles at Rougham - well done to Kate Gill on ringing her first of Major in the first of those performances!

Meanwhile, I was intrigued and impressed in equal measure by the 1316 of Plain Bob Sextuples, Maximus, Cinques, Royal, Caters, Major and Triples spliced rung at St Peter in Nottingham, the first time - it is believed - that a quarter had been rung incorporating seven stages of the same method together.

All very interesting, but nowhere appears to have entertained the sound of bells today quite as much as the village of Henley!

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Saturday 9th September 2017

Ringers and hangers on occupying themselves in Ufford's ringing chamber during the wedding. Following on from yesterday's view from Grundisburgh ringing chamber, here's the view from Ufford's.Rarely do I get to sit out whilst ringing for a wedding, but when Alfie revealed that he needed to relief himself and his mother took him off to do what he needed to do, I sat out with Joshua as the back six at Ufford were rung, whilst below the ringing chamber window photographs were taken of the bride, groom and their guests. What struck me as I looked out over them was that despite the special occasion unfolding in front of them, a large proportion were fixated on the tower and the noise coming out of it. They appeared absolutely fascinated, with much pointing going on whilst the photographer busily gathered various groups together for his shots. If only it was an appropriate moment to give them all a lesson! Perhaps some of them will hear the bells ringing at their local tower and feel inclined to find out more.

The ringing that preceded this was all done on eight and was all change-ringing rather than call-changes, with a band more than capable of putting on a good show, which they did either side of a ceremony which the bride was fifteen minutes late for.

Meanwhile, precisely a week after we visited London, another brace of Suffolk ringers with the same surname were in the capital, albeit one is a former resident and the other now a student beyond our borders. Nonetheless, very well done to the latter, Colin Salter on ringing his first peal of spliced Maximus with the 5040 of Orion Surprise, Rigel Surprise, Avon Delight, Bristol Surprise and Strathclyde Surprise - known as ORABS - at St Magnus-the-Martyr. In addition, it was also his first peal for the Ancient Society of College Youths. I was delighted to see this talented young ringer elected to the ASCYs over the summer and along with this morning's 3hrs21mins of ringing, it is just rewards for a youngster who goes about his business with less show than his elder brother George and diligently learns his methods properly, rarely messes about on the end of a rope and therefore rarely goes wrong. As with his elder sibling, their parents David and Katharine must take a great deal of credit, but there is no doubt he has earnt this.

Back here, there was a peal called by another of the county's youthful superstars as Louis Suggett conducted 2hrs42mins of Minor at Rushmere St Andrew.

It was a performance we could've rung in, but we were otherwise engaged fascinating wedding guests.

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Friday 8th September 2017

Mark Cavendish and his Tour of Britain cycling buddies practically came past our front door this afternoon and I had already finished my early shift at John Catt, which the Tour also sailed close by. So where did I watch this procession of the world's best pass through? Grundisburgh ringing chamber whilst conducting a quarter-peal of course.

To be fair I'm not well into the sport, hence my mention of the only member of the race that I know at the very beginning of this entry and along with Ruthie and Alfie I'd watched the women's version dash past from the roadside when it came through Woodbridge a couple of years ago.

Besides, it is really the excitement and atmosphere surrounding these events that I enjoy, the sense of anticipation and occasion and I was able to appreciate that at its very best in the picturesque village that I ended up in as I crossed the green to the church for my forty-five minutes or so of Plain Bob Doubles. There was a tent from where refreshments were being sold, The Dog was doing a roaring trade, the crowds were lining the main road through their community and although there was still nearly half-an-hour hour until the riders were due, the police motorbikes that act as an advanced party to make sure the way is clear and offers up the first signs that the stars of the show are on their way were already busy patrolling, sirens blaring. It was marvelous to behold.

View of crowds in Grundisburgh waiting for Tour of Britain to come through, from window of ringing chamber. View of crowds in Grundisburgh waiting for Tour of Britain to come through, from window of ringing chamber.And the ringing chamber of Suffolk's lightest twelve gives a tremendous view of the green, with Adrian Cradock, Mike Cowling and Mark Ogden in particular getting a good view of procedings as they went past and even round on the fifth of the back six I was able to catch a glimpse of the flash of colour as it flew through. Top marks to the band for putting on a decent performance for the cameras, although disappointingly watching it on TV later they couldn't be heard. In fact, they seemed to do all they could to avoid the bells on the coverage!

Perhaps The Norman Tower had better luck being heard with their 1312 of Yorkshire Surprise Major as Stage Six went past, though I am pretty certain that no cameras picked up the FNQPC ringing a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Kettlebergh as the race didn't go through there and they'd all finished at Aldeburgh long before this QP was scored.

Woodbridge Ringers BBQ.By that point my wife, three sons and myself were at Kev the Rev's rectory for the Woodbridge ringers' annual barbecue, more autumnal in nature than this gathering usually is when it is held in its normal summer slot in July or August, but still a lovely evening of food, drink and pleasant company that we were most grateful to be invited to.

Our host and Peter Meyer kept the sustenance coming from the darkness of the back garden, whilst in the kitchen - where most were congregated on a chilly night - a steady supply of salads, crisps and pudding was forthcoming, as was the conversation, before we made the cross-town walk home.

We took slightly longer to do it than Mark Cavendish...

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Thursday 7th September 2017

My abudant facial hair has been a talking point in just about every ringing chamber I've entered in the last fortnight, but today I got rid of it. My job on the phones doesn't neccesitate my face-for-radio to be clean shaven and combined with full-time parenthood and general laziness means that is not unusual for a beard of sorts to develop. However, with a housemove, holiday, car-troubles and - crucially the misplacing of my razors in one of the many bags and boxes that are gradually being unpacked at a slow rate since I last put blade to face, it has grown to an excessive length, thus generating various witty observations.

With my wife finding the instruments though and me finding the available time to myself after an early shift in the office, the big shave could finally take place.

My freshly shorn features weren't subjected to any ringing this evening on a quiet day for Suffolk ringing on BellBoard, although there was word on the site of another quarter-peal rung within our borders yesterday as the pre-practice 1272 of Rossendale Surprise Minor at Pettistree appeared on the site today.

This evening for us though was an uneventful one. Although my face was a little chilly.

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Wednesday 6th September 2017

Having been unable to ring in last month's peal attempt, I returned to The Wolery for this month's.

As usual, the method - on this occasion Deene Surprise Major - was a relatively simple variation of Yorkshire, so it was slightly disappointing that we didn't make quite as good a job as I thought we made of Urquhart last time I was here, but this was still a very enjoyable 1hr54mins of ringing, some of which was very good.

It capped a decent day's ringing for Suffolk's ringers, at least on paper, with a quarter-peal also rung at Hopton as an impressive looking 1280 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced was successfully completed.

My efforts came at the end of a long, tiring day that saw me look after Alfie and Joshua after my early start at John Catt Educational whilst Ruthie went into John Ives for a day's work in a change to the normal order of things for a Wednesday. Thank you to mother-in-law Kate who looked after and fed the boys whilst I was still in the office, especially as Alfred recovered from having his jabs at the doctors.

Wonderful as it was to see them, I was tiring somewhat come the end of my 5056 changes of ringing this evening and so I departed whilst I still had my wits about me, already looking forward to what should - God willing - be another enjoyable evening in Old Stoke next month!

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Tuesday 5th September 2017

Sometimes I find myself with a second wind on the afternoons that follow the early starts at John Catt Educational and can do all sorts from clearing a house out as I have recently done to ringing a peal as I hope to do later this week. Most of the time I generally just feel lethargic, although most will struggle to distinguish that from my usual state.

Occasionally however, I am absolutely shattered, barely able to move from the armchair. With Alfie and Joshua jostling enthusiastically around me in an otherwise joyful fashion today, extended restful interludes to recharge my metaphorical batteries were limited on this occasion, especially when Ruthie disappeared to join her choral colleagues in singing for a wedding. To her eternal credit she was only gone for a short while and once returned provdided respite from the boys and sorted our sustenance, but come the evening I was only good for slumping and whilst my wife absorbed the Great British Bake-Off, I read up on some of the goings on in the world of ringing from the comfort of the sofa.

Most notable of those in recent months is the project to hang a brand new eight in St George's Memorial Church in the Belgium town of Ypres, a fitting tribute in a church built for and dedicated to those who lost their lives so senselessly a century ago in the First World War, particularly as this was apparently the original plan for the tower.

Publicity around this has been raised a few notches in the last few weeks though, with the virginal octave transported from John Taylor & Co in Loughborough via the Great Dorset Steam Fair, a number of war cemetries and the Menin Gate to their final destination. Work is now underway to hang them ahead of being dedicated in the tower on Sunday 22nd October in a special service at 11am. More information can be found on the church's website and the bells can be heard individually in a YouTube video from when they were being tested at Taylors.

Exciting as that is, the notion of travelling to the continent to witness precedings will be impractical for most, but something that plenty of Suffolk's ringers can get involved is the campaign 'A Peal for Pudsey'. It is a chance for some positive PR for the exercise both nationally and locally, but more importantly to raise money for Children in Need. More details can be found on the Central Councils website, but broadly speaking it is asking ringers to do sponsored ringing, whether it be a few minutes call-changes or a peal or anything inbetween over the period from 5th October to 17th November when the big TV extravaganza is due to sir, hopefully featuring a mention for the spectacular fundraising efforts of the nation's ringers! Let's hope for lots of money via the bells and ringers of the county.

Here's hoping I'll have the energy to do something!

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Monday 4th September 2017

An odd practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. We struggled with things that have become standard to us, to the extent that Cambridge Surprise Royal, Yorkshire Surprise Royal and even Little Bob Maximus crashed to a halt prematurely. Yet we climaxed the session with some very well-rung London (No.3) Surprise Royal and decent Grandsire Cinques that most provincial twelve-bell towers would dearly love to achieve.

It left most heading to The Cricketers afterwards in higher spirits than initially anticipated, but after an extremly early start this morning at work and another one tomorrow I passed on the post-ringing refreshments.

I at least got to spend the afternoon with Ruthie as she had a day off and so with the children at nursery it was an opportunity to start emptying some of the boxes that have been sat in the corner since we moved in!

Productive as it was though, that and that odd practice at SMLT left me very, very tired...

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Sunday 3rd September 2017

George Salter's 'Peal Week Back Home' was this afternoon rounded off with a 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at Stonham Aspal. Rather than stirring memories of my one glorious success upon this ten more than six years ago, I was reminded of a previous loss there after a mere ten changes and a few seconds of Grandsire Caters when trouble with the slider of the eighth which I was ringing meant that I could get it down to the front but not back up again! These are not the seemingly impossible job that I remember them once being perceived, with several peals rung on them in recent times, but a score here is still impressive, so well done to all concerned, especially Simon Edwards for whom it was his first of Royal as conductor and Suffolk Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge who was ringing his first on ten in the medium.

It seems a fitting way to conclude George's visit back to the homeland and although we haven't had the chance to catch up with him it has been good to see him back contributing to the local ringing scene. I remember making a similar move to an exciting ringing scene when I was not a disimilar age and it was thrilling and yet he has made that literal and metaphorical journey as an accomplished ringer with far more talent than I can claim to have had and already with a decent reputation having made many of his own opportunities - on top of those generated by his parents David and Katharine, who must take a lot of credit - in a way I wish I had when I was a teenager. He has earnt the chances he has taken to ring what he does with the people he does.

GMS is an example of the youth that offers our art a more promising future than some forsee, along with other youngsters such as Rebecca Kirby who was recently holidaying and quarter-pealing within our borders and was part of the Yorkshire Tykes team that won the Ringing World National Youth Contest in Birmingham and the trio of Rolphs who rang in the 1264 of Plain Bob Major at Halesworth today, although it was a pair of more experienced ringers who grabbed the limelight with this performance as Veronica Downing and Philip Gorrod rang their one hundredth QP together.

Louis Suggett and Laura Davies are also included in the encouragingly long list of ringing youth and they were partaking in a 1344 of four Surprise Major methods at Bardwell, whilst a band that is young at heart was ringing a 1270 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree.

For us old cronies (well me at least) our ringing was limited today, as Ruthie returned to choir duties at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge after their August hiatus and I just about made it upstairs to ring some call-changes on the front six before attending the service downstairs and junior church in the Church Centre where Alfie waved the Harry Potter wand he acquired yesterday with inappropriate bravado.

And our afternoon was a quiet one spent home, tempting as it was to return to Stonham Aspal for another peal!

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Saturday 2nd September 2017

We don't go to London too often, especially these days. Each time we go to Tesco with all three boys it is an operation that a Formula One team would recognise, let alone travelling to a bustling city of millions via an underground system of seemingly infinte numbers of stairs and escalators not overly conducive to lumping children around, even more so when one is in a buggy. And it is a big ask of someone to look after them for a long day whilst we swan around in the big smoke.

Still, we enjoy visiting the nation's capital and so a Christmas present from my brother Chris and his wife Becky giving us free entry to Ripley's Believe It or Not in Piccadilly Circus gave us the perfect opportunity to pop down.

Lunch in Piccadilly Circus. Alfie in a giant chair at Ripley's Believe It or Not. Mason in front of a chunk of the Berlin Wall.

Thus we found ourselves amongst the towering buildings old and new, in the busy tube and on the famous streets of this world-renowned metropolis. A picnic was consumed beneath the statue of the fictional Eros, before a very enjoyable exploration of Ripley's, a venue sporting five floors of fascinating facts and oddities, from life-size models of history's heaviest and tallest humans to a chunk of the Berlin Wall to a maze of mirrors.

When in Rome - so to speak - it seemed silly not to touch upon at least a fraction of the almost endless list of attractions nearby. Time was spent in Leicester Square as we contemplated entering the Lego Store, but having decided against that with a lengthy queue and the trio of youngsters behaving so well, we made the short(ish) walk to Regent Street and Hamleys. It's fair to say Mason, Alfie and Joshua appreciated the magic of this place more than Ruthie and me, but beyond having to push a buggy through the masses as the boys chopped and changed their minds, I could understand the adventure of it all for young minds. Pretty much every toy they could ever imagine getting and adults messing about, as some flew drones, others put on magic shows and more sang karaoke. Of course toys were procured...

Our expedition here took a lot longer than anticipated though and so our extensive plans for sightseeing were reduced to a walk through Trafalgar Square and a couple of pints in The Chandos a few yards from the 29cwt twelve of St Martin-in-the-Fields, before we embarked on the long journey back to Melton Railway Station.

Sadly it meant missing both the South-East District Practice at Copdock and the St Mary-le-Tower outing to Norfolk, although with the latter being organised on the same day as the former we would have to miss one of them anyway. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our trip to London - thank you Chris and Becky!

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Friday 1st September 2017

From a ringing perspective at least, George Salter's return to the homeland seems to have been a productive one. Hot on the heels of three peals and a quarter-peal in two days, today he became the first person to circle the ancient five of St Lawrence in Ipswich to peals. Congratulations George!

That may well have been deservedly headline-grabbing, but elsewhere in Suffolk there were even greater ringing achievements being fulfilled as Tracey and Robert Scase rang their first quarter-peal of Surfleet Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Earl Stonham - well done Tracey and Robert!

We meanwhile were greeting our latest guest to our new home as Godmother to Alfie and best friend of Ruthie Fergie came to visit it for the first time whilst on a trip from her residence in Brighton as England's footballers toiled against Malta on the TV in the background.

And whilst they got 'the job done' with a 4-0 win, I'd say that George Salter, Tracey and Robert Scase had more productive day.

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Thursday 31st August 2017

I've always thought that when one is handing over the keys to a house that one has lived in that there should be some sort of ceremony. This is a significant event after all. Take our - as of today - former abode. For more than three years it has been the starting point of pretty much all our journeys thrilling, mundane, significant and profound. Where our downtime has taken place, where a family has grown from three to five, where everyday noise has filled the rooms and many memories happy and sad have been made. And yet today when a friendly but businesslike woman called Donna came round to inspect the property on behalf of - God willing - our final ever landlord and collect the keys from us, it was all very low-key. Empty rooms devoid of life were checked over and our voices echoed where once many were absorbed by the material clutter of our lives, all a footnote in my lunch-break. With a swift unthinking motion, our access to what was once home was handed over after two births, four jobs, two cars, four holidays, three Christmas', sixteen birthdays, gatherings of friends and relatives, countless ringing events, fifty-nine peals and sixty-three quarter-peals in those near three-and-a-half years.

Still, we are glad to be where we're at and so I settled contently in our living room this evening, albeit without Ruthie as she carried out babysitting duties for her sister and although for us that meant no ringing, George Salter had ensured there was elsewhere in Suffolk on his visit to the county he grew up in, as a peal of Bristol Surprise Major was rung at Offton and a handbell quarter was knocked off at 'home'. Perhaps we should've got the band to come round to our old place to ring as I relinquished the keys on this significant occasion!

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Wednesday 30th August 2017

Alongside ringing, Ruthie is very involved with singing in the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. It's easy to see why she is attracted to it, quite apart from her having a wonderful singing voice. There are many similarities between the two hobbies, with the same types of characters, similar issues, a shared appreciation of their pastimes and their social gatherings outside of singing or ringing. I have been extremely fortunate to attend lots of ringers' parties over the years and indeed I have fond memories of ones held at Mum and Dad's, the house bursting with ringers and - if we were lucky with the weather - spilling out into the garden. So it was this evening as we joined my wife's choral peers for a house-party. Sadly the rain put paid to any notions of going outside, but it was a lovely night in a nice abode, although unlike ringers' gatherings where handbells are brought out, there was no singing bar a rendition of Happy Birthday for the eightieth anniversary of our host's birth. We were particularly lucky that it was all held ten minutes walk from our new home and with my mother-in-law Kate very kindly babysitting the children this enabled us to not only fully enjoy the company and ample food - some of which accompanied us back - but also the seemingly endless supply of wine. Of course it meant Ruthie missed Pettistree practice, although ironically the boys made it with their Granny as she went along to help and to hand out the latest edition of Awl a'huld. Once again it is a must-read - please ensure copies are not just placed in the ringing chamber, but down in the church, in the dentist's waiting room, the local school or wherever the general public might see and read it. They joined a session that was preceded by a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor, which was part of a busy day of ringing on bells in Suffolk. Well done to Neal Dodge on ringing his first 5056 blows of Double Norwich Court Bob Major in the success at Helmingham. Had we not been out socialising I might have been tempted to ring, especially when the organiser George Salter - on a visit back from Bristol - contacted me earlier in the day asking if I could replace a late dropout. That he got a band on a day of which 2hrs41mins was taken up with conducting a peal at Monewden was particularly impressive. It was also Essex ringer George Thoday's 1800th in the medium. Congratulations George! Handbells also got in the act with a 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods in Bacton and the success at Pettistree wasn't the only quarter-peal scored within our borders today, with the Kirby family from West Yorkshire active again as they rang a brace of 1280s at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland - St Clement's College Bob Major and Plain Bob Major. There may not have been time for us to join in, but we still enjoyed ourselves!

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Tuesday 29th August 2017

My late shifts do have their advantages, even if in full-time parenthood a lay-in isn't one of them. This morning, the 11am start allowed me to greet Mason's Godmother Kala and her brood to our home and even enjoy a cuppa with her before departing for work and leaving her in the company of Ruthie and our brood. In contrast, the evening finish made ringing largely impractical, even if we would normally ring on a Tuesday, but other ringers were busier on Suffolk's bells. Two quarter-peals were rung today featuring visitors from West Yorkshire, the Kirby family. They were achieving in the process. Well done to all three of them as well as our very own Maurice Rose and Jed Flatters on ringing their first of Quedgeley Surprise Major in the success at Horringer and then to Carole and Rebecca on ringing their first QP in a five-bell tower with the 1260 changes of mixed Doubles in four methods and a principle rung at Whepstead. There are further opportunities for ringers to fill their days with ringing if all goes to plan in September, starting with the South-East District Practice at Copdock on Saturday afternoon. With the St Mary-le-Tower outing taking a number of members to Norfolk that day and with us having made plans ourselves, they are going to need help at this difficult ground-floor six, so if you can go along then please, please do. And there are still tickets available for the Guild Social at Sproughton a fortnight later. Thank God that I don't work late shifts on Saturdays!

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Monday 28th August 2017

The house we have just moved out of was already ageing and worn when we moved in and after three years of an expanding, messy family living in it, it was perhaps unsurprising that it would take time and a lot of effort to bring it back up to a standard acceptable to a letting agents who probably won't need much excuse to siphon off some of the deposit due to us, especially as we have had to do it all around the children, work, ringing, holiday and the brief loss of a car. However, there was no shop nor office for us today with it being an unusually roasting bank holiday and with a fully operational car to hand we were able to pretty much finish the job, bar another tip-run, with the trio of boys accompanying me as we toured the bottle banks of the area looking for one that wasn't overflowing. With no St Mary-le-Tower practice tonight, we sat back and recovered. In our new house that isn"t worn and ageing and doesn't need any work done to it.

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Sunday 27th August 2017

When my much more youthful self managed to get into Birmingham for Sunday service ringing, my morning usually began with ringing at the Bullring before a trip to Burger King - and in later years Starbucks in the neighbouring shopping centre when that was rebuilt - and then post-service ringing at St Chads prior to a drink or more in The Gunmakers round the corner and eventually a return trip to Dudley or Wolverhampton depending on where I was living at the time. Sometimes I didn't get home until Monday when I was led astray by Paul Bibilo. If I got in early enough (which was especially rare!), I could've gone to St Philip's Cathedral and then to McDonald's too.

After my return to Suffolk twelve years ago, we did briefly retire to the Caravan Cafe in Woodbridge after Sabbath ringing at Grundisburgh, but since that stopped I haven't really had a social breather on the weekly ringing rounds, especially since it became an exercise in herding children solo, with Ruthie usually at work at Boots and now singing in the choir at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge.

However, with the aforementioned choir still on holiday and therefore my wife accompanying and helping me, once we had rung at St Mary-le-Tower we took up the opportunity to join the regulars in a post-ringing cuppa at Costa Coffee, joined by visitors Richard and Izabelle Bimson from Leicestershire, house-guests of Abby Antrobus and useful additions to our numbers this morning.

Even after our drinks-break - which for me was a ginormous hot chocolate that had Amanda Richmond shaking her head in dismay - there was time to make it for the end of the morning's ringing at Grundisburgh where there were more visitors, this time the red-bearded Iain Mitchell and his son Lemmy. Mitch - as he is affectionately known - is currently residing and ringing in Derbyshire with his wife Jayne, but they were both familiar faces in this part of the world in my early years in the exercise and it was great to see him this morning.

Sadly our afternoon failed to match the morning's excitement, as we spent it doing more cleaning-up of our old, ageing, busy family home of three years. At least thanks to my parents' generosity the boys were out of the way and spared the boredom of watching us toil, but there was an awful lot we would've preferred to have been doing. Sitting down the pub, playing down the park, ringing a peal. Even relaxing in a coffee shop.

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Saturday 26th August 2017

With Ruthie at work I was unable to help with the North-East District Quarter-Peal Day as I was in sole charge of the three boys, but it appears they didn't need me as there were an astonishing six successes affiliated with the event today.

They included an encouraging number of achievements. Well done to Hilary Stern on ringing her first of Major in the 1264 of Plain Bob at Halesworth, Nicole Rolph and Sal Jenkinson on their first of Double Oxford Bob Minor in the 1260 at Theberton, Kate Gill on ringing her most methods in the Doubles at Wenhaston and her first of Treble Bob in the 1320 of Kent Minor at Wissett, whilst there were also QPs at Reydon and Yoxford.

Meanwhile there was a peal in Bacton, this time on the ground-floor six of St Mary-the-Virgin rather than the more familiar handbell venue in Pretyman Avenue.

Alfie having fun with model trains at The Woodbridge Model Railway Exhibition. Alfie having fun with model trains at The Woodbridge Model Railway Exhibition.For us boys though, it was a morning at the park and afternoon at The Woodbridge Model Railway Exhibition.

The latter occasion was held at Woodbridge School and as usual with these events offered an interesting comparison with ringing's attempts to reach out to the public. There were the same in jokes amongst those exhibiting and those being rather too pleased with themselves as you get in our art, but also opportunities for visitors to partake and wide-eyed children taking it all in. Clearly there is much benefit for such events for all hobbies, including ringing.

Lets face it, if people like me aren't going to be able to help out at ringing events, we're going to need to attract new recruits!

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Friday 25th August 2017

Two quarter-peals were rung in Suffolk today with lots of achievements.

Well done to Stephen Christian and Scases Tracey and Mervyn on ringing their first of Beverley Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Ashbocking and to Kate Gill and Nicole Rolph on ringing and conducting their first on eight respectively in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Rendham.

For us though it was a quiet day on all fronts. Another early finish at work and more cleaning out at the old house, although Mason was on hand to help this time and without needing to get up stupid early in the morning I afforded myself some wine before calling it a night.

I hope those achieving something on Suffolk's bells also afforded themselves something that they like.

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Thursday 24th August 2017

A visit from Mum and Dad to drop off a new picnic bench for the boys was most welcome on an otherwise quiet day. There wasn't even choir practice for Ruthie with them on their usual August break and as I approach the end of this week of early shifts I have to admit to grabbing a quick nap once mater and pater had left.

Indeed it was an unusally quiet day for ringing within our borders generally, at least on the quarter-peal and peal front according to BellBoard.

However, down in London a Suffolk ringer was ringing a peal with his one thousandth different ringer as James Smith partook in a 5152 of seventeen Surprise Major methods at St Olave in Hart Street. The peal itself is impressive in its own right, but the number of ringers that James has rung with is an indication of his willingness to help out and the high regard he is held, with ringers across the country and indeed the world keen to take advantage of his not inconsiderable skills. Indeed he is one of only 246 ringers recorded on Pealbase to have rung peals with that many people. Not bad for a man who started relatively late learning at Rushmere St Andrew!

And at least he gave me something ringing-related to mention on today's blog!

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Wednesday 23rd August 2017

Yesterday we took Charlie - as our newly acquired cat has been named after a brief daliance with Oreo - to the vet for the first time for his jabs. This afternoon saw Ruthie go to the dentist and by the time I had finished trying to herd an excitable Alfie and Joshua whilst she was checked over and exhausted from another early shift at work, I could've done with being taken somewhere to be checked over myself.

Instead, I was sent to St Mary-le-Tower for my first monthly Wednesday-night peal on the front eight here since before Josh was born over a year ago.

I was slightly concerned that I would be some sort of jinx to the attempt as having had a hit and miss success rate when I was a regular in these, I was joining them on the back of four consecutive scores.

There was no reason to be worried though. Abby Antrobus was ringing her first of spliced Surprise Major and managed magnificently and surrounded as she was by a strong band there was some absolutely superb ringing at times, rung at a pace that makes these bells a hell of a lot easier to ring.

It was nice to ring my first in the medium with Abby - the 518th different ringer I have rung a peal with - and good to ring with Simons Rudd and Smith from Norwich and although I passed on the post-peal pint at the end of a long day and ahead of another dawn start tomorrow, I had a really enjoyable evening.

Brian Whiting and Tom Scase did particularly well having already rung a 'long-length' with a 5366 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Grundisburgh earlier in the day which saw Stephen Pettman complete his aim of conducting a peal on every date of the calendar. Trivial as this may seem as in itself it hasn't progressed the exercise, it is challenges like this that are one of the many aspects of ringing that keep ringers interested and ultimately helps the art flourish. Who knows what he is planning next, but there is always something else to do. Congratulations Stephen.

Well done also to Joanne Crowe who celebrated fifty years of ringing with her first in the method in the 2hrs56mins of ringing.

Meanwhile, a 1272 of Chester Surprise Minor was rung ahead of Pettistree practice, which as far as I know required no visits to the dentist, doctor or vet afterwards.

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Tuesday 22nd August 2017

Two things came out of my trip to St Mary-le-Tower yesterday evening, but didn't get a mention in my lengthy blog-entry. "Since when did that stop you?" I hear you ask.

One is that there won't be a practice there on Bank Holiday Monday, so please don't turn up! Instead, if you haven't got your fill of ringing on the South-West District Open Tower Day earlier, perhaps you could support one of the other towers who practice on what is usually the first day of the working week, details of which can be found on this very website. As with anytime you are planning on visiting a tower that you don't typically go to though, it is best to call ahead and check they are actually ringing!

Talking of Monday night practices, if you aren't normally committed to a session elsewhere on that night, then perhaps you could spare an evening a month to help out at Hopton, specifically on 4th September, when they hope for some help.

The second thing to come out of last night at SMLT was that it was Lucy Williamson's final one before returning to an uncertain ringing scene in York.

Except it became a little clearer today when the Minster announced that they have recruited a new band of ringers. It was news that was greeted with the same cynicism that has accompanied everything that the Dean and Chapter have done since they sacked the old band ten months ago. I can empathize as I have shared much of that cynicism. Knowing the character of many of the people at the centre of this whole sorry saga and from some of the things I have heard which I feel can be relied upon, it was an entirely OTT reaction, albeit with a noble aim, at least if their second version of events are to be believed.

However, the involvement of Mark Regan and the appointment of the widely-liked Angela Mitchell as the 'Head of Bell Tower' appears to have placated most and the confirmation that a number of the former band are amongst the newly appointed ringers is an encouraging indication that perhaps some middle ground has been met. Let's hope that it is a success, even if we don't wish for a precedent to be set. If nothing else, it should be a warning to those who don't take safeguarding in ringing seriously.

Back here in Suffolk, there was confirmed ringing success today, with a peal of Stedman Triples rung at Lavenham by the Ely Diocesan Association and a quarter-peal rung at Polstead, which was Margaret Roberts' 500th in the medium. Congratulations Margaret and Happy Birthday to former Tower Captain at this ground-floor six, Ed Hynard, who is still remembered fondly several years after moving to the Channel Islands.

His 93rd birthday is worthy of not having to wait until tomorrow's blog!

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Monday 21st August 2017

St Mary-le-Tower once had a reputation for being quite an unwelcoming place, somewhere that was a little snobbish, only interested in elite ringing and a ringing chamber where things were taken a bit too seriously.

However true that was or not and to what extent, it is most certainly not the case now.

This evening saw us welcome Hilary Stern and her ringing cousin Geoffrey from Cambridgeshire during a session that ranged from Call-Changes to Surprise Maximus in the presence of a youthful contingent making up a large proportion of those in attendence and all carried out in a jovial atmosphere and with much laughter. Not least when I held my final backstroke up - as I usually do when on the tenor as a sort of climax to a piece of ringing - after one touch and David Potts just in front of me did the same. I just about held it up over him, but failed to set the 34cwt bell to much raucous amusement.

Yet all through the ringing was carried out with the sort of focus that they would've been pleased with during SMLT's modern heyday of the 1980s and 1990s. Of course, we need to continue at this level and improve further if we are going to reach competition standard on twelve, but we are going very much in the right direction and there is much to be encouraged by. And I was pleased just to be able to go along after missing several practices for entirely different reasons!

Usually this sort of night would be perfectly topped off by a visit to the pub, but today marked the start of my pre-dawn shifts on alternate weeks and after an extremely early start and finish at work, another one in the morning and an afternoon of more emptying of stuff from our old house which included a trip to the dump to get rid of our fridge and freezer and absolutely no sleep. Therefore an ale afterwards didn't seem sensible.

Still, this evening was a complete pleasure. These are good days at The Tower and you're all invited!

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Sunday 20th August 2017

We've become far too sporadic with attending the special practices at St Mary-le-Tower in recent months, although at times it couldn't be helped. However, with these sessions pencilled in to be the focal point of our working towards an entry into the National Twelve-Bell Contest, we all - and especially us - need to get into the habit of travelling to SMLT for concerted twelve-bell practice on the afternoon of every third Sunday.

Therefore, we started today, with Mum and Dad very kindly looking after and feeding the trio of boys.

That said, Ringing Master David Potts has always earmarked September as when the real work begins, with attendences over the summer always subject to the whim of holidays, weddings and any number of events, such as the Offton BBQ in July. As a result, we were not unexpectedly far from full strength.

Yet in the circumstances it was a jolly useful and productive hour and a half. Admittedly we didn't have enough to ring the Cambridge or Yorkshire Max that we're going to need to get used to ringing more and more with our best possible band and which we won't always be able to ring on Monday nights. But we still rang Stedman Cinques as well as London (No.3) Surprise Royal, both on its own and as part of spliced with Cambridge and Yorkshire.

It went some way to making up for missing service ringing this morning. There was a very good reason though as for the first time we were meeting a l'il chap called Jackson, the newborn son of our long-time friends Kala and Nick, respective Godparents of Mason and Alfie. Those early days and weeks of a child's life - where visitors are numerous and flexibility minimal - are still fresh in our memories (I feel exhausted just thinking about it!) and so we were keen to fit in around them and this was the best opportunity without waiting for a while more.

Despite slight pangs of guilt at abandoning our ringing duties, we enjoyed ourselves immensely, as did the boys with the new boy's elder sister Robyn and it was nice to catch up with them. And lovely to meet their latest addition!

Meanwhile I'm sure that it was lovely ringing in the quarter-peal at Kersey today too, with a good band ringing a 1260 of Grandsire Triples on the 14cwt ground-floor eight that overlooks this most picturesque of villages, before the conductor joined us at that Special Practice in Ipswich. Which we need to make more of a habit of getting along to.

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Saturday 19th August 2017

Aldeburgh is well known for many things, not least amongst ringers for the second-Sunday peals rung there for decades. Amongst other events, the Carnival is one of the most popular, although it is more of a weekend-long regatta, but I have only ever been to the Monday night climax that sees a procession of lanterns and firework display.

Alfie on a ride at Aldeburgh Carnival.Mason at Aldeburgh Carnival.Alfie at Aldeburgh Carnival.Joshua in the Cross Keys in Aldeburgh.

Today though, we thought we would take the boys along to this coastal town for the first day of the festivities. We're glad we did as Mason and Alfie enjoyed various rides and activities, Ruthie and I a pint in my favourite pub in the county, the Cross Keys, before we all partook in some ice cream.

Although this would be an ideal occasion for The Vestey Ring to be present, it didn't involve any ringing, but we did see ringers as we bumped into and chatted with North-East District Treasurer Julie Rapior, her husband Richard and their daughter Emily.

And there was ringing in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard with the Yorkshire Association ringing a peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at The Norman Tower, whilst the 5100 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at Helmingham was particular impressive for being organised by Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase in just a few days after a late request to mark the centenary of the death of parishioner LC Albert Staff in the First World War.

Meanwhile, kudos to St Mary-le-Tower ringers Laura Davies and Louis Suggett on ringing a peal at the extremely long-draughted eight of Wheathampstead, which we visited on Rambling Ringers a few years ago - I can't say I would've fancied a peal there!

Whilst on the subject, well done also to the band which rang the first peal of Fielden Bob Major at The Wolery on Wednesday.

Even though it didn't involve any ringing, we still enjoyed our afternoon in Aldeburgh!

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Friday 18th August 2017

On the day when news broke of Sir Bruce Forsyth's death, here is a good game, good game.

Over the last day or two, friendly debate has gripped the ringing community on Facebook on which ringing chambers worldwide make the biggest impression, which are the most atmospheric. Somewhere - to quote Mark Regan who initially raised the subject - "which captures ringing's provenance, heritage and has a 'wow' factor".

St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, Worcester Cathedral, the Bullring and other famous places came up and it got me wondering if we applied the same criteria to just Suffolk where would come up.

St Mary-le-Tower was put forward by myself and others on the worldwide 'poll', steeped as it is with history with every wall covered with peal-boards - some marking the most significant and historic peals ever rung, such as the first ever one of Cambridge Surprise Maximus which we reprised a century on - and pictures of the local band going back almost as far as photography itself.

However, there is plenty of competition in the county. Infrequently as I go to Lavenham, I am always taken aback by just how big and daunting the ringing room is there and similarly Beccles, whilst there is also a sense of ringing history once one has made the short climb to ring at Grundisburgh. There will be more of course that could be suggested.

Pleasant as it is, I don't think Monewden fits the bill, but was the location for the latest bit of the Guild's peal history with a 5040 of fourteen Surprise Minor methods.

Didn't they do well?

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Thursday 17th August 2017

There is a new member of our household.

Over the years of living in rented properties, we have resisted getting any sort of pet as it is something that would've been very restrictive in a market where animals are often not allowed, but we always said that we might get a cat if and when we finally bought a house. We hadn't really intended to get one quite so soon though.

Our new cat.However, when Kate came across some kittens whose owners were looking to rehouse them, she remembered our ambition and very kindly put our name down for one. And this evening, she picked my wife up, took her to Wickham Market to pick one and they both returned with a cute thirteen-week old black and white moggy, who wasted no time in exploring his new surroundings.

He has no name yet, so there is scope for ringing-related names (I've decided against suggesting Stedman), but we will first see what Mason and Alfie suggest.

In the meantime, welcome, urm... cat.

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Wednesday 16th August 2017

The normal order was restored at Pettistree this evening. After last week's rare loss, this week's pre-practice quarter-peal was duly scored with a 1272 of Carlisle Surprise Minor rung and along with her mother and Ron, Ruthie made it in time for ringing on this occasion, where they were joined by Cordelia Warr and Anthony Freemont, visitors from Shropshire.

It wasn't the only tower in Suffolk where there was ringing success, with two 1260's of Plain Bob Doubles rung, one at Campsea Ashe and one at Thornham Magna, the latter of which was Margaret Skinner and Helen Lewis' first QP for the Ladies Guild - well done to them both!

Meanwhile, my wife enjoyed a couple of post-session ales in The Greyhound, the normal order most definitely restored.

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Tuesday 15th August 2017

Supporting Ipswich Town over the last few years has been a lot like ringing through a choppy touch of Plain Bob Minor - or whatever really - on a rough ring of bells, often firing out.

This evening, following the Tractor Boys was like ringing in a peal of spliced Surprise Maximus in Birmingham. Brisk, thrilling and ultimately successful, the Superblues went 1-0 down in their match at Millwall, only to go 2-1 up, then 3-2 up, before finally winning 4-3 with a winner with just two minutes of the match left. If only my football and ringing was like this all the time!

I imagine that the two quarter-peals rung in Suffolk today were more of the latter than the former, with five spliced Surprise Major methods (and not all straightforward standard ones at that) rung on the ground-floor eight of Gislingham and Cambridge Surprise Major successful ahead of Offton's practice.

It has been a great day from the county's footballers and ringers!

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Monday 14th August 2017

Summer appears to have come back in time for my return to work. Indeed my walk home from work passed Melton enjoying the lovely weather as a lively football training session was carried out in the park, drinkers sat outside the Coach & Horses in a jovial mood and the smell of a barbecue wafted over someone's garden wall, all set to the backdrop of that lovely orange evening sunshine.

Pleasant as it was - if a little galling after our damp holiday - I was only enjoying this time of the day on the way back from a late shift at John Catt Educational at the beginning of two months of evening finishes and nighttime starts and meant that ultimately a visit to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice was impractical. I suspect that may be the case biweekly until we finish on this particular international publication.

Even summer may have finished by then.

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Sunday 13th August 2017

August is an unpredictable month for the poor put-upon Ringing Master or Tower Captain. Throughout the year there will be slight variations on who is present and how many of them there are at a lot of towers, particularly somewhere like St Mary-le-Tower that relies on more ringers than most, but many - including us - tend to go on holiday for at least part of the month and so attendances can suffer, quite dramatically in some cases.

However, ringing chambers can benefit from the season too, as SMLT did this morning with the visit of Graham Bartholomew from Buckinghamshire, although on this peak-season Sunday morning - when numbers are always lower anyway as ringers who might come along on a Monday have to quite rightly dedicate their services to their local tower - we only just had enough to ring all twelve for him.

Even then, that was only possible as with St Mary the Virgin Woodbridge's choir on their annual August sabbatical we were joined by Ruthie. Although we were a man light by the time we departed Ipswich, with Mason joining my Mum and Dad after ringing at the county's heaviest ring for a short break away visiting model villages, my wife was also useful at our next stop Grundisburgh. Sadly there were no tourists to aid us here (although we would've needed a family of them to ring all twelve), but it was still a productive three-quarters-of-an-hour's ringing, with young Yasmin doing well trebling to Grandsire Triples and inside to Plain Bob Minor and Adrian Craddock having a go at Little Bob Major, before we climaxed with some all-in call-changes on the back eight.

Our ringing was done for the day with that, the final afternoon of our holidays taking advantage of the glorious sunshine and warm weather we would've loved on Rambling Ringers, as we were invited to a BBQ at the relatively new home of our good friends Toby and Amy - Godparents of Mason and Joshua respectively - and my Goddaughter Maddie, a relaxing affair as she and Alfie occupied themselves together and Joshua explored the surroundings in-between constantly eating!

Whilst we kicking back, other ringers in Suffolk were picking up the slack. Well done to Astrid Gale on ringing her first quarter-peal of Stedman in the 1260 of the Triples variation at The Norman Tower, whilst there was also a QP rung nearby at Rougham. Meanwhile the second-Sunday Aldeburgh peals continued their annual summer roadshow away from the usual host tower with a 5056 of Pitsford Surprise Major, which typically was a first in the method for all the Guild and all the band.

Reassuring to see that some things in ringing remain predictable, even in August.

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Saturday 12th August 2017

It is amazing how quickly things settle down. After our active, busy and eventful holiday last week, today was an extremely quiet one.

Of course, the beauty of ringing is that on a Saturday there is almost without fail something to do, somewhere to go, if not in your local area then not too far beyond. However, we are concious that the boys don't necessarily share our love of the exercise, particularly Mason who is becoming more discerning and seems increasingly unlikely to take it up. We would never force him to ring of course and the opportunity to teach him is limited anyway as we only usually have him at the weekend and he spends the week in a non-ringing environment, but it does mean that rather than seeing ringing events as exciting opportunities to progress and/or show off as I did when I was about his age, they are in the main a bore for him, although I don't think always as much as he portrays! Mindful therefore that we had dragged him and his younger brothers around dozens of towers in Derbyshire and Staffordshire recently, we didn't really contemplate taking in any of the ringing going on over this sunny summer's day.

Instead, it was a laid back, if rather mundane day of which the highlight was present and card shopping in Woodbridge for one of Alfie's peers, in the process bumping into numerous friends and acquaintances, including Wickham Market Ringing Master Ray Lewis collecting for the RNLI and former ringers James and Sarah Whitby - son and daughter of Mike - and their children.

Others were out and about ringing in Suffolk though, with a 1260 of Minor rung over the SGR/NDA border at Lowestoft, whilst in the opposite corner of the county a 1296 of London Surprise Minor was successful at Monks Eleigh, no mean feat on a heavy six like this gallery-ring! I expect in this case the band were happy for things to quieten down quickly!

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Friday 11th August 2017

Staggering as it may seem, it is five years today since the eight bells of Woodbridge rang out and I was blessed to become Ruthie's husband. In some ways it feels as fresh in the memory as our eventful holiday last week, an enjoyable half-decade of wedded bliss, but of course much has changed since that roasting day that bucked the trend of the miserable, wet and chilly 'summer' of 2012.

We are now on our second car and our fourth house since 11/8/2012, with importantly our new home being owned by us, an aspiration that appeared much more distant when we became Mr and Mrs Munnings. However, although Mason was already old enough to carry out his role as Page Boy superbly and still remembers that day, the biggest change has been the arrival of his two younger brothers Alfie and Joshua.

Ruthie and me after our meal at The Greyhound to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.Suitable and lovely as it would have been to the celebrate the occasion with them, with Alfred and Josh packed off to nursery it was also nice to mark it as a couple in the more relaxed fashion that we did, with a wonderful lunch at The Greyhound in Pettistree. This is a venue familiar to us through our regular ringing at the neighbouring ground-floor six, but is a superb place in it's own right as we enjoyed Louise's famous soda bread and chatted with Stewart as he looked after us.

Having returned home from our meal, it was also appropriate not just for the eldest son to be dropped off for the weekend but that we also welcomed our Best Man from our big day, Chris and - in another significant change from then until now - his wife Becky to our new abode for the first time. They came generously bearing a house-warming gift of a bench for the boys to sit on in our garden and a couple of hours of conversation and laughter before they left to prepare for what is apparently a thriving practice at Pakenham - of course the joint holders of the Mitson Shield with St Mary-le-Tower - and we left to collect AJM and JB.

On a day of celebration for us, it was also one for SMLT ringer Laura Davies who has passed her driving test, a landmark marked by today's 5040 at Great Barton.

Well done Laura and thank you to everyone for the cards and messages for our wedding anniversary. It has been a wonderful day to count our blessings.

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Thursday 10th August 2017

Dumps. Not the most endearing of places for obvious reasons, but we were jolly glad of our local one today as we emptied a lot of the worn-out, broken and disposable stuff from our old home that we don't want cluttering up our new one. I can't say spending much of my day popping to Foxhall Road is my idea of a dream holiday, but with the children packed off to nursery we were determined to make the most of the time by getting things done that are difficult - and in some cases pretty much impossible - to do with a three-year-old and one-year-old in and around our feet.

We were glad to see them later of course, but with them in bed, Ruthie's choir on holiday throughout August as normal and therefore an unusually free Thursday evening, I went along to the monthly Surprise Major Practice at Ufford for the first time for a long, long time. Even if not everything went (indeed very little actually came round on this occasion!), like our day of house-clearing it was a productive session and there was noticeable progress made since I was last able to join one of these. With only nine of us present, there was concerted practice at Bristol, London and four-spliced with some good ringing amongst it and a decent finish and I felt it had been well worth my while popping out to it.

Also feeling their efforts were worthwhile I imagine, were the intrepid ringing travellers from Suffolk on their quarter-peal tour of the South-West, which today in Devon took in 1280s of Plain Bob and Yorkshire Surprise Major at Appledore and Northam respectively and a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Bideford, a tower memorable to Ruthie and me for a quarter-peal there nine years ago where the local sat in on the performance, during which he had to chase out a couple of excitable pigeons! Hopefully nothing quite as distracting accompanied their success today!

Such memories of fun-filled ringing in seaside resorts seemed very distant whilst unloading rubbish into a skip, but needs must!

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Wednesday 9th August 2017

The new car!Nine days and hundreds of miles after our car ground to halt in a puff of smoke, never to start again under our control, we are mobile again! Formalities completed, we were kindly given a lift by Kate back to John Grose to collect the motor we selected yesterday and off we drove!

It was safely parked on our driveway this evening whilst Ruthie went to Pettistree for the weekly practice, although with her mother and Ron giving her a lift and being called out for work first, she only made it in time for a drink at The Greyhound after session preceded with an atypical quarter-peal loss.

The unusual lack of a QP from the ground-floor six was compensated in part with 240 changes of Grandsire Doubles rung at Exning in memory of Mildenhall ringer Rifleman Albert Reginald Woollard almost exactly a century to the day since he was killed in action.

Elsewhere things appeared quieter for Suffolk's ringers though, even in the south-west of England.

Perhaps we can help out a bit more now we have a new set of wheels.

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Tuesday 8th August 2017

Shopping for a new car wasn't on the list of things to do over our holidays, but events of last week have made it a necessity and so therefore today, Ruthie, Alfie, Joshua and myself found ourselves at John Grose on Ransomes Europark looking at gleaming vehicles that might be fit for a family of five who travel the county and country ringing and may occasionally find ourselves with a tent in the boot.

Fortunately we had a good guide, a nice young chap called Luke who has already provided most of my wife's family with a motor in recent months and seemed naively comfortable in accompanying us as we took a set of wheels out on a test run around Nacton and down the A14. He was still smiling when he got out, although that may have had less to do with his new found respect for his life and more to do with us deciding to purchase the aforementioned machine, which - formalities all being well and good - we should hopefully be able to collect tomorrow.

Joining us in our little adventure to east Ipswich was one of his previous customers, Mrs Munnings' sister Clare and her daughters and so after lunch at Burger King we visited their new home for what was the first time for the returning travellers.

Meanwhile, the group of Suffolk ringers quarter-pealing in the south-west successfully rang a 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Dunster in Somerset, but back here and still car-less for the moment, it was another day of no ringing for us. Hopefully our new car will allow us to get out to some more ringing soon.

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Monday 7th August 2017

Some Suffolk ringers are still holidaying, with SGR members ringing quarter-peals of Lincolnshire Surprise Major, Plain Bob Major and Plain Bob Triples at Combe Martin and the Ilfracombe towers of Holy Trinity and SS Philip and James respectively on their trip to Devon.

Two Suffolk ringers now safely back in the homeland - I'm glad to say - are Ruthie and Kate, who along with Ron, Alfie and Joshua returned from Derbyshire with such little trouble that it belied the traumas we had making the same journey in reverse precisely a week ago.

Before their return, I had spent an entire day at the old house clearing up and allowing access for a plumber to fit a new bath, about two years after we asked for it and only a fortnight after we moved out...

Feeling quite exhausted after a day of manual work, nearly two hours of walking, keen to spend some time with the family I hadn't seen for two days and with no car to take us anyway, I sadly failed to make the practice at St Mary-le-Tower, unintentionally making it the third Monday that I have had to miss out on my weekly twelve-bell workout.

Still, others in the county were more active than us from a ringing perspective, most notably at St Mary-the-Virgin in Newmarket where another 240 changes of Grandsire Doubles were rung to remember a local ringer who fell in the First World War exactly a century ago. This time it was for Sapper Francis Edward Smith of Ingham.

I'm sure others within our borders were busy ringing too, but I suspect many are also on holiday!

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Sunday 6th August 2017

As Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua enjoyed steam trains with Kate and Ron back in Derbyshire, after nearly a week of activity in new places and with lots of people, my day was relatively quiet and mundane in comparison.

Mason was picked up by his mother, but without a car I was grateful to my sister-in-law Clare who picked me up for a shop at Tesco and then showed me around their new house which they only moved into last week.

Once I was dropped off though, I was on foot and with things still to sort out at our old abode, I took a lengthy, but pleasant walk along the River Deben to get stuck in. Nonetheless, I still afforded myself some time out - I am still on holiday after all - and so I met up with Ufford ringer Pete Faircloth in the beer garden of The Cherrytree for a few beers in the sunshine (that has suddenly materialised now that I'm not holidaying in a tent), a strangely relaxing experience in the absence of children, as much as I miss them of course!

Elsewhere in Suffolk other ringers were more active on the end of a rope, most notably at Great Finborough where Josephine Beever was ringing her 1300th quarter-peal, a well-deserved landmark for this regular quarter-pealer and long-time supporter of ringing in the county, whilst also within our borders a 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor was rung at Pettistree.

Without transport, I failed to make any ringing at all today, but for once I didn't mind a quiet day on that front!

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Saturday 5th August 2017

On our final day of ringing on this year's Rambling Ringers tour for us, I must convey many thanks to those who have helped us out this week since our car gave up five minutes short of the campsite on Monday.

Most notably Kate and Ron and Paul and Anne Bray who between them have carried the burden of transporting us around this week, but also Steve and Nicola Roberts who took Mason and me to Thursday evening's curry and back. And today to Mum and Dad, who got the eldest son, myself, the tent and whatever else we could fit into their bulging car back to Melton this afternoon.

Ringing at Denby. Tour Meeting at Breadsall. Tour Meeting at Breadsall.Before that trip back, we took in one final morning of high standard ringing, at the 9cwt six at Denby where our driver Paul was in charge and I enjoyed ringing in some spliced Minor, the 12cwt ground-floor six Horsley where we shared the church with a busy coffee morning and concert and the 13cwt eight of Breadsall where the Tour Meeting was held and it was voted that we should go to mid-Devon for the 68th Tour next year.

Alfie at the Ashbourne Fire Station Open Day.Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua shall remain with Kate and Ron until the latter pair's planned departure in a couple of days and most immediately headed to Ashbourne for the Fire Station Open Day there, whilst Mason and I were kindly brought back by mater and pater that bar a brief hold-up behind a car fire on the A14 just past Newmarket was mercifully easier than our journey out five days ago.

Nonetheless, I was relieved that we hadn't got round to committing to the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening and it was good to see that the attempts at Ashbocking, Clopton and Henley were successful ahead of the meal that really makes this event such a highlight in the ringing calendar. They weren't the only successes within our borders, with a further four quarters and a peal rung on Suffolk's bells today. There were impressive 1320's of Bristoll and Glazgow Surprise Minor at Bacton and Great Finborough respectively, whilst a couple of familiar names were amongst the visitors that rang Stedman Cinques at The Norman Tower and Annable's London Surprise Minor at St Mary-the-Virgin in Newmarket. And ahead of Martyn Crouch's wedding at Horringer tomorrow, a 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung upon the wonderful octave that now hangs there.

Meanwhile, down in the county that the Ramblers this afternoon voted to go to in 2018, some Suffolk ringers were starting their annual QP holiday with 1260's rung at Winkleigh, North Tawton and Hatherleigh.

It was a busy day to finish a busy week. Ringing of high quality on a variety of bells in some lovely places with a huge number of friends well-established and new. Indeed, there have been forty-five ringers since the tour started a week ago, with members from Devon to Lancashire and from Jersey, Ireland, Holland and even the USA and whilst as usual they will probably be a little shorter on numbers on the second week, by the time it finally draws to a close on Friday, I can imagine almost sixty will have joined in. Despite the constant rain and motor troubles, we have really enjoyed ourselves. Imagine how much more we would have enjoyed it with some sunshine. And a car.

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Friday 4th August 2017

On the way back from today's ringing, Ruthie ceremonially bade farewell to our old C-Max, as she gathered up what was left in it. It is a machine that has caused us far more trouble than it ought to, but nonetheless - even in its three short years under our ownership - it has been there when we've needed it for holidays to Yorkshire and Kent, moving house and most memorably to Ipswich Hospital for the birth of Joshua. And of course, it did at least get us to Derbyshire this week before it packed up.

Ringing at Hartington. Waiting to ring at Sheen. Ringing at Sheen.Still, its continued absence meant that Mason and I were again eternally grateful to Anne and Paul Bray for transporting us around today's towers, starting with the 9cwt ground-floor eight of Hartington, before we moved into Staffordshire for the first time in this once mainly Midlands-centric society's history, as we headed to Sheen.

Here we were entertained on the bells by the exercise of spliced below and above Surprise Minor work and outside by Alfie catching a certain pre-eminent ringer answering the call of nature!

Ringing at Alstonefield. Ringing at Alstonefield. Ringing at Ilam. Ramblers at Ilam.An early and quick but superb bit of Beverley, Cambridge and Surfleet Surprise Minor spliced at the ground-floor six of Wetton allowed us time for a leisurely lunch at The Royal Oak next door to the church, before we went on to the gallery ring of Alstonefield and the 8cwt five at Ilam set in stunning surroundings next to the big hall there.

Ringing at Bradbourne. Ringing at Brassington. Enjoying the view from outside the porch at Brassington.Ours was but a brief stay there as I needed to be at the next tower of Bradbourne to run the ringing, but with that duty carried out, I could relax and enjoy the final venue of the day, Brassington.

Here we appreciated the views all the more for the rare sunshine, but the real highlight was an unusual one that sums up the Rambling Ringers.

Over the curry last night, young Finlay - here with his parents Simon and Helen Kemp from Yorkshire and a close partner in crime with Mason on this tour - had been devising methods and some of us had agreed to learn and ring one of his creations, which he had named Barcelona Minor. He hadn't made it easy, but I think we managed to ring it really rather well and importantly the composer was chuffed to bits - well done Finlay!

Relaxing at the campsite. Relaxing at the campsite.Such positivity was expanded by drawing a line under our old car and a gorgeous sunny evening on the campsite.

Farewell untrusty car.

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Thursday 3rd August 2017

News finally came through today on the state of our car. As is commonplace with more modern cars, it seems that the problem lies in the diagnostics of the vehicle. Unfortunately, that is a field unfamiliar to the garage in Hulland Ward where our stricken motor is currently sat and the place he would usually send a car in such circumstances is busy until long after we are due to return home. Having remissly not included long distance recovery in our cover, the cost of getting it taken back to Suffolk would be astronomical and frankly not worth it for our unreliable eleven-year old diesel.

Thus we had some serious thinking to do, with ultimately the decision coming down to whether we buy a new set of wheels here in Derbyshire tomorrow or find a way to get five of us back and find some on more familiar ground. Either way, it seems we won't be driving our old C-Max again.

It was to this backdrop that we rejoined the 67th Rambling Ringers Tour today, with the same travelling arrangements as on Tuesday, albeit minus Helen who has returned to Lichfield - thank you again, Paul and Anne.

Ringing at Elton with the polystyrene mummy! Ringing at Elton with the polystyrene mummy!As with two days ago, Mason and I found ourselves at the first tower of the day, the 5cwt six of Elton, where we rang 'real' Double Bob Minor - where the calls are made at the half-lead as well as the lead-lead - and which was particularly notable as we did all our ringing watched over by a polystyrene mummy!

Ringing at Winster. Ringing at Winster.We made it to the next tower Winster, despite the best efforts of the Bray's satnav - which took us on a convoluted route down some hairy lanes rather than the direct road between the two villages - where we were joined by the rest of my family for what can be most positively described as 'interesting'. These are two-to-five and seven of an eight and anti-clockwise to boot and the effect on the senses is initially quite overwhelming.

Ringing at Darley Dale. Ringing at Darley Dale. Ringing at Wirksworth. Ringing at Wirksworth.

Nonetheless, we produced some decent ringing here before moving on to a place that holds a lot of memories for Kate, Ruthie and me. Darley Dale was the main base for a quarter-peal tour organised by Alan McBurnie a decade ago and which took in a QP and a peal at this 15cwt eight, along with a 1260 of Grandsire Triples which I called at Wirksworth, which was our last tower of today.

Ringing at Bonsall. Ringing at Bonsall.By this point, the eldest son and I had had lunch in Matlock churchyard, I'd partaken in the first attempt of the Major method of the tour - Blue John Surprise - on the bells here and grabbed a quick ring at the lovely ground-floor six at Bonsall - where former Wickham Market ringer Iain Mitchell's name appears spelt incorrectly on a peal-board - having nearly missed out after spending all my time discussing what we were going to do with the car.

Those discussions and the others' visit to the garage on the way back to the campsite yielded a decision to make our way back to East Anglia and purchase a driving machine there, helped considerably by Mum and Dad's kind agreement to return their eldest son and grandson when they travel back on Saturday.

 Ramblers out for a curry.  Ramblers out for a curry.This degree of resolution allowed us to relax at this evening's tour curry, a now tradtional annual event that we thus far have been unable to take advantage of. With the generous help of tour newcomers Steve and Nicola Roberts and - of course Kate and Ron - we were delighted to join in proceedings with over thirty other Ramblers at Anayas in Ashbourne.

Back in the homeland meanwhile, there is an exciting weekend ahead for Horringer ringer Martyn Crouch as he gets married on Sunday and it was marked today with a quarter-peal at his home tower, which was also local ringer Joshua Watkins' first on eight. Good luck Martyn and well done Joshua!

I'm feeling more confident that we'll be able to them and others back in Suffolk soon!

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Wednesday 2nd August 2017

Although Monday was a write-off from a ringing perspective, we always like to take time out from bells for the boys on these holidays and this week is no different.

Therefore today we were at Crich Tramway Village, a fascinating place that included a pub, shop, ice cream and tram rides galore.

With still no news on our car, we were again left with the problem of how we would get all of us there, only this time without the help of our ringing chums, who were busy on tour in the Chesterfield area.

Not for the first time though, God was smiling down on us and by a stroke of serendipity it so happened that Ron's son Tom and his girlfriend Charlotte are also on holiday in the area and so today not only offered an opportunity to meet up, but also for us to make use of their car!

Alfie on a tram.  Watching trams being restored. Mason & Alfie constructing a tram. Alfie & Joshua take a ride on Thomas the Tank Engine.

Despite being accompanied by more constant rain and grey skies, we had a lovely day which was topped off by a meal at The Coach and Horses in Ashbourne, whilst back in Suffolk there were quarter-peals of Ipswich Surprise Minor and Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Pettistree and on The Millbeck Ring in Shelland, the former of which was a first of Surprise inside for young Richard Stevens - well done Richard!

Meanwhile, we relaxed back at the campsite, refreshed from our break from ringing.

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Tuesday 1st August 2017

We have no idea if we shall leave Derbyshire in the car we came in, nor indeed when we will leave this beautiful county and it seems likely we won't know until much later in the week.

It leaves us with some logistical challenges as with Kate and Ron there were seven of us wanting to travel out today and only five seats in the one working vehicle between us. Thank God we were on a campsite with numerous kind-hearted people going to the same places as us therefore and we were grateful to our new neighbours Paul and Anne Bray for being willing to ferry Mason and me around today's towers.

An unexpected bonus was that they were also giving a lift to Helen Jarvis of Lichfield. Along with her husband Alan and their three boys Martin, Ed and Tim, Helen was on the first few Ramblers tours we went on over twenty years ago and although Alan sadly passed away last year at far too young an age, fond memories were recounted of him as we traversed the stunning scenery of the Peak District.

Some may recall that we rarely make the first tower of the day on these tours. For us, they are less about tower-grabbing and more about the fellowship, standard of ringing and the holiday and combined with the organisational sharpness needed to get the children washed, fed and prepared for an early tower several miles away that we don't possess whilst taking a break from the usual day-to-day routine, we typically aim towards making the second venue of the day's schedule.

However, with the eldest son and I quite rightly at the whim of our generous drivers, we two made the start of ringing at the first location, the 9cwt six of Burbage, where I was instantly involved in a touch of Buxton Bob Minor. This is one of a number of methods with a local theme that we have been sent to learn. We aren't obliged to, but it does help to prevent fatigue setting in and like this - which is simply St Clement's College Bob Minor with places instead of the three-pull dodge on the front, bar the half-lead dodge - they are not normally very complicated.

Meanwhile, the rest of my family were keeping up that aforementioned tradition of missing the first tower, although they were doing it in spectacular style. For having misread the tour list, they were about twenty miles away at the first tower for next Tuesday.

Taxal. Taxal. Taxal. Ringing at Chapel-en-le-Frith. Ringing at Chapel-en-le-Frith.

Still, they made it over to the second ring of this Tuesday, Taxal, a ground-floor ring where we were grateful for the church to protect us from the heavy rain outside and those dreadful conditions continued whilst we travelled to and then rang at Chapel-En-Le-Frith, before the two carloads attempted to find somewhere to have lunch. Not something you expect to be too difficult in a tourist town in a tourist area at the peak of the tourist season. However, having found three pubs closed and a cafe predictably heaving, the ten of us got into our respective cars bedraggled and eventually came across the Fickle Mermaid on the edge of this community.

Along with the first tower of the day, the first of the afternoon is also oft sacrificed on a typical Munnings Ramblers tour as we enjoy a leisurely lunch and particularly pudding for the boys and today the two youngest, their mother, her mother and Ron maintained this norm, whilst Mason and I made our way to the post-meal tower with our travelling companions.

Ringing at Chelmorton. At Buxton. At Buxton. At Buxton.

Not that those who deserted ringing for dessert missed out on much with Wormhill, a 1cwt six with no stays and rung from a tiny ringing chamber only accesible by a wobbly, steep ladder that I suspect my wife and mother-in-law probably wouldn't have climbed anyway. Still, such variety is part of what holds my interest in the art and so I enjoyed them, the five of Chelmorton that followed and the eight at Buxton where Ron got his bagpipes out and I partook in some eight spliced Surprise Major, whilst back in Suffolk a quarter-peal of Stedman Triples was rung at Offton before their weekly practice.

At least they all had a car to get there in.

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Monday 31st July 2017

OK. First the plan. With the Rambling Ringers already two days into their 67th tour, we intended to head to Derbyshire where they are this year, get close to the campsite, have a leisurely lunch at a country pub and then make the short trip to the Ashbourne Camping and Caravanning Club Site to put our tent up, before joining our fellow Ramblers for what ringing we could get to.

It had all started so well. Granted, we'd left about an hour later than I would ideally like, but the A14 across Suffolk had been free-flowing and our satnav was anticipating us reaching our destination by 1.15pm.

The first problems began as soon as we hit the first speed camera just before Cambridge. Instantly the traffic which had been moving freely, safely and efficiently became erratic as drivers began concentrating on their speedometers rather than the road and as a result brake lights flashed up unpredictably, vehicles small and big bunched up and suddenly the risk of an accident increased significantly.

However, the real problems started after the famous university city. Ironically the root of the standstill that greeted us was the roadworks in place to build the road that is due to replace this dreadful eighteen miles of tarmac to Huntingdon, with the next hour spent stopping and starting under ambitious speed restrictions. With a lunchtime arrival in the Peak District now impossible, we eventually turned off in search not only of a way around the gridlock but a place to eat. Neither objective were really met. Lunch was reduced to a quick bite to eat in the car park of Sawtry's Co-op and our ill-thoughtout diversion took us so far away from our original route that long into the afternoon we found ourselves slowly negotiating busy towns and cities like Melton Mowbray and Derby.

Worse was to follow though. Negoatiating winding lanes in the middle of nowhere that we knew, there was a splutter and big puff of smoke from our rear end and the car ground to a halt. Halfway up a hill. On a bend.

From here our fortunes changed and God smiled down on us, as two chaps in a van who had been behind us when we broke down very kindly turned around and came and pushed us to a safer spot on a grass verge nearby. In a stroke of serendipity, Ruthie's mother Kate and Ron are on their maiden RR Tour and were already at the campsite, which mercifully we were mere minutes from, so Mrs Eagle came and collected my wife, children, the tent and anything else they could take and once I had been rescued and towed to Hulland Ward Garage in a terrifying journey that seemed much longer than it actually was, she came and fetched me and what remained in our stricken car.

Tent going up. Tent going up. Our home for the week. Fun and games on the campsite.

I eventually arrived at the campsite about three or fours after I had intended just feeling relieved to have made it and was greeted with the usually stressful process of erecting our home for the week already underway and put into perspective and everyone in a surprisingly jovial mood.

The tent put up, those positive vibes continued into the evening as we were treated to food and drink in Kate and Ron's caravan and began socialising with other Ramblers already settled on site, with the de Kok family from the Netherlands - minus their son Harm Jan who is partaking in the Around Ringers peal tour and rang in two of the five peals rung by the tour today - opposite our hosts, Essex and regular St Mary-le-Tower ringers Anne and Paul Bray who are next to us and newcomers Steve and Nicola Roberts from Oxfordshire, amongst others.

Meanwhile, back in the homeland, well done to Charlotte Ellis on ringing her first of April Day in the quarter-peal at NDA tower Lowestoft and to those who remembered Newmarket All Saints ringer Cpl George Charles Noble on the bells of St Mary-the-Virgin in the town with 240 changes of Grandsire Doubles precisely a century after he was killed in the First World War.

I'm glad that arrangements for this brace of performances appear to have gone to plan, but even though our day didn't, as we ended it with bottle in hand and surrounded by friends and family, we knew things could've been worse!

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Sunday 30th July 2017

Holidays are supposed to be a relaxing affair, a break from the stresses of everyday life. Therefore, it is ironic - or perhaps not - that the day before departure from mundane normality is almost invariably one of the most stressful of the year, at least for us. That nagging doubt that will last until - God willing - we finally unpack at our destination tomorrow that we have forgotten something begins kicking in as we realise that today is our last opportunity to rectify any shortcomings, if only we could remember what they were.

Supplies were gathered and mental lists recited time after time, a process lengthened now there are five of us to cater for.

Alfie helping make bread at Sunday School.Still, we were mercifully distracted. Firstly by one of our now usual bi-weekly Sunday morning routines, as Alfie climbed the many stairs at Woodbridge for me to help man the front six for some Grandsire Doubles and call-changes, before a junior church where Alfred and Joshua were the only two present, allowing the eldest of the two to monopolise bread baking.

After a shopping trip to prepare for the aforementioned vacation, we had the good fortune to bump into our new neighbours at the front of our respective houses. In a typical tale of Suffolk, we have moved in next door to a relative of Ruthie, Alissa. Instantly her four-year old son Sebastian and Alfie were as thick as thieves whilst friendships amongst us adults were struck up at the start of what will hopefully be a long and happy relationship with those we now share a street with.

Meanwhile, more established ringing friends were busy across the county as a quarter-peal of Doubles was rung at Buxhall and a peal of Surprise Minor was rung at Redgrave on a successful day of ringing within our borders.

Hopefully such activity will continue whilst we are away enjoying a relaxing holiday!

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Saturday 29th July 2017

It is two years since we last went camping. Since then of course, Joshua has arrived and a new, larger tent has been procured.

Therefore, with our next adventure in a tent due to begin on Monday when we hope to join the 67th tour of the Rambling Ringers which began this afternoon, we thought we ought to attempt to erect our January purchase in our new back garden. Sadly, rain stopped preparation, but we did at least ascertain that all the bits we needed were present and no alarming faults were discovered and so it was packed away with us reassured that when it comes to putting it up we shan't be found wanting.

Whilst God willing the week ahead holds much ringing for us, today held none, with others doing their bit in our absence, as a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Buxhall and 1440 of spliced Surprise Minor was rung at Copdock, I suspect after a lost peal attempt.

Meanwhile, we found time to give Alfie a haircut ahead of a holiday that should at least hopefully be a camping success!

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Friday 28th July 2017

Alfie with his face painted.For our household it was an exciting day. Us adults were working our last shift before a fortnight's break from deadlines, targets and understandably demanding customers, whilst Alfie spent the first part of the day at his Daddy's office before being picked up to go to his friend Robyn's birthday party at Easton Farm Park and then returned to nursery for face-painting.

Elsewhere, well done to Phil Sweet on ringing his first inside in the FNQPC's successful 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Ashbocking.

An exciting day alround then!

Thursday 27th July 2017

Well done to Paul Ebsworth on ringing his first quater-peal of Bourne Surprise Minor in the 1320 rung at Tostock.

Otherwise there was very little to report on the ringing or even personal front today, so it is perhaps a good moment to mention the South-West District Tower Open Day on the August Bank Holiday Monday of 28th August, the details of which I first saw on this damp late July Thursday.

Such events often get a bad name, being as they can be a magnet for the types of undesirable ringer that gives the art a bad name. The sort who comes as part of a team desperate to grab as many towers as possible, with a coordinated effort that sometimes involves infiltrating queues, passing ropes to colleagues mid-piece and swapping of drivers in order to get a quick getaway to the next ring of bells, resulting in generally poor ringing with mixed, rushed bands and leaving a bad taste in the mouths of local helpers and fellow tower-grabbers.

However, I have fond memories of open days from my youth, where my were experiences were of relaxed, flexible days going to all sorts of places and encountering a variety of ringers familiar and new. Although the young, non-ringing nature of my family currently makes such occasions impractical, I would urge as many ringers as possible to support this and raise money for the bells of Little Cornard and lets hope the achievements of Paul and others can be replicated there in the very near future.

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Wednesday 26th July 2017

Our new location should in theory make it easier for Ruthie to get to Pettistree for the weekly Wednesday practice, but unfortunately a combination of the main road through Ufford being closed, getting the children ready for bed and more unpacking in our recently acquired abode saw her attempts to get to this popular midweek session aborted.

Still, they seemed to manage without us, at least judging by the quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung beforehand, which was Sue McCouaig's first of Surprise. Well done Sue!

Meanwhile,  I expect the 5040 of Minor at The Wolery was a good workout for youngsters Neal Dodge and Lucy Williamson, on a day when we fell agonisingly short of our ringing duties.

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Tuesday 25th July 2017

Today was thoroughly unremarkable. Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua went to visit my wife's grandparents in the afternoon as I toiled at work, but otherwise there wasn't any even remotely interesting personal snippets to report upon.

Ringing in the county was much the same too, with nothing on Suffolk's bells mentioned on BellBoard.

Instead, it is probably a good moment to remind readers of the forthcoming Guild Social. Most will know about it, as numerous events have been accompanied by Ralph Earey's banner advertising the Saturday 16th September event and there may be scope for a game of 'Spot-The-Banner' in photos on this blog over recent months. However, for reasons that I simply cannot fathom, since this highlight of the SGR calendar was reinstated eight years ago to fill the gaps between the organisation's five-yearly Dinner, it has in the main been met by a wall of apathy. Which is odd. Each District has put on superb days, involving quizzes, treasure hunts, BBQs and various other activities that any ringer of any ability - or indeed non-ringers as well - could take part in. There is no meeting, no judges and indeed no need to ring at all if you are worried about ringing outside of your local tower for example.

This year's is being hosted by the South-East District and involves just good old fashioned fun, with a Barn Dance that will allow attendees to dance, chat, drink and eat in whatever ratios of those they care for, with a fish and chip supper and a licensed bar, all held in Sproughton Barn, in one of the most accessible villages within our borders, sat as it is next to junction 54 of the A14 and just a bus journey out of Ipswich town centre where the county's train lines converge. There's even a Premier Inn nearby if you fancy making a weekend of it!

Thankfully there are enough for the event to at least break even and so although more present would be superb, it should God willing be a more interesting day than today.

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Monday 24th July 2017

Gradually things are coming together in our new abode. Curtains were successfully put up in our living room last night and this evening Ron and Kate very kindly came round to secure the stair-gate to pen in our errant children.

Meanwhile, Ruthie was attending her second baby shower in three days in a sure sign of what time of life we are at, on this occasion for another good friend and Godmother to Joshua, Amy. It was lovely for the wife to get a rare Monday evening out, free of having to ready reluctant children for bed, but her trip to The Golden Key in Snape of course meant that I was unable to make it to St Mary-le-Tower practice, although I expect they coped!

Anyway, there is too much to be getting on with at home.

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Sunday 23rd July 2017

The quarter-peal rung at Henley today celebrated fifty years of John and Joan Woods living in the village.

God willing, perhaps in half a century we may ring for the same occasion, although it is unlikely to be in the slender tower of St Andrew's church that we can see from our house and where I can't imagine there is much - if any - room for more than the 10cwt three that can only be chimed, even if there was room for a band of change-ringers below! Although maybe there would be scope to turn the isolated Old Church into a peal factory in the coming decades...

For now though, my ringing this morning was carried out at the much more established and suitable locations of St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, where numbers and ringing were good at both and positivity abundant. A new address sadly made no difference to my tardiness on this occasion as I made it only in time for one piece of ringing at the former, but it was certainly worth it as I partook in a very well rung touch of Stedman Cinques rung entirely by regulars with some - including Ringing Master David Potts - away, before we were greeted on our descent to the churchyard by the smiling features of Amanda Richmond, who is recovering so well from her recent car accident that she didn't need her wheelchair for our post-ringing meeting today.

Those good vibes continued on to the latter too - via the obligatory trip to the village park - as there were enough to man all twelve, a rarity at the little wobbly red-brick tower generally, especially on the Sabbath, a useful first for Bredfield learner Vince who I met for the first time on our visit last week to The Cherrytree.

Ruthie collected from church, our focus now turned back to house-related issues, as mother-in-law Kate accompanied us for a bit of bed-hunting. Our old bed - now in pieces - was feeling its age having been through a couple of house-moves, two pregnancies and bouncing toddlers and was essentially only held up by the boxes stored underneath it and so this new beginning seems an apt moment to replace it. And having zig-zagged between all sorts of options from beds with TVs at the end to one that had essentially been developed by NASA, we made our selection and although its distant delivery means that for now we're on a mattress on the floor, we can sleep easy in the knowledge that is due to be with us soon!

I'm not expecting it to last the next fifty years though.

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Saturday 22nd July 2017

From this day forth, we are residents of Melton. Not a seismic move, as it is - for all its distinct character - essentially an extension of Woodbridge where we have just moved from. Personally though, it is a huge leap, our own property to do with as we wish, within the boundaries of the country's planning laws of course.

Today saw a van hired and with the gratefully received help particularly of Ruthie's mother Kate and Ron, but also my Mum and Dad, the large bits of equipment were transferred across town, with essentials such as a sofa, armchair, washing machine, beds and TV making the short but epic journey, amongst other bits and pieces such as the boys' goalposts and slide.

It was an impressively slick operation, especially considering we were doing it with the trio of brothers, although Mason and - to a degree - Alfie aided our efforts more than hindered them!

The living room before unpacking. One of the bedrooms before unpacking. What we were left with were rooms piled high with objects that needed sorting out, placing and put together, but despite the daunting task ahead, we had made it homely enough to settle down for the night, albeit with no working TV signal or internet, which means for the time being our expansive DVD collection may be explored and grabbing time online will only be fleeting when we get the opportunity. With the landline not yet up and running either, if you need to contact us then our mobiles are probably the best route for now.

Whilst there was chance for my wife to pop along to Trimley for the baby shower of my eldest's Godmother and our good friend Kala this afternoon, there was no time for any ringing for us, but elsewhere across Suffolk - in the west of it at least - ringers were much more active on the end of a rope. 240 changes of Grandsire Doubles at St Mary the Virgin in Newmarket showed how the exercise can be used as part of a community's celebrations, with this performance rung for the town's Music Festival and a 1272 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor was successfully completed at Brandon.

Meanwhile, at Thornham Magna, the three Doubles methods and eight variations were the most that Sylvie Fawcett has ever rung, whilst it was also the 800th QP for dedicated North-West District member Ruth Suggett, a well deserved landmark for all the considerable time, effort and enthusiasm she puts into ringing locally, to the benefit of many others. Well done Sylvie and congratulations Ruth!

However, the headline act came at the other end of the spectrum at Great Barton, where Jill Rood rang her first quarter-peal, which was also Doug Rood's first inside in a success that again showed how bells can be used as part of a local event, this time the village's Open Gardens Weekend. Well done Doug and very many congratulations to Jill!

What an exciting day!

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Friday 21st July 2017

Well done to Sal Jenkinson and Nicole Rolph on ringing their first quarter-peal of Oxford Treble Bob Minor in the 1272 at Wenhaston on a significant evening for the pair.

It was a significant evening for us too, although not from a ringing perspective. For tonight marked our last night in our current abode ahead of our planned move into Melton tomorrow. Easy as it is to dismiss this place now that we finally have a property that we have actually bought and own, this current home will be a place fondly remembered. Alfie and Joshua have never known living anywhere else and in our three years and three months here (a lifetime by our standards!), Mason has grown from a boy to a young almost teenage-like being, for all the good and bad that involves! Twice we have rushed out from here to Ipswich Hospital for two of the most significant moments of our lives and twice we have returned with newly formed humans at the start of their journey.

When we moan about the irritations of this place - like having no fenced in garden to leave the children playing in or the annual influx of bees down the chimney or the small kitchen, amongst other minor gripes - I remind myself how these bricks and mortar rescued us from the truly terrible, damp, cramped cottage in Brook Street that circumstances had forced us into. From that to this spacious place with just about enough room for a family of five. Thank you Sandy Lane.

Not that we did anything special to mark the occasion. We raised much needed bottles of ale to our lips and even remembered to eat (which hasn't always been the case this week!), but otherwise there was more packing to be done ahead of what God willing will be an even more special day tomorrow - perhaps Sal and Nicole have also got something even better lined up too!

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Thursday 20th July 2017

This weekend we intend to move in to our newly acquired home in Melton, which will require some newly acquired fittings and so as Ruthie went to choir practice, Joshua, Alfie and I had a little road-trip around Ipswich as our route took us to Dunelm to collect curtains and poles, Tesco in Martlesham for some sustenance for our deliberately depleted cupboards in our soon-to-be vacated abode, our soon-to-be occupied property to drop aforementioned curtains and poles off and then back to Woodbridge to pick my wife up from singing.

Different as it was - indeed, our current circumstances made it almost interesting - it wasn't very exciting, especially for a ringing blog, but then there wasn't an awful lot to note on the ringing front in the county generally. As usual for a Thursday, the late finish of Mrs Munnings' other pastime made it impractical to get to our nearest practice of Grundisburgh this evening and across Suffolk there was nothing recorded on BellBoard, although some of the SGR's resident ringers made it south of the border to ring a peal at Mistley in Essex.

Indeed, the only ringing-related item here that I can report on didn't involve ringing at all, although it did involve a ringer and a prominent one at that, as South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson was on BBC Radio Suffolk speaking to Mark Murphy as we were driving into work, on this occasion in his role as the station's 'Resident Wine Expert'.

No such entertainment for my post-work travels sadly.

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Wednesday 19th July 2017

Another good day of ringing in Suffolk and for once I was involved.

My port of call this evening was The Wolery in Old Stoke, the private eight-bell ring of twice-past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild David Salter and his wife Katharine, for what proved to be a superb peal, with prolonged periods of ringing at a very high standard in a method that produced some nice music - I'm glad that Ian didn't take my advice of "ring Yorkshire until David shouts at you" too literally!

Unusually I didn't stick around for the magnificent hospitality of our hosts that follows on from each success as with our current house in a state of transition and no opportunity of grabbing a bite to eat beforehand, I was on takeaway duty on my journey back, but elsewhere in the county I'm sure there were post-performance refreshments, especially after the 5120 at on the front octave of St Mary-le-Tower that saw Lucy Williamson ring her first peal of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods, following on from a dry-run the evening before at Offton. It is particularly impressive as she has only returned in recent weeks from a year living and studying in France, punctuated by only the occasional practice on her visits to the UK - very well done Lucy!

Over at Pettistree too, there was success, with the pre-session quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise, Ipswich Surprise, Little Bob and Plain Bob Minor no doubt providing a useful warm-up for what followed and was I imagine topped off with socialising in The Greyhound next door.

For all that I'm sorry to have missed out on partaking in the frivolities after ringing though, I'm delighted to have been a part of the frivolities during the ringing!

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Tuesday 18th July 2017

Much of our spare time is currently being spent packing and moving stuff, clearing our more established abode of that which we consider disposable to our needs. However, by its relentless nature, breaks are necessary and desirable.

During one such respite, I decided to have a much overdue exploration of Pealbase in order to catch-up on my peal records following my latest peal at Framlingham and with another attempt planned for tomorrow evening. As it happens, I am nowhere near any significant landmarks, with Saturday's 5058 being my 43rd as conductor, 208th of Major, 413th for the Suffolk Guild and 588th in total.

However, as usual, there was plenty of interest on Andrew Craddock's superb website, which many will recall he gave a fascinating insight to when he spoke at the last SGR Dinner in Woolpit in 2013. Although at current rates I shan't ring my one thousandth in the medium until 30th November 2054, the next resident Guild member to reach this still impressive landmark is Brian Whiting, who according to Andrew's 'Crystal Ball' is due to achieve it in almost exactly a year's time.

Pealbase - which anyone who has rung a peal can access once registered and I would heartily encourage all to do so - also shows a rather depressing trend though. The site has a section of barcharts charting the numbers of peals, ringers and conductors on tower bells and peals since 1950. Despite the total number of peals being almost as high as they have ever been, the number of ringers partaking in them is at its lowest ever ebb of the sixty-seven years of records and apart from the incredible success of FirstPeal 2015 the number of first pealers has dropped alarmingly. Perhaps unsurprisingly the number of handbell peals - which of course need fewer ringers - has shot up in the corresponding period, although this may also be an indication of ringing peals on tower bells becoming more difficult in a society eagerly calling for more tolerance, so long as it is only something they can tolerate.

This should be of concern to all ringers. Whether one is a consequence of the other of vice versa is hard to tell, but the very best ringing, an abundance of young ringers and peal-ringing go hand-in-hand in the most exciting centres of the exercise, although there will also be other factors at play.

It was in evidence within our borders today as young Louis Suggett's frequent Tuesday peals spawned another peal of twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods, this time at Ixworth and having conducted that then travelled to Bacton where he conducted a 5040 of forty-one Surprise Minor methods on handbells, before he rounded off a hattrick of successes by calling a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Major at Barrack Lane in Ipswich. An impressive day's ringing for LPHS.

Elsewhere in the county, the pre-practice quarter at Offton was an impressive 1280 of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods spliced, whilst the same number of changes were being rung in Superlative Surprise Major at Hopton and the QP at Gislingham of Turramurra Surprise Major was the first in the method for the entire band - well done to them all.

A busy day of ringing on our soil, even if we didn't have the time to join in.

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Monday 17th July 2017

It has been a good few days for ringing in Suffolk.

Only today Brian Whiting revealed that yesterday's barbecue raised £450 towards the fund for replacing the sixth at Offton. Even more excitingly, that new bell has been ordered and a casting date is being awaited.

Over the weekend, Jonathan Stevens very kindly imparted on the Guild's Facebook page some nice feedback on Saturday's peal at Framlingham from the public. Such positive comments are always much appreciated, but after 2hrs54mins of tough ringing in humid conditions that have left my hands shredded, they were especially so!

And last Wednesday by all accounts saw another very successful Veteran's Day at Debenham, a magnificent celebration of our more mature ringers who through their years - and in most cases decades - of dedication to the exercise have laid the foundations for the flourishing youngsters who we also quite rightly celebrate. Well done to Jenny Scase who has done a superb job of organising this long-running event since taking it on from its founder Muriel Page.

My ambition is to attend more of these before I become a bona fide veteran, but of course work prevents me from being a regular attendee, with days off generally used up by parenthood and - this year at least - moving house.

Indeed, today was one such occasion, as I took a day out of the office to move as much stuff from our current house to the new one as I could on my own without the boys 'helping'. Shelves, toys, tables, chairs and much else were transferred successfully, with the only blip being when I dropped the Christmas box and tinsel was scattered across a driveway basked in July sunshine and temperatures in the mid-twenties.

My aforementioned sore hands were certainly put to the test with the constant packing and lifting, as they were this evening at St Mary-le-Tower practice. Not unexpectedly at this time of year we were a little low on numbers, yet still a productive session was had, climaxing in a reasonable touch of the standard eight Surprise Major methods spliced on the front octave.

The posivity continued with accounts of an enjoyable Stripey CycAle Tour on Saturday, the annual ringing outing carried out mainly on bike with a healthy tower-to-pub ratio which was started by the late Simon Griffiths and since his death has been held in his memory. And on his birthday, South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson announced that the SE Outing on 4th November will be going to south Essex - mark the date in your diary and please do support it if you can.

Approatiately with all this positive news floating around, the night was topped off with a drink in the beer garden of The Cricketers.

God willing the good vibes continue.

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Sunday 16th July 2017

House-moving was put on hold today for two very important reasons.

For it is Ruthie's birthday! She has been an outstanding other-half for almost eleven years, wonderful wife for nearly five and magnificent mother for more than three, as well as joining me in guiding Mason as he grows up. And now of course she is a fellow homeowner with me!

Ralph Earey, Jonathan Williamson and Brian Whiting battling the BBQ!  Ringers at Offton BBQ.  Ringers at Offton BBQ.  Ringers at Offton BBQ.  Ringers at Offton BBQ.  Ringers at Offton BBQ.  Ringers at Offton BBQ. Joshua at the Offton BBQ. Handbell Ringing at Offton BBQ - Jed Flatters, Brian Whiting, David Stanford & Alex Tatlow. Ron playing the bagpipes at Offton BBQ. Bowls action at Offton BBQ. Bowls action at Offton BBQ.

She is most deserving of the opportunity to let her hair down and celebrating and today I was able to allow her to do just that with the help of family, friends and the other reason why moving from one address to another could wait, as we made the familiar journey to the abode of Brian and Peta Whiting, deep in the gorgeous and peaceful countryside of central Suffolk for the annual Offton BBQ which at the moment is raising money for their bell-fund. This is a dreamy venue, with their picture-postcard house set in beautiful gardens which themselves are set amongst miles and miles of little more than yellow fields, deep green woodland and the odd colourful cottage dotted amongst it all. Here, one can detach themselves from the world, especially when surrounded by such good company as ringers from across the county and beyond gathered for burgers, steaks and sausages, followed by a fantastic selection of puddings and all washed down by a variety of drinks as we all mingled to the backdrop of handbells and a game of cricket on the neighbouring pitch, although a ball landing - thank God - on the top of the gazebo from an impressive six in their match gave us all a bit of a shock!

Of course there was the traditional bowls tournament on the spacious lawn and the children enjoyed running amok as us adults caught-up with each other over a pint. In David Sparling's case that involved a rather elaborate meat-based decoration on his glass...

The eldest son even managed to draw a winning ticket out for us in the raffle and then my wife did likewise for her mother to much laughter and howls of "fix" and to top it all off, my Mrs Munnings was very generously given a cake with candles to blow out and was serenaded by Ron and his bagpipes, a very Scottish intervention on a very English summer's afternoon. Thank you again Brian and Peta for their marvellous hosting - as ever we were sad to leave, but hoping to be back next year to do it all over again!

Earlier I had taken my tender, battered hands following yesterday's peal for a gentle workout on the front six of the eight at Woodbridge prior to attending the service there on a busy day in the town as the Regatta drew thousands in and elsewhere in the county there was more ringing, with a 1260 of Doubles rung at Hollesley and the Ladies Guild ringing the same number of changes in Plain Bob Minor at Thornham Magna. Well done to Carmen Wright on ringing her first inside to Minor and on winning the Dorothy L Sayers award and reaching Grade 5 on the "Learning the Ropes" scheme.

Meanwhile, the Annual Barnes Summer Tour continued and as has become the norm it has involved Peter Richards achieving. Well done to him on ringing his first of Yorkshire Surprise Major in the 1250 at Horringer and his first of Norfolk Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Woolpit, whilst they also rang a QP of four Doubles methods and variations at Rattlesden and of Suffolk Place Doubles at Rougham.

It has been a great day for ringing and ringers within our borders. Well worth putting the house-move on hold for.

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Saturday 15th July 2017

A big, big day today, as after over three months of waiting we finally stepped into our new abode in Melton, a chance to finally assess for real the space we have after weeks of the mind playing tricks on our memories, changing the dimensions of rooms and garden. It was a wonderful feeling to be stood in a property that we own and that God willing will be a happy family home for many, many years.

First though, there was the small matter of a peal attempt at Framlingham to celebrate Joshua's recent first birthday and indeed the birthday of his mother tomorrow. I use the phrase 'small matter' entirely loosely of course, as anyone who has rung on this 16cwt eight will be aware that they aren't the easiest octave in the county, but on a hot and humid morning they were made that much harder.

With blisters developing and even bursting (apologies if you're eating whilst reading this!) on my fingers even before the end of the first part of three of Dale Barton's composition and energy sapping at an occasionally alarming rate, I was at times concerned that I wouldn't make it on the tenor. However, I powered on through, determined not to let a band down that actually pulled off a very decent 5058 of Yorkshire Surprise Major in difficult circumstances, which was particularly pleasing for the large crowds listening at the local Horse Show nearby, even if the convoy of horse boxes on the way in had delayed us somewhat! Thank you to them all for their efforts.

Usually post-peal - and especially after one rung in such conditions - the first port of call would be a pub for a much needed ale, but of course the mother-in-law Kate and I had more pressing matters to attend to.

Fence building in our new garden.On our return down the B1116, Ron, Ruthie and the boys were already exploring our newly acquired house, with the former already putting up a fence to prevent the little 'uns from getting to the brook which is a delightful but dangerous feature at the top of our garden. Mason and I popped round the corner to acquire some fish 'n' chips for everyone, before more fence-building and cupboard-filling was carried out, followed by the eldest and me making a trip back to the older of our current homes to collect more bits and pieces for moving.

Eventually the fence was completed thanks to the efforts of Ron and Kate (and Mason and Alfie), before we returned to the house that has been our home since 2014 and where we continue to lay our heads for now, although we briefly went back to our mortgaged property to show my sister-in-law and brother-in-law Clare and Kev and their girls round as they were passing by.

Meanwhile, the Annual Barnes Summer Tour of Suffolk is proving to be most productive for Peter Richards. Today he rang his first of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles - along with Jackie Harrison - in the 1260 at Earl Stonham and with Malcolm McAlister his first of Stedman Doubles in the success at Stoke Ash, whilst there were also quarters of Stedman Triples, Grandsire Triples and Grandsire Doubles at Debenham, Helmingham and Winston respectively.

It has been a busy day of ringing - and moving!

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Friday 14th July 2017

It seemed such a small object for such a momentus step in one's life, but of course the single key we took possession of this afternoon gives us access to the very first house we have ever bought and God willing our home for decades to come.

Not that it wasn't without a slight hiccup. A misunderstanding between the solicitors and estate agent meant a wasted journey to the latter at lunchtime, but three months and four days on from our offer being accepted, a few more hours didn't seem disastorous. And as it happened, the lady from the estate agents very kindly brought the key to me at John Catt Educational later.

Despite that act of kindness though, we didn't have enough time to even pop by and soak in our new surroundings today, as having gathered all the boys together after a day at work, we strode off to what for now is still our local pub, The Cherrytree. For with it being Ruthie's birthday on Sunday, her mother Kate was very generously taking us and my wife's sister Clare and her family and Ron out for a meal to celebrate.

With the children lively but behaving, it was a lovely way to spend an evening - thank you Kate!

Also a lovely way to spend an evening is the way that the FNQPC spent theirs with a 1269 of Plain Bob Doubles in the picturesque location of St Mary's in Otley, overlooking the rolling hills, fields and woodland of that beautiful part of the county.

And the Annual Barnes Summer Tour was doing the same elsewhere in Suffolk, with a 1296 of Stedman Triples rung at Eye and a 1280 of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major spliced at Gislingham. Well done again to Peter Richards, this time for his first of spliced (at the first attempt too) and also to Louise Booth who was ringing her most methods as conductor, both in the latter performance.

All very exciting, but not as exciting as getting the keys to the first house you've ever bought!

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Thursday 13th July 2017

Bardwell's ringers have an active Facebook page, a forum in which those like me can keep up with what the ringers of the 11cwt eight get up to, as well as no doubt a useful form of communication for those who are regulars there. Occasionally it also throws up something beyond just their activities, as it did this evening with a link to a blog entry of Clare Teal, a jazz singer and a presenter on BBC Radio Two.

In the blog entry, she recounts a visit to Thaxted in Essex which had prompted a discussion about bellringing and formed the basis of a very interesting piece that imparted her desire to have a go at the art. Although that would most likely be something for the ringers of Chippenham in Wiltshire where she lives.

It was a brief, welcome distraction from more packing in anticipation of our house-move, as more and more boxes fill our current abode. Thank you for the distraction Bardwell ringers!

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Wednesday 12th July 2017

It's always nice to share our beautiful county with others and even more so with other ringers from beyond our borders. Welcome therefore to the Annual Barnes Tour, which was responsible for three quarter-peals on Suffolk bells today, with 1260's of Plain Bob Minor, Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Doubles at Rickinghall Superior, Thornham Magna and Wickham Skeith respectively. Well done to conductor Peter Richards on ringing his first of the method to Doubles in the latter of that trio of performances.Resident SGR members were also active on our county's bells on this particular Wednesday though.

Well done to the entire band on ringing their first of Cranbourne Place Doubles in the QP at Great Finborough and thank you to those who rang the 1440 of York and Durham Surprise Minor spliced at Pettistree and dedicated it to the birthday just gone of Joshua and birthday due in four days of Ruthie.

She attended the practice that followed having been picked up by her mother Kate who at the same time brought cardboard boxes and bubblewrap to ours, which gives you an indication of what my evening was all about with that housemove fast approaching!

Still, God willing I'll be out and about ringing in our beautiful county again soon!

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Tuesday 11th July 2017

The birthdays within our household are evenly spaced out throughout the calendar in a pleasing fashion. Three months ago in April it was Alfie's birthday, three months earlier in January it was Mason's, three months before that in October it was mine and a further three months back it was Ruthie's.

So it was thoughtful of Joshua our youngest addition to the family to time his birth to avoid upsetting the symmetry by arriving precisely twelve months ago, five days before his mother's birthday. On this first anniversary therefore, we celebrated how very blessed we are to have him.

Not that we marked the occasion in the same style as we might usually have done. Our impending housemove means that our current abode is a maze of boxes and piles, barely suitable for us, let alone any visitors. And his recent and fairly horrific bout of chickenpox meant that we couldn't plan anything with any certainty, especially with two of our potential guests pregnant and one of his peers booked in for an operation at Great Ormond Street over the next few weeks and needing to avoid illness.

Instead, our arrangements were made ad hoc in the last day or so as we visited all his grandparents after work.

Joshua with his Grandad Alan on his first birthday. Joshua playing with one of his new toys at my Mum & Dad's on his first birthday.First up were my Mum and Dad in Ipswich, our hosts fresh from visiting Aldeburgh and Benhall with the Second-Tuesday Ringers and laden with gifts that occupied and amused both the birthday boy and his older brother Alfie.

More presents for Joshua on his first birthday, this time at Kate's.From here we returned to Woodbridge to see Ruthie's mother Kate and the boys' Grandad Ron for more presents and a Gruffalo cake topped with a lit candle for the event.

Whilst the family were imparting felicitations to our youngest, other ringers in Suffolk were ringing, with Offton's practice preceded - as it often is - with a quarter-peal.

Today though, we were just pleased to make JB's day as special as circumstances would allow.
Happy Birthday Joshua!

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Monday 10th July 2017

It was back to the future this evening. Or forward to the past. Or maybe passed the future. Simply put, having missed last week's switch from The Robert Ransome to The Cricketers for the post-practice drink after the weekly St Mary-le-Tower session, I returned to what was once our regular Monday night haunt after tonight's ringing. Looking brighter and with more staff on (which had been the main reason we'd stopped going here previously), it certainly felt an improvement on its dark, unwelcoming counterpart across the bus station. It was good to be back, especially in the company I was keeping. David Potts in his high chair, Laura Davies celebrating her return from her triumphant and impressive cycle ride from London to Paris and George Vant achieving the seemingly impossible by photographing me looking vaguely intelligent.

Importantly, our efforts on the 34cwt twelve beforehand were useful and productive, with particular highlights being Sue Williamson trebling brilliantly to some Surprise Royal and some very well-rung Stedman Cinques finishing the business side of things nicely.

Impressive as well to see Abby Antrobus present after a busy day that saw her a part of a band who rang three quarter-peals on eights in the west of the county, with a 1260 of Grandsire Triples, 1264 of Plain Bob Major and 1312 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at Elveden, Horringer and Ixworth respectively.

Whatever the past or future, the present appeared well today!

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Sunday 9th July 2017

This morning must have represented some kind of ringing nightmare for my mother, the famous Stedman-hater, as she had to ring the principle not once but twice, first of the Cinques variety at St Mary-le-Tower and then the Triples version at Grundisburgh, where they joined Mason, Alfie and myself with a lack of service to ring for at Sproughton - as is now usually the case on the Second Sunday - and of course no bells to ring on at St Margaret's where they would typically go instead.

At the former she would no doubt have been as cheered as the rest of us to be met afterwards by Amanda Richmond for the first time since her recent car accident on the way back from a lost peal attempt at East Harling in Norfolk, sat in a wheelchair but as positive and enthusiastic as she usually is. Indeed, she was even amused (I'm relieved to say!) when after she had commented on how much taller Mason had got, I remarked on how much shorter she had got... Although it seems likely to be a long time before she is ringing again, it was super to see her smiling face again.

I'm sure mater would have been delighted too that for the first time she got to see her oldest grandson ring as she watched over him - he did suitably well under the watchful eye of a lady who has taught many a ringer, myself and my brother Chris included!

Whilst she recovered from her Stedman-induced trauma, the two eldest boys and I returned home to be reunited with Ruthie and Joshua for the rest of the day where the youngest son was also recovering, albeit from a slightly more serious affliction than Stedmantoomuchas.

Such time on our hands did at least give me the chance to read the article on the Suffolk Free Press' website on the fundraising for the restoration and augmentation of the 7cwt five of Little Cornard, more superb publicity for this project which - as SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge quite rightly mentions on the Guild's Facebook page - owes a lot to the hard work of John Taylor.

Others were busier than us with the second-Sunday Aldeburgh peal going on the road as it usually does at this time of year, on this occasion visiting Orford for a 5152 of Hwange Delight Major that as is the norm was the first in the method for all of the band and the Suffolk Guild - well done to all concerned. Meanwhile, a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters was rung at The Norman Tower, whilst it was wonderful to hear of the individual thanks that the Bishop of Dunwich the Rt Revd Dr Mike Harrison gave to each ringer descending the stairs from ringing for a confirmation service at SMLT this afternoon. It is nice to see our efforts appreciated by those at the highest level of the diocese.

Indeed, it should be made known to them the sacrifices one particular ringer had to make for the exercise this morning...

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Saturday 8th July 2017

We may not be as active ringing as we once were, but it was inevitable - especially in this busy summer season - that when isolated with the pox-ridden Joshua we would miss something.

And so it was today as with our youngest son still contagious and therefore a risk to an unknown some, we had to forsake our places on the Pettistree outing to north Essex. Ironically we missed what is usually a highlight of our ringing calendar last year because we were awaiting Josh's arrival into the world, but as with then our social sacrifice was entirely necessary.

That said, following yesterday evening's trip to Ipswich Hospital and a couple of hard-fought doses of antibiotics, his temperature and lethargy have improved greatly and so we were able to relax a little more.

Someone else who can now relax is St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies who today completed her phenomenal bike ride from London to Paris, all in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support - very well done Laura!

Whilst she deservedly lapped up the sunshine in the French capital, our afternoon was a bit more low-key as I caught up on what other ringers have been up to, with one performance in particular catching my eye.

I've reasoned before that although by their nature I can imagine that themed peals might be more prone to bad ringing with a band selected for reasons other than purely ability, I'd rather like to ring in one.

Therefore, I enjoyed reading about the peal rung today at Maidstone in Kent with a band entirely made up of people born in 1957 upon bells cast in the same year. I wonder if there is a peal of bells cast in 1978 and enough ringers born in the same year as me to do something similar next year? Apart from anything else, it would be nice to get out of the house.

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Friday 7th July 2017

Third time lucky. Joshua's visit to a doctor yesterday and another this morning against a backdrop of further deteriation to his condition still saw us with an inexplicably hot, groggy and poorly 361-day-old child and so therefore this evening I found myself trying to occupy JB whilst waiting to see the out-of-hours doctor at Ipswich Hospital, the only distractions being the TV in the corner showing Andy Murray's latest match at Wimbledon and the valiant efforts of the receptionist to cheer the patient up.

Progress was made with this appointment though, with a 'subtle' chest infection diagnosed and antibiotics prescribed and then collected from Sainsbury's and hopefully now the start of a recovery from what has been a wretched few days has begun.

Mason's School Sports Day. Mason's School Sports Day. Mason's School Sports Day. Mason's School Sports Day. Mason's School Sports Day. Mason's School Sports Day.

His eldest brother Mason was mercifully in better health, as was demonstrated by his energetic participation in his school sports day this afternoon. I watched on as he hit, threw, kicked, jumped, dribbled, carried and ran his way through the various activities. He did superbly - especially at kicking footballs through hoops and the long jump - and his yellow team came second out of three over a successful couple of hours.

Also successful were the FNQPC who rang a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham.

I hope it didn't take three attempts to score!

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Thursday 6th July 2017

We are now homeowners! This afternoon, we exchanged contracts on a house that God willing will be our home for decades to come, with completion due next week.Those who have been through this before us will probably not be surprised to know that it has been no short process, even though it has largely been a relatively uncomplicated and straightforward one. The offer on the bricks and mortar of Melton that are now ours was accepted on Alfie's birthday and since then it has been almost three months of appointments, gaining and shifting funds, filling in and signing piles of forms, exchanging more emails and making more calls than it takes to put together a peal-band and generally tempering our excitement at the prospect of moving in with considerable patience whilst getting on with life in our current place of residence.

Usually our natural instinct would be to crack open some bubbly and celebrate, but our mood was somewhat subdued by Joshua's current ill-health. His chickenpox has been difficult enough for a child not due to be one year old until Tuesday and entirely unaware of what is happening to him and why, but it has been his searing temperatures that have caused us the most concern and hasn't been helped by the hot weather that we currently have and which I would usually rejoice in.

Today - with me taking the day off to look after him and thus allowing Ruthie a break from it all by returning to work - things reached a peak (or rather trough) thus far, with a lethargic Josh hitting a worryingly high mark on the Celsius scale and so a call to 111 and visit to the doctors was called for. That they were largely unconcerned in the circumstances was reassuring, but still left us with a restless young boy feeling very uncomfortable and veering between sleep and distress and so another disrupted, long night lay ahead.

Healthier youngsters were gathered in Birmingham on Saturday to listen to and watch the Yorkshire Tykes win the Ringing World National Youth Contest - congratulations to them in particular but also go to all the participants - but at the other end of the age spectrum, ringers with more years under the belt are due to be quite rightly celebrated right here in Suffolk with the twenty-sixth Annual Veterans' Day at Debenham next Wednesday afternoon. Now organised by Jenny Scase following on from Muriel Page's magnificent work, visitors of all ages are welcome to help the veterans man this 21cwt ground-floor ring. If you are available to help then please do.

That's not all that's happening next week, with the North-West District Outing to the Downham Market area, the North-East District Treble Bob Practice at Sweffling and the Stowmarket ringers hosting a stall with The Vestey Ring at the town's carnival all happening on Saturday, Open Gardens being held in Little Cornard for the Bells Restoration Fund on Sunday, the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice booked in for Monday evening and the Second Tuesday Ringing planning on going to Aldeburgh and Benhall on 11th July.

We should be too busy packing though.

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Wednesday 5th July 2017

St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies' bike ride between London and Paris is now underway and she features on the East Anglian Daily Times' website today as part of the Greene King team that she is accompanying - I'm sure she would be happy of even more sponsorship!

We were less energetic, but after a day spent looking after Joshua as he suffers on with chickenpox, Ruthie was at least able to get out of the house this evening to go to Pettistree practice with her mother Kate who had beforehand partaken in the pre-session quarter-peal and with my wife also enjoyed a drink outside The Greyhound on another lovely summer's evening.

That 1260 of Double Court Bob Minor was one of four QPs rung in Suffolk today, with 1280's of Double Norwich Court Bob Major, Bristol Surprise Major and five spliced Surprise Major methods rung at Bardwell, Elveden and Ixworth respectively on an impressive day for the county's ringers, whether that is on the end of a rope or on the saddle of a bike.

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Tuesday 4th July 2017

It was on BBC Radio Suffolk on Sunday morning, but having not had the opportunity to listen at the time or since, the marvels of the modern age meant that this morning I got the chance to go on iPlayer, pick up Jon Wright's superb show 1hr9mins30secs in and take in the brilliant piece on the project to restore and augment the 7cwt five at Little Cornard in readiness for Armistice Day 2018. The fundraising - completely unaccompanied by grants - has been impressive and there is a further event on Sunday with Open Gardens around the village in aid of the Bell Restoration. Once again brilliant PR courtesy of our local radio station and particularly Jon.

For all of that there is some time before this ground-floor ring near Sudbury are ringable of course, but across Suffolk currently-ringable bells were being put to good use, with quarter-peals of three spliced Surprise Major methods and Plain Bob Triples rung at Offton and Orford respectively. Congratulations to Helen Stanford, sister to Tim, daughter to Suzanne Stevens and David, all active ringers who must be very proud!

Meanwhile, the county's newest peal-venue was being used for another 5040 of Minor rung at Barrack Lane in Ipswich.

No such excitement in our household, where Joshua is understandably not taking to chickenpox as well as Alfie did. There may not be many opportunities to listen to the radio over the next few days.

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Monday 3rd July 2017

People power - or ringers power - was in evidence this evening as those present at St Mary-le-Tower practice decided to abandon the post-session pub of the last few years the Robert Ransome for its near neighbour The Cricketers. It comes after weeks of being made to feel quite unwelcome there, particularly when our huge weekly crowd has been unceremoniously removed from the upstairs area where there is usually room for all of us to sit around a handful of tables pulled together and then being forced to cram into a corner downstairs. Therefore, during tonight's 8.30 notices former Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters suggested we change hostelries and it was thus decided that we make the slightly longer walk to what was once the usual watering hole and has since apparently been done up.

I was not part of the historic switch though, as chickenpox has once again hit our household, with Joshua not unexpectedly gathering spots less than a week after his big brother Alfie had recovered from the affliction. Mercifully, his granny Kate was able to take some time out of work to look after him today - for which we were most grateful - but another few days of an even more restricted social life appears to lie ahead and with Josh sporting a worryingly high temperature for a while my presence at all in Ipswich was briefly in doubt, but having made it to SMLT it didn't seem sensible or fair to leave Ruthie with him in that state whilst I drank ale seven miles away.

Still, the ringing was - as much as the pint I look forward to was much missed - worth coming for on its own. Some decent Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was followed up with some super Stedman Cinques and extremely enjoyable Cambridge Surprise Maximus, whilst Ben Williamson got the hang of ringing the 34cwt tenor to some Call-Changes on Twelve, all in the presence of another big crowd. Meanwhile, good news was imparted about Amanda Richmond - who was well enough to put a message and a photo of herself sat in a wheelchair with a big smile and a brace of ice creams onto Facebook earlier in the day - and her recovery and we all wished Laura Davies well on her final practice before she departs on her epic bike ride from London to Paris in aide of MacMillan Cancer Support later this week.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, there was a 1260 of Doubles rung on the ground-floor 9cwt six of Polstead - hopefully they enjoyed post-quarter refreshments in the place of their choice!

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Sunday 2nd July 2017

More good news from the embers of the bad news that we first became aware of a week ago, as it was announced that Amanda Richmond was back home from Addenbroke's Hospital following her horrific car accident, a sign that she seems to be making a brilliant recovery in the circumstances.

Across the Guild that she was Ringing Master of between 1990 and 1994, ringing was therefore continuing on a much happier note, in some cases in odd ways. Such as the 36 changes of Stedman Singles at Herringswell, which was Ian Holland's first ever blows of Singles. Well done Ian. I think.

More conventionally there was a quarter-peal rung at Pettistree to celebrate the SGR's Webmaster Chris Garner's seventy-fifth birthday, whilst I made it with the boys to ringing at Woodbridge before we joined the morning worship downstairs in the church.

And although outside the Guild's borders, congratulations to Lowestoft ringer Andrew Leach on his recent marriage, an event marked with a QP he conducted at his home tower in Suffolk's most easterly community.

Our afternoon was a family one, as we popped in to see my father's sister Aunty Marian, with ringing high up the agenda of conversation with this former ringer, before we then returned to our town of residence for a BBQ, kindly laid on by Ron and Ruthie's mother Kate on another beautiful afternoon. The boys enjoyed playing with their cousins and we enjoyed the Welsh ales that our hosts had brought back from their recent holiday!

Ruthie had to nip out to sing at evensong and my mother-in-law disappeared for the aforementioned 1275 of Cambridge Surprise Minor, but it was a lovely way to wile a sunny Sunday afternoon away. Thank you Kate and Ron, Happy Birthday Chris, congratulations Andrew and welcome home Amanda!

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Saturday 1st July 2017

To my easily-pleased mind there can be little better than ringing in Suffolk's beautiful countryside with my family on a sunny summer's day.

I enjoyed my afternoon today therefore as with the three boys in tow I joined the South-East District's practices at Clopton and Otley. These are a brace of lovely little sixes in pictresque surroundings, but the former in particular are a joy to ring, as one would hope with a ring only restored four years ago. They are still one of the few that I consider are easier to ring well than ring badly, which you almost have to simply pull-off and go with the flow.

Ringing at Clopton for the South-East District Practice. Ringing at Clopton for the South-East District Practice. Ringing at Otley for the South-East District Practice, complete with tea and cake! Ringing at Otley for the South-East District Practice, complete with tea and cake! Ringing at Otley for the South-East District Practice, complete with tea and cake! Ringing at Otley for the South-East District Practice, complete with tea and cake! Ringing at Otley for the South-East District Practice, complete with tea and cake!

It was a pity - though not unexpected when previous July SE gatherings are recalled - therefore, that there were only just enough to man all the bells on this occasion, but with the enthusiastic District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson at the helm and St Clement's College Bob Minor and St Simon's Bob Doubles selected as methods to learn, there was much successful endeavour around the opened grill that allowed the abundant sunshine to find its way into this windowless ringing chamber, with the aforementioned methods accompanied by much from Orpheus Doubles to Norwich Surprise Minor as those present stretched and reaffirmed their repertoires.

With a three-year-old and eleven-month-old in tow, getting in and out of the ringing chamber via the stepladder which represents the only entrance was challenging, but there were no such problems at the second and final tower of our afternoon out, where this ground-floor ring allowed the trio of boys to occupy themselves in the play corner whilst us adults - now somewhat boosted in numbers with the arrival of a chunk of the Debenham band who had been previously engaged with ringing for a wedding at Henley - rang, drank tea and consumed the delicious cheese scones and lemon drizzle cake on offer, all with much gratitude!

Beforehand, my sons and I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather by having a picnic at the park in Melton, a messy but joyous affair as Joshua and I sat under a tree and his eldest brothers played on the playground in front of us, whilst seventeen miles up the A12 at Yoxford, Paul Ashton was ringing his first quarter-peal on a working bell and Hal Humphreys his first inside. Well done to Paul and Hal!

Indeed, apart from Ruthie not being around as she was working, it was a day that could get little better!

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Friday 30th June 2017

Good news emanating from a friend of former Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond's on Facebook and who has had the opportunity to visit the patient in Addenbroke's Hospital. In fact, the exact quote "she is making a miraculous recovery and looks as if she's just returned from a fantastic walking holiday, not a shocking car accident" is extremely encouraging and sounds like typical Amanda - if anyone is going to deal with such an horrific incident with maximum positivity then it is her!

For us it was a quiet day of work and child-herding, but elsewhere on another pleasant long summer's evening Suffolk's ringers were enjoying their ringing, with a 1344 of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Henley. Particularly well done to Robert Scase and Tig Sweet for whom it was their first quarter-peal in the method.

And it was in keeping with a very positive day!

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Thursday 29th June 2017

Sparse pickings for today's blog, with nothing of particular note occurring personally.

One thing of particular note on Suffolk's bells on this otherwise quiet Thursday though was the 1320 of Annable's London Surprise Minor rung at the 5cwt gallery-ring six at Tostock, mercifully giving me something to report today!

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Wednesday 28th June 2017

Hot on the heels of yesterday's successes, it was another good day of ringing within our borders today.

Having not been able to help out with filling in for the injured Amanda Richmond for this evening's peal attempt on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower, I was absolutely delighted to see a 5024 of eight spliced Surprise Major methods was scored and of course dedicated to our stricken ringing colleague.

Elsewhere in the county there were notable performances, with a 1320 of Ipswich Surprise Minor rung at Great Finborough, whilst the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree was rung in honour of the 99th birthday of Freda Smith - who is believed to be the Guild's oldest member - of St Matthew's in Ipswich, an occasion also celebrated by former Suffolk ringers Jayne and Iain Mitchell with a handbell QP rung in Newhall in Derbyshire. Happy Birthday for yesterday Freda!

Meanwhile, those who have been following the National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition - and even those who haven't - may be interested to listen to an interview with the victorious captain of the Birmingham team Mark Eccleston - who I have had the privilege of seeing bloom from a shy young ringer into one of the very best there is first hand during my time in the second city - on BBC Radio West Midlands about 2hrs19mins into Alex Lester's Breakfast Show. Those who know Mark or have seen him will be amused by the reference to muscles!

Back here, Ruthie joined her mother Kate at the aforementioned practice on the ground-floor six of St Peter and St Paul following the successful 1272 of Hexham Surprise Minor. Apparently numbers were relatively low for this popular session, but that shouldn't detract from what has been another great day on Suffolk's bells!

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Tuesday 27th June 2017

A superb day of ringing in the county and not for the first time recently.

In Bardwell, a very impressive 5152 of twenty-three Surprise Major methods was notable for not only being the first for the Suffolk Guild of that many methods for a long, long time, but was also rung to a composition of the conductor Louis Suggett, who along with young Max Drinkwater - who features as well on the East Anglian Daily Times website in an article about his ordination on Saturday - gave the band an encouraging dash of youth.

LPHS was also leading a very youthful band which rang the first peal on George Vant's handbells and the first at the address, as 10 Barrack Lane in Ipswich joins the peal columns - God willing the first of many at that particular abode!

And the usual pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton is not to be sniffed at either, with a 1280 of eight spliced Surprise Major methods more than worthy of mention here.

What all three had in common was their dedication to Amanda Richmond as she recovers from her recent car accident, with a 1260 of Stedman Triples rung for her at Kenninghall in Norfolk - she is certainly in the ringing family's thoughts.

For us it was back to the normal order of things with Alfie finally no longer contagious with his chickenpox, although ironically with it being a Tuesday that meant it was still quite a dull day for us personally.

Not so for ringing in Suffolk generally though - well done to all concerned!

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Monday 26th June 2017

Please keep former Suffolk Guild Ringing Master and current St Mary-le-Tower band member Amanda Richmond in your thoughts and prayers, as she has been involved in a car accident resulting in injuries so serious that she has been transferred to Addenbrooke's Hospital. She was a significant mentor for me in my early, formative ringing - indeed she rang in my first quarter-peal and first peal - and has been a good friend ever since and she is a hugely positive influence on us at the county's heaviest twelve, often lifting chins up when needed with her enthusiasm. That she is such an active person - eight years ago she became the oldest British woman to climb Mount Everest as the most notable of many, many physical achievements - will make this even more difficult for her.

Although it was announced at morning ringing at SMLT yesterday that she had suffered the accident, this evening's sorry update was sobering news on another otherwise successful practice night at her home tower, with a big attendance including the return of Lucy Williamson from France at the end of her year abroad and which climaxed with a very decent half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, an encouraging piece of ringing with our long-term aim of entering a team in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in mind. It was steady, which isn't a bad habit to get into as the 72cwt twelve of Exeter Cathedral is the venue for the final of the 2019 competition that we are aiming towards - with the eliminator venues likely to be on the weighty side too - but not dragged out and disjointed as can be a danger. There were a couple of method mistakes, but barring those it was 288 changes that wouldn't be out of place in a qualifier.

Ringing's biggest event continued to hold my attention today with more photos being shared on social media from Saturday's proceedings and what is particularly noticeable is that amongst the huge crowds that filled Southwark Cathedral's churchyard were a large number of young ringers, with indeed some university societies seemingly using it as an excuse for a grand day out in the capital. If we want to get an insight into how to make the exercise more appealing in Suffolk then we could do a lot worse than delving into what draws them to this occasion year after year.

The same could be said of the Ringing World National Youth Contest due to be held this Saturday in Birmingham and featuring the potential future ringing university students. Although I'm not aware of an SGR entry - which is a pity - from what I have heard of this event, it is well worth converging upon the UK's second city for it if you are at a loose end.

If you are at a loose end but don't fancy travelling hundreds of miles to the other side of the country though, you may consider that which is closer to home, such as the South-East District Practice on the pleasant sixes of Clopton and Otley.

For tonight though, after a day off looking after Alfie in the final stages of being contagious with chickenpox, I was glad to make the short walk to the Robert Ransome for a convivial pint, where it was interesting to get the thoughts of the band's most recent participant in the National Twelve-Bell, Colin Salter, hear the latest updates from Ian Culham on his local Twelve-Bell Competition and joke about David Stanford's Elton John-themed motivations behind his recent - mercifully nearly recovered - injury!

It was just a shame that Amanda wasn't there to join us. Get well soon Amanda!

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Sunday 25th June 2017

Following the excitement of the National Twelve-Bell Final yesterday, my vigour for Ipswich's hoped for entry into the contest in the next couple of years or so has been strengthened even further. It is a magnificent competition and one that would be a tremendous channel for forging a strong band with a strong focus on good ringing.

Today's ringing on Suffolk's three twelves perhaps highlighted how tough getting a band strong enough from our area to compete has been. I've long been of the opinion that there is a good squad of twelve-bell ringers in the county, but the problem is that they are spread far and wide and in many cases rarely ring together. St Mary-le-Tower benefits considerably from the regular presence of Norman Tower ringers on a Monday night and I hope it is reciprocated by those able to make the opposite journey on a Tuesday evening. But the crossover between Grundisburgh and the others is small.

When I eventually made it to SMLT this morning - with only Joshua in tow as Mason is spending the weekend with his mother and Alfie remained isolated with his chicken pox with Ruthie - there were only enough to ring on ten, whilst at Grundisburgh a little later - where Stephen Pettman would be a useful and experienced participant for an Ipswich entry to compete for the Taylor Trophy if rules permitted and he was willing - the peak was also ringing on ten. Come the afternoon, a quarter-peal in Bury St Edmunds showed what can be achieved when the bands of our two heaviest twelves join forces, but even then it was 'only' on ten. As SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase - and Jed Flatters and myself before him - has found when arranging an entry to the Ridgman Trophy, it is like herding cats trying to get a large group of members together from across our vast Guild at the same time with the numerous commitments that they not only have in ringing but in life in general. For example, my wife and I are keen to get more involved, but circumstances make even the simplest request - such as ringing in this afternoon's 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal - far harder to accede than once was the case. It is why we need those fortunate enough to be flexible in their arrangements to be as flexible as they can be.

Hopefully arrangements for the other two QPs rung on our soil today weren't as difficult, but even if they were it looks like it was entirely worth it. Well done to Paul Ebsworth, Maureen Gardiner and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of St Martin's Bob Triples in the 1260 rung at Henley and congratulations to Max Drinkwater on his Ordination as Priest at St Edmundsbury Cathedral yesterday, an occasion marked by him ringing a quarter of Grandsire Doubles at St Mary in Newmarket where he had earlier given his first Holy Communion as celebrant.

The National Twelve-Bell Final wasn't the only excitement over the weekend!

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Saturday 24th June 2017

As those of you - if there are any - who have been reading this blog regularly in recent months will be aware, the place I wanted to be today was Southwark Cathedral for the National Twelve-Bell Final, especially as it was close enough to get to and back in a day easily enough.

However, as was realised with considerable disappointment some time ago, it clashed with our niece Katelynn's birthday party at Easton Farm Park in one of those frustrating clashes you typically get in amongst a sea of empty Saturday's in the diary. Thus it was only right and proper that we - and in particular the birthday girl's cousins Alfie and Joshua - committed ourselves to her and her frivolities with the animals rather than a day of boozing and bells in London.

Except we ultimately achieved neither as with Alfred still diseased and contagious and one of the mothers accompanying their child to proceedings at EFP pregnant (and of course having to avoid chickenpox like the plague), I remained at home with both boys whilst Ruthie accompanied her sister and her husband to help out on the farm.

Instead, I tuned into the live coverage of the ringing's biggest event through the contest's YouTube Channel, hosted yet again absolutely superbly by Matthew Tosh. Throughout the day I was able to listen - sometimes intently, sometimes merely as a backdrop to the chores and play of the day - to each team's ringing, interviews and the atmosphere generally thanks to Matthew and his magnificent team, along with keeping up with the sights of the day through Facebook and the contest's Twitter feed @National12bell, which can be viewed even by those who aren't Twits such as myself. Therefore, whilst I didn't go as far as to spend the day drinking beer to get as much of the experience as possible, I was sorely tempted as I was confronted by photo after photo of friends and acquaintances clutching pints and generally looking like they were enjoying themselves immensely.

Even though we weren't there though, Suffolk was still represented, directly and indirectly. Former resident member of the SGR Molly Waterson - whose mother Gill is still a regular at Pettistree - was again ringing for Bristol, Norman Tower ringer Philip Wilding was representing Cambridge and Becky Sugden - whose mother lives within our borders - trebled for St Paul's Cathedral, whilst former Ipswich ringer George Salter - like Molly - was interviewed by Mr Tosh, whilst his brother Colin watched on, following on from first ringing a 5007 of Stedman Cinques across the River Thames at St Magnus-the-Martyr with what must have been one of the best twelve-bell bands not participating in the competition (although there was another band vying for that title at Worcester Cathedral!) and with the very best possible post-peal drinks! Also present were Abby Antrobus, Philip Moyse and David Stanford, although others - like us - were busy back in the homeland, as a quarter-peal was rung at Woolpit where the South-West District Striking Competition was later won by the hosts - congratulations to them and Hadleigh, who came out on top of the Call-Change entries! Meanwhile, those present in the capital shared the tight space in a busy area with the usual swathe of the very best ringers in the world, with David Pipe, Paul Mounsey, Ian 'Glint' Fielding, Mark Eccleston and Vicky Wilby just some of those interviewed after helping their respective teams to complete their test pieces.

The ringing itself was sadly not vintage Contest standard (unlike 2001 at South Petherton and 2003 at Surfleet, he says with tongue firmly in cheek!) with the bells proving difficult for most bands, despite (or because of according to some!) their recent rehang and restoration, the tenth and eleventh coming in for particular criticism. Still, the quality was noticeably well above what most ringers could dream of, although poor old High Wycombe struggled having seemingly qualified entirely unexpectedly at St Margaret in Leicester back in March - apparently our friends Norwich are to blame!

Crowds crammed into Southwark Cathedral awaiting the results. That Birmingham came out on top according to judges Tom Hinks, Katie Town and David Dearnley for the twenty-third time was both surprising and unsurprising. Of course they were the favourites, but having gone first and not reached the dizzying heights that they themselves expect, there were a number of bands who appeared to my ears - and those of others - to have possibly beaten them, although with two young children distracting me, I was hardly marking faults. We all had to wait until the final band four hours later to hear those that would ultimately run them closest as the College Youths took hold in what must have been uncomfortable conditions following on from nine teams ringing in hot and sticky conditions. In fact, so close was it that if the Brummies had gone into changes five seconds later and thus been penalised for starting late, the ASCY would have been the victors! Congratulations to my former ringing colleagues from the UK's second city!

Well done to all who took part though. I know from experience that the pressure and concentration over fifteen minutes is immense and presumably several-fold these days with not only hundreds listening outside but also hundreds more across the world via the live stream.

Next year - following eliminators due to be held at Ossett, Selby and Southwell on 24th March - the climax is to be held even closer to us, just over the border at Cambridge. I would dearly love for the competition to return here for the first time since 1991, but for now I hope that plenty from our Guild can make it along the A14 on 23rd June 2018 and I am glad that at least some from Suffolk could make it today. Even if we couldn't.

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Friday 23rd June 2017

It has been a tough week for Ruthie as she has spent it looking after Alfie, who has been understandably grumpy at many times, afflicted as he is with chicken pox. Therefore it was only right and proper that I took at least some of the burden and so today I was charged with taking a day off work to care for the poor li'l chap. Mercifully I think I struck lucky, with Alfed's illness now on the wane and so I enjoyed a rather pleasant day as he did lots of bouncing up and down on the trampoline and watched much of The Wiggles and Barney the Dinosaur!

On BBC Radio Suffolk meanwhile, we were being encouraged to visit Clare and so indeed we did visit Clare. On this occasion though, it wasn't the home of the fine 28cwt eight and seat of the famous Mayle ringing family but rather the abode of my wife's sister Clare to celebrate her daughter Katelynn's birthday. A lovely evening in their rural location was had by all, but of course - as is usually the case on a Friday - it didn't involve any ringing.

Elsewhere in the county they were busier though, with not only the FNQPC in action with a Scase-Clarke family band ringing a 1296 of Ipswich Surprise Minor at Ashbocking marking the 90th birthday of Jenny and Janet's mother Olive Barnard, but also those who rang in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Wenhaston - great to see such activity going on within our borders!

And on the eve of the National Twelve-Bell Final at Southwark Cathedral there was a reminder of the sort of quality we might expect with a clip put up on YouTube today of some of the 5040 of Bristol Surprise Maximus rung on 1st April at the planned venue for the 2019 final, Exeter Cathedral where the 72cwt twelve are the second heaviest ring of bells hung for change-ringing in the world, behind Liverpool Cathedral's 82cwt twelve. As someone who has rung a peal there myself, I can vouch that such a high standard of ringing on bells as big as these is immensely impressive and gives an indication of how tough the competition should be tomorrow.

Although maybe not as tough as Ruthie's week has been!

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Thursday 22nd June 2017

It was an incredibly quiet day personally from both a ringing and non-ringing perspective, as well as across the county.

Alfie still has chicken pox which meant another day of isolation from the wider world for him and Ruthie (who felt pent-up to the extent that she raced out of the house to go to the shop with a rarely seen level of enthusiasm on my return from work!) and after yesterday's Suffolk Day there doesn't appear to be any performances recorded on bells within our borders on BellBoard today.

If like me you prefer your days more interesting, then this weekend is certainly going to be more to your liking, with the Cretingham Bell Weekend, the South-West District Striking Competition at Woolpit on Saturday afternoon and the National Twelve-Bell Final at Southwark Cathedral all day on Saturday. Even if you can't make any of those events - as it seems I probably won't be able to as I entertain my pox-ridden middle son - then you should be able to follow the latter occasion live through Matthew Tosh's usually superb coverage on the contest's YouTube channel.

Ringing's biggest event is building the excitement on its Facebook page with amusing mock-ups involving a Clash of the Titan's style face-off between St Paul's Cathedral's Paul Mounsey and Birmingham's Mark Eccleston and a similar Gladiators themed 'battle' between Robert Lee of the College Youths and Tom Mack of the Cumberlands, all of which highlights the fierce but friendly rivalry and competition due to be on show in London in two days time.

All of which is in sharp contrast to today's mundane nature.

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Wednesday 21st June 2017

Happy Suffolk Day!

Across the county, this inaugural event was celebrated in all sorts of ways from mayoral gatherings to eating and drinking local products and assault courses beneath the Orwell Bridge. And ringing played its part too with a performance dedicated to the day at The Norman Tower and Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge was quoted in another great bit of PR in the EADT - well done to Neal in particular, but also all ringers involved on using this occasion to raise our profile!

Sadly on a personal level we were largely untouched by it all on another baking day when it would have been lovely to get out into our beautiful landscape, but even if I wasn't at work then we would've been unable to do much with Alfie still afflicted with chicken pox and after a day looking after the understandably grumpy patient and his little brother Joshua all day, Ruthie was ultimately too exhausted to even make it to Pettistree's weekly practice.

Hopefully they coped without either of us and were at least successful with their pre-session quarter-peal of 1272 changes of Berwick Surprise Minor, an impressive score in its own right but I'm glad to say just part of a great day of ringing and more for Suffolk Day!

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Tuesday 20th June 2017

Tomorrow is not only the longest day of the year, but the first ever Suffolk Day, an occasion that the organisers would like to rival the now well-established annual Yorkshire Day. There are slight flaws that I can envisage making it difficult to compare the two, with tomorrow being a day when pretty much everyone will be at work or school, compared to our northern friends' big day of 1st August in the middle of the school holidays, but I think it is a superb idea and I am delighted that the county's ringers are marking it.

Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge has been on the local BBC radio station highlighting the ringing occurring on the day a couple of times, but I was equally impressed by the article I found today on the EADT's website of which a sizeable amount is given over to the planned efforts of the SGR membership. Another great bit of PR - well done Neal!

On the eve of all of this, I found myself at Ufford where I was standing in for the absent Ringing Master, mother-in-law Kate Eagle. With quite a few regulars away, I had been warned of the possibility of there being not enough in attendance to do anything, but as I arrived I made the sixth present and thus the basis of a useful practice night was there. In such humid conditions it wasn't exactly a full-on session as everyone had to ring every time, but there was a bit of experimentation with debut blows in Double Court Bob Minor for one and a successful attempt to pull-in the 13cwt tenor for the first time, alongside more familiar exploits in Cambridge Surprise Minor before we finished slightly early, daylight still hanging around. All made that much more impressive by the introduction of springy new ropes on the fifth, sixth and seventh.

It was a positive experience but there was sad news to reflect on today with the death of two ringers beyond our borders but known to those in our county. John Gipson rang more than 3,000 peals, with more than half of them rung at Meldreth in Cambridgeshire where he apparently hung the new brace of trebles himself to augment them to eight in 1968. I didn't know him personally, but I knew of him very well and he was clearly held in high regard by many, including some of the best ringers in the world.

The other passing of note to me was of Kathleen Brown from Sapcote in Leicestershire, the wife of the late Michael Brown who only died last year. Along with her husband they were a big part of the Rambling Ringers when we Munnings' first joined them and I remember their hospitality when I went for a peal attempt on the mini-ring on their Harecroft Farm. Their legacy isn't just the many happy memories of them but also a family - their daughter Janet and her husband Mike Dew and granddaughters Ellen and Isabel - that has streaks of ringing talent going through it.

Condolences to both Kathleen and John's families.

Hopefully the hobby they so enjoyed will do them proud in Suffolk tomorrow.

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Monday 19th June 2017

Yet another terrible attack in London in the early hours of this morning will no doubt have people thinking twice about travelling down to the capital, but I hope it doesn't put ringers and their companions off going to this Saturday's National Twelve-Bell Final at Southwark Cathedral. Quite apart from allowing those whose aim is to spread fear to win, I expect one is still far more likely to meet their end on their daily drive to work then be caught up in the actions of the occasional madman/woman who slips through the net.

Still, if you are unable to make it down there for whatever reason, there is still much to do here in Suffolk on the same day, especially for ringers.

South-West District towers are hopefully putting together teams for a competitive Striking Competition at Woolpit, where I imagine the hosts are probably amongst the favourites. I'm sure I have bored readers plenty enough in recent weeks on the benefits of striking competitions but I shall repeat it here. These are - in my humble opinion - vital experiences for all ringers, an opportunity to really focus on improving one's striking in a fun atmosphere. Even if you aren't partaking, they are enjoyable events to go to in order to chat with friends familiar and new, with the jeopardy of the end result as a climax! Hopefully there will be a big crowd there in five days time from the 2pm draw onward.

As I hope there will be at Cretingham for their Bell Weekend in aide of the augmentation and refurbishment of this ground-floor five, but at least if you find yourself in Woolpit, Southwark, Easton Farm Park - as we are due to - or indeed anywhere else on Saturday then you can support their efforts on the Sunday as well.

That said, we may not be going anywhere at all this weekend, as chicken pox has arrived in our household. Actual and definite chicken pox too, rather than the suspected case that spiked our attendance at Toby and Amy's wedding a few weeks ago, as Alfie is absolutely covered in spots and itching like mad! It means a few days of isolation for the li'l chap and Ruthie and I forsaking work to look after our pox-ridden child. Later in the week I shall have a day off for such responsibilities, but today it was my wife who was housebound with the understandably irritated three-year-old who has caught his affliction during what may turn into an official heatwave with impeccable timing.

Still, by the evening she wasn't so exhausted by the experience to need my help and so I made my way to St Mary-le-Tower practice for another productive session, although there were some issues made of the speed, even if on this occasion this wasn't the main problem. Nonetheless, there were more encouraging signs of progress at all levels on a stifling night that preceded a pint in the Robert Ransome where we were relieved to find a table by an open window and where the atmosphere was jovial and the conversation ranged from how much of people's lives you can discover on BellBoard to the Ridgman Trophy to the Twelve-Bell, all with a drink to hand and accompanied by much laughter.

Yet another example of life going on unperturbed.

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Sunday 18th June 2017

I count myself blessed to be dad to three wonderful - if a little exhausting - boys and don't feel I need to be rewarded for something that is in the main an absolute joy.

However, I'm not going to turn away presents, cards and generally being spoilt and so I enjoyed this Father's Day as any of the other ten I have been privileged to be the recipient of.

Not that I did anything particularly special other than that which is always special - spending time with my wife and children, although Mason spent much of the afternoon at his friend's tenth birthday party in Hasketon on another gloriously hot day.

Bells did feature with Sunday morning ringing at Woodbridge that featured the not entirely pleasant call-changes on the front seven, but which was otherwise very good. However, my presence there meant that I didn't join my own father at St Mary-le-Tower and with the folks busy celebrating South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey's recent fiftieth birthday, it meant that by my bad planning that it wasn't possible to see him today. Which was a shame, as for all that I don't feel particularly deserving of any accolades for my parenting, he certainly does, having put up - along with mother of course - with my many and various mistakes and guided me through life, including my ringing.

Other fathers were in the 1259 of Grandsire Caters at SMLT, a quarter-peal specifically requested by the church themselves ahead of their festival of liturgy and music, so I am glad that we were able to oblige, whilst meanwhile Dickon Love very kindly put a clip on YouTube of part of yesterday morning's peal attempt of eight spliced Maximus methods at The Norman Tower featuring former Ipswich ringer George Salter, now of Bristol. Sadly it was lost, but in such sweltering weather that will have made it very uncomfortable to ring, you can tell from this 1min35secs of Strathclyde Surprise Maximus that the quality of this College Youths performance was still typically high. Well done and bad luck in equal measure!

I would've loved to have rung in both performances, but rustiness - and of course our ringing in the Ridgman Trophy - meant that even if I had been asked in the latter it would've been a step too far at the moment and we were unable to ring in the former as it had to start at the same time as we needed to collect the eldest son from his peer's celebrations. Frustrating as it was that the two clashed, I guess that is what we father's have to do.

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Saturday 17th June 2017

1994. The year that the Channel Tunnel opened. Forrest Gump was released. Ipswich Town were in the Premier League - just. And I marked my sixteenth birthday with my first of Yorkshire Surprise Major in the 5056 rung at Hadleigh on 15th October. It was also the last time the Suffolk Guild won the Ridgman Trophy. Far too long for the talented membership in the SGR, but it hasn't exactly been twenty-three years of disgrace.

Some years we have left feeling extremely disappointed, but other times quite elated, even coming second on a few occasions, within touching distance of finally regaining that silverware and good-humoured East Anglian bragging rights. This year's competition falls more into the latter category rather than the former, although I have to admit that after we left the ringing chamber of Great St Mary's in Cambridge - where proceedings were being undertaken this morning and lunchtime - I wasn't feeling quite so happy. Our ringing had been brisk, which to my mind was perfect, but it seemed to catch us out occasionally - at the 3hrs5mins peal-speed that it transpired we rang at, even the slightest hesitation in thought can see you wanting.

Jed Flatters in particular before we ring. The band preparing to ring. Participants & supporters in the churchyard listening to the ringing. Gathered in the church waiting for the results. Judge David Hull remarking on the ringing.

However, when it came to the remarks from the judges Davids Hull and Richards, they seemed to be generally positive about the pace of it, proclaiming that sounded like "we meant business", although they did say it seemed a bit breathless at times and made the same points as I just did, before placing us in a very respectable fourth place as the Ely Diocesan association came away with their third straight victory in the contest - congratulations to them! (Results)

It is worth noting that the team that now dominates this competition finished either last, next to last or did complete their piece in every year as recently as between 2004-2011, so this a trophy that we should be capable of winning again in the near future, but I think generally we need to be more intense in our preparation. That is easier said than done of course. When I was Ringing Master and arranging our band I found it impossible to get everyone together for practices, with band-members spread across our vast county, especially with most of our ten and twelve-bell towers located in far corners of the SGR and that is a problem that current RM Tom Scase is now facing. Sixty percent of the band got the opportunity to practice upon these wonderful bells with a quarter-peal of the test piece Yorkshire Surprise Royal on St George's Day, but otherwise there had been no dry-run for us until our practice period ahead of the test piece at 12.30pm today, with Ruthie and I as much to blame as anyone. Who knows what we might have achieved with a little more familiarity with the bells and each other?

Either way, it doesn't detract from what was a wonderful day out, as it usually is. This region is blessed with some magnificent ringers and indeed some of the best. John Loveless, David Pipe, Murray Coleman and many more who were present in the sun-drenched churchyard of GSM and this meant much mingling. It was fun chatting blog and comparing opinions on the SGR's test-piece with Mr Loveless, fascinating getting an insight into the recent record-breaking 20,064 of thirty-eight spliced Surprise Maximus that is still the top-rated performance on BellBoard from Mr Pipe as well as plans for 25,200 of the all-the-work 210 Surprise Minor methods in September and nice to catch-up with the super-calm Mr Coleman. It was also great catching up with Rambling Ringers' Ringing Master Chris Woodcock in his capacity as a participant with the Lincoln Diocesan Guild, another Rambler Stephen Croxall who was ringing for the Cambridge University Guild and the Peterborough Diocesan Guild's Alan Marks, amongst many other snatched conversations and new friendships being struck up.

The roasting sunshine saw us seeking shade, but they were wonderful conditions to relax in, even if not to ring in and I was surprised and impressed in equal measure to see a band visiting from the Middlesex County Association & London Diocesan Association Guild succeeded in ringing a peal at St Lawrence in Ipswich, although sadly an attempt at The Norman Tower was lost.

Thank you to the CUGCR on their superb hosting at today's contest, which included gaining a temporary beer licence and to Tom on arranging things from our end - St Albans has a lot to live up to next year when they hope to take the competition to St Peter's! Let's hope it is finally our year!

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Friday 16th June 2017

God willing in a week's time many ringers will be gathering in readiness for the National Twelve-Bell Final the following day and having announced yesterday that Matthew Tosh will again be covering proceedings on the competition's YouTube channel, today saw the release of the now traditional trailer of the contest taking place this year at Southwark Cathedral in eight days.

It should be another fascinating contest and although it would be a surprise if Birmingham didn't win having won all but four of the finals since the turn of the century, it would be brave to entirely discount the three London-based bands of the College Youths, Cumberlands, St Paul's Cathedral and the hosts, all of whom will be more familiar than most participants with ringing at this daunting venue and although the local band may be considered outsiders, I suspect that if one these bands don't win they will come very close.

Still, don't discount Bristol - featuring former Suffolk ringer Molly Waterson -  who are in their seventh consecutive final and have enjoyed some impressive results in that time and before, whilst Cambridge - who have some superb ringers among their number - are dark horses.

Exeter may upset the odds as being used to ringing on the second heaviest ring of bells in the world they may be less daunted by the location and last time the final was held at one of London's big twelves, Melbourne surprised everyone by coming in at an impressive fourth. Could they or High Wycombe repeat that feat in 2017?

We shall have to wait and see, but we don't have to wait to listen to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge's interview with Mark Murphy on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning at about 2hrs40mins in. Short it may have been, but it was a great piece that highlights the long list of towers getting involved in the first ever Suffolk Day on Wednesday, which includes East Bergholt who may also appear in the local paper - watch this space and well done Neal!

Who knows who I might be saying well done to a week on Saturday!

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Thursday 15th June 2017

It is BBC Music Day today, with ringing again playing a big part, including the quarter-peal at Bardwell of Netherseale Surprise Minor. The occasion gave the exercise some tremendous publicity with former ringer Simon Mayo displaying a ringing theme throughout his BBC Radio Two show this afternoon, with bell-related tunes, messages from ringers announcing what ringing they were doing for the event and where, more details on his dalliance with the art at Barston in Warwickshire and a superb interview with the new President of the Central Council of Church Bellringers Christopher O'Mahony, which followed on from his teaching BBC Radio Six presenter Shaun Keaveny the rudimentary skills of ringing, upon the bells of St Mary Abbots in Kensington. One can listen to his starring moment in the former through the BBC iPlayer about 1hr19mins into the show, whilst the story behind the latter and a link to the report can be found on the CCCBR's website.

Meanwhile, there is due to be more publicity for ringing through BBC Radio on Friday morning, this time featuring Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge on Mark Murphy's Breakfast Show (starting at 2:41:35) on our local station, on this occasion in relation to ringing taking place on the forthcoming inaugural Suffolk Day in six days time, so listen out or listen again to that!

Today also saw the announcement that Matthew Tosh is planning on carrying out his magnificent all-day coverage of the biggest event in the ringing calendar, the National Twelve-Bell Final. Proceedings including the actual test pieces, interviews and messages should feature on the competition's YouTube channel, live from Southwark Cathedral on Saturday 24th June. So many are interested in this, with hundreds attending and many others keen to keep up with the contest and soak in the atmosphere but unable to travel in person and although I am disappointed not to be able to go myself due to an unavoidable clash of dates involving our niece's birthday, I hope that I can catch some of it and perhaps with the help of a beer pretend I'm there!

In the meantime though, I'm glad to have been able to listen to the ringing that has been floating across the airwaves today!

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Wednesday 14th June 2017

Watching the terrible pictures of the inferno that was once home to home hundreds, it was another day to thank God how lucky we are to be alive and on another glorious summer's evening both Ruthie and I took full advantage of that fact in our own ways.

I had the pleasure of an evening in with Alfie and Joshua whilst their mother joined their Granny in going to a Pettistree practice preceded as usual by a successful quarter-peal. On this occasion though, it was a particularly significant one as Mike Whitby was conducting his 1500th in the medium. It was appropriate that it was at the tower where he has run the ringing and led a very successful band for several years (More than 30years. Ed.) and that it was rung in one of the many Surprise Minor methods that he has ensured are now entirely familiar to most who ring here regularly. Congratulations Mike!

Elsewhere, another Surprise Minor method was being quartered as a 1296 of Norwich was rung at Great Finborough on a typically good Wednesday night for ringing in Suffolk.

Meanwhile, anyone planning on supporting the Guild band at the Ridgman Trophy at Great St Mary in Cambridge on Saturday may want to take a look at the hosts Cambridge University Guild of Change Ringers' website for more details on food, drink, parking, facilities and extra ringing in the city on the day.

God willing it'll be a day that we are very fortunate to enjoy. Take advantage, please.

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Tuesday 13th June 2017

I witnessed a masterclass in dealing with complainants this evening.

Two leads before the end of a well-rung quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor at Easton, a chap came and stood in the doorway of this ground-floor six. Conductor Mike Whitby politely asked him to wait a few minutes and bar him asking if we would be finished soon, we didn't hear a word from him until it came round and we set the bells, although his intense stare was slightly off-putting! He clearly wasn't happy though and once we had finished he announced himself displeased that the "sometimes uneven" ringing of "five bells" for three-quarters of an hour had spoiled his tea at his neighbouring home.

Now, those of you who know me and/or have read this blog regularly will know that I find it incredible that people will make the huge investment of buying or renting a house next door to a church with a very obvious belltower and not do at least a little research into the possibility that the noisy purpose for which that tower was very probably built for might mean that for periods they are likely to ring out and it was tempting to tell him so. However, there does seem to be some mitigating circumstances for this fellow's complaint as whilst there have been quarter-peals here before, there haven't been many and as far as I can tell from BellBoard none rung in weather hot enough for windows to be flung open as a necessity since before 2010 at least, so unlike at places like Aldeburgh, Preston St Mary and other regularly pealed or quartered towers, such a prolonged bit of ringing was clearly not something he had had the chance to become used to.

And to give him his dues, despite his unjustified comment on the striking and weak grasp on numbers (his place is ensured on the National Eleven-Bell Striking Competition judging panel at Southwark Cathedral in a week-and-a-half), he was very polite in his manner. There was no grabbing the ropes - as has been known to happen with some numpties putting themselves and others in danger - or shouting and swearing. Indeed, although he was forthright, he couldn't even be described as aggressive.

Therefore, Mr Whitby apologised on our behalf for spoiling his meal and not only took the time to explain what we were doing and why, but to accompany him back to his abode so that the locals here can warn him if further additional ringing like this happens.

It would - in keeping with my blog entry on the subject of noise complaints last week - be worthwhile the tower considering some form of sound-control, which needn't be expensive and could enable them to continue the extracurricular ringing that is so necessary to progress one's ringing and keep one's interest in the art held. As we rang down and Mike wandered around with the man to his abode, it was apparently noticeable how much the tenor shouts out across his property.

Still, thank God he didn't arrive until very late on as it would have been a particular shame to lose this QP, as it had been arranged in memory of resident ringer Derek Martin, whose untimely death is still hard to take in exactly a month on and even after his funeral a couple of weeks ago. To ring one here was appropriate, especially as quarters had been rung for him at other towers he frequented and helped, Pettistree, Ufford and Wickham Market since his passing.

With The White Horse further along the picturesque green not reopening until Friday, the majority of the band made our way to The Greyhound at the aforementioned Pettistree for a pint in the beer garden beneath a beautiful summer's evening, at the end of a long day for Chris McArthur and Mark Ogden who had both been south of the border earlier for the Second Tuesday Ringing's trip to Ardleigh and Langham, only to be held up behind the traffic stuck behind an accident on the Orwell Bridge that meant a half-hour journey turned into a near two-hour journey and them nearly missing the ringing at the former!

Presumably no such problems at Offton where their practice night was preceded by a 1280 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Pudsey, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced. Hopefully it was better appreciated by the neighbours than ours at Easton!

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Monday 12th June 2017

I think David Potts thought I was mucking about when I brought it up in the Robert Ransome afterwards, but I really enjoyed the Call-Changes on Twelve at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening. It was generally clean, well-struck and a joy to ring in. By their nature Call-Changes are often not the best struck, a stepping stone to method ringing, even further handling practice and the result is usually choppy, not just at SMLT but in general.

However, it seems the increased focus on striking, motivated by the planned entries into the local Twelve-Bell Striking Competition being put together by Ian Culham and the National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition, is filtering through all levels here. On a warm evening with a big attendance that included a welcome visit from Alex Tatlow, that good striking emanated throughout - although inextricably we again struggled with Cambridge Surprise Maximus, the way we rang Stedman Cinques suggests that God willing with concerted efforts we should be capable of entering the national event in a couple of years.

Ringing handbells in St Mary-le-Tower churchyard Ringing handbells in St Mary-le-Tower churchyardEven after we finished, I enjoyed the sound of some wonderful handbell ringing floating along Tower Street from the churchyard as George Vant got his bells out and was joined by Laura Davies and South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson for a touch whilst I made my way to the pub, where despite our group being unceremoniously removed from upstairs we enjoyed a drink and a chat to top off a productive, positive night, from Stedman to Call-Changes.

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Sunday 11th June 2017

From the metaphorical gloom came a shaft of light this morning, as Southwark Cathedral reopened for the first time since the attacks on its doorstep last weekend, thus enabling the local ringers the opportunity to ring upon their bells and with less than a fortnight to go until the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final is due to be held there, it was probably also a relief for organisers that the team - Cambridge - booked in to practice on the 48cwt twelve this afternoon ahead of the big day were able to have their valuable session. Hopefully the Cumberland Youths will have their opportunity, having missed out last Sunday when the building was understandably out-of-bounds.

It was another victory for the freedoms of our society, along with the bustling nightlife of the area around London Bridge last night and of course the continuation of life around the country unbowed to those who would have us succumb to fear. A small part of that has been the ringing of church bells up and down the land, not just in remembrance of the victims and in solidarity of those caught up in those terrible events eight days ago, but also the everyday stuff.

I was therefore delighted to be back on the usual Sabbath morning routine today, although not many joined me. With at least five regulars at St Mary-le-Tower away on holiday, numbers were sparse and we were grateful for the three recent incomers from the west of Suffolk - Abby Antrobus, Laura Davies and Louis Suggett - for helping make up the talented eight that were present there before the service, enabling some well-rung Yorkshire Surprise Major on the front-eight and Stedman Triples on the back eight to be rung.

Later - after a quick visit to the village's park for the trio of boys in my care - attendance was sparse at Grundisburgh too, although Gillian Twissell did tremendously well in ringing Plain Bob Minor inside, despite the unexpected bobs thrown in by Stephen Pettman and Joshua's loud display of displeasure at me ringing the treble rather than attending to his every whim!

From here it was a quiet day for us personally, but elsewhere in the county there was encouraging activity, with a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal rung at The Norman Tower and the opening of the seventieth annual Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts celebrated as it usually is by the second-Sunday peal rung upon the town's 11cwt eight.

There was indeed light amongst the gloom today and ringing was responsible for much of it.

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Saturday 10th June 2017

Congratulations to Valerie Mayhew and Pam Ebsworth on fifty years of ringing each, celebrated today with a quarter-peal of St Clement's College Bob and Plain Bob Minor at Great Barton today.

I've known Val for years as she was one of the regulars at Sproughton in my early formative years of ringing and was always a reliable ringer to have in the band as I learnt my way through the increasing complexities of the exercise and whilst I haven't rung with Pam I know that she and her husband Paul have been a tremendous bonus to ringing in the west of the county since their move from Somerset four years ago, especially with the active QP scene in that part of the world. Therefore they were fully deserving of their 1320 and the certificates they were presented with by Alan Moult afterwards and hopefully they had an enjoyable day!

Our day was less exciting, full of mundane trips to Mothercare and Tesco, with watching the Scotland-England football match on TV which had an exciting finish and eventually ended 2-2 in a result akin to that of the General Election two days ago - one that no one was particularly happy with!

The real winners today were Valerie and Pam.

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Friday 9th June 2017

Whilst the country was digesting the utter mess of an election result that seemed to see the winners lose and the runners-up win, York Minster quietly released the news that Angela Mitchell has been named as the new Head of Bell Tower at this famous ring. The timing in amongst all the political fallout dominating the news appears as underhand as everything else they have done has been perceived by much of the ringing community, which is odd as that in itself has been as big a misjudgement as almost all of their other actions from the brutal and distinctly un-Christian sacking of the dedicated and expert volunteers in October. For this was seemingly a good appointment, spot-on in fact.

I don't know Angela myself, although I know of her and have rung with her husband David (indeed he rang in my first quarter of Treble Bob way back in 1991), but the announcement has been met by pretty much universal approval, even those most vehement in their objections to what the Dean and Chapter were doing, including John Ridgeway-Wood who was removed from his role of ringing the carillon in a move more akin to North Korea than North Yorkshire, seemingly for daring to question the Minster's OTT methods of dealing with matters in the YMSCR.

As a headteacher she is well covered in regards to safeguarding, which is understandably vital to the D & C and of course will also be experienced in teaching. However, perhaps more importantly for allowing things to move forward from this controversial affair, she is a former member of the band here and is popular amongst those who know her. What is more, over three-quarters of the forty-two applications received to be part of the new band were received from members of the previous band. By my (admittedly poor) maths that is all the thirty disposed of eight months ago. I hope that is the case, for if they are happy to be a part of this reboot of hundreds of years of top-notch ringing then not only is it reassuring to the many - like me - who were concerned over their future but also should mean that the high-standard which has been the norm on this 59cwt twelve can be resumed quicker than many feared. I imagine some credit has to go to Mark Regan's involvement in this, unhappy as it has made some people. Whatever the exact wheelings-and-dealings behind this though, I hope that this is the beginning of a satisfactory conclusion all round to what has been an embarrassingly mishandled situation.

Here in Suffolk meanwhile, job appointments at cathedrals and Westminster dogfights were a million miles away from the little six in the quiet, isolated community of Monewden, deep in our beautiful countryside where the FNQPC were ringing a 1270 of Cambridge Surprise Minor in a success that doesn't deserve to be buried amongst all the other news around!

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Thursday 8th June 2017

Another year, another vote. Ruthie and I have got used to treading the well-worn path to our local polling station, cards in hand. Today's General Election should surely have been quite unexciting therefore, especially as even with Jeremy Corbyn's dramatic rise in popularity in recent weeks there seemed little prospect of a change to the status quo.

However, as we went to vote, accompanied by Alfie and Joshua, the scene was one busier than we ever recall as we joined a short queue to cast our ballot and left with an even longer line of voters itching to do their bit and even more approaching as we departed the site, even though the likelihood of anything other than a substantial victory for the Conservative candidate Therese Coffey here in Suffolk Coastal seems slim at best. And come the closing poll it suggested that Theresa May might have got herself into a bit of a pickle, with suggestions of a hung parliament. It was tempting - as it nearly always is - to stop up to watch events unfurl, but with the real picture not likely to take shape until the early hours of the morning, we took the sensible option of going to bed to await Josh's early wake-up call.

Aside from the wall-to-wall coverage of the national vote, it was interesting to read an article on the East Anglian Daily Times' website that appeared yesterday but wasn't read by me until I was looking for a distraction from politics today. It was a piece on the ten streets in Ipswich which have been subject to the most complaints on noise and interestingly there seems to be no mention made of bells at all, as is usually the case in these circumstances. We certainly shouldn't be complacent or arrogant on this subject and should still be doing all that we can to dampen down the sound of our noisy instruments when necessary and engage with our neighbours, but yet again it seems to suggest that for all the ringing we do in the county - from weekly Sunday morning ringing to peals - that we aren't necessarily the nuisance that even some ringers think we are. Let's keep up the good work!

Meanwhile, I am back in the world of mobile phones, as having bought my first new phone for years yesterday I am fully up and running today with the same number, so it's as you were!

Also as you were is the popularity of Horringer's brand new eight, with the third peal on the superb octave since they were installed just a few months ago. I imagine the 5088 of London Surprise Major rung by the Saint James' Guild was a joy to listen to in every respect and a nice distraction from more electioneering.

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Wednesday 7th June 2017

A very Happy Fiftieth Birthday to Ralph Earey. He has been a dedicated servant to the Guild and continues to be, from his five years as SGR Maintenance Officer in the late 1980's and early 1990's, to the tremendous publicity garnered for Suffolk ringing from the demo bell that he made from a fibreglass mould of the third at Sproughton and which took the exercise out to the general public long before The Vestey Ring, to the role of South-East District Chairman that he currently holds. And in running the ringing at the aforementioned gallery-ring six over many years he has overseen a lively and active band with a youthful vein, including myself and my brother Chris who owe much to Mr Earey. Ruthie also has fond memories of working with him during her time as SE Secretary, especially the committee meetings at the Earey's abode complete with beer!

Therefore, we were disappointed not to be able to take up the invitation of his wife Tessa to join them at tonight's practice at his home tower to celebrate his significant day, but it appears a number did make it along, showing how highly thought of he is. As do the quarter-peals of four spliced Surprise Major methods at Ixworth and Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree which were both accompanied with felicitations for the birthday boy.

And the reason why we couldn't be at Sproughton this evening was because I was in Ipswich with the car, ringing in a peal at The Wolery, which - along with birthday compliments for Mary Allum, my father Alan and sister-in-law Becky - was also dedicated to Ralpy, which the band were delighted to do.

That said, even the organiser, host and conductor of this 5056 of Gargrave Surprise Major David Salter admitted it wasn't the finest choice of method and indeed with an outstanding start and well-rung finish it was disappointing that in between we didn't seem entirely comfortable with what we were ringing. Still, it was mainly an enjoyable performance that I feel was worthy of dedication to the quartet of resident members celebrating birthdays this week and was of course topped off with cake and biscuits, although the busy nature of ringers lives was laid bare by the fact that we couldn't find a date for all eight of us to meet together in August!

There was one other success within our borders today too and a notable one at that as young Matthew Rolph rang his first of Surprise in the 1272 rung at Blythburgh - well done Matthew!

Further afield, there was a moving quarter rung by members of the Southwark Cathedral band. With this famous place of worship - and therefore their newly restored twelve - still inaccessible due to the police cordon around it protecting the forensics investigation into Saturday night's awful events, they gathered to ring a half-muffled 1311 changes of Stedman Cinques at the opposite end of London Bridge at St Magnus-the-Martyr. As with so much of the ringing done in recent days and society's reaction generally to that which happened, it was an act of remembrance but also defiance.

Society and ringing carried on with that defiance today, not just in London but also here in Suffolk where election debates were rounded off, quarter-peals and peals were rung, practices run and birthdays celebrated!

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Tuesday 6th June 2017

When my phone began calling Ruthie (but mercifully not anyone else as far as I am aware!) completely by its own volition this evening, it brought me to the reluctant decision that I need a new mobile. As anyone who has seen the battered old machinery that has dutifully carried out its purpose of keeping me in touch with others when needed whilst I am on the move, I am not one for chasing after the latest fad, but this bit of ageing equipment has probably run its course. Not all the keys work properly all the time and the photos on this blog are testimony to its eternal struggle to capture movement or anything stood in front of a light - for an example see the headless Pippa Moss at Wickham Market in Saturday's entry!

For now though, it is a bit of a pain as I am uncontactable by mobile phone, although hopefully not for long. Still, for any pressing answers that you may want from me it is perhaps best to email me, Facebook me or even do it the old fashioned way by calling me on the landline and hoping I'm in!

That last option wouldn't have worked if you were trying to contact a fair few of Suffolk's ringers today, with three quarters involving twenty-two ringers across the county. Well done to Jenny Lloyd on ringing her first QP inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples rung in memory of Derek Martin at Ufford, one of the many towers he frequented regularly.

Meanwhile, a 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor was rung at Glemsford and a 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major was rung before the practice at Offton.

If there are any other performances that I've left off then please let me know. Just not via my mobile.

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Monday 5th June 2017

Throughout the ages, the bellringing practice has been entwined with a visit to the pub, the general rule of thumb being that the former is for the business of ringing, the latter for the business of unwinding with the drink of your choice and chatting with those you have just been ringing with over a concerted period of concentration. The higher the number of bells you are practicing on, the greater exaggerated this ratio should be - whereas at various light six and eight-bell towers the pieces of ringing are fleeting and many and thus idle chit-chat in between ringing can be affordably accommodated, when one is faced with a session on a 35cwt twelve where each touch can take ten-fifteen minutes each, the time for socialising in the ringing chamber is limited and the post-practice chinwag over ale is that much more important.

So it was at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. A frenetic couple of hours squeezing in as much as we could for the many present - which included the welcome visit of June Mackay from Meldreth in Cambridgeshire - saw much rung, from Little Bob Royal, Surprise Maximus of the Cambridge and Yorkshire variation and a very decent touch of Stedman Cinques to round things off, all interrupted merely by the 8.30 announcements.

Most of us then made the short walk to The Robert Ransome nearby, where Sue and Jonathan Williamson's son Ben was making his debut very well behind the bar, Louis Suggett and Laura Davies were understandably very excited about recently moving into the town and Ruth Suggett imparted that there was a film-crew filming ringing at Bardwell this morning as part of a programme on the Village of the Year Award, which this active community is in the running for, although when Ruth and her fellow local ringers will have their moment of televisual stardom is not yet confirmed - watch this space!

The Norman Tower.Watch this space also for more details of the local Twelve-Bell Striking Competition between towers from Essex and Suffolk. Based on a similar contest held in the North-West of England with great success earlier this year, Ian Culham has done tremendously well in getting this off the ground and generating enough enthusiasm to make it viable enough to provisionally announce that it will take place at The Norman Tower on Saturday 17th February. Although nearby Cambridge and Norwich have had success in the national competition, it has to be said that teams from our two counties have found the leap to that standard difficult to close, but I hope this can offer a stepping stone to an entry in the near future. Indeed, plans to enter an Ipswich band into the 2019 National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition were another element of tonight's socialising and we have certainly been encouraged by Ian's project. At the moment there is much filling-in of details to be made in the next eight months, but keep the date in your diary and keep an eye out for further developments - as well as participants, it would be great to have a lot of spectators in Bury St Edmunds on the day!

For now then, when we can, we will keep practicing and keep socialising in preparation!

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Sunday 4th June 2017

Not unexpectedly, the cowardly attacks around Southwark Cathedral last night had a knock-on effect for some ringers today. With this famous place of worship in the middle of a huge police cordon as the authorities investigated what had gone on just yards from its doors, it meant that there were no services there this morning and of course meant that this newly restored ring of twelve were out of reach for the local ringers.

In less than three weeks time the National Twelve-Bell Contest Final is due to be held here and as part of the preparations each band partaking is allowed the opportunity to practice upon the bells and almost inevitably there was a team booked in for their invaluable session this afternoon. Of course this couldn't go ahead, although mercifully the band who had planned to visit were the London-based Cumberland Youths, rather than Exeter, Bristol or any of the other geographically far-flung participants who would've had greater trouble rescheduling their practice. It's hard to envisage watching the news today that the Southwark band's hopes of getting to the ringing chamber for some half-muffled ringing was fulfilled, but I hope that they were.

 BBQ in churchyard of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. BBQ in churchyard of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge.Here in Suffolk things were a lot more straightforward and more mundane thank God. I joined the ringers at Woodbridge before then attending the service there and then joining in a BBQ in the churchyard afterwards in the shadow of the tower which holds the 25cwt eight here in conditions that lurched between roasting sunshine to chilly wind depending on whether the sun was behind the clouds or not!

Alfie riding his bike at Kingston Fields, with a little help from Mummy!The weather stayed dry and pleasant though as we took Mason's newly serviced bike for a test-ride on Kingston Fields round the corner from home. which also meant that Alfie wanted a ride on his stabilised machine and so we wiled the afternoon away lathered with sun cream enjoying the open space and what remains of the nice conditions, before Ruthie returned to church to sing for Evensong.

Also for Evensong, but at Pettistree and Great Finborough, Ray Lewis was ringing his first quarter-peal of Ipswich Surprise Minor and Neal Dodge, Maureen Gardiner and conductor Lesley Steed their first of Union Bob Doubles respectively. Well done Ray, Neal, Maureen and Lesley!

Meanwhile there was a QP with a lovely footnote,

90th birthday compliment to Heather Phillips. When she was young Heather's parents told her that the bells always rang for her birthday, and only when George V died did the truth come out. But today they DID ring for her.

, rung at Wenhaston yesterday on a good weekend for ringing generally. Unless - sadly - you do your ringing in Southwark. God willing they will be back ringing again very soon, ringing out over a bustling and safe London Bridge.

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Saturday 3rd June 2017

Tulloch Long Length Band.That record attempt alluded to in yesterday's blog turned out to be 20,064 changes of thirty-eight spliced Surprise Maximus methods at the world's most northerly twelve Tulloch Ringing Centre, the longest peal of spliced Maximus ever rung. It is a phenomenal feat of physical and mental endurance, taking 12hrs34mins20secs.

Ringing at Campsea Ashe for the South-East Practice. Ringing at Campsea Ashe for the South-East Practice. Ringing at Campsea Ashe for the South-East Practice. Ringing at Wickham Market for the South-East Practice. Ringing at Wickham Market for the South-East Practice. Chairman Ralph Earey leads the South-East District Meeting at Wickham Market. Chairman Ralph Earey leads the South-East District Meeting at Wickham Market.

To put that into context on longevity alone, when they started we were busy feeding the boys breakfast, far from a quick procedure. As they continued in Scotland, so did we to Ipswich, getting Mason's bike looked over ahead of his cycle proficiency and sort of exchanging a pair of shoes for Alfie - don't get Ruthie started on that subject! We'd returned to Woodbridge for lunch and then made our way to Campsea Ashe and then Wickham Market for the South-East District Practice and Meeting, as I partook in some Cambridge Surprise Minor and conducted Plain Bob Minor at the former and called some Double Court Bob Minor at the latter. A couple of cuppas and biscuits were enjoyed and brief business taken in, tea was consumed back at home and two-thirds of our trio of boys taken to bed and much of the Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Juventus watched before the record-breaking band finally finished.

Extraordinary as that would be in one single method, that they were ringing dozens of methods, most of which would've been unfamiliar to even this band makes it even more incredible. When Orion, Phobos and Zanussi are amongst the most familiar lines then it gives an idea of what sort of challenge they were up against mentally too! I know first hand from ringing and socialising with many of those present both as bandmembers and the also important umpires that these are ringers used to sky-high standards on bells, but the pressure must have been immense, increasingly so the closer to the end that they got. Imagine being the person that lost focus after eleven or twelve hours when everyone had prepared for months and travelled all that way?

There never seemed any danger of that happening though and in between our busy schedule I was keen to keep up to date with the attempt via Facebook and was both encouraged and impressed by the messages coming from those watching on, which included clips of the performance shared through umpire David Hull's Facebook page that showed ringing of a staggering standard, especially the one shot as they neared completion after half-a-day's pealing.

The reaction from ringers was of admiration, but also mixed in was bewilderment, with many thinking out loud that they were frankly bonkers. But truth be known, if I had even a fraction of this band's ability, I would love the opportunity to get involved with a project like this. Such a workout for the brain would be most welcomed and the sense of achievement afterwards must be wonderfully satisfying! Luckily for Ruthie, I can't envisage such a chance coming my way!

Sadly the euphoria that was felt by those of us that had followed this incredible achievement was dampened somewhat by events happening in and around Southwark Cathedral, where in precisely three weeks time hundreds of bellringers are due to be gathered for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final. Thank God most ringers that one might expect to be caught up in the horrific acts appear to be safe, but it wasn't the nicest news to be going to bed on, with events still unfolding as we turned in.

Therefore, I shall endeavour to finish today's blog on a high, highlighting the four QPs rung yesterday that I missed, but which rounded off a very successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week. Well done not just to those partaking in the Kent Treble Bob Minor at Buxhall, Yorkshire Surprise Major at Stowmarket, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Tostock and Double Oxford Bob Minor at Woolpit, but to all who took part in the week and especially to those who achieved something new.

And well done again to the record-breakers at Tulloch!

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Friday 2nd June 2017

As thunderstorms clattered outside this evening, we stayed dry indoors, but the FNQPC were braving the elements to get to Earl Stonham for a 1340 of Doubles.

Meanwhile, a record attempt of some sort seems to be taking place in Scotland tomorrow involving lots of new methods and the likes of Simon Linford, David Pipe and Philip Earis. Watch this space!

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Thursday 1st June 2017

Easton.It would've been Derek Martin's seventy-second birthday earlier this week. Sadly he wasn't around to enjoy it, his shocking death coming halfway through a month that started with him so fit that he was embarking upon a sixty-mile bike ride for charity and just weeks later I found myself at his funeral at the parish church of Easton, the picturesque village with the crinkle-crankle wall where he and his wife Rosemary lived together. The passing of a friend and even more so a loved one is difficult enough to take, with them there one minute and not the next, but it is even more so when as unexpected as Derek's, multiplied further by him being so full of life. He was intelligent, interesting, energetic, jovial and athletic. Suddenly that was gone.

However, that which has been lost is also reason to rejoice and celebrate that we were privileged to have known him wth his many attributes. As the eulogy written by Rosemary and his sister and read by Wickham Market ringer Rob Rose so eloquently highlighted, this was a man who lived life to the full, travelling the world and working with some of the stars in a job that he loved. A man who by all accounts wasn't great at DIY, but enjoyed amongst much else singing and of course ringing.

Those two last loves I feel did him proud on his send-off this lunchtime. The Rabble Chorus sung marvellously as he left the church with a moving rendition of Lyle Lovett's 'If I Had a Boat' and the 10cwt six were rung well either side of a ceremony which also saw Mary Garner speak on behalf of us ringers.

Some of those ringers had been selected to ring beforehand and immediately afterwards, whilst I was pleased to be able to help round off proceedings with a superb piece of Plain Bob Minor that would stand a great chance of winning any six-bell striking competition, some lovely Cambridge Surprise Minor and a good lower before we joined others in the village hall opposite for a tremendous spread. I hope he would have approved of our efforts.

E.B.Button & Sons who my mother-in-law and fellow ringer Kate Eagle runs carried out their job wth typical professionalism and ultimately I think nothing could've epitomised just how loved Derek was than the fact that the building was ram jam full. Most importantly of all I hope that was of comfort to Rosemary and their family.

I was grateful that John Catt allowed me the time to leave the office to pay my respects, as was Ruthie to John Ives who would've happily let her go, but ultimately a shortage of staff on this half-term week meant it was impractical for her to join me, but there was a large number of ringers from surrounding ringing chambers and beyond.

Elsewhere in the county, the hobby Derek so enjoyed was shining brightly as one of the Suffolk Guild's greatest ringers Adrian Knights celebrated his seventieth birthday as he has done - or at least attempted to - for several years, with a peal of Bristol Surprise Major rung to a composition of an appropriate length. As with so many of those previous birthday treats, it was rung at Offton, composed by Brian Whiting and conducted by Stephen Pettman. Happy Birthday Arnie!

A happy note on which to finish a day of mixed emotions.

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Wednesday 31st May 2017

Glorious weather for the first day of the Suffolk Show, although disappointingly there was no ringing presence there again, as has sadly become the norm since our brief exhibiting of The Vestey Ring in 2011 when the St Edmundsbury & Ipswich Diocese's tent very kindly accommodated us. It would be great to take it back there or least have a stand of some sort, although the costs as I understand it make it prohibitive for the Guild to go it alone at such an event.

Still, ringing in the county showcased itself today anyway, albeit in a more traditional and less visible manner as quarters were rung at Pettistree before the practice there which Ruthie attended and at Great Finborough where the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continued with Maureen Gardiner's first of Bedford Surprise Minor. Well done Maureen!

Perhaps she will be allowed to show off her skills at a Suffolk Show one day!

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Tuesday 30th May 2017

A very quiet day from a ringing perspective personally, not unusually for a Tuesday.

However, there was activity in the exercise elsewhere in Suffolk, as the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton was successfully rung.

And it is a reminder that God willing more active days of ringing lay ahead as we hurtle towards June. That includes the South-West District Training Morning at Woolpit on Saturday, where hopefully the six places have been filled, but I'm sure Pam Ebsworth wouldn't object to any offers of help over the next few days, even if they don't need it!

There are no limits on numbers in the afternoon for the planned South-East District Meeting at Campsea Ashe and Wickham Market, nor a week later at Wingfield for Elementary Call-Changes with the North-East District or two days afterwards in the same District at Bungay for the Eight-Bell Practice. Likewise for the Second Tuesday Ringing the next day when they are planning on ringing over the Essex border at Ardleigh and Langham. The Helmingham Monthly Practice is pencilled in for Friday 16th and the on the 20th the first Breakthrough Practice is due to be held at The Norman Tower with the theme being Rounds & Call-Changes on Ten and Twelve. The final weekend of the month is lined up to be a busy day with the Cretingham Bell Weekend being held over both days and the South-West District Striking Competition being held at Woolpit on the Saturday, before June is hopefully rounded off on a high with the Halesworth Triples & Major Practice on the evening of the 27th.

Along the way a couple of striking contests are being held beyond our borders that should be of interest. One is the 30th annual Ridgman Trophy, this year being held on Saturday 17th June at Great St Mary's in Cambridge and where the Guild is entering a band. Having missed last year's contest at Daventry due to our awaiting Joshua's arrival, I am looking forward to this, particularly as having had the good fortune to have wormed my way into winning bands on six, eight and twelve bells a victory in this ten-bell competition would complete the set. The draw will be held ahead of time and although we don't know yet what time we are on and even when we do discover we can't divulge publicly so as not to let the judges find out, if you would like to come along specifically to cheer us on and listen to us then please do get in touch with SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase, myself or indeed anyone you know to be in the band and we would be delighted to let you know and to receive your support! Either that or you could come along for the whole event - a flavour of which can be garnered through blog entries on previous Ridgman Trophy days or on the Ely Diocesan Association website - which is jolly good fun, although I can't say I'm entirely convinced by its move to the morning which seems to be almost getting it out of the way. Still, it would be great to see as many members from within our borders there as possible.

And the following Saturday - if you aren't at Cretingham or Woolpit - then I would recommend popping down to Southwark Cathedral for the National Twelve-Bell Final. Sadly - albeit for happy reasons - we can't make it as I would've dearly loved to have done, but it is ringing at its very, very best, both in terms of the standard of ringing but also socialising too. Hundreds attend, listening to top-quality striking, mingling with friends, eating, drinking, exploring, as many from here will have experienced first-hand when it was held in Norwich two years ago. In 2018 it is planned to bring this showpiece occasion close to us again with the aforementioned GSM in Cambridge the planned location before it is booked in at Exeter in 2019, but if you have the opportunity to travel down to London for this in twenty-five days time then I would take it.

Also worth noting are BBC Music Day on the 15th and the inaugural Suffolk Day on 21st June.

All of which should make for more interesting days of ringing than today!

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Monday 29th May 2017

CRAG. Or to unravel the acronym, the Central Council Review Action Group. It's results have been eagerly awaited by all those with an interest in the CCCBR, which tellingly isn't many.

My three years representing the Suffolk Guild on the Council can at best be described as nondescript. I wasn't very useful to them and I didn't find it overly useful to any ringing that I have ever been involved in. There is much good work done by good people, volunteers who put in countless hours with the noble intention of helping ringers and ringing. It has provided finance, advice and support to many throughout the associations, guilds and societies affiliated to it and represented the art in matters of interest to the national media.

However, it is widely thought that it is too large, too unwieldy, too cumbersome and too antiquated in its image and mindset and as a result not doing as much as it could. Therefore, last year the aforementioned action group was set-up to explore how to tackle the perceived weaknesses and report back. That it did and its findings and analysis, thought and considered opinion on those findings can be found in the pages of recent editions of the Ringing World as well as the Central Council's own website and CRAG's website, along with a handy FAQ PDF, so I shan't go into major detail, especially as those interested will probably already have read them. Nonetheless, the general gist is that a number of radical reforms have been proposed, such as rebranding the organisation, reducing its numbers and committees - in the process renaming them as working groups - and update its aims to recognise that whilst our primary purpose is to ring for the church, the interest that helps underpin any progress in the exercise includes much secular activity.

Essentially this will replace the Council as we know it and so there was no little curiosity as to whether its members would pass the proposals put before them at the annual meeting in Edinburgh. I counted myself among the curious minority, which is why despite those disturbing memories of sitting through hours of technical boredom in Newcastle, Worcester and Derby all that time ago I found myself actually watching the live stream of the business on this Bank Holiday Monday, or at least as much I could whilst looking after the three boys whilst Ruthie was at work.

What I and others watching witnessed was a little bit of history as the membership did indeed agree to vote through CRAG's proposals. Initially it appeared that the prevaricating that has been the hallmark of the CCCBR for many may sidetrack the reforms, but as soon as Doug Davis of the Kent County Association stood and asked "what are we waiting for?" in frustrated tones to thunderous applause it seemed unlikely that it would be held back.

These changes won't happen overnight and much detail needs confirming, but by the time they meet again in 2018 in Lancashire hopefully everything will be well and truly in motion.

Not that most will notice the difference. Everyday ringing will continue regardless, but hopefully the hopes expressed of a more professional approach will filter down in regards to funding, expertise on offer and image of the art. Time will tell.

For now though, the most immediate change was the replacement of Christopher Mew at the end of his term as President with Christopher O'Mahony and it was good to see all three of the Suffolk Guild's reps (with our number reduced by George Salter's move to Bristol at the start of the year) Neal Dodge, Veronica Downing and Stephen Pettman making contributions, but undoubtedly it was CRAG that made the headlines today.

That said though, watching a meeting online was not in my plans for today. Meeting up with friends or going out to one of the many events nearby that myself, Mason, Alfie and Joshua would enjoy was on my list. Unfortunately though, illness for one of the children again scuppered things. This time it was Alfred with something not very serious to him but very contagious and potentially dangerous to some, so in a safety-first approach we were instead stuck in the house all day.

Elsewhere within our borders they were more active thank God, on another busy day for the county's ringers and particularly the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week. Well done to Pam Ebsworth and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Childwall Bob Minor in the 1260 at Brandon and of Kemerton Bob Minor in the 1320 at Lakenheath and to Lucy Dawson on the same achievement with Primrose Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Exning, whilst there was also a QP rung at St Mary-the-Virgin in Newmarket.

For all the big changes in Edinburgh today, ringing life was clearly carrying on as normal.

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Sunday 28th May 2017

A reversal of the norm on the Sunday-morning route.

At St Mary-le-Tower, where Surprise Royal or Maximus is not unusual, we were short on numbers, with Rounds and Call-Changes on Ten and Triples on the front eight as advanced as proceedings got, although it remained of a high standard.

Six miles away in Grundisburgh later in the morning and after a quick visit to the village's park, we were positively heaving with ringers. Ironically Ringing Master here Stephen Pettman was away, representing the Suffolk Guild at the Central Council in Edinburgh, but we were boosted by the visit of guests of David Stanford and Adrienne Sharp, Mary and Chris Hartley from Bedfordshire. Well done to Mary on ringing her first quarter-peal of Minor in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Clopton today, but she was unfortunate to be ringing the sixth at the little wobbly red-brick tower when the rope broke on her this morning. Unfortunate too that it was during a rare workout of all twelve bells together here and the very first piece, meaning that despite the abundance at our disposal we were reduced to ringing on the back six for the remainder of the service ringing, before the boys and I were reunited with Ruthie after the service at St Mary-the-Virgin where the unintentional jamming of the lock to the vestry earlier meant that nobody could get to the various equipment needed, including ceremonial clothing, bread and wine! It made for an interesting morning for them.

Meanwhile, that aforementioned performance at the 12cwt six rehung four years ago was not the only success within our borders since sunrise. Indeed it was one of a quartet in the medium on the county's bells on a busy day in the exercise locally, as the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week got underway with Grandsire Doubles at Bardwell, Lincolnshire Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower and Yorkshire Surprise Major at the South-East District eight of Henley.

For us it was a less exciting but still pleasant afternoon as with Mater and Pater returning from a holiday in Portugal - and thus amongst the absentees at SMLT this morning - we popped in on former ringer and current sister of my father, Aunty Marian. With much happening in both subjects, an hour or so of conversation ranged from the usual topics of football and ringing. It was very much the norm on this occasion!

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Saturday 27th May 2017

Today was a significant day for football fans, the culmination of this season's edition of the oldest and most famous competition in the sport as Arsenal and Chelsea played each other in this year's FA Cup Final at Wembley. For us Ipswich Town fans it brings back memories of when we won the trophy in 1978, although I hadn't quite arrived in the world on that May day five months before I was born. Coventry City's 3-2 victory over Spurs back in 1987 is the first one I can recall taking in and I was enthralled by the build-up and at the peak - or perhaps trough - of my youth in university and the years that immediately followed my further education in the West Midlands, FA Cup Final day was a real highlight of the calendar for myself and my peers, complete with BBQ, far more drink than was sensible and various degrees of sunburn depending on the weather conditions. Even after my return to Suffolk and subsequent but gradual and necessary mellowing of youthful excesses, I based my stag do around watching this showpiece fixture.

Occasionally other events like striking contests and fatherhood have meant that I haven't been able to drink in the atmosphere to the same extent and as with most things it isn't the same as back in the day, with teams taking it less seriously and the kick-off time moved to the ridiculous 5.30pm, but this evening's match offered forth a tenuous excuse to invite Ufford ringer Pete Faircloth over for some food, beer and catching-up. The 'Gunners'' 2-1 triumph over their London neighbours provided a superb backdrop to chatter about ringing, football and topics of the day which on this occasion included planes being grounded by a far from reassuring computer failure.

Significant as this roasting Saturday was for lovers of the beautiful game though, it was even more significant for the happy couple who were married this afternoon at Woodbridge. With Ruthie at work I bravely guided the three boys up the many steps to the ringing chamber from which this 25cwt eight are rung from, to be met by some of my fellow bandmates puzzling over how to turn off the alarm to the roof intended to alert people to someone stealing lead but which was going off without any cause and was within seconds getting very annoying! We managed it before setting off on ringing the bride in and producing some nice ringing for the new husband and wife either side of the ceremony, but I left hoping that I don't find myself in a peal attempt there one day when it goes off!

Still, I didn't let it bother me as I sat down to an ale and hot dog to watch the footy later.

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Friday 26th May 2017

It has been a hot hot hot week. The shorts are out and evenings long and warm.

It isn't ideal ringing weather of course, but it does have its benefits even to those performing on bells. I imagine that having rung their quarter-peal at Ashbocking, it must have been lovely for the FNQPC to step out into the sunshine in the beautiful surroundings in which this church sits.

Long may it continue.

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Thursday 25th May 2017

Today at 11am, much of the UK stood in silence for a minute to remember the victim's of Monday night's tragic events in Manchester. Although they have been remembered by ringing in countless performances, it was of course a sensitive moment for those who were planning on using society's loudest instrument this morning. Ringing through it could be a PR disaster.

By and large though, they seemed to have adapted.

A peal was rung at Chirk in north Wales immediately following the act of remembrance, as was a quarter-peal at Havant in Hampshire, whilst in Nottinghamshire, a planned peal attempt at Linby instead turned into a brace of quarters either side, with a 1440 beforehand and 1320 afterwards.

There was much ringing too for Ascension Day - which saw Ruthie return early from choir practice as there was a service at church this evening - including at Blythburgh, where Sal Jenkinson rang her first of St Clement's College Bob Minor. Well done Sal!

Meanwhile, congratulations to David Steed who today rang his 1600th quarter-peal in the 1320 of King Edward Surprise Minor at Kirk Deighton in Yorkshire, which appears to be the latest success on a QP trip up north for some of Suffolk's most dedicated ringers. Well done today also to Betty Baines who in David's significant quarter was ringing her first in the method to add to the same feat - along with Anne Bridge - in the performance of York Surprise Minor at Fewston on Tuesday and her debut blows of Wells Surprise Minor rung at Addingham yesterday. The latter was also Janet Garnett's first in the method as conductor on the same day that she rang her first QP of Aberdare St Elvan Place Triples in the 1260 at Birstwith, along with David Webb, Lesley Steed and her aforementioned husband.

Well done to you all, not just on your achievements, but also on showing in a small way that our society won't stop what we enjoy doing, despite other's evil attempts.

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Wednesday 24th May 2017

A more positive day than yesterday.

Manchester United injected some much needed joy into their home city by winning the Europa League tonight and I caught up on my work in the office, with Ruthie so much better that not only was she able to look after Alfie and Joshua but was also able to partake in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree ahead of attending another productive practice and partaking in some beer in The Greyhound afterwards.

Indeed that success was a part of a relatively busy day of ringing on Suffolk's bells, with an impressive peal of eight-spliced Surprise Major methods rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower and a notable QP at Campsea Ashe where Mike and Geoff Cowling rang their first together for a staggering fifty-three years! Although I don't know much about Geoff, Mike's return to ringing has been one of a number of recent returnees after years and even decades out and just goes to show what a versatile hobby the exercise is - it really can fit in around your life, which as this blog has shown for myself and my wife over almost a decade has a habit of constantly shifting and evolving! Mike in particular though has been a real bonus, supporting a vast number of towers, getting involved in quarter-peals and peals and even taking up the role of North-East District Chairman!

It is a fitting note on which to complete this positive blog today.

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Tuesday 23rd May 2017

Personally it was a frustrating day for Ruthie and me, as my wife was struck down with illness, meaning that I had to stay home from the office to look after Alfie and Joshua whilst my wife was otherwise occupied.

However, I did get some work done, Mrs Munnings got better and quite rightly it was hard to escape after last night's tragic events in Manchester that our day wasn't really something to grumble about.

For all the immense tragedy and sadness though, again humanity came out on top, with that single destructive act almost entirely negated by the countless acts of kindness and goodwill aimed towards the city and to a small degree ringing did its bit, with performances, quarter-peals and peals across the country dedicated to all those affected. Most notable was the 1260 of Grandsire Triples rung at Sacred Trinity in Salford just yards from the MEN Arena.

Meanwhile, here in Suffolk the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton was successful, a bright light on a sad day.

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Monday 22nd May 2017

Congratulations to John Girt. Primarily on fifteen years of manually winding the clock at St Margaret's in Ipswich and his well deserved retirement from the role. Also though, on maintaining the superb coverage that the restoration and rehanging of the eight bells and lowering of the ringing chamber to a gallery has had in the local media. Today saw the East Anglian Daily Times reporting on the "chirpy campanologist" and whilst the publicity is great for making people aware of what is happening at the town centre tower overlooking Christchurch Mansion, it is important for his laudable project to attract more youngsters to the band.

Talking of new recruits, just a few hundred yards away at St Mary-le-Tower we welcomed a couple of potential ones at the weekly practice tonight as a mother and her daughter came up to watch and have a chime as an introduction to our limitless art. The latter is in the choir and so with the former particularly interested in taking up ringing they had got in touch with us via the church and Diana Pipe to arrange a visit. Time will tell whether it is something they'd like to take up, especially as what we do is very daunting to the layperson and even more so when presented with twelve ropes interacting with each other amongst what sounds like a foreign language. However, there were some promising signs. They appeared to enjoy the jovial atmosphere and the daughter grasped the rudiments of call-changes.

St Mary-le-Tower Practice Night.They came for a session that was odd in many respects. There was a large crowd, with another visit from Roger and Mary Whittell plus the return of Rachel, a student studying at Ipswich Hospital, whilst Hilary Stern had a watching brief as she showed off some rather nasty bruises from a recent fall from a horse. Yet despite these numbers, much didn't go to plan, although the evening was climaxed by a good touch of Grandsire Cinques. Sometimes it goes like that.

Even though we had one of our biggest crowds for a while, the numbers retiring to the Robert Ransome were the lowest for a long time on a lovely night that felt extremely summery, as I joined Stephen Cheek, Owen Claxton, David Potts and Diana for a drink. Much laughter was still had on a generally upbeat night.

There was ringing elsewhere in Suffolk too, with a quarter-peal at Wickham Market dedicated to Derek Martin, whose funeral is due to be held at Easton at noon on Thursday 1st June, with ringing beforehand from 11.30am.

I'm sure Derek will have been pleased to see the positive vibe in today's ringing. Let's hope we see much more of it.

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Sunday 21st May 2017

A poorly Joshua scuppered any plans I had this morning, so whilst Ruthie went to sing with her choir at the service at St Mary's in Woodbridge, I watched over the boys. With Josh asleep, Mason playing his computer games and Alfie watching on adoringly, I got the opportunity to listen to some more superb coverage of local ringing on BBC Radio Suffolk. They are great supporters of ringing in the county, particularly Jon Wright who regularly has pieces on bells on his Sunday show and they didn't fail us today.

It starts 38mins47secs into today's programme, with the presenter announcing the results from yesterday's striking competitions, a great bit of PR in its own right. Incidentally, you can view a video clip of Pakenham's winning piece at Walsham-le-Willows on the Guild's Twitter feed, even if you aren't a member of Twitter.

This is then followed by a marvellous report on the removal of St Margaret's octave in Ipswich, with interviews with the ringers including some of the youngsters there. Super stuff and well done to all concerned.

Mason throwing hoops. Mason bean-bag throwing. Mason riding a donkey. Alfie riding a donkey.

Following a necessarily restful morning and a spot of lunch, we decided that on such a gorgeous sunny afternoon it would probably help JB more if we got him out of the house and conscious that the boys had to indulge me in a long day yesterday we were keen to do something that was fun for them. Thank God the weather is warming up and we have an abundance of events in beautiful places within minutes of us and so we found ourselves at nearby Foxburrow Farm for a couple of hours of welly-throwing, hoop-throwing, bean-bag throwing, forest-trails, donkey-rides, ice-cream eating and the obligatory failure to win anything on the raffle.

As you will have noticed, active as that all was, it involved no ringing, but there was some carried out at one of the venues I usually partake in the exercise at, as a quarter-peal of Little Bob Royal was successfully rung at St Mary-le-Tower in place of the third-Sunday Practice.

Much as I missed ringing though, I was glad that by the end of the day that Joshie was better. Hopefully he'll allow me to get on with ringing now!

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Saturday 20th May 2017

Pakenham Band.A little bit of SGR history was made today. According to the records on this website and on the trophy itself, today is the first time there has ever been joint winners in the fifty-four year history of the Mitson Shield, although it appears that in fact Horringer shared their victory of 1974 at Bacton with St Mary-le-Tower by the accounts of some who were there. Nonetheless, it was definitely the first time that Pakenham had ever won the competition and surprisingly - given the quality of ringers around the county - the first team from outside the South-East District to win it since Rendham were victorious at Tunstall in 2006 and the first from the North-West District since the contest at Buxhall twenty years ago when Stowmarket were champions. Many congratulations Pakenham!

It was a good day for the Munnings and Munford families, with myself ringing the tenor for SMLT, the other team coming out on top at Walsham-le-Willows from this morning's efforts, whilst my brother Chris, his wife Becky, brother-in-law Carl and father-in-law Stephen were in the other winning band. And it was ultimately a good day all round for all the participants. The scores were ridiculously close, which wasn't unexpected to me from all that I had managed to snatch a listen of, both in the method competition and that for the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy, the latter of which was won by Hollesley.

The draw for the Six-Bell Competitions at Walsham-le-Willows. Listening to the ringing at Walsham-le-Willows. Listening to the ringing at Walsham-le-Willows. Listening to the ringing at Walsham-le-Willows. Grabbing a cuppa and a chat in The Priory Rooms in Walsham-le-Willows. Listening to the results of the Six-Bell Competitions in the Community Centre in Horringer. Listening to the results of the Six-Bell Competitions in the Community Centre in Horringer. Listening to the ringing for The Rose Trophy at Horringer. Listening to the ringing for The Rose Trophy at Horringer. Outside Horringer church waiting to ring for the South-East District in The Rose Trophy.

With the now well-established format of six-bell pre-lunch and eight-bell in the afternoon, there was a leisurely feel as we approached the Rose Trophy at Horringer. Almost a little too much so, as the gap between the superb grub and the results to the six-bell competitions being announced by the judges Faith Pearce and Richard Carter from Norfolk seemed to drag a little, although some took advantage of the proximity to Ickworth House and its grounds to explore.

Trophies presented for the earlier competitions, the draw was made for the contest on the brand new, magnificent octave. In some respects it was a shame that there weren't more teams in this, with St Mary-le-Tower unable to enter a band with a number away this weekend for example, but with the four teams entering made up solely of District teams (including the SE who I was ringing for), it felt like a 'proper' eight-bell competition. Either way, congratulations to the North-East District on winning this, whose thorough preparation included a 1288 of Grandsire Triples at Horham ahead of joining the rest of us, one of two quarter-peals rung within our borders since sunrise, along with a 1260 of Doubles at nearby Bardwell.

Their success made for a day that felt like a true Guild event. Winners from three different Districts, with representation from all four Districts at Walsham-le-Willows and Horringer. Thank you to all those who provided the super hospitality at both venues, with Ruth Young leading things in The Priory Rooms at the former and Sally Crouch in the Community Centre at the latter, with Rowan Wilson overseeing the arrangements. And thank you to Chris, Becky, Mike Whitby and Suzanne Stevens for looking after the boys whilst I rang. Well done as well to Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase at his first competitions in the role, having been away for last year's events in Reydon and Southwold. (Results here.)

Next year the competitions are due to be held in the SE District and we have a big job following on from today. Where we go will be interesting, with Coddenham, Framlingham and The Wolery the only eight-bell towers in the District that haven't either hosted The Rose Trophy since its inception or held the AGM in recent years, but God willing by then the new eight will be in at St Margaret's in Ipswich.

For now though, the boys and I made our way home to be reunited with Ruthie who had to work today and thus missed out on what was a wonderful day out. Great ringing, mainly sunny weather and perhaps most importantly of all lovely company. We enjoyed mingling with members from all corners of the Suffolk ringing family, talking trains with Paul Ebsworth for example, socialising with Giles Croucher, social care with Guild Chairman Alan Stanley, football with Robert Scase, their daughter's appearance on News on Ten earlier this week with Peter & Jane Harper and the ambitions for Stowmarket's bells with Carol Girling. Merely a snippet of the eclectic mix of conversation with so many people and a major part of what is so enjoyable about occasions like this. Especially when they're as historic as today's.

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Friday 19th May 2017

A visit from Ruthie's best friend and Godmother to Alfie Fergie whilst on a roundabout route from her abode in Brighton to a wedding in Birmingham via her home town, was a highlight on a day where there was very little to report on from a ringing perspective.

So in order to inject any sort of ringing-related substance into today's blog, I clicked on the random button on Bellboard and got this performance. Give it a go and wile away those Friday nights.

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Thursday 18th May 2017

An impressive quarter-peal of six spliced Surprise Minor methods was rung at Tostock today, but otherwise there was little to report from a ringing perspective across Suffolk and personally, as I had a lads' night in with Alfie and Joshua whilst Ruthie enjoyed a night out at The Anchor with her work colleagues.

There are busier days planned on the county's bells before May is out though, even beyond Saturday's Guild Striking Competitions.

Tuesday is pencilled in for the Halesworth Triples & Major Practice, before the bank holiday weekend gets underway with the South-West District Practice at Kedington on the evening of the 27th and the start of the North-West Quarter-Peal Week which is due to climax with a QP day and an evening meal on Friday 2nd June.

If the efforts of NW ringers in the medium today are anything to go by, it should be a cracking week of ringing!

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Wednesday 17th May 2017

After their rare public appearance last night, the eight bells of St Margaret's in Ipswich today left the town for their restoration in Holland, loaded up onto a lorry with help from local ringers John and Shirley Girt and Roger Coley. For all that I was in a nostalgic mood in yesterday's blog, these are exciting times in this corner of the county town. As with previous stages of the project, the East Anglian Daily Times covered the event complete with pictures, all of which can be found on their website, along with a video which can also be viewed on YouTube. Superb coverage, so well done to all concerned.

Well done also to Sylvie Fawcett who in partaking in the quarter-peal at Wickham Skeith was ringing her first touch of Kent Treble Bob Minor, whilst meanwhile Ruthie made her usual Wednesday evening trip to Pettistree practice. With regular Derek Martin's shock death at the weekend though, there was understandably a more subdued atmosphere than there usually is at this lively weekly session, with the pre-practice quarter dedicated to him poignantly just seven days after the pre-practice quarter wishing him a speedy recovery.

I imagine he would be one of the first to encourage folk not to mope around and so as normal the ringing was followed by a pint, with striking competition teams arranged and a date set for the tower's planned summer outing in a couple of months time. And I wouldn't be surprised if St Margaret's bells got a mention too.

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Tuesday 16th May 2017

Maligned as they are in some quarters, the octave of St Margaret's in Ipswich hold much affection for the Munnings family. When my brother Chris and I began ringing as children in the distant past, they were a part of our first Sunday morning routine, with ringing here sandwiched between our duties at St Mary-le-Tower and Sproughton, as well as attending the Thursday night practice every other week as we alternated between here and Grundisburgh for our Thursday night learning.

Of course our connection goes further back than that, with Mum and particularly Dad having long rung here and stretching even further back our paternal grandfather Jack was a dedicated member of the band here for decades and few are more strongly associated with this eight that has rung out across Christchurch Park for centuries. Indeed, he was making his way to do his bit here for the Sabbath when he died over twenty-five years ago.

The bells of St Margaret's Ipswich on the church floor. Dad with one of the bells of St Margaret's Ipswich on the church floor.  Aunty Marian with the bells of St Margaret's Ipswich on the church floor.

So when they were opened to the public on the floor of the church from 5-7pm this evening for one night only, it was inevitable that some of our family would make it down to see them. Representation for us could be found in the shape of our parents, who also took along our father's sister, Aunty Marian, who herself rang upon these bells. Tomorrow, they are due to be taken to Holland for restoration and so this was one final farewell to a set of bells in their current form that have been the soundtrack to so much in our family - funerals, Christenings, weddings, confirmations and some our most important ringing breakthroughs.

Talking about breakthroughs, those who know Bill Haynes and who recalled the injury that saw the top of his thumb taken off in an accident a few months ago will have been heartened to see that last night he rang his first peal left-handed, impressively ringing the 31cwt tenor at Birmingham Cathedral to a peal of Stedman Cinques. It was also notable for it being Matthew King's first peal as he joined a select group to have gone straight into the peal columns at this level.

We meanwhile had a quiet night in, whilst other members of our family were saying goodbye to those maligned, but special bells.

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Monday 15th May 2017

Breakthrough is the name of the interesting project lined up for the third Tuesday of each of the next few months, as The Norman Tower plays host to a series of themed practices. Starting with a Rounds and Call-Changes on Ten and Twelve session planned for the evening of 20th June, the usual practice night is due to be given over to Plain Hunt on Nine, Ten and Twelve in July, Grandsire Caters in August, Erin & Stedman Caters in September, Plain Royal in October and finally Treble Bob and Simple Surprise Royal in November.

Although they are laid out in a progressive order, the aim isn't for the same group of learners to make their way from call-changes to Surprise Royal in five months (although what a find that would be!), but rather that those who want to get an evening's focus on call-changes, plain hunt and so forth on higher numbers can go to Bury St Edmunds confident they will get just that.

However, they will need support from both learners and those more experienced, so please put the dates in your diaries and take advantage and/or help out when you can.

Rowan Wilson is behind it all and was keen to tell me about it - as I was to hear about it - in the Robert Ransome after tonight's weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower. In fact, the post-session socialising was rife with informal business - as it should be - and I found myself called upon a number of times. In addition to my chat with Rowan, birthday boy Stephen Cheek asked me why Laura Davies had featured in a video with a bird on her head (preceding his enquiry with "you know everything" with unfounded optimism) and David Potts revealed he has had a very positive response to his request for names prepared to partake in an Ipswich entry into the National Twelve-Bell Contest.

In regards to the former, I can't say with any certainty why Laura was bedecked with a feathered friend, but I am confident on the latter. The names imparted to me by the SMLT Ringing Master include a number that have partaken in ringing's premier striking competition before and indeed in the final, so there should be recognition of the dedication needed. Focused, regular practices, some on foreign twelves, occasionally some miles racked up, attention to detail, an acceptance of constructive criticism - all this will be needed to make it worthwhile, whilst it will also be necessary to manage expectations. We won't be heading through to the final at the first attempt - teams like Leeds and Melbourne who are now regulars in the final took a few attempts - and there already seems a sensible approach, with an entry any earlier than 2019 ruled out. It all sounds daunting, but with a proper commitment by all should be a lot of fun and very satisfying and the fun starts now. As someone jokingly said with a degree of truth, the two leads of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus that climaxed tonight's ringing was the beginning!

That said, we were unusually low on numbers on this occasion, although we benefited from the visit of Roger and Mary Whittell and Rosemary, a ringer from Gnosall and managed a wide repertoire that also took in London (No.3) Surprise Royal.

Let's hope it helps us make the breakthrough to the very highest standards on twelve.

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Sunday 14th May 2017

The return of mother-in-law Kate and Ron from a fortnight's holiday in Kenya that took in a safari was the highlight of a quiet day.

Ringing was undertaken by myself on the front six at Woodbridge before the boys and I joined Ruthie downstairs for the service ahead of the annual dash to get out of the area with the start of the town's yearly 10k run looming nearby.

Elsewhere they were busier with the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh successful, whilst this morning SGR PR Officer Neal Dodge and South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson were on Jon Wright's BBC Radio Suffolk show (just after 2hrs41mins in) talking about next Saturday's Guild Striking Competitions at Walsham-le-Willows and Horringer. It was a superb interview that gave a good flavour of what the contests and indeed ringing are all about, with the presenter recounting how to ring Stedman, mention made of St Margaret's bells being taken out and even a mention of how Jonathan and his wife Sue met through the art.

Walsham-le-Willows.Horringer.Hopefully the competitions will be worthy of the set-up they've been given and we see a wide range of teams from across the county taking part. There is tremendous talent throughout the membership and hopefully the myth that St Mary-le-Tower win everything in a contest made up of a handful of the same ringers has been blown away in recent years. If Saturday is anything like the last decade's worth of competing then we will see a tight contest among a huge number of members, with the venues teeming with participants and supporters. This weekend's event will offer the opportunity to enjoy the lovely village of Walsham-le-Willows, whilst even if you aren't partaking in the Rose Trophy at Horringer there is plenty to entice folk. Lunch is available to those who can get their names in to Sally Crouch by Wednesday and nearby I imagine The Six Bells and The Beehive pubs will be pleased of your business. As teams compete, there is Ickworth House and its parks and gardens immediately next door to explore, plus open ringing on the brand new octave afterwards and at both venues plenty of friends to mingle with, long-established and still to meet. So whether you are taking part or not, please do come along and take it all in.

Hopefully it will be a more entertaining day than today!

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Saturday 13th May 2017

Only three days ago in this blog I wished Easton ringer and Pettistree regular Derek Martin a swift recovery from a heart-attack he suffered whilst on a charity bike ride last Sunday. By all accounts he was stable and for the circumstances upbeat, joking on Facebook about avoiding cycling this weekend. We fully expected him to rest up and imagined he may be back ringing in the near future when ready or at least joining us for the many social events we enjoy from being a part of the band that rings at the aforementioned 7cwt ground-floor six. A card was signed at Wednesday's practice and the weekly quarter-peal before the session dedicated to wishing him well.

Ruthie and I were therefore completely and utterly stunned and shocked to learn that Derek passed away this morning. In fact, I don't mind admitting that it really knocked us sideways. This wasn't an unfit, ageing man with a long list of health problems as some are unfortunately inflicted with, as demonstrated by the fact that he was taken ill on a sixty-mile charity cycle ride just six days ago. He was still regularly ringing - although a cycle accident prevented him in recent weeks - and last time I saw him at our annual Dinner just over a month ago he was his usual upbeat self. We shall miss his lively sense of humour, his reassuring tones, his enthusiasm. Amongst much else, I shall fondly remember his support at St Matthew's in Ipswich for the Symphony of Bells five years ago, even bringing his wife Rosemary along as the conductor. If his death has knocked the stuffing out of us, I can't imagine what it must be like for her and their family. They are in our thoughts.

Joshua enjoying his first go on a swing!Of course, this tragic news overshadowed everything else about our day, although personally it hadn't been a particularly interesting one anyway, with the main highlight being Joshua's first go on a swing at the park as we took a Saturday off ringing for the first time for a few weeks.

Elsewhere they were busier as the North-East District held its annual Striking Competition at Metfield. Congratulations to Halesworth on winning the Pat Bailey Shield, to runners-up Rendham & Sweffling who therefore collected the Harry Archer Trophy and to Southwold on winning the Call-Change Trophy on a day that featured six teams and no doubt lots of good ringing. Well done to all involved.

It was a bright bit of news on an extremely sad day.

RIP Derek.

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Friday 12th May 2017

This evening we raised a glass to Ruthie's Nan, a year after she passed away, her generosity at the forefront of our minds with her legacy allowing us to be in the happy position we currently find ourselves of being able to buy a home together.

Glasses were no doubt being raised at Whitechapel where at lunchtime the very last bells - in this case a set of handbells - were cast on this famous old site. It is perhaps an opportune moment to highlight a statement that former employee Nigel Taylor recently made, clearing up the precise situation moving forward. I could surmise, but clearly Nigel took the time to word everything very carefully to clear up some of the speculation and ambiguity surrounding the exact set-up involving him, Westley Group Ltd, Whites and Whitechapel heading into a new future. This is what he said on his Facebook page:

"There has been quite a lot of correspondence recently regarding the future of the Whitechapel Bellfoundry's products, and I think it is now time that I explained my involvement in this in more detail.
In recent years, advertisements and publicity published by the Whitechapel Bellfoundry has been rather lopsided, with a propensity to over emphasise the family business aspect and understate the quality of its products and its skilled staff. The latest missives published in the ringing world (pge.314) and on the company's own website have not bucked this trend.
To clarify matters, all the staff including myself are being made redundant, so the reference in the latest official statement from the foundry that Whitechapel will be providing expert consultancy to Whites of Appleton to enable them to tune bells is only partly correct. Whilst it is true to say that the expertise originated from Whitechapel, I shall be acting as a completely independent consultant as Nigel Taylor Bell Solutions.
The reference to the Westley Group Ltd. casting Whitechapel bells will undoubtedly leave ringers and prospective clients asking how they will acquire the necessary skills. Once again, I have been asked by the Westley Group to act as an entirely independent consultant, and I am visiting their office and foundry within the next two weeks to hopefully finalise our initial approach. They are to acquire all the moulding cases, core plates, associated equipment, and of course the moulding gauges. This will include both the Mk.I's and III's, the G&J profiles, one off specials, and some of the old-style gauges in case a client specifically asks for old-style bells, although the default will be bells with octave hums. The bells will feature the Whitechapel logo, and all the letter-sets and decorative friezes will also be transported to the Stoke-on-Trent site. The plan, at least initially will be to manufacture loam copes with the usual impressed inscriptions and ornamental borders, and resin sand cores.
The castings will be supplied untuned, but any bell company possessing a tuning machine will be able to purchase bells from the Westley Group. Visitors associated with a project will be able to see their bells cast.
Once matters are properly settled, I shall provide further information, and in due course give details of the Westley Group website that will deal specifically with bells. Steve McEwan, Whitechapel's handbell tuner and fitter will be continuing as an independent restorer of handbells and their fittings, and plans are in hand to source castings from a company in Kent.
Peter Trick, the blacksmith will be setting up his own business in Essex, and will be able to repair and restore wrought-iron clappers. Peter will also be manufacturing ornamental ironwork. Both Steve and Peter produce work to an exceptionally high standard, and were tremendous assets to the Whitechapel Bellfoundry."

Hopefully that clears things up!

No time for glass-raising in the NHS (when is there ever I suppose?) today, where they were trying to deal with the cruel cyber attack that could potentially put lives at risk and no doubt caused misery to many of those in need of medical help, but mercifully whilst our ancient art benefits from the computerised world in so many ways, it is in its actual functioning entirely immune from such modern paralysis and so it was a relatively busy day on Suffolk's bells, although ironically none of them were cast by the now closed aforementioned bellfoundry. The brand new Taylor's eight at Horringer - where the Guild Eight-Bell Striking Competition is due to take place in nine days, so please get your name in for tea to Sally Crouch by Wednesday - were resounding to the sound of a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major in honour of dedicated SGR servant Chris Nunn, the more elderly mix of Charles & George Mears and John Darbie that makes up the 8cwt six at Woolpit were ringing out to a 1260 of Doubles for the sixtieth birthday of their rector The Rev. Ruth Farrell and the eclectic 14cwt five of Little Glemham made up of bells from Mears & Stainbank, Thomas Osborn, Stephen Tonni II and Thomas Lester were turned in to a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles to remember one of its former ringers Private Charles Denny Hunt, one hundred years on from his death in the First World War.

Much to raise a glass to.

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Thursday 11th May 2017

If it wasn't for a minor bump in the car this evening, today would've been entirely uneventful. Even the RTA wasn't really much to write home about. Low speed at a junction, no injuries - indeed no damage at all to speak of to our car - and all amicably dealt with in the warm sunshine as shoulders were shrugged, insurance details exchanged and everyone involved went on their way. It was a bit of a shock for Alfie though, who was eager to check that our vehicle Aloysius was OK once we'd got home!

On the ringing front in Suffolk, things also seem to have been low-key, with even the one performance recorded on Bellboard within our borders being the result of a low attendance at the second-Thursday Surprise Major Practice at Ufford. Well done to Anne Buswell though, for whom the 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major was her first in the method.

I hope everyone got there and back without any prangs!

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Wednesday 10th May 2017

Get well soon Derek Martin.

This friendly, sociable Pettistree ringer suffered - it was revealed to us today - a heart attack a third of the way into a sixty mile charity bike ride on Sunday and has had a stent fitted in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. There were hopes that he would return home this evening, but it seems another night under their superb care is necessary. However, he seems remarkably chipper about it and he is of course in good hands. Still, he is in our thoughts and clearly in the thoughts of his fellow ringers at Pettistree where this evening's pre-practice quarter was dedicated to him.

It was a hard-earned QP too, restarted after nearly 720 changes and finally brought round twenty minutes after the practice had started! Not easy on the hands when ringing the fifth as Ruthie will testify! At least it was a nice evening to wait for them to finish.

Their's wasn't the only quarter-peal rung in Suffolk today either, with a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at Elveden, but my wife continued ringing even after her successful performance as she partook in the session that followed, where Derek was missed.

Get well soon Derek!

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Tuesday 9th May 2017

A young superstar of ringing with Suffolk connections was achieving again last night.

Not withstanding being the son of well-established stars of the art David and Cecilia and therefore grandson of ringing legend Rod who was born, raised and learnt to ring in the Grundisburgh area and great nephew of our very own George and Di, Henry Pipe first came to prominence for his own exploits on bells when he rang his first quarter-peal at the tender age of six, followed up by a brief video of some ringing filmed immediately afterwards that revealed the astounding standard of ringing this child was already capable of.

Seven years on his progress has been no less staggering. His first peal was notched up at seven years old, conducting his first QP just three years later, and he celebrated his eleventh birthday by calling his first peal. He was still only ten when he rang his first on twelve, which just happened to be Bristol Surprise Maximus and his first of twenty spliced Surprise Major methods followed a couple of months later. Peals of Stedman Cinques, Orion and Zanussi Surprise Maximus have since followed as has a vastly impressive repertoire of quarter-peals.

Yesterday though, he rang his first peal of spliced Maximus in the 5016 at Birmingham Cathedral. And yet again, this wasn't just any old spliced, but his father's famous cyclical one - the 'Pipe Classic'. Philip Earis explains in glorious detail as only he can on Changeringing Wiki, which even if you don't fully understand it will give you an impression of just how much an achievement it is for a fourteen-year boy to ring. Equally so for Jack Page, who at nineteen years old is the youngest person to call it. I had the absolute privilege to ring with Jack in a peal of Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower last year and found him an affable and talented young chap and so I am not surprised by his achievement - especially just months after becoming the youngest to conduct a 'particles peal' at the same venue - but am mightily impressed.

Aptly, it follows closely on from a recent achievement of young Mr Pipe's peer Ewan Hull, the son of another famous ringing David. Ewan himself rang his first quarter at seven and his first peal at eight, called his first QP before he was ten, rung his first peal on twelve aged eleven (like his talented contemporary this was also Bristol) and conducted his first peal at the age of twelve. No messing about here either, calling Stedman Cinques at St Magnus-the-Martyr. And the day before his friend's eye-catching performance in the country's second city, he was impressively pulling in the 18cwt tenor at St Wilfrid in York.

As I took all this in on this typically quiet Tuesday evening, my heart was warmed by the activity of this youthful trio. And it isn't just them either. Henry's younger brother Alfred's ringing exploits would be headline news in any other family and are worthy of much shouting too. And across the UK - particularly in the big urban centres, but also places close to us like Cambridge - there are young people ringing some simply astounding stuff. Hopefully some of the stardust can emanate out to areas like ours - certainly our young (and our more mature ones too!) learners should be inspired to get out there and try and become a part of all that this limitless, living art offers.

Doing just that within our borders this evening was South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson, who was rightly chuffed to call only his second quarter-peal of Stedman in the pre-practice quarter at Offton - some twenty-six years after his first at Grundisburgh! The main reason for that gap has of course been whilst Jonathan and Sue have been busy raising a family, but now that that family is also ringing, it has been a delight to have this pair back!

Well done Jonathan, Henry, Jack and Ewan. And indeed all of those who are making the most of what ringing offers!

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Monday 8th May 2017

It is precisely twenty-five years since I rang my first peal, trebling to four Minor methods called by Simon Rudd at the isolated ground-floor six of Ashbocking. Having marked the fifteenth and twentieth anniversaries with repeat performances at the same venue and with a number of the same band, it had been my intention to celebrate the more significant quarter-of-a-century anniversary, but the simple truth is that I haven't had time to arrange it whilst also organising Alfie's birthday peal, being a best man, working and generally helping Ruthie look after the trio of brothers.

Way back in that summer of 1992, St Mary-le-Tower was pretty much at its peak in terms of the National Twelve-Bell Contest. Only the year before they had finished in a respectable fourth position in the final on home bells and although in the weeks leading up to my debut peal they finished sixth in the eliminator at St Woolos' Cathedral in Newport and thus failed to qualify for the final in Newcastle, they continued entering every year until 1998 when I made my first, cherished appearance in the competition at St Mary-le-Bow, although we have never since made it through to the showpiece event in June.

Tonight though, at the annual SMLT AGM, the possibility of entering an Ipswich team was raised again, with real determination and accompanied by an exciting project led by Ian Culham. His vision is of a Twelve-Bell Striking Competition involving towers from Suffolk and Essex - Chelmsford, Saffron Walden and Waltham Abbey from south of the border and The Norman Tower, Grundisburgh and ourselves north of the River Stour. Of course it wouldn't be of the same standard of those metaphorically fighting it out for the Taylor Trophy, but it would be a potentially useful stepping stone to the national contest and I think great fun too. If anyone thinks they can help with organising, then please get in touch with Ian or myself.

Both competitions would need commitment and in terms of joining Birmingham, the ASCY, Cumberland's et al 2019 is probably the earliest likely date that we could consider giving it a go, but I believe it would be entirely worthwhile. Striking competitions are to my mind a brilliant way of focusing one's mind on striking, done in an enjoyable and interesting way and is why I hope there will be many partaking at Metfield on Saturday for the North-East District Striking Competition, at Walsham-le-Willows and Horringer a week later for the Guild contests and then at Woolpit at the end of next month for the South-West District Striking Competition. Winning is nice, but the most important thing is that it helps progress ringers' striking.

St Mary-le-Tower AGM St Mary-le-Tower AGM St Mary-le-Tower AGM.

Of course other issues came up during this evening's business, such as formulating an easy escape in the event of an emergency as effective as that demonstrated at Worcester Cathedral a few weeks ago and the tower's finances. New members were elected as we welcomed Abby Antrobus, Laura Davies, Louis & Ruth Suggett and Ben & Sue Williamson to the band and the current officers - who put a huge amount of dedication into their roles - were deservedly and willingly reelected unanimously.

Having held proceedings up in the ringing chamber ever since this annual occasion was reintroduced a few years ago, this year's was held down in the church, primarily to allow George Pipe to attend, with the stairs sadly just too difficult for him now. However, it also enabled easy access for the injured David Stanford, who although relieved to have heard today that he may have only strained rather than fractured his ankle was still getting around slowly and with some difficulty and sensibly deciding that he shouldn't risk driving for the time being asked for a lift from myself. I was happy to oblige for a ringer always willing to help out when and where he can.

He sat downstairs with GWP whilst I joined a practice which although curtailed by the 8.30pm finish for the meeting that followed, was still a useful session with some decent Yorkshire Surprise Maximus the peak tonight. Afterwards, we reconvened for a drink in The Robert Ransome where discussion of the twelve-bell striking competitions continued over a pint before David and I made our way home at the end of a long night.

Across on the far side of Suffolk meanwhile, there was more ringing activity with the wonderfully named Liquorice Allsorts Delight Minor rung to a quarter-peal at Exning, a tower - to tie in tenuously with a big theme of today's blog - that has held the SGR Striking Competitions in recent years.

It has been a good day for local ringing I think, even if I never did get round to organising that anniversary peal.

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Sunday 7th May 2017

Attendance sadly is rarely high at Grundisburgh for Sunday morning ringing, the sound of all twelve going together seldom heard across the picturesque green in front of the church. Today saw a particularly low turnout at the little wobbly red-brick tower though as a combination of circumstances saw us thin on the ground. Stephen Pettman's presence in Italy for this year's version of the AGM from which that video of ringing recently arose meant his absence from his home tower, whilst Jo Crowe who usually runs the now regular weekly Thursday night practices was entertaining guests at home.

However, the most unfortunate absentee was David Stanford who was laid up with a suspected fractured ankle acquired last night. Not from excess of alcohol mind, despite the fact that it was done whilst returning from post-striking competition drinks at The Turks Head in his village of residence Hasketon. Rather, it was as he gallantly stepped aside to protect Adrienne from an approaching car only to step into an unseen pothole that his injury occurred.

Whatever the reasons for the mishap, they were both absent and thus there seemed an unusual level of relief at my arrival that bolstered numbers that were just seven and which included Yasmin who was using crutches following her own recent injury and Maisie who still needs supervision when ringing, which I was able to give once I'd done the same for Mason. Therefore, the repertoire was limited, with rounds and Plain Bob Doubles and Minor the extent of our adventures.

Not so earlier at St Mary-le-Tower where all twelve were manned and then at St Lawrence where we were joined by James Smith and the ringing was energetically run by Amanda Richmond, but these trio of towers were the limit of my ringing today and with Ruthie's voice still weak she neither sang this morning or this evening at Woodbridge. Instead, we found ourselves with extra free-time to spend on a visit to my wife's grandparents, a visit we shared with her Uncle Moog and Aunt Ange and their children Lucy and Thomas who whilst cousins to Mrs Munnings are peers of the three boys, so all had an enjoyable afternoon.

Hopefully those ringing in the four quarter-peals within Suffolk today enjoyed themselves too, with Andrew Leach ringing his 375th in the medium in the Plain Bob Major at Lowestoft - congratulations Andrew! Meanwhile, 1260s of Pinehurst Bob Minor and Double Court Bob Minor were rung at Great Finborough and Pettistree respectively and a 1272 of six spliced Surprise Minor methods on the back six at Bardwell.

Well done to all who made for a busy day of ringing within our borders, but more importantly, get well soon David!

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Saturday 6th May 2017

The South-East District has by far and away the best transport network out of all the Districts in the Guild. With the county town at its centre, four railway lines run through it lined by nine stations, extensive - for Suffolk at least - bus routes join Ipswich and many of the area's communities and the main dual-carriageways of the A12 and A14 meet and I often cite it as a reason as to why I am disappointed when we get poor turnouts at SE events.

However, today it conspired against the District as it held its annual Striking Competitions. One wouldn't have expected a vehicle fire that started at 6.30 this morning on the Copdock Interchange to have such an effect on our little old event at Bredfield twenty miles on the far side of Ipswich this afternoon. Yet with a lorry seemingly full of those joke birthday candles that keep lighting up when put out, the fire kept reigniting and so the efforts to clear the incident continued on for several hours and not unsurprisingly it was traffic gridlock for miles as vehicles approached the scene and/or tried to get around it. A wedding at Copdock's church saw some participants of the competitions stuck in the middle of it whilst others travelling from Essex were forced to choose between going nowhere or going vastly out of their way - Stephen Cheek impressively made it via a journey that took in Somersham, Claydon and Debach!

Judges Gill and David Sparling were also travelling from south of the border and inevitably got trapped in the widespread chaos, which meant that although the 1.45pm draw happened pretty much on time, the contest itself couldn't get underway until they had arrived laden with entirely unnecessary apologies, without even time for the usual try-out beforehand so they could gain an idea of what this 11cwt six are like to ring. They were to discover afterwards what the rest of us did over the course of a couple of hours or so of very decent ringing - that these are not terrible bells, but as someone succinctly summed them up, they aren't autopilot bells! To my mind, they go well and I enjoy ringing here, especially as the welcome is always warm. These gallery-ring bells rung from behind a curtain that separates the ringing chamber from the church which is most welcome during the winter are undoubtedly oddstruck (although the fifth being rung up wrong today made them seem worse than many would've perceived!), but whilst practically speaking it would be ideal for all bells to be free from oddstruckness in order to make it as easy as possible for perfect ringing to be achieved, the variety in bells is what holds the interest of many in the exercise and ringing on bells that are not perfectly struck is an important part of a ringer's progress. And in many respects they are ideal bells for a striking competition.

Alfie helping his Mummy make cake for this afternoon's tea. Gathered round for the draw for the SE District Striking Competition at Bredfield. Gathered round for the draw for the SE District Striking Competition at Bredfield. Gathered round for the draw for the SE District Striking Competition at Bredfield. Gathered round for the draw for the SE District Striking Competition at Bredfield. Listening to the SE District Striking Competition at Bredfield. Listening to the SE District Striking Competition at Bredfield.  Fun at the playground at Bredfield!  Fun at the playground at Bredfield! Gill & David Sparling giving their comments and results. Gill & David Sparling giving their comments and results. David Potts with judges and Jonathan Williamson.Jenny Scase with judges and Jonathan Williamson.

Therefore it was great to see a good turnout of ten teams from across the district, from Hollesley on the coast to Debenham in the depths of our beautiful countryside. I was ringing for two teams and although I was one of only a handful ringing for more than one team I was chastised for doing so. Understandably so too. It is preferable that each team is made up of participants only ringing for them, but it would be a shame for a rule-change to be made to that effect as occasionally it is necessary for someone to ring in multiple teams to allow others to partake. Consider a scenario where two teams have only five ringers each, but could partake with the inclusion of someone who rings at both towers on a Sunday morning. With a restriction on participants five of those ringers would be disappointed.

For my part I feel I ought to ring for St Mary-le-Tower - if they want me - as that is where I am a member of the band and where I do most of my ringing, both on the Sabbath (for evensong as well as the earlier services) and at Monday practices. Pettistree too though is somewhere I support whenever I am able and on this occasion I think I was ringing in the absence of other regulars who could've rung and under current rules I could've rung for four teams with SMLT entering two teams (again to allow as many of our regulars as possible to take part) and Grundisburgh making a welcome return to striking competitions, but I have always felt it would begin to undermine the integrity of the contest if I rang for more than a brace of teams, although I have done many years ago.

Hopefully in a couple of weeks Pettistree will have enough to manage without me - although again I would be more than happy to ring if needed - at the Guild Striking Competitions at Walsham-le-Willows and Horringer, but today I was privileged to ring for the two teams that finished top, with my home tower just edging it. More importantly though, it was an enjoyable afternoon that generated some great, prolonged ringing and provided opportunities to socialise with friends to the backdrop of that ringing (it was lovely accompanying Mason and Alfie to the playground to the accompaniment of bells wafting across the village!) and over a wonderful tea that Ruthie and Alfred contributed to with a cake made this morning!

Well done to Debenham on winning the David Barnard Memorial Trophy for call-changes (appropriately collected by David's sister Jenny Scase) and indeed to all who took part and who I believe will be better for the experience. To paraphrase District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson, a certain part of the brain is switched on by striking competitions that brings out the best in most - and certainly did today - and we need to ensure that stays switched on when we go back to our towers tomorrow morning and beyond. (Results here.)

Clearly staying switched on was the band that rang the quarter-peal of Grandsire Doubles at Old Newton whilst our District was competing, but for all that their achievements and those of the participants at Bredfield are worthy of mention, the biggest congratulations should go to the aforementioned SE RM Jonathan and his wife Sue who coped magnificently with the re-jigging that was required as the afternoon went on due to those held up by happenings at the Copdock Interchange. It was a superb occasion.

The next planned South-District event is the Meeting with ringing at Campsea Ashe and Wickham Market on Saturday 3rd June. Hopefully that transport network will play ball!

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Friday 5th May 2017

Today's blog has mainly been written by two other people.

One is Sue Morton, a ringer from the north Norfolk coast who came across an account from a man named Nigel Beeton of the time just after he had lost his father and she very kindly shared it on the Bellringers Facebook page. From here, Nigel's own words take over.

"He died quite suddenly in early March, but, praise God, he was 84, fit and healthy, completely independent until a few days before he died. Nevertheless, I was feeling terribly sad as I washed the car one Saturday morning. It was dirty after a significant number of trips back and forth to Banbury, where he lived, and he always used to pull my leg if my car was dirty. As I wept gently while I worked, I heard the bells of St Edmundsbury Cathedral on the wind as they celebrated a wedding. I live a mile and a half away from the Cathedral, but the wind was blowing from that direction. They cannot possibly realise how much good they did that morning! They blessed far more people than just the wedding party. So this poem is dedicated to all those tremendous people along the length and breadth of Britain who give up their time to keep church bells ringing in praise of God. Thank you!

Church bells on the Wind
It matters not how sad you feel
If eyes, with tears, are dimmed;
Your heart will lift to hear the peal
Of church bells on the wind.
Was e’er a sound that had the pow’r
To touch one feeling grim –
To bring relief in gloomy hour
Like church bells on the wind?
I love that sound upon the breeze
With joy my soul is twinned!
And I give thanks upon my knees
For church bells on the wind."

Only on Wednesday I brought up the proposed rule change that would do away with towerbell peals having to be audible outside and decreed to myself that shame that it is that it is a necessary step in a society that for all the tolerance that it preaches, actually appears to be becoming increasingly intolerant of anything that doesn't fit into their view of how they think the world should be and for a sizeable number that includes bells which thy feel are an intrusion, even when they themselves may have intruded into a community that the bells have been a part of for centuries. Yet here we are beautifully reminded that for many the sound we make - sometimes it seems out of a reluctant sense of duty it has to be said - is an absolute joy and as in this case, a comfort. That the example raised here is of bells in Suffolk rung by Guild members who I know dedicate themselves not just to The Norman Tower but also many ringing chambers and events across the county makes it even more pleasing.

Hopefully the sound of Earl Stonham's bells wafting across the picturesque countryside that surrounds this neat little church by the A1120 also pleased those who could hear them this evening and if so well done to the FNQPC who rang in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on this 9cwt gallery-ring six. However, on this occasion, particularly well done to the ringers at The Norman Tower for making such a difference. I hope it gives all of us renewed vigour in our art.

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Thursday 4th May 2017

Much was going on across the country today.

At the age of ninety-five, Prince Philip has announced he is planning on retiring in August (I expect if I'm lucky enough to live that long we'll all be retiring at ninety-five, if such a thing as retirement still exists then) from official engagements.
Voting took place for the local elections.

And it's Star Wars Day. May the fourth be with you.

However, whilst this ringer placed my vote like a dutiful citizen as I practiced for the planned General Election in a few weeks time and there was a quarter-peal rung on handbells in Abingdon for the celebration of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Chewbacca et al, these events largely appeared to pass without comment in the ringing annals, which was particularly surprising - to my mind at least - in regards to the Duke of Edinburgh's news.

Indeed, there were no quarter-peals or peals from Suffolk recorded on BellBoard at all on this chilly, grey day.

Hopefully ringing in the county will be more interesting tomorrow than royal announcements, election results or the hangovers of those who celebrated Star Wars Day too exuberantly!

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Wednesday 3rd May 2017

Illness has gradually made its way around our household this week, from Joshua to Ruthie and now me. Nothing serious, merely a cough and cold, but disease-ridden, snotty-nosed and thick-headed, I was relieved that this evening's peal attempt at The Wolery was in a method named Very Easy Treble Bob Major that was entirely true to its name! Although a comment from David in his email informing us of the choice of tune had most of the band searching for something trickier, this is a line that anyone who can ring Kent could manage as it is precisely that but with places in thirds and fourths every time apart from when the treble is there to dodge with you!

Thus it enabled us to get on with the job of trying to strike it properly and whilst I wouldn't say we did as good a job as I had hoped (I certainly wasn't at my best!), much of it consisted of lengthy stretches of absolutely superb ringing before we retired to the house for tea, cake and biscuits and conversation that veered from striking competitions to the new Learn to Ring leaflets doing the rounds.

It was also interesting to hear about the proposed rule change to be put forward at the Central Council Annual Meeting in Edinburgh at the end of the month, which if passed would do away with the current requirement that all towerbell peals have to be audible outside. I am almost in two minds about this, if that is possible. Whilst I like the notion that our not inconsiderable efforts can be heard by those passing by (many a peal on a rough rural set of bells has been eased through imagining ramblers enjoying the sound on a pleasant walk through the country lanes, woodlands and fields nearby!), we have to recognise that society is becoming less tolerant of noise, whether we agree with that or not. This potential rule-change will hopefully allow this invaluable medium to progress to flourish beyond a dwindling number of towers with annoying the neighbours and perhaps even encourage more to get simulators and/or effective sound-proofing.

There was never really any danger of annoying the Salters' neighbours tonight though. They can be heard outside, but only faintly. Elsewhere though, the bells were ringing out loudly with quarter-peals rung at Great Finborough and Pettistree, the latter seeing a 1296 of Cambridge and Norwich Surprise Minor rung spliced, the former a 1260 of St Clement's College Bob Minor, which was Astrid Gale's first in the method - well done Astrid!

Now I think I'll put my feet up and recover.

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Tuesday 2nd May 2017

Fame at last for Roger Whittell, whose features were beaming out from an East Anglian Daily Times article that I saw today reporting on the inaugural Saints' Beer and Folk Festival held at St Peter in Ipswich, one of the redundant churches near the waterfront with bells, although unlike St Mary-at-Quay and St Clement nearby the 7cwt five here are hung dead. Roger is on the far right of the trio behind the bar for those who don't know this familiar stalwart of the county's ringing.

Although we haven't seen much of him at St Mary-le-Tower in recent years - which is a shame as ringers of his calibre aren't easy to come by, especially on higher numbers - he is still active in the exercise, regularly partaking in the monthly second-Sunday peals that are usually rung on the coast at Aldeburgh.

Ufford practice was perhaps not quite as newsworthy, as with a number away including one whose car had had a run-in with a deer earlier and the tower's Ringing Master, my mother-in-law Kate Eagle, I made one of just five at this 13cwt eight this evening. It was a particular shame for James Mort, a young chap from Worcester who had travelled down from Diss where he was based for a ringing holiday on the Suffolk-Norfolk border to grab the octave, but his presence spurred us on to make the most of a bad situation and a night of Doubles methods that included All Saints Place and Bristol Bob and was climaxed with a well-rung touch of Stedman.

It was all jolly good fun, only missing a beer or two afterwards, as I imagine Roger would agree!

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Monday 1st May 2017

Following a weekend where ringing gave us ferries, frivolity and fellowship, today was featureless from a ringing perspective personally.

Instead, this bank holiday Monday was harder work as after those busy couple of days of fun, more mundane tasks needed carrying out. However, with Ruthie working in John Ives it was a difficult balancing act with a trio of delightfully lively boys to manage, joy as it was to spend the whole day with them.

That said, the evening was easier and slightly more enjoyable as having collected my wife from the shop we visited her sister Clare to celebrate her birthday, with the youngsters generally occupying themselves, leaving us adults to scoff cake.

It did mean missing St Mary-le-Tower practice, but I shall endeavour to ensure that I'm there next Monday when we will be holding the SMLT AGM, meaning the session will finish at 8.30pm - if you are intending on popping in to ring with us (and you are more than welcome) it will pay to get there early!

There was other ringing in Suffolk today too, with May's peal-ringing for the Guild starting in a similar vein to how April's finished as a 5120 of eight spliced Surprise Major methods was rung at Henley. Such activity is very encouraging and I hope there is more of it to come!

Meanwhile, if you are into your trains as well as your bells - and I know there are many, including us - then you may be interested in The Strike Back Express, a chartered journey on the railways on Saturday 29th July. In aide of Julie McDonnell's incredible Strike Back Against Blood Cancer campaign which has raised millions of pounds for the fight against blood cancer, the trip goes from Hastings to Bath, where there will be time for ringing as well as exploring this fine city and all for an extremely good cause.

And certainly more interesting from a ringing perspective than today!

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Sunday 30th April 2017

Ringing fellowship was fully in evidence today on a weekend of its attributes exhibiting itself to me as the entire family returned to Felixstowe for the annual St Mary-le-Tower Dinner held at the superb local golf club. Views of the choppy waters out in the North Sea were taken in from the comfort of the bar and a roomful of ringing friends who throughout the year man the bells faithfully and with dedication mingled.

In the aftermath of the York Minster debacle, the importance of this fellowship of a band seems more vital than ever before. Although we can't compare the quality achieved by the expert band discarded at that famous venue to what are nonetheless impressive standards at SMLT, there are elements of their band that we can recognise in our own. The understandable misconception that just because we strive for levels that are beyond what many around us may perceive they can reach (primarily in our case because we are a twelve-bell tower in a sea of six and eight-bell towers in a relatively geographically isolated outpost) that we are somehow unwilling to accept newcomers unless they can already ring to an unattainable standard. We are - as is the case in York - just a group of volunteers trying to make the most of being in the fortunate position that we find ourselves of being able to ring on a fine twelve with the rare opportunities which that offers up and whilst there is absolutely nothing that suggests we are going to suffer the same fate as our friends up north, I have often pondered in the six months that have passed since that infamous decision how painful it would be to find ourselves in the same position.

Gathered for the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club.Gathered for the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club. Joshua and Alfie with Ruthie at the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner.Don Price and my mother Sally chatting at the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner.Handbell ringing at the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner. l to r - Laura Davies, Louis Suggett and George Vant.Handbell ringing at the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner. l to r - Laura Davies, Louis Suggett and George Vant.Handbell ringing at the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner. l to r - Laura Davies, Louis Suggett and George Vant.

It is why I sat in these wonderful surroundings feeling more grateful than I have perhaps ever felt at these annual events to be a part of what we have at 'The Tower'. This afternoon, young and old from across Suffolk and beyond gathered on the coast to partake in good food, good drink and good company over a leisurely meal. It was particularly nice to see George Pipe who sadly has been rarely seen in the ringing chamber due to ill-health, although he was in fine form as his younger namesake Mr Vant played with his handbells beside him.

Later, the enthusiastic youngster (despite the constant messing about with his bells getting slightly irritating, how much better off would ringing be if there were more like him?) from Essex got his newer handbells out for some ringing partaken in by him, Laura Davies, Nigel Newton and Louis Suggett, topping off a fine few hours of the type of socialising that seems unique to the exercise.

Earlier, I had made ringing after two bell-less Sundays, albeit not at the venue that was the bonding reason for our convivialities as instead I joined some of those I had rung with yesterday as I helped man the eight bells of Woodbridge in their fullness, along with the visit of Richard and Jane from Huntingdon in another example of ringing's fellowship.

Long may it continue.

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Saturday 29th April 2017

Not many ringing outings begin with a ferry ride. But the one I joined today required just that, as with Ruthie at work I took the boys on the Woodbridge ringers' outing that began at the eight of Harwich. It was mainly for Mason, Alfie and Joshua that I jumped at the opportunity, not just because it is easier to look after them solo when in the company of others and with plenty of distractions, but more importantly because I thought they would enjoy it.

Gillian & David Twissell on the ferry.Alfie on the ferry.Alfie on the ferry.Ringing at Harwich on the Woodbridge Outing.Ringing at Harwich on the Woodbridge Outing.Ringing at Harwich on the Woodbridge Outing.

I was right! In particular the two eldest absolutely loved the adventure, even if the youngest took it in with the kind of bemusement that is typical of children of that age where practically everything is a new experience! However, I enjoyed it too as well as the ringing aspect of course. Joining the regulars of the 25cwt octave in our town of residence were a number of friends, such as Glenys Fear from Campsea Ashe and others from further afield and having got the hang of the much lighter bells at the Essex tower we had some reasonable ringing. This was a grab for me and I have to admit that much I had been told by those who had been before me wasn't altogether complimentary and there is certainly a distinctive sound to them. Despite that and the fifth being rung from an awkward position below the stepladder to the clock room, I didn't mind them. They go well and the ringing chamber demonstrates an active band that cares for their local tower, although sadly as with so many places they struggle for numbers, with only five expected for tomorrow morning and maybe seven or eight for their practice on Wednesday.

Ringing at Harwich on the Woodbridge Outing.Ringing at Felixstowe on the Woodbridge Outing.Ringing at Felixstowe on the Woodbridge Outing.

These are bells rung from a tower that can be clearly seen and even occasionally heard from Suffolk, but after a look around this unfamiliar but pretty little town and a nice lunch in the lovely Samuel Pepys Hotel it seemed a long, long way from home shores as we sat awaiting the ferry back, even though they were clearly in sight. After another brief though exciting trip back across the harbour to Felixstowe - bypassing the Shotley Peninsula along the way - however, we were at the next tower of the day which was the familiar light ring at St John the Baptist a short drive from our landing point at Landguard Fort. Except that as we waited, it appeared that we might be suffering a lockout. Personally it wouldn't have been a disaster. After all, I have rung here several times and the gorgeous sunshine that we had been so fortunate to have accompanying our return crossing to the first tower also made waiting for the key a very pleasant experience. That said though, it would've been a pity not to have another ring on this lovely peal of bells and especially for those who hadn't been there not to enjoy them and so I was delighted when entry was made possible, but it did make for a slightly more rushed programme.

Ringing at Falkenham on the Woodbridge Outing.Ringing at Falkenham on the Woodbridge Outing.Not that the programme was particularly tight as only the third and final tower of the day was just up the road at the wonderful ground-floor six of Falkenham, with both towers graciously flexible with our ringing times, meaning that the relaxed vibe of this outing was continued until our final ring.

Many thanks to Jackie Butcher for organising it all and to the participants for their patience as I passed Joshua about whilst I rang or attended to the needs of his elder brothers. Although the repertoire of those in attendance was limited, we still had some nice Grandsire Triples and Cambridge Surprise Minor and importantly everyone - ringers and non-ringers - appeared to have enjoyed themselves. I know we did!

Elsewhere, it was another busy day of peal-ringing for the Guild, with peals at Burgh and Sproughton of seven Treble Dodging Minor methods and five spliced Minor methods respectively taking the SGR's peal total for April to thirteen - are there more to come tomorrow?

Quarter-peals aren't to be outdone either and the 1320 at Buxhall was the thirty-seventh in the county this month, not including those at the NDA towers of Lowestoft and Somerleyton.

Generally today seems to have symbolised ringing within our borders since the end of March - varied, geographically widespread and lots of it!

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Friday 28th April 2017

Another international campaign at work finished with a late finish in the office that is more significant from a ringing perspective because it should - God willing - allow me to return to what has become the normal routine each week on bells, complete with a social pint afterwards. At least until August when the next batch of extreme shifts are due to begin.

Fridays are always quiet personally from a ringing perspective anyway, so the norm was maintained today, but across Suffolk they were busier, as has happily also been the norm this week. The FNQPC were typically successful with a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Ashbocking, whilst it was nice to see another peal on the lovely new eight at Horringer. However, the most notable performance came at Wenhaston where Kate Gill rang her first quarter-peal of St Martin's and St Simon's Bob Doubles in a 1260 that was her first of more than one method - well done Kate!

I'm hoping to get a little more into it all soon!

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Thursday 27th April 2017

Some of Suffolk's ringers feature prominently in a YouTube video which appeared from the dark depths of time on Facebook today. It shows half-muffled ringing on a mobile ring set up in a square in the Italian town of Cividale del Friuli with a band that includes faces that will be familiar to many of you, such as Joan Garrett, Stephen Pettman, James Smith and my younger brother Chris. If I recall correctly, it was a group of ringers drawn together by Mr P after he was invited to put on a demonstration of English change-ringing at the annual gathering of Italy's bellringers in 2011 - a report of the 2012 event can be read to give a fuller context - and was a trip greatly enjoyed by the participants, treated as they were to the superb hospitality that those who regularly go on Stephen's biennial trip to this beautiful country will know well.

Indeed, the next such trip should be over half-term in October later this year, although I haven't heard that anything is happening. However, if there is another adventure to see our fellow European ringers then the 4mins55secs clip from six years ago is a good example of what you might expect to experience. Many of the bells in Italy are capable of being rung in our style, although as they are counter-balanced they usually go more slowly and as you can see from the video the ropes are seemingly endless with no sallies, so ropesight is a lot trickier! If you do fancy seeing it live it may be worth contacting Stephen to see if he is doing anything in six months time.

Here on British soil and in the here and now though, Suffolk's ringers again feature prominently, this time on BellBoard, with three peals rung in the county on this chilly Thursday. Admittedly two of those were a part of the Martin Daniels Peal Tour, although resident Guild member Ian Culham joined them in the eleven Doubles methods rung at Elmsett in a brisk 2hrs7mins and the seven Minor methods rung at Rattleden and there was a full-fledged SGR 5040 rung at the ground-floor five of Cretingham.

I'm not sure if there was any video taken to emerge in a few years time though.

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Wednesday 26th April 2017

East Bergholt.Some in East Bergholt would like a 'divorce' from Babergh District Council over a dispute to do with the building of new homes and have their sights set on joining Colchester Borough Council, thus moving the village from Suffolk to Essex! Could we be about to lose our most recognisable (visually at least) ring of bells, the heaviest change-ringing five in the world and which are famously rung from an ancient cage in the churchyard? Even the 1974 shift around of borders didn't - to the best of my knowledge - see the Guild lose any of its rings of bells. Although only those trained to ring them are allowed to be let loose on them nowadays - unlike in the past which saw accidents happening, including to former SGR Ringing Master Stephen Pettman - it would be a shame to lose them from within our parish.

Before everyone travels down there to chain themselves to structure that houses them though, it would seem that it is highly unlikely that such a move would be allowed, at least not for this issue and so we can rest easy for now, but it did make the local headlines today.

For us ringers though, the real headlines involved another two peals and a quarter on the county's bells, a decent haul for a Wednesday, even if it seems positively pedestrian compared to yesterday's manic day of ringing. The annual Martin Daniels' Peal Tour of the area continued with a 5040 of Doubles at Thelnetham, whilst it was good not only to see that the monthly peal attempt upon the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower was successful, but also that offered forth support for SMLT regular Laura Davies following the death of her mother. Laura has been a bit of an anomaly for here as an extremely talented and renowned ringer moving INTO our midsts, but she has been lovely to have around from a ringing and social perspective and our thoughts are with her at this difficult time. As can be seen by this footnote, the ringing family is also with her.

Elsewhere, the weekly pre-practice QP was successful at Pettistree, where the session and the socialising in The Greyhound that followed was attended by Ruthie. Thankfully no sign that this community are looking to break free!

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Tuesday 25th April 2017

Last night's closure of the A14 whilst twenty escaped cows ran amok made the news today, but seems to have caught some of those travelling back from last night's St Mary-le-Tower practice - hopefully they weren't trapped for too long, with stories in the media suggesting that some were stuck for five hours in the gridlock.

Although by all accounts there was still one left roaming the Suffolk countryside, mercifully it doesn't appear to have disrupted what was a truly phenomenal day of ringing within our borders, with an amazing eight quarter-peals and two peals rung on the county's bells since the sun rose on the morning after a seemingly torrid night of cattle-rustling.

The brace of 5040's were not unexpectedly part of the Martin Daniels Peal Tour, with eleven Doubles methods rung at St Lawrence in Ipswich and Grandsire Triples at Leiston and indeed seven of the QPs were Surprise Minor rung by a visiting band, with Westminster rung at Great Barton, Bourne at Pakenham, Netherseale at Tostock, Ipswich at Woolpit, Norwich at Wetherden and Annable's London at Buxhall, before finishing with Cambridge at Rougham - well done to Alison Daniels, Janet Garnett, Vanessa Webster and Joe Ostler on ringing their most quarters in a day!

There was one performance by local ringers though, which was - with no disrespect to the others - arguably the most impressive of this busy Tuesday, as a 1280 of the standard eight Surprise Major methods was rung before the practice at Offton.

Also practising this evening was The Norman Tower - hopefully anyone looking to buy the £1.45m house immediately next door which featured on the East Anglian Daily Times' website today will have noted that!

Also revealed on the EADT's site today was the route for the Tour of Britain's stage through the county on Friday 8th September, running from Newmarket to Aldeburgh, offering opportunities for bells to be heard at the many towers the competing cyclists will pass by followed by TV cameras - hopefully there will be as much ringing in Suffolk on that day as today!

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Monday 24th April 2017

This is my final week of shifts for our current international campaign and with it being a week of late finishes at John Catt Educational it is God willing the last St Mary-le-Tower Monday night practice I'll have to miss for a few months, at least for this reason.

It meant for a quiet day on the ringing front, although it was a busy day in the office and although Ruthie had a day off from work she still found herself occupied with singing for the funeral of former Mayor of Woodbridge Russell Geen and generally spring-cleaning the house.

Meanwhile, Martin Daniel's Peal Tour of the area continued with a 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at West Stow.

Nice as that was, hopefully Mondays will return to being more active for me soon!

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Monday 24th April 2017

This is my final week of shifts for our current international campaign and with it being a week of late finishes at John Catt Educational it is God willing the last St Mary-le-Tower Monday night practice I'll have to miss for a few months, at least for this reason.
It meant for a quiet day on the ringing front, although it was a busy day in the office and although Ruthie had a day off from work she still found herself occupied with singing for the funeral of former Mayor of Woodbridge Russell Geen and generally spring-cleaning the house.
Meanwhile, Martin Daniel's Peal Tour of the area continued with a 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at West Stow.
Nice as that was, hopefully Mondays will return to being more active for me soon!

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Sunday 23rd April 2017

A combination of an unsettled Joshua and a malfunctioning alarm call meant that his exhausted parents missed all ringing this morning. After last week's illnesses putting paid to my Sunday ringing, I am unhappy at this potential bad habit and so wracked with guilt I wasn't helped by watching thousands of people demonstrating motivation far beyond my own meagre abilities as they ran the London Marathon.

Their number included at least four ringers that I know of - Mark Bell of Oxford who was running for Crohn's and Colitis UK and completed the twenty-six miles in 3hrs8mins1sec, Yorkshire ringers Katie Craggs and David Hull who were running for Get Kids Going and Changing Faces respectively, with the former doing it in 4hrs26mins56secs and the latter in 4hrs50mins52secs and Southwark Cathedral ringer Sarah Taylor who was running for Suffolk's very own St Elizabeth Hospice. All mightily impressive efforts and if you want to sponsor any of them than you can do so for Mark here, Katie here, David here and Sarah here. Well done to them all!

Appropriately, they were accompanied in their staggering efforts between twenty-three and twenty-four miles in by a 1635 of spliced Cinques and Maximus at St Magnus-the-Martyr, which will hopefully have spurred all participants along at that late stage, especially the ringing quartet!

Back here within our borders, the quarters rung were perhaps less momentous and the ringers not quite as active as today's runners, but are still worthy of mention. The 1296 of Little Bob Major at Norwich Diocesan Association tower Lowestoft came on the last day of what appears to have been a most successful NDA Quarter-Peal Week - well done to Charlotte Ellis on ringing her first in the method and Andrew Leach on his first as conductor. And well done to Serena and Mark Steggles on ringing their first of St Clement's College Bob Minor in the 1260 at Rougham, whilst a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor was rung at Pettistree and a 1280 of Minor was successful on the front six at St Margaret's in Ipswich where preparations have apparently already begun for the restoration and rehanging of the eight and lowering of the ringing chamber into the church.

With all of this activity, we attended our engagement this afternoon with mixed feelings, as it involved no ringing at all. However, we were of course delighted to attend our first barbecue of the year at the home of our close friends Nick, Kala and their daughter Robyn, where we were joined by the newly-married Toby and Amy eight days on from their wedding and accompanied by their daughter and my Goddaughter Maddie, as well as a herd of children of varying ages that meant our trio of boys were well catered for! Despite the BBQ itself not actually working, we too were well catered for and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We almost stopped feeling guilty about missing ringing this morning!

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Saturday 22nd April 2017

It is worth it, as I still consider peal-ringing one of the best ways of cementing a ringer's progression and raising standards in regards to repertoire and striking, but organising them has always been a stressful experience. Depending on what you want to ring and where, there is a finite number of ringers to choose from, although the nature of our unique art means I don't have to restrict my search to just Suffolk. However, ringers are a busy bunch and add that to the fact that these days I have far less time to do the arranging, that ringing 5000+ changes is no longer simply a matter of Ruthie and me popping out of the house if we're free and the last few weeks having been tied up with best man duties and house searching and thus you have the reason for Alfie's birthday peal this year being almost two weeks after the third anniversary of his birth on 10th April and yet it still being an exhausting process simply getting as far as standing before the ropes ready to pull off.

Still, I had a band - a very good band at that - with days to spare (I have been known to be phoning around hours beforehand in the past!) and the composition learnt thoroughly, I felt relatively relaxed ahead of this morning's attempt at Grundisburgh this morning, although I'm always slightly nervous at being the conductor where even the slightest lapse in concentration could be metaphorically fatal and let my fellow bandmates down.

As with last year's successfully completed peal for Alfred's second birthday and all of his elder brother Mason's, there was an appropriate number involved, which on this occasion was ringing three Surprise Major methods spliced. Granted, it was a highly unadventurous - though nice enough - composition, but it was straightforward for this 'must-get' effort and it paid-off with 2hrs37mins of lovely ringing and at the end of it I could breath a sigh of relief.

I was particularly grateful to Philip Moyse for making it, even after discovering the train that I was going to collect him from had failed to materialise and therefore even more grateful to his parents who came to the rescue by dropping him off at the venue for our efforts. Apt too that as one former Guild Ringing Master was calling a 5040 of Minor at Barrow - and congratulations to dedicated SGR members Paul Stannard and Chris Nunn on their respective forty-five years of service as organist at Denham and tower captain at the 11cwt six being pealed - that we had three former Guild Ringing Masters and the current incumbent Tom Scase ringing in our 5120 ahead of the organisation's AGM.

Of course, as well as making it more difficult to get a band, the AGM also meant that this was a rare peal here without going to the pub afterwards, at least for most of us. Tom understandably had to shoot off to ready himself for the duties ahead and young Mr Moyse was duly dropped off at Melton railway station to catch the 12.36pm train back into the North-East District where he was manning one of the six towers on two routes into Beccles, where the main event was being held.

Ringing at Yoxford on the way to the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM.Ringing at Yoxford on the way to the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM.Having snatched some lunch and collected my wife and sons, we made our way to one of those towers, Yoxford, which was the first tower on the southern route in. This is probably the closest tower to us that I haven't rung at since I returned to the homeland twelve years ago, my only memory of them being a childish scribble in my earliest ringing records, so it felt a little like a grab and it was great to see some unfamiliar faces, as well as chat with one of the locals Hal Humphreys. I stated when the details were first revealed of today's programme how much I like open towers into the main event and from our brief experience this afternoon it seems to have worked well, with call-changes and spliced St Simon's and St Martin's Doubles rung on this ground-floor six whilst we were there, with many stood out and members such as Sue Freeman from Polstead and Richard Finch from Hadleigh, as well as former Stutton resident John Pereira taking advantage of this venue to break up long journeys to this far corner of the Guild.

Ringing at Beccles before the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM.We passed on the next two towers of Blythburgh and Brampton - where only the front four were ringing as we drove by due to the tenor wheel being broken - in order to get into Beccles to park up, do some emergency provision shopping and pick up proceedings here. That meant me grabbing a ring on the 25cwt ten in a packed ringing chamber accompanied by Mason and Alfie, whilst Joshua got some sustenance from his mummy down in the church where we then attended the lovely service before the congregation walked en masse through the shoppers to Hungate Hall in the sunshine. Here we were greeted by a spectacular tea, a vast and eclectic feast laid out before us prior to the business of the meeting starting. This is the bit that seems to put most non-attenders off, but in recent years that perception has been misplaced. Generally the meetings have been less dragged down by the nitty-gritty of rules and regulations in the last decade or so, with technology allowing more to be discussed and debated with the membership away from the floor.

 In Hungate Hall for the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM. In Hungate Hall for the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM. In Hungate Hall for the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM.

This afternoon was a reminder of some of the slogs of previous years however. Rule changes involving a quorum at Annual General Meetings, Special General Meetings and Guild Management Committee and the election of Non-Resident Life Members can be read in more detail by clicking here rather than me going into great detail and was rather dry, prompting much debate - some of it misdirected - that stretched the otherwise free-flowing agenda out somewhat. As long-winded and painful as it was at times though, these were discussions touching upon the very democracy of the Guild and even safeguarding and so it was important that the membership had a chance to have their say.

And even after all of that the whole thing was still over after just an hour-and-a-half (some longer-in-the-tooth members will tell you about ones much longer than that!) and left enough time for evening ringing down the road at the detached tower of St Michael and All Angels. When I was Ringing Master, I often found this difficult ringing to run, as - apart from when it was held at Chediston in 2009 just after they had been done up, thus attracting huge crowds - hardly anyone would turn up and I do wonder whether it is worth having ringing in the evening, as with lengthy trips home for many the preferred choice is either to begin that traversing homewards - as we felt we needed to with the children today - or enjoy a pint and catch-up with friends. Indeed, as we wandered back - having a brief but enjoyable chat with an exhausted though cheerful SGR Secretary Carl Melville along the way - to our vehicle, one member waved at us from inside the King's Head as the front six rang out and although all ten were going by the time we departed, I'm not sure it is necessary to add it on the end of an already long day of ringing and business.

Jimmy Wightman receives his fifty-year membership certificate at the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM.Ruth Young receives her fifty-year membership certificate at the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM.Stephen Christian receives his fifty-year membership certificate at the 2017 Suffolk Guild AGM.

Nonetheless, it isn't the meeting or even the ringing that makes the day for me. Rather, it is the people and as much as it was nice to meet new folk, it was super to chinwag with so many long-time friends. More than one hundred participated across the day and the number that I conversed with are too many to note, but it was particularly nice to see Jimmy Wightman looking well as he collected his fifty-year membership certificate with Stephen 'Podge' Christian and Ruth Young, the recently married Ed and Michelle Rolph and Trevor and Julie Hughes, amongst many, many more. Thank you to the North-East District for a superb day.

Meanwhile, the Martin Daniels Peal Tour was busy in the same District, with peals of Grandsire Triples at Halesworth and Treble Bob Minor at Wissett, meaning that on AGM Day an impressive four peals were rung in the county. I was just pleased to get the peal I'd stressed about organising!

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Friday 21st April 2017

On my final day of early shifts at work for our current international campaign, it was another productive afternoon. Getting stuff done, Mason collected from school for the weekend and a peal composition for tomorrow morning (hopefully!) committed to memory.

Lakenheath.Elsewhere in Suffolk, other ringers were also being productive. Two quarter-peals of Plain Bob Minor were rung within our borders, with a 1320 at Brandeston and a 1260 in the neighbouring village of Kettleburgh, whilst in the far north-west corner of the county the Martin Daniels Peal Tour rang a 5040 of twenty-eight Plain Minor methods at Lakenheath in honour of the Queen's ninety-first birthday, an occasion that has been far more low-key than last year's significant ninetieth birthday.

God willing, there will be another peal to add to our local ringing annals tomorrow morning - providing that my afternoon has been truly productive and I've learnt that composition correctly!

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Thursday 20th April 2017

An aborted trip into Colchester spoiled an otherwise productive afternoon, but it was all forgotten with a trip to Ruthie's sister Clare's family home for the birthday celebrations of her daughter Annalise. The young cousins were lively, party food plentiful and generally everyone had a very enjoyable few hours.

Meanwhile, it appears that this year's annual Martin Daniels Peal Tour of the area has started today, with a 5040 rung at Tostock, rung as usual for the Lancashire Association. In its thirty-sixth year, this is a well-established event which occasionally causes some controversy with their choice of venues, but having rung in some peals on one of their tours many years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the ringing and the company I think it is nice that some rarely rung towers are being pealed. It would be nice if we in Suffolk pealed some of them more often to ensure that they aren't lost to peal-ringing or - even worse - ringing generally, although obviously we have to make sure that bells are not being inappropriately pealed through misunderstandings involving non-ringing tower correspondents in particular.

Hopefully though, they will have a pleasant and productive visit, with few aborted attempts!

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Wednesday 19th April 2017

My earliest memories of post-practice drinks at St Mary-le-Tower were in the Great White Horse Hotel next door to the church. It was far before I was old enough to drink and in fact I don't ever remember having an alcoholic beverage there, but the interior was stunning, at least to this youngster's mind. I loved the fact that the courtyard that was once outside was by then indoors and the location of the bar and it is a shame it is no longer open.

However, part of it is now a Starbucks and whilst in Ipswich town centre this afternoon - being productive following an early shift at work - we needed to deal with the mess of one of the boys, as is a frequent occurrence when we are out with them and this was the first place we came across where we could deal with the necessities of such an event. As I sipped on a much-needed hot chocolate as a trade-off for using their facilities, those dim and distant Monday nights came flooding back, having never really thought about this little bit of everyday 1980/1990s ringing history. It made me wish that there were written accounts and photos of these visits to a lost space and reminded me how this blog could potentially offer some kind of insight to ringing and its associated socialising in Suffolk to those hopefully reading this back in the future.

Therefore, going into the annals of history today was Ruthie's visit to Pettistree, which took in another busy practice and a drink in The Greyhound afterwards. Even in the time of this blog those drinks have moved from The Three Tuns which has sadly closed down in recent months and shows how much things can change in just a few years.

My wife was able to attend courtesy of a lift from her mother Kate, who had earlier rung in something that hasn't changed in recent years - the pre-session quarter-peal on this ground-floor six. As has also become the norm on a Wednesday in the years since I began writing the blog nearly ten years ago, there was other activity on the county's bells, with another peal at The Wolery.

It may not seem extraordinary at the moment, but these may be memories we recall fondly one day.

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Tuesday 18th April 2017

Following on from a general election two years ago and the EU referendum last year, the Prime Minister Theresa May has decided that she wants another GE on 8th June. Goodness knows what the Scots are thinking after their independence vote in just 2014 and another one potentially on the horizon. With local elections due to take place next month, I only hope that the Suffolk Guild's members aren't put off turning up and voting at Saturday's AGM in Beccles!

Meanwhile, members were doing the other thing they do best - ringing! At least in Offton, where a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung on the back six prior to this evening's practice on the ground-floor eight. It's got my vote as my favourite bit of the blog today!

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Easter Monday 17th April 2017

Family, friends and ringing come first as the great loves of my life. Despite everything they have put me through though, Ipswich Town closely come next. Since the first ITFC match I ever watched live as a boy just turned nine years old (which they won!), I have witnessed in front of my very eyes promotions, some of the best players in the world and enjoyed some extremely enjoyable days out, home, away and at Wembley.

In recent years however, it has been a thoroughly depressing experience being a Town supporter, especially this season and in the four years since I began taking Mason along there has been little but defeat and disappointment for him to endure. Yet still he persistently asks when we're next going to watch the Tractor Boys play, so with this afternoon's fixture against Newcastle United dedicated as Sir Bobby Robson Day (with it being a clash between the club with whom he made his name and the club that he supported from boyhood) it seemed the ideal game to take him to. The opposition are one of the biggest names in the country and came to Portman Road in second place and looking likely to be promoted back to the Premier League they were only relegated from last year, a big crowd and therefore super atmosphere was expected and a number of ex-players were due to sign autographs in the Fanzone before kick-off. Plenty to stoke the ten year-old's enthusiasm, the only downside being that the Geordies were so good it was in all likelihood going to be a torrid ninety minutes on the pitch. One could only hope that the boys in blue kept the score respectable.

Mason with Kevin Beattie. Mason with Roger Osborne. Therefore, we made sure we enjoyed the pre-match festivities all the more. We bumped into my eldest's classmate Connor, the bouncy castle was briefly taken advantage of, I slipped in a quick pint, grabbed a word with Mark Murphy at the BBC Radio Suffolk tent about the Guild's support of Suffolk Day on 21st June. The highlight ahead of the 3pm start was meeting the legends of this once great club. Martijn Reuser - who scored the final goal of the play-off final victory at the national stadium the last time we were promoted to the top flight seventeen long years ago - was glimpsed among an adoring gaggle of fans, but Mason got autographs from and pictures with Kevin Beattie who played nine times for England and is frequently voted the best ever Ipswich Town player and Roger Osborne who famously scored the winning goal in the 1978 FA Cup Final for the most successful football team in East Anglia.

As predicted too, the atmosphere was electric as over 25,000 people - the highest attendance of the season in what is the penultimate league game of the 2016/17 campaign at PR - nearly filled the stadium. What wasn't predicted though, was that we won! And won well! Over the last year or so the entertainment value with my favourite team has been zilch, the style of football dire and yet against one of the best teams in the division we played exciting, entertaining football and were entirely deserving of our convincing 3-1 victory. To give it a ringing analogy, it was akin to watching a twelve-bell band that usually struggles through a course of Little Bob Maximus suddenly pull a sparkling four leads of Bristol Surprise Maximus worthy of the National Twelve-Bell Final from absolutely nowhere. It was a joy in its own right, but even more so to see Mason's face!

Being a ringing blog though, I ought to mention some ringing I suppose. Whilst there were no quarter-peals or peals recorded on BellBoard in the county, there was a spectacular peal attempt just over the border at Great St Mary's in Cambridge, where a band were going for a 10032 of fourteen spliced Maximus methods, something sadly lost last year for the Queen's ninetieth birthday and sadly lost again today at the end of the second part. God willing they'll go for it again and "third time lucky" will come into play!

There were some impressive successes across the country though. Seven spliced Surprise Fourteen methods were rung at Winchester Cathedral and having partaken in a similar project with Stuart Hutchieson in the past it would have been of a high quality and lots of fun! Meanwhile, former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd partook in a 5017 of Stedman Cinques at St Paul's Cathedral and there was a strong representation from within our borders on the other side of the country where another former SMLT ringer George Salter was ringing in a 5019 of Stedman Cinques at Redcliffe in Bristol - his new city of residence - with two current Tower regulars Louis Suggett and Laura Davies, the latter of whom was rightly chuffed with her efforts on one of the heaviest bells in the world hung for change-ringing!

It was a great day in football and ringing!

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Easter Sunday 16th April 2017

When the Dean of York controversially sacked the ringers of the Minster back in October, it was promised that there would be ringing there for Easter with a new band. Well, according to reports, the bells were ringing at this famous venue on this most important of days. Of course, the apparent suggestion at the time that a twelve-bell band made up of new recruits would be manning the bells was predictably wide of the mark, with just the light eight rung by ready-made ringers helping out by all accounts, but it is nice that this grand peal were ringing out again, even if it wasn't by the people that should have been manning the bells as they would've done expertly last Easter.

And it is reassuring to hear that some of the old band have been applying to be part of the new band, which must be a very difficult decision that deserves the full support of fellow ringers, despite - or perhaps even because of - the circumstances. Also reassuring has been the recent revelation that following the initially very badly handled announcement six months ago, that Worcester Cathedral Ringing Master Mark Regan has been guiding the Dean and Chapter through this sorry saga. There are few in ringing more qualified to step into such a role and whilst it seems unlikely that the current authorities are going to be shifted on their position, hopefully Mark's invaluable input will have brought some understanding of ringing to the table.

Nonetheless, I still feel uncomfortable with the stain that this Christian organisation has left upon a number of the ringers who were so unceremoniously discarded as if part of some unsavoury cover-up. Safeguarding is the most important issue for any section of society hoping to attract children to partake, including ringing. It can not be taken lightly and I applaud the Minster's intention to prevent any ambiguity. However, many of the sacked band have had nothing to do with what is alleged by the D & C to have caused all of this and yet they have still been tarnished by the serious accusations that Vivienne Faull and John Sentamu have vaguely waved about in the band's direction, without any sense of clarification. Although most ringers will be aware of the background, many won't as indeed the general public won't, so I hope that clarification will come at least.

Ironically on the Sunday that the largely silent bells of York Minster were rung again, today was a rare Sabbath when I did no ringing as I stayed at home with Alfie and the poorly Joshua whilst Ruthie went singing at Woodbridge.

Later, with a better Mason collected, we met with my wife's sister Clare and her husband Kev and their daughters and Ron at mother-in-law Kate's for a gratefully received roast - thank you Kate!

With no third-Sunday special practice at St Mary-le-Tower due to it being Easter, my unusual Sunday of no ringing was complete and it seemed generally quiet in regards to peals and QPs in Suffolk, although a couple of quarters at Lowestoft started the NDA Quarter-Peal Week off. However, there was an impressive 10080 of forty-five spliced Surprise Major methods rung at Garlickhythe to report upon.

God willing there will be better news to report from York Minster in the coming months.

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Holy Saturday 15th April 2017

For our friends Toby and Amy, their wedding day today has been over a year in planning, arguably longer. Anyone who has been involved in arranging such an occasion will be aware of the many, many aspects that need organising. Dresses, suits, venues, caterers, transport and much, much more. Thank God it went to plan for them and as best man I like to think I helped in that from accompanying the groom to the Caravan Cafe in Woodbridge for a full fry-up breakfast first thing and helping ensure he was ready for pick-up to the 1pm ceremony at St Andrew's church in Melton. I remembered to produce the rings when called upon, made myself available for photos when needed at the church and the reception venue of The Hungarian Hall at Pettistree and didn't appear to offend anyone with my speech.

However, things far from went to plan for us personally as first Mason woke up being sick and was thus returned to his mother for the day and then we noticed spots had begun appearing on Joshua. It may or may not be chicken pox, but with at least two pregnant women attending and not knowing if there would be any other vulnerable guests there, we decided it wasn't worth the risk taking him into close proximity to them for the next few hours. Fortunately Ruthie's mother Kate was close to hand to look after him, but understandably at such short notice she had plans for the evening that couldn't be changed and so it meant that our plans to dance the night away as the boys played with their peers were scuppered.

Deeply disappointing as that was - especially as the newlyweds are Godparents to the two missing patients - it ultimately didn't detract from what a wonderful day it was, as the newly married couple fully enjoyed their day, which is the most important thing and with my wife also being a witness to the signing of the register, we were honoured to play our part in their special day.

That said, it was also a full-on day and with the place of worship at the centre of the main event home only to a 10cwt three that is chimed within its slender tower, we had no opportunity to partake in any ringing, but elsewhere there was a quarter-peal of Doubles rung on the front five at Buxhall. Hopefully that was intentional rather than their plans going awry!

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Good Friday 14th April 2017

Good Friday is a date that I look forward to immensely, as typically it means enjoying the superb hospitality of David and Katharine Salter in between a couple of usually well-rung peals and today was one of its best examples. A brace of performances rung accurately and briskly with feet-tapping rhythm, interjected with a feast devoured gratefully by the band as we welcomed Mick Edwards who has reliably rung the treble to hundreds of peals here, but for whom ill-health has brought his involvement to an end. Conversation veered from family trees to ringers lost in the First World War and much in between and it was a pleasure to catch-up with Alan Mayle - as well as ring in his 1001st and 1002nd peals for the Suffolk Guild - and Clare Veal, whose work commitments have curtailed her ringing in this terraced corner of the county recently.

As alluded to yesterday, the methods pealed weren't taxing, but just different enough to keep us on our toes, thus generating focus and concentration and therefore some extremely enjoyable ringing. Penarth Surprise Major is essentially Cambridge above with a lot of the dodges below replaced by places and was named in a quarter-peal at Penarth itself back in September, but this was the first peal in the method. Xit Surprise Major meanwhile was apparently named by George Thoday as a shortened version of Brexit and is Lincolnshire Surprise Major with the five dodges on the front replaced with four consecutive blows leading whilst another does the same in seconds, the type of variation I dislike. They feel unnatural, to my ear sound wrong and certainly on eight I can't believe there aren't numerous other variations available involving just two consecutive blows together. That said, I couldn't complain about the results this afternoon, with some lovely music and more super ringing, but I can't say it has changed my opinion on such methods!

Nonetheless, it was a great day out - thank you again to the Salters for their wonderful hosting!

The only downside of the occasion was that I wasn't accompanied by the family, with Ruthie practising singing for the big Easter Sunday service, Alfie and Joshua too young to hang around all day and Mason - who would usually make hay with David and Katharine's youngest son Henry on these occasions - still travelling back from a family holiday with his mother in Liverpool. To top a superb day off though, we were all reunited before darkness fell.

It was indeed a Good Friday.

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Maundy Thursday 13th April 2017

After a late shift at work and ahead of what should be a busy weekend, it was an evening of learning methods for tomorrow's traditional double-header at The Wolery and putting my best man's speech together for the wedding on Saturday of our friends Toby and Amy. Mercifully it didn't take much investigation to realise that the two Surprise Major methods due to be attempted in Old Stoke actually take minimal learning, but the speech still needs some work!

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Wednesday 12th April 2017

Terry Whale.Following on from last night's meal to mark Terry Whale's retirement and celebrate his contribution to ringing at Woodbridge, it was lovely to see a photo from the event on the Guild's Facebook page as he received a bell from the ringers.

The loss of his dedicated service is a further reminder that we need to maintain - and if possible increase - our efforts to recruit and retain ringers and those efforts were in no way harmed by Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge's superb appearance on our county's local BBC radio station this morning, speaking to friend of ringing Mark Murphy about our hopes to mark the inaugural annual Suffolk Day on 21st June. Uncharted territory as this will be, I imagine it will open up opportunities we may not have otherwise had to promote the art within our borders, as well as perhaps ring at towers that wouldn't normally get the chance to ring at in the name of this big day. Having worked with him on St Edmund's Day in the past, Mark was keen to get the ringers on board for 21/6/2017 and Neal spoke brilliantly during his moment on the airwaves - this will hopefully be great PR for the SGR.

Also on the Guild's FB page was a picture of the Otley Ringers' Annual Meal as they used their night-off from their usual practice night during Holy Week to socialise, but elsewhere ringing continued as normal, as Ruthie went along for a Pettistree practice preceded by a quarter-peal of eight spliced Surprise Minor methods and followed by a drink in The Greyhound. Thank you very much to the band for dedicating the QP to Alfie's birthday!

And best of luck to Terry!

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Tuesday 11th April 2017

Yesterday's blog drew mention of a meal this evening to mark the retirement from ringing of Woodbridge ringer Terry Whale. We were very kindly invited, but with Joshua a little under the whether and logistics hampering us we reluctantly felt unable to commit to the soiree in St Mary's Church House beneath the tower that he has spent so many years ringing in.

It was a pity, as we would've liked to shown our appreciation for his efforts. Like so many across the county, despite not being a star name of the exercise nor partaken in hundreds of peals or held office within the Guild, he is the type of ringer that helps keep Suffolk's bells going in places where otherwise they might not have been rung. He has dedicated countless hours to ringing at this 25cwt eight and helping to ensure that they are rung every Sunday and for weddings and other occasions when called upon. Sharp-witted as he is though, he has cut an increasingly frail figure and understandably has decided to call it a day in the face of the many, many stairs to the long-drafted heavy eight. Tonight's meal was a well-deserved reward for his significant contribution.

Meanwhile, although the SGR AGM at Beccles on Saturday 22nd April looming large, it is due to be followed very quickly by what I consider the most exciting period of the county's ringing calendar - striking competition season. Nothing divides opinion quite like this medium. Some are vehemently against them and reason that it is the same teams and same people who win it, with those people ringing in several teams and they will often suggest they aren't good enough to partake. Quite apart from that being untrue these days (I've explained at length previously as to why), they are missing the point. Like peals, quarters, outings, practices and other aspects of ringing, they are first and foremost a way of progressing one's ringing. The experience of taking part is a valuable one, an opportunity to focus on your striking and although concentration should be maintained at a high level at all times, it is often at its highest at striking competitions. Quite apart from that, they are fun! There is genuine competition from a number of teams across the county in the pursuit of silverware, especially with the call-change elements.

The District contests are pencilled in to start on 6th May with the South-East, who plan on holding theirs at Bredfield and a week later the North-East are due at Metfield for theirs and whilst the North-West aren't holding one, the South-West aim to hold theirs on 24th June at Woolpit, where today a quarter-peal of Hempsted Bob Minor, a first in the method for Lesley and David Steed and Stephen Dawson - well done to them!

Walsham-le-Willows.Horringer.However, today I got my first glimpse of details for the Guild Striking Competitions planned for Saturday 20th May. I had heard on the grapevine that the eight-bell competition - the Rose Trophy - was to be held at the wonderful brand new octave of Horringer, a ring that deserve a good turnout of teams. However, I wasn't sure where the six bell competitions - the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy - would be held. I need not wonder anymore, as it has been revealed that they are planned to take place at Walsham-le-Willows, where I always enjoy going. Having the latter competitions in the morning and the former in the afternoon has been a great success since the format was introduced two years ago and should hopefully make it easier for ringers and their teams to attend. It has been a joy to see a wide range of participants from across the county participating in recent years and I hope that continues this year, including from the Terry Whale's of this world!

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Monday 10th April 2017

Occasionally it may appear through my ramblings in this blog that we wish the boys weren't getting in our way. However, although - as every parent of young children can testify I imagine - there are times that their presence prevents us from doing some things and makes doing other things more logistically challenging, we are constantly grateful and amazed by their existence. For all the attention they require, the tantrums and the (mercifully rare now I'm glad to say!) rude awakenings in the middle of the night, they give us far more moments of joy and amusement.

Alfie opening birthday presents!Alfie opening birthday presents!We are blessed to have them, but as we celebrated Alfie's third birthday today we have rarely been more aware of it. The anniversary of his birth on 10th April 2014 naturally brings up memories, accompanied or prompted by photos of his evolution from an entirely dependent and fragile little being to the boisterous, confident boy with a cheeky character, a wide vocabulary and many friends who adore him and who he adores.

Being a Monday, nothing particularly spectacular accompanied the occasion, although it was brilliant watching him rip into his presents and begin playing with his new toys like the new tool bench we got him and particularly his bike and scooter! Thank you everyone for his birthday wishes!

Even if there had then been time to attend St Mary-le-Tower practice afterwards though, there wasn't one anyway as of course it is Holy Week, when it is traditional for bells to sit silent in most church towers. For SMLT that means a spring-clean for the ringing chamber, at The Norman Tower they have a band meal, whilst Woodbridge's ringers will be marking the retirement from the exercise of Terry Whale with a fish 'n' chip supper tomorrow night when they would usually have been practicing. Nonetheless, the Wednesday practices at Pettistree and Sproughton usually - to the best of my knowledge - continue and there will be a session at Grundisburgh on Thursday evening.

Clearly though, it was having an effect on peal and quarter-peal ringing, with none - successfully at least - rung within our borders and recorded on BellBoard today and across the country there was dip in numbers of performances whilst simultaneously a rise in handbell and mini-ring scores perceptively rose.

That said, the half-muffled bells of Southwark Cathedral were prevalent in the media coverage of the funeral of PC Keith Palmer, the policeman murdered at the Houses of Parliament nearly three weeks ago, whilst a peal of Stedman Cinques was rung at nearby St Magnus-the-Martyr in his memory, a wonderful - if sad - example of how bells can speak to a wider audience.

Whilst our day was without bells though, it was still a memorable one personally.

Happy Birthday Alfred! Thank God you and your brothers are here!

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Sunday 9th April 2017

There were contrasting fortunes at the heaviest and lightest twelves in Suffolk for service ringing this morning. Whereas a packed ringing chamber at St Mary-le-Tower included the visits of Katharine Salter and Nigel Newton and the return of Lucy Williamson back from France for Easter enabling us to ring some Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, Grundisburgh was extremely low on numbers, with Grandsire Triples the most we could muster there. Nonetheless, it gave youngsters Yasmin and Maisie plenty of opportunity and bodes well for what God willing will be better times ahead in the little wobbly red-brick tower.

Alfie blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.Still, there were fewer people present to man the bells at the latter than were gathered at our house for part two of Alfie's birthday celebrations this afternoon. Tomorrow will - as those of you who have read yesterday's blog will know - be the third anniversary of Alfie's birth and having welcomed his friends Maddie and Robyn and a couple of his Godparents twenty-four hours earlier, we opened our home to both sets of his grandparents, his great Aunty Marian, Aunty Clare and his cousins Katelynn and Annalise today. A lively afternoon of party food, conversation and more exuberant present opening followed.

Whilst we were partying away, other ringers were manning Suffolk's bells. The Norman Tower are to be commended on further supporting SBABC with a 1296 of Julie McDonnell New Bob Caters, whilst more ringers lost in the First World War exactly a century ago were remembered, this time with a quarter-peal of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles at St Cross South Elmham.

However, the headline act in ringing terms was Alan Mayle, a man who has served the Guild as Peal Secretary today rang his one thousandth peal for the SGR. Appropriately it was rung on the east coast at Aldeburgh, where he has rung more peals than any other place, despite being resident in Clare deep in the depths of the west of the county by the border with Essex. Most of those will have been rung on the second Sunday of the month and of course so was this afternoon's 5008 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the 11cwt gallery ring of eight. Congratulations Alan, a landmark well earned!

Nice to end a day of contrasting fortunes for Suffolk ringing on a deserved high!

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Saturday 8th April 2017

Midweek birthdays can be difficult to celebrate at any age. In the main, likely guests are at work and school and/or going to be there the following morning. Later in life that makes nights out with alcoholic beverages increasingly undesirable as it takes longer and longer with each passing anniversary of one's birth to recover from such excesses. For children, it means having a limited period of time between finishing their day's education or play and going to bed.

Alfie on his new roller skates!Unless the calendar throws an unexpected and unlikely spanner in the works, Monday will be 10th April and therefore three years to the day since Alfie was born and with the above in mind we have decided to mark the approaching day with a weekend of visits from close family and friends, starting this morning with the appearance of his peers Robyn and Maddie and their parents, which included Alfred's Godfather Nick. It was certainly lively as the youngsters played together, trying out AJM's new roller skates and scoffing the food that was supplied, whilst us adults excitedly discussed houses, weddings and babies. Such is the stage of life that we have all reached.

SS Peter & Paul.The Pettistree Ringers' Annual DinnerThe Pettistree Ringers' Annual Dinner

A quiet afternoon followed, before things got lively again as we entered The Greyhound in Pettistree, which is nearly always busy but was particularly so this evening as about thirty ringers and their families were gathered for the annual dinner for those who ring regularly on the ground-floor six at St Peter & St Paul across the churchyard. As usual, the food and drink were superb, as was the company. Hazel Judge won Mary's 'Monthly' Plate for the hard work she puts in as tower correspondent, Mrs Garner herself and the kilted Ringing Master Mike Whitby spoke briefly but marvellously and the night was rounded off by Ron playing Happy Birthday on the bagpipes as a birthday cake with a candle was generously brought out for AJM, which was of course duly blown out with much gusto by the toddler - thank you to all involved with that!

There was certainly an air of celebration around the occasion for a number of reasons, as there must have been down in London at Southwark Cathedral, where the 5091 of Stedman Cinques was the first peal on the newly restored twelve that is due to hold this year's final of the National Twelve-Bell Contest on Saturday 24th June. It was also the two hundredth peal for Jonathan Slack, son of former Guild Treasurer Gordon and once of Suffolk himself. In fact, his formative ringing was done here in the county at about the same time as mine, the seventy-two he has rung for the SGR is still more than he has rung for any other ringing organisation and despite having left the county many years ago he still feels like one of ours! Congratulations Jonathan and to everyone at this famous landmark in the capital.

Well done to some current resident members within our borders today too. Chris Davies and Yvonne Lowe are to be commended on ringing more methods in a quarter-peal than they have ever rung with the five methods successfully negotiated at Gislingham, but even more notable is Gill Durrant ringing her first quarter in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at the 8cwt ground-floor six of Holbrook. Congratulations and well done Gill, hopefully the first of many!
What a day of celebrations!

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Friday 7th April 2017

When earlier this week Adrian Craddock requested through the Suffolk Guild's Facebook page for someone to replace him in ringing for a wedding at Grundisburgh this weekend due to him being unexpectedly held up in Somerset, I willingly put myself forward, knowing that I would have finished work already after an early shift at work. What I had forgotten though was that Ruthie and I had booked our car in for a service today.

A couple of phone calls yesterday soon sorted that challenge out as Joanna Crowe very kindly agreed to pick me up from outside the office and take me to ringing for the 2pm ceremony. It went to plan to such an extent that there was even time to pop into the nearby Grange Farm Shop on the way, all in all a relaxed journey in the sunshine. However, as we stood at the bottom of the little wobbly red-brick tower that houses the county's lightest twelve, admiring the quintessential English village scene in front of us on another sunny spring day just twenty minutes before the service was due to begin, it struck us as strange that there was no sign of activity. No ringers, no ushers, groom, guests, vicar - nobody. Here, this seemingly simple acceptance to ring for a wedding took yet another twist on its transformation to something more convoluted. Searching the notice boards for reference to the occasion, hoping that it would reveal that we were there early or even on the wrong day, we were to find that we had the right time and the right day, but were in the wrong place!

Minutes later we were in the correct venue of Hasketon, after a dash to the car and brisk but careful journey through the winding country lanes between the villages, greeted by the sound of four bells being rung by a quartet puzzled by our absence and rightly deciding to get on with things in part with the bride's arrival looming fast. Of course - as is the tradition - she was late, which allowed a decent blast of call-changes on all six, albeit interrupted by false perceptions of her arrival.

Once the star of the show had arrived, we ringers sat at the back, privileged to witness this special event for the happy couple, before we returned to the ground-floor ringing chamber to ring them out. Young Yasmin in particular did well and was upbeat despite yesterday seeing her first attempt at a peal come to a premature finish at the aforementioned Grundisburgh in unfortunate circumstances just a few changes and minutes before the end, which was also a shame for David Twissell whose ambition it had been to ring a peal to mark the forthcoming eightieth anniversary of his birth. Still he too was there with his wife Gill as we did our bit today.

Elsewhere, the FNQPC did their bit to celebrate the fortieth wedding anniversary of former local and current Lincolnshire ringer Janet Clarke and her ringing husband Stephen, as her sister Jenny, brother-in-law Robert and nephew Tom rang a 1320 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor at Earl Stonham in their honour.

At least they turned up to the right place and at least we got our car back at the end of the day. I've discovered life without it can be quite tricky!

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Thursday 6th April 2017

We shall be without Mason this weekend as he will be going on a family holiday with his mother and so on a beautiful and warm afternoon that I had free having been on an early shift at work, I found myself having a kick-around in the park at Hasketon in the shadow of St Andrew's round tower which holds the 9cwt ground-floor six with my eldest son. As much as we'll miss the boy over the next few days, it was an extremely pleasant hour or two in gorgeous spring sunshine in a lovely spot.

Later, whilst Ruthie was at choir practice, I was grateful to mother-in-law Kate this evening for looking after his younger brothers Alfie and Joshua at the west end of another St Andrew's church, this time in Melton where at the east end of this particular place of worship I was partaking in the rehearsal of the forthcoming marriage ceremony for our friends Toby and Amy where it is planned for me to best man. Those who have rung regularly at Woodbridge and Ufford in recent years will know of the Reverend Paul Hambling, the larger-than-life rector of this parish and who is due to lead the service and of course the engaged couple have got to know him through making arrangements for the big day over the last few months, but it was amusing witnessing the reactions of those present who hadn't met him before! He certainly left an impression and I think a positive one at that and tonight's proceedings certainly whet the appetite for the 15th April wedding.

Elmsett.Meanwhile, other ringers in Suffolk were providing a super backdrop to some of the many that were probably taking advantage of the great outdoors in our wonderful county by ringing a peal of Doubles at Elmsett, which I imagine was a lovely sound drifting across the picturesque landscape surrounding this 3cwt five.

It was indeed a great day to ring, rehearse wedding ceremonies or play football in our rural communities.

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Wednesday 5th April 2017

Next Monday will be the third anniversary of Alfie's birth and God willing we shall have a weekend of celebrations for the little chap involving close friends and family. However, my brother Chris - his Godfather - and his wife Becky are unable to visit from Bury St Edmunds this weekend and so with me on an early shift at work and Alfred in Woodbridge town centre having a haircut, we agreed to meet this afternoon at The Red Lion.

What followed was a perfectly convivial couple of hours, with conversation veering from football to house-hunting to ringing before we eventually parted company, presents and Easter eggs generously handed over. Lovely to catch-up with them both.

It was bookended with a brief cameo on Mark Murphy's BBC Radio Suffolk show on a matter completely unrelated to ringing this morning and a peal attempt at The Wolery this evening, which I am glad to say was successful, as we took advantage of Colin's return from university for the Easter break to return to the subject of Surprise Major. On this occasion we rang Wildebeest, an unspectacular but pleasant variation of Yorkshire that brought about some nice music and was different enough to keep people on their toes. Congratulations to Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase on ringing his six hundredth peal in the process!

Elsewhere the county's bells were kept active with three quarter-peals in total accompanying our 1hr49mins of ringing. There was a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at 'armonious 'orringer and as usual the weekly practice at Pettistree was preceded with a QP, with a 1272 of Munden Surprise Minor getting the band up to speed ahead of the session after. However, of particular note was the 1368 of Carlisle Surprise Minor rung at Great Finborough, which was Maureen Gardiner's first in the method. Well done Maureen!

Cake, biscuits and tea succeeded our performance, but with another early start tomorrow it was time to depart sooner rather than later at the end of a long, exhausting, but immensely enjoyable day.

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Tuesday 4th April 2017

Offton's pre-practice quarter-peal of Stedman Triples is the only ringing that I am able to report in today's blog, with even Michael Wilby seemingly taking a rest from extreme tenor-ringing!

Therefore, here's another reminder that Saturday 22nd April is Suffolk AGM Day, this year due to be hosted by the North-East District in Beccles, but including towers open on two routes in, with Bungay on the western route and Yoxford on the southern route open from 1.45-2.30pm and then respectively followed up by Barsham and Blythburgh from 2.15-3pm and Ringsfield and Brampton from 2.45-3.30pm before participants from both routes should converge upon the 25cwt ten overlooking the Norfolk border between 2.30-4pm. Please do support as much of it as you can.

God willing I'll have more to report in my blog in eighteen days time!

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Monday 3rd April 2017

The incredible ringing weekend of Michael Wilby continued tonight as he pulled the tenor in to a peal of ten spliced Maximus methods at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, thus completing three peals of fifty Maximus methods totalling 15,160 changes in eleven hours and four minutes on 123cwt of bell metal in three days. Having done much ringing with Michael during my days in the West Midlands I am not surprised but am immensely impressed at this incredible feat of simultaneous physical and mental endurance and agility.

There was nothing quite as spectacular at St Mary-le-Tower (although that was probably the case at pretty much anywhere beyond the 31cwt twelve in the centre of the UK's second city), we still had an extremely productive session at the weekly practice tonight, with a large crowd that included Hilary Stearn who was collecting her purse having left it behind after Saturday's hugely successful Stedman Triples Course but also found a very useful experience that left a very positive impression on her! It is worth noting that SMLT is open to all.

That is certainly what Richard - a ringer returning to the art after decades out - has found as he returned for a second visit in two weeks this evening. Despite being geographically out on a limb on the Felixstowe Peninsula, he has gone beyond just the lovely ground-floor six at Falkenham and the eponymous 2003 7cwt eight and is doing what all ringers should do if they are able by getting out to as many towers as he can and it seems to be paying off, at least judging by the very reasonable job he made of Grandsire Cinques on this occasion. Interesting to hear from  him as well that despite the retirement from the exercise of Gwen and Frank Bloomfield and the sad death of Mike Warren in recent years that ringing on the peninsula is still continuing, although like so many towers across the county and country it can be a struggle from a numbers point of view.

With so many there it would've been lovely to have carried on to the Robert Ransome to share a pint and conversation with some of them, but at the end of a day that started in the middle of the night with a very early shift at work and with another very early shift tomorrow it was far more sensible to return home.

Elsewhere in Suffolk others were also ringing. Well done to Michael Asquith on ringing his first quarter-peal of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the 1260 of it at Norwich Diocesan Association tower Lowestoft and at Thornham Magna to Carmen Wright on ringing her first Minor and to Zoe Wright on ringing her first Minor inside and congratulations to honorary lady David Webb on ringing his fiftieth QP of the year thus far in the Plain Bob Minor at the 8cwt ground-floor six.

And well done to Michael Wilby on his monumental achievements this weekend!

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Sunday 2nd April 2017

Whether it should be a source of concern or not, I was pleasantly surprised to awake today feeling slightly thick-headed but relatively OK following my rare drinking exploits of last night. It seemed sensible however not to drive into Ipswich and then onto Grundisburgh for Sunday morning service ringing and so instead Ruthie drove us up the road to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where I helped man the eight whilst Alfie sat patiently on the bench behind the sixth which I was ringing, before attending the worship that followed.

By the time we had partaken in tea and biscuits in the Church Centre afterwards and fed the animals at mother-in-law Kate's house in her absence, it was well past the twelve hours it is suggested one leaves it between a heavy bout of drinking and taking control of a car and so we meandered to my Mum and Dad's to collect Mason who had enjoyed helping his Nan make the teas at Sproughton post-service.

Other ringers from Suffolk were in a position to be more active today though, with three quarter-peals rung within our borders since the sun rose on this April day - Yorkshire Surprise Major at The Norman Tower, four spliced Doubles methods at Great Finborough and two spliced Surprise Minor methods at Pettistree.

Further afield there was considerable mental activity occurring at All Saints in Worcester where thirty-nine Surprise Maximus methods were rung spliced in a 5104 in 3hrs15mins. And not just thirty-nine slight variations of Yorkshire either, but thirty-nine separate, different Surprise Maximus methods, nineteen of which were being rung for the first time in a peal. It is yet another example of the limitless nature of the exercise. Very few will get the opportunity to ring in such astounding performances like this - which apart from looking spectacular on paper, will have undoubtedly been rung to the very highest standard - and indeed, although I have had the absolute privilege to have rung a lot with many of the band, I can't envisage ever getting the chance to progress to such extreme heights, but it should inspire and motivate ringers of all abilities to make the most of the chances they have to progress and seek more out. In that way, much enjoyment and satisfaction can be had from the art.

Today's efforts were made all the more incredible for the fact that the ringer of the 20cwt tenor Michael Wilby was 'fresh' from pulling in the 72cwt tenor at Exeter Cathedral - the second heaviest bell in the world hung for change-ringing - to 4hrs27mins of Bristol Surprise Maximus only yesterday. Either peal is utterly notable in its own right, but combined over one weekend they are phenomenal, with the immensely talented Alan Reading also worthy of credit for ringing the 33cwt tenth in the south-west of England twenty-fours ahead of ringing the eleventh in the Midlands.

If their heads feel even twice as bad tomorrow morning as mine did this morning then it would have been well-earned!

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Saturday 1st April 2017

As themes go, that of attendances at District practices and meetings is one of the longest running. Across the near ten years of blog writing, turning up to events which could be really useful, sociable and enjoyable occasions only to find a tiny proportion of the relevant membership has bothered to make the effort has probably been my main gripe and although it has been commented upon in previous Guild Annual Reports, it seems to have been more of an issue across the four Districts in this year's edition than I can recall previously. If used to their full potential, such gatherings can give many learners an opportunity to progress their ringing that they are unable to get at their local tower, whilst more experienced and confident ringers meet up and coming ringers who may be able to help them to achieve their aims - if someone in Suffolk wants to work their way up to twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods for example, they will need newcomers with the ability to help with that aim in the short or long-term, as the numbers who can already do it inevitably dwindles for a multitude of reasons and that won't happen unless they find learners capable of doing that. The more present at practices and meetings, the more one can get out of it from a social perspective and you leave feeling exhausted, but buoyed.

There is also a lot to be said for more focused and controlled training though. The SGR used to hold annual Training Days and I remember one in particular being responsible for one of the most important breakthroughs in my ringing 'career'. It was in the early 1990's when Amanda Richmond was Guild Ringing Master and whilst I was still at a relatively early stage in my ringing, getting to grips with ringing Plain Bob Doubles had been a particularly frustrating gate to get through. However, after a morning in a theory lesson led by Ann Webb (still to be found regularly ringing quarter-peals in the county) and held in one of the classrooms at Stowupland High School where Amanda taught and then a practical session at Wetherden in the afternoon with the group who were learning to call the method, that particular gate was opened for me, allowing me to travel forth into the wide variety in ringing that has served me so well and still holds my interest.

The theory session on the South-East District Stedman Triples Course at La Tour Cycle Cafe. The theory session on the South-East District Stedman Triples Course at La Tour Cycle Cafe. The theory session on the South-East District Stedman Triples Course at La Tour Cycle Cafe. The theory session on the South-East District Stedman Triples Course at La Tour Cycle Cafe. The practical session on the South-East District Stedman Triples Course at La Tour Cycle Cafe. The practical session on the South-East District Stedman Triples Course at La Tour Cycle Cafe. The practical session on the South-East District Stedman Triples Course at La Tour Cycle Cafe.

It was a pleasure therefore to witness others learning from South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson as he led this afternoon's District Stedman Triples Course, hopefully opening gates for the twelve pupils who booked their place, starting with an informative, useful and entertaining theory in a room at La Tour Cycle Cafe in Ipswich town centre and then across the road at St Mary-le-Tower for the practical session. Members from Falkenham to Offton took advantage of the experience available and which committed to this beforehand and there was visible improvement from all present - well done to them and to Mr Williamson on a superb course! Even notorious Stedman-hater Ruthie enjoyed it!

After such a productive post meridiem, the evening was a rather frivolous one in comparison, but it was for a good cause. In a fortnight I am due to be best man to our good friend Toby, Godfather to Mason, as he gets married to another good friend of ours Amy, who is Godmother to Joshua and tonight was the groom's stag do. And quite a refreshing one it was too. In recent years this traditional rite of passage has grown into a full-blown holiday for some, with a weekend or even a week away in some exotic location far away at huge expense. All very well when younger and loaded, but not so when one is responsible for children both in duty and financially. I enjoyed the weekend in Edinburgh for my brother Chris' stag do a couple of years ago, but ultimately I was relieved when Toby announced that despite various suggestions he simply wanted to go drinking in Woodbridge.

Therefore, instead of having to make extensive arrangements to ensure that my wife wasn't going to be left in the lurch with the children, I merely left Mrs Munnings and the two youngest sons - having dropped the eldest off with my parents who were generously helping out by putting him up for the night - to have their tea and made the short walk to The Cherrytree to begin the type of evening out that I haven't had the opportunity to enjoy for several years. A myriad of the many public houses that we are so fortunate to have within walking distance of our abode of three years, as The Anchor, The Crown and The Angel were all graced with our gradually deteriorating presence as not unusually the night ended with a group of men trying to be profound and philosophical with a much diminished vocabulary, before we all made our short journey's home. By which point I wished I'd had more training at this type of night out in recent months.

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Friday 31st March 2017

Note the 21st June in your diary. Because that has been pencilled in as the first annual Suffolk Day, as was excitedly announced on Mark Murphy's BBC Radio Suffolk show this morning. Quite what will be involved I'm not sure, but I love the idea of it, especially as I imagine there are ringing opportunities to be had. Other counties have long had their own county day which have been marked by ringing. Yorkshire's is on 1st August and saw peals of the county's eponymous method at Halifax Minster and Handsworth last year, whilst Lincolnshire's is on 1st October, which in 2016 was celebrated by quarters at Bardney and St Mary-le-Wigford in Lincoln and a 5093 of Grandsire Caters at Inveraray by the Lincoln Diocesan Guild.

Now, I'm not suggesting we nip up to Scotland on the longest day to ring a peal, but I can envisage our members ringing the county's bells on that particular Wednesday. Not just with peals and quarter-peals, but general ringing. Some communities may request ringing and it may also be a chance to get some of the lesser-rung bells within our borders turning over for the occasion. It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out.

For today though, the FNQPC were busy ringing bells on our soil as Robert Scase rang his five hundredth QP in the 1280 of Doubles at Cretingham - congratulations Robert, a well deserved landmark reached!

God willing there will be even more celebratory ringing here on Suffolk Day!

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Thursday 30th March 2017

Further details on the recent news about 'Whitechapel's' move to Appleton crept out today as it was revealed that Whites are apparently purchasing a vertical boring machine as they will be tuning bells on their site. However, casting will take place at the Westley Group's Newcastle-under-Lyme site as they have purchased the moulds from Whitechapel. To my mind this remains good news, as whilst it is sad that there will no longer be bells cast on the famous old site at E1 1DY, something has been salvaged from the situation and competition amongst British bell foundries (which has to be noted isn't just restricted to Taylor's and Whitechapel) remains healthy.

All this information was gathered from a reliable source on social media, but I still had an enjoyable read of some printed publications today, as hot on the heels of the latest superb edition of Awl a'huld, the Annual Reports are out. Michelle Rolph has done a super job in getting it out well ahead of the SGR AGM at Beccles on Saturday 22nd April, especially considering that amongst the many logistical challenges of putting this together, she has also got married, a logistical challenge in its own right as anyone who has had to arrange a wedding will tell you! Again she has had necessary help from many people and the result - as far as I can tell following a shifty glance of Ruthie's copy - are great! Behind the green covers lies another informative snapshot of ringing in the Suffolk Guild over 2016. Fascinating to read reports from the BAC - where the projects to rehang Little Cornard and augment Stowmarket feature - and Tom Scase's brilliantly written first Ringing Master's report in particular, but as always it is interesting to take in what the Districts have been up and to see at a glance the peal-ringing exploits of our members in a year that numbers in that particular medium rose again. Sad though to read that many are struggling to attract ringers to events that people spend much time and effort putting together and which if properly attended would be of much benefit to ringers of all abilities as well as a super social outlet for ringers at towers that maybe struggle with numbers.

It was something to reflect upon as I joined three ringers for a quick drink in The Red Lion in Woodbridge - Susanne Eddis, her other half Pete Faircloth and his father Maurice who lives and rings in East Sussex and has been visiting his son this week. Unfortunately my wife couldn't join us as she was at choir practice and generally this informal gathering highlighted how complicated such arrangements are now we are full-time parents. Pre-children (well, pre-Alfie and Joshua at least) I would've simply rocked up at the pub after work and Mrs Munnings I imagine would've wandered down from St Mary's Church Centre and we'd partake in drink, food and bawdy conversation until either we'd had enough or (more likely) the bell rang for closing time, without any thought. With two children in tow though, logistics were more convoluted as I got out of work, gathered up the boys and their mother, dropped Mrs Munnings off at choir and then travelled around the one-way system that takes cars around the narrow streets of our elderly town of residence before finally parking up at the pub, unloading the boys and finally meeting up with my drinking companions, with even a brief cameo from Mike Whitby on his way to Grundisburgh practice to enjoy. It was all over far too soon however, as the little 'uns needed to get home to bed and yet it was enjoyable to have them there, chatting away and generally being very well behaved.

Also enjoyable I'm sure was the 1440 of four spliced Surprise Minor methods at Tostock, which God willing should provide some reading material in next year's Annual Report...

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Wednesday 29th March 2017

Nationally the headlines were dominated by the triggering of Article 50 and the start of a two-year countdown to Brexit. You may have heard of it.
However, in ringing, there was a different headline - State-of-the-art centre to train bell ringers could open in Norwich next year thanks to more than £260,000 in funding.

Since it was launched in 2015 to coincide with the three-hundredth anniversary of the first recorded true peal, rung at St Peter Mancroft, the Mancroft Appeal 300 has been an exemplary example of how to promote fundraising for a ringing project. Of course it helps that it is a famous location, as St Paul's Cathedral in London are hoping to capitalise on as they look to raise funds for an overhaul of their bells. And the cause is something that I imagine appears more proactive and useful to the general public - a training facility rather than merely rehanging or augmenting bells (as much as we ringers appreciate the importance of that) can often seem more relevant. But the work that our neighbours north of the border have done, led by former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd has been inspirational. The media coverage, the events, the website - everything about it has been professional and spot on and the awarding of this huge grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund is just rewards for their efforts and means that construction work on this exciting project can begin later this year with hopes that the centre will open in the summer of 2018. Well done to all concerned!

As this good news broke, the boys and I were giving Ruthie a lift to Pettistree to enable her to ring in the successful quarter-peal attempt of Beverley, Cambridge, Ipswich and Surfleet Surprise Minor on the ground-floor six as well as partake in the practice that followed and go to The Greyhound afterwards (although being on antibiotics following her weekend illness she was unable to enjoy an ale as she usually would) before her mother Kate very kindly returned her to us.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, there was also a peal rung at The Wolery, the twenty-third of the year thus far for the SGR and although that is slightly down on this time in 2016, we still have the Easter weekend to come which will usually add a handful from Old Stoke alone to the tallies! Either way, it was nice to see and worthy of more headlines, if only it wasn't for some Brexit thingy going on...

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Tuesday 28th March 2017

The best case scenario that was expected when Whitechapel Bell Foundry announced it would cease trading from its current, historic premises was that they would move the company elsewhere, with Haverhill mentioned in some circles as a possible location for some reason, though I've never seen any evidence that this was ever actually considered. In the worse case scenario this famous ancient manufacturing company - Britain's oldest apparently, but unsurprisingly - would completely close and all trace of it disappear from the face of the Earth, bar the many bells (such as Big Ben) that it has cast in its long history still ringing out in towers across the world, including a good number here in Suffolk.

According to the news emanating from the media today, it appears that we will be getting something in between. After hundreds of years, the last bell to be cast in the area has been cast and is going to the Museum of London, but in news that could be placed closer to ringers' highest hopes than their greatest fears, the name has been secured and production is set to be undertaken by White's of Appleton in Oxfordshire. Having 'only' been established in 1824, they are mere youngsters in comparison, but are still the oldest bell-hanging company in the country and one would hope that at least some of the expertise from Whitechapel can be taken up the M40.

That said, some questioned how Whites will have the space to cast bells, whilst others pondered how they would be able to create the "unique sound and shape" of Whitechapel's bells, but I'm sure answers to those questions will appear soon and in the meantime I believe - on the face of it - that this is great news for change-ringing, especially when one considers what the alternatives could've been!

Meanwhile, ringing continued on bells not cast by Whitechapel, with quarter-peals of Warwickshire Surprise Major at Bardwell, Bloxham Surprise Major at Hopton and Stedman Triples before the practice night at Offton, whilst we had an evening at home and Alfie had a day out with my Mum and Dad that seemed to have left him exhausted! Hopefully the best case scenario here is he gets a good night's sleep!

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Monday 27th March 2017

With a return to late shifts at work after a couple of weeks of more typical 9-5's came the usual logistical challenges with getting out to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice in time to make my presence in any way worthwhile and ultimately also came the usual failure to overcome those logistical challenges.

Therefore, it was an extremely quiet day on the ringing front, both personally and - from a quarter-peal and peal perspective at least - throughout the county. Hopefully more interesting days lay ahead - please do look at What's On to see all that is planned on Suffolk's bells in the coming weeks!

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Sunday 26th March 2017

Mothering Sunday - rather than Mother's Day as has been branded across cards stacked on shelves previously laden with Valentine's Day cards and I imagine soon will be heaving with cards for Easter - was actually originally a day where people would visit their 'mother church', as I'm sure you are all aware. These days though, it seems almost entirely considered a commercial venture in honour of mothers.

They are certainly deserving of it though, usually being the ones that deal with the unpleasant elements of parenthood in the early weeks of a child's life and sacrifice sleep whilst us fathers escape to work and certainly Ruthie has done more than her fair share of that and more. Usually at ringing events she will be left looking after the children whilst my ear is bent, despite the fact that she is generally more interesting to talk to on most subjects. And not only has she done this for Alfie and Joshua, but also Mason, guiding all three boys as they find their way into this sometimes confusing world.

Unfortunately, still feeling unwell and dosed up on antibiotics for the next few days, she wasn't able to fully appreciate the day, nor could we really treat her in the way that we knew she would. No free fizzy from The Red Lion for her nor a walk by the River Deben followed by a well-earned pint. Still, she was able to join us for the service at Woodbridge after I had helped man the front six of the 25cwt eight upstairs, where along with other mothers she was presented with flowers and enjoyed the sermon which this morning was essentially the junior church baking a simnel cake, much to the amusement of the congregation!

Having been defeated by the lost hour's sleep as British Summer Time and present-giving to the mummy of the house, myself and my sons failed to ready ourselves soon enough for ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and seeing my mother. Therefore we hastily made arrangements to visit her this afternoon, clutching cards, flowers and enthusiastic grandsons to wish appropriate felicitations to a worthy case. Like my wife, she has balanced motherhood and ringing brilliantly and is now a wonderful grandmother, so it was lovely to share a cuppa and a chat with her and my father on a long and sunny Sunday at the beginning of BST.

Meanwhile, Suffolk's ringers were marking the occasion. Appropriately there was a mother-son act ringing the back two at Bardwell, as Ruth and Louis Suggett rang five and six to a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at their home tower, whilst the quarter-peals of Grandsire Doubles at Henley, Plain Bob Minor at St Margaret's in Ipswich and two Minor methods at Lowestoft were all dedicated to the day.

However you spent it, Happy Mother's Day to all you mums, especially Ruthie, my mother and of course the mother-in-law Kate. Or should I say Happy Mothering Sunday!

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Saturday 25th March 2017

When Ruthie was away for the weekend recently, I alluded to how taking the three boys out can make the task of looking after them single-handed more manageable. The journeying there - on foot or by car - will often encourage Joshua to get the sleep he needs and our destination offers forth space, distractions and/or helping hands. There is little opportunity to put one's feet up and relax or get jobs done around the home with them vying for attention, so I figure we might as well get out and about.

Therefore, with my wife working her first Saturday since her return to John Ives post-maternity leave, I was grateful to have a day mapped out that I was hoping would give me an alternative to spending it pent up in the house with a trio of brothers going through a range of extreme emotions difficult to cope with in a confined space.

In fact I had two options available for the morning. One was to join the Pettistree mini-outing to Essex, always an enjoyable experience that is typically the first steps into a ringing spring and if it were just me then I wouldn't hesitate. However, I'm glad it isn't and conscious that Mason, Alfie and Josh get dragged round a number of ringing events with some reluctance, when we were invited to join their peers from Woodbridge St Mary's junior church to make a simnel cake in anticipation of tomorrow's Mothering Sunday I thought it would be unfair to pass in favour of more watching on whilst I enjoyed myself ringing!

And there were still bells to ring on within our borders, being minded as I was to head to Glemsford this afternoon for the South-West District Practice on a 14cwt six I haven't been to for several years. One of the things I miss about being Guild Ringing Master is such trips out to other parts of Suffolk to renew established ringing friendships and make new ones and so it seemed a nice chance to do just that.

Except with cake in the oven and us lads preparing to wander back for lunch, Mrs Munnings called to say she was unwell, to the extent that she was being urged by her work colleagues to return home to rest. Rather than a pleasant drive through some of our county's most beautiful countryside then, we found ourselves waiting for an out-of-hours doctor's appointment at Ipswich Hospital, scratching around for change to pay the highly inappropriate parking charges at a place that very few people actually want to go to, as my poorly better half sought qualified medical opinion and guidance on recovery.

Of course it was far worse for the patient who felt rotten, but it was a shame not to make it to the SW. Instead, my ringing fix was partially sated by keeping up with the eliminators for this year's National Twelve-Bell Contest at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, St Margaret's in Leicester and Sheffield Cathedral, featuring ringers once of this parish, with Molly Waterson ringing for Bristol, Colin Salter for Guildford and Simon Rudd for Norwich. It was a pity that York had been suspended from the competition, before withdrawing themselves with the dignity that has been the hallmark of how the YMSCR have dealt with the dreadful situation they have been put in and by my calculations the fifteen teams left after their exit is the lowest turnout for twenty-two years. My perception is that politics has partly led to this, which would be extremely disappointing if true and I hope that will have dissipated by the time of the late-November deadline for entrants to the 2018 competition, but for now well done to all those taking part today and in particular congratulations to the nine teams who qualified to join hosts Southwark at the final on Saturday 24th June - Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, the College Youths, Cumberlands, Exeter, Melbourne, St Paul's Cathedral and especially High Wycombe who reached their first final for ten years.

Back here ringers were busy too, with one peal and five quarters successful. Busiest of all was Bacton, where a 1296 of Lincoln Surprise Minor on the ground-floor six at St Mary-the-Virgin on the same day as round the corner in Pretyman Avenue, Jeremy Spiller was ringing his 1700th peal with the 5040 of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods on handbells - congratulations Jeremy! Meanwhile, the band who rang at the 8cwt ring just yards from the village's famous handbell venue, also rang the same lengths of Surprise Minor at three other towers on a productive day, with Kelso rung at Hinderclay, Cunecastre at Redgrave and Coldstream at Wickham Skeith, whilst the Ladies Guild rang three Doubles methods in a 1260 at Thornham Magna which was the first of that many methods for Carmen and Zoe Wright - well done Carmen and Zoe!

It's a shame that I couldn't partake in any ringing myself though!

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Friday 24th March 2017

For all that yesterday was a quiet day for Suffolk ringing, the end of the working week and start of the weekend seems to have brought about a busier day today for the county's ringers with four quarter-peals rung. One of them was rung at one of the Norwich Diocesan Association's towers Somerleyton, but is still pleasing to report. However, it was further south that the biggest achievements were making the headlines. Well done to Chris McArthur and Elizabeth Christian on ringing their first of Lakesend Bob Minor with the FNQPC at Ashbocking and to Sal Jenkinson on ringing her first Treble Bob inside in the 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Wenhaston. Congratulations as well to Chrissie Pickup on ringing her 125th QP in that same success.

However, the biggest fanfare has to go to Paul Ashton, who in bonging behind to the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Benhall was ringing his first quarter! Many congratulations Paul!

Many congratulations as well to North-East District members Ed Rolph and Michelle Williams - Guild Annual Report Editor - who were married earlier this week and who were quite rightly congratulated with a footnote in the quarter-peal rung at their home tower Wenhaston. They are a lovely couple and I - and I'm sure many others - are delighted for them.

They deserve their honeymoon, whilst quite a few ringers in the county enjoy a rest after a busy day of ringing in Suffolk!

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Thursday 23rd March 2017

From both a Suffolk ringing and personal perspective, it was a very quiet day. No reports of quarters or peals within our borders on BellBoard and no ringing carried out by us, with attending our nearest Thursday night practices at the eight of St Margaret's in Ipswich and twelve of Grundisburgh essentially made impossible by Ruthie's much-deserved break at choir practice.

Instead it is worth noting that God willing there are busier days ahead. Before March is out, the Halesworth Triples and Major practice is due to be held from 7.30pm on Tuesday, where the lighter evenings we'll be having by then I imagine making the welcome even bigger and better than it already is in that part of the world, so do go along if you can!

Typically April follows March and it doesn't appear that there are any plans to alter the normal order of things for 2017 and so the South-East District Learn Stedman event at St Mary-le-Tower on the 1st is only just over a week away and although I believe the twelve spaces for learners are full, if you are an experienced ringer of the principle and you haven't already been approached to help it may be worth checking with District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson if he needs anyone else. If all goes to plan, from there a busy month unfolds with the North-West District Quarter-Peal and Practice at Eye a week later, the Second Tuesday ringing visits St Gregory in Sudbury and the 9cwt six in the beautiful village of Hartest nearby on the 11th, there is an Introduction to Handbells at High Hill House in the aforementioned Halesworth on Saturday 15th, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on the evening of Friday 21st, the Guild AGM at Beccles the next day before we are brought round full-circle to next month's Halesworth Triples and Major Practice on the 25th and the month is then finished off with the South-West District Sunday Practice at St Peter in Sudbury (On the 30th).

Plenty there to ensure that not every day need to be as quiet as today!

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Wednesday 22nd March 2017

If the purpose of today's horrific attack outside the Houses of Parliament was to stop our way of life, it failed miserably, much like every other criminal act inextricably given the publicity-attracting tag of terrorism. MPs and peers plan to return to work tomorrow in the very building they were locked in for several hours following the tragic events in Westminster. Life around the immediate area continued, England's footballers were defeated in a friendly against their German hosts and ringing up and down the country essentially represented the attitude of residents of Britain from Lands End to John O'Groats. Reflecting society's attitude generally, those killed and caught-up in the crime spree across the River Thames were remembered in footnotes to performances on BellBoard and I imagine may well will be in the coming days. But ringing carried on defiantly up and down the land, even just three miles away in the Vestry at St Michael's Cornhill where a 5019 of Stedman Cinques was rung on handbells.

Here in Suffolk our ringers also kept calm and carried on.

A 1600 of eight spliced Surprise Major was rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower, whilst the usual pre-practice quarter-peal attempt was typically successful at Pettistree ahead of a session that Ruthie went along to, topped off by a drink in The Greyhound in good company as per normal.

So whilst our thoughts are with those directly affected by goings-on in the UK's seat of democracy, life defiantly went on as it usually does for most of the rest of us. God willing that's the way it continues.

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Tuesday 21st March 2017

Last night was a dreadful night, an unwelcome throwback to nights when we were parents of a newborn as we spent most of the hours of darkness awake consoling a very poorly Joshua. So unwell was he that at one point we even contacted 111, only to be reassured, thank God.

We weren't exactly at our most energetic or productive today therefore, as I spent a day at work in a blur - the only thing I really remember being the distraction of the neighbour's across the railway line attempting to fell some trees using an elaborate rope system and a four-by-four - before accompanying Ruthie and the boys to Wickham Market Medical Centre for more reassurance on the youngest son's health.

Mercifully neither of us was needed for the peal of Dereham Surprise Major rung for the Suffolk Guild at Elveden - hopefully none of them had a night as bad as ours.

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Monday 20th March 2017

Security. Not something that typically affects a rural ringing practice, but at a number of urban towers, entrance to the ringing chamber has to be quite carefully considered, due to the higher number of unsavoury folk wandering the nearby streets. When I lived in Wolverhampton and occasionally visited the Monday night practice on the twelve at the Collegiate Church of St Peter, you had to wait until those already present had spotted you on a screen in the ringing chamber connected to CCTV at the outside door and vetted before being let in. At a number of towers such as St Neots in Cambridgeshire, you have to follow instructions to put in a code which would only mean anything to ringers, like Tittums or the lead-end order of Plain Bob or similar.

At St Mary-le-Tower, we have resisted such notions, keen to avoid locking out interested parties and potential recruits, despite a number of visits from people under the influence of drugs, drink or both which whilst not necessarily an issue in itself (the visit we had last month from a self-confessed alcoholic was actually quite uplifting in many ways and certainly not a problem) raises inevitable health and safety aspects. The troublesome ones are mercifully rare, often a once in a year occurrence, if that. However, tonight we were subjected to the most nasty visit we are suffered in my memory.

At the start of the evening, the early arrivals passed a clearly inebriated chap at the bottom of the tower and before long, he decided to stumble up the stairs and attempt to break into this famous belfry quite aggressively. Escorted out, I guess those present hoped that would be the end of it and indeed as I arrived outside I was blissfully unaware anything had happened, the only indication of his presence being the emptied bottle of booze sat by the main doors, although that it was his was unbeknown to me at the time. With some very reasonable ringing well underway, I stood at the top of the stairs waiting for them to finish, with Suffolk Guild Treasurer and former SMLT Ringing Master Owen Claxton joining me. We soon became aware that the sound of extremely violent blows to the aforementioned main doors were echoing around the bottom of the tower and up the stairs. We looked at each other and Owen set off to investigate - I am not one to engage in confrontation if I can help it, but I didn't feel it right to leave Mr C to deal with whatever was happening downstairs...

What did greet us was - it transpired - the drunken invader from earlier in the evening, so hammered that he was unable to figure out that he merely needed to turn the handle to gain the entry he seemingly desired so vehemently and instead was kicking at the ancient wooden doors with a huge amount of unfettered force. Owen and I looked at each other, attempting to gauge what we should do next, unsure if the aggressor might be brandishing a weapon, but also aware that another ringer may arrive at any minute or even (though this was unlikely in his state) figure out how to open the door.

Before we came to any decision though, the piece upstairs had come round and David Potts and Ian Culham had descended to fill us latecomers in on all the dramatic detail. There was (relative) safety in numbers now, but still it was deemed sensible to contact 101 for the police to deal with it, as we felt calling 999 might have been overkill. If any of us could get any signal. Thank God, as Ringing Master David was on the phone a couple of officers had already arrived and having calmed the angry drunk down and sent him on his way even climbed the stairs to the ringing chamber to check everyone was OK - we were grateful for their intervention.

Understandably the ringing suffered with such distractions and yet it held up remarkably well in the circumstances, with Bristol Surprise Royal and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus still squeezed into the diminished time we had, but our unwelcome guest was the main talking point at the notices and in the Robert Ransome afterwards. It is important to remember that such uncomfortable encounters at the county's heaviest twelve are incredibly rare, but after tonight it seems that something needs to be considered if we are to continue being a welcoming, safe and secure place for all to do their ringing.

Meanwhile, we were relieved that Falkenham and Felixstowe tower correspondent Brian Aldous and his wife Christina escaped unscathed when a stolen car crashed into the living room at their Trimley St Mary home last night, a story that not unexpectedly made the local news. I suspect security was on their minds too.

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Sunday 19th March 2017

Horringer.'Orrible 'Orringer no more. I have been rather disparaging of the old eight at St Leonard of Limoges, but I haven't been alone. Although much of what I have said in the past was tongue-in-cheek, they simply weren't very good, although such variety of bells is part of what makes ringing interesting to me. However, what I and others think is entirely inconsequential and unimportant. Those who ring on them every week are the ones whose views matter and they clearly felt they deserved better.

Well after an immense amount of hard-work that has been shared on their Facebook page, they have got the octave that they deserve, a superb ring of bells that go brilliantly and sound wonderful. The rope circle has been moved round so that the treble is roughly where the fifth was looking out down the church from this ground-floor ringing chamber and the removal of some bits and pieces has created more space - I am delighted for the local ringers.

Horringer Dedication.Horringer Dedication.I was even more delighted that we could join them this afternoon for the dedication of the new bells, along with a large crowd that included various dignitaries such as the area's MP and Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase as well as a sizeable number of Guild members. Clearly a lot of effort was put into the occasion by the village and church, especially the choir and it was wonderful to hear the local band ring rounds on the celebrated eight during the service. Bishop Martin - who Mason was delighted to see following his recent visit to Woodbridge - spoke superbly and afterwards we were treated to tea and a wide variety of delicious cake whilst ringing went on and Taylor's presented Sally Crouch with the framed details of the bells.

Earlier in the day I had been ringing at another eight, Woodbridge for service ringing, the bells half-muffled as they usually are during Lent and manned today by an attendance numbering eleven (not including the boys) that enabled us to ring some very reasonable Grandsire Triples before we joined Ruthie for the service and then went on to that dedication at (credit to Jed Flatters for this one!) Harmonious Horringer!

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Saturday 18th March 2017

There was murder at the home of mother-in-law Kate Eagle this afternoon, but mercifully it was all pretend as along with Ruthie's sister Clare and brother-in-law Kevin and also Ron, we were partaking in a murder mystery game in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Strictly speaking we should've been playing it next Saturday, but busy diaries meant that wasn't possible, so I shan't give away the outcome and spoil it for wannabe participants. However, I had great fun playing the part of Lenny Oopsidaisy the clumsy butler!

Whilst three Suffolk Guild members were busy trying to work out this whodunnit, others were busier with ringing as two significant peals were rung for the SGR on bells within the county. An original plan to replicate the 10080 changes of Plain Bob Major rung at Debenham almost exactly two-hundred and fifty years on seems to have been altered, but a nonetheless entirely appropriate 5250 of the method were rung in 3hrs17mins at the same venue today. And nearly thirty miles away at Horringer, the historic first peal on the brand new eight were rung, appropriately a day ahead of their dedication and even more appropriately to celebrate the birthday of Sally Crouch who has worked so hard to enable this project to succeed. Happy Birthday Sally!

Meanwhile, although perhaps less historic but still notable, the quarter-peal of St Clement's College Bob Minor rung at Hadleigh was the first in the method as conductor for Kevin Ward and the one hundredth together for Neal Dodge and David Steed. Congratulations to Neal and David and well done Kevin!

And well done to all those who survived the murder at Eagle Towers 2017.

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Friday 17th March 2017

I love football. And despite everything, I love Ipswich Town. But even I wouldn't currently suggest paying to watch them over paying for your ringing, especially with today's price-rises at ITFC to more than ever before for the poorest football seen at Portman Road for a long, long time, exercising the vexation of Tractor Boys across the county and beyond.

With the Suffolk Guild AGM at Beccles just over a month away, where subscriptions may come up in proceedings, it is a timely reminder at just how cheap ringing is in comparison to other pastimes. Those of us paying the annual £15 SGR subscription, would have to pay more than three times that for some of the most expensive seats to watch just one of the Tractor Boys' matches and currently (and most likely next season too) you are likely to get a lot more enjoyment from progressing your ringing than spending an afternoon taking in the depressingly poor quality of football at ITFC.

Sadly we weren't getting our moneys worth today as ours was bell-free, nor - unusually - were there any quarters or peals recorded here on BellBoard, but beyond our borders quite a few ringers were getting value for money in Ireland on St Patrick's Day, including Bardwell ringers Laura Davies and Louis Suggett who were partaking in the 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at Cork Cathedral.

And it was lovely to see the 1368 of Julie McDonnell Alliance Royal rung at Westminster Abbey that clearly meant a great deal to Julie herself, who was treated to a day out at the famous venue which also saw filming done for an episode of Songs of Praise due to be broadcast on Easter Sunday.

If you are looking to spend your money on a pastime, I would definitely suggest ringing over football...

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Thursday 16th March 2017

Our house-hunting reached it's first decision dilemma this evening, where following another visit to the house we liked earlier in the week we considered whether we need to put an offer in. It was a decision that needed a drink to consider and so a pint in The Duke of York near our current abode before Ruthie went to choir practice was called for. We shall see what the next few days bring...

I know what today brought at least - more ringing from Suffolk's ringers! An impressive 1296 seven spliced Surprise Minor methods at Tostock ensured there was ringing to report on a day where our thoughts were more with houses than bells!

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Wednesday 15th March 2017

Understandably, there has been much speculation over the future of Whitechapel Bell Foundry since it announced at the end of last year it's impending closure with the Hughes' family's sale of the historic site that it had traded from since 1570. After all, along with Taylor's up in Loughborough they are one of the two main foundries in the UK serving ringers and their is concern over what it says of the state of ringing and where it might take the exercise's future. Some had hoped that the business would move, with an apparent rumour that it would be relocating to Haverhill, although that it is one I hadn't heard until today. However, many have noted that it would be difficult for it to do so, as they are only able to get around current emissions levels that they seemingly exceed because of something called 'Grandfather's Rights', which essentially means that they have been allowed to continue as they are because they have been there for so long.

Today, most ringers surmised that we have got our answer with the release of a list of equipment from the ancient company being put up for auction which suggests that they aren't planning to carry on. This would be sad news, but not unexpected. There were suggestions in response to the news that perhaps they are looking to rebuild with new equipment and we can but hope that is the case and perhaps there might be opportunities for smaller and/or new foundries, but it seems we as an exercise may well have to get used to their absence.

Ringing of course does continue - and God willing will do for many centuries to come - as was shown this evening at Pettistree (whose front three were cast by the still existing Taylor's) where my wife partook in the pre-practice quarter-peal, which this week was of Dallinghoo Bob Minor to celebrate the forthcoming birthday of local ringer and former resident of Dallinghoo Gill Waterson, before then also joining in another productive session and a drink or two at The Greyhound next door, all following a day when she had visited the house that we saw on Saturday as the house-hunting builds some momentum.

Earlier in the day, another peal called by Louis Suggett to his own composition was rung at Offton, this time of Bristol Surprise Major. On a day tinged with sadness at Whitechapel's demise, young Louis offers forth hope for the future of ringing. Keep it up Mr Suggett!

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Tuesday 14th March 2017

Another day, another viewing of a house and thus far the best we have seen. The three-bedroom house near the centre of Woodbridge ticked a lot of boxes and gives us plenty of food for thought, although not much time for food to eat as we took up my lunch-break to explore this sizeable property.

Beccles.There was more time for sustenance this evening though on what is usually a quiet day ringing-wise personally, but we hope that won't be a quiet day ringing-wise on Saturday 22nd April when God willing we shall be in Beccles for the Suffolk Guild AGM, hopefully taking in a tower or two along the way on one of the two routes in. There is much going on over the course of the afternoon, including a raffle and to that end our hosts the North-East District would be most appreciative of prizes (as will the winners too of course!), so please do have a root around for anything you don't want or need but that you think would make a suitable object to give away.

They were busy ringing today in the aforementioned NE as a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Minor was rung at Halesworth, a first in the method for Sal Jenkinson and Matthew Rolph - well done Sal and Matthew!

Another day, more achievements for SGR members. 

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Monday 13th March 2017

I had rare treat in the context of recent weeks this evening as I joined my fellow ringers in going for a pint at The Robert Ransome following the practice at nearby St Mary-le-Tower. Since I began the early and late shifts at work for our latest international campaign two months ago, I have either finished at the office too late to make it to ringing or have got such an early start the next morning that I need to get home and in bed rather than sipping ale hours before I need to get up again.

Tonight though, having worked a normal 9-5 at John Catt, I was able to get to practice and go for a drink afterwards for the first time since the immediate cold post-Christmas and New Year days of early January. And as much as the opportunity to sit down and chat with friends over a beer was highly enjoyable, the ringing itself more than played it's part too, with another eclectic and impressive repertoire for a provincial twelve, including Bristol Surprise Royal and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus again.

This evening really was a treat.

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Sunday 12th March 2017

I am used to dragging the three boys along to ringing on a Sunday morning on my own whilst Ruthie carries out her singing duties in the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, so the travelling to St Mary-le-Tower and then Grundisburgh to ring on this ante meridiem wasn't very different in my wife's weekend-long absence.

Still, I was pleased to welcome her home this afternoon, as were Mason, Alfie and Joshua, before we made our way to Ipswich to wish Aunty Marian - sister of my father and former ringer - felicitations ahead of her birthday tomorrow. As alluded to previously, these are rarely exciting visits, but rather pleasant and laid-back affairs, with ringing often at the heart of the conversation, although as she is strictly offline, she is usually a few weeks behind us on the news! Today, the latest goings-on at York Minster exercised her, no doubt motivated by letters in recent editions of The Ringing World.

Whilst we were taking it easy there, other ringers in Suffolk were busier. The regular and well-known second-Sunday peals at Aldeburgh continued on this post meridiem with a 5088 of Isle of Ely Delight Major, another first for the entire band and the Guild and a quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Minor was rung at Rougham. However, the most notable headline of the ringing day within our borders, was The Norman Tower ringing Julie McDonnell New Bob Caters and thus answering the challenge for as many abbeys, cathedrals and minsters as possible to ring a QP of a Julie McDonnell method for SBABC. Well done guys, I'm chuffed that the county's Cathedral has represented us in this so splendidly and raised some more money for a great cause!

It was a lovely thing to reflect on as I sat back this evening, relaxed and enjoyed the company of my wife again!

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Saturday 11th March 2017

Managing the three boys together solo is an immense challenge. We love them to bits of course and individually they are delightful and it is a wonder to watch their progress as they find their way into this often baffling world. Collectively though, the logistics are exhausting. Mason veers from over-exuberant playmate for Alfie to annoyed older brother when AJM dares to get in the way of what he's doing, Alfred is too young to understand Joshua's innocent advances upon his toys and space, whilst the two youngest demand attention simultaneously as the eldest sighs in a resigned manner at having to wait for me to deal with them before he gets a sniff!

With Ruthie away until tomorrow, today was to be a big test therefore!

Mercifully though, there was plenty to keep me and them occupied and people to help, something I was very grateful for.

Ringing at Campsea Ashe.Ringing at Campsea Ashe.Ringing - not for the first time - offered relief, as I took advantage of Campsea Ashe's weekly Saturday morning practice to give them the space to explore the church whilst I rang upon this superb 6cwt gallery-ring six, with Adrian Craddock - there with little Izzy, another playmate for the boys - a great help in keeping an eye on them whilst I wasn't. Hopefully I was of some help to Ringing Master Glenys Fear who seemed pleasantly surprised by the numbers present that meant we managed some decent Cambridge Surprise Minor and Ipswich Surprise Minor, which followed on from the Stedman Doubles being rung as we arrived and preceded a quarter-peal attempt of Cambridge, although the lack of any report of it on BellBoard isn't a good sign. Still, it is to be applauded, especially on the back of a very positive morning's ringing.

Those who have been reading the blog recently (hopefully there are still some desperately hoping for some interesting content!) will know that we are in the midst of house-hunting and with the disproportionate pricing of properties in Woodbridge, the much more reasonably-priced homes in Rendlesham have been part of our considerations, but this isolated housing estate has pretty much been dismissed as impractical with just one car and the sizeable distance from the centre of most of our typical day-to-day activity and so didn't seem worthy of closer scrutiny. Nonetheless, we have seen a number of homes there online that in different circumstances would have been ideal and whilst just three miles down the road ringing, I thought I would meander back to our current residence via one or two those abodes to get a glimpse of them in the flesh, at least from the outside, but this wasn't to be the only estate-exploring business the boys and I were carrying out today.

A wander around another potential roof over our heads followed, this time in the closer Melton, a three bedroom abode on the site of the old St Audry's Hospital. A thorough inspection was carried out before a tea provided by Ron and mother-in-law Kate was gratefully received by us four lads on a decent day's ringing for Suffolk ringers and ringers with Suffolk blood.

1260 changes of eight Doubles methods and variations were rung at Great Finborough as part of the North-West District's Practice at the 12cwt six (congratulations to Guild PRO on his good news!), but beyond our borders it was the achievements of Salter brothers Colin and George that caught the eye most. The former, younger sibling today rang his first peal of Zanussi Surprise Maximus in the 5088 at Guildford Cathedral, whilst his elder brother rang in a 5016 of six spliced Maximus methods at Cornhill in London. Both have been ploughing an impressive furrow since leaving the county and their parents David and Katharine must be extremely proud and must also take some credit for providing the ringing foundations for these talented young men to take on to such high standards. They also show - as have a number of others before them - what can be achieved following an upbringing here! Be inspired current learners of the SGR!

I am just pleased with the evidence that children do eventually grow up to look after themselves!

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Friday 10th March 2017

It appears to have been a day of travelling for many ringers.

A number of eminent partakers of the exercise are on their way to New York for sightseeing, shopping, drinking and of course peal-ringing.

Still further of the most famous names in the art were converging on Lincolnshire for tomorrow's wedding of current College Youths Ringing Master Rob Lee to his fiancee and fellow ringer Lizzy Stokoe.

And Ruthie was traversing to north Norfolk with Kala - our good friend and Godmother to Mason - for the weekend-long hen do of Amy - another good friend and Godmother to Joshua.

Therefore, it is a lads' weekend for myself and the boys, which started mercifully uneventfully with all three going to bed with (relatively) little fuss, whilst elsewhere in Suffolk things were also going to plan (one assumes) today for the quarter-peal bands at Monewden and Wenhaston, where 1260's of St Clement's College Bob Minor and it's Doubles sister St Simon's Bob respectively were rung, with the former being Elizabeth Christian's first in the method - well done Elizabeth!

Both are well worth a mention, even if the travelling they had to do to get there wasn't as great as other ringers today!

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Thursday 9th March 2017

This week has been Ruthie's first back at work following nine months of maternity leave, which now also means that both Alfie and Joshua are at nursery. With me being on early shifts, their collective absence - as missed as they are as a cheery welcome at the end of a long day in the office - allows me some much needed time to do stuff that needs doing and perhaps even more importantly catch up on lost sleep whilst I'm getting up in the middle of the night for work.

My heart sank therefore when I received a call from nursery today saying that Alfred was showing signs of an infectious illness and so had to be collected immediately. Mainly of course for the poor boy himself, although it isn't anything serious and outwardly he was perfectly happy, but also because I knew - with my wife now at the shop working - that it meant the end of any chance of me getting stuff done or getting any sleep! Still, at least I got to spend some unexpected quality time with the boy.

And I still got the opportunity to listen to Thornham Magna Tower Captain Sylvie Fawcett and her husband James sitting on Lesley Dolphin's famous sofa on our local BBC radio station (about 2hrs8mins in), primarily being interviewed about their violin making, but also with a mention of Mrs Fawcett's ringing from about 2hrs24mins into the show. It was interesting to hear of Sylvie's French background and how she started as part of the successful Millennium recruitment drive - well done Sylvie (and James) on a great bit on the airwaves!

Otherwise it was quiet on the ringing front in our county, but just over the border in Cambridge, George and Diana Pipe's fourteen-year-old great-nephew Henry was calling his first tower-bell peal. In Norman Smith's twenty-three spliced Surprise Major methods of course. Extraordinary, even in that family. Congratulations Henry!

I'm glad that his day went to plan!

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Wednesday 8th March 2017

In our current circumstances, only one of us can go out ringing on an ordinary evening and Wednesdays tend to be Ruthie's turn to venture forth, usually to Pettistree. So it was tonight, as my wife journeyed to the ground-floor six to ring in the 1272 of Carlisle Surprise Minor and attend the practice that followed, whilst I was left at home to put Alfie and Joshua to bed and find something on TV. Typically I will get the boys asleep but then find nothing on the box or I'll find something I want to watch and then struggle to get one or both of them to sleep. Well, normally Josh these days.

This evening though, I struck gold on both fronts. AJM and JB well settled down for the night, I decided to take in some football on television, which turned out to be one of the most spectacular games in the history of the sport as Barcelona beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 to overturn a 4-0 deficit from the first leg of their Champions League tie to become the first team to overcome such a large scoreline in modern European football, getting the final three goals that they needed in the last seven minutes. It was a proper sporting 'where were you?' moment - I was at home, watching it unfold as it happened, an unexpected bonus of not being able to go out!

So late in the match was their comeback, that even Mrs Munnings was able to witness the exciting climax having returned from a productive few hours of ringing, which she enjoyed immensely with a good turnout.

Their quarter-peal wasn't the only one rung in Suffolk today, with Andrea Alderton and Maureen Gardiner ringing their first of Duke of Norfolk Treble Bob Minor in the 1296 at Tostock, which was also Andrea's seventy-fifth QP with Pam Ebsworth. Well done to the former pair and congratulations to the latter.

And well done, congratulations and thank you to Barcelona FC on keeping me entertained on my night in!

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Tuesday 7th March 2017

We often worry ourselves with the future of ringing, but listening to our local BBC Radio Station this afternoon following an early shift at work, I was reminded that in the scheme of things, we don't do too badly. Mention was made of the perilous plight of Woodbridge Horticultural Society, who after one hundred and sixty-five years is in danger of closing in the midst of a raft of officer vacancies and an ageing membership with apparently little sign of younger folk coming in to replace them.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk Guild continues to fill all bar a handful of roles (although sometimes it is with much persuasion and arm-twisting!) at District and Guild level, with a decent range of ages from the very young to the less very young. Our Young Ringers do well in a large rural county where all non-drivers have to rely on the goodwill and generosity of those who do drive in order to get around to events. Friendships and support extends from Felixstowe to Brandon, Wrentham to Haverhill with an active membership of hundreds and even if you think that a tower or group of towers is a more appropriate comparison to the troubled WHS then I think we still stack up favourably. Yes, many bells are regularly unmanned, but there is a network of support for those towers and ringers who would otherwise be cut adrift and there are few bells within our borders that haven't been rung at all in recent years. And of course that stretches far beyond our county in this most close-knit of hobbies. Our circumstances aren't ideal and we can't be complacent, not least because we should be doing much better in recruitment, but when I consider the position some other pastimes find themselves in, I feel very fortunate.

Part of that active network is the band at Theberton, who seem to be held in high regard by the residents and churchgoers in the village and whose ringing was also mentioned on Lesley Dolphin's show on the airwaves this afternoon as they are ringing ahead of Seraphim's concert at the church on Sunday evening. It is nice to see ringers appreciated!

And further evidence of the support network that ringing offers could be seen tonight with Ipswich ringer Sue Williamson ringing her first quarter-peal of Grandsire and on eight in the 1260 at Offton with a band that also included SGR members from Hasketon, Haughley, Stowmarket and even Essex. Well done Sue!

We mustn't be complacent, but compared to others such as Woodbridge Horticultural Society, we're doing alright. Let's keep it up!

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Monday 6th March 2017

The typical form after a successful peal is that some - and often all - of the band retire to a pub for a well deserved drink (not always alcoholic these days!). In most cases the local population is usually apathetic. It might get noticed and commented upon in passing in much the same way as they might if the weekly bus is a few minutes late. Of course there are ever so occasionally complaints and they tend to make the headlines.

Also ever so occasionally though, there are favourable reviews of peal-ringers. Just today I came across an article on page three of The Southern Cross - the 'official' newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide - which reported very positively on the visit of 'The Grand Tour' to the city's Roman Catholic Cathedral to ring a 5090 of Bristol Surprise Maximus exactly a month ago, one of seventy-three quarters and peals on three continents and in five countries across two months and involving thirty-three ringers - including many familiar to ringers in Suffolk - and which has come to a climax with three peals in Zimbabwe. And straight after peals I have been the beneficiary of lovely gestures. If memory serves me correctly, along with my brother Chris and the rest of the band who rang in the 5008 of Stedman Cinques at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham to welcome John Sentamu (now viewed a more controversial character among some ringers for his perceived role as Archbishop of York in the sacking of the ringers at the Minster) as the eighth Bishop of Birmingham back in 2002, I was given a medal for my efforts and when myself and nine others had descended the stairs from ringing a 5040 of Isleworth Surprise Royal at Beccles (location for this year's Guild AGM on Saturday 22nd April - if you haven't already, book your tea!) almost exactly eight years ago, we were greeted by two members of the public clutching ten bouquets of flowers they had purchased to show their appreciation for our efforts!

However, the most wonderful post-peal welcome I have thus far heard of is over the Norfolk border at Great Ryburgh where they are commemorating the tragic deaths of all the men in the village who lost their lives in the First World War with a peal precisely a century to the day since each death, a project that began on 1st November 2014 with 2hrs47mins of Stedman Doubles and sadly has already seen sixteen peals rung at the church, albeit one on handbells in the building's St Thomas' Chapel and which are well covered on their website. Apparently, the band are then met with a plate each and an amazing spread of food that not only splendidly rewards the ringers for their efforts, but also movingly represents the homecoming meal the villagers lost at war didn't get to savour. Although for very sad reasons, well done and thank you to the residents of Great Ryburgh for doing this.

Although I'd noticed the many peals rung at the 12cwt six in a round tower, the first I had heard of this special reception for the peal-ringers was tonight at St Mary-le-Tower, where two of the participants in the most recent effort on Saturday Jed Flatters and Amanda Richmond glowingly recounted their experience to me, during a jovial practice. My missing the treble sally and nearly taking out Amanda on the second whilst retrieving it caused much mirth, as did Craig Gradidge and Jed's dancing to Sonia's errant mobile phone ringtone, whilst the picture of Colin Salter's new haircut doing the rounds on Facebook elicited much positive comment in his absence.

There was much focus too though. Not everything went, of course. This is a practice after all and as I've pointed out before I have been to practices at the Bull Ring and for the College Youths where not everything goes to plan, but that is the nature of progress. However, we had another impressive repertoire of methods that many provincial twelves would be delighted with as we made our way through - amongst much else - Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, Stedman Cinques and Bristol Surprise Royal, with that last piece in particular very well rung.

It was a good night, but sadly there was no welcoming party when we got downstairs!

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Sunday 5th March 2017

It would be interesting how many towers in Suffolk ring half-muffled during Lent as they do at Woodbridge - none come to mind!

This morning saw me ringing upon the bells in our town of residence for the first time in this year's most sombre of periods, with some decent Grandsire Doubles on the front six before we attended the service, accompanied by a lively bunch of children at the usual gathering place for families at the bottom of the tower.

From here things slowed down on the ringing front though. A trip out to get new shoes for Alfie and Ruthie going out to sing for Evensong was about as exciting as it got, but elsewhere, my wife's mother was partaking in the 1260 of Stedman Doubles at Pettistree and well done to the entire band who rang their first quarter of Yaddlethorpe Place Doubles in the 1320 at Great Finborough where next Saturday the North-West District are planning on attempting another QP and holding a practice afterwards - please do support them if you can, whether they're half-muffled or not!

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Saturday 4th March 2017

We rarely miss a South-East District event, especially since Ruthie was Secretary and saw just how much work is put into arranging them. Having ranted tirelessly on this blog about low attendances at these occasions, I am keen to lead by example, but every now and then circumstances mean that we can't get along to support the SE - my problem has never been with members not attending because they are unwilling to drop everything, rather with those who could be supporting the hard-working officers but instead sit at home watching TV!

With that caveat then, we didn't make it to this afternoon's practice at Grundisburgh, but it was with good reason as we were invited to the annual meal of E B Button, the business run by Ruthie's mother and uncles and which naturally enough had the feel of a family meal accompanied by those who work for and help out at this funeral directors throughout the year. A convivial and leisurely dinner at The Bull Hotel followed, which was immensely enjoyable but ultimately meant that we were unable to attend the ringing on Suffolk's lightest twelve.

Mercifully, we weren't missed though, as another decent turnout of over thirty went in our place according to Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson's welcome update on the Guild's Facebook page informed us.

Elsewhere, others were also busy on the end of a rope, with 1320's of Cambridge Surprise Minor and Shields Road Bob Minor at Barrow and Thurston respectively, the latter being the first in the method for the entire band - well done all of you! A little more productive than us.

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Friday 3rd March 2017

Tenor ringers of the future? Alfie, Joshua and Mason.Mason is still recovering from his operation and so hasn't been to school all week, but he is getting better and was able to enjoy a trip to Colchester Castle with my Mum and Dad before being dropped off at ours for his first weekend here since his minor surgery and in the process presented a rare opportunity to photograph the three boys together - they are rarely still long enough!

At the end of a week of late shifts there was no opportunity for ringing, but the FNQPC were on the end of ropes with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham including birthday boys John Taylor and Robert Scase, two dedicated members of the South-East District.

It was a quiet, but positive Friday.

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Thursday 2nd March 2017

Every now and again, ringing gets a mention on TV or radio at an unexpected moment. With Ruthie out at an unexpectedly prolonged choir practice and the boys already in bed, I happened across the start of a series on BBC 4 called Sound Waves: The Symphony of Physics, presented by Dr Helen Czerski, who in this episode announced that when she was a youngster she was a bellringer. She offers forth no further information such as where, how long for and how proficient she became (why would she?), but she joins Jo Brand, Timmy Mallett and Alan Titchmarsh in the list of 'celebrity' ringers past and present.

Although no actual change-ringing featured, there was quite an in-depth feature on the science behind the sounds that come from bells - most particularly Big Ben - which I imagine would be familiar to many at bell foundries and was fascinating for me.

Ironically, there was little to report in regards to actual noises being made by bells in the county or at least not anything that appears on BellBoard, but I might listen to them slightly differently next time I ring!

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Wednesday 1st March 2017

Being Ash Wednesday, not only is today the first day of March, nor just the first day of meteorological spring, but also the first day of Lent. Some bells will be half-muffled for the duration (Woodbridge's eight usually are) culminating in Holy Week when (as mentioned a few days ago) ringers will need to be conscious of practices going ahead as normal as much as sessions being moved or cancelled and then the Easter weekend itself when extra services will require extra ringing for some.

The Saturday after that of course - as with every year - the Suffolk Guild AGM is due to be held, this year by the North-East District in Beccles overlooking the border with Norfolk. Even though I no longer hold an officer's position in the SGR, as someone for whom the Guild has played such a positive role in my life, I am keen that it remains strong and to my mind an essential part of that is that members meet together at events like this, the Striking Competitions on Saturday 20th May in the North-West District and the Social on Saturday 16th September in Sproughton in the South-East District. Not only will that make these occasions more enjoyable, but it should strengthen the network of ringers across the county that God willing will allow the standards of ringing to improve more than if we struggle on relying on small pockets of ringers. Even in this time of easy and instant communication, nothing beats meeting face-to-face, so please do all you can to go along and encourage your ringing colleagues to do the same - if you allow, it should be a super day of ringing, mingling and eating, topped off by a pint - if you so wish - in a lovely place for pubs.

That is due for the other end of Lent, but today it started with Ruthie going to church to sing with the choir for the Ash Wednesday service and Pettistree's ringers rang a quarter-peal before the service there, picking things up again afterwards for a truncated practice.

Elsewhere, a 1296 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland and well done to Deborah Blumfield and Rowan Wilson on ringing their first QP of Uxbridge Surprise Major in the success at Elveden. And congratulations to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge and Ringing Master Tom Scase on ringing their twenty-fifth peal together and to Mary Dunbavin and Neal on also ringing their twenty-fifth together, both landmarks reached in the 5040 at The Wolery tonight.

On the basis of today, it seems it may be a busy March, spring and Lent.

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Tuesday 28th February 2017

If yesterday was a bad news day for the National 12-Bell Contest, today saw some positive media for the biggest ringing competition in the world with the release online of an article printed in the latest edition of the Ringing World and reproduced with the kind permission of their editorial team. It is a fascinating piece on the closest thing there is to professional ringing, focusing mainly on the background to the judging but also gearing people up for the 2017 contest which starts in twenty-five days with the eliminators at St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, St Margaret's in Leicester and Sheffield Cathedral.

However, it also touches on hopes for the future which include a possible new competition running alongside the current one, with the aim being creating a stepping stone for inexperienced twelve-bell bands which maybe - just maybe - might benefit teams like Ipswich or indeed The Norman Tower. Who knows?

Perhaps we may even see the competition return to Suffolk, with a number of venues having been visited a number of times in the twenty-six years since the last contest was held within our borders.

Back to the here and now though and it was an impressive day of ringing on lower numbers throughout the county, most notably with a peal of twelve Surprise Major methods spliced to Louis Suggett's own composition rung at Bardwell. However, also of note was the eclectic mix of methods rung to quarter-peals upon our bells, with St Clement's College Bob Minor at Bures, Yorkshire Surprise Major at Gislingham and Ipswich Surprise Minor at Weybread.

Positive news all round then!

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Monday 27th February 2017

To my mind, today is a sad day for the Church of England.

I don't agree with what has happened in regards to York Minster's dedicated and accomplished bellringers. In my humble opinion it was a disproportionate response to unproven accusations, handled inappropriately for a Christian institution, in the process besmirching the reputations of many good people in the YMSCR in a mixture of seeming naivety, confusion and lack of insight. However, I can just about accept that they did it all with decent intentions, reacting in a way that they perceived was preferable to the way that organisations like the CofE, BBC, FA and others are alleged to have previously dealt with such issues. And of course in the broadest sense they are right.

However, it is hard - from this distant perspective at least - to justify the decision of the Dean & Chapter at Sheffield Cathedral to ban the York ringers from ringing upon their bells in the National 12-Bell Striking Contest eliminator in just under a month, as they had been drawn to. It is presumably rooted in the decision - as I understand it - to ban from all Yorkshire towers the ringer whose alleged misdemeanours are supposedly at the centre of the whole sorry saga in York. Except he isn't - again, as I understand it at least - even in the band. So either it is an action taken in careless ignorance believing they were enforcing the edict from above against the said ringer or it is a vindictive move, punishing dedicated bellringers and churchgoers by association. It reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story of those attacking paediatricians in their pursuit of 'justice' against paedophiles.

As with the original decision of the Minster authorities to ban the ringers in York, the authorities in Sheffield have every right to stop whoever they want from ringing in their building. Whilst many bells are paid for and maintained by ringers, it is the goodwill of the church that allows us to ring bells, But the way that this has been dealt with is so far removed from Christian values that it makes me - and many others - decidedly uncomfortable.

Back here in Suffolk, a late shift at work ultimately put paid to going out to St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice and it seems to have been a quiet day ringing-wise throughout the county, at least judging by BellBoard. Not so yesterday though, with three quarter-peals rung but remissly overlooked in my blog. A 1260 of Double Oxford Bob Minor at Henley, the same number of changes of Cambridge Surprise and Plain Bob Minor at Lowestoft and a 1280 of Grandsire Doubles at Rougham were all positive stories emanating from churches.

Pity the same can't be said in Sheffield.

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Sunday 26th February 2017

I did something today that I have never done before. With Ipswich Town taking on our fierce footballing rivals Norwich City north of the Suffolk-Norfolk border, I purposefully did all I could to avoid it - and succeeded. Such behaviour from this Tractor Boy would've been inconceivable not that long ago. Indeed, I have often dropped everything to watch what is usually my team's biggest match, anxious to follow every kick and header, keen not to miss any of the talking points that are subsequently analysed in great detail at work, ringing and in the pub over the days and weeks that follow.

However, dragged down by years of defeat, thrashings and gloating Budgies, I was dreading an uncomfortable lunchtime (the ridiculous timing this fixture has had to endure in recent seasons) listening to something metaphorically akin to a loved one being tortured, with nowhere to watch it on TV. Or at least not anywhere we could view it with the boys. Therefore, the radio went off at noon, I stayed off the internet and I busied myself taking my mind off proceedings up the A140.

Mercifully I had plenty to occupy myself on a hectic day that started with wishing my mother a Happy Birthday. Whilst she is Mum to Chris and me and Nan to Mason, Alfie and Joshua, she is better known to many in ringing as Sally Munnings (or Sally Diamond to most ringers in the East Midlands from her days as a prominent ringer in her native Northamptonshire), regular supporter not just at Debenham, Grundisburgh, Offton,,Sproughton and St Mary-le-Tower, but also at just about every South-East District and Guild event, plus occasionally the other Districts.

Appropriately enough myself, Alfred and Josh imparted our felicitations at the aforementioned SMLT for morning ringing and where we were unusually low on numbers, before we then went on to the also aforementioned Grundisburgh, where despite Ringing Master Stephen Pettman's absence we were unusually high on numbers, with Call-Changes on Twelve greeting our arrival and followed by much including Grandsire Caters and Yorkshire Surprise Major. Among the crowd at the little wobbly red-brick tower was Alan McBurnie, once Ringing Master at Hollesley but now doing much of his ringing at a variety of towers in Norfolk. There was a time when Ruthie and I would see Alan on an almost daily basis and we still fondly remember the Sunday evening quarter-peal projects at various local towers, such as the half-lead spliced Surprise Major which was such fun, but it is a while since we've had the pleasure of his company, so it was nice to catch-up with him on this unexpected visit.

Alfie and Barney 'ringing' on the tenor at Ufford.Alfie and Barney 'ringing' on the tenor at Ufford.Pancakes at the post-service tea and biscuits at St Mary the Virgin back in Woodbridge followed when we picked my wife up and our day of activity continued to an unusual photoshoot in the ringing chamber at Ufford. Over the past week, we have been looking after the nursery teddy bear Barney, the idea being that we write-up a report on what AJM did with his cuddly friend, complete with pictures. It would be remiss of us not to feature the one thing that none of our son's peers will do with the well-travelled bear and take him ringing and after I had forgotten BB this morning in the typical rush to get the boys out of the house first thing on the Sabbath, mother-in-law Kate generously gave us the keys to Ufford's bells and we popped up there for some 'action shots', prior to the real highlight of the day for Alfie.

For he had been invited to the birthday party of one his contemporaries, being held in Clopton Village Hall in this idyllic rural community where our destination this afternoon is some distance from the 12cwt six restored in 2013. Not that this mattered one jot to the two-year-old who played games, danced, ate and watched in awe as Steff and Nonsense entertained him and his excitable mates.

He was worn out by the end of it all and bed was not far away and for us adults there was the treat of watching a short piece on the restored bells of Southwark Cathedral, briefly featuring former Suffolk ringer Jonathan Slack but more prominently Hannah Taylor - nee Wilby - who I enjoyed ringing with fairly regularly in my former ringing life in the Midlands and who I thought came across extremely well in this, about ten minutes into tonight's episode (Songs of Praise).

All of this offered distractions to that which was happening at Carrow Road. And in the end? Well, a diplomatic and pleasantly unexpected 1-1 draw that will hopefully have pleased ringing Canaries like North-East District Ringing Master Philip Gorrod as much as it did me. I'm still glad I avoided it though.

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Saturday 25th February 2017

It is the final weekend before Lent and this Wednesday - being Ash Wednesday - there will no doubt be changes to some who practice on that night. Such as at Pettistree, as once they have attempted their usual midweek quarter-peal will then take a break for the annual Ash Wednesday service before reconvening at 7.50pm to continue with the session.

That is nothing compared to the changes that will be occurring during Holy Week, which starts this year on Sunday 9th April and will see some practices cancelled (such as St Mary-le-Tower), others moved and still others replacing their weekly session with a party, meal or meeting. Some (such as Pettistree and Sproughton) will still run their practice. Ultimately though, check before you do and don't go out ringing that week!

Today was a lot more straightforward for us as we stayed indoors, but others were ringing upon Suffolk's bells, with the Ladies Guild successfully completing a quarter-peal of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles at the ground-floor six at Thornham Magna. Well done to Carmen Wright, Sylvie Fawcett and Zoe Wright on ringing their first in the method.

Here's to more of the same over Lent!

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Friday 24th February 2017

With Mason still recovering from his operation earlier in the week we are without him this weekend, a metaphor for a very quiet day personally, at the end of a week of early shifts.

A little more was happening elsewhere in Suffolk, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Wenhaston.

It should be more lively on Saturday 22nd April when the North-East District are hosting the Guild AGM and this week the finer details have been released, with two routes of open towers along them taking ringers from the west and south to the ultimate destination of Beccles where ringing and a service will precede the tea and meeting at Hungate Hall. I enjoy the notion of everyone converging from different directions to the same location, ringing SGR bells along the way, but it hasn't happened for a while so I hope that plenty of people join the ringing on offer so it is deemed worthwhile doing again in the future. And I hope that as many members as possible support the NE's considerable efforts generally. Yes, it is a long way for most of the county's ringers, but to my mind it is entirely worth it. The meeting itself rarely takes very long these days, with much of the business that would've once been dragged out at these events often dealt with via social media, emails and the better communications that we have these days. That leaves more time for ringing, socialising, eating and of course a pint or two afterwards!

Please do support it and make the 22nd April more interesting than today!

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Thursday 23rd February 2017

It was the day of Storm Doris. Or Doris Day as it was labelled with no little wit.

Seriously though, it was a nasty day to be outside. Sadly someone did die in my old stomping ground of Wolverhampton, but although mercifully there were no reports of deaths in Suffolk due to the incredibly strong winds, there was considerable disruption across the county. The Orwell Bridge was closed not just to high-sided vehicles as you might expect, but to everyone and so the whole area was gridlocked. Trees came down (including down our road), electricity went off (not including down our road) and bits of tile came off our roof.

Still, in amongst all of this and more, a band were able to gather to ring a quarter-peal laden with firsts. First on the entire new octave at Horringer. First of the eponymous Bob Triples method rung. And first on eight for Joanne Crouch. Well done to all, but especially Joanne. Indeed, well done on just getting out and about safely!

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Wednesday 22nd February 2017

Since a month or two before Joshua's birth and ever since his 11th July arrival, our ringing-time generally has diminished, but especially peal-ringing. In fact, up until now I have only partaken in three in the medium since that special day, one of which was to welcome JB. Weekend peals have been a rarity for a while as it is when we see Mason, but getting settled into a routine of feeding two young boys and readying them for bed and helping Ruthie in the demanding duties of being parents to a baby and a toddler dictated that I stepped back from my monthly midweek attempts in Ipswich at St Mary-le-Tower and The Wolery.

The former will be difficult to return to just yet, with the immediate post-work starts meaning that Ruthie would be charged with looking after Josh and his older brother Alfie for more than twelve hours straight, a task that will be unreasonable for a little while yet. However, the 7pm starts for the latter at least allow me to help with the bedtime preparations and spend some time with the boys first, as I discovered this evening when I returned to the Salter's eight in their shed in Old Stoke.

David very kindly announced how good it was to have me back, although it was probably as much to do with the loss of some peal-ringing regulars here as anything else. Since I last rang a peal on these bells, George and Colin have moved out (the former engaged in his new city of residence Bristol tonight with an impressive 5040 of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods), Mick Edwards' can no longer come along and Clare Veal's work commitments have curtailed her visits to Suffolk's county town for peals, whilst even Ian Culham who has started joining the usual crew on Wednesday nights will now apparently been unavailable for selection.

Still, Neal Dodge has been a welcome bonus, clearly progressing on both six and eight and tonight's attempt of six Surprise Minor methods was for him. Very well he did too - I know from experience how easily the different frontworks of the otherwise identical Allendale, Fryerning and Westminster can be muddled up!

And I was pleased to be back too. These are hugely enjoyable performances, usually rung with an exhilarating but precise pace that rarely occurs in any of my other ringing which I have missed. Nice as well to ring with George Thoday again, muttering away as he typically does, castigating himself severely for any slip he perceives to have made!

The tea and cake post-peal was something else much missed by myself over the last few months and so I appreciated the refreshments after our 1hr44mins of ringing, but another early start in the morning (though not as early as Mr Thoday's 2am wake-up call tomorrow!) meant I didn't have the luxury of hanging around too late. Thank you for inviting me back though guys!

Ours was not the only ringing within our borders recorded on BellBoard today, with three quarter-peals also scored. Well done to Pam and Paul Ebsworth on ringing their first blows of Doxey Bob Minor in the success at Great Finborough, whilst a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at St Mary-le-Tower and a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Pettistree.

Earlier I had visited the resting patient Mason this afternoon following yesterday's operation, actually looking rather chipper and enjoying the life of Riley, as he is entitled to after his minor but painful surgery. He's certainly not upset at missing school! Thank you again to the many ringers who have asked after him. It has been further evidence of the caring nature of the wide but close-knit ringing family.

It will be interesting to see what response will come from that family to the advert for volunteer bellringers at York Minster to replace the experienced and highly accomplished band sacked by this Christian institution in a manner entirely lacking in any elements of Christianity in October. Even putting aside any opinions on that action, the advert - laden with language full of religious sentiment completely at odds with their actions thus far - did seem to give rise to some confusion amongst ringers. A process of recruitment beginning before the Head of Ringing (for whom one of their major tasks is recruiting a new band) is appointed seems odd and lends weight to those who suspect - rightly or wrongly - that all of this is all about the Dean & Chapter having complete control. For all that is wrong with what has happened here though, I again hope that those who do put themselves forward are allowed to do so without fear of verbal abuse for doing so.

I shan't be applying though. I've not quite got the time.

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Tuesday 21st February 2017

Mason had an operation today. Nothing particularly serious, just a bit of minor surgery. He was in and out within the day and it was only at Ipswich Hospital rather than the Great Ormond Street Hospital that he was once so familiar with, but still a big deal for a ten-year-old, no matter how many times he has been in hospital for operations in his decade thus far. However, he was by all accounts very brave about the whole process, though very drowsy when I spoke with him afterwards.

Our thoughts were with him all day of course, even - or indeed especially - when we made an initial foray into what will God willing be the next big step in our lives - buying our first house. We've partly reached this position due to years of careful - if occasionally imperfect - financial management, hard-work and the generosity of those who gave so abundantly towards our house-fund at our wedding, but such is the ridiculous state of the housing market that even then it took the death of Ruthie's Nan last year and her kind bequest in her will for us before we could even contemplate finally purchasing our own abode.

This afternoon was essentially an exploratory viewing of a house. We went open to the idea of it being somewhere we could live, but there are of course many factors to take into consideration before we part with a six-figure sum of money for what we hope will be our home for decades to come. Mason is of course one of them. Or more to the point the boys as a whole are a vital factor and particularly where they sleep. Ideally we would like to be in Woodbridge or Melton. After all, that is where we work and where the boys are being educated and even aspects of our life of church, choir and the travelling distance to our usual ringing haunts - less important as they may be - need to be considered. And with just one car between the pair of us, we want to avoid my wife feeling cut-off in an isolated community when she is off work looking after the children.

However, there is hardly an abundance of houses in our town of residence at a price we could afford (one new development claims to include affordable housing and yet I am unable to locate any costing less than £975,000!) and so when a property came up just round the corner from my mother-in-law Kate at quite a low price we felt duty-bound to at least look around it. Whilst it was a nice little place with a big garden and we are considering three-bedroom places such as this, one of those rooms would need to be big enough to fit two of the kids in and this house simply wasn't sizeable enough for such an arrangement.

Still, it was a useful experience and gives us a benchmark of sorts as we explore and we're in no great rush at the moment, so life goes on. The early shift that gave us the freedom to view the house also saw me flagging come the evening, but there doesn't seem to have been any such trouble for the ringers at Offton who preceded the weekly practice with a quarter-peal of Uxbridge Surprise Major, not something that huge numbers of rural eights (and those who know Offton will know it is very rural!) will achieve.

In fact the ground-floor ringing chamber at this picturesquely located eight is a seemingly safe oasis in a busy, sometimes nasty world, but not every ringing chamber is it seems as social media reported the unsettling theft of a ringers bag by a non-ringing visitor at Christ Church Swindon. Containing phone, cards, keys and all the usual things one carries with them, it was taken when the thief wasn't being watched and just before he made a sudden and quick exit down the spiral staircase. Thank God it is rare for ringing chambers to be the scene of such a crime, even in this day and age when for some nowhere is sacred and everything is up for grabs, but it should be a warning for ringers to be a little more watchful of their possessions, especially at GF rings, sad state of affairs which that is.

I prefer to focus on the nicer side of humanity to finish with though and thank everyone who has sent good wishes to Mason. The world isn't all bad!

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Monday 20th February 2017

When Nigel Newton and I stood at the top of the stairs to the ringing chamber of St Mary-le-Tower listening to Lincolnshire Surprise Royal coming round, it was the start for us of a practice with a delightfully varied repertoire of methods that many - possibly even most - provincial twelve-bell towers could only dream of. Although the Cambridge Surprise Maximus that myself and Mr Newton were immediately placed onto the eleventh and tenor for on entry into the room was aborted after a couple of attempts, it seemed to kick-start a spate of decent, well-struck ringing, some of it superb.

Sonia trebled well to Plain Hunt on Nine, as did Sue Williamson to Kent Treble Bob Royal, whilst I was on the same bell to call four leads of confidently rung Bristol Surprise Royal, before the night was rounded off by Stedman Cinques, interspersed with Happy Birthday being sung to Lucy Williamson ahead of her twenty-first tomorrow and the chocolates she brought in for the occasion devoured. It was also nice to see Alex Tatlow on a visit back to his home county.

Alfie with Barney the Bear.And that was just for the sole hour that I was there for after a typically hectic evening of getting two young boys fed and readied for bed, made all the more rushed by a delay in picking Alfie up from nursery as the playdoh he had stuck up his nose was removed... Although his evening got better as he was allowed to take the class teddy bear Barney home for the week.

And my evening got better with that session at SMLT.

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Sunday 19th February 2017

Subdued seems to be the most appropriate word for this Sunday.

We were missing Bruce and Gill Wakefield at Woodbridge, meaning we only had enough to ring the front six, although whenever we leave the 16cwt seventh and 25cwt tenor down that delights Mason and Alfie who are then able to have a tug whilst we're ringing!

Numbers were lower than usual downstairs as well at the morning service directly afterwards whilst Kev the Rev has been off ill for a few weeks and is likely to remain so for a little while longer, so there is natural concern for the popular rector here.

And with the start of another week of early shifts at work in the morning, the eldest son was returned to his mother's after tea and I retired for the night not long after his younger brothers went to bed.

It wasn't so for many of Suffolk's ringers I'm glad to report. An impressive total of four quarter-peals were rung in the county today, from the far east to the far west. Well done to Sue Bowerman on her first of Minor inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Hollesley on the coast and to David Lee and Kevin Ward on making their debut on ten in the medium with the 1259 of Grandsire Caters at St Peter's in Sudbury on the other side of the Diocese, whilst there were performances of seven spliced Surprise Minor methods at Bardwell and the same number of spliced Doubles methods at Buxhall.

God willing next Sunday will be more upbeat for us too!

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Saturday 18th February 2017

Usually our radio is tuned to BBC Radio Suffolk. Thankfully not for the music which is essentially the same five songs from the sixties and seventies on a loop. Typically though, it features places and people that we know, including a healthy amount related to ringing, directly and indirectly.

This morning though, our kitchen was filled by the sound of the British Broadcasting Corporation's Radio Five whilst I prepared breakfasts for the family, as I listened out for Julie McDonnell's interview on the national airwaves. Such is the busy nature of the morning routine these days that I missed all bar the last couple of minutes in real time, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology I was able to listen to the eight minutes or so that she was on air on iPlayer, from about 2hrs25mins into the Breakfast Show. I've never met Julie before, although I feel like I know her and this was the first time I have heard her speak. It was an inspirational listen. Someone with such a positive attitude, despite all that life has thrown - and is still throwing - at her and so lively. I imagine that bubbly personality has helped her through these tough times, but undoubtedly has also helped launch the ringing-based fundraising that has thus far raised an incredible £7m in little over six months which has seen participation from those in various five and six-bell towers packed full of learners finding their way through Plain Bob Doubles to the ringers of St Paul's Cathedral. Indeed the sound of superb ringing upon the famous 62cwt twelve can be heard part-way through the interview. I'm so glad I tuned in, for many reasons!

Although unlike the last couple of Saturdays we were not ringing anywhere, it would've felt incredibly slothful after listening to the Hasting ringer on R5 to just sit around all day and so our afternoon was occupied with a sort of early spring-clean which is more akin to the painting of the Forth Bridge with three young boys in the house! Apparently the constant repainting of the famous Scottish crossing is a thing of the past, but you get the idea.

And it was quiet across the Guild, at least according to BellBoard, although within the county but within the Norwich Diocesan Association's area, there was good representation from SGR members in the peal of Putney Surprise Major at Lowestoft to belatedly celebrate the seventieth birthday of David McLean, a ringer local to the coast around the most easterly point of the UK but who - like many in that part of the world - do much ringing south of the Diocese's borders.

There is much to celebrate in ringing, even if not all of it makes it onto national radio!

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Friday 17th February 2017

The amazing Julie McDonnell is now well and truly getting the recognition she deserves. In a world where there is so much bad news, her upbeat personality, can-do attitude and the incredible ringing project she has inspired is a wonderful beacon of light in The Telegraph today, whilst she is due to appear on BBC Radio Five at 8.30 tomorrow morning. Please read and please listen out!

Extraordinary in a completely different and more frivolous  but still fun manner, the Grand Tour 2017 continued on to Africa today with a 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major at St George Parktown in Johannesburg, via a quick 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major on Wednesday at Harlington back here in Blighty (presumably in between flights at Heathrow next door!) and forty-three days after the first peal at Auckland in New Zealand. This tour is certainly living up to its name!

Reassuringly ordinary though, was the FNQPC ringing a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Brandeston, another quarter remembering another life lost one hundred years ago in the First World War and a reminder - like Julie McDonnell's courageous battle for life - of how precious life is. Make the most of it.

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Thursday 16th February 2017

The future of rural churches and therefore the rings of bells housed within their towers has been of grave concern for a while now. It was a big shock to me though to read today of the threat to Guildford Cathedral as it faces possible (indeed "probable closure" according to the headline I saw) as plans to build houses on land to raise much-needed funds for the upkeep on this building not completed until the 1930's were rejected by the local borough council. In turn, that raises questions about what would happen to the 30cwt twelve here, where a thriving band currently includes Ipswich ringer Colin Salter whilst he is in the area on his studies and has a team entered in this year's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest as they partake in the group competing in Birmingham on Saturday 25th March.

Hopefully it will all be resolved soon, but it should serve both as a reminder of how fortunate most of us are that there is no immediate uncertainty over where we ring, as well as a warning at how things can change.

In that context it seemed a bit of a waste not to be taking advantage of Thursday night practices near us like Grundisburgh and St Margaret's in Ipswich. However, with Ruthie's weekly visit to choir practice finishing too late to make a useful contribution to any practices, it was another ringing-less night in. I hope the ringers of Guildford Cathedral don't get too many of those in the future.

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Wednesday 15th February 2017

It was quite a busy day of ringing in the county.

Well done to Matthew Rolph on ringing his first quarter-peal of St Clement's College Bob Minor in the 1260 at the ground-floor six of Blythburgh and congratulations to Neal Dodge on ringing his fiftieth peal for the Guild and Ian Culham on his 275th in the medium altogether, both achieved in the 5040 of nineteen spliced Surprise Minor methods at The Wolery.

In addition, another QP of Julie McDonnell Delight Minor was rung at Pettistree, as this tower continues to do its bit for a marvellous cause and at this point I should perhaps shoehorn in an apology to Jed Flatters and his fellow dedicated band-members at The Norman Tower for recently suggesting they haven't done anything for 'Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer'. Indeed they were one of the first to ring a quarter in the name of SBABC, a 1284 of Swindon Surprise Royal way back in June, although they are yet to partake in the 'Cathedral Challenge'. Therefore I guess this an apology laced with a challenge, which I'm sure the talented ringers of Bury St Edmunds are up to!

Back to today and Ruthie was able to partake in the ringing when she joined her mother Kate in going to the practice at the aforementioned Pettistree, followed by a pint well-deserved after a day that was busier more with toddler tantrums and baby mess than with ringing, whilst I happily had a lad's night in with Alfie and Joshua.

God willing I will get the chance to partake in some ringing soon too!

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Tuesday 14th February 2017

The cynical would say that Valentine's Day is just another way to make money. And they would be right.

Yet Ruthie and I have always used it as an excuse to treat ourselves and since we have been blessed with full-time parenthood it has become even more important to do that. Wonderful that our children are and as much as we love them, because of our responsibilities to them we are unable to go out together without imposing on someone and so usually time spent together in the evening is usually at home. The 14th February therefore nowadays gives us the opportunity to do something different under our own roof.

Tonight we indulged in a meal and champagne, a romantic night in with just the two of us. Oh, and the occasional interruption from Joshua.

Others nobly continued in the exercise meanwhile, with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton being particularly significant for Lucy Williamson, who in the week before her twenty-first birthday rang her fiftieth QP in the 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major on the ground-floor eight. What is more, it was her first of Surprise as conductor, so congratulations and well done Lucy! Not bad for someone who currently lives in France!

Still, although it involved no ringing, we enjoyed our Valentine's Night in.

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Monday 13th February 2017

As feared, Saturday's unfortunate but extremely rare incident at Worcester Cathedral did attract a wide bout of media coverage today, with some of it wildly exaggerated with breathtaking inaccuracy written - it seems - on the back of Chinese whispers with some guy in the pub. Perhaps unsurprisingly the Daily Mail and The Sun were the prime culprits, exclaiming excitedly that Ian Bowman was "whipped" and "dangled" one hundred feet into the air in a tower that is only two hundred feet tall in total.

However, other reports such as those in The Telegraph and on the BBC website were far more measured and factual and John Humphrys' interview with Cathedral Ringing Master (or whatever title John tried to give him!) Mark Regan on Radio Four (about 2hrs48mins in) was superb. There are few in ringing who speak as well as Mark, as those who saw him orate at the Suffolk Guild's AGM fringe meeting at Henley in 2011 can testify and he has actually managed to turn this into a relatively positive bit of PR for the exercise!

It all rather overshadowed the launch of the redesigned website of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, but already there has been some strong criticism, most notably by Philip Earis who considered that whilst a lot of work has been put into the redesign, it wasn't a great first impression for non-ringing members to be greeted by three 'In Memoriam' notices under 'latest news'. Important as it is to remember on the site past members who have died, hopefully something more positive and topical will instead be placed in these prominent positions, as otherwise the new design is a vast improvement.

Tunstall.On a sadder note, I was sorry to hear today that Susan Dalziel, a former ringer at Tunstall, died recently. When I was a resident of this proper east Suffolk village in my little pink cottage on the Snape Road junction, she lived directly behind me and I have fond memories of being invited over to partake in food and some of fellow local ringer John Calver's homemade booze! She was quite an eccentric character, a lively dear who always acted much younger than her age. Sadly we only found out about her passing because of the footnote to the quarter-peal today on the lovely 7cwt gallery-ring of six that was once her - and my - home tower after her funeral as we would've liked to have attended, but I am sure was given a jolly good send-off.

Instead, it was a non-ringing Monday for us as my late shifts combined with helping Ruthie get the boys ready for bed conspired to prevent me getting to St Mary-le-Tower, which although necessary and in its own way delightful seems to have become the norm every other week whilst I am on these international campaigns.

Mind you, if you believe the Daily Mail and The Sun, it was probably unsafe to go ringing anyway.

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Sunday 12th February 2017

As with Mason and Alfie before him, we have been blessed that Joshua settled down relatively quickly into sleeping through the night, but various ailments converged upon the poor little mite overnight, combining to make it our worst with him for a few months. Regularly waking and clearly not a happy bunny, very little sleep was had by him or us, especially when Alfie briefly joined in. Waking for the bi-weekly early start to get the three boys ready to take into Ipswich for service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower was even more difficult than usual therefore, as breakfasts were prepared, children dressed and potty usage supervised with a tired mind and body.

We made it though, although only just in time for some Grandsire Caters that developed into Plain Hunt on Nine and some quickfire Call-Changes on Twelve, all under the watchful eye of Jonathan Williamson in David's absence, before the young trio and I made our way to Grundisburgh where it was nice to see Don Price, even though he wasn't ringing due to an injury he suffered recently when he slipped on the ice. However, for me the highlight was the eldest son having his first proper go at handstrokes after years of understandably only being brave enough to do backstrokes. Yet again he proved he has the timing to make a good ringer, but there still doesn't seem to be a burning desire from the ten-year-old to take the art up seriously and of course there is absolutely no point forcing it. God willing he'll suddenly decide to take it up properly in the future and have the skills developed in the meantime to make a decent fist of it.

Hopefully he and others won't be put off by the news emanating from Worcester, where today it was reported in the Torquay Herald Express that a Devon ringer by the name of Ian Bowman injured himself whilst ringing on the Cathedral's 49cwt twelve on an outing. It led to a rescue that looked more dramatic than it actually was by all accounts, with the fire brigade having to lower him through a trapdoor in the ringing chamber floor to the church eighty feet below. He is apparently already released from hospital and so presumably not really badly hurt and as local Ringing Master Mark Regan pointed out, "it was a freak accident" and was quick to reassure those who may get the idea that the exercise is a health and safety risk that this is a safe pastime. And he is right. Tens of thousands of ringers ring every week at thousands of towers and have done for centuries and yet the total number of incidents of this nature are minuscule. Let's hope the reporting of this doesn't get out of hand.

As if to ram home just how rare such occurrences are, aside from the two towers that I rang at this morning and the many others across Suffolk where morning worship and evensong were rung for, two quarter-peals and a peal were rung within our borders today, with a 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Royal rung at The Norman Tower and 1280 of Plain Bob Doubles at Rushmere St Andrew, whilst a 5056 of Valise Surprise Major was rung at Orford, all - as far as I am aware - without incident. Well done to Deborah Blumfield on ringing her first in the method with the success in Bury St Edmunds.

Our afternoon was altogether quieter, although not quiet enough. We could've done with more sleep...

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Saturday 11th February 2017

The ringing family will often come together like no other for fundraising, as has been superbly demonstrated by the exercise's response to Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer. On one occasion at school when myself and my peers were challenged to get as much sponsorship as we could in the name of some good cause I can't recall, I was given special mention for not only getting the most, but by far the most. All thanks to the generosity of ringers.

In July, Bardwell and St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies is due to cycle from London to Paris in aid of MacMilan Cancer Support, along with a number of her work colleagues from Greene King. As can be seen from her JustGiving page, she is hurtling towards her fundraising target of £1,600, again in no small part to generous ringers, including this morning at Bardwell during the North-West District Practice where tea and cake were served to help the cause. And how! £411 was raised as ringers - and admittedly some non-ringers too, flocked from across Suffolk and even beyond to donate and in the process get their fill of confection of many flavours from chocolate to lemon to gin and tonic!

Ringing at Bardwell for the North-West District Practice.Ringing at Bardwell for the North-West District Practice.Ringing at Bardwell for the North-West District Practice.Crowds gathered downstairs for tea and cake!

Oh, and to do some ringing, as in between scoffing we and others worked off the extra calories by climbing the many stairs to the 11cwt eight, where even in the short period we were there for, Yorkshire Surprise Major, Kent Treble Bob Major and Stedman Triples were rung, but as usual it was the social side which was the real highlight, particularly as it is rare for us to make it up to this corner of the Guild. Some of our extended family were caught up with as we chatted with Maurice and Anita Rose and my brother's father-in-law Stephen Munford as well as David and Lesley Steed and Neal Dodge amongst others and there was a strong turnout from the locals.

As is usual for NW District Practices, it was all preceded with a quarter-peal, which today was a 1250 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major and was the SGR's PR Officer's two hundredth in the medium - congratulations Neal!

Meanwhile, whilst we went home via some Dad's Army location-spotting, some continued on to Great Barton for a peal, whilst our neighbours from the Ely Diocesan Association rang a 5040 of twenty-three Surprise Minor methods spliced at Tostock.

It was a day of impressive efforts, especially from Laura and the ringing family.

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Friday 10th February 2017

There has been a lot of work on London's bells in recent years. Rehangs, recasts, augmentations, even completely new rings of bells where none were before, all a sign of how the ringing scene at the other end of the A12 is thriving.

A lot of it has been motivated by the tireless enthusiasm of Dickon Love, such as the completely new ring of twelve at St Magnus-the-Martyr in 2009 in a tower previously empty of bells.

The replacement of the much-maligned twelve at Cornhill followed a couple of years later, although the uncertain future at this church threatens to take the gloss off that particular success.

Only in the last few weeks, the restored twelve at Southwark Cathedral have been put back in, with a first quarter-peal already rung on the refurbished middle six, as this corner of the capital prepares to host this year's final of the National Twelve-Bell Contest on Saturday 24th June.

However, perhaps the mother of them all has been set in motion, as the Evening Standard carried news - that I read today - of the launch of an appeal to raise a staggering £360,000 to restore and rehang the famous ring of St Paul's Cathedral. Presumably the warning that they may "plummet" from their supports is not too urgent as ringing wouldn't be allowed to continue on them. It is daunting to simply step into the ringing chamber here, let alone contemplate rehanging and restoring a 62cwt twelve that has rung for some of the most auspicious occasions throughout the history of one of the country's most well-known landmarks. Raising such an amount of money, planing the job and actually carrying it through is likely to take some time, so they are right to act now and although some have quite correctly suggested that the amount the Cathedral takes in fees from tourists means there are more deserving cases for exposure in the pursuit of funds, I hope ringers can rally round to ensure this showcase ring of bells can continue as a positive, famous representation of our art for many decades and centuries to come.

Tannington and Wenhaston may not be as grand and glamorous as their counterparts in the Big Smoke, nor their ringing generated as much media coverage as that at St Paul's Cathedral, but for this blog that focuses on Suffolk ringing it is as newsworthy that quarters of three and two Doubles methods were rung at this brace of rural sixes respectively today.

Nothing quite as active for us personally, as an early shift at work allowed me time to collect Mason from school ahead of the half-term break, as well as the time to take in the latest of long line of exciting projects in London's ringing scene.

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Thursday 9th February 2017

It's not often that I highlight a job advert on here, but then it's not often that a paid position in ringing comes up. You can earn a living with the Ringing World and the world's various bell foundries, but I can't recall one ever coming up for a role within a ringing chamber, although I'm sure someone can put me right on that if I am (as is probably the case!) wrong!

However, if you fancy it, you have until 5pm on 26th February to apply for the position of Head of Bell Tower at York Minster. Since it was announced that this was what was the Dean and Chapter's intention in the wake of the confusing dismissal of the vastly experienced, high-quality band back in October, this has been long-awaited in the ringing community. What exactly would it entail? Who would it be open to exactly? How many hours would the successful applicant be working? And what would they be paid?

Well today we found out.

Over an initial twelve month fixed term, the 'lucky' person "will be responsible for the recruitment and development of a skilled lead change ringing for Sunday services and for other special services and occasions." Essentially what most tower captains and many more have done for free over centuries.

Still, that aside, this will be open to "experienced bell ringers". Quite how experienced isn't specified and one wonders who will be overseeing how that will be applied. Some of the longest-serving and best ringers are or would be - to put it bluntly - appalling teachers. How this will be discovered between application and the first lesson seems to this outsider difficult to fathom in this unprecedented process, unless there is an experienced ringer helping them to choose an applicant...

Apart from six times a year when attendance will be required during office hours for training, the role will only take up ten hours a week, which makes sense as the band that he or she will be tasked with recruiting and teaching is going to be voluntary and fitting ringing in around their full-time job, as most of us have to, although that presumably reduces the pool of applicants, especially as the resulting salary is just £7,000 per annum. Dream as it would be for most ringers to be paid a substantial wage for the hobby they enjoy, such a part-time role would not be enough for any right-minded person to up sticks from their full-time job and/or home and move to York for.

By now you will have gathered from my meanderings today and previously that I am at best sceptical over this. However well-meaning the actions of the Dean, she and her peers in authority have - to my mind, for what little it's worth - gone about it in the wrong way. Whilst their business doublespeak and changing story suggested a certain cunning, their understanding of ringing has appeared naive and the standards will be unlikely to ever get as high as they were four months ago, particularly as this 59cwt twelve are far from the ideal bells to teach a band upon, unless investment is also being made in a ringing centre similar to that at Worcester Cathedral or planned for St Peter Mancroft in Norwich. Even if you accept that the D&C are clearly uninterested in having a band capable of partaking in the National Twelve-Bell Contest (incidentally, the former Minster ringers are entering a band in this year's competition), they have treated some very decent people in an extremely un-Christian fashion.

However, whoever does get this job should be given a chance and not vilified for taking it on. For all that very few of us wanted this position to come about, this will be a fantastic opportunity for someone and it would be a travesty for this magnificent ring to remain silent. Even if they won't be rung anywhere near as well as they were by a group of some of the best ringers in the world with decades of ringing at the highest standard under their belt.

Horringer.Times may continue to be troubling in York, but not so back here in Suffolk at Horringer, where the first quarter-peal there since the brand new eight were installed was rung today, albeit on the back six. Another happy landmark for this ground-floor octave.

For us though, it was a quieter day, as a week of early shifts predictably caught up with me. Tough as those starts in the cold morning darkness are though, I won't be applying for that Head of Bell Tower job!

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Wednesday 8th February 2017

Friendships made in ringing can often evolve, even after ringing is no longer the focus of the relationship.

Ruthie's with Mike Whitby's daughter Sarah began as one of siblings of ringers, then briefly as fellow ringers. Whilst Sarah's dalliance with the art didn't continue, their friendship has with occasional social meetings and this afternoon they took advantage of their friendship to set up a play-date for Alfie, Joshua and Miss Whitby's delightful daughter Eliza for the first time, as my wife and sons were invited to Sarah's home. And as I was on an early shift at work I was in the happy position to join them for a lovely couple of hours of catching-up to a backdrop of toys being strewn across our host's living room floor and noisy youthful exuberance.

After a busy few days of partaking in the exercise, our visit to this former ringer was the closest that we got to any actual ringing, as Mrs Munnings had a girly night out with her sister and mother watching Riverdance at The Regent in Ipswich after I had attended Mason's latest - and his most positive to date - parent's evening, but elsewhere they were busier within our borders, most notably at Beccles where a 1260 of Plain Bob Royal was rung in memory of former ringer at this grand detached tower, Chris Plummer. It was also Rona Sporle's first of Royal inside - well done Rona.

In addition, a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung at Great Finborough, whilst Sarah's father was calling another quarter of Julie McDonnell Delight Minor at Pettistree, as ringing friendships manifested themselves in a more traditional way across Suffolk.

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Tuesday 7th February 2017

St Mary-le-Tower.George Pipe is not only famous in Ipswich for all he has done at St Mary-le-Tower, taking a band that was ringing Plain Bob Doubles on the middle five when he and his wife Diana returned from their travels, to one of the best twelve-bell bands in the country in the 1980's who were three-times finalists in the National Twelve-Bell Final, recasting and rehanging the county's heaviest twelve along the way.

Nor is he just famous in Suffolk for all he has done for the SGR as Ringing Master and then Chairman of the Guild beside much else.

Nor even just in the UK, where as well as being part of the famous Pipe ringing dynasty that began with his father Cecil and step-mother Sylvia, continued with GWP, Di and his brother Rod and now carries on with his nephew David, his wife Cecilia and now their young sons Henry and Alfred, George has carved out a tremendous reputation for his ringing feats and is held in high regard by the Ancient Society of College Youths and beyond.

No, he is well respected worldwide, his well-being often asked of when anyone from within our borders enters a ringing chamber and reveals where they're from. Partly for ringing in the first peal on the bells of Washington Cathedral in the USA and then helping teach a band there, but predominantly for his time in Australia where he was instrumental in the formation of ANZAB - Australian and New Zealand Association of Bellringers - and is fondly remembered to the extent that in Adelaide Cathedral there is a room named after him - The George W Pipe Library.

It was here today that a handbell peal was rung, which is what prompted my recalling of just how widespread my brother's Godfather's fame and reputation is cast.

The 5120 of London Surprise Major was of course part of the staggering Grand Tour 2017, whose totals were brought to forty-nine peals and quarters since it began over a month ago wuth this and the 5040 of Stedman Triples on the Cathedral's 41cwt eight also rung on this summer's day Down Under. I assume they're coming back one day!

Ringing itself was briefly famous amongst Britain's toddlers and their parents on this winter's day, as My Story on CBeebies featured ringing on the 18cwt octave of Chichester Cathedral in West Sussex, but my ringing was a bit more low-key as I went to Ufford practice for the third week running, with a number of regulars at a Burns Night event in Pettistree. As with the previous brace of sessions here, it was a productive but jovial evening.

Though not as glamorous or exciting as George Pipe's ringing career or the Grand Tour 2017!

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Monday 6th February 2017

Although the ridiculous charging for parking in the car-parks opposite St Mary-le-Tower would have you believe that Ipswich town centre is crammed full of cars bringing thousands of people in on a Monday night and scrapping over spaces to park, this is an area that is essentially closed after everyone has finished their working day. That is except for McDonald's and the odd pub dotted around the north end of the centre, which are presumably predominantly full of people who haven't (or at least shouldn't have) driven in. And also - regrettably - the occasional dubious character.

Every now and then, they find their way up to the ringing chamber of Suffolk's heaviest and oldest twelve, although it is rare and even rarer for them to cause any actual trouble. However, whilst we are keen to welcome visitors and especially to encourage them to return and take up the art with us, we are also wary that we are partaking in an activity involving ropes pulling many tonnes of metal in a confined space usually containing a large number of bodies that it is potentially dangerous for anyone not used to being in an active belfry. Much more so when they are unpredictable, fuelled by drugs and alcohol, even if they are ultimately harmless, as they typically are.

When a worryingly gaunt, heavily tattooed skinhead about my age, with a slight whiff of drink entered the practice tonight therefore, I hate to admit there was a distinct sense of unease, although we welcomed him in as we always intend to do. There was absolutely nothing to worry about. Clearly he is fighting some demons as he himself admitted, but he did as he was told when we gave him safety instructions, he was courteous and it even transpired that Amanda Richmond and Owen Claxton used to teach him in a moment that was quite amusing! Indeed, in many respects I found it quite an uplifting experience as he seemed genuinely moved by his visit and it was a reminder not to judge a book by its cover.

It was a positive night on many levels beyond that though, with the return of Melvyn Potts for the first time after his recent health issues, looking well and insisting that he never really felt that ill! Nonetheless, we were all delighted to see him back on an evening when the ringing was of a high standard too. Lincolnshire Surprise Royal was well rung, especially considering that our non-ringing visitor entered during it, unaware as he understandably was of entrance protocol at SMLT (as are some regulars it seems on occasions!), whilst Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques were also rung, the latter quite superbly to round off a productive couple of hours that importantly also saw some Plain Hunt on Nine for Sonia and Little Bob Maximus as the necessary path of progression was maintained.

Earlier in the day, I started work at an insane hour in complete darkness, but across the country the Sapphire Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to throne exactly sixty-five years ago was marked by much ringing, though without quite as much fanfare as with previous royal events like the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. Still, the sound of Westminster Abbey's bells pulling off featured on BBC Radio Suffolk, presenting more good PR for the art. Nothing from within our borders strangely though.

Although with another early start in the morning I passed on a raising a drink to the Queen in the pub post-ringing, this was still a positive night.

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Sunday 5th February 2017

What a phenomenon 'Bellringers Strike Back Against Blood Cancer' has been. For an art that by its nature is used to complaints and that has recently been beset by bad news from York Minster and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, it has been a wonderful antidote.

Many will know the story that has inspired this project - or at least should - but I am happy to recap for those who don't in the hope that it will motivate more ringers to arrange quarters and/or peals. Back in the summer of 2015, Hastings ringer Julie McDonnell was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia and was only saved from her terminal diagnosis by a stem cell transplant. Not only was this to be a happy outcome to a potentially tragic tale, but it ultimately set in motion the challenge to raise the awareness of her condition and the other 136 different types of leukaemia, as well as money through sponsorship of a set number of quarter-peals. The initial target, set in June of last year was to ring a hundred QPs of Julie McDonnell Bob Doubles - a variation devised especially for the cause - by Christmas 2016. Such was the response that this was soon raised to two hundred and various other challenges set, more detail of which can be found on the Central Council's website and the challenge's own website.

Since then, there have been some amazing performances. A 1260 of the eponymous variation was rung on the back five at the 41cwt twelve of St Mary-le-Bow and if that wasn't staggering enough, the feat was repeated by a different band on the back five of the heaviest change-ringing bells in the world at Liverpool Cathedral, with the 82cwt tenor being strapped by Matt Warburton and Len Mitchell in a mind-boggling physical feat. Meanwhile, Julie McDonnell New Bob Cinques was rung for the first time at one of the most famous ringing locations, St Paul's Cathedral, part of the Cathedral Challenge that I imagine the Norman Tower are already making plans for taking part in! And an impressive sixteen quarter-peals were rung on one day in Derbyshire in December. Thus far, an incredible £7m has been raised.

Here in Suffolk, six quarters had been rung for the cause before today, with the main protagonist within our borders being Mike Whitby and Pettistree, a combination that allowed Ruthie to partake in the project at the end of November, but I hadn't yet been a participant myself. Until this afternoon that is, when I partook in what appears to have been the first of Julie McDonnell Delight Minor in the northern hemisphere, rung for evensong at the aforementioned ground-floor six where my wife broke her duck in this challenge, a 1320 that was pleasing not only for the reason behind it but for being one of the best QPs I have rung in for some time, with the only deviation from faultless ringing being the occasional, almost entirely self-corrected flinches. It was a delight to ring in more than one sense.

With Adrian Craddock joining us, the post-quarter, pre-service ringing was decent too, with the newcomer doing well with a touch of Cambridge Surprise Minor, despite Mary Garner turning the lights off halfway through!

That wasn't the only service ringing I carried out today, as this morning I helped man the front five of the eight at Woodbridge before going downstairs for the ante meridiem worship, whilst there was ringing for others on the county's bells. Congratulations to Craig Leach on conducting his twenty-fifth quarter-peal in the success at Lowestoft and Alan Mayle on conducting a peal for the 650th time in the 5040 rung at Stoke-by-Clare in memory of long-serving local ringer Val Jay, whilst there was also a 1344 of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Bardwell on a busy day of ringing here.

I'm just glad to do my - admittedly small - bit for SBABC, at last!

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Saturday 4th February 2017

Having had to work on the morning that last month's South-East District Practice at Hollesley took place and his election at December's ADM coming too late to move it to the afternoon with it already advertised in the village at that time, today's 2 - 3.30pm SE Practice at Sproughton saw Jonathan Williamson's return as District Ringing Master begin in earnest.

Members enjoying refreshments in the church at Sproughton during the South-East District Practice.Ringing at Sproughton for the South-East District Practice.Ringing at Sproughton for the South-East District Practice.South-East District Chairman Ralph Earey leads the 'meeting' at Sproughton.

And what a start. Aided by a very reasonable turnout of thirty-to-forty members gathered from in the region of fifteen towers from Tattingstone (where I was delighted to hear that the six with the odd treble are being rung regularly) to Debenham, Hollesley to Offton, the new RM ran an extremely productive session that incorporated much from Call-Changes to London Surprise Minor and much in between (I rang in a touch of Double Court Bob Minor for example) for an attendance with a range of abilities and ages. Although I always think more can come to these events from a membership of nearly three-hundred, it was refreshing to see a number of unfamiliar and lesser seen faces in this gallery ringing chamber and enjoying the much appreciated refreshments, cakes and biscuits down in the church. In pretty much every respect, it was exactly how such an event should be and I hope that we see the same not just at Grundisburgh next month, but also at Bardwell for next week's North-West District Practice and the North-East District's Practice and Meeting at Reydon, as well as later in the month at Hadleigh for the South-West District Practice on Saturday 25th.

In addition to the numbers from within in the District, it was nice to see some returning visitors, such as Mike Burns, Claire Haynes and James Smith and good to catch-up with them on a very positive afternoon. A quick, informal and encouraging meeting saw three new members elected and was followed by some extra ringing, but we bade farewell and meandered back to Woodbridge for tea with former SE District Ringing Master Kate Eagle, along with Ron, Ruthie's sister Clare and her family, with tales of the mother-in-law's recent trip to Lanzarote abounding - thank you Kate!

Elsewhere meanwhile, well done to Andrea Alderton, Neal Dodge and conductor Stephen Dawson on ringing their first quarter-peal of College Exercise Treble Bob Minor in the 1272 rung at Great Barton and to the entire band on their first of Quernmore Bob Minor in the 1260 rung at Woolpit. Congratulations to Lesley Steed too, on ringing her 1700th in the medium in the latter success, a well deserved landmark for someone who has done much for ringers and towers throughout Suffolk with her quarter-pealing.

With Jonathan's flying start in the South-East District, it has been another good day for the county's ringers.

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Friday 3rd February 2017

Congratulations to all at Horringer! Yesterday, the brand new octave were rung together for the first time ever and there is video evidence on the project's Facebook page (PEAL APPEAL - St Leonards, Horringer) which has kept those on social media up to date from the fundraising through to this momentous ring. Compare them to the old eight which can be heard in all their 'glory' in a YouTube clip of a peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Major rung there nearly four years ago. I'd say it has certainly been worth it!

And while it was a typically quiet Friday on the ringing front personally, elsewhere others were continuing the feelgood factor in Suffolk ringing today, with the FNQPC doing what they do best with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Earl Stonham, whilst another experienced band of top quarter-pealers were ringing a 1440 of five spliced Surprise Minor methods at Tostock. Congratulations all round!

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Thursday 2nd February 2017

With parenthood comes teamwork and when one half of the partnership is unable to function then the other has to step up.

So it was today, as illness overcame Ruthie and drained all her energy. Without children, I would reluctantly leave my better half to recover in her own way and in her own time, but today someone still needed to take Alfie to and pick him up from nursery, clean bottles for Joshua's sustenance and give it to him, change him and generally attend to his regular needs. Therefore, I took the day off from my understanding employers and set about doing all that my wife usually has to do everyday on her own whilst I am at work.

We at least had the light relief of a visit from Mrs Munnings' best friend Fergie, but such were the depths of the patient's ailments that she unusually missed choir practice. And whilst that briefly raised the possibility of popping along to Grundisburgh practice, the notion of going out anywhere in such circumstances was ultimately a far-fetched one.

It appears to have generally been quiet on the ringing front in Suffolk, with no quarters or peals rung upon the county's bells, according to BellBoard at least, unlike yesterday when a quarter-peal was rung at Pettistree, a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor. All thanks to teamwork.

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Wednesday 1st February 2017

Bar the obvious major ones dominating the news currently, loneliness is the big issue in the media currently, with a commission started up to tackle it. Today I read an article on the BBC's website on the subject, which amongst others, suggested learning something new and/or joining a club and it struck me just how well placed ringing is to help, in the process boosting its own numbers. After all, we offer a lifetime of stimulation and friendship, whether that be just within one's own community or beyond, for an amount of money that equates to practically nothing. Whether young or old or even with a young family or a disability (those blind or in wheelchairs have and do practice the exercise), this is a flexible art that can give practically anyone a social outlet. Either as a Guild or individual towers, we perhaps ought to be more proactive in encouraging those to us who may be looking for company and/or something to do.

Not that we were particularly proactive tonight, as my late shift at work and a tough day with Alfie and Joshua for my wife caught up with us and saw us forsake the practice at Pettistree and all that fellowship which ringing offers.

However, as we enter the shortest month of the year, there is a vast list of events planned across Suffolk for ringers, that those lonely or otherwise could take advantage of in the coming weeks. Most immediately, Saturday sees not only the South-East District Practice at the easy-going and easily-accessible gallery ring of six at Sproughton from 2 - 3.30pm, but from 10am-noon a coffee morning at Little Cornard in aide of the bell fund there. A week later, another coffee morning accompanies the North-West District Practice at Bardwell, this time in aide of Macmillan Cancer Support, whilst in the afternoon the North-East District hold their practice and meeting at Reydon. The Second Tuesday Ringing is being held at Debenham and Tannington if you want to treat your other half on Valentine's Day and later in the week the Monthly Practice at Helmingham will be held on the Friday, before February is due to be rounded off with the South-West District Practice at Hadleigh from 3-4.30pm on the 25th and the Halesworth Triples and Major Practice on the evening of the 28th.

There's every opportunity to avoid loneliness this month!

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Tuesday 31st January 2017

Shortness was a theme of the night.

Shortness of numbers at Portman Road where the 14,719 who did turn up to watch Ipswich Town's 3-0 capitulation to Derby County in the 30,000 capacity stadium was the club's lowest league attendance at home for more than seventeen years.

Shortness of time this evening, as following another late shift at work there was a limited period spent with Ruthie and the boys before I then left again to go to Ufford practice for the second week running.

And shortness of rope at the aforementioned eight that saw a vast array of boxes employed. I always try to avoid using a box if I can help it, as I tend to walk a bit when ringing, but even I had to admit defeat and mount them to partake in a productive session that saw much rung from Norwich Surprise Minor to Plain Bob Triples to Cambridge Surprise Major. We were not short of numbers here at least.

Nor were they short of endeavour in the quarter-peal at Gislingham, where twenty-one Surprise Major methods were squeezed into 1280 changes rung upon this 14cwt ground-floor eight.

I'm glad they didn't come up short!

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Monday 30th January 2017

Back to late shifts at work this week and therefore greater difficulty in getting out to evening ringing, especially on Mondays where the combination of children, food, a twenty-minute journey to the centre of Ipswich and then trying to find somewhere to park the car makes going to St Mary-le-Tower practices generally impractical.

So it was tonight. Instead, it was a night in that included taking in Helicopter ER, a documentary following paramedics as they travel to emergencies via helicopter. One of the cases featured in tonight's episode was that of Robert Wood, a ringer from Yorkshire who seriously injured himself in an incident amongst the 18cwt eight of Middleham. Robert will be known amongst some reading this and I recall how he very kindly phoned me to offer support at the peak (or trough) of the publicity over peals at Aldeburgh nearly ten years ago, whilst he has also been a sane local voice on the subject of the sacking of York Minster's ringers (incidentally, in other news the 59cwt twelve were rung again yesterday, though not by members of the YMSCR), so it was good to see a happy ending to the whole thing, but it does make for gruesome watching. Be warned if you want to watch it!

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Sunday 29th January 2017

I think he enjoyed yesterday, but today was the day that Mason was really looking forward to, as his continued birthday celebrations took him to Flux, the 'freestyle jumping' venue in Ipswich's Cardinal Park that has become a familiar scene for such occasions in recent months. This was the party for my eldest son and his peers, predominantly made up of classmates, but also Henry Salter, whose own birthday party here back in September introduced us to this excitable space and first sowed the seeds in Mason's mind for having his own in this noisy corner of the county town.

Henry's presence was not only delightful for my boy but also for me, as it meant the company of his parents David and Katharine following their family day out in Oxfordshire yesterday that saw Mr Salter ring peals at Bletchingdon and Cowley, whilst today another of their sons, George, showed signs of settling into the ringing scene in Bristol he has recently joined by impressively conducting a 1344 of four spliced Surprise Maximus at Redcliffe.

Nothing quite so impressive for myself this morning, though I was pleased to make ringing at St Mary-le-Tower which climaxed with a course of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the back eight and saw us welcome Abby Antrobus to service ringing following her move to the community from Bury St Edmunds over the last couple of weeks and other ringers were busy in Suffolk, with three quarter-peals rung within our border. One was rung at NDA tower Lowestoft with a 1264 of Plain Bob Major, but there were also 1260s of Plain Bob Minor and Badgeworth Bob Minor at Kersey and Great Finborough respectively, with the latter being David Steed and Stephen Dawson's first in the method - well done David and Stephen!

Unusually for a Sabbath morn that began at SMLT, that was the end of my ringing for the day, as instead of making our way to Grundisburgh, the birthday boy and myself wandered up Tavern Street and Westgate Street to Moss Bros. In April I am due to be best man at the wedding of our good friends Toby and Amy, so this morning I joined the groom-to-be and his step-father-in-law Bill for some suit measurements in anticipation of the big event, whilst Mason watched on patiently.

It is an exciting date on the horizon, but for today the most important thing was that Mason enjoyed himself. I think he did!

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Saturday 28th January 2017

A party with his peers is planned for tomorrow, so today Mason's tenth birthday celebrations continued with a day of hosting various friends and family, starting with his Godparents Toby and Kala and their respective families and then finishing with his grandparents, Great Aunty Marian, Unky Chris and Aunt Becky, albeit at the home of Ruthie's mother Kate which we are currently looking after - along with her various animals - whilst she is away.

More presents and cards were opened and food devoured, whilst the conversation ranged from children and house-buying in the morning to ringing and football in the afternoon, but most importantly the birthday boy seems to have enjoy