Wednesday 22nd May 2024

Richy's Blog

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New Year’s Eve 2018

Children can make an active ringing life difficult. Where once we would be out together two, three or even five nights a week at a practice somewhere and most weekends at a ringing event and/or ringing a peal, our participation in the art we so love is much more sporadic. However, as I naturally reflected on our year, the main highlights have involved those very children. Mason moving up to secondary school, Alfie starting primary school, Joshua developing more and more language skills and all three of them constantly impressing us with their achievements, academically and as personalities, although not yet as ringers!

And I realised that actually, we are still pretty active when it comes to this ancient art. We’re usually out for a couple of weeknights ringing every seven days (although normally individually), I have been ringing my most peals for three years and most quarter-peals since Alfred was born and it has typically given us many highlights since the 1st January 2018.

Some are the usual sort of things that stand out with each circuit of the sun. Such as striking competitions. In my opinion, they are an extremely useful part of engaging ringers and thus helping to progress ringing and more ought to be taking part. The competitive element is unusual in our hobby and should be taken as part of the fun, an opportunity to focus on improving striking with some lighthearted jeopardy. True to form, some of the best ringing I have heard this year has been at striking competitions and so we have been fortunate to have been to many. Within our borders, the Guild contests at Earl Stonham and Debenham were undertaken in beautiful surroundings (aren’t we lucky to be able to ring amongst such picturesque landscapes?) in scorching weather and my wife and I were delighted to be winners in both and although we were sadly unable to bring the Ridgman Trophy back for the SGR we enjoyed our day out in St Albans in Hertfordshire catching up with friends not often seen. And well done to Ian Culham on getting the inaugural George W Pipe 12-Bell Competition up and running, with the hosts historically becoming the first winners on a cold February day at The Norman Tower.

Two months later, the same venue hosted the Guild AGM, another highlight of the year most notable for the election of Rowan Wilson as SGR Chairman. She has hit the ground running, whilst gratitude needs imparting to Alan Stanley after half a decade of hard work in the role before her.

Outside of the Guild, we have always enjoyed our annual holiday with the Rambling Ringers and although it was galling that following the longest, hottest heatwave for decades, the weather broke when we went away (and thus we had to put our tent up in chilly, windy, wet conditions), this year’s Tour of Devon was no different, topped off with a lovely stop-off at the home of former Suffolk ringer Maggie Ross and her other half Tim Palmer in Berkshire.

In addition to the normal standout occasions, we will also fondly remember the ninety-fifth anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner held in Elmsett. Or at least my eldest son and I did as having been postponed due to ‘The Beast >From the East’, we were unable to get babysitting for the rearranged date and thus Ruthie had to stay at home. Still, very well done to Alan, Carl Melville, Tom Scase and anyone else involved in its organising for putting on such a successful event at short notice!

Other ringing-related social occasions like the Pettistree Dinner, Offton BBQ and St Mary-le-Tower’s Spring Dinner, wine tasting, Christmas Curry and twelve-bell outing were also enjoyed, with the latter events being part of another successful year on the county’s heaviest ring of bells, bar that clapper breakage three weeks ago.

There were also outings with the Woodbridge ringers on the Shotley Peninsula and the South-East District to Norfolk, whilst those aforementioned peals have included birthday peals for Mason (eventually!) at Burgh, Mum at Sproughton, Alfie at Hollesley and Joshua & Ruthie at Grundisburgh, all highly enjoyable performances and along with the year’s striking competitions featuring some of the best ringing I’ve heard all year.

More widely its been great to be a part of and a witness to the newly restored eight at St Margaret in Ipswich, the SGR winning the High Sheriff’s Award for Suffolk Heritage, the Armistice Day ringing a century on from the end of the First World War and Ringing Remembers and to hear about some of ringing’s more general and meaningful successes, such as the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre and Project Pickled Egg.

There have been lows too, as there always are. The South-West District took a particularly tragic hit with the deaths of Don Mills and Rolie Whiting, whilst those of us who once regularly rang with Gill Waterson miss her greatly. And it was a great shock to hear about Past Guild Master David Salter’s stroke just over a week ago. His is one of the sharpest ringing minds about, with an almost encyclopaedic memory of ringing history, especially Suffolk’s and so it is sad to hear of his current state, especially at the end of a good year of ringing for the Salter family otherwise. He is still in Addenbrooke’s Hospital in an understandably confused and tired state, not helped by an infection. We pray that 2019 sees him make as much of a recovery as he can, although it is likely to be a long and uncertain road.

Of course there have been highs and lows out of ringing too, although the only thing to complain about is the entirely unimportant matter of Ipswich Town’s footballing ‘fortunes’, a lot of which was outweighed by watching England’s entertaining participation in the World Cup over those long, hot summer weeks. Reducing my walk to work with John Catt’s office move, that hot tub in Norfolk, glamping minutes from home and my fortieth birthday will all stick in the memory and all fitted in amongst much ringing.

This year was rounded off from a ringing perspective with 1260s of Single Oxford Bob Minor conducted by Katie Wright and Doubles conducted by Betty Baines, both at Rumburgh, both by the Ladies Guild, with the latter being the most methods for Clare Grant – well done Clare!

Alfie playing games at Kate’s for New Year’s Eve.Personally though, in keeping with the start of today’s blog, there was no ringing for us, although many places will have rung the New Year in. Instead, with us and mother-in-law Kate in charge of young children tonight, we went round to hers for games, food, drink and music, spent with the people that have really made my year – Ruthie and those wonderful children.

Happy New Year!

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Sunday 30th December 2018

With Bruce and Gill Wakefield not around this morning, I was pleased to be able to help man at least the front six at Woodbridge for a couple of bits of call-changes, this time accompanied by Joshua as well as Alfie watching on, with Ruthie at work today. It is at this point worth asking people to keep local ringer Peter Shipley in your thoughts as he has been very ill recently and is still unwell. Like my wife, he is in the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin and so I don’t see him on the end of a rope all that often, but along with his other half Jackie these former Framlingham ringers are a lovely couple to chat with and it is a big shame for him to be afflicted in such a way. God willing 2019 will see a swift recovery.

Downstairs from the ringing, the service was held in that strange sort of atmosphere that you get at this time of year. The huge Christmas tree still stands at the bottom of the many stairs to the ringing chamber and we were singing carols, but it all feels slightly more subdued to just a few days ago.

Still, the festive spirit was being kept alive at ours this afternoon as we hosted Toby and Amy and their children Maddie and Oscar for a seasonal get together and exchange of presents. I was best man at their wedding and Godfather to their daughter and they in turn are Godparents to Mason and Josh respectively and so this is always a convivial gathering and a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon before we headed off to mother-in-law Kate’s for a spot of dog-sitting.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, ringers weren’t quite as busy on the quarter-peal front as over the last couple of days, but there was still a 1296 of Bristol Surprise and Double Norwich Court Bob Major spliced rung at Offton, but whilst I wasn’t quite so adventurous, after doing very little ringing this week since Christmas Day, I was simply pleased to help out somewhere!

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Saturday 29th December 2018

Congratulations to Hampshire ringer Mark Esbester on being awarded an MBE in the latest honours list, his name sharing the limelight with the likes of Michael Palin, Alastair Cook, Gareth Southgate and Twiggy. Although it was for his wonderful services to eye care work in Africa rather than his also impressive services to ringing, the ringing family has quite rightly been quick to congratulate him in numbers, including with the peal rung at St Mary’s Redcliffe in Bristol.

Back here in Suffolk, there was no ringing for us, though there were ringers as we hosted a festive visit from my brother Chris and his wife Becky for more present sharing, more food and a good old catch-up.

Meanwhile, it was another busy day of ringing in Suffolk, with six quarter-peals rung on the county’s bells. There was a 1308 of St Clement’s College Bob Minor at Brandeston, 1295 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Clopton and 1260s of Doubles at Kettleburgh, Monewden and Otley, whilst Past Guild Master Jed Flatters in particular was displaying his Christmas spirit in the 1280 of spliced Christmas Time Delight and Ba Humbug! Surprise Major at Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake’s mini-ring in Shelland!

I’m sure his MBE for services to Christmas is on its way!

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Friday 28th December 2018

The Band.Only yesterday I commented on how to spend the lull at this point of Christmas. Today, fourteen of the best ringers in the world found a superb way of spending seven hours and thirty-four minutes of arguably the quietest few days of the year. Well done to the band who rang what is – subject at this stage to ratification – the longest peal on fourteen and at fourteen methods, the most spliced Surprise Fourteen in the 10,192 changes rung on the back fourteen bells at the Bullring in Birmingham. Having rung a few on fourteen myself – all on the same 39cwt ring - and never rung more than four methods in any one of them, I can vouch that even that can be a feat of physical and mental endurance, but this is a completely different level, although not surprising from the stellar cast that rang.

In comparison, the ringing from Suffolk recorded alongside the above extraordinary performance on BellBoard may seem fairly insignificant, but what was achieved on the county’s bells on this last Friday of 2018 is not to be sniffed at. The FNQPC convened to score a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor at Ashbocking, whilst a 1260 of Grandsire Triples was rung at Offton. Meanwhile, there were an impressive collection of methods rung in a hat-trick of QPs by the same band – Durham, Wearmouth and Whitley Surprise Minor rung at Pakenham, Wetherden and Woolpit respectively, with the middle success being David Thomas’ 125th in the medium this year and the latter being his first in the method. Congratulations and well done David.

For us, it was a quieter day as Ruthie went to work and Joshua went to nursery, whilst Alfie and I spent the afternoon playing with some of the presents delivered to him by Santa Claus four nights ago. Guess Who? was played and some emergency services construction built, but no ringing.

There are different ways to spend such days.

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Thursday 27th December 2018

There is often debate as to what to call this period between Christmas and New Year. Apparently the Norwegians call it Romjul, whilst back here some jokingly name it The Witching Week. And Twixtmas has always struck me as quite clever. However, they all seem to miss the point that the time between Christmas and New Year is called, well... Christmas.

I understand the sentiment though. Sadly (or perhaps not!), we no longer celebrate throughout the full twelve days of the festival and so after the excitement, presents, drinking and overeating of Christmas Day and Boxing Day, today marks the start of a lull before the planned partying of New Year’s Eve. For some, like Ruthie, it was back to work today. However, I am blessed to be in a job where I am not due back in the office until 2019 and so Mum and Dad very kindly hosted us again for lunch, this time with Mason as they hadn’t seen him yet over the festive period. And on this occasion, we were also accompanied by my eldest’s good friend Henry Salter.

Most will now be aware that his father and Past Guild Ringing Master David sadly suffered a stroke on Sunday and was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where he currently remains. As soon as we heard on Monday, we felt the least we could do was to offer to look after his youngest son for a few hours. Partly it was because we had been meaning to arrange to get the two boys together for ages, but mainly because we hoped it might help Katharine and Henry, with daily travelling to Cambridge and back a draining experience for anyone, especially an eleven-year-old whose Christmas had been severely disrupted. And Mrs Salter agreed, feeling that a bit of normality for the youngster would do him good in a week where lots of exciting plans had been abandoned. We were happy to oblige, as was Mason in particular, as they spent the day playing with Lego and talking about and competing on computer games, including a particularly boisterous game on FIFA19!

It was also nice to catch up with Katharine and middle son Colin once they had returned to collect the youngest sibling from ours on their return from seeing the patient. After what sounded like a truly terrifying experience when David was initially taken ill, it seems there have been some encouraging signs of improvement, but apart from the fact that he appears unlikely to be home for quite some time yet, the prognosis is still very unclear.

In such circumstances, it is heartening to see how people can rally round and I think Katharine and the boys have been genuinely touched by the offers of help (we are far from the only ones to have directly helped out) and messages of support, via the phone, in the street, on social media and with footnotes – yesterday’s quarter-peal at Pettistree wished him well, as did today’s 1260 of Doubles at Dickleburgh in Norfolk and a peal at Huntsham in Devon and the peals at Long Stratton and Coggeshall on the 24th and 25th respectively that he was to have rung in. Clearly he is quite rightly held in high regard throughout the ringing world and personally I am forever grateful to him for the ringing (and work) opportunities he has offered me, but his wife has been overwhelmed by it all. She was already very busy in her work commitments (and due to get even busier with Brexit and the 29th March looming), being a mother to a young child, her ringing and of course all she has been doing to maintain the bells of Ipswich’s redundant churches, but now she is travelling for three or four hours each day, sorting out stuff that David would’ve typically been dealing with himself (including the many ringing arrangements he had committed to) and trying to ensure that there is someone to look after Henry, especially when the school term starts up again. Unfortunately that means she simply hasn’t got the time or energy to respond to every message and phone call as she would like, but she will update everyone when there is something new to report. For now though and from our conversation this evening, the family are keen to reiterate their gratitude for all the good wishes.

I’m sure Mr Salter senior would be pleased to see that ringing in the county was busy today, with three quarter-peals rung within our borders. Well done to Matthew Rolph on ringing his first of Yorkshire Surprise in the 1250 of Major rung at Halesworth and Happy 17th Birthday, whilst there was also a 1260 of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles at Chediston and 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Horringer. At least ringers are finding a way to spend whatever you call this week!

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Boxing Day 2018

For us, Boxing Day is a continuation of the celebrations of Christmas Day, except not quite as busy and appearing to be fuelled by steroids. Everything is a lot calmer, but the day is still a full one spent with family and much food and drink.

It started as it usually does at my Mum and Dad’s after they very kindly put us up for the night after yesterday’s merriment and having picked Mason up, watched him open some more presents and Alfie build his first Lego™ kit, it continued – also as usual – to Ruthie’s grandparents. There aren’t as many ringers here as at my parents for such gatherings, but there is of course us, as well as my wife’s mother Kate and her mater Janet who once learnt to ring at Framlingham.

Ringing wasn’t really a topic of conversation on this occasion though, but rather football as we all followed another disastrous afternoon for Ipswich Town and family, with the boys’ cousins Katelynn & Annalise and Lucy & Thomas present, along with their parents. And as is normally the case when we come here, we were well and truly overfed!

It was also quiet on the ringing front across the Suffolk and beyond generally, with nothing recorded from within our borders on BellBoard today. Perhaps everyone is continuing their Christmas Day celebrations.

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Christmas Day 2018

Christmas is – in my opinion at least – a welcome light in the darkness of a cold, bleak winter, literally and metaphorically. Dark streets and countryside have been lit for weeks with lights of many colours, all accompanied by familiar tunes, but the actual true meaning of Christmas – whether you believe it to be a Christian one or not – is one of goodwill and hope, peace and joy. It is a wonderful day to share with friends and family and happily we are in the very blessed position to do just that.

Ringing at Pettistree on Christmas morning. Ringing at Pettistree on Christmas morning.Ringing enables us to see and ring with our friends and both Ruthie and I partook in the exercise together at Pettistree, where the highlight was a really well-struck 120 of Stedman Doubles and whilst my wife went on her way to St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge to sing in the choir for the morning service there, the boys and I meandered our way through the crisp, frosty, bright scenery which was a stunning backdrop to our traversing on this Christmas morn, to St Mary-le-Tower. Ringing has been later on the 25th December than it is on a Sunday for some years, which allows me to get to the aforementioned ground-floor six, but with Sproughton moving their service forward an hour it meant that the ringing there clashed with the ringing on Suffolk’s heaviest twelve and thus I couldn’t make my usual festive visit to the 8cwt gallery-ring of six and we were missing my parents, which was a pity on both counts. The fewer ringers at SMLT wasn’t such an issue on this occasion of course, as we are short of a clapper on the eleventh, but we still put on some very decent ringing on the front eight, including three leads of Bristol Surprise Major and we were treated to Ben Williamson’s onesie, plenty of Christmas jumpers and in Chris Birkby’s case a seasonal shirt too!

Christmas Tree surrounded by goodies brought by Father Christmas! Alfie & Joshua getting into the Christmas spirit at Granny Kate’s. Munnings’ opening their Christmas presents at Mum & Dad’s.  Ruthie & Joshua opening Christmas presents at Mum & Dad’s.

From there, the rest of the day was time spent with relatives who we are fortunate to have close by and plenty of food and drink, starting at mother-in-law Kate’s for a superb dinner and where we were joined by our host’s Aunty Shirley, before we popped in to see my wife’s grandparents round the corner and were part of a crowd of twenty and then rounded a lovely day at my Mum and Dad’s in Ipswich with former ringer Aunty Marian and a marvellous feast and beds for the night.

Throughout the day there were presents galore from go-karts to books to t-shirts, all gratefully received, especially from the children with endearingly OTT reactions at the start of the day. Thank you to all who hosted us and who sent us cards and presents.

It was a lovely, welcome bright day in the cold, dark winter. Merry Christmas everyone!

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Christmas Eve 2018

On the last working day before Christmas, John Catt Educational lets us leave at lunchtime. It isn’t set in stone, but it has happened every year I have been there. However, when the 25th December falls on a Tuesday, we get a very strange working week. Seeing as we don’t return to the office until the New Year, that means that this working week consists of today’s 9am-12.30pm shift. It may seem slightly pointless as there isn’t too much to be done for a company that predominantly deals with schools and admittedly I don’t have a long journey in, but I find Christmas Eve at work quite a nice experience as loose ends are tied up and festive plans are imparted in a space where the conversation is most usually copy deadlines, targets and web stats.

And with this being my eleventh Christmas at JCEL, it has become one of the many familiar habits/traditions/general events that usually happen at this time of year. Most of those are ringing-related and not all directly connected to us. As is typical on this date, peals were rung at the daunting Imperial College in London and Long Stratton in Norfolk, the latter of which was rung for the sixty-fourth year running. That in itself is an incredible achievement, but perhaps more so this year than ever before for reasons that should become clearer in the coming days.

However, we were carrying out our own ringing traditions as we helped ring for the Nine Lessons and Carols at St Mary-le-Tower, where the ringers were plentiful but the bells were not, with the eleventh still clapperless. Nevertheless, a decent repertoire from Grandsire Triples and Little Bob Major to Surprise Major of the Superlative and Yorkshire variety were rung and was topped off with just a modicum of sherry.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Philip Moyse on ringing his four hundredth quarter-peal in the 1264 of Plain Bob Major rung on the ground-floor eight of Halesworth, whilst at another weighty ground-floor eight in Suffolk, a peal of Bristol Surprise Major was rung, with Gislingham the location for the Louis Suggett composition on his return to the UK.

Ringing at Hasketon for Carol Service. L to r; David Twissell on the tenor, Stephen Pettman watching on & Linda Garnham on the treble.Having picked Alfie up from his sleepover at his Granny Kate’s, I was also able to fit in some additional ringing as I helped out at Hasketon to ring for the carol service at St Andrew’s church. Not only was it nice to enable them to do some method-ringing such as Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Minor, but also to extend seasonal greetings to those present who otherwise I wouldn’t have seen.

It was certainly worth the early finish at work!

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Sunday 23rd December 2018

Tempting as it was to pop along to 9.20 morning ringing on the 12cwt six at the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary round the corner, it wasn’t particularly conducive to playing our part in vacating our property for the weekend in Attleborough by 10am and so unusually it was a Sunday free of ringing.

Still, it was another fun day, travelling back to Woodbridge to watch the Deben Players’ Panto at the Seckford Theatre, Dick Whittington in Space. All very silly of course, but a good laugh, with Mason, Alfie and – briefly – Joshua ending up on stage for a rendition of Baby Shark.

We were met by Ruthie’s best friend Fergie, up on a seasonal visit from Brighton to her hometown and she joined us for tea at my mother-in-law Kate’s (thank you again Mrs Eagle!), where we eventually left Alfred for a sleepover with his cousins and returned home for some present wrapping.

Meanwhile, there was ringing done by others in Suffolk, with an early start for the 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree, rung before the morning’s carol service at St Peter and St Paul, well done to Josephine Beever and David Howe on ringing their first of Hasfield Bob Minor in the success at Buxhall, whilst on his return from Bristol, Philip Moyse conducted a 1260 of Doubles at the ground-floor six of Reydon in what must have been a very personal and special quarter-peal to him. And another ringer returning to home soil for Christmas was also conducting, this time to a peal as Louis Suggett led a 5072 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Bardwell fresh on his return from Bratislava.

And as this is my last entry before 25th December, I shall take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and may you have a lovely day on Tuesday – I hope you can all make some ringing somewhere!

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Saturday 22nd December 2018

We’ve done some pretty special trips to see Father Christmas in recent years due to the generosity of mother-in-law Kate, but it was generally agreed that today’s visit to the big man at Melsop Farm Park – not far from our weekend base in Attleborough – was the best to date. The elves were super, the grotto absolutely magic and the look on the faces on the assembled children when their presents fell down the chimney was priceless!

Aside from this we saw his reindeer, fed the many animals there, were chased by a goat and the youngsters – and some of us adults – were most amused by witnessing a pig doing his business right in front of us. We also took in half of the entertaining Christmas Spectacular featuring comedy, songs, dancing and magic tricks that nonetheless went on a lot longer than we imagined, before we all returned back to big house for a practice Christmas dinner!

As it often does (merely how it works out rather than deliberately of course!), it meant missing the seasonal ringing in Ipswich town centre, which this year took on a new format, with the only simultaneous ringing taking part at St Margaret and St Mary-le-Tower, with ringing at St Clement afterwards and quarter-peals rung at St Lawrence throughout the day and which seems to have been a big success.

Meanwhile, following a brief visit to my Mum and Dad’s yesterday, I was made aware that ringing at Sproughton on the morning of the 25th December will be an hour earlier than it usually is, from 9.30 - 10am. Unfortunately it means I won’t be able to go along as I usually do and of course if anyone else was intending on going along then please be aware of the different timing. And of course if you can help at the different time then I’m sure Ralph Earey would appreciate your presence! Maybe I’ll pop to Ashbocking from 10 - 10.30am, but regardless it is a reminder to check ringing times of anywhere you are planning to man the bells at on the big day.

Wherever I do or don’t end up ringing on Christmas Day however, I feel well and truly in the festive spirit after seeing Santa Claus today!

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Friday 21st December 2018

With Alfie’s school holidays starting today for Christmas and things getting very quiet at work for a sales team whose main day-to-day job is speaking with independent schools who mainly started their hols a week or even fortnight ago, I took a day of my annual leave to look after the boy and enjoyed a day laced with the festive spirit.

Admittedly that wasn’t entirely in the sense that Alfred would’ve hoped, as he was dragged from shop to shop whilst I did the last of my gift purchasing, although he did earn a fruit scone and a magazine out of it, but come the evening I’m sure it much more met his expectations, as having collected Mason, Ruthie and Joshua and made a couple of aborted trips to check on Charlie our cat and fetch an inflatable bed, we joined Ruthie’s mother Kate, her sister Clare, her daughters and Ron in a house in Norfolk. Since the eldest son was little, it has become a generous annual tradition for my mater-in-law to take us on a trip to see Father Christmas, a tradition that has taken on more and more children as her daughters have added grandchildren to the gathering and last year’s trip started the precedent of us all being accommodated in a large house for the weekend. This evening was the beginning of this year’s excursion, based in a home in Attleborough, a decorated tree brought with us and five excitable children gathered together.

Our journey up there was a pleasant one, accompanied by lots of festive ditties that the boys enjoyed singing along to as we passed through various villages and small towns lit up with many coloured lights, with Eye – usually most memorable to us for its 19cwt eight – worthy of particular mention.

The only downside was that there was no time for any ringing and it seems for many that was also the case with nothing to report from within our borders on BellBoard. Still, it was a lovely start to Alfie’s Christmas holidays.

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Thursday 20th December 2018

Following the excesses of yesterday, it was a slightly more subdued day today, but not so everywhere, most notably at Horringer where a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor was rung on the back six of this ground-floor eight.

God willing we’ll be joining in more with our ringing peers in the coming days, but today was all about rest!

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Wednesday 19th December 2018

When John Catt Educational hold their Christmas meal, talk inevitably turns to what everyone is doing over the festive season and it makes me realise how blessed and privileged I am to be a ringer. Others seem to find my ringing plans on the morning  of 25th December utterly fascinating and there are always lots of questions. On a broader note, we are all very fortunate to be able to produce the soundtrack to so many people’s Christmas, with the bells synonymous with the day itself in particular. Please do help towers near you to achieve the same next Tuesday, if you are able. And do check what time they are ringing. For example, at St Mary-le-Tower we are due to ring from 9.45 - 10.30am, later than the usual Sunday morning times.

The meal this afternoon was a typically superb occasion, a generous gesture from our employers who covered the cost of all food and drink, of which there was plenty of both! This year we were in the atmospheric basement of The Galley on the Market Hill in Woodbridge, a venue new to me but fabulous and with Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua meeting me after the school pick-up, many of us continued on round to The Angel for another drink, all in the shadow of the tower of St Mary-the-Virgin which holds the town’s 25cwt eight.

Several of my work colleagues then carried on their socialising, but apart from it being unfair to drag the boys around pubs (especially when they needed feeding tea), Ruthie was going out herself. For her mother Kate was picking her up to go to Pettistree practice and a drink in The Greyhound and although it was shortened at both ends by Mrs Eagle’s work, she had a nice evening out.

That session had been preceded/started with a quarter-peal of Doubles, rung with the remaining five members of the band that had originally gathered for an attempt of Minor, which sadly went awry.

No such trouble with the peal of Clare Surprise Major at St Mary-le-Tower, as even if they did want to ring on twelve (or on the front ten) then they couldn’t with the eleventh not due to get a new clapper until mid-January. However, the method was particularly appropriate on the day of Rolie Whiting’s cremation, former Chairman of the Suffolk Guild who was synonymous with ringing in that beautiful part of the county. Rest In Peace Rolie.

No ringing for me on this occasion of course, but I enjoyed telling people what ringing I hope to be doing next week.

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Tuesday 18th December 2018

There was no practice at Ufford this evening with a high proportion of the regular band out singing carols and indeed with the next two Tuesdays being Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and then followed by the usual free second Tuesday, there is no planned practice on this 13cwt eight until 15th January.

Tonight that meant a welcome visit from the Ringing Master there and Ruthie’s mother Kate Eagle for a cuppa or two, whilst elsewhere in Suffolk other ringers were ringing, with Offton ringer Peter Stock’s fortieth birthday celebrated with a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Major at his home tower before their weekly session and Rolie Whiting and Charlie Ablitt were remembered with a QP on the back six at Bures.

Hopefully it will be interesting to see what the next couple of Tuesdays might throw up.

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Monday 17th December 2018

Last week was the last St Mary-le-Tower practice of 2018. A good time to sumurise the year on Suffolk’s heaviest twelve if it weren’t for the frustrating breaking of the eleventh clapper. Not withstanding, to my mind its been a decent year here. We may have decided not to enter a band for the 2019 National Twelve-Bell Contest, it was only after various comings and goings and yet was still a possibility up to the last few days before the deadline for entries, but there has been enough to suggest that with one or two newcomers and maybe the return of some regulars that an entry for 2020 is feasible. That should certainly be the aim. There is a misconception that because of such aims that we are an elite band and yet one of the most pleasing aspects of the year’s ringing has been the progress of ringers like Sue Williamson and learners Karina and Sonia.

One of the main reasons that there are no more Monday sessions until the New Year is that the next two fall on Christmas Eve – when there is due to be ringing before the 7pm Carol Service for those who can help out – and New Year’s Eve, but also because there was another service tonight and we had been asked to ring a quarter-peal. Therefore, having rung a nice touch of Grandsire Triples with Melvyn Potts whilst we awaited the arrival of the last member of the band, we set about ringing what was a really enjoyable 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major on the front eight, before we retired to The Cricketers where we were met by Mr Potts senior and Chris Birkby.

God willing it’s a sign of a good 2019 of Monday nights.

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Sunday 16th December 2018

Those present at the Nine Lessons and Carols at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge this evening could be excused for thinking that it had been taken over by the bellringers! It was all coincidence of course. As is usually the case, each reading was carried out by somebody representing an element of the church and the community it worships in and on this occasion the Ringing Master of this 25cwt eight Bruce Wakefield was doing one on behalf of the bellringers, mother-in-law Kate Eagle on behalf of local business in her capacity as director of E.B.Button and I on behalf of the parents of Junior Church, making up a third of those who bravely stood to read in front of a packed church. On top of that, Ruthie sang a solo in the choir! Hopefully they weren’t all fed up of us by the end!

Appropriately in such circumstances, I also helped ringing the masses in, with the full octave rung as Alfie patiently watched on, whilst at the nibbles and mulled wine that followed the service, it was nice to catch up with local ringer Mike Tyler whose health makes it difficult for him to regularly climb the many stairs here.

Either side of this festive treat, we played hosts at home, first to Kala, Nick (Godparents to Mason and Alfred respectively) and their children Robyn and Jackson this afternoon and then tonight Ufford ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis, whilst a packed day was started early with attempts to dress and prepare a herd of children to perform the Nativity on our first trip of the day to church. That went pretty well in the circumstances, with the various wandering angels and reluctant shepherds and sheep – including Joshua – to be expected, although the eldest sons superb in their roles as innkeeper and shepherd/sheep, but it didn’t leave anytime for ringing this morning.

Others were busier though, in Suffolk most notably at Blythburgh where Jonathan Iles rang his first quarter-peal of St Clement’s College Bob Minor – well done Jonathan. Meanwhile, Exning youngster Jimmy Yeoman was impressing again. I haven’t yet rung with Jimmy, but I have mentioned him often on this blog with his frequent achievements and those who I speak with that do ring with him enthuse about him with gusto. 2018 has seen him achieve much in ringing, including his first peal (rung during Guild Peal Week at Great Barton in February), his first quarter-peal as conductor (during the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week at his home tower in May), his first handbell peal (for the Ely Diocesan Association in July) and only last week his first peal on ten in hand in Cambridge. And clearly he is impressing nationally too, today ringing his first peal of the ‘standard’ Surprise Major methods in Birmingham with the likes of ringing superstars such as Past Master of the College Youths Stephanie Warboys and Simon Linford, who apart from his considerable and proven ringing abilities will be known to many as the man behind Project Pickled Egg, hence his particular footnote! Well done Jimmy.

It’s been a good day for Suffolk ringers, both in the ringing chamber and in the church.

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Saturday 15th December 2018

There was a definite festive feel to today, as one might expect in the lead-up to Christmas and with three (some very excitable!) young children.

Ruthie spent the afternoon practicing with the choir ahead of tomorrow night’s planned Nine Lessons and Carols at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, seasonal shopping was accompanied by a brass band playing, cards were received and even Ipswich Town added to the spirit of goodwill by winning. Yes, that’s right, actually winning. And the annual peal at Pettistree to mark the anniversary of the first peal on the rededicated bells was successfully rung, usually a sign of the approaching festivities.

There was no ringing for us though. God willing we’ll make up for that as things hopefully get more festive.

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Friday 14th December 2018

Like most things (mobile phones, emails, watching Strictly Come Dancing, etc), Christmas jumpers are a thing that it has taken me years to join in on, but finally this year I was a participant in Christmas Jumper Day. To be fair to me, we’ve never done it as an official thing at John Catt Education, but an informal ‘Christmas Committee’ set up by a couple of my colleagues a few weeks ago decided it was time that we joined in en masse in the office with this annual festive fashion event and in the process raise money for the very good cause of Save the Children. With a jumper carefully selected by my wife (thank you Ruthie!) I failed to win the competition for the best sweater, but felt better for taking part!

A quarter-peal was even rung for the occasion at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire and mention made to it with the QP at Frodsham in Cheshire, but the quarters rung in Suffolk today were unrelated, with a 1260 of Doubles rung at Thornham Magna for the Ladies Guild to mark one hundred years since women got the vote and an impressive 1280 of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods spliced rung on the weighty octave at Helmingham, which seems to be the first QP of spliced Surprise Major on the bells since their rehanging seven years ago. It’s not just me who takes years to join in something!

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Thursday 13th December 2018

With the Surprise Major practice at Ufford cancelled this evening, Ruthie was back straight after choir and there was no ringing from a personal perspective to report.

There was ringing to note elsewhere in Suffolk though, with a quarter-peal of the seasonally named Advent Sunday Surprise Minor rung at Tostock.

God willing they’ll be busier days of ringing over the next couple of weeks.

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Wednesday 12th December 2018

The Wollery.My ringing in Ipswich this week hasn’t precisely gone to plan. Following the clashing service and broken clapper of Monday night at St Mary-le-Tower, there was a slight delay in us starting our peal attempt at The Wolery this evening as our hosts David and Katharine Salter tried to find out why the lights in the little blue shed at the top of their garden wouldn’t turn on.

Eventually the issue was diagnosed as some well-meant tidying that had inadvertently knocked a fuse out and I’m glad that it was sorted as we rang one of the best methods I think we’ve rung here for a while. I enjoy our monthly efforts, but necessity has meant that occasionally we have had to ring some less than engaging constructions. Ratby Surprise Major was quite absorbing, complimented by a composition that brought about music all over the place, with the line itself a test and at times the ringing was superb. Congratulations to Neal Dodge and Mary Dunbavin on ringing their fiftieth together.
A most agreeable 1hr 57mins of ringing was followed by equally agreeable refreshments and conversation, which included a QI type question on where the Suffolk Guild was founded. Many – myself included until tonight – believe it to be Lavenham, but as with Ruthie’s favourite TV programme, the answer is not the obvious one...

Our efforts weren’t the only in the county today recorded on BellBoard, with a 1280 of Bristol Surprise Major rung at Horringer, whilst the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree was Pippa Moss’ one thousandth in the medium – congratulations Pippa! An appropriate location for this landmark for one of the regulars at this ground-floor six’s regular.

I hope it all went to plan!

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Tuesday 11th December 2018

Pouring the beer into bottles. Forty bottles of homebrew!Phase two of the Munnings brewing process was carried out tonight (thanks again to the Eareys!), as we filled forty bottles with the beer we had mixed together a week ago, our bounty now sat in a warm spot whilst it tantalisingly brews.

It involved no ringing and indeed there was no ringing reported on BellBoard generally within our borders today, but there was a quarter-peal rung yesterday at Buxhall, a reminder that the deaths of the First World War didn’t just stop on 11th November 1918.

Meanwhile, a reminder that there is no practice at St Mary-le-Tower next Monday due to a service and indeed no more practices for the rest of the year with the following Mondays being Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. In turn, it should serve as a reminder to readers in regards to any tower in the coming weeks, with the normal order of ringing likely to be changed in many towers.

Hopefully by that point we’ll be able to make up for any lack of ringing with some homebrew!

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Monday 10th December 2018

To say this evening’s practice at St Mary-le-Tower didn’t go to plan is an understatement akin to saying Ipswich Town’s season hasn’t gone too well thus far.

Since yesterday morning’s ringing on Suffolk’s heaviest bells, we had become aware that a service was being held in the church tonight, meaning that we couldn’t begin the session until 8pm when it had been finished. Disappointing, but in the circumstances there wasn’t anything that could be done about it.

After Amanda Richmond and Stephen Cheek had hastily let as many people as possible know about the changed arrangements, a decent crowd had finally gathered, the Christmas tree now in its usual annual position in the corner behind the ninth rope. Some decent Stedman Cinques were rung and then, as we rang some opening rounds ahead of a planned three leads of Kent Treble Bob Maximus, there were a couple of thuds from above and Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on the eleventh went silent. Or rather her bell did.

The broken clapper ball.Mr Cheek and Ringing Master David Potts dashed upstairs to discover that the lights on the stairs didn’t work, but nonetheless were able to ascertain that the ball of the clapper had sheered off and been thrown right across the room, remarkably not causing any noticeable damage on its travels. Initial exploration appears to suggest that it has sheered where drilling would’ve taken place to connect the wooden shaft to the metal ball, but whatever the cause it is bad timing, with it being extremely unlikely that we’ll get it fixed and all twelve ringing for Christmas.

The broken clapper ball in its new home for the evening!Some will recall that a few years ago that the eleventh clapper going seemed an almost yearly occurrence, but mercifully this is the first time for a while that we have been left in such a predicament. However, as yesterday’s events in Royston show, there are worse things that can happen and it is better than a bell round the middle losing its clapper, as although an unsatisfactory sound, we were able to continue some higher number ringing on the front ten, with some very decent half-courses of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Royal rounding off the ringing. And spirits were kept high, both in the ringing chamber (with the clapper ending up as a neat – but extremely heavy – centrepiece in the sweet box) and afterwards in The Cricketers.

It takes more than plans going slightly awry to stop us enjoying ourselves at SMLT!

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Sunday 9th December 2018

Attempting to ring quarter-peals in a very tight timeframe seems to be becoming a habit. Precisely one week after squeezing a 1320 of Maximus into fifty-two minutes at St Mary-le-Tower, I was in a band trying to fit another QP into a seemingly implausible timeframe ahead of a 6.30pm service.

This time it was a 1344 of Plain Bob Major at Ufford for the Carol Service there and although we didn’t finish until the congregation were launching into the opening carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, we could claim success with those present unlikely to hear us with the bells extremely quiet in the church.

As with last Sunday, it appeared to have the effect of producing some reasonable ringing, although on this occasion it may have had more to do with the fact that the band had gathered to attempt a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Major. Two attempts inextricably firing out after the first single was the main reason we were left short of time to finally score our PBM, but it also meant that a collection of ringers who really should have rung the original method with very little trouble were able to tackle the back-up in a decent fashion.

Meanwhile, those who wish to attend the funeral of former Guild Chairman Rolie Whiting – and I imagine there will be many – and who haven’t already heard, will wish to know it is planned to take place at Colchester Crematorium at 12.30pm on Wednesday 19th December, followed by an invitation from the family to join them at Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Club. They have also asked to be informed of any peals or quarters rung in memory of him.

There was sad news of a different sort emanating from Hertfordshire, where word and photos of a fire at Royston church in the early hours of this morning came through. Reports on social media quoting the tower captain suggest that the 11cwt ring of eight are fine, but looking at the devastation caused by the flames, it is hard to imagine that they have avoided any damage and regardless they clearly won’t be rung for some time. Either way, it is tragic that a community has lost a building that will mean so much to so many, especially at this time of year when it should be filled with joy and colour. That initial reports seem to suggest that it was caused by arson must make it even harder to take.

With the thoughts of those affected by this sorry event in my mind, I was particularly grateful for the lovely churches that I frequented this morning, starting at SMLT with the boys for morning ringing aided by the presence of James Smith and a couple of his ringing friends from Australia, before I headed onto St Mary the Virgin church in Woodbridge in a change to the normal order of things. Next week the junior church – including Mason, Alfie and Joshua – are due to perform the nativity, and so this morning was essentially the casting session, although it was more akin to herding sheep!

+My ringing peers across Suffolk were also enjoying the art in some wonderful churches, with other quarters within our borders besides our efforts at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Well done to Deborah Blumfield on ringing her first of Little Bob Max in the success at The Norman Tower, whilst the same number of changes were rung of Doubles at Great Finborough. On top of that, the 350th peal at Aldeburgh was rung with a 5056 of Triduum, the 250th of Surprise Major on the bells. The second-Sunday peals on this eight at the seaside haven’t been without controversy of course (which ultimately showed they had the support of most local residents), but to my mind there is no doubt that they have had an extremely positive effect on ringing within our borders. And having rung in four of the peals myself, I can vouch for the high standard that comes from a good band ringing good peals monthly on good bells. It also shows that you don’t always need a tight deadline for good ringing!

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Saturday 8th December 2018

This morning saw us back at St Andrew’s church in Melton for another enjoyable dose of Messy Church, this time with Ruthie accompanying us and with a Christmas theme, most notably with Mason and Alfie starring in an ad-lib performance of the nativity. We’d provided a plateful of cheese sandwiches for lunch, an angel was made and generally it was a wonderfully noisy occasion.

Mercifully it was a late morning occasion, allowing us plenty of time to have breakfast at our overnight stop of Mum and Dad’s and prepare those sandwiches, but we were pleased for a quieter afternoon.

It was a productive day of ringing for other Suffolk ringers though, both within and beyond our borders. A peal was rung at Nayland in memory of Rolie Whiting, former tower captain at this 15cwt six and Guild Chairman between 1977 and 1980 and well done to Katharine Salter on ringing her first peal of Bristol Surprise Royal – along with Adam Bennett and Jon Waters – in the 5042 at St Clement Danes in Westminster which was conducted by her eldest son George. And the middle of her trio of offspring Colin was pulling the tenor in at Guildford Cathedral to a 5136 of four Surprise Maximus methods, Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.

I hope their dose of ringing was as enjoyable as our dose of Messy Church.

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Friday 7th December 2018

Nothing says Christmas quite like curry and so Ruthie and I were delighted to make it out to this evening’s St Mary-le-Tower Ringers’ Curry Night. With this occasion we are reliant on my parents to babysit and - since Joshua was born - four beds for the night and to be fair its been a big ask for the last couple of years whilst we couldn’t rely on JB sleeping once put to bed, at least for us to simply pop out for a curry.

In reality I’m not sure this is specifically a Christmas get-together, but before our absence in recent years it had become a traditional part of the festive build-up and regardless of its status it has always been a jolly good night out spent in good company. We haven’t always been so fortunate with the service and quality of food, but tonight there were no such problems, as twelve of us enjoyed a tremendous meal at Maharani on Norwich Road following a convivial pint in The Cricketers and before my wife and I made our way back to Mum and Dad’s, partly via an expensive bus ride. Thank you to my folks for looking after the boys and getting them to bed.

Whilst us SMLT ringers were socialising, other ringers were actually ringing, especially at Earl Stonham where a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung and the same number of changes were rung of Grandsire Doubles at Sweffling, the latter to celebrate the engagement of ringer Tim Stanford’s engagement – congratulations Tim!

It was a day to celebrate and make merry and I’m glad we did it with curry.

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Thursday 6th December 2018

It wasn’t quite as busy a day of ringing in Suffolk as it was yesterday, but there was still a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung at Horringer.

For us though, it was a quiet and ordinary day in every sense. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

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Wednesday 5th December 2018

Our proximity to the stage at the Regent – obviously before Jason Manford came on!Traffic chaos enveloped Ipswich this afternoon when a lorry overturned on the A14 just outside the town – you know, the town that doesn’t need a northern bypass – and typically, we were heading into the snarled up centre for a night out. It was commented on by the very chap we were going to see at The Regent Theatre, comedian Jason Manford, on his Muddle Class tour. Indeed, it was a bit of a theme and when he asked some on the front row what they did for a living, the 1,500-strong crowd - the majority of whom had spent hours struggling to get in through the gridlock and included many who were still trickling in as the performance began – weren’t imbued with a seasonal sense of goodwill to Liam who worked in traffic management...

Not that we were affected that badly and so it didn’t spoil our enjoyment of this Christmas present for last year from my mother-in-law, who also looked after the boys, taking them along to the Seven Hills Carol Service -
Thank you Kate!

At the other end of the day we were watching someone who is an even bigger star to us, as Alfie performed in his school nativity, taking centre stage as the donkey and with five bellringers in the audience as all his grandparents, both his parents (thanks to the generosity of John Catt Educational who let me take this in before I got to the office) and Joshua came to watch.

Whilst we were watching performances, many other ringers were performing across Suffolk on a busy day of bellringing in the county. Well done to the entire band on ringing their first Reverse and Double Grandsire Triples in the 1288 of spliced at Elveden, whilst it was nice to see quarter-peals of Stedman Triples and Grandsire Doubles on The Millbeck Ring in Shelland and at Nayland respectively rung in memory of former Guild Chairman Rolie Whiting, the latter location being where he was once tower captain. Meanwhile, the former venue saw another QP rung, this time in the appropriately festive Christmas Time Delight Major, whilst 1260s were rung at St Mary-the-Virgin in Newmarket and pre-practice at Pettistree, of Doubles and Pinehurst Bob Minor respectively.

Thankfully none of them needed to go to Ipswich and battle the traffic for their ringing.

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Tuesday 4th December 2018

Beer Making.Thank you again to Sproughton ringers Tessa and Ralph Earey for the beer kit they very generously gave me for my recent fortieth birthday. This evening, with a potential bounty of Woodforde’s Wherry at Christmas and New Year in mind, we set about brewing. It’s been too long since we last did this and many memories came flooding back with much sterilising, adding of ingredients and stirring, eventually producing a sizeable quantity of liquid which should hopefully be a tasty tipple in a few weeks!

Talking of the festive season, another reminder that the North-West District are due to hold their Christmassy Practice at Bacton between 10am and noon on Saturday, an event suitable for ringers and non-ringers alike! If you are going, then please do take a plate of food.

I’m afraid our beer won’t be ready to take along though!

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Monday 3rd December 2018

Interesting to read about a dispute in Germany that will resonate with many ringers. A couple have moved into the countryside in Bavaria, surrounded by fields, seemingly unaware that it is an area famous for meandering cows with cowbells. And so when a field next to them was unsurprisingly used by such a herd, they duly complained. A bit like someone moving in next to a church with a tower and then discovering that one day bells might be rung from them. My personal view is that we ought to be doing all that we can to carry on with our art as much as possible whilst also trying to maintain harmony with our neighbours, by introducing sound control, advertising extra ringing (rather than simply banning it) and/or getting to know residents within earshot of the bells we ring. However, it still staggers me when people make huge investments in homes without first doing some research into the noises (potential or already regular) that they may encounter, whether that is church bells, speedway racing, train horns or indeed cowbells. Even more of a pity when they then fight the environment they have moved into rather than assimilate into it. Here’s hoping a satisfactory outcome for all is found for those involved in ‘cowgate’.

It is a situation we may need to be wary of at St Mary-le-Tower with the imminent opening of the new easyHotel that backs onto the churchyard. One would like to think that a business that has spent £4m on such a venture will have noted that the bells in the huge tower next door have been ringing for several hours every week pretty much for centuries, but we know from the experience of the former Churches Bar (who were even trading off their location next to the church) that not everyone has such forethought. God willing no such issues will ever arise and our new neighbours will embrace their neighbourhood. Indeed, if SMLT holds the National Twelve-Bell Final again, they may even make a bit of extra profit from their proximity to this famous twelve!

Therefore, this evening we continued practicing on a Monday night as we have done almost every week for decades, with a decent practice that saw much Cinques and Maximus rung and one attendee worried about their clothing whilst ringing the tenor. A typical session of focus and joviality mixed in together, followed by a convivial drink in The Cricketers afterwards. Long may it continue and long may the neighbours not be put out by it!

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Sunday 2nd December 2018

Ipswich Town's 'footballers', take note. Twice today I was part of a team under pressure, both of whom came out of it all with very positive results.

This morning, having helped man the front six of the 25cwt at Woodbridge upstairs, I then went downstairs to join a group of perplexed fellow parents of junior church participants. The usual leader and her helper were away and one parent had been sent an email with instructions on making gingerbread angels, a daunting task without our usual leadership and in charge of a sizeable gaggle of children aged between two and eleven. It felt a little like the technical challenge from The Great British Bake Off! Yet we succeed in collectively producing several trays and without - as far as I am aware - any reports of members of the congregation falling ill!

Later in the day, following a trip to the club shop of the aforementioned ITFC and a cuppa and catch-up at Mum and Dad’s, we gratefully left the boys in their care and headed to St Mary-le-Tower for a quarter-peal attempt of Little Bob Maximus. Except one of the band was running quite late and we were faced with the possibility of not having enough time to fit in the 1320 changes before the 6.30pm evensong we were ringing for. However, head down and just fifty-two minutes later (typically QPs on this 35cwt twelve take between fifty-five minutes and an hour) and it came round with just a couple of minutes to spare. However, the result was some really good ringing, concentration seemingly focused by the brisk pace, the overall effect being of a positive, bright bit of ringing, in the main well struck and a vindication of the theory that these bells - especially the back ones - go so much better if shifted along a bit. Although at roughly 3hrs18mins peal speed it may have been brisker than even I would usually like to ring under normal circumstances!

It was all useful practice for the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Trophy due to be held at Saffron Walden on Saturday 16th February, but the astute amongst you will have noticed that today's draw for the 2019 National Twelve-Bell Contest didn't include an entry from Ipswich. This was the earliest we had been considering an entry into ringing's biggest event and even up to just a couple of days before the deadline for entries there was a strong possibility of us putting a team in. However, things didn't really fall into place for us this year, though it should make us doubly determined to put a team in for the 2020 competition. If you're up for the challenge we'd certainly welcome more ringers to help bolster the entry!

Elsewhere, it was great to see yesterday’s Dedication at Little Cornard get more superb coverage from the East Anglian Daily Times on their website today, as indeed they have done throughout the project, whilst another quarter on the county’s bells was rung with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree.

Much teamwork exhibited, which Ipswich Town’s players would do well to take note off.

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Saturday 1st December 2018

It’s no big secret that I love Christmas. Whilst I know it isn’t always the case for everyone, for us personally we are blessed that it usually represents a time spent with family – and through ringing, friends too – away from the everyday mundane issues in a colourful, upbeat world and an abundance of food and drink.

Christmas Tree decorated!Christmas itself is still more than three weeks away of course, but today its spirit feels like it has well and truly arrived. Our new, bigger, less broken tree was put together and decorated, advent calendars started, the first book from the aging but still essential ‘A Christmas Carol’ calendar read and hung on the newly positioned branches and my favourite festive tune I Believe In Father Christmas by Greg Lake was played on the radio. Many will understandably say it is too early for something still twenty-four days off, but I enjoy the build-up immensely and actually in the scheme of things we are late-starters, with some households, businesses and town centres having had the decs up for days and even weeks already.

And our festive foray was part of a very positive day, that also took in a birthday party for one of Alfie’s peers Ralph (which involved games and lots of slime!) and the South-East District ADM. The meeting itself was an unusually drawn out event, ironically lengthened by discussion on meetings and specifically whether we should have more of them. Also taking up much time was the topic of whether the District still needed Area Reps. Both were rooted in the argument that modern day communication makes so much of what we used to do unnecessary and from a practical sense I agree. Very few people now don’t have access to emails and the internet amongst the membership and even those who don’t will ring regularly with others who do. The ease at which issues, developments, ideas and news can be spread pretty much immediately via email, social media and on this website means they don’t need to be shared at meetings, some of which can happen weeks afterwards.

However, for me and many others, part of the appeal of ringing is the long arms of the ringing family. Going out and gathering with other ringers, some already familiar, some completely new, from across the District, county, country and even the world and especially socialising with them. Therefore, I feel we need afternoons like this to help maintain that.

Ringing at Campsea Ashe for the SE District ADM. Chris Birkby, Ruthie & Elaine Townsend watching out from the ringing gallery at Campsea Ashe at the SE District ADM. Joshua taking advantage of the playbooth at Wickham Market during the service at the SE District ADM. Joshua taking advantage of the playbooth at Wickham Market during the service at the SE District ADM.  Chairman Mark Ogden addresses the SE District ADM at Wickham Market, with Secretary Abby Antrobus to   his right and Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson to his left. SE District ADM at Wickham Market. George Pipe addresses the SE District ADM at Wickham Market.

There was decent ringing at the lovely gallery-ring six of Campsea Ashe, with some spliced Surprise Minor being rung as we arrived, whilst I rang in a touch of Plain Bob Minor and Ruthie called a plain course of Cambridge Surprise Minor. The superb (practically) sound-proof play-booth at Wickham Market allowed the children to play without disturbing the service led by the newly installed Revd Leslie Siu nor the aforementioned business and we enjoyed a tremendous tea put on by the locals. If I’m brutally honest, I’m not a massive fan of teas and meetings in churches, but the facilities here since they reordered the church and put in a kitchen below the ringing chamber make such gatherings very enjoyable, even as the cold of winter sets in.

Ten new members were elected and some were even present to meet and although there was very little imparted in the meeting that I hadn’t already seen online or that won’t soon be online, it was interesting to hear from Katherine Salter about what was happening with the bells of the county town’s redundant churches and the proposed plans for the District for the year ahead, including provisional details for the Suffolk Guild AGM due to be hosted by the SE on Saturday 27th April in Ipswich, with the  service, tea and meeting due to be held at St Matthew’s. Note the date in your new shiny new 2019 diaries!

Little Cornard.Elsewhere – although unfortunately at the same time as we were gathered in Campsea Ashe and Wickham Market – the Dedication of the newly restored and augmented bells at Little Cornard was led by the Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison the Bishop of Dunwich and followed by a 120 changes of Grandsire Doubles, whilst earlier in the day a quarter-peal of the Triples version of the same method was rung on the back eight at St Mary-le-Tower.

Sadly today’s meeting in All Saints church at Wickham Market went on too long for Ruthie and me to consider grabbing a quick ring on the 12cwt six upstairs before getting the boys home and to bed and Ipswich Town yet again lost in a truly dreadful season, but none of that detracted from what was still a very positive day.

Bar one very sad exception. For it all started with the news that former SGR Chairman and ‘Mr South-West District’ Rolie Whiting died yesterday morning in Colchester Hospital. He had lived to a good age, but ringing in the county has lost one of its most dedicated servants and one of its nicest. Always so softly spoken and polite and a joy to chat with, it is sad to think that next time we travel to the prettiest corner of Suffolk to ring that we won’t see him. RIP Rolie.

At this time of year, it is always sad to hear of the passing of friends and ringing colleagues, but also a reminder to fully appreciate Christmas to its full. Whether that starts as early as today or later in the month.

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Friday 30th November 2018

It’s been a decent week for performances from Suffolk on BellBoard and today there is another two to add. Three if you include yesterday’s quarter-peal at Tostock, which was Andrea Alderton’s first of Chester Surprise Minor. Well done Andrea!

Today’s efforts saw a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at Henley and a peal of Armistice Surprise Major at Horringer to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War, appropriately the one hundredth peal rung in the tower, in 5100 changes and one hundred combination roll-ups (which are explained on The Changeringing Wiki for those unsure what crus are).

No such ringing endeavour for us mind, with the only different thing of note occurring for us personally today being the Christmas decorations being put up at John Catt for the first time in our new offices with much gusto and excitement. Not particularly of interest to the ringing community, except as another timely reminder that ringers’ busiest season is fast approaching and that we need to be prepared.

Many in Suffolk have been warming up for it nicely this week though!

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Thursday 29th November 2018

I was on for an odd date-night with Ruthie’s sister Clare tonight watching The Proclaimers tonight as stand-in for husband Kev who was unable to make it due to work commitments. Except unfortunately my sister-in-law has fallen ill, as so many currently are.

Instead therefore, it was a night at home, with no ringing. And no Letter From America.

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Wednesday 28th November 2018

Ruthie’s been very under the weather over the last couple of days and I was on shopping duty in the business parks of Ipswich helping make a collection for one of the boys on behalf of Father Christmas and so unusually for a Wednesday evening, neither of us were ringing tonight.

Still, others made up for it, with a peal of Framlingham Surprise Major rung at Henley, whilst a quarter-peal of Primrose Surprise Minor rung at Metfield. Well done to Jonathan Iles on ringing his first of Treble Bob in the latter, whilst all bar Mike Cowling were ringing their first in a method that often causes far more trouble than it should. After all, it is simply Cambridge Surprise with plain hunt at the lead-end rather than a bell making seconds. That’s the only difference. Take a look at the lines of Cambridge and Primrose and compare - if you can ring the former (and even maybe if you can’t yet) then you should hopefully be able to see it. Nonetheless, well done to Michelle Rolph, Sal Jenkinson, Peter Lock and conductor Philip Gorrod.

Hopefully we’ll both be out there joining our fellow ringers in such endeavours soon.

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Tuesday 27th November 2018

As we near the end of November, of course we also near December and therefore the end of 2018, but it isn’t time for ringing to slow down. Quite the opposite in fact, with extra services planned requiring bells as we get closer to Christmas, although also some cancelled practices, especially those that fall on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday which is when Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day fall. If in any doubt, please check before travelling to a tower to ring over the next few weeks and indeed that there definitely isn’t ringing so that you don’t inadvertently leave a tower short.

Perhaps the additional calls on ringers’ time accounts for the sparser than usual What’s On list for next month, especially in the North-East District, where it is a pity to see some of the practices cancelled. They still have a couple lined up for next week, at Beccles on Wednesday for a Ten-Bell Practice and at Chediston the following night for a Six-Bell Practice. And there are events pencilled in for the other Districts too, starting with the South-East’s ADM on Saturday, with ringing at Campsea Ashe and Wickham Market either side of the service, tea and meeting at the latter. It is too late to get your names in for tea now, but that doesn’t exclude anyone coming along to support the efforts of the officers of the SE and the hosts of the weekend’s event. The meeting shouldn’t – at least going by previous experience – be a drawn-out affair and the ringing will be on two very different sixes, both enjoyable in their own way! If you can’t make that though, you may like to celebrate the return of ringing in Little Cornard at the Dedication of the restored ring by the Bishop of Dunwich, The Right Revd Dr Mike Harrison on the same afternoon.

Meanwhile, if all goes to plan the North-West District will be holding their Christmassy Practice at Bacton from 10am-noon on Saturday 8th, whilst the Second Tuesday Ringing is planning on going to Gislingham and Wickham Skeith before lunch at The White Horse in Stoke Ash on the 11th. Plus, don’t forget Christmas Ringing in Ipswich on the final Saturday before the big day and which is due to be held in a different format this year.

Today at Offton, the practice was preceded by a quarter-peal of Pudsey Surprise Major, but otherwise it seems to have been a quiet day across Suffolk from a ringing perspective, especially for us. God willing, December will bring more entertaining days.

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Monday 26th November 2018

Trees at the bottom of the tower at the St Mary-le-Tower Christmas Tree Festival. The ringers’ tree at the St Mary-le-Tower Christmas Tree Festival.Arriving at St Mary-le-Tower for tonight’s practice was a real visual and audio treat. As the wonderful bells rang out, I was greeted at the bottom the tower by a sea of tinsel and lights of many colours as preparations were being made for this week’s Christmas Tree Festival. And by the door at the bottom of the stairs to the ringing chamber, as is traditional, stood the ringer’s tree, bedecked with bells and blue lines. It was a beautiful sight.

Directly up above, the session that I subsequently attended was equally bright, with a wide repertoire to cater for the decent number there. Karina did really well with rounds on twelve, as did Sonia trebling to Little Bob Minor, whilst Sue Williamson and Abby Antrobus were equally impressive in Stedman Cinques and the evening’s ringing was rounded off with a decent half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, all aided by the visit of Essex ringer David Sparling. David was a regular here when I started out here and is one of the art’s nicest, funniest guys, so it was a pleasure to have his company up the tower and in The Cricketers afterwards, where the conversation veered between correcting my grammar, hopes for the planned SMLT curry night and what vegetables and fruits people have got stuck up their nose! Not quite the visual or audio treat I was greeted with at the start of the night!

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Sunday 25th November 2018

Having overslept this morning, it was a bit of a rush to get the three boys up, breakfasted and readied for service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and inevitably we got to the county’s heaviest twelve quite late. Nonetheless, I was still able to partake in a couple of pieces on the tenor, one to Rounds and Call Changes on Twelve and the other behind to Stedman Cinques, setting me up nicely for a morning that generally followed to plan after that.

Costa Coffee was visited with the pleasant surprise of the visit of Katharine Salter and her son – and Mason’s good buddy – Henry following a key-drop and then followed up with ringing at Grundisburgh, where numbers were quite a bit lower and the peak was Minor and rounds and call-changes on seven with the eldest son ringing backstrokes on the treble.

With Ruthie at work as John Ives begins a string of Sunday openings leading up to Christmas, it was an afternoon of entertaining the three boys on a chilly day. Nothing very exciting was attempted – a trip to the park, popping into Tesco, dropping birthday cards off at the home of Mason’s Godmother Kala in Felixstowe before picking my wife up.

Elsewhere meanwhile, a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles was rung upon the 11cwt ground-floor six of Yoxford, although no other performances within our borders were recorded upon BellBoard. I trust not everyone overslept.

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Saturday 24th November 2018

We keep relatively on top on keeping our house tidy and in order. Or at least as a couple as disorganised as us and with young children can. Every now and then though, we need a day like today where we just do lots of mundane productive jobs to really get on top of it. Empty bottles were taken to the bottle bank, the car was given a ‘spring’ clean and subsequently stuff taken into our home and sorted, the multitude of clothes we have for various age-groups were arranged and much more alongside the usual daily chores.

On top of that we popped into town to deal with a spot of business and yet we could still have had time to join visiting Essex ringers at St Mary-le-Tower this afternoon. However, with a busy weekend of ringing planned for next week, we thought it unfair to ask them to spend a couple of hours cooped up in SMLT’s ringing chamber.

Still, there was much ringing endeavour being displayed to more than make up for our absence today and not just on the county’s heaviest twelve where photos online suggest there was a large crowd. A quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major was rung at Stowmarket for the start of the annual Christmas Tree Festival, while a peal was rung in the same method at Lavenham, a joint effort between the Suffolk Guild and Ely Diocesan Association to remember the ringers of the village lost in the First World War, who at that time pre-SGR would have been members of the latter organisation.

St James GarlickhytheFurther afield, a 5152 of twenty-three Surprise Major methods was rung at St James Garlickhythe in London. Impressive in its own right, but even more so when one considers that twenty of them were new methods and far, far from simple ones to boot. Take a look at the lines for Cronus, Glaucus and Favonius for example, to pluck three at random. All complicated enough to learn on their own, without having another nineteen to log in the memory bank and yet the talented band who rang this no doubt rang it practically faultlessly, if not entirely faultlessly.

I imagine their homes are spotless too!

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Friday 23rd November 2018

When football matches are moved to suit the whims of television, often at relatively short notice, it understandably motivates much criticism. Fans – especially away fans, but indeed any who have to travel distance to such a fixture – will often have to change plans to make it to the game, such as asking for extra time off work or abandoning already arranged plans, if they can make it at all. It can create quite a stink, as was demonstrated last season when it was suggested that the Premier League clash between London-based Arsenal and Liverpool (with almost two hundred miles between them) would be moved to Christmas Eve for the TV cameras. That didn’t happen in the end, but it showed what a sore point it is for footy fans, many of whom plan their social lives around a Saturday 3pm kick-off.

Tonight’s 7.45pm start for Ipswich Town’s clash with West Bromwich Albion at Portman Road actually worked quite well for Mason and me though. As he spends weekdays with his mother, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to take him to an ITFC evening match, but having collected him for the weekend, we dropped Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua off at home and made our way into Suffolk’s county town. Evening kick-offs can be truly memorable occasions, under the floodlights, the atmosphere fuelled by fans having got a bit more booze down them and so it proved this evening. Yes, we lost, but the noise from a larger than usual attendance of 23,000 was tremendous and having been 2-0 down with five minutes to go, a late goal for us set-up a very exciting finish to a decent performance against one of best teams in the division, all of which the eldest son enjoyed very much.

Of course it didn’t involve any ringing, but reassuringly for this ringing blog there was some to report with two quarter-peals rung within our borders today, one on handbells in Bacton and one on the 10cwt ground-floor six at the wonderfully isolated All Saints church that serves the parish of Ashbocking.

At least ringing performances don’t get shunted about for television.

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Thursday 22nd November 2018

Many may recall that this evening was due to be when the summer’s Ringing World National Youth Contest in London would feature on Blue Peter, having already been put back from the original date of airing a couple of months ago. However, earlier this week it was announced that it will now appear on the 10th January edition as it was once again pushed back. Some bemoaned what a pity it was that it hadn’t been shown the first time around to help with recruiting for Ringing Remembers, but most seemed to think that in the circumstances, with the lead-up to Christmas not necessarily being the best time to recruit youngsters in particular and that the New Year edition will allow the full feature to air unlike the truncated version that would’ve had to have gone out today, it was perhaps a blessing that it didn’t go out on this occasion. Still, here’s hoping they stick to this third date.

I probably wouldn’t have got the chance to watch it this evening anyway, as I was undertaking a spot of solo babysitting as the boy’s cousins Katelyn and Annalise came round whilst Ruthie went to choir practice, before she returned to take them up to their granny’s. It was a busy but enjoyable couple of hours on a day when things were very quiet on the ringing front for us and Suffolk’s ringers generally, without even that Blue Peter edition to liven things up.

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Wednesday 21st November 2018

It was a busy night for Ruthie as she crammed in a meeting about Woodbridge St Mary’s Junior Church, listening to the ringing down at the end of Pettistree’s weekly practice and having a social drink in The Greyhound.

That session on the aforementioned ground-floor six began with an apparently well-rung quarter-peal of Hull Surprise Minor, whilst elsewhere a peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung at Offton to remember those from the village lost in the First World War and the centenary of that dreadful conflict’s end.

St Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore.Meanwhile, change-ringing’s expansion beyond its traditional base appears to be continuing with the exciting news that an order has been placed with Taylor’s that will – God willing all goes to plan – ultimately result in a new 25cwt twelve being hung in St Andrew’s Cathedral in Singapore. Perhaps an International Twelve-Bell Contest involving towers from Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, USA, Wales and now Singapore is in the offing?

In all seriousness, questions were immediately raised as to who would ring them, but as with Ypres in the middle of the then change-ringing wasteland of Belgium, plans are apparently afoot to teach a local band and I’m sure the ringers of ANZAB will be more than happy to ‘pop’ over to lend a helping hand!

Unless they’ve got too many evenings as busy as Ruthie’s this evening that is.

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Tuesday 20th November 2018

Following on from our pleasant experience at Tuddenham St Martin at the weekend, it was nice to hear a bit of background to what we found, namely that the ringing chamber was recently given a good tidy-up by Linda Sagar and David Salter whilst the latter’s wife Katharine was fixing the ropes. It is part of what will hopefully be more regular TLC being applied to what could be a cracking little six whose light weight and location just minutes out of Ipswich town centre would make this an ideal location for teaching learners of various stages, whether on a weekly basis, as part of wider set-up, more visits from the South-East District or whatever. Thank you to Linda and the Salters for their work thus far.

Campsea Ashe.Wickham Market.Talking of the SE District, its ADM is taking place at Wickham Market on Saturday 1st December, before ringing at the 12cwt six upstairs and after a service and tea in the church downstairs and ringing at the lovely 6cwt gallery-ring six of Campsea Ashe, but names for tea will need to be in to by this Friday, 23rd November please! It should be a good afternoon, so please do support it if you can.

Meanwhile, there was plenty of ringing going on in Suffolk today, with quarter-peals of Bristol, London and Superlative Surprise Major at Bardwell, Hopton and Ixworth respectively.

None of those were rung for St Edmund’s Day, which was a pity but of course not obligatory and to be fair it was all very low-key generally, with relatively little reported on the day of the county’s patron saint in the local media compared to previous years.

And that paired up appropriately with a low-key day for us personally. God willing there are busier days ahead, especially at Tuddenham St Martin.

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Monday 19th November 2018

I’ve mentioned before the potential for ringing being fertile ground for situation comedy. However, I also realise that much of the day-to-day ringing humour wouldn’t be suitable as it would go over most people’s heads and one such example occurred this evening at St Mary-le-Tower as we attempted to climax the weekly practice with a touch of Stedman Cinques.

With the first attempt having collapsed, the conductor Jonathan Williamson clarified some of the specifics of the composition, including that there were only two singles, one made by the third, the other by the fourth.

“But I made both singles,” the ringer of the fourth piped up with a confused look on their face.

It made us chuckle quite a bit, but of course I can’t imagine your average TV viewer getting it...

Our struggles with Fabian’s principle belied another productive session, though once again we were missing a handful of regulars which limited our repertoire somewhat. Still, although we also rang some Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, it was a fabulous opportunity for those less experienced to garner some more experience and as usual it was all carried out in a jovial atmosphere. Perhaps in part that was because – or despite, depending on your views on the festive season – of the first real mention of Christmas ringing. Whatever your thoughts on the occasion, the pub was festooned with a large tree and serving pints of ‘Santa’s Slayer’ and this is typically a busy time for us ringers, especially at the county town’s civic church. Next week the annual Christmas Tree Festival is due to start at SMLT and as usual the church are keen for us to ring for the preview on Wednesday 28th November between 6 and 7pm so any help would be appreciated!

And further ahead, please note that there will be no practice on Monday 17th December upon Suffolk’s heaviest ring of bells, as St Joseph’s School are holding a carol concert in the church that night, whilst of course there won’t be one a week later on Christmas Eve, although I imagine there will be ringing for the Nine Lessons and Carols that evening.

There is a more immediate festival first though, that of St Edmund’s Day tomorrow. It seems to have taken on a much more low-key atmosphere from ten years ago when bells and ringers were asked to kick-off events and attempted a peal in each District which BBC Radio Suffolk spent the day giving updates on, but although our friends at the Beeb seem less enthusiastic about it – perhaps partly because of the success of the new Suffolk Day on 21st June – ringers within our borders are still celebrating it, with The Norman Tower reviving a tradition of ringing the bells on the eve of St Edmund’s Day, with 1008 changes of St Edmundsbury Bob Triples.

Meanwhile, back in Ipswich, The Cricketers may have been looking festive, but it was decidedly chilly with the heating not working. That didn’t stop us enjoying our normal post-ringing pint though. Or having a laugh.

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Sunday 18th November 2018

Alfie’s understanding of ringing was extended a little this morning, as I explained call-changes to him as they were being rung on our arrival at Woodbridge for service ringing. I can’t say that he fully got it, but he seemed engaged and excitedly pointed out which bell was which with a smile.

That was the extent of my ringing today and indeed once we had left church after morning worship, we didn’t have anything lined up at all, with the birthday party Alfie and Joshua had been invited to cancelled due to illness.

Not so for ringers elsewhere in Suffolk, with the usual second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh rung this afternoon rather than last Sunday, presumably to allow for the participants to help with the Guild’s impressive efforts to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, whilst eight resident SGR members took part in the Cumberland Youths’ Peal Weekend with a 5056 of Bristol Surprise Major on the back octave at Grundisburgh.

Meanwhile, well done to Nathaniel Yealands-Flint and John Gentleman on ringing their first quarter-peal of Minor inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Exning. Well done also to Jimmy Yeoman on his first QP of Minor as conductor in the same performance.

God willing Alfie will have a better understanding of their achievements one day.

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Saturday 17th November 2018

Tuddenham St Martin.Coming north out of Ipswich, Tuddenham St Martin feels like the gateway to the Suffolk countryside. On my usual route in and out of the county town, it is the last and first village respectively I go through, but that’s just it. I go through it. Many times in fact, on Sunday mornings and Monday nights of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and when I pay a visit to Mum and Dad or Aunty Marian, passing by the church set in a stunning location on top of a hill, looking over the houses below in a scene more reminiscent of Yorkshire than anywhere in this part of the world. Rarely do I stop off in this pretty rural community just minutes away from the busy streets of the town centre though, but as is often the case with many picturesque yet untouristy spots, ringing gives me a reason to do so.

Occupying ourselves in the ringing chamber at Tuddenham St Martin during the wedding ceremony. L to r; Liz McLeod, Mark Ogden, Mason and Delia Hammerton with Alfie. Joshua & Ruthie in the ringing chamber of Tuddenham St Martin during the wedding ceremony. The window between the ringing chamber and nave at Tuddenham St Martin. Occupying ourselves in the ringing chamber at Tuddenham St Martin during the wedding ceremony.

As it was this afternoon as Ruthie and I came here to ring the 6cwt six for a wedding, rung from a gallery that is set on four different levels, separated from the nave by a spectacular window and entered via retractable steps. These are not rung often, although like all bar three of the county’s ringable rings they rang out last Sunday for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War. Yet the ringing chamber is immaculate (though like many used as a storage area for bits ‘n’ pieces like a ladder and the Christmas decorations!) and the bells go well, allowing the band – made up of us, South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden, Delia Hammerton, Geoff Haynes and Liz McLeod – to produce very well rung call-changes for the newly married couple. With more regular ringing and TLC, these could be a cracking little six.

With ringing before and after the ceremony, we were grateful to our fellow ringers for helping to entertain the brothers, although we came armed with books and Mason, Alfie and Joshua were admirably patient and well behaved.

Earlier we had been into Woodbridge to carry some business, showing that even with a trio of children in tow, it is possible to take a couple of hours out for ringing and still get on with other stuff too, hopefully debunking the notion that it’s not possible to attend the various ringing events that are put on for members.

Attendance at these events is a theme in SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson’s latest update, sent yesterday to those happy to receive emails via the Guild. She echoes my thoughts on attendance at events, I imagine even down to the sentiment. When I am bemoaning low turnouts, it isn’t meant as a nag or telling off and I’m sure Rowan is coming from the same angle. Rather it is meant as an encouragement, a reminder that we need as many members as possible to help move the art forward, for ourselves, others and future generations. These are occasions that take time, effort and sometimes money for volunteers to arrange, set-up and run and it is sad that more who could don’t support them, especially as they are tremendous exercises in ringing networking. Whether you are a learner needing more opportunity than you might get with ringing with a handful of bandmates at your home tower or a more experienced member keen to find more ringers to help maintain and progress standards in peals, spliced, Surprise, on twelve, etc, these should be and have been fertile ground, but only if they are fully supported.

In addition, as Rowan also points out, members pay a subscription towards the Guild and whilst some are more than happy to pay the money simply as a means of helping ringing within our borders, it is important that as many as possible come together – especially at meetings, the next of which is the South-East District’s ADM at Wickham Market on Saturday 1st December - to ensure that we are all getting value for money.

Whilst we were able to fit in everyday activity with our ringing, I can’t imagine that the band who today partook in the 10082 changes and 6hrs52mins at St Magnus-the-Martyr in what is – subject to ratification – the longest peal yet rung of Zanussi Surprise Maximus and longest peal of Maximus rung in the City of London had much time left for everyday activities, bar a few drinks afterwards I imagine! Well done to the band on a marvelous feat of physical and mental endurance.

I don’t mind admitting that I would dearly love to be involved with such accomplished ringing, but I was still more than content to spend the afternoon in the rarely visited gateway to the magnificent countryside of Suffolk!

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Friday 16th November 2018

As with nurseries and schools up and down the land, Children in Need Day saw our children packed off in spots and stripes and pyjamas and even saw some ringing dedicated to it, most notably a peal of Plain Bob Cinques on the 82cwt twelve of Liverpool Cathedral, the heaviest bells in the world hung for change-ringing.

There was no ringing in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard at all and none for us either as instead we occasionally turned over to BBC One and thanked God how lucky we are that our children are happy and healthy. It’s worth a bit of dressing up and even 4hrs30mins of Plain Bob Cinques!

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Thursday 15th November 2018

For all of the backstabbing, frontstabbing and the political chaos of the Westminster bubble which dominated the news today and which was even referenced in a footnote to the peal of the aptly named Windpassing Treble Place Major rung at Huntsham in Devon, everyday life continued as usual, especially for us. Indeed, it was all rather quiet, although Ruthie went out for a meal at The Anchor in Woodbridge for a work colleague’s birthday, meaning that she couldn’t get to choir practice.

It also meant that – as per the norm for a Thursday in our current circumstances – there was no time left for ringing (although there was no Grundisburgh practice this evening anyway), but elsewhere in Suffolk others found the time for it, most particularly at Bardwell where a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung on the back six.

No performances of Westminster on BellBoard though, as we all try to ignore our politicians.

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Wednesday 14th November 2018

A Wolery debut for Nigel Gale was the ringing highlight of my day, a 5056 of Childwall Bob Major which was also Neal Dodge’s fiftieth peal on the bells. The method was far from exciting, simply a variant of St Clement’s College Bob Major, but the focus needed for the frontwork produced some very decent periods of ringing.

As usual we were treated to refreshments afterwards and at either end of our efforts there was much conversation, with Guild PR Officer Neal understandably pleased with Suffolk’s ringing response to the one hundredth anniversary of the armistice on Sunday, with all ringable towers in the Guild being rung bar three – Assington (due to an longstanding issue over access to the church), Edwardstone (not sure why) and St Nicholas in Ipswich (as it is nobly being used as a night shelter over the winter). And it was interesting to hear that BellBoard didn’t crash as the performances poured in on the 11th, but was sensibly shut down briefly to allow it to catch-up!

Our 1hr59mins of ringing wasn’t the only performance recorded on the now fully-functioning BB from within our borders. Indeed, it wasn’t the only peal or even the only one rung in sub-2hrs, with the 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods on handbells in Bacton coming in at twenty minutes quicker than our success in 1hr39mins.

Meanwhile, the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree was dedicated to HRH Prince of Wales and Simon Rudd on their birthdays. Happy Birthday your Highness and well done to Nigel Gale on a solid debut.

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Tuesday 13th November 2018

Thank you to my immediate predecessor as Suffolk Guild Ringing Master David Salter on sending me the video his son Henry took of his parent’s ringing on Sunday morning, which took in the Ipswich town centre towers of St Clement, St Lawrence and St Matthew with other ringing husband and wife teams Jill and Chris Birkby and Claire Haynes and James Smith. To my mind it exhibits the spirit of the day from a ringing perspective perfectly, with ringers coming together to ring at towers that in some cases are rung quite rarely, all to the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice a century ago.

That sacrifice was still being remembered by ringing today, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Bures on the Essex border, one of two QPs rung in the county today, the other being the pre-practice 1312 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Offton.

For us it was a quiet day on the ringing front, in complete contrast to that busy day of ringing on Sunday. Thank you again for the snapshot of it all David.

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Monday 12th November 2018

Two of ringing’s biggest successes of recent years came together on BBC Look East this evening, as they presented the edition from St Peter Mancroft in Norwich opposite their studios, reflecting upon yesterday’s events, including the ringing and particularly Ringing Remembers.

Ringing featured prominently and it was great coverage for the magnificent Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre, complete with an interview with its new Manager Nikki Thomas and some rounds on the twelve further up the tower to ring the show out, but a report also included ringing from other towers in Norfolk with a focus on learners recruited through Ringing Remembers. Despite being entirely behind the project, I have to admit to thinking they had left it too late to reach the target of 1,400 new recruits, but I am delighted to have been proven so utterly wrong!

Well done to our friends north of the border on yet more brilliant PR – something that they have been extremely good at in the last few years.

Things weren’t quite as exciting in Ipswich at St Mary-le-Tower and indeed we were quite short on numbers, but with David Potts not about tonight, Jonathan Williamson tried to make it as productive as possible and pretty much managed it, especially with a short, simple touch of Plain and Little Bob Cinques that should be useful on Sunday mornings in particular. And it was nice to finish the ringing with a decent piece of Stedman Cinques too.

It was all topped off with a drink in The Cricketers, as we toasted ringing’s successes.

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Sunday 11th November 2018

Cast your mind back to 4th August 2014. Think about all that you have done since then and all that has happened to you and others in that time. Then imagine that over that time, every week was accompanied with news of thousands of young men from these shores being killed, including frequently from your own community, men – boys even – that you knew. In the case of men of my age, we would most likely have been out there ourselves for years of trench warfare in filthy, damp, disease-ridden conditions, your friends regularly being lost. That’s if you yourself survived unscathed.

My blog has allowed me to cover much of what we have done and what has happened in our lives and elsewhere in everyday life over that time. More widely we have witnessed two general elections, that referendum, changes of Prime Minister, royal births and marriages, Donald Trump...

Closer to home there have been marriages, births – including that of Joshua of course – and Alfie has grown from the four month-old dumpling that watched on in bemusement as we began commemorations at Pettistree with a quarter-peal and Grandad Ron played the bagpipes to a schoolboy, whilst Mason has gone from a young boy to a secondary school student.

Even just from a ringing perspective, in that time I have rung seventy peals and between us Ruthie and I have rung seventy-one quarter-peals, been ringing generally hundreds of time, whilst of course I am no longer Guild PR Officer as I was back on 4/4/2014.

Throughout it all, ringing was marking the deaths of thousands of ringers throughout the world, including here in Suffolk, most notably at Buxhall, in itself an indication of the sheer scale of slaughter that occurred on the Western Front one hundred years ago. Seventeen QPs were rung on this 15cwt gallery-ring six in the last four years, each marking the death of someone either from or with close links to this small village who was killed in the war precisely ten decades earlier.

They were doing their bit today too with a peal of seven Surprise Minor methods, but they weren’t alone. Not by a long, long way! In fact, so many performances were being uploaded to BellBoard that the website completely crashed at one point and so many within our borders that for once I simply can’t list them all here, but rather will point you to the Suffolk Guild – Ringing for Peace: Armistice 100 section on BB, which also includes ringing from yesterday at Barsham, Horham, Ringsfield, Stradbroke, Westhall and Wilby. Amongst the myriad of performances within our borders there were six quarters, with Plain Bob Minor rung at Bacton, Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower, Doubles in the form of two methods and two variations at Great Finborough, five Doubles methods and a principle at Pettistree, four Doubles methods at Saxmundham and Plain Bob Triples at Ufford. Of the other performances, special mention has to go to the Ringing Remembers learners who rang today (part of an incredible recruitment drive of 2,640, far above the 1,400 target worldwide), especially those named – Peter Branfield at Bardwell, Kate Bungay, David Goldstone, Esther Knight, Marie Owen, Andy Owen, Lucy Thurston and Nick Warnes at Beccles, Ray Burdett, Graham Jenkin, Alison Kenny and Tony MacDonald at Cavendish, Gaby Bailly and Chris Roose at Chediston, Keith Crozier at Kedington and Karen Squirrell at Woolpit – apologies for any I’ve missed! The first service ringing for about two hundred years was carried out at Little Cornard – with two more Ringing Remembers learners - and well done to Liam Smith on getting the band in at Great Glemham! And there were photos galore on the SGR Facebook page of bands taking part, including of those of us who rang at Iken.

Looking out over the church from the ringing chamber at Iken.  Ringing at Iken for Armistice Day – Treble Pippa Moss, 2nd Mark Ogden, 3rd John Calver, 4th Richard Munnings, Tenor Mike Whitby.  Ringing at Iken for Armistice Day – Treble Pippa Moss, 2nd Mark Ogden, 3rd John Calver, 4th Richard Munnings, Tenor Mike Whitby.  Ringing at Iken for Armistice Day – Treble Pippa Moss, 2nd Mark Ogden, 3rd John Calver, 4th Richard Munnings, Tenor Mike Whitby. Those of us who rang at Iken (plus hangers-on!) looking out from the ringing chamber. L to r; Richard Munnings, Mary Garner, Pippa Moss, Ruth Munnings, Alfie Munnings, John Calver, Joshua Munnings & Mark Ogden. Taken by Mike Whitby.

Going to this (mainly) ancient five in this most isolated and beautiful of spots in this sparsely furnished old house of worship which in parts is over eight hundred years old is special and atmospheric at any time. As the sun set on a day when we remembered the ghosts of a century ago though, it was at times spine-tingling. Lovely as well to ring with John Calver, who I used to ring with regularly at nearby Tunstall when I lived there. Oh, and had the pleasure of trying his homebrew from time to time...

Earlier we had been to St Mary-le-Tower where the bells were muffled at handstroke and then Woodbridge where they were muffled at backstroke, with both sounding incredibly moving this morning. At the former we rang a half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus which was recorded on BellBoard and some well-rung Grandsire Cinques which I managed to video some of the rounds beforehand. At the latter, BBC Radio Suffolk were present on the Market Hill with Wayne Bavin’s show, featuring a superb report recorded at the practice night for the 25cwt eight just over twenty-six minutes in. And if you listen carefully you can just about hear the bells in the background from just after an hour in.

Afterwards we joined the crowds on the aforementioned Market Hill for the Remembrance Parade and the outdoor service. And after all is said and done, that is what today was all about. What ringing and ringers achieved over the course of the day was phenomenal, especially here in Suffolk and Guild PRO Neal Dodge, the District Ringing Masters and everyone else who helped ensure that all bar three of the county’s ringable towers – an impressive 201 - were rung are to be congratulated. It was fascinating to see where members ended up and the numbers of ringers involved was truly humbling and as a by-product I imagine we have probably created a fascinating snapshot of ringing in 2018, especially when ringers come to mark the 150th and 200th anniversaries of the end of the First World War.

However, first and foremost, the most important thing was that the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who sacrificed their lives – either literally or with the mental scars afterwards – a century ago and since were remembered. I was pleased that the boys were able to spend the day witnessing proceedings and God willing something will stay with them and their peers to prevent future conflicts of this sort ever happening again.

We Will Remember Them.

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Saturday 10th November 2018

What to do with three easily bored boys on a Saturday when Ruthie is at work, especially during the cooler autumn and winter months when the weather is less conducive to outside distractions, is usually a monthly conundrum for me. Getting them out of the house is almost essential, otherwise it is very easy either for everyone to get on each others nerves or to slump into lethargy. Often some ringing saves the situation and I then have something to build the day around that includes something for the trio of brothers to enjoy, hence our trip to Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm and then to Hadleigh for ringing (albeit I ended up doing no ringing!) a couple of weeks ago. Today though, I felt it was probably a bit much to drag a gaggle of reluctant children to the North-West District Practice at Mildenhall, a near-eighty mile and a two-hour round trip and so I needed to find another way to spend time with my sons.

Joshua and Alfie ringing handbells at St Andrew’s church in Melton.Thank God therefore for Messy Church at our local church, St Andrews in Melton. My wife’s commitments to the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and the lack of bells hung for changing ringing (they have a 10cwt three hung only for chiming) means that we rarely enter this lovely 150-year-old house of worship, but for some time I’ve had my eye on taking Mason, Alfie and Joshua to one of these events. For those not in the know – of which I was one until relatively recently – this is a sort of playgroup combined with an informal worship and then lunch and the boys loved it, with the youngest two even having their first go at handbell ringing, though not in a fashion that Philip Earis or David Pipe would recognise!

Beforehand I took them round an exhibition at the Burness Parish Rooms that told the story of the village during the First World War and those who lost their lives fighting, as well as their families and homes on a weekend that sees countless events being held to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the end of that dreadful conflict. Of course ringing is doing its bit, including here in Suffolk, with a half-muffled peal of Grandsire Cinques rung at The Norman Tower.

At 3hrs31mins that would’ve passed the time today, but I’m not sure it would’ve occupied the boys satisfactorily!

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Friday 9th November 2018

As we approach this particularly significant and poignant Remembrance Sunday, more good PR for ringing caught my eye today.

One was a Channel Five news report from Edington in Wiltshire where six ringers were tragically lost in the First World War, but where – in common with towers up and down the country – they have been successful in gaining new recruits to symbolically replace those killed in that dreadful conflict a century ago.

Suffolk towers too are being mentioned in the media, with the bells of Aldeburgh, Badingham, Easton and Haverhill in particular picked in an East Anglian Daily Times article I happened across, although I know that there is ringing planned at so many more towers – almost all ringable towers in the county in fact.

Although we partook in no ringing on a typical Friday where the usual collection of the family for the weekend and subsequent feeding and putting to bed meant there was little time left to practically help out at any ringing this evening, there was ringing for the forthcoming Armistice within our borders. Most notably at Debenham where a 1280 of Plain Bob Major was rung.

Meanwhile, the identity of the first ever Manager of the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre in Norwich was revealed as Nikki Thomas. The MRDC has truly been a tremendous success and Nikki has been heavily involved with the project and is an absolutely lovely lady to boot! Congratulations Nikki!

Great PR for ringing too.

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Thursday 8th November 2018

After yesterday’s bad headlines for ringing, it was good to see some extremely good ones for the art today.

As we approach the centenary of the Armistice that finally brought to an end the mass slaughter of the First World War (on the Western Front at least), there has been much great publicity for what ringing is planning for Sunday, but two news reports particularly caught my attention today.

One features on the ITV News site, filmed at Portsmouth Cathedral and including faces that will be familiar to many reading this. The other was a report from Newsround on CBBC and which was the lead story on the popular children’s news round-up this afternoon and starred some of Birmingham’s young ringers, the Brumdingers.

Both are well worth a watch and a reminder to those who can to man as many bells at as many towers as they can on the 11th to ensure a fitting tribute is paid to those who sacrificed their lives one hundred years ago for our ancestors, us and our descendants.

Already there is ringing being attributed to this poignant anniversary on BellBoard, including some call-changes at St Mary the Virgin in Newmarket today, but there was no ringing for either Ruthie or me, with my wife’s choral duties at the All Souls service at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge preventing her from attending the Surprise Major practice at Ufford this evening.

Still, God willing there will be opportunity over the next few days to contribute to some more positive ringing headlines.

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Wednesday 7th November 2018

On a day when mid-term elections in the US were making the biggest headlines, a headline involving an eighteen-year-old called Steven Tomsett was vexing the bellringing community most of all. For he was the young chap who injured himself at St Helen’s in Abingdon in Oxfordshire back in January whilst ringing and who sadly appears – according to articles in The Telegraph and Daily Mail - to have had his head turned by a ‘no-win-no-fee’ firm and is now suing the church. His injuries and apparent subsequent pain are unfortunate and seemed to have lost the trainee engineer his job, but the premise of his ‘case’ seem dubious, based on a lack of maintenance to the equipment. The only thing to break was the stay, as it should do in such circumstances and by all accounts all the fittings were in proper working order, including the stay in question before the incident. He was learning on ART so should have been trained in the dangers involved and even signed a form to confirm as much. And his spatial awareness has also been called into question by others who know the ringing chamber at this 16cwt ten better than me, although in the circumstances the sensationalist vagueness when it comes to exactly how far he fell from might be excused.

Whatever the truths of this matter and the cover that insurance will or won’t offer in this case, generally it is a timely reminder to ensure that learners are taught the safety aspect thoroughly and maintenance is regularly and properly carried out, with appropriate paperwork and logging carried out, however tiresome it may seem.

I imagine they are on top of such matters at many towers across Suffolk, including the four where quarter-peals were rung at today. A 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung at Bardwell, a 1260 of five Triples methods spliced was rung at Elveden and whilst a quarter of Plain Bob Minor was being rung at Wickham Market ahead of the service there of Institution, Induction and Installation for the Rev’d Leslie Siu as vicar, another of Cambridge Surprise Minor was being rung at his other new church, Pettistree. Ruthie partook in the latter and the practice that followed before having a drink in The Greyhound with her fellow participants and those who had been to the service, including her mother Kate who also kindly brought my wife back after the boys and I had taken her there.

Well done to all concerned for providing more positive headlines for ringing.

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Tuesday 6th November 2018

A quiet, ordinary day from a personal perspective, bar speaking to my brother Chris on the occasion of his birthday. It goes against the grain of sibling rivalry and all that, but the less better-looking Munnings is a valuable ringing asset for Suffolk. An accomplished ringer on all numbers, good tenor ringer and willing to impart advice, it is only a pity that his noble dedication to work doesn’t always leave as much time for ringing as he and others would like.

Happy Birthday Chris!

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Monday 5th November 2018

At tonight’s St Mary-le-Tower practice, Ian Culham told of a conversation he’d had with an eminent ringer who had visited us and commented on what a lovely atmosphere there is on a Monday night at Suffolk’s heaviest ring of bells. And they are right. The sessions are focused, but jovial, with much joking and everything taken in good humour. You may believe that the ringing is the most important element and ultimately you are right, but a social atmosphere helps towards generating good ringing. Go to Birmingham or the College Youths practice and nearly everyone goes to the pub afterwards and many continue their ringing with trips away and other social occasions that are great fun. Likewise at Pettistree and other places too. If you create a light-hearted social environment it attracts more ringers and more often than not good ringing, which in turn usually attracts more ringers and so on.

On this occasion at SMLT, the social element was well fulfilled with an invitation to attend the annual pre-Christmas curry and a drink in The Cricketers where the barman accidentally knocked a pint of beer over Chris Birkby to much amusement, including the soakee. The ringing was of a decent standard too, albeit better on ten than twelve, though Karina did well to call-changes on the latter number ringing the eighth.

Such a productive evening was also a nice way to climax a day that was a bit of a write-off from a productivity perspective. During the weekend at some point, Charlie our cat had somehow wounded his paw and was clearly in some discomfort. Therefore it was down the vets for the awkward 9.30am appointment time, following an early but brief stint in the office to get as much as done as possible. With our pet treated and returned home with medication and a cone around his head, I made it back to John Catt later than I would ideally have liked, only to receive a call from Joshua’s nursery a short while later saying his temperature was quite high and requesting I come and collect him. Mercifully he seemed to recover very quickly and so it was a rather pleasant afternoon, if completely unproductive!

Thank God for ringing though – I hope even more will be encouraged to join us for the lovely atmosphere at St Mary-le-Tower!

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Sunday 4th November 2018

I couldn’t have put it better myself, as on the day when they rang the five hundredth quarter-peal at Loddon in Norfolk since their rehanging, Ann Webb explained on Facebook why they ring so many there. She gets it spot on – and echoes my thoughts on the merits of quarters and peals - when she uses the 499th QP earlier in the day and especially Worlingham ringer Rona Sporle’s first Pudsey Surprise Major as an example. As Ann says, the high standard that Rona achieved simply wouldn’t be possible with a course or half-course of the method on a practice night. Ringing longer doesn’t necessarily mean better ringing, but generally the ringing I experience in QPs and peals is far above what can be achieved in quick snatches of ringing at practices and ultimately leads to a higher standard when it really matters, such as on Sunday mornings, weddings, etc. Well done Rona and congratulations to Loddon.

Evidence can be seen in an extreme example with the video on YouTube of the handbell ringing at last night’s College Youths Anniversary Dinner. Despite a false start due to one of the band having the wrong pair of bells (hence the amusement at the start of the clip), it was several minutes of faultless, mesmerising ringing from a band who have rung many thousands of peals – and of course many quarters too – between them that have contributed to the quality ringing they produced.

Talking of yesterday’s ringing, there was an impressive quarter-peal of eleven Doubles methods rung at Great Finborough.

Meanwhile, both Ruthie and I did ringing as well today, although nothing as notable as Rona’s north of the border or Messrs Mounsey, John, Hinks, Hughes-D’Aeth, Maynard and Carless in the capital yesterday. I helped man the bells at Woodbridge ahead of the service that the boys and I joined my wife in attending, whilst Mrs Munnings rang in the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Pettistree, another place where the medium of the quarter-peal is used to full effect. As explained so eloquently by Ann Webb.

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Saturday 3rd November 2018

Last time we rang at Cretingham, we had just the one child, it was a roasting hot day and the tower only held five bells. This afternoon when we went to this ground-floor ring for the South-East District Practice, even with the eldest son at the cinema with his friend we attended with two boys, the weather was bright but chilly and an extra bell has appeared.

Ringing at Cretingham for the SE District Practice. Ringing at Cretingham for the SE District Practice as late afternoon turns into early evening. Ringers gathered together at Cretingham for the SE District Practice. Refreshments served by Eric and Carol Brown. Jill Birkby, Sally Munnings & Jenny Scase in conversation in front the exhibition at Cretingham during the SE District Practice.

It hasn’t just appeared of course. The new treble has been the result of much fundraising and hard-work, the latter further highlighted by the smell of fresh paint in the ringing chamber and it has to my mind been entirely worth it. As far as I recall, the five were nice enough, but now they really are a superb, easy-going ring and that showed with the quality of ringing, particularly with a faultless course of London Surprise Minor, a nice touch of spliced Surprise Minor and a decent bit of Ipswich Surprise Minor that I trebled to, the latter of which can be heard in part on Mike Whitby’s Facebook page, including the only blemish where the ringer of the fourth prematurely thought it was coming round! With local learner Peter also getting opportunities and a reasonable turnout, this was a session that showed how useful these events can be if members turn up.

Still, more would be much appreciated. Yes it was a bit cold, but this truly rural part of the county looked stunningly beautiful in late afternoon autumnal sunshine, the bells were lovely and the welcome fantastic, with tea and biscuits provided by locals Carol and Eric Brown. It was good to see Mum out ringing, albeit on a stool and to welcome new residents of the SE, Chris and Jill Birkby. Please do support such occasions if you can.

It needn’t be a hugely time-consuming exercise either. Our visit barely took anything out of our day, with a trip to Felixstowe for some (ultimately futile) shoe shopping for Alfie also possible with plenty of time left amongst all of this for feeding the boys three times and a relaxed evening of beer and Strictly Come Dancing.

We enjoyed our afternoon at Cretingham. And contemplating how much has changed since that July day five years ago.

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Friday 2nd November 2018

Tomorrow night the 381st Annual Dinner of the Ancient Society of College Youths is due to be held at The Grange St Paul’s Hotel in the capital and social media and BellBoard show that preparations are already underway for many members, with some practicing their drinking and others their ringing, with peals rung for the ASCY at Great Stanmore, St James the Apostle in Islington, St Clement Danes in Westminster and in the City of London itself at St Dunstan-in-the-West, St James Garlickhythe and St Magnus-the-Martyr today.

There was ringing here in Suffolk too, with the FNQPC ringing a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at the more rural Earl Stonham, which may as well be a million miles away from the aforementioned towers mired in the concrete jungle of the metropolis just seventy miles away.

For us though, it was a quiet night in with a glass or two of wine and catching up with friends already down in London.

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Thursday 1st November 2018

Congratulations to Keith Dennis on kicking Suffolk’s November ringing off on such a high as he rang his first quarter-peal in the successful 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Blythburgh.

Nothing so exciting for us personally. Here’s hoping there are more achievements like Keith’s throughout November to liven things up!

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Wednesday 31st October 2018

In the unlikely event that any of my modest-sized readership has been watching the Great British Bake Off and is still to have watched last night’s final, I shan’t reveal the winner, but one of the three finalists – Rahul – was a superb baker (according to the judgements of Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith) who nonetheless constantly berated himself for any perceived mistake or poorly executed bake.

He came to my mind as I unfathomably struggled through the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree this evening. We were only ringing York Surprise Minor, London below the treble, Cambridge above the treble and a method that I have rung countless times before, yet I found myself constantly making mistakes and berating myself. Yet the band around me did well to fashion a decent 1272 in between my messing about, whilst elsewhere Alfie was trick or treating with Granny Kate and his cousins – hopefully my ringing wasn’t too frightening on this Halloween!

Thankfully I appeared to have sorted myself out for the session that followed, which was fortunate as it was one with an eclectic range of methods which included Hull, London, Netherseale and Norwich Surprise Minor, as well as a touch of spliced Doubles and Minor that featured Grandsire, Stedman and various Minor methods of the Little, Plain and Surprise variety, all mainly well struck.

Chris Garner, Mike Cowling and Sam Shannon looking for train photos at Pettistree practice. Such ringing was all the more impressive as we were quite short on numbers tonight, which saw a couple of breaks to view Mike Cowling’s train photos on his laptop and for conversation that included the situation at York Minster and – more light-heartedly – the footnote to Monday’s QP at Knighton in Powys, as recounted by Mike’s whose brother Geoff was in the band that rang in the 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major!

I imagine that there was a fair amount of berating beforehand!

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Tuesday 30th October 2018

Mason isn’t really into ringing. He’ll have a go if asked at Grundisburgh on a Sunday morning, but only backstrokes and he is rarely proactive about it, although sometimes he is. That is absolutely fine of course, but it is a context to how impressed I was at hearing at tonight’s settling-in session at Farlingaye of how proactive he has been at joining various clubs in his first half-a-term at secondary school.

That wasn’t all that was impressive about the evening, with his report card full of As and Bs for his b_ehaviour and general attitude, whilst his form tutor thinks he’s great! All very encouraging.

For ringers looking to be proactive about their ringing in November, there should be plenty to do, particularly in the North-East District. Starting with the Six-Bell Practice at Chediston on the 1st, they have many practices planned before the advent calendars are due to be cracked open, with a Ten-Bell Practice on Wednesday 7th, an Eight-Bell Practice at Bungay on Monday 12th, another Six-Bell Practice at Reydon a week later and another one at Blythburgh three days after that all pencilled into the NE’s calendar, as well as their ADM that forms part of the Southwold Festival of Ringing on Saturday 17th. In between those dates, the South-East District are planning to visit the newly augmented ground-floor ring of Cretingham between 3.30-5pm on Saturday, the North-West District are due to go to Mildenhall for a session a week later and the South-West District are planning to go to Long Melford between 3-4.30pm on the 24th. Meanwhile, the Second Tuesday Ringers have booked North Lopham and Blo’ Norton north of the Suffolk-Norfolk border on the 13th and don’t forget to help man the bells on the 11th for the exact centenary of the end of the First World War and the 20th for St Edmund’s Day, especially the former.

Some ringers were being proactive in the county, with quarter-peals at Hopton and Gislingham – a 1296 of Netherseale Surprise Minor and 1280 of Aldenham Surprise Major respectively. Well done to Helen Lewis on ringing her first of Treble Bob Major in the latter.

Good to see so much proactiveness today!

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Monday 29th October 2018

It was a jovial practice at St Mary-le-Tower tonight. Ian Culham managed where the rest of us failed in deconstructing the buggy that Joshua used yesterday morning, but in the process nearly knocked himself out, Jonathan Williamson somehow ended up with a bow on his bottom and a car horn outside inadvertently gave the signal for us to pull off for one of touches.

All this was accompanied by some good focus though. Bizarrely, much took a couple of attempts with the second attempts then proving really rather good, with some decent Stedman Cinques, Little Bob Maximus and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, all helped admittedly by another welcome visit from Peter and Tina Sanderson from York.

Afterwards it was lovely also to have an opportunity to chat with our visitors over a pint in The Cricketers as they gave an update on the goings on at the Minster two years on from the awful happenings there, whilst they got an update on some of Suffolk’s characters.

Palgrave.One character of Suffolk ringing was recently sadly lost with the passing of former Palgrave tower captain Maureen Slinger. Her funeral was held at the church that holds the 7cwt ground-floor eight today and a quarter-peal was rung in her memory at the nearby 10cwt ground-floor six of Oakley with a band that rather sweetly represented the various organisations she was involved with – the SGR, NDA, The Ladies’ Guild and Palgrave itself. Well done to Hugh Bunbury on ringing his first QP on a cover bell in the process.

Sad as the reason for ringing it was, I expect it was great to take part in the 1260 of Doubles and I imagine Maureen would have been pleased that we were all enjoying our ringing.

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Sunday 28th October 2018

A typical Sunday morning of two halves today. First St Mary-le-Tower, where we welcomed visiting ringer Jonathan Spencer from Sussex and welcomed back Ringing Master David Potts, with the ringing featuring some truncated Stedman Cinques that had otherwise featured some decent ringing and some even better rung Call Changes on Twelve and a course of Little Bob Maximus that rounded things off, before refreshments in Costa Coffee.

Grundisburgh was a little more limited on numbers and therefore repertoire, with eight being the peak, though Mason had another ring, still just at backstrokes.

From there we picked Ruthie up from church in Woodbridge before a uneventful afternoon, but it was busier elsewhere for Suffolk’s ringers, whereas besides a 1296 of Plain Bob Major at NDA tower Lowestoft, there were three QPs on bells within the Guild. Well done to conductor Stephen Dawson on ringing his first quarter of Heatherslade Bob Minor (a St Clement’s variant) in the 1260 at Great Finborough and to Nicola Burnett on ringing her first of St Simon’s Bob Doubles in the same number of changes at Old Newton, whilst there was also success at The Norman Tower with Little Bob Maximus.

For us though, it was much more mundane with all those household chores. It was a day of two halves as well as a morning of two halves.

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Saturday 27th October 2018

Following on from yesterday’s FNQPC success at Ashbocking, it was an extremely busy day of ringing in Suffolk, with five quarter-peals and a peal rung. The QPs were all 1296s of Surprise Minor, with David Thomas the star of the day. The Kelso at Buxhall, Coldstream at Great Finborough, Wooler at Rattlesden and Canterbury at Tostock were his first in the methods, whilst the Munden at Rougham was his one hundredth quarter on six bells. Well done and congratulations David!

Meanwhile, congratulations to Katharine Salter on ringing a peal at her two hundredth different tower in the county in the 5040 of Minor at Monks Eleigh, an 18cwt six that are not easy to ring, perhaps reflected by the fact that this was the first peal there since 2002.

We partook in no ringing, though it wasn’t through a lack on trying in my case.

With Ruthie at work today, thus meaning it was me alone responsible for the boys all day, my intention was to do as I sometimes do, by finding something to entertain them before doing something to entertain me, the latter of which is usually ringing of some sort.
Lambs at Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm.On this occasion, with the South-West District ADM on at Hadleigh, I sought out something Halloween-related somewhere between home and there and hit upon Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm between the busy London-Norwich railway line and even busier A14, near the 11cwt six of Barking and 14cwt eight of Coddenham. The plan was for a leisurely morning and then some lunch at home, an hour or two at the farm feeding animals, carving pumpkins and meeting witches and other terrifying creatures, before heading on to join the SW at the 22cwt octave of St Mary thirteen miles away.

Parts one and two of the plan certainly went accordingly, but a combination of the trio of brothers taking much longer to do anything and everything than one would do on their own and me mistakenly thinking ringing was going on until 4.30 rather than 4.15 meant that we four made it to the top of the tower stairs as the final piece was coming round and entered the ringing chamber as the ropes were being hung up!

Disappointing as it was, it didn’t feel a wasted journey though. It was lovely to chat with Christine Knight about the blog, her husband Richard about Ipswich Town (for whom it was yet another depressingly dreadful afternoon, despite the announcing this morning that Paul Lambert would indeed be their new manager) and to catch-up with David Lugg who was a regular at Sproughton in my early years learning to ring. Nice to see a crowded ringing chamber too and of course we still had a nice time at the farm!

And at least others managed to get plenty of ringing in!

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Friday 26th October 2018

Football was a theme of yesterday’s blog and with the anticipated announcement of Paul Lambert as the new manager of Ipswich Town and an actual match, it may well be tomorrow, but it was also in my thoughts today as the finest player ever to grace the blue and white of my favourite team and one so great that his passing has elicited reaction throughout a footballing world normally ridiculously preoccupied with all things currently Premier League, Champions League and international had his funeral at the same Seven Hills Crematorium as many of us were gathered at for Bredfield, Pettistree and Wickham Market ringer Gill Waterson’s funeral just a few weeks ago.

Mason with Kevin Beattie.Most were encouraged to see Kevin Beattie off on his final earthly journey at Portman Road where he had made his name as one of the best in the game and where Mason and I had met him only last year and I would’ve liked to seen off someone so special to me as an ITFC fan. Indeed, if my shifts were still continuing I would’ve been able to make it down to the only stadium in East Anglia that has seen a UEFA Cup Final, England international match or a home team crowned as English champions at 2.30pm, but now I’m back to normal working hours it was just not logistically possible.

It also meant that somewhere needed to be found for Alfie as half-term drew to a close and we were grateful to my parents for very kindly looking after him whilst we were at our respective places of work.

They also brought a spare copy of the Ringing World that they had received, the first I have read for some time. I’m sorry to say it wasn’t an overly enticing read, but it was nonetheless full of what you might like for a ringing-specific magazine, such as tips on washing ropes. This week’s front cover looks like it may be more provocative though...

Still, the headline making was more football-related.

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Thursday 25th October 2018

Today the blog is eleven years old and inevitably in that time there is bound to be a fair bit of Groundhog Day, but sometimes there are spooky coincidences, especially as we approach Halloween. Six years ago, as I noted the fifth anniversary of the blog on this very date, Ipswich Town were just starting on a search for a new manager. As I again noted the blog entering another year of existence, Ipswich Town are starting on a search for a new manager, with Paul Hurst pushed out the door after the shortest tenure in the club’s time, a new low for a club who traditionally give their managers years where others give them weeks and for whom even with this swift sacking are still looking for only their seventeenth boss in their eighty-two year history. Although it seems that the new man has already been approached, if not officially announced, as former Naaaaridge manager Paul Lambert’s name was thrust forward in most speculation.

It is perhaps appropriate that football features so strongly on this 25th October (as well as in 2012 and indeed on the very first blog entry), being one of the other common themes on the blog, but it is of course a ringing blog first and foremost and although the exercise didn’t produce anything quite as spectacular as it did for the tenth anniversary of my musings a year ago, there was ringing worthy of mention. Well done to Carmen Wright on ringing her first quarter-peal of Grandsire Doubles in the 1260 rung for the Ladies Guild at Thornham Magna.

Such achievements are one of the reasons I still write the blog. Keeping up with what the Guild’s ringers are up to and sharing it with others who may not have noticed it but would be interested feels nice to do and I still get people coming up to me saying how much they enjoy it, sometimes from the most unexpected quarter. And personally I find it quite cathartic writing my daily thoughts and trying to link as much as possible to ringing as I can, especially on the quiet days!

Thank you to those who say nice things about the blog and/or offer constructive criticism and as ever to Ruthie who patiently accepts me spending (sometimes considerable) time on writing it and to Webmaster Chris Garner who spends so much time on it, as well as to his wife Mary for putting up with him disappearing to put my thoughts up on the website.

This seems a good time to again thank Chris for the website generally. Over the years I have often heard people commenting that it is the best website for a ringing organisation anywhere and I definitely agree. Putting my blog aside it offers so much more than the detailed information that it does, an active site for an active Guild. Even if today was slightly quieter and repetitive.

Happy Groundhog Day to all!

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Wednesday 24th October 2018

Ruthie’s turn for an evening out tonight, as she partook in proceedings at Pettistree from the quarter-peal of Munden Surprise Minor to the practice, through to a drink in The Greyhound afterwards as I undertook child-sitting duties whilst following another depressing ninety minutes for Ipswich Town.

Meanwhile, there is ringing planned in Suffolk before October is out. The North-East District are due to hold a Six-Bell Practice at Worlingham on Thursday evening, whilst the South-West District have pencilled in their ADM at Hadleigh for Saturday afternoon.

Please do support where you can and have a good time out!

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Tuesday 23rd October 2018

Two snippets of interest from yesterday grabbed my attention today.

Little Cornard.One was a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung at Bures for the Quarter-Peal Month of the North-East District of the Essex Association, the other was an article on the East Anglian Daily Times about the bells of Little Cornard. The restored five and new treble were installed on Monday with lots of great photos accompanying the article. Well done again to all there – John Taylor has been particularly involved – and another reminder that the Dedication is due to take place on Saturday 1st December.

There was ringing to report from today too though, most notably at the anti-clockwise six rung from the central tower of the Blessed Virgin Mary church in Pakenham, where another 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was rung.

Not any ringing for us though, the most notable aspect of our day being the visit of Ruthie’s schoolfriend Vicky.

Meanwhile, looking ahead, there is a project afoot to augment the six at Swanton Morley across the border in Norfolk to eight to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and the founding of the RAF. Plans also include installing training equipment, making this a worthy project to support and support it we all can (providing you’re over thirteen that is!) by voting for it to receive funding from Aviva’s Community Fund. The write-up is a tremendous advert for the art and although to vote it requires registering with the insurance company running the fund, it is well worth it to get your ten votes that can then all – if so desired – be put towards Swanton Morley’s Centenary Memorial Bells case for funding.

It is wasn’t just yesterday that was interesting after all!

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Monday 22nd October 2018

To keep ringing – and indeed pretty much anything in life - interesting there has to be variety and it doesn’t just have to be through the ringing itself. The social aspect is just as important to my mind, helping to attract ringers to ringing.

St Mary-le-Tower wine tasting in Church House – l to r; Jonathan Williamson, Ian Culham, Amanda Richmond & Abby Antrobus. Wine glasses at the ready at the SMLT wine tasting in Church House. St Mary-le-Tower wine tasting in Church House – l to r; Abby Antrobus, Stephen Cheek & Sue Williamson.

This evening saw this very much in evidence after St Mary-le-Tower practice, as following a session that saw some reasonable Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques rung despite a number of absences, several of us retired to Church House for a wine tasting led by South-East District Ringing Master (and for this evening SMLT Ringing Master in David Potts’ enforced absence – get well soon David!) Jonathan Williamson. As co-owner of Wines of Interest in Ipswich, Jonathan knows by far more about one of my favourite subjects than anyone I have ever met and is certainly the best at putting his knowledge across in an engaging manner, so much so that BBC Radio Suffolk use him as their ‘Resident Wine Expert’. Therefore this was an fascinating hour-and-a-half trip around six Spanish wines and Spain itself whilst Mr Williamson went into the technicalities and we all tested fizzy, whites, rose and red wines, although of course for those of us driving the samples were necessarily small!

There was not unexpectedly a very convivial atmosphere. Amanda Richmond was confused by the poor quality of her first glass before it dawned on her it had been considerably watered down when she had left the room and Diana Pipe recounted what a poor judge of wine former strongman Geoff Capes is as George apparently found to his cost! All helped by the good news that Jonathan’s daughter Lucy had been informed this afternoon that she had successfully got a new job in York and Chris and Jill Birkby had finally fully completed their move from Nottinghamshire. Congratulations all round!

It was definitely an interesting night!

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Sunday 21st October 2018

The general pattern of this weekend seems to be ringing in the morning, fun in the garden with the boys in unseasonably warm autumn sunshine in the afternoon, as it repeated itself again today.

My ringing was at a different octave, this time Woodbridge where we rang all eight before the service that the three brothers and I attended and Ruthie sang in.

However, whilst post-lunch was football beneath the changing tree colours, other ringers in Suffolk continued their ringing, with three quarter-peals and a peal upon the county’s bells. Well done to David Harding, who by trebling to the 1260 of St Martin’s Bob Doubles at Exning rang his first QP in more than thirty years. It was a performance which was also a first in the method for John Gentleman and Jon Gent, so well done to them too.

The 1320 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Woolpit was also notable for different reasons, with Pam Ebsworth and Nigel Gale ringing in memory of their great uncles who both died tragically young a century ago in the First World War.

Meanwhile, the seventieth birthdays this year of Roger and Pat Lubbock were marked with a suitable length of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Offton in a good year for significant birthdays!

That’s not to say that the 1296 of Lakesend Bob Minor at Buxhall was any less worthy of course!

Elsewhere I read with interest the article on The Washington Post’s website about the Trinity Shield Striking Competition for North American teams and being judged by Worcester Cathedral Ringing Master Mark Regan, who many reading this will know and who speaks so well, including at the Suffolk Guild’s 2011 AGM fringe meeting.

Closer to home yet still beyond our borders, it is heartening to see my former colleagues in Birmingham leading standards on fourteen again, with a 5000 of nine methods spliced, the most methods rung on that number of bells, as far as I can tell.

For some, the weekend was less formulaic!

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Saturday 20th October 2018

Any peal that I ring at St Margaret’s in Ipswich is special to me. After all, it is a place close to our family’s hearts and where I did much of my early ringing.

This morning’s 5024 of Yorkshire Surprise Major upon the 14cwt octave felt particular special though. It was the first that I have rung here since the project that has seen the bells restored (in the case of the treble, second and fourth replaced), rehung and the ringing chamber lowered to a more spacious gallery, my first in the medium in my forties and my first for those who sacrificed their lives for us in the First World War a century ago, as we dedicated it to those in the parish who left to fight and never returned.

I’d like to think we put in a worthy performance for them too. Any mistakes were pretty much rectified within moments and either side of those hiccups the rhythm and good striking continued unabated.

Of course this is a very special tower for the Whittells too and therefore also the Salters and so it was lovely to ring with brothers Neville and Roger, who along with the former’s daughter Katharine and her husband David made up half the band and although the next generation Colin and George were busy – the younger with quarter-peals of Grandsire Doubles and Anglia Surprise Royal at Compton and Haslemere respectively in Surrey, the elder trebling to a 5090 of three spliced Surprise Maximus methods at High Wycombe – the rest of us hopefully made up for their absence!

At a different stage of life I might have joined Roger for a few pints afterwards and then gone to watch Ipswich Town play at Portman Road, but with Ruthie already having had to look after the three boys for four hours, I returned home where instead of watching the Tractor Boys’ latest disgrace I actually enjoyed my afternoon in the garden as Alfie and Joshua played, with this beautifully, yet unseasonably warm weather continuing.

It was a special afternoon after a special morning.

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Friday 19th October 2018

Credit to Dave Boyle on getting ringing a mention on BBC Radio Suffolk’s Lesley Dolphin show this afternoon in her Shout Out Friday section through her Facebook feed. I’m not sure who Dave is as we don’t share any FB friends and he doesn’t say where he will be ringing on Sunday morning, although the rest of his message suggests he may be local to Framlingham. Either way, good to see the art getting a plug on the airwaves.

It was just about the only newsworthy ringing snippet today as our Friday evening was taken up with collecting the family together for the weekend. I hope Dave Boyle’s day was more interesting!

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Thursday 18th October 2018

A slow day today. An early shift at work gave me more time in the afternoon, but less energy and so I didn’t do a lot, ringing or otherwise.

Others were ringing in Suffolk though, most particularly at Horringer for the second day running, as following yesterday’s 1280 of Lessness Surprise Major, today saw a 1344 of Plain Bob Major. It was a very special performance to celebrate the birth of Charlotte, a first child for Martyn Crouch and his wife Karolina and granddaughter for local ringer Sally Crouch. Many congratulations to the Crouch family, a family synonymous with ringing in the area!

Well done also to Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on calling her first quarter in the process. It was certainly a more interesting day of ringing for others than for me!

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Wednesday 17th October 2018

I’ve always said how fortunate we ringers are to be involved in a hobby with such flexibility and at such a low cost. At the drop of the hat, when bored and/or not in position to fork out large sums on a night out, we can get up (checking this website’s Practice Night page if needs be) and go to any number of practice nights within easy reach, all merely for the cost of getting there and a small donation to the tower.

So it was tonight. After a tiring morning following a disturbed night looking after a poorly Joshua, Ruthie was exhausted this morning and so with the boys in bed and the youngest appearing to be better, it seemed a good idea to leave her alone to have a rest in peace on the sofa. Therefore, I popped out to Pettistree, a session we are extremely lucky to have nearby to us. This is a tower where the band is sociable and generally healthy in number and the ringing is varied in repertoire and of a high standard.

This evening was typical of Wednesday night ringing on this ground-floor six, as we welcomed Fred from Ealing as he helped us by bonging behind to numerous pieces of Grandsire Doubles that were good experience for local ringer Sam Shannon to treble to. In between that there were touches of Hull and Munden Surprise Minor and an evening that started with a 1320 of Beverley and Surfleet Surprise Minor spliced, climaxed with Mark Ogden calling a well-struck touch of several Surprise Minor methods spliced. Thank you as well to the band for their birthday card!

That quarter-peal was one of a trio rung in Suffolk today, with Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Worlingham and Lessness Surprise Major rung at Horringer, the latter of which celebrated the birthdays of Clive Dunbavin and Past Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters and saw conductor Stephen Dawson and husband and wife David and Lesley Steed ringing their first QP in the method. Happy Birthday Clive and Jed and well done David, Lesley and Stephen.

I hope they all appreciated how fortunate they were to be able to ring.

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Tuesday 16th October 2018

Even with the dread I felt on awaiting Mum and Dad’s return from my parents evenings in mind and with his education becoming a bit more formal, we weren’t expecting Alfie’s first parents evening at primary school to be critical, but that didn’t make his teacher’s positive reporting of him this afternoon any less pleasing. A quick learner, enthusiastic and lively were the main attributes quoted to us, God willing holding him in good stead not just for his schooling but also for life in general, including if he decides to take up ringing!

Hughenden.Attending parents evenings are the stage of life that Ruthie and I find ourselves at currently, but some ringing couples at a completely different stage of their lives were celebrating the fact with one of those themed peals that enjoy reading and hearing about, as four sets of husbands and wives – the John’s, Herriott’s, Newton’s and Whiteley’s – rang a 5040 of Ruby Alliance Major at Hughenden in Buckinghamshire to celebrate their respective fortieth wedding anniversaries this year. Such peals may seem frivolous and don’t progress the art per se, but I believe they add another element that help maintain ringers’ interest in the exercise. I imagine looking at the band that the ringing was pretty good too!

There was a performance recorded on BellBoard on Suffolk’s bells today too, with a pre-practice quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Offton. I’m sure they got a good report afterwards!

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Monday 15th October 2018

It is but the changing from one age to another and I don’t feel any different, but turning forty today has been a good reason to reflect upon life and its positives.

A decade ago, as I left my twenties I was a father, Ruthie and I were in a relationship, we were both living within walking distance of work and I was working at John Catt Educational. At first glance it appears little has changed and yet much has changed of course. Mason is at secondary school, Alfie and Joshua have arrived and grown, Miss Eagle is now Mrs Munnings, we own our own house and JCEL are now at sparkling new offices.

Me enjoying a bottle of fizzy on my fortieth birthday!I have plenty to be grateful for and to celebrate and seeing as a birthday and especially a significant birthday like this is a superb excuse to celebrate I have been doing plenty of that! Our weekend away to Southwold, night out in Woodbridge and yesterday’s family gathering have all been leading up to this day. And as for today itself? Presents opened (with a particular highlight being a voucher to book a drive of a supercar from Kate and Ron – thank you guys!), cards put up, cakes shared at work and then an evening in with a Chinese, pudding, cheese and biscuits and bottle of fizzy enjoyed. Thank you to everyone for their wishes, online, in person, via text and through footnotes!

Pettistree. St Mary-le-Tower.One of the things that hasn’t changed yet has changed - though not for the better - is that whilst we still ring regularly at Pettistree and St Mary-le-Tower as we were ten years ago, we can’t commit to them as wholeheartedly as we could back then. And so it was tonight. Back in the day we could’ve gone out to SMLT together for ringing and a pint, but current circumstances don’t allow for that, at least not after using up a lot of our babysitting credits in recent weeks! Not that I minded at all on this occasion.

I vividly remember reaching twenty and lamenting that I was halfway to forty, yet I don’t feel as downbeat at this point as my younger self believed I would. In fact, on reflection, it is a very positive time and I’m currently feeling very blessed.

Happy Birthday me!

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Sunday 14th October 2018

The final day of my thirties began as probably hundreds of days have started in my thirties – with Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and then Grundisburgh.

It can’t be said that it was the finest of those familiar days from a ringing perspective. We just had thirteen at the former, but a number not experienced on twelve, but it was still useful experience for Sonia in particular and we had some well rung Plain Hunt on Eleven and ended with some decent Stedman Caters, whilst at the latter – following a now traditional trip to Costa Coffee with some fellow SMLT ringers – I was pleased to make up six ringers in Ringing Master Stephen Pettman’s absence and thus expand what we could do, which extended to Grandsire Doubles.

Cutting my birthday cake at Mum & Dad’s.The afternoon was also in a place that has been familiar throughout my thirties and indeed – like the rings of twelve I rang upon this morning – my entire life as my Mum and Dad welcomed Ruthie, the boys and me to my childhood home along with my brother Chris and his wife Becky. Although it was on a much smaller scale than my mother had initially planned due to her being struck down with sciatica in recent days, it was a lovely few hours spent with family, with food and drink aplenty and some early card and present opening, including from Chris, Becky and her family who very generously clubbed together to purchase VIP tickets for a forthcoming Ipswich Town match! Thank you to them and to my parents for arranging and holding the party!

Meanwhile, there were a brace of quarter-peals rung on Suffolk’s bells whilst I partied, with a 1296 of Little Bob Royal rung at The Norman Tower and 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Great Finborough. And thank you to the band of the second-Sunday peal rung at Aldeburgh for their kind footnote!

My thirties have drawn to a close very pleasantly.

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Saturday 13th October 2018

For the last two nights, Charlie our cat hasn’t returned home. It is unusual, with his food untouched and his favourite armchair left empty.

Still, many an owner of a cat will tell you that our feline friends are prone to wandering that breaks the walls of routine and we have thus far done nothing more than leave his food out, keep an eye out and pray for the best. This morning though, with still no sign of our black and white housemate and after checking with the vets that our chipped pet hadn’t been reported injured or found, Mason and I set out into our neighbourhood to politely request nearby residents to check their sheds and/or garages in case he had been accidentally locked in such a spot. Despite the kind sentiments of our neighbours in both word and deed, there was still no sign of him.

Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for the Tower Open Day. Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for the Tower Open Day. Jonathan Williamson turns the tenor over at the St Mary-le-Tower Open Day. Amanda Richmond demonstrates the mechanics of ringing with the help of Jonathan Williamson at the St Mary-le-Tower Open Day. Joshua having a go on the Vestey Ring at the St Mary-le-Tower Open Day. The Vestey Ring in St Mary-le-Tower churchyard on SMLT Open Day. Alfie & Joshua ringing on the Vestey Ring whilst I watch on at the St Mary-le-Tower Open Day.

Of course, we were quite concerned by this point, but in reality there was nothing practical we could do and so after some thought, we decided to head into Ipswich to help out at the St Mary-le-Tower Open Tower Day, as we had intended, although the vagaries of looking after three boys and the possibility that Ruthie might be working today meant we couldn’t commit to it ahead of time. We were glad we did too, as we contributed to some decent PR. Both of us partook in some demonstration ringing in the ringing chamber for the downstairs element of the tours we were giving the public and both of us turned the tenor over for the upstairs element of the tour, whilst I was pleased to help guide some passers-by – and my sons - having a go on the Vestey Ring, which was set-up in the churchyard on a day more summer than autumn, with temperatures in the twenties centigrade.

Altogether, it had apparently been quieter than previous open days, but still there were a lot of youngsters hanging off every word of Amanda Richmond, who was again magnificent in putting across our art in enthusiastic and captivating terms. They were also able to watch youngsters Jack and Leoni ring, who had come along to last year’s open day and have since been learning at nearby Sproughton. These days do work! Well done to all concerned, especially those who arranged it.

To top a positive afternoon off, we returned home to some great news. For after all our searching the streets around us and scanning the horizon for Charlie, our neighbour popped round to tell us that they’d entered their conservatory for the first time in a couple of days to be greeted with our black and white cat dashing out!

Welcome home Charlie!

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Friday 12th October 2018

If last Saturday was 100% an adult night out, tonight was the complete opposite!

It started as soon as I departed work as I took Alfie to his first school disco. Not unexpectedly for the time of year, it had a Halloween theme and so he entered in his ghost costume, complete with mask. He enjoyed himself waving his glowstick (before he broke it!), took part in the ‘Yucky Dip’, earned a sweet by sticking his hands in various tubs of goo and dancing with his classmates. As a parent of a pupil there, one-time local ringer Jasper Dickinson was present too, but it was mainly an evening of keeping up with an intrigued Alfred whilst he explored the many stalls amongst the vast crowds of children and parents. All jolly good fun and I’m glad I took him.

No sooner had we left to pick Mason up though, a phonecall from Ruthie informed me that I needed to get back to take Joshua to hospital as he had... stuck a pea up his nostril! It may sound daft, but 111 suggested we get him to A&E within four hours and so I found myself surrounded by other poorly and injured children, one or two not looking unlike some of the kids at AJM’s Halloween school disco earlier in the evening.

Typically, the staff at Ipswich Hospital were absolutely superb, with packed waiting rooms for both youngsters and grown-ups and police present too. We were seen promptly, but even then the offending vegetable had already gone, we surmised following a couple of sneezes he’d just had. Therefore spared a three-hour wait we departed and returned home where the eldest had now arrived thanks to the generosity of his stepfather and once the youngest two had gone to bed, my wife and I finally sat back and relaxed with a takeaway and a long overdue beer.

Meanwhile, well done to Suffolk Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on ringing her first peal of London in the 5184 of the Surprise Major version rung at Rendham today. Hopefully they enjoyed their 100% adult activity!

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Thursday 11th October 2018

Passing ships come to mind on Thursdays when I am on late shifts at work.

Today, having seen Ruthie off to work after the nursery and school run this morning, we didn’t see each other again until I’d finished at John Catt this evening, briefly greeting each other before she then immediately departed for choir and then afterwards the Surprise Major Practice at Ufford, where Bristol and Rutland most notably stood out to her. In a good way I understand!

The life of the working, singing, ringing parents!

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Wednesday 10th October 2018

Sure enough, news of ringing interest came to Suffolk, after news from the continent on Monday and London yesterday. This time an email from South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson caught my attention asking for an update on who in the District will be ringing on Armistice Day in almost exactly a months time to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. It looks like ringing will be going on in most places in this corner of the Guild, which is encouraging.

Although for the SE, I’m sure similar efforts are being made in the other three corners of the SGR and it is a timely reminder that if you haven’t already arranged to be ringing to make sure you are and if you are to fill in the Ringing for Peace: Armistice 100 Participation form and return. There is further information on this very website.

There was ringing going on today as well, with three quarter-peals rung within our borders today, with a 1260 of three spliced Triples methods rung at Elveden, 1280 of six spliced Surprise Major methods at Ixworth and a 1272 of Canterbury Surprise Minor at Pettistree before the practice. Congratulations to South-West District stalwart Rolie Whiting and his wife Diana on their recent Diamond Wedding Anniversary and many thanks to the band of the latter performance for their birthday wishes!

And thank you to all who provided homegrown ringing news of interest today!

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Tuesday 9th October 2018

Being a week of late shifts at work for me, it was another quiet day on the personal ringing front, but as with yesterday, exciting ringing news gives today’s blog something of interest to ringers. On this occasion it was word that the famous bells of St Paul’s Cathedral in London were rung for the first time today since their recent restoration, with the first touch recorded on BellBoard, along with a further 120 changes of Stedman Cinques, a half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus and a video on the Bellringers Facebook page.

As well as being quiet for us, it was a quieter day on the quarter-peal and peal front in Suffolk too, according to BB at least. However, ringing’s stories of interest are getting closer to home, so God willing there will be something of interest within our borders to write of tomorrow!

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Monday 8th October 2018

Not all that long ago, the notion of partaking in the ancient English tradition of change-ringing on the European continent was quite a novelty.

Nowadays there is a thriving ringing scene across the North Sea and English Channel. According to BellBoard, there have been 170 quarter-peals rung at ‘t Klockhuys in Dordrecht in the Netherlands, starting with the first there ten years ago and 335 peals – tallying with Pealbase - since that same June weekend in 2008. And despite only being installed last year, the eight of Ypres have been pealed eleven times and quarter-pealed twenty-one times. That’s before we mention the performances on handbells and mini-rings.

Fundraising is most of the way to its £115k target to install a ring of ten at Vernet-les-Bains in France, with the plan being to cast by Taylor’s between November and January, installed in the spring of 2019, rung for service on Easter Sunday and dedicated in just under a year’s time on Sunday 29th September.

Today it was announced that there are plans for another ring of ten, back in Dordrecht, this time at the Grote Kerk which towers above the Dutch town, with the faculty granted and the Keltek Trust donating the back four from an eight-bell chime in Low Harrogate in North Yorkshire. At nearly 17cwt, they would be the heaviest bells in continental Europe hung for changing-ringing, but having been shown round the tower by Paul de Kok many years ago, I can vouch that there will be plenty of space for them!

It was just about the only thing to report from a ringing perspective today though, with my late shift at work meaning that – as usual – there wasn’t time to make it to St Mary-le-Tower practice and there were no performances recorded on BellBoard.

It seems that things are more exciting on the continent at the moment!

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Sunday 7th October 2018

Having changed our plans to walk into Woodbridge yesterday due to the persistent rain, our car was used to take us in and left in the car-park of The Red Lion overnight and so it had to be a walk to St Mary’s this morning, even if it had have been safe to drive so soon after a heavy night out.

There we were reunited with the children as Kate and Ron came to church and brought the boys along at the start of a day that was probably busier than we needed with self-induced sore heads, but which was nonetheless very enjoyable.

Following ringing on the front six of the 25cwt eight, the harvest service and junior church (which saw the many children present asked to make bread mice and Alfie make a bread spider), we made our way to The Coach and Horses for a meal to celebrate the mother-in-law’s recent birthday with the star of the show herself, Ron and Ruthie’s sister Clare and her family.

We weren’t finished there though, as we had arranged a playdate with Alfred’s friend from when he was at nursery, Ralph, who met us in Melton Park with his little brother Lucien and father Chris before coming back to ours for a bit of tea.

Other ringers were busy ringing meanwhile, especially Mike Cowling who rang in both quarter-peals scored upon Suffolk’s bells today – a 1264 of Plain Bob Major on the back eight of Beccle’s 25cwt ten and 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree.

For us though, it was a quiet evening in, wishing we’d also left our hangovers in The Red Lion’s car park!

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Saturday 6th October 2018

Ringing at Aylsham on SE District Outing. Ringing at Aylsham on SE District Outing. Ringing at Aylsham on SE District Outing.

After last Saturday, I have to admit that I wasn’t completely certain that I would be going on today’s South-East District Outing when I woke up this morning, but without any surprises pulled upon me the five of us found ourselves at the ten of Aylsham, the first tower of the aforementioned tour of north Norfolk and the first of a brace of towers that we could get tea and cake from! Here the ringing included some Plain Bob Royal that I pulled the tenor in to before we joined others directly under the ringing chamber for some much needed refreshment after a long journey following the not unexpected morning rush to get three boys up, fed and dressed in time, especially after their late night yesterday!

Ringing at Reepham on SE District Outing. Ringing at Reepham on SE District Outing. Ringing at Reepham on SE District Outing.

The second tower to offer food and drink was Reepham. Or strictly speaking, the redundant parish church of Whitwell, which sits adjacent to the town’s church, but serves as its parish hall and houses its 8cwt eight, as neatly explained on Simon Knott’s Norfolk Churches, the sister website to his superb Suffolk Churches website. And very nicely done it is too, with the bells rung from a mezzanine built just at the start of the decade that also gave us the space to gather alongside the ringing chamber whilst overlooking the café below. And also for Tracey Scase to collect ringing fees for the day!

Ringing at North Elmham on the SE District Outing. Ringing at North Elmham on the SE District Outing. Ringing at North Elmham on the SE District Outing. At The Blue Boar in Great Ryburgh for lunch on SE District Outing.

After these two bustling buildings and nice bells, North Elmham didn’t compare overly favourably, with the 14cwt octave in particular proving a bigger challenge for the less experienced amongst our number. Yet I enjoyed them and we produced the best ringing that I heard over the day, as we climaxed our visit here with half-a-course of well-rung Yorkshire Surprise Major and a good lower, before we went for a lovely lunch at The Blue Boar Inn at Great Ryburgh, served specially for us as this fine establishment doesn’t usually offer lunch on Saturdays.

om Scase and Ralph Earey ringing the tenor up at Fakenham on the SE District Outing. Ringing at Fakenham on the SE District Outing. Ringing at Fakenham on the SE District Outing.

We didn’t ring at the 12cwt six across the road that has become well known over the last four years in the exercise for its wonderful tribute to those from the village who lost their lives in the First World War a century ago, rather making our way to nearby Fakenham and the nice 19cwt eight there.

Our fellow ringers were to head on to North Creake and Little Walsingham, but for us it was our last tower of the day, our travelling made all the more enjoyable for listening on the radio to Ipswich Town’s first win of the season – and Paul Hurst’s first as manager of ITFC – in dramatic style, the late winner dangerously coming precisely as I turned off the A140 to the B1077! That came at the end of what I considered a very successful day, with about twenty-five from across the SE District taking part in the outing, including learners Kate and Martin. Thank you to District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson for arranging it and to Chairman Mark Ogden for running things on the day as Jonathan had to work and was therefore unable to enjoy the fruits of his labours.

Our reason for not being able to hang around was that we needed to be back to drop the boys off to mother-in-law Kate who for the second week running bravely but very kindly agreed to having all three brothers – and their cousins – at hers for a sleepover, enabling us to enjoy the next part of my dragged out, pre-emptive celebration of the forthcoming fortieth anniversary of my birth.

On this occasion, it was an extremely rare proper, child-free booze-up with best friends Kala and Toby around Woodbridge. It was a real step back in time, taking us to The Red Lion, The Old Mariner and The Angel and although the former pair of taverns were depressingly and worryingly quiet for a weekend evening, the last was reassuringly heaving. Most importantly though, it was a great night catching up with friends.

I wonder what excitement next Saturday might bring?

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Friday 5th October 2018

We experienced an unexpected dose of ringing fellowship this afternoon. On a logistically testing day at work for mother-in-law Kate Eagle, she needed someone to let in a group of visiting ringers to Ufford. With my last early shift of the week at John Catt Educational and Ruthie on a week off, we were both available to help out and duly trundled along to the 13cwt eight to ring the treble and tenor up and let in the visitors, whom it transpired were the ‘Griffin Ringers’, the organisation for ringers – and their family - who work for or have worked for HSBC. They were from across the country as you might expect for such a society, but there was Suffolk representation in the form of  Richard Rapior of Aldeburgh and Ruth Young of Hopton and so we stuck around to catch up with them as well as partake in some Grandsire Triples – as a former employee of the bank, I enjoyed ringing with some fellow HSBCers!

We were impressed with the ringing on show, with some good striking and even the only piece that didn’t go – some Stedman Triples doing what Stedman does – was halted before it festered, which is precisely the right approach for ringing outings where one is making a noise on other people’s bells. And – also essential to prevent ringing fatigue setting in on any tour lasting more than two or three days – there was an eclectic range of ringing, from call-changes to Surprise Major and also some Middlesex Bob Triples as something different.

We were able to tell Kate all about it this evening as we and the boys joined my wife’s sister Clare and her girls and Grandad Ron at Mrs Eagle’s abode to celebrate our host’s birthday, complete with chocolate cake and a collective effort from her grandchildren to blow the candles out! Happy Birthday Kate!

Meanwhile, the FNQPC were typically successful with a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor and earlier in the day a peal was rung at Brandon remembering Pat and Trevor Bailey and particularly Past Guild Ringing Master J Martin Thorley, on what would’ve been his 88th birthday if he was still alive. Three ringers still fondly remembered, highlighting the strength of ringing fellowship.

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Thursday 4th October 2018

A busy day of ringing on Suffolk’s bells today, with the visiting “Griffin Ringers” – the ringing organisation for employees past and present of HSBC and their family – scoring a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Woolpit, whilst another Buxhall resident who died a century ago in the First World War was remembered with a quarter-peal on the village’s 15cwt gallery-ring of six, this time a 1260 of Childwall Bob Minor. And a peal of seven Surprise Minor methods was rung on the lovely ground-floor six of Tannington.

Not such a busy day on the ringing front for us personally though. In fact, we did no ringing at all, even with an afternoon free following an early shift and Ruthie on annual leave this week.

I’m glad other ringers in Suffolk were busier!

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Wednesday 3rd October 2018

This afternoon Ruthie and I attended a phonics session at Alfie’s school, something offered to us parents of the school’s newcomers to help the teachers to help our children with their reading and speech. Of particular importance amongst much else are words that sound the same but are spelt differently. Wood and would or pain and pane for example. And peal and peel.

Later I was partaking in the latter example. Not in the sense of taking the skin off an orange, rather ringing in a 5040 at The Wolery. The 1hr42mins reminded me of some of the earlier peals that Ruthie and I rang in the little blue shed which were nearly all exhilarating, brisk performances of Minor. The final extent of Plain Bob was especially enjoyable this evening.

Earlier in the day, David Salter and Mary Dunbavin were also in a peal of Doubles at Elmsett, whilst the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree of Wooler Surprise Minor was also successful and – like our peal in Ipswich – dedicated to the forthcoming birthday of mother-in-law Kate Eagle, as well as Wickham Market Ringing Master Ray Lewis.

Or Ray Loo-is for those who aren’t up on their phonetics.

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Tuesday 2nd October 2018

Last week I happened across a quarter-peal rung at Wisbech. I’m not sure why as it was simply a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles, so it didn’t particularly stand out in the long list of performances rung last Wednesday, but presumably being bored I clicked on it to find a bit of a surprise. It appears that there is now another ringing Chris Garner other than our Guild Webmaster and since then it set me wondering what other identically named ringers there are.

Currently as far as I can make out and that I can recall, there are a number of pairs of ringers with the same name, including twice Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master David Salter, who shares his name with the Hampshire ringer, there is a brace of John Harrolds, there are two regular peal-ringers called Simon Edwards and two Matthew Jones, who also share the same middle initial meaning that they are often named on BellBoard as ‘the Durham one’ (TDO) and ‘the Nottingham one’ (TNO). I’m sure there are others too and I wonder if anyone has had the bright idea of ringing a quarter or peal with bands entirely made up of name twins.

To my knowledge, there is no other ringing Richard Munnings and so arranging such a performance wasn’t occupying my time today and indeed – as is usual for a Tuesday – we weren’t doing any ringing at all, but others were, with Past SGR Chairman Winston Girling ringing his six hundredth peal in the 5040 at Hacheston. Congratulations Winston!

There’s only one Winston Girling...

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Monday 1st October 2018

It was a fantastic weekend and as mentioned I was extremely touched – and delighted – that Ruthie went to so much trouble for li’l ol’ me, but as I travelled to St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, it occurred to me that it meant I hadn’t partaken in any ringing for eight days, an age even in my current circumstances.

Therefore I was simply pleased to be ringing again when I made it to SMLT and glad that I could help out with a session that was low on numbers, but high on quality, especially on eight. Sonia improved greatly as she got further into Plain Hunt on Seven, Karina rang call-changes on the front octave well and Sue Williamson was part of the band that rang in some of the best Stedman Triples I have rung in for some time, as well as trebling to a faultless, well-rung course of Superlative Surprise Major. We stretched ourselves a bit too far with those present on ten and twelve, but even then we climaxed with a very enjoyable half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Royal to complete a great night out in Ipswich.

Hopefully there will be more in attendance in the coming weeks. The loss of Colin and George Salter and more recently Laura Davies and Louis Suggett have been a blow, so all are welcome and needed to fill that sizeable gap. Those already relatively proficient on ten and twelve would be great and to a certain extent necessary whilst we still harbour any ambitions of competing in the National Twelve-Bell Contest in the near future and consistently make it worthwhile people travelling the distances that they do to ring here on a Monday night, but we also want and need those who could work their way up to high-standard twelve-bell ringing. It has been great having ringers like Mervyn and Tracey Scase and Richard Weeks in recent months – even more would be superb!

For tonight though, it was a satisfactory session in the circumstances and it would’ve been lovely to top it off with a drink in the pub afterwards, but it is a week of early shifts this week, which means a pre-dawn start tomorrow and saw me up in the darkness at the start of the day. As usual this was cushioned with an early finish and even more so by Ruthie having the day off, allowing us to spend a lazy afternoon together.

I was still pleased to get back to ringing as well though!

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Sunday 30th September 2018

On a glorious sunny autumn morning, we awoke in the wonderful Valley Farmhouse B&B, a place whose address places it in Westhall but is essentially in the very middle of nowhere. This glorious isolation left us with a logistical conundrum though.

Ideally we wanted to get back earlier rather than later, to see the children and rescue Kate and Ron from their kind child-sitting duties, especially as they needed to get somewhere else, but in order to do that we needed to catch the 10.36 train from Halesworth – almost four miles away. Admittedly we should’ve thought of this much earlier, but it occurred to us that the only way we were going to get there was by taxi or by foot. With all the local cabs understandably booked at such short notice, we looked at the time and realised that we had fifty-five minutes to make a journey that Google told us would take 1hr10mins to walk, we hastily finished our breakfast, scooped up our belongings, bade a passing farewell to Mouse the horse who had been immediately adjacent to our abode for the night and began our mammoth stomp through the beautiful surrounding countryside.

With long distance walking and running not really our thing, it seemed unlikely that we would make it and so as we walked/ran we began contemplating what to do in Halesworth until the next train left at 12.36pm, especially with 9-9.30 morning ringing at the 18cwt ground-floor eight long passed. Yet somehow we found ourselves on the 10.36 train, shattered but relieved.

It all meant that the collection of the children was less stressful than anticipated as we enjoyed a couple of cuppas as the mother-in-law told us how good the boys had been, including at Pettistree for ringing this morning, before we settled down for a necessarily slow afternoon.

Not so for other ringers in Suffolk. There was another quarter-peal at Buxhall in memory of a villager lost in the First World War a century ago, this time William Girt, a distant relative of Ipswich St Margaret Ringing Master and former Guild Secretary John who rang the tenor to today’s 1260 of Doubles.

Meanwhile, well done to Clare Goodchild on ringing her first quarter-peal of Surprise Major in the 1280 of Cambridge at Hollesley. We were kindly asked to ring in this evening’s attempt, but after our excesses of the weekend I’m glad we didn’t say yes and ruin what I’m sure was a lovely quarter. To be fair, there was a point this morning when we weren’t convinced we would’ve made it back in time anyway!

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Saturday 29th September 2018

Right up until I got out of bed this morning, I had fully expected to be telling you all about the Hollesley and Pettistree outing to north Essex today. Instead, whilst our ringing peers enjoyed the bells of Great Easton, Great Dunmow, Thaxted, Great Bardfield and Finchingfield, I found myself somewhere completely other.

In just over a fortnight (on the 15th October to be precise, for those wishing to buy drinks, send cards, money and/or an abundance of presents), it will be exactly four decades since I was born and so Ruthie had spent months planning a surprise weekend away, completely unbeknown to me until I had risen from my slumbers to begin readying the three boys to get to the 9.30am start at the 11cwt six that was kicking-off the outing sixty miles and about an hour’s drive away, when my wife gleefully informed me that in fact that wasn’t to be our destination this morning.

That was just about the only information she imparted initially, but gradually more detail came out. The brothers were to be taken to mother-in-law Kate who was very kindly putting the boys up for the night and once they’d been dropped off it became apparent that we were to be travelling to our location by train. Even then, as I stood on the platform at Melton station, I didn’t know whether we were travelling north towards Lowestoft or south towards Ipswich. A remark about a connection prompted me to think that it was probably the latter, until the train arrived from the opposite direction I was expecting, at which point the penny dropped that the connection was with a bus and knowing that we had often spoken about going on the Adnams Brewery Tour since my then fiancée went there for her hen do six years ago, I realised that we were off to Southwold.

Bellringers feature in Adnams’ history. Tower of St Edmund King & Martyr stands over Adnams Store in Siuthwold. ‘Bellringer’ Southwold Jack on the front of Adnams Brewery.

And what a great place to be on a bright sunny day! Lunch and a pint at the Sole Bay Inn, a wander around this wonderful coastal town and a superb tour at the nearby brewery where we learnt how much of a part that ringers and bells play in the history of one of the most famous companies in the country. Apparently The Swan Hotel – the brewer’s flagship venue – was rebuilt after the Great Fire of Southwold in 1659 (which incidentally is the reason behind all the greens in the community which were built as fire-breaks to prevent such a fire spreading throughout the town’s buildings) in order “to provide refreshment for bellringers, soldiers and bailiffs” and their logo ‘Southwold Jack’ is referred to as a bellringer, although only in the sense that he used to strike the hours on a church bell with his battleaxe. Everyday is a school day... All topped off by a trip to the Adnams Store in the shadow of the tower of St Edmund King & Martyr which holds the 10cwt eight here.

Once the bus had eventually arrived (several minutes late despite sitting in a nearby car-park from several minutes before it was due to leave – and people wonder why rural folk always use their cars), we journeyed back to Halesworth where we enjoyed a couple of pints in The Angel before catching a taxi to my final surprise – the fantastic Valley Farmhouse B&B in Westhall where we were to spend the night. This is a wonderfully done up place, where we had a horse as a neighbour and were surrounded by nothing but fields, yet we still found the opportunity to wander across to the nearest pub, the Huntsman & Hounds in Spexhall. It can’t be said to have been particularly lively for a Saturday evening with the only customers in the bar with us being a group of old men discussing football and watching the Ryder Cup on the TV, but it was nice to simply sit in a pub with a relaxing drink without trying to keep children happy or needing to get them home for bed, as much as we missed them.

Whilst I was unexpectedly enjoying a weekend away, other ringers from Suffolk besides our friends from Hollesley and Pettistree were busy ringing, with another couple of quarter-peals rung for the solemn cause of remembering those who died a century ago in the First World War, with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Monks Eleigh rung in memory of those lost from the village and a 1260 of Pinehurst Bob Minor, sadly yet another rung at Buxhall for a local young man killed one hundred years ago.

Personally it was a lot quieter from a ringing perspective, but whilst I would usually be disappointed to be missing a day out ringing, I was genuinely touched by what my wife has organised this weekend – thank you Ruthie!

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Friday 28th September 2018

We were grateful to Ruthie’s mother Kate for looking after Alfie today whilst he was off school, allowing (once I’d dropped the boy off at the office, in the process parking in the way of the returning hearse!) my wife and me to go to our respective jobs today.

There was no ringing for ourselves or Kate today, but the FNQPC were achieving at Ashbocking, most particularly Tracey Scase, Tig Sweet, Robert Scase and Stephen Christian who were ringing their first quarter-peal of Netherseale Surprise Minor. Well done Tracey, Tig, Robert and Podge!

And thank you Kate.

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Thursday 27th September 2018

Towards the end of yesterday’s school day we got a call asking us to take Alfie home because he was poorly with a stomach bug of some sort. He doesn’t seem overly ill – he shovelled down the contents of our cupboards after his return – but such are the understandable rules in institutions where they are responsible for other people’s children that they won’t have him back today or tomorrow.

Today wasn’t too much trouble though as Ruthie had a planned day off anyway and so they pottered about shoe-hunting whilst I had a late shift at work and arrangements were hastily made for tomorrow.

Still, with my wife also popping to choir practice as soon as I returned from the office it left no time for any ringing, but there is plenty planned with another new month due.

God willing, October has much lined up for Suffolk’s ringers, once September has been seen out with Friday’s North-East District Eight-Bell Practice at Southwold and Sunday’s South-West District Practice at St Peter’s in Sudbury and the Blessing of the Bells at Little Cornard.

As ever the NE has much lined up and I hope they go better than was intimated in the footnote to Tuesday’s quarter-peal at Halesworth. Another Triples and Major Practice is lined up there next month for Tuesday 23rd, whilst the District has other Eight-Bell Practices at Bungay on Monday 8th and Leiston on Friday 26th, as well as Six-Bell Practices at Chediston in a week’s time, Reydon on the 15th and Worlingham on Thursday 25th, with the usual monthly Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles pencilled in for next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the other Districts have events planned too. By all accounts the turnout for the South-East’s Outing to Norfolk is looking a lot healthier for Saturday 6th but more would always be welcome and ADM season begins with the North-West at Stowmarket on the 13th and the South-West at Hadleigh on the 27th. And if all should go to plan then Second Tuesday Ringing on the 9th will go to Halesworth and Rumburgh, whilst the Helmingham Monthly Practice takes place on the evening of the 19th.

Please note the dates and help and/or be helped wherever you can. We will aim to, illness allowing.

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Wednesday 26th September 2018

The Suffolk Guild Facebook page showed its usefulness by giving invaluable information for anyone looking to journey out to Offton or Rendham practices in the near future. There is no session at the former next Tuesday (2nd October) and starting from 5th October, Friday evening learning will begin at 7.30 rather than the current 6pm.

There were no changes to the usual Wednesday practice at Pettistree this evening though, which Ruthie attended with her mother Kate and where Mike Cowling was keen to refresh his memory on a collection of Surprise Minor methods that included Bacup and Bamborough in readiness for some planned forthcoming quarter-peals and was preceded by the normal QP success.
Whilst my wife’s night continued on to The Greyhound for a drink, I was at home, keeping up with the practice nights of Suffolk’s towers!

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Tuesday 25th September 2018

Armistice Day is just forty-seven days away. An important day to ring for every year as those who sacrifice their lives in our names are solemnly remembered, with bells usually playing an important part of the proceedings.

This year though, there is more emphasis than ever before on the 11th November as it marks precisely one hundred years since the end of the First World War, the culmination of over four years of events, stories and of course ringing remembering that awful conflict a century on. For the exercise the day will hopefully serve to see as many bells as possible ringing on Remembrance Sunday and I hope everyone who can, will ring where they can. A small ask when one considers what others were being asked to do between 1914 and 1918 to allow us such liberties.

However, since 4th August 2014, the art has already done much to mark the anniversary of the ugly scar on human history in the hope that those who fought – and particularly those who lost their lives doing so – are not forgotten, and the mistakes not repeated. Most notably and positively of all, Ringing Remembers’ seemingly ambitious target of recruiting 1,400 new ringers in months to symbolically the replace the 1,400 ringers lost in four years of warfare ten decades ago, has been absolutely smashed, with the last update I saw announcing that over 1,700 have been recruited. A new ring of bells has been installed in the English church built in Ypres to remember the British dead. Individual towers though have also done their bit marking the deaths of ringers, villagers and relatives with touches, quarters and peals, but two in particular come to mind, at least in this region.

One is Great Ryburgh in Norfolk, where a sobering forty pealsthe latest rung just last Friday - have been rung on the six here, on handbells or nearby rings, involving many Suffolk ringers and including one rung for the Guild in March last year.

The other is here within our borders at Buxhall, where thirteen quarter-peals had been rung to mark the deaths of residents from this small community in this wasteful war thus far. And number fourteen was rung today, a 1260 of Buxton Bob Minor in memory of Frederick Ladson Steggles. A sad indication of the reach of the fighting on foreign soil so far away.

It was one of three QPs rung in the county on this late September day, with a 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Halesworth and a pre-practice 1296 of Oxford Treble Bob and Cambridge Surprise Minor at Offton. Congratulations to Past SGR Chairman Philip Gorrod on ringing his one hundredth in the medium on his local bells in the former.

There was less of interest from a personal perspective today, especially on the ringing front, but God willing that won’t be the case on 11th November.

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Monday 24th September 2018

Little Cornard.The restoration and rehanging of the five at Little Cornard and augmentation to six has been much anticipated for several years and this week there is a real sense that it’s culmination is nigh. If all goes to plan, the bells will be returned on Friday in readiness for a blessing on the floor by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich – and President of the Suffolk Guild – the Rt Revd Martin Seeley at 3pm on Sunday and ahead of aiming to get the bells hung to ring for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War on 11th November and a dedication on Saturday 1st December being led by the Bishop of Dunwich, the Rt Reverend Mike Harrison. All outlined in an article on the East Anglian Daily Times website today. Exciting times!

Today was less exciting from a ringing perspective though, especially as a late shift at work left no time to make it to St Mary-le-Tower practice.

Here’s to what will God willing be more interesting days in Little Cornard.

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Sunday 23rd September 2018

Saturday 6th October is the date pencilled in for the South-East District Outing, brought forward a month from its usual November slot in the hope of getting better, warmer weather and more daylight hours and anecdotally I believe quite a few are planning on joining it. However, District Chairman Mark Ogden – who is running things as Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson is unable to come along due to work commitments – has heard from only a handful of members. Just enough to make the travelling to Norfolk viable, but not enough to justify the pub for lunch – The Blue Boar in Great Ryburgh – opening specially, as it is just for us. Therefore, if you are intending on coming along and especially if you are planning on lunching with us, then please do let 07860 288086, know as soon as possible. And if you’re not intending on joining us then please do reconsider – a lot of effort goes into arranging these and it would be a pity if as many as possible didn’t come along and make it worthwhile arranging.

It was a subject that came up during the post-ringing refreshment in Costa Coffee after manning the bells for service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, with the final piece being a touch of Grandsire Cinques timed perfectly by conductor David Potts to finish bang on 9.30!

We were shorter on numbers at Grundisburgh following my hot chocolate and bi-weekly herding of the children through Ipswich town centre, with the most notable absentee being Ringing Master Stephen Pettman with an upset stomach. Even with regular visitor from Surrey Peter Emery we only totalled seven ringers, but what we produced was reasonable.

My participation in some call-changes on seven was my last ringing of the day though, with our afternoon mainly taken up with celebrating the first birthday of Oscar, the son of our friends Toby and Amy, a super opportunity for the children to play together and us adults to catch-up.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, ringers were doing more ringing. Whilst there was a 1260 of Plain Bob Triples rung at NDA tower Lowestoft, it was at The Norman Tower that the main ringing headline in the county was made, with Nathan Colman ringing his first of Maximus in the 1346 of Yorkshire Surprise in Bury St Edmunds. Well done Nathan!

Such a note is a good one to reflect upon today, but God willing SE District members will give us more good to reflect upon on 6th October.

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Saturday 22nd September 2018

Following last Saturday’s lost peal attempt at Pettistree in memory of Gill Waterson, it was lovely to successfully ring a 5040 for her at another tower special to her and for whom she was special to them, Bredfield. Double Court Bob Minor – one of Gill’s favourites – was again rung, but unlike last week where the plan was to ring Double Court all the way, it merely made up the first extent and was followed up with extents of St Clement’s College Bob, Kent Treble Bob, Double Oxford Bob, Cambridge Surprise, Plain Bob and Norwich Surprise.

Note left on the church door at Bredfield for our peal attempt. Peal band at Bredfield after the peal, with the ropes of the back three. L to r; Mary Garner, Micheal Pilgrim, Mark Ogden, Mike Cowling, Richard Munnings & Mike Whitby.Apart from the reason for ringing this, it was a pleasing score for many reasons. It was a new tower for my peal records and it largely justified why I think peal-ringing is the best medium for getting really good ringing, for after a tenuous start that even saw us have restart after just a few changes, we finished with some pretty decent stuff, especially the Plain Bob. Although it wasn’t a day for anyone called Mike to go wrong! And I loved the note that local Ringing Master Michael Pilgrim (who had also very kindly rung the bells up for us this morning) had put on the doors to the church and stairs to this gallery-ring of six. Not only was it touching in its own right, but it left anyone enquiring – either curious or irate – in no doubt why we were ringing and when we would be ringing until. We could do with more notes like these to inform neighbours when extra ringing – especially peals – is taking place at towers.

With Ruthie at work, I was grateful to my parents for looking after Alfie and Joshua at theirs and beforehand whilst ringing for a wedding at Woodbridge and to Katharine Salter and especially her son Henry for inviting Mason out to adventure golf at Ufford Park, ten-pin bowling at Kingpin and some food in honour of young Mr Salter’s eleventh birthday.All in all, it was a more interesting, satisfying and pleasing day than last Saturday.

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Friday 21st September 2018

I am reluctant to credit myself with achievements, figuring that is up to others to judge what – if anything - I do well, but apart from hoping I am good at parenthood, I would at least say that I have a modicum of skill in ringing. However, this afternoon I discovered a couple of new skills I wasn’t really aware of – foraging and crumble making.

Being on early shifts at work this week and with mother-in-law Kate away and needing her animals to be fed, I decided to walk up to hers. Yesterday I happened across a box of cooking apples that were being given away and it struck me what a good idea it would be to make a crumble and so I gathered some up. Having gone via a route avoiding the main roads and thus through much woodland and past many blackberries, I decided to take the same journey today, this time armed with a tub to collect said blackberries and on my return home made an apple and blackberry crumble!

It was enjoyed during an evening that – once the five of us had been gathered together from their various locations of the day – saw no opportunity for ringing.

Nor was there any performances on Suffolk’s bells recorded on BellBoard. Perhaps the county’s ringers were all busy utilising their other skills!

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Thursday 20th September 2018

A decade ago this year, some of us took part in the Eastern version of the BBC’s Inside Out show. Although ringing recruitment generally was touched upon, it was primarily focused upon the simulator at Hollesley, which at the time was still in its relative infancy and a bit of a novelty in Suffolk. It came about from an email that I sent to the show, but most of the legwork was carried out by Alan McBurnie and the result was amongst the best PR ringing within our borders over the last few years. I was impressed with how much they crammed into our eight minute slot and we couldn’t really complain about the production, with much care taken over getting everything right, which isn’t always the case when the media cover our art. Come broadcasting and pinning down an actual date that it would appear on the airwaves and things got vaguer, with a date announced and then pushed back. Eventually we had to share our fame with Barack Obama the day after his historic election as US President.

It is how TV works though and it was at it again today as the feature on Blue Peter covering the summer’s Ringing World National Youth Contest, which had been billed as happening this afternoon failed to materialise. Having missed the Central Council’s announcement a couple of days ago that it had been postponed until 5.30pm on Thursday 22nd November, we tuned in to watch the episode on iPlayer, encouraged by the accompanying blurb promising that “Lindsey attempts the art of bell ringing” and found no mention of it amongst various magic tricks and a report on volleyball. Disappointing, but God willing we’ll be able to enjoy it in a couple of months time.

That was to be a ringing highlight of a quiet day in the exercise personally, but instead that honour goes to Ruth Young on ringing her first quarter-peal of Annable’s London Surprise Minor in the 1320 rung at Tostock. Well done Ruth! Good job it wasn’t on TV or else who knows when it would’ve happened!

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Wednesday 19th September 2018

Our house was a full one this evening, as in addition to the four of us – plus cat – who are usually here on a Wednesday night, we put up the boys’ cousins Katelynn and Annalise and their gerbils overnight for reasons logistically sound, but longwinded.

It was nice to have a busy house and particularly to see the children playing together, but it perhaps wasn’t what I needed after an early shift at work, sleepless afternoon and a visit to the dentist was typically painful on both the gums and wallet! And getting four excitable small people to bed and – crucially – to sleep meant there was no practical way of getting out to ringing, although it doesn’t look like Pettistree missed us, at least judging by the pre-practice quarter-peal.

That 1296 of Ipswich Surprise Minor was one of a brace of quarters rung in Suffolk today, with the other being a 1250 of Turramurra Surprise Major at Henley, which was a first in the method for Clare Veal, David Steed, Clive Dunbavin and conductor Lesley Steed – well done Clare, David, Clive and Lesley!

I expect they had a more relaxing evening than us!

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Tuesday 18th September 2018

So early did I start today, that I encountered someone clearly just finishing yesterday on my walk to work this morning. He was loudly leaving the house of one of our neighbours at exactly the same point as I was stepping out into the darkness and although I tried to avoid him as he staggered and swayed drunkenly across the empty street whilst he concentrated hard at texting on his phone, I unavoidably ended up right in front of him. Presumably not expecting anyone else to be out at such an hour, I think this scared him, judging by how far he jumped, the sharp expletives and the shell-shocked muttering as we continued on in opposite directions to each other. Never have I chuckled so much so early in the day!

Unlikely that he will be taking a calligraphy course in that state, but when he has sobered up he could take one up which was highlighted on the College Youths’ Facebook page this afternoon as it was being marketed with an image of the Society’s beautiful peal book. The course is open to Cumberlands too I believe!

Some of the names featured in that peal book were performing in Suffolk towers today, with a pre-practice quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Offton and a peal of Bristol Surprise Major rung at Bardwell in memory of the great uncle of Ruth Suggett – and therefore great great uncle of her son Louis – Serjeant Aaron Williams, precisely a century on from his untimely death in action during the First World War. Pleasing that they scored and – looking at the band – I imagine scored well.

No ringing for us personally though, as my early finish saw me do nothing else other than collect Alfie from school and look after a grumpy Joshua whilst Alfred had his haircut. Those early shifts have to be useful for something more than simply scaring late-night revellers!

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Monday 17th September 2018

This afternoon, following an early shift at work, I took the cat to the vets, did the shopping and collected Alfie, Joshua and Ruthie from where they had all spent the day. Contentment reigns, but I admit it wasn’t overly adventurous or exciting.

In contrast, later this week St Mary-le-Tower ringers Louis Suggett and Laura Davies leave for Bratislava for something truly exciting and adventurous, as they begin teaching English as a foreign language in the capital of Slovakia. Thus tonight’s practice at SMLT was their final one before they set off for life on the continent and of course quite possibly their last as regulars. After all, they are a smart young couple and this new chapter will open all sorts of doors. From a purely selfish point of view I hope they return appreciating how wonderful Suffolk life is and settle back here, but of course – like so many others before them – they have to do what is best for them.

Whatever the future may hold for them, I think we gave them a decent session as a send-off this evening. I arrived as London (No.3) Surprise Royal was being rung and this was followed by – amongst much else – Lincolnshire Surprise Royal and well-rung half-courses of Yorkshire and then Cambridge Surprise Maximus. Even the Stedman Cinques that some of us feared may be tempting fate right at the end went well!

Sadly, with another very early start in the office in the morning, I couldn’t bade my departing peers farewell with a drink in The Cricketers (where most others ended up as usual after an experimental trip to The Old Rep was aborted before it even began with salsa classes being held there!), but I still enjoyed my night out in Ipswich.

Here’s hoping for more adventures, but in the meantime, best of luck to Louis and Laura! Please come back!

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Sunday 16th September 2018

If there is ever a top ten most memorable entries from this blog made, I can’t imagine today would be included.

I did do some ringing, helping man the front six at Woodbridge this morning for service ringing as Alfie watched on, before we attended said service. And there were four performances recorded on BellBoard from across the county. One of those was the quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples rung at NDA tower Lowestoft, whilst there was also a 1260 of Double Oxford Bob Minor at Buxhall in memory of Lesley Steed’s uncle and Somerset and latterly Cornwall ringer Richard Dudden. Condolences to Lesley and her family. There was also a 1296 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Pettistree, but undoubtedly the most impressive effort came courtesy of Ian Culham pulling in the heaviest bell in Suffolk as he rang the tenor to a peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the back eight at St Mary-le-Tower. Of course the 34cwt 1976 John Taylor bell has been pulled in to peals of Royal and Maximus, but I can’t even find the last time it was pulled in to Major in the medium. Indeed, as far as I can tell, you have to go back almost ten years since it was even pulled into a QP, when Nigel Newton rang it to a 1280 of Yorkshire in 2009. Ian is to be congratulated on his efforts, even if his fingers are now destroyed!

It was supposed to be an ASCY peal as part of the society’s Peal Weekend, but with us College Youths somewhat outnumbered in these parts by Cumberland Youths anyway, David Potts out of ringing action and myself unable to commit to a peal, it proved too difficult to get a band on a weekend when most College Youths’ were already quite busy! I was disappointed not to be able to partake in a peal for the society on this occasion, but having already agreed to ring in yesterday morning’s attempt for Gill Waterson and with weekends being the only concerted time I usually get to spend with the boys (especially Mason), I didn’t feel I could say yes to another four or five hours away from them. I am glad that if nothing else it was an SGR peal.

Although it was lovely to spend quality time with the family, it did mean the rest of our day was fairly mundane. The grass was cut, plants cleared back and I even got the eldest son to tidy his bedroom.

Mason with Kevin Beattie.And ultimately it was all tinged with sadness for us Ipswich Town football fans with the news that the best ever ITFC player (and indeed the best English player of his time according to none other than the late, great Sir Bobby Robson) Kevin Beattie – who featured in this blog last year when Mason and I met him at the footy – passed away overnight.

No, today will not go down as the one of the best.

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Saturday 15th September 2018

Sometimes a peal loss is greeted with disappointment and relief in equal measure and this morning’s at Pettistree was such a case. Disappointment because it was for a special person, Gill Waterson who recently passed away, being rung at her home tower in her favourite six-bell method, Double Court Bob Minor and had been producing some extremely good ringing. Relief though, because the loss incurred just thirty-five minutes or so in, rather than much, much later.

However, such an early finish meant that The Greyhound was yet to open and so the band dispersed in a low-key fashion, but that did mean that folk could get off and make use of the extra two hours they suddenly had. For me, that was being brought home by mother-in-law Kate who very kindly took and returned me from the attempt, thus allowing me extra time with the family and to do some mundane but necessary tasks. This afternoon, that included wandering into Woodbridge to do some shopping and visit Elmhurst Park.

It wasn’t very exciting, nor ringing-related and unusually Suffolk ringing was unable to offer me anything else to report on, although I imagine that the Stowmarket Tower Open Day and North-West District Practice at Horringer were successful events. For all the equal measure of disappointment and relief, I’m sorry we couldn’t add a peal in memory of Gill to today’s ringing news.

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Friday 14th September 2018

Lovely today to see a peal rung in celebration of the significant birthday of David Stanford, a ringer invaluable to Suffolk ringing and especially in these parts as one capable and willing on twelve whilst also teaching bands at Burgh and Clopton.

Accompanying the 5060 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Orford on the county’s bells was a brace of a quarter-peals, with a 1299 of Doubles at Monewden and 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at the anti-clockwise six of Pakenham rung within our borders on a Friday that saw me working a late shift, thus leaving no time for us to join in the ringing.

Thank God for those who were then and especially the likes of David Stanford!

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Thursday 13th September 2018

Our week of chance meetings with ringers on the streets of Melton continued. Today’s was with St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies, at an exciting time for her and Louis. Next week they head off overseas for a while to teach English as a foreign language and they will be much missed. Your final opportunities to see them ringing before they leave will be Sunday morning and Monday night at SMLT – they deserve a good send-off!

No such adventures await us, but it was a busy day nonetheless. During the day, in amongst doing our jobs, we had to arrange for a poorly Joshua to be collected from nursery and were ultimately grateful to Granny Kate for helping out and allowing us both to stay at work and not let down our respective employers, especially as it was on top of her occasional duty to collect Alfie from school.

Come the evening and a fleeting greeting following my arrival home from a late shift at John Catt Educational and Ruthie was then straight out to choir practice and then the Surprise Major practice at Ufford. Her attendance at the latter was the result of a sort of August New Year Resolution as having gone along last month whilst the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge were taking a break, she decided she ought to make more of an effort to make it out to these second-Thursday sessions. And although due to singing she was only able to make a relatively small portion of the ringing, she was glad to have made it along. She was largely impressed by the striking and that quite an inexperienced band at this level were able to peak at four-spliced.

A busy day therefore. I wonder what tomorrow might bring. And which ringer we might chance upon!

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Wednesday 12th September 2018

On a wet morning, Alfie reluctantly went into school, as did a number of his peers as the novelty of going in everyday appears to be wearing off for many of them.

Ruthie this evening went to Pettistree practice and The Greyhound afterwards rather more willingly, where the atmosphere was typically jovial and method repertoire eclectic, including a quarter-peal of Alnwick Surprise Minor rung beforehand.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, well done to Pam Ebsworth on conducting Doubles methods New Bob, Huntspill, St Vedast and Blaisdon for the first time in the 1260 rung at Great Finborough.

Well done also to David Stanford on ringing his first handbell peal on an inside pair in the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor in Hasketon. Congratulations to Laura Davies and Louis Suggett on ringing their one hundredth peal together too.

All carried out with much willingness I’m sure!

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Tuesday 11th September 2018

On our meanderings before work we bumped into the lesser-spotted Adrian Craddock, usually a regular at various towers in and around the Woodbridge area, such as Pettistree and Campsea Ashe. Having been out of ringing for the last few months after falling out of a tree, we were delighted to catch-up with him during our street-side chat with him and even more so to hear that he hopes to be returning to the exercise shortly.

Other, fully-fit ringers were ringing Suffolk’s bells today, especially at Offton where the practice night was preceded by a 1280 of Plain Bob Major. We’ll just have to wait for Adrian Craddock to resume such activity.

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Monday 10th September 2018

It is a week of late shifts at work and as has become the norm in our current circumstances, it was impractical to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice and so instead it was an evening in watching the first episode of the new ‘P’ series of QI, which made Ruthie’s night!

There was ringing to report today though, with a peal of Grandsire Doubles rung at Little Thurlow in memory of the staggering number of men – ten in all – who lost their lives from this tiny village during the First World War a century ago.

A sombre thought on a quiet day.

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Sunday 9th September 2018

Not surprisingly, yesterday’s outing was the main subject of conversation at St Mary-le-Tower service ringing this morning and over refreshments in Costa Coffee afterwards.

The ringing itself saw us ring on all twelve, a luxury we didn’t have at Grundisburgh after my hot chocolate, where we numbered five-and-a-half ringers if you count Mason who had a couple of rings, although backstroke only as he continues his so-so relationship with the exercise!

Come the afternoon and we popped round to see Alfie’s friend Ralph and enjoy lunch with his parents, before we all went out to Maritime Woodbridge, another wonderful event along the River Deben that we are so very blessed to live beside. We grabbed a quick chat with Sproughton ringers Sandy and Phil Jones in amongst a walk that took in ice cream, an exploration of the new Longshed and watching Anglo-Saxons and Vikings battling!

It was a fun day out that was followed by Ruthie returning to St Mary the Virgin to sing for evensong whilst I got some exhausted boys to bed, but it all left no time for any further ringing. Others in Suffolk were busier on the ends of bellropes, with a lot going on the county’s bells today. There was a trio of quarter-peals including one at NDA tower Lowestoft, but also at The Norman Tower and Woolpit where a 1296 of Little Bob Royal and 1260 of Grandsire Doubles were respectively rung, the former for the sixtieth birthday of SGR stalwart David Stanford. Happy Birthday David!

Meanwhile, the second Sunday peal came to the aforementioned Grundisburgh as its annual summer break from Aldeburgh continues.

From that selection, one wonders what the main subject of conversation will be tomorrow.

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Saturday 8th September 2018

An outing ringing only tens and twelves, in three different counties over a distance of about fifty miles is an ambitious task, but Stephen Cheek certainly pulled it off for the St Mary-le-Tower outing today. At the tens of St Neots in Cambridgeshire, Kempston and Biggleswade in Bedfordshire and the twelve of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, we produced some decent ringing with a repertoire that included Surprise Royal and Maximus and even a couple of touches of Stedman Caters called by none other than my mother. That’s right! Sally Munnings, leading light in the anti-Stedman Society conducted Stedman, including one that I rang in, so I know it to be true!

The distances involved were not insurmountable either, with even us - with all the hold-ups that the three boys inevitably generate on such occasions – making towers on time. And the towers in between the travelling were well worth it as we rang at four fantastic rings of bells.

All bar one were relatively familiar too.

Ringing at St Neots – l to r; 8th Jonathan Williamson, 9th Rowan Wilson, Tenor Brian Whiting, Treble Sue Williamson & 2nd Helen Carter.The first tower is indirectly responsible for our annual holiday. As a haunt of my mother in her younger days growing up ringing in Northamptonshire just across the border, we later joined the St Neots ringing weekends on the second Bank Holiday weekend of May and last weekend of October, organised by Tim and Catherina Griffiths – parents of Tom, one of the country’s best ringers – and where Janet and Mike Dew persuaded us to join the Rambling Ringers.

It is also where I rang the peal that is quite possibly the biggest blur of all the peals I have ever rung, with a 5382 of Double Norwich Court Bob Caters rung here on the Saturday morning between an all-nighter in Dudley for the last night of term at university and a house warming at Paul Bibilo’s cottage in Wales, all involving a lot of driving (courtesy of Tony Daw, not me you’ll be relieved to hear!) east and then west and very little sleep!

Ringing at Kempston – l to r; Stephen Cheek, Helen Carter on 7th, Alan Munnings, Jonathan Williamson, Ralph Earey, Ian Culham on 8th, Sally Munnings, Jed Flatters on 9th & Rowan Wilson on tenor. Ringing at Kempston.Kempston has been visited pretty frequently by us over the last few years for peal attempts and the 2012 Ridgman Trophy, but is almost home to some SMLT ringers, such as Davids Stanford and Potts, though the latter was sadly missing today due to a recurring injury. However, his father Melvyn – a frequent visitor to our weekly Monday night practices - joined us at his home tower.

Ringing at Biggleswade – l to r; Lucy Williamson on 8th, Ian Culham on tenor, David Stanford, Pippa Moss on treble, Friday the dog, Ralph Earey, Tessa Earey on 2nd & Alan Munnings. Ringing at Biggleswade – l to r; Helen Carter, Sue Williamson on 3rd, Jonathan Williamson, Brian Whiting on 4th, Abby Antrobus in the window & Rowan Wilson on 7th. Joshua watching the ringing at Hitchin. Ringing at Hitchin. Ringing at Hitchin - L to r; Ian Culham on 10th, Brian Whiting on 11th, Jed Flatters on Tenor, Sally Munnings, Sue Williamson on Treble, Helen Carter.

Having been to Hitchin five years ago with the aforementioned Ramblers and enjoyed them very much, it was lovely to be reacquainted with this nice 17cwt twelve, leaving just Biggleswade as an unfamiliar location. I was impressed though. These are a lovely 13cwt ten, rung from a well-decorated, clearly well-looked after ringing chamber, but I was most struck by the superb sound control here, a system that even only partially in use made them barely audible outside for our extra-curricular pleasure ringing. Well worth a visit.

Precisely halfway through we enjoyed lunch at The Cock at Broom, with its delightful bar-less beer room, although having really booked lunch here to spend our only real opportunity of the day to socialise with friends without having to dash off across a church after a child or grab a ring, it was a pity to be banished to our own little room, though the plus side was some family time with Nana Sally and Grandad Alan.

That was pretty much the only downside of a great day out. Even though the ringing slots turned out to be slightly too long, even this worked out better, allowing us to cut ringing short as and when, which is better than the other way around!

Peal Band.We made it home in reasonable time to a county where earlier in the day David and Katharine Salter celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary with a peal of Superlative Surprise Major at Hollesley, a 5184 featuring their sons George and Colin. Congratulations David and Katharine!

I hope they had a wonderful day, as we certainly did. Granted, such occasions are harder work with three young boys. Where there are upstairs ringing chambers we usually have to take it in turns to go up to ring, making it more of a tactical operation than leisurely day out. Conversations are more limited, simply getting in and out of the car is a protracted process (and there is lot of getting in and out of cars on ringing outings!) and of course the arguments increase whilst they are pent up together in the back of our vehicle for longer periods than usual. But it is nice to spend the whole day with the family seeing different places, helping out our fellow ringers and enjoying their fellowship, even if it is more fleeting in our current circumstances! Thank you for organising it Stephen and especially for being ambitious in your organising!

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Friday 7th September 2018

In a rare quiet few minutes today I found myself reading back through this blog and my attention was drawn to what I was doing precisely half a decade ago. It happens that it was – in the context of this blog’s main purpose – a notable day, when the South-East District used to hold a quarterly meeting on the first Saturday of September and it seemed to have been a relatively positive occasion. However, it was noticeable how – as I hope that in time this blog may be generally – it marked a snapshot of Suffolk ringing at a particular moment in time.

Sadly the first thing I noticed was the presence of Gill Waterson, a reminder of a wonderful lady and ringer lost recently. More positively though, there were a lot of youngsters present and even if they are not all still regularly ringing, they have the skills that may see them rejoin the exercise in the future as so many have. And amongst them were the Salter brothers George and Colin before they had progressed onto to the phenomenal achievements of their current ringing, showing that for all that these events are considered such a drag for many, there is potential ringing talent to be fostered that we ought to be doing all that we can to encourage. Pre-Alfie (though my wife was pregnant with him at the time), Ruthie was also still District Secretary with a top table of then Chairman Ralph Earey and Ringing Master Tom Scase.

Much has changed in those five years, but much also remains consistent. FNQPC still continues on a Friday night and on this occasion Stephen Christian and Scases Jenny, Tracey and Robert rang their first quarter-peal of Allendale Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Earl Stonham – well done all of you!

It was a quiet evening for us though. There are more of those five years on.

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Thursday 6th September 2018

Well done to Sidney Ricketts on ringing his first quarter-peal at his first attempt in the 1260 of Doubles rung at Horringer.

For us though, our day was a more mundane – though still important – mix of getting a new tyre, collecting Alfie from his second day of school and attending parents evening at nursery for Joshua before a quiet night at home.

Therefore, well done again to Sidney, especially for giving me something of ringing interest to mention in this blog!

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Wednesday 5th September 2018

We only get one chance at it, but life is a big thing, made up of events and decisions of varying importance that all ultimately determine how one’s life pans out. The further you get into life, the more responsibility you have to take for those events and decisions. Of course, Alfie and Joshua are at that stage of life where they can’t be held responsible for the course of their life. Rather, that is down to Ruthie and me and one of the biggest decisions we can make on their behalf is their choice of primary school. Have we chosen the right school? Will they like it? How easily will they make friends there?

Today was Alfred’s first steps into formal education and at least judging by his first few hours of what will God willing be years of productive learning, we have made a good choice on all three fronts. He – and his new chums – left their classroom full of smiles and although clearly a bit tired by the excitement and relative intensity of the day, he chatted constantly all the way home!

On a big day for our children and many others, it was also Mason’s first day at secondary school and he too was keen to impart details of his new adventures, but it all also introduces a new set of logistics into our everyday life and something else to fit our ringing around.

There was no affect on my ability to get out to my monthly peal attempt at The Wolery though, which this evening saw us ring 5088 changes of Lomax Surprise Major, a Yorkshire variation that was familiar enough to allow the band to settle quickly, but different enough to foster deeper concentration and the result was a pretty decent 1hrs 52mins of ringing with some really very good stuff at times, rung to a musical composition from Robert Brown.

Afterwards we enjoyed typically superb hospitality, with cake, biscuits and refreshments, accompanied with jovial chatter that included the subject of late peal losses.

Hopefully there was none of that in action today. Certainly it wasn’t the case at Elmsett where a 5040 of eleven Doubles methods was the most that young Jimmy Yeoman has yet rung to a peal – well done Jimmy!

Meanwhile, there were also a brace of quarter-peals rung on Suffolk’s bells on this September Wednesday, with a 1280 of Bristol Surprise Major rung at Ixworth and 1296 of Norwich and Cambridge Surprise Minor spliced rung at Pettistree before the practice.

There are worse ways of spending one’s only shot at life!

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Tuesday 4th September 2018

In the week when they are all starting school, Alfie and his peers Maddie and Robyn went to the beach at Lowestoft for the day, accompanied by their respective siblings and mothers.

After a shift at John Catt Educational early enough for me to meet them on their return but not to join them, my day was less exciting, without even any ringing to occupy my time.

There was ringing elsewhere in Suffolk though, with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton successfully rung.

A quiet day in a big week therefore.

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Monday 3rd September 2018

The bells of St Paul’s Cathedral are amongst the most famous in the world. Primarily because of their location rather than their quality, but nonetheless very well known and so there has been a lot of publicity over the restoration of the 62cwt twelve. Therefore there was much interest as they arrived back at this British landmark from Taylors and were blessed as they sat on the floor outside ahead of being lifted back into the North-West tower over the course of the next day.

I was at another well-known twelve this evening as I popped along to the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower. This was a useful session, with Mervyn and Tracey Scase, Richard Weeks and Sue Williamson getting plenty of Grandsire Cinques focus, whilst young Karina continued her twelve-bell ringing in impressive style and whilst the striking from a lot of us who should know better wasn’t as clean as it should have been, there was an impressive repertoire that also saw London (No.3) Surprise Royal and Yorkshire Surprise Royal rung, although I struggled to call the latter, with the sore throat I already had exacerbated by boisterous shouting at the football yesterday meaning I didn’t have much voice left!

It was all carried out with much professionalism, but in a jovial atmosphere. No more so then when David Potts managed to accidentally fling his glasses from where he was ringing the tenor to London, right past me on the ninth of the back ten, straight to the feet of Peter Sanderson on the eight to my immediate right! And I shan’t start on what was going on behind me as I prepared to ring the sixth of the twelve...!

Peter’s visit with his wife and former SMLT ringer Tina from York was a welcome one, but whilst I had a nice chat with them during the practice when I could, there was no opportunity to catch up in The Cricketers afterwards, with an early start at work in the morning at the end of a day that also started pre-dawn.

That early start also saw me looking after Alfie this afternoon in the limbo between him finishing nursery and starting school later this week, with Ruthie’s grandparents very kindly looking after him during the short period when mine and my wife’s shifts overlapped.

Meanwhile, some of Suffolk’s ringers not responsible for small children were ringing a peal at Oakley. Not quite as famous as St Paul’s Cathedral, but still very nice and certainly as newsworthy on this blog as the returned twelve in the capital.

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Sunday 2nd September 2018

For all that it is mainly pantomime, football matches between Ipswich Town and Norwich City generate a huge amount of tension, noise and snarly edge as almost 30,000 fans gather together in small space, divided by a footballing rivalry that goes back decades. The roar when the Tractor Boys went in the lead this lunchtime literally shook the foundations, though they were more settled when our opponents inevitably scored an equaliser. The hundreds of police present inside and outside the stadium, many of them in riot gear, mounting horses and/or accompanied by vicious dogs gave the atmosphere a dangerous feel about, even if ultimately it was a very safe occasion as two of the most apathetic and inoffensive sets of fans met on a roasting hot day that seemed to diffuse any anger.

It all combined to make for as high-octane an event as we are ever likely to get in these – happily – tranquil parts and yet the rest of the day was notable for being fairly low-key, with a strand of cooperation between fans of both the blues and yellows.

Such as when public transport – again – let us down on one of the rare occasions that we decided to hand our day over to this ridiculously substandard form of transport. The Sunday noon kick-off appears daft, especially as one of the main reasons given for the timing is to avoid supporters getting drunk, as there were some bars open from as early as 6am and many given licence to serve alcohol early. Instead, it simply serves to make it as difficult as possible to get in and out of Ipswich on the day. With Ruthie needing the car as the only practical way to get Alfie and Joshua down to St Mary’s in Woodbridge for morning worship in time, Mason and I had elected to catch the first of only two possible trains to make it into town for kick-off from our way, the 9.09am from Melton. Except as a crowded platform waited, the train sailed on through the station, seemingly already full for some reason. The fixture list was released on 21st June. I guess two-and-a-half months isn’t quite long enough to organise an extra carriage...

The next train wasn’t until after eleven, cutting it a bit fine for getting to Portman Road, even if the next train stopped. Instantly therefore, those there with cars very kindly offered lifts into Ipswich, including – it transpired – a couple of inconspicuous Norwich fans who had travelled down from Beccles and were willing to give us a lift if we could direct them in to somewhere to park.

Having done that, we expressed our gratitude and bade farewell to our knights in shining armour (whilst wishing them a rotten ninety minutes!) and headed towards what was the other reason for planning on heading in on the earlier train. For whilst we knew we were too late to make ringing at St Mary-le-Tower or St Lawrence (though we did hear the tailend of ringing at the latter as we wandered past an-already heaving Cricketers), it struck me as a pleasant way to pass the time to go and help out at St Margaret. And so having paid a respects to my grandparents and Mason’s great-grandparents Jack and Lilian at the bottom of the tower (in a quiet moment that was the biggest contrast of the day to what we were later to experience), we did.

Inside the old ringing chamber at St Margaret’s. Inside the old ringing chamber at St Margaret’s. The bells at St Margaret’s. The bells at St Margaret’s. The bells at St Margaret’s.

By this point, the third person of our footy group, my brother Chris had joined us and as this was his first visit here since the magnificent project that has seen this hard-going lumpy eight hidden from view transformed into an easy-going, nice-sounding gallery-ring octave, the three of us were treated by Tower Captain John Girt to a viewing upstairs to the bells and of course what was the old ringing chamber. Despite the lower ceiling, peal boards on the floor and the ropes now carrying on through the floor, it felt almost the same as when we used to ring here before – a lovely hidden oasis in the depths of a bustling town centre.

It was a nice way to precede the grudge match that followed and which – perhaps appropriately for today’s general theme of the blog – finished in a diplomatic 1-1 draw and whilst a severe injury and thirteen minutes added time saw us miss the last train for two hours and meant instead that we had a convoluted journey home via the next bus we could find going anywhere in our general direction and my wife picking us up at Tesco, the rest of our day gradually wound down in a more relaxed fashion.

Elsewhere though, Suffolk’s ringers were getting their enjoyment in a less highly-charged way with quarter-peals of Doubles and Surprise Minor at Buxhall and Pettistree respectively. Although I wasn’t sure if the former started with six and lost the clapper partway through or whether they started off without the tenor! Well done either way!

Meanwhile, bringing the topic back round to the big match, yet still keeping it ringing related, whilst thousands of Town and City fans were metaphorically baying for each other’s blood down here, north of the River Waveney fans of both teams were ringing together in a peal at Tibenham. Hopefully the atmosphere wasn’t quite as tense and snarly as at Portman Road!

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Saturday 1st September 2018

That South-East District events happen on the first Saturday of each month is etched upon our memories, as it should be for all SE members, but that doesn’t mean that we can always make them if something clashes. So it was this morning as both the practice at St Clement and then St Lawrence in Ipswich and an opportunity for Alfie to meet some of the peers he is due to start with at primary school later in the week happened to occur at the same time.

It was a pity to miss the former tower in particular, especially after all the work that has been done there by Katharine Salter, but the WhatsApp-arranged meet-up in Kingston Fields was something we felt we ought to take our four-year-old son to as he prepares for his planned big step-up in the next few days.

As it happened, the children didn’t really mingle, distracted instead by play equipment, sand and siblings, but it was nice to meet other parents going through the same as us and who could potentially become very familiar in the coming years.

Worcester All Saints Peal Band.Meanwhile, some rather older children were meeting up in Worcester All Saints (on the same day as a 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus was being rung down Deansway at the Cathedral) to become the youngest band – at an average age of just sixteen years, three-hundred and seven days – to ring a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus. Whatever the family background and the circumstances of their ringing opportunities, this is a phenomenal achievement. As is usual with such achievements, Suffolk connections came through the great-nephews of George and Diana Pipe, Henry and Alfred, with the Riley brothers Alex – the conductor – and Luke representing the Rambling Ringers too, so I am particularly pleased to see this was scored. However, we should all be heartened by their success as they show that ringing isn’t a dying heart. If we let it, such endeavour can filter through ringing here within our borders and offer inspiration to learners, especially youngsters.

For us though, the clash of events this morning was made all the more frustrating by the fact that we were free this afternoon, when SE events are usually held. Holding such an occasion in the county town in the morning during the football season and when it was probably booked before the fixtures were announced is eminently sensible, but it meant we were completely devoid of anything to do following our return from the park.

We’ll try to keep the first Saturday of October free...

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Friday 31st August 2018

Today was Alfie’s last day at nursery. Yet much like his big brother Mason and his last day at Kyson a few weeks ago, he seemed remarkably unconcerned, more interested in carrying in the big chocolate cake that Ruthie had made for his teachers and peers for the occasion.

I missed his departure as I was on a late shift at work, which also made going out ringing impractical, especially with picking up my eldest son from his mother’s, but other ringers were busy in Suffolk. Most notably at Henley, where Tracey and Mervyn Scase rang their first quarter-peal of spliced in the 1264 on the 8cwt eight. Well done Tracey and Mervyn!

Also interesting to see another QP added to yesterday’s tally, especially as it continued the theme of ringing them on tower’s beginning with the letter B! The 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Buxhall was for a sad cause though, the latest of a long line in the medium rung here since 2014 to remember the deaths of soldiers in the First World War a century ago with connections to the village. The performances here have served to highlight the waste of life in that conflict, that so many from this small rural community could be lost in such a short period.

It makes me feel all the more grateful for being able to enjoy simple days like Alfie’s last at nursery.

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Thursday 30th August 2018

Logistics meant that instead of my few minutes walk to work this morning, I was heading into John Catt Educational from Woodbridge town centre. There were more direct routes available to me, but being on a late shift I wasn’t in a rush and with the sun shining and weather warm I decided to wander alongside the River Deben. And jolly glad I am that I did too, with stunning views and tranquillity accompanying me most of the way.

That late shift in the office left me with no time for any ringing, but others did find the time, particularly if they found themselves at a tower beginning with the letter B. Grandsire Triples was rung at Bardwell, the Doubles version was rung in memory of Trevor Stannard at Barrow on the bells he learnt to ring on and Cambridge Surprise and Plain Bob Minor was rung at Burgh to celebrate the sixtieth anniversaries of one-time local ringers Adam and Gillian Gurdon’s marriage and the birth of conductor Stephen Pettman’s wife Liz.

However, it was beyond our borders that Suffolk’s ringers were achieving in the most notable fashion as young Jimmy Yeoman rang his first peal of Surprise and first of Major on tower bells in the 5056 of four methods spliced rung at Swaffham Bulbeck in Cambridgeshire. Well done Jimmy!

It transpires there were many ways to enjoy this pleasant day, whether ringing or otherwise.

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Wednesday 29th August 2018

Despite an exhausting – though apparently enjoyable – day of looking after not just Alfie and Joshua, but also their cousins Katelynn and Annalise, and not feeling very well, Ruthie still went out to Pettistree practice this evening for another well-attended session.

Carlo Mancini.That meant mine was a night in looking after the boys, but other ringers in Suffolk were being more active. It was nice to see a peal rung in memory of Carlo Mancini who – along with his compatriots – has welcomed many ringers to Italy, with the 5040 at Grundisburgh also rung to what was probably the same composition as the first peal of Grandsire Triples, three hundred years ago at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich.

Meanwhile, well done to Matthew Rolph on ringing his first quarter-peal of Surprise Major in the 1250 of Cambridge at Halesworth and also to Stephen Dawson and Lesley Steed on respectively ringing and calling their most spliced Major in the six-spliced Surprise Major methods rung at Horringer.

No matter what life has thrown at them today, I’m glad the county’s ringers were still able to go out and ring.

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Tuesday 28th August 2018

Waiting for Ruthie to finish at the dentist whilst trying to stop Alfie and Joshua fighting over the toy train set in the waiting room was as far as adventure took us today. Not unsurprising for a Tuesday and at that one which I was working a late shift on.

Adventure was taking other ringers in Suffolk at least slightly further, with a pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton the most recordable example.

God willing there are more exciting – for good reasons – days ahead, with September on the horizon and a veritable feast of ringing on the county’s bells planned. Such as this Saturday morning where one could – if they are able – attend the South-East District Practice in Ipswich at St Clement and St Lawrence or support the Stowmarket Open Tower Day in aid of the Bells Project there. One could also support that cause on the evening of Friday 7th with the Quiz Night lined up at St Peter’s Church Hall in the town, whilst another Open Tower Day is due to take place on Saturday 15th, the same day as the North-West District Practice planned for Horringer. As usual, the North-East District have much pencilled in, starting with the Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday 5th, a Six-Bell Practice at Chediston twenty-four hours later, a Raising and Lowering Booster Session at Blythburgh between 3pm-5pm on Saturday 8th, an Eight-Bell Practice at Bungay between 7.30-9pm on Monday 10th, a Six-Bell Practice at Reydon precisely a week later, another at Worlingham the next day, Chediston two days after that, a Triples/Major Practice at Halesworth on Tuesday 25th, a Six-Bell Practice at Blythburgh on Thursday 27th and an Eight-Bell Practice at Southwold on Friday 28th.

Dotted in amongst the NE Takeover of the calendar are other events, all being well. The plan is for Second Tuesday Ringing to take place at Lavenham and Bildeston on the 11th, Helmingham Monthly Practice to run on the evening of Friday 21st, the South-West District Practice to convene at Stradishall the next day and then on the afternoon of Sunday 30th at St Peter’s in Sudbury.

On the whole, September should be more adventurous than today.

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Monday 27th August 2018

Bank Holiday Mondays offer many ringing opportunities, from Open Days to peals, with the 5152 of Cambridge Surprise Fourteen at Winchester Cathedral – ten years on from the Suffolk Guild’s only fourteen-bell peal, rung at the same venue – the highlight of the latter.

There was also a practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, but ultimately we did no ringing as Ruthie went to work and I endeavoured to find something for the boys to do that specifically did not involve ringing!

Mason and Alfie overlooking the mouth of the River Deben between Felixstowe Ferry and Bawdsey.In the end, I plumped for Ferry Fest at Felixstowe Ferry and so the three brothers and I took part in a treasure hunt on the walk from the golf club that has hosted the SMLT annual dinner in recent years to Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club before enjoying ice cream and a walk back.

It may not have included any of the vast range of ringing on offer, but it was still a lovely way to spend this Bank Holiday Monday.

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Sunday 26th August 2018

Either side of refreshment in Costa Coffee and a visit to Clarks to return Alfie’s school shoes, there was a rare opportunity to ring on twelve at both St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh on the same morning today. Admittedly our repertoire was restricted, with call-changes at both and Little Bob Maximus at the former, but it was nice to hear all the bells ringing out, especially at the latter where it is a real rarity.

Both venues benefitted from Ruthie accompanying the boys and I, but the little wobbly red-brick tower also profited from a big turnout from the Hill family and their groupies – in Suffolk to celebrate Liz Pettman’s significant birthday - with Peter there with his daughter Katie, her other half Tom Waterson and her sister Rosie’s other half – and former College Youths Ringing Master – Martin Cansdale, whilst Rosie and mother Christine were apparently preventing grandmother Daphne Pegg from doing all the work for dinner! For all that it was nice to ring on the twelve, it was also lovely to ring in some Stedman Caters.

That was the extent of our ringing today, but not so for others, as a quarter-peal of Lessness Surprise Major was rung at The Norman Tower, a first for Clare Veal, Julian Colman, Nathan Colman, Tim Hart, Rowan Wilson and Phil Wilding – well done to you all!

Hopefully they also got to ring on all the bells at the county’s other twelve at some point today to complete the set!

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Saturday 25th August 2018

St Peter Mancroft.They may have both prepared in fairly dreadful fashion today, but next weekend Ipswich Town and Norwich City are due to renew their face-to-face rivalry with a league fixture at Portman Road and I expect there will be no shortage of pantomime hatred displayed. However, in everyday life and particularly ringing, there is friendship and respect and that was highlighted by an ITV Anglia news report about the completed project at St Peter Mancroft in Norfolk’s county city where the famous twelve are now rung from higher up in the tower with a shorter draft above a new training centre, the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre. Today saw an open day there, supported by ringers from Suffolk and the report included an interview with ITFC fan and former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd to the backdrop of sallies in the NCFC colours of yellow and green. And of course they have our best wishes as this superb facilities are put to use to benefit ringers that will hopefully include many SGR members.

Back south of the River Waveney and we were quieter on the personal ringing-front, unable to help out north of the border with Alfie attending a birthday party of one of his peers at the nearby Wyevale Garden Centre, my brother Chris paying a visit on route to a wedding reception nearby and Ruthie babysitting her nieces.

There was ringing within our borders though, most notably as part of the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month with Ben Turpin ringing his first QP in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at St Gregory in Sudbury - well done Ben!

Well done also to Joshua Watkins on ringing his first peal of Grandsire Triples when he partook in today’s 5040 at Bardwell, rung for the three hundredth anniversary of the first peal of Grandsire Triples, rung at the aforementioned St Peter Mancroft on 26th August 1718. Another respectful nod from us to our friends north of the border.

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Friday 24th August 2018

Mason learnt how to tie his shoelaces by himself and I had a beer for the first time in almost a fortnight. All very notable in our household.

From a Suffolk ringing perspective though, of more interest will be the firsts inside of Westminster Surprise Minor and Kent Treble Bob Minor for Robert Scase at Ashbocking and Sally Veal at Rougham respectively. Well done Robert and Sally!

Meanwhile, some will recall that the recent Ringing World National Youth Contest in London was filmed by Blue Peter and it has now been revealed that it is due to feature on the show at 5.30pm on Thursday 20th September on CBBC. That will be of interest in our household and others I’m sure!

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Thursday 23rd August 2018

I have really been enjoying Project Pickled Egg, the interactive, ongoing forum – primarily on Facebook – supported by a superb series of articles by Simon Linford in The Ringing World that aims to broaden the horizons of ringers everywhere by amending and enhancing the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods – Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, London, Pudsey, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire – through input from ringers of all abilities. The aim is therefore not to create an elite range of methods, but rather to find existing methods that are more musical and more interesting, but also possible for those feeling their way into Surprise Major to learn and ring well. Indeed, the first peal of spliced-Surprise Major rung in the PPE-inspired ‘Core Seven’ last month in Oxford was made up of five of the current ‘standard’ eight.

That peal wasn’t the endgame though. In fact, one might say it is just the beginning as the debate continues, with the merits of Belfast and Glasgow currently being considered against Chenies and Malpas amongst others. Nor is it just for peal-ringing, but rather to make ringers’ everyday experiences in the art more interesting.

Being someone who has been there and done the ‘standard’ eight but not in a position to offer forth opinion on the technicalities of methods that ringers far far cleverer than I haven’t already put forward much more eloquently, I haven’t made a big contribution to the debate, but I have found it fascinating and even – in the context of what I will admit is a dry subject to those not interested at least – exciting watching the discussion unfold and the effect it is already having.

Even here in Suffolk, which like most rural areas doesn’t benefit from the same opportunities that the ringing scenes in or near big cities get, there seems to have been an increase in Turramurra being rung, Cooktown Orchid Delight Major (another method thrown into the melting pot) was devised by our very own James Smith and in recent years St Mary-le-Tower ringer Louis Suggett has composed – and rung upon the county’s bells - his own peal compositions of twenty-three spliced including many of the methods mentioned in relation to PPE, but otherwise getting the chance to ring with like-minded folk to practice the methods being floated is rare. There are a couple of Project Pickled Egg Outings in the coming weeks, on 15th September and 20th October, but these are over in Gloucestershire and Birmingham respectively. Perhaps we need to arrange one here in Suffolk?

For today though, the county’s ringing was more familiar and traditional, but nonetheless very impressive with a total of sixteen methods rung in two quarter-peals within our borders today. Twelve of those were of Surprise Minor at Tostock, but the most notable today was at Horringer where young Jimmy Yeoman was ringing his first of four-Surprise Major methods spliced. Well done Jimmy!

Nothing quite as thrilling on the personal front today, certainly not from a ringing perspective, but at least my early finish at work after an early start allowed me the time to take in the world of Project Pickled Egg.

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Wednesday 22nd August 2018

It was Ruthie’s turn to get out of the house for an evening tonight and bellringing offered her Pettistree practice to go to. By all accounts it was again well-attended and highly enjoyable, although delayed by the fourth rope needing to be replaced after breaking at the start of the session – mercifully after the pre-practice quarter-peal of Pettistree Greyhound Treble Place Minor was completed to celebrate the birth of landlords Stewart and Louise’s baby boy this week!

Working in their business, I expect they are already used to not having many evenings out!

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Tuesday 21st August 2018

Unusually in the context of the last few days, there was nothing from the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month today.

Gislingham.However, there was a quarter-peal of six Surprise Major methods spliced, rung at North-West District tower Gislingham which was David Webb’s one hundredth QP this year – congratulations David!

Our day included no ringing though, with an early start and early finish at work giving me the afternoon to spend with Ruthie and the boys. We spent that afternoon mainly in Felixstowe where our main purpose was buying new shoes for Joshua and Alfie, with the latter needing his first ever school shoes just a couple of weeks before his first day!

Whilst down at the seaside with a two-year-old and four-year-old, it would have been remiss of us not to pop to the beach and so we did for a spot of ad hoc castle-building and a game of throwing pebbles into the North Sea – a particular favourite at the moment – before returning to Woodbridge for a spot of (ultimately futile) searching for more school clothing.

We will have an extra day this weekend to spend with and occupy the children as it is Bank Holiday Monday in six days time. That will be fun, but for practices that are usually run on that evening it can be a bit hit and miss as to whether they will hold a session. After a head-count at last night’s practice, it was decided that there will be another one next week at St Mary-le-Tower, but I can’t speak for others, such as Aldeburgh, Hopton, Wickham Market or Woolpit. Do check before you head out to a practice next Monday and if the practice you’d usually go to isn’t on then you are more than welcome at SMLT!

Whatever ringing does happen on the Bank Holiday, I wouldn’t be surprised if it involves something from the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month, even if it didn’t today!

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Monday 20th August 2018

Mason’s presence at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening brought back the excitement that I used to feel when I was a young non-ringer being allowed out late to accompany Mum or Dad to the same practice. I had no notion of ringing standard (many would say I still don’t!), but I was already aware of how special this place was. At the time it was the only twelve in Suffolk, the ringing chamber was like no other I had ever seen (and still is), George Pipe was in his impressive and captivating pomp and the band were ringing Surprise Maximus methods like Barford and Bristol and reaching the National Twelve-Bell Final.

I don’t think my eldest son was feeling quite the same excitement this evening though. Unlike myself he has no desire to be a ringer and is generally bored by it, although he enjoys the company of ringers, especially Louis Suggett and Laura Davies who he was delighted to see tonight. However, the session he was present at – although not at the standard of those of the 1980s and early 1990s – was one that we could generally be pleased with. Enid Roberts was visiting from Australia, Elaine ‘Mrs Roger’ Townsend – having been encouraged along by Jonathan Williamson – did well in a couple of courses of Little Bob Maximus which she visibly grew into and Karina continued her twelve-bell learning, whilst also - along with Mason - giving the attendance an even more youthful feel.

In addition, there was an excellent touch of Stedman Cinques, some well-struck Yorkshire Surprise Maximus in between the mistakes that ultimately brought it to a halt in the Little Bob to bring it round and a couple of reasonable pieces of Glasgow Surprise Major to fall back on too, which isn’t bad!

The boy left at the end to stop the night at Mum and Dad’s ahead of a day out with them tomorrow, whilst I passed on going to The Cricketers and returned straight home at the end of a day that started very early at work and ahead of another pre-dawn start in the office in the morning.

Meanwhile, after a slow start, the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month has really picked up apace, with the fourth and fifth successes in the last three days rung today. One was of Plain Bob Doubles at Polstead as a ninety-fourth birthday compliment to former local ringer Ed Hynard, whilst the Minor variation of the same method rung at Edwardstone was Tim Forsey’s first on that number. Well done Tim – I hope it was as exciting and memorable as my first visits to SMLT practice all those years ago!

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Sunday 19th August 2018

As much as we aim to, its not often that Ruthie and/or I make a genuine difference to the ringing we attend, but this morning at Woodbridge we did. For with the choir still on holiday, my wife joined me up the tower, the two youngest boys enthusiastically making their own way up the many stairs whilst Mason was being all grown up and waiting downstairs. When we eventually made it to the doorway, we were met by the rather sorry sound of the only five present ringing the front six missing the second out.

The reasons for this were entirely understandable for what is a mature band manning a heavy octave with quite a long draft. One is that if they can’t be sure that at least eight ringers will be coming then it is impractical to ring up the 16cwt seventh and 25cwt tenor, the other that after it had got cracked, the stay on the second had been removed and no one felt confident enough to ring it without the stay. However, with Elspeth Hilson just behind us we had eight ringers and it seemed a shame not to get all eight going and so with Peter Meyer ringing the seventh up, Mrs Munnings and I got the eighth up as fast as we could and I volunteered to raise the second and ring it for some call-changes. I’m that we did as it was lovely to hear all the bells ring out, as I hope it was for those listening outside.

My afternoon’s reading!Having barely seen Ruthie yesterday and needing to drop Mason back at his mother’s, that was our ringing lot today as we had a quiet afternoon enjoying each other’s company and reading Mr Pettigrew and the Bell-Ringers, a book that was very kindly donated to us by someone at church as they thought we would appreciate it more than anyone else they knew! Being a book for older children, it isn’t very long and isn’t racy or overly exciting, but that is its charm to me. Rather it is a collection of stories recounting the ups and downs of the relationship between the titular character – a vicar of a typically English rural village called Little Stockham – and his bellringers, including a an argument over who has the tower key, the disastrous teaching of the pub landlord and the recasting of the fourth. Apparently “vetted by experts”, it comes across in quite an authentic manner with the lingo not watered down or misused and even a mention of the now closed-down Whitechapel Bell Foundry. A nice, lazy-ish Sunday afternoon.

Other ringers in Suffolk were busier though, especially at Blythburgh where a peal of forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung – still an impressive achievement!

Meanwhile David Howe was ringing his first in all the variations rung in the 1260 of Doubles at Buxhall – well done David!

However, it was the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month making the headlines again with another first-timer. Well done to Jill de Laat on her debut in the medium, which came in the 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles at Stradishall.

I’m glad to see we weren’t the only ringers making a difference in the county.

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Saturday 18th August 2018

South-West District Quarter-Peal Month had its best day today thus far with some notable achievements. Most notable of all is Heather Sinclair who rang her first QP by trebling to the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Cavendish. Well done Heather! Well done also to SW District Secretary Pam Ebsworth who conducted her first of Minor for eighteen years in the forty-two minutes of Plain Bob at Woolpit!

Hopefully there is even more to come from this event and I would certainly urge members in that corner of the Guild to use the occasion to organise as many quarters as possible to progress the ringing of those around them or of themselves. And if you want to do something but aren’t in the position to organise something then contact District Ringing Master 01359 242604, and I’m sure he will be delighted to help arrange something!

The view that Woodbridge’s ringers now get of the church whilst ringing for weddings!I wasn’t quite as active in the ringing stakes as my peers in the South-West, but I did do a little ringing this afternoon as I rang for a wedding at Woodbridge. Bruce Wakefield usually gets a decent band of ringers together for weddings here, but I was particularly pleased he had done so today as Ruthie and I know Darrin and Marsha the groom and bride, with the former being Mrs Munnings’ manager at John Ives. Helped in our timings by using a CCTV system to relay pictures from downstairs, we produced some well-struck call-changes too, but it was my wife who was the star of the show, bar the newlywed couple and their children of course. For she had been requested by Darrin and Marsha themselves to sing Ave Maria solo and she didn’t let them down. In fact, it was a wonderful rendition, responded to by enthusiastic applause in church and glowing compliments from the happy couple themselves and at the evening reception that she attended later.

It was all the more impressive that she was essentially performing in her (specially extended) lunchbreak from work, but that day at work also meant that she missed out on Alfie having a playdate with his friend Millar from nursery who is also due to join him at primary school next month. Whilst they played together with the occasional interjection from Joshua, us dads got to know each other, before we departed into town for that wedding.

I’m glad we contributed to Darrin and Marsha’s big day and also that the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month had such a successful day. Well done again Heather and Pam!

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Friday 17th August 2018

Remarkably little happening from a ringing perspective across the county and especially personally today. Fridays during peak holiday season are perhaps a difficult time to get a band together for quarter-peals and peals, whilst even if we usually did ringing on the day before the weekend, my late finish at work left little time to undertake the exercise this evening.

So with nothing interesting to report from today, let me point you in the direction of an episode of Flog It! from earlier in the week and which from just after twenty-eight minutes in features the presenter Paul Martin having a go at ringing at Guildford Cathedral, interrupting the locals’ regular four-bell practice! Nice to see familiar faces Maurice Edwards and Chris Rogers enjoying their moment of fame!

At least that was more interesting than anything that happened today.

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Thursday 16th August 2018

Although her funeral was yesterday, the tributes quite rightly continue for Gill Waterson, this time at Grundisburgh, where she learnt to ring, apparently after spending much time waiting around whilst her son Ben learnt! A 1408 of Grandsire Cinques was rung in thanksgiving for her life.

It wasn’t the only ringing in Suffolk today to appear on BellBoard though, with a peal rung at the county’s most westerly tower, Exning. Particularly noteworthy it was too as Jimmy Yeoman celebrated his sixteenth birthday by ringing his very first blows of Norwich Surprise and Oxford Treble Bob Minor whilst ringing his first tower-bell peal on a working bell. Happy Birthday and well done Jimmy!

Not so much ringing activity for us though. In fact, none at all with a late shift at work cutting right through the morning, afternoon and evening, but we were pleased to see that QP at Grundisburgh.

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Wednesday 15th August 2018

Thank God for the life of Gill Waterson. Not one of the ringing elite, though she was liked and respected by many who are. Not a big peal-ringer, though her name features on a board in St Mary-le-Tower ringing chamber. Nor a regular twelve-bell ringer, though she never let anyone down on that number. Yet she was one of the best ringers I had the privilege to ring with. Having rung with her throughout my entire ringing life, I can only vaguely recall one occasion when she went wrong and she was reassuringly reliable. She was also one of the nicest people I’ve ever known though. I’m glad I knew her and am sorry she is no longer with us.

Many, many others felt the same, judging by the ten quarter-peals and two peals rung here in Suffolk and elsewhere across the UK since her passing last month and the numbers at Seven Hills Crematorium for her funeral this afternoon. By the time we arrived there were only the window ledges left to sit on, with the seats already filled by family and a vast number of ringers that included the Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase as well as two of his predecessors, a former SGR Secretary and current South-East District RM Jonathan Williamson.

Having Alfie and Joshua with us wasn’t ideal – it meant nothing to them at their age of course and different relatives react in different ways to children being present at their moment of grief and reflection. However, with all our babysitters present too and keen to pay our respects we kept them occupied and from the beginning it was made clear that this was a celebration of her life. Fond memories and stories brought about laughter amongst the tears and both here and at Nacton Village Hall for refreshments afterwards and it was lovely – even in the circumstances – to catch up with ringers not seen for a while, such as Alan McBurnie, Colin Spreadbury, Paul Norris and Gill’s daughter Molly and son Ben. Despite the occasion. It was nice to see Ben again, probably for the first time for about twenty-five years. Once a talented ringer as a youngster in these parts, these days he is down south with a family of his own and hasn’t touched a rope for about a decade, but he knew he was among friends here and I’m glad that a good number of us were able to support him, his son and Molly on this difficult day.

I was grateful to John Catt Educational for very kindly letting me out of the office for a couple of hours on a day when I was working a late shift, which allowed me to look after Alfie and Joshua at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge before work, whilst Ruthie practiced ahead of a wedding she is singing at on Saturday, but it had been a long day and so neither of us made it to Pettistree practice this evening.

The QP rung prior to that session was the only performance recorded on the county’s bells on BellBoard, but the county’s ringers were busy north of the border in Norfolk where they helped with the superb Ryburgh Remembers, with resident SGR members making up the majority of the band at Great Rybugh itself for a 5040 of seven Plain Minor and all bar one of the band in the 5088 of Bristol Surprise Major at Wells next the-Sea (with the other being former SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd!), though both were rung for the NDA.

For all that though, the focus was on celebrating Gill’s life. Thank God for her.

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Tuesday 14th August 2018

Hopefully the Second Tuesday ringing at Hollesley and Tunstall went well today and it was good to see another success for the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month. Well done to Joshua Watkins on his first QP as conductor and Tim Forsey on his first on eight in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Horringer!

Meanwhile, there is plenty pencilled in the diary for ringers to enjoy in Suffolk this month, starting with the planned Monthly Practice at Helmingham on Friday evening and whilst a couple of North-East Practices have been cancelled/moved, they are still due to hold sessions on six next week on Monday at Reydon and Thursday at Worlingham and then on eight on Friday 24th at Leiston and Tuesday 28th at Halesworth.

For us though, it was another quiet evening in, on this occasion following the Tractor Boys’ annual first round exit to lower league opposition – new manager, same old Ipswich Town. Thankfully ringing is a more positive subject to report on, even if we’re not partaking in it.

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Monday 13th August 2018

Tis that time of year again when I not just return to work after my fortnight’s break, but return to weeks of extreme shifts as we begin the next international sales campaign.

This week is late shifts and by the time I get home, helped put the boys to bed and grabbed a bite to eat (and on this occasion gone out and bought the ingredients first!) then it simply isn’t worth heading into Ipswich to St Mary-le-Tower practice and so it was a quiet, unremarkable night in for us.

Elsewhere another Monday evening practice was preceded with a quarter-peal as local ringer and Wickham Market resident Gill Waterson was remembered on 12cwt six at All Saints in the village.

Hopefully the session that followed was a productive and enjoyable one, as I hope the one at SMLT was, but I am likely to end up missing every other practice for the next couple of months. Tis that time of year.

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Sunday 12th August 2018

Alfie at his friend’s birthday party.There was something for each of the elder two brothers today. Alfie was invited to his friend Robyn’s birthday party which was held in a beach hut and on the beach in front of it in Felixstowe, whilst later Mason was invited to join a couple of his friends at The Riverside in Woodbridge to watch Hotel Transylvania 3, of which I have been entirely oblivious to numbers one and two!

Both had a great time, but the former did restrict our morning ringing slightly as it began at 11am. We had time to ring at St Mary-le-Tower where the visit of Colin Salter certainly helped us to some decent ringing before we retired to Costa Coffee for some post-ringing refreshment. There wasn’t time to make it anywhere after that though and so our ringing was done for the day.

The spire of St John the Baptist from the seafront. Building sandcastles!Still, it was all very pleasant, as Mason, Joshua and myself wandered the promenade and built sandcastles as Alfred and his mother partied away, the tower of St John the Baptist – which holds the 7cwt eight here – overlooking the vibrant scene.

Meanwhile, others were also ringing Suffolk’s bells, with a quarter-peal rung at Pettistree and peal at Rendham. The latter saw Alan Mayle ring his 1900th tower bell peal and his one hundredth with Tom Scase – congratulations Alan (and Tom!).

As for us though, today was more for the elder boys – they seemed to have enjoyed themselves!

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Saturday 11th August 2018

Precisely six years ago, Ruthie and I had one of the biggest days of our lives (the birth of the boys have to be on par really!) as we got married at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge. It was a memorable day, packed with joy and excitement from waking up to the last dancing. There were peals rung in Cornwall by the Ramblers, at Birmingham Cathedral and at Ufford, plus seven quarter-peals in Suffolk, Essex and Monmouthshire for the occasion on the day and the weeks before and after. It was all very exciting!

Today was rather more mundane. There was more rain which restricted us slightly, but essentially after a fortnight of doing stuff, we were somewhat stuffed out, with neither children nor adults showing any appetite for doing anything particularly extraordinary.

We did mark it though. Breakfast and a cuppa was brought to my wife by her husband and come the evening, with the boys in bed, we indulged in an M&S meal and some fizzy at home.

After all, six years of marriage is something to be celebrated (with iron apparently), especially with this wonderful woman who has put up with my whims and is a wonderful mother to the kids. I can’t say there hasn’t been a cross word (there were quite a few on holiday last week!), but I can honestly say I have enjoyed every day of marriage to Ruthie. Even if today wasn’t that exciting.

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Friday 10th August 2018

It is the last working day of our fortnight off, as it were. There was no peal-ringing, outings or even exploring churches today though. Instead we were at Bawdsey, a village that is home to a tower that looks like it has space for a twelve but instead holds just a single 4cwt bell dating from 1622 and founded by William and John Brend.

Crabbing at Bawdsey Quay. Our catch! Our catch! Releasing our catch!

We were there for a debut. Two in fact. Three if you count Joshua who didn’t take part but watched on intently. For this afternoon, Alfie, JB and myself did crabbing for the first time and thanks to the twist of the summer that saw constant and predictably roasting temperatures until the day that we finished work for two weeks, we were introduced in the most challenging of conditions. As soon as we arrived at this far flung corner of Suffolk, torrential rain trapped us in our car for several minutes, but following a cuppa and sandwich at the Boathouse Cafe at the Quay, the weather cleared up and we took our opportunity to get to the waterside and search for some crabs. With some success too! A sizeable specimen of the species was caught and as the rain began persisting again, put back. Alfred in particular – and me as well – were delighted with our experience as we meandered back home.

Elsewhere, the county’s ringers were busier on the end of the rope, with another quarter-peal rung for Helen Price’s ninetieth birthday, this time at Southwold, a tower that – along with Reydon - has benefitted from her enthusiasm for so many years. Meanwhile, well done to Tracey Scase and Mervyn Scase on ringing their first of Grandsire Triples in the 1260 at Coddenham. I hope they had as much fun as us!

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Thursday 9th August 2018

August is holiday time for Ruthie and her choral colleagues and so she took full advantage by attending the Surprise Major practice at Ufford, an apparently well supported session that amongst much else included the ‘standard’ eight spliced. But not the ‘core seven’ PPE yet.

Earlier, as torrential rain broke the latest heatwave, we enjoyed an afternoon at the abode of local ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth to catch-up with them and drop gifts off as thanks to them for feeding Charlie our cat whilst we were away in Devon last week.

Talking of Devon, there is still much ringing being done down there and in neighbouring counties by our ringing friends four days after we left that wonderful county. Nearly a fortnight after it started, the 68th Rambling Ringers Tour continued, but also notched up an impressive – but unsurprising, knowing the quality of ringers on the Tour – peal of forty-one Surprise Minor methods at Calverleigh, which was Graham Scott’s first of forty-one Minor. Well done Graham and Happy Birthday Geoff Wells, invaluable member of the Society!

Meanwhile, about thirty-miles away from there, Brian Whiting’s quarter-peal tour featuring a range of ringing talent from around here were ringing a 1259 of Grandsire Caters at Beaminster in Dorset and 1288 of Plain Bob Triples at Dowlish Wake in Somerset as their successful holiday continues apace.

Although not strictly ringing-related, our day began with Joshua’s two-year review taking place in the Children’s Centre in Kesgrave in the shadow of All Saint’s church where a single 4cwt bell hangs. However, even in this most non-ringing related of tasks the exercise still came to the fore, as he passed with flying colours and no issues to worry about, with the assessor especially wowed by his imitation of church bellringing! Well he does watch a lot of ringing whilst during our holiday time, even if the singers are taking a break.

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Wednesday 8th August 2018

When I go for peal attempts at The Wolery, there is never typically any time pressure. We tend to aim for a 7pm meet/start, although if we get to a certain point then the usual conductor David Salter likes to wait to avoid starting at thirteen minutes past! Providing we score first time, we will then spend 1hr45mins-2hrs in the little blue shed and with nowhere else to go afterwards normally, we are able to enjoy the refreshments our super hosts very kindly put on pretty much at our leisure.

This evening though, with the Melton branch of the Munnings’ still on their holidays, Ruthie went to Pettistree practice with Alfie and Joshua whilst I went to Old Stoke, the plan being that I would leave after the peal and join the rest of my family for a drink in The Greyhound and return us all home. You can probably guess what happened on this one occasion when time was more pressing in Rectory Road...

Not that I can blame Neal Dodge who was the one we had to wait for after he was delayed at work, meaning we didn’t launch into this 5088 changes and two hours precisely of Kent Treble Bob Major until almost twenty-to-eight. And I have lost count of the number of times I have been the perpetrator of late starts over the years!

Still, I enjoyed the ringing, which was dedicated to George Thoday’s impressive Ruby Wedding Anniversary (or perhaps that should be his wife Jenny’s impressive Ruby Wedding Anniversary!) and included some very decent striking before I departed in a hurry to collect my wife and two youngest sons, but not a pint.

She hadn’t been short of company at an extremely well attended practice as they were joined by the currently local Annie Brechin, Iain and Jayne Mitchell and a number of Bredfield ringers who are keen to get up to speed so they can ring a quarter-peal in memory of Gill Waterson at another of the towers she supported regularly and reassuringly.

Earlier in the day we had welcomed Ruthie’s sister Clare and her daughters to our home for some lunch and playtime in the garden, before the boys were reunited with their cousins at the ground-floor six when they were brought along by Granny Kate as she joined the lively proceedings.

The quarter-peal that preceded the session was the only other performance recorded on BellBoard upon the county’s bells today and whilst there was nothing from them today, Brian Whiting and friends once again had a busy day down in Devon yesterday with another trio of quarter-peals, as a 1259 of Grandsire Triples was rung at Colyton, 1296 of Little Bob Royal at Lyme Regis and 1280 of Plain Bob Major at Seaton. Hopefully they had enough time spare afterwards!

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Tuesday 7th August 2018

View from the bottom of Blaxhall Church Tower.Last week we enjoyed some stunning scenery in Devon, but today reminded us just how wonderful the landscape here in Suffolk is. On another sweltering day, I sat at the bottom of Blaxhall’s church tower looking out at the brightly coloured fields and woodlands beneath the big wide skies that are so different to that of the South-West but just as beautiful in my opinion, and felt enormously fortunate that this is all a matter of minutes away.

Ringing at Blaxhall. View of the ceremony from ringing chamber at Blaxhall.The reason I was enjoying this magnificent view was so I could look after Joshua whilst Ruthie rang before a wedding as Alfie watched on, before we swapped roles afterwards. I have to say in hot and humid conditions, on a difficult (though not as tough as they once seemed in my opinion), anti-clockwise six rung from what has always felt like a bit of a makeshift gallery, we made a decent fist of things, especially when switched from method-ringing to call-changes. Nice as well to see Rob and Daphne Rose, though they were singing rather than ringing.

With £20 between us burning a hole in our pockets, it seemed a pity not to pop in and support one of the best and most characterful pub in the county, The Ship Inn and although in the process we parted with 35% of our recent earnings for a pint each, it was entirely worth it as we sat out the front, the boys gawping at the many tractors passing and us taking in the sun-drenched countryside laid out before us and leading the eye back to St Peter church on the horizon and reaffirmed to us that Suffolk has just as much beauty as anywhere else.

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Monday 6th August 2018

Non-Association peals were a subject that came up on social media today and I’m afraid Suffolk’s towers haven’t come out of it looking too good in regards to the issue of charging NA bands more than others. It is a practice apparently not as common anywhere else and I have to admit to always being slightly puzzled by the logic of it. I am all for as many SGR peals being rung (the more the merrier!), as the fees are a useful source of income that help the Guild to assist members and towers financially. Also, most towers have a limited number of peal slots available and so if a band visiting from out of the area wants to use up one of those slots ahead of a more local band then I just about understand applying a lower fee to Suffolk Guild bands to encourage more local ringers to take advantage of this vital medium. What baffles many – myself included – is why Non-Association peals should incur an additional penalty. Many bands come together from across the country to pool some of the best talent of the art for peals all over the UK and beyond, often to produce some of the best ringing, which doesn’t necessarily benefit local ringers directly, but helps push the art generally forward with high standards and new innovations that aren’t always possible with a territorial society. They quite often don’t have a common organisation between them to ring for and so are either faced with making one up to ring it for (for which they are then ticked off for as one visiting peal-ringer has been by a Suffolk Guild member recently!) or ring it Non-Association. To penalise them for this appears to be snobbish and unwelcoming and seems to be leaving a bad taste in the mouth amongst many in the ringing world, which is a pity as I know our members generally are far above that. Whilst it is not the place of the Guild – and it certainly isn’t mine – to say what fees towers apply or to whom, I would strongly urge towers who do charge extra for Non-Association towers to review and reconsider their policy and welcome ringers of all visiting associations and none equally.

It was all an isolated blip on a day when our fortnight off continued, but with a little more of the everyday about it. Of course all in the heatwave that has returned now we’re back from holiday.

For all that things were more mundane, it was a relatively significant night for Joshua as he slept in his big boy’s bed for the first time after Ruthie put it together and took his old cot apart. My job was to simply stay out of the way and then put the bits we didn’t need away. Even then, Alfie helped with both.

Getting the youngest son used to his new set-up meant I was running a bit later than anticipated for my return to local ringing and more particularly the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower. Having been asked to revise Glasgow Surprise Major for this evening’s session, I expected us to be very short, but in the event we had one of the best attendances of the year. Included in the numbers present were South-East District Treasurer Tracey Scase (joining the Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson and Secretary Abby Antrobus in this famous ringing chamber) and her husband Mervyn who did well on higher numbers, whilst Sproughton learner Karina was up for the second week running and doing very well on what are still only her initial steps onto twelve. It was wonderful to behold, but also great that we were able to finish the ringing with a very well rung course of Glasgow Surprise Major on the back eight, before we retired to the beer garden of The Cricketers for a well-earned drink.

Meanwhile, Brian Whiting’s Quarter-Peal Tour of Devon continued with a trio of successes, with a 1385 of Grandsire Caters at Axminster, 1312 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Honiton and 1274 of Grandsire Triples at Luppitt.  I hope they were charged reasonably for their ringing!

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Sunday 5th August 2018

Bray ringing chamber.In stopping overnight at Maggie and Tim’s abode in Maidenhead, we found ourselves within Midsomer Murders territory and this morning we even set foot in one of the sets from filming. I have often mentioned the (in)famous episode Ring Out Your Dead where a team of bellringers won a striking competition on their own bells, despite half of the band being murdered! Whilst the outside shots were of Watlington in Oxfordshire and the sound of the bells on the programme were Monks Risborough in Buckinghamshire, the actual footage of the ringing that most will remember were filmed inside Bray ringing chamber in Berkshire and the regular Sunday morning tower of our hosts. Thus we joined them in ringing for morning worship on this 24cwt eight (although on TV they were portrayed as a lighter six) where the band includes some really quite super ringers beyond just Tim and Maggie, such as Katharine and Graham Firman, Olly Cross and former Hopton ringer Sam Maynard, who is due to return to the county by the end of the year – his return will definitely be Suffolk’s gain!

Unsurprisingly we were treated to some super ringing, most particularly a few leads of Bristol Surprise Major at the end which we were delighted to partake in before we caught up with Sam, and Graham gave us some fascinating insight into that filming for Midsomer Murders to add to the very interesting article written by John Harrison at the time.
The boys occupied at Maggie and Tim’s!Either side of our morning’s ringing we were treated to more wonderful hospitality with breakfast and lunch and plenty of cups of tea before continuing our journey home, incredibly grateful to Maggie and Tim for putting up with and looking after us – thanks guys!

We returned to a county where Gill Waterson was again remembered at a tower where she was much loved, with a quarter-peal of Doubles at Pettistree. Earlier in the week she was also remembered with a 1260 of Stedman Triples at St Michael in Bath and I’m sure more will be organised in the coming weeks, with her funeral being at 1.30pm on Wednesday 15th August at Seven Hills Crematorium.

Meanwhile, the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month got underway with a QP of Plain Bob Doubles at Poslingford, which was Tim Forsey’s first inside – well done Tim! I imagine it is the first of many before the 31st and if you would like to get involved but aren’t sure how, then I’m sure SW Ringing Master would be delighted to hear from you! You should be safe from being murdered in the pursuit of the exercise outside the general Maidenhead area!

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Saturday 4th August 2018

We still enjoyed last year’s Rambling Ringers, but following a week where the weather was almost entirely grey, cold and wet and the loss of our car in Derbyshire twelve months ago, we had a low bar for what constituted a successful 2018 Tour for us personally.

Well, despite it being quite galling that following weeks and weeks of wall-to-wall sunshine, dryness and high temperatures that we had to put the tent up in chilling winds and torrential rain and endure the first few days of our holiday being limited by the inhospitable and uncomfortable conditions, the week has finished with weather more resembling a summer, even if it hasn’t been the rare glorious one we have enjoyed pretty much since May. And as we left the Tour this afternoon, we departed Devon with the same vehicle we arrived with seven days ago.

It has been much more than that though. The ringing has been eclectic (especially the Call-Change Competition!) and of a high standard throughout, at picturesque locations in stunning scenery and with good friends who came from far and wide, with Cornwall, Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Yorkshire represented by UK members alone, before we even get onto those from overseas in Holland, Ireland and Switzerland. Steep, narrow lanes have been navigated, village pubs enjoyed and even some evenings spent outside on the campsite near Crockernwell sipping beer and mingling with genial company.

Ringing at Manaton on Rambling Ringers Tour. Ringing at Lustleigh on Rambling Ringers Tour. Rambling Ringers Tour Meeting at Lustleigh with (l to r) Ringing Master Chris Woodcock, Secretary Geoff Pick & President Chris Birkby at the front. Rambling Ringers Tour Meeting at Lustleigh. Rambling Ringers group photo on Lustleigh village green.

Having taken down and packed away our tent along with all the belongings we had brought and since accrued, we managed another couple of towers before we disappeared back towards the east. I rang down in Queens at Manaton and Ruthie called some York Surprise Minor at the ground-floor six of Lustleigh, before the Tour Meeting got underway in the church at the latter, essentially a brief and informal affair where a handful of announcements are made and thanks directed at those who helped make everything happen and run smoothly. Other than that, the main business is voting for the destination of the next Tour. Hampshire and the Cotswolds were amongst the areas put forward for the consideration of the membership present, but ultimately it was voted that the Tour should come much closer to home in North Norfolk in 2019.

For now though - and after posing for the group photo taken by Ron post-meeting on the village green – we were faced with a long journey back. That journey was broken up with a stop for a cuppa at the Gordano Services near Bristol, where not only did we bump into Chris and Jill Birkby also on their way back, but we met celebrity chef Tom Kerridge. I say met. His child had finished riding on the toy car in the foyer and been taken off it by his famous father before Alfie and Joshua climbed in. Kid Kerridge seemed unhappy about this and did what toddlers do and tried to push past Josh to get back on. Visions of tabloid headlines about our youngest lashing out at a celebrity’s child flashed before me, but mercifully JB looked more confused than angry and so the cooking star walked away blissfully unaware of what could have been!

Following this ‘drama’, we continued on our lengthy traversing. Not as lengthy as it might have been though, as we had arranged to stop overnight in Maidenhead at the lovely home of a couple of ringers who will be familiar to many in the SGR, namely Maggie Ross and Tim Palmer. For many years Maggie was a leading light at Halesworth and the North-East District and indeed the Guild as a whole. Many were helped by her and she was an integral part of the band that used to meet regularly for peal attempts as we worked our way up to ringing the forty-one Surprise Minor methods a few years back, as well as in the many quarter-peals that Alan McBurnie arranged involving spliced Surprise Major and Royal. Apart from that she is a good mate and drinking companion. She has been missed in our part of the world ever since she moved away a couple of years ago, whilst I have known Tim – a superb, but modest ringer - since we rang together in Birmingham years ago.

Joshua enjoying himself in Maggie & Tim’s garden. Maggie entertaining the boys.Not only were they kind enough to put us up for the night, but they were waiting with beer for us grown ups and games for the boys and got the BBQ fired up for tea. With the excited children eventually put to bed, we adults wiled the evening away in their garden with a few drinks and chatting about much, including fondly recalling Suffolk’s ringing characters, many of whom were active today. Some in the very county we had just left, with 1250s of Superlative and Cambridge Surprise Major rung at East Budleigh and Ottery St Mary respectively, but most of the action was taking place in the homeland itself, perhaps most notably at St Margaret’s in Ipswich, where the first peal was being rung on the restored and rehung eight there. I was honoured to have been asked to ring by John Girt and although our travels meant that wasn’t possible, I am delighted to see this significant landmark for what has been a wonderful project.

However, that wasn’t the only ringing within our borders today. Far from it in fact, with another well-deserved QP in honour of Helen Price’s ninetieth birthday in the most appropriate of places, Reydon. And it looks like the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening was again hugely successful, with Alison Looser ringing her first of Treble Bob in the 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Harkstead, whilst 1260s of Single Oxford Bob Minor at Holbrook and Plain Bob Minor at Stutton were also rung, before the participants and groupies retired to The King’s Head in the latter village, which is what really makes this event! Well done to Alison in particular, but also all who took part and especially SE Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson on arranging it. I know from when mother-in-law Kate held this position and started this event and from arranging similar multi-band occasions how hard this is to organise, but it does seem to guarantee a core gathering for both ringing and socialising purpose in a slot in the calendar that used to be notoriously poorly attended, and as Alison has shown it is a useful opportunity to achieve something!

Hopefully we will find it easier to return for next year’s QP Evening from the Rambling Ringers Tour in North Norfolk, where God willing we can again exceed our expectations on what constitutes a successful holiday!

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Friday 3rd August 2018

When we go on the Rambling Ringers tours, we like to take a day out from the ringing for the sake of the children. And although we have already had a day out visiting Ruthie’s schoolfriend Kelly and her husband Mike and half a day on the South Devon Railway, the former wasn’t really for the boys and this is a longer than usual tour for us. Therefore today, whilst our fellow Ramblers were ringing on the eastern side of Dartmoor, we were in the far west of Devon on its border with Cornwall at Morwellham Quay, a restored copper mining village, dock and mine. Indeed, the Tamar River which this wonderful place sits on is the border with the UK’s most south-western county.

Panning for gold at Morwellham Quay. Alfie & Mason making a rope at Morwellham Quay. Mason & Alfie in tug of war.

With that backdrop, the site was a joy to explore with plenty of activities to occupy kids and adults alike. Mason did some rock-breaking, we all sat in on a Victorian school class, panned for gold, made chocolate lollies and rode the copper mine train and the eldest two baked bread and made a rope before partaking in a tug-of-war with said rope, whilst we enjoyed lunch and the beer brewed on site at The Ship Inn, before we returned to the campsite to meet the latest addition to this year’s Tour, Graham Scott, a ringer currently residing in Switzerland.

Whilst we weren’t ringing, our peers back in Suffolk were, including a super abundance of achievements at Earl Stonham, where Stephen Christian, Jenny, Tracey and Mervyn Scase were all ringing their first quarter-peal of Westminster Surprise Minor – well done guys! I think you’ve earned a day off!

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Thursday 2nd August 2018

When all is said and done about me, a curious fact as things stand will be that – following today – I have rung in and won two striking competitions in the south-west of England, despite having never lived anywhere near it. This afternoon’s informal, friendly Rambling Ringers Devon call-changes competition was far from as terrifying as the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final in Somerset’s South Petherton, but it was more physically – and arguably as mentally - strenuous as that memorable June day way back in 2001.

The venue for my first ever victory in a Devon call-change competition was at the last tower of today’s Tour, Cheriton Bishop, a 14cwt six which weren’t the easiest place for such an contest, although purely for the weight of the bells which made the half-up nature of the ringing hard work!

Team 4, ‘Anne’s Animals’ at Cheriton Bishop – l to r; Anne Bray, Kate Eagle, Ruth Munnings, Steve Askew, Mike Pomeroy & Richard Munnings. (Susannah Scruffington-Smythe) Team 5 at Cheriton Bishop – l to r ; Alex Riley, Chris Woodcock, Bryony Dorrington, Richard Dorrington, Richard Munnings & Geoff Wells. (Susannah Scruffington-Smythe)  Some of the participants for the Rambling Ringers Devon Call-Change Competition outside Cheriton Bishop church. Gathered at The Tom Cobley Tavern in Spreyton for the Rambling Ringers Meal. Paul Bray gives the results of the Rambling Ringers Devon Call-Changes Competition whilst President Chris Birkby holds the trophy.

I – like many – was in two teams, including one with an East Anglian streak that had been organised by Essex and St Mary-le-Tower ringer Anne Bray and featuring Ruthie and Kate and supplemented by Staffordshire’s Steve Askew and Ireland’s Mike Pomeroy, but the winning band was one that included myself, Geoff Wells, Alex Riley, Bryony and Richard Dorrington and the Society’s Ringing Master Chris Woodcock. That made things slightly awkward when RR President – and new Suffolk resident – Chris Birkby handed him the trophy following judge Paul Bray’s announcement of the results at the Tom Cobley Tavern in Spreyton, where we were gathered for what has become a traditional evening meal out on the Tour.

Throughout the day there was occasional practicing for the competition at the other sixes we visited, including the tower that I was running the ringing at, Belstone, where a former ringer from the Scottish borders – who was holidaying in the area – took a trip down memory lane by watching us at this 5cwt ground-floor ring where ‘Anne’s Animals’ – as Mason named us – had an exhilarating practice.

Ringing at Belstone on Rambling Ringers Tour. Ringing at Throwleigh on Rambling Ringers Tour. Ringing at Gidleigh on Rambling Ringers Tour. Rambling Ringers at Chagford. Rambling Ringers at Chagford. Rambling Ringers at Chagford. Ringing at Drewsteignton on Rambling Ringers Tour. Ringing at Drewsteignton on Rambling Ringers Tour.

A quick blast of Beverley Surprise Minor at the gallery-ring six of Throwleigh and gathering up of the eldest son after a spot of geocaching with the Birkbys and Picks and we were off further into the picturesque scenery around Dartmoor and more particularly to Gidleigh, a five with another distinctive sound that makes the art so interesting.

With that evening meal ahead of us we sufficed with an ad hoc picnic in the churchyard of the post-lunch tower Chagford, a glorious eight in a lovely small town and rung from a superb platform and I would say the best ring of bells we’ve thus far rung on this week.

Having been greeted by Kate and Ron outside The Drewe Arms next door to our next tower Drewsteignton, there was just time for a final practice before the competition got going three-and-a-half miles down the road. And for a group of novices in this medium of the exercise, we didn’t do too badly I thought. Each team equipped themselves really well in humid conditions in a sticky ringing chamber on weighty bells and we all felt we’d earnt our drinks at the meal afterwards.

That meal was lovely, with great service in a lively, convivial atmosphere and a wonderful way to end a notable day in my life.

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Wednesday 1st August 2018

A day off ringing today. Not for the children as is usually the norm, although I think they probably appreciated the break from bells on what is a longer than normal Rambling Ringers Tour for us. Rather this was an opportunity to meet up with Ruthie’s schoolfriend Kelly. And a very rare opportunity at that, as her husband Mike is a farmer and thus time off is at a premium, or at least for them to visit Suffolk for a enough days to catch up with folk and of course it isn’t easy to just pop in and visit from over two hundred miles away. Having missed their wedding down this way two years ago as it fell on the same weekend as Joshua was due to be born, this was the first time we’d met up for almost three years.

Kelly entertaining the boys! The boys entertaining themselves at the Red Deer.Thus our day was full of excited chatter and catching-up, as well as Alfie and Kelly excitedly discussing all things Harry Potter, as we spent the morning and afternoon at their delightful farmhouse packed with character, either side of going to the Red Deer on the edge of Crediton where they live and work.

It was a lovely day out with a lovely couple, whilst Kate and Ron were doing their own visiting of friends, including former Pettistree ringer Mike Whitaker and his wife Lorna who now live in these parts.

Back in his former home tower the weekly pre-practice quarter-peal was dedicated to the incredible Helen Price ahead of her forthcoming ninetieth birthday. She and her husband Don have been invaluable to ringing in the east of the county for as long as I can remember, especially at Reydon and Southwold and she is always entertaining company, so I’m glad her landmark has been marked like this.

Our fellow Ramblers also appeared on BellBoard with a touch of eleven Surprise Minor methods spliced rung at Sampford Courtenay, one of the towers on today’s Tour, in memory of Rhoda Reynolds from RR Ringing Master Chris Woodcock’s native Lincolnshire. Although we missed this and all the ringing today, we were glad to take time out to see Kelly and Mike. Occasionally one needs a day off ringing!

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Tuesday 31st July 2018

I’ve often extolled the virtues of the rough going and/or unpleasant sounding rings of bells that ringing takes me to. If all bells were melodious and easy-going, many of us – myself included – would find the exercise less interesting. The variety of sounds, sights and experiences help make up the art’s rich tapestry and so I was rather pleased to come across the hard-going five of Mary Tavy and interesting-sounding six of neighbouring Peter Tavy, the first two towers today of both the Tour and us as unusually we made it out to the first tower of the morning.

Ringing at Mary Tavy on Rambling Ringers Tour. Window in Mary Tavy ringing chamber. Ringing at Lamerton. Ringing at Lamerton.

The former were rung from a rustic ringing chamber that saw the tenor rope catch on a notch as it came through the ceiling and needed a lot more pulling than one may imagine a 10cwt ring to need, whilst the latter were on par with our very own Tattingstone for ear-bothering. However, I enjoyed both and there was some quite decent ringing across the morning, including at Lamerton which were perhaps more memorable for the painting that covered the entirety of one of the walls in the church than for the bells in particular.

From here our search for lunch was much shorter than yesterday’s as we and a handful of other fellow Ramblers made the short journey up the road to The Blacksmiths Arms for another leisurely lunch that saw us miss the first tower of the afternoon.

Tea & biscuits at Marystow. Ringing at Marystow on Rambling Ringers Tour. Ringing at Coryton. Ringing at Coryton.

We did still make it to Marystow – at least Mason, Alfie and I did whilst Ruthie stayed with a sleeping Joshua in the car – for ringing, tea and biscuits and then to another ground-floor six (there’s a lot of ground-floor rings on this tour, which is great for us in our current circumstances!), Coryton, but we decided to pass on the final tower of the day Brent Tor. These are a 5cwt five and normally I wouldn’t be overly fussed about missing that, but it’s setting is apparently truly spectacular and was a highlight I had mentally circled when the tour-list had come out a couple of weeks back. However, the only access is up what was described as a “steep footpath” and after some discussion amongst my wife and I we agreed that perhaps it wasn’t the most practical place to get to with the three boys and so instead we meandered back to the campsite, logging this under “To Possibly Be Enjoyed When The Boys Are Older” that also includes Twelve-Bell Finals and simply going out for a pint when we feel like it!

Back in Suffolk meanwhile, the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton was successful despite meeting one short, but otherwise it seems to have been a quite day on the BellBoard front in the homeland.

Fun and games on the campsite.By the time they were ringing though, we were enjoying our first warm evening on the campsite as the boys bothered the Riley brothers in the vast space that they have thus far been unable to take advantage of. It is nice to finally take in some nice weather, but at least we don’t need it to appreciate the variety that ringing offers.

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Monday 30th July 2018

After the lengthy heatwave of recent weeks and weather forecasters pronouncing that there was “no end in sight” to it even up until a week or so ago, I had high hopes for the weather on this year’s Rambling Ringers and visions of meandering Devon’s narrow lanes in stunning scenery to quaint hidden villages in glorious wall-to-wall sunshine and mingling on the campsite on warm sunny evenings whilst the boys played freely in wide space in front of us. The reality for the third day running was more rain and more subdued temperatures and a cold and wet evening that again saw us escape inside mother-in-law Kate’s caravan with her and Ron.

Ringing at Doddiscombsleigh on Rambling Ringers Tour. Alfie being read stories at Doddiscombleigh by Thirza de Kok.We still got the narrow lanes, stunning scenery and quaint villages though as the tour took us – as ringing so often does – to pretty little places that in all probability few of us would otherwise go. Such as Doddiscombleigh, an isolated gathering of homes with a gallery-ring six where I had my first – and ultimately most successful – go at the method of the day Ide Surprise Minor. Typically the method of the day is something not too complicated yet different enough to offer something to prevent ringing fatigue setting in on this fortnight-long tour and this certainly did that, although I’d forgotten about it until called upon to ring it at what was our first tower of the day, but the second of the day for the Tour as we again took our relaxed approach to getting the boys and ourselves readied and off the campsite to ringing first thing.

Indeed this was our only tower of the morning as we sacrificed going to the three-bell tower before lunch to find a pub for food and ale. We needed all the time we could get as well, as with Kate and Ron we trundled from community to community finding taverns closed on Monday lunchtimes. Eventually we came across Teign House Inn near Christow where the welcome was warm, the food superb and drink very enjoyable, particularly for those not driving!

Ringing at Ide on Rambling Ringers Tour. Ringing at Whitestone on Rambling Ringers Tour. Ringing at Tedburn St Mary on Rambling Ringers Tour.

Our lunch was so leisurely that we only realised as we went to leave that we weren’t going to make the first tower after lunch and so we instead diverted to Ide itself where the ropes were so long that Paul de Kok took to kneeling to ring the method of the day, but the long ropes continued on to the final brace of towers Whitestone and Tedburn St Mary, both of which required journeys along narrow lanes lined with huge hedges going up, over and down incredibly steep hills.

The latter tower was short of parking space but provided some perfect timing as when calling a course of Wells Surprise Minor I said “Go Wells” just as Geoff Wells left the ringing chamber. Sometimes its the small things that keep you going.
Meanwhile, it has been announced that Gill Waterson’s funeral will be held at 1.30pm on Wednesday 15th August at Seven Hills Crematorium. I’m sure there will be a big crowd for this much loved lady.
There were no quarters or peals recorded in Suffolk on BellBoard though. Perhaps the bad weather has sent everyone indoors.

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Sunday 29th July 2018

Congratulations and very well done to Ellie Harle who today rang her first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on the lovely ground-floor 6cwt six at Theberton, hopefully the first of many.

Ringing at Poltimore on Rambling Ringers Tour Kate reading to the boys at Poltimore church on Rambling Ringers Tour.With its thatched roof, St Peter’s church is one of Suffolk’s prettiest old buildings, but today we began exploring some of Devon’s beauty spots as we did our first ringing of the 68th Rambling Ringers Tour, starting with the quaint little church at Poltimore, every bit as pretty as Theberton’s, but also different in almost every way too, stood sturdily in hard stone above this village on a hill. Similarities do exist, as both are ground-floor sixes, but they are both very different in go.

I still enjoyed them though, an example of the variety of the art that takes one from cathedrals to such rural idylls and I also enjoyed meeting up with characters very familiar to me from decades of ringing with this wonderful Society. The de Koks from the Netherlands, Dews from Warwickshire, Wells from Nottinghamshire and Picks from Staffordshire were on the Munnings family’s first tour in 1994 and present this morning, whilst many who have joined since were there too, such as the Brays from Essex and St Mary-le-Tower – with Paul nursing a touch of tennis elbow – and Rileys from Yorkshire who have become fixtures in the RRs. There was a newcomer too who was also familiar to me, as John Mulvey from Tamworth – a good ringer who I know from my time in the Midlands – on his debut tour.

Ringing at Cullompton on Rambling Ringers Tour. Ringing at Cullompton on Rambling Ringers Tour. Joshua at South Devon Railway. Alfie on the train at Buckfastleigh station on South Devon Railway.

Although a Sunday morning, we weren’t ringing for a service at this picturesque spot, but we were ringing them out of one at our next tower Cullompton as the large and smartly dressed congregation exited at the end of a Christening whilst we climbed the many steps up this impressive tower to ring on the 19cwt ten here. However, the Plain and Little Bob Royal spliced that I rang and Cambridge Surprise Royal that Ruthie rang was our last ringing of the day as from here we made our way to the South Devon Railway that runs between Buckfastleigh and Totnes.

We usually like to take some time out of ringing on the tour for the children to enjoy, but this was also something for us adults to enjoy too and despite yet more wind, rain and chilly conditions that’s exactly what we did as Granny Kate and Grandad Ron joined us before returning to the sodden campsite to hunker down out of the dreadful weather.

Meanwhile, back in the homeland, a 1344 of Plain Bob Major was rung at Hollesley rung in memory of Gill Waterson – with a 1260 of Doubles also dedicated to her in Bath – and 1313 of Grandsire Caters was rung at SMLT, whilst a handbell peal of forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung for the Guild in Bacton.

Impressive as that all was, the main performance of note was Ellie’s in pretty Theberton – well done again Ellie!

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Saturday 28th July 2018

Our campsite as we tried to set our tent up.Being the grumpy aging soul that I am, I would typically have much to grumble about today. For example, after six weeks of roasting, dry weather, a lengthy heatwave that will likely go down in legend alongside the famous one of 1976 and generally a superb summer, as soon as we went on holiday today and put a tent up, the rains fell abundantly, the winds blew a gale and the temperatures plummeted to quite unpleasant levels. Not happy.

The only thing that could be said for the cooler climate was that the long journey down to Devon to where we were travelling for this year’s Rambling Ringers Tour was more bearable than if we were sat in the car for six hours with the thermometer hitting the mid-thirties Celsius. Still, the journey was nonetheless frustrating, having started barely after dawn and gone really well until we reached Bristol and more particularly the M5, as we joined all the other holidaymakers heading for the South-West, the volume further hampered by speed restrictions that flashed up just as the traffic got moving and instantly saw drivers slamming on their brakes in panic and thus bringing everything to a standstill again.

Alfie helping Granny set up in her caravan.However, as I sat down with a beer in the caravan of mother-in-law Kate and Ron – who for the second year running are joining us on tour – next door to our now constructed tent, the children safely asleep, I actually felt relatively relieved.

Family selfie on the journey down.One reason was that our journey was infinitely better than when we travelled to last year’s Ramblers in Derbyshire, where if you recall our car broke down on the way. That on its own was reason to be grateful, but an incident on today’s traversing put our own annoyances into perspective.

For as we approached Exeter on the aforementioned M5, the traffic busy but moving well, a big cloud of dust blew up quite dramatically a couple of hundred yards ahead of us and the brake-lights of the cars in front all lit up in an alarmingly sudden fashion. Although the vehicles in front prevented us seeing exactly what had happened, it seemed clear that something bad had just occurred and sure enough as we reached the scene a few seconds later there was debris across the road and a badly smashed-up car was limping from the ‘fast’ lane where one assumes it hit the concrete barriers in the middle of the busy road - in the process kicking up all the dust we saw – to the hard shoulder. Passing slowly and cautiously through the chaos, it appeared that thank God no one had been seriously hurt and passers-by were already stopping to check on the occupants of the inflicted motor who had got out, although understandably they seemed quite distressed.

In the end though, it wasn’t our branch of the Munnings family who had car trouble today, with Mum and Dad getting a puncture at the last tower of the opening day of the RR tour this afternoon. Not that we made any of the ringing and nor did we anticipate doing so, but we heard all about it from our fellow Ramblers on the campsite following their return from ringing in the rare moments where we were able to catch up with them in the miserable conditions.

Although there was a quarter-peal rung at Ashbocking yesterday, there was nothing recorded on the bells of Suffolk today and so we sat back and breathed a sigh of relief that we had made it to Devon, rather than bemoan how we got there or what greeted us.

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Friday 27th July 2018

Our parched garden before the storm.A spectacular heatwave that has seen temperatures reach the mid-thirties centigrade, medical advice handed out, field-fires an almost daily occurrence and the grass pretty much everywhere across this usually green and pleasant land turned dry and yellow, this evening ended abruptly (for now at least according to forecasts) with a spectacular thunderstorm, blocking out the Blood Moon many had been looking forward to viewing.

I love this hot weather, I really do. We spend the vast majority of the year and most summers in dreary, damp and grey conditions, so it has been wonderful to pretty much rely on the weather being good enough to do stuff outside for weeks and weeks on end. However, I also love a good thunderstorm too and we got that tonight!

It all seems to have put off Suffolk’s ringers though, with no quarter-peals or peals on the county’s bells as north of the border our friends were marking Norfolk Day with a number of performances. God willing the ringing within our borders will be more spectacular over the next few – cooler – days!

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Thursday 26th July 2018

Credit where credit’s due. When Ringing Remembers announced its plan to recruit 1,400 new ringers by Armistice Day this year to symbolically replace the 1,400 ringers lost in the First World War, I was sceptical as to how close they would get to that target. Not because I didn’t like the notion. I think it’s a fabulous idea. Nor because I doubted the endeavour behind it. After all, ringing has marked the centenary of that dreadful conflict magnificently to my mind. However, I simply believed it was launched far too late, with a more appropriate launch date – in hindsight - being the start of the hundredth anniversary commemorations back in 2014. In fact, only earlier I found myself wondering what might be considered a successful number of recruits if it should fall short.

The announcement that one thousand have been recruited was a very pleasant surprise and ringing ought to be congratulated. Even if the numbers stopped there, then a thousand recruits to the art in a relatively short period  is something to be pleased about and with another three-and-a-half months of recruiting time left there ought to be more. We may even hit target!

Meanwhile, the exercise the thousand are joining was being carried out most excellently at Tostock, where Pam Ebsworth and Andrea Alderton were ringing their first of Single Fairlie Bob Minor and Maureen Gardiner and Paul Ebsworth were ringing their first of that and Double Fairlie Bob Minor in the 1260 of the methods being rung together. Well done Pam, Andrea, Maureen and Paul and Happy 75th Birthday to Mr Ebsworth!

Things are looking bright for ringing at the moment!

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Wednesday 25th July 2018

Gill Waterson’s last quarter-peal was at Pettistree, just seven months ago. One of her favourite methods was Double Court Bob Minor. Following her peaceful passing yesterday morning, it seemed entirely appropriate that the original plans for this evening’s pre-practice QP on the ground-floor six she was a regular at were changed and instead a 1260 of Double Court was rung.

It is an understandable fave. Simple, but with just enough to keep people on their toes, it usually generates greater concentration and therefore often better ringing and in the main on this occasion that was the case in a quarter that got better and better and which I felt privileged to ring in.

And it wasn’t the only ringing remembering one of the nicest ladies in the exercise, with a 1260 of St Osmund Bob Doubles rung in Gloucestershire at North Cerney and closer to home the peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Major on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower – where her name is on a pealboard – was also dedicated to her memory. It was also David Potts’ 200th peal and David Rothera’s 2100th in the medium. Congratulations Davids!

Pettistree practice on a summer’s evening. L to r; Chris McArthur on 2nd, Anne Buswell on 3rd & Mike Cowling on 5th. Outside Pettistree church at the practice. With Alfie having a sleepover at Granny Kate’s with his cousins, Ruthie – having dropped me off to ring – came with Joshua to pick me up from my exertions this evening, taking in a decent chunk of the session too that saw the Harriyott’s visit again, but also Gill’s daughter Molly with her partner Paul. They seemed in relatively good cheer, no doubt relieved after all the sadness to see friends and have the chance to ring, as well as enjoy the freedom that this practice has on lovely hot summer’s evenings like these where one can sit out in the churchyard watching the sun lowering in the big wide skies that we are blessed to have here.

Meanwhile, there was also a 1344 of Glasgow Surprise Major rung at Bardwell on a good day’s ringing within our borders. One which I’m sure Gill would’ve enjoyed.

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Tuesday 24th July 2018

This morning’s peaceful passing of Gill Waterson at her home may be considered a mercy, an end to her pain after months of apparent deterioration from a brain tumour. However, her death is still extremely sad, particularly difficult for her son Ben and ringing daughter Molly who have lost both parents to the same cause in just a few years.

For those of us who once rang regularly with her at towers like Pettistree and Ufford lost a superb ringer several months ago when her initial diagnosis came about just before Christmas, with even visiting to watch ringing seemingly though understandably too much for her, sadly a reminder of what she used to enjoy doing but couldn’t do anymore. We got updates from Mary Garner who regularly visited her, but it wasn’t the same as having this lovely lady ringing with us, almost invariably without fault – I hardly ever remember her going wrong.

She was of course remembered here in Suffolk with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton rung in Double Norwich Court Bob Major, a favourite of hers. I’m sure she would’ve approved.

Rest in Peace Gill.

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Monday 23rd July 2018

David Potts himself admitted it sounded ‘nannyish’ in his email, but his advice to bring a drink to this evening’s practice at St Mary-le-Tower was a timely reminder as someone who nearly always forgets to take one in such humid conditions and always regrets it.

I am glad I did too, as at the end of the day when the hottest temperature of 2018 in the UK (33.3C!) was recorded in Suffolk at Santon Downham near the 17cwt eight of Elveden and 13cwt six of Lakenheath, it was still extremely warm with twenty-two filling the cosy ringing chamber from where the heaviest twelve in the county are rung, even with all the windows open and fan whirring around at top speed from the centre of the ceiling.

Understandably the ringing suffered a little in the circumstances, although we still managed a very well-rung half course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus on a night when Little Bob Max, Grandsire Cinques and Stedman Cinques were also rung with varying degrees of success, before the night was rounded off with three leads of Kent Treble Bob Maximus called by George Vant. That climax was a farewell piece for young Mr Vant as this was his final session here before he leaves for pastures new and was a humorous nod to the legendary occasion when he called the same touch but not so successfully, apparently calling any number of bobs in any number of places! For all the gentle ribbing though, we shall miss George. He has persevered tirelessly to improve his ringing – as highlighted best by scoring his first peal on twelve earlier in the year following several attempts beset by misfortune – and his enthusiasm for the art is something we could do with more of here. That said, for those who would like to see him before he leaves, there is one last opportunity as he has organised a farewell outing for Thursday 2nd August. If you would like to join him I am sure he would welcome you contacting him either via Facebook, the Colchester Bells website or if you I would be happy to let him know your interest.

I bade my farewells to him after a drink in The Cricketers beer garden following our efforts at SMLT. It took more than a bottle of water to quench our thirst on an evening like this!

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Sunday 22nd July 2018

As I try to highlight with this blog occasionally, not all our social life is ringing-related, but this mornings was close as we attended the annual Rector’s Cheese and Wine Lunch at the rectory of Kev the Rev in Woodbridge. It followed on from the morning service at St Mary the Virgin that Ruthie sang at and the boys and I attended and which in turn followed on from me helping to man the front six of the 25cwt eight and whilst – bar another couple with their two children, the youngest of whom was just seven days old – we were the youngest there by some way, it was a very pleasant way to spend the hottest part of another scorching day.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, those on the Barnes Summer Trip rang a 1254 of Grandsire Cinques at The Norman Tower with the help of some locals, whilst at Rougham a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor was rung in part to mark Maurice Rose’s sixty years of ringing. It is an astonishing length of service to ringing and ringers in the area for a man who has done so much for the Guild and there are few more deserving of such a footnote. Congratulations Maurice!

Hopefully he’s found time to do something other than ringing too!

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Saturday 21st July 2018

The last week or two have reminded me of the pitfalls of peal-arranging. Almost a year ago I began arranging a peal attempt to mark Joshua’s recent second birthday. The plan was to ring two Surprise Maximus methods spliced at Grundisburgh and mindful of how relatively sparse we are of resident Suffolk peal-ringing twelve-bell ringers and how much outside help I was likely to need, an early start seemed imperative. Having lost a little motivation after getting a super band for Mason’s birthday peal only to lose it, I probably started completing the band a bit late, but my efforts were hampered by dropouts through a frustrating though understandable combination of ill-health, forgetfulness and miscommunication that at one point saw me have eleven, then nine, before I eventually settled upon a band of ten good ringers for an attempt of 5002 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal.

However, the result was a lovely 2hrs44mins of ten-bell ringing, particularly considering the sweltering conditions even with the window wide open and fan on full-pelt and a pleasing performance to add to the children’s birthday peal-book. An added bonus of all the dropping out and replacing saw the unexpected and lovely return of Annie Brechin to the peal columns, nearly four years since she last rang a peal and almost nine years since her last for the SGR. Indeed she reckoned it was about eighteen-months since she last handled a bellrope at all, so her performance this morning was particularly impressive. The absence of this talented ringer from the exercise whilst living and working in exotic, but change-ringing deserts like Dubai, Paris and Prague has been a pity for us (if not for her!), but as she prepares for the next adventure a little closer to home, she is about in the area for the next few weeks, so we might see her in some more peals before she moves on again.

After our efforts, most of the band turned the conditions to their favour as we enjoyed the beer garden of The Turks Head in Hasketon, where we were joined by David Stanford and then the recent birthday boy himself, bringing with him his brothers Mason and Alfie, his mother Ruthie – whose own birthday five days ago was also marked in our footnote – and grandparents Kate and Ron after taking in Alfred’s leavers’ BBQ at nursery whilst I rang.

Elsewhere there was more ringing on the county’s bells as a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor was rung at Buxhall, but with our ringing done for the day we could’ve quite happily sat outside the pub all day in the glorious sunshine, as unadvisable as that would be! Mundanity kicked-in however and those boring though necessary jobs needed doing, taking us to the less relaxing venues of Next, Tesco and Wilkes, but I certainly enjoyed the morning. It was worth all agonies of peal-arranging.

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Friday 20th July 2018

I don’t know about anyone else, but I didn’t fully appreciate my time at primary school until several years later. After years of obtaining responsibilities and being exposed to the good and the bad that life throws at you and vice versa, one can’t help but yearn occasionally for those carefree days at Dale Hall. At the time though, daunted though I was by the unknown that lay ahead, I was also excited and keen to grow up. Judging by Mason’s demeanour following his last ever day at Kyson Primary School today, I suspect that he too is excited and doesn’t fully appreciate what he is leaving behind. As it should be.

Mason’s Leavers Assembly.That’s not to say that this morning’s leavers assembly wasn’t emotional as my eldest son and his peers sang a song, a display revealed what they all thought of each other (his classmates thought he was “super smiley, loves gardening” and is “incredibly helpful”, whilst they believe he is set for a career as an elite policeman) and there was a montage of photos from when he and his chums were younger that doubled up as a game of “Guess Who It Is”.

Meanwhile, the Barnes Summer Trip continued with three 1260s, one at Stoke Ash, one at Tannington and one at Wingfield. As good as primary school was, sometimes being an adult can be fun!

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Thursday 19th July 2018

Bures.Lovely to see a peal rung today at Bures in memory of Don Mills, a ringer synonymous with this anti-clockwise 20cwt eight right on the border with Essex. He did so much for ringing in that area and it is only right that a peal was rung here for him, but in these roasting conditions on a heavy ring in what I don’t think is the best ventilated ringing chamber (even by ringing chamber standards!), fair play to the band on their 3hrs21mins of ringing! Don would have been pleased and impressed I imagine.

It can’t have been a comfortable day for those on the returning Barnes Summer Trip either, as between them they rang five quarter-peals in the county, with Plain Bob Doubles at Great Finborough, eleven Doubles methods and variations at Haughley, Grandsire Doubles at Old Newton, St Simon’s Bob Doubles at Tostock and a 1320 of Bourne Surprise Minor at Thornham Magna, the latter being the first in the method for Malcolm McAlister – well done Malcolm!

Nothing quite as energetic for us today, unless you count parenting a two-year-old and four-year-old as they got hot and grumpy, but on this occasion I didn’t mind too much.

I’m glad those who rang at Bures were more inclined though, for Don at least.

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Wednesday 18th July 2018

Ruthie was at Pettistree this evening for another eclectic, jovial practice where the annual visit of the holidaying Harriyotts from East Sussex was apparently accompanied by well-received chocolates, in keeping with how their visit is always received!

Earlier Alfie had a morning at the primary school he is due to start at in September which also included his first taste of school dinners afterwards – again very well-received!

As was the 1250 of Pudsey Surprise Major at Ixworth by local residents I’m sure!

In fact, it was a generally well-received day!

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Tuesday 17th July 2018

I was back at Mason’s school this evening as his academic year – and indeed his time as a whole there – draws to a close. On this occasion it was for a production by him and his fellow year sixes called Darwin Rocks, which as the name suggests is a modern musical take on Charles Darwin’s life. And very professional it was too, with my eldest son appearing as a paper boy and a young Charles Darwin, making for an enjoyable evening.

It meant there was no time for ringing, but then we rarely do any on a Tuesday anyway. There was some being done on Suffolk’s bells today though and in fairly impressive style too, with a 1280 of twelve Surprise Major methods spliced at Gislingham and a 1250 of Ealing Surprise Major at Hopton.

Meanwhile, it was a pleasant surprise to hear renowned atheist Richard Dawkins praising the sound of Winchester Cathedral’s bells on Twitter. Just a shame that he accompanied it with an unnecessary go at the Muslim call to prayer. Mercifully no shrapnel came ringing’s way in the predictable and understandable metaphorical fire that came back his way and so I guess this can be filed under ‘good PR’.

As was Mason’s performance for his school. Well done Mason!

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Monday 16th July 2018

For all her talents (and there are many such as ringing, singing, flute-playing and motherhood to mention just a few), Ruthie is very poor at celebrating herself.

Today is her birthday. Not a significant one granted (that is due next year!), but her birthday nonetheless and I asked her what she’d like to do to mark the anniversary of her birth. I’m aware of our relative limitations financially and due to our parenthood, but if able I was prepared and willing to take her out for a meal or watch a film or something similar. However, in her typically understated fashion, my wife requested simply a night in with kebab meat and chips and a few beers and watching some of the new QI DVDs that she received as a present this morning, unwrapped with vigour as the boys watched on excitedly.

I did at least get a bottle of fizzy for the occasion and her Mum and Ron popped round with more gifts and cards, and importantly she seemed to enjoy herself, which was the main thing. God willing we can make a bigger fuss of her in twelve months time!

It all meant that this week I didn’t make it to St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice and there doesn’t appear to have been any quarters or peals in the county to report, so for now all that remains is to say Happy Birthday to Ruthie, one of the best ringers in Suffolk, former South-East District Secretary and my lovely wife – Happy Birthday!

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Sunday 15th July 2018

Typically the annual Offton BBQ at Brian and Peta Whiting’s beautiful rural abode deep within the rolling fields of mid-Suffolk’s countryside is an escape from the outside world. This time around though, there was a slight intrusion from humankind beyond their fantastic garden, most particularly from Moscow and mostly it was welcomed. England may not quite have made it to the biggest match in football, but the World Cup Final was something that the considerable number of football fans in attendance in this idyll were keen not to miss and so come the 4pm kick-off beneath the gazebo set up under the scorching sunshine and temperatures of around thirty degrees centigrade, a sizeable gathering began convening around a TV screen to watch English conquerors and first-time finalists Croatia take on France.

Gathered at Brian & Peta Whiting’s for the Offton BBQ. Alfie & Joshua help in the hunt for lost boules at the Offton BBQ. Joshua opening a birthday present at the Offton BBQ. A table-full of puddings in the kitchen at the Offton BBQ. Watching the World Cup Final at the Offton BBQ. Boules on the lawn at the Offton BBQ. Stephen Pettman, Jonathan Williamson & Brian Whiting ringing handbells at the Offton BBQ.

Not that it detracted from yet another memorable afternoon that had all the usual ingredients for the perfect way for whiling away a hot few hours. Boules was played by many on the vast lawn overseen as it normally is by local ringer Doug Perry, handbells rang out, a vast amount of food was consumed from the barbecue and the kitchen table was bulging beneath plates and bowls of first savoury sustenance and then a huge array of puddings and desserts, all enjoyed in wonderful company. It was lovely to catch up with some locals we don’t see often, such as the Perrys, Hohls and the Goodchilds and their growing family, as well as speak with others such as the Smiths and Sparlings. Also lovely to be reintroduced to Karen Glover who I hadn’t seen since she was ringing at Sproughton in my early days in the exercise. And the boys – the eldest two of whom were genuinely very excited about coming to this – had a great time, as did we all.

Meanwhile, other ringers in the county were ringing on a busy day within our borders, with a total of four quarter-peals rung on our soil. Admittedly one of them was rung on one of the handful of NDA towers on this side of our border with Norfolk as a 1296 of Plain Bob Major was rung at Lowestoft, but the trio of QPs rung at SGR towers all saw members achieve something. Well done to Dominic Parkes on ringing his first away from cover in the Plain Bob Doubles at Beccles and to Jackie Latham, Anne Bridge and conductor Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Southery Bob Minor in the success at Buxhall and their first of Stanstead Bob Minor in the 1260 rung at Great Barton.

I had managed some ringing too earlier, at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, once I’d had to deal with simultaneously changing Joshua’s nappy and helping Alfie relieve himself in some bushes once I’d parked up at the former! Grandsire was the common link between the two towers, with Cinques rung at SMLT, Triples at the latter with a visit to Costa Coffee with my fellow ringers in between.

As for the football – the French won 4-2 to lift the trophy for the second time ever, but as fun as it was to watch it in such lovely surroundings, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Offton BBQ. Thank you Brian and Peta!

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Saturday 14th July 2018

The link between ringers and pubs was well and truly cemented by an interview carried out and aired yesterday but which I only got the opportunity to listen to this evening. Every Friday afternoon, Lesley Dolphin features a Pub of the Week (1hr 45min in) on her BBC Radio Suffolk show and this week was the turn of The Greyhound in Pettistree and she interviewed landlady Louise. Not only did the presenter – who was briefly a ringer many may recall – mention that one of the nice aspects of the inn was being able to hear the bells, but Louise herself made a special mention of the local ringers and that she and her husband Stewart always try to save them a table following the Wednesday evening practice.

In my opinion, if possible there should always be a visit to the pub after every practice. From a ringing perspective I am sure it helps attract more ringers, especially those who perhaps on a wet and wild winter’s night for example may not consider travelling several miles to a session only to have to turn back immediately afterwards. It also helps foster a togetherness that is essential for any team in any discipline looking to enjoy and progress what they do, as England’s footballers have demonstrated over the last month. Ringing thrives when the social side does. That doesn’t necessarily mean going to a tavern. After all, I have enjoyed many ringing-related social occasions from cricket matches to ten-pin bowling to meals out to simply going for a cuppa post-ringing, but the pub is usually the easiest and often most desirable means of socialising outside of the ringing chamber.

It also serves to help relationships with the local community, particularly at rural towers. We are loud in carrying out our wonderful hobby and if we are to ring as much as we need to at our towers in order to progress, but are unable to use simulators and sound control – as I would recommend to every tower – then we need to be on good terms with those who live and work within earshot of bells. At Pettistree there is an awful lot of ringing. One or two – sometimes three – quarter-peals each week alongside a busy two-hour practice, Sunday morning and occasionally evensong ringing, visiting ringers and a handful of peal attempts each year just wouldn’t be possible without the support – or at the very least tolerance and understanding – of the villagers and apart from ringing for and supporting village events and marking local occasions, a big part of gaining that has been using The Greyhound in large numbers. The sacrifices we’re prepared to make!

Mason having a go at archery at Melton fete.That said we didn’t do any ringing nor entered a pub today, but the boys and I still had a fun day, even if we had to do it without Ruthie who was at work all day. The highlight of the day was this afternoon’s annual Melton Fete, the type of event that would be ideal for The Vestey Ring, as it will be at the Shottisham Fete on 25th August where the booking page on this website reveals. Of course, that is easier said than done as considerable time and numbers are needed each time it goes out and us ringers are busy folk, but it gave me pause for thought wandering around the lovely mix of stalls from fire engines and old cars to the scouts to Messy Church to farm animals, as it wouldn’t have been out of place.

For now though, Alfie enjoyed some putting (even knocking two balls in a hole with one shot at one point!) with a golf club and Mason had a go at archery and the coconut shy, even coming away from the latter with a coconut after his first shot was unerringly accurate!

One of our trees being brought down.Earlier, our neighbour gleefully came round ours with a chainsaw to do some mutually beneficial tree-felling, leaving an abundance of wood and clearing ample space to let through this wonderful sunshine into both our gardens. There was lots of shifting branches and logs in hot weather, leaving us both gasping for a trip to a pub.

Alas though, not today, but I hope to be able to get to The Greyhound at the next possible opportunity!

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Friday 13th July 2018

Mason partaking in his last school sports day. Mason partaking in his last school sports day. Mason partaking in his last school sports day. Mason partaking in his last school sports day. Mason partaking in his last school sports day.

Today’s theme was pretty much a continuation of yesterday’s theme, as Mason took part in his last sports day at his primary school. As has become the norm, I followed him around the playing field as along with his peers he carried out a series of activities, including for the first time a long-distance run, all the while collecting points for their team, the blues. Unlike the norm though, Mason came out on the winning team for the first time, prompting scenes not seen since England went 1-0 up in their World Cup semi-final earlier in the week, minus the beer being flung up in the air!

Elsewhere Suffolk’s ringers were ringing, with a peal rung at Henley to welcome the Rev. Canon Joe Hawes ahead of him being installed as the new Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral tomorrow, whilst the FNQPC were successful with a 1260 of Doubles at Tannington.

All reassuringly usual as times a change.

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Thursday 12th July 2018

There has been a sense of time marching on this week.

All bar a handful of those in England’s football squad in Russia currently weren’t even born when this country last reached the semi-finals of the biggest single-sport competition on the planet, a tournament I remember vividly from my youth.

Yesterday marked two years since the birth of our youngest son Joshua, a landmark that seems incredible when the image of his arrival into the world as a fragile, helpless new human being is still so fresh in my mind.

Today perhaps topped them all though as I sat with Alfie whilst he sat patiently in the reception area of the primary school he is due to begin attending in September, his legs dangling from the sofa we were sat on as he waited to go into an introductory afternoon in the classroom that is pencilled in for him to start his schooling from. His birth too is one that is imprinted in my memory and yet here he was ready to experience school, albeit in the form of a gentle taster session. Mercifully he enjoyed it immensely, even calling it fun, giving us heart for what may lay ahead.

Time marched on too fast to include any ringing for us today, but there was ringing being carried out by others in Suffolk, with quarter-peals of Combermere Delight Minor and Superlative Surprise Major rung at Tostock and Horringer respectively, the latter of which saw young Jimmy Yeoman ring his first blows in the method. Well done Jimmy!

Another young ringer epitomising the sense of time marching on.

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Wednesday 11th July 2018

Football isn’t coming home after all. Much like as Christmas draws to a close and one reluctantly packs away the festive favourites, Three Lions, Vindaloo and World in Motion cease to blare out as another World Cup is done and dusted for England. Not entirely, as they have to play out the absurd third and fourth-place match on Saturday that absolutely no one wants to bother with, but essentially this evening’s 2-1 defeat to Croatia in the semi-final signalled an end to some pretty outrageous dreaming.

Boy has it been fun though. For a few weeks a nation of football fans from Cornwall to Northumberland, here in Suffolk to Herefordshire, supporters of rival clubs most of the time joined together in joyous abandon (although admittedly some with a little too much abandon on Saturday) as the likeable band of young footballers progressed in amongst a tournament that has generally been immensely entertaining. I often like to highlight the parallels between my love of football and my love of ringing, but it is difficult to find anything even in our wonderful hobby to compare to holding your breath with tens of millions of others as the matches unfolded. Indeed, there are times when ringing has been missed to watch the English take on the rest of the world and so it was tonight as Ruthie passed on ringing at Pettistree for watching events unfold in Moscow.

Disappointing as the outcome was, there were still celebrations in our household as we marked Joshua’s second birthday. In fact, those celebrations – with his cousins, aunt, Granny and Granddad joining us at home – were still in full flow as the big game kicked-off and England took their early hope-inducing lead, with a rendition of Happy Birthday and the blowing out of candles delayed briefly so as not to clash with the national anthems!

Earlier I had taken the afternoon off to allow us to take him and Alfie to the beach at Felixstowe for a birthday treat, with sandcastles built, pebbles thrown into the North Sea and the pier explored before we topped it off with tea at McDonald’s.

Alfie & Joshua enjoying a ride at Felixstowe Pier. Joshua & Ruthie on Felixstowe beach. Joshua unwrapping presents. Joshua blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.

It was a lovely way to spend the special day for our youngest son who has grown up with a cheeky, confident personality and who – like his brothers – has been a joy to watch growing up. Happy Birthday Joshie!

This work-beach-footy combo left no time for ringing, but other Suffolk ringers did manage some, even if the most notable was beyond our borders as young Exning ringer Jimmy Yeoman rang his first handbell peal in Reach in Cambridgeshire. Impressive in itself, but even more so when one considers it is only his second peal altogether. Jimmy has been extremely determined, setting himself targets which he has been meeting and it is to his credit that he is achieving so much. Keep it up Jimmy!

God willing there is much more to come from him. And from the England football team.

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Tuesday 10th July 2018

John Catt Educational was gradually getting settled into its new offices today, with a mixture of moving stuff from the old space and settling into our new premises. I found myself at Deben Mill Business Centre, the warehouse and at my newly constructed desk at various points throughout the day, all within a few minutes walk of home where again Ruthie and Joshua were occupying themselves as Alfie went on an exciting trip to Africa Alive, his second visit there in the last few couple of months.

We ended our day watching Belgium and France battle it out for the opportunity to face what we hope is England in Sunday’s World Cup final, whilst other ringers were more active today with a quarter-peal of Doubles at Old Newton.

It is nice to see such consistency in the art that so happily fills my spare time at a time when things are very much changing at my place of employment.

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Monday 9th July 2018

If Friday was an odd day in the office, today was like no other. Instead of my usual sedentary existence behind a desk phoning people, my day consisted almost entirely of packing boxes, moving them, shifting large cabinets and shelves, building desks and even sharing a ride with the guy delivering them after he had got lost! For this was John Catt Educational’s first day in their new bigger offices and although the directors had worked hard over the weekend to get as much done as possible, we had all been primed that today would be all about clearing the old office and setting things up in the new place.

Indeed I spent much of the day at Deben Mill Business Park where I had been based for ten years and it was extremely hard work, but there was still a sense of excitement as the new space began taking shape. And it was wonderful to take advantage of the extra time at home that my much shorter walk gave me, especially as Ruthie had been at home all day with a poorly Joshua. That was mainly a precaution after a rough evening and night with the one-year-and-three-hundred-and-sixty-three-day-old and so that extra time was much appreciated!

Still, I had a lot of aching limbs as I arrived at St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening, which was a better attended session than last week and very productive too, with Yorkshire Surprise of the Royal and Maximus varieties and Stedman Cinques the zenith of the ringing, followed by another drink in the beer garden of The Cricketers during this thus-far glorious summer.

I needed a drink after my day at work!

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Sunday 8th July 2018

I was slightly distracted at the time, so today was my opportunity to catch-up with yesterday’s Ringing World National Youth Contest in London through social media, the contest’s website and Simon Edward’s live broadcast which can be found on YouTube. Well done to Sussex Young Ringers on winning the Whitechapel Trophy, but also to all who partook and the organisers. It is wonderful to see so many youngsters enjoying our art and even better for the fact that Blue Peter were there covering the event, to be aired in the (hopefully) near future.

The only sad aspect was the absence of a Suffolk team, but God willing circumstances and drive will change that as there are still talented youth around.

At the other end of the spectrum though, this Wednesday sees the other end of the age-spectrum celebrated as the annual Veterans’ Day is held at Debenham. We are quite rightly keen to attract youngsters to the exercise as if we get it right with them then they have the potential to take it through the coming decades, but we also have to recognise those who have brought it to this point over the last few decades with their dedication and skill. Please do support it if you can, young or old!

I was enjoying the hobby that they have grown at Woodbridge this morning for ringing ahead of the service that we then attended with the doors wide open on another blistering hot day, but that was it for today as the afternoon was given over to my Mum and Dad coming over to give felicitations to their youngest grandson Joshua ahead of his birthday on Wednesday.

Other ringers were more active in the ringing stakes though, with the second-Sunday Aldeburgh peal rung at Orford of Market Harborough Surprise Major not unusually a first in the method for the entire band and the Guild. Most notable today however, was young Jimmy Yeoman’s first quarter-peal of Surprise Minor rung at Exning in Cambridge and Ipswich. Well done Jimmy, with more like you the future will be as bright here as for those participating in the RWNYC yesterday.

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Saturday 7th July 2018

There was a South-East District Practice at Orford this afternoon, something that we would usually be present at without hesitation. By the coast on a beautiful hot summers day in a wonderful location next door to a lovely pub full of rural character. What’s not to like? Apparently around twenty members took advantage of something that we are extremely fortunate to have on our doorstep. Impressive at this time of the year anyway, especially with many on holiday or prised away to the beach or some other attraction in the heatwave, although it has been going on long enough for people to have had plenty of opportunity to do such things. However, it was all the more impressive as it clashed directly with the biggest hour-and-half for English football for over a decade as they took on Sweden in the quarter-final of the World Cup in Russia. Over twenty-four million watched England’s last match against Colombia and with the usual favourites falling round-by-round meaning that there is a genuine opportunity for us to win the whole tournament, there is probable to have been even more tuning in for the 3pm kick-off on this sunny Saturday.

That included us. Frankly, I don’t want to miss any of what is turning into an historic time for a team that I have followed for as long as I have followed football and we felt fully justified in that decision as the Three Lions won 2-0 to book their first semi-final in the game’s biggest competition since 1990.

We enjoy watching the games communally. If it were practical with the children we would pop along to the nearest pub showing the match to watch it with the company of a large excitable crowd and had been briefly tempted by the notion of heading down to Portman Road with them to watch on the big screen there, though we had been warned off by others who had said that with increasing, more excitable attendances that it probably wasn’t the place for very little children now, even if it had started out as such. Instead, where possible we are bringing others to us and this afternoon saw good friends Toby and Amy and their children Maddie and Oscar come over for an occasion that also doubled up as a playdate for the kids and opportunity for them to bring presents and best wishes to Joshua ahead of his second birthday on Wednesday. The BBQ was charged up again and sunbathed garden utilised once more, at least once the footy had finished!

Meanwhile, others had managed to fit in their ringing before the big game as a peal was rung at the lovely ground-floor six of Tannington to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of Robert Beavis’ mother Linda and remembering local organist and husband of Suffolk ringing stalwart Muriel Page, Alan.

It was a lovely day for bells to be floating across the fields, woodlands, streams and lanes of our magnificent landscape, but whilst we were sorry to miss out on doing any ourselves, there’s very little I would’ve missed today’s match for. Even Orford on a sunny day.

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Friday 6th July 2018

As end of eras go, today was a big one. For after nearly ten years in our little office in the Deben Mill Business Centre, today was John Catt Educational’s last day of trading from there. After five house moves over that time, I imagine that there is no building that I have spent more time in collectively since we moved into what were then brand new premises in August 2008. It feels all the more poignant for the fact that I remember the very day we moved in, probably because it is documented in this blog, having begun life as an employee of JCEL three months earlier in the old school house at Great Glemham, but these are exciting times as we move to our new spot just round the corner from Chez Munnings.

It was an odd day though, as I worked whilst furniture disappeared from around me, in between packing up stuff myself, as the once familiar office became less and less familiar.

Other things remain reassuringly consistent though, especially in ringing and particularly this evening as the FNQPC did what they have done for many years, this time with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham. Meanwhile, there was also a quarter-peal of Doubles rung at Woolpit to mark the seventieth anniversary of the birth of the NHS, another reassuring consistent.

Less so at the World Cup which with a night in was where our gaze was directed, as Brazil became the latest big team to get knocked out of an extraordinary tournament. There seem to be quite a few eras ending at the moment...

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Thursday 5th July 2018

A spot of apparent time-bending occurred this evening, as within the mere hour-and-a-half between dropping Ruthie off at choir practice and picking her up, I managed to get the boys round Tesco, gave them a decent session out in the sunbaked garden, bathed them and readied them for bed.

That this was a highlight of the day personally says how exciting today was on a personal level, without even any World Cup action to tide me over, but there was activity on Suffolk's bells with their ringers - well done to Jimmy Yeoman on ringing his first blows of Yorkshire Surprise Major in the 1260 of that and Cambridge spliced at Horringer. Although no apparent time-bending occurring.

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Wednesday 4th July 2018

A couple of months ago marked the tenth anniversary of when I started working at John Catt Educational. It was literally a life-changing moment, as at the time (as many will recall and others will have read on the early days of this blog) I had spent months either unemployed or moving from lowly-paid temp job to lowly-paid temp job. Not only has it given me - and therefore Ruthie and our growing family - vital stability that has enabled us to buy a house and make what plans one can make in uncertain times, but it suits me absolutely perfectly. At this small company there is nowhere to go upwards in position, but that is no problem with me as I have no great ambitions to climb the career ladder and get into stressful life-consuming management roles. The professional but relaxed atmosphere is great to work in and they are generous with allowing flexibility to do things like attend school assemblies, take in nativity plays or look after poorly children, as well as with the meals out, especially the Christmas one! They are reassuringly supportive too, vital in sales where there are inevitably tough times as well as good. That this is a enjoyable place to work is borne out by the fact that even after all this time there are still two others who have worked here longer than me.

One other thing that has made my decade here work so well for me is that apart from the first year when we were based at the delightfully quaint but professionally impractical old schoolhouse at Great Glemham and I lived at Hollesley, the office has been close enough to get home at short notice for all those little dramas that naturally occur, especially when kids are involved. No lengthy commute in traffic jams or unpredictable public transport for me as I once had. No tearing my hair out every time the Orwell Bridge closes, which is frequently nowadays. Indeed, currently I can walk to work!

New offices.Things are about to change though and this morning my colleagues and I got a glimpse of the future. For next week, we move into newly built offices and today for the first time most of us got given our first tour of the new premises. And very nice they are too. They are bigger and brighter and best of all they are even closer to home then the current place!

Meanwhile at Ruthie's place of employment John Ives, she was called in on her day off to help undertake a stocktake that began mid-afternoon and eventually ended well after darkness, which is no mean feat at this time of year! We were grateful therefore to Mum and Dad for taking Alfie and Joshua out for the day on an itinerary that Alfred had pushed for from as soon as he knew he was going, wth Christchurch Park and the cafe at top of his list! Thank you to my parents.

All of which left no time for ringing for either of us, though other ringers in Suffolk were doing more. A quarter-peal of Cambridge, Superlative, Turramurra and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced was rung at Hopton and I was particularly pleased that after having to withdraw due to my wife's work commitments and a lack of babysitters that a peal was scored at The Wolery. The latter not only saw Neal Dodge circle the tower, but it was also the four hundredth peal on the bells. Some mock the contribution this mini-ring makes and granted it is easier to ring vast numbers on them where they don't disturb the neighbours than a traditional church tower where they disturb a wide area, but this little eight has been an invaluable tool for the progress of many ringers, Ruthie and myself included, so congratulations to the Salters on this landmark!

Exciting times for two places I have spent a lot of time at!

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Tuesday 3rd July 2018

This morning we caught our first glimpse of the 2018 Rambling Ringers tour list, something that God willing will be very familiar to us soon. It may seem sad to even my fellow ringers, but I look forward to the arrival of the schedule of the fortnight-long tour to new and different places. After all, like everybody else I look forward to our holiday and it is a sign that it isn’t far away.

Not that the list is exciting in itself, made up as it is of predominantly five and six bell towers, but I don’t mind this as there is much fun to be had on lower numbers, with no doubt a list of various unfamiliar methods for us to learn arriving shortly. And in between there should be pubs to eat in, wonderful countryside to take in and hopefully all done in the kind of gorgeous weather conditions we have been enjoying over the last few weeks.

As usual, the list arrived with instructions not to share with anyone and everyone without consultation first. One reason for that is to deter ad hoc tower grabbers who turn up, grab and disappear against the spirit of the tour, but it is also that we value the privilege of being allowed to ring on the bells of others and try to maintain a certain standard of ringing. However, we are very welcoming and like just about every organisation we are keen for newcomers and whilst finding time to join us in Devon for a few days at this short notice might be unlikely for most readers of this, we would be delighted to see more Suffolk ringers join us on tour in the future.

It is a holiday I am excited about, but it will have to wait. I could do with a holiday right now though after this evening’s mentally draining events played out on our TV and those of over 24 million others across the UK as England’s footballers made history at the World Cup. Not only in winning a knockout match in the World Cup for twelve years, but winning their first penalty shootout at any tournament for twenty-two years and the first in this competition ever. It followed on from a match that saw them winning 1-0 until an entirely undeserved equaliser from our opponents Colombia, who could most graciously be described as unsporting. It was on a knife-edge throughout, tense from start to finish and gripping, with the only downside being that to watch Saturday afternoon’s quarter-final with Sweden will mean missing the South-East District’s Practice at Orford at the same time. The flip side being that if you want to avoid the football, then you know where to go! Alternatively, if that is too far east for you, the North-West District’s Outing to Norfolk will also offer you escape if that is what you seek.

This evening though, ringers had to choose between ringing and football and not all made the same decision as us, not that there was any ringing for us to attend. A rare peal at Parham was rung, being David Salter’s two hundredth Suffolk tower rung to a peal – congratulations David and Happy Birthday Winston Girling! And well done as well to the entire band who rang their first blows of Hasfield Bob Minor in the 1260 at Buxhall.

Meanwhile, following the quarter-peal of Turramurra Surprise Major at Offton, the practice was apparently accompanied by radio coverage of the big match, the climax of which was witnessed by them in The Limeburners post-ringing.

The communal watching of big England games is not something we can really do currently, which is a pity as it is the best way to enjoy such occasions, but Ruthie and I were still absorbed by every kick, whether that be of the ball or an English shin. We could do with that holiday though.

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Monday 2nd July 2018

If the result had gone pretty much any other way in England’s World Cup game on Thursday, they would have been playing this evening and I would’ve missed St Mary-le-Tower practice. As it was, they play tomorrow and I made it to SMLT.

I’m glad I did too, as we were very short on this occasion. Indeed, there were only eleven, including Sproughton learner Katy who did extremely well as she rang on ten for the very first time and yet even in Ringing Master David Potts’ absence, Jonathan Williamson was able to fashion a very decent session of method ringing alongside our visitor’s well-rung call-changes that included some Stedman Triples and Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the back eight and some very decent Yorkshire Surprise Royal, something that I think a lot of provincial twelve-bell practices would be delighted with in the same circumstances.

It was hot work mind and so we were in need of refreshment afterwards and were glad of the opportunity to sit down in The Cricketers’ beer garden with a drink for an eclectic range of conversation from tonight’s exciting Belgium-Japan match in Russia to piers.

Thank goodness that England lost on Thursday so that I could enjoy it all!

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Sunday 1st July 2018

We were a little short at St Mary-le-Tower this morning for service ringing, but in Ringing Master David Potts' absence Jonathan Williamson guided us through a decent session that mainly featured ringing on the back ten before we continued on to first-Sunday ringing at St Lawrence and then Costa Coffee for some much needed refreshment. In the end, it didn't leave enough time to get to Grundisburgh and so instead we meandered leisurely back to Woodbridge to collect Ruthie from church - listening to St Margaret's bells ringing in the background as BBC Radio Suffolk reported from Ipswich Music Day at the adjacent Christchurch Park (just under two hours in to the show) - and a quiet afternoon alternating between the garden and a brace of penalty-shootouts on the TV as the World Cup continues to entertain, with Spain the latest big team knocked out.

Ruth actually missed the end of that as she went to Pettistree to ring her fifth quarter-peal in less than a fortnight, a bit of a burst of ringing activity by the standards of either us, although not that of the Spillers and Peter Waterfield, who rang two handbell peals today alone, both in Bacton, both of Surprise Minor, with one being of seven methods, the other an impressive - though for them routine, I imagine - twenty-three methods.

Still, for us it was a very laid-back day in the heat, whether at ringing, in front of the footy or out in the garden.

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Saturday 30th June 2018

The last time we hosted a BBQ was way back when we lived at Sun Lane in Woodbridge, a house we left in 2011, with our barbecue so underused that it became the victim of one of the many culls during numerous subsequent housemoves. With my parents very kindly passing on one to use in recent weeks and the scorching heatwave continuing, it felt remiss not to get it out and try it. At the same time, ourselves and Louis Suggett and Laura Davies have been saying that they ought to come and visit us, especially with their impending and exciting travels fast approaching. It made sense to combine the two and invite them round for a barbie!

Louis Suggett being entertained by Mason at our house. Laura Davies being entertained by Mason at our house.Thus this afternoon it came to occur as Mason and I met them off the train and we set about an entertaining few hours of computer gaming, football and BBQing, injected by eating, drinking and conversation and as much relaxation as one can get whilst our boys are about. They were lovely guests to have and although it may have to wait until their return now, we should do it again!

Meanwhile, other ringers were ringing in notable performances, both here in Suffolk and beyond our borders. Very well done to Ipswich-lad-done-good George Salter on not only ringing his first peal of Orion Surprise Maximus, but calling it too in the 5088 rung at Shoreditch, whilst back in his homeland it was nice to see a 5090 rung at Sproughton for former ringer Dick Pegg on the occasion of his forthcoming ninetieth birthday. There was also a 1260 of Grandsire Triples rung on the back eight at The Norman Tower, but the real headliner today was Rachel Tunbridge who rang her first quarter-peal at the first attempt by trebling to the success at Buxhall - congratulations Rachel!

Perhaps a good excuse to get the BBQ out to celebrate!

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Friday 29th June 2018

The FNQPC did what they do with a 1344 of Plain Bob Major at Henley, but otherwise it was a quiet day for us from a ringing perspective. There wasn’t even any football on to tide me over on the first day off for this World Cup!

God willing it’ll be more exciting on other days, but well done to the FNQPC nonetheless.

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Thursday 28th June 2018

I've rung in peals before where for whatever reason you feel it might be best to lose it. Perhaps the ringing is dreadful. Maybe it is really hard work due to the go of the bells and/or the weather conditions. Or from a purely selfish point of view you realise a peal is going to finish later than you thought due to a false start or slower pace than anticipated and that you aren't going to make whatever you had planned to go to afterwards if you score. Sometimes losing is best, although you would never intentionally make it happen or voice it.

So it felt with England’s last group match in the World Cup against Belgium this evening. Both teams had already qualified, with identical records right down to goals scored and conceded and so the only jeopardy was who was to finish first and who would finish second. This is where the above analogy comes in. Draw (so long as we didn’t get more yellow cards than our opponents) or win and we would come top and we would play Japan in the next round, in theory the easier of the two teams we could face next week. However, if we had come out of that victorious we would probably have met Brazil in the quarter-finals, by far and away the clear favourites to win the whole tournament, especially since yesterday’s departure of Germany. If we lost, we would be runners-up in our group and although we would meet Colombia – the harder of the two possible opposition teams – in the second round, if we could get through that we might meet either Sweden or Switzerland. Still difficult, but not as difficult as having to beat the country who have won this trophy more than anyone else.

It’s all nonsense of course, with this World Cup incredibly unpredictable, many twists and turns ahead and the Three Lions generally appalling when it comes to the knockout stages of these competitions, but I could see why many English fans were unfussed and even pleased by the 1-0 defeat to our friends across the North Sea in Russia tonight. However, combined with the circumstances meaning both sides played a lot of their reserves thus providing a pretty dull fixture, it meant it was all a bit of an anti-climax.

Still, we were determined to enjoy the occasion as local ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis came round to join us to watch and to partake in drink and takeaway.

Whilst there were enough for Major on handbells (if we were capable and if there were handbells present) in our household, there was no ringing today, although Pete did ring for a wedding at Ufford this afternoon. Other ringers in Suffolk were busier though, with a quarter-peal of Vale Royal Delight Minor rung at Tostock. Well done to the entire band for ringing their first in the method and congratulations to Pam Ebsworth and Andrea Alderton on ringing their one hundredth QP together.

I’m glad they didn’t feel it was better to lose it!

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Wednesday 27th June 2018

Unusual happenings occurred today.

Not just Germany's shock elimination from the World Cup at the group stage for the first time since 1938 which prompted much schadenfreude, but at Pettistree too where Ruthie went to ring in the pre-practice quarter-peal and ended up ringing in two! It was due to an unusually threadbare attendance at this usually popular session, as having completed the 1320 of Surfleet Surprise Minor - well done to Hilary Stearn on ringing her first in the method - the only person to arrive was Sam Shannon. With Mike Cowling needing to get away, Sam got the unexpected bonus of some lengthy focus on trebling to Doubles!

And although a peal of it was rung at Gislingham earlier in the month and a quarter at The Norman Tower yesterday, Turramurra Surprise Major is still an unusual method to see rung in these and most parts, so well done to the band who rang a 5088 of it on the front eight of St Mary-le-Tower this evening.

Meanwhile, it was encouraging to see a mini-ring in the Diocese of Norwich's tent at the Royal Norfolk Show today, with particular mention made of it on the Diocese's website. Having had a very successful couple of days with the mini-ring at the Suffolk Show back in 2011, we have been unable to exhibit since, with a sudden lack of space the main reason given, so perhaps we and the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich could speak with our counterparts north of the border on how they managed it. To have the Vestey Ring at the Suffolk Show would be tremendous PR boost!

Back here, a shortened practice was managed at the aforementioned ground-floor six that my wife was present at with some more arrivals, before they topped their evening off with a drink in The Greyhound. Not everything about today was unusual!

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Tuesday 26th June 2018

Heatwave, long warm evenings, an exciting World Cup (Argentina only just snuck through on this occasion) and a Project Pickled Egg production on some of Suffolk’s bells as a quarter-peal of Turramurra Surprise Major was rung on the back eight at The Norman Tower. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I suggest you have a read of at least some of Simon Linford’s excellent articles in the Ringing World and/or join the Project Pickled Egg discussion group on Facebook.

Otherwise it was a quiet day though, at least apart from Alfie playing up as four-year-olds do!

There is still much due to happen in the forthcoming weeks as June comes to an end and July begins. Before this month is out, those wanting to escape England’s next World Cup match may find a hiding place at the North-East District Practice at Blythburgh on Thursday evening, whilst forty-eight hours later there is a South-West District Practice pencilled in at the 20cwt ten of St Peter’s in Sudbury, where I’m sure all support would be welcomed.

Next month there is much more planned, with the North-East District again busy with practices at Beccles on the 4th, Chediston on the 5th, Bungay on the 9th, Reydon on the 16th, Worlingham on the 17th, Halesworth on the 24th, Blythburgh again on the 26th and Southwold on the 27th, with a Booster Session booked in for the morning of Saturday 14th. Meanwhile, all being well the North-West District and South-West District will be holding outings to South Norfolk and North Suffolk on the 7th and to Buxhall, Thurston and Horringer on the 28th respectively, whilst the South-East District Practice should be held at Orford from 3.30-5pm on Saturday 7th. On top of that, the 2nd Tuesday Ringing plans to go to Great Barton, Pakenham and Tostock on the 10th and the Helmingham Monthly Practice is due to happen on the evening of Friday 20th. The highlight of the month – and one of the highlights of the year – is the Annual Veterans’ Day at Debenham on Wednesday 11th, an event that it is worth reminding folk is not purely for veterans! All are welcome, whatever your age, as is the case for all the events above.

God willing the nice weather continues for it all!

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Monday 25th June 2018

As is often the case, photos, clips and tales continued to come out online from the National Twelve-Bell Final, but I was also able to catch-up with some of the gossip from those who were there and came along to St Mary-le-Tower practice this evening.

I don’t think I’m being harsh in saying that our ringing on this occasion didn’t come quite up to the same standard as that exhibited in Cambridge on Saturday, as that is likely to be the case with the majority of twelve-bell bands around the country and the world. However, in between individual errors that disrupted two half-courses of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, there were signs that we could be capable of making an entry into the 2019 competition as we hope with some decent ringing. We will need to persevere though, think about our striking (really think about it), ring with our strongest band as often as possible and above all else concentrate!

It was nice to congratulate Sue Williamson on ringing her first (and according to the star herself, her last!) and to see Alex Tatlow as he visited on a hot evening that was topped off with most of us retiring to the beer garden of The Cricketers.

Earlier, Ruthie and I had taken Alfie along to where he is pencilled in to begin school in September for an introduction to some of the teachers, what he can expect in his first few weeks and even some of the school dinners!

It wasn’t the place for Twelve-Bell gossip though.

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Sunday 24th June 2018

This has been a hugely enjoyable weekend, but when I turn my mind back to the many during the year where the diary has been blank, it has also been quite frustrating. Like yesterday, we were faced with a choice that wasn’t really a choice, which on this occasion was between sitting at home watching England’s latest World Cup fixture with a beer or two in hand or celebrating Ruthie’s grandparents’ Diamond Wedding Anniversary. Again it was a no-brainer.

And again we had immense fun doing what we did, with the weather absolutely wonderful allowing the children to play in the park adjacent to Hasketon Victory Hall where the celebration was happening, food and drink plentiful and it was lovely for the family – and particularly the copious number of Grandchildren and great-Grandchildren of the happy couple – to get together. Ron played the bagpipes and my mother-in-law Kate, my wife and myself rang an excellent 1260 of Plain Bob and Cambridge Surprise Minor on the 9cwt ground-floor six across the road, with the much appreciated help of Mary Garner, Pippa Moss and Mark Ogden – thank you guys!

With us having to leave home for the quarter-peal attempt at half-time of England’s game in Russia against Panama, my biggest fear was leaving it and setting off conducting the effort at St Andrew’s church with the result of the footy still in the balance, but even then such worry was washed away with a tidal flow of goals in Nizhniy Novgorod as the Three Lions raced away to an incredible record-breaking 5-0 lead by the end of the first-half. A sixth was scored as we listened on the radio in the car on the way over to this afternoon’s proceedings, with the only action we were unaware of being the Central American’s consolation goal on a glorious day for football fans from our green and pleasant land.

Our QP wasn’t the only performance in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard though. Indeed, it was an extremely busy day within our borders, especially if you count the NDA quarter at Lowestoft, with quarter-peals of Doubles at Buxhall and Hunslet Bob Triples at Henley also rung, which was a first in the method for all bar two of the band – well done to Carl Melville, Pam Ebsworth, Andrea Alderton, Maureen Gardiner and Stephen Dawson. Meanwhile, a 5152 of Gainsborough Surprise Major at Horringer in a success impressive for some of the band not being too hung over following their day in Cambridge at the Twelve-Bell Final twenty-four hours earlier!

Not as impressive as the main headline in the county’s ringing though, which was Sue Williamson’s first peal, rung at St Matthew’s in Ipswich where she learnt to ring (and met her husband Jonathan!) in a 5040 that also celebrated the one hundredth birthday of Freda Smith, once a ringer here and the oldest current member of the Guild. Happy Birthday Freda, but many congratulations Sue, who since their children Lucy – who was also ringing in this 2hrs40mins of Plain Bob Minor – and Ben have grown up has progressed immensely and along with her other half they have been a real bonus to ringing in Ipswich, the South-East District and the SGR.

I would’ve liked to have taken up the kind invitation to ring, but although I couldn’t partake or watch all of the football, I enjoyed my day, from helping the Woodbridge ringers man all eight bells for the morning service that I attended with the boys to our quarter-peal to the Wedding Anniversary celebrations. It beats those boring weekends with nothing to do!

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Saturday 23rd June 2018

It is unfortunate timing that the birthday of our niece Katelynn falls around the time of the National Twelve-Bell Final. We would like to both celebrate the anniversary of her birth and go meet friends with a pint or three listening to some of the best twelve-bell ringing you will ever hear, but this year and last it just hasn't been possible and when it comes down to it, taking her cousins Alfie and Joshua to the zoo to celebrate her sixth birthday is up against taking them to a strange place to wait whilst Mummy and Daddy drink beer all day.

Enjoying the animals at Colchester Zoo. Enjoying the animals at Colchester Zoo.Therefore, as proceedings got underway just over the border in one neighbouring county, we were just over the border in another neighbouring county at Colchester Zoo. And it was a lovely day. Gorgeous sunshine again blessed our outdoor activities as it has done on pretty much every occasion over the last couple of months. We say all sorts of extraordinary animals, getting up close to lions and walking under sea lions as they swam, all in good company and topped off with a BBQ at the birthday girl’s abode. The children loved it all, from animals to trampoline and I can honestly say there was nothing I didn’t enjoy about today.

Scene on Senate House Yard at the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Cambridge, beneath the tower of Great St Mary.However, I was gutted to miss proceedings in Cambridge, especially as the general perception seems to have been that this was the best Twelve-Bell for years. Hundreds of friends, most of whom we rarely get to meet up with these days, an abundance of great beer and superb ringing in the wonderful setting of Senate House Yard in the shadow of Great St Mary's tower from where ten teams were competing and the famous King's College and of course in that same roasting summer sunshine that we benefitted from. I tortured myself on our return home by looking on Facebook which was full of pictures of people with pint glasses and flicking through some of the eight-hour coverage from Matthew Tosh that was yet again tremendous and can be viewed through the Contest's YouTube channel. As usual it included interviews with participants, judges and other important personalities connected with the day, as well as complete uninterrupted coverage all the test pieces. Apart from the on-air conversations with familiar characters, from an Ipswich perspective it was interesting to listen to Rob Childs of the Leeds band (about 3hrs56mins in) talking about the years of struggling in eliminators before they finally reached a final. It can take years of dedication and it is important to learn from each attempt and not get dispirited.

Although George Salter's Bristol and Colin Salter's Guildford finished seventh and tenth respectively, it is still a magnificent achievement for two brothers to partake in the same final for different teams. Indeed, if one listens to the ringing from today you will hear that the quality from top to bottom was incredible, the very best in twelve-bell ringing.

And the best of the best? Unsurprisingly it was Birmingham for the twenty-fourth time ever and third year in a row, but the hosts Cambridge ran them close as they aimed to win it for the first time in twenty-three years, with just two percentage points in it - to get 90% and not win can be considered unfortunate and the Brummies' Ringing Master Michael Wilby graciously recognised as much when he collected the Taylor Trophy. And with many no doubt rolling their eyes and going Birmingham again, he also pointed out how difficult it is to win when everyone expects you to. I remember the pressure when I rang for them quite early on in what has become an unprecedented period of domination, everyone stopping to listen - the pressure must be multiplied several-fold now and presumably increases with each victory.

Whilst many Suffolk ringers were in Cambridgeshire (and there were an encouraging number) and we were in Essex, others were still in the homeland, with a quarter-peal rung at Rushmere St Andrew and the South-West District Striking Competition taking place at Cavendish, although word on who won that has been slightly less forthcoming on the social media - or indeed any - grapevine that I'm aware of. Congratulations to whoever won and I hope they all had as a great a day out as those in Cambridge had - and that we had at Colchester Zoo!

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Friday 22nd June 2018

The day of the competition is always the most fun part of the National Twelve-Bell Final, but I have fond memories of the night before some of the contests. Like booking into a B&B in York ahead of the following day's main event at The Minster in 1999, a spot of ringing at St Wilfrid and then a boozy evening in a nearby bar with others up for the weekend from across the country. Having been told by then Birmingham Ringing Master David Pipe to take it easy ahead of the first final I ever partook in at South Petherton in 2001, I was amused to be reminded by him recently that he greeted me already half-cut on an evening that had begun with me briefly being entrusted with the Taylor Trophy in my accommodation before Steph Warboys very sensibly removed it to a safer place and ended with Cecilia Pipe and I almost doing karaoke together!

Tonight I imagine more tales of the night before were being created with the hosts of tomorrow's 2018 Final Cambridge directing early-comers to The Castle, but of course this is something we can't take advantage at this point in our lives, even if we were able to attend the big day. Still, seeing reports of many gathering in the university city has increased the anticipation of what might happen tomorrow. Will the home team - or anyone else for the matter - be able to beat the Brummies? Who will come out on top between the College Youths and Cumberlands? And will either Colin or George Salter become the first Suffolk-born ringer to win it since the late, great Rod Pipe last did in 2008?

Whatever happens, I hope everyone already there had a great night!

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Thursday 21st June 2018

Great St Mary.God willing Saturday will see hundreds of ringers - including many of the very best in the world - gather together just over ten miles from our borders as the National Twelve-Bell Final in Cambridge is due to take place. I'm hoping as many from Suffolk as can make it will travel in to savour what is to my mind the biggest and best ringing event in the world. The ringing will be great, the company plentiful, beer overflowing and much, much else on offer. With the Salter brothers Colin and George in action for Guildford and Bristol respectively and plenty of College Youths and Cumberlands amongst the SGR membership, there is plenty that should draw in ringers from this county and the weather looks like its going to be brilliant for it too!

If you can't make it though, there will the now normal, but absolutely splendid live coverage from Matthew Tosh on the Contest's YouTube channel throughout the day (barring any technical difficulties so far haven't befallen them), with a trailer released today to whet the appetite!

I shan't be able to enjoy either, as again our presence is prevented by celebrating our niece's birthday, on this occasion also taking me away from anywhere I can watch online, although unlike last year I hopefully shouldn't be looking after a poorly son. And that beautiful weather should benefit us too!

However, if you aren't going to Cambridge, you don't want to spend the whole day watching coverage of the big day and you aren't otherwise engaged at a six-year-old's birthday party, you may consider popping along to Cavendish on what looks like being a glorious afternoon to take in the South-West District Striking Competition. There won't be as many as at the Twelve-Bell present I imagine, but I hope the atmosphere is similar, much enjoyment is had and I'm sure there will be lots of good ringing to listen to!

Of course St Mary the Virgin church which houses the 11cwt six is a view synonymous with chocolate-box Suffolk, a symbol of the lovely villages and fantastic rural scenery that the county offers and that was being celebrated today with the second annual Suffolk Day. There was an impressive amount going on for a term-time Thursday and ringing played a big part, with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge doing superb work at getting publicity for what ringers were doing today, both on the radio but also with bells getting a mention in at least a couple of articles that I have read on the East Anglian Daily Times website this week, as well as featuring on the Suffolk Day website.

The ringing manifested itself most obviously through the quarter-peals and peals rung and recorded on BellBoard. A 5024 of St Edmund Surprise Major was rung at Elveden, complete with selfie, whilst quarter-peals were rung of Plain Bob Doubles at Bardwell, Plain Bob Major at Halesworth, three Doubles methods at Palgrave, Cambridge Surprise Minor at Woolpit and St Clement's College Bob Minor at Exning, which was Jimmy Yeoman's first in the method - well done Jimmy! Congratulations meanwhile to Hilary Stearn and Julia Brown on ringing their first QP for the Ladies Guild in another 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles for Suffolk Day, this time rung at Theberton. Meanwhile down in Dorset, a Suffolk band were ringing a quarter for the occasion of the homeland's big day at Shroton as part of a quarter-peal tour down that way.

Let's hope all this positivity continues on into Saturday, wherever you may be enjoying it!

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Wednesday 20th June 2018

The World Cup was made for evenings like this.

Whilst Ruthie was out, I got the boys to bed and settled down to watch Spain beat Iran 1-0 in the sort of fixture you really only get at this tournament and which to the fanatic like me was an intriguing and fascinating clash that nonetheless I couldn’t really expect my wife to sit through if she was in.

Mrs Munnings was also enjoying herself though, having dropped her off at Pettistree for an ultimately successful quarter-peal – once they’d got through a seemingly impenetrable marquee outside the church and following a couple of aborted attempts – of Suffolk Delight Minor on the eve of Suffolk Day, a typically eclectic and jovial practice and then a couple of pints of ale in The Greyhound’s beer garden, daylight stretched out pretty much as late as its going to get all year.

I enjoyed myself too though, thanks to the World Cup!

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Tuesday 19th June 2018

A video shared on the Bellringers Facebook page today opened up a debate on the quality of ringing at weddings. The footage is of ringing for a wedding beyond our borders and there was comment on why the band were struggling through method ringing instead of just ringing call-changes. Indeed, in a further video readily available on YouTube they can be heard ringing call-changes and making a much better job of it, although this also disintegrates inexplicably later. I have no idea if the band were local and I have no interest in naming or shaming or passing any judgement. They will have been trying their best.

However, it does highlight some points that I’ve been banging on about in regards to ringing for weddings for years.

One is that even in this day and age, it is the one time your ringing is most likely to be caught on film for posterity, especially by non-ringers for whom their perception of our art may be shaped by what they hear.

Another is that we ought to be getting the best ringers possible for what is a paid service on what is most couple’s biggest day of their lives. I recall having to get to a certain standard of ringing before I was allowed to get paid people’s hard-earned money to ring and I’ve always felt that ought to be the case. Surely someone should be able to ring well-struck call-changes before being let loose on someone’s special occasion? The original post was related to ringing for the wedding of a relation of Princess Diana and so there was a lot of focus on the presence of the couple of the moment Harry and Meghan and it was suggested in the thread that followed that it was snobbery to say these ringers couldn’t ring for it. Whether a royal is present or not should not make any difference though - when being paid to ring for someone's special day, we ought to be striving to produce the best possible ringing we can, as we should be doing for any service. A lot depends on local circumstances of course, but through the years I have seen ringers selected for weddings just because they’re available, rather than reaching out to a wider pool beyond that would make a better job of it.

Sometimes of course, you have no choice but to ring with a more inexperienced band than you would've preferred, but in those cases - and indeed whatever the abilities of the band - ring to your strengths. Well-struck call-changes will always be better than badly-rung method ringing.

There was a more impressive array of ringing on show across Suffolk today, at least on paper and I imagine - looking at the bands and the complexity of what was being rung - in practice too. Ten Surprise Major methods spliced were rung over 1312 changes at Bardwell, the most Surprise Major methods that North-East District Chairman Mike Cowling has rung spliced - well done Mike. On top of that the band then rang a 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major at Hopton and a 1280 of the less familiar Berkshire Surprise Major at Gislingham.

Meanwhile, Essex's David 'Sparky' Sparling's sixtieth birthday was marked here with a quarter-peal of Rutland Surprise Major at Offton and a peal at Rendham of Sparky Delight Major, one of three 5060s rung in the method across the country, with another at Danbury south of the border and all the way up on Tyne and Wear at Whickham. David has long been involved in ringing on this side of the Stour, having once been a regular at St Mary-le-Tower and many within our borders count this tremendous ringer as a good friend - Happy Birthday David!

Alfie & Joshua in their new playhouse. Mini-mini-ring not installed yet.To continue the positivity, I take you back a week to Mark Murphy's BBC Radio Suffolk show last Tuesday as just under a couple of hours into the programme the SGR PR Officer Neal Dodge gave ringing another superb plug across the airwaves, on this occasion in regards to ringing for Suffolk Day in two days time. It may have happened a week ago, but it is only this evening that I got the chance to listen to the interview and even then that was whilst Ruthie - being the more practical in our relationship - put up a new chest of draws on a day that also saw her and her sister Clare put up a playhouse for the boys - courtesy of Granny Kate - that was already getting plenty of use by the time I returned home from work and looks big enough to fit a mini-mini-ring in! If anyone has a mini-mini-ring to hand that is.

Fun as that was, it was also a day when the car was taken away for its service and MOT, a typically expensive affair. We are going to have to sharpen up our skills if we are going to ring for enough weddings to cover this bill!

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Monday 18th June 2018

Talking with Tom Scase in the beer garden following Saturday’s valiant but unsuccessful attempt to win the Ridgman Trophy, it became apparent for those ringers who are also football fans, catching as much of the World Cup as we would like is difficult. For example, I was fortunate to be able to watch all of Friday night’s 3-3 draw between Portugal and Spain that has probably been the best match of the tournament thus far, but Tom – who as Guild Ringing Master is busier than most – had been ringing at Helmingham at the time and hadn’t actually seen much WC footy at all since it kicked-off on Thursday.

Personally I typically watch what I can and whilst I occasionally plan my ringing around the fixtures, I try not to let anyone down at ringing I have committed to or that I usually attend. However, England games are different. I want to take it all in, keep up, enjoy the matchday experience as much as one can from thousands of miles away and then talk about it the next day! Our opener this evening gave me a tricky choice as watching it meant missing St Mary-le-Tower practice, but with an unusual confidence in our particularly young team and being unable to watch all of the next match on Sunday due to a family event and quarter-peal attempt for it, I decided that unusually football came first on this occasion with apologies to those at SMLT.

Ultimately I’m glad I tuned in. Ufford ringer Pete Faircloth came round for a few beers and a Chinese takeaway and although it was harder work than a match against Tunisia should really be, the last minute winner from Harry Kane was worth the wait!

Others ignored the lure of World Cup football for ringing though, including at Thornham Magna where a 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung.

A day of good results then and I’m glad I witnessed England’s!

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Sunday 17th June 2018

I may occasionally give the impression that our children are a nuisance and from a practical perspective there is much we can’t do that we once could. Simply committing to ringing with a quick ‘yes’ is something we can rarely do now, going to events such as yesterday’s Ridgman Trophy is no longer a straightforward matter and even just going out for an evening’s ringing, meal or anything else is a logistical feat.

However, I – and indeed we – wouldn’t change it for anything as they give us so much joy and impress us every day with what they achieve. And of course, it means I get treated on Father’s Day!

This year I enjoyed a bit of the main things I love – bells, football, beer and of course time with the family.

Bells came courtesy of morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh. The former saw a welcome visit from generous business man and ringer Laith Reynolds who was behind many projects, most notably the Swan Bells in Perth in his native Australia, whilst the latter saw Gill Twissell’s family taking in the ringing as we peaked at eight, despite worryingly arriving to the sound of only four being rung!

Alfie at Woodbridge Regatta. Mason at Woodbridge Regatta. Alfie on the bouncy castle. A beer for Daddy at the Woodbridge Regatta.

With the World Cup now in full flow, the football came from sporadically dipping into the TV coverage of the games being played in Russia, but the real highlight was taking in the annual Woodbridge Regatta. Quality time spent with the family which allowed them to play on bouncy castles and various stalls and – as we had walked alongside the Deben – a couple of ales for us adults!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, further up the coast, the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh had been moved on a week to this afternoon due to last Sunday’s GMC meeting, with a 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung in 2hrs49mins during the town’s Festival of Music and the Arts.

Meanwhile, our attempts to find somewhere to eat on the way home were not unexpectedly fruitless, but that didn’t detract from what was a lovely Father’s Day spent with the sons I am very lucky to have.

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Saturday 16th June 2018

It's not always the case, but the third Saturday of June usually means it is time for the Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell striking competition for the territorial ringing organisations who border onto the Ely Diocesan Association, including ourselves. Essentially an East Anglian contest.

Therefore today, the youngest boys dropped off at their Granny Kate's, Ruthie and I this morning found ourselves making the lengthy journey to St Peter's in St Albans for the 2018 edition, Mason accompanying us so that he could meet up with his contemporary and pal Henry Salter as both of his parents also rang for the Suffolk Guild. This is a competition I always feel privileged to ring in, representing our countywide organisation which has many, many ringers who could ring in this and do very well and it is one that I am keen to win, having had the extremely good fortune to win striking competitions on six, eight and twelve. Indeed, this is a competition that we are very capable of winning, but a glance at those present today in this Hertfordshire city highlights why it isn't a shock that we haven't. As we mingled before and after ringing, we had the chance to catch up with some of the best ringers in the exercise, such as David and Cecilia Pipe and their boys Henry and Alfie, Philip Wilding, Chris Woodcock, Alban Forster and John Loveless. There is stiff competition.

This year though, I had high hopes. We'd enjoyed a couple of decent practices and unusually for Ruthie and me, we had arrived at our venue well in time. In fact, so early were we that we had the opportunity to get some lunch and wander down to the grounds of the Cathedral to eat it, surrounded by hundreds of Morris dancers and the like on the city's Day of Dance. Despite that cautious confidence - or perhaps because of it - the butterflies were fluttering slightly as we waited on the stairs leading to this 24cwt ten. With very strict guidelines about how early one can start, we had the opportunity to chat with our friends from the Essex Association who rang before us which helped relax me a bit, but once the practice piece had been rung, words of advice imparted from some of us and Nigel Gale on the treble had made the signal to the judges Dickon Love and Emma Cundiff that we were about to begin, it was hard not to tense up slightly. That is no bad thing though, prompting a heightened awareness of what we were ringing and my striking, but it meant that the test piece seemed to go on forever. There was a slight method mistake, but even without that, though we had produced a very nice piece of Stedman Caters that would've delighted us on almost any other occasion, one could sense that we hadn't rung well enough to win, a sense that seemed exaggerated when we finished and the next team Ely - featuring the aforementioned Pipes, Philip Wilding and many others - entered the vast ringing chamber here.

Ultimately that was borne out by the results as we finished 4th, but with almost twice as many faults as Bedfordshire in third. We felt thankful not to be in the Lincoln Diocesan Guild's shoes though, as they travelled an awful long way to ring last and fire out their test piece. Hopefully they'll have better luck next time as it is always nice to see our friends from Lincolnshire at this event.

Our view for lunch today – St Albans Cathedral Suffolk Guild band gathering for the team photo at the Ridgman Trophy. St Peter’s from the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms. Some of the Suffolk Guild band (+ friends) in the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms after ringing. Some of the Suffolk Guild band (+ friends) in the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms after ringing. Some of the Suffolk Guild band (+ friends) in the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms after ringing. Some of the Suffolk Guild band (+ friends) in the beer garden of the Blacksmiths Arms after ringing. Reunited with Alfie who was having fun in Granny’s garden!

We didn't stick around for the results though. Having grabbed a pint with some of our bandmates - leaving Mason in the care of David and Katherine at the church, for which we were most grateful - in the Blacksmiths Arms almost next door to St Peter's and soaked up a lively atmosphere indoors and out as patrons watched Iceland's valiant 1-1 draw at the World Cup with the mighty Argentina on the many screens dotted around, we returned to Woodbridge where we were very kindly treated to a BBQ by the mother-in-law and Ron before taking the exhausted boys back home for sleep.

Next year the contest is pencilled in for Saturday 15th June and we are hosting! I believe the hope is that we shall welcome competitors to The Norman Tower. It is a difficult event to host. Doing the draw ahead of the day is useful when one is travelling a long distance, both for teams and any supporters, but it also means that many come, ring and go, unlike when the draw is done on the day and participants stay because they have kept their entire day clear.

With that in mind, the following isn’t meant to be a criticism or to offend, but today seemed a bit low key. As far as I could tell, there was nothing on the Ridgman Trophy site bar the small message indicating where and when it was going to be held, which had been up since almost immediately after the 2017 competition. There wasn’t anything I could find about it on The Hertford County Association’s website (nor even as I write this that their Association have won!), nor on the church’s website or even on the local ringer’s part of the site, bar a brief mention on the calendar. Contrast that with last year’s in Cambridge where a dedicated page was set-up with information for the day from parking to refreshment to activities (a sort of mini-version of what they currently have in anticipation for the National Twelve-Bell in a week’s time), beer was laid on (although of course they did have the benefit of lots of thirsty local students to make it worth their while!) and generally made a big deal of it all. We were certainly appreciative of the local ringers’ warm welcome (and especially the cake!), but I’m hoping we can be closer to the Cambridge model in twelve months. I imagine it’ll be promoted by this website, whoever replaces Neal Dodge as the Guild PR Officer, even Radio Suffolk, big fans of bells who I’m sure will be delighted to hear of a regionwide competition being held within our borders. They may not be able to put a beer tent up, but I’m sure Bury St Edmunds’ beer-savvy ringers will be able to recommend a nearby pub for ringers to gather together for refreshments.

I imagine at least one of the town’s taverns benefitted from thirsty ringers after this morning’s peal of Grandsire Cinques on the 27cwt  twelve, which was Nicholas Haggett’s first in the method at this level and Nathan Colman’s first on twelve – well done Nicholas and Nathan!

Meanwhile a quarter-peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was rung at Hopton, but for us it was all about the Ridgman Trophy. We’re disappointed not to have won it, but it was a lovely day out and a privilege to ring for the Guild in the competition – here’s to the third Saturday of next June in Suffolk!

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Friday 15th June 2018

World Cup fever has well and truly set in! A Friday evening, beer in hand, watching the superb 3-3 draw between Portugal and Spain, Cristiano Ronaldo at his very best, was about as good as it gets in such matters. A bit like ringing an exhilarating peal, it flew by.

Unfortunately I didn’t also have an exhilarating peal to ring, but I’m sure the quarter-peal of Glasgow Surprise Major on the lovely ground-floor eight of Gislingham was equally enjoyable. I shan’t comment on which of the band could be considered their Cristiano Ronaldo though!

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Thursday 14th June 2018

And so we're off!

About 1,500 miles away a month of football kicked-off with a bizarre opening ceremony involving a naughty Robbie Williams and the hosts Russia thrashing their opponents Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the first of sixty-four planned fixtures between now and the final at the same stadium planned for Sunday 15th July, including hopefully seven involving England. My usually bi-annual apologies at this time of year both for the incursion into your TV viewing and possibly this blog, as well as to Ruthie, although to an extent she too seems to be getting into the spirit of things. The wallchart is up on the living room wall and I find myself suddenly interested in what would normally be less than noteworthy match-ups pencilled in for the coming days, such as Morocco vs Iran, Costa Rica vs Serbia, Colombia vs Japan and other belters.

My bellringing commitments in the coming weeks have been - as much as possible - worked around games involving and potentially involving the English, although there may be some ringing missed, but for today I couldn't blame the World Cup for not partaking in the exercise. As usual, Ruthie's choir practice made it impractical to get out to Grundisburgh's or indeed anybody else's practice, including the monthly Surprise Major one at Ufford, but there wasn't any ringing in the county recorded on BellBoard either.

God willing there will be more to speak of soon, even if I have to fit it in around the footy!

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Wednesday 13th June 2018

As I stood in the church at Pettistree during this evening's practice, a piece of ringing going on in the background, I took the opportunity to flick through the parish newsletter and was delighted to read the positive article about Richard, one of the learners on the 12cwt six in the neighbouring village of Wickham Market. Not only has he begun ringing on Sunday mornings, but it seems he has also encouraged his family to join in! Well done Richard and tower captain Ray Lewis.

The session I was at on the ground-floor six where a quarter-peal of Double Oxford Bob Minor was rung beforehand remains one of the best six-bell practices in Suffolk, but it could do with a little bit of the recruitment success they have had a mile or so across the fields. Circumstances haven't been kind to us here. Even just within our family, since the birth of our children it isn't possible for both Ruthie and me to come out to support the ringing together, whilst her mother Kate often looks after her granddaughters overnight when their parents are both working simultaneous nightshifts and if that falls on a Wednesday she is also unable to come out. Meanwhile, we are no longer with the much-missed Gill Waterson in her illness and of course last year we suddenly lost enthusiastic regular Derek Martin, who is also much-missed. If someone is away on holiday or otherwise engaged as some regulars were this evening, then things are sparse in comparison to the peak that this tower has become used to attracting, especially in the summer.

Yet there were still ten or eleven present on this occasion and between us we had some regular practice at Suffolk Delight Minor in anticipation of a quarter-peal attempt of it in a week's time on the eve of Suffolk Day, in amongst much else such as Stedman Doubles and Beverley Surprise Minor. And although The Greyhound was closed tonight with Stewart and Louise taking a well-earned break, it was still a very enjoyable evening out, with my wife absolutely exhausted following a day with the children that saw them watch the Women's Cycle Race come through Melton, although the TV coverage bypassed the race’s progress through our local community, thus depriving the trio of their moment of stardom.

There doesn’t appear to have been any ringing along the route or at least none that I could hear on the highlights on ITV4 or that was recorded on BellBoard, but there was at least other ringing within the county as an impressive 1280 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced was rung at Horringer.

Back at Pettistree, I also had the chance to read the latest copy of The Ringing World which features on its front page the project at St Margaret’s in Ipswich, a fitting platform for a wonderful job.

Richard from Wickham Market has entered a wonderful world of ringing!

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Tuesday 12th June 2018

Mentally deranged dotard and little rocket man met in an historic expected, yet unexpected meeting on the other side of the world.

Meanwhile, back here, there was a 720 of Plain Bob Triples rung at Bures for the ninetieth birthday of local churchgoer June Underwood, Charlie our cat brought in his first dead mouse for us and Alfie had his 'graduation' photos taken at nursery.

Nothing to Trump events in Singapore though.

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Monday 11th June 2018

The second Stedman Night at St Mary-le-Tower of the last few weeks was a largely positive affair today. As we approach midsummer - and therefore Suffolk Day - the walls of the ringing chamber basked in late evening sunshine throughout, George Pipe had made it up the stairs to be present up here for the first time for many, many months, four-fifths of the band due to ring for the Guild in Saturday's Ridgman Trophy in St Albans were in attendance for a final practice (only David Salter and Ruthie weren't there as they undertook child-sitting duties at home) of the touch and I was able to buy my father a birthday pint at The Cricketers where we sat outside with a large crowd. Happy Birthday Dad!

In fact, the only thing that spoilt it was the ringing. I just can't comprehend why we have so much trouble with Stedman. Yes, it is deceptively simple as I have outlined on here before and yes, it is problematic for many not just here or indeed in this county, but across the country and anywhere else in the world where change-ringing is undertaken. However, we seem to struggle consistently with it and the only thing it can come down to is concentration. Apart from those feeling their way into this principle with all its quirks, there is no excuse for this extremely talented squad of ringers, capable of pulling off very well-struck ringing in methods that many provincial tens and twelves across the land could only dream of, turning to jelly when faced with a piece of ringing where we simply have to go in quick or slow, double-dodge in every place 4-5 and upwards and deal with the occasional call at the back.

That said, even within the ringing there were bright spots. Those learning how to ring this on higher numbers here did well, especially with others losing their way around them, there were some nice call-changes on Twelve for Sonia - whose confidence seems to be growing - and the run-through of the touch of Stedman Caters we are meant to ring in the weekend's contest in Hertfordshire was a reasonably well-paced, well-struck bit of ringing, albeit with a couple of mistakes that we shall have to iron out on the day of course!

God willing the ringing tonight won't put us off, but rather galvanise us in concentrating even harder next time we ring Stedman. And lest we forget that otherwise it was a very positive Stedman Night at the Tower.

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Sunday 10th June 2018

The sound of nearby Melton St Andrew's three bells tolling sonorously across the village signified that for once we were off to somewhere on time. On this occasion St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge where Ruthie was singing in the choir and I helped man the front six of the 25cwt eight, before the boys got their just reward for their patience with biscuits, although an art exhibition in the Church Centre meant that the refreshments had been moved down to the church itself.

Not that we had much time to enjoy them as Mason needed dropping off at Fynn Valley Golf Club for some foot golf to celebrate the birthday of one of his contemporaries. Having continued our amazing day of good time-keeping and left him there early, we set about a whirlwind of productive, but largely dull tasks before collecting him and travelling on to my parents' abode to drop cards off for my father's forthcoming birthday tomorrow.

Tostock.It was busy, productive and exhausting, but not as worthy of comment as the Suffolk Guild peal of the forty-one 'standard' Surprise Minor methods rung at Tostock this afternoon, which was Lesley & David Steed and Stephen Dawson's first peal of spliced and the most methods rung to a peal for Ruth Suggett and Nigel Gale, who was also calling a peal of spliced for the first time. Very well done to them all, especially Nigel who also managed to fit in calling a quarter-peal of Stedman Triples at The Norman Tower. Brilliant stuff!

And it all beats listening to the three at Melton, regardless of whether we are on time or not!

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Saturday 9th June 2018

Once upon a time, going to a beer festival was the ultimate in relaxing affairs. The diary would be emptied (after all, what good would we be for anything in the state we would end up in?!) and so we’d rock up whenever we were ready, drink at our leisure (not necessarily as much as we could ram in) and leave when we’d had enough or the event was wrapped up, along the way enjoying mingling with various friends and acquaintances with decreasing lucidity. And our only responsibility was not losing the house key.

That has now changed now of course and quite rightly, with the children to think of, if we get to go to beer festivals at all. They’re not typically child-friendly occasions, but with one being held at our local pub the Coach & Horses in Melton, complete with bouncy castles, face-painting and other activities to keep the youngsters happy, we felt we had to go along.

Beer festival at the Coach & Horses. Alfie after getting his face painted at the beer festival.It wasn’t as previous beer festivals have been for us, as expected. For a start, Ruthie was working today and the notion of attending a beer festival on my own with three boys in tow was impractical and unappealing, so it had to wait until my wife’s return and obviously we couldn’t stick around until the bitter end getting drunker and drunker, with our responsibilities of parenthood at the forefront of our mind, so it was a relatively brief session compared to past ones we’ve enjoyed. In between we did fit in some beer and caught up with one or two familiar faces, but largely we were keeping an eye on the boys (especially the two youngest) as they dashed, jumped, bumped and even got squashed under sumo wrestlers. And with their thirst also in need of quenching it was the first time I’ve been to a beer festival and ordered glasses of water and orange juice! Still, we were impressed with the numbers there, the atmosphere and range of ales and had a really good time.

In the process it felt only right to raise a glass to the first Suffolk-born ringer to ring the tenor at Exeter Cathedral – the second heaviest bell hung for change-ringing in the world – as George Salter rang it behind to 5004 changes of Stedman Cinques. This isn’t simply a matter of turning up to bong behind. At 72cwt it is more than twice the weight of any bell hung for change-ringing within our borders and a beast that many ringers couldn’t contemplate handling, let alone strike well for 4hrs16mins on what was another hot summers day, with some of the ringing available to listen to via his Facebook page and he has prepared properly, with a quarter-peal on the great bell a few weeks ago. On top of everything else he has achieved – especially since he moved to Bristol at the start of last year – he has been a credit to Suffolk, his proud parents David and Katharine, but most of all himself. Although his mother and father have given him a superb grounding and the opportunities to get going, he has made so much of his own opportunities to take himself to the level he is at now, with today being an impressive highlight.

Talking of heavy bells, yesterday saw the last of famous 62cwt twelve of St Paul’s Cathedral in London removed from their tower for the first time in their 140 year history ahead of their rehanging on modern fittings and strengthening of the wooden frame, whilst the ringing chamber is undergoing extensive renovation.

The boys enjoying Rendlesham Forest. The boys enjoying Rendlesham Forest. The boys enjoying Rendlesham Forest.

Nothing quite as exciting in my day, although it was lovely to spend quality time with Mason, Alfie and Joshua in lovely weather, as we took a long walk into Woodbridge for some bits and pieces and visited the marvellous Rendlesham Forest where they took advantage of many playgrounds and the miles of walks through the thick, lush woodland we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep. Lovely but exhausting and I certainly felt I had earned some ale at that beer festival. Although probably not as much as George Salter!

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Friday 8th June 2018

Gislingham.I was delighted to see that Alan Stanley’s five years as Suffolk Guild Chairman – which came to its natural end at the AGM in Bury St Edmunds two months ago – was suitably recognised today, with a peal of Turramurra Surprise Major rung by a band that was drawn from all four districts of the SGR, including his successor Rowan Wilson and rung at his home tower of Gislingham. Good effort!

It wasn’t the only performance recorded on BellBoard today from within our borders either, with a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Monewden in anticipation of Liz Christian’s forthcoming sixtieth birthday, with the gal herself ringing the treble. Happy Birthday for Sunday Liz!

No such ringing activity for us, although that is typical for a Friday as the whole family is gradually gathered together for the weekend from their various places of work and education, thus giving us little practical opportunity to get out anywhere.

I’m glad a good band could get out for Alan though.

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Thursday 7th June 2018

Next Wednesday sees 2018's UK Women's Cycle Race come through the county, starting in Framlingham and ending in Southwold. There are signs warning there will be no parking where hundreds of cars affiliated with local residents and our business park usually park and traffic disruption up Melton Hill. Thank goodness Woods Lane is open again.

It will be interesting to see if any ringing is done at any of the many towers along the route. It was nice to do some at Grundisburgh when the men's version passed through last year and it seemed well received by the villagers keen to make an event out of some of the world's best cyclists passing through, but from a wider PR perspective it was noticeable that none of the ringing was captured on the TV coverage. In fact they seemed to actively avoided it! Still, if anyone is doing any ringing, it is sure to be good PR at some level!

For today though, all was normal, as we had a quiet night in. Still, after watching England's final warm-up game ahead of the forthcoming World Cup, it allowed me to read about the shares issue that has been launched to raise money for the rebuilding of The George pub which was burnt almost to obliteration five years ago, thus depriving this sizeable village of its only tavern. Just enough was saved to make rebuilding it worthwhile, with the only battle being raising enough money to stop the inevitable property developing vultures getting their way. Unsurprisingly local ringer Ray Lewis is on the committee and it would be nice for them to get their post-ringing drinking hole back for Monday nights in the future.

Perhaps they could hold out buckets for the cyclists as they race pass there next week!

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Wednesday 6th June 2018

I've never hidden my dislike of methods that do four blows lead here, three blows seconds there and similar. They're fiddly little things, easy to go wrong in and genuinely feeling very unnatural. That's not to say I won't ring them though, but I was pleased to bag the treble for this evening's peal at The Wolery of St John the Baptist Bob Triples, St Clement's College Bob Triples with the three-pull dodge on the front mangled up into something similar to that which I described at the start. Still, it was useful for Neal Dodge and it produced a decent 1hr58mins of ringing that wasn't to be sniffed at.

Afterwards we returned back down the garden to David and Katharine's abode for biscuits, cakes and tea in a room we shared with various bits and pieces from St Clement's in Ipswich, such as sliders and a trapdoor, as the project led wonderfully by Mrs Salter to clean up and repaint the fittings on the 15cwt six in this redundant church continues. I'm glad someone has picked this up as these are the best of the redundant rings in the town to my mind.

Elsewhere in Suffolk they were also busy ringing, with quarter-peals at Pettistree where they rang Ipswich Surprise Minor, Ixworth where they got into the spirit of Project Pickled Egg with Turramurra Surprise Major and at Elveden, where they rang six Triples methods spliced. None of them St John the Baptist Bob.

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Tuesday 5th June 2018

Great St Mary.This evening we discovered that we won’t be able to go to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final in Cambridge on Saturday 23rd June, as we have been invited to celebrate our niece’s birthday on that day. It’s not unexpected of course, especially as it is the actual sixth anniversary of her birth, but I had hoped we might avoid a clash, or at least one that meant that we couldn’t go to both.

It is an unfortunate clash, as the Twelve-Bell Final is the biggest event in ringing, a real highlight of the year. From a personal point of view it is a rare opportunity to catch up with many of my ringing friends from across the country and the world, but even if you don’t know anyone there (though the chances are you’ll bump into someone familiar) and regardless of your ability, this is a superb day out. Some of the best ringers in the world will be exhibiting their skills on a lovely ring of bells and although spending the day in the beer tent is highly enjoyable, if that isn’t your cup of tea, there will be cups of tea, activities for children in Great St Mary church and of course there is plenty in this university city to explore. Being so close to us, I would encourage as many members to take advantage of its proximity this year and soak in the atmosphere.

When it comes down to it though, we wouldn’t want to miss the birthday celebrations. God willing lots of Suffolk Guild members will make up for our absence!

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Monday 4th June 2018

Stedman Night at the Tower returns to St Mary-le-Tower next Monday and on the basis of this evening it is needed as two lots of Stedman Cinques came to a premature halt. Even taking into account the pitfalls of this principle it was an odd anomaly in an otherwise useful session that also saw Sonia ringing the eighth very well to Call-Changes on Twelve as she gets used to the bell in readiness to practice knocking behind to Triples on the front eight, along with some decent Grandsire Cinques, Little Bob Maximus and London (No.3) Surprise Royal, the latter finishing the ringing off and blowing away some cobwebs!

It was nice to see George Vant, eight days after finally ringing his first peal on twelve in the 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus at St Sepulchre in London and a couple of months ahead of him moving to Southampton. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see him at SMLT before then, but his enthusiasm will certainly be missed!

It was all carried out in a professional but jovial atmosphere which included a drink in The Cricketers, but plans were being made for a wine tasting post-ringing in a few weeks instead of our usual pint in the pub.

For tonight though, we enjoyed the tavern, as well as the ringing. Hopefully Stedman night will go as well next week.

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Sunday 3rd June 2018

My ringing highlight of the day was a piece that I wasn't in. Which is probably the main criteria for most people's ringing highlight of the day! The 120 of Stedman Doubles following straight on from an impressive raise at this morning's ringing on the ancient 13cwt gallery-ring five of St Lawrence in Ipswich was a real treat to listen to and prompted a couple of us to muse over the possibility of a five-bell striking competition!

It followed on from some decent ringing at St Mary-le-Tower beforehand and although having had my arm twisted by the boys to go to Costa Coffee with some of my fellow ringers there wasn't enough time to join those ringing the bells of St Margaret's as we got to the car, or those at Grundisburgh nearly seven miles away, I still departed feeling like it had been a productive and enjoyable morning of ringing.

Hopefully those ringing in the 1320 of Primrose Surprise Minor at Great Finborough had the same sensation following their efforts, which appear to have brought to a close a very successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week featuring thirteen successes across the nine days. Well done to all concerned.

Our day meanwhile saw us nip to Felixstowe for new shoes for Alfie and Joshua, Ufford ringers Pete and Susanne pop round to check our TV was still hanging on the wall and Ruthie returning to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge to help the choir sing for the Songs of Praise there.

All quite ordinary, but lit up by that lovely touch of Stedman Doubles this morning!

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Saturday 2nd June 2018

We were in Ed Sheeran country this afternoon, as the South-East District Practice visited Dennington and then Framlingham, the town made famous by the most well-known ginger in the world, especially with a best-selling song about the castle, which even features in the video.

Ringing at Dennington for the SE District Practice – Alan Munnings at the front on the 4th, Mark Ogden on 5th & Jonathan Williamson on the tenor. Ringing at Dennington for the SE District Practice – l to r; 3rd Diana Pipe, 4th Robert Scase, 5th Stephen Cheek & tenor Ruth Munnings Outside at Dennington during the SE District Practice. Ringing at Framlingham for the SE District Practice – l to r; treble Sue Williamson (back to camera), 4th Tracey Scase, 5th Abby Antrobus, 6th Mervyn Scase, 7th Rowan Wilson & tenor Mike Cowling. Refreshments in Framlingham church during SE District Practice. Joshua attempting ringing at the bottom of the stairs to Framlingham ringing chamber. Accompanied by a meerkat of course.

There was no sign of the county’s biggest export since the Pipe family, meaning no photo opportunity of him on the end of a rope or chance for a particular Suffolk Guild member to ask him in person if he fancied donating a sum of money towards doing up local bells, but this was an extremely enjoyable and particularly useful afternoon. Although with almost three hundred members in the District we should get far more attending our events, this was a decent turnout that allowed something for everyone, from stuff for learners to seven Surprise Minor methods spliced on the 19cwt ground-floor six and a superbly-rung three leads of Bristol Surprise Major on the 16cwt eight, all carried out in a jovial atmosphere aided by the good weather and then the refreshments in the church at the latter. Thank you to SE Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson on running it all so brilliantly.

Earlier I had rung for a wedding at Woodbridge where I was pleased that we rang all eight, whilst elsewhere within our borders 1260s of East Worldham Bob Minor and Plain Bob Doubles were rung at Buxhall and Yoxford respectively.

We finished our day’s activity in Sheeranland with a pint outside The Station Hotel in his home town, a pub often frequented by him. He wasn’t present, but in the words of one of his many hits, this afternoon was Perfect.

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Friday 1st June 2018

Once upon a time, not in the too distant past, Friday nights used to be about going out with fellow young ‘uns for a few drinks in Woodbridge, sometimes even to the bright lights of Ipswich.

This evening, I was at home, reading about the current dramatic proposals from the Central Council. I had tried to keep up with proceedings in Lancaster on Monday when the CCCBR held their annual meeting, through YouTube, but looking after the boys on my own meant that my attention to it was sporadic at best. Since last year’s meeting when the Council agreed to drastic changes, radical proposals have been drafted, discussed and reviewed by a selected workgroup of ringers of varying views on what needs to change in ringing, including some of the best and most well known names of the exercise, like Graham John, Philip Earis, Don Morrison and Philip Saddleton.

Broadly speaking, they were reviewing the Central Council’s long-standing – albeit continuously amended – Decisions. These are the rules that shape the way that ringing is done by so many of us, such as how methods are classified (Delight, Surprise, Bob, Little Bob, etc), how they are rung (bells moving no more than one place at the time, one bell knocking behind, etc) and what is classed as a peal. Of course they aren’t laws and nobody will ever get in trouble for deviating from them, its just that any deviation wouldn’t be recognised as a ‘valid’ performance. Not really an issue in everyday ringing, but in peals, where the progression that prevents the art stagnating and dying derives from, it can be restrictive, especially for those leading the way at the far extreme of what is possible. Considered to be holding the most talented ringers back and too confusing for those learning, it was felt something needed to be done to change this. What they would be changed to was the issue.

What they have come up with is a draft ‘Framework for Method Ringing’ and they are keen for the views of ringers, of all abilities, from everywhere. To get an idea of the background and the proposals, they are laid out on the CCCBR’s website, with the articles written on the subject in the Ringing World a good place to go in order to get an overview, but perhaps the kind of things suggested that will grab the attention of most is that jump changes (where bells would be allowed to move more than one place) would be permitted in peals, as would multiple bells covering and even that may ‘cover’ in the middle of the row, if this framework were approved.

Nothing that is currently permittable is going to ‘banned’, but rather, the rules will be relaxed and essentially become guidelines, even in peals and so most ringers will be pretty much unaffected by any of these proposals in a direct manner. However, anything that broadens what is possible in ringing can only be good for the exercise and may encourage more variety in everyday ringing, so please do take part in the consultation.

Ringing will almost certainly carry on in much the same way, regardless of any changes made and it was carrying on as normal today, at least here in Suffolk. The FNQPC was successful with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Earl Stonham. North-West District Quarter-Peal Week QPs of Plain Bob Minor, Sutton Scotney Bob Minor and four Doubles methods at Barking, Buxhall and Elmsett respectively and a peal of an appropriate length was rung for the birthday of Adrian Knights at Offton.

Well done to Joe Findlay on ringing his first away from cover in the success at the 9cwt gallery-ring of six that recently hosted the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions and to the entire band on ringing their first in the method in the quarter rung at Buxhall in memory of former local ringer David Johnstone.

Meanwhile, it was poignant that Arnie wasn’t in the band that rang the 5071 of Bristol Surprise Major for his 71st birthday. He is sadly in a sorry state now and moved into a new residential home today and if anyone would like to visit him then Brian Whiting will no doubt give the details of where he is, but by all accounts he has very little memory of most people. I hope he will still have appreciated today’s effort in his name.

He is a star of the art, especially within our borders, one of many who have helped maintain and evolve this ancient exercise into the modern age and I hope that the proposals I was reading tonight will take it even further into the future.

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Thursday 31st May 2018

May ended fairly mundanely today.Alfie's return from a night at his Granny's was welcome as was her putting him up as he had been very keen to have a sleepover there! However, other than that, there wasn't much to report from our day personally, although the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week kept ticking over with a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six at Horringer.

As we conclude this month therefore, it is worth noting that plenty is planned for the June waiting patiently in the wings, starting with the South-East District Practice on Saturday afternoon at the heavy but ground-floor six of Dennington and then the nearby eight of Framlingham. Next week then sees the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles pencilled in on Wednesday, the first of a number of hoped for NE Practices that sees them go to Chediston the following evening, Bungay on Monday 11th, Reydon a week later, Worlingham on Tuesday 19th, Leiston on Friday 22nd, Halesworth on Tuesday 26th and then Blythburgh two days after.

Dotted in between are the North-West District's Training Morning at The Norman Tower on Saturday 9th, the Second Tuesday Ringing at Fressingfield and Wingfeld on the 12th, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on the Friday of that week before the South-West District see out the final brace of Saturdays of the month with their Striking Competition at Cavendish on the 23rd and Practice at St Gregory's in Sudbury on the evening of the 30th.

Please do support these events where you can, as well as the second annual Suffolk Day on the 21st, whilst some cheerleaders in St Albans for the Ridgman Trophy would be appreciated on Saturday 16th!

God willing June will be a little more exciting than today, in a good way!

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Wednesday 30th May 2018

There was something of relative significance happening in three of the core elements that tend to make up my inane ramblings on this blog today, all with various levels of excitement attributed to them.

Paul Hurst's appointment as Ipswich Town manager this morning was far from surprising, but has reinvigorated the club's apathetic support - myself included - after the latter unpleasant and frankly dull couple of seasons of Mick McCarthy's tenure, although after nearly two decades of standing still most of us are not overly expectant, though welcoming to the man who has made the not insignificant move from Shrewsbury Town.

Far more exciting (especially for the boy himself!) was Alfie going for a sleepover at Granny Kate's house along with his cousins tonight. This was by invitation of my mother-in-law who often has my wife's sister's children overnight to allow their parents to work, but with Joshua a little too young for such things I was still at home as I more often am than not on a Wednesday evening.

With football and children ticked off on the list of mentions in today's entry, ringing - the primary subject of this blog believe it or not - does make an appearance as having dropped AJM off at her mother's, Ruthie continued on to Pettistree where she partook in the pre-practice QP and then the session which followed and included a repertoire of spliced, Grandsire Doubles and a collection of Surprise Minor methods as usual, although she passed on a visit to The Greyhound on this occasion.

Meanwhile, the thus-far very successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continued with a 1260 of Grandsire, Plain Bob and St Simon's Bob Doubles at Suffolk's most westerly tower of all, Exning, which was Jimmy Yeoman's first as conductor and Geoff Grayton's 800th in the medium. Well done Jimmy and congratulations Geoff!

A pretty significant day in most aspects of the blog's usual elements then.

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Tuesday 29th May 2018

Very little of note to report personally, bar passing a poor unfortunate woman having to deal with the aftermath of the back windscreen of her car being smashed in. That even on Melton Hill, a constantly busy main road nonetheless in the centre of a largely rural area, a car could be broken into so obviously in broad daylight was a stark reminder that one has to be careful not to leave valuables on show when one leaves their vehicle. Especially when ringing, which usually means a ringer’s car can be left unattended for lengthy periods.

Hopefully no such trouble for those who took part in the quarter-peals in Suffolk today, one of which saw the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continue with a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at The Norman Tower and the other saw Julia Brown ring her first QP inside in the 1320 of Plain Bob Doubles at Theberton. Well done Julia!

A much nicer note to finish on than I started!

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Monday 28th May 2018

Practice nights at St Mary-le-Tower that fall on a Bank Holiday Monday can be difficult to judge. We always like to have one, especially at this time of the year when they seem to come thick and fast and like to ensure that there are a least a core of regulars able to come in order to make it worthwhile holding a session, even if nobody else came in addition. Sometimes though, we have been greeted with just that faithful handful, other times with a busload of visitors, particularly if Chelmsford Cathedral have decided not to run their Monday night practice!

This evening was neither one nor the other though. We were understandably missing Laura Davies and Louis Suggett who had been at Lichfield Cathedral today, ringing a rare Suffolk Guild peal so far beyond our borders. I wouldn't have minded taking up Louis' offer of a place in the band, but with Ruthie at work today I was on child-watching duties. This isn't far off my old stomping ground and I have fond memories of occasional visits here and I - and many others - think they are a glorious ring. Surprisingly, not all from the band thought so, but I'm not sure that I would've been overly enamoured with them after 3hrs20mins of Grandsire Caters on this 31cwt ten in such stiflingly hot conditions! Fair play to them!

The absence of the ringers of the treble and eighth in that 5075 was offset by the visit of father and son Julian and Nathan Colman and although there were one or two other regulars missing, we managed pretty well, with a decent night's ringing that included half-courses of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Royal and a touch of them spliced on ten and Call-Changes and Grandsire Cinques on the twelve.

Meanwhile, congratulations to one-half of the judging team from the recent Guild Striking Competitions, Cherril Spiller, who rang her 250th peal with Peter Waterfield in the 5040 of Surprise Minor rung for the Society of Stowmarket Youths, an effort that was accompanied by a similar effort appropriately rung for the NDA in memory of David Cubitt, who I'm sure many here will be sorry to have heard passed away yesterday.

It was all topped off with a welcome refreshing pint, tonight drunk under the stars in The Cricketers' beer garden, although we thought we might be witnesses to something less refreshing as a customer and member of staff had a heated 'discussion' over the former's order! Nothing quite as lively as what greeted the band who lost a peal at SMLT last Wednesday when they came for their post-ringing drinks (ask the Chairman, she tells the story amusingly!), but still we were glad to get outside and away from it all!

And we were glad we had a practice tonight.

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Sunday 27th May 2018

When I turned up at Woodbridge for morning ringing today to be greeted by just two others I don’t mind admitting to being slightly concerned at what lay ahead for the following half-an-hour. I’m not overly keen on three-bell ringing.

Alfie easing salad in preparation for the church BBQ. St Mary's Woodbridge BBQ being enjoyed in glorious sunshine!Mercifully the masses gradually filtered in and we at least rang the front six, but I wouldn’t usually be here having been the previous Sunday morning in my loosely regulated routine of ringing at the 25cwt eight and at St Mary-le-Tower (St Lawrence) and Grundisburgh on alternate Sabbaths. On this occasion though, the boys had been invited – with their junior church peers – to help prepare the salad for the annual church BBQ being held after the service.

Pete Faircloth - man of action.The actual event was an extremely pleasant occasion as the children enjoyed the food and play they had earned from their efforts in the kitchen, before we returned home to greet local ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis. Pete had very kindly volunteered to put our TV on the wall, which we were more than happy to let him do, but it was largely a good excuse to have them round for a drink or three with a mini-keg of Ghost Ship on the go.

Other ringers were busying themselves ringing though, especially the North-West District whose Quarter-Peal Week continued with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Bardwell and a 1260 of Double Fairlie Bob Minor at Buxhall, the latter of which was a first in the method for the entire band, whilst the 1282 of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal rung at The Norman Tower was a first in the method for Clare Veal and Colmans Nathan and Julian. Well done to Clare, Nathan and Julian and to all the band at Buxhall!

Meanwhile, a brace of quarters were rung in the North-West District by mainly South-East District ringers, with a 1344 of Plain Bob Triples rung at Elveden in memory of Sidney Charles Carter, the Great Great Uncle of today’s tenor ringer Alastair McArthur and whilst out that way they also rang a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor.

Beyond our borders there was also ringing of note, with former Ipswich ringer George Salter ringing the tenor at Exeter Cathedral - at 72cwt the second heaviest bell hung for change-ringing in the world - behind to a 1313 of Stedman Cinques, whilst at Stepney in Greater London, a peal of 420 Plain Minor methods was rung. Sounds impressive and indeed it is, but closer inspection shows that they are a slight variation on each other - as someone commented, anyone who can ring Double Oxford should be able to ring this! Not sure that is entirely the case and this band has to be congratulated for doing something 'outside the box'.

It's a good job more than three of them turned up!

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Saturday 26th May 2018

When preparing for a striking competition that you are taking seriously (and when one is taking the day out to travel some distance to represent one’s Guild you have to take it very seriously), there are three important things that you ought to do.

One is to practice the touch, over and over again, with the band ringing the bell that they are to ring on the day if possible. This is especially the case if the test piece is something that requires a touch, as is usually the case with Grandsire or particularly Stedman, but even if it is something more familiar like a course or half-course of Surprise.

The second is to ring as often together as you can with the whole band, more so than ever if they are drawn from far and wide.

Thirdly, you want to be able to practice on the bells that you will be ringing on in the competition itself. That is when you pick out all the intricacies of the ring, like bells being slow or quick or particularly difficult to ring and get yourself used to the surroundings rather than when you are there on contest day, when you should be concentrating on the ringing itself.

Well two out of three ain’t bad, as Meatloaf once commented about preparing for a striking competition.

This morning’s practice for the Suffolk Guild entry into the Ridgman Trophy on Saturday 16th June saw us practice the touch of Stedman Caters several times and once I’d learnt how to count it was starting to show by the end of our hour’s session.

Even more impressive was that for the first time that I can remember whilst being involved with the SGR in this contest, we managed to get the entire band pencilled in for three weeks time together for a practice. Credit to Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase, who achieved something that I never managed to do and hopefully it will stand us in good stead.

It was only the third element that we failed on, but that is understandable. As alluded to, it is hard enough to gather all ten ringers (plus at least a spare as is ideal) at the same time in the same place within our borders, but doing the same at the host tower is even harder and especially so this year as the competition is due to take place at St Peter’s in St Albans about a hundred miles and two hours away. Instead, we found ourselves at one of the closest matches in weight on home soil to the 24cwt ten, 20cwt ten Stradbroke.

We didn’t particularly learn anything from a striking perspective as of course the two rings will have completely different intricacies, but having rung this difficult ring to a pretty high standard it gives us confidence that we should be capable of a potentially winning piece on their easier going counterparts in Hertfordshire, although I don’t envy those planning on ringing a peal here next Saturday if the weather is as hot as today’s!

How many ringers does it take to close Stradbroke ringing chamber’s window? David Stanford & Brian Whiting endeavour to find out.Once Brian Whiting and David Stanford had managed to work out how to shut the ringing chamber window, some of us plus groupie Jed Flatters departed for home via a drink in The Queen’s Head in Eye as we practiced for the recovery from ringing in a striking competition!

Even with a drizzle of rain starting, we could’ve happily sat out in the beer garden all day, but my Mum and Dad had very kindly been looking after and feeding lunch to the boys and we felt we ought to return and collect them for a lovely afternoon with the trio of brothers.

Other ringers were busy in the county too. Guild Secretary Carl Melville was on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon in his capacity as vicar at Great Blakenham as he promoted the wedding festival there this weekend in a report that can be heard from about 2hrs7mins into Sarah Lilley’s show, whilst a band predominantly visiting from Devon were being active in a more traditional manner for ringers as they rang a peal of Swindon Surprise Royal at St Peter’s in Sudbury.

However, the main ringing headline in Suffolk was the start of the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week, albeit in the South-East District with quarters of twelve Doubles methods at St Lawrence in Ipswich and Ipswich Surprise Minor at Sproughton.

God willing all good preparation for a brilliant QP Week!

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Friday 25th May 2018

Mason returned from his school’s residential trip to Mersea Island today, bringing to an end a week of various activities with his peers.

Our week has been far less exciting and it continued in that vein, bar a trip to mother-in-law Kate’s place to feed her animals and water her plants, even if due to caravan troubles she hadn’t got anywhere near as far as she’d hoped!

Still, other ringers were having more luck than Ruthie’s Mum and having a more interesting evening than we were as the FNQPC scored again, this time with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Ashbocking.

We were busier taking in tales of the eldest’s adventures in Essex though!

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Thursday 24th May 2018

All quiet on the Munnings front today, mundane and normal in every sense, although that’s not always a bad thing!

As usual that meant that going to Grundisburgh practice wasn’t possible, although hopefully the lighter evenings will help in regards to the numbers attending this rural tower’s weekly sessions, as I hope they do for our towers. We don’t want all ringers to be quiet!

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Wednesday 23rd May 2018

With Ruthie learning a particularly difficult piece of music for choir, it was up to me to support the practice night at Pettistree this evening.

I’m glad I did too, as with regulars away either at a play, losing a peal at St Mary-le-Tower, battling a cold or prevented from ringing by a back injury they were a little short on numbers. Even then though, they managed an impressive repertoire, as having preceded the session with a quarter-peal of Annable’s London Surprise Minor, the night then saw us ring more Surprise Minor of the Cambridge, London and Norwich variety, as well as some spliced Plain and Little Bob Minor.

It was all carried out in a very positive atmosphere too. Mary ‘Shrinking’ Garner – much to our amusement – felt she had got much shorter, but with Chris they were full of tales of Venice which included unwittingly striking up a conversation with a couple of bellringers from Devon!

Nice as well to have a pint in The Greyhound afterwards where it was good to hear from Chris McArthur how well work at Cretingham has been going as the ambition to augment them to six in time for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War in November appears to be coming to realisation.

I’m very glad that my wife was learning music and enabled me to join the Pettistree ringers for an enjoyable evening.

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Tuesday 22nd May 2018

The two youngest boys had professional photos taken at nursery and extremely adorable they are too.

However, it was just about the only interesting aspect of our day personally.

Thank goodness for other ringers therefore, especially at Gislingham where the 1280 of Birchington-On-Sea Surprise Major was the first quarter-peal in the method for the entire band. Well done to them and well done to Mike Cowling on ringing his first blows of Glasgow Surprise Major in the QP at Hopton.

It was certainly more noteworthy than our day, those adorable photographs aside.

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Monday 21st May 2018

Apparently 23rd June is Wrestling Night at The Tower. Blackpool Tower that is. Tonight was Stedman Night at The Tower though. St Mary-le-Tower that is.

I shan't be booking my tickets for an evening of choreographed fighting up north just yet, but there was no hesitation in going along to SMLT this evening, even if Ruthie was wrestling me to get out of the door and go herself. Sarcasm intended.

Some might say that a night devoted to ringing Stedman is pointless (slow frontwork apart). After all, as a line, it is one of the simplest around. Forgetting the novelty that is the Singles version, from Doubles to infinity you double-dodge in every adjacent pair of places from 4-5 upwards. Granted fatigue will have set in by 410-411 up, but mercifully Stedman Deuxcentcinques is rarely rung and in all seriousness it means that in terms of purely line, all you have to worry about is which way you enter the front - quick, where you simply go in and lead right and come out again or slow which is longer but symmetrical and fairly straightforward.

However, it is an exception amongst a sea of methods where you have a treble traversing a fixed path and a line that is rarely disrupted compared to the potential of a call every six changes as you get in Stedman (on any number). And there is much to remember that one doesn’t really get until you ring it regularly. Dodging the right way round, where your course bell is as you approach the front, the number of dodges when calls are made and then what way you go in. If someone gets lost in Yorkshire or Bristol, it is fairly straightforward to put them back in place. Stedman is a different beast though. Seemingly endless numbers of calls change the coursing order rapidly and the alternate quick and slow sixes suck in and spit out bells in what can seem to the uninitiated an entirely unpredictable order. If one person goes wrong, they usually take someone else who suddenly becomes less confident of what they were doing, especially without a treble there to work around. Within moments, another two bells get unnerved, the next person on the front is unsure if they should be going in quick or slow and before the initial culprit has even completed the thought "where am I?" the whole piece has collapsed.

There are signposts however and ways of avoiding getting to this point though, but because they only appear in the odd occasion that one may ring Stedman (even at SMLT we only typically ring it once or maybe twice a week), they are unfamiliar. This evening was all about making them familiar, even spotting them, complete with a question and answer session partway through.

It seemed to be useful for everyone there. At one end of the spectrum Laura Davies gave conducting it a go, whilst at the other extreme Sonia watched people drumming behind – we did ring some Call-Changes on Twelve for her in the only non-Stedman piece of the session – and in between it seemed to help Peter Davies, Melvyn Potts, Richard Weeks and Sue Williamson in particular. I think it was well worth this focus for all of us though, not least because the one thing more than anything that will kill a touch of Stedman is concentration and we need to get more used to concentrating for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, regardless of what we’re ringing, so an hour-and-a-half of concerted concentration won’t do us any harm!

My Stedman-loving mother (more sarcasm intended) managed to avoid the whole thing by attending a PCC meeting in Sproughton, but she joined us in The Cricketers afterwards where a sizeable crowd had retired after our efforts. I’m not sure how many of us will be at Blackpool Tower for the wrestling in June though.

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Sunday 20th May 2018

I don’t mind admitting to feeling a pang of guilt when missing ringing I have been asked to help with, but occasionally life clashes with ringing commitments. So it was this afternoon. It is the third Sunday, the time when ideally we need to be getting together as a twelve-bell squad at St Mary-le-Tower to help towards an entry into the National Twelve-Bell Contest in 2019, which currently is taking the form of quarter-peal attempts.

On this occasion though, we had been invited to the Felixstowe home of our close friends Kala and Nick – Godparents of Mason and Alfie respectively – and parents of one of Alfred’s closest friends Robyn for a BBQ, along with another of his special peers Maddie – my Goddaughter – and her parents Toby and Amy, also Godparents to two of our children, Mason and Joshua respectively. This is the closest to a family gathering without involving actual blood relatives that we get and like us they are busy folk, so actually finding a mutual date to meet – especially as with children we are restricted when we can all come out – is a process that many ringing organisers will be familiar with! Besides, having spent the whole day ringing yesterday, it would’ve been harsh to deny the boys meeting up with their friends and playing games in the sunshine as they did today.

And at least the QP at SMLT was successful, with a 1320 of Grandsire Cinques that will hopefully have been useful for all concerned, whilst there were also 1440 changes of the twelve Norwich-based Surprise Minor methods spliced rung at Clopton and 1296 changes of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung in an early start at Pettistree.

Meanwhile, it was nice to see a Suffolk Guild peal rung for the recent Royal Wedding, as a 5040 of Minor was rung at Wissett, with Sal Jenkinson ringing her first inside and Matthew Rolph his most methods. Well done Sal and Matthew!

I did get some ringing in though, partaking in the pre-service ringing at Woodbridge before attending said service and then making a mad dash afterwards to get the car off the streets ahead of the town's annual 10k race!

For all that and that I enjoyed this afternoon immensely, I still felt a little guilty though...

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Saturday 19th May 2018

The crowds gathered in eager expectation, awaiting the main event. Cameras were clicking away and all eyes were on a red-haired chap who was about to speak...

Earl Stonham.Apparently there was a wedding happening in a little town in Berkshire where the crowds had gathered in eager expectation, awaiting the main event, with cameras clicking away and where all eyes were on a red-haired chap who was about to speak, but there was nowhere that I’d rather have been this morning than Earl Stonham, where Suffolk Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge was about to introduce the SGR’s Patron and the county’s new High Sherriff George Vestey Esq, who was poised to make a brief but very entertaining speech before drawing the order of ringing for the six-bell competitions for the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy being held before lunch today on this lovely 9cwt gallery-ring of six.

And so it began, as an impressive entry of thirteen teams (especially considering what else was going on!) each made the short climb to the ringing chamber, practiced for two minutes, as requested by the judges Jeremy and Cherril Spiller rang the front three for two whole pulls to signify they were about to start competing and then did their 120 changes or four minutes of call-changes depending on which competition they were partaking in.

Enjoying the ringing in Earl Stonham churchyard in the sunshine! Enjoying the ringing in Earl Stonham churchyard in the sunshine! Enjoying the ringing outside Earl Stonham church hall in the sunshine! The ringing order for the 2018 Suffolk Guild 6-Bell Striking Competitions. Lunch in Earl Stonham Church Hall. Lunch in Earl Stonham Church Hall. My son Mason, brother Chris and father Alan watching the Royal Wedding after lunch. Awaiting the results of the Six-Bell Competitions at Earl Stonham Church Hall. Judges Jeremy & Cherril Spiller give the Six-Bell results at Earl Stonham Church Hall. Listening to the results for the Six-Bell Competitions in Earl Stonham Church Hall. Neal Dodge collects the Lester Brett Call Change Trophy on behalf the winners Great Barton.

Overall the quality was tremendous, a lovely backdrop to chatting in the sun-drenched churchyard or over a cuppa inside or outside the church hall next door and those listening - myself and Ruthie included - were struggling to pick a winner from amongst the superb striking on show.

As it happened, St Mary-le-Tower's 'A' team won and whilst I can imagine lots of rolling of eyes and cries "oh yeah", this was one of the most open contests for the Mitson Shield for years, with representation from all four Districts (including last week's winners of the North-East District Striking Competition Halesworth), with last year's joint winners Pakenham again in the running and Woolpit/Drinkstone very close in the runners-up spot. And it was great to see an entry from Thurston, presumably their first having only been augmented from five in the last few years. Ultimately I was even more chuffed than I usually am to win as this was by no means a certainty.

Very well done as well to Great Barton's Call-Change team on winning the Lester Brett Trophy in a Call-Change Competition which was also keenly contested and included some of the best ringing of the day. Great Barton’s method entry wasn’t bad either!

The results were delivered in the cosy, quaint hall with empathy and in an extremely constructive manner by our experienced judges following a wonderful lunch put on by the Debenham ringers.

Debenham.It was to the fine 21cwt ground-floor eight that we headed to next for the competition for the Rose Trophy. This could feel like 'after the Lord Mayor's Show' following the vast entry for the six-bell. After all, each team requires more ringers from a smaller pool and indeed there were fewer ringers about this afternoon, although some grapes had continued on to soak in what was a fantastic atmosphere with the local residents celebrating the earlier aforementioned wedding in style around us in the churchyard.

Gathered for the draw for the Rose Trophy at Debenham. Enjoying the ringing at Debenham. SGR PRO Neal Dodge speaking with Guild Patron & High Sherriff of Suffolk George Vestey Esq. Ruthie and a pint listening to the final team in the Eight-Bell at Debenham from the beer garden at The Woolpack. Awaiting the results for the Eight-Bell in Debenham church. South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson collects the Rose Trophy on behalf of the winners the SE District.

Obvious as it sounds, this is a harder competition to create good ringing in. The additional bells, about twice the time spent ringing and with many having already competed once today, but again Suffolk's ringers didn't disappoint as a superb contest between the hosts, SMLT, the North-West District and the South-East District transpired and the latter came out on top in the results given out by the Spillers in the church. That Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase got judges of this quality on a busy day for ringing is to credit, as it is to Cherill and Jeremy's for coming out for a long day's judging.

Well done to Tom, the SE District and especially the Debenham ringers for making sure the day went so well. For us it was a highly enjoyable day in gorgeous sunshine and not just because we were in both winning bands. I've always said that the winning comes after not just the opportunity to focus on striking and therefore hopefully progressing one's ringing, but also the social aspect and today was the perfect example. In between topping the children up on suncream, watching over them and attending to their various needs as they dashed around playfully in the open space afforded them by the wonderful weather, there was barely a moment when we weren't catching up with someone. And with mother-in-law Kate very kindly taking our two youngest sons to hers following the morning's proceedings, their parents were able to enjoy a quick half in the beer garden of The Woolpack that backs onto the churchyard of Debenham's imposing church whilst listening to the final band, before then enjoying the other half afterwards! Make sure you 'like' the winning performance in the Eight-Bell on BellBoard!

Despite the flippancy with which I dismissed the marriage today of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it was a shame that the two events clashed, meaning that SGR members' response to the big occasion in Windsor wasn't quite as it might have been. For example, an attempt to get a band for a peal at Grundisburgh this morning understandably failed with almost everyone who might have rung in Earl Stonham, but there was special ringing on Suffolk's bells for the wedding, as ringing was carried out at Horringer and Wingfield and a quarter-peal of Bourne Surprise Minor was rung at Buxhall.

And of course across the country ringing was celebrating the royal union, most notably at the Castle itself where Suffolk native Vernon Bedford was amongst the band who rang a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples rung as the great and the good gathered for the ceremony around them as ringing got some more great worldwide PR.

I don’t expect I would’ve turned down the opportunity to be in their shoes, but I was extremely happy to be in Earl Stonham and Debenham today.

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Friday 18th May 2018

Our glamping staycation odyssey drew to its conclusion this morning as we packed the boys off to nursery and packed our belongings up from the tent that has been our home since Monday and returned to our house of doors, windows and walls that don’t move in the breeze.

We left slightly unsure as to whether glamping was really for us. Judging by the awards and our own experience of meeting Ross – who with his wife Charlotte runs it – we’d say that Secret Meadows is one of the best in the industry and I reckon that if one went with a group of mates with a few drinks, with older children or during peak season when it was busier then it would be perfect and in such circumstances we couldn’t recommend it more highly. I don’t think we experienced it at its best though.

That said, we can’t really complain. We’ve got accommodation that would’ve cost hundreds of pounds for free and we have generally enjoyed being tourists in our local area this week and having popped back to Boulge church to collect the hat that I left there yesterday we were able to take in another hot day off work, although mainly it was getting more odd jobs done around our abode.

Grand Plant Sale.There wasn’t much ringing related to report, so I shall mention the Grand Plant Sale being held in aid of the Stowmarket Bells Project on the Bank Holiday Monday in ten days time at the town’s Community Centre. Please do support, especially if you are staycationing in the area!

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Thursday 17th May 2018

I've pointed it out before that we love the children to bits and miss them when they're not with us, but from a practical perspective it is lovely to do stuff without them, to feel like proper adults again, taking our time to do stuff, eating food whilst its still hot, being able to complete conversations and generally relaxing. Today was one such rare opportunity to do just that, as with the boys sent to nursery, we continued our holiday.

St Michael, Boulge.On this hot day with a stiff cold breeze, that mainly took the form of sitting out the front of our tent at Secret Meadows having a cup of tea, briefly rescuing a chicken for the only other people on the site (one of the activities you can do here is look after the chickens for the day), wandering along the nature trails and then an invigorating walk to another rarity - a church in Suffolk we had never been to! As part of the vast, spread out Carlford Churches Benefice with the six-bell towers of Ashbocking, Burgh, Clopton, Hasketon and Otley, as well as the county's lightest twelve at Grundisburgh, we were aware of Boulge church, but without bells hung for change-ringing in the tiny red-brick tower of this compact place of worship hidden away in the woods at the end of a track next to Boulge Hall and serving a hamlet of just thirteen dwellings, we had never had cause to come here or even happen upon it.

The board in Boulge church celebrating the transferring of the bell from Mickfield in 1984. The board in Boulge church celebrating the transferring of the bell from Mickfield in 1984. The board in Boulge church celebrating the transferring of the bell from Mickfield in 1984.

There are bells, as we were fascinated to learn as we took our time exploring the dark interior, with information prominently hung on the wall celebrating the moving of a 1626 Miles Graye I bell from the then abandoned Mickfield church in 1984, with the old bell moved aside having been cracked. It was something of interest that we weren't expecting from somewhere that was only really meant as a reason for taking a walk, but there was more as we happened across copies of the latest edition of The Grundisburgh and District News. Not so much for the features about our award-winning accommodation, although that was nice. Nor for any ringing news, as there was none, which was a pity as with my old PR hat on I always feel it is important that local ringers try to reach out to local publications like this (as the Pettistree ringers do, for example), even if it is just with updates of what they're doing. However, there were ringers in there, on page 6 where an article on Grundisburgh ringers and residents Gill Twissell and Joanna Crowe doing their degrees with The Open University jumped out at us!

It set us up nicely for the walk back to Secret Meadows, but our walking didn't stop there as we carried on through the other side of the site and onto The Turks Head in Hasketon. This is a location very familiar to us, usually the tavern of choice once peals have been scored or lost (the latter more often than not this year!) in the local area, but in keeping with the theme of the week, it took on a different perspective as we became ramblers coming in for refreshments from our efforts.

We returned to base for the rest of the day to put our feet up, bar collecting the children from nursery and Ruthie popping out to choir practice. God willing there are many more days of fun to be spent with the children, but I am happy to spend some days like this too!

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Wednesday 16th May 2018

Happy 70th Birthday for yesterday to Jane Harper. She has of course – along with her husband Peter - been a dedicated supporter of South-East District and Suffolk Guild events ever since their arrival from Hertfordshire eleven years ago, even serving as District Secretary. However, she – again along with Peter – has been a huge help to local towers beyond just her local tower of Hollesley, such as Ufford and Pettistree, the latter of which was the appropriate location for a quarter-peal rung in her honour this evening and which I was delighted to partake in.

Despite two or three false starts as we attempted to figure out what exactly the start was (turned out it was from after the treble had done its first dodge and at handstroke!) it was a worthy effort for the occasion.

However, that was the extent of my involvement in ringing this evening as we are still in the middle of our impromptu glamping holiday in Hasketon and in keeping with the strange mix of being away and not away we were hosting Ruthie’s best friend Fergie who joined us for fish ‘n’ chips and a jolly good catch-up and needed the return of our car from ringing in order to get back to her parents’ abode nearby.

Perhaps ironically, whilst we were holidaying within our borders, the SGR were ringing beyond our borders for a rare performance on ‘foreign’ soil with a peal of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Ardleigh in Essex.

Our evening was spent very much on this side of the River Stour though, even on holiday, with a good book and a drink to toast Jane Harpers’ birthday!

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Tuesday 15th May 2018

Our view from the front of our tent at breakfast this morning. Sutton Hoo is about a mile from us as the crow flies. The woodland on the site is just about visible from our Melton home. A hugely significant historical site brilliantly showcased, all on our doorstep. I used to travel past it at least twice a day most days whilst I lived on the peninsula. And yet I can’t remember the last time I came here. Certainly not since I returned to Suffolk thirteen years ago and therefore not in the children’s lifetime. Seeing as we’re being tourists in our local area this week and with Alfie and Joshua in our care, we decided that today was the day to finally take advantage of this gem of the county, especially as since either of us last came much had changed.

Woodbridge from Sutton Hoo. Alfie dressed up at Sutton Hoo.We picked the right day for the weather too, as in roasting sunshine we enjoyed the coolness of the exhibition centre (although with two excitable young boys in tow there was much skimming of the fascinating information provided!) and Tranmer House and were able to visit the burial mounds themselves in pleasant conditions, even finding time to take in the stunning views of Woodbridge – with the tower of St Mary-the-Virgin church that houses the 25cwt eight – across the River Deben as we continued this week’s theme of seeing the familiar from an unfamiliar perspective.

That theme was carried on into the evening, as the usual abstaining from ringing on a Tuesday night was continued meaning an evening in, only without the usual accompaniment of television and/or DVDs or electric light.

Other ringers not too far away were being more productive however, most particularly at Offton where the practice was preceded with a quarter-peal of Doubles. We haven’t been there for a while though. Hopefully we won’t leave it as long as we did Sutton Hoo.

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Monday 14th May 2018

Full English breakfast cooking, the stiff breeze gusting grey clouds across the bright spring sunshine and riverside activity building, I observed this morning three elderly gentleman at the Woodbridge boating pool sailing their model boats. It was slightly chilly and I wondered what enjoyment they could be getting from it. Just sailing a small boat round in circles on a rather dull concrete-lined pond didn’t seem particularly stimulating, but then it occurred to me that there is probably more to it than that.  After all, how many people think that ringing is a simple act of pulling on a rope and will wonder where the stimulation is in that? They won’t realise the lifetime of stimulation that can be enjoyed by learning new methods, new compositions, ringing at new towers, quarters, peals and much more. Perhaps the real enjoyment in model boat-sailing is the mechanical side of things or sailing them in different places or in different conditions. Or a combination thereof. Or perhaps, like with ringing it is the friendships that attract and retain participants.

Such deep thinking was possible – as was having and enjoying a cooked breakfast at The Tea Hut at all – because we were without the boys for most of the day as they were packed off to their places of education and we enjoyed the first day of quite an unusual week away that actually isn’t really away at all. Some may recall that at the boys’ nursery’s Christmas Fair that we were the winners of the first prize in the raffle – four days of glamping. With the understandable restrictions that it couldn’t be taken over their peak times like weekends and school holidays, we decided that this was the best week to take up the very generous offer of a free holiday, although sadly it prevented Mason from joining us, especially as this week he is taking his SATS at school.

However, with Secret Meadows – the award-winning venue which was offering our prize – only being in Hasketon, it was the shortest distance either of us has ever travelled for a holiday and with check-in not until 4pm, we had pretty much all day to not only prepare but to potter around with a mixture of odd jobs about the house and that breakfast following a walk along the River Deben.

The short distance to our accommodation also allowed us to collect Alfie and Joshua from nursery and for me to travel from the glorious rural isolation of our tent to the bustling centre of Ipswich and its pubs and clubs where my primary destination was St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice. Sadly we were very short on numbers present with quite a few away, including Ringing Master David Potts and even though Amanda Richmond’s typically energetic leadership kept us energised, not much went well. Hopefully we’ll get the numbers back again soon as we seemed to have suffered on that front in recent weeks.

Being on holiday I took the opportunity to join others in The Cricketers afterwards, a welcome climax to a largely disappointing evening, but it was a better day on the ringing-front in Buxhall where two quarter-peals were successfully rung, one in memory of another villager killed in the First World War a century ago, the other to welcome the Revd Canon Pauline Higham and Rod Higham to the village as Associate Priest and Reader respectively.

Outside our accommodation for this week. Inside our accommodation for this week. Story time in our tent with Ruthie, Alfie & Joshua.

I meanwhile returned to the depths of the Suffolk countryside where we learnt to spend our darkening evening by oil-lamp, where in the pleasant absence of a television and indeed any electricity at all, we read and chatted in the dim light. It was a very different and nice way to end a very different and nice day.

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Sunday 13th May 2018

There was a generally positive theme running through the day’s ringing, including mine this morning. I called some well-rung call-changes on twelve and participated in some decent Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower and later at Grundisburgh, following a hiatus from the exercise whilst living in London, Alistair returned with some impressively-rung Grandsire Doubles, although sadly he was one of only six ringers here today.

In between, it was good to see George Pipe at the usual post-ringing tea and coffee in Ipswich’s Costa Coffee, in good form and able to see the funny side of a certain young ringing couple having to be reminded they were due round his and Diana’s for lunch yesterday...

Elsewhere in Suffolk things appear to have gone well, with three peals and three quarters. Admittedly one of the peals saw the usual second-Sunday Surprise Major peal at Aldeburgh reduced to Minor after meeting short and the other brace were on handbells in Bacton for the Society of Stowmarket Youths in 1hr 40mins and 1hr 42mins, whilst one of the QPs was rung at NDA tower Lowestoft, but it was good to see the ringing endeavour being undertaken across the county, which also took in a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Theberton and 1279 of Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower. Well done to David Everett on ringing his first on ten in the latter!

We meanwhile popped round to mother-in-law Kate’s, where she had taken delivery of something she got having been inspired by our exploits last weekend. And it isn’t a lion...

Beyond our borders though, there is one last ringing performance worthy of mention as Colin Salter – of Ipswich but currently studying at the University of Surrey – pulled in the 30cwt tenor at Guildford Cathedral to a peal of four Surprise Maximus methods spliced this afternoon.

It has been a very positive day of ringing!

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Saturday 12th May 2018

Having enjoyed some absolutely scorching weather in recent weeks, it was perhaps entirely predictable that our first barbecue of the year this afternoon was cut-short and taken indoors due to rain.

Still, that didn’t spoil the occasion of catching-up with some of Ruthie’s school-friends at the Bramford home of one of them, Vicky and her husband, in sight of the top of the spire of St Mary-the-Virgin church where the 10cwt six are housed.

It involved no ringing, but it was a busy day for others, especially in the North-East District where their striking competition was held at Yoxford, although no word yet on the results. Also in the North-West District though, where special mention is necessary for Joshua Watkins on ringing his first of Surprise Minor in the quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Brandon. Well done Joshua!

At least the ringing today was better than the weather!

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Friday 11th May 2018

Great St Mary.Saturday 23rd June is when some of the world’s best bellringers are due to descend upon our doorstep as the Final of the globe’s premier ringing competition, the National Twelve-Bell Contest is planned to be held just fifteen minutes beyond the Suffolk Guild’s most westerly tower Exning at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge, as they gather to battle it out for second spot behind Birmingham.

That remark is quite flippant, as although the Brummies are undoubtedly favourites to win the Taylor Trophy for the fifteenth time in nineteen years, there is as usual stiff competition. The hosts are realistic potential winners in their own right on any bells, but will be looking to make the most of home advantage, whilst the College Youths are the only other team this decade to have triumphed and will be looking to replicate the performance they produced the last time the competition came to East Anglia when they won at Norwich in 2015. Their friendly rivals from London the Cumberlands and St Paul’s Cathedral are also strong contenders and past winners and although Bristol have never been victorious at this stage, they have some superb ringers in their band including ‘our’ very own George Salter, buoyed by their victory in last weekend’s Tewkesbury Shield. If my former ringing peers from the West Midlands are anywhere below their best, I imagine that any of these bands will be ready to beat them to top spot. Still, don’t discount any of the remaining bands Exeter, Guildford (including George’s younger sibling Colin), Leeds or Melbourne to pull off some kind of Leicester City-style victory.

Within the main contest there will be many mini-contests. There will be keen competition between the teams from the capital, especially the ASCYs and SRCYs, whilst I imagine there may be a bit of rivalry between the South-West teams. However, the main mini-contest of interest to us is the almost unique battle of the brothers Salter. David and Katharine will be very proud I’m sure!

Even besides that, I would implore ringers from within our borders to go along and savour the occasion, whether from tea, coffee and bacon butties at 9.30 in the morning to kicking-out time at whatever pubs the hardened drinkers turn to once the drink in the grounds of Senate House runs out, or simply for part of proceedings, even maybe attending the SW District Striking Competition taking place just thirty miles away in Cavendish.

If nothing else, take a look at the website and Facebook page set up specifically for the event, which compliments the competitions website, Facebook page and Twitter feed. There will be more information added as the big day gets closer I imagine, but even at this early stage there is plenty to get a flavour of the day, with advice on accommodation and travel, biographies of some of the teams with more to come, a schedule for proceedings and a page on what do to do if listening to top-class ringing with a beer in hand all day isn’t your bag. Apart from the city’s usual attractions, there are activities in the church itself for children and a tour of The Lost Rings of Cambridge led by Gareth Davies, who some may recall was one of the judges for the SGR Guild Striking Competitions of 2014 last time the South-East District hosted them.

Almost as if by design, that brings me on to this year’s Mitson Shield, Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy and Rose Trophy being held in eight days time, again by the SE District. We can’t offer punting or King’s College, although I’m sure if enough people cross Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase’s palms with silver then he’ll be more than willing to arrange tractor rides along the A1120 from Earl Stonham or tours of The Guildhall in Debenham. In all seriousness though, much like the National Twelve-Bell Contest, there should be much to hold the interest. The six-bell in the morning will be too early for all but the most dedicated of ale-fans so it doesn’t matter that there are no public houses nearby, but there will be miles of countryside to wander, a large churchyard to sit in and enjoy the ringing and if the weather doesn’t allow any of that I am sure that there will be indoor refreshments available somewhere!

Debenham meanwhile is pretty much perfect for such an event. Shops, places to eat and a pub – The Woolpack - that backs onto the churchyard and will make the ideal venue for many from which to listen to the eight-bell competition. Please come along and take it all in, even if you’re not ringing!

For today though, the main focus was on the quarters of Plain Bob Major at Helmingham and Grandsire Doubles at Woolpit, particularly the latter which was Alistair McArthur’s first as cover. Well done Alistair!

23rd June can wait for now!

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Thursday 10th May 2018

A conversation on the walk home from work with the local homeless busker as he made a mad dash to Rochdale (long story!), as I made a mad dash myself to pick up the boys from mother-in-law Kate before she left for the Surprise Major Practice at Ufford, whilst Ruthie was at choir practice was about the only happening of note for me personally.

Again though, other ringers picked up the slack, not just at the 13cwt eight down the road but at Tostock too where the eleven Carlisle Surprise Minor based methods were rung to a quarter-peal.

Not that my homeless chum from up north would've been interested!

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Wednesday 9th May 2018

Following a few days abstaining from ringing (more due to circumstances than going out of our way to avoid it!), one of us finally managed some ringing again as Ruthie joined her mother Kate in going to the practice at Pettistree this evening. They made it slightly late, yet were still able to partake in some spliced and an apparently impressive lower before going to The Greyhound where my wife helped celebrate Ron's birthday and was engaged in speculation with Mat Bayfield of The Broadside Boys on whom the new Ipswich Town manager is likely to be, which even involved some inside knowledge via text from ITFC legend and former England captain Terry Butcher!

Alfie and Joshua also had an exciting day as they spent it with my Mum and Dad, popping to the park, riding on the bus and going to their favourite cafe, leaving just me from today's household with nothing particularly of interest to report from another hot and sunny day!

Thankfully other ringers joined my family in being interesting, with the session at the aforementioned ground-floor six preceded with a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor, whilst those ringing the quarter-peal at Bardwell were doing their bit for Project Pickled Egg by ringing Turramurra Surprise Major and the 1280 of five Surprise Major methods spliced at Ixworth was the most Major Stephen Dawson has thus far rung. Well done Stephen on that and indeed to all who had a more entertaining day than mine, including my family!

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Tuesday 8th May 2018

Following a weekend of living the life of Riley and spending real quality time with the family, today could've been a depressing day back at work. Thankfully I am fortunate to be in a job I enjoy, with colleagues I like just a few minutes walk from home and with the hot sunshine continuing on well into the evening, the neighbour's children again round to play with the boys and tea eaten outside, there remained an air of holiday about it all with much positivity still abounding.

There still wasn't any ringing for us though and nothing recorded on BellBoard as having been rung upon Suffolk's bells, but there is much planned for the future, including the North-East District Striking Competition and Quarterly Meeting at Yoxford on Saturday, which also brings me neatly on to the Guild Striking Competitions at Earl Stonham and Debenham a week later. A big turnout of teams and ringers in all of these would be marvellous. Such events help ringers of all abilities to focus on striking in a fun and sometimes exciting atmosphere where ultimately the main purpose is that participants progress and all present have fun, rather than on who actually wins. Hangers on and supporters would also be welcome, so even if your aren't ringing then come along and savour the occasion. Each location has shops, pubs and/or beautiful countryside to wander nearby, so there is plenty to do if you don't just want to listen to ringing!

It should all be more interesting than today, even though today wasn't all that bad.

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Monday 7th May 2018

Our home for the last three days.Not many churches sit alongside a tiger enclosure, but that is the situation that St Mary's in Thrigby near Great Yarmouth finds itself in. Indeed it is surrounded on three sides of its churchyard by Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, our final destination of a fun-packed bank holiday weekend to celebrate sister-in-law Clare's significant birthday last week.

Tiger at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens, overlooked by the church tower. The church tower pokes out over one of the enclosures at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Taking in the animals at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens. Taking in the animals at Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens.

Perhaps mercifully there are no bells hung for change-ringing here (I'm not sure I fancy being approached by an angry snow leopard irate at a peal disturbing its sleep!), but of course we weren't here for that. Rather it was another roasting hot day showing the children zoo animals and it was the perfect venue after the last couple of days of wandering around, being much smaller than Africa Alive down the road or Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure Park on the other side of Norwich.

Having previously considered going to the North Norfolk Railway, it was also ideally placed for the journey home as we leapt upon the A12 all the way back to Melton where we arrived in the middle of a water fight involving the neighbours, which Ufford ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth - who had very kindly been looking after Charlie our cat whilst we were away - inadvertently got caught up with. We enjoyed a beer with them as Mason, Alfie and - when appropriate - Joshua played with the children next door both at theirs and ours and once they had left, the kids had been calmed down, washed and put to bed and we had unpacked, time had run out on the notion of going to St Mary-le-Tower practice and so instead we relaxed in our sunbaked garden.
At the start of the day we had bade farewell to The Farm House At Shelton which had been our home for the last three nights and the base for a wonderful weekend of games, relaxation, exotic animals, dinosaurs and that hot tub (which I could very much get used to!) in gorgeous whether. Thank you to Kate and Ron for looking after things, I can't wait for the next one!

Whilst we were rounding off our weekend away, well done to the band who rang an impressive quarter-peal of the Cambridge Twelve Surprise Minor methods in the 1440 of Tostock. And no reports that I'm aware of that they were met by any angry wild animals afterwards!

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Sunday 6th May 2018

Sunday morning ringing is to my mind the basis of what we do. Even in an age of increasing use of handbells and bells at secular locations, it is primarily the bells of churches up and down the country and beyond that allow us to make the most of this wonderful hobby, whether that be through outings, quarters, peals or a combination thereof. Ringing those bells when called upon on the Sabbath – or indeed any other occasion – seems only reasonable and although Ruthie isn’t usually able to ring for most services as she is singing in the choir, I am pleased to regularly ring for morning worship at one or often two towers.

Not this morning though, as our family weekend continued with only three of the eleven-strong party ringers and with five of those being children we instead found ourselves wandering amongst dinosaurs at RROAR! Dinosaur Adventure Park near Norwich. This could easily have been quite a tacky place, but it is done superbly, especially the woodland walk that took us amongst Tyrannosaurus Rex, Diplodocus and Pterodactyl, as well as the playground and water park which the kids also took full advantage of!

Our last evening at our temporary home was another relaxing one with pool played, toys well and truly played with by the youngsters and of course the hot tub sat in, the roasting hot sunshine still accompanying us as I begin to forget what clouds look like.
Back in Suffolk it was a busy day of ringing as a band of Sussex ringers and Nigel Gale rang a 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal on the back ten of The Norman Tower, whilst 1250 changes of the Major version were rung at Debenham and a 1296 was completed for Evensong at Pettistree. Meanwhile, well done to Pam Ebsworth, Andrea Alderton and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Hindley Bob Minor in the 1260 at Great Finborough and to Simon Veal on ringing his first quarter-peal of Minor as conductor in the Plain Bob at Great Barton.
It more than made up for our lack of ringing!

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Saturday 5th May 2018

Winning Hollesley Band + support!Congratulations to St Mary-le-Tower on winning the Cecil Pipe Memorial Trophy and Hollesley the David Barnard Memorial Shield – the South-East District method and call-change Six-Bell Striking Competitions respectively – at Rushmere St Andrew today. Indeed, well done to all who took part and hopefully benefitted from the experience.

Alfie & Joshua enjoying the garden at the house. Keeping an eye on the lions. Keeping an eye on the lions. Milking plastic cows.

Typically Ruthie and I would be there taking part and on a roasting hot day like today enjoying the excellent ringing from the churchyard whilst mingling with fellow participants, as well as supporters and hangers-on, but an unfortunate and unavoidable clash meant that we were taking in something equally as enjoyable as we travelled along the Norfolk-Suffolk border - the instantly recognisable towers of Bungay and then Beccles viewed from afar – to Africa Alive, the popular zoo just a couple of fields away from the 13cwt six of Kessingland. There may not have been any bells for us today, but what there was included giraffes, rhinos, flamingos, lions, lemurs and so much more as my wife’s sister Clare partook in her birthday surprise of being a zookeeper for the day.

She had a great time, as did we, but we were all very excited to return to our home for the weekend in Shelton Green for a late afternoon and early evening of basking in the sunshine and relaxing in the hot tub whilst the children ran free in the garden that was later to play host to Ron practicing the bagpipes.

We were genuinely sorry to miss the SE Striking Competition, as it is a highlight of the calendar for us personally, but we had a thoroughly fantastic day with the animals.

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Friday 4th May 2018

If you want to know how this evening a Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild ended up in a hot tub with a former RM of the South-East District as well as a one-time Secretary of the SE in the middle of the Norfolk countryside then read on. If you’d rather not then close your eyes.

Mercifully there was nothing particularly salacious to report as the trio above were myself, my mother-in-law Kate and my wife Ruthie, along with the daughter of the former and sister of the latter Clare for whose recent birthday is the reason that a six-bedroom house with a vast amount of enclosed garden space for the children to run free in and that hot tub is our home for this bank holiday weekend. It is just over the border between ourselves and our northern neighbours – indeed I could imagine that on a clear night that you might even catch the sound of the bells of the SGR’s Mendham or South Elmham St Cross wafting along the breeze – and yet in the glorious isolation of this farmhouse on the outskirts of the sparsely populated Shelton Green it felt a world away from anywhere familiar.

Back in the homeland though, the county’s ringers were keeping busy with quarter-peals of Doubles and Plain Bob Minor at Aldeburgh and Earl Stonham respectively, the latter a timely reminder that we are just a fortnight and a day away from when the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy are due to be held on the easy-going 9cwt gallery-ring six and only ten days to get entries and names in to current Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase. Who unlike this Past Guild Ringing Master, probably won’t be found in a hot tub with the Ringing Master and Secretary of the South-East District.

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Thursday 3rd May 2018

It came to my attention today that Ipswich Town are the seventh most depressing football in the UK to support. There’s six clubs more depressing?

There was nothing depressing about our day otherwise though. Even the early start at work was not unpleasant as I awoke naturally just before my alarm went off, the sun already streaming in round the sides of the curtains and the sound wafting in from the nearby Deben of geese honking about their business.

And an afternoon nap in the sun-drenched garden refreshed me suitably for a trip to Farlingaye High School for Mason’s Intake Evening, which was essentially a fifteen minute interview with him establishing his likes, dislikes, personality and needs. It was all very reassuring as he and we prepare for this daunting step.

I was very grateful to mother-in-law Kate for looking after Alfie and Joshua whilst I went along to the event, especially as Ruthie was out this evening on a much needed night out with her work colleagues in and around Woodbridge.

The only downside was that it involved no ringing, although there was some in Suffolk today as a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Bures by a Sunday service band as former local ringer Don Mills was remembered here at the church he knew so well. Rest in Peace Don.

Elsewhere there was a practice at Grundisburgh and many other places on a lovely evening for ringing on a day that was generally very positive. Even for us Ipswich Town fans.

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Wednesday 2nd May 2018

Double Ipswich.

Not a new method, but a broad, short-form account of my day as I made two visits to Suffolk’s county town.

One was a very reluctant trip into the centre, primarily to swap a birthday gift for Ruthie’s sister which was as successful as such things can be, but saw us pay £2 for the privilege of not having enough time to carry out what was also ultimately a failed shopping trip in the cold and rain with a brace of unhappy children and their unhappy mother.

The Wollery.The second was to The Wolery for a peal of Little Bob Major. Not very adventurous on the face of it and I can’t say it was the most thrilling of my 604 in the medium thus far, but it was useful striking practice at speed for Abby Antrobus and Neal Dodge. Ringing on mini-rings is maligned by some, but I am convinced it has added something to my ringing having to concentrate and strike at such speed and hopefully Neal and Abby will find this too following 1hr 58mins that included some very decent stuff in the main. It was all topped off as usual by tea, cake and conversation as we took in the Guild PRO’s tales of China and the South-East District Secretary’s tales of the local cat with cleaning issues!

Elsewhere there was an impressive 1260 of five Triples methods spliced rung at Elveden, the most spliced Triples for the entire band – well done to them all! Although also sympathies to the Colman family, especially Julian on the death of his father.

Meanwhile, the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree was successfully rung with a 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor. Just the single Ipswich you’ll note...

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Tuesday 1st May 2018

May started slowly on the ringing front personally. Instead, following my very early shift at John Catt Educational this morning, we had lunch at Greggs, carried out a shopping experiment at Aldi and popped round Ruthie's sister's abode for more cake to celebrate her significant birthday on the actual day.

Still, others got their month's ringing account underway, especially the band on their ‘Golden Oldies QP Day’ that rang a 1280 of Turramurra Surprise Major, 1260 of Grandsire Triples and another 1280 of Painswick Surprise Major at Bardwell, Ixworth and Horringer respectively.

And God willing there is much ringing to enjoy across Suffolk before we reach June. There are the local striking competitions of course, starting with the South-East District's at Rushmere St Andrew on Saturday, followed a week on at Yoxford for the North-East District's and then seven days after that the Guild's at Earl Stonham and Debenham. Other events are happening though. This Thursday, as with every first Thursday of the month, the North-East District are planning on holding a Six-Bell Practice at the lovely, easy-going 11cwt ground-floor six of Chediston, whilst in precisely one week the Second Tuesday Ringing is due to see the resumption of normality following the Bank Holiday weekend with visits to Rendham from 11am-noon and Theberton from 2-3pm. On the morning of Saturday 12th before the NE's Striking Competition and Quarterly District Meeting, you might also be able to go to the North-West District's Practice at Brandon, before a couple of NE District Practices at the start of the following week, with the Eight-Bell Practice at Bungay on Monday 14th and then the Six-Bell Practice at Worlingham the following evening, immediately prior to an even busier few days in that corner of the SGR, with the Third Monday Six-Bell Practice at Reydon on the 21st, Fourth Tuesday Triples and Major Practice at Halesworth on the 22nd, Fourth Thursday Six-Bell Practice at Blythburgh on the 24th and the Fourth Friday Eight-Bell Practice on the 25th, this month at Southwold. If you're not exhausted by the North-East District's tour of their picturesque part of the world, you could join the South-West District in their picturesque part of the world at the Practice that is pencilled in for 7.30-9pm at Drinkstone of Saturday 26th, where hopefully no one will get locked in this time... That is also the same day that the NW plan to start their Quarter-Peal Week.

It is shaping up to be a very busy month of ringing, even if it hasn't begun as such today.

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Monday 30th April 2018

David Potts said afterwards it was a blip and he was quite right. By the increasingly high standards we have set ourselves at St Mary-le-Tower in recent months, tonight’s practice was a disappointing one, although it can partly be explained by the absence of a number of regulars even with the presence of Simon Rudd visiting for the second week running. Throughout the evening, too many pieces collapsed in a heap unceremoniously, much to our frustration.

That said, even the ringing that ultimately fell apart generally started well, with a touch of Stedman Cinques in particular setting off at a good pace and well-struck with only occasional minor hesitations to report, before a small mistake caused the domino effect that small mistakes in Stedman so often do and ended in glorious defeat.

And there were highlights, with Sonia ringing Call-Changes on Twelve well on the flightly second that has caught out many far more experienced than her, Sue Williamson negotiating Grandsire Cinques superbly and Richard Weeks making his way through Yorkshire Surprise Maximus whilst others were losing their heads around him, whilst the session was climaxed by another half-a-course of the latter reasonably rung and a brisk but precise lower of the front eight in readiness for another learners’ practice tomorrow night.

Hopefully next week will be better, with the plan being to run a practice on the evening of the Bank Holiday Monday in a week’s time.

I imagine it was all digested in The Cricketers afterwards, although I don’t expect it was mulled over unnecessarily, but I wasn’t there to say for sure as with a very early shift at work tomorrow I needed to get home to bed and hope for better ringing to come.

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Sunday 29th April 2018

St Margaret's.The bells of St Margaret's church in Ipswich hold a special place in the Munnings family. Run and rung by mine and Chris' Grandad Jack for years, this was also a tower that was a familiar and regular haunt for my brother and me as we grew up and then began ringing. Our ability to ring Plain Bob Major was very much honed in the cramped ringing chamber, as indeed to a large extent was our handling style, as this pair of small lads attempted to master the art on tough bells around the clockcase between the second and third, the bench between the treble and tenor, the ladder to the bells behind one and two and the desk that almost seemed to fill the entirety of the floorspace in the middle of a room that was small enough to start with!

We have grown up since and perhaps time has altered my perspective on ringing here, as I had a tinge of sadness when I first heard that the bells would be restored - and some recast - and rung from a newly built gallery. However, such emotions are far outweighed by the positives of what has been achieved in the tower that overlooks Christchurch Mansion at the gateway to the town centre, but this remains a special place to us and so I was desperate to attend this afternoon's celebration of the project's completion, which has also included various features to allow the church to be reopened to the public safely and thus let it do what a church is supposed to do.

Of course we weren't alone. What has been done is so spectacular that not unexpectedly ringers from across Suffolk and beyond were curious to experience the transformation from a hard-going clunky eight that shouted out over their neighbours and rung from a claustrophobic belfry to an easy-going, mellow octave rung in glorious view of an intrigued public, which outside seems to blend in with the neighbourhood, rather than overpower it. It was nice to meet John Barnes from Kent and a member of the Bell Restoration Committee of the Central Council of Church Bellringers (as it still is for now) and chat with him, as well as catch up with personalities not seen for several years, such as Dr Stuart Harrison, once a regular ringer at St Margaret's and in Orford, but now living and ringing in Somerset and the Very Reverend Keith Jones, once the vicar at St Mary-le-Tower before becoming Dean of Exeter and then the immediate predecessor of the now infamous Vivienne Faull as Dean of York and then returning to Ipswich in his retirement and becoming a member of the Project Management Team. It is hard to imagine his successor in York being quite as involved in a ringing project as he has been in this one...

Although the service turned out to be starting at 3.30pm rather than the widely advertised 3pm, a packed church enjoyed proceedings that included Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Right Reverend Martin Seeley (and as he pointed out, member of this parish!) giving a lovely sermon and Ringing Master here John Girt helping to fill in the background to what had been done, all of which was topped off by ringing on the bells to the backdrop of corks popping, bites being nibbled and mingling carried out.

John Girt speaks at St Margaret’s Service of Celebration. The view from under the new ringing gallery at St Margaret’s in Ipswich. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich The Right Reverend Martin Seeley speaks at St Margaret’s Service of Celebration. St Margaret's new ringing gallery. Joshua and me at the entrance to St Margaret’s new ringing gallery.

Mason, Alfie and Joshua did well too, especially as it was their second church service of the day having earlier been to morning worship in Woodbridge where beforehand Alfie joined me upstairs as I helped the local band to man the entire 25cwt eight.

Elsewhere, thoughts were with Nigel Gale at the death earlier today of his sister-in-law and one-time ringer at Polstead, Karin Silk as he and his fellow bandmates dedicated the quarter-peal rung at Boxford, which was originally arranged to mark the retirement of Reverend Judith Sweetman from the parish.

We returned home though to host mother-in-law Kate and Ron for a cuppa at the end of a day was special for the special occasion at a special place.

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Saturday 28th April 2018

Last night I happened to catch a bit of Britain’s Great Cathedrals with Tony Robinson, this week focusing on Durham Cathedral. He presented it you understand, he hadn’t popped round for a glass of vino. It was only in passing though and so I took the opportunity to watch it again online, mainly because just after half-an-hour in there is a few minutes where the 28cwt ten are featured, including an interview with fellow Rambling Ringer and Bell Major at this famous location Chris Crabtree. It is well worth a watch, although be prepared to sit through several adverts before it starts and indeed if you try jumping to later in the programme!

It was one of the things I found to do in between attempting to entertain and occupy the boys on a chilly, wet day whilst Ruthie spent the day on what was apparently a very successful open day for the choir of St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge.

We were all reunited come teatime as we gathered on foot at her mother Kate’s abode with Ron, my wife’s sister Clare and her family for the occasion of my sister-in-law’s forthcoming significant birthday, a much appreciated opportunity to be fed and watered after a day of waiting upon my lovely but demanding sons!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, well done to Tim Forsey on ringing his first quarter-peal away from cover in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles, whilst QPs were also rung in Stedman Caters at The Norman Tower, Grandsire Doubles at Buxhall and Glasgow Surprise Major at Horringer.

All very impressive, even if they didn’t get to share their efforts with Baldrick...

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Friday 27th April 2018

Now we know. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have named the new Prince after Louis Suggett. Rather than after Trevor Hughes as I thought they might.

Buxhall.Of course ringing continues to celebrate the birth, especially now there is a name to quote, but curiously nothing from Suffolk, although there have been other more important and personal causes marked this week, including another quarter-peal rung on Wednesday, this time to the memory of Buxhall villager Victor Clarke precisely a century on from his death in the First World War, with the village’s 15cwt gallery-ring six ringing out to 1272 changes of Cambridge Surprise Minor for him.

Meanwhile today, the FNQPC did what they do best by ringing a quarter, on this occasion of Cambridge’s sixth place version Primrose at the isolated ground-floor six of Ashbocking, which was Tracey Scase’s first in the method. Well done Tracey!

Not so much activity for us as following my late shift at work and the gathering together of the family for the weekend there wasn’t much of the day left to enjoy as we raised a glass to Prince Louis Suggett.


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Thursday 26th April 2018

Ringing friendships often continue beyond the ringing chamber and not just for the post-ringing refreshments. That is certainly the case with ourselves and Ufford ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth. Indeed, it is rare for us to ring together at all and so our meetings are often devoid of ringing, typically at our house with our childcare duties. This evening though, we met up in a pub as we were invited to The Red Lion in Woodbridge for its pie and pint evening, with Pete's father Maurice - also a ringer - visiting. With Ruthie at choir practice, me on a late shift in the office and therefore a transfer of Alfie and Joshua from her to me to fit in, the pie element wasn't possible, but we did squeeze a pint and plenty of jovial conversation in before the boys - who behaved impeccably for most of the evening - got understandably grouchy, and curtailed our night out. Thus reminding us why our meetings are usually at our abode where the boys can just be put in bed!

As usual with our get-togethers, there was absolutely no actual ringing involved, nor was there any recorded on BellBoard in Suffolk today, but there was a quarter-peal rung at St Mary-le-Tower yesterday with some good Bristol Surprise Major focus had on the front eight of the county's heaviest twelve. I'm sure those ringing friendships continued into the pub afterwards too...

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Wednesday 25th April 2018

For all that there are many quarter-peals rung at Pettistree, they are still an achievement, as borne out by the occasional loss, including this evening's pre-practice attempt of the Cambridge Twelve Surprise Minor methods which my wife and mother-in-law were partaking in. Despite the loss, it served two of its main purposes, namely giving invaluable practice to participants and also ensuring a core of a band was present from the beginning of the 7-9pm session that followed, which was particularly useful on this occasion as due to meetings it was a slow start to proceedings before the masses eventually arrived.

Of course many - including Ruthie and Kate - went to The Greyhound afterwards, but for me it was my turn to stop at home looking after the boys. With them in bed that meant a bit of catching up with what was going on in the world, including how Woolpit Tower Captain Stephen Dawson got on in Sunday's London Marathon and it transpires he did very well. His blog (a wonderful read that puts my own dull efforts into perspective!) gives a fascinating insight into his preparation, the actual run and the after-effects, and records that he finished in 4hrs 52mins 11secs, bringing him in at an impressive 21,131st out of 40,149 runners. Very well done Stephen on an even bigger achievement than a Pettistree quarter-peal!

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Tuesday 24th April 2018

Westminster Abbey bells rang out for yesterday's birth of the still unnamed Prince, providing more positive PR and a backdrop to other news reports, such as those on the unveiling of Millicent Fawcett's statue in Parliament Square, although it was commented that the BBC got a bit confused with a quarter-peal rung on the same ten later in the day which was rung half-muffled for the Internment of Ashes of the Very Reverend Dr Wesley Carr, one time Dean of Westminster who died last year.

Although the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Royal did feature East Anglian connections through Chris Rogers and David Brown, there were no performances dedicated to the latest child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge rung in Suffolk today. However, some of the county's bells - including its newest one - did feature on BellBoard as a quarter-peal was rung at Offton pre-practice to the memory of past Guild Treasurer Gordon Slack's mother Lena, who sadly passed away last week. I'm sure everyone's thoughts are with Gordon, Janet, Jonathan and the rest of their family.

Meanwhile, ours was a much quieter day from a ringing perspective, but then I think the ringers of Westminster Abbey more than made up for our lack of activity!

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Monday 23rd April 2018

St George’s Day is perhaps an appropriate day for a new Prince to be born to the British monarchy. Expect a flurry of quarter-peals and peals to be rung over the coming days for the event – indeed, despite the fact that he currently has no (known) name, there have already been many performances recorded on BellBoard in his honour, although none in Suffolk as far as I can tell.

St Mary-le-Tower AGM – l-to-r; Peter Davis, Ian Culham & David Stanford St Mary-le-Tower AGM – l-to-r; Stephen Cheek, Owen Claxton, David Potts & Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin. St Mary-le-Tower AGM – l-to-r; Stephen Cheek, Owen Claxton, David Potts, Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin & Richard Weeks.

Good news as all that was, we were more concerned with everyday ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this evening as we held our AGM in the ringing chamber. It was a little longer than hoped, dragged out by discussion on dry but important detail over finances and maintenance. However, there was other more interesting information imparted, such as that the 2019 contest for the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Trophy has been pencilled in for Saturday 16th February at Saffron Walden after its successful inauguration at The Norman Tower a couple of months ago and it was extremely encouraging to hear that Amanda Richmond and Jonathan Williamson are currently teaching four learners at special Tuesday night sessions here – three of whom are at secondary school – with two more on a waiting list! It was also great to elect Richard Weeks, Chris and Jill Birkby to our membership.

The proceedings meant that the ringing beforehand and socialising in The Cricketers afterwards was somewhat truncated, albeit in the case of the ringing it was only severely cut short for me as I just made it in time for touches of Grandsire and Stedman Cinques, but as ever it was – to my mind at least – a vital exercise in ensuring that the ringing that attracts ringers from far and wide is run with transparency and input from all.

Our activity was finished with a pint and although the fridges of Kensington Palace are probably stocked with far more expensive booze, I don’t expect too much of it was being drunk by Kate and Wills!

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Sunday 22nd April 2018

Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club is exposed to all the elements that the North Sea can throw at it. And in the years that we have been holding the St Mary-le-Tower Lunch here, pretty much all those elements have been thrown at us, most particularly the unpleasant ones. Today though we finally got sweltering sunshine and it certainly enhanced an occasion that is always enjoyable, rain or shine.

The St Mary-le-Tower Lunch at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club. The St Mary-le-Tower Lunch at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club. The St Mary-le-Tower Lunch at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club.

All the usual aspects that make this a highlight of the calendar were present - decent food, good beer and superb company. It was nice to share a table with Richard Weeks who has been a positive addition to our band in recent months, great to see George Pipe looking so much better than he has been and lovely to see the return of Helen Carter who once regularly rang with us. Thank you to David Potts and Diana Pipe for organising it!

Earlier most of us had been at SMLT itself for morning ringing where an eminent regular only realised why they had struggled to strike the seventh in rounds leading up to Stedman Cinques when they launched themselves the wrong way into the principle and discovered they were ringing the sixth! Suffice to say it was mentioned at lunch later...

No such trouble at Grundisburgh following a quick trip to the village’s sun-drenched park for the boys to be let loose at the playground, but that was mainly because there weren’t enough ringers for participants to get confused with which bell they were ringing! Still, we fashioned some reasonable ringing from those present and I’m sure that was at the very least the case at Rougham where a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles which marked the centenary of another tragic death of a young ringer in the battlefields of the First World War - in this case Private Charles Alfred Coulton.

Such tragedy seems a long way from being beside the sea in roasting spring sunshine, but it is thanks to him and too many others that such pleasures are to be so easily enjoyed.

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Saturday 21st April 2018

In one aspect of my life, we are entering a new era, as Rowan Wilson begins her time in the important role of Suffolk Guild Chairman.

In another aspect which draws many parallels to ringing, a new era is also getting underway, as Ipswich Town undertake life without Mick McCarthy after his five-and-a-half years stint came to an end recently. His full-time, permanent replacement is yet to be named and in all likelihood won't be for some time, but there was already a fresh feeling to Portman Road this afternoon as Brian Klug - the hitherto rarely mentioned member of the coaching staff thrust into the job of managing the first team for the little of what remains of yet another dead-rubber of a season - took charge for the first time at the home of East Anglia's most successful football club. There was a much bigger crowd than of late as over 20,000 convened in this corner of the county town and unlike the apparently tension-filled matches of recent months, there was an upbeat, supportive feel around the stadium, even as the goals from our opposition flowed, as Aston Villa ran out easy 4-0 winners. Certainly an attempt at playing a more accurate, entailing and positive style of football was made after years of a hit-and-hope, defensive-minded version of the 'beautiful' game and more of the young up and coming players were given a chance, but truth be told it was always unlikely we'd get a good result against this promotion-chasing star-studded team and once we had a player (rightly) sent-off all that we could do was enjoy the sunshine.

Hopefully it was an enjoyable enough occasion to entice Ruthie's cousin Freddie - who is actually a peer of Mason's - back after he joined us three for his first ever experience of going to the footy. There was plenty for him to take in, with the train ride there and back, the huge good-natured crowds taking advantage of another abnormally sweltering day, a trip to McDonald's beforehand and a trip to the Fanzone that is now a fixture on our visits. As has been said many times by many people coming to cheer on the Tractor Boys in recent years though, it was just a shame that the football spoilt it!

As much as it would have been nice to mention some ringing in this ringing blog to compliment a - largely - grand day out watching football, there isn't any to report on, at least from the columns of BellBoard. It was a quiet day in a new era for the Suffolk Guild.

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Friday 20th April 2018

Another abnormally but wonderfully hot day was enjoyed, as after an early shift at work and a bit of clearing up of the brook at the bottom of the garden, I took a rare opportunity to simply sit and relax beneath the clear blue skies and watched the world of nature get on with its business.

Bredfield.Following another trip to Ruthie’s sister’s house on the actual birthday of our niece Annalise and once we’d got the boys to bed after our return home, my wife and I were back out on the patio with a beer, enjoying the faint sound of Bredfield bells floating across the evening air on the practice night on this 11cwt six.

I can get used to this abnormally hot weather!

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Thursday 19th April 2018

Wow! What a scorcher. At 28 degrees centigrade the hottest day of the year thus far by some way and apparently the hottest day in April since 1949. This week the early shifts at work are really paying off with the afternoons off to enjoy the sunshine, albeit I spent much of it giving our car a much overdue spring-clean!

Churches can be lovely places to be in such weather, cooling when outside gets too much (although notably I didn’t hear a single complaint about the heat in person, online or on the TV!) and filled with bright sunlight and although ringing in a stuffy ringing chamber may not be ideal when the conditions are as hot as this, I’m hoping that the band ringing a 1320 of Annable’s London Surprise Minor on the 5cwt gallery-ring six of Tostock should have been relatively OK. Well done to Lucy Dawson on ringing her first in the method!

God willing we can enjoy ringing in this weather for at least a little while longer!

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Wednesday 18th April 2018

If one of the purposes of this blog is to show how relatively active bellringers like Ruthie and me fit our participation in amongst everyday life – particularly in parenthood – then today fulfils that purpose.

My wife was out ringing at Pettistree this evening, her weekly opportunity outside of work to enjoy adult conversation without having to worry about keeping an eye on Alfie and Joshua when I picked up an email from the boys’ nursery saying we’d have to take sun cream and sunhats in with them tomorrow morning. With snowsuits, woolly hats and gloves the order of the day until only very recently, we hadn’t yet considered such things and so we needed to go to a shop to purchase some. Trouble was that although Mrs Munnings had been taken to ringing by her mother and I had the car, I was of course on my own looking after the sleeping Alfred and Josh and therefore unable to leave the house until my other half’s return from The Greyhound. Almost as soon as she stepped into the door I was out of the same door and heading off to Tesco, proof that even in a busy ringing household such challenges can be overcome, although the late-night dodging of shelf-stacking wasn’t ideal with another early start at work in the morning.

And Ruthie had a super night out at the ground-floor six’s practice, which was preceded – or started, depending at how you look at it – by the usual quarter-peal, that on this occasion was a 1320 of Durham Surprise Minor and was one of a trio of performances recorded on BellBoard today, the other two being 1250 changes of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Ixworth encouraging Woolpit Tower Captain Stephen Dawson ahead of his participation in Sunday’s London Marathon – his fundraising page is here – and 120 changes of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Exning to wish Anna Graham a quick recovery from cancer. Albeit for two very different reasons, the best of luck to Stephan and Anna.

It all put into perspective the petty squabbling on one Facebook ringers’ page in regards to who should give permission to ringing at towers without a regular band, but ultimately highlighted why one must be careful how one responds to such requests.

That sort of thing is more the purpose of social media than this blog though I’m glad to say!

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Tuesday 17th April 2018

This winter has felt a long one - after all, just a few weeks ago we were trudging through snow and only a couple of weekends ago local events were being cancelled or moved due to waterlogged ground. The hotter, longer days we are getting this week are to be enjoyed therefore and that’s just what we were able to do today, as with a very early shift at work seeing me home by lunchtime we got out into a garden uninhabited by humankind bar the making of snowmen and the occasional foray in search of Charlie our cat.

With our new lawnmower set up, the grass was cut and weeding and general tidying-up carried out, allowing Alfie and Joshua to come out and play, the former even discovering an apparent aptitude for cricket!

Not unusually for a Tuesday it didn’t involve any ringing for us personally, but others were helping to make up for our absence, most notably at Offton where the new sixth was rung to a quarter-peal for the first time, an occasion worthy of celebration in its own right, but even more so for the weekend’s birth of a son for local ringer Caroline Goodchild and her husband Will. Congratulations guys!

At the other end of the age-spectrum, the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Gislingham celebrated the ninetieth birthday of Kay Lucas’ mother, but with no ringing engagements planned, we were happy enough to enjoy the long-awaited spring sunshine!

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Monday 16th April 2018

Congratulations to Rattlesden ringers Dave and Pat Ward on their Diamond Wedding Anniversary. I used to see them quite regularly in my pre-uni days but even though I have only bumped into them on rare occasions since my return to Suffolk thirteen years ago. Each time has been a pleasure though, as they are one of the loveliest couples I know. Entirely appropriate therefore that a peal was rung at their home tower to celebrate as seven Surprise Minor methods were rung upon the ground-floor six that will be familiar to those who attended the 2015 Guild Striking Competitions (tenuous reason to remind you of this year’s competitions at Earl Stonham and Debenham!).

Two of the band – Amanda and Nigel – were present at St Mary-le-Tower later for this evening’s practice which was in some respects an odd affair. We were missing quite a few regulars and so we were stretched in numbers of personnel.  Yet it was a great opportunity for those learning the ropes on twelve such as Peter Davies, Richard Weeks and Sue Williamson and they all grabbed it with both hands (literally and metaphorically!), but we also managed some excellent stuff for the more experienced on these numbers, with a half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus almost faultless – bar a mistake by myself – and well struck at a good pace and a touch of Stedman Cinques a fine climax to a great session.

With a very early start at work in the morning I passed on a visit to The Cricketers, but I hope that Mr and Mrs Ward had a few drinks!

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Sunday 15th April 2018

Hopefully most members will know that the new Guild Chairman is Rowan Wilson of Bury St Edmunds. If you weren't at the AGM last weekend, then it should have been relayed to you by those who were. I have got to know Rowan in recent years since she came to the county and bolstered us countywide as well as at St Mary-le-Tower, but not everyone will and so she is keen to meet as much of the membership as possible and get them involved. To that end, she has released details of where she is planning on being the coming weeks and months, as well as a piece revealing more about herself and what she hopes to achieve in the role.

I know from first-hand experience from my time as SGR Ringing Master how difficult it is to make yourself seem useful to a membership of the best part of a thousand ringers of varying abilities and engagement, partaking in the art from Lakenheath to Felixstowe sixty miles apart and Wrentham to Haverhill seventy miles apart. Getting out and about seemed essential and I found myself at events in all the districts and practice nights in places like Old Newton and Kettleburgh, but even then many of the locals weren't aware of who I was or even that there was such a thing as a Suffolk Guild Ringing Master! Clearly we need to get more members engaged with the Guild and the wider ringing community, for their good and ours. They will benefit from more help and by dipping their toes into a limitless, far-reaching and fascinating art that for too many consists just of the four walls of their cold isolated ringing chamber, whilst we need more people supporting us at district and Guild events. So please do take a read of what Rowan has sent out and take the opportunity to meet her and get involved in our wonderful exercise!

She has certainly hit the ground running in getting around the Guild, at least judging by her busy day today that saw her partake in half of the six quarter-peals rung in Suffolk as she rang in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Stansfield, 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower and 1280 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Surprise Royal at St Mary-le-Tower, in which she was ringing her first of spliced Surprise Royal, along with Jed Flatters, George Vant and Jonathan Williamson. Well done to Rowan, Jed, George and Jonathan and also to Nathan Colman who was ringing his first of Royal altogether in the success in Bury St Edmunds.

Of the other three QPs rung in the county on this particular Sunday, one was Plain Bob Triples at NDA tower Lowestoft, another was St Clement’s College Bob Minor at Great Finborough and the final one was Plain Bob Minor at Hollesley.

Whilst I didn’t take part in any of those, I did manage some ringing as I rejoined the Woodbridge ringers on their home bells, including Jackie Butcher who deserves much credit – remissly forgotten in my blog ramblings – for her organisation of yesterday’s outing.

We were unable to join our colleagues at SMLT later though as we were hosting the final part of Alfie’s fourth birthday celebrations with the visit of another of his peers Robyn with her little brother Jackson and their mother and father Kala and Nick. Another boisterous afternoon was had, but when I later had the opportunity to relax for a short while at least, I enjoyed reading the EADT article on the new sixth at Offton, the latest of much great PR for ringing in Suffolk in recent months.

And as the clock ticked past midnight, we discovered that Alfie has been accepted into our first choice of primary school. It was a big positive to end a positive day for us. And a busy one for new Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson!

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Saturday 14th April 2018

I count myself blessed for many reasons, but three came together today to give me a lovely day on a wonderful sunny day that seems to have heralded that spring has begun.

One is my lovely family. The second is that I live where I do with such beautiful scenery on my doorstep. And thirdly is ringing.

The boys in the toy corner at Holbrook on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Tea, coffee and tea at Holbrook on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Holbrook on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Harkstead on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Harkstead on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Lunch at The King's Head in Stutton on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Stutton on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing. Ringing at Tattingstone on the Woodbridge Ringers' Outing.

It was ringing – and more specifically the Woodbridge Ringers’ Outing - that took me to the Shotley Peninsula, with my trio of sons, starting with tea, coffee and biscuits at Holbrook and ringing upon the 8cwt six, followed by a trip to the ground-floor ring of Harkstead, lunch at The King’s Head in Stutton leading on to a truncated session at the local church due to an unfortunate misunderstanding over emails and timings, before it was all topped off by a visit to Tattingstone where the treble clearly belongs somewhere else, as can be heard on this video.

I went along not for tower-grabbing as I have rung at all four towers several times and even rung and/or attempted peals at three-quarters of them, nor especially for the ringing as with many learners in attendance we sensibly stuck to what we knew as a collective to keep the ringing respectable on other people’s bells, although we did stretch to some reasonably rung Stedman Doubles. No, I went for the fellowship, an opportunity to get myself and the boys out of the house and into a part of the county that always feels special, not just because of its geography set down a narrow peninsula almost in its own world, but also because this is where the Munnings’ hail from, in recent history at least, with many ancestors buried in the churchyard of the first tower.

That geographical position has an effect on its ringers and I was sorry to learn that they are struggling to man the bells down this way, especially on Sunday mornings, as well as with teaching their learners. Perhaps this is where the network of the Suffolk Guild family can help?

Sadly Ruthie couldn’t join us as she was working again, but we were all reunited after she’d finished as we finished the day with a birthday party for our niece Annalise at my sister-in-law’s rural abode, as we took advantage of the first really nice spring evening of the year.

Meanwhile, Mary Odam rang a quarter-peal at the peaceful and picturesque village of Rushmere St Andrew with her brother James and his wife Claire to celebrate the thirtieth wedding anniversary of her marriage to Ken as she spent the day in the same spirit as I did. We Suffolk ringers are blessed indeed.

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Friday 13th April 2018

Clearly this week is the week for visiting ringers to come to Suffolk. Although as we all know, every week is the week to come to Suffolk. With the Martin Daniels Peal Week having spent the last few days peal-ringing on the bells of the county (although today they were partaking in the medium south of the River Stour at Layer de la Haye and Ridgewell), ringers from Barrow-upon-Humber rounded off their ringing holiday here with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Stonham Barns, a first in hand as conductor for James Hibbert. Well done James!

The locals were also busy today though and in a significant fashion too as Alan Mayle rang his 900th of Major and 1,900th in total and Brian Whiting his 100th as conductor in the impressive 5024 of six Surprise Major methods spliced rung at Elveden. Congratulations Alan and Brian!

Altogether quieter for us though with a late shift at work putting the whole day out for any ringing activity, but I was nonetheless pleased to see other ringers – visiting and local - taking advantage of all that Suffolk offers.

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Thursday 12th April 2018

AGM behind us for this year, thoughts now turn to striking competitions. We have already had the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminators, but the season is due to get underway in earnest in the next few weeks, kicking-off with the South-East District’s at Rushmere St Andrew on Saturday 5th May, the North-East District’s at Yoxford a week later and the Guild competitions at Earl Stonham and Debenham seven days on from that, before locally they are rounded off with the South-West District’s at Cavendish on Saturday 23rd June. Regionally the Ridgman Trophy on ten bells is pencilled in for St Peter’s in St Albans on Saturday 16th June, whilst nationally the 23rd June is also the planned day of the Final of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at Cambridge, although on this occasion this and the SW’s competition are being held less than thirty miles apart, so there may be scope for attending both!

Some of these will be very different in terms of numbers attending, quality and how seriously the competitive aspect is taken, but they all have in common one core element at their centre – to help raise standards of striking and ultimately progress the art. And it is done in one of the most fun ways that it can. We are all friends and so who actually wins is immaterial and so there is no aggressive competitiveness and as Pakenham showed with last year’s Mitson Shield, the silverware isn’t the sole preserve of the few, whatever the perception. At a local level, competitions normally allow for call-changes, so there is no need to feel excluded on the basis that you don’t feel confident in method-ringing and usually the ringing is of a much better quality as ringers focus and concentrate more on striking and the atmosphere is convivial. Therefore, please encourage your tower to put an entry into your district and/or Guild striking competition and let’s make the 2018 contests really memorable!

On a more sombre note, the date of Don Mills’ funeral at Colchester Crematorium and then memorial service at Bures is to be on Thursday 3rd May, the former at 11am, the latter at 2.30pm with open ringing upon the anti-clockwise octave of his home tower from 1.30 and a reception at The Eight Bells afterwards.

Meanwhile, although not in the SGR’s boundaries or for the SGR, the peal at Lowestoft was in Suffolk and included in the band past Guild Ringing Master David Salter, but largely my thoughts today were on what fun could be had at striking competitions in the coming weeks!

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Wednesday 11th April 2018

Warkworth Surprise Minor is one of the less familiar of the forty-one 'standard' Surprise Minor methods. Most of the methods in the collection are the exactly the same as one of the regularly rung Surprise Minor methods below or above the treble and/or but for a different place notation at the half-lead. For example, Rossendale sees bells underneath the treble doing the same as in London, whilst above they do the same as in Norwich, whilst Norfolk Surprise Minor is the same as Cambridge except at the half-lead and lead-end when the bells in first and sixth's position make places rather than those in fifth's and sixth's position, and first and second's position respectively.

With the method rung for this evening's pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree though, whilst the work above the treble is pure Norwich, the work below the treble is nearly Surfleet, which can lead to some potentially catastrophic errors when one isn't completely concentrating.

There was no such trouble on this occasion though, with few method mistakes, and although some disappointment was expressed that the striking and speed was perceived to be a little uneven at times, most rural six-bell towers would be ecstatic at ringing even approaching this level, let alone the practice that followed. Despite the absence of quite a few regulars, we still managed a repertoire of Primrose Surprise Minor, Norwich Surprise Minor, more Warkworth and an ad hoc touch splicing those and London, Ipswich, Surfleet and York of the Surprise variety, as well as Double Oxford, St Clement’s College and Little Bob, whilst also fitting in other pieces such as Grandsire and Stedman Doubles. Thank you to my fellow quarter-pealers for ringing it for Alfie’s birthday, as well as offering felicitations to Mike Whitby’s granddaughter Eliza and also Molly Waterson with thoughts still with her and her mother Gill.

Our efforts were accompanied within our borders by another 5040 on the Martin Daniels Peal Tour, this time at Wingfield and whilst I’m sure they topped their efforts with some socialising, I passed on a trip to The Greyhound as the only reason I was out tonight was that Ruthie had had an exhausting day looking after Alfie and a poorly Joshua whilst I escaped to work. After all, Warkworth is not a method to ring in such an exhausted state.

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Tuesday 10th April 2018

From a practical perspective we have always been part-time parents to Mason, although in every other sense we have been fully committed of course.

When Alfie was born at 2.04am precisely four years ago today, we became full-time parents in what became the biggest change to our lifestyles thus far. No longer footloose and fancy-free as were when we didn't have his big brother with us, we have since become accustomed to a life of rarely going out for a relaxing meal, having a few drinks somewhere without worrying about getting back to the babysitter or even going ringing together. Yet of course we don't regret his arrival for a moment.

Alfie opening his presents. Alfie blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.Therefore today was a real celebration, from his awakening and that pile of presents and cards to the post-work visit of his grandparents, aunt and cousins, with party snacks devoured and candles blown-out on the Batman cake he pleaded to have for the occasion, as the obligatory rendition of 'Happy Birthday' was belted out. When I put him to bed, I asked him if he'd had a good birthday and he gave a satisfied smile, nodded his head and within minutes was snoring blissfully. Thank you to all the cards (including one from the Pettistree ringers) and messages that helped him to enjoy his day so much.

Meanwhile, Martin Daniels' Peal Tour of the area continued apace with a pair of 5040s of Minor, one at Campsea Ashe, the other at The Wolery, albeit the latter should've been on eight. Happy Birthday to John Proudfoot anyway!

And whilst Mick McCarthy gave up the full-time job of managing Ipswich Town, we went to bed exhausted but enthused by our job as full-time parents.

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Monday 9th April 2018

Once upon a time on Mondays like this during school holidays and when I was on a late shift in the offices of John Catt Educational, I would enjoy a very lazy but re-energising lay-in ahead of work and then afterwards there would be an adrenaline-filled dash to gobble down my tea prepared by Ruthie - who had got the timing down to a tee - and get to St Mary-le-Tower practice early enough for it to be worthwhile, before enjoying a leisurely drink in the pub, content in the knowledge that I should be getting another lay-in the next morning to revitalise me.

Alfie's joyous arrival precisely four years ago tomorrow changed all of that necessarily from a practical perspective and so this evening we found ourselves at home with a pirate ship being built, presents wrapped and unopened cards and gifts laid out in readiness for the birthday boy's awakening tomorrow.

Elsewhere in Suffolk other ringers were busier and not just our peers at SMLT, as the Martin Daniels Peal Tour continued with a brace of 5040s in the county, with 2hrs47mins of Minor rung at Tannington and 2hrs57mins of Grandsire Triples completed - appropriately in light of Don Mills' recent passing - at Bures.

God willing one day we can be as active as others on such days, maybe even with those much-welcomed children helping out!

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Sunday 8th April 2018

Bardwell.Campsea Ashe.Across Suffolk we have had many very good projects completed in our towers, but some in particular stand out as being especially transformative. Bardwell's rebranding from a six with a bizarre rope 'circle' to the superb eight that is regularly rung by a very active band comes rapidly to mind, as does the stunning augmentation of Campsea Ashe's grotty old four to the smashing six they have now and the moving of the ringing chamber from the pokey old room upstairs to the wide open new gallery that overlooks St John-the-Baptist church.

This morning though, I had the pleasure of my first experience of another project that rivals those, as following ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and a calorific hot chocolate at Costa Coffee with our SMLT ringing colleagues, we walked over to nearby St Margaret's church to see first hand the work that has been carried out in the tower that overlooks Christchurch Mansion. I confess that I quite liked the cramped little ringing chamber that the bells were rung from up until last year, as ringers vied for space with the clock case and table in the centre of the tiny floor space, sitters-out found crammed into the window seats, hanging from the ladder in the corner or squeezed onto the bench between the treble and tenor. It was a place I spent a lot of my childhood in, with strong family connections there and it felt a bit like an escape from the everyday life far below in the town. However, even with that in mind, no one can argue that the move downstairs to a gallery looking out over the church isn't a vast improvement and it was incredible to witness just how much extra space has been created. Even more importantly, having once been hidden from all but the most energetic and athletic members of the public, it was wonderful to behold the gathering congregation of all ages watching the ringers and ringing, hopefully sowing a seed in at least one or two minds.

St Margarets. St Margarets.Beyond the most striking visual change, the replacing of three of the bells and restoration of the ring is much easier on the ear, especially from outside where the lowering of the rehung bells makes them less in-your-face in the immediate neighbourhood than they were before, with that same work also meaning they handle with absolute ease. Blatantly obvious that it is, this is a completely and utterly different experience and at times I really struggled to appreciate that we were ringing from the same building as I have been familiar with all my life. Very well done to all there, especially John Girt who has been the driving force behind this and is being fittingly rewarded wth the new set-up after decades of service at this town centre octave. I cannot encourage you enough to come and join them in celebrating the work done on the afternoon of Sunday 29th April.

It was a positive highlight on a positive morning which also saw Rambling Ringers' President Chris Birkby and his wife Jill join us for the Sunday morning circuit, although this was still just a visit with their move from Nottinghamshire to here is still ongoing, as these things often are!

Mercifully there are no such issues with our own home which is well settled in now and welcomed its latest visitors as our friends Toby and Amy and their children Maddie and Oscar came round to celebrate Alfie's forthcoming birthday, laden with presents.

Meanwhile, other ringers were more active in the ringing stakes on the county's bells. Mary Garner and Alan Mayle rang their 100th together in the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh with Worcestershire Surprise Major being rung by the entire band and the SGR for the first time. Our friends from Norwich came to SMLT as the NDA Quarter-Peal Week again came south of the border for Mark Larner and Stephen Rabong's first on twelve and at Great Finborough David Howe was ringing his first blows of Norfolk Punch Bob Minor and David Steed his 1700th QP in the 1260 rung upon the 12cwt six. Well done and congratulations to all who achieved something in these performances!

And well done and congratulations again to the ringers of St Margaret's in Ipswich on the transformation of the inside of their tower!

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Saturday 7th April 2018

Peal, open towers, lock-ins, food, drink and meeting were the broad outline of today’s happenings, but that belies everything that occurred.

Hollesley Peal Band. left to right – Peter Harper, Mary Garner, Richard Munnings, Mary Dunbavin, Mark Ogden, Christopher Munnings, Simon Rudd & Brian Whiting. The first peal on Hollesley’s bells.For example the peal was an important performance for me, specially arranged for Alfie’s forthcoming fourth birthday on bells very familiar to me in Hollesley, a village I was once resident in and a glorious octave installed and pealed for the first time almost exactly eighty years ago, which we also rang the 5056 for. Those familiar with the general rule of thumb applied to the peals I ring for my sons’ birthdays won’t be surprised to know that we rang four methods and not being a particularly natural conductor it was 2hrs53mins of immense concentration, rewarded with some super ringing – thank you to all who came out to indulge me!

Ringing at Drinkstone on AGM Day. Ringing at Horringer on AGM Day.It also seemed appropriate to dedicate it to the recent 95th anniversary of the Guild’s founding, especially on the morning of its AGM, which brings me neatly to what followed. For having picked up Mason, Alfie and Joshua from my parents after they very kindly looked after them, it was off to Drinkstone and Horringer on one of the open tower routes into the main event, where enough ringers were cobbled together for some Plain Bob Minor at the former and some Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six of the latter for young Joshua Watkins. Things ran more smoothly for us than it did for one eminent member who found themselves locked in at one church having gone to the toilet only to discover that everyone had left by the time they came out! A frantic phone-call to Mary Garner and then myself set a rescue attempt in motion and mercifully said member was in Bury St Edmunds by the time we had arrived and didn’t seem too traumatised by their experience! See what fun you miss out on when you don’t attend these events...

Peter Davies and Ralph Earey organising everyone together for the Group photograph. AGM Photo - No numbers. AGM Photo - with numbers.

Myself and the boys didn’t quite make it in time for ringing at The Norman Tower and although we took in the start of the choral evensong that doubled up as the ringers’ service and the brothers behaved remarkably well whilst we were there, I thought it wise to take them out before they got too bored and take advantage of the spring-like (finally!) conditions by having a sit outside with the Ebsworth’s amongst others, a snapshot of the range of folk from across the county of all abilities, gathered together in the SGR’s name. This was exhibited further by the group photograph taken on the green outside the tower that houses the 27cwt twelve and although the skies had clouded over and temperatures fallen, those present were smiling and joking as they greeted friends and posed for the camera, all set up by Peter Davies and directed by Ralph Earey.

AGM in Cathedral Refectory. AGM in Cathedral Refectory. New Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson introduces herself.

Tea consumed and mingling undertaken, the business side of things got underway with the main meeting. There was lots to report, with the reform of the Central Council, ringing for Armistice Day, the dwindling funds in the Restoration Fund and the cost of our handbells all discussed amongst the usual approving of reports and re-election of officers. However there were some headlines worth going into.

One is that at next year’s AGM due to be held on Saturday 27th April in the South-East District, we will need to have found a replacement for PR Officer Neal Dodge. I feel an immense pleasure in seeking him out to replace me in the role back in 2016 as he has transpired to be our best PRO for years, something that has been recognised at a national level by the CCCBR and he is to be on the new Public Relations Committee in the reformed organisation, but his paid career is becoming more demanding as this young man progresses and he clearly feels he can’t give his voluntary work with us as much attention as he would like.

Alan Stanley presenting fifty years certificate to Brian Whiting. Alan Stanley presenting fifty years certificate to Brian Whiting.Another was the presenting of a certificate to Brian Whiting for fifty years membership and very well deserved it is too. Currently Trustee of the handbells and The Vestey Ring, he has covered many roles in the South-East District, as well as being Guild Chairman from 1998-2003 and in the year that he reached his 1000th peal, it is worth noting that his presence has been extremely reassuring in many peals, including this morning’s. Thank you Brian and congratulations!

However, the most notable developments from proceedings were Owen Claxton and Alan Stanley departing the roles of Treasurer and Chairman respectively, the former being replaced by Stephen Cheek of St Mary-le-Tower, the latter by Rowan Wilson of our host tower, the first female to fill the position. Before congratulating the incoming officers, it is only right and proper to thank those outgoing. Owen has done sterling work in a job that is beyond many of us, whilst Alan has done tremendously over his five-year term, particularly when one considers he only learnt to ring a few years ago. Both leave with our gratitude and Stephen and Rowan come in with much anticipation and the well-wishes of the membership.

With the two youngest boys fast asleep by the time that Simon Rudd stood after the meeting to further appeal for help and support when the ringing centre in Norwich is up and running, evening ringing and the pub were not an option for me and so the lengthy AOB mainly taken up by discussion on the merits of printing so many Annual Reports and Awl a’huld was the climax of a hectic but extremely enjoyable day. Not everything was perfect as you would expect. It was a pity that more weren’t out ringing at the open towers, the meeting – like last year – dragged and dragged, I could’ve done with more food and it was a shame that Ruthie had to work today. The food issue was my fault though for not sorting any lunch for myself and overall it was a triumph of organisation, with new Chairman Rowan taking the credit but the first to highlight her many helpers. It will be interesting to see where my District takes the Guild in twelve months and after a few years of town locations it may be nice to go to somewhere more rural where the parking would be easier and surroundings more peaceful, especially when dragging the three boys around! However, if God willing I am able to attend I shall do so willingly and cheerfully wherever it is held and hope that as many of my fellow members do so too for another day of bells, a shorter meeting, food, drink and fellowship. Though hopefully not any lock-ins!

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Friday 6th April 2018

Alfie had the most fun in the household today as he was taken to Woodbridge Library by his nursery this afternoon.

For the rest of his family though, it was a fairly ordinary day, with mine made up of another very early start at work and a sleep afterwards.

Other ringers were more active though, especially those on Martin Daniels annual peal tour of the area, with 5040s of seven Surprise and seven Treble Dodging Minor methods at Kettleburgh and Thurston respectively, the former seeing Ian Bushell ring his 1750th peal. Ian is one of ringing’s good eggs and a superb ringer to boot and so I am delighted not only that he reached this landmark, but reached it here in Suffolk – congratulations Ian!

Hopefully he had as much fun as Alfie, but I can’t guarantee it!

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Thursday 5th April 2018

Well done to Ed Rolph on ringing his first quarter-peal on eight on a working bell in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples at Halesworth, on the day that it appears that the 37th Martin Daniels Peal Tour of the county has begun, with a 5040 rung at Otley.

It was a far more active day than we had on the ringing front though, at the end of another very early start at work.

Sleep rather than ringing was therefore the order of the day, but God willing it’ll be the other way round on Saturday. Of course it is far too late to book a tea, but that doesn’t exclude you from the rest of proceedings, most particularly the AGM itself in the Cathedral Refectory in Bury St Edmunds. Throughout the afternoon and evening there will the chance to ring and socialise as much or as little as you like, so please do come along and take it all in!

Hopefully we’ll also get the chance to congratulate Ed on his achievements today!

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Wednesday 4th April 2018

“What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”

Alfie at Portman Road.It was only a trip to the club shop to get some tickets for a forthcoming fixture and Alfie and Joshua are probably too young to be falling in love with Ipswich Town Football Club, but there was much gawping being done by the brothers as they got their first glimpse of the pitch at Portman Road this afternoon and so it seemed appropriate that we strolled in under the giant picture of Sir Bobby Robson – whom I have quoted above – on the side of the picture and was a wonderful moment in a positive day.

A positive day for Suffolk ringing too as it emerged this morning that those who attended yesterday evening’s first practice at Offton since the new sixth was put in, appear unanimous in their praise for the results – well done to all concerned there!

Another ringing positive was a successful peal of Xichang Surprise Major at The Wolery, which I was delighted to partake in and which was rung in memory of Don Mills. The ringing was of an appropriately high standard, helped by the choice of method, a Yorkshire-above-the-treble construction familiar enough to be confident with, along with a below-the-treble work that was different enough to focus the mind, all followed as usual by cake, biscuits and tea, on this occasion aided by middle Salter son Colin on his break from university.

Our efforts were accompanied by a trio of QPs rung within our borders today, with a 1280 of four-spliced Surprise Major methods rung at Bardwell, a 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor rung before the practice at Pettistree and a 1440 of Bridge’s Pleasure Bob Minor rung at Oakley as part of the NDA’s Quarter-Peal Week and a first in the method for three of the band – well done to Anne Bridge, Maureen Gardiner and Adrian Edwards!

There was one minor negative on this day of positives with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge revealing that Ingham can now no longer be included on the north-east open tower route into Saturday’s SGR AGM due to preparations being made for a birthday party in the church. Although it is a pity as this would have been a ‘grab’ for most attending (myself included), it has been replaced with Great Livermere in the same 2 - 2.45pm timeslot, so there is still a lot to be positive about today!

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Tuesday 3rd April 2018

Sad to hear of the death of long-time Bures ringer Don Mills after a long illness, although I imagine some comfort will be drawn from his passing occurring peacefully at home yesterday. He will be missed, especially along the Essex border that his life straddled and a private cremation will indeed take place south of the Stour in Colchester on the same day as a memorial service and open ringing on the aforementioned anti-clockwise 20cwt eight (just!) north of the river, although when precisely is not known at the moment.

On a happier note, a brace of QPs were rung in Suffolk, albeit one of them being within the boundaries of our northern neighbours the NDA as their Quarter-Peal Week continued with a 1260 of Doubles at Somerleyton. The handbell quarter of Stedman Doubles at Barrack Lane in Ipswich was very definitely within the county though, with George Vant apparently very nearly not making it out of said county after breaking down on the way home! I’m glad to report that he was rescued though.

Breakdowns aside however, I’d like to think that Don would appreciate the ringing endeavour within our borders.

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Easter Monday 2nd April 2018

Precisely ninety-five years after its founding, the Suffolk Guild seems to be in rude health. Just over a week on from a successful Dinner, peal totals well up from this time last year (and indeed there haven’t been more peals rung for the SGR at this stage of the year since 2013), an apparently very successful Debenham outing to Norfolk was held today, a quarter-peal rung at Wilby (following an unfortunate peal-loss) and a crowd of almost thirty crammed into St Mary-le-Tower’s ringing chamber for the weekly practice.

The latter was the only part I played in today’s ringing following a day stuck indoors sheltering from the rain as spring continues to struggle in getting going. Helped by the presence of Chelmsford Cathedral ringers Cecile Cross, Brian Meads and David Rothera, as well as a visit from Nathan Colman accompanying his parents Cath and Julian, Alex Tatlow and the return from university of Colin Salter and Lucy Williamson for Easter, there was plenty of endeavour and plenty of opportunity for our regulars learning on twelve and it was all topped off by a super touch of Stedman Cinques and a lower of the front six which was mercifully mostly complete when the lights went off leaving them in complete darkness! With a normal 9-5 tomorrow I even had time to join the masses for a drink in The Cricketers where it was staggering to see the amount of paperwork required to work through before one is allowed to ring at York Minster, ahead of Laura Davies and Louis Suggett’s visit and after Alex’s trip there, complete with feedback. For all that it seems overkill for our open and welcoming hobby and that I still feel the sacking of the previous band was handled in a manner shamefully un-Christian, I am pleased and relieved that ringing is in experienced hands and that the ringing community is able to enjoy these fine bells once again.

Not as pleased as I am to see the Suffolk Guild’s birthday celebrated so positively today though!

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Easter Sunday 1st April 2018

Easter Sunday is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, arguably the most important. Therefore, a high standard of ringing is required, although of course we should be aiming for that every time it is required of us. With that in mind, I was pleased and impressed with the high quality we produced at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, especially as a sizeable proportion weren’t experienced twelve-bell ringers.

Usually on the first Sabbath morn of the month when having been to SMLT, I would follow this up with ringing at St Lawrence and then Grundisburgh, but on this special day myself and the boys made our way to a packed St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge (where apparently it was Bruce Wakefield’s turn to be outnumbered by women in the ringing chamber!) for the service there.

Ruthie was back there later to sing for Evensong, but otherwise the remainder of our day was one spent at home, making a roast dinner, consuming lots of chocolate and wonderfully taking a phone call for George Pipe thanking me for my article on the recent George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition which appeared in this week’s Ringing World, whilst elsewhere in the county a quarter-peal started at 8.15am was rung at Pettistree and a peal was rung on handbells in Bacton. I’m glad Suffolk’s ringers did the occasion justice.

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Holy Saturday 31st March 2018

Yesterday’s day of ringing succumbed to a much quieter day from a ringing perspective for us today, but that’s not to say it was an entirely quiet day, especially for Ruthie. She began her day by taking Alfie for his first visit to a cinema as they accompanied his cousins, their mother, Granny Kate and Granddad Ron to the Riverside Theatre in Woodbridge to watch the new Peter Rabbit film and she then finished it by singing at St Mary the Virgin just up the hill on a busy Easter weekend for her and her choral peers.

In between we were very generously treated to a meal at The Coach and Horses by her mother, but whilst we made no contribution to the exercise today, others were busier. Much busier in some cases, with a staggering twenty-five quarter-peals rung in hand at Redlands Road in Reading and a further QP and five peals rung in hand at Aldenham School. Here in Suffolk, a 1260 of Doubles was rung at Great Finborough.

Meanwhile, great news from Offton, where with the brand new sixth in, ringing is resuming from the forthcoming Tuesday, 3rd April. Well done to all concerned there – I hope I can hear it first-hand myself soon!

The day before, on Easter Monday there will be a practice at St Mary-le-Tower, as advertised. However, having originally set the SMLT AGM for after the session on Monday 16th April, this has now been moved back to the following week to allow the Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin to oversee proceedings, which means that it will now be the 23rd’s practice that will run half-an-hour earlier from 7-8.30pm. As with any time, anyone is more than welcome to join us, but if you do want to come that week then come early in order to avoid disappointment!

This all falls in what is planned to be an active month, with the North-East District Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday evening, the same District holding a Six-Bell Practice at Chediston on Thursday evening, before the Guild AGM in one week’s time. Please do support what you can and make sure not every day is as quiet as today for ringing.

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Good Friday 30th March 2018

We’ve had some cracking Good Fridays in the past when we have gone to the residence of David and Katharine Salter for a day of peal-ringing, food, drink, socialising and in the case of Mason, playing with their youngest son Henry, the sun shining, the sound of lawnmowers whirring into action for the first time and spring well and truly begun.

Today was no different, but for one element – take a wild guess which one! For as the rain fell and fell and the chilly wind made conditions rather unpleasant outside, my eldest son and his peer entertained themselves with computer games whilst us adults entertained ourselves with a brace of peals in The Wolery at the top of the garden either side of a typically fantastic feast laid on by our hosts for lunch. This is peal-ringing at its most civilised, with no pressure but plenty of enjoyment.

The ringing itself went well. I was delighted to ring my 600th peal in the 5056 of Plain Bob Major in the morning which also saw Abby Antrobus having her first concerted go at changes inside on a mini-ring. I have in the past highlighted that ringing on mini-rings really is no different to normal ringing, merely an adjusting of technique, but if we rang at the speed we usually go at it would’ve been a little unfair on Abby and so it was unusually 2hrs+. However, the result was a decent peal scored with little drama and a satisfied band sat down to our lunchtime spread afterwards.

In the afternoon the 5040 of seven Surprise Minor methods was a little brisker and producing some absolutely superb ringing in places, with everyone confident of what they were doing once we’d got over an early handling malfunction that required a restart!

Ruthie wasn’t partaking as is now the norm as she was carrying out her choral duties at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and also took Alfie and Joshua there earlier for a spot of bread baking.

I think the entire family had a cracking Good Friday!

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Maundy Thursday 29th March 2018

After nearly six years in charge, Mick McCarthy is to step down as Ipswich Town manager when his contract runs out at the end of this season, it was announced today. This was big news for us avid Tractor Boys and indeed for football generally as he is the longest serving boss in our division by some distance, but it does have tenuous relevance to this ringing blog too, as there are parallels with the position that the Suffolk Guild finds itself in.

For at this year’s SGR AGM at Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 7th April, we will need to elect a new Chairman as Alan Stanley’s set five-year term comes to a conclusion. I believe someone has been nominated and it could be a ground-breaking appointment for the organisation, but if you or anyone you know feel they could do the job then please do put yourself or them forward for nomination. And although it is now too late to book a tea for the occasion, it would be a welcome show of confidence and support for the incoming Chairman and deserved send-off for Alan for his dedicated service of just five months and several million pounds less than Mick McCarthy has been in charge at Portman Road, if as many of the membership attend the meeting in particular and as much of the rest of the day that you can. Ringing itself – such as that carried out at Halesworth today for the Maundy Thursday service that saw Philip Gorrod and Jason Busby ring their 150th quarter-peal together, so congratulations to them – is our main objective and there will be many very understandable reasons that take precedence over attending a ringing meeting, like work, holidays, family commitments and the like, but there will be many who will be free to go along but feel reluctant for whatever reason or maybe don’t even know about the day. If you are the former, then please, please do put your preconceptions aside and support those who are organising the day, if you know anyone who falls into the latter then please, please let them know and encourage them to pop along!

With impeccable timing, I received the agenda from Secretary Carl Melville via email and it outlines how short this meeting ought to be compared to ones many years past (and even last year’s unusually lengthy proceedings in Beccles), with reports voted upon on the basis of attendees having already read them in the Annual Report which should have reached most members by now, and for all that we hope for enthusiastic nominations, I expect the election and re-election of officers will be a straightforward and speedy section with nominators and seconders approached and recorded beforehand.

As a reassurance (for SGR members at least, if not ITFC fans), I’m pretty confident that Steve ‘Wally with the Brolly’ McClaren is less likely to be our new Chairman than Ipswich Town manager!

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Wednesday 28th March 2018

Ruth was at Pettistree on a well deserved evening out ringing at SS Peter and Paul and enjoying an ale afterwards at The Greyhound following a trying day with Alfie and Joshua, the boys were in bed and there was nothing of interest on TV, so I did what I usually do in moments of boredom (but not only in moments of boredom!) and popped onto BellBoard to see what ringing friends across the county and beyond were up to on the end of a rope or handbell.

As it happened, not a lot was going on, although that is to be expected in Holy Week when bells are traditionally not rung. Here in Suffolk, the first quarter-peal in the county for three days was rung at the aforementioned ground-floor six, but otherwise much of what was done around the UK was on mini-rings and handbells. However, in the course of my explorations I accidentally stumbled across the most recent submissions on the site and it appears Sue Marsden is adding historical Ely Diocesan Association peals, some of which include ones rung within our borders before the founding of the SGR in 1923 and amongst those were an impressive brace of 5040's of Doubles in Chevington. One was on 18th November 1907 in the School-room on handbells, with each band-member ringing one each and which was a first peal for all except the conductor Elijah Bradfield, whilst the other was the following day on the 12cwt five of All Saints where the same band rang their first tower-bell peal, again bar the conductor Mr Bradfield.

Amazing what you can find out when you are bored!

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Tuesday 27th March 2018

Mason’s place at the local secondary school Farlingaye is booked for this September, an exciting new chapter in his young life, yet daunting too.

However, they are good at engaging and working with the primary schools of the area that God willing will help make that step seem a little more normal for my eldest son, with various events. One such event that they hold annually is a brace of concerts that over the course of two evenings that allow the local primary schools to contribute. Thus tonight I found myself sat in the sports hall at Farlingaye watching the boy partake in over two hours worth of musical performances. It was a long old night and I won’t pretend that amongst the lengthy shifting around of the hundreds of participants and the bits not including Mason that I didn’t take quick glances at what the time was, but the quality was tremendous and the courage to get up in front of so many people is to be admired. The boy did good!

No time was left for ringing of course, even if we usually rang on a Tuesday, but with it being Holy Week it was unsurprisingly quiet on the ringing-front across Suffolk and beyond. All the noise was coming from Mason and his peers!

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Monday 26th March 2018

Holy Week and its traditional silencing of church bells has begun, which meant no practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening and a silent night at The Norman Tower tomorrow, whilst there will be no session at Grundisburgh on Thursday and expect an increase in performances on BellBoard rung on handbells and mini-rings. Indeed, only three peals were recorded on BB as being rung today throughout the world, none of them on church tower bells.

Not that I would likely have made it to SMLT tonight anyway as I was on a late shift at work and so we were up for the No-Bell Peace Prize, along with most of Suffolk’s ringers it appears, with no quarters or peals rung within our borders. As ever, it seems like it will be a quiet few days on the ringing front during this Holy Week.

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Sunday 25th March 2018

Outnumbered - apart from Alfie - by women for ringing at Woodbridge, I somehow and unexpectedly ended up with the daunting task of running the ringing, with Bruce Wakefield poorly and Peter Mayer not around. That said, there was only really enough for call-changes on six, so it didn't take much guiding, though I was pleased that I didn't get it too wrong and oversaw some decent ringing!

The situation was reversed at Rougham for the quarter-peal of spliced Minor, where Serena Steggles was the only female of the species in the band, although along with Mark it was the first time she had rung as many methods as that. Well done to both Steggles!

No such issue for either gender at The Norman Tower where a 1346 of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus was rung in memory of former local ringer Sergeant Major William Arthur Ely just over a century after losing his life in the First World War.

In a sad indication of the sad events of a hundred years ago, the peal rung at Pettistree was also in memory of a ringer who died in the battlefields of 1918 France, this time Private David Leggett.

My ringing was followed by the Palm Sunday service downstairs from the 25cwt eight and then a quiet afternoon of pottering about, with Alfred accompanying me to the bottle bank being the highlight on a slow news day, lovely as that was.

Hopefully in the coming days and weeks I can do more ringing with a greater number of ringers of both sexes!

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Saturday 24th March 2018

Deep within our beautiful countryside, daylight only just disappearing hours before the clocks were to be put forward to British Summer Time, Suffolk’s bellringers converged together from Poslingford to Beccles, Bury St Edmunds to Hollesley, sharing their fellowship with friends from beyond our borders north, south and west and non-ringing guests to celebrate all that is good in Suffolk ringing. The location was The Blackbourne community centre in Elmswell, the occasion was the Guild’s 95th Anniversary Dinner.

Taking our seats for the 95th Anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner at The Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell. Chairman Alan Stanley addresses the 95th Anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner at The Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell. The High Sherriff of Suffolk Geoffrey Probert speaks at the 95th Anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner at The Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell.

And what an occasion! Alan Stanley and his team deserve great credit for arranging this not once, but twice, the second time in the matter of weeks and were rewarded with what was a super turnout in the circumstances. There was food and drink aplenty, whilst friendships new and established were made and/or renewed, speeches made and handbells rung.

Those speeches were interesting and amusing, with outgoing High Sherriff of Suffolk Geoffrey Probert giving a fascinating insight into the history of his role in the presence of the trophy he awarded us just a few weeks ago, whilst former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd sandwiched a detailed explanation into the project at his home tower of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich and a plea for help with the Ringing Discovery Centre when it is up and running, with a laughter-inducing beginning and end most notably involving Maurice and Anita Rose, a thermos flask and some dodgy accents! Meanwhile a card was signed for Adrian Knights as he recovers from his recent illness and fall in hospital – he would have been in his element tonight!

Handbell ringing in the foyer following formal proceedings at for the 95th Anniversary Suffolk Guild Dinner at The Blackbourne Community Centre in Elmswell.Well done to James Smith, David Sparling, Philip Gorrod and Alan Mayle on producing an excellent bit of handbell ringing with three leads of Oxford Treble Bob Major well-struck throughout and receiving deserved applause as well as encouraging others to try after formal proceedings came to an end, as those so inclined to ring did so in the foyer, providing a fitting farewell as attendees gradually and reluctantly departed to return to the various villages and towns of our picturesque county.

Personally it was a pity not to have Ruthie beside me as having very kindly offered to babysit Alfie and Joshua on the original date three weeks ago to allow both of us to attend, my mother-in-law Kate is away this weekend. Still, it was nice to take Mason with me and nicer still that his good friend Henry Salter and his parents David and Katharine joined us on our table. Nice as well to catch up with so many ringing friends, especially those I don’t see regularly such as the Knights, Sparlings, Lees, Nigel Gale and Paul Ebsworth amongst others.

Overwhelmingly the view amongst those I spoke with seemed to be that this was a great night and perfectly pitched. We are a rural, informal ringing organisation, with few airs and graces and so a big, posh, formal event isn’t necessary with the five-yearly nature of the event already making it special. However, there was also excitement for what the 100th Anniversary Dinner in 2023 could be, with hopes of a once-in-a-lifetime occasion on a grander scale and maybe even with the date and venue set a year or two ahead of time, although I know from my minimal involvement in arranging the 2008 Dinner that logistics won’t necessarily allow that. That will be for a new team of officers (even an organising committee as I have heard suggested) to think about, but for tonight, congratulations to the organisers of this year’s Dinner – we and many others really enjoyed it!

Crowds gathered at Pettistree Open Tower Morning. Crowds gathered at Pettistree Open Tower Morning. The exhibition at Pettistree Open Tower Morning. The exhibition at Pettistree Open Tower Morning. Mary Garner and myself chatting at the Pettistree Open Tower Morning. Ringing at Pettistree for the Open Tower Morning; l to r – Mike Whitby (Treble), Mary Garner (2nd), Mark Ogden (3rd), Ray Lewis (4th) & Ruth Munnings (5th).

Earlier in the day we had been ‘helping’ in attempts to secure the future of the art we were celebrating this evening, as we popped along to Pettistree for their Open Tower Morning and although we only made it halfway through to allow Ruthie a long overdue haircut first, we were in time to see first hand the tremendous crowds enjoying cake and tea and the wonderful exhibition which included one of the old wheels taken out when the bells were rehung in 1986. By this point, many of the visitors had had a go at backstrokes with much interest shown in returning to learn for real and although only time will tell how successful this ultimately was, we can be rightly chuffed with how it went, particularly Mary Garner for her efforts in arranging and promoting it.

As should former Suffolk ringers Colin Salter, his brother George, and Ian Mills for getting through with their respective teams Guildford, Bristol and the Cumberland Youths - along with the College Youths, Birmingham, Exeter, Leeds, Melbourne and St Paul’s Cathedral – to join hosts Cambridge in the National Twelve-Bell Final on Saturday 23rd June. Bad luck meanwhile to Margaret Bulleid of Towcester, Maggie Ross of High Wycombe, Simon Christian of Chester and our friends from Norwich – including tonight’s speaker Simon Rudd - on missing out.

Colin and George should therefore join a select group of siblings to ring in the same final in the contest’s forty-three year history -  off the top of my head, I can only think of Hannah (now Taylor) and Michael Wilby and George and Rod Pipe and although I’m sure there will be others, there can’t be many more. We should be chuffed that our humble county has played such a big part in this impressive stat of ringing’s premier striking competition – having spent the evening sat with Colin and George’s parents I know that they are on a great night for celebrating all that is good in Suffolk ringing, deep within its beautiful countryside.

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Friday 23rd March 2018

Anticipation was the buzzword today.

Nationally amongst football fans including me, it is for England’s participation in the World Cup being held in Russia this summer, even if the sporting side of it has been overshadowed somewhat by recent events. Part of the build-up are the friendly matches that begin to give some idea to personnel, style and even our chances of doing well once the tournament starts. Tonight’s 1-0 against our hosts Holland hasn’t dampened our hopes.

Throughout ringing, tomorrow’s National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Eliminators, featuring a number of former Suffolk ringers, including Maggie Ross who it was nice to converse with online as she began her journey to Ossett where she is due to ring for High Wycombe. She is feeling understandably nervous as I imagine most participants are, but a number were sharing on social media that they were already up north having a drink or three to calm the nerves, ahead of the competition which is also taking place in Selby and on the anti-clockwise ring of Southwell where one-time Walsham-le-Willows ringer Claire Roe will be supplying the beer through Welbeck Abbey Brewery. Best of luck to all who are taking part, especially those once of this county!
Across the SGR meanwhile, the main focus is on the rearranged Guild Dinner as my thoughts began turning to where my cufflinks were (it may shock you to know that I don’t wear them regularly!) and the location of my ties, although at least my suit is hung up and ready having been dry-cleaned for some weeks ahead of the original 3rd March date for this occasion!
Meanwhile, it was the past that was in the thoughts of those ringing the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Wenhaston as they remembered one-time ringer at this 12cwt ground-floor six Lance Corporal James Henry Farrington, precisely a century after his tragic death at the age of just twenty during the First World War.

It is thanks to the sacrifices that he and so many others made that we have so much to look forward to in our free society today.

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Thursday 22nd March 2018

It tis the season for parents evenings it seems, as following Alfie and Joshua’s last week, tonight’s was Mason’s as he nears the end of his primary school education. Apart from a disagreement with his teacher over the answer to a maths equation, he has apparently continued his improvement with the general perception being he has matured considerably in the last year.

My attendance there meant that his younger brothers joined Ruthie at choir practice which required a lot of toing and froing to drop them off before meeting the eldest’s teacher, pick the boys up afterwards and then return later to collect their mother when she had finished and highlighted why getting to Grundisburgh practices as we used to is impractical for now. However, there are weekly sessions without fail – bar extreme circumstances like when we were visited by the ‘Beast from the East’ earlier in the month – which are apparently run well and with enthusiasm by Joanna Crowe. If you are too daunted to go up St Mary-le-Tower or The Norman Tower to try your hand at ten and twelve-bell ringing (although it is worth emphasising you would be more than welcome at both of those venues), this is a good place to try your hand at it, providing there are enough there and to that end I would implore those who can go and support Jo and co, to do so when you can.

Meanwhile, there were two quarter-peals rung in the county today. One was on handbells in Hasketon, whilst the 1296 of Queen Mary Surprise Minor at Tostock was the first in the method for Andrea Alderton, Maureen Gardiner and Stephen Dawson. Well done Andrea, Maureen and Stephen – I’m sure your teachers will be glowing in their reports!

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Wednesday 21st March 2018

What a difference a few days make! In a month and indeed a week beset by freezing temperatures and snow, today was almost spring-like as we popped to the vets to give Charlie the cat a check-up and Alfie played in the back garden, taking full advantage of our slide, trampoline and the warmer temperatures.

Ringing featured too, at least for Ruthie who spent the evening at Pettistree, ringing in the pre-practice QP of the ‘Cambridge Twelve’ Surprise Minor methods – Berwick, Beverley, Bourne, Cambridge, Durham, Hexham, Hull, Ipswich, Norfolk, Primrose, Surfleet and York – and the session that followed, topped off by a drink in The Greyhound next to the churchyard.

And elsewhere others were busy ringing too, with quarter-peals of four Surprise Major methods spliced and Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Horringer and on The Millbeck Ring in Shelland respectively, whilst a peal of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods was rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower, with an impressive bit of conducting by Louis Suggett. Happy Birthday to Barry Dixon, Lesley Steed and Rowan Wilson and get well soon Adrian Knights. Hopefully he will have been buoyed by this busy day of ringing in the county he so loves.

Here’s to his recovery, more spring and more ringing in the coming weeks!

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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Collegiate Church of the Holy Trinity, Blessed Virgin Mary, St Peter and St John, Tatershall.Jo Brand, Dr Helen Czerski, Timmy Mallett and Alan Titchmarsh. All well known people at various points of the ‘celebrity’ scale who have rung or still do. You can now add Prince Charles, the next in line to the throne to that list. Well, not strictly speaking of course (I don’t expect he’d have the time!), but kudos to Rambling Ringers’ Ringing Master, participant of the peal we recently lost at Grundisburgh for Mason’s birthday, friend and reader of this blog Chris Woodcock who yesterday managed to get HRH on backstrokes at Tattershall in Lincolnshire for a magnificent bit of PR for the exercise, surely cementing his knighthood in the process. Photographs of the momentous occasion can be found on Getty Images and attached to the entries on BellBoard of Call Changes on Six and the quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles at the 12cwt six.

Of course it would be hard to top that and there was nothing quite as exciting happening to us or indeed anywhere on Suffolk’s bells today.

We can’t all match the excitement of Sir Christopher Woodcock and his celebrity friends!

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Monday 19th March 2018

Typical, blinking typical. With the children put to bed quicker than normal (Alfie playing up and therefore getting no stories helped in that regard!) and Woods Lane open for the first time since I last went to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice and therefore not needing to travel miles out of my way, I was actually on course to make the aforementioned session for the 7.30pm start.

Cue the type of joined-up thinking that those who close routes for roadworks are famed for, as a closure at Great Bealings on my usual way into Ipswich diverted me along the other practical and most direct journey in, via Woodbridge Road, only to find that shut too and taking me right into the centre of traffic gridlock. Having eventually driven round the houses, meeting the back of queue after queue, I then had to find somewhere to park and by the time I had managed that and walked halfway across town I didn’t make it to SMLT that much earlier than I usually do!

Still, it was all worthwhile. Pleasingly, David Potts was back again as he continues his recovery (he apparently returned last week in my absence), but as prearranged, Laura Davies ran proceedings and as with Amanda Richmond, Louis Suggett and Jonathan Williamson who have also covered David as he necessarily put his feet up she did a super job. Not that we helped her. Erin Cinques – remarkably simple, especially for those who can ring Surprise and the like – unexplainably struggled, but it was at least part of a productive repertoire that was useful particularly to those feeling their way into twelve-bell ringing.

However, it is the last session for a fortnight, with next week being Holy Week, although it was agreed that we will plan to run one the week after on Easter Monday. It is worth checking with any towers you are planning to go to – and indeed any that you’re not planning to go to – next week and on the Bank Holiday whether they are ringing as normal. Two weeks later on 16th April, we will be holding the Tower AGM following a practice that will run half-an-hour earlier from 7-8.30pm – please note that if you are planning on joining us for the ringing, which of course you will be more than welcome to do!

Talking of AGMs, Rowan Wilson revealed that there only 15-20 people have thus far put their name down for tea at the Guild’s in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 7th April. This is an incredibly easy location to get to by road and public transport and so there is really little excuse for us not getting at least a hundred there, but I suspect that ringers are doing what ringers always do – not just in Suffolk – and not getting round to sending their names in until the last moment. That is not an option on this occasion though, as with external caterers they have to have names in by 5pm next Monday 26th March – no exceptions I’m afraid, so please get your name to Rowan ASAP please!

On a more positive and proactive note, congratulations to Helen Bridgman who today rang her first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Doubles at Polstead. At least her ringing went to plan, even if mine didn’t.

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Sunday 18th March 2018

Past, present and future featured strongly today.

One of the old photos on show at St Mary-le-Tower today. Chris Munnings (on tenor) & Owen Claxton (on treble) ringing at SMLT some time in the mid/late 1990s. Old photos of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower from mid/late 1990s on show at SMLT today.The past with the table at St Mary-le-Tower that has been sitting in the middle of the ringing chamber for some time now moved back to its once usual spot behind the ninth and tenth ropes and which was topped with photos from SMLT's recent history. Most specifically they were from what appears to be the mid-to-late-1990s and a few years later with the replacing of the fifth, ninth, tenth and eleventh in 1999, featuring younger versions of Owen Claxton, Peter Davies, Ralph Earey, Diana Pipe, Mike Whitby and my brother Chris, as well as Matthew Ball, an Australian ringer who was based here for a while back then and is now back living and ringing in his native country.

Later in the day, when Ruthie and I collected the boys from my Mum and Dad's (thank you guys!), we found them watching old videos of me ringing at the same tower when I was twelve years old, including what was apparently my first go at Maximus, all filmed by her late, non-ringing father Cyril. I can't say I looked quite the ambassador of satirical elegance that I am now, but it was fascinating viewing of film that I recall last watching many years ago.

Mason, Alfie and Joshua were at their grandparents this afternoon whilst myself and my wife went to aforementioned twelve to partake in what could be classed under the present and future, inasmuch as of course it happened today but will hopefully give us a foundation what lies ahead. Namely the 1320 of Little Bob Maximus which was Peter Davies and Richard Weeks' first on this number. Well done to SMLT stalwart Peter and Richard, whose arrival in recent months has been a real bonus to our developing band in the centre of Ipswich. Indeed, well done to the entire band who produced at times some really good ringing which succeeded despite the worrying tale beforehand of Laura Davies having been on bells where the stay has broken six times!

No such worries today in what is now a much safer venue for ringing for the future with the hatch in the centre of the ringing chamber's floor now made more accessible in case of emergencies where someone can't get down the stairs due to medical reasons, hence the moving of the table. It isn't something that has ever been needed and God willing it never will, but its right that such measures are carried out to ensure this is a safe place to come for many generations to come.

Earlier, having rung there, the trio of brothers and myself joined others in Costa Coffee for refreshment before we made our way to Grundisburgh where the present is much the same as the immediate past and I imagine probably the immediate future too with a handful of ringers manning the back six and then back seven of Suffolk's lightest twelve. Such can be the way for many rural rings, even in the little wobbly red-brick tower.

New Annual Report.On a more positive note, I took delivery of my copy of the brand new Guild Annual Report. Much like the AGM (reminder, get you name in for tea by the 26th March!), there is no way of sexing this up as it is a largely functional publication, but I look forward to receiving it each year and reading through it to see in more detail what has been occurring in the county over the previous year. Even in this day and age when what is happening in ringing can be - and usually is - instantly imparted through social media, BellBoard and even this blog, there is still much new that I learnt. It has been interesting to read of the North-East District's convening of relevant parties to set out a programme of focused events, the North-West's account of how the QPs before practices have been helping these occasions, the South-East's rejuvenation with focus on set methods at their practices and the South-West District's plans for a quarter-peal month under the new leadership of Paul Ebsworth as their Ringing Master. Disappointing though to note that there were no peals rung for the SGR on twelve in 2017. That is something that I am trying to rectify in 2018 however, even if my first attempt to break the duck failed a few weeks ago! Well done to Michelle Rolph and her helpers for getting another super edition out.

And on an even more positive note, the superb coverage of the project to restore and rehang the bells of St Margaret’s in Ipswich continued yesterday with an article on the EADT’s website covering Friday’s test ring, complete with pictures and a video that will be most people’s – including my – first chance to hear them after the work. Compare with this video on YouTube! Again, well done to all concerned on a job well done.

It has been a wonderful mixture of the past, present and future.

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Saturday 17th March 2018

Keep Calm and Ring On!At home we have a pair of mugs that demand that we ‘Keep Calm and Ring On’ and as I drunk a cup of tea from it whilst looking out over the dusting of snow that the ‘Mini Beast from the East’ had sent us, I was pleased to see that by and large ringers did, with peals and quarters rung in great numbers across the land. Yet even though there was much activity in these mediums in neighbouring counties – particularly in the Cambridge area where the University Guild there were celebrating their Annual Dinner Day, and in Norfolk where the Cumberland Youths were ringing a brace of peals on the north coast in Cromer and Holt – there wasn’t anything recorded here in Suffolk.

St Margaret's Try Out.Still, we didn’t help on that side of things as we had a quiet day mainly at home, bar a brief trip into Woodbridge to get some essentials and free books for Alfie, but as anticipated there were pictures from Mike Whitby of yesterday’s try-out on the restored eight of St Margaret’s in Ipswich for those of you who are friends with him on Facebook, which made for fascinating viewing for those of us so used to them being rung from a different location.

Hopefully tomorrow will be busier though as we aim to keep calm and ring on.

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Friday 16th March 2018

The subject of sharing photos of the unwitting was a hot topic on one of the bellringing Facebook pages today and caught my attention as I do tend to put a number of photos up on this blog featuring folk, most of which I take without any warning. I always try and avoid putting up photos of other people’s children or vulnerable adults, which in this age of safeguarding is vital, but otherwise I haven’t really thought about putting photos featuring ringing’s characters for all the world to see. However, unlike social media where those who view photos can be controlled (although often not as much as some people believe), my blog is accessible to all to view and if anyone would like any photos removed then I will of course get them taken down and if you see me indiscriminately aiming a camera in your general direction at ringing events and you’d rather I didn’t then please do tell me.

Winchester Peal BandIt would be a pity though. Apart from brightening up the blog (many may argue it needs more than a few photos!), my main purpose of taking pictures and putting them up is as a means of recording the history of our fascinating art. I like to try and capture the venues we ring in and ideally with them being used for ringing and I hope one day in many years they will offer an insight to the art in our time, including the people who carry it out. Even now, with a few years under its belt, the first photos I ever put up make interesting viewing. For example the band photo of the Guild’s first – and thus far only – peal on fourteen, at Winchester almost a decade ago, shows how some have remained almost the same, others have changed and sadly – in the case of Roger Bailey – some have passed away.

Besides, bar family photos, almost all of the photos are photos of a crowd and/or focus on the surroundings and it is worth noting that due to the spread of online news reporting and the way that the exercise has embraced it, many – if not most – of those who feature can also be found in various news articles (sometimes complete with their age and other details), not to mention in photos on BellBoard, all of which can be easily found by far more people than are likely to come across my little old blog.

Meanwhile, no matter what you thought the best eight in Ipswich to be, it appears you may need to reconsider, at least according to those fortunate enough to ring the restored octave - featuring a new treble, second and fourth – at St Margaret’s from their newly installed gallery for the first time today. Excitement is now mounting on my part even further to try these bells out at a location very special to us Munnings’, with a service of celebration planned for 3pm on Sunday 29th April. Well done to all concerned!

And as Mike Whitby was present, there are sure to be photos of the occasion!

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Thursday 15th March 2018

On a relatively mundane day for us, our personal highlight was a positive parent’s evening at nursery for Joshua who is precisely where he should be thus far, although at this stage it is all very informal of course.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, other ringers were more active, most particularly at Tostock where a 2160 of seventeen Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung, whilst nearby a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Horringer. Happy Birthday Jonathan! I hope your day was less mundane than ours!

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Wednesday 14th March 2018

Yesterday I urged anyone who reads this to attend the Guild AGM in Bury St Edmunds on 7th April, so today I urge you to begin thinking about the SGR Striking Competitions, which this year are being held by the South-East District at the lovely easy-going 9cwt gallery-ring six of Earl Stonham in the morning and the fine eight of Debenham in the afternoon. As ever, this comes with my annual plea for old misconceptions to be put aside and for as many teams as possible to enter and give as many ringers as possible - especially learners - the invaluable experience of ringing in such events. As joint-holders Pakenham will testify, it won't just be a matter of St Mary-le-Tower turning up and winning, with teams like Pettistree and The Norman Tower also likely to compete and of course the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy offers up a big opportunity to others for silverware. Nor is it the case that it will be the same handful of ringers ringing for several teams. Maybe that was once the case, but it isn't now. Some ring for a couple of teams, including Ruthie and me as we are regular ringers at both towers and our presence in both gives others who would have no other opportunity to ring in the competitions a fair crack at it, but I'm not aware of anyone who rings for more than a pair of teams in any of the competitions - there is a chance for far more people to not just participate but to win, so please do.

Meanwhile, on a day when people gave a rye smile that one of the cleverest men on Earth may be greeted in the afterlife with a pair of Bullies, a wedge of fivers and some darts following the deaths of Stephen Hawking and Jim Bowen, we were at least busier today than yesterday on the ringing front. Or Ruthie was as she went to Pettistree practice where the pre-practice quarter-peal was successful - although the Hull didn't go as well here tonight as it did at Portman Road last night - and an eclectic repertoire was generally rung well before a deserved drink in The Greyhound. And with me unable to ring in the peal attempt at The Wolery this evening as I had originally been, I was pleased to see a 5040 scored in the little blue shed in my absence.

The reason I couldn't make it was that since I had agreed to ring, it had transpired that tonight was Alfie's parents' evening at nursery and of course that had to take precedence,. Despite the frustration of its timing (not that they can be expected to work around my peal diary!), it was an upbeat meeting, with AJM ahead of the curve on many things, which is reassuring as we consider the more formal education that is due to come his way later in the year.

And our journey there was made a lot simpler too, as the reopening this morning of Woods Lane in Melton immediately freed the surrounding streets of traffic gridlock. It may have been completed a month early and a very first world problem insignificant in the scheme of things, but it brings to an end a particularly weary few months to be a resident here. Those wanting to get to the octaves of Hollesley and Orford will now be able to a lot more easily, whilst we will be able to get to Bury St Edmunds, Earl Stonham and Debenham a lot more easily too!

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Tuesday 13th March 2018

Understandably the main focus has been on the Guild Dinner in Elmswell, especially since its postponement to 24th March, but there is another SGR event planned for the next few weeks – the AGM on Saturday 7th April!

Instantly I can hear the sound of jaws creaking with yawning and see eyes rolling at the thought of it and I’m not going to patronise everyone by suggesting that it will be very exciting. However, although last year’s in Beccles was unusually bogged down and dragged out, these days much of what would once have added considerable length to proceedings can be easily sorted through debate, consultations and discussions through emails and social media. There will still be things to deal with that should have as much of the membership as can get along, such as voting in a new Chairman to replace Alan Stanley as his five-year term draws to a close. Rumour has it that his replacement will be an historic one for the organisation...

For me though, it is important to get as many members together as possible for social reasons, to show a thriving Guild and encourage those who are learning. When there is a big crowd the atmosphere is wonderful, particularly as the day is such a relaxed affair from the lunchtime ringing at towers going into the ultimate venue of the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds to the post-ringing drinks in the pub that in my experience is well attended! Usually a benchmark for attendance is over a hundred and we ought to get at least that in this most central of locations, easily accessible by car, bus and train and with plenty on hand for those with non-ringing partners, family and/or friends to do. And so much time, effort and even money goes into organising it by volunteers just like you and me – please make it worth their while and make sure you book your tea by 5pm on Monday 26th March as the tea is being provided by external caterers and even if you aren’t there for the food make sure you can get to what you can to support the North-West District’s efforts.

There is much pencilled in before then too, like the Helmingham Monthly Practice this Friday evening. Next week sees plenty of opportunities to progress in the North-East District, with Plain Bob Doubles and Minor and Plain Hunt the focus at Reydon on Monday, the following night at Worlingham where they plan to concentrate on methods beyond Plain Bob like St Clement’s College Bob, Treble Bob and Surprise methods, and Call-Changes upwards at Blythburgh on Thursday, all from 7.30-9pm and all of which are due to be repeated on the third Mondays and Tuesdays and fourth Thursdays and Fridays of each month. If all goes to plan, you could warm up for the Guild Dinner by attending the South-West District Practice at Glemsford earlier in the day from 3 - 4.30pm. As we head into next month, the first week sees more NE District focus, with a Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on the Wednesday and a Six-Bell Practice at Chediston twenty-four hours later.

Today though, was a very quiet one on the ringing front, both personally and across the county, even if the night wasn’t quite so quiet with Joshua still a bit unwell. God willing we’ll be able to get out and do some ringing with so much on over the next month!

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Monday 12th March 2018

As the now late Sir Ken Dodd might say, what a beautiful day for ringing. Except we managed none. In fact with Joshua suffering from one of his regular high temperatures that seem to result from even the slightest ailment which meant him being sent home from nursery and a disturbed evening, we didn’t get much done at all.

Though I managed to get to work, which was needed with catching up still being done following the disruption caused by the recent ‘Beast from the East’ and computer trouble on Friday morning, that meant Ruthie had to leave her employment and with me being on a late shift there was the usual failure to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice on such occasions.

And there doesn’t seem to have been any quarter-peal or peal activity in Suffolk either, according to BellBoard at least.

I was not tickled by today.

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Sunday 11th March 2018

Women have been getting much deserved recognition in recent months with the one hundredth anniversary of them getting the vote in the UK last month and International Women’s Day a few days ago. Today, the mothers amongst them in particular were celebrated with Mothering Sunday.

Having seen mine yesterday, Alfie and Joshua’s was treated this morning to bacon sandwiches and a cuppa in bed, gifts and a card, before we attended the service at St Mary’s in Woodbridge – with me fitting in a couple of pieces of call-changes on the front six of the half-muffled eight beforehand – where she and other mums were given flowers and cards and then headed to Ruthie’s mother Kate as we and the sister-in-law and nieces were treated.

Whilst the quarter-peal rung at NDA Suffolk tower Lowestoft was rung for Mothering Sunday, conducted by a mother, the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh was an all-male affair but I imagine still top-notch as Phippen Surprise Major was rung for the first time for the Guild and by the band. Well done to all concerned.

And well done to former Reydon ringer Philip Moyse on ringing his first peal of Glasgow Surprise Major in Bristol on Friday.

Today was all about the mums though.

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Saturday 10th March 2018

When Ruthie works a Saturday and I am left looking after the trio of brothers on my own, I usually like to find some ringing to go along to, partly for my own delight and to meet up with friends, but also to get the boys out of the house and share the load of parenting!

With the only organised ringing nearby being the North-West Practice at Elveden on the far side of the county and being just slightly too far to take three young boys for an hour’s ringing, it was instead a walk into town and visits to Aunty Marian and my parents in Ipswich. The former was in anticipation of the birthday of my father’s sister and former ringer. She still takes an avid interest in the art and attends occasional events and so ringing came up in conversation before we left her in peace and popped around the corner to see Mum and Dad ahead of Mothering Sunday tomorrow.

Picture of SS Andrew and Patrick, Elveden Meanwhile, back at the fine 17cwt eight in its grand detached tower, the NW session was preceded by a quarter-peal with the wonderful notion of it being rung to a composition composed in the trenches of the First World War, almost exactly a century after Norman Tower ringer William Ely was tragically killed in action. Well done to young Jimmy Yeoman on ringing his first of Grandsire with the 1260.

It’s just a shame I couldn’t join them.

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Friday 9th March 2018

I missed a quarter-peal rung in the county yesterday at Tostock, a first of Fawley Surprise Minor for the entire band – well done to all. Today meanwhile, the FNQPC were in action with a 1320 at Earl Stonham being the first of Primrose Surprise Minor for Jenny Scase, Robert Scase, Mervyn Scase and Stephen Christian. For all that this is a far simpler method than many people make it out to be as the only difference from Cambridge is that bells plain hunt at the leadend rather than dodge above whoever is making seconds to the treble, very well done to the fab four ringing it to a QP for the first time.

It all beat our quiet day as another week of early shifts finished, allowing me to pick Mason up from school where a bric-a-brac saw us attempt to get some last minute alcohol for Ruthie’s Mothering Sunday present from the tombola but come away with a bath bar and bodywash. It’s the thought that counts.

With that in mind, Mothering Sunday may be just as quiet from a ringing perspective personally as we look to make up for it!

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Thursday 8th March 2018

International Women’s Day saw what will hopefully one day be an entirely unnecessary twenty-four hours dedicated to the fairer sex. Ringing did its bit to mark it with quarter-peals rung in its honour at Kineton in Warwickshire, Pebworth in Worcestershire and Winscombe in Somerset and on Facebook ringers were asked about inspirational women in ringing. I nominated Amanda Richmond and Ruth Suggett for their enthusiastic recruitment and teaching in Suffolk, but of course there are so many more who could be mentioned. Katharine Salter, Jenny Scase and three women close to me – Ruthie, her mother Kate and my mother – also spring to mind and I’m sure others have further suggestions!

I did nothing deserving of my own day following another early shift, but my wife contributed to wider society by attending choir practice – Happy International Women’s Day to her and our other female ringers!

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Wednesday 7th March 2018

I don’t make any secret of my preference for brisker ringing. It depends on circumstances of course. You wouldn’t go to Liverpool Cathedral and try and zip them round, although I enjoyed a peal Ruthie and I rang in at St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol back in 2007 that didn’t suffer from Andrew Mills pulling in the 51cwt tenor in just 3hrs38mins rather than the usual 3hrs50mins-4hrs. With a top controlled band, perfect striking is not only possible but probable at any speed. However, with ringing being moved along, I find it easier when ringing a tenor as I haven’t got to be heaving it up to the balance and back again 2,520 times and can go along with the flow more easily, with hesitations more easily spotted, although of course you have to be quicker in rectifying them! The narrowed gap between bells also means there is less indecision about where one should be placing one’s bell and generally it gives a piece a more lively feel.

That said though, it wasn’t my intention to ring this afternoon’s peal at Sproughton in quite such a short time, coming in several minutes faster than any other lengths on this gallery-ring six that I can find. With most of the band due to be at ringing engagements elsewhere afterwards there was a sense of urgency as we pulled off and this continued on straight into the first extent and stayed consistently at that pace until it came round 2hrs25mins later, the rope bloodied by ravaged hands and my poor handling. My hands were sore and I was embarrassed to have to leave my mother to clean the mess up at the practice later having failing in my efforts to find something to do it with myself, but ultimately we succeeded with the main aim of the peal. After the hassle of getting a peal for Mason’s birthday a few weeks ago, safety was the name of the game here. Methods that the band were all familiar with, wrong-home-wrong and in-out-in all the way with the aim of getting the most out of this good band and producing a well-rung peal for the recent significant birthday of mine and Chris’ mother, a woman who has done so much for ringing in this area and beyond, but especially at this 8cwt six where my brother and I learnt to ring. And although there were occasional points where things got a little ragged, generally the ringing was of a very high quality and the final pair of extents brought about some excellent ringing. Thank you to all the band for indulging us Munnings boys and to Ralph Earey for arranging the bells and key.

Congratulations as well to Ian Culham on ringing his 350th peal, which he immediately followed with his 351st in a 5040 at Inworth down in Essex, whilst others in the band were heading to Pettistree to attempt a quarter-peal of Durham Surprise Minor before a practice that Ruthie attended with her mother and elsewhere a 1260 of four spliced Triples methods was rung at Elveden.

My wife’s deserved night out to SS Peter and Paul and The Greyhound left me at home snoozing at the end of a long day that started with being accosted by the police on my way to this morning’s very early start at work, understandably wondering what I was doing trudging the streets at that hour, as I often do.

They seemed unconcerned for my preference for speeding on the end of a rope though...

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Tuesday 6th March 2018

Bellringing has set itself a daunting task in recruiting 1400 new ringers to ring for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War on 11th November, a figure symbolic of the number of ringers lost in that dreadful, tragic four-year conflict. To my mind it is a wonderful idea, but has been set too late and perhaps should have been started on the anniversary of the beginning of the war on 4th August 2014.

Ringing Remembers.Nonetheless, ringing within our borders is responding and thus far there has never been more evidence than today as I looked through the promotional posters and leaflets that I collected from Ruth Suggett last night and plan on passing to Mary Garner tomorrow ahead of an open day at Pettistree later this month, happened upon an excellent article in the Ufford Punch appealing for locals to take up the art and listened to BBC Radio Suffolk’s superb report that I only caught the end of on Sunday morning about the return of the eight bells of St Margaret’s in Ipswich – it starts 2hrs23mins37secs in with mention of the project at Little Cornard.

Meanwhile, with so much focus on the future health of ringing, it was interesting to read the Facebook thread which revealed – thanks to Pealbase of course – that amongst the heavy snowfall, last Thursday was the first day since Christmas Day 2007 that not one single peal anywhere was rung, thus bringing to an end the longest period of consecutive days where at least one peal has been rung, most probably in the history of the exercise. Quite extraordinary.

Those who knew one-time Long Melford ringer Arthur Finch will have been sorry to hear of his recent passing – as was I – and will be interested to know that his funeral will be held at midday on Monday 19th March at Burwell in Cambridgeshire where he had moved last year.

His passing is a reminder that we need to do all that we can to continue the pastime that Albert partook in to thrive and hopefully Ringing Remembers, Armistice 100 will help us to do that. To that end, it is worth noting that there is a page on the Central Council’s website to register new learners, as well as a form on this very website to help track recruits from our county. Let’s try and meet ringing’s daunting target!

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Monday 5th March 2018

This evening wasn’t a vintage St Mary-le-Tower practice, granted. However, with the permanently energetic Amanda Richmond running things in David Potts’ absence, this was an upbeat session, with lots of opportunities particularly for those feeling their way into higher number ringing, methods ranging from Little Bob Maximus and Grandsire Cinques to pieces of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and a touch of their Royal counterparts spliced. We were also delighted to welcome visits from Ruth Suggett and Cathy and Julian Colman and despite too many bits of ringing coming to a premature end and the striking being far from great due to the learners being hampered by those who should know better, this was a productive hour-and-a-bit.

Whilst others retired to The Cricketers after ringing and despite working a normal 9-5 at John Catt Educational today (following yesterday’s exploits, but also to give me some respite with still another couple of months of extreme shifts to go), I have a very early start tomorrow and so I returned home to get to bed. It was far from a vintage evening generally.

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Sunday 4th March 2018

It’s almost as if someone flicked a switch. After several days restricted by various depths of snow, today was so normal as to make one think none of that ever happened. With the only remnants of the white stuff being where it had been piled up at the sides of the roads and where snowmen once stood, the boys and I made it out to the usual first-Sunday morning circuit of St Mary-le-Tower where the ringing was run by Amanda Richmond as regular Ringing Master David Potts recovers from his planned operations of a couple of weeks ago, St Lawrence saw a huge crowd who appeared to have attended by accident instead of going for refreshments at Costa Coffee and Grundisburgh where absences included poor young Yasmin who has broken her leg.

Ruthie collected from singing duties in Woodbridge, our family then made it from Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds to The Wilford Bridge round the corner from our abode to celebrate mother’s recent sixty-fifth birthday as she, father, my brother Chris and his wife Becky enjoyed good food, good drink and good company before moving on to ours.

Earlier my parents had been to St Margaret’s in the county town for much of the morning service where the returned octave there were blessed on the church floor. It is so pleasing to see the latest landmark of this special project reaching this stage and I am keen to see and hear the results!

Elsewhere the first ringing in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard since last Sunday occurred with quarter-peals of Doubles at Great Finborough and Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree as things really do seem to have returned to normal.

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Saturday 3rd March 2018

Today was not the day we planned. We had been due to have a lazy morning, a trip to Barking and Coddenham for the South-East District Practice and then of course the Suffolk Guild Dinner in Elmswell.

Sadly though, as has been well documented this week, the ‘Beast from the East’ put paid to that and although the great thaw began on this warmer Saturday, there was still a lot of ice, snow and slush in our part of the world and no doubt worse in other more isolated communities and so it was entirely the correct decision to cancel both events, but it was still a pity not to be able to occupy ourselves traversing this beautiful county of ours with the hobby we are so very fortunate to partake in.

Nonetheless, we substituted our night out by bringing forward a night in with local ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth and it was amusing to read about the way that some ringers – including St Mary-le-Tower regular George Vant – got around the advice to stay indoors as they ‘rang’ some Original Major from ‘All Over the Place’ via Facebook Video Chat yesterday.

Meanwhile, others went to take a look at the restored – and in some cases replaced – bells of St Margaret’s in Ipswich as they sat on view in the church. God willing the weather conditions will allow us to ring them in the next few weeks!

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Friday 2nd March 2018

Ipswich, St Margaret of Scotland.Amongst news of ‘The Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma, I missed some more superb PR from the ringers of St Margaret’s in Ipswich as yesterday the East Anglian Daily Times reported on the return of the repaired and restored eight in readiness for their rehanging and ringing from a new gallery further down the tower. They will be available for viewing on Saturday 10am to 3pm and blessed at Sunday morning’s service by the vicar Canon David Cutts and there will be a service to celebrate the completion of the project – including work done in the church generally – at 3pm on Sunday 29th April.

Such activity seems a distant notion currently as snow brings the country to a standstill. Nursery was shut again today meaning that Ruthie had to take a day off work, whilst my late shift at John Catt was curtailed by the need to collect Mason for the weekend before too much more snow fell, bringing to an end an extremely frustrating working and ringing week. God willing we’ll be seeing the back of ‘The Beast from the East’ and Storm Emma very soon!

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Thursday 1st March 2018

On the meteorological first day of spring the conditions brought over by the ‘Beast from the East’ improved, but the accumulative effect of the last couple of days meant that even though there was only the lightest of occasional flurries of the white stuff today, closures and cancellations came through thicker and faster than any of the snowfall we’ve had this week. More schools were closed, more businesses were closed, Ipswich Town’s match at home to Hull City on Saturday is under threat of postponement (although that was being met with an almost overwhelming reaction of apathy and even glee!) and having commented on how little ringing was recorded on BellBoard yesterday, today saw but a handful of quarter-peals and no peals at all recorded across the entire country and none at all within our borders. Particularly unusual on a day when many would be looking to celebrate St David’s Day and/or get their monthly totals underway.

Here in Suffolk Grundisburgh’s weekly practice tonight was cancelled, as is Rushmere St Andrew’s practice tomorrow night and Saturday afternoon’s South-East District’s Practice at Barking and Coddenham has also been called off, with conditions still uncertain for then, especially taking into consideration the off-the-beaten-track nature of the approach to the former, ground-floor six.

Alfie with his snowman!Closer to home, the boys’ nursery shut today and so I found myself at home from work making snowmen and entertaining Ufford ringers Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis, with the latter relieved from teaching duties with her school one of the many shut.

Woodbridge town centre unsurprisingly quiet, Ruthie was sent home early, but with choir also cancelled it was another night in from the cold.

Not very active I’m afraid to say, but one ringer being much more active is one-time Clopton (and still occasionally when he returns to the area!) ringer Tim Stanford, who is planning on running the Paddock Wood Half Marathon down in Kent next month. It is for the extremely worthy cause of Parkinson’s UK and as is the norm for such things he has a JustGiving page to fundraise. Please do contribute if you can.

Good luck Tim – I hope the snow is gone by then!

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Wednesday 28th February 2018

One of the views out of our window today!With the ‘Beast from the East’ striking fear into people across the county, my mind wandered to what is considered the worst winter in the UK’s modern history, 1962-63. Temperatures actually plummeted, not just by a few degrees centigrade for a few days but on average to -2 for a whole month and as low -20 on one occasion. The sea (the sea!) froze up to a mile out, as did famously the River Thames, huge snowdrifts cut off isolated communities and it was so cold that snow carpeted the land for weeks on end. Notoriously it effected sport badly, with Bolton Wanderers apparently playing no competitive matches for more than two months. Having rung my coldest peal at St Peter’s in the northern town I can’t say I’m surprised.

1963 Annual Report front cover.I wondered how ringing in Suffolk coped though, so I had a look at the 1963 Annual Report, possible due to the superb work of Neal Dodge in scanning the original copies so they could be stored on the SGR website. A scan of the reports from the likes of Ringing Master Leslie Brett and General Secretary John Blythe make no mention of ringing being disrupted. Did planned events go ahead as getting on with things was just what they did back then? Or were winters so regularly harsh that having to cancel practices and the like were just something they had to put up with? It certainly seems to have hit peal-ringing in the county, with just one in the medium rung by this time of the year and that not until 23rd February, although it is worth noting that the total of fifty-five for the entire year still compared relatively favourably to fifty-six in 1962 and seventy in 1964.

Did they deal with snow better back then compared to now? It’s hard to tell. Obviously what they had to put up with in that winter dwarves our current snowfall, but they didn’t have blogs and Facebook pages announcing and recording cancellations as we do these days and so it is difficult to place the cancellation of practices at Beccles, Pettistree and Sproughton on the overkill scale. In an age of health ‘n’ safety and easy litigation and in a week when people have been killed on the roads linked to the conditions, it is understandable that such decisions are reached.

Nonetheless, it has all meant a disappointing change of plans. Ruthie’s usual night out at the aforementioned ground-floor six and The Greyhound next door (which was also closed!) was scuppered and as feared our planned babysitters for the Guild Dinner can’t carry out the same task on the 24th March which means that one of us will now not be able to enjoy this five-yearly showpiece occasion.

Still, even the most snow-laden clouds have a silver lining and whilst there will also be others who will be unable to make the new date, some who may not have been able to come on the 3rd may be able to make it three weeks later. Therefore, SGR Chairman Alan Stanley has reopened the invitation to purchase tickets and I shall reiterate just what a super event this is – please do come along for a night of food, drink, entertainment and good company!

At the offices of John Catt Educational we were invited to close early again, most particularly for those who had impressively made long car journeys in, with the business park we are located in eerily quiet in a scene more reminiscent of the days leading up to Christmas than the cusp of spring. And again it all looked very pretty.

That said, the conditions were having an effect on ringing across the country. Aside from cancelled practices, there were no entries on BellBoard from within our borders and indeed things were quiet on that front all over the UK, with only two peals rung anywhere in the nation and those both featuring record-breaking peal-ringer Colin Turner. I imagine not even the winter of 1962-63 would’ve stopped him though!

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Tuesday 27th February 2018

Alfie with his snowman!The much-vaunted ‘Beast from the East’ is now having an effect. It doesn't actually seem that bad. There was a thick carpet of snow across everything that hadn't been gritted - enough for Alfie to build a snowman - but it all looked rather pretty and with no wind and plenty of winter sunshine it was actually very pleasant.

Still, trains were cancelled (though later reinstated once the folly of this premature decision was realised), one or two schools were closed and we were released early at work, although that was more for those who had driven in from places like Capel St Mary, Little Glemham and Nacton rather than the likes of me who just had to walk a few minutes down the road to get home (plus I discovered quite early on that the schools in India and Qatar that I was calling appeared not to have been overly affected by snow).

It has also put paid to holding the much-anticipated Suffolk Guild Dinner on Saturday evening, with conditions forecast to get worse later in the week. If I'm honest, my eyes rolled as they always do when the towel is thrown in on something just because the weather isn't dry with a gentle breeze and temperatures between 10-20 degrees centigrade and this is a big, big disappointment as having only got babysitting arrangements sorted last week so that both Ruthie and I could accompany Mason to his second SGR Dinner, there is doubt as to whether both of us can make the rescheduled date of 24th March. However, even I can understand the thinking, even though I expect the decision was taken with much reluctance considering the logistics of rearranging of an event that had taken months to put in place. If the predictions come to fruition we were faced with a huge crowd, some of them not overly mobile negotiating icy conditions on arrival, if they were able to get there at all from the many far-flung isolated rural corners that our membership live in. Please spread the word and let Guild Treasurer 01473 785780, know that you have received the message if you have bought tickets.

Ultimately it is the right course of action in the circumstances, but God willing the ‘Beast from the East’ won't get so bad as to justify it.

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Monday 26th February 2018

As beasts go, this meteorological one from the east appears quite tame. Snow settled a little and flurries caused great excitement, but life went on, although the late shift at work again scuppered any notions of getting to St Mary-le-Tower practice, regardless of the weather conditions.

Perhaps the threat of snowdrifts and impossible journeys were enough to put off any quarter-peal or peal ringers in the county today, but there is an additional QP to report from yesterday with the 1260 of Upper Brow Top Bob Minor rung upon the back six at Henley.

Meanwhile, my absence from SMLT meant I was unable to wish my mother birthday felicitations on the sixty-fifth anniversary of her birth, but of course we had the opportunity to do that yesterday and it is worth reiterating on here how grateful Chris and I are for her parental guidance and how grateful ringers at many towers – as well as at South-East District and Guild events – should be – and indeed are I believe – for the help that she and Dad give to the exercise locally.

Happy Birthday Mum – I hope the ‘Beast from the East’ didn’t spoil it for you!

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Sunday 25th February 2018

Tomorrow is the sixty-fifth anniversary of mother’s birth, but with a combination of the anticipated ‘Beast from the East’ and late shifts at work meaning I am unlikely to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice to wish her birthday felicitations in person, we popped round to see her this afternoon to drop off cards and a present. An enjoyable couple of hours were passed, albeit broken up by accompanying Mum to attend to Aunty Marian’s needs as this former ringer hopes to be well enough for next week’s Guild Dinner.

Whilst we were doing that, other ringers in Suffolk were ringing, with quarter-peals of Stedman Caters and Lincolnshire Surprise Major rung at The Norman Tower and Palgrave, but I did manage some ringing at Woodbridge where the bells are half-muffled for Lent.

However, Ruthie is feeling under the weather with a sore throat and a general malaise, which meant she did minimal singing in the choir at the service afterwards and felt too unwell to join myself and the boys to wish her mother-in-law a Happy Birthday.

Hopefully my wife will have a better day tomorrow and my mother will have a super birthday!

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Saturday 24th February 2018

There was a smattering of activity from ringers once of Suffolk now plying their ringing elsewhere today. Barrie Hendry was partaking in a 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Milborne Port in Somerset, Sam Maynard and Maggie Ross rang in a quarter-peal of Superlative Surprise Major at Bray in Berkshire and Lucy Williamson took part in a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at St Lawrence in York.

Peal Band.All worthy of mention, but with all respect the biggest achievement of ringers formerly of our county today was from the Salter brothers Colin and George, who rang in a peal of Holt’s original one-part composition of Grandsire Triples, entirely silent and non-conducted. It is an impressive achievement as one-part compositions are generally very difficult as opposed to two-part compositions that are broken down into two shorter identical parts, three-part compositions broken down into three even shorter identical parts and so on and so forth, with a one-part by its a nature as long a chunk of composition as one can possibly remember in a standard-length peal and this composition is notoriously difficult. So to ring it without anyone able to put any calls in, put other’s mistakes right or even give a knowing nod or wink is a magnificent achievement. Well done to all concerned, but especially the Ipswich lads!

Our day was far less laden with ringing accomplishment. In fact it featured no ringing at all as rather we carried out as much mundane necessity as we could before scampering back in from the increasing chill, although our outing was broken up by an impromptu gathering of Ruthie’s family in the street.

It was quiet from most ringers from within our borders generally with no quarters or peals recorded on BellBoard, although Clare ringer Alan Mayle conducted the 5040 of thirty-eight Surprise Minor methods spliced south of the River Stour at Inworth, whilst congratulations are due to Norman Tower regular Phillip Wilding on his marriage to Vicky today.

At least other ringers were making up for our inactivity!

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Friday 23rd February 2018

Ruthie had a day off, the boys were at their various places of education and with me ending a week of early shifts at work with a lunchtime finish that meant only one thing. No, not ringing and/or going to the pub as we once would have, but tidying, something that is hard to do effectively with the younger sons in particular!

Still, others were ringing and unsurprisingly for a Friday it was the FNQPC, on this occasion at Ashbocking where a 1260 of Doubles was rung at this isolated ground-floor six.

Meanwhile, you only have until Sunday to get your tickets for the Guild Dinner on Saturday 3rd March! Which we did earlier this week.

It has been a productive week, especially today!

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Thursday 22nd February 2018

Those who read this blog (both of you) and/or know me well may be aware that I have zero sympathy for anyone who moves in near to a tower where bells are rung regularly and then complains about the sound of them. I have some degree of empathy with people who live next to a tower where the bells haven’t been rung or a new set of bells are installed and then object, although I still feel that there should be certain expectations when deciding to set up home in the shadow of a building clearly meant for holding bells.

Christopher Whitehead College performing arts centre.Even I could appreciate the objections of the residents who live next to Christopher Whitehead College in Worcester though, where as part of a new performing arts centre given the go-ahead today, a tower holding a ring of twelve will be built in an apparent reverse of the normal order of things where new houses are built around an ancient tower and its centuries old bells.

However, only by reading today’s article on the Worcester News website and from what I have picked up previously on this intriguing project, I’m not sure that it is going to be what they fear. For a start sound control appears to be included, as it should be with all new bell jobs and arguably with all rings of bells, although to what extent this will dull the sound of the bells I can’t tell you. Any “unmuffled” (by which I assume they mean with sound control off) would be limited to a total of twelve hours across the year, although that seems unclear. In addition, the objectors seem to be basing their complaints around a noise level of 112 decibels which “will disrupt their lives significantly” but would only be that loud right next to the bells. Especially with any sound control in place, it seems unlikely they will be subjected to such levels in their gardens, homes and local pub The Brunswick Arms. And as scientific experiments go, their demonstration of what they would have to put up with by playing a recording of the 48cwt twelve at the Cathedral across the city has got holes in it large enough for those more knowledgeable on such matters to blow apart.

Still, I share some of the concerns (not least that with all the financial pressures the country’s education system is under I’m surprised something like this has got funding) and hope that this is handled carefully and the views of local residents are taken into consideration. This could be a PR disaster for ringing, but if the Cathedral ringers are behind it I am confident that this won’t be the case and I look forward to seeing how it all pans out.

Three towers in Suffolk where the residents will be aware of and used to the bells are Horringer, Thornham Magna and Tostock and this trio were ringing out to quarter-peals of Plain Bob Major, spliced Doubles and Foti Place Minor respectively, with the latter being the first in the method for the entire band. Well done to them and congratulations to Sylvie Fawcett on gaining her British citizenship!

I hope the neighbours appreciated it!

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Wednesday 21st February 2018

I’ll be honest. Out of the pair of us, I’m more enthusiastic at going out ringing – or indeed anywhere – on a cold, damp, dark February night and so after she had been in work filling in for absentees all day having had another disturbed evening with a poorly Joshua, Ruthie sent me out to tonight’s Pettistree practice.

Also being honest, it seemed others were understandably reluctant to come to this ground-floor ring where the ability to roam the church and even the churchyard at the sessions held on the warm, light evenings in the spring and summer months is utterly reversed in chilly temperatures that mean most attendees huddle together in the relatively small but heated ringing chamber.

There was still more than you would get at most rural six-bell practices and as ever a wide repertoire with it, with spliced Doubles and spliced Minor rung alongside Stedman, Double Oxford Bob, Cambridge Surprise, Norwich Surprise and – as I left just before the end – Kent Treble Bob.

Amongst the absentees was my mother-in-law Kate with good reason as she helps Ron in his recovery from his recent knee replacement which also meant she was at home today and able to look after Alfie and Joshua this morning, whilst their mother went to John Ives on a day she hadn’t planned to, before I returned from my early shift to collect them for an afternoon of present shopping for the significant forthcoming anniversary of my mother’s birth.

Another missing with good reason was Mark Ogden as he rang in a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at Grundisburgh, the fourth in the medium there this month. For all that they are much-maligned bells, they do give people opportunity to ring on all numbers at practices (they hold an extra one on Mondays specifically for their learners), quarter-peals and peals.

Somewhere else that are easy enough to manage and are relatively available to help aid progress are the light eight at Henley, where last week’s peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major was followed up today with a QP of Rutland Surprise Major before the Compline service.

They were clearly keener than my wife tonight!

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Tuesday 20th February 2018

Tickets for the Guild Dinner – purchased!

There was never doubting our intention to go along to Elmswell on the evening of Saturday 3rd March. Rather our delay in parting with money for entry to the biggest event in town had more to do with childcare arrangements and many of us were coming, but with that sorted it was full steam ahead for payment and a quick email to SGR Treasurer Owen Claxton to confirm our intention to attend.

I hope that more will do the same for the tickets that are still available. We’re not exactly swimming in cash, but even we recognise that £26 for three courses, entertainment and fellowship in circumstances that only occur twice a decade is jolly good value, so please do not delay in getting your ticket. For all that some were worried about what they perceived to be late advertising of the event, a lot of work has gone into arranging this and so I hope as many people as possible reward their efforts.

We certainly intend to!

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Monday 20th February 2018

It was a short night out at St Mary-le-Tower tonight. Having only got there at 8pm, there was no pub afterwards with a very early start at work in the morning and I had to regrettably pass on the final touch to get home to help Ruthie with a poorly Joshua. Nonetheless, quite a lot was packed into that time, with two pieces of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, Stedman Cinques and Grandsire Cinques (now we don’t have to ring the test piece for the Essex and Suffolk Twelve-Bell Striking Competition for a quarter of the practice!) rung over a session that was particularly productive for Peter Davies, Richard Weeks, Sue Williamson and the visiting Tim Stanford.

However, from now on we shall have to make do without Ringing Master David Potts who due to a planned operation will be unringable for the next few weeks. Masterial duties are due to be carried out by others such as Louis Suggett and Jonathan Williamson, but any additional support would be appreciated. As I’ve shown, it doesn’t have to be a long night!

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Sunday 19th February 2018

Newspaper reviews on the twenty-four hour news channels are a pet peeve of mine as Ruthie will tell you, her eyes rolling I imagine. Announced with much fanfare, it is suggested that we should set everything aside to tune in to listen to various journalists who enjoy the sound of their voice more than I do pontificate with their take on someone else’s journalism, as if we were incapable of reading the papers and making our own minds up the following morning. It is lazy scheduling, especially as along with the endless incredibly dull interviews with ‘experts’ done on video phone from their bedroom it is essentially a consequence of cost-cutting that means they are incapable of sending out actual journalists to report on the wide variety of interesting events happening around the country and the world at any given time. There has to be very little on TV for me to contemplate sitting through these borefests.

Mercifully, BBC Radio Suffolk’s version is much shorter and not quite so grating, but I still normally tend to glaze over when they start discussing what’s in the tabloids and broadsheets. Not today though, as one of the Suffolk Guild’s members was helping friend-of-ringing Jon Wright to read them as South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson joined him in studio. Jonathan is always worth listening to regardless of the subject, but especially wine and of course ringing, with his entertaining, informative and engaging style, so his slot from about 1hr22mins into the show is well worth catching on iPlayer.

Considering he wasn’t on specifically to discuss ringing, he did remarkably well to get some wonderful PR in for the exercise as well as highlighting ringing’s perspective on the subject of the Church of England agreeing to install mobile phone masts in church towers. This is an issue that concerns many ringers, partly because they fear the radiation being emitted would be harmful from such proximity and regular exposure. I’m no expert on such matters, but the general consensus seems to suggest that the harmful radiation is minimal.

Of far more realistic concern is the installing and maintenance of the masts. As Jonathan pointed out, there have been tales of wires being put through wheels, fittings attached to parts that are supposed to move and the like and the apparent need for access whenever they need it doesn’t sit comfortably with the activities of ringers, especially with quarter-peals and peals. One wonders if ringers were consulted on this arrangement – perhaps the Central Council can tell us? Well done Jonathan on raising the issue to a wider audience that would otherwise have been oblivious to it.

Later in the day I was listening to the same station to the disappointing yet exciting and diplomatic ending to the latest fixture between Ipswich Town and their fiercest rivals – and today hosts – Norwich City as I made my way to Grundisburgh for my meagre contribution to what has been a phenomenal Suffolk Guild Peal Week crammed full of many peals, many achievements and many firsts, especially debutants in the medium. There were some more firsts in our 5040, with Ruth Suggett ringing her first of Cambridge Surprise Royal and Mike Cowling his first of Surprise Royal altogether, whilst Mike Whitby was ringing his one hundredth peal on the bells. Well done Ruth and Mike C and ‘congratulations’ to Mike W. And well done to Guild Ringing Master on masterminding such a successful event.

Earlier in the day I went morning ringing at the same venue, which in turn followed on from ringing at St Mary-le-Tower (where the ringing seemed a lot quicker than yesterday!) and refreshments in Costa Coffee.

That wasn’t the end of ringing in Ipswich today though, with a brace of quarter-peals rung of Wells Surprise Minor and twenty-three Surprise Minor methods spliced at St Clement and St Matthew respectively. I may even tune in for the review of the Ringing World when they appear in there.

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Saturday 17th February 2018

There is a new highlight of the ringing calendar!

When Ian Culham first announced his intentions to set up a new twelve-bell striking competition for the twelves of Essex and Suffolk, I welcomed it and was keen to support it in any way that I could, but I wasn’t convinced if it would get off the ground. The principal was sound. Buoyed by the success of the North-West Twelve-Bell Striking Competition which began last year and the longer-running London Twelve-Bell Competition, it was a super idea I thought, a chance to give twelve-bell bands north and south of the River Stour experience at competition ringing on this number with an eye on potential entry into the national contest for the Taylor Trophy.

However, I wasn’t sure what response he would get to the invite. Of the six towers it was opened to – The Norman Tower, Grundisburgh and St Mary-le-Tower from this county, Chelmsford Cathedral, Saffron Walden and Waltham Abbey on the other side of the border – I knew that our friends from Bury St Edmunds and ourselves at SMLT would embrace it, but I also knew that there weren’t enough from the little wobbly red-brick tower to form an entry for something like this and it was suggested that the situation at WA may be similar, whilst Chelmsford had been struggling with numbers and I have to admit that I didn’t know what the circumstances at SW were. Whether it would’ve been worthwhile getting people to travel out for a competition between just two teams is open to debate.

Gathered in the ringing chamber at The Norman Tower for the draw.Mr Culham masterfully organised things from the start though, introducing flexible rules and a manageable test piece of Grandsire Cinques and in a sure-fire move to get folk on board named the trophy after George Pipe. He – and all of us who attended – were rewarded with a wonderful day out in Bury St Edmunds as four teams turned out for some great ringing, superb fellowship and a rare outing for George himself, looking extremely frail but clearly in his element.

With the draw made in the packed ringing chamber and us drawn to ringing second after Chelmsford, Ruthie, the boys and I joined home tower band-members Jed Flatters, Rowan Wilson and my brother Chris – who had been drawn to ring last – in The Lounge, a coffee shop round the corner from the cathedral. They then very kindly looked after the trio of young brothers whilst we rang, with me trebling and my wife ringing the sixth as a steady but tidy piece was produced. Although I hadn’t appreciated just how steady...

George Pipe meets the SMLT band after their piece.  Paul Bray, George Vant, David Potts and Mason enjoy refreshments in The Masons Arms’ beer garden. George Pipe addresses the crowd with the trophy beside him. Judges Richard Carter and Faith Pearce give the results. George Pipe presents the George W Pipe Trophy to The Norman Tower Ringing Master Julian Colman. The Norman Tower band. SMLT band. Chelmsford Cathedral band. Saffron Walden band.

Reunited with the children, Saffron Walden got underway and some of us retired to The Masons Arms for some lunch before returning to the Cathedral for the results in St Edmund's Chapel, where GWP spoke, as always claiming he wouldn’t speak for long before speaking at length! Despite having to sit down to address the room and a pair of sticks at his side, he still captivated his audience, before the judges Richard Carter and Faith Pearce from Norwich – who those present at last year’s Guild Striking Competitions will recall were the judges for that too – commented on the ringing, revealed the peal speeds of each band (with our 3hrs53mins drawing audible gasps!) and gave the results with Saffron Walden in fourth, Chelmsford Cathedral in third, SMLT in second and our hosts in first as their Ringing Master Julian Colman collected the trophy from Mr Pipe. Congratulations to the Norman Tower on being inaugural winners!

As with any good Twelve-Bell Striking Competition that wasn’t the end, although a soft drink with brother Chris and Alex Tatlow in the Dog and Partridge isn’t quite on the same level as what was enjoyed in Southwark at the final of the national contest!

Being the inaugural contest, there were things to learn – it could do with starting an hour later and now that an appetite has been proven amongst contestants perhaps more can be put on to encourage spectators – but the overwhelming sense was that this should be the first of many, with perhaps the invitation being extended to our neighbours in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk.

From an Ipswich point of view, it has stoked our enthusiasm further to enter the National Twelve-Bell Contest as soon as possible, but also highlighted that we will need to be much more prepared and not be quite so stately in our speed!

At the Pettistree Dinner in The Greyhound.From a brand new highlight of the ringing calendar, this evening saw us attend a well-established highlight of the ringing calendar in the form of the Pettistree Dinner. In years past this has been slightly nomadic, being held at The Dog in Grundisburgh, The Coach and Horses in Melton, The Froize in Chillesford and The Crown at Snape. Pleasingly though, it now appears to be the norm for it to be held at The Greyhound which backs onto St Peter and St Paul where the ground-floor six that bonded tonight’s attendance, suitable not just geographically but also because landlords Stewart and Louise are such big supporters of the ringers.

There was reflection on those absent, especially Derek Martin whose passing just a couple of months after last year’s dinner shocked us so much and also Gill Waterson at a difficult time for her, but there was also much merriment as Mike Whitby received Mary Garner’s ‘Monthly’ Plate and the boys’ Grandad Ron came out a few days after getting a new knee. Good food and good beer enjoyed in good company.

Good as well to hear that common sense prevailed at this afternoon’s GMC over the issue of a non-resident member who does their ringing in Essex, but happens to live just this side of the border, whose non-residency status was challenged and could have seen all sorts of repercussions for the sake of getting tied up with rules.

Suffice to say the GMC won’t ever be a highlight in anyone’s ringing calendar!

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Friday 16th February 2018

Day seven of Suffolk Guild Peal Week and another four peals and two pealers – numbers eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen and eight and nine respectively of a phenomenal ‘week’ that still has two days to run. Congratulations to Jimmy Yeoman and Kate Gill on making their debuts in the medium in the successes at Great Barton and Rumburgh, the latter of which was also Mike Cowling’s fiftieth. Congratulations to Mike too.

Meanwhile, a 5056 of Double Dublin Surprise Major was rung at Elveden and 5040 of Grandsire Doubles at Monk Soham, but our day was a lot quieter from a ringing perspective with another late shift at work and the usual gathering together of children for the weekend. Hopefully a weekend of more success in SGRPW18.

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Thursday 15th February 2018

In a few weeks time we are due to celebrate ninety-five years of the Suffolk Guild's existence with the SGR Dinner in Elmswell and then the actual anniversary itself on 2nd April. There is much to celebrate, but there could have been few days - if any - in its history where so much has been achieved to such an extent as today. Day six of Peal Week saw three peals rung, complete with three first-pealers, a first on handbells and a new thousand-pealer and the organisation winning an award!

Where to start is difficult, but I shall begin with the well-known character who has done more than most for the county's ringing and who rang his one thousandth peal today, Brian Whiting. Always willing to help where he can with quarter-peals, peals and other ringing, he is a composer and conductor of note and a reassuring presence in any band, who I owe much to. As Ringing Master at Offton, he was responsible for many of my early opportunities with Surprise Major and conducting when my brother Chris and I regularly attended their Tuesday evening practices and the annual BBQ that he and his wife Peta host at their picturesque home is a real highlight of the year for Ruthie, the boys and myself. Appropriately Project1000 was completed at the tower where he learnt to ring, Horringer and it is a sign of his willingness to help other progress that he shared his big occasion with someone at the other end of the peal-ringing scale, Joshua Watkins, who along with Carmen and Zoe Wright in the 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at Thornham Magna was one of a trio making their debut in the medium. Congratulations Joshua, Carmen, Zoe and of course Brian!

Well done also to David Stanford, who rang his first in hand in the success at Barrack Lane in Ipswich, another dedicated stalwart of ringing in the county, especially in the Woodbridge area where the ringers of Burgh and Clopton in particular owe much to his hard work and time in the exercise.

High Sheriff's Awards. High Sheriff's Awards. High Sheriff's Awards. High Sheriff's Awards. High Sheriff's Awards.

David and Brian are but two of the many members of the Guild who have helped contribute to the SGR winning the High Sheriff's Award for Suffolk Heritage at the HS' annual ceremony tonight and is essentially for all that our membership does to look after, maintain and publicise the heritage and history of the county, which in our case of course is mainly in regards to the ancient bells we ring and cherish and the towers they sit in. Chairman Alan Stanley and PR Officer Neal Dodge represented us superbly, but there are some that put in countless hours to this aim and this is award is more for them than the likes of me who do little towards any actual maintenance!

I wasn't even able to enjoy the work of others today though, partly because I was on another late shift that cut across the hours of my ringing usefulness, but also because I was needed for an involved plan to get our nieces from their parents to Granny Kate via our house whilst allowing Ruthie to get to choir and involving lots of noise and tea-making!

Still, it doesn't disguise what must be one of the best days in the Suffolk Guild's history!

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Wednesday 14th February 2018

After an hiatus yesterday, Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2018 returned with yet another first-pealer today. Congratulations to Yasmin-Elise Haddock on making her debut in the medium at the age of thirteen by ringing inside to a 5040 of Plain Bob Minor on the back six at Grundisburgh, where she has done most of her learning. It has been a pleasure watching first-hand her progress and I am delighted she has managed this latest landmark.

No ringing activity for either of us though, partly because it is Ash Wednesday, which meant that Ruthie was carrying out her choral duties at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge this evening. The occasion will have meant some changes from the norm for a few towers who usually practice on a Wednesday and of course come the end of Lent and particularly Holy Week - which this year will run from Sunday 25th to Saturday 31st March - it will mean the same for most other towers too. Typically St Mary-le-Tower and The Norman Tower don't practice that week as the traditional but much-debated silencing of bells occurs for that period, whilst other towers like Pettistree and Sproughton will plan to continue as normal. Closer to the the time it will be worth checking who is and isn't ringing to avoid any embarrassing lock-outs or shortcomings in attendance!

As members should be aware, it also means that we aren't that far off the SGR AGM pencilled in - as almost without fail it always is - on the Saturday after Easter, which on this occasion is Saturday 7th April at The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds. There will hopefully be a huge turnout, with towers again available to ring at on the way into the venue, which is easily accessible by road and rail and is surrounded by much to entice members and non-ringers along with the business of the day. Last year's meeting was admittedly a bit of a grind, but hopefully we've got that out of our system and we shall return to the more slimline proceedings we have become accustomed to at this event.

Back in the now, another reason for our lack of ringing today was that it is the annual celebration of St Valentine, where us couples feel obliged to notice each other and make a fuss. To be honest, we've never made a big play of this, aware that it is primarily another opportunity to part us from our money and so we didn't bother with flowers (which make my wife sneeze anyway) or gifts (it's hard enough to find something for birthdays and Christmas!), but we did produce a card for each other and once Mrs Munnings had returned from church we set about producing a three-course meal of pate, steak and Eton Mess. As I always try to do, it was an opportunity to show my appreciation of my better half - if nothing else we felt quite accomplished!

Meanwhile, South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson announced that he is booked in to review the newspapers on BBC Radio Suffolk on Sunday morning, which should be well worth a listen. Perhaps there will be news of more peals for SGRPW18 to report!

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Tuesday 13th February 2018

Ruthie was poorly today and so I had to take the day off work. Not to look after her, although there was an element of that, willingly given of course. Primarily though, I was tasked with looking after the boys whilst their mother lay stricken on the sofa. Frustrating as it was to have to unexpectedly take time out of the office – and daunting considering the catching up that will need to be undertaken on my return – it is at least a quieter week than usual with many of the schools that I am paid to contact being on half-term and the happy silver lining was that I got to spend the day with my family.

It also gave me the opportunity to read up a little more on Project Pickled Egg. Apparently it is born from discussions amongst some of the cleverer composers and conductors of the art who are essential to the growth and regeneration of the exercise to ensure it survives and thrives and aims to offer alternatives to the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods, especially ones such as the much maligned Pudsey and Rutland. The thinking is that they have become restrictive to the progress of many ringers, offer less in the way of music and have essentially grown out of circumstance and habit. Importantly, they aren’t looking to replace these methods in some kind of snobby mutiny, but rather are keen to find out how those learning Surprise Major methods currently are learning them in an effort to find a group of more musical, more interesting methods that are easy enough to learn and can be seamlessly weaved into most ringers’ repertoires. I really hope that Suffolk’s ringers can embrace this – anything that can liven up what we do and prevent stagnation without alienating learners has to be applauded.

There was an element of that going on within our borders as Janet Garnett, Alison Daniels and Adrian Malton were ringing their first of All Fools Delight Minor in the 1320 at Exning on the same day as they also rang a 1296 of Netherseale Surprise Minor down the road at St Mary the Virgin in Newmarket. Well done to them.

Meanwhile, the last quarter-peal was rung on the soon-to-be-replaced sixth at Offton before tonight’s practice.

With my wife feeling better by that point, we were cooking up and eating pancakes on this Shrove Tuesday though, God willing a sign that I can get back to work tomorrow and catch-up!

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Monday 12th February 2018

Another day of Suffolk Guild Peal Week and another pair of successes in the medium, with another first peal at the first attempt as Tig Sweet made her debut in the 5056 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Henley. Congratulations to Tig and to Chris McArthur who rang his first since 1999 in the 5040 of Doubles at Monewden. It was also nice to see a footnote to Don Price for his 88th birthday in the former. Due to family circumstances, it is a some time since we’ve had the pleasure of Don’s company and considerable ringing abilities at Grundisburgh and St Mary-le-Tower where he was travelling to on a weekly basis from his home in Reydon. Happy Birthday Don. Nice also that Ed Winkworth could remembered in the latter peal at the tower where he once rang.

However, although it is Guild Peal Week, it doesn’t mean that other ringing in the county stops and so it was great to see Tim Forsey ring his first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Bardwell – congratulations Tim!

With all this endeavour and enthusiasm around, it is worth noting the creation of a new Facebook page to help those at the early stages of learning Surprise Major and is open to both those learning and looking to pick up tips, and those experienced at this level who might be able to impart any advice or guidance. For those on FB, the page is called Project Pickled Egg discussion group. No, I don’t know either. Hopefully it will help to encourage those currently achieving so magnificently within our borders.

Sadly, in a spectacular spot of bad planning on my part, I am on late shifts at work this week, which means that not only am I unable to partake in SGPW18, but also – despite my best efforts – that practicality defeated ambition again and I failed to make it out in time for St Mary-le-Tower, which was especially disappointing as this was the last opportunity to practice the touch for Saturday’s George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition – which incidentally also has a Facebook page – at The Norman Tower.

Still, there seems to be enough going on elsewhere to more than compensate for my absence.

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Sunday 11th February 2018

Suffolk Guild Peal Week continued apace with another brace of successes and more achievement. The 5040 of Minimus at Ringsfield could be - and will be - dismissed by some as a bit of nonsense, but contributes to the variety of ringing generally, whilst the 5021 of Grandsire Caters at Beccles was more notable with it being Mike Cowling's first in the method - well done Mike!

The county's quarter-peal ringers aren't to be forgotten though (though it is worth noting they aren't an exclusive entity!) and the 1260 of Hetherslade Bob Minor rung at Buxhall was the first in the method for the entire band - well to them all!

Meanwhile, we were continuing our weekend in Lincolnshire, starting in our room at the far end of a myriad of corridors at the illustrious Premier Inn in Canwick at the south of Lincoln with a vista out to the flat landscape of this area. Even if Aunty Janet wasn't ill and they didn't have more important things to be getting on with than putting up our lively and growing mob, we probably wouldn't have stayed at their lovely but small cottage as there simply wouldn't be room, but that didn't detract from the adventure of it all for the boys, especially at the breakfast table! As is the norm with such places, the Beefeater next door to our accommodation served up as much as you could eat and our trio took full advantage!

Full to the brim of full English, cereal, croissants, crumpets and whatever else our seemingly famished family could lay their hands on to consume, we made the short journey into one of my favourite city centres in the UK to one of my favourite buildings in the UK. Much like it’s neighbour Norfolk, this county is the flattest of the flat, a landscape devoid of contours. Except here, where a huge hill rises from nowhere, ancient structures clinging to it, crowned by the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a magnificent place of worship that dominates the area for miles. As long as I can remember visiting Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick, it has been an uplifting experience spotting it in the distance and gradually getting closer and closer and yesterday it was an almost magical sight to see it lit up in the darkness of a cold February evening as we made our way back to our beds for the night, almost a beacon guiding us back. And as bellringers, we are privileged to have the opportunity to enter a hidden part of this famous landmark and ring the bells and when in this part of the world visiting my mother’s sister and her partner, we love to have a ring here.

Gathered in the Ringers’ Chapel in Lincoln Cathedral before ringing.This morning was no different, but like most cathedrals it isn’t a simple matter of just turning up and entering the ringing chamber. Here the ringing is done 127 steps up, going past various corridors and entrances to other rooms, roof space and the bells themselves, with the ringing chamber at the end of an easily missed turn-off and so everyone making the considerable climb needs to be accounted for. Therefore, although the ringing runs from 10.30-11.15am, if you want to join them you have to meet by 10.15 in the Ringers’ Chapel at the bottom of the tower - once that has been opened - before the doors are locked and the climbing begins. It is worth it though, as this is a lovely twelve with phenomenal views and in the shadow of the massive central tower looming behind the treble rope. We always enjoy a super welcome too, with some such as Les Townsend having known me since I was little when Mum and Dad used to bring my brother Chris and I up here on visits to the family.

When up here it is always interesting to compare the situation to that of St Mary-le-Tower. We are in similar positions, geographically out on a limb with other active twelve-bell towers nearby and so not unsurprisingly the fare offered up is also similar. On this occasion we only rang the back ten – although there appeared enough to ring all twelve – but to good effect with some call-changes, Grandsire Caters, Yorkshire Surprise Royal and Stedman Caters, before we were very kindly invited to join them for a cuppa on their reserved table at the delightful Pimento, a TARDIS-like venue crammed full of character down one of the narrow winding streets making its way down the hill at the heart of the old city. As ever, the ringing family did what it does best as old friends were caught up with and new ones made.

Mason and Alfie in the grounds of Lincoln Castle with the Cathedral behind. Mason, Joshua and Alfie enjoying lunch at Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick’s.On a bracing day to be on top of an exposed hill in the middle of miles and miles of flatlands, we found time to explore the grounds of the Castle ahead of returning to my aunt and uncle’s for lunch and another few hours of time spent together, before eventually returning to Woodbridge.

It has been an enjoyable but difficult weekend, so I’m hoping for more good news from Suffolk Guild Peal Week!

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Saturday 10th February 2018

Suffolk Guild Peal Week begins today. SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase has worked incredibly hard at arranging a good number of peals, complete with the same organisational and logistical challenges that I remember well from my days in the role! In my time we reached a peak of sixteen peals in 2009 and 2010 before things tailed off and I would be delighted to see that total beaten in 2018, but more importantly that we see plenty of firsts and achievements which will help progress the standard of ringing for individuals, bands and the membership generally, directly and indirectly. And in both respects we're off to a flier!

A brace of peals saw a brace of debuts in the medium, both at the first attempt, with Joseph Findlay knocking behind to Doubles at Clopton and Matthew Newson trebling to Plain Bob Minor at Otley. Congratulations Joseph and Matthew!

My meagre contribution to proceedings isn't planned until next Sunday, primarily because in a twist of bad planning I am on late shifts at work over the forthcoming week, but also because this weekend we were travelling beyond the county's borders to Lincolnshire for a visit to my mother's sister Janet and her partner Mick. Normally this would be a lovely mini-adventure with the children and of course in most respects it is. The journey in the car, booking into the Premier Inn at Canwick at the southern tip of Lincoln, being fed at their delightful cottage on the border with Nottinghamshire. Sadly though, our Aunt was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease a couple of months ago and as anyone who knows about this dreadful condition will testify, it doesn't hang around afflicting its terrible symptoms. Indeed, having been able to have a phone conversation with her just three weeks ago, it is now difficult to understand what she is trying to say and she is reduced to shuffling slowly around the house with the aid of a frame and Uncle Mick who is doing an incredible job of caring for her. It is terribly sad for a woman who loves chatting, travelling and walking.

And yet, although this was a difficult visit, it was still an enjoyable one. My aunt and uncle appear to be facing this with a remarkable cheerfulness that belies the bleak circumstances they are faced with. There was much laughter and - with the help of Uncle Mick - still much conversation with a woman who for all the physical debilitation remains as sharp and intelligent as ever, with the three boys providing much light relief and we still had a pleasant few hours catching up and partaking in some food from the fish 'n' chip shop a couple of villages over, before we retired to our hotel room a few miles away.

Back in the homeland meanwhile, a quarter-peal was rung before the North-West District Practice at Tostock, with the 1260 of Zylverne Bob Minor being the first in the method for all the band. Well done to them all and congratulations again to Joseph and Matthew. God willing the first of many achievements over Suffolk Guild Peal Week!

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Friday 9th February 2018


Following yesterday’s searching out of videos of the bells of St Mary-le-Tower on YouTube, I thought I might scan the site for some clips of a couple of other venues that are regular haunts, Grundisburgh and Pettistree. From the former there is a clip provided by Louis Suggett of 4mins13secs of the 2009 New Year’s Eve peal of Grandsire Cinques, the BellBoard report of which allows you to put names to the legs! There is also some Plain Hunt on Eleven featuring some youngsters of the time from six years ago, one of a number that feature on the Great Barton bellringers’ website, a superb mine of ringing info, photos and videos that also features some Maximus and London Surprise Major in the little wobbly red-brick tower, as well as a brief twenty-four seconds of ringing at the aforementioned ground-floor six.

With all of this ringing available online there is of course some pretty dreadful striking laid bare for all to see, but generally I think this is a wonderful way to open up the mysteries of ringing to those who wouldn’t usually enter a ringing chamber in a way that I imagine our forebears would find simply staggering.

Offton is another set of bells that feature on YouTube, with some ringing down from 2014 on the back six and just under ten minutes of the peal of Stedman Triples rung on the 8cwt ground-floor eight the year before. However, no video appears to have been shot of today’s peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major which was the last on the current sixth before it is replaced – those clips will be a record of how the octave sound in their present form though.

For us it was an altogether quieter day at the end of another week of early shifts at work. That did at least give me the chance to watch some ringing online!

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Thursday 8th February 2018

Quiet as it was from a ringing perspective personally, it was another busy day of ringing elsewhere in Suffolk. Well done to the entire band who rang in the 1296 of Walsh’s Delight Minor at Tostock on ringing their first in the method and to Joshua Watkins on ringing his first of Minor inside as he rang the second to a 1260 of Plain Bob at Horringer, with Sally Crouch circling the tower in the same performance on the back six of this year-old eight. Congratulations Sally.  Meanwhile, the first quarter-peal was rung on the repaired fourth at Brandeston.

St Mary-le-Tower.For me though, it was an afternoon of sporadic dozing after another pre-dawn start at work. In between though, I thought I’d have a little exploration of the vast amount of ringing clips on YouTube and most particularly those from St Mary-le-Tower. There are an interesting array of pieces. Some were familiar and indeed have been shared on here, such as the first twenty minutes of a peal of Stedman Cinques rung almost exactly four years ago, a half-muffled touch of Grandsire Caters and some call-changes on the back six rung on Christmas Day 2015. But there is some videos I haven’t seen before. From inside the ringing chamber there is three leads of Kent Treble Bob Maximus rung on a visit from the Railway Guild a few years ago and the lowering of all twelve whilst half-muffled featuring Ruthie on the fifth, David Stanford on the sixth, Stephen Cheek on the seventh, Rowan Wilson on the eight, my father on the ninth and Jed Flatters on the tenth. And there is some taken from outside, with an attempt at a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus and a couple from practice nights, one from 2013, the other from 2014. Especially when one considers some of the ringing that can be found online, what struck me was that although it wasn’t perfect – we aren’t Birmingham after all - pretty much all of it was of a very good quality, which is mainly what we have become accustomed to at SMLT I’m glad to say and impressive for our circumstances.

Such viewing certainly whetted my appetite and after a quiet day like today, I’m chomping at the bit to get joining in with the currently active ringing scene in the county!

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Wednesday 7th February 2018

There is a pleasingly long list of congratulations due on a busy day for ringing in the county.

Congratulations first – and again – to those involved in the project coming to fruition to augment the five of Little Cornard to six, who following their piece on the BBC website, yesterday got an article on the East Anglian Daily Times site.

Congratulations also to those just starting out on a project to augment the bells at Stowmarket from eight to ten in a new frame and replace the current treble, in getting themselves and ringing in the news today on the same website.

These are exciting times for bell projects in Suffolk. These two jobs, a new sixth for Offton, the augmentation at Cretingham and the restoration and rehanging of the octave at St Margaret’s in Ipswich, with the bells on view from 10am-2pm on Saturday 3rd March and available to ring on from their new gallery ringing chamber at a Service of Celebration at 3pm on Sunday 29th April.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake on their recent marriage, which was celebrated with the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Ixworth. Gordon served until three years ago as the Guild’s Treasurer and together they are always tremendous hosts when we have visited to ring upon their mini-ring, both when they and it were in Claydon and now in Shelland. Above all else they are a lovely couple. Congratulations again!

There were many congratulations in the peal of St Barnabas Bob Triples that I had the pleasure of ringing in at The Wolery this evening too. Not to me for circling the tower for the second time (having rung every bell in the tower to a peal at least twice to those not aware), but rather to Neal Dodge on ringing his 75th for the SGR, Essex resident George Thoday on ringing his 300th for the Guild and Mary Dunbavin on not only ringing her 1000th for the organisation, but her 1600th in total in an impressive array of footnotes. I’m pleased for Neal who is doing a superb job as Guild PR Officer and George who is very supportive of ringing in the county, but especially Mary, who will always come out and help if she can, not just in peals but in so many other aspects of local ringing, in common with so many regular peal-ringers.

Whilst not so laden with achievements, there were also quarter-peals rung at Elveden and Pettistree, with a 1260 of College Bob Triples and 1272 of Norfolk Surprise Minor respectively - congratulations to them too.

Indeed, congratulations to all who made today such a positive one for Suffolk ringing.

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Tuesday 6th February 2018

Along with everyone else, I’m a little older than I was and find that I increasingly need at least a brief nap in the afternoon following an early shift at work. As much as I enjoyed the opportunity that yesterday offered me to partake in the hobby I love with friends at picturesque locations, it gave me no chance for sleep between leaving the office and arriving back from St Mary-le-Tower and getting to bed, especially with it taking longer than anticipated to score our peal! Therefore, in a complete contrast to twenty-four hours earlier, it was a very quiet day on the personal ringing front, with time instead whiled away dozing in an armchair.

Exeter Cathedral band.For all its insignificance personally, it was of course significant nationally as the one hundredth anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act becoming law and thus allowing women the vote. Ringing did its bit to mark the occasion, most particularly at Exeter Cathedral where the 72cwt twelve – the second heaviest ring of bells hung for change-ringing in the world – were rung to a 1251 of Stedman Cinques by an all-female band. There was nothing rung within our borders – not that has been recorded on BellBoard anyway – and whilst I don’t believe in focusing in on anyone’s achievements because of their gender, today was a welcome reminder of how much the female species has done and continues to do for the Suffolk Guild. Such as Amanda Richmond, thus far our only woman Ringing Master, Muriel Page who founded Veterans’ Day and arranged it for over two decades until it was taken on by another female star Jenny Scase, Ruth Suggett who has been a figurehead for ringing at Bardwell and Ixworth, leading quarter-peal ringer Lesley Steed and other women currently holding roles at District and Guild level, as well as those such as Pat Bailey and Sylvia Pipe who are sadly no longer with us. I could list so many more of course. Most of whom show me up in the stamina stakes!

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Monday 5th February 2018

Perseverance finally triumphed today.
Burgh tower in the snow today.To the casual observer, the peal rung at Burgh to celebrate the recent eleventh anniversary of Mason’s birthday would appear to be a fairly straightforward affair in an appropriate number of methods consisting of lines familiar to most ringers and minimal variations of them.

The view out of Burgh ringing chamber today, with the 5th rope in the foreground.However, as many of you will know, that belies the background to this 5040. More than a fortnight after the original attempt for the occasion that was months in the planning, a week-and-a-half on from the hastily arranged loss at this afternoon’s venue and nine days after the birthday itself, even this success isn’t the full story as our 2hrs37mins of ringing followed a collapsed effort of about three-quarters of an hour, mainly started by me briefly and inexplicably losing control of the rope on the difficult fifth. I’m not usually one to contemplate even starting a quarter-peal after that length of time, let alone a restart of a peal, but as I stood there sharing in the communal sense of feeling a little silly that such an experienced band had just lost a peal in Double Oxford Bob Minor, Mike Cowling made the suggestion. There was some non-committal murmuring and faced with the choice of doing that with no immediate time constraints or coming back to try again on some future date even further away from 27th January, I’d decided that I would prefer the former, providing that no one else objected. No body else did and ultimately I’m glad as we started again with renewed determination and actually produced some pretty decent ringing in the circumstances, although we were aching a bit by the end. As Mr Whiting leant over and said to me as we entered the sixth extent “we’re on overtime now” and it felt like it! I was also glad that with snow making for a picturesque but chilly scene around this church on a hill, I was glad we had the door closed for this attempt!

Still, I was relieved that we finally scored this. Primarily because I have another peal to add to the Mason Birthday Collection that is not only numerically appropriate but also for the first time includes a method named after him! Although I can imagine it will join Munnings Little Delight Major in the file marked “Probably Won’t Get Rung Again”! And it was also nice to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Stephen Pettman’s first handling lesson at the same tower, as well as to edge Brian to within three of completing Project1000!

After our considerable efforts, we felt we’d earned a drink and so we renewed our residency in The Turks Head in the neighbouring village of Hasketon, where the conversation ranged from unconventional vicars to Guild Peal Week to the story of how Bernard Fairhead and Chris Lamb attending Grundisburgh practice ended with Ernie Pearce waking up in Colchester the following day.

That wasn’t the end of my ringing for the day though, as come the end of a long, active day I made it to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly session where numbers were slightly low, but which allowed Richard Weeks and Sue Williamson a concerted go at Stedman Cinques and others a couple of run-throughs of the touch of Grandsire Cinques for the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Contest. Sadly the pub was out of the question as my week of early starts at work that allowed me the opportunity to ring in today’s peal continues in the morning, but I went to bed satisfied with my day’s ringing and that the perseverance needed finally triumphed.

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Sunday 4th February 2018

Alfie in his giant balloon hat.I shan’t go into unpleasant details, but illness laid me low all of this morning and thus prevented me from getting out to ringing. Quite what was the cause I’m not sure and I was better by this evening, but I dislike missing ringing for morning worship – for me it is the primary purpose of the exercise – and so it was very frustrating, but especially so on this occasion. Alfie had been invited to a peer’s fourth birthday party that began at eleven, before Ruthie normally finishes singing with the choir for the service at Woodbridge and so the plan had been that the boys and I would go to St Mary-le-Tower and maybe either Costa Coffee or the first part of ringing at Grundisburgh before taking Alfred to the festivities, collect his mother from church and then later we’d pick him up. However, with me bedridden until lunchtime, my wife had to forsake her choral duties in order to drop AJM off where he enjoyed himself immensely and returned with a giant balloon hat! At least someone was this morning.

As other ringers hopefully were on Suffolk’s bells today, with a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Pettistree and the entire band ringing their first of Pontrhydygroes Bob Minor in the 1260 at Great Finborough – well done all! Meanwhile, a band from Chelmsford Cathedral were practicing ahead of the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition at The Norman Tower on the same bells with a 1320 of Grandsire Cinques, the method for the test piece on 17th February.

I’m very sorry that I couldn’t join in with any ringing myself, but it did at least give me time to watch the video on the BBC website about the casting of the new bell for Little Cornard and the video of the climb up to the ringing chamber at Pershore Abbey, where the 25cwt eight are rung from a caged platform suspended high above the church nave in the tower. Those of a nervous disposition are advised not to watch. Although I can’t imagine it would make you feel as ill as I did this morning!

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Saturday 3rd February 2018

One of the reasons I began writing the blog over a decade ago was to attempt to demonstrate that one could be an active bellringer whilst leading a ‘normal’ life. Back in those days, our particular circumstances with Mason meant we were balancing raising him part of the week, working, socialising with ringers and non-ringers alike and ringing sometimes five or six days a week. These days our parenting is a little more involved and therefore we ring less and so the ringing-life ratio has altered somewhat, but we still do a lot of ringing relatively speaking, even if not always together. If anything therefore, highlighting how it is possible to contribute to the exercise as we raise three boys and deal with everyday living has become an even bigger part of my ramblings.

Today was as good an example of any of just that as we had a productive morning of mundane but essential jobs which included getting a birthday present and card for one of Alfie’s peers whose party he is due to attend tomorrow in between getting the children up, fed breakfast and lunch. Yet still we had time to gather them up and journey down to Felixstowe for the South-East District Practice on the lovely 7cwt eight on the coast for what was a busy hour-and-a-half session this afternoon. I know I moan occasionally about attendance at ringing events, especially in the SE where the membership is so high and transport network pretty decent for this part of the world, but I’m not sure how we would’ve accommodated any more than the near forty who joined us in one of the smallest ringing chambers in Suffolk – although if we were expecting it I imagine a way would be found! The crowds included a wide-range of abilities, which meant that there was an eclectic repertoire to cater for all, from Call-Changes and Plain Hunt to the splicing of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods and having experienced trying to please large attendances as Guild Ringing Master I was impressed by SE RM Jonathan Williamson’s efforts that appeared to be appreciated by all present.

Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe. Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe. Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe. Ringing at the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe. South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson clearly enjoying himself! Ringing at South-East District Practice at Felixstowe.

With no space for a buggy and a tight, narrow staircase up to the ropes, this was far from an ideal venue for us in our current circumstances but that is the case with most upstairs rings and at least here the church downstairs is always open and comes with lots of space and a wonderful toy corner, whilst we are also blessed that family and friends willingly offer to keep an eye on them. Thank you to Mum and Dad for allowing Ruthie and me a rare opportunity to ring together on this occasion.

Meanwhile, at the 11cwt ground-floor six of Yoxford, a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles was rung by Jonathan and Suzanne Stevens with their son Richard, showing how parenthood can become a part of one’s ringing and not something to work ringing around!

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Friday 2nd February 2018

Fridays are quiet from a ringing perspective personally anyway, but with late shifts at work eating into morning, afternoon and evening, there really isn’t much scope for anything on the end of a rope, especially once the children are all gathered together for the weekend.

Still, as usual, other ringers within the county filled in for us and also as usual for the final working day of the week it was the FNQPC, on this occasion with a 1308 of Armitage-Is-The-Name Bob Minor on the 9cwt gallery-ring of six at Earl Stonham.

I’m glad to see at least somebody was ringing on this quiet Friday.

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Thursday 1st February 2018

February has begun with a new bell being cast for Little Cornard and ringing success at Grundisburgh and Tostock with a peal and a quarter-peal respectively. God willing it will continue with the South-East District Practice at Felixstowe on Saturday afternoon, the North-West District Practice at the aforementioned 5cwt gallery-ring of six in the morning of the 10th and then the North-East District Quarterly Meeting in the afternoon at Reydon. All being well, the following week will start with the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice on the evening of Monday the 12th, the Second Tuesday Ringing at Bardwell and Rickinghall Superior the next day, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday the 16th, the day before the inaugural Essex & Suffolk Twelve-Bell Striking Contest at The Norman Tower, the Leiston Eight-Bell Practice on the 23rd, South-West District Practice at Haleigh between 3-4.30pm on the 24th and the Halesworth Triples & Major Practice on the 27th rounding off a short but busy month of ringing.

It is also worth noting that the funeral of Great Yarmouth ringer and friend to many here in Suffolk, Ray Rivers, will be held at 1pm on Tuesday 27th February at the Minster he served for so many years. I'm sure there are many from within our borders who would like to pay their respects and support Isabel if they are able.

In amongst all of this, the welcome return of SGR Peal Week is planned for between Saturday 10th and Sunday 18th. I know from experience how much work goes into this and I know that current Guild Ringing Master has put a huge amount of effort into it, with quite a few peals that I know of being attempted. He will need ringers to help out though, by making themselves available when and where they can and also with organising their own peals, whether that be a first or simply for raising standards. If you haven't already, please get in touch with Tom to see if he needs any gaps filling or if you want to make him aware of your own arrangements.

Meanwhile, we are just over a month away from the 95th Anniversary Dinner booked for the evening of Saturday 3rd March in Elmswell. To my mind, these have always been very special occasions, a once-every-five-years event where friends established and not yet made from across the county can dress up smartly and gather together under one warm roof to be fed and watered and enjoy a convivial night. Tickets are available at a very reasonable £26 per person, so snap yours up when you can!

For us, it was a return to the conundrum of what to do with the boys in the time on Thursdays that overlaps from the end of my late shift at work and the start of choir practice beginning for Ruthie, but ultimately it was a very quiet start to February for us. Well done to all who have done better, especially at Little Cornard!

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Wednesday 31st January 2018

Grundisburgh.January finished for another year, I was tempted into just having a quick look back through the blog. After all, whenever I attempt to justify writing it, I often bang on about the hope that it can form some kind of window on the everyday ringing scene in Suffolk and with there now being more than ten years out there for all to read, I thought I'd have a glance at this date in 2008. It happened to have been a Thursday and being pre-Alfie and Joshua and before Ruthie hooked up with the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, we went to a Grundisburgh practice that included Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus. This was as I remember it when I first returned to live in the county after eight years residence in the West Midlands, with ringing also incorporating something for everyone on all numbers from six to twelve and as such it was one of the best practices within our borders, if not the best.

Yet fast forward just five years - a relative blink of an eye in the scheme of things - and there was no practice at all in the little red-brick tower, with my entry of 31st January 2013 noting that "as with pretty much every Thursday, Grundisburgh practice was cancelled." Even having witnessed it first hand, it still shocked me reading those entries just how far this once superb practice had fallen so quickly.

Thank God things are on the way up again. It's nowhere near the standard it once was and with my wife at choir practice every Thursday and the need to not leave young children home alone now a requirement of my routine (done willingly you'll be pleased to hear!) we can't attend it currently, but there is now a weekly session almost without fail that is apparently a very useful hour-and-a-half for those who can make it.

In the meantime, one constant throughout those years has been a strong Pettistree practice on a Wednesday night. Unusually though, it was a very quiet one tonight as I was offered the chance by Ruthie to go along in her stead. Mainly it was for understandable reasons. Ringing Master Mike Whitby was at work for the busiest day and night of an accountant's year, whilst others were in The Greyhound for the return of landlords Stewart and Louise and for their Burns Night celebrations. So after arriving late - see Monday's blog for an indication of why - I had a couple of rings before those of us who remained joined the crowds next door for a pint.

On the coast meanwhile, the horrific floods of sixty-five years ago were remembered in Felixstowe, with a big part of the commemorations being the ringing of a peal on the 7cwt eight there, a 5040 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung in 2hrs40mins which is a wonderful example of ringing being used by the community.

Who knows where we will all be on Monday 31st January 2028, let alone if I’m still writing this blog, but if I am, this will be a positive snapshot of everyday ringing in the county to look back on and report on.

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Tuesday 30th January 2018

On a typically quiet winter's Tuesday night in, darkness long fallen outside yet noticeably diminishing, we got the opportunity to watch the superb We Love Bury St Edmunds video on YouTube and featuring on the Suffolk Guild Facebook page, starring the ringers of The Norman Tower. Deborah Blumfield was the face of this short but informative piece that skirts over many aspects of the art, such as the mechanics of it all, methods, pealboards and long-lengths, which was brisk but got a sense of the exercise across. She was excellent at fronting it whilst in between there are shots of many other familiar faces ringing, including Ruth Suggest, whose agent is clearly doing good work at the moment!

Many of those will have been back in the same ringing chamber for the weekly practice there this evening, but as alluded to it was a quiet day for ringing personally. Not so elsewhere in the county with three quarter-peals rung within our borders today, although only just - geographically speaking - in the cases of the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Bures and the 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major at Hopton, where the bells would've rung out as much over Essex and Norfolk respectively as across our soil. Meanwhile, all bar one were ringing their first QP of Buckfastleigh Surprise Major in the success at Gislingham - well done to the super seven!

We await to see if any of it makes it to film for any potentially quiet Tuesday nights in.

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Monday 29th January 2018

I tried, I really did. For the last couple of years, when on my late shifts at work, I have failed to get to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice. Once I have finished in the office at the start of the evening, returned home, grabbed a bite to eat, helped Ruthie put the boys to bed, made the twenty minute drive into Ipswich, found some free parking somewhere vaguely close to the church and walked to the ringing chamber, the session is practically over, especially if I am unfortunate enough in my timing to arrive at the top the stairs just as those already present get stuck into a ten-fifteen minute piece of ringing.

However, as I started on my first week of late shifts at John Catt Educational in this international campaign of phoning schools across the world, I wondered if perhaps my Monday nights on such occasions had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, Joshua is now a few months older than when I was last faced with this conundrum and more willing to go along with the bedtime routine, thus making it a little easier for just one of us to handle. Therefore, I decided I was going to go for it and try and get to SMLT.

Except, little children rarely play ball when you need them to, as anyone who has been a parent will testify! Despite having dashed back, inhaled the delicious tea that Ruthie had very kindly slaved over prior to my return, getting the kids ready didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped and thus I had to sacrifice an evening of Royal, Cinques and Maximus for a nonetheless enjoyable night in. God willing I’ll try again in a fortnight.

Someone who was able to get out ringing as planned was Suffolk Guild Peal Secretary Christine Knight, who today rang her 600th peal in the 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Elveden. If it wasn’t for illness stopping her and reducing her totals considerably for a few years or so just over a decade ago, she would’ve reached this total much earlier, so it has been a delight to see her out and about with her trusty stool regularly ringing peals ever since – this landmark has been much deserved. Congratulations Christine!

And congratulations to everyone who joined her in getting there – I can only hope to be able to follow your example!

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Sunday 28th January 2018

Woodbridge, like many places, struggles to get enough ringers. Not just here in Suffolk, but particularly here in Suffolk and other rural areas, there are simply too many bells for the number of ringers available, especially on a Sunday morning where those who may spread themselves across several towers at their practice nights during the week, are of course unable to be at qui