Saturday 23rd March 2019
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We might think ringing is quite niche, but it is nothing compared to the art of knot-tying. Of course the two subjects do overlap everyday as ringers shorten ropes with knots and tie their ropes up securely when finished. However, an article on the subject – brought up on one of ringing’s many Facebook pages – attempted to align the two in quite a bizarre way that – depending on your sense of humour – drew amusement and horror. Most particularly the quote “church bell ropes, which need to be made in such a way that they stretch when pulled, making the sound of the bell less harsh and more musical.” A very odd and of course untrue statement.
That I came across it and thought it worthy of mention goes to show how quiet today was from a personal ringing perspective, but other ringers were more active, most particularly at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland where a quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung. I assume on non-stretchy ropes!
I don’t get along to Pettistree practice as regularly as Ruthie, but she usually comes back with tales of tremendous numbers for a village six-bell session and The Greyhound next door being so busy that it’s not unusual for the retiring ringers to have no room to sit down for their post-ringing refreshments.
It was a pity therefore that when I got the opportunity to pop along this evening that there were ‘only’ ten at the practice (although still a decent attendance for a rural session on six), huddled in the ground-floor ringing chamber, whilst afterwards in the pub, myself, Mary Garner and Sam Shannon were the sole members of the band imbibing in a venue which was practically deserted, unusually so.
Still, there was an impressive repertoire of methods in the hour that I made after a late shift at work, with Surprise Minor methods Beverley, Lightfoot, Norwich, Rossendale, Stamford, Surfleet and Wearmouth following on from a pre-practice quarter-peal of Primrose.
It wasn’t the only QP on Suffolk’s bells today though, with a 1280 of Uxbridge Surprise Major rung at Horringer celebrating the birthdays of Barry Dixon and participants Lesley Steed and Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson – Happy Birthday guys!
Both these quarters should – all things being normal – be recorded in next year’s SGR Annual Report, but I got my first read of this year’s today via this very website as I downloaded the new PDF edition. As usual, Michelle Rolph has done a tremendous job of putting it all together, but of course with the help of many others, with particular mention going to David Salter who still offered support and information even whilst recovering from his recent stroke.
Of course, the printed version is still very important, especially for those without internet access or who would prefer not to go online, but also for taking to the Guild AGM in Ipswich on Saturday 27th April, so we will still need representatives and officers to get copies out as soon as possible and members to look out for their copy. However, it has struck me as an unnecessary cost to the organisation to provide both of us a copy each when we live in the same house (indeed when my brother Chris and I were young members living at home with Mum and Dad there were four copies knocking around the same address!) and so offering the PDF versions is a great idea.
Mind you, a printed copy would be useful to have to hand on quiet night like this!
It was a day of ringing excellence,
though sadly none of it involving us!
Here in Suffolk, there were a brace of impressive quarter-peals rung, one of Belfast Surprise Major at Gislingham and the other of twelve Surprise Major methods spliced at Hopton. Belfast is one of the most complicated Surprise Major methods, so this on its own is an achievement, but to also accompany it with a QP of a further dozen blue-lines is particularly noteworthy.
Beyond our borders, I – and many others – took in a video of some superb ringing from St Mary’s Redcliffe in Bristol. It was from the Birmingham band’s allocated practice time at the tower they are due to be competing at on Saturday in their National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminator, ringing the competition touch of 252 changes of Stedman Cinques pretty much faultlessly. If we have ambitions in Ipswich to enter the biggest ringing competition in the world, we need to watch this video closely and regularly. Not with any ambition to match it, as not many bands could and if the Brummies ring as well as this in their test piece at the weekend then they will almost certainly make the final planned for Exeter Cathedral on Saturday 22nd June.
Rather, we need to take in how they are ringing in order to create the best twelve-bell ringing we possibly can. Keeping the little bells tight together (particularly at the back), the leads moving and all the ringing at the same speed. As one of the stars of the exercise John Thurman quite rightly points out in the comments on the Bellringers Facebook page that this video appeared on, that’s not necessarily at what is perceived to be the ‘right’ speed for the bells. The truth is, there is no right speed for any bells. Granted you’d probably be in need of medical attention long before a peal at 3hr speed at Liverpool Cathedral came round and I doubt that any peal attempt at Bitterne Park in Southampton rung at 5hr pace would produce very good ringing, but the right speed is that which the band feels most comfortable at. Depending on the band and the weight of the bells, most particularly the pace that the tenor ringers feel most comfortable at as they have to work the hardest. Personally I prefer to push SMLT’s fine 35cwt twelve along when I’m ringing one of the tenors. To my mind it sounds livelier (something that in my experience is important to judges at the National Twelve-Bell), but from a more practical perspective I find it easier to ring them without having to heave them up to the balance on each stroke! Others though, find it easier to ring them at a slower pace. Ultimately though, the speed is what is best for the band and that was certainly on show in the clip of the Birmingham band in Bristol.
As for the contest itself, if the West Midlanders drop their guard even slightly then the hosts Bristol and former winners St Paul’s Cathedral will be poised to take advantage, but - from a distance at least and with all due respect – it would be a surprise if Chester, Chilcompton and Hursley pipped any of the above trio to a place in the final. Meanwhile, over in London at St Mary-le-Bow, one would expect the College Youths ringing on bells very familiar to them and Melbourne who have been in the last ten finals will qualify, but the last qualifying spot is less clear cut. Arguably Oxford and Towcester are nominally favourites but – again from a distance – any from them, Sheffield and our neighbours Norwich could make it to ring on the 72cwt twelve in Devon come June. Likewise up north at Leeds Minster, where things seem even more open. All six – Cambridge from just past Exning, Guildford, High Wycombe, hosts Leeds, the Cumberlands and Southwark Cathedral – have been in at least one of the last two finals, with four of them being in last year’s. My gut instinct would be Cambridge, Guildford and the Cumberlands winning through, but I’d never put any money on it!
Whatever the results, I imagine it will be a great day out at all three venues, so if you aren’t going to the South-West District Practice at Bildeston and haven’t got anything else to do, then you could do a lot worse than popping along to any of them. It should be a day of ringing excellence!
On Saturday, the first quarter-peal was rung on the newly refurbished bells of Redgrave. This evening I was fascinated to read the report – complete with fascinating photos – of the project, a magnificent legacy in more ways than one of the wonderful Albert Driver who regularly rang on these bells for eighty years – right into his nineties – and left a hugely generous £142,000 in his will for the work.
That I had considerable opportunity to read it was mainly due to my not unexpected failure to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice after a late shift at work, but others apart from my fellow band-members at SMLT managed some ringing today, most particularly at Grundisburgh where the peal of Cooktown Orchid Delight Major was the first in the method for the entire band and indeed the Suffolk Guild. Well done to all concerned!
And well done to all at Redgrave for the completion of a much anticipated project!
For one reason or another, the monthly third-Sunday practice at St Mary-le-Tower has fallen away over the last year. Which is a pity for two reasons in particular. One is that they offer useful additional time to progress our twelve-bell ringing in an environment where such opportunities are limited. The other is if we are serious in entering a band for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, we really need to get in the habit of meeting together regularly to focus practicing for the competition. On Saturday, the eliminators for the 2019 contest are due to take place in Bristol, Leeds and London and we were close to entering, even just a few days before the deadline for entry. Ultimately though, we were scuppered in part by the lack of the third-Sunday practices which allow us to gather as a collective at the same time, which can’t always happen on Monday nights or the morning of the Sabbath.
Therefore, I was delighted that we returned to this once familiar date in the calendar for an hour-and-a-half session that allowed much focus on Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, but also on Grandsire Cinques and Little Bob Max, aided by Gill Sparling who was joining her husband David who is now once again a regular here! The ringing wasn’t the best that we could produce sadly, but further reiterates the need for us to continue with these to get us up to speed. We need to practice the likes of Cambridge, Yorkshire and Stedman as much as we possibly can with the best possible band we can put together and ultimately we will improve.
That said, we weren’t helped by members of the public, who not surprisingly for St Patrick’s Day had clearly had a bit to drink and thought it would be fascinating to come in and see how we ring the bells! None of them caused any trouble, but they held proceedings up and distracted us a bit.
Hopefully there weren’t any similar distractions at The Norman Tower this afternoon though, as a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters was rung, whilst earlier in the day the morning service ringing at Woodbridge also saw a visitor. Happily though, it was Matthew, a ringer from Kent but formerly of Rushmere St Andrew who was introducing himself and joining us from the congregation for a ring.
God willing though, there will be more third-Sunday practices at SMLT with viewer interruptions!
On this day in 1767, a peal of 10,080 changes of Plain Bob Major was rung at Debenham, conducted by James Wilson. Impressive and worthy of mention in the ringing annals in its own right. Except, if you believe what has become the accepted version of events, it acted as an alibi for a murder that the conductor was accused of committing on the same day in Bury St Edmunds. In that day and age, it was deemed impossible that he could’ve possibly got to the 21cwt eight to ring in the 6hr1min long performance from where and when he was deemed to have carried out the atrocity. Thus, he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Whilst on his death bed however, he allegedly confessed that he was indeed guilty of the crime, apparently making the seemingly impossible journey time courtesy of a very fast horse!
Precisely two-hundred-and-fifty-two years later, I am going to have to hope that I’m not accused of any misdemeanours carried out today as I did absolutely no ringing to provide an alibi at all. In fact, I didn’t do anything much, despite my best efforts to find something for the boys to do, with Ruthie at work and outside uninviting for young children in particular, the winds still strong and decidedly chilly.
That said, my three sons can vouch for me as we spent most of it together indoors at home, bar a brief foray into town for some books, but other ringers can better account for their whereabouts and activity, especially those who partook in the quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles at Redgrave and the peal of Suffolk Surprise Major at Grundisburgh. The former was the first on the refurbished 8cwt six, whilst the latter was a 5095 rung within the ninety-fifth anniversary year of the Guild and was a first in the method for the two right at the top of the organisation – Ringing Master Tom Scase and Chairman Rowan Wilson. Well done Tom and Rowan, both on your achievements and on securing your alibi!
Alfie could be found going about his education wearing a big yellow wig and a red nose. Yes, it was Comic Relief Day, where AJM and his peers sported silly hats and/or daft hair at school, radio presenters belly danced in Bury St Edmunds and the Beeb’s TV schedules were filled all evening with vaguely amusing sketches met with much hysteria, all for a good cause. There was even a quarter-peal dedicated to it with the 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at High Ercall in Shropshire.
No such ringing in Suffolk though on a seemingly quiet day for the exercise within our borders. At least Alfie had fun though!
Andrew Craddock’s superb PealBase continues to put analysis of peal-ringing across many decades at our fingertips in the kind of extensive detail that our ringing forebears would find absolutely staggering.
This evening, my eye was caught with the rundown of the most rung single methods to peals each year, going back to 1940 which is the year the site has reached as it stretches further into the past. It lists methods for peals on six, eight, ten and twelve, each of which makes for fascinating reading, but for some reason it was on eight that I was most drawn. Perhaps it is because most of my peal-ringing currently is of Major or due to the injection of interest in this level of ringing due to Project Pickled Egg. Either way, it is interesting to note that the top two Major methods pealed individually every year since 1988 has been Bristol and Yorkshire Surprise, with the former leading the way since 2006 and the latter sharing the top two spots with Plain Bob from 1959-1987 (bar one year when Cambridge came joint second). And before that dating back to the end of the Second World War PB vied with Grandsire Triples to lead the way. There is similar longevity when it comes to ringing on other numbers and it all suggests that our ringing habits change very slowly. Perhaps PPE will initiate the next change. Although Bristol and Yorkshire Surprise again lead the way this year, Pickled methods like Cooktown Orchid Delight and Lessness Surprise are featuring highly, with the former the third most popular line being rung individually in handbell peals in 2019 thus far.
For today though, Suffolk’s Major ringing stalled slightly as Ruthie got a message at choir practice that the monthly Surprise Major session that she was planning to go to afterwards at Ufford had been cancelled due to a shortage of ringers.
Still, six-bell ringing was thriving with a Norwich Diocesan Association peal of fourteen Surprise Minor methods rung in hand in Bacton, whilst I thought the 1500 changes of Plain Bob Doubles at Horringer in memory of Tower Captain Sally Crouch’s husband Buster was a lovely touch, with him being interred in the churchyard tomorrow on the 15th at 15:00 hours. May he Rest In Peace.
Elsewhere, I’m sure there was more ringing going on across the county, especially at the various Thursday evening practices. Though no peals of Triples or Major to be added to Pealbase.
Happy Birthday Aunty Marian. Many reading this will have met her at various ringing events, some will know her but very few will probably have rung with her. However, my father’s sister was once a ringer, having even rung a couple of peals in her time – one at Ashbocking in 1970 and one at Harkstead in 1971. And she still takes the Ringing World and follows the art and its associated news very closely.
Therefore, when we popped round to her abode in Ipswich this afternoon to impart felicitations on the occasion of the latest anniversary of her birth, the exercise inevitably popped up in conversation as she enquired after David Salter’s health, how many were present at St Mary-le-Tower practice on Monday and discussed next month’s planned Suffolk Guild AGM, due to be held in the county town next month on the 27th.
Our visits are rarely exciting, inducing instead a sense of relaxation (although less so currently with little children dashing around in a confined space surrounded by breakables collected across many years!), but today’s trip was a little less leisurely than we would have liked. Having got Alfie from school and sat in lengthy queues in Westerfield due to the knock-on effects of the latest Orwell Bridge closure and the ensuing gridlock in Ipswich (ironic that it is often the residents of this edge-of-town village who complain most about the possibility of a much needed northern bypass), we made it to hers later than we planned and then afterwards we needed to get Ruthie to Pettistree for an ambitious – though eminently achievable – pre-practice quarter-peal attempt of Lightfoot, Wearmouth, Rossendale and Stamford Surprise Minor spliced at the ground-floor six. Sadly it was lost, but the session that followed was seemingly productive, with Cambridge and Wells added to the Surprise Minor repertoire of the evening, before the night was topped off with a drink in The Greyhound next door.
There may not have been a footnote for her big day therefore, but Happy Birthday anyway Aunty Marian!
Those who know her and many who know of her will be aware that towards the end of last year, Warwickshire ringer Sue Marshall was given desperately sad news that she was terminally ill. It was terrible news and yet since then her attitude has been truly inspirational, making the most of every day, with walks, trips to stately homes, eating out and ringing. Especially peal-ringing.
Having understandably expressed her intention to give up peal-ringing following pulling in the tenor at St Stephen-the-Martyr in Bristol to a 5042 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus when she first publicly announced her illness, she clearly decided that it would be a pity to stop just twenty-nine peals short of her two thousandth peal and so the New Year seemingly saw new determination to make this impressive landmark. Today saw her reach it with a 5040 of the forty-one regular Surprise Minor methods spliced at Bletchingdon in Oxfordshire. I am delighted to have contributed even just three peals to that total and forever grateful to her helping with one in particular as she agreed to ring in Mason’s eighth birthday peal at Debenham when she just happened to be in the area!
Meanwhile, back here in Suffolk, a quarter-peal was rung before the weekly practice at Offton, with Karen Glover ringing her first of three-spliced Surprise Major methods in the 1250 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire on the 8cwt ground-floor eight. Well done Karen!
Not untypically for a Tuesday though, our day involved no ringing, but today did involve evidence of me going to ringing. On my way to the peal I rang at St Margaret’s in Ipswich back in October, I had noted the unusual sight of a Google Streetview Car – which capture the images that then make up the Streetview maps – entering the A12/B1079 roundabout as I was leaving it and have ever since periodically kept an eye on the site to see if I appeared. And today I did, gradually leaving the junction and heading off down the B1079 towards my 2hrs47mins of ringing on the 14cwt octave!
Perhaps I will be caught on my travels again at some point, but either way I hope to get out and about and to follow Sue Marshall’s inspirational example and take advantage of our wonderful art a lot more. Congratulations Sue!
Encouraging news from Katharine Salter who imparted that her husband – and Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master – David is making good progress at home, getting out and about a little and even having a brief ring to test those skills! As she points out, it is still a slow and steady process, but to get this point from where he was just a couple of months ago is tremendous to hear.
Not that far from where DGS is recovering in Ipswich, I managed to get to St Mary-le-Tower practice having been on an early shift at work where the good vibes continued with a decent session. Ian Culham did a super job in fashioning a repertoire that ranged from call-changes on twelve to pieces of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus (the latter of which Richard Weeks did particularly well in), all in the main rung well apart from some Stedman Cinques that inexplicably collapsed. All in all it was a positive night, despite not being able to join my fellow ringers in The Cricketers afterwards with another very early start at John Catt Educational in the morning.
Meanwhile, there was further ringing positivity at Ixworth today as a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor rung on the back six of this 13cwt eight.
What an encouraging day of ringing news!
As a general rule, the boys and I have two different Sabbath morning routines that we tend to alternate each week. One tends to see us go ringing to St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, with St Lawrence in between if we happen to be in Ipswich on the first Sunday morn of the month, the other usually takes us just to Woodbridge, both ringing on the 25cwt eight and then going to the service afterwards.
Today we merged the two as first we went ringing at SMLT and then went straight off to the morning worship at St Mary-the-Virgin closer to home.
There was a decent crowd at the former, allowing us to ring Little Bob Maximus and Grandsire Cinques, although the second piece of ringing started out as Stedman before it was called back into rounds almost immediately when one of the participants misheard the instructions! Whilst we continued ringing, David Potts and Ian Culham on the ninth and tenth began discussing if we had enough time before the 9.30am service to try the Stedman again or go for some Grandsire. Having just about decided there wasn’t time for either, Amanda Richmond on the treble commandeered the conducting duties and promptly called for Grandsire! To her credit, she did it just in time as the bob course she conducted came round just as the clock ticked round to half-past!
No such shenanigans at church in Woodbridge, where the main reason we were returning was for the boys to make some bread at junior church, something they had been anticipating with much excitement! Thus rather than manning Suffolk’s lightest twelve, I found myself covered in flour and bread dough. Such is parenthood!
After that though, it was definitely a day for playing indoors rather than out, but other ringers without little ‘uns to look after did brave the extremely windy conditions, most notably with the second Sunday peal at Aldeburgh on the coast, where it must have a bit blowy to say the least! As ever, the 5152 of Londesborough Delight Major was a first for the band and the Guild, so well done to all who partook in the 2hrs50mins on this lovely 11cwt octave.
Meanwhile, further inland at Great Finborough I expect it was still very windy, but that didn’t stop a band ringing a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor in this distinctive tower.
It would be very difficult to manage to get to both of these in the same afternoon as I managed at St Mary-le-Tower and Woodbridge this morning though!
A busy Saturday packed with much, but nothing ringing related. A meeting with a tradesman, Messy Church at St Andrew’s in Melton, new trousers for Joshua and tea round mother-in-law Kate’s made up our day. Many thanks to the mother-in-law and Messy Church for our sustenance!
Others were ringing elsewhere in Suffolk though, with a 1260 of Doubles at Thurston ahead of the North-West District Practice on the 10cwt six and a further 1260 of Doubles four miles away in Woolpit, but the most eye-catching ringing beyond our borders was in Birmingham, where four peals were rung, each of the four regular Treble Dodging Minor groups of methods. The first was at Edgbaston in the suburbs of the UK’s second city in the forty-two Thirds Place Delight methods (where internal places are only made below the treble), followed by three at St Paul’s in the city centre in the twenty-nine Treble Bob methods (where no internal places are made at all), thirty-five Fourths Place Delight methods (where internal places are only made above the treble) and the forty-one Surprise methods (where internal places are made above and below the treble). It sounds like extreme ringing geekery and to an extent it might be, but even if you don’t get the technical differences between the different method groups and the terminology, this is still a hugely impressive feat of mental and physical endurance. 147 methods rung across 21,600 changes and eleven hours, with the particular significance of today’s efforts being that it is the first time that they have been rung all-the-work – that is that every bell has rung all of the lines of each method. Particular credit has to go to the composer of each peal John Warboys who called each one. A phenomenal effort all in all!
And all a far cry from our quiet day on the ringing front!
A sign of the way things are going was highlighted by an article on the Eastern Daily Press’ website and shared by Katharine Salter on the Suffolk Guild Facebook page today. It refers to the closure of St Mary’s church in Redenhall, north of the border in Norfolk, naturally enough considering the origins of the report. A beautiful church with an impressive tower that houses a 22cwt eight that the NDA website indicates has a practice on Thursday evenings, the parish has requested to stop using it, thus making it redundant. They are now holding a public meeting on 20th March to discuss the future of the building and it is encouraging that amongst other things, ringing is one of the things that they are keen for any subsequent custodians to keep the church available for.
However, there is of course no guarantee that such availability will be made, both here and at any other church with bells that may find itself in the same position. And with rural churches most likely to be closing in greater numbers in the coming years, that means that at a large number of towers across our county we may need to brace ourselves for having to fight for our right to ring on our bells. I don’t know if the SGR has some sort of policy on these matters, but if they haven’t it may be worthwhile considering in order to offer support in the increasingly likely event that a band finds that the use of their bells is in doubt in similar circumstances to that of Redenhall.
Such uncertainty over our churches isn’t an issue for handbell ringing of course, which is just as well for some of our very best handbell ringers, such as Jeremy and Cherril Spiller, but with that uncertainty it is encouraging to see others making their way into the medium. Congratulations therefore to Ian Culham on ringing his first peal in hand, guided by the expert hands of Mr and Mrs Spiller in Bacton.
There was activity on tower bells too though, both within our borders and beyond, with the FNQPC ringing a 1376 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Helmingham and a SGR peal of Painswick Surprise Major rung in Essex at Helions Bumpstead. Both in churches that – God willing – will remain open and their bells available for the foreseeable future.
A busy day of ringing on Suffolk’s bells, especially at Worlingham where again a brace of quarter-peals were rung, with 1320s of Cambridge Surprise Minor and Kent Treble Bob Minor, whilst there was also a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung on the back six of the ground-floor eight of Palgrave.
Not so for us though, with nothing much to report bar Alfie excitedly going to school dressed as Spiderman for World Book Day!
As far as I know though, no one was dressed up for the occasion for ringing in the county today.
On BBC Radio Suffolk this morning, the main subject of debate was a report stating how the UK is fast approaching becoming a cashless society. Judging by the ensuing phone-in it seems unlikely that we will become entirely cashless in the near future, but it is easy to see how are fast we are heading towards dispensing with cash altogether. Pretty much everything I spend money on is by direct debit or card, from bills, football tickets, shopping, beer, even when I just pop round to the local shop for a bottle of milk.
How ringing copes as we go further into a cashless society will be interesting. Pretty much all towers take donations via cash, ringers tea’s are paid for in coins and notes, peal fees the same. Most (all?) towers put the money they take in to a bank account, so in theory payments could already be made by bank transfer and although I paid my latest Guild subscription (note to self, I have paid!) to South-East District Treasurer Tracey Scase by means of a tenner and a fiver, many will already be paying electronically. However, as mentioned a few weeks ago, some towers have purchased payment machines to allow contactless donations. In theory, this would make it easier for most – myself included - who otherwise would have had to seek out hard cash and make ringing chambers safer from break-ins and theft. Granted, it isn’t without an initial outlay, but it may be a way forward to ensure that towers are maximising their income from donations, not just in the future but even in the present.
Not that either Ruthie or I were doing any ringing to pay for today anyway. In fact it was a bit of an odd day as due to accompanying Mason to something in Ipswich in regards to his education, I didn’t start work until 3pm and after finishing my late shift circumstances conspired to see that neither of us made it to Pettistree practice.
Nonetheless, I’m sure they managed without us and the pre-session quarter-peal was successfully rung. And I imagine fees paid in cash.
Sad family news today with the passing of mother’s sister and mine and Chris’ Aunty Janet. If truth be told it is a relief, as Motor neurone disease has over the last eighteen months wasted her body to the point that she couldn’t do anything for herself, a miserable existence for someone who loved walking, gardening, travelling and looking around stately homes. Still, sadness was the prevailing emotion following this morning’s call from Mum to inform us of her passing in the early hours. Although not a ringer, due to our involvement she took an interest in the exercise, often accompanying us as we partook in the art, either at Lincoln Cathedral on our visits to her and Uncle Mick in Lincolnshire or at St Mary-le-Tower when they came to Ipswich to visit us. We will miss her greatly.
Nonetheless, with it being Shrove Tuesday, lashings of pancakes this evening helped lift the mood, especially with the boys particularly excited about the occasion and perhaps such activity also accounts for the lack of any quarter-peals or peals within Suffolk recorded on BellBoard today.
Not that our thoughts were far from Aunty Janet and particularly now Uncle Mick.
The usual biweekly attempt to get out to St Mary-le-Tower practice following a late shift at work failed in typical fashion this evening, meaning a night in instead of a trip to Ipswich to top up on my ten and twelve-bell ringing and it was a fairly quiet day generally on the ringing front in Suffolk.
That said, it was lovely to see the recording of those who rang at Horringer following the Committal and Service of Celebration for the life of Janet Thaxter, with the ringing finishing with diminishing rounds and the tolling of the tenor eighty times, similar to that which many ringers will have done on New Year’s Eve and an example from Grimsby Minster which can be viewed on YouTube (although excuse the poor sound quality at the start). It seems a lovely and appropriate way to mark such an occasion and I’m sure it was appreciated.
And I’m glad someone was ringing today.
Congratulations and well done to Exning ringer Jimmy Yeoman who has won the Association of Ringing Teachers The Learning the Ropes Achievement Award. I hadn’t met Jimmy until the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition at Saffron Walden a couple of weeks back and haven’t had the pleasure of ringing with him yet, but I know from what I’ve seen on BellBoard and heard from just about all my acquaintances who have rung with him just what a talented young ringer he is, so this is deserved recognition. This is especially the case when one considers how proactive he has been in his progress. I often wish I had generated more ringing opportunities for myself when I was a youngster, so it pleasing to see ringing youngsters such as Jimmy and before him the likes of George Salter and Louis Suggett doing just that.
Still, for all my lack of proactiveness in my younger ringing days, I like to think I am of some use to the exercise, especially on Sunday mornings and today I was doing my bit at Woodbridge as I helped man the front six of this eight, even getting a rare opportunity to ring the treble!
Bar attending the service afterwards and Mason helping with the post-service refreshments, that was about as active as we got for the rest of the day, but across Suffolk others were busier in the art, particularly at Worlingham where a brace of quarter-peals were rung, with a 1440 of Cambridge, Durham, Ipswich and York rung spliced and 1320 of Annable’s London Surprise Minor. Well done to Rona Sporle on ringing her most methods in the former and her first in the method in the latter!
All of this on the last Sabbath before Lent begins, a reminder that if you are planning on going to a practice this Wednesday that it may be worth checking first that it hasn’t been cancelled or curtailed due to an Ash Wednesday service. Then this annual period of religious sombreness ends with Holy Week – this year from Sunday 14th-Saturday 20th April – where many practices will be cancelled, including St Mary-le-Tower. Again, do check before heading out to a practice or indeed before you don’t go to a practice, just in case you find it is unexpectedly cancelled or running!
And at the end of it all there is the Guild AGM, this year being held on Saturday 27th April in Ipswich and it would be great to see a large crowd come along. Although driving into and parking in the county town can be a right pain and expensive to boot, it is worth noting that around St Matthew where the meeting and tea itself is taking place there is quite a bit of street parking and it is a mere ten-fifteen minute walk from the Railway Station. Support for SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson at her first AGM in the role would be much appreciated, I’m sure.
There is ringing at five towers, all within walking distance of each other and including St Clement where much work has been carried out by Katharine Salter to improve the go of this nice six and it was interesting to see these bells get a significant mention in an article on the East Anglian Daily Times website today about an exhibition being held at the University of Suffolk on this now redundant church being turned into Ipswich Arts Centre.
It is a nice reminder of the history of ringing as Jimmy Yeoman and others encouragingly look to take it into the future.
Ringing and football. Two big themes in my blog (the former more so of course!) and I got the best of both worlds today. Well almost.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the ringing element, as a decent crowd gathered at the light ground-floor eight at Offton for the monthly South-East District Ringing Meeting. This is a place laden with fond childhood memories, an magnificently off-the-beaten-track rural idyll in deepest rural Suffolk and my brother Chris and I did much of our early Surprise Major on Tuesday evenings here, with cups of tea usually coming out partway through and plenty of opportunity to have a chat in the church away from the ringing, before continuing conversations in The Limeburners afterwards. During the summer, the light, warm evenings make this one of the most wonderful places in the county (and indeed beyond, IMHO) to carry out one’s ringing, but I will admit that in cold weather this can be an uncomfortable experience. With the unseasonably warm temperatures of earlier in the week now a dimming memory, I did have a nagging fear that we might have a morning of just a handful of us huddling together for warmth, if we didn’t all have to constantly ring to keep the bells going.
Instead, even in the absence of SE District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson who was unavoidably engaged elsewhere, Chairman Mark Ogden still had plenty of ringers from across the District to call upon at one of its most westerly rings, allowing for a repertoire that extended from call-changes to Bristol Surprise Major during a most productive and enjoyable session. And it was all topped off by the election of Linda Sager and Jo Sharples to the Guild – congratulations Linda and Jo!
From this sparsely inhabited village and the surrounding woodlands and fields, via a spot of lunch at home and a train journey in, Mason and I found ourselves in pretty much completely contrasting surroundings, as we and over 23,000 others sat around a 102m x 75m football pitch on the edge of Ipswich town centre as the Tractor Boys took on Reading. The atmosphere was tremendous, it was lovely to meet up with my brother and nice to have a few drinks with him. However, as has so often been the case over the last few years, it was the football that let things down. Currently ITFC find themselves very bottom and with the lowest three teams at the end of the season getting relegated, it was crucial that the Blues won this fixture against the team twenty-first in the twenty-four team division and already nine points ahead of us. Sadly, instead of finding ourselves just six points behind them come full-time, the gap had grown to twelve points with a defeat confirmed by a goal right at the end for visitors from Berkshire, only minutes after we ourselves had scored. Still, it was a fun afternoon with the eldest son and his uncle.
And elsewhere in the county town today the result was more positive, as a peal of Ipswich Surprise Major was rung at St Margaret and dedicated to Simon Girt, former Ringing Master at this octave and son of John and Shirley, taken far, far too soon at just twenty-nine years old, twenty-five years ago. He was a fine ringer and as the footnote says, I’m sure he would have enjoyed what has been done at this tower in the last year.
I’m also sure he would have enjoyed the ringing at Offton this morning, as I and many others did. Friendships were renewed, refreshments appreciated and progress made, whilst Ruthie and I were impressed by the sixth on our first visit here since it was put in. Ringing and football. Days don’t get much better.
That I broke the flush on the facilities at work was the height of my achievements today perhaps tell you all about this slow news day from a personal perspective, especially on the ringing front.
There was action on bells within the county though, with a band of visiting ringers from Yorkshire including two daughters of the late past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild Martin Thorley, Penelope and Deborah, who rang a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Caters at St Peter in Sudbury and then one of the Minor variety on handbells at Thorington Hall.
Far more constructive than my destructive activity today.
It was a quiet end to February, for us personally and Suffolk ringing generally. We did no ringing and whilst there would’ve been the usual Thursday night practices, there were no quarter-peals or peals rung within our borders today, at least according to BellBoard.
Still, as we sit on the cusp of March, there is plenty of ringing planned in the county in the coming month.
That is due to kick-off with Saturday morning’s South-East District Ringing Meeting at Offton, followed by the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice on Wednesday evening, the North-West District Practice at Thurston on the 9th, the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice on the evening of Monday 11th, the Second Tuesday Ringing at Helmingham and Cretingham the following day, the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday 15th, with the South-West District Practice at Bildeston pencilled in to round March off from 3-4.30pm on the 23rd.
Do support what you can – hopefully those March days will be busier than today!
Another satisfying evening at Pettistree, both from a ringing and social perspective. The pre-practice quarter-peal was successfully rung, followed by the practice itself and then the post-ringing drink in The Greyhound next door, the latter elements partaken in by Ruthie, whilst it was my turn to stop in and look after the children, who went to bed with no trouble at all.
A very satisfying evening all round!
Even though it was pouring with rain, the wind was howling, skies were grey and it was generally cold and miserable, when we set our tent up on the first day of our Rambling Ringers holiday in those dreadful conditions that had typically followed on from the long, scorching heatwave of last summer, I don’t recall thinking, “I wish it were February”. Yet as we sat outside the restaurant at Ufford Park Hotel enjoying a cuppa with Ruthie’s sister Clare and looking over the greens, bunkers and woodlands of the golf course, the tower of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary which houses the village’s 13cwt eight poking above the horizon and into the clear blue sky and temperatures reaching another record-breaking twenty-one degrees centigrade and even warnings about putting suncream on, I considered how much we yearned for such weather in Devon on that last Saturday of July. For all the understandable concerns that it signifies something very wrong with the climate, it was lovely, especially for Joshua as he ran around freely as we three adults chatted.
It was nice as well that it was like this for my mother Sally’s birthday, as she was treated by my brother and his wife Becky to a meal at The White Horse Inn in Stoke Ash, before we popped round their abode with both her youngest grandsons after we’d picked Alfie up from school. A pleasant hour or so was spent in the company of the birthday girl and my father, a nice opportunity to show our appreciation for a wonderful mother and dedicated ringer, who even through great pain in recent months has continued helping at Sproughton, Debenham, Grundisburgh and Ipswich towers St Mary-le-Tower and St Margaret. Happy Birthday Mum!
Another of the towers to benefit from my parents’ help is Offton, where the South-East District Ringing Meeting is due to be held from 10.30am-noon on Saturday and where a quarter-peal of Cambridge and Lincolnshire Surprise Major spliced was rung before the weekly practice, the band no doubt tanned and refreshed from their day in the summer-like sun!
Following yesterday morning’s big attendance St Mary-le-Tower’s morning ringing, there was another large crowd in the same ringing chamber for tonight’s weekly practice.
Perhaps they were motivated by what was apparently the hottest recorded winter’s day in the UK, with somewhere in Wales hitting twenty degrees centigrade. Or were buoyed by hearing Guild Public Relation Officer Neal Dodge’s superb interview about 2hrs 26mins into Lesley Dolphin’s show on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon, which we just happened to catch as we went about our business after an early shift, but which originally appeared at greater length 40mins into her Sunday morning show. It is worth reminding members that Neal will be stepping down as PRO at the SGR AGM planned to be held at St Matthew’s in Ipswich on Saturday 27th April, so please do consider who might replace him. If you feel you could then put yourself forward, if you know someone else that might then please encourage them to think about it. This is a role that can be as time consuming as you let it, with much scope for delegation if necessary and the main qualification being speaking enthusiastically about the exercise! Although Neal has brought so much more to it than that.
Back to this evening’s ringing, there was a vast method repertoire from Grandsire Triples on the front eight and Call-Changes on Twelve for learner Karina to Cinques of the Grandsire and Stedman varieties and half courses of Surprise Maximus, with the Cambridge going better than the Yorkshire after one band member launched into the wrong method with the latter!
At the end of a day that started in the darkness of a pre-dawn start at work and ahead of another one tomorrow, I passed on a drink in The Cricketers, but I’m sure that a big crowd went nonetheless.
To paraphrase Sesame Street, today’s blog is brought to you by the letter G.
Grandsire at Grundisburgh generally generates grumbles and words such as grim and ghastly.
The bells are extremely useful for bringing learners on, whether via peals or progressing one’s twelve-bell ringing in conditions considered by many learners to be less daunting than the heavy twelves rung from big ringing chambers at St Mary-le-Tower and The Norman Tower, but are perceived – with much justification, it has to be said – to be harder work than a 9cwt (tenor in G) twelve might be. And the method – whilst a simple introduction to wrong-dodging - has a tendency to be quite turgid to some, myself included to a certain extent.
Yet goodness gracious me, this afternoon’s 5004 of the Caters version at the county’s lightest twelve was great, maybe even glorious! It was universally considered by pretty all of the band to be one of the best peals they’d rung on the bells, possibly even the best. In my opinion it was certainly the best I have rung with a largely Suffolk band. Very well done to Abby Antrobus on ringing her first of Caters inside – a grand effort!
It wasn’t the only peal within our borders at a tower beginning with the letter G either, as Guild Peal Week was rounded off with a 5040 of Doubles (including more Grandsire) at Great Barton (tenor also in G!), where Sally Veal became the third first-pealer of SGRPW. Indeed the fourth if you count Jason Burnet’s first in the medium rung this afternoon at Exning, but for the Ely Diocesan Association. Congratulations to Sally and Jason and well done to Neal Dodge on conducting his most methods and variations to a peal in the success at GB.
Indeed, well done and congratulations to Guild Ringing Master Thomas G Scase on arranging such a successful week. I know from personal experience how much work has to go into these as a RM, so it is satisfying to see the spirit of the occasion used to full effect with lots of firsts and achievements.
in the day, morning ringing at SMLT was – appropriately for G Day – watched
over by the George W Pipe Trophy won in Saffron Walden last weekend and GWP
himself, with such a big crowd - including the welcome visit of Peter Hill from
Hursley in Hampshire - that fitting us all together in Costa Coffee was a gargantuan
logistical challenge, with Amanda Richmond ending up having to sit on Ian Culham’s
Following that, the service ringing at the aforementioned much-maligned Grundisburgh was always going to be a bit of an anti-climax with lower numbers, but we still managed Call-Changes on Ten.
Meanwhile, in amongst the peals, there was also a quarter-peal in the county
today, with a 1282
of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal rung at The Norman Tower, topping off a good
day of ringing. No, a great day of ringing – including Grandsire at Grundisburgh!
There were playdates at either end of this mild February Saturday for our household.
In the morning we enjoyed the sunshine in Kingston Fields in Woodbridge as Alfie met up with his friend Ralph, this evening Ruthie and I welcomed local ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth to our home for a few drinks, with conversation veering from old children’s favourite Rainbow to post-ringing pubs and taking in Susanne’s eventful attendance at Ufford practice on Tuesday night!
Our activities didn’t involve any ringing, but others were more active as Suffolk Guild Peal Week continued with a brace of 5040s rung in the county today. Congratulations to past SGR Peal Secretary Alan Mayle on ringing his 1950th in the medium in the success at Hartest and likewise Tracey and Mervyn Scase on ringing their first for twenty-five years in the 2hrs28mins at Monewden.
I hope they all enjoyed their playdate!
QI, the TV fav of my wife is something that I enjoy too, not least because it is filled with quite interesting information, but this evening as we watched the latest edition of the new ‘P’ series of this long-running panel show, it surpassed itself by becoming EI – extremely interesting. For the host Sandi Toksvig revealed – to Ruthie and me at least – the site what3words.com. This is a site which breaks down the world’s surface into three metre by three metre squares, each with a unique three word address, essentially providing an even more precise location than postcodes.
Cue an evening of searching for locations, including regular ringing locations. Pretty much all the ringing chambers I usually frequent cover multiple 3mx3m squares, but Pettistree’s ground-floor six incorporates ‘trophy.wealth.knots’, whilst Grundisburgh includes ‘dame.shadow.comical’ and St Mary-le-Tower takes in ‘pushes.mile.raced’.
This was all absorbed on a typically ringing-free Friday evening, but elsewhere in the county a handbell quarter-peal was rung in Bacton and Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase conducted a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor from the 10cwt tenor at Ashbocking. Or – thanks to QI for this – from ‘skippers.chess.elbowed’.
Many ringers will ring at three and sometimes even more towers on a Sunday and they are to be commended. After all, through their dedication, many services that may not get rung for are rung for, which after all is the primary purpose of the exercise.
However, we aren’t as stretched as many of the vicars who man huge numbers of churches in large, sprawling, rural benefices and where it has been compulsory to hold Sabbath services at every one. As reported on The Guardian website today though, that will no longer be the case, thus easing the burden on the priesthood, but also potentially on ringers too!
On an ordinary Thursday in February though, ringers have plenty of spare time – bar work and other engagements – to carry out other ringing and after a couple of days off, Guild Peal Week made a reappearance on BellBoard in Cretingham and bizarrely – though wonderfully – in Bristol. The former was the first on the ground-floor six since their augmentation from five last year and was Mark Ogden’s 250th peal. Congratulations to South-East District Chairman Mark! Meanwhile, the latter was at St Philip and St Jacob in the south-west city and featured two former resident members of the SGR in the shape of Robert Beavis and Molly Waterson and current Reydon resident – according to the records for now - Philip Moyse and was rung in Hollesley Little Delight Major, presumably named after the Suffolk coastal village where the 16cwt eight is hung.
Being on a late shift I wasn’t able to partake in SGRPW19 and so instead it was another night in, this time taking in an article from Wednesday’s Telegraph, which was great PR for the art and particularly the Ringing World National Youth Contest, with this year’s Contest in Liverpool attracting a huge entry, though sadly nothing from within our borders.
Recruitment mustn’t stop after all, even if there are fewer services to ring for in future.
Last week between us, Ruthie and I managed to get out to three practices. This week hasn’t gone so well and having not made it to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly session on Monday night, neither of us managed to get to Pettistree tonight, as a combination of an exhausting day with the boys and my late shift at work combined to see us miss out on ringing at the ground-floor six.
And it is worth noting that there are further opportunities to partake in the art on Saturday with the South-West District’s Practice at St Gregory in Sudbury. Running from 3-4.30pm, this could be a nice afternoon out in the most picturesque District of the Guild (IMHO), with plenty of street parking next to the church and support will be much appreciated I’m sure.
It is wonderful that we have this hobby that can take us to all corners of the county and beyond for a relatively low cost and on that note it is worth noting that subscriptions are due and at just £15 for the year offers superb value. All the money goes towards helping progress and support ringers, ringing and towers, with no £15,000 parties planned in the mould of that which Suffolk Coastal District Council were getting in trouble for today!
Hopefully my wife and I will be getting more for our money by getting out ringing a bit more in the coming days!
Not an atypical Tuesday night in, with my ringing experience more from a distance than up close.
That included noting the three quarter-peals rung on Suffolk’s bells today, with Superlative Surprise Major rung at Gislingham, a 1296 of Duke of Norfolk Treble Bob Minor rung on the back six at Hopton and five Surprise Major methods rung spliced at Offton before the practice night on the 8cwt ground-floor eight.
It also took in a couple of videos on YouTube, one
a useful demonstration of how coursing order fits together, the other a
fascinating and amusing demo of
a Lego machine ringing plain hunt on eight at an increasingly fast pace!
Perhaps I might make one on a quiet Tuesday evening.
Today’s theme is practices. Two not happening, one starting and one I didn’t make.
Anyone planning to join the session at Woodbridge on Tuesday will be disappointed, as will anyone hoping to go to Rushmere St Andrew on the Fridays of 22nd February and 1st March, as they are all cancelled on those days.
Meanwhile, starting from this week, the plan is for there to be practices at St Matthew in Ipswich – also host to this year’s Suffolk Guild AGM on Saturday 27th April – every first and third Thursday of the month from 7.30-9pm. Support will certainly be appreciated for this band of learners.
However, following my rare success in getting to St Mary-le-Tower following a late shift at work a fortnight ago, the normal order of things was restored this evening, meaning that I missed out on rejoining my fellow twelve-bell champions in the county town on this occasion!
There was ringing success today though, as the third peal of SGR Peal Week 2019 was rung at Brandeston. Well done to Hilary Stern on becoming the second first-pealer of the week, a just reward for the many hours of dedication that Hilary applies to her ringing, including at many practices. When they are happening.
Day two of Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2019, peal two. And the first debut in the medium of the week. Congratulations to Ben Keating who in ringing behind to the 5040 of Doubles at Great Barton rang his first peal in a performance that was also the most Doubles methods and variations rung by the entire band. Well done to all six, but especially to Ben!
The conductor Lesley Steed and her husband David had a busy day as they were both later in the quarter-peal of St Clement’s College Bob Minor at Buxhall rung for Evensong, with Lesley also calling this.
My ringing today was less notable than these performances and indeed our ringing yesterday, but it was quite satisfactory nonetheless as along with friends Pete Faircloth and Susanne Eddis I helped the ringers at Woodbridge to man all eight. This is always a pleasure, if nothing else for the superb views from the tenor box which look down the River Deben towards the North Sea and which on this sunny morning were particularly stunning.
It was followed by the service downstairs which today saw the visit of the Right Reverend Martin Seeley, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and therefore President of the Guild, for a confirmation, but the rest of the day was quite a bit quieter for ourselves.
Not so for SGRPW19 – congratulations again to Ben!
On Saturday 23rd March, eighteen teams across three eliminators at St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, St Mary-le-Bow in London and Leeds Minster in... well Leeds, are due to compete to make it to the National 12-Bell Final planned to be held at Exeter Cathedral on Saturday 22nd June. There is representation from East Anglia from those who have put an entry in, with Cambridge and Norwich both harbouring ambitions of competing upon the second heaviest ring of bells in the world in just over four months time, but for all that we at St Mary-le-Tower have been seriously considering our own entry, for pretty much all the twelves in Essex and Suffolk it is a huge leap to put forward a band for the contest, if it can even be considered at all. I have always encouraged the view that teams entering for the first time (be that ever or after an absence of many years as with Ipswich) should – within reason – just go for it, accepting that they are likely to struggle for a few years before expecting to really compete for a place in the final, but I appreciate that leap can be a difficult one to make, especially if you have to take fifteen or sixteen ringers with you.
Ian Culham therefore should be given immense credit for the introduction of the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition, a striking contest open to the six twelve-bell towers of the aforementioned brace of counties – Chelmsford, Saffron Walden and Waltham Abbey from south of the River Stour, Grundisburgh, SMLT and The Norman Tower from north of it. This is an event aimed at making that leap less daunting and building invaluable experience in competition ringing on twelve that many might not get the opportunity to get and following its inaugural outing a year ago in Bury St Edmunds, it proved so successful that all bar one of the eligible bands – Grundisburgh – entered today’s contest, with other towers in the wider East Anglian region apparently also making enquiries about entering in the future.
And in Saffron Walden for the 2019 competition, we were treated to about two-and-a-half hours of superb ringing as the five teams practiced and then rang the test piece of 440 changes of Little Bob Maximus with confidence on superb bells that nonetheless have their own intricacies. Like most rings of bells there is oddstruckness and the sound inside is not as clear as one would ideally want, but from the holders Bury St Edmunds first up at 10.30am to ourselves at the end at 1.20pm, the easy-going nature of this 22cwt twelve allowed for some really rhythmical twelve-bell ringing.
Ultimately it was Ipswich who came out on top in the opinion of the judges, Past Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths Simon Meyer and his son Andrew, a promising young ringer who was part of the band who were the youngest ever to ring a peal on twelve bells with the 5042 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Melbourne in Derbyshire thirteen months ago. Both have strong credentials at this level and their comments were extremely useful for anyone aiming to use this as a springboard to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest. They were glowing in their praise of the ringing, there were constructive words for the bands, even for the winners as they commented how we ended up at a speed that was too fast, although the peal speed of 3hrs19mins was certainly preferable to the 3hrs53mins of our test piece last year! Such advice should be taken on board if we have any ambitions to compete nationally.
We were delighted with our win of course and grateful to those who have helped out at our practices, especially the Birkbys, Williamsons, Simon Rudd and Pippa Moss who joined us on our practices on the road, as well as to those who rang in the practices on our home bells. However, as is usually the case on these occasions, for me the highlight was meeting up with friends and meeting new people. Apart from our fellow participants – including my brother Chris who along with Claire Potts very kindly kept an eye on the boys whilst Ruthie and I rang – it was lovely to catch-up with hangers-on and groupies, such as John Loveless, Linda Garton and Claire Smith, hosts like June Mackay and Chris McCarthy, whilst it was nice to meet up and coming Suffolk youngster Jimmy Yeoman. And of course it was great to see GWP himself.
Our hosts were also a highlight. Bacon butties, toast, hot dogs, cake (complete with a competition for the best!) and beer were all laid on in the Parish Rooms where the draw and results were also held. A super day out all round!
Meanwhile, back within our borders, Guild Peal Week got underway with a 5054 of Superlative Surprise Major at Grundisburgh, which was a first in the method for Jo Crowe and SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase’s seven hundredth in the medium. Well done Jo and congratulations Tom!
In theory we could have continued on from the results at Saffron Walden to Lincoln for the Rambling Ringers Reunion, typically a tower outing, dinner and speeches timed at the halfway point between Tours. Circumstances mean that it wasn’t really practical to follow one event up with the other over a hundred miles away, but we were still pleased to see a peal of Turramurra Surprise Major rung at Balderton in Nottinghamshire for the Society, as well as a quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at nearby Coddington.
For all that we would’ve have liked to join our fellow Ramblers though, we were ecstatic with our day out with friends, good ringing on lovely bells in beautiful surroundings, all topped off with a victory. God willing we – and our fellow participants - may be joining those competing in Bristol, London and Leeds on 23rd March in the 2020 National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest on the back of such a positive day.
It has been a week of illness and it finished as it started, with me looking after two poorly brothers on my free afternoon following my early shift at work. This time though, it was Alfie who didn’t even make it to his seat of learning and Joshua who needed collecting partway through the day from his. The result was the same though, with lots of sleep and not much else achieved, bar a trip to the doctors to assess the youngest’s health.
I had begun thinking these afternoons might be useful for the occasional peal, perhaps for some Project Pickled Egg stuff, partly spurred on by the recent success of Mason’s birthday peal, but also borne out of mild frustration that my late shifts in the office have again clashed with Suffolk Guild Peal Week, thus reducing my potential participation to the weekends either end of the week. This week has reminded me of the pitfalls of combining parenthood with peal-ringing, so I may need to reassess my current ambitions.
Still, we were determined to end the week on a high and we were able to do so as we celebrated Valentine’s Day twenty-four hours after most following our performance of passing ships yesterday, as we prepared our own three course meal and enjoyed a bottle of fizzy between us. A nice way to end a pretty dreadful week.
Ruthie and I didn’t really do anything special for this Valentine’s Day. Indeed, there probably hasn’t been a day thus far in 2019 where we have seen less of each other, as with my early shift I didn’t see my wife until she’d finished work, at which point she was almost immediately off to choir practice and then the monthly Surprise Major practice at Ufford straight afterwards. She then hadn’t been back from an apparently productive session on the 13cwt eight very long before I went to bed ahead of another pre-dawn arrival at the offices of John Catt Educational in the morning.
We briefly exchanged cards and with my spare afternoon I did some shopping for a meal planned for tomorrow evening which is our main token effort towards the occasion, but otherwise we left the romance to others.
Various couples in Suffolk were fortunate to be ringing together though, including in each of the three quarter-peals rung in the county today. Particular mention is merited for Rona Sporle who rang her first QP of Surprise Minor in the 1320 of Cambridge at Worlingham – well done Rona! That was one of two quarters rung on this chilly Thursday on the 8cwt six in the village’s All Saints church, with the tower also hosting a performance of Norwich Surprise Minor of the same length, whilst Rona completed an impressive hattrick with a 1272 – also of Cambridge Surprise Minor – at Chediston.
Congratulations to all the couples who managed to fit in ringing and time with their loved one, especially in that trio of quarters – you probably had a more romantic Valentine’s Day than us!
Whilst I sat at home listening to Ipswich Town’s match on the radio in a more relaxed manner than I took in their last match on Sunday, Ruthie had her usual night out in Pettistree at the practice. By her account it was a thoroughly decent session, preceded by a successful quarter-peal and followed by a drink in The Greyhound next door.
Meanwhile, there is a busy weekend planned for Suffolk ringing in the coming days, with the Helmingham Monthly Practice pencilled in for Friday evening and the North-East District are due to hold a rather fun looking Tower Tour on Saturday afternoon at Badingham, Dennington and then Sweffling before a Bring and Share Tea at the last tower and if there are any new members to be put forward for election, a brief meeting too. Both are events showcasing the county’s beautiful countryside (although of course it will be dark at the former!) and apart from a good opportunity for socialising should be useful occasions to progress one’s own ringing and that of others.
As SGRPW19 should
be, which is due to start on Saturday. Hopefully
lots of peals are lined up, but I’m sure if you still want to arrange an attempt
or are short of a ringer or two, Guild Ringing
Master Tom Scase will be more than happy to give you any help. Please do
support Tom where you can - in my experience of organising these in the past,
I don’t expect he will have an evening as relaxing next week as I had tonight!
If you are anything like me (and if you’re lucky, you’re nothing like me!) then you will almost forgotten about Whitechapel Bell Foundry, sadly closed two years ago after almost four-and-a-half centuries of trading. The official and widely accepted narrative was that it was unavoidable, a family business where the next generation weren’t interested in taking it on (or at least able to), where the building in a prime location in London was perceived to be worth more than an ancient company using outdated methods of industry.
Which made Nigel Taylor’s interview in Spitalfields Life so fascinating. From time to time I have the pleasure of ringing with this Essex ringer and he comes across as a thoroughly decent chap, but more to the point there are few others with more knowledge on what happened here than this man who worked in the famous building for four decades.
His assertion is that much more could have been done to rescue the foundry, compounded by misjudgements and he backs up his support for a campaign to reopen it – rather than the current proposal of turning it into a bell-themed boutique hotel - by saying that new techniques would make the traditional process cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Well worth a read and it will be interesting to see if bells could possibly be cast on this site once again.
I was able to take this in after finishing my latest early shift at John Catt Educational, despite the presence of both Alfie and Joshua as they continued their recovery from the illnesses that had laid them very low yesterday. In fact Alfred was so much better that during this sunny, mild-ish winter’s afternoon he led me into the back garden for a game of cricket that saw some very impressive batting and bowling – England could have done with him in the West Indies!
Later – and with mother-in-law Kate very kindly looking after the boys – we were hearing more about his achievements as we experienced an extremely positive parents evening with his teacher, but not unusually for a Tuesday we didn’t do any ringing, although before the boys ill-health I had considered popping to Sproughton to join the Second Tuesday Ringing. However, the weekly Offton practice was preceded – also not unusually for a Tuesday – with a successful quarter-peal, which on this occasion was the first of Lincolnshire for Karen Glover. Well done Karen!
Meanwhile, it was lovely to read Andrew Dotchin’s kind words of thanks on the Suffolk Guild’s Facebook page to the band who rang Friday’s peal at Felixstowe, highlighting how much joy ringing can give non-ringers. A joy that Whitechapel Bell Foundry has contributed to so much over the centuries and may yet still contribute to in the coming centuries.
They are a necessary evil, well worth the effort and I’m not forced to do them, but I really dislike the early starts at work. The previous evening is cut short to leave practically no time between getting the boys to bed and then going to bed myself. Getting up in the middle of the night, I have to tiptoe around the house trying not to wake the other occupants, especially the youngest ones as I get ready. I then have to make a lonely, eerie journey in the dark and the cold, the first strains of daylight not seen until some way into my shift at this time of year.
Yet they do have their upsides, in particular the free afternoons. And as much as I love them dearly and enjoy the afternoons spending time and playing with them, the ones when the children are at their places of education are both useful from a practical point of view and in the sense of having a rare bit of peace. Often that is good for catching up with some much needed sleep, but if I have the energy for getting stuff done then they can be a productive period, even taking in some ringing at times, as demonstrated with Mason’s birthday peal a fortnight ago.
There was no such luck today though as such ambitions were scuppered by Joshua not being well enough to go into nursery and then at lunchtime a call from Alfie’s school saying he too was feeling poorly and asking me to collect him, which I duly did after waking the poor little mite as he slept on a sofa in the foyer. Instead it was a very quiet afternoon at home, although I was afforded the opportunity of sleep as the two brothers also dozed. It was a sorry state of affairs.
I did get the chance to do something this evening though, as I popped along to the weekly session at St Mary-le-Tower, where a final practice of the test piece of Little Bob Maximus before the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition at Saffron Walden on Saturday was undertaken amongst a well-rung half-course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, some nice Grandsire Cinques, fast and furious call-changes on twelve from Amanda Richmond for learners Karina and Sonia and some Superlative Surprise Major on the front eight for visitor Jo Crowe from Grundisburgh as she warms up for a peal attempt of the method during Suffolk Guild Peal Week.
Although a trip to The Cricketers afterwards was sadly out of the question as I look forward to another one of those early shifts tomorrow...
In my endeavours in following my favourite football teams England and Ipswich Town I have sometimes missed ringing. Occasionally I miss matches I would normally watch out of a sense of ringing duty. However, I have never agreed to partake in some ringing with the specific purpose of missing an Ipswich Town match. Until today.
For fans of the Tractor Boys it has been a truly dreadful and at times downright embarrassing season. Not just bottom, but very bottom with in all likelihood relegation to the third tier of England’s league system for the first time in sixty-two years coming in the next couple of months. For our traditional footballing ‘enemies’ Norwich City though, it has been completely the opposite as they compete at the top of the Championship table to be promoted to the Premier League, a division ITFC haven’t appeared in for seventeen, long years. Of course the rivalry is in reality mere pantomime, for me at least, with numerous ringing friends and acquaintances being supporters of East Anglia’s second most successful football team up the A140, including Halesworth ringer and Past Suffolk Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod and a number from the city north of the border itself, but I had no intention of watching this afternoon’s latest meeting which was one of the biggest mismatches in the fixture’s history. Indeed, I had decreed some time ago that I wasn’t going to listen to the commentary or even follow the score and happenings online. It threatened to be a long couple of hours and so I jumped at Mike Whitby’s invite to ring in a quarter-peal attempt at Brandeston starting at precisely the same time as the ridiculous noon kick-off at Carrow Road.
In reality it wasn’t the only reason for agreeing, as this was a special attempt of Francis Goodwill Delight Minor to mark the 270th anniversary of the first recorded performance of this and Francis Genius Delight Minor, a peal on this nice 7cwt gallery-ring six in February 1749 and marked with an impressive peal board in the ringing chamber. Which is why it was a big pity that following a pretty dreadful false start that we lost the second attempt just a course or two from the end of a performance that featured some decent ringing. Mike has put the 720 we had rung by this point on BellBoard for posterity, but there’s no denying it was a shame not to see it through.
Still, it served its other purpose almost perfectly, as by the time I’d got back home, had some lunch and done some reading with the boys, the match was almost finished and I had avoided all the stress of actually following the depressing proceedings unfold. And it was a good job I did too, as although the 3-0 defeat wasn’t as bad as I and many others had feared, it would have been a thoroughly depressing experience keeping up with it. Instead, I shrugged my shoulders – almost in relief, bizarrely – and we got on with our day, which included getting a new coat for an excitable Alfie after he had somehow bust the zip on his faithful old one whilst the children and I were at St Mary-le-Tower for ringing this morning.
That little incident didn’t detract from some positive service ringing on the county’s heaviest bells, with a couple of courses of Little Bob Maximus encouragingly rung extremely well six days ahead of when we are due to ring it at the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition at Saffron Walden and some good call-changes on twelve, despite me having to take over the calling duties halfway through when David Potts’ voice briefly left him!
After refreshment at Costa Coffee, we continued on – with broken coats and all – to Grundisburgh, where the atmosphere was jovial, but numbers low as we peaked at ringing on just eight of East Anglia’s lightest twelve, before we picked Ruthie up from her singing duties in Woodbridge and I then went onto that football-escaping ringing engagement in picturesque Brandeston.
From there Mary Garner impressively headed off to Aldeburgh to treble to the second-Sunday peal of Pinetrees Surprise Major, which as is typical was the first in the method for the entire band and the Guild, whilst elsewhere quarters of Grandsire Caters and Plain Bob Doubles were rung at The Norman Tower and Oakley respectively.
All of which seems a much better alternative to watching Ipswich Town’s latest defeat today.
I discovered another use for this blog. Apart from being the entertaining rollercoaster of a read that frequently has Hollywood producers harassing me for the rights to put it on the big screen, it has apparently been used in recent days to help find the whereabouts of ‘Mary’s Monthly Plate’. This is a plate made by Mary Garner, but despite the name it is actually handed out annually at the Pettistree Dinner to someone decreed deserving of recognition over the previous twelve months, whether that be for progress, endeavour or contribution to the ringing at this well-attended ground-floor six. Last year it was won by Mike Whitby, but that had been overlooked when the search was started in readiness to hand it out to a new recipient at tonight’s Dinner at The Greyhound next door to the tower that had brought us here, until apparently a flurry of messages were exchanged that led to my blog entry for 17th February 2018 being referred to, which – eventually – led to its discovery!
And so it was happily ready to be passed on to 2019’s winner, mother-in-law Kate Eagle, who rose from her position amongst the well behaved three boys and their two cousins to collect the rediscovered item. It is well deserved too, with Kate’s ringing abilities much appreciated, as well as her dedication – she rang in fourteen of the tower’s sixty-three QPs in 2018 for example - despite also regularly having to look after her granddaughters due to their parents’ shifts at work, as well frequently being on call for her own work and often helping Ruthie and me if we are in need of child-sitting help, all – as Mike pointed out – carried out in good humour.
Her award was one of many highlights of a highly enjoyable evening. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Chris McArthur and having a fascinating insight into the background of Francis Genius Delight Minor and opposite Daphne and Rob Rose who were waxing lyrical about their new vicar the Revd Leslie Siu, whilst Mary Garner made a remarkably short speech! The food and drink was great too and in remembering Gill Waterson we were reminded of how blessed we are to enjoy such good company on these occasions, as well as much we miss Gill’s company.
All that said and done though, we didn’t actually do any ringing, instead
popping along to Messy Church at Melton where boats were made and painting done
before a generous feast of sausage and mash and jelly and ice cream. It was
a fun morning, but other ringers were partaking in the exercise on Suffolk’s
bells. A quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major was rung at Gislingham ahead of the
North-East District Practice at this lovely 14cwt ground-floor eight, whilst
not too far away at Woolpit the 1260 of spliced Doubles was Stephen Dawson and
Lesley Steed’s five hundredth together and Pam Ebsworth’s 175th as conductor.
Congratulations to all three and Happy Birthday to Stephen too! Hopefully no
one will need this blog entry to remind them of your birthday next year!
Two peals were rung in the county today, one for the Norwich Diocesan Association and one for the Suffolk Guild, perhaps appropriately as another local football derby between Norwich City and Ipswich Town approaches. The former was rung on handbells in Bacton, the latter at Felixstowe of Lessness Surprise Major on the 7cwt eight by the seaside. Featuring fans of both sides and other clubs too. I don’t expect quite so much harmony at Carrow Road come Sunday at noon.
For us though, our Friday post-work was typically busy with collecting children and thus there was no time for ringing generally, let alone ringing peals!
An extraordinarily quiet day today. No ringing was reported on BellBoard from within Suffolk and indeed nationally nothing particularly stuck out in the scheme of things. And personally we didn’t do any ringing, although that is not unusual for us for a Thursday. What is more though, Ruthie didn’t even make it out to choir practice as a combination of my late shift at work and a slightly unwell Joshua put paid to that.
A reminder therefore that if one wants to avoid a similarly quiet day on Saturday, then one can join the North-West District at Gislingham following the quarter-peal attempt there. As the QP is due to draw to a close, the plan is for refreshments to be served out and then there should be open ringing on this lovely ground-floor eight from 11am-noon. The bells, the picturesque location and the good company should encourage many along, whatever the conditions and I would certainly urge anyone who can to support this event, as well as the many others on What’s On. It finishes at a good time too, introducing the opportunity for a nice pub lunch in a village tavern afterwards, it you need any further motivation!
Meanwhile, you might also like to put an evening with Alan Regin at Thornham Magna Village Hall on Friday 1st March into your relatively new Ringing World Diary, as this superb ringer gives an illustrated talk on the famous project to put a ring of bells in at St George’s Memorial Church in the Belgian city of Ypres.
I imagine it will be a fascinating evening and along with Gislingham on Saturday and other goings on across the county planned for the coming weeks, it should help ensure fewer days as quiet as this!
It was Ruthie’s turn to go out ringing tonight as she went to a Pettistree practice that included Norfolk Surprise Minor, method of the moment Francis Goodwill Delight Minor and spliced, was preceded as usual with a quarter-peal and followed by a drink in The Greyhound.
Back at home meanwhile, I occupied myself listening to ringing getting a mention via the media.
One was a podcast called London Undone and on this occasion featured an interview with Susan ‘Swaz’ Apter, Ryan Noble and Past Master of the College Youths Henry Coggill at St Magnus the Martyr in London about ringing and is an interesting 16mins42secs.
The other was on Lesley Dolphin’s BBC Radio Suffolk show, where her ‘Sofa Guest’ was James Mallinder, who briefly brought up that he is learning to ring at Hollesley, giving the band there a positive review and allowing the presenter a moment to reminisce on when she learnt at the same tower. James is on from about 2hrs30mins in and ringing comes up at 2hrs41mins40secs in. Both are worth a listen.
Meanwhile, this evening’s aforementioned 1440 of spliced Surprise Minor wasn’t the only QP rung in the county today. Indeed, impressively it wasn’t even the only one of spliced, as a 1260 of six Triples methods was rung at Elveden. Well done to all concerned!
I don’t mind admitting that it would be great to join in with it all, but I am pleased others – especially Ruthie – were enjoying their ringing today.
As wider society was lamenting the unfortunate lack of any representation from women in the final of the BBC’s fantastic Icons series tonight, it was heartening to see some of ringing’s female stars achieving a long overdue first, as an all-ladies band rang a peal of the ‘standard’ forty-one Surprise Minor methods for the first time. It was achieved at Milton in Oxfordshire and featured Past Master of the College Youths and Birmingham ringer Stephanie Warboys and one-time Rambling Ringer Susan Marshall, a couple of ringers I have been privileged to ring with regularly in past. To say ‘well done’ strikes me as extremely patronising (though well-meant) as all of the band have done this before (indeed between them they have rung the forty-one 365 times following today’s success), but it was a striking success in light of the debate going on about this evening’s tele.
The ringing on Suffolk’s bells today was less eye-catching, but still worthy of mention, with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton successfully rung to a 1250 of Superlative Surprise Major to celebrate Andrew Stone’s birthday. I haven’t seen Andrew for years, but I remember what a super ringer he was when I had the pleasure of ringing with him previously and it has been lovely to hear of his welcome return to the art.
For Ruthie and I it was a quite night in though, watching that controversial final...
It is due to be late shifts for me at work this week and normally that now means I miss St Mary-le-Tower practice. By the time I finish in the office, get home, help with getting our adorable but often uncooperative sons ready for bed, grabbed a much-needed bite to eat and made the twenty-minute drive into Ipswich, there isn’t really time to make it to the session in time to be of any practical use.
However, tonight everything dropped into place. A prompt getaway from work and the children playing ball, which meant that Ruthie was able to get tea sorted for us and then I was off to the county town to make just over an hour of practice. What did help motivate me further (not that I need any motivation to go out and do something I enjoy immensely), was that with just two practices left until we are due to partake in the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition at Saffron Walden, the organiser of our band Amanda Richmond was keen that as many of us made it to SMLT this evening and next Monday. Not possible for everyone – Ruthie and I can’t make it together of course, for example – but on this occasion the majority of the twelve made it to climax the session with the touch, minus the last course to allow us to fit it in before the end.
Our efforts were a very decent way of finishing the ringing tonight and sent us on our way to The Cricketers in good spirits, especially as it felt a bit like a bonus visit in amongst the months of early and late shifts that usually prohibit such imbibing.
Meanwhile, it is nice to see Past Guild Master David Salter has returned home for the first time since his stroke before Christmas, but it does mean that his wife Katharine will have her hands full as it will hardly be a case of things returning to as they were before, so please continue to hold them in your prayers and thoughts. Still, God willing it is another positive step in his recovery.
Sadly there wasn’t any ringing recorded on BellBoard in Suffolk as he stepped back out into the wider world, bar a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor at NDA tower Lowestoft, but I was at least happy to unexpectedly make it to St Mary-le-Tower!
I’ve mentioned recently that Sundays for ringers are unusually busy and so it was for us.
After a morning of being photographed whilst ringing at Woodbridge and then going downstairs to welcome the Dean of St Edmundsbury the Revd Canon Joe Hawes and witness a very brave use of the children to remove the figures from the crib on this Candlemas, I found myself at the Dean’s relatively new home patch with Ruthie. More specifically The Norman Tower, as St Mary-le-Tower – plus much appreciated help from local Deborah Blumfield and former SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd – ringers gathered for a practice ahead of the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition due to be held at Saffron Walden in thirteen days time.
After a session on the host bells themselves a fortnight ago, this was more an exercise in cementing familiarisation with the touch – 440 changes of Little Bob Maximus - itself, who dodges with who, who passes who, especially when calls are made, so that when it comes to the day all we should need to concern ourselves with is the striking itself. However, it is always nice to come here and it was a reminder of the success of last year’s inaugural contest held on this 27cwt twelve. God willing this year’s will be even more successful and I would urge anyone at a loose end who wants to hear some (hopefully!) really good twelve-bell ringing and/or cheer on Suffolk bands from Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich to come along to the pretty north Essex town on Saturday 16th February.
My wife and I didn’t follow this afternoon’s efforts with anymore ringing, instead being treated to tea by my mother-in-law Kate after she had looked after the boys (thanks Kate!) whilst we were out, before Mrs Munnings went to sing for evensong back where we started our day out.
Mike Whitby did continue from the county’s Cathedral (once he’d found his keys!) to carry out more ringing though, conducting a quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor at Pettistree.
It has been a busy day of ringing for many of us ringers.
Spending a near-freezing winter’s afternoon in a brace of churches with no toilets or refreshments doesn’t sound too enticing and in its own right, it isn’t. However, add fellowship and good ringing on nice bells in picturesque surroundings that look particularly stunning in the icy conditions and bright, low sunshine and it is a far more appealing proposition.
Nonetheless, I was impressed by the large turnout for today’s South-East District Meeting at Parham and Hacheston, as around thirty crammed into the small ringing chambers and overflowed into the churches. The former is enjoying a new sense of freedom according to the local Jos Slade as after years of having to go to extreme but necessary lengths to appease neighbours – some of whom were dangerously objectionable to ringing on this 5cwt six – those who complained against the bells almost from the moment that they were augmented in 2006 have largely moved away in one sense or another and so now there are more opportunities to ring upon these lovely bells. And the latter seem to have come out of the other end of some work all the better for it.
At both towers the method repertoire was eclectic, from Plain Bob Doubles to Francis Goodwill Delight Minor to London Surprise Minor, rung by an attendance that came from Debenham to Harkstead, Sproughton to Hollesley.
However, that attendance didn’t include Ruthie and Joshua with the latter invited to the birthday party of one of his nursery chums at Rushmere St Andrew’s village hall which ran over almost exactly the same period as the SE District’s monthly ringing and meant that the time that Mason, Alfie and I spent at the pair of sixes was truncated at both ends as we needed to drop them off and then pick them up.
Thankfully that wasn’t a problem at The Norman Tower and the aforementioned Rushmere St Andrew where a peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus and quarter-peal of Doubles respectively were rung. Congratulations to Suffolk Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on ringing her first of Maximus and to Ian Culham on ringing his four hundredth peal, both in the former performance.
Thank goodness for ringing on these near-freezing winter days.
When your microwave nearly sets on fire on the first day of the month, it doesn’t bode well for the four weeks ahead. Or, things can only get better. There’s no way of telling at this point of course but although a lack of a microwave in a house of two or three children threatens to hamper us somewhat, this 1st February was cheered by being the end of a week of earlies at work and thus a long weekend due ahead of a planned later start on Monday, but also by watching an extremely good video by some of the young ringers on Alderney. It explains our art just enough for a potential recruit, in a clear manner that doesn’t complicate things. Well worth a watch.
Meanwhile, on the back of yesterday’s brief analysis of January 2019’s ringing in Suffolk compared to the first month of 2018, it is worth noting that if we want to surpass the quarter-peal and peal totals on the county’s bells of February 2018 this month, we will need to beat twenty-eight of the former and an impressive twenty of the latter, so get organising now!
SGR Peal Week should hopefully help with peals – please do contact Guild Ringing Master 07542 470974, if you can help or be helped by him – and the effort towards QPs within our borders began with a 1280 of Doubles at Earl Stonham.
Perhaps this month won’t be quite so disastrous after all.
How wonderful it was to read the letter shared today on the Guild’s website from Clare, Countess of Euston, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Suffolk thanking us on behalf of the Queen for our ringing to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. It was a tremendous effort from across the ringing family, but as the letter says, particularly here within our borders. Everyone who took part (which was most!) should give themselves a pat on the back for this.
Meanwhile, more everyday but nonetheless newsworthy ringing was carried out at Pettistree before the practice there last night, but nothing was reported in the county on BellBoard on this last day of a month that has still seen forty-six quarter-peals and nine peals rung on bells in Suffolk, comparing favourably to the forty quarters and nine peals in January 2018.
It is a good start to 2019, although I’m afraid to say its unlikely that the Queen will have noticed on this occasion.
David Salter’s stroke just before Christmas was a huge shock to all who know him, which is much of the ringing community. The Past Guild Ringing Master has a sharp mind, excellent head for figures, fast sense of humour and although not what society would class as a picture of health was an active man. The ringer who I have rung more peals with than any other still rang seventy-one peals last year, despite having stepped back compared to the days when he was ringing two or three peals a weekend across the country with the likes of Colin Turner and Barrie Dove and his presence around local ringing has been much missed.
It was wonderful that my early shift and Ruthie’s day off therefore afforded us the opportunity to visit him at Ipswich Hospital this afternoon, acting as just a small example of the outpouring of good wishes that have emanated from the worldwide ringing family to this popular character and his family. And he was a lot better than we had imagined he would be. He is thinner, clearly having to work a bit harder to recall certain things, seemed more reflective and amusingly the swearing filter seems to have been turned off (whether this is due to his stroke or being at his wits end after weeks being holed up in hospital for over a month, we weren’t sure!), but he seemed on good form. Freely recalling various ringing stories, comparing Saffron Walden and Towcester’s bells and discussing the merits of splicing Triton with Bristol, he seemed his usual self and said he had even managed to do some of the compiling he usually does of SGR peals for the Annual Report. Later we received news from his wife Katharine revealing that the plan is to finally bring him home early next week, but it is clear that after such a trauma that recovery – and probably not a complete one at that – will still take some time. He says he feels fine, but I guess it isn’t as easy as that from the perspective of those whose job it is to ensure his wellbeing.
Still, it was lovely to see him again and we were grateful to my Mum and Dad for looking after Joshua whilst we made our visit.
DGS has at least been able to keep up with BellBoard and would have been
delighted I’m sure to see friends achieving on Suffolk’s bells today, most notably
at Great Finborough where
Vaynol Hall Bob Minor was a first in the method for the entire band. Well
done to them all and congratulations to Stephen Dawson and David Steed on ringing
their five hundredth together in the same success and to David again his wife
Lesley on completing the Plain Minor alphabet – that is that they have rung
at least one QP in Plain Minor methods beginning with every letter of the alphabet,
Meanwhile, my wife accompanied her mother Kate to Pettistree’s weekly practice and then – for the first time in 2019 following its annual post-festive break – to The Greyhound for a drink.
God willing we’ll be meeting up with David Salter in such surroundings in the near future, rather than in Ipswich Hospital.
A busy day of ringing on Suffolk’s bells today, with four quarter-peals rung within our borders – a 1260 of Doubles at Bures, 1309 of Glasgow Surprise Major at Gislingham and 1280s of London Surprise Major and Bristol Surprise Major at Hopton and Offton respectively.
Personally though, an indication of how quiet today was comes with the news that the standout moment was collecting my new phone, which at least means that I am contactable whilst on the move once again!
There was no ringing for us personally, but God willing that’ll be different on Saturday when the South-East District Meeting at Parham and then Hacheston is due to be held. There are no toilets or refreshment facilities available at either church, but apparently Garnetts Gardens between the two villages are happy to use their café and WCs for both, whilst at the second of the afternoon’s towers parking in the Village Hall is recommended to allow the least mobile access to the limited parking in the churchyard. Hopefully though, members will see beyond such matters to see the value of a large attendance that should help learners and more experienced ringers. Quite apart from that, the former 5cwt six are a joy to ring thirteen years after their augmentation, whilst the latter are an easy-going 7cwt six still only twenty years on from their augmentation. Please do support this occasion if you can. I hope to as I aim to make it a more interesting day of ringing personally than today was.
Many reading this will be aware that I like to arrange a peal attempt for the birthdays of the boys with a numerical connection to their age, either in terms of number of methods (such as last year’s four-spliced Surprise Major at Hollesley for Alfie’s fourth birthday) or number of changes (see July’s 5002 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal for Joshua’s second birthday). Mason’s twelfth birthday has probably been the most problematic thus far in that sense. Twelve-spliced was practical for Minor, but having rung one on six last year I wanted to try Major or Royal, in which case the number of methods required was ambitious without months and months of planning (which I’d been a bit put-off by with the late loss of the long-planned attempt of 5011 Stedman Cinques for my eldest’s eleventh birthday a year ago), a certain amount of ‘outside’ help or the unappealing prospect of ringing twelve different Yorkshire variations. And to get 5012 changes out of a Major method was difficult without ringing Little or Alliance, which may have been a brave move depending on who I was able to get to ring on a Monday afternoon.
Therefore I was very grateful to Brian Whiting for one of his special lengths of Bristol Surprise Major – to go along with the many composed for Adrian Knights’ birthdays down the years – that on this occasion essentially saw the seventh start as the treble before a tone brings the treble back into its rightful place. Brian did brilliantly to get a nice composition from this prohibitive start and Stephen Pettman to call it, with the result being a lovely peal to ring in, a tired middle sandwiched between some superb ringing. One of the beauties of Bristol is when you get a couple of calls together and its going well, the striking can become almost robotic and thus extremely good and that was the case for much of today’s 2hrs 41mins at Grundisburgh.
Ringing from the fifth of the back eight also made a nice change, especially on a sunny winter’s afternoon as I was able to observe this busy village going about its business as we rang, whilst concentrating on the ringing around me of course! Although it was a damning indictment of public transport that in the three hours I was stood there I noticed as many ambulances as buses – just one of each. And those in power wonder why people in rural communities use their cars for everything.
Our efforts were topped with a welcome pint in The Turks Head in neighbouring Hasketon afterwards ahead of hearing about Alfred’s award at school for his writing and reading (he was very excited and quite right too!) and an evening of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower as a big crowd – twenty-three in total and including the visiting Colin Salter – enjoyed ringing on all twelve again, with Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques amongst the repertoire. Sadly my early start at work tomorrow morning meant that I had to pass on socialising in The Cricketers post-ringing, but it was still a nice way to round off a pleasant day of ringing. Thank you to the band for partaking in the latest birthday peal for the boys – God willing there are more successes to come and that I can think of something to do for thirteen...
The ten-year challenge has been doing the rounds on social media in recent weeks. For those in the dark, it has essentially seen people on Facebook and the like posting a current photo of themselves alongside one from a decade ago. Others have used it to compare things like climate change or even football league tables over that period.
A tenth of a century ago today, we celebrated Mason’s second birthday. Younger than Joshua is now, finding his voice and feet, almost literally in the case of the latter after multiple operations on them already by that point. Maths dictates therefore that on this 27th January we celebrated his twelfth birthday and in keeping with the sense of the shifting sands of time that the aforementioned challenge is presumably supposed to induce, it was a very different affair to that early anniversary of his birth. Rather than party food and crawling around the floor with toys of flashing lights with a look of awe-filled anticipation, it was an afternoon of playing computer games with Henry Salter, one of which was amongst his gifts. What more could a twelve-year-old boy want on his birthday?
Earlier myself, the birthday boy and his younger brothers had been to morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, where I got the chance to ring on the twelve there for the first time in a month-and-a-half and although we were clearly a little rusty on higher numbers, it was great to be ringing Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and even more so in the presence of George Pipe who made a rare but most welcome visit to the ringing chamber he is so synonymous with. I did get a good picture of him and Josh playing with each other, but sadly having smashed my phone this afternoon, that photo is probably lost forever!
That was all the ringing I managed today though, as having picked young Mr Salter up, we got to church in time to join in some Christingle-making, long after ringing there had finished. Still, it was nice to catch-up with Katharine when she came to pick her son up and to hear how David is getting on and there was plenty of ringing going on elsewhere in Suffolk today, with all four quarter-peals rung within our borders seeing firsts or landmarks.
Well done to Hal Humphreys on his first of Minor in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Aldeburgh, Ben Keating on ringing his first inside in the Doubles version of the same method at Great Barton, Michael Rolph (and Happy Birthday!) on ringing his first of Surprise in the 1272 of Cambridge Minor at Theberton and Simon Veal on ringing his most methods and variations in the success at Ingham, as well as congratulations on ringing his one hundredth QP in the same performance.
And Happy Birthday Mason!
With the twelfth anniversary of Mason’s birth falling tomorrow, it inevitably meant that these two days have taken on a ‘birthday weekend’ status. That said, he is too old/cool to have a party as he had in his younger days, when the order of the day was more like dozens of excited children racing around full of cake! Therefore, there was nothing particularly exciting about our plans on this occasion. Instead, it was nice to go and see my Mum and Dad for a pleasant afternoon of present opening and model plane building.
Whilst there, I took the opportunity to have a quick skim of the latest editions of the Ringing World that were sat in mater and pater’s living room. Of most interest was the report on the recent record peal of fourteen Surprise Fourteen methods rung at the Bullring in Birmingham, a fascinating insight into the background and logistics of a phenomenal achievement, involving many friends and acquaintances that I am blessed to have made in ringing.
It is a must-read and one thing that did stand out was something obvious and yet which I didn’t initially think about. Ringing a nearly-40cwt bell at such a high-standard for over seven hours is something that very few could even contemplate, let alone carry out. Indeed, as the superb article by organiser and conductor Simon Linford points out, there is actually only one – Michael Wilby. Having rung forty-one peals with him, most of which saw him pulling the tenor in, I can vouch first-hand for his incredible ability on big bells. He is always in control and I can’t ever recall him putting a blow wrong.
However, perhaps another might one day approach his achievements and one whose roots are in Suffolk. He has already rung the 72cwt tenor behind to a 5004 of Stedman Cinques at Exeter Cathedral and closer to what is now his home in Bristol when bonging behind to a 5009 of the same principle on the 50cwt tenor at St Mary the Virgin Redcliffe, Ipswich boy-turned-good George Salter impressively pulled in the 56cwt tenor of the world’s heaviest ten (bar the back tens of heavier twelves of course!) at Wells Cathedral. And not just to something simple, but spliced Triton Delight, Bristol and Cambridge Surprise Royal. Extremely impressive stuff George – well done!
Meanwhile, back in his home county, a peal was rung in memory of former South-West District Chairman Charlie Ablitt, appropriately rung at Stratford St Mary where he was tower captain. And in Debenham a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major was rung a century on from the death of local ringer Sedley James Collins, showing how even two months after the First World War ended in Europe, that dreadful conflict was still wastefully taking lives.
No ringing this time round for us though, with our focus entirely on Mason’s birthday weekend!
January has been a bumper month for ringing featuring on mainstream TV and in many different ways. Following its pretty dreadful showing in the fictional period piece Father Brown, its decent documental feature on Blue Peter and last week’s random appearance in conversation on QI, tonight we found it referenced in perhaps the most unexpected spot yet.
8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is a comedy spin-off of the more sedate ‘Countdown’, full of strong language and crude jokes. We enjoy it immensely, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and it was the last place that we imagined a mention of the exercise. They tend to do little skits whilst the contestants are trying to find words or work out sums and 24mins45secs in – for those who would prefer to skip the swearing, though you will have to put up with annoyingly long ad breaks – they do a parody of bellringing with host Jimmy Carr ringing the ‘tenor’, complete with obligatory monk outfits, handling that Father Brown would recognise and flying to the ceiling. If aimed at recruiting ringers then it would be cringeworthy, but of course it wasn’t and a proper ringing demonstration wouldn’t have been at all amusing and so yet again it has to be placed in the context of entertainment. However, it has been interesting to see the art appear so frequently over such a short space of time in various guises to a mass audience. Perhaps there is some way of harnessing this.
Ringing was being carried out to a much smaller audience, but properly in Suffolk today though, with the FNQPC scoring a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at the isolated ground-floor six of Ashbocking, whilst yesterday a quarter-peal of Little My Bob Minor – a method primed for confusion in spliced – was rung at Tostock, a first in the method for the band. Well done to them all.
Sadly, neither performance is likely to get any coverage on mainstream television, even in this high-profile January for ringing.
One of those entirely unmemorable days. There was an abundance of general contentment (even on days like these we feel blessed and fortunate), but it was mundane, cold (very cold!), dark, grey and having been on a late shift it was a short evening too, even more so once Ruthie was back from choir practice. There wasn’t even any ringing to report on, at least within our borders that had been reported on BellBoard.
A reminder therefore, that God willing, February is offering much ringing to join in with for a short month. Please do check What’s On for more details, but all being well the South-East District are holding their Ringing Meeting at Parham and Hacheston on the afternoon of the 2nd, the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice is running on the evening of the 6th, the North-West District will be having open ringing with refreshments at Gislingham following a quarter-peal attempt on the 9th, Bungay’s Eight-Bell Practice is from 7.30-9pm on the 11th, the Seceond Tuesday Ringing is at Offton and Sproughton either side of lunch on the 12th, the Helmingham Monthly Practice should take place on the 15th, the North-East District will be enjoying a Tower Tour on the 16th and the South-West District are at St Gregory in Sudbury on the 23rd from 3-4.30pm, although more immediately they are holding their January Practice at Woolpit this Saturday afternoon. In amongst all of that, the Guild Peal Week is also due to run from 16th-24th and I would strongly urge everyone to take part, even – or indeed, especially – if you don’t usually do much peal-ringing. These are great opportunities for progress in the medium that in my experience typically produces the best ringing due to its prolonged nature and which can then filter down to everyday ringing. Debut peals, first as conductor or in a method or simply to hone already acquired skills, please do organise something or get in touch with Ringing Master Tom Scase for help.
I’m pretty sure it’ll be a fun way to pass another mundane, cold, dark, grey winter’s day!
Logistics after another late shift at work meant that ultimately neither of us made it out to Pettistree tonight, but thank you very much to the band who dedicated the pre-practice quarter-peal of London Bob Minor to Mason’s twelfth birthday.
It was one of three performances on Suffolk’s bells recorded on BellBoard today, with the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Buxhall and 5088 of East Bergholt Surprise Major on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower remembering Hubert Mitson, who was born and lived his whole life in the former village.
For us though, it was another quiet evening and although a documentary by David Dimbleby called How We Built Britain gave us hope of seeing bells as it explored the churches of the county like Blythburgh, there was nothing of interest from a ringing perspective to note from our night in.
Hopefully logistics will allow us to do more in the coming days!
Since it became possible a few years ago to pay for even the smallest of outlays by card and even via smartphone, I hardly use actual cash at all on an everyday basis. The upshot of this is that I can easily find myself caught out when it comes to making tower, quarter-peal and peal donations. Of course, I should be more organised and even if I accept that it isn’t worth me going out of my way to an ATM to get some paper money for a donation worth just a few coins, I could just make an upfront payment, either in the box or via a bank transfer. Except I rarely think about it at the right moment. If only there was some way of making a contactless payment in the ringing chamber to ensure regular payments from absent-minded folk like me.
All of which meant my attention was drawn to the debate on the Bellringers Facebook page about an article on how the Church of England have begun trials of a ‘digital collection box’. It seems some towers do take contactless payments, some with success, others less so and there were lots of suggestions on who could facilitate such payments. I’m not aware of any towers in Suffolk doing the same, but perhaps it is something more ought to be looking to do to maximise income?
After a late shift at work though, there wasn’t any towers benefitting from my donations, cashless or otherwise and so it was a quiet evening in. Not so elsewhere though. The pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton was rung in memory of Hubert Mitson, the man who donated the trophy which SGR towers have been competing for in the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competition since 1963. May he Rest in Peace and hopefully there will be a big turnout competing for the Mitson Shield this year at Polstead on Saturday 18th May.
Meanwhile, well done to St Mary-le-Tower ringer and Past Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond on ringing her first peal of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced in the 5152 rung at Spitalfields in London for the Cumberland Youths. Hopefully everyone was able to pay afterwards!
Today Alfie did a dance-a-thon at school to raise important funds for his seat of learning and is looking for sponsorship! He did very well, got lots of exercise and thoroughly enjoyed himself, so if you would like to donate a nominal amount (a fiver or tenor has been the general rule, so nothing huge) then please do get in touch with me.
The ringing family has already been typically generous at Woodbridge, Pettistree and St Mary-le-Tower, but unfortunately I was unable to join the latter tonight as a week of late shifts at work began and despite my best intentions, logistics beat me. It was particularly disappointing as of course it was the first practice with the new eleventh clapper in.
Nonetheless it is good news that we have a full compliment of bells again, although I’m not sure it necessitates a dance. Still, well done Alfie!
Today was a day that reminded me how us ringers often have to juggle our everyday lives very tightly with our ringing lives on the sort of Sunday that very few people other than ringers usually have.
In a few weeks, Ruthie and I are due to ring for St Mary-le-Tower in the second annual George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition, a striking contest held for twelve-bell towers in Essex and Suffolk. This year’s is planned to be held at Saffron Walden south of the River Stour on Saturday 16th February and as is generally advisable when one is travelling distance to an unfamiliar ring of bells, we travelled there this afternoon for a practice ahead of the big day. These are a lovely sounding ring and at 22cwt the sort of twelve I would dearly love within our borders – not as big and daunting as SMLT, not as flighty as Grundisburgh. However, as with all rings of bells, they have their own little intricacies. In the ringing chamber, the sound isn’t overly clear and – again as with most rings – there is oddstruckness that it is ideal to discover before the test piece in twenty-seven days. Still, at the right speed, it is easy to get good ringing on these and we certainly achieved that on this occasion, with some of the rounds we rang available to view on Pippa Moss’ Facebook profile.
Having only discovered last night that I was conducting, it was also useful to get three goes at the touch in the hour-and-a-half session, although one of the touches was a course longer when I missed calling the first wrong whilst merrily listening to the striking!
All in all therefore, it was a useful visit, but with a 1.30pm start it was logistically challenging once we’d finished church in Woodbridge (where I’d also unexpectedly ended up helping serve the teas and coffees afterwards), dropped the boys off at their grandparents in Ipswich and then made the hour-plus journey – grabbing some lunch in a near-farcical drop-in to Subway on the A14 along the way – to the pretty small town over the border. We made it though and were very grateful to my Mum and Dad for not only looking after the children, but also feeding them.
Elsewhere it had been a busy day on the county’s bells, with four quarter-peals
on bells within the Guild plus one
at NDA tower Lowestoft.
Well done to the entire band who rang their first of Tarnbrook Bob Minor in
the 1296 at Buxhall
and especially to David Harding on ringing his first QP inside in
the success at Exning,
whilst there was also
a 1260 of Plain
Bob Doubles on the back six at Bardwell and
1320 of spliced
St Clement’s College,
Single Oxford and Plain Bob Minor at Rougham. And yesterday a Suffolk band
rang a quarter of
Grandsire Triples on the 19cwt eight of Whittlesey in Cambridgeshire.
Earlier today meanwhile, I had helped man the front six at Woodbridge before attending the morning worship downstairs, but back in the county town there was some fantastic news at ‘The Tower’, as with the eleventh clapper now back in, the 35cwt twelve were rung in their entirety for the first time for over a month.
God willing I shall soon be able to ring on them too, if I can juggle life sufficiently.
We had a very mundane, but productive day today, the sort where we hunkered down from the freezing chill outside and did lots of chores and sorting out, a necessity in a household as busy as ours!
Meanwhile, there has been more news from Katharine Salter in regards to her husband David’s recent move to Ipswich Hospital and it is good news, for he is now able to accept visitors. Katharine is hopeful that it will make the patient’s days more interesting than they currently are and give her and the family a bit of relief too. Visiting hours are 11am-8pm, but understandably limited to two people per visit and Katharine has asked that anyone planning on visiting him to let her know first so that visits can be coordinated.
Although productive and touched by that good news, our day involved no ringing for us, nor were there any quarter-peals or peals rung today on Suffolk’s bells, at least according to BellBoard, but there is some ringing planned within our borders beyond the usual weekly practices before January ends with a lot less fanfare than it was welcomed in with. Indeed, hopefully next Saturday won’t be so quiet generally from a ringing perspective, with the South-West District due to hold a practice at Woolpit from 3-4.30pm.
Do support it if you can and avoid a mundane Saturday like this!
More airtime for bellringing, this time on a brand new episode of QI, Ruthie’s favourite. It was briefer than its recent appearances on Father Brown and Blue Peter, initially mentioned in passing when listing the number of deaths in various pastimes many centuries ago, but that then prompted a typical non-ringers conversation about ringers flying up and down on the end of ropes and of bells falling down from the tower. Naturally our eyes rolled, but again it is worth putting it into the context of their main aim – entertainment and humour. I doubt it will do any harm to the exercise.
Otherwise, it was a very quiet day on the ringing front, both personally and across the county, with nothing reported on BellBoard from Suffolk. Perhaps we’re all too busy watching QI.
The light flurry of snow we had this morning was enough to get Alfie very excited on his way to school, but mercifully not enough to put any ringing over the next couple of days in jeopardy. Or at least it shouldn’t! Barring any other unforeseen circumstances, that ought to mean the Helmingham Monthly Practice on Friday night between 7.30-9pm will be going ahead.
All the white stuff had completely disappeared by the time I had left work after another early shift, making the short walk home all the more palatable and I imagine getting to Horringer to ring a quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Major all the easier.
Although Alfred might not agree, here’s hoping snow stays away to allow for more to be rung!
They say in comedy, that timing is... something.
So it is with ringing. Particularly in regards to striking, but also – it appears – when it comes to breaking the equipment we ring with. In that respect, my mother-in-law Kate Eagle has got great timing, at least judging by this evening. For come the end of a two-hour practice night at Pettistree crammed full of the usual mix of stuff for learners, Surprise Minor and curveballs like Francis Goodwill Delight Minor which in itself followed a 1440 of Grandsire Minor, she was leading down, instructed the band to miss-and-catch after three, went to chime the treble one final time and promptly broke the rope!
Hopefully there were no such issues after the quarter-peal of Sherfield-on-Loddon Bob Minor at Great Finborough, where they were remembering former Buxhall ringer Graham Clarke six years after his death. Well done to all in the band on ringing their first in the method.
All of this evening’s action was missed by me however, as following last night’s unpleasantness it felt sensible not to inflict anything upon fellow ringers, although after a remarkable rare twelve-hour sleep and having reluctantly taken the day off work (there will be a lot of catching up to be done over the next few days!) I felt remarkably fine today. Therefore Ruthie accompanied her mother, although with The Greyhound next door still closed for landlords Stewart and Louise to have a post-Christmas break, a much needed drink following the trauma of that broken rope wasn’t possible.
That is bad timing.
Good news from the Salter household, as Katharine announced that Past Guild Ringing Master David was today transferred from Addenbrooke’s Hospital – where he has been since his stroke just before Christmas – to Ipswich Hospital. It is hopefully a sign of his recovery, but it should also make life a bit easier for his wife as she is spared the four-hour round trip to Cambridge every time she wants to see him. Mrs Salter said she hopes to find out more about whether people can or should visit him in the near future.
Mercifully it pales into complete insignificance in comparison, but my health took a took a spectacular turn for the worse right at the end of another long day that began in the early hours at the offices of John Catt Educational. I shan’t go into details, but as I prepared to go to bed ahead of another pre-dawn start tomorrow, I was very ill, in a rather unpleasant way.
It was a sorry way to end what had otherwise been a nice enough day as Ruthie’s best friend Fergie accompanied us to collect Alfie from school on a visit up from her town of residence Brighton, before sharing some fish ‘n’ chips and homemade carrot cake – ten days after that ringing bake-off at Coddenham, my wife is still creating scrummy bakes!
Meanwhile, the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton was successfully rung, with a 1312 of Yorkshire Surprise Major scored upon the ground-floor 8cwt octave.
For all the shenanigans in Westminster, at least ringing and ringers were providing some – mainly – good news!
Following Saturday’s excitement, it appears that Ruthie and I have made it on to Ipswich Town’s Twitter feed and judging by some of the comments it is the closest I will ever come to going viral!
That afternoon at Portman Road seemed about as far removed as it possibly could on a cold, dark ‘morning’ as I awoke for my first early shift of the year at work, although that did leave an afternoon free to do a shop. No autograph hunters though. How disappointing.
What is not disappointing though, is that following yesterday’s news that the new clapper for the eleventh at St Mary-le-Tower was ready to be collected, there was even better news this evening as Owen Claxton announced that Taylors were now happy to courier it tomorrow. God willing that means that all twelve should ring out again on Sunday morning.
It was too late for tonight’s session of course, but nonetheless it was all carried out in a jovial atmosphere with Bristol, Lincolnshire and London Surprise Major amongst a repertoire that also included Little Bob Major for Sonia to treble to. And mother introduced a new verb as she admitted that she had ‘Pearced’ her way through some recent ringing, a fond reference to the late Ernie Pearce who I believe - as I never rang with him – used to occasionally find his way through methods when lost, by looking for a gap and filling it! Not that he is the only ringer to try that!
My night ended in the ringing chamber of the hopefully soon-to-be-twelve-again though as I passed on going to The Cricketers ahead of another early start tomorrow and following a long day. It’s a tiring being a Twitter star!
Following my extraordinary day yesterday, today was very ordinary and a lot quieter. With the first early shifts of the forthcoming international campaign at work starting tomorrow, that is precisely the sort of afternoon I needed.
Nevertheless, my morning was fairly active as I rejoined the regular biweekly Sabbath morn circuit of St Mary-le-Tower-Costa-Grundisburgh after nearly a month. We were slightly down on numbers compared to normal at the former two destinations, with a handful of ringers away, but then we are still down on clappers too of course. However, there is at least light at the end of the tunnel on that front, with Owen Claxton getting word from Taylors on Friday that a new clapper is ready for collection. It will be too late for tomorrow night’s planned practice, but God willing all twelve may be ringing out across Ipswich in a week’s time!
Meanwhile at the latter venue, we had a decent turnout in comparison to usual and although it wasn’t enough to get all twelve going, we did manage some respectable call-changes on ten, whilst Mason had a go bonging behind to some Plain Bob Minimus on the front five. Still no sign of him incorporating handstrokes yet though.
For all that our afternoon was quiet, it wasn’t so for quite a few other ringers in Suffolk. The second-Sunday peals at Aldeburgh/towers-that-fill-in-over-summer got underway for 2019 with a 5088 of Yarborough Delight Major on the 11cwt eight by the coast, with Mike Whitby capturing the band in action on camera. It was also the first since regular participant and organiser David Salter had his stroke and I imagine the first for quite some time not featuring his considerable ringing skills. Katharine continues to update people on Facebook on pretty much a daily basis as to how he’s getting on, but nothing much has changed with his condition or where he is, as he continues his stay at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Hopefully he may be lifted by news of today’s success.
Across the other end of the county, a 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung at The Norman Tower and a 1260 of Mymble’s Daughter Bob Minor was rung at Buxhall, the first blows in the method for the entire band. It was also Josephine Beever’s 550th QP with David Steed and 540th with his wife and today’s conductor Lesley. Well done to the band and congratulations to Josephine and the Steeds.
I’m glad that others were keeping up the good work as I wound down!
11th August 2012. 27th January 2007. 10th April 2014. 11th July 2016.
Respectively they were mine and Ruthie’s wedding day and the births of Mason, Alfie and Joshua. These have been the best days of my life by a distance. Today though, is definitely the best of the rest!
Back in October, my brother Chris, his wife Becky, her brother Carl, father Steve and his other half Maddie very generously presented me with a pair of Gold Dream Tickets to Ipswich Town’s match against Rotherham United this afternoon. It was an amazing gift that justifiably doubled up as a present for both my fortieth birthday and Christmas and which from what we could understand included a stadium tour, a three course meal, meeting a club legend, getting my name in the programme and helping pick the man of the match. To have something to look forward to in the midst of the post-festive blues was wonderful and for the last three months I have been looking forward to this in increasingly eager anticipation.
And yet what transpired was beyond even my wildest dreams...
For a start, having passed the players’ vehicles in the car park and watched in awe as many of them passed through as we waited in the reception, the stadium tour – which Chris had also generously paid for Mason to go on – was not led by ‘just’ a normal club employee as we expected. Rather, we were taken through the home dressing room (with kits and boots already laid out, but long before any of the players were in there getting dressed, you’ll be relieved to hear!), down the tunnel out to the edge of the famous pitch, into the boardroom and then the Directors Box by none other than Mick Stockwell, a star player in the Ipswich team when I first started going to matches in the late 1980’s and for many seasons after that.
With someone taking the eldest son to meet up with his uncle to watch the match elsewhere in the Portman Road ground, the man who made 506 appearances for the first team that included a lot in the Premier League personally took us to the Sir Bobby Robson Suite for the next exciting part of our day, which would be our meal and we imagined an opportunity to shake hands and grab a quick word with whatever Town legend was being put forward to greet the supporters.
“You’re on table twelve,” the lady at the door informed us when we arrived, “with John Wark.”
We suddenly realised we would be at a table with him and we assumed a number of other lucky punters vying for the chance to ask him questions. Until we got to table twelve to discover there were just three places set. Sure enough, Ruthie and myself were having dinner with a man who won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup with ITFC whilst playing under Bobby Robson (one of the world’s greatest managers in his time), won league titles and played in a European Cup final (before it became the Champions League) when he later played for Liverpool, as well as in a World Cup (where he also scored) for his native Scotland. That’s before one even mentions his part in football film Escape to Victory where he starred alongside the sport’s greatest ever player Pele, as well as Hollywood actor Sylvester Stallone. Essentially we had dinner with a movie star!
As you can imagine there was lots to talk about and it wasn’t all football. In addition to being refreshingly candid about the Tractor Boys’ current plight and some of the behind the scenes tales from his appearance on the big screen, he spoke about his family, the fitness – or lack of it - of children and his own childhood. It was a surreal few hours interjected with a quiz, plenty of drinking and even an Ipswich Town win (the first one I’ve seen for nearly two years and first that my wife has witnessed for quite a while longer!), before I – and I alone – selected the man of the match, debutant James Collins to a murmur of approval by both the others present in the suite and Mr Wark himself. And it was I who presented the award to him afterwards!
Finally it had to end, as Chris very kindly drove me us all home, where Ruthie went off bowling with her work colleagues and I looked after the boys and their cousins Katelynn and Annalise for the evening, though I still felt in a bit of a daze following our fantastic day out – thank you so much Chris, Becky, Carl, Steve and Maddie!
My adventures did mean I had to turn down a kind invite to ring in the peal at Great St Mary in Cambridge, so I was delighted to see they were successful with a 5148 of Grandsire Cinques, which featured a number of Suffolk residents (including conductor Stephen Pettman) and was Nicholas Elks and Jimmy Yeoman’s first on twelve – well done Nicholas and young Exning ringer Jimmy!
And actually within our borders, there were a brace of quarter-peals, with 1260s of Doubles – four methods at Great Barton and ten methods and a principle at Woolpit. Congratulations to Ben Keating on ringing his first in the medium at the first attempt in the former – hopefully the first of many!
Meanwhile in Birmingham, it was lovely to see how ringing was used to bring friends and family together in difficult circumstances but in a wonderful way. I’ve known Susan Marshall for many years from Rambling Ringers and my ringing days in the second city and she very kindly rang in the peal I arranged at Debenham for Mason’s eighth birthday almost four years ago. However, she got some very bad news a couple of months ago when she was told she has terminal cancer and yet the peals at Aston and at St Paul in Brum and QP at St Chad’s Cathedral round the corner were part of a gathering of friends and family to celebrate Sue. She has certainly being making the most of her time and it makes one realise how special days like I’ve had today, our wedding day and the birth of our children really are.
As we come to the end of the first full week of school for most children, it is worth noting what a good one it has been for ringing’s youth. Yesterday’s feature on Blue Peter was generally well received and highlighted to a young audience that the exercise isn’t just full of old men in braces and there have been a couple of outstanding ringing performances since Monday.
One was close to home from a Suffolk perspective in more ways than one, as just over the border in Cambridgeshire at Willingham on Wednesday, George and Diana Pipe’s great-nephew Alfred became the youngest person to ring a peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus on handbells. At thirteen years and three-hundred-and-twenty days he beat the record held by his elder brother Henry – who also rang in the 5088 - by just eleven days.
Meanwhile, the following day, Daniel Hughes impressively celebrated his fifteenth birthday by not only ringing his first peal, but ringing it to his own composition in the 5015 of spliced Royal at Merton in Greater London. I know his father Jason – who conducted the 3hrs1min of ringing – from my younger ringing days beyond our borders, but I’ve never rung with Daniel. Clearly though, he is a talented lad, at least judging by this impressive effort.
God willing our boys will one day get the ringing bug and enter into the limitless world of achievement and friendship that the Pipe boys, Daniel and indeed those featured on CBBC twenty-fours ago are currently enjoying, but for this evening they were very kindly being looked after by mother-in-law Kate as Ruthie and I accompanied my wife’s sister Clare to the Seckford Theatre at Woodbridge School to watch The Fenland Screamers & Other Boggy Tales. Strictly speaking, this is Eastern Angles’ Christmas production, but for us it is always something to look forward to in the New Year once the festivities are over and again it didn’t let us down.
Elsewhere, FNQPC were ringing a 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Henley, which was rung as a birthday compliment to Guild stalwart Muriel Page, who has been quite unwell recently. Happy Birthday Muriel and get well soon.
And yesterday, a 1272 of Oswald Delight Minor was rung at Tostock, a first in the method for Ruth Suggett and David Steed’s 1800th in the medium. Well done Ruth and congratulations David – it’s been a good week for ringers of all age categories!
Two days after that pretty dreadful Father Brown episode, TV redeemed itself to an extent, as the twice-postponed, much anticipated feature of last year’s Ringing World National Youth Contest on Blue Peter finally aired this afternoon, precisely nineteen minutes into the show. I’ll be honest and say I was a little disappointed. It was shorter than I imagined, especially as I believed it had been postponed until now to allow it to be shown in its entirety (I’m not sure what more they could have shaved off) and there wasn’t as much featured about the competition itself.
However, ultimately – unlike the murder mystery on Tuesday – this was quite good publicity for the art in my humble opinion. Although strangely for a feature on ringing youngsters the main participants in the piece were the more experienced and established Tom Hinks, Hannah Taylor, David Hull and one-time Suffolk ringers John Loveless and (in a black and white clip from the archives) the late, very great Rod Pipe, it really did show the exercise in a positive youthful light, which even grabbed the attention of Alfie and – judging by comments made online since - other children too, which given its target audience was the most important thing. Well done to all involved!
Sadly, ill-health prevented us participating in any ringing ourselves, with Ruthie’s intentions of going to Ufford for the monthly Surprise Major Practice on the 13cwt eight following choir practice scuppered as she was laid low.
Other ringers were actively engaging in ringing in Suffolk on this chilly Thursday though, with a brace of quarter-peals rung at Worlingham. Congratulations to David Webb on impressively ringing his two thousandth QP in the 1260 of Grandsire Doubles and well done to Kate Gill on conducting a quarter for the first time. Well done also to Sarah Plummer on ringing her first of Ipswich Surprise Minor in the other success on the 8cwt six.
All in all, a very positive day for ringing on and off the tele.
Tonight I should’ve been attempting my first peal of 2019 at The Wolery, the home of the Salter’s mini-ring, but recent events of course meant that was postponed, with Katharine having too much on her plate (and feeling under the weather herself to boot) to even consider hosting a peal band. Still, the last update she put up intimated that David may be transferred to Ipswich Hospital soon, which will hopefully make things easier for her and their family.
It was perhaps for the best that I wasn’t needed for a trip to Old Stoke this evening, as Ruthie was pretty tired after a day that saw her have to briefly take Joshua to A&E after it was suspected that he had stuffed something else up his nose. It was all a false alarm, but it is better to be safe than sorry and ultimately the bedtime routine was little more dragged out than usual, meaning that neither of us made it to Pettistree practice.
The ground-floor six and its ringers feature prominently in Guild PRO Neal Dodge’s superb analysis of the quarter-peals rung in Suffolk in 2018, which I got my first opportunity to read tonight. Indeed the aforementioned ring unsurprisingly leads the way by some distance, with more than double the total rung at runner-up Buxhall, whilst Ringing Master Mike Whitby was the leading conductor, four of the successes in the leading method of the year – Plain Bob Minor – were rung there and a number of regulars such as Mike, Mike Cowling, Pippa Moss, Mary Garner and Mark Ogden were amongst those who rang in the most, although the top two spots were again occupied by David and Lesley Steed. More broadly, it was encouraging to learn that the number of quarters and those conducting them within our borders were up on 2017, albeit the number in total ringing them was marginally down. Heartening though that there were eight making their debut in the medium over the twelve months. Well done to all concerned in making it another successful year of quarter-pealing on Suffolk’s bells and thank you to Neal for putting the stats together.
This year’s totals were being added to today, with three in total rung on bells in the county. Being a Wednesday, one was naturally enough at Pettistree, but there was a 1260 of Stedman Triples rung at Horringer and 1280 of Cooktown Orchid Delight Major – the Ringing World Diary’s Method of the Month - rung at Ixworth.
Hopefully the peal totals will continue on the promising start the SGR made in the early days of the New Year, but sadly on this occasion they weren’t added to it at The Wolery.
This Thursday is due to see the twice-postponed feature on last year’s Ringing World’s National Youth Contest finally appear on Blue Peter, at 5.30pm on CBBC, although I imagine most will be able to watch it on iPlayer if you can’t catch it then.
Hopefully the art will come across far better on that then it did on today’s episode of Father Brown, The Passing Bell. For it came across fairly dreadfully on this occasion. From the opening scene where they had seemingly just finished a peal on four, through many scenes that appeared to show the bells being rung in the up position from above whilst below they are clearly being chimed, to a bizarre understanding of where the treble is, an apparent non-ringer teaching the band alongside composing methods and much of the correct terminology being used in the wrong way. And of course the tower captain was an off-the-chart weirdo. It was a grade A cringe-fest and one could even argue it was dangerous to suggest to non-ringers that raised bells are rung with coils, but the exercise rarely comes across very well on the TV, even in the famous Midsomer Murders where much time was taken to make the ringing scenes as accurate as was possible in the circumstances.
In reality, context and perspective is needed before ranting to Points of View though. Nobody is likely to be put off ringing by this and all these things are very tongue-in-cheek and more concerned – quite rightly really – in entertaining than portraying ringing or anything else accurately, as I’m sure Morris Dancers, vets, medics and anyone else whose hobby or work has been portrayed in such programmes will testify. Still, I can’t envisage ever watching this forty-five minutes again.
Other ringers were avoiding this televisual mistake by doing actual proper
ringing, especially at Rushmere St Andrew where a quarter-peal of Plain Bob
Doubles was rung, whilst meanwhile I also noticed that this year’s
RWNYC is due to take place in
Liverpool on Saturday 6th July, although
sadly – as far as I am aware – there is no Suffolk entry planned. Nevertheless,
it should be a super day and you could get a flavour of it on the tele on Thursday!
It was a very low-key return to St Mary-le-Tower’s Monday night practices tonight. With the eleventh still without a clapper, it is understandable that many who travel a long distance to ring on ten and twelve decided against travelling in on a cold winter’s night and the result was a turnout of a dozen ringers, but nonetheless a useful session on the front eight that included a repertoire from Plain Hunt on Seven to six Surprise Major methods spliced was had with those present. All our bells may be available next week, but that is by no means certain, so watch this space...
In turn, the lower attendance meant that the gathering in The Cricketers afterwards was also slightly smaller than it is usually is. Levels of joviality weren’t lowered however. The many parts of the Mini in the Birkby’s garage, the ‘Bedford Mafia’ and Jonathan Williamson’s historic driving licence all had us chuckling.
Hopefully as the year progresses, there will be more of us to chuckle along.
I have some hopes and ambitions for my personal ringing. Winning the Ridgman Trophy and thus completing a clean sweep of victories in striking competitions on six, eight, ten and twelve is one. Doing some Project Pickled Egg stuff is another, whilst I would also like to ring a peal of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced. And there are a handful of ringers I wouldn’t mind ringing a peal with.
This afternoon I got a tick in the latter regards as I rang a 5056 of Bristol Surprise Major at Hollesley with a superstar of the art, Alan Reading. This is a young man who is the youngest ever to conduct a thousand peals, whose compositions are considered amongst the best in the history of the exercise and who has appeared in just about every high-profile record long-length of the last couple of years, including last week’s 10192 of fourteen Surprise Fourteen methods spliced at the Bullring in Birmingham, which was still sat at the top of BellBoard’s leaderboard as we rang our peal on the fine 16cwt eight by the North Sea today. Although I was disappointed with my lapses of concentration, I was suitably impressed over our 2hrs50mins ringing together. He was so completely on top of everything, whilst striking faultlessly throughout and conducting one his own music-packed but memory-stretching compositions. Even after all the stars of the art that I have been blessed to ring with down the years, it was a privilege to be in a band with him. Although having expected him to ring the tenor, I was little surprised and perhaps unprepared for ringing it myself!
For all that it was nice to ring with the famous AGR, it was also lovely to ring again with former Debenham ringer and Pettaugh resident Robert Beavis. His personality and ringing abilities are much missed here, but they appear much appreciated in Bristol, so it was nice for him to bring the two elements together here, as he has done across a weekend of ringing in his homeland.
It is also very much the homeland of Brian Whiting, who has done so much for the Guild and today rang his 900th peal for the organisation. Congratulations Brian on this well-deserved and well-earnt landmark!
Unfortunately, I was only ringing because of David Salter’s absence following his stroke a fortnight ago. The Past Master of the Suffolk Guild is still apparently very sleepy and disorientated and Katherine continues to spend so much time travelling to and from Addenbrooke’s Hospital and sorting out everything that inevitably sorting out at this time. Whilst she is still extremely appreciative of the messages and offers of support, she asks via Facebook that people understand that she is simply unable to respond to them all or spend time on the phone.
After our efforts in David’s absence, Mark Ogden continued on to Pettistree for a quarter-peal of Beverley Surprise Minor, but for me it was back home to be reunited with my family who I had left at St Mary’s Church Centre earlier enjoying the Junior Church’s Epiphany Lunch. With this being the first time this had been attempted here, we weren’t entirely sure what it would involve and how long it would take, but we decided to take a punt and sign-up for the post-service meal and hope I would get fed by the time I had leave for my peal exploits. Sadly the wonderful full-on roast didn’t quite come out ahead of my departure (although I did get a takeaway very kindly thrust in my hand!) and with the wine being poured it was with a heavy heart that I left Ruthie and the boys to their feasting, which was ultimately to last almost as long my peal!
Still, I’m glad to have achieved another ringing ambition instead.
District ringing events should encourage any members who are interested in progressing themselves and/or the art locally and generally. And in the South-East District at least, the January meet-ups are usually one of the best attended in the calendar, perhaps because as being the first Saturday after all the festivities folk are keen to get out, maybe because it is part of a New Year’s resolution. Nonetheless, it isn’t hard to imagine that a visit to the ground-floor six at the isolated church of Barking and Coddenham’s less-than-easy eight in a cramped ringing chamber that means all bar the band participating and a handful of spectators have to potter around down in the church during midwinter, isn’t the most enticing prospect. These venues were due to be visited by the District last March, but that was cancelled in the midst of ‘The Beast From the East’. Mainly this was due to actually getting there in the snowy conditions, but in hindsight, even I am relieved that we didn’t have to spend an afternoon at this brace of towers during the country’s coldest snap for years!
Therefore, the suggestion of accompanying the meeting with a ‘bake-off’ was brilliant, in my opinion at least. I think a lot of us thought he was jesting when he suggested it at the end of long debate on the SE’s 2019 programme at last month’s ADM at Wickham Market. Yet lo and behold, here we were at the 14cwt octave easily accessible from the A14, with a table heaving with cakes of many types. Carrot, chocolate, apple, fruit, even butternut squash cakes were tried as we all got a sugar hit and attempted to decide which was the best of an extremely good bunch. In the end, Lesley Barrell was the deserved winner, but all entries received at least one vote, so well done everyone, including Ruthie on her scrumptious chocolate brownies! And well done to the Ringing Master Jonathan, Chairman Mark Ogden and Secretary Abby Antrobus on organising it so superbly. It was even suggested that it should act as a ‘qualification’ for providing cake for when the District hosts the Guild AGM, due to be at St Matthew’s in Ipswich on 27th April. Perhaps sausage rolls and cheese straws at Parham and Hacheston for the practice planned there in February?
Members were also encouraged to put their names forward for the Training Day in the planning at the new Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre in Norwich on Saturday 6th April – it should be quite an adventure!
Despite all this going on downstairs, there was some good ringing to enjoy upstairs, particularly a well rung, well struck three leads of Bristol Surprise Major, showing that although these aren’t the easiest going bells, decent ringing can be achieved on them with plenty of effort.
Sadly we failed in our objective of getting to the nearby 11cwt six beforehand, as ringing commitments and non-ringing commitments overlapped. It was conceivable that following my Goddaughter Maddison’s fifth birthday party from noon-2pm in Rendlesham that we could have made the ringing that was going until 3pm twenty miles away if everything had gone our way, but of course as anyone who has ever had to take children to such occasions will know, it wasn’t as easy as that and with a need to put some fuel in the car too, we cut our losses and headed straight to the second tower and that mountain of cake!
Meanwhile, it was another busy day of ringing in Suffolk – there will be a lot of quarters and peals rung in the county this year if it continues like this! Today saw one of each, although the QP of Lessness Surprise Major at Debenham was following a lost peal attempt. Still, with a 5040 at Clopton rung later in the day, I think it could be considered a successful day for the band! Congratulations as well to ringing superstar Alan Reading on conducting his 1100th in the medium in the 2hrs42mins of ringing at the lovely 12cwt six.
I wonder if they got cake afterwards?
More Christmas holiday logistics saw us travelling out to Ruthie’s sister Clare’s house - where she and her husband Kev had very kindly agreed to look after the l’il chap for the day whilst my wife and I went to work – and then to Joshua’s nursery to drop him off, all before our respective morning starts at John Ives and John Catt after getting them up, fed and dressed. It was a journey replicated in reverse after work, with the added pick-up of Mason for the weekend and a cuppa at the in-law’s and it left even less time than we usually have on a Friday evening for anything like ringing.
Others did find the time to fit in some ringing though, with the Guild’s third peal of the year rung. Again it was Minor, again conducted by Louis Suggett (who surely must be Slovakia’s leading conductor of 2019 thus far), but this time at the anti-clockwise gallery-ring six of Blaxhall.
Hopefully the logistics weren’t as tricky for them as they were for our day!
It may have been that he died just after Rolie Whiting and that when I reflected on 2018 on Monday that there was much swirling around my mind from the twelve months, but when I mentioned some of those the Guild had lost in the last twelve months, it was extremely remiss of me not to mention former Stratford St Mary ringer Charlie Ablitt. Although I didn’t really know him, I certainly knew of him and as a past Chairman of the South-West District and teacher of many ringers at his home tower and nearby Higham, he will be held in high regard by many. And I expect many will also be keen to know that his funeral is due to be held at Seven Hills Crematorium on Thursday 10th January at noon, followed by a memorial service at the church right next to the A12 that houses the 16cwt six that was so familiar to him. Everyone is welcome to either or both, as well as afterwards at Stratford Farm Restaurant near the church.
Meanwhile, in the District he was such a big part of, there was a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples rung at Bures, which was Nick De-vries’ first on eight – well done Nick!
However, otherwise it was a quiet day on the local ringing front, the first of 2019 without a peal being rung for the Suffolk Guild. That included us, with no ringing carried out by us personally, but we were grateful to ringers as my Mum and Dad very kindly looked after Alfie on the first day of his Christmas holidays where both Ruthie and I were working.
God willing we will get more involved with the art in the coming days and enjoy the exercise that Rolie and Charlie so loved.
The Christmas Tree and cards are still up, with the intention being that they are up until twelfth night and a CD of seasonal favourites is still in the car and proving popular with the boys, but today really felt like the end of the festivities and the resumption of normal, everyday life.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. I am blessed with a lovely normal, everyday life. My commute back to John Catt Educational after their annual shutdown over the festive period is now a short one, without the hassles of sitting in traffic jams, paying through the nose to wait at a freezing bus stop or stood crammed in a train contemplating how long ago those days of crackers, overeating and present opening in the company of loved ones now seem. And once at work, we (in the sales team at least) are broken in gradually, with many of the schools we work with not contactable today or even this week.
Meanwhile, we are especially lucky that ringing is part of our usual activity and tonight I returned as I represented Ruthie and myself at the first Pettistree practice of 2019, which was preceded by what God willing will be the first of many quarter-peals of this new year as the ground-floor six aims to beat last year’s total of sixty-three successes. A typically eclectic range of methods were rung, as we huddled into the heated ringing chamber. Single Canterbury Pleasure Bob Minor prompted someone to ask for St Nicholas College Bob Minor, whilst there was also some Francis Goodwill Delight. There was also more traditional fare, such as Grandsire Doubles, some really well rung Stedman Doubles and I started my year’s ringing by pulling the tenor in to a plain course of Beverley Surprise Minor. All accompanied by much joviality and a big tin of chocolates!
Elsewhere, the second Suffolk Guild peal of the year on just its second day was rung with an impressive 5760 of forty-one Surprise Minor methods rung on handbells in Bacton.
For me though, with The Greyhound closed for it’s annual post-Christmas break
until 25th January and even I feeling I’d had enough drink for a few days, it
was an immediate return home, but I still enjoyed my return to normality.
New Year’s Day is supposed to be a day of looking forward in hope, wondering what may lay ahead. However, there is one prediction that I shall make now for 2019 that I can make with much confidence but not much hope. Ipswich Town Football Club, one time champions of England, once considered amongst the best in Europe, provider of the national team’s best two managers and for so long something that the town and county could be proud of, will be playing in the third level of the country’s footballing ladder for the first time since 1957 by the end of this year.
I am no Nostradamus, it may surprise you to learn, but rather – like thousands of other fans of the Tractor Boys - finally resigned to our fate following today’s disastrous defeat to Millwall, the first of two home league matches in a row against teams only just above us that if we’d won could have seen us almost into the safety zone after spending much of this season being not only bottom, but very bottom. We have now officially made a worse start to a season in this division than anybody else since its rebranding the best part of twenty years ago. After more than half the season, there are actually people with more points on their driving licence and critically the gap in points between us and the 21st position that would see us stay up is now in reality too much to hope to make up in current circumstances. A win for ITFC still puts a bounce in my step, but I grew out of letting defeat to ruin my day. I don’t mind admitting I was pretty depressed about the whole thing this evening though.
Which is a shame, as although subdued and quite rightly paying the price for our excesses of last night and the early hours of this morning, it was a very leisurely morning at mother-in-law Kate’s, fuelled by a welcome conveyor belt of tea, some bacon sandwiches and broadcasting of family favourites The Muppet Movie and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, whilst the children continued their game-playing from the night before. It was all very lazy!
Not so for all of Suffolk’s ringers on an extremely busy day of ringing within our borders that bodes well for ringing here for the forthcoming twelve months. The main headline was Paul Ashton’s first quarter-peal inside as he rang the second to a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on the lovely ground-floor six of Theberton – well done Paul! There were also QPs at Hacheston, Marlesford and Parham of Allerton Bob Minor, Doubles and Norwich Surprise Minor respectively, the first method being a variation of Double Oxford Bob Minor. Meanwhile, a date touch of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung at Offton and the SGR’s peal tally got underway at the earliest opportunity with a 5040 at Woolpit – Happy 80th Birthday to former Norman Tower Ringing Master Ian Holland!
It kick-starts a year of what will God willing be one to remember for the right reasons. The Guild AGM is due to be hosted by the South-East District in Ipswich on 27th April, with the service, tea and meeting booked in for St Matthew’s church. And having extolled the virtues of striking competitions in yesterday’s blog, now is probably as good a time as any to encourage as many towers as possible to enter a team in the contests for the Mitson Shield, Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy and/or Rose Trophy on 18th May, pencilled in for the picturesque locations of Polstead and Lavenham in the South-West District. Hopefully the lack of twelve available bells at St Mary-le-Tower won’t hamper our entry for the George W Pipe 12-Bell Competition planned for 16th February at Saffron Walden – with the eleventh likely to be clapperless for much of the time between now and then – and on 15th June Bury St Edmunds is due to host the Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell competition for ringing organisations in the east of England. This can be a difficult event to host, so I’m sure the local ringers will be looking at ways to encourage participants to stick around and I hope lots of ringers from across the county not participating will come along to make – and soak up – the atmosphere.
All being well, Guild Peal Week from 16th-24th February will help to continue the upward trend of successful peals for the SGR, with 2018’s total of 108 being its best for four years and hopefully it will be another bumper year for quarters.
More immediately, if you are a fan of baking, then Saturday’s SE District Meeting at Barking and Coddenham should be the place to be if all goes to plan!
Whatever happens with Suffolk’s ringing in 2019, let’s hope it is better than the county’s professional football is likely to be!