Monday 16th September 2019

Richy's Blog

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Tuesday 10th September 2019

Tuesdays tend to be quiet on the ringing front for Ruthie and me, even without a late shift at work for me and so there was no participation in the art for us this evening. Instead, it was a night in which tested who has control of the TV remote. Turns out that on this occasion it was my wife, as with one of the most exciting England matches for years as we beat Kosovo 5-3 unfolding on one channel, I witnessed precisely one of the eight goals scored as the new series of The Great British Bake Off on another channel took precedence!

Meanwhile, it was interesting to see a quarter-peal of Primrose Surprise rung in its Major form before the practice at Offton this evening. It is frequently rung in Minor of course, but the principal – that it is Cambridge Surprise with the bells plain hunting at the lead-end rather than dodging – is the same on eight as it is on six and so I sometimes wonder why it isn’t rung more often for a bit of variety.

At least it spared them competing for the TV remote!

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Monday 9th September 2019

With a late shift at work taking my time in the office into the evening, there wasn’t an opportunity to make it to St Mary-le-Tower practice and so it was a quiet evening in without anything ringing related to report, both from a personal perspective and across Suffolk.

Indeed, the closest I got to anything ringing related was watching a Channel Five report on the fundraising for the Loughborough Bellfoundry Trust’s attempts to restore the famous buildings that house Taylors’ operations. The report included interviews with well-known ringing personalities Andrew Wilby and David Potter and will hopefully help them in reaching their daunting target.

Sadly there wasn’t time to ring on some of their finest bells in Ipswich tonight though.

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Sunday 8th September 2019

Sunday. A day of rest. Not for bellringers though of course. And certainly not for us today.

Whilst Ruthie was carrying out her choral duties at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge for morning worship, the boys and I were out and about as I rang at two of the county’s twelves, first at St Mary-le-Tower – where the concept of floating boxes was introduced with much hilarity – and then Grundisburgh, sandwiching the usual trip to Costa Coffee in Ipswich.

My wife collected from church, we then headed up to the town’s Kingston Field for a junior church picnic. The weather held, the children enjoyed themselves in the playground and us adults generally relaxed and chatted, before we five then continued on to mother-in-law Kate’s for a gratefully-received roast dinner for us and her mother Janet and Grandad Ron.

Elsewhere within our borders, the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh was as usual a first for the band and the Suffolk Guild, on this occasion with a 5088 of Northamptonshire Surprise Major, a line briefly familiar to us as a method of the 2011 Rambling Ringers Tour to the eponymous county and not exactly straightforward, so well done to all ringing on the 11cwt eight on the coast this afternoon.

Meanwhile, nearly fifty miles away in Bury St Edmunds, a quarter-peal of three Surprise Major methods spliced was rung on the Collings 8 at The Norman Tower.

Sunday is definitely not a day of rest for us ringers!

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Saturday 7th September 2019

There was an element of sod’s law in evidence today.

For I had committed myself to a brace of weddings this afternoon, first at Woodbridge and then at Grundisburgh.

The former seemed a good place to ring the first of two in a row. Kev the Rev – sadly soon to retire – is very strict about brides turning up on time and indeed when we got married back in 2012, Ruthie was so early I inadvertently found myself ringing her into the church! It was a surprise therefore when today’s soon-to-be Mrs hadn’t arrived as the start-time passed. Even more so as each minute went by, until we eventually gave up ringing her in. Still no sign of her. Eventually, as I took Alfie across the churchyard to the church centre half-an-hour beyond the advertised 1pm start, we spotted the bride walking through the gates. It struck me as odd, with most brides typically brought to the base of the tower as far as I’m aware, but it transpired it wasn’t the chosen means of entrance. Apparently – and perhaps unsurprisingly in this day and age – the root of the problem was the go-to choice of all those in charge of traffic ‘management’, the traffic light. Some temporary ones down in town had stopped working and brought the town to a standstill, something that I had been caught in when travelling to St Mary-the-Virgin myself, without realising what the cause was. Hence, on her big day, dressed in a wonderful white dress, she had to walk across town to her own wedding!

The knock-on effect was that with a spare, seventh ringer present, I scooped the boys up and got them back to where I’d earlier abandoned the car a few streets away and we made our way to the county’s lightest twelve, where this bride was also late, but only by a fashionable five minutes. Thus a decent afternoon of ringing drew to a close.

Hopefully that was also the case at Iken and Tunstall for the South-East District Meeting. I had intended to pop along after ringing for the matrimonial union at Woodbridge, but with Stephen Pettman struggling to get a band for proceedings at Grundisburgh, I felt I ought to help out. After all, our main purpose as ringers is to ring when called upon by the church where possible and so I put duty ahead of leisure, with the 4pm finish at the little red-brick tower nearly half-an-hour away from the 7cwt gallery-ring six just too late to have enough time to join my fellow SE members before they finished at 4.30pm. Hopefully they had a good turnout.

Meanwhile, members of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers were meeting down in London and it is worth noting that this gathering of the global ringing community is due to be hosted by the Suffolk Guild in 2022. It should be an exciting occasion for us, hopefully entirely untouched by sod’s law!

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Friday 6th September 2019

I have often given much thought to how much longer I can keep up regular alternate weeks of early shifts at work. For all the understandable eye-rolling of my elders, I’m not as young (obviously!) as I was when I first started them over a decade ago and was able to almost treat them as a day off, even partaking in a pub crawl on one occasion after being in work pre-dawn! I may still have the time for such things, but not the energy too!

However, apart from their work benefits (which of course is the main purpose of doing them), they have been useful outside of the office, including for sneaking in extra midweek afternoon ringing, such as peals, weddings and the Second Tuesday Ringing. They are also handy for those unexpected things that need dealing with and would normally involve those awkward conversations with the boss about needing to pop out of work, although John Catt Educational have always been very good and generous in such circumstances.

So it was today, when it became necessary for someone to take Charlie our cat to the vets. With Ruthie at work, it was fortunate that I had been in on an early shift, thus allowing me to take a reluctant feline to get checked over this afternoon. Mercifully there is nothing seriously wrong with him, although he is now very grumpy at not being allowed outside!

It also allowed me plenty of time to do the usual collection of our family members for the weekend, drop them off at mother-in-law Kate’s and for Ruthie and myself to pay a visit to my wife’s grandad Derek in hospital. The poor chap hasn’t been very well at all and yet remains remarkably upbeat and in the circumstances we had quite a pleasant chat about family, football and the weather, before we returned to Mrs Eagle’s, where we spent a while with all his great-grandchildren present.

Meanwhile, other Suffolk ringers were active on the county’s bells, with quarter-peals of Plain Bob Doubles and Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Earl Stonham and Rumburgh respectively. I’m glad they all had the time and energy!

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Thursday 6th September 2019

Yesterday Lesley Steed sent an email to the Guild’s membership informing of the death of one-time Woolpit and Norman Tower ringer Alan Feaver earlier this month. I didn’t really know him, though when we visited my Aunty Marian yesterday she commented on how she had seen him only a few weeks ago at the Veteran’s Day in Debenham and others will have also have been saddened by his passing. They may wish to know therefore that his funeral is due to be held at West Suffolk Crematorium in Bury St Edmunds at 2.30pm next Tuesday.

Mercifully there was no such sad news today, with the main ringing headlines being the 1296s of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Horringer and Braintree Delight Minor at Tostock, with the latter being rung to celebrate treble ringer Maureen Gardiner’s fifty years of marriage to her John and also a first in the method for Andrea Alderton and Nigel Gale. Congratulations Maureen and John and well done Andrea and Nigel!

Hopefully Alan would’ve approved of the activity in his part of the world!

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Wednesday 4th September 2019

The Wolery.People who don’t want an election getting annoyed about not being able to have an election because the people who do want an election won’t have an election. A Prime Minister with a losing streak that would’ve made Ipswich Town blush last season. Deselections of MPs. Complete and utter deadlock in the place that should be running the country. It was brave of anyone who locked themselves in a room to ring a peal today, lest they exit to find piles of burning tyres and mass looting, even for those of us who rang in the 5148 of Weldon Surprise Major at The Wolery, the quickest of all the peals recorded on BellBoard on this Wednesday where all eyes were again on Westminster.

Regardless of the risks, I am very glad we rang this, as conductor and member of our hosts David Salter continues his impressive recovery from last year’s stroke. He was cautious ahead of this, wary that the quick-thinking which he is so associated with when calling peals doesn’t come quiet as readily and easily as it once did, but standing next to him I got the impression he was entirely on top of proceedings throughout the 1hr58mins, even when a cat invasion in the second part briefly distracted the band from an otherwise very enjoyable and assured performance! Congratulations to Neal Dodge on ringing his one hundredth peal and to George Thoday – who rang in the very first peal on these bells in 2002 - on ringing his two hundredth on the bells. We celebrated afterwards with refreshments in the Salter’s living room, with their kitchen nearing completion and usual reception room still full of boxes.

Our success wasn’t the only on Suffolk’s bells recorded on BB today, with three quarter-peals rung within our borders. Congratulations to Maurice and Anita Rose on their recent wedding anniversary, which was marked with a 1260 of Single Oxford Bob Triples rung on the back seven of the ground-floor eight of Offton, whilst three of the band – including conductor Brian Whiting who called both – also rang in the 1280 of Cornwall Surprise Major over thirty miles away at Elveden. Meanwhile, as usual the practice at Pettistree was preceded by a QP, which on this occasion was a 1271 of Ipswich Surprise Minor.

It was very brave – or perhaps wise - of them all to hide themselves away for all that time!

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Tuesday 3rd September 2019

Westminster Surprise Minor initially seems appropriate. However, when surprising things in Westminster no longer seem surprising, tonight’s events in the Houses of Parliament seem better suited to Westminster Differential Bob Minor. Either way, I think we can all agree that Westminster Delight Minor isn’t suitable. Will there be a general election (on my birthday at that)? Who is in charge? The squabbles on our MPs return put even the worst ringing chamber disputes in the shade!

These are extraordinary political times, but even for those times, tracking the goings-on at the seat of democracy were captivating. In fact I found myself more interested in this than I did in following Ipswich Town’s debut in a competition just for clubs in the lower divisions that we now find ourselves in and which I – and many other Town fans judging by the tiny attendance at Portman Road – would rather that we didn’t have to bother with. Indeed, it was more interesting than trying to follow the ringing activities of the county today, with no performances in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard, although I’m sure there was plenty going on at the numerous practices being held within our borders this evening.

And being a Tuesday, there wasn’t any ringing for us either. Leaving more time to follow the goings-on in Westminster. For better or worse.

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Monday 2nd September 2019

It was a mixed evening at St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice tonight. Yorkshire Surprise Maximus completely collapsed, whilst we struggled with some Grandsire Cinques and yet rang half-a-course of Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Surprise Royal really well. Beyond that, there were opportunities for our three most inexperienced learners Leonie, Karina and Sonia, especially the latter pair who both trebled to Little Bob Major on the front eight (in separate pieces of course!) and it was all carried out in a jovial atmosphere as final arrangements for our forthcoming tower outing were made, reminders made about Saturday’s South-East District Ringing Meeting at Iken (again, please note the parking arrangements) and Tunstall and Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson warned that more people need to buy tickets for the Social in the North-East District on Saturday 21st September to make it viable.

Sadly, following an early start at work and another due tomorrow, I passed upon a social drink in The Cricketers post-ringing and so a pleasant night out ended prematurely. As I said, it was a mixed evening.

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Sunday 1st September 2019

It was an afternoon of reading.

First, a walk – and for most of the way for the boys, a cycle – to the library and back for Alfie to complete his impressive reading challenge for the summer holiday. Well done Alfred!

On our return home, it was an opportunity to read some copies of the Ringing World which Mum had very kindly passed to us from Aunty Marian. As usual, most of it was stuff readily available online or common knowledge to us already, but actually I’m a big fan of a couple relatively recent innovations.

One is Will Bosworth’s What’s Hot on BellBoard, which gives a Top of the Pops style countdown of that week’s leading performances on BB’s leaderboard of most liked performances which also gives a little bit of background to some of them.

The other is the series of interviews with various personalities of the exercise. It has been fascinating getting an insight into the life-stories and thoughts of ringers that I know of, but don’t know, such as Peter Bevis, Richard Pullin and Claire Roulstone, whilst finding out new things about people I have often rung and socialised with over the years, such as David Brown and Paul de Kok. All very relaxing after much walking.

If the afternoon was one of reading, then this morning was one of ringing, as Ruthie – with her and her choral colleagues stretching their August break into September – and myself (and Peter Shipley who is also in the choir) enabled the band to ring some Plain Bob Doubles before we attended the service that followed.

Ours was not the only morning of ringing of course, but the most notable was that at Ingham where the ringing there was the first on this 12cwt five for a service “in at least a generation.” Well done to all concerned!

Meanwhile, well done also to Ben Keating on ringing his first of Major in the 1264 of Plain Bob on the Collings Eight at The Norman Tower, Alex Rolph, her brother Matthew and Peter Lock on ringing their first QP of Lincolnshire Surprise Major in the 1252 at Halesworth and Jimmy Yeoman on not only ringing his first peal of Triples in the 5040 of Grandsire at Ixworth, but also calling it into the bargain! And whilst not featuring any firsts, the quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor at Pettistree – the forty-first of 2019 there – is also worthy of mention.

I enjoyed reading all about it!

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Saturday 31st August 2019

We often find ourselves juggling parenthood and ringing and to be honest I think parenthood usually wins, with much of what the children need hard to justify usurping with a ringing jolly. This afternoon though, Team Munnings was able to satisfy both parties in the long-running parent-child face-off.

For I had put my name down to ring for a wedding at Woodbridge a while back, before we then realised that a birthday party that Alfie had been invited to was going to overlap with the ringing times for said marriage ceremony. Fortunately on this occasion the choir weren’t called upon and so Ruthie wasn’t required there. Therefore she took the car and Alfred to Hasketon for his classmate’s celebrations and myself, Mason and Joshua walked into town to partake in what was some very decent ringing for quite a posh do at St Mary-the-Virgin, before my wife and AJM picked us up afterwards.

Ours was the only change ringing from the county to report on today as well, with nothing recorded on BellBoard from within our borders, although the peal of Bristol Surprise Royal at Lichfield Cathedral featuring former Suffolk ringers Philip Moyse and George Salter plus some familiar names from my time ringing in Birmingham caught my eye.

However, other ringers closer to home were undertaking notable activity as Phil Day and Val Mayhew from Barking appeared on BBC Radio Suffolk with Phil’s children and twelve handbells. They appear from 2hrs9mins50secs into Sarah Lilley’s show (sitting in for Wayne Bavin – that’s not her in the photo!) and were the focus of a weekly challenge where she and her colleague Johnnie Wright partake in an activity that they are unfamiliar with and ’compete’ to do better at than each other. This time, it was handbells and particularly tune-ringing, which the ringing quartet are very adept at and they came across extremely well with some great PR for bells and bellringing. Phil and Val were both familiar faces in my early days of ringing, especially the latter who rang regularly at Sproughton as I learnt the art there, sometimes bringing her son Wayne for a ring and so it was great to hear them on the airwaves and particularly to find the time to listen in amongst our juggling of ringing and parenthood!

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Friday 30th August 2019

Once again we were grateful to Alfie’s grandparents for enabling us to go to work whilst he is off school. Primarily to my Mum and Dad for looking after him for the day, but also to Ruthie’s mother Kate who picked him up on the way back from a work-related trip to Kent. We have used up a lot of babysitting credits since the summer holidays started, thus further highlighting why it isn’t easy for us to commit as readily as we would like to many ringing requests.

Mercifully others in the county are able to accept ringing requests more easily and that was very much in evidence today, most particularly at Henley where the 1344 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major was a first in the method for a trio of Scases – well done to Jenny and her husband Robert and their sister-in-law Tracey!

Meanwhile there were quarter-peals at Buxhall to celebrate the Golden Wedding Anniversary of treble-ringer Rachel Tunbridge’s parents and on handbells in Bacton, whilst the first peal of Deva Surprise Major for the Guild was rung at Gislingham in 2hrs55mins.

Also worthy of mention is Suffolk youngster Jimmy Yeoman’s first towerbell peal as conductor in the 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Campton in Bedfordshire, just over a month after his first as conductor in hand, rung in Cambridge. As with others such as George Salter (who incidentally called a peal of forty-one spliced Surprise Minor methods in Bristol earlier this week that also featured one-time Reydon ringer Philip Moyse, so well done them too!) and Louis Suggett before him, it has been encouraging to see him proactively furthering his ringing, with other people and other places across the country, especially as being a youngster he has to rely on others to get him to places. Although at least he doesn’t have to arrange babysitters!

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Thursday 29th August 2019

A very quiet day from a ringing perspective for us today.

With September due to arrive shortly (unless Boris Johnson decides to cancel it to bring 31st October even closer), there is more ringing planned, starting straight away on the first day with the Re-dedication of Redgrave bells, before hopefully the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice on Wednesday 4th, the South-East District Ringing Meeting at Iken (please note the advice/instructions on parking) and Tunstall on Saturday 7th, the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice at Bungay two days later, the Second Tuesday Ringing (on the 10th) at Buxhall, Great Finborough and then – after lunch – Rattlesden, before the Helmingham Monthly Practice is pencilled in for the evening of Friday 20th. The following day is due to be a busy Saturday, with a Taster Day at Halesworth ahead of the Guild Social at Holton Village Hall, with the North-West District Practice at the aforementioned Redgrave (although as I write this the venue is still to be confirmed) and a week later, all being well the South-West District Practice will be held at Kersey, with a focus on Kent Treble Bob Major.

There was ringing today though, in the form of the 1272 of Durham Surprise Minor, which was a first in the method for Philip Gorrod, Peter Lock and the Rolphs Michelle, Matthew & Nicole – well done all of you! If nothing else for giving me something ringing related to write about today!

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Wednesday 28th August 2019

Ruthie made it out to Pettistree on our behalf this evening as she joined her mother Kate at a practice night preceded by a quarter-peal and which took in an eclectic repertoire of methods that included Wooler Surprise Minor (Bourne below, sixth-place Carlisle above), before going for post-ringing refreshment at The Greyhound.

Elsewhere another QP in Suffolk was rung at Great Finborough, whilst an impressive peal of ten Surprise Major methods spliced was rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-tower, the most Surprise Major methods to a peal for Rowan Wilson – well done Rowan!

Meanwhile, if you plan to go to Grundisburgh practice on Thursday, then don’t, as there won’t be one due to repair work. However, sessions on a Thursday night are now a regular thing after a lean period a few years ago, so please do consider going on another week and maybe you’ll have as nice a night out as my wife did tonight!

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Tuesday 27th August 2019

Much is made of footballing rivalry and it is true that it occasionally brings the worst out of the worst type of people, sometimes in quite a dangerous fashion. However, it is in the main pantomime. Most friendship groups include people who between them support a variety of teams and will often mock each other’s teams quite amicably.

This evening’s expulsion of Bury (from up north, not St Edmunds!) from the football league (for reasons far too complicated to go into on here and which I don’t fully understand anyway) and their likely subsequent liquidation is a case in point, with fans of all clubs from across the country saddened by their demise. Whilst expressing that “it’s like a death in the family” is a bit extreme (albeit mainly as a metaphor for the sense of loss), one can’t help have sympathy for their fans. For me, Ipswich Town have given me so many memories from a young age and give a sense of identity. They are a link to our late Uncle Eric, who first took my brother Chris and I along to Portman Road. We have travelled the country watching them and would love to do so more regularly if circumstances permitted. They are a big part of the community I grew up in. We don’t have any particular rivalry with Bury, although we are (or rather now, were) in the same division, but I wouldn’t wish their predicament on even Norwich City and their supporters.

Much is also made of the rivalry between the Ancient Society of College Youths and Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, the two ‘elite’ London-based non-territorial ringing organisations that one isn’t allowed to be a member of both of at the same time. Achievements are often compared, as are drinking abilities and members from each side can often be found taunting each other. However, much like footballing rivalries, it is mainly pantomime and banter. As a College Youth, I count many Cumberlands amongst my ringing friends and am even married to one. Indeed, I used to be one before circumstances made changing allegiances logical. And of course we all ring together.

Therefore, I was delighted by today’s SRCY peal at Horringer, it being Suffolk-bred John Loveless’ 1000th peal for the society (with his first peal of any kind not in Singapore since the very beginning of the month!) and Suffolk youngster Jimmy Yeoman’s first for them, following his recent election. Congratulations Jake and Jimmy, absolutely wonderful to see such a significant peal rung within our borders.

One of the ringers from that band, Brian Whiting, was having a busy day of ringing as he later conducted the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton (and presumably ran the session that followed), but not unusually for a Tuesday there was no ringing for us. That was in part due to a late start – and therefore late finish - at work, although it also allowed me time to accompany Ruthie in getting the boys’ haircuts.

Our evening was a quiet one then, albeit appreciating all we have in life. And even their ‘rivals’.

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Monday 26th August 2019

There was a weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower on this bank holiday Monday evening, but I didn’t make it. Not because of a packed Ipswich centre from the final concert of Ed Sheeran’s run at Chantry Park and indeed of the most successful tour in history. Rather, feeling a little under the weather and after an exhausting, hot weekend looking after the boys single-handed in the main and with the opportunity to spend some time with Ruthie who has been at work for two-thirds of the long weekend meant I couldn’t quite muster the power to travel to Suffolk’s county town.

However, we did see one SMLT ringer today as we hosted Laura Davies and her boyfriend Joe for a BBQ and a leisurely afternoon of catching up properly for the first time since her relatively recent return from Slovakia, as well as getting to know Joe.

On a busy day of peal-ringing across the country – with notable twelve-bell peals rung at Redcliffe in Bristol, Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire and the cathedrals of Chester, Exeter and Winchester – there was remarkably little recorded on BellBoard from within our borders.

I hope there were others more proactive than us elsewhere in the county though, not least at St Mary-le-Tower!

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Sunday 25th August 2019

A decent crowd at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, with three visitors including former local, but now York ringer Tina Sanderson, enabled us to climax with some Stedman Cinques, before a trip to Costa Coffee where the visiting Tina exposed my hot chocolate habit and it was lovely to exchange memories with Ralph Earey of recent ringing trips to Norfolk following our week on Rambling Ringers and Brian Whiting’s quarter-peal week north of the border.

The attendance wasn’t quite as substantial at Grundisburgh afterwards, although there was some very well-struck ringing on the back six as we arrived and although some Double Bob Minimus (as the name suggests, Plain Bob doubled, so with dodging at the half-lead as well as at the leadend) with Mason bonging behind with my ‘help’ on the front five initially flummoxed some, that went eventually went well before we finished with some call-changes on eight.

The rest of my day was a ringing-free one though, as the boys and I relaxed at mother-in-law Kate’s with Ron and our host and then – once I’d picked Ruthie up from work – enjoyed a BBQ. Thanks Mrs Eagle!

Elsewhere, other ringers were busier in the art. Well done to Nathan Colman on ringing his first of eight spliced Surprise Major methods in the 1280 at The Norman Tower and to birthday boy Ben Keating on ringing his first St Simon’s and St Martin’s Bob Doubles in the 1260 at Preston St Mary, as the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month notched another success.

It seems they also had a decent crowd for their ringing!

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Saturday 24th August 2019

With Ruthie at work, it was my turn to occupy three young boys for the day and with the sunshine out and the weather roasting, staying at home wasn’t really an option. Which meant that with the three brothers going through an admirable phase of wanting to ride their bikes and Alfie partaking in the library’s reading challenge over the summer holidays, we combined the two to cycle into Woodbridge so Alfred could further his participation. Well, cycle most of the way as I ended up carrying Joshua’s bike and at times Joshua too!

It was a leisurely process, lengthened further by bumping into lots of friends and acquaintances, popping into John Ives to see my wife at the shop and a visit to the park on the way home which was extended due to the presence of one of AJM’s classmates.

Grundisburgh Band 24/8/2019.All this left no time for any ringing on this occasion, which included being unable to ring in the peal of Blue Sapphire Surprise Royal at Grundisburgh for the sixty-fifth wedding anniversary of Dick and Daphne Pegg. In a day of throwaway marriages, theirs is one to be celebrated and I’m glad it was in this style, although sorry that I couldn’t join them. That said, I enjoyed occupying my sons for the day!

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Friday 23rd August 2019

Tonight was the first of four nights in Ipswich’s Chantry Park that bring Ed Sheeran’s Divide world tour to an end after more than two years travelling. After being watched by nearly nine million people in forty-three countries, it is apparently the highest grossing and most attended tour in history. Not bad for a lad from Framlingham. Over the Bank Holiday weekend, there are due to be around 160,000 people watching and so Suffolk’s county town is and is expected to be absolutely heaving, with folk travelling in from across the country and indeed the world, by train and car and space is going to be a much sought after commodity.

However, please do not be put off heading to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice on Monday evening, which is still going ahead despite being a bank holiday and the presence of tens of thousands of people and the globe’s biggest music star on its doorstep. Although it may be worth getting in touch with Stephen Cheek, 01206 230429, in regards to parking permits for the car-park we use!

For today though, ringing within our borders seemed mercifully unaffected by events in Ipswich. Well done to Sal Jenkinson, Matthew Rolph, Peter Lock and Guild Secretary Kate Gill on ringing their first quarter-peal of Double Oxford Bob Minor in the success at Blythburgh, whilst there was a 1274 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Ashbocking and a 1250 of Superlative Surprise Major scored at Elveden.
Meanwhile, I collected Alfie from my parents, who had very kindly taken him to the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary at Stonham Barns on a beautiful sunny day, that whilst perhaps not perfect for ringing was ideal for visiting owls and watching popstars in the park.

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Thursday 22nd August 2019

My early shift at work allowed me to pick Alfie up from holiday club, but an early night ahead of an other early start tomorrow meant there wasn’t much time for anything else.

Other ringers were finding more time though, with 1260s of Doubles rung at Blythburgh and Redgrave, with five methods at the former and Stedman at the latter, which was also a first for Zoe and Carmen Wright – well done both of you, as well as to Betty Baines’ grandson Bill on passing all his GCSE’s!

Hopefully he’s got enough time to celebrate!

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Wednesday 21st August 2019

No. 13, with the top of St Lawrence’s tower in the distance. No. 34, with St Nicholas in the distance.Having bemoaned about not really getting to do anything enjoyable yesterday, it was nice to do something different today, as we and the boys made our way around Ipswich on Elmer’s Big Parade. For those who have been generally oblivious to goings on beyond their own four walls (and frankly many might say with good reason!) in recent months, this is the follow-up to the Pigs Go Wild trail of three years ago, encouraging people – especially youngsters – to come into town and walk around. It is something that we’ve been hoping to take the children on before it closes next month, although Mum and Dad have kindly taken them round some of them.

This afternoon therefore, we picked up a map from BBC Radio Suffolk, marked the elephant outside there off and went on to collect a further twelve big ones and a herd of little ‘uns via the Cornhill, Town Hall and Sailmakers and – having parked down Portman Road – a quick trip to Planet Blue so the boys could take in the pitch and inside of the stadium. All jolly good fun!

Ringing at Pettistree.There was more quality family time later as their Granny Kate brought them to Pettistree with their cousins having volunteered to look after them whilst Ruthie and I partook in the weekly pre-practice quarter-peal attempt together. Sadly the attempt was lost as after ringing an extent of Canterbury and Morpeth Surprise Minor spliced excellently, we fell apart as we went into Sandiacre and Wooler. However, the main point of these attempts are to give invaluable focus and to ensure a core of ringers are present for the session that follows and so having given the children an opportunity to run around in the churchyard as I rang some spliced Doubles and Minor and then Ruthie some London Surprise Minor, we didn’t feel too guilty about leaving the remaining bandmembers and those who had subsequently joined us to get on with things whilst we returned home to get the brothers to bed.

Meanwhile, our failure to reach the end of our QP was offset by Paul Mitchell’s first quarter-peal in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Great Thurlow, another success for the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month. Well done Paul! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did ‘hunting’ elephants!

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Tuesday 20th August 2019

Accompanying the boys and Ruthie to a birthday party.

Watching Ipswich Town win against Wimbledon with an exciting injury time winner.

Ringing in the quarter-peals of Glasgow and Belfast Surprise Major at Gislingham and Palgrave respectively.

These are all things I would’ve quite enjoyed participating in.

Instead, after a pre-dawn start at work, Alfie, Joshua and their mother being absent from the house for a couple of hours to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of one of Alfred’s schoolfriends offered me the opportunity of some much needed sleep.

With another early start in the morning, attending Portman Road this evening as the Tractor Boys get used to playing in League One and then getting away along with nearly 19,000 others afterwards was probably going to make it too much of a late night.

And I wasn’t invited in the QPs, although they clearly don’t need me and I don’t expect in my sleep-deprived state I would’ve been much use to them anyway! Well done to Heather Dobson on ringing her first of Glasgow Surprise Major in the former quarter.

God willing, such pleasures for me can wait until another day.

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Monday 19th August 2019

This evening felt a little subdued personally.

Not for the atmosphere at St Mary-le-Tower practice, with that being its usual jovial self. When calling some spliced, I and others were amused that one member partaking asked me to clarify which method I had called, when there was only a choice of two. And we were already ringing one of them. The identity of a vegetable that my mother had mistakenly grown and thus brought in led to much speculation and hilarity. And lighthearted comments followed when one ringer smiled at the person they were supposed to dodge with, but didn’t dodge.

Despite the visit of Lesley Barrell and return of Ian Culham and a sizeable crowd of eighteen, we were missing quite a few of our more experienced higher number ringers. It was useful for those feeling their way, but with more of them having to be put in than one would usually throw in together, quite a lot of stuff didn’t come round. That said, a fairly impressive method repertoire was managed in the circumstances, with Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Surprise Royal spliced, three leads of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and a plain course of Stedman Cinques rung across the course of the session.

However, it was mainly a subdued evening for me as after the start of a week of early shifts (although I did get some brief kip at home this afternoon whilst Ruthie took Alfie to see The Lion King at the Riverside Cinema) and another pre-dawn start planned for tomorrow, my night out finished as most of my ringing colleagues headed on to The Cricketers for a social drink, whilst I returned home for an early night. For me a beverage and a chat after ringing really makes an evening for me and I believe is an important aspect in attracting more ringers to a practice, so leaving without even setting foot in the pub always makes the night feel shortened and takes the gloss off seven the best night of ringing.

Hopefully there will be more enjoyable Monday nights ahead.

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Sunday 18th August 2019

Disappointingly, an alarm clock malfunction (in as much as I forgot to set it!) meant we missed ringing at Woodbridge this morning. They were ringing the front six - as is understandable with a mature band manning a heavy ring of bells with a long draft – well when we arrived, but it would’ve been lovely to help them ring all eight.

Still, having made it to the service there, helped take some tables out for the church fete and spent the afternoon doing some odd jobs around the house, we made up for the missed ringing by partaking in the quarter-peal of Grandsire Cinques at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. On paper, not a particularly notable performance, but with the band being a scratch one, the score – and especially the quality of it – was impressive, most of all for wife and husband Sue and Jonathan Williamson who were ringing and calling their first QP on twelve respectively. Well done Williamsons!

Unbeknown to the rest of the band, it very nearly didn’t happen, as having invested so much time in arranging child-sitters for whilst we are at work during the school holidays, it had slipped our minds to sort any for the duration of this 1254! We were most grateful to my Mum and Dad for stepping in this morning!

Elsewhere meanwhile, well done to the entire band who rang in the 1260 of Abram Bob Minor at Buxhall for ringing their first in the method. Thankfully it was rung for Evensong, so I imagine wasn’t likely to be disrupted by alarm clock malfunction!

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Saturday 17th August 2019

I haven’t subscribed to The Ringing World for years. In a household of four – and at weekends five – spare pennies have to be prioritised in their use and in an age when most ringing news and performances can be seen instantly through social media and/or BellBoard then it is hard to justify forking out to see it repeated several weeks later in a journal, whether it be in paper form or online.

However, I occasionally enjoy flicking through belfry copies at towers when the opportunity arises and I was particularly pleased to have done so today having rung the bride in at Woodbridge this afternoon and before ringing her and her husband out. There was lots of stuff that I was already aware of and with this being the 26th July edition news and performances I had known about for a couple of months, but two things leapt out. One was editor Robert Lewis announcing that he will be stepping down from a role he has held for many, many years in the autumn. I don’t really know Robert and having not been a subscriber to the RW for most of his editorship I can’t really comment with any authority on how successful he has been, but suffice to say I don’t envy anyone carrying out this job. It is impossible to please everyone and in this day and age it is incredibly difficult to make such publications relevant and so if nothing else he is to be commended for his longevity and for keeping it going when others have folded.

More of interest though, was the interview with Dutch Rambling Ringer and long-time friend Paul de Kok. Having known Paul since my brother, parents and myself went on our first Ramblers’ tour in 1994, pretty much all of the information was known to me, but it was fascinating to see someone we know well being interviewed and I would certainly recommend that those who don’t know him have a read. Paul can arguably be placed as the start of ringing spreading beyond its traditional countries, as having established himself as an extremely good ringer he set up the eight at ‘t Klockhuys in Dordrecht which has – in part at least – inspired the rings of bells at Ypres and Vernet-les-Bains in Belgium and France respectively and even therefore the twelve in Singapore. He has shown how someone can excel in the art in almost any circumstances, with his only opportunities when he was learning being when he was able to travel to the UK.

Either side of reading this I was delighted to help make the couple’s happy day even more special with some nice call-changes on six, which was preceded by some of the best ringing up I have partaken in for quite a while!

Afterwards, Ruthie – who had been singing in the choir – joined me and the boys before we headed off to Rendlesham to visit my Goddaughter Maddie, her brother Oscar and her Dad Toby, who of course is another long-time friend and Godfather to Mason.

It was nice to catch-up and nice also to see another success for the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month. Well done to Tim Forsey on ringing his first of Minor inside by ringing the fourth at Edwardstone to a 1260 of Plain Bob. Perhaps I will read about it again in The Ringing World in a few weeks!

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Friday 16th August 2019

You’re never too old...

Well done to Brian Owen who at the age of seventy-one rang his first peal as conductor in the 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung today at Heptonstall in Yorkshire. If you feel you’ve started too late or that the more mature learner that has started out at your tower won’t be any use to you, think again! At Pettistree we benefitted considerably from the skills of the much-missed Susan Schurr who started late in life and yet was a talented mainstay of the band for many years, including ringing a number of quarter-peals. Stick at it, whatever your age!

It seems that Whitechapel Bell Foundry isn’t too old to attempt to save. Despite being closed for a couple of years, the old buildings apparently in a deteriorating state and planning application to turn it into a ‘bell-themed boutique’ hotel currently active, there is a concerted campaign to retain a foundry element to the spot. The campaign made it onto BBC Radio London this morning as presenter Vanessa Feltz interviewed – at 1hr18mins into her show - famous historian Dan Cruickshank and former employee of the foundry and Essex ringer Nigel Taylor about it. To be fair, Dan and Nigel expressed support of sorts for the hotel, which apparently plans to include a foundry, but would like to see a foundry play a bigger part. Apart from anything else, it was interesting to hear Nigel’s thoughts on the reasons behind the foundry’s closure in 2017.

God willing it isn’t a fate that will befall their one-time competitors Taylors of Loughborough, but coincidentally an article appeared on the Church Times website today about how this foundry is seeking to raise a staggering £4.7m to save it from closure. More particularly it is needed to restore and update the Grade II listed buildings and whilst hopefully £3.7m of that will come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, that of course still leaves £1m, so here’s hoping the ringing community will rally round.

For all this talk of age at the more mature end of the spectrum, our main focus was as usual on those of the younger age as we had a night in with the three boys, but with the hope that there is are plenty of years for them to call peals and/or see foundries in Whitechapel and Loughborough.

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Thursday 15th August 2019

My late shift at work enabled to drop Joshua off at nursery, Alfie at holiday club and Ruthie at work, but left no time for ringing this evening, even with Ruthie and her choral colleagues still on their annual break.

A reminder therefore that tickets are still for sale for the Guild Social in the North-East District!

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Wednesday 14th August 2019

Thank you to the band – including mother-in-law Kate – who rang in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree this evening for dedicating it to mine and Ruthie’s recent wedding anniversary.

My wife of seven years and three days was able to join them later once I had returned from a late shift at work and Mrs Eagle had popped round to pick her up and although the session they attended was a little low on the attendance side there was much rung, with some Surprise Minor including Ipswich, whilst Mrs Munnings was chuffed with pushing her conducting skills with a touch of Grandsire Doubles!

It was all topped off by a visit to The Greyhound next door, where at least Ruthie was able to raise a glass to our wedding anniversary!

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Tuesday 13th August 2019

When the main thing to report from a ringing perspective today is something that isn’t happening tomorrow, you know it has been a quiet day. Please note that there is no practice at Otley tomorrow.

Otherwise though, there was little of note bar some unpleasant background detail to the otherwise hugely exciting project in Singapore that is already seeing a couple of the locals ringing unaided thanks to the incredible efforts of those ringers who have been there over the last couple of weeks.

All quiet here in Suffolk though, both today and – in Otley at least – tomorrow.

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Monday 12th August 2019

South-West District Quarter-Peal Month continued today with John Game’s first QP of Doubles inside as he rang the fourth to a 1260 of Doubles at the 8cwt five of Stradishall, complete with band photo afterwards. Well done John.

There was no ringing for Ruthie or me though as we returned to work after our fortnight off and with me launching straight into a week of late shifts for our latest international campaign at John Catt Educational, I was unable to make St Mary-le-Tower practice, as is usually the case with these. It begins a couple of months of shift work that will generally disrupt a fair bit of my ringing, but work has to come first of course! Although I only just made that as with Melton in gridlock (the powers-that-be rather smartly not only closed one of the main streets through the village but also put temporary traffic lights on another) I was a bit rushed for time after the weekly shop and dropping Alfie off at his aunt and uncle’s for the day.

I’m glad John had the time for his achievements though and hopefully more will follow before the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month ends.

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Sunday 11th August 2019

Us on our wedding anniversary.It is seven years to the day since Ruthie and I were married at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge with ringing done by friends and family (and even briefly by Best Man Chris and me) and followed it up with a reception at The Abbey School next door as we took full advantage of the expansive grounds (which look more like a building site currently) and a roasting hot day.

Not being a particularly significant number of years (copper apparently) we didn’t do anything overly special, indulging in some home-cooked curry, Eton Mess and a bottle of fizzy, but we did unusually get to ring together on a Sunday morning with Ruthie and her choral colleagues having their annual August break. Therefore we turned up en masse at St Mary-le-Tower for some call-changes on twelve and Little Bob Maximus (although Amanda Richmond’s attempts to call some further call-changes after the latter had come round caused some confusion and led to about half the band setting their bells prematurely!) before a trip to Costa Coffee for refreshments and then joining the Twissells and their grandson Rob on one of his earliest ringing expeditions (and very well he did too!) at Grundisburgh.

Other married couples were also ringing together today, with Christine & Richard Knight and Katharine & David Salter all partaking in the second-Sunday peal at Rendham, which was another step forward in his recovery for David following his first peal of the year on Wednesday.

Across the county in Bury St Edmunds meanwhile, a quarter-peal of four Surprise Major methods was rung on the back eight at The Norman Tower.

For us though, our day’s ringing was over with assisting in lowering the back six of Suffolk’s lightest twelve, instead enjoying the company of the boys and then each other. Well done and thank you to my wife for putting up with me all of these years, showing incredible patience with me as I undertake my ringing whims and whilst I write this blog, sometimes whilst juggling a displeased child or two!

Happy Anniversary Ruthie!

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Saturday 10th August 2019

Within a fortnight, the hanging of the bells has been completed, first service ringing undertaken, the teaching of a band started, a quarter-peal rung and today two peals rung at Singapore, one of Stedman Cinques and one of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, the latter featuring one-time Suffolk ringers John Loveless and Molly Waterson. To say this has been a productive trip for those ringers who have travelled there to make this possible would be the biggest understatement since saying last season didn’t go very well for Ipswich Town. Very well done to all concerned, especially with the extremely hot conditions.

It was busy there, but also here in Suffolk, especially in the North-East District with their Quarter-Peal Day. Judging by the quartet of QPs rung for the occasion, it appears it was a success. Well done to all the band who rang their first of Childwall Bob Minor in one of the brace of quarters rung at Blythburgh – with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor also rung on the ground-floor 10cwt six today – and particularly to Paul Ashton on ringing his first inside in the Plain Bob Doubles rung at Wenhaston, whilst there was also a score at Reydon. Congratulations to all on such a successful event.

No ringing for us though as instead we welcomed our friends Charlotte, Gregory and their girls for a playdate for the children and catch-up over a cuppa or two for us adults.

Meanwhile, there was also a peal of seven Surprise Minor rung on handbells in Bacton in 1hr40mins and the QP at Woolpit added to the numbers for the South-West District Quarter-Peal Month on a good day for the art here within our borders and in Singapore.

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Friday 9th August 2019

Following yesterday’s query of whether Ed Sheeran was once a bellringer, the subject of ‘celebrity’ bellringers past and present came up on Facebook and it made for interesting reading today, especially as several names new to me arose. I knew of the likes of former politician and Strictly Come Dancing contestant Ed Balls, comedienne Jo Brand, TV personality Timmy Mallett, wife of one time Prime Minister John Major, Norma, radio presenter Simon Mayo and gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh, but I never realised retired goalkeeper Nigel Martyn and the late Victoria Wood were too. An interesting (though I don’t know how accurate) list can be found on Changeringing Wiki.

Other less famous ringers were meanwhile managing to partake in the exercise despite a widespread power cut, although there is nothing to report from Suffolk’s bells. Not even from Ed Sheeran.

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Thursday 8th August 2019

A rare opportunity for me to attend the monthly Surprise Major Practice at Ufford this evening, as with the choir taking a break Ruthie was free to stop at home child-sitting whilst her mother Kate picked me up for the short journey to the 13cwt eight.

The session was a pretty productive one in the face of adversity. My impromptu lesson on Superlative and Yorkshire with Hilary Stearn was more disruptive than we intended, before a cup of water went flying, I pronounced “go Superlative” as “go Bristol” and someone nearly went flying over a box. In amongst this, Hilary had a good go at Cambridge and the whole thing was rounded off with a respectable piece of Bristol.

Elsewhere, the line “And I could play a guitar just like ringing a bell” from Ed Sheeran’s 2014 song ‘Nina’ got someone on a ringers Facebook page wondering if he had once been a ringer. I’m not aware that he was, but seeing as the global superstar grew up in the Framlingham area, perhaps ringers from the town’s 16cwt octave or the nearby towers of Badingham, Dennington, Hacheston, Parham and/or Tannington might know better?

Some superstars who are definitely ringers are those who rang the 1320 of Marple Delight Minor at Tostock, whilst it has been interesting to note how busy the Rambling Ringers have been on the Tour we departed at the weekend, with the second and third quarter-peals of the fortnight-long visit to Norfolk rung at East Raynham and on handbells in Beetley churchyard today added to the one rung on the campsite on Sunday and the peals rung at Gressenhall a week ago and on handbells in Bylaugh on Tuesday.

Such performances are clearly not such a rare opportunity for our fellow Ramblers this year!

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Wednesday 7th August 2019

A significant day from a ringing perspective, both on the other side of the world and closer to home.

Singapore Quarter Peal Band.In Singapore, a band of UK ringers – including John Loveless who learnt to ring in Suffolk – joined local Andrew Reynolds and Taylor’s bellhangers in doing the first change-ringing on this brand new twelve. There is a video on Facebook (I haven’t found a more shareable version anywhere yet) of the sound of English change-ringing floating across this busy corner of South-East Asia and the first quarter-peal on the bells was also rung. Even more importantly, they began teaching what is planned to be the cornerstone of a local band, much as they have been at Vernet-les-Bains in France and Ypres in Belgium. It really is wonderful to see the art spreading its wings across foreign shores.

However, arguably it is nicer from my point of view to see it thriving here in Suffolk and one who has done more than most to enable that is twice Past Ringing Master of the Guild David Salter. I imagine all reading this will be aware of what happened to him just before Christmas last year and from an uncertain prognosis it has been wonderful to see him gradually recovering and returning to ringing. Peal-ringing is his great love in the art, something he excels at and which has been of a huge benefit to the SGR and its members over many years and this evening saw him make his return to the peal columns in a 5040 I was privileged to partake in. The performance was sensibly at The Wolery at the top of his and Katharine’s garden and was an impressive effort for the conductor after an eight-month absence! I suspect the QP in Singapore and the Project Pickled Egg peal at Orton in Cumbria will prevent this seeing the light of day at the very top of BellBoard’s ‘like’ board, but it would be nice for it to get as much recognition as possible for this dedicated servant of the exercise.

As does another effort on the county’s bells today as the 1200th quarter was rung on the rededicated bells of Pettistree before this evening’s weekly practice. There is no denying how useful the huge numbers of QPs on this ground-floor six have had on a band that are currently Mitson Shield holders and indeed to many others who are welcomed to ring with us.

Meanwhile, well done to Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson on ringing her first of Ashtead Surprise Major in the 1280 rung at Elveden, whilst earlier in the day she had also heaved the tenor in at The Millbeck Ring for a 1312 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced.

Back in Old Stoke, things are generally turned on their head a bit, with a new kitchen being put in at the Salter’s abode and the usual reception room full of big boxes – some of which myself and Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase helped to move after our 1hr48mins of ringing – and so we were received in the living room on this occasion, but either way there was no disguising that this was a significant day of ringing, both here and overseas.

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Tuesday 6th August 2019

A breakthrough for Joshua in his potty training and a trip to the library to start Alfie’s summer holidays reading challenge were all very positive, but didn’t involve any ringing.

There is much ringing planned on Suffolk’s bells for August though, with the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice pencilled in for the evening of Wednesday 7th, the North-East District Quarter-Peal Day lined up for Blythburgh, Reydon and Wenhaston on Saturday and the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice is due to take place next Monday, a day before the Second Tuesday Ringing is planning to go to Ardleigh and Stratford St Mary on either side of the Essex border, whilst the Helmingham Monthly Practice is lined up for Friday 16th.

Meanwhile, don’t forget that the Guild Social is planned for Saturday 21st next month with a fun treasure hunt in the NE District– please do get your reasonably-priced tickets!

For today though, the only ringing recorded on BellBoard within our borders was at Ufford in memory of Hollesley ringer Nigel Bond’s wife Ann. A nice touch on a quiet day for ringing, both across the county as well as for us. For varying reasons I’m sure.

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Monday 5th August 2019

With us both at home on holiday this week, we decided some time ago that this was to be when we hoped to start potty training for Joshua. And so it begins...

Actually, it wasn’t horrendous. No breakthrough yet, but also not a huge amount of mess yet either.

Still, I was quite pleased to get out to St Mary-le-Tower to ring with already toilet-trained ringers at the weekly practice. There were a lot there too, although with quite a few feeling their way on higher numbers, much of the twelve-bell ringing was of the call-changes and Grandsire Cinques variety, all done well. That said, there was some well-rung Surprise Royal too, including some Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire spliced on a positive night finished off with a pint in the beer garden of The Cricketers. Just what is needed ahead of more potty training tomorrow!

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Sunday 4th August 2019

Rambling Ringers may be finished for us for another year, but we’re still on holiday for now and so we took full advantage with a now unusual afternoon at the pub, as we sat in the beer garden of The Cherry Tree in Woodbridge with our friends from church Gregory and Charlotte. The main appeal of the location was the play area that allowed our boys and their girls to play happily within sight and sound whilst we socialised, the occasion was essentially that we had already started with the post-service cheese and wine party at Kev the Rev’s rectory.

It meant there was no scope for ringing this afternoon and having walked into town we didn’t make it in time to man the 25cwt eight of St Mary-the-Virgin this morning, but it was a relatively busy day of quarter-pealing on Suffolk’s bells, with a second in a week at Pettistree and third in a week at Redgrave, whilst South-West District Quarter-Peal Month – running across the course of August – kicked-off with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Poslingford.

Hopefully that’ll be the first of many in the SW before September comes along, but for us it is holidays for now.

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Saturday 3rd August 2019

Although not as bad as just about everywhere else in the UK, the weather has at times been pretty dreadful. The campsite has been beset by problems (not of its own doing it has to be said) culminating in a loss of water pressure this morning. Camping ringers have been split across the site, making the social side of things more logistically challenging. I failed to pack enough chairs. We were short of cutlery, having forgotten that last time we went camping without Kate & Ron there were ‘only’ four of us. There were many squabbles. It was done on more of a budget, so there were fewer of those wonderful pub meals. And I was violently ill.

Yet we have still had a lovely week, spent in great company. And I include the boys in that believe it or not! For all of their exhausting demands, strops and arguments, it has been genuinely delightful to spend such precious time with them. Mason has been super helpful, Alfie has had his first handling lesson and Joshua seems obsessed by bells, insisting on joining us in pretty much all of the ringing chambers to watch, even those with some tricky entrances!

It has been great catching up with ringing friends from across the country and indeed beyond, with the multiple generations of Crabtrees particularly good fun on the campsite, as well as taking in much ringing of a high standard with a wide method repertoire undertaken in all sorts of places that one wouldn’t otherwise visit in the beautiful county of Norfolk.

Fantastic also to see the youthful feel to the Tour this year. When my brother and I joined Ramblers with Mum & Dad exactly twenty-five years ago as youngsters, we were just two of many under eighteen-year-olds, but it has been a pity in recent years as we have taken a growing Mason that he has been the only one. This time though, there have been plenty, from the very small to those like Finley starting out in the art and the slightly older like Alex and Luke Riley excelling at it.

We would always like more members and I would certainly encourage other Suffolk ringers to join us, but this is currently a thriving Society, with nearly fifty having been on Tour thus far this year and I expect more are joining in its second week, with members coming from as far north as Durham, far south as Cornwall and from as far afield as France, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Rambling Ringers at Barnham Broom. Rambling Ringers at Barnham Broom. Exhibition on Barnham Broom bell restoration project in the church.

All of it culminated for us today with a brace of fives, as having got the tent down and packed away we unsurprisingly missed the first tower (again!), with Honingham missing out on our presence this time. Instead, Barnham Broom was the first of our day, seemingly missing a tenor but only done up last year (as the superb display in the church outlines) and so therefore went very well. Nice here to catch up with one time regular Jemma Mills who along with her fiancé Ben Meyer were visiting for the day. I’ve known Jemma all her life and whilst she has a famous father in Andrew, she has made her own mark on ringing, with her and Ben both ringers at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Rambling Ringers Tour Photo at Intwood. Rambling Ringers Tour Meeting at Intwood. Rambling Ringers Tour Meeting at Intwood. Rambling Ringers Tour Meeting at Intwood.

Our final contribution to the sixty-ninth Tour came at Intwood, where I rang some Grandsire Doubles, before some lunch and then short, informal meeting – led by President and St Mary-le-Tower ringer Chris Birkby – in the churchyard that quite rightly recognised the contribution of the officers Chris Woodcock, Geoff Pick and Roger Riley. However, its main purpose is the vote for where the Society goes next year. Herefordshire & Worcestershire was tempting, but Ruthie and I voted for Dorset, an area we haven’t really done. It was Leicestershire which won through by a single vote and so the seventieth tour is due to go to the centre of the country!

Whilst our Rambling ringing was over with, our ringing for today wasn’t as we made the short trip home to drop Mason off at his mother’s, unpack what we could and reacquaint ourselves with TV and sturdy walls before then almost immediately setting out for Bramford, where I was partaking in a quarter-peal for the fabulous South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening whilst Ruthie and the boys went round the home of my wife’s schoolfriend Vicky and her husband Gavin in the village. Having got there late, then discovered I was conducting, spent a while faffing with Ralph Earey clarifying compositions and then had two false starts, we eventually scored what I hope was a useful success for those partaking, especially Alison Looser and Ellie Earey.

At The Sorrel Horse in Barham for the meal after the South-East District Quarter-Peal Evening. It meant we were late for the post-ringing meal at The Sorrell Horse in Barham for what turned out to be a disappointing evening. For having got our meals, those who ordered curry were almost entirely united in their disapproval of what they received, albeit for differing reasons. Some claimed there wasn’t enough spice, another had hot and cold patches and suspected it had been microwaved. At this stage, it is worth noting that this establishment has an excellent reputation for food and indeed is typically the go-to place for meals after ringers events in the area, but it did rather mar what was an otherwise lovely occasion, highlighted by other successes alongside our 1260 of Plain Bob Minor, with a 1288 of the Triples variation rung at Coddenham and a QP of Stedman, Grandsire, St Simon’s Bob and St Martin’s Bob Doubles and Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Sproughton, something that sounded very well rung in the background whilst we were waiting to start at Bramford!

Meanwhile, congratulations to two stalwarts of the Guild Brian Whiting and Alan Mayle on ringing their one hundredth peal together in the 5040 of Minor rung at Cavendish.

We’ve enjoyed ourselves this week, but it’s nice to be home.

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Friday 2nd August 2019

When on a campsite in conditions like we endured last weekend, there is a long list of places I could list without any thought that I would rather be at. Considering one of those is at Portman Road watching a dull 0-0 draw in full Norwich City kit, you know where I’m coming from..

However, when camping on a beautiful sunny evening like this and with fellow Rambling Ringers and my family close to hand, there is almost nowhere I’d rather be. The boys in bed satisfied with tea and their hour or two at the site’s playground, we gathered at the neighbouring tent with its occupants Jim and Janet Crabtree and their son Chris and his wife Ellen for a few drinks, nibbles and plenty of conversation, whilst the sound of bells from Swanton Morley’s practice night – attended on this occasion by Mike & Janet Dew and my parents – wafted across the busy site.

It was just a pity that this was our final night here and we prepared for departure tomorrow by packing up the ‘kitchen’ and enjoying some fish ‘n’ chips purchased from The Railway Tavern in nearby Dereham on the way back from a very enjoyable day of ringing on the Tour.

Rambling Ringers at North Elmham. Rambling Ringers at North Elmham.As usual that was minus the first tower of the day, which on this occasion was the ground-floor 6cwt six of Whissonsett, but with my illness of yesterday seemingly passed, we bounded enthusiastically on to the second tower, North Elmham, another tower from this week only rung at on last year’s South-East District Outing. Here we had the first of what was to be three goes at

Anglia Cyclic Bob Major, a highly enjoyable and musical method well worth ringing more often.

Rambling Ringers at Great Ryburgh. Rambling Ringers at Great Ryburgh. Rambling Ringers at Great Ryburgh.

There was of course no scope to ring it at the next tower which was the six of Great Ryburgh, a place well-known for its marking of the centenary of the First World War, with the death of each villager lost in that terrible conflict remembered by a meal in the church and a peal a century on from their death, with all bar three of the forty-four peals rung for them between 1st November 2014 and 4th January this year rung in this church. Many of them involved Suffolk ringers, with one even rung for the SGR and the magnificent exhibition recounting the community’s commemorations includes a photograph of Pettistree Ringing Master Mike Whitby.

However, it was outside that the highlight of the day occurred as we bumped into one-time St Mary-le-Tower ringer Peter Trent who was working on the wonderful-looking new kitchen and toilet facilities that are due to be opened in the next few weeks. Lovely to see such a nice chap again after a long time.

Rambling Ringers at Fakenham. Rambling Ringers at Fakenham. Rambling Ringers at Fakenham. Ruthie & Alfie downstairs at Fakenham. Rambling Ringers at Sculthorpe. Rambling Ringers at Sculthorpe. Rambling Ringers at East Raynham. Rambling Ringers at East Raynham.

Our catching-up sent us merrily on our way to the first tower of the afternoon, Fakenham (another tower visited ten months ago with the SE) via a spot of lunch outside the next tower after that, the six of Sculthorpe, before we enjoyed a return to the fantastic gallery-ring 9cwt eight of East Raynham where the cows in the neighbouring field hopefully enjoyed our final and best ringing of Anglia Cyclic Bob Major.

In Suffolk meanwhile, Happy Eightieth Birthday to Bernard Pipe, whose significant landmark was celebrated by a 1320 of Cambridge and Norwich Surprise Minor spliced at Earl Stonham, whilst a 1250 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung at Horham.

God willing we’ll be back tomorrow to partake in more ringing on the county’s bells, but for now we’re simply enjoying this summers evening. Where else would we want to be right now?

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Thursday 1st August 2019

Today was a bit of a blur. I’d been excited about getting back to some ringing, but I woke feeling unwell. Very unwell. In fact, very unpleasantly so.

Without going into specifics, it delayed us further in our usual leisurely efforts to get out on Tour. Indeed, we contemplated not going out at all before I realised that would’ve meant spending the day in a hot tent with three bored children across the campsite from the nearest toilet and so we instead headed off towards Aylsham – where the last tower of the morning was lined up - to get medication.

It meant missing the day’s first two towers Hevingham and Marsham, but did at least mean we were in situ well ahead of time for ringing at the 17cwt ten of St Michael’s church. However, I still didn’t feel right and having declined the offer of calling the spliced Plain and Little Bob Royal I had just grabbed hold for, I felt quite bereft of energy or strength in my arms, despite only ringing the 8cwt seventh for a few minutes. I therefore went down to the church for a spot of rest and recuperation and reassured myself that at least I didn’t feel as bad as the person whose funeral people were gradually gathering around me for.

Still, I was disappointed not to partake in our Royal method of the Tour, Anglia Surprise and indeed that they didn’t get to ring it at all, but nonetheless, the ringing was still of a high standard, especially as the Society’s forte isn’t ten and twelve-bell ringing.

Rambling Ringers at Erpingham. Rambling Ringers at Saxthorpe. Rambling Ringers at Heydon Rambling Ringers at Heydon

That high standard continued on into the afternoon, by which time I had had a revitalising sleep and even a small carefully-chosen lunch in the car as we sat with other Ramblers in the church car park outside the first tower of the afternoon, Erpingham and managed another ring before we dashed off to the next tower, Saxthorpe where I was running the ringing. Although a 9cwt clock bell sits in the same sizeable tower, this ground-floor six weighs in at just 2cwt and on what seem to be quite small wheels, making them quite a challenge! Once settled in though, they were quite a lot of fun and we made a pretty good job of them, ringing the eponymous method of the day, some decent Surprise Minor spliced and whilst young Finley pulled the fifth in to some Plain Hunt on Six, little Chloe helped her grandfather ring the same bell down.

I felt like I was getting better, ringing in the spliced for example and then pulling the tenor in to a course of Primrose Surprise Minor at the next tower Heydon, but whilst I held onto Joshua at this ringing chamber at the top of many stairs as his mother pulled that same tenor into some Bourne Surprise Minor, I began feeling very light-headed. Considering handing our youngest to unsuspecting Society President (and now St Mary-le-Tower band member) Chris Birkby who was standing next to me, I held on and having passed the boy to my wife and had a lay down on the grass outside.

It was a good job therefore that I wasn’t partaking in the RR peal rung today at nearby Gressenhall in memory of four former members who have passed away in the last few months, including one-time Ringing Master Roland Cook whose funeral was held yesterday. Along with Sue Marshall who also left us recently after a brave battle with cancer, he rang (and indeed conducted) the Ramblers’ fiftieth peal which today’s 5040 replicated and which my brother Chris and I were privileged to ring in. I remember that effort at Beeston in 2001 and the satisfaction that we had pipped the band at All Saints in Loughborough to the landmark, albeit mainly because the tenor there was almost twice the size of ‘our’ tenor! Happy times and so sad that Sue, Roland and also Robin Worsdall and Peter Minchin should all pass away in such a short period of time.

There was also lots of ringing going on in Suffolk today recorded on BellBoard, with a trio of quarter-peals rung in the county. Well done to Josephine Beever, Andrea Alderton, Lesley & David Steed and Stephen Dawson on ringing their first of Abbeyville Delight Minor in the 1296 at Tostock and congratulations to Joshua Watkins on circling the bells of Horringer by trebling to the 1260 of Grandsire Triples which our sister-in-law Becky bonged behind to, whilst there was also a 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Gislingham.

For me though, it was an early night. I can currently only dream of the constitution to manage such feats.

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Wednesday 31st July 2019

Another day off from ringing to entertain the boys, but not quite so much fun as Monday’s trip.

We were back at the seaside, this time at Hunstanton to visit the Sea Life Centre. There was nothing wrong with the main purpose of our visit itself, offering a couple of hours of ocean-based interest and intrigue for the brothers in particular, but also for us adults. However, it was located in an area that could most politely be described as tacky and looked at its very desolate worst on another chilly, wet and windy day.

Despite having a (successful) little drive around to reassure ourselves that Hunstanton had a nicer side to it, we did feel the need to find something else to take us from the sorry scene we had just left and also to take up a bit more time to hold off our return to the damp campsite, particularly with our fellow ringing campers not due back for a few hours yet from their day’s ringing.

The boys on the steps outside Sandringham church.And so we went about as cultured as we could possibly find and headed to the Sandringham Estate, the Christmas and New Year home of the Royal Family. Although we opted out of seeing the main house and gardens, there was a nice opportunity to see the estate’s church, St Mary Magdalene, a surprisingly small but incredibly ornate place of worship, but sadly with nothing more than a clock bell up the tower and so therefore an unlikely grab!

No ringing for us then, but back in Suffolk the norm was maintained as the weekly pre-practice quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree was scored, with a 1320 of Netherseale Surprise Minor rung.

I’m glad not everyone was taking a day off ringing!

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Tuesday 30th July 2019

Our first full day of ringing on this year’s Rambling Ringers Tour. Or at least as full a day that we usually make, with the normal leisurely approach to getting up on holiday and the lengthy routine of getting everyone ready meaning that we missed the first tower of the day Cromer, but from then on in it was ringing all the way, all just off the north Norfolk coastline, with a varied repertoire of methods and good ringing in spots one might not necessarily visit if it wasn’t for ringing.

I partook in some Bristol Surprise and Double Norwich Court Bob Major spliced (a bit of a focus for this year’s tour) at Nothrepps, despite the distraction of Society Ringing Master Chris Woodcock’s paperwork falling from the gallery with a big clatter, whilst Ruthie even rang in a touch of Stedman Triples! Strange goings on indeed.

Rambling Ringers at Northrepps. Rambling Ringers at Northrepps. Rambling Ringers at Gimingham. Rambling Ringers at Gimingham. In the beer garden at The Ship Inn at Mundesley. Rambling Ringers at Paston. Joshua watching the ringing at Paston. Rambling Ringers at Knapton. Rambling Ringers at Southrepps. Rambling Ringers at Southrepps.

Though it was always going to be hard for the towers that folowed to top such excitement, we enjoyed them nonetheless, with some Northrepps Doubles (a variation which is Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place which turns into Plain Bob for a lead when bobs are called) at the ground-floor five of Gimingham and after lunch and a drink with fellow Ramblers in the stunning beer garden of The Ship Inn overlooking the beach at Mundesley, some London Surprise Minor and the first six-bell spliced of the sixty-ninth Tour at the ground-floor six of Paston. Joshua impressively climbed the ladder to the ringing chamber at Knapton and promptly watched me call a course of Norwich Surprise Minor from the treble, before we went on to the final tower of the day Southrepps where I repeated the feat, this time from the tenor in a gallery ringing chamber bathed in glorious sunshine through its huge west window.

By that point though, the wind had really got up. Hats were going flying (half-filled glasses outside the lunchtime pub even tumbled!) and when we returned to the campsite the side of the Riley’s tent was blown over with much damage to their tomatoes though thankfully not their wine glasses! We are fortunate that we merely have the residual conditions on the edge of the storm which is having an dreadful affect on just about everywhere else in the UK bar East Anglia, but it made for more discomfort on Park Farm and despite the welcome arrival of another child of ringing with Alfred bringing his parents Chris and Ellen down from Durham and a drink with them and Chris’ parents Janet and Jim next door, it was mainly another night to get back into the tent as soon as possible.

Meanwhile back in the homeland, well done to Judy and Martin Farrimond on ringing their most methods in the second quarter-peal at Redgrave this week and best wishes to former Suffolk ringer Tim Stanford for his marriage to Megan on Saturday, as marked by the pre-practice QP at Offton featuring his father David.

Seems it was a fairly busy day of ringing south of the River Waveney too.

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Monday 29th July 2019

When on the Rambling Ringers Tour with the boys, we like to do stuff that they really enjoy, in order to compensate them for the larger than usual number of churches and bells they are subjected to across the week. We did a bit of that in Norwich yesterday, but today was an entirely bells-free day.

View across to Weybourne and to the sea from the North Norfolk Railway.On this occasion, our chosen alternative destination to Tacolneston, Besthorpe, Attleborough, Shropham, Great Ellingham and Caston - where our fellow Ramblers were ringing today – was the North Norfolk Railway, the line that takes steam trains (and some diesels) between Holt and Sheringham. It is one of my favourite lines, primarily because of the stunning views across Weybourne and out to sea, but also because it is so well run. On our first day of nice weather on this holiday though, it really came into its own.

We parked up at Holt Station and were able to wait for the train in sunshine (although we also popped into the model railway there), had lunch outside at Sheringham and then spent some time at the town’s beach, before returning, the scenery upliftingly bright and colourful.

Our tent on the campsite, finally in some sunshine this evening! Our tent on the campsite, finally in some sunshine this evening!Along the way we had to get a new airbed for ourselves with the old one now no longer able to stay inflated for a night and with this new-found comfort, a drink outside our tent with neighbours-for-the-week Jim & Janet Crabtree in the warmth of a lovely summers evening and the arrival of Jim’s brother Tony on the campsite, it was by far and away our best night at Park Farm thus far.

Meanwhile, they were hopefully managing at St Mary-le-Tower without the five Monday-night regulars who are currently on Tour, but bar that and other weekly practices, our lack of ringing appears to have been mirrored back in Suffolk, with no performances from there recorded on BellBoard today.

Perhaps everyone else was finding something other than ringing to do?

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Sunday 28th July 2019

Rambling Ringers tours aren’t typically a place for teaching learners. There is a fine balance that the Society tries to tread, between instilling a high standard of striking befitting of the privilege we have of ringing bells in other people’s communities across a two-week period and a variety of method repertoire that helps stop ringing fatigue setting in over that time. As such, a certain ability is expected before joining. There is a degree of flexibility to that as - like most ringing organisations – we look to maintain and increase our numbers and we have always been happy to help with the progress of members’ relatives who are starting out, as we have done with the de Kok family and as evidenced today with nine-year old Finley who has come along for the ride with his parents Simon and Helen over the last couple of years but today was mastering Plain Hunt under the guidance of Geoff Wells.

The boys and Ruthie looking out over the church from the new ringing chamber at Mancroft. Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre. Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre. Alfie having his first handling lesson at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre with me & Geoff Wells. Alfie having his first handling lesson at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre with me & Geoff Wells.

However, it was a pleasant surprise that Alfie got the opportunity to have his first handling lesson as the Tour took in Norwich today. The main reason for this chance was that being in Norfolk’s county city we visited St Peter Mancroft and after ringing upstairs on the twelve in the new ringing chamber, local ringer Gillian Knox very kindly took us down to the superb Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre to show us around. I have raved about this place from afar and so it was marvellous to finally see it first hand and of course to see Alfred take advantage of it, with a box stood on its side and the aforementioned H G Wells holding onto him!

Rambling Ringers outside St George’s Colegate in Norwich. Rambling Ringers ringing at St George’s Colegate in Norwich. Rambling Ringers ringing at St George’s Colegate in Norwich. Rambling Ringers at Mancroft. Rambling Ringers at Mancroft. Rambling Ringers at Mancroft.

By that point, we had already been ringing north of the River Wensum at St George Colegate where Faith Pearce, Jon Spreadbury and Ben Trent were amongst the locals ringing before us, but whilst other RRs went on to St Michael & All Angels Coslany Street, we took the boys off to Castle Mall for some lunch and then to the Disney Store. And following AJM’s ringing exploits, we went to look around the wonderful castle whilst the others went to ring on the simulator at St Giles and then All Saints Westlegate, which we heard as we departed from the ancient fort.

For all the pantomime footballing rivalry, this is a city I enjoy visiting and we had a fun day, although the chilly, wet conditions made it harder work then one would hope for the end of July.

Those conditions continued on our return to the damp campsite and although it was another evening sheltering in the tent, we were heartened by the arrival of fellow Ramblers Janet and Jim Crabtree from Nottinghamshire on the pitch next to us and the promise of more ringing neighbours in the coming days.

Meanwhile, back south of the Waveney a brace of 1260s in Plain Minor were rung on Suffolk’s bells, one at Kersey and one at Redgrave. All those partaking will have started somewhere, but I’m not sure any will have done so in quite the same way as Alfred Munnings did this afternoon!

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Saturday 27th July 2019

The boys ‘helping’ us put the tent up by staying in the car.Thursday might still be declared the hottest day ever recorded in the UK, subject to a check on a late recording in Cambridge. Those thunderstorms at the end of the day naturally brought the temperatures down and true to form, just forty-eight hours after conditions that had felt like standing next to a heater, we found ourselves putting up a tent in a chilly windswept field as it gently, but uncomfortably drizzled upon us.

To be fair, it was nothing compared to the conditions we had when undertaking the same task in Devon a year ago and at least it followed a much shorter journey today with this year’s Rambling Ringers Tour – it’s sixty-ninth in total – being held just up the A140 in Norfolk. That shorter journey time allowed for a more leisurely late morning departure and even allowed time for us to ring at the last couple of towers of the day. A quick ring and lower at Saham Toney where my Mum was running proceedings in a ringing chamber that seems to have made the exercise a spectator sport judging by the rows of seating set up in the room was followed by a grab at the round tower of Watton (once we were sure our car and its newly-acquired roofbox could get under the height limiter to the car-park there!) before we returned to our campsite at Park Farm near Swanton Morley.

With the main appeal of camping – apart from being eminently affordable accommodation for a family of five – being based alongside other Ramblers on site and the social side which that usually entails, it is a sorry situation that we are the only members on the site thus far, apart from the Riley family from Yorkshire who are too far away for us to pop in for a drink and keep an eye on the children and that sense of isolation was further heightened by a truly dreadful evening and night of rain, rain and more rain.

Hopefully other Suffolk ringers were having more fun than us this evening and particularly Cretingham ringers Carol and Eric Brown on their Golden Wedding Anniversary, which was today celebrated with an appropriate length of 5050 Yorkshire Surprise Major across the border in Cambridgeshire at Histon, the place they met, were married, ran the ringing and were instrumental in the augmentation of. Congratulations to Mr & Mrs Brown!

Meanwhile, well done to The Reverend Carl Melville on ringing his first quarter-peal of spliced Treble Bob in the 1296 rung on the treble, third, fifth, sixth, seventh and tenor at Henley.

I’m glad the weather didn’t put them off!

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Friday 26th July 2019

For several months now, us staff at John Catt Educational have been eagerly anticipating today, as our ‘social committee’ had been promising a treat for us. We had no idea what it was going to be until minutes into this afternoon when they revealed to us that we were to be split into three teams of four and dispatched from the office into Woodbridge for the afternoon, with only a cryptic clue to guide us. For we were off on a treasure hunt that took us first to the Market Hill beneath the tower which holds the town’s only ring of bells hung for change-ringing, to the library, via the Thoroughfare and even a fish hut, before the final clue in The Anchor led us to our ultimate destination of The Table where lunch and liquid refreshments – not for the first time by a long chalk – were generously paid for by our employers.

It was a nice way for me to round off work ahead of a fortnight off, although it was followed up by the necessary packing of the car ahead of our planned traverses tomorrow, an increasingly challenging task thus far with three growing boys accompanying us!

Even without the usual Friday evening pick-up of Mason, it left no opportunity for ringing, but mercifully other ringers elsewhere in Suffolk were more active. Firstly, well done to Joe Findlay on ringing his first quarter-peal of Minor in the 1260 of Plain Bob at the 10cwt six of Ashbocking. Lovely as that was and to see a peal from within our borders remembering Sue Marshall on the day of her funeral at Kineton in Warwickshire, as the 5120 of Lessness Surprise Major at Felixstowe was and that it was a first in the method for Julian Colman and his son Nathan (well done guys!), the main ringing headline from the county’s ringing today was Tim Forsey ringing his first peal in the 5040 of Grandsire Doubles rung at the lovely ground-floor six of Polstead that will be familiar to anyone who partook in the Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions there a couple of months ago. Congratulations Tim!

And something I am sure he had been eagerly anticipating.

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Thursday 25th July 2019

There was a very real possibility that today was going to be the hottest day recorded in the UK, but although the temperatures were in the high thirties (centigrade) and it felt literally like standing next to a heater when out in the sun, it was ‘only’ the second highest in history known of on these shores. And inevitably it was followed by possibly the biggest and longest thunderstorm I remember witnessing, with the power briefly going off (though thankfully only for a few seconds, as I was cooking tea at the time!) and the rain pelting down.

Mercifully by that point, Alfie had enjoyed his day with my Mum and Dad as they took in the Ipswich Town Open Day and Ruthie’s mother Kate and the boys’ Grandad Ron had fixed a roof-box to our car, but the conditions seemed to have put paid to any prolonged ringing on Suffolk’s bells today, with no quarters or peals recorded on BellBoard from the county.

Just imagine if it had been the hottest day recorded!

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Wednesday 24th July 2019

Those who remember the late Simon Cottrell, who was instrumental to the augmenting of the bells at Parham into the lovely little six that they are now and was a memorable – and for many years now, much missed – character, will be pleased to know that his son John has been learning to ring as part of Ringing Remembers. Even more pleasingly, although currently living in London, he is planning on moving to Suffolk in the near future, but he is already ringing fairly regularly up this way when visiting the area.

I don’t think he has had quite as much of a ringing workout as he had at Pettistree this evening though, as he benefitted from a relatively low turnout at this ground-floor six. Mike Whitby had him doing lots of trebling to Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles, leaving his head spinning, but hopefully also something that may help him in his progress.

That he managed it on such a hot evening is to his credit, with the conditions today so warm that a planned peal attempt at Coddenham was sensibly called off. The conditions didn’t make ringing the pre-practice quarter-peal easy, especially with the method – Palmer Bob Minor – being a tricky little blighter featuring various elements I generally dislike in an even-bell method, such as leading for three blows in a row and making seconds on the way in and out. Still, even in such circumstances we managed to fashion some pretty decent ringing which I hope was a fitting tribute to Pippa’s mother Ruth who recently passed away.

It can’t have been easy for the band ringing the front-eight peal of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods at St Mary-le-Tower either and it was hot work at the session that followed our successful QP. That didn’t stop us managing a good repertoire of methods, with much Surprise Minor, in spliced and individually, including my favourite of the forty-one Morpeth and a faultlessly-rung course of Netherseale, but I was pleased to have a cooling pint in The Greyhound afterwards!

It was an evening that I hope helped John and which I imagine his father would’ve approved of.

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Tuesday 23rd July 2019

Will there be performances of Boris Doubles and Johnsonville Delight Minor or Armageddon Treble Bob Minor over the next few days? Or will the ringing community – perhaps sensibly – remain largely apathetic to today’s announcement that tomorrow Boris Johnson is due to become the UK’s next Prime Minister.

For today though, the eulogies and demonization of BoJo through footnotes placed somewhere between the humorous and extreme support/opposition eluded BellBoard, with the only entry from Suffolk being a quarter-peal of Doubles rung at Redgrave more sensibly for the fiftieth anniversaries of the first Moon landing and the birth of Betty Baines’ son Neil!
And for us – not unusually for a Tuesday – there was no ringing at all. Although not in a ringing sense, I imagine Boris Johnson was having a busier day.

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Monday 22nd July 2019

There were some blisters on show at St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice on Suffolk’s heaviest ring of bells. Some were mine following the peal at Ufford on Saturday, but the majority belonged to Karina and Sonia following their impressive efforts six days ago in ringing their first two quarters on the same evening. The former had since been to Latitude (in fact I feel like the only ringer and/or work colleague who hasn’t been!) and lost her voice, but none of this appeared to have a negative effect on any of the ringing, although the humidity did a bit I think.

Still, despite being worries that with holiday season now upon us that numbers might be down, there was a decent sized crowd in attendance which managed Surprise Royal of the Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire variety and Stedman Cinques with varying degrees of success.

And it was all topped off with a drink outside the back of The Cricketers in almost Mediterranean conditions, all of which was lovely, but I suspect was less fun to ring today’s 5050 of Yorkshire Surprise Major on the 17cwt eight of Elveden in. Congratulations to Joan Garrett on reaching fifty years of peal-ringing, a well deserved landmark for a lady who is always willing to help out where she can. Congratulations also to past Guild Ringing Master Stephen Pettman and past Guild Peal Secretary Alan Mayle on ringing their one hundredth peal together in the successful 3hrs6mins of ringing.

I wonder if there were many blisters afterwards...

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Sunday 21st July 2019

I have grown up going to the annual Offton BBQ. As a kid who loved the huge lawn that one could play games on. My early (failed) attempts at drinking homebrew, once with spectacular consequences, which host Brian Whiting quite rightly reminds me of almost every year! When I returned from living in the West Midlands, it was an event that helped really confirm that I was right to come back to my home county, with Brian and Peta’s lovely old home set in their large, beautiful gardens surrounded by a cricket pitch on one side and Suffolk’s wide expanse of fields, woodlands and pretty cottages of many colours on the other sides. And in recent years it has been a real highlight attending with Ruthie, Mason and now Alfie and Joshua too.

Like ringing and life generally, there are reassuring dollops of continuity and change. For the first time, the boys each partook of games of boules with varying degrees of success, but with local ringer Doug Perry umpiring as he has done for years, complete with measuring sandals! There were various characters present who have only started coming in recent years, but also many who have been fixtures at this for almost as long as I can recall, such as the Perrys, Roses, Knights and Pipes. And despite a new footbridge which generated much interest, the wonderful setting remains pretty much the same thirty years on.

Offton BBQ. Offton BBQ. Offton BBQ. Offton BBQ. Handbell ringing at Offton BBQ – l to r; Brian Whiting, Maggie Ross, Alex Tatlow & David Stanford. Alfie & Joshua watching handbell ringing at the Offton BBQ. The Offton BBQ from the other end of the new footbridge. Playing boules at the Offton BBQ. Playing boules at the Offton BBQ. Playing boules at the Offton BBQ.  Tucking into the puddings at the Offton BBQ (taken by Mike Whitby)

Being designated driver this year, I couldn’t get stuck into the homebrew, but I still immensely enjoyed the vast amount of food, listening to handbell ringing, winning a bottle of wine on the raffle, making new friends and catching up with familiar faces. It was particularly nice to see Maggie Ross and Tim Palmer who are visiting the county for the weekend, but also to see George Pipe enjoying the sunshine and company, even employing his own beer carrier, David Stanford! Thank you to Brian and Peta and their various helpers – including Jonathan Williamson on the BBQ itself – for a fabulous few hours!

However, apart from my wife partaking in some handbell ringing in the Whitings’ garden, the only actual ringing either of us partook in all day was when I managed a quick burst of well-struck call-changes on six at Woodbridge before the service that we all attended as I struggled to find somewhere to park nearby, but elsewhere within our borders other ringers were busier with three quarter-peals rung in Suffolk, albeit one was at the NDA tower of Lowestoft. Well done to the entire band on ringing their first of Ashton-in-Makerfield Bob Minor with the 1260 at Buxhall, but the headline-maker in the Guild today was Margaret Weeks who rang her first in the medium with the Plain Bob Doubles at Hollesley. Congratulations Margaret! Meanwhile, congratulations also to Anne Buswell on the birth of her grandson Reuben, whilst our thoughts have been – and remain – with her fellow local ringer Nigel Bond with the unexpected death of his wife Ann last week.

God willing the ringing family can help him at this difficult time, but it was also in evidence at the Offton BBQ this afternoon. As it has been for most of my life.

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Saturday 20th July 2019

I like to arrange a peal of an appropriate length and/or number of methods for each of the boys’ birthdays every year. It means little to them at the moment, but God willing one day they will find it touching at least that I went to the effort of arranging these attempts and that people have taken the trouble to ring at length for their special day. Indeed, Mason in the last couple of years has found it interesting reading up on them, especially the one we rang last year that included a method named after him!

Joshua’s is probably the most difficult to arrange though, attempting to find a date in amongst a busy time of holidays and BBQs not just for ourselves but for lots of others too, not to mention in amongst celebrating his mother’s birthday. Particularly this year!

All the more pleasing therefore to have rung this morning’s 5184 of three Surprise Major methods spliced at Ufford, the tower where his grandmother Kate is Ringing Master. Appropriately, said Mrs Eagle rang and although Stephen Pettman had to abandon his attempts to fashion/find a decent 5030 of three methods, we of course also rang it for Ruthie’s recent significant birthday. And it was a very decent 2hrs56mins of ringing. This 13cwt are enjoyable to ring, but noticeably enough oddstruck to mean that concentration is needed for every blow and this talented band pretty much managed that with some very good striking.

Most of us retired to The White Lion round the corner afterwards to contribute to the local economy with some post-ringing refreshments and much convivial conversation. Some went on to more ringing – Mike Cowling was off to ring for a wedding at Little Glemham for example – but I returned home via my Mum and Dad, who had very kindly been looking after the boys whilst I was peal-ringing, with my wife at work.

Wenhaston Band.Meanwhile, there was an even more significant performance in ringing terms at Wenhaston, as young Rosie Rolph rang her first quarter-peal, appropriately with her sisters and brother – including Alex who is to be congratulated on her recent graduation – and the ringer who helped her begin her ringing odyssey, Maggie Ross who was ringing on a return visit to the area which was once home for her.

My day finished with a spot of child-sitting of both our boys and their cousins, the return of Mrs Munnings from the shop and a relaxing evening in, relieved that Joshua’s (and Ruthie’s) birthday peal went well.

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Friday 19th July 2019

I wasn’t feeling all that great this evening with a blocked up nose and headache, which is worrying with a busy weekend of peal-ringing, child-sitting and barbecuing planned for the next couple of days.

My subdued mood was not helped by hearing of the sad news of the passing of Roland Cook from Leicestershire, who died earlier this week. I rang a couple of peals with him and he and his wife Sylvia very kindly came to help us ring for our Uncle Martin’s funeral at Misterton in his home county a few years ago. He was always a lovely chap and an extremely talented ringer. RIP Roland.

My mood was lifted somewhat though, both by an extraordinarily good report for Alfie as his first year at primary school drew to a close and the brace of quarter-peals rung on Suffolk’s bells on this summer’s Friday. Well done to all the band bar conductor and treble-ringer Philip Gorrod – so therefore Nicole Rolph, Sal Jenkinson, Matthew Rolph , Rona Sporle and Peter Lock – on ringing their first of Berwick Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Blythburgh (and indeed on getting anywhere near the area during Latitude!) and to The Revd Carl Melville on ringing his first of Kent Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 on the back six at Henley.

God willing I’ll be feeling well enough to do my own ringing this weekend!

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Thursday 18th July 2019

Part of this blog’s purpose is (increasingly) highlighting how we fit our ringing in around our circumstances. Or rather don’t. As was the case today, as instead of joining Grundisburgh practice as we once did regularly on a Thursday evening, Ruthie went to choir practice and we then had a night in waiting for Joshua to get to sleep (it took a long, long time by the way) and then had to unblock our toilet. I shall leave it to others to decide whether that was better than going ringing at Grundisburgh.

There was other ringing in Suffolk though, most notably with the impressive 5760 of forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced rung on handbells in Bacton to Alexander Holroyd’s composition that sees each bell ring every bit of line for all the methods.

It certainly sounds more fun then unblocking a toilet.

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Wednesday 17th July 2019

For the latter half of her twenties, Ruthie ringing a quarter-peal with me became a bit of a rarity due to our willingly taken-on parental duties, but in her thirties her QP record with me is 100%, courtesy of this evening’s pre-practice 1440 of nine spliced Surprise Minor methods (Cunecastre, London & Wells and then Beverley & its sixth-place version Berwick, Cambridge & its sixth-place version Primrose and Surfleet & its sixth-place version Hexham) at Pettistree.

Ruthie with her cake and some of the others at Pettistree practice.It wasn’t planned though, as I was a very last-minute stand-in for mother-in-law Kate who wasn’t feeling well enough to guarantee making forty/forty-five minutes of continuous ringing and so instead looked after the boys at home whilst we rang. We then returned to relieve her of her duties, with Mrs Munnings then going back to the ground-floor six armed with a cake of her own making which she then shared with others who attended the weekly session, including the very welcome annual visit of the holidaying Harriyotts from Sussex.

Meanwhile, our success wasn’t the only one on Suffolk bells recorded on BellBoard today, with more spliced Surprise, this time at Henley of the Major variety as Bristol and Cambridge were woven together to form a 1344 on the gallery-ring eight just north of Ipswich.

Hopefully the first quarters of many to be rung within our borders in Ruthie’s thirties – and God willing including even more of featuring both of us!

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Tuesday 16th July 2019

A year ago today I bemoaned that Ruthie failed to celebrate herself, despite her considerable talents in ringing, singing, playing musical instruments and motherhood. This year, on her thirtieth birthday, I hope that we have celebrated her sufficiently on her behalf and gladly so.

She has deserved to be spoilt and treated on this long weekend away and today – on her birthday itself – we rounded it off with a visit to the Rare Breeds Centre near Woodchurch, before we all made our way back to Suffolk (for the second time in three days for myself!) and - once I’d collected Mason and our brother-in-law Kev had joined his family – gathered at the Coach & Horses in Melton on home territory!

We returned to a county of busy bellringers.

Quarter-peals of Ruthenium Surprise Major (appropriate for today!) and Uxbridge Surprise Major at Gislingham and Hopton respectively, with the former being the first in the method for the entire band. Well done to them all.

Meanwhile, a 5040 of Minor was rung at Hartest to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Past Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond’s first peal on the same bell at the same tower and to the same method arrangement, although with no rockets launched for the Moon to accompany it today. Congratulations Amanda, who rang in my first peal and played a big part in me learning the art and has helped countless others too. Including most recently Sonia Docherty and Karina Wiseman who today not only rang their first quarter-peal by ringing the treble and tenor respectively to a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Sproughton, but then immediately followed it up with their second quarter having swapped bells. Congratulations Sonia and Karina, whose achievements deserve many more likes on BellBoard!

It is a day of celebration, but especially for my wife – Happy Birthday Ruthie!

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Monday 15th July 2019

Today was the final well-meaning deceit of a weekend of well-meaning, as Ruthie spent the day as a zookeeper at Port Lympne Safari Park, a fantastic present from her mother and Ron which had been kept secret from her until yesterday. Whilst she enjoyed mucking out a rhino house and feeding giraffes, the rest of us took a safari ride around the wildlife park and wandered the dinosaur forest, although we did have lunch with her.

She excitedly imparted every detail she could about her day as we wiled the evening away back in East Guldeford, although our presence down here meant that I couldn’t make St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice back in Ipswich. Hopefully they survived without me (and I fully expect they did) as there was very little to report from a ringing perspective in Suffolk otherwise. Unless BellBoard is deceiving me.

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Sunday 14th July 2019

England becoming world champions in the men’s forms of the UK’s main sports are scarce, always dramatic and down to the wire. The footballer’s victory in 1966 famously came down to a questionable decision on whether the ball had crossed the goal-line for our third goal and had already gone into extra-time following a last-minute equaliser from our West German opponents. And the destination of the trophy was in doubt right up until Geoff Hurst completed what is still the only hat-trick scored in the men’s World Cup Final.

In 2003, the rugby union team’s victory in Australia to win the WC against the hosts was only decided by that last-ditch drop-kick from Jonny Wilkinson in one of the most dramatic endings to a World Cup final in any sport. At the time...

They were by their nature – but especially in how they panned out – real “where were you moments.”

Of course, I wasn’t born in 1966, but I remember being in my living room on a Saturday morning watching the rugger in 2003 and as long as I have my faculties, I can hope I will always remember where I was taking in today’s incredible, staggering English victory in the cricket World Cup final at Lord’s. East Sussex, Kent, Greater London, Essex and Suffolk and then in reverse, before taking in the amazing last over and ‘super over’ in the sitting room of a sixteenth century house near the Sussex coast.

The reason for my considerable traversing was that I needed to get Mason back to his mother’s in readiness for activities week at school and so having enjoyed a visit to Bodiam Castle – where the boys and their cousins partook in a spot of archery – and bade farewell to the others, I spent the next few hours negotiating the dreadful driving of outside lane-hoggers (including one who spent the whole way between in that lane from Ipswich to Chelmsford, apparently oblivious to their wing mirror being folded in and presumably to the rest of us who had sit behind them or break the law undertaking them) and speed restrictions that merely served to further clog the roads and make driving conditions even edgier, all mercifully accompanied by BBC Radio Five’s commentary of an absorbing cricket match.

However, I couldn’t complain much about how well it all went, with minimal hold-ups and having initially thought it might be late evening before I got back to East Guldeford, I was back in time to join the others for a BBQ overlooking the stunning countryside surrounding us and for the end of the cricket. It was nice to be back to enjoy that and to take in tales of a sports day for the children on the lawn of ‘our’ ancient property.

It all meant there was no opportunity for ringing. We can see the tower that holds the 19cwt eight of Rye across the fields from our abode and I always feel strange not ringing on a Sunday morning, but with only three of our twelve-strong party ringers and a tight schedule today, it was never really an option on this occasion.

Back in the homeland that I briefly returned to this afternoon though, there were a couple of notable quarter-peals rung, with the 1260 of Single Platt Bridge Bob Minor at Great Finborough being the first blows in the method for the entire band and the 1296 at The Norman Tower being the first of Stedman Caters for Deborah Blumfield. Well done Maureen, Josephine, Lesley, Andrea, David, Stephen and Deborah!

And of course, very well done to England’s men’s cricketers!

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Saturday 13th July 2019

More well-meaning deceit today in our endeavours to make Ruthie’s forthcoming thirtieth anniversary of her birth as memorable for her as possible.

Not so much the train rides on the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway, as she knew that was coming, once she had become aware of the existence of the weekend away as a whole. Although she was worried that was going to end up driving one! Rather, another element of our trip away that had been planned for some time without her having even the slightest notion came to fruition as we were met by my wife’s long-time schoolfriend Beth. She now lives in Kent with her husband Roderick and daughter Rosie who we were meeting for the first time on this occasion arranged via Facebook between me and Beth.

Cameraman at Hythe station on the RH&DR.There were further surprises not planned by us, such as the film crew filming a documentary for Channel Five and the train we were on breaking down, but that didn’t spoil what was a special day as four generations of my wife’s family and one of her best friends came out for an afternoon of journeying on a lovely line and a picnic on a roasting hot day. The children in particular enjoyed themselves, but so did the rest of us.

Ruthie’s Harry Potter Birthday cake.Back in Suffolk a quarter-peal was rung at Woolpit, but we merely returned to East Guldeford and that beautiful big old house for another enjoyable evening of playing, eating – especially her Harry Potter birthday cake - and drinking, whilst Ruthie pondered what else we have planned for her...

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Friday 12th July 2019

I don’t do deceit well, which I suppose is a good thing. For one, I am a dreadful actor, secondly I don’t really like lying and thirdly I have always found that eventually it’ll come back to bite one on the bum.

For the last few weeks and months though, I – and indeed many others, from work colleagues, school, nursery and ringers – have been involved with hiding something from Ruthie. On Tuesday, it will be the thirtieth anniversary of my wife’s birth and in form typical of her mother Kate, Mrs Eagle had arranged for a surprise weekend away for the birthday girl, with other surprises along the way. It has meant arranging days off for myself, the boys and indeed for Mrs Munnings herself without her getting wind of anything and finally this morning it all came together.

First up, despite having booked the day off work (unbeknown to my wife of course), I got dressed as if I were going to the office and left as if to take Joshua to nursery, only to simply drop him off at his gran’s where Grandad Ron would look after him whilst I pretended to go to John Catt and then my mother-in-law collected Ruthie and Alfie (who had to pretend to be poorly to give him a reason not to be going to school who had authorised his time off) and dropped my wife off at John Ives for what she thought was going to be a normal Friday in the shop. Meanwhile, I had been for a walk in the countryside we are so fortunate to have nearby, before I was confident that the unsuspecting star of the weekend had left the house and awaited to hear that her sister Clare had collected her from work (where she had already sold a pair of shoes!) and it was finely revealed to her that she was in fact going away for a few days with the family.

As she and the others travelled down to the location for the festivities, I stayed back to pack the bags that I had been unable to previously so as to not arouse suspicion and wait for Mason to finish school so that we two could make our way to a big house in East Sussex to join my wife, the boys, her sister and her girls, her mother, Grandad Ron and her grandparents.

The Mount, East Guldeford. St Mary, East Guldeford.And what a house! A sixteenth century, seven-bedroomed, timber-framed home absolutely oozing Tudor character in the tiny village of East Guldeford near the coast, just a mile from the delightful small town of Rye next to the border with Kent. St Mary’s church sits just across a busy road, but with it being built at about the same time, it is easy to picture these two buildings sitting together serenely for centuries looking almost the same as they did this evening on this sunny summer’s evening.

The children were already dashing about the sizeable gardens, the grandparents were in one of the sitting rooms watching the end of another classic from Federer and Nadal at Wimbledon, whilst the other adults were sat sipping tea watching the trains pass on the nearby railway line. And Ruthie was still slightly shocked!

Meanwhile, back in the county we had just left, ringers were still busy, with a quarter-peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at Henley and a 5184 of Lindum Surprise Major at Horringer, which was a first in the method for all the band and a three hundredth peal together for Christine Knight and Alan Mayle. Well done to them all!

No ringing for us though, but nonetheless an immensely relaxing evening sipping fizzy outside in the yard rounded off an exciting day as my wife speculated what might yet be coming this weekend. There is still a little well-meaning deceit to be carried out!

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Thursday 11th July 2019

In some senses our circumstances didn’t change all that much on this day three years ago when our youngest son Joshua was born. Following the birth of his older brother Alfie two years earlier, we had adjusted to a lifestyle that meant we couldn’t just go out whenever we liked when my eldest son Mason wasn’t with us and accepted that going ringing was something that is largely taken in turns rather than a collective activity.

Yet of course life did change a huge deal for us. I think we were guilty of underestimating just how much work having two young children together under our care all the time was going to be, but of course the trade-off is watching Josh and Alfred’s relationship with each other – and Mason – blossom. And in his own right, Joshie is a blessing we wouldn’t change for anything.

Joshua opening his presents, with help from Alfie. Joshua blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.Today was therefore definitely a day for celebration and once we’d all got back from our respective places of work and before Ruthie went to the Surprise Major practice at Ufford with her mother Kate, that is exactly what we did, as Granny Eagle, Grandad Ron, Aunty Clare and cousins Katelynn and Anna came round for cake and games.

Elsewhere there were further celebrations, this time for North-West District Chairman David Steed, who celebrated his birthday with a 1368 of seventeen Surprise Minor methods spliced.

Also celebrating were England’s male cricketers, who exactly one year after the men’s football team lost their World Cup semi-final were winning their World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston against Australia.

Therefore a day of celebration all round, most particularly for us for that life-changing event exactly three years ago. Happy Birthday Joshua!

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Wednesday 10th July 2019

Ringing at Pettistree practice.This evening’s pre-practice quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree was on paper a relatively ambitious one for a rural six-bell tower, even the current holders of the Mitson Shield. Nine Surprise Minor methods, with an extent of six Norwich/Westminster above methods – Rossendale (London below), Stamford (Wells below) and Annable’s London (King Edward – essentially Cambridge – below)  of the Norwich above set and Lightfoot (London below), Wearmouth (Wells below) and Netherseale (King Edward below) of the Westminster above group – and then London, Wells and Cunecastre (King Edward’s below and London above) to finish.

We did not get the quarter, but it would be harsh to call it a failure, with the first extent successfully negotiated with the ringing improving as we got more and more confident and it all proved to be useful, prolonged practice at a wide range of methods which it isn’t always possible to ring on a regular basis, which is one of the main purposes of these weekly attempts. And ultimately it came down to one method alone that brought the ringing to a late but premature end – Cunecastre. Therefore, there was much practicing of that line in the session that followed, as more ringers came to join us and by the time I left we seemed to have got the hang of it!

Earlier, some of the participants of our QP attempt had been to Debenham for the annual Veteran’s Day and reported another hugely successful event with a bumper crowd. Well done to Jenny Scase on organising the event, a worthwhile celebration of those who have helped make the exercise what it is today.

Meanwhile, my early departure from the ringing was to help Ruthie as we prepared the house for the third anniversary of Joshua’s birth and the subsequent celebrations planned for tomorrow, which hopefully won’t be too ambitious!

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Tuesday 9th July 2019

There were quarter-peals rung at Bures and pre-practice at Offton of Plain Bob Triples and Double Norwich Court Bob Major respectively and the Second Tuesday Ringing was at Framlingham and Earl Soham, but it was a typically quiet Tuesday for us personally from a ringing perspective. Well done and thank you to others for producing something worthy of mention on today’s blog!

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Monday 8th July 2019

It was slightly annoying to arrive at the car-park I have paid (an admittedly paltry amount) towards a permit for to enable me to park somewhere near St Mary-le-Tower and find it full this evening. With the neighbouring car-park which we were once able to park in for free until the OTT redesign of the spaces, mainly empty but out-of-bounds, it meant a bit of a walk in to the weekly practice this evening, once I’d found somewhere to park without forking out an additional fee for the privilege of contributing to Ipswich’s meagre Monday night economy.

The only silver-lining – so I thought – was that it surely meant a bumper crowd would await me in the ringing chamber. Except it transpires that the spaces were full of cars belonging to members of the Tower Chamber Choir practicing for tomorrow's concert and we were actually quite short of numbers manning the twelve bells upstairs.

Still, as is often the case in such circumstances, it gave some of our learners more time on the end of a rope than we might normally be able to offer them. And we nonetheless managed some Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and a quick burst of Plain and Little (well strictly speaking Baldrick Little) Bob Cinques that produces a useful three-lead touch in a productive session.

Afterwards we retired to The Cricketers for a drink to top off an enjoyable evening. Even if I couldn’t park anywhere nearby.

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Sunday 7th July 2019

5040 Spliced Surprise Minor (41 Methods) peal Band.I was very sorry to hear of the death this afternoon of Warwickshire ringer Sue Marshall. I’ve known Sue for several years from Rambling Ringers and my time ringing in Birmingham and so I was sad to learn that she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness at the end of last year. However, she took this terrible outlook and turned it into an inspirational few months as she aimed to make the most of what time she had left. This took the form of walking and visiting various places such as stately homes, but primarily with ringing. She managed to reach her much desired 2000th peal with a 5040 at Bletchingdon in Oxfordshire in March and before that partook in what is believed to be the first all-female band to ring a peal of the forty-one Surprise Minor at Milton of the same county in February, as well as persuading her talented daughter Rebecca back to peal-ringing and ringing in her son Tristan’s first peal, rung at her home tower of Kineton. And there was that incredible celebration of her in Birmingham in January with just some of her many friends in the exercise where a brace of peals and a quarter-peal were rung in the second city.

She was willing to help others in their ringing, no better shown than with her part in ITTS as Ruthie saw first hand when she attended a course at the aforementioned Kineton a few years ago, but also in her very kind act of ringing in Mason’s eighth birthday peal at Debenham back in 2015 when she happened to be in the area.

Also, she was a very good ringer, a leading light of the art, especially of the female element and I imagine she would have been chuffed that us chaps were outnumbered at St Mary-le-Tower this morning (and apparently at Woodbridge too, I was to hear later!), particularly in some call-changes on twelve where I realised I was one of just four males in the band!

One of the ladies present was Laura Davies, who we are pleased to see back in Ipswich after her year in Bratislava and lovely to have a natter in Costa Coffee afterwards, although with that following on from ringing at St Lawrence – where Karina trebled superbly to some Plain Bob Minimus – it meant there was no time to go ringing at Grundisburgh, with the bells being rung down at St Margaret’s as we left a town centre buzzing with people gathering for Ipswich Music Day.

By this point I only had Alfie keeping me company, as he had the birthday party of one of his classmates to attend this afternoon and with my wife at work my Mum and Dad had very kindly agreed to take his brothers in the meantime. Whilst they went to church at Sproughton and saw elephants in the county town, Alfred enjoyed himself immensely at a celebration that featured animals to pet for the children and beer for the adults. It was a fun afternoon.

With everyone gathered together, we then made an unusual collective visit to St Mary the Virgin’s evensong where we were enticed by an invitation from our friends Charlotte and Gregory and their girls on a nice summer’s evening, whilst a few miles away at Pettistree the evensong was preceded by a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor.

All in all a very positive day, but severely tinged with sadness. RIP Sue.

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Saturday 6th July 2019

Since I moved back to Suffolk from the crowded, edgy West Midlands in what seems a lifetime ago, I have grown to appreciate a walk in our beautiful countryside. And of course, I love bellringing and am fond of a pint of ale in one of the countless character-filled ancient pubs within our borders.

Circumstances mean that we don’t get the chance to do as much of any of these as we would normally do, but this afternoon’s South-East District Practice at Grundisburgh and Hasketon, walking between them and then having a drink in The Turk’s Head in the latter village offered us the opportunity to combine all three.

It came with some restrictions for us though. The plan to walk both ways would’ve been ambitious with the boys in tow and so we ‘only’ did the walk back and of course the two of us sinply grabbing hold for ringing needs to come with the reassurance that someone is keeping an eye on the brothers, whilst wiling the hours away relaxing with multiple drinks is currently a rare treat. Add to that the rain which appeared at precisely the moment we wanted to hike through the fields and woodlands of this lovely part of the county and you might think we didn’t enjoy this as much as we might have.

Ringing at Grundisburgh for the South-East District Walk & Ring Practice. Ringing at Grundisburgh for the South-East District Walk & Ring Practice. Some of the advanced party (in the middle distance if you look very closely!) on the walk between Grundisburgh & Grundisburgh. Abby Antrobus, Alfie, Ruthie & Jonathan Williamson walking between Grundisburgh & Hasketon. Mark Ogden & Jonathan Williamson discussing something in the entrance to Hasketon ringing chamber. Some of the ringers in The Turks Head afterwards.

Well you’d be wrong! The ringing at the twelve was really very good, especially for a disparate band not used to negotiating this number of bells, with a decent three leads of Bristol Surprise Major on the back eight, some lovely Grandsire Cinques and some well-rung Stedman Cinques interspersed with reasonable call-changes too. Our walk was soggy, but convivial, with District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson and Secretary Abby Antrobus very kindly hanging back to keep us company and direct us the right way as we struggled to keep pace with an advanced party that included Mason! As usual, the scenery didn’t let us down and even though grey, those big wide East Anglian skies were an inspiring backdrop. Our bedraggled crew then produced some superb ringing at the ground-floor six in a round tower, with various Surprise Minor methods rung with no method mistakes and good striking, before a most welcome drink was enjoyed in a pub that has changed much over the years but remains one of my favourites. And it was all done in extremely nice company.

Meanwhile, up in Liverpool, an incredible twenty-four teams were taking part in the Ringing World National Youth Contest. Sadly that didn’t include a Suffolk entry, with the nearest competitors being Essex Young Eagles and the Cambridgeshire-based Fen Tigers, but it is heartening to see such a phenomenal turnout from the exercise’s youngsters. Congratulations to the Oxford Diocesan Guild on winning overall and therefore claiming the Whitechapel Trophy and well done to the Kent Young Ringers on earning the Ringing World Editor’s Trophy for Excellence. Hopefully we will soon have an SGR entry in the near future challenging for these trophies.

Meanwhile back here, a quarter-peal of St Clement’s College Bob Minor was rung at Great Finborough, deep within the beautiful Suffolk countryside that we are so fortunate to ring, walk and drink in.

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Friday 5th July 2019

Earl Stonham.Well done to South-East District Secretary Abby Antrobus on ringing her first quarter-peal of Ipswich Surprise Minor in the 1298 on the gallery-ring of six at Earl Stonham.

Nothing quite so active for us on this occasion as after a few busy Fridays, the normal order of our current circumstances was restored with a quiet night in with an end-of-week beer or two, whilst elsewhere others gathered in Liverpool for tomorrow’s Ringing World National Youth Contest and in particular some superb ringing from those at the twelve of Pier Head in the city. Although there is no Suffolk band partaking, best of luck to all taking part!

I’m looking forward to hearing of more success stories tomorrow.

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Thursday 4th July 2019

Nobody has rung more peals together than Nottinghamshire and occasional Rambling Ringers Paul and Ruth Curtis with their 4754 as a pair in the medium. Paul Mounsey is a star of the College Youths and Frank Rivett of the Cumberlands, David Dearnley has judged at the National Twelve-Nell Contest more than anyone else, Claire Roulstone is one of the best female ringers around and Paul Cammiade is also a superb ringer, whilst Norwich ringer David Brown is one of the leading conductors in the world. Collectively they were ringing what I imagine was a fantastic peal of Keddington Delight Major at Kersey.

Other than that, there was nothing to report from ringing in Suffolk, other than that which usually occurs on a Thursday and certainly not from us as Ruthie’s choir practice prevented either of us getting out anywhere that was ringing this evening.

We’ll leave it up to the experts for today.

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Wednesday 3rd July 2019

Over the last couple of years there has been much concern that due to the lack of anywhere for them to go, the youth of Ipswich in particular are being dragged into gangs, sometimes with tragic consequences, with stabbings in particular causing understandable alarm.

It was a topic that the Guild’s President The Right Revd Martin Seeley – the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich – was discussing on BBC Radio Suffolk today and once again it prompted me to consider if ringing could play any – even small – part in the solution. I have long been frustrated when parents in rural communities moan about there being nothing for children to do in their community, when more likely than not there is a peal of bells within earshot which would gladly welcome new recruits, especially youngsters, thus giving those youngsters something truly engaging and good for body and mind, all for relatively little outlay.

The issues in gangland Ipswich are somewhat different, with more deep-rooted issues and more dangerous outcomes. However, I have often wondered whether it would be a good use of the bells in the redundant churches of the county town if they were the location for some sort of cross between a youth club and bellringing practice for those youngsters that might otherwise end up on the streets getting into gangs and knife-crime. And we might get some new recruits.

All a little pie-in-the-sky perhaps, with a dedicated and sizeable number of volunteers needed and probably perceptions to be overcome from both sides, but wouldn’t it be great PR and a nice thing for the art to do?

Pettistree – like pretty much every tower in the country – would gladly welcome new recruits, but at least they had a few more there this week than last, both for the ringing and socialising in The Greyhound afterwards. At least according to Ruthie who attended the session this week having been spared setting up the sale at John Ives at the last minute and had a very enjoyable evening on this ground-floor six instead.

That session was preceded as usual by a successful quarter-peal, which on this occasion was of three Minor methods and dedicated to Webmaster Chris Garner’s birthday, but it wasn’t the only QP of the day on the county’s bells. Get well soon to Richard Knight, whose health and spirits were hopefully helped along by the footnote to the 1260 of Stedman Triples at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland. And congratulations to all who were ringing their most of spliced Triples with the eleven methods rung at Elveden today.

There are a lot of youngsters who don’t know what they’re missing out on!

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Tuesday 2nd July 2019

It started with a chance glance at my blog from precisely five years ago and a comment I made about the Guild’s 10,000th peal. At the time I mused that if we’d continued at the rates of the previous year – 2013 – that we would reach that significant landmark in the year we now find ourselves and indeed with only a slight rise in that rate we might even have got there last year, appropriately in the ninety-fifth anniversary year of the SGR.

2013’s 155 peals proved to be a substantial peak, the most rung by the membership this century and the most since 1995 and ever since the annual total seems to have settled near the one-hundred mark and so I was aware that we weren’t going to be meeting number 10,000 in 2019, but it did prompt me to take a look at how far off we are. And it seems quite far off, at least at current rates. According to this year’s Annual Report, the 5024 of Bristol Surprise Major rung at Gislingham on Christmas Eve was the final peal for the Guild of 2018 and 9,725th in our name since its formation in 1923 and having not that long ago contemplated reaching number 10,000 for the ninety-fifth anniversary, I wondered if we were actually even going to make it by the one hundredth anniversary in 2023.

Well the good news is, that even at current rates, we ought to make it in the early part of 2022, but it does rather highlight the sharp fall in peal-rates and why it might be. This year’s particularly low total thus far compared to the last four or five years can be accounted for by the lack of peals at The Wolery due the Salters’ unfortunate – though happily now improving – circumstances, where the sole peal this year rung on Good Friday means that the totals in Old Stoke are eight or nine down compared to how many had been rung by this week twelve months ago. However, generally we have lost a lot of enthusiastic young peal-ringers and arrangers in the last half-decade, such as Louis Suggett, Alex Tatlow and the Salter brothers Colin and George and others who were once more active in arranging such as David Salter, Stephen Pettman and indeed myself have been less so in recent years.

God willing in the next two or three years, some of those named above might return to arrange regular peals again and/or some new names come to the forefront and that we reach that 10,000th peal much earlier than we are due to now. I know ringing for a named ringing organisation has become uncool for some and there are a few in the exercise who would lose no sleep if peal-ringing ceased to exist, but this is a medium that does more to raise standards across the art than any other element in my opinion (and without that raising of standards ringing would ultimately die), although of course like any medium of ringing, it can’t do it on its own. And I think it is good for the Suffolk Guild the more peals are rung for it. From a financial perspective most obviously, but also for less tangible reasons, such as what it does to inspire and motivate learners, especially youngsters, putting ringing in the county in a good light and giving a snapshot of what ringers in Suffolk are doing at any particular time. Reading through the peal columns from previous annual reports make for fascinating reading.

The Norwich Diocesan Association were adding to their peal totals today for reasons that the SGR haven’t had the opportunity to do for many years, as they celebrated Norwich City’s latest prelude to relegation with a peal at Ashill in a method named after the dirge that our friends from Carrow Road are famous for singing, On The Ball City. Congratulations to them, but kudos to Tractor Boy and Past Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd, not only for taking part in good humour but also making sure there was an Ipswich Town representation to remind them that we’re not gone just yet!

However, there was nothing to add to our Guild totals today and indeed nothing of a quarter-peal nature and we didn’t help matters with a ringingless day, but hopefully we can start contributing to those peal totals on another day soon.

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Monday 1st July 2019

With the weather cooling outside, I hadn’t really expected it to be quite as warm as it was in St Mary-le-Tower ringing chamber for this evening’s weekly practice. It perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise in this relatively small, enclosed space with quite restricted ventilation, especially with another bumper turnout crowding in to man Suffolk’s heaviest ring of bells.

Nonetheless, it was once again a productive session, from Karina ringing Plain Hunt on Nine for the first time to those feeling their way through Stedman Cinques and the Surprise Maximus versions of Cambridge and Yorkshire, in the main with some success, before most of us retired to The Cricketers. I definitely needed my pint of Brentwood Blonde in these conditions.

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Sunday 30th June 2019

Thanks to an enquiry posted on a bellringers’ Facebook page by South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson, pet hates and pet likes in ringing have been a hot topic this weekend. I am pleased to say that there are many more things that I like about ringing than that which I dislike.

For example, I can readily reel off a list of enjoying visiting towers in beautiful places, the variety of bells available (rough as well as good!), trying new methods, peal-ringing, well-struck ringing... I could go on for days and very nearly have in this blog previously.

I have to admit that I have empathy with some of the dislikes that others listed off, especially that of general, vague instructions, although I also understand why they are sometimes necessary and I do get frustrated when people hold up to accommodate people going wrong, which only makes things worse.

Also, I don’t really like ringing on the front six of an eight, but it is a regular necessity at Woodbridge due to circumstance and so it was this morning for service ringing, although with the tenor down and only six ringers I managed to prevent the even worse prospect of ringing the front seven with the second missing! For all of that though, the result was some well-struck call-changes. I felt very conflicted! Seriously though, as I have already said a couple of times this week, good ringing is good ringing.

Despite the difference in ringing style, the same will be the case at East Bergholt. These are famous for not only being the heaviest ring of five in the world hung for change-ringing but the only ring of bells hung for change-ringing to be rung without ropes. ‘Traditional’ ringers were once allowed to ring these, some with quite painful consequences, but for many years now they have only been able to be rung by ringers specially trained to. Now they are recruiting with an article from the Harwich and Manningtree Standard shared via the Suffolk Guild FB page, so if you’ve ever fancied it, now might be the time! It’s a shame that they couldn’t find a picture of the unique set-up rather than a generic photograph of a bell, but good PR nonetheless.

Not that we have the time to add this to our current ringing commitments, as was exhibited by this afternoon. With Joshua invited to a birthday party at Wickham Market Village Hall and Ruthie accompanying him, the pressure was on for me to find something for his elder brothers to do. With it being another blistering hot day, cowering inside playing computer games and/or watching TV wasn’t really an option, so it was off down to Melton Recreation Ground for Alfie to practice riding his bike and then to get a spot of cricket in.

Other ringers found the time to ring though, most notably at Henley, where the 1272 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor was the first blows in the method for past Guild Secretary (a role incidentally now being carried out by Kate Gill) Reverend Carl Melville. Well done Carl!

And I expect quarter-peal ringing is a pet like for most – if not all – of that band!

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Saturday 29th June 2019

There are twenty-four hours in the day and of course at this time of the year most of them are daylight ones. Perhaps ironic then that there were three events that I wanted to attend today and all of them were on at the same time. One was ringing for a wedding at Woodbridge, something I’m always happy to do if I’m able. The other two were fetes, which the boys in particular were keen to attend. In the end, with Ruthie at work I was grateful to mother-in-law Kate for taking the brothers so that I could ring for the nuptials without them missing any of the fun of the fair.

That ringing was slightly unsatisfactory with only seven being able to make it, but we were able to man all eight for one piece beforehand when Tower Captain of 19cwt eight Wingham in Kent and guest at today’s proceedings downstairs, Jill Baker, climbed the many stairs to join us and treble to some call-changes. There are not many hobbies that allow its participants to just join in so seamlessly.

My duties carried out at St Mary the Virgin, I joined my sons and mother-in-law where we ended up hanging around too long to make the second fete as Alfie and Joshua discovered the bouncy castle. Two out of three ain’t bad I suppose!

Hopefully that wasn’t the case with the two quarter-peals of Grandsire Doubles rung in the west of the county, one at the 8cwt six at Great Barton and one at the anti-clockwise ring at Pakenham, the former of which was Tim Forsey’s first in the method – well done Tim!

I wouldn’t be surprised if they followed their efforts on this roasting day (albeit not as hot as the continent and its temperatures in the mid-forties centigrade!) with some refreshments and we certainly did as we enjoyed some takeaway pizza and a beer courtesy of more generosity from Mrs Eagle. We wanted to make the rest of those hours of the day!

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Friday 28th June 2019

Cotton.Having heard about the attempt on Wednesday, I was so pleased to see the peal at Cotton scored today. For those not aware, this 10cwt eight are – to the best of my knowledge – entirely unique (along with East Bergholt we do unique rings quite well here!) as they are rung from a ground-floor ringing chamber completely exposed to the elements on the west side. We ought to be making more of these and so I was saddened when I heard that they were out of action and therefore equally delighted when I heard that work had been done on them to make them ringable again.

Lovely that it was also rung to a 5072 for Arnie Knights’ recent seventy-second birthday, especially after the original attempt at Offton was lost in somewhat strange circumstances earlier this month. Congratulations to treble ringer and conductor Stephen Pettman on ringing his two hundredth peal of Bristol. Perhaps one day he can learn it inside!

It wasn’t the only performance in Suffolk today that made it to BellBoard. Indeed, there were four quarter-peals rung on bells within our borders as the temperatures started ratchetting up. Well done Alex Rolph, Rona Sporle, Chrissie Pickup, Sal Jenkinson and Nicole Rolph on ringing their first of Hexham Surprise Minor in the 1272 on the lovely little six in the corner of the tower at Rumburgh and especially to Sharon Peters on ringing her first inside in the 1320 on another lovely little ground-floor at Theberton. Meanwhile, the FNQPC rang what was presumably an extremely well-rung 1260 of Plain Bob Minor with a band eminently capable of ringing much more complicated methods. As I said the other day, good ringing is good ringing, whatever you ring.

There was participation in the art from our household too, with Ruthie travelling the short distance to Ufford for a 1344 of Versailles Surprise Major to mark the precise centenary of the signing of the treaty of the same name in what was an apparently very enjoyable (though warm!) effort.

She returned home where I had already got the youngest boys to bed, enabling us to take in a spot of music’s version of the National Twelve-Bell Contest, Glastonbury, especially taking on a new appreciation of Stormzy, a spectacular performance from someone almost as unique to this festival as Cotton bells are to ringing.

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Thursday 27th June 2019

Congratulations to the England team on reaching the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup with a convincing 3-0 victory (plus a missed penalty!) over Norway.

Congratulations to Jim Towler on yesterday ringing a peal on the sixtieth anniversary of his first in the 5040 rung at Inworth in Essex and featuring a number of faces familiar to Suffolk ringers. Although based south of the Stour, both Jim and his wife Yvonne have always been willing to help out with peals up here when able, ringing faultlessly into the bargain and good company in addition.

No congratulations due to us today as with no ringing involved in our day it was fairly mundane in that sense, albeit perfectly contented, but at least others have had something to celebrate.

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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Reading the Ringing World during a quiet moment of Pettistree’s weekly practice, it was pleasing to already see the report on the recent Ridgman Trophy at The Norman Tower in the ‘comic’. Pleasing also to see it online, complete with band photos, including ours of course. As some pointed out on the day, I was stood in the right place with an Ipswich Town shirt on!

It all ties in nicely with the theme of striking competitions and decent striking this week, which appropriately was continued at the aforementioned session and in the quarter-peal of Stamford Surprise Minor beforehand, which I really enjoyed partaking in. There were mistakes throughout the evening of course, but pretty much every piece of ringing – from pieces of Grandsire and Stedman Doubles to London and Norwich Surprise Minor – was well struck in a manner befitting of the current holders of The Mitson Shield.

That said, there were quite a few of those quiet moments already described, with – not unsurprisingly given the time of year – a number of regulars on holiday and others absent for various reasons and for a while it was just the QP band plus Hazel Judge – who no longer rings but who still carries out her role as birthday card monitor diligently – outside on a chilly evening. Eventually more did come, but only three and so we finished a few minutes early and ultimately it was only myself and Sam Shannon who popped to The Greyhound afterwards to chat all things ITFC and fetes. Tis the season.

Earlier, it had been remarkably relaxing waiting outside the church to be let in as horse riders rode and a tractor drove through this peaceful village, the sounds of birds carrying across the air. I am very fortunate that I can ring here, just a few minutes drive from home. And that the striking here is so good.

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Tuesday 25th June 2019

Bar a peal for the Guild of the non-too-simple Yeading Surprise Major on the ground-floor eight of Horringer, there wasn’t too much to report from a ringing perspective in Suffolk.

As June draws to an end therefore, there are busier days of ringing planned for July in the county, God willing all carried out in wonderful weather.

It is all due to kick-off as it often does with the Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on the first Wednesday of the month and if all goes to plan will be followed by the South-East District Walk and Ring between and at Hasketon and Grundisburgh on Saturday 6th July. The Bungay Eight-Bell Practice is pencilled in for the evening of Monday 8th, as is the Second Tuesday Ringing at Framlingham and Earl Soham the following day. The Helmingham Monthly Practice is booked in for 7.30-9pm on Friday 19th and the South-West District Outing to Ixworth, Pakenham and Great Barton on Saturday 27th. Meanwhile, the North-West District Outing is lined up as a walking affair in Norwich on Saturday 13th, but back within our borders, the highlight of the month should be – if previous years are anything to go by – the annual Veterans’ Day at Debenham on Wednesday 10th, a fitting occasion to celebrate the ringers who have contributed decades and decades of their service to the art before us to ensure it continues to be the thriving and engrossing pastime that it is today.

Please do support and enjoy where you are able and let’s make sure there are few days like this in July.

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Monday 24th June 2019

The George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition at Saffron Walden back in February already seems like a long time ago, but with the photos suddenly appearing on the contest’s Facebook page today, it brought back good memories of a fabulous day. Along with Saturday’s National Twelve-Bell Final in Exeter – and especially the hosts’ magnificent victory – still very fresh in the mind, I went to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice on this humid evening armed with a bottle of water and a renewed determination for well-struck twelve-bell ringing.

Not that we got that all through the session of course. Indeed, I’d be slightly worried if at this provincial practice which is usually many attendee’s only exposure to ringing on these numbers was perfect from start to finish, but we did produce some pretty decent stuff tonight, including some well rung Stedman Cinques at the end as well as some well struck call-changes on twelve featuring all three of our learners, Karina, Leone and Sonia. And importantly it proved to be a productive evening for all concerned, including – I hope – familiar visitors Mike Cowling and South-District Chairman Mark Ogden.

It was again topped off with a drink in The Cricketers afterwards, where the conversation mainly covered the National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition – Saturday’s events, Ipswich’s desired participation and the logistics of hosting it in Suffolk (which is long, long overdue). Twelve-Bell Striking Contests were very much in our thoughts.

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Sunday 23rd June 2019

A couple of weeks ago I bemoaned the boys taking so long to get ready as we prepared to go ringing in Ipswich. This morning they were ready with their bags half-an-hour before we needed to leave and professing disappointment that we weren’t departing the house immediately. Such is the unpredictability I attempt to fit my participation of the exercise around.

Still, at least it meant I was at St Mary-le-Tower for pretty much all of this morning’s ringing, which incorporated much ringing on twelve from a crowd so large in number that twenty of us were counted in Costa Coffee alone for post-ringing refreshments. That included George Pipe who had been listening to our ringing outside and who – despite his frailty – still holds court magnificently and did so again on this occasion, once we’d managed to move enough tables together to fit the whole group round!

Sadly, it wasn’t quite so crowded at Grundisburgh afterwards where I helped to man the back six, although Mason did knock behind (still with my help as he continues to refuse to do handstrokes) to some brilliantly-struck Plain Bob Minimus on the front five. Good ringing is good ringing, whatever is being rung.

This was all followed by a brief pickup of Ruthie from church in Woodbridge, a visit to niece Katelynn on her actual birthday and a shopping expedition for Lego, but there was no more ringing for us today.

Not so for other ringers in Suffolk though, with four quarter-peals rung on bells in the county. The 1280 of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major rung on the back eight at the Norman Tower was the only one without any firsts or landmarks attached to it but was of course impressive in its own right. However, well done to Diane Leach and Peter Lock on ringing their first of Royal and Kate Gill on ringing her first on ten at all in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Beccles and then Peter again on ringing his first of York Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Wissett, along with Nicole Rolph who was doing the same on the 7cwt six rung from the ground-floor of this round tower.

Noteworthy as all that was (particularly for Mr Lock on a productive day for him!), the main ringing headline within our borders is reserved for young Saffron Burdett, who rang her first quarter-peal in the success at her home tower of St Margaret in Ipswich.

Hopefully she was as enthusiastic at going ringing as my boys were!

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Saturday 22nd June 2019

Three years ago, Leicester City won the Premier League for the first time at odds of 5000-1.

Exeter Cathedral.This afternoon, Exeter won the National Twelve-Bell Contest for the first time.

Granted, if odds had been applied to the biggest ringing competition in the world, I doubt they would have been as long for the Devon band of ringers today as they would’ve been for the football team from the East Midlands in 2016. After all, they were one of ten teams (rather than twenty), money thankfully doesn’t play any part in striking competitions and they were hosts on a truly unique ring of bells, with their 72cwt being the second heaviest in the world hung for changing-ringing. They also had some tremendous ringers in their team. Jenny Sparling for example, who rang in many of the peals that I rang in Birmingham. Also Matthew Hilling, who conducted that astonishing record-length on twelve on Alderney just under a couple of years ago. And Past Master of the Royal Society of Cumberland Youths Ian Fielding, whose superb tenor ringing was particularly picked out by the judges.

Yet this was still a special achievement. For all that they had home advantage, as others pointed out, many teams have had home advantage down the years and not won, they are only the eighth different victors in this contest in its near half-a-century existence and they are the first new winners of the Taylor Trophy for twenty years when York also won at home on a roasting day that saw me get sunburnt, not a great look at the best of times, least of all with the bleached blonde hair that I had at the time!

They are also arguably the most geographically isolated band to win and as Leicester City did for many smaller clubs across the country (and indeed the world), this Exeter victory offers hope and inspiration to aspiring bands such as ours in Ipswich. Just as football teams across the land didn’t and don’t expect to win the Premier League just because of LCFC’s success, this doesn’t suddenly instil lofty ambitions of winning the whole shebang. Rather, it raises the bar of what one thinks they can achieve. After all, Exeter’s previous best position had been fourth in Norwich four years ago and although they have been in eight of the last ten finals, prior to that they had gone eleven eliminators in a row without qualifying. As we aim determinedly for an entry in the 2020 competition, we know full well that we aren’t going to qualify first time or indeed the next time or the time after that. This triumph shows that perseverance and hard work can win through and that qualification for the final is eminently achievable in the long-term.

Their first place certainly surprised me. When I spoke of today’s final earlier in the week, I thought that if Birmingham were going to be toppled, it would be by someone like the College Youths, the Cumberlands or St Paul’s Cathedral. Indeed I entirely overlooked Exeter altogether!

We were again disappointed not to be there, but as with the last few years, we experienced the next best thing by taking in the superb day-long broadcast by Matthew Tosh and his team. For over eight hours they followed proceedings, primarily by broadcasting the test pieces in their entirety, but also with interviews of some of the participants, those there just to listen and mingle and those who volunteered to help make the day happen, such as those providing food and beer, listened to by hundreds from across the world, with listeners from Japan, the UAE and Thailand amongst many others.

Joshua watching the live feed from the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest.We did pop out for a while for a family photoshoot at our niece Katelynn’s request for her birthday, but we were still able to soak up the atmosphere, almost as if we were actually there, even going as far as cracking open some beer as we listened to the final band. And Joshua got his starring moment exactly two hours into the broadcast as a photo I’d taken of him watching the Leeds band was shown and he was given a wave by those in the studio.

Through the coverage and social media, we were able to see that there was plenty of Suffolk representation on view. The Cambridge band had the most, albeit tenuous, with former regular at The Norman Tower Phillip Wilding joined by David Pipe and his sons Henry and Alfred, whilst St Paul’s Cathedral’s Martin Cansdale and Bristol’s Tom Waterson are occasional visitors to Grundisburgh when their girlfriends Rosemary and Katie Hill come to the county for family gatherings. Meanwhile, Tom was accompanied in the Bristol band by Molly Waterson, daughter of the much-missed Pettistree and Wickham Market ringer Gill. Elsewhere, other ringers from within our borders were clocked, with glimpses of Philip Moyse and George Salter. Also see if you can spot Norman Tower ringers Cathy and Julian Colman on the live feed as the crowds squeeze into the Cathedral for the results near the end, whilst back at their home tower a band was impressively gathered for a peal of Maximus on a day when a large proportion were otherwise engaged! Congratulations to Vicki Chapman on ringing her 125th peal.

All in all it seemed a great day, even from afar. The sun shone brightly, the beer was (just about!) plentiful and consumed from the beautiful Bishop’s Gardens and the crowds were vast and extremely complimentary of the hosts efforts. God willing Suffolk will host another of these in the not too distant future as it is nearly thirty years since it last came here for the 1991 Final at St Mary-le-Tower. It is far, far too long.

The only downside to the day was the unfortunate premature finish for the Oxford team, with the one member losing the feeling in their arm partway through. Sad, but absolutely nothing that could be done about it and apparently all concerned felt better about it after a few beers!

I hope they will be back next year when the Final is due to be held in Sheffield on Saturday 20th June. Will we see another surprise?

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Friday 21st June 2019

The third annual Suffolk Day saw much going on across the county, including ringing.

Much was listed by Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge, but that which reached BellBoard incorporated a 120 changes of Grandsire Doubles at Stowmarket and quarter-peals of Pudsey and Superlative Surprise Major at Bardwell and Horringer respectively, whilst the day was even celebrated beyond our borders in Derbyshire, where Suffolk ringers rang a 1320 of Doubles at Brassington, a venue we ourselves visited on Ramblers a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, huge numbers of ringers were already gathering in the pubs of Exeter, comparing journeys (unsurprisingly on the longest day of the year, the A303 around Stonehenge seems to have been a challenge) and beer ahead of tomorrow’s National Twelve-Bell Final in the city. Don’t forget to tune into the live broadcast to keep up with proceedings!

Our evening was very different though, as is our circumstances at this time of our life. It was still enjoyable, as we popped to 4 Fun Play Centre in Saxmundham after work to help our niece Katelynn celebrate her birthday weekend. Since I last came here, this place has lost its roof, replaced it, changed hands and its name from Carlton Fun Factory, but it still contained the same amount of fun for the boys. And it was quite a nice way to spend Suffolk Day.

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Thursday 20th June 2019

We found out today that if all goes to plan, either Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson will be the UK’s next Prime Minister.

We also found out that the beer tent for Saturday’s National Twelve-Bell Final has been set up in Exeter in what looks like a prime listening spot!

We also found out what ringers are doing and where for Suffolk Day tomorrow, with the list of towers read out on the local BBC radio station.

What we didn’t find out was a way of me getting out to ringing whilst Ruthie is at choir practice and the boys are at home asleep and so it was another typically quiet Thursday on the personal ringing front. I look forward to hearing the next PM’s policy for helping us out with that.

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Wednesday 19th June 2019

St John on the Wall. Wells Surprise Minor. It was but one of the one hundred and forty-seven methods that made up former Ipswich youngster George Salter’s most methods to a peal in an impressive performance in Bristol yesterday and it isn’t the most complicated method in the world. Indeed, it is London – one of the most regularly rung Surprise Minor methods – with just one simple change which has the effect of thirds and sixths place bells making an extra blow in thirds in place of a blow taken off the full lead (turning that into a point lead) and fifths place making Stedman-type places on the front between meeting the treble, rather than making thirds in the middle.

However, it is one of my favourite methods on six (Morpeth gets my vote as the favourite incidentally), offering up a modicum of excitement and movement and I always enjoy ringing it and so I was delighted to take up the offer of representing Ruthie and me in a quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree this evening. We didn’t ring it particularly well, but it was successful and more useful practice as Mike Whitby looks to extend the range of method repertoire here, with Wells being the basis of some variations – Wearmouth to the London-below Lightfoot, Stamford to Rossendale, Morpeth to Canterbury, Durham to York for example. Good experience for Elaine ‘Mrs Roger’ Townsend in particular.

I didn’t stop to the session that followed on this occasion, instead returning home to swap with Ruthie who then went on to ring as a daughter-mother partnership on the tenors to a 120 changes of Suffolk Delight Minor in honour of the planned third annual Suffolk Day on Friday, before heading to The Greyhound for a drink.

Meanwhile, well done to the entire band who rang in the QP of Quornden Surprise Major at Ixworth on ringing their first in the method, whilst not that far away in Bacton, a peal of forty-one Surprise Minor was rung on handbells for the Norwich Diocesan Association. Including Wells of course.

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Tuesday 18th June 2019

Exeter Cathedral.In my humble opinion, there is no bigger, no more enjoyable event in the ringing calendar than the National Twelve-Bell Final. A leisurely day out with lashings of beer, catching up with friends and acquaintances from across the ringing world, typically in stunning locations and all set to the backdrop of some of the best ringing most of us are ever likely to hear.

It was once an annual fixture for me and indeed I was fortunate and privileged to have rung in three of them, but since I moved back to Suffolk in 2005, circumstances and geography have meant that I have only been able to make two, in 2009 at St Paul’s Cathedral and in 2015 at Norwich. It has been disappointing and frustrating not to make it to these events, especially missing the last two which had been close enough for daytrips (although missed for happy reasons), but at least in recent years we have had the magnificent broadcasts from Matthew Tosh and his team, covering the day extensively and in an incredibly professional manner. With interviews, lots of interesting facts and information and uninterrupted coverage of the test pieces themselves, it almost feels like one is present. Indeed, although it is short notice for this year, it is tempting to one day have a Twelve-Bell party, from bacon butties in the morning and beer throughout the day, sat out in the garden listening to the broadcast!

Even though such festivities aren’t possible this time around, with this year’s Final being held all the way down in Exeter on Saturday, I am delighted that Matthew & co are planning to be broadcasting from the Cathedral this Saturday from 10.45am and I caught the 2019 trailer for the first time this evening. As usual – for me at least – he will be covering an event of excitement and intrigue.

Again, it is Birmingham that they are all trying to catch. Incredibly, when I was a part of their winning teams of 2001 and 2003, those were their eleventh and twelfth victories, already more than twice that of any of their nearest competitors. Such has been their domination since then that in the fifteen competitions since that sunny day in Surfleet (where my abiding memories include briefly having possession of the Taylor Trophy after we had been presented with it and a mass game of drunken football!) the Brummies have doubled that total to twenty-four, with last year’s victory their third in the row. Will they make it four and bring up the quarter-century?

Well, it would take a confident person to say otherwise with any certainty, but as ever, there is stiff competition, particularly from the College Youths and St Paul’s Cathedral, the only other two teams competing this weekend in the South-West to have won the contest this century. Don’t rule out the Cumberland Youths either, who have a strong pool of ringers to choose from, whilst Bristol and last year’s hosts Cambridge have come close in recent years and can’t be easily dismissed. Hard as it is to imagine Leeds, Melbourne or Oxford coming out on top, there have been longer odds overcome in sport and politics this decade...

Little Cornard.Either way, I shall be listening as much as I can, but as far as I am aware there won’t be any broadcast from Little Cornard where the South-West District Striking Competition is due to take place on the same day and if proceedings in Devon aren’t your cup of tea then I would strongly urge you to pop along and support participants in the beautiful little corner of Suffolk. And if you are a SW District member and your tower haven’t entered a band yet, then please do encourage your fellow bandmates to put a team in!

There was ringing in the county too and quite a bit at that. The pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton was successful, as were a further two QPs within our borders, with a 1280 of London Surprise Major rung at Gislingham and 1309 of Glasgow Surprise Major at Hopton. Well done to Heather Dobson on ringing her first in the method in the middle quarter.

Nothing quite as active for us on the ringing front though. Hence why I was watching National Twelve-Bell trailers.

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Monday 17th June 2019

St Philip's Cathedral.This evening, the 2000th peal was rung at St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham. This is a venue with Suffolk connections, particularly in the form of Roderick Pipe and his son David. Rod was the late brother of our very own George and learnt to ring at Grundisburgh and nobody has rung more peals here then RWP, whilst Mr Pipe junior – who also rang a couple of peals in the little wobbly red brick tower before ringing one at St Philip’s - has rung over two hundred at this twelve in the middle of the UK’s second city since 1979, despite having not lived in the area for almost fifteen years.

It was entirely appropriate that tonight’s landmark 5040 of Bristol Surprise Maximus was rung to one of Rod’s compositions, with David partaking. Indeed the entire band was appropriate, with ten of the band having rung at least one hundred peals there. Most of them I was privileged to ring peals with at this venue when I was living and ringing in the West Midlands and although my contribution of forty-one successes (putting me at only 110th in the list of leading peal-ringers as far back as Pealbase records go) pales into insignificance compared with the likes of Rod and Peter Border, I still feel honoured to have rung so many at such a centre of ringing excellence in the presence of some of the exercise’s greatest and best ringers. Congratulations to the Brummies!

Of course my twelve-bell ringing is mainly carried out at St Mary-le-Tower these days, but it is still a very satisfying experience in different ways, as we progress as a band in somewhat more restricted circumstances to that of the urban metropolis at the very centre of the country’s transport network. It was fully exhibited this evening at the weekly practice as a decent session was carried out on the county’s heaviest bells. There was an eclectic mix on twelve, from call-changes to Stedman Cinques to Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, all in the main rung very well.

Meanwhile, a quarter-peal and peal were rung within our borders for other ringing organisations today. The former was for the Essex Association at Nayland in memory of a member of their Monday afternoon band, David Cobb, whilst the latter was on handbells in Bacton for the Norwich Diocesan Association and celebrated the wedding anniversary of Past NDA Ringing Master Michael Clements and his wife Barbara. Congratulations to the Clements and well done to Richard Carter on ringing his first in hand.

Whatever they all did post-ringing, back in Ipswich we followed up our efforts with a drink in The Cricketers, where Abby Antrobus imparted tales of a weekend away with the Durham University Society which took in a peal at Wanlip in Leicestershire and Diana Pipe and I recounted our experiences of ringing open days!

I see from Facebook that unsurprisingly the ringers of Birmingham also followed up their ringing with a drink. They don’t usually need an excuse to go for a pint after ringing (and sometimes before it!) but it was with extremely good cause on this occasion!

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Sunday 16th June 2019

Ridgman Trophy done and dusted for another year, thoughts today turned back to ambitions for Ipswich to participate in next year’s National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest.

St Mary-le-Tower.It is difficult for us get a squad together. We are a geographical outpost, that very few pass through on the way to somewhere else and with no established university pulling in lots of smart, young new ringers and our practice clashes with the two leading twelve-bell sessions in East Anglia at Cambridge and Norfolk which may be understandably more appealing and just as easy to get to for many budding and established twelve-bell ringers in the north and west of Suffolk. Yet we have got a good group prepared to give it a go, all of them regulars at St Mary-le-Tower. Getting most of them altogether at the same time and giving them the best possible opportunity to improve their striking therefore makes the third-Sunday gatherings very important.

Later in the year and as we get closer to the competition, I imagine we will endeavour to practice the test piece as often as possible with potential band placements, but there probably won’t be confirmation of that for some months (although with this year being Cinques, Surprise Maximus is probable for 2020) and so for now trying to ring on twelve as well as we possibly can with as good a band as we can put together is essential. Currently that is in the form of quarter-peal attempts, but it didn’t go so well this afternoon. One attempt fell apart early on. The second went further, but still sadly failed. With evensong not until 6.30 though, we turned this into an opportunity and attempted some half-courses of the method we’d been attempting to quarter, Cambridge Surprise Maximus, the ringing improving significantly as we went along. This was certainly not a wasted hour-and-a-half.

At the other end of the day, my ringing was done on the front six of Woodbridge for the morning service that I then attended with the boys, or at least when I wasn’t helping them make pretend flares in junior church!

And this was all carried out in amongst me enjoying Father’s Day as the boys each got me a bottle of beer (or at least Ruthie did on their behalf before someone informs the police!) and an abundance of self-made cards and gifts, whilst we also spent the afternoon at my wife’s grandparents with much of their vast family to celebrate the day with her grandad in particular. Although we only had the chance to drop cards off for my father Alan, now is also a good moment to reiterate my gratitude of all he has done for my brother Chris and me, as well as also now for his grandchildren. Happy Father’s Day Dad!

Meanwhile, another band were more successful ringing a quarter-peal for Evensong, with a 1260 of Single Oxford Bob Minor rung at Buxhall. God willing we’ll have some more QP successes under our belt at SMLT before next year’s National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition.

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Saturday 15th June 2019

Gathered outside The Norman Tower during the Ridgman Trophy.I’ve made no secret of my desire to win the Ridgman Trophy. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have won striking competitions on six, eight and twelve bells and it would be lovely to manage it on ten for a clean sweep. I have come close with the Suffolk Guild, particularly in 2010 and 2015 when we came second, but I don’t think I have come as close as today at The Norman Tower.

We arrived without any particularly high expectations. Yes, we had home advantage, but our practices hadn’t been great. In fact, I’m not sure we got through a single half-course without making a method mistake. Yet from pretty much nowhere, our practice beforehand was superb, the best we’d managed as a band this year by some distance and importantly better than the three teams that already rung had managed and so we went into the test piece with renewed confidence and focus. The result was a very tidy bit of ringing and as the day went on, the general consensus seemed to be that it was between us and the Hertford County Association.

Suffolk Guild band sign in at the bottom of The Norman Tower. Suffolk Guild band on the steps at The Norman Tower ready to go up to ring. Suffolk Guild band in the ringing chamber at The Norman Tower waiting for our allocated time slot to ring. Ruthie about to tuck into our afternoon tea at Harrietts in Bury St Edmunds. Judges Kate & Paul Flavell giving the results in the Song Room at the cathedral. Hertford County Association being given the Ridgman Trophy by judges Kate & Paul Flavell in the Song Room at the cathedral.

Then came the results in the Song Room across on the other side of the cathedral. To my mind, the judges Kate and Paul Flavell are the masters of ratchetting up the tension in these situations, going into great depth on their scoring systems and their overall thoughts of the ringing across the competition. Perhaps the best bit though is that they read the results out as they go through the comments, except for those who have finished in the top three. Their comments on our ringing were extremely complimentary, pointing out that the little bells and big bells rang well together, all ringing together at the same pace and that it got better and better, with no method mistakes and they announced that we were in the top three. Immediately after us the Ely Diocesan Association were also put into the top three, but the comments didn’t seem quite as glowing and so our hopes were raised further. They were briefly dashed when it came to the final team – and our ‘nemesis’ from that day in Cambridge nine years ago – the Hertford County Association, with the comments indicating that theirs was a seemingly faultless bit of ringing. That is until the last lead when there was a method mistake that they struggled to get over and which had been – in the words of Kate – “costly”. Instantly I sat up. There seemed hope. This made it a much closer call than it would’ve otherwise have been, maybe even having pushed them below our mistake-free piece.

Such hope lasted a matter of seconds as the results were then read out. Hertford had held out. Ruthie and I hadn’t heard their ringing, but it was by all accounts brilliant and clearly so if even after the kerfuffle at the end they came out on top. Only just though. As it transpired, Ely had marginally pipped us to second by a single point, but even then we were just four points behind the winners. My instant reaction was one of disappointment, my mind going back to what I personally could’ve done better, such as the first few changes when I struggled slightly coming down to the front from my tenths-place start, but on reflection it was a super effort, masterminded by Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase and our best performance for four years.

And overall the day was a huge success, hosted magnificently by the ringers of Bury St Edmunds. It is always a difficult occasion to host. Whilst doing the draw weeks in advance is useful for teams travelling sometimes quite considerable distances, it does mean that you don’t get that communal atmosphere of everyone gathered together listening to the ringing and mingling and so difficult to justify putting up facilities to entertain them. Yet there was still opportunity to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a while, such as Alban Forster and Philip Wilding from the Ely DA, Richard Carter, Mike Clements, Faith Pearce and Jon Spreadbury from Norwich and Alan Marks from the Peterborough Diocesan Guild, all accompanied by some great ringing across the day. Even the weather played ball!

Next year the plan is to take the competition to Lincolnshire where the location is due to be Boston and its hundreds of steps! However, with the National Twelve-Bell Final pencilled in for a week earlier than usual next year, it means that this in turn will have to be a week earlier. Therefore, instead of the third Saturday of June, this contest for ten-bell teams from the East of England is lined up for the second Saturday – make a note of Saturday 13th June 2020.

That’s all to think about another time though. For today, we could reflect upon a successful and enjoyable day that also allowed us to use a pair of vouchers for afternoon tea at Harrietts Cafe Tearooms that my brother Chris and his wife Becky had got my wife for her birthday last year, whilst Mum and Dad occupied Mason. Thanks to Chris and Becky, it was a most pleasant experience!

It all ended via a well negotiated detour round Stowmarket with the A14 closed and a gratefully received BBQ at mother-in-law Kate’s, with Mrs Eagle and Ron having very kindly looked after Alfie and Joshua whilst we had been competing.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the band which was busy quarter-pealing across the county yesterday were at it again today, with another six notched up. Ten methods were rung at Campsea Ashe and Tunstall, with the former being of Treble Bob Minor and the latter of Delight Minor. Two Delight Minor methods – Charlwood and Willesden – were rung at Wickham Market, whilst a brace of methods apiece were rung at Parham and Pettistree in 1320 changes at the first tower and 1296 changes at the second. Even where just one method was rung, it wasn’t straightforward, with the forty-two minutes of Marple Delight Minor rung at Hacheston a first in the method for all except the conductor. Well done Betty Baines, Janet Garnett, Lesley Steed, her husband David and Mike Cowling!

For all that I am still waiting to win the Ridgman Trophy, I think today can be classed as a decent day for Suffolk ringing.

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Friday 14th June 2019

Ian Culham has been a huge bonus at St Mary-le-Tower in recent years, progressing on ten and twelve as we have progressed, an extremely useful back-bell ringer and a great laugh. However, a new job means we will be losing him on Monday nights and although we will still see him on Sunday mornings, we will miss his presence at practice nights and it seemed entirely appropriate to see him off.

Curry for Ian Culham’s farewell.The date selected for this send-off was this evening, the occasion a curry, the venue the Maharani on Norwich Road, a location familiar to many of us having been here for our ‘Christmas’ curry six months ago. Like that midwinter’s night, this midsummer’s night was possible for Ruthie and I due to my parents generously putting us up for the night, as well as looking after the boys whilst we socialised, first at The Cricketers for a very quick pint with most of our fellow diners, the curry house and then an interesting pint at St Jude’s Brewery Tavern with the visiting Colin Salter.

Earlier in the day, another SMLT regular was providing some superb PR for tomorrow’s Ridgman Trophy being held within our borders at The Norman Tower, as Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson spoke at quite some length to Lesley Dolphin about 1hr23mins into the latter’s BBC Radio Suffolk show. The Beeb’s local radio station – and especially one-time ringing learner Lesley – are marvellous supporters of the art here, but I know that it can be quite an unpredictable experience, with no priming beforehand and occasionally some quite leftfield questions thrown at you. Rowan seemed in her element though, doing the main jobs of letting people know what is going to be happening and explaining the basics of ringing – which can come across as quite complicated – in a straightforward manner. Do well Rowan!

That said, we didn’t do any actual ringing today, but that wasn’t the case for other ringers in Suffolk today, with six quarter-peals and a peal rung within our borders. Five of those QPs were by the same group of ringers, as they rang 1280s of Cambridge, Superlative and Rutland Surprise and Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Framlingham, Fressingfield, Horham and Wilby respectively and a 1296 of Newcastle Surprise Minor at Earl Soham. Meanwhile, a quarter of St Clement’s College Bob Major was rung at Henley, whilst the peal was at Southwold and rung to celebrate fifty years of ringing for former Guild Peal Secretary Alan Mayle. It is fifty years of ringing excellence for the SGR, Essex Association and the College Youths and much excellence in conducting and so certainly worthy of a peal – congratulations Alan!

And farewell (sort of) to Ian – certainly worthy of a curry!

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Thursday 13th June 2019

Ufford.With choir practice finished early this evening, Ruthie was able to make almost all of the monthly Surprise Major practice at Ufford on this occasion. If you are looking to get your Surprise Major up to speed or are in a position to offer your expertise, then I’m sure Mike Whitby would be delighted to see you on the second Thursday of each month, although I would recommend getting in touch with him first.

Tonight, the repertoire was wide-ranging amongst the ‘standard’ eight, with Cambridge at one end and an apparently decent piece of London at the other.

Pleasing as that was, I expect it was Alfie who had the most fun from our household today as he went on a school trip to Jimmy’s Farm, where he even met Jimmy himself!

For me though, it was a quiet evening in, once I’d got the boys to bed. One day I hope to get along to the Surprise Major practices again, God willing with the boys in tow, but for now I was delighted that my wife could represent us!

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Wednesday 12th June 2019

The main appeal of Lundy Island for ringers over the last twenty-five years or so has been the chance to ring the bells at St Helena church and I have had the good fortune to visit there on four occasions, with the last two visits in 2007 and 2008 with Suffolk ringers documented on this website. God willing I shall go again as I would dearly love to ring a peal on ten there having only rung ones on eight before they were augmented and when circumstances conspired against us on our last trip there!

However, a Facebook post from Andrew Mills (who is currently on the island with numerous other acquaintances including former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd) highlighted a stream of negative views from other visitors about the bells spoiling their trip, predominantly on Trip Advisor, albeit from many years ago. To an extent, these views are understandable. It would be difficult to escape the sound of the bells on this three-mile-by-one-mile bit of rock, although with the church situated at the far southern end of the island I can’t imagine you have to go too far north before they become inaudible, especially as this is more often than not a windswept location! And although it is only for a handful occasions a year, when ringers are there, the ringing can be pretty full-on. For example with the current tour ringing on this outpost in the Bristol Channel, there have been a brace of peals rung every day from Sunday onwards.

As was also highlighted on the TA thread though, sound control was put in some years ago and seems to have stopped this complaint dead in its tracks. Apparently now they can barely be heard in even the closest properties.

Although the perceived behaviour of ringers in the Marisco Tavern still seems a thorny issue, coupled with the island authorities apparently being clearer on when ringers will be about, this is the perfect example of a tower responding to the concerns of those nearby and one that more towers both in this county and beyond could do with following, rather than just shutting up shop.

It doesn’t all have to be about sound control though. At Pettistree – where Ruthie rang in the pre-practice quarter-peal this evening and joined much of the session that followed- they don’t have any sound control. Yet they ring at least one or two QPs a week and a handful of peals a year on top of the weekly practices and Sunday morning ringing without – to my knowledge at least – any particularly fervent complaint. What they do have though is a good relationship with the villagers, helped by some – most notably Chris and Mary Garner – being an active part of the community and most of the regulars drinking in The Greyhound post-ringing on a Wednesday. Although that pleasure was denied my wife and her mother on this occasion with the landlords Stewart and Louise taking a well-earned break, meaning Mrs Munnings was back a lot earlier than she usually is!

I expect the ringers currently on Lundy Island are making up for her abstinence in The Marisco Tavern!

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Tuesday 11th June 2019

Some were enjoying Second Tuesday Ringing at Methwold and Hockhold cum Wilton in Norfolk, including my father Alan on his birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!

Some were ringing the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton and very kindly dedicating it to his birthday (the length is in no way related to his age by the way) and that of his daughter-in-law Becky.

Burgh.Some were ringing a peal at Woodbridge, heard in part by Ruthie on this afternoon’s school run and specially arranged in memory of Adam Gurdon for immediately after a memorial service held in his name downstairs in the church. As outlined in the footnote, the Brigadier was responsible for the band taught by Stephen Pettman and David Stanford – who were both appropriately in the band for today’s 5040 of Grandsire Triples – at Burgh for the Millennium and was a lovely chap and indeed a true gentleman. We were sorry to hear of his death and our thoughts are with his wife Gillian, a fellow Millennium learner on the 8cwt six rung from the entrance to the church on the hill.

No ringing for us however, but God willing we shall be more active in the art on Saturday when we are due to partake in the Suffolk Guild band ringing in The Ridgman Trophy, which this year is being held on home soil at The Norman Tower. Therefore, it would be great to see lots from the county present to support us but also to take in the occasion of eight (as far as I am aware) teams from across the east of England competing in this ten-bell striking competition from 10.30am.

For today though, I am glad some were able to partake in ringing today.

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Monday 10th June 2019

Having only just come out of the late and early shifts at work, then Holy Week and the various bank holidays of the last few weeks, I was sorry that I was looking forward to getting into a more regular attendance pattern at St Mary-le-Tower (and the pub too!) on a Monday night. Therefore, I was disappointed – though accepting – that I wasn’t going to be going to SMLT this evening, with Ruthie pencilled in to look after our nieces and so therefore that meant I was to be at home with the boys whilst they slept.

However, a last minute change of plans meant that I was able to head into Ipswich after all and as usual I was pleased that I did. The ringing was slightly mixed, with some well-rung Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques rung in the same session as two leads of Cambridge Surprise Maximus took a couple of attempts, but those finding their way on this number had a productive night and it was all carried out in the presence of a good attendance and jovial atmosphere that made it an extremely enjoyable practice, before we even got to The Cricketers in convivial company and which allowed me to buy my father a drink ahead of his birthday tomorrow.

Elsewhere in Suffolk today, a quarter-peal of Single Oxford Bob and Plain Bob Minor was rung at Rougham.

Nothing quite as ambitious for me, but I was just relieved to get out to St Mary-le-Tower on this occasion.

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Sunday 9th June 2019

Getting to the 8.45 ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for Sunday morning ringing can be difficult, even ten years on from when the current ringing times were started. Well, especially so these days in fact. Mason may not be so much trouble to get ready nowadays, but his younger brothers Alfie and Joshua often are, with absolutely no concept of timekeeping at their tender age. Add to that the current weekend closure of the Tuddenham Road railway bridge that I usually go over to get in and out of Ipswich and the currently permanent closure of the alternative route via the level crossing in Westerfield and this morning I was worried I might not even make it to SMLT.

Yet there I was in time for a couple of pieces on the treble before joining a large crowd in Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshments, before negotiating the diversions to get to Grundisburgh for more ringing on Suffolk’s lightest twelve, albeit primarily on the back eight.

That was it for my ringing for the day though. The eldest son was dropped off for a party in an escape room, whilst the youngest siblings and I joined Ruthie back at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge for the church BBQ at the bottom of the tower in which the 25cwt eight here hangs and a very pleasant afternoon was had, before my wife returned to sing for evensong.

Other ringers in the county were even busier, with two quarter-peals and a peal rung within our borders today. Being the second Sunday of June, the peal was of course at Aldeburgh for the Festival of Music and the Arts, whilst the brace of QPs consisted of a 1259 of Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower and a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree.

Hopefully all got to without too much difficulty!

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Saturday 8th June 2019

We have just marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day and this time precisely three-quarters of a century ago many were still landing in Normandy, including my grandfather Cyril. It was the beginning of the end for the foe whose defeat was considered the start of the freedom we all enjoy in the ‘free world’, for better or worse.

It is an indication of how much this conflict dragged on that it is still eleven months until the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day is due to be marked and of course then a further three months after that until the anniversary of VJ Day. Today though, it was announced that to mark the occasion of the former that the Bank Holiday originally planned for Monday 4th May 2020 will now be held four days later on Friday 8th. I suspect that some forward-planning ringers had already been putting together bank holiday ringing for the Monday, but at least St Mary-le-Tower won’t be affected by a BH!

More pertinently though, it seems the Central Council are already a part of a project called Ringing Out For Peace, which it says aims to see bells ringing out at 7pm on the 8th May. I expect it won’t end up being as narrow as that in practice, but if it is as successful as the Ringing for Peace for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, it should be great PR for ringing. Note the date in your diaries and get planning at your tower!

God willing Ruthie and I will take part on the day as best we can, but today we weren’t involved in any, instead working around Alfie going to a birthday party at Bredfield Village Hall (where some recall going for the results of the South-East District Striking Competition on the 11cwt six across the road a couple of years ago) where his mother lucked out by being presented with booze! That’s my kind of children’s party!

Others from the county were busier in the exercise, with a video shared on the Suffolk Guild Facebook page of what appears to have been a successful joint North-West and South-West District Training Morning at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre in Norwich, whilst a quarter-peal of eleven Doubles methods was rung at Woolpit.

All enjoying the freedoms fought for seventy-five years ago. Let’s make sure we really honour that on Friday 8th May 2020.

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Friday 7th June 2019

More detail of the disturbance at last Saturday’s Devon striking competition which has made national headlines has come to light, as we finally heard from the man who caused it and I have to say I have a degree of sympathy, if what he says is true. If his drive was completely blocked then that is selfish driving and if there had been no warning then it is unfortunate that on what was an extremely hot day his peace outside was disturbed for a few hours. And it appears that the bells at the centre of the event – Noss Mayo – were only rehung in 2017 and so they haven’t been ringing for decades or centuries as most have.

However, even if that is all true – and I don’t know if it is or not – then his alleged behaviour in a church and particularly in front of young children is on the face of it disgraceful and others have said potentially criminal. Even if bells aren’t ringing regularly when one moves into a house, then the bell-tower shaped building should suggest the potential of bell noise and it has been claimed that there was local publicity and so therefore the villagers (and this man is seemingly a big part of the community) should’ve known something about the competition one imagines. In addition, a photo has been shared seemingly showing the offending bit of parking and it has to be said that if it is genuine then I’m not really sure of what his problem was in that respect.

One assumes therefore that there are other deeper rooted issues going on there and reiterates the need for us to be considerate of those who have to listen to our ringing. I’m hoping that forthcoming striking competitions are busy making plans to publicise themselves, including here in Suffolk in the coming weeks with the Ridgman Trophy at The Norman Tower on 15th June and then the South-West District at Little Cornard a week later, where it has to be noted the bells are also newly rehung. Indeed, neighbours should be informed of any additional ringing, including outings, quarters and peals, especially lengthy pieces and regular communication with residents should be a given. Please also consider sound control, especially with new rings of bells where there hasn’t previously been regular ringing. We ought to be doing all we can to promote the art and do as much ringing as we can whilst also not impacting negatively upon those who live and work nearby.

Still, it is a pity that the chap in Devon had to be so aggressive and seems so determined to shut the bells down. We know this is an art that can offer so much, a sole social outlet for some, a lifetime of physical and mental stimulation at a time when loneliness, mental wellbeing and exercise are being given the importance they deserve. I just wish he and the local ringers could work together rather rail against each other.

Earl Stonham.Somewhere where the ringers appear to have a good relationship with local residents (although there aren’t all that many!) is Earl Stomham. Not only did this lovely 9cwt gallery-ring six host thirteen teams at last year’s Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions, but the FNQPC ring quarters there on a near monthly basis, with the latest being this evening with a 1272 of Plain Bob Minor rung to celebrate the birthdays of ringers Liz Christian and Margaret Cherry – Happy Birthday Liz and Margaret!

Meanwhile, those not at work or ringing this afternoon and at a loose end now that Jeremy Kyle is no longer on our screens may have come across today’s episode of Flog It!, filmed at Glemham Hall and - if you look very carefully – featuring my mother Sally. Blink at 1min17secs (in the queue behind presenter Paul Martin) and 14mins9secs (in the second row) in and you’ll miss her in her green jumper and coat.

It is fleeting, but still more favourable PR than that from Noss Mayo.

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Thursday 6th June 2019

Not unexpectedly, it has been a difficult step up for Mason to Farlingaye. Despite the wonderful preparation that is carried out to gradually assimilate pupils moving into their next step of education, it is still a very daunting situation to go from a school of a few hundred where everybody is smaller than you and where the workload is less formal to a school of a couple of thousand where everybody is older than you and the workload is greater and more formal.

However, judging by tonight’s very positive parents’ evening at his school, the eldest son appears to be adjusting very well, with glowing reports from his teachers as we darted about between rooms dodging other parents doing the same and he is making new friendships.

His favourite subject is History and particularly the World Wars of last century, so it hadn’t escaped his notice that today was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the D-Day Landings that changed the course of the Second World War and of the future of Europe and the world. British politics is in an absolute mess and sadly racism and anti-Semitism still needs fighting, but if it wasn’t for the sacrifices made by those who put themselves into harms way to push back Nazism three-quarters of a century ago to the day, then things would be unrecognisably worse and on a huge scale.

Therefore, it was heartening in a society that becomes more and more distant from the events of 6th June 1944 with each passing year and the death of each soldier who experienced these horrors first-hand, that it spent today remembering those who lost their lives and celebrated the few who still survive, from Prime Ministers and Presidents to bellringers, including here in Suffolk where a 5040 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal was rung at Grundisburgh.

Sadly we didn’t manage any ringing, although of course I was pleased to partake in yesterday’s quarter-peal at Pettistree and even more so to have attended Mason’s positive parents’ evening.

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Wednesday 5th June 2019

Our household is not at its best at the moment and it didn’t make life easy today.

With our cat Charlie injured, it was down to the vets this morning. However, Joshua was also needed at nursery for some photos not long afterwards and due to Ruthie’s illness she couldn’t take him along. It meant for a very early lunch break – which John Catt Educational were very kind in allowing – and an awkward collection of the boy from “Charlie’s doctors” so that he could go to his photoshoot.

Pettistree.My wife was getting better as the day went on, but she still didn’t feel well enough to take part in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree, especially as it was an ambitious attempt at sixteen Surprise methods spliced. Therefore, I stepped in to partake in what was a quarter-peal of two (near) halves. The first 720 was made up of four Norwich/Westminster above methods – Rossendale and Stamford of the former and Lightfoot and Wearmouth of the latter – and was arguably the harder of the two parts. Although both the first of each pair were London below and the second of Wells (very small variation of London) below, you really have to be on the ball and we were, ringing at a consistent pace, with minimal mistakes and with some of the ringing reminiscent of that which won us the Mitson Shield at Polstead a few weeks ago. Appropriate as the trophy sat between the tenor and treble throughout proceedings.

The 596 that rounded off the QP consisted of three times the methods with the ‘Cambridge Twelve’ (Cambridge-above methods) – Beverley and Surfleet and their sixth-place versions Berwick and Hexham, Bourne and its sixth-place version Hull, the London-below York and its Wells-below counterpart Durham and Cambridge and its three lead-end and half-lead variations Ipswich, Norfolk and Primrose – but more familiar lines and we appeared to relax a bit too much and sped up somewhat and yet we completed what was a very satisfactory performance. Lovely also to ring it for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Sadly I couldn’t stick around after that, as with mother-in-law Kate not around today and Ruthie having not been well enough to attend to it this afternoon, I needed to get round to Mrs Eagle’s abode to water the garden and put her new chicks away, but I’m glad to see that the session that I left behind continued in good spirits with a course of Wall Surprise Minor rung in honour of President Trump’s state visit to the UK...

Meanwhile, news was coming out of an apparent brawl at a striking competition in Devon caused by a resident’s disapproval at the ringing, at least if you skimmed the article on Plymouth Live reporting the incident. The BBC report on it was more measured and revealed that whilst there was an ugly disturbance in the church, it was allegedly caused more by the local’s perception that a ringer had parked across their driveway. The local ringers seemed to have done the right thing in preparing by advertising the event in the weeks beforehand, but when the irate chap realised that the owner of the ‘offending’ car was up in the tower ringing, his apparent reaction at not being able to get to them was – at least judging from afar – entirely OTT, allegedly grabbing a ringer by the throat, causing much distress to the victim’s three-year-old son. One doesn’t know the stress that the alleged perpetrator was under or what urgent matter he needed to get to, but it doesn’t justify such actions and especially in front of young children. Particularly when by some accounts his family had in the meantime managed to get their car out.

There were apparently complaints over the prolonged ringing too, despite the warning that it was happening and of course by people choosing to live beneath a bell tower, but it is another timely reminder to try as far as we can to communicate with our neighbours and keep good relations with them.

I’m sure it is all being noted by the Norman Tower ringers ahead of several hours of ringing for the Ridgman Trophy on 15th June and I believe that publicity with the local media is being considered.

That would certainly give our poorly, injured and tired household a lift.

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Tuesday 4th June 2019

Church of St Nicholas Mavesyn It was quite a subdued evening in our household. Ruthie has been poorly the last couple of days, even taking a rare day off work yesterday and Charlie our cat limping in wet, bedraggled and injured didn’t help lift the mood. And I was saddened to read of the death at just forty-nine years of age of Lee Southall, a ringer from the Black Country who I rang with – including three peals – in my time living and ringing in the area. He has already been remembered with a peal of Superlative Surprise Major at Mavesyn Ridware on Saturday. May he Rest In Peace.

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Monday 3rd June 2019

Whilst the arrival of President Trump for the start of his state visit to the UK was making the headlines, my main focus was Yorkshire Night at St Mary-le-Tower this evening. Bizarrely though, it was Yorkshire that we really struggled with on this occasion, despite all the preparation.

Perhaps fortunately in the circumstances, it wasn’t Yorkshire all the way and it was balanced out with a decent run-thru of the Ridgman Trophy test piece of Cambridge Surprise Royal with a sizeable proportion of the band present and a well-rung touch of Stedman Cinques, amongst a crowd of twenty-five.

Earlier in the day, more ringing was carried out in Suffolk, with a handbell peal rung in Bacton for the Norwich Diocesan Association.

I imagine that after that there was a very positive atmosphere, as there was after tonight’s ringing at SMLT as many of us retired to The Cricketers for a convivial pint and an insight into a short novel that has appeared on Amazon called A Short Touch of Bristol that features characters such as Muriel and Mr Beavis and a synopsis that reads;
Sally is frustrated. She has been bell-ringing regularly at St James the Dismembered for as long as she can remember, and yet the experience always leaves her decidedly unaffected. Mr Beavis tries his best to stimulate her, but his touches lack finesse and as for Mike's efforts to bring her round with Onacock Treble Bob Major, the less said the better.Then, quite out of the blue, a tall, dark, handsome stranger appears with substantial peal experience and an international rugby career behind him. Will he sweep Sally off her feet in ways more thrilling and less painful than the broken stay incident at Cleobury Mortimer? Will Crispin ever get to grips with Tittums? And will Veronica finally tidy up her sloppy Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place? Read on to find out...

A book for Mr Trump to enjoy?

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Sunday 2nd June 2019

The Noirman Tower.Ridgman Trophy day is nearly upon us. If all goes to plan, eight bands from across the East of England will compete in the ten-bell striking competition in this county at The Norman Tower on Saturday 15th June and all are welcome to come to listen, mingle and enjoy the day and particularly to support the Suffolk Guild band! As the judges aren’t supposed to know who is ringing when, I can’t announce on here when we’re ringing (the draw is always made ahead of the day), but if it helps with arranging your day then by all means ask me, the SGR Ringing Master Tom Scase or Chairman Rowan Wilson and we’ll let you know, providing that you don’t spread it around!

Even better, do come along for the whole day. It can be difficult to build an atmosphere for this competition. They did it brilliantly in Cambridge a couple of years ago, even setting up a bar and beer garden on the church premises, but generally it can be risky setting up something too elaborate as with bands knowing when they are ringing, there is a tendency for participants to turn up and ring and even then leave straight afterwards. Therefore I think the locals in Bury St Edmunds have struck the perfect balance. They are providing refreshments at the base of the tower, but in the info sheet released are also highlighting the places to eat, drink and see, which also includes St John’s Street Summer Festival, so if you are free and able to come along there is plenty for all to do – participants, supporters and non-ringers alike!

For the time being though, those of us ringing in the Guild team are busy practicing for the half-a-course of Cambridge Surprise Royal that is the test piece and that continued on the bells that are due to host the competition themselves, as we ran through it over and over again, analysing our efforts and looking through the results of Hawkear, a useful guide to how we’re getting on.

Earlier I had collected the boys at St Mary-le-Tower from Mum and Dad after they had very kindly looked after the trio overnight, before we continued on to Woodbridge where we attended the service and rejoined Ruthie ahead of that trip to BSE where we were grateful to my brother Chris’ wife Becky for looking after Alfie and Joshua at their abode whilst Mason played computer games with contemporary Henry Salter in the ringing chamber as we rang. Nice to catch up with the Bury Munnings in the sun-baked garden afterwards.

Meanwhile, not too away, a highly successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week was rounded off with 1260’s of eleven Doubles methods and variations at Buxhall and Great Livermere, where Rachel Tunbridge and Simon Veal rang their most methods at the former and latter respectively. Well done Rachel and Simon and indeed to all who partook in NWDQPW19.

And whilst our sympathies go out to Chris McArthur for the recent passing of his mother Selina, it was lovely to see her ninety-three year life celebrated with a 1272 of Kent Treble Bob Minor at Pettistree.

It was a good day for Suffolk ringing. Here’s hoping it’s an even better day for Suffolk ringing on 15th June.

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Saturday 1st June 2019

St Mary-le-Tower.Pretty every circumstance that goes toward making a peal attempt a dreadful prospect for me was in place for today’s peal at St Mary-le-Tower.

For a start, it was an afternoon peal. I may not be a morning person, but – depending on how far I have to travel - a 10am peal is often the ideal start time for me, allowing for a little breathing space in getting myself (and usually the boys too) ready but also time afterwards for a leisurely and refreshing pint and/or for getting stuff done. Evening peals do mean that an attempt is looming throughout the day and if successful finishes late of course, but do at least allow for a full day of doing other things. However, an afternoon peal cuts right across the day, eating into both morning and evening. It can’t be helped though as this is the stipulation of the church, but I couldn’t help but imagine that on this occasion we were probably disturbing more afternoon drinkers sat outside nearby pubs awaiting the all-English Champions League Final between Spurs and Liverpool then late morning coffee drinkers.

Secondly, it was on a heavy bell, indeed the heaviest in the county and the heaviest I have ever pealed. I am nothing more than a fairly competent tenor ringer and I suspect that I often get the job because I am the youngest and/or no one else wants to do it! It is extremely satisfying afterwards, but beforehand, it is something that doesn’t fill me with joy!

Worst of all, it was roasting hot, with temperatures hitting the high twenties centigrade as we gathered in the additional heat of downtown Ipswich. Great for a Saturday out and for what Ruthie and I were doing afterwards, more of which later. Not so much for ringing nearly two tonnes of heavy metal in an enclosed room for nearly three-and-a-half hours!

In all three cases, it lived down to expectations. The morning was very low key as we attempted to take advantage of the warm conditions to sort the gardens, as I tried not to overdo things ahead of my considerable physical efforts after lunch, that start time looming closer. And as predicted, the combination of weight and heat made this a tough afternoon. Although I have to say I felt completely in control until the end of the eighth of the nine-and-a-half courses, when the energy seemed to completely depart my arms after consistently taking twenty-two minutes a course up until that point. Still, by that point you somehow summon up the strength to get to the end, especially as quite a few had travelled some distance for this. However, it was clear that despite a marvellous effort in cooling the ringing chamber beforehand, the hot conditions had their effect on the band who as a collective didn’t ring this as well as we’d hoped.

That said, this was still a good peal, featuring some really decent stuff at times, especially in the circumstances and it was lovely to meet up – albeit only briefly – with Linda Garton and John Loveless and Vicki and Colin Chapman, as well as ring my first peal with Essex Association Ringing Master Andrew Kelso, who many will recall recently judged the Guild Striking Competitions so superbly with Brian Meads. Lovely also to celebrate the seventy-second birthday of Suffolk’s best ever ringers, Adrian Knights. And after a four year wait, it was nice to ring my ninety-ninth peal of Maximus – God willing my one hundredth won’t be such a long wait!

It also meant missing the South-East District Meeting that not only took in ringing, a tea and a brief bit of business at South-West District tower Stratford St Mary, but also a demonstration of the famous bells at East Bergholt being rung. Although that was disrupted by a clapper break that was actually caught on video by Mervyn Scase and can be viewed on the SGR’s Facebook page.

With sore hands and my energy sapped, I desperately wanted to sit back and have a refreshing pint and relax in the company of my fellow bandmates, but that awkward timing of the peal meant there wasn’t time in between David Potts calling “that’s all” and my next engagement.

Woodhall Manor.It was a special engagement too. For this year, John Catt Educational is sixty years old and tonight we were celebrating! In keeping with the generosity of my employers (as has been highlighted in blog entries on here before), they had invited all the employees of the company and their other halves for an evening of free food and free drink at Woodhall Manor. What is more, there was an inclusive and large guest list, ranging from the postmen who come to the office on a daily basis, to former work colleagues to authors we have worked with, including former Education Secretary – and still current Tory MP – Nicky Morgan. Having now worked here for eleven years and seen how much it has grown and changed, it was fantastic to see the company that has been so good to me celebrated in such a jovial and convivial manner that is borne out by JCEL’s Twitter feed! Great to catch up with faces from the past and making new acquaintances in magnificent surroundings and was made possible by Mum and Dad very generously having the boys for the afternoon, evening and overnight – thanks guys! We felt privileged to have been at John Catt’s celebrations and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even if I would’ve preferred that peal to be earlier in the day!

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Friday 31st May 2019

Trwobridge St James.Yesterday’s article in the Wiltshire Times shared by the Central Council reporting comments (not official complaints as far as I can make out) made about the 24cwt twelve at Trowbridge ringing in the evenings stopping local children getting to sleep was actually heartening in so many ways. Those objecting seem quite reasoned in their approach, although it has to be said that it seems that the only evening ringing tends to be weekly practice on a Wednesday. And having been father to three children who all found little trouble in nodding off actually inside various strange ringing chambers, I still struggle with the notion that a child’s ears are so sensitive as to prevent them sleeping when at least several hundreds of yards away (although I am unaware in this case exactly how near or far the disturbed residents are) behind double-glazing that is shut for the majority of the year. However, they have at least made suggestions rather than simply calling for the bells to be burned to the ground as has been the vicious response from some in similar circumstances and it does raise the question of whether sound control is in place here and whether they perhaps should put some in if they haven’t and if it is practical. Whatever the answer to that is, the local ringers have responded perfectly in inviting those troubled by their ringing to come and speak with them, whilst also turning it into a recruitment opportunity. Most heartening of all though was the outpouring of support from the non-ringing residents of the town and even the comments – usually a cesspit of ignorance and intolerance when given this opportunity – are generally supportive as I write this.

Hopefully the residents of Bottisham and Burwell in Cambridgeshire and Dalham and Exning just inside our borders are as appreciative of their bells as the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week added another four to its numbers, along with yesterday’s 1320 of Ascension Day Treble Bob Minor rung at Great Finborough and 1260 of Double Oxford Bob Minor at Tostock. Well done to Serena and Mark Steggles on ringing their first in the method in that last performance, whilst from today’s successes, well done to the entire band in the effort at Bottisham for ringing their first of Newton-le-Willows Bob Minor and congratulations to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge on ringing his 250th in the medium. And well done to SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson on her first Surprise Major as conductor in the Yorkshire at Burwell. Meanwhile, beyond the huge success story of NWDQPW, a 1344 of St Martin’s Bob Triples was rung at Helmingham.

For all that activity, our day was silent on the ringing front, with Alfie having the most fun as Mum and Dad very kindly took him to Mountfitchet Castle.

God willing we’ll have busier days of ringing ahead and Trowbridge will still be ringing on Wednesday evenings.

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Thursday 30th May 2019

East meets West is an annual peal tour, currently touring Dorset and Somerset and having not been to Suffolk since 2010, but it has strong roots in our county, not least that it was co-founded by Guild Ringing Master from 1969-1974, Howard Egglestone. Sadly Howard died over six years ago, but it seems appropriate that on its fiftieth anniversary tour that EmW rang the first peal of Egglestone Surprise Major in his memory in the 5152 at Bradpole.

No peals – or quarter-peals – were rung within the borders that Howard lived and rung in, but God willing there will be much happening here in June, starting with the South-East District Meeting on Saturday afternoon. It should be well worth the visit, taking in a demonstration of the unique bells of East Bergholt – where the world’s heaviest ring of five are rung from a ground-level cage without ropes - from 2 to 2.45pm, before members can then ring in a more traditional fashion at Stratford St Mary from 2.50 to 3.50pm, ahead of a brief business meeting and bring-and-share tea. Meanwhile, all being well there will be the monthly Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles on Wednesday, a joint Training Morning at Mancroft Discovery Ringing Centre in Norwich for the North-West and South-West Districts will be held on Saturday 8th June, the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice on the evening of  Monday 10th and the Second Tuesday Ringing will be in Norfolk the following day at the eight of Methwold and six of the marvellously named Hockwold-cum-Wilton.

Suffolk Day - Big Weekender.Suffolk Day is on Friday 21st June – and part of a weekend of celebrations that SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge is quite rightly keen for us to get involved with – which is also when the Helmingham Monthly Practice is pencilled in for, with the SW District Striking Competition at the newly augmented and rehung six at Little Cornard due to take place on the Saturday of that weekend.

That is one of two striking competitions in Suffolk planned for the month ahead, with the Ridgman Trophy lined up to be held at The Norman Tower on Saturday 15th, where support for the Guild band would be much appreciated!

And hopefully bands and towers are thinking of marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day, such an important day (June 6th) in the history of our country’s freedom, whatever you think of its current state.

Maybe at some point we might even fit in a bit of Egglestone Surprise Major.

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Wednesday 29th May 2019

Hollesley.He may now spend most of his time living and ringing in Norfolk and he himself will admit that in his forthright way of getting things done he has occasionally rubbed people up the wrong way, but I have a lot of time for Alan McBurnie. His marvellous work – now being continued and evolved by Peter Harper – at creating a sizeable, active and enthusiastic band at the geographical outpost of Hollesley is to be highly commended, he was a driving force on the Guild’s Recruitment & Training Committee and Ruthie and I have fond memories of the quarter-peal attempts of spliced (including at the half-lead) Surprise Major at his home tower and Ufford many years ago, which were as much about the social occasion as the ringing!

Mark Ogden has been a tremendous bonus since his return to ringing three years ago, also being a prominent member of the R&T Committee, since December 2017 the Chairman of the South-East District and a willing and capable participant in quarter-peals and peals, as borne out by the 5040 rung at Bacton today, which was Ian Culham’s 250th for the Essex Association. Congratulations Ian.

Entirely appropriate therefore that the significant anniversaries of their birth – eighty years for the former today and sixty years for the latter this coming Friday – were celebrated in this evening’s pre-practice QP at Pettistree, which Ruthie partook in before joining the session that followed and featured spliced and various Surprise Minor methods.

Those two aforementioned performances weren’t the only on Suffolk’s bells on this busy Wednesday, with a 1344 of Winchendon Bob Triples at Henley a first on eight for Ben Keating and first in the method for the entire band. Well done all, especially Ben!

Meanwhile, the North-West Quarter-Peal Week continued with another brace of quarters, as a 1264 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major and a 1312 of Yorkshire Surprise Major were both rung at Janet Sheldrake and Gordon Slack’s mini-ring, The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.

How everyone else followed their aforementioned efforts I can’t tell you, but my wife and her mother topped their evening’s ringing with a visit to The Greyhound next door to raise a glass to Alan and Mark – Happy Birthday guys!

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Tuesday 28th May 2019

Haircuts for the youngest boys – for me too for that matter – and a successful MOT and service for the car. All very productive, but not ringing related I’m afraid. Although if we didn’t have a fully functional, safe car then much of the ringing we do wouldn’t be practical to get to, as the other Sunday nearly showed.

Good to see the entire band in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton made it to ring the 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major, with most of them needing a car to get to this wonderfully isolated village. Though not necessarily haircuts.

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Monday 27th May 2019

Another Monday, another bank holiday and another St Mary-le-Tower practice where numbers were uncertain. Yet, although Ringing Master David Potts had primed us to look up some Surprise Royal, we were again met with a bumper crowd that included the visit of Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase.

We did try some Lincolnshire Surprise Royal, which despite the prep done didn’t really go to plan and yet we rang some really good Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Surprise Maximus. Although the poorly rung Lincolnshire was disappointing, with a view to our ambitions to enter the National Twelve-Bell Contest next year, the better ringing on twelve was very pleasing and saw many of us retire to The Cricketers in good cheer.

Earlier in the day, with Ruthie again at work and Mason returned to his mother, I took Alfie and Joshua to the third day of Framlingham Gala Fest, where they enjoyed rides, ice cream and candy floss beneath the towers of the castle and of course that of the church which holds the 16cwt eight here. I even managed to explore the craft fair in the church hall and the church itself, where cake was being cut and a draw made, although I missed out on Ed Sheeran tickets and numerous bottles of alcohol from an impressive prize list for a church raffle. Indeed, I appeared to miss out on all of them! Still, it was a fun day.

A fun day also in the North-West District I imagine, as their Quarter-Peal Week continued today with another brace of successes and more achievements. Well done to the entire band who rang their first QP of Golborne Bob Minor in the 1296 at Hinderclay, whilst the 1260 of Doubles at Walsham-le-Willows was a first multi-method quarter for Sally Veal and her first of St Simon’s Bob. Well done Sally and congratulations to NW District Chairman David Steed and SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge on ringing their 125th together. Nice as well to see the medium being carried out on these enjoyable bells for the first time since another of Doubles was rung there back in February 2013.

Nayland.Meanwhile in the South-West District, former Nayland ringer Pauline Horrell’s eightieth birthday was celebrated with Grandsire Doubles on the 15cwt six on the county’s border with Essex. Happy Birthday Pauline!

It transpires it was a good bank holiday to do some ringing.

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Sunday 26th May 2019

North-West District Quarter-Peal Week has got underway and in notable fashion, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Bardwell and a 1294 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at The Norman Tower, the latter of which was a first of Maximus for Nick Smith and first of Cambridge Max for Nathan Colman and his father Julian. Well done Nick, Nathan and Julian! And on a busy day for ringing in Suffolk today, a QP was also rung at Kersey.

Little wobbly red brick tower.We weren’t involved in any quarters or peals today, but I did do some ringing this morning as the boys accompanied me whilst I rang at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, either side of the usual pitstop at Costa Coffee. It was lovely to be met by George Pipe as we descended the stairs at the former twelve and then watch him hold court over refreshments afterwards. He may be a frail looking figure compared to the man mountain he once was, but there’s no doubt that his personality still enthrals those in his company and although it is many years since he was able to ring with us, his views and thoughts on ringing are still invaluable to us.

My ringing on the back eight in the little wobbly red-brick tower later was the last of the day, as our afternoon saw us go round to mother-in-law Kate’s for an attempt at our first barbecue of the year and although rain prevented that ambition we still had a lovely afternoon – thanks Kate!

And at least rain didn’t stop the NWQPW getting off to a flyer!

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Saturday 25th May 2019

After a busy few Saturdays of striking competitions and the AGM, it was a ringing-free Saturday today, both for us and it seems the rest of Suffolk, at least judging by BellBoard.

I can’t vouch for what most fellow ringers in the county were up to instead of ringing, but I can impart that whilst Ruthie went to work, the boys and I did a spot of crabbing at Bawdsey Quay with their Aunty Clare, their cousins and a number of my wife’s sister’s friends and their children, before we returned to Woodbridge, collected my wife and then alerted one of the local residents to the fact that their car had somehow rolled off their driveway and was blocking the road!

Busy, even mildly interesting, but not involving any ringing.

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Friday 24th May 2019

Theresa May hasn’t been Prime Minister all that long in reality. She came into power on the same day as Joshua was born – I was twelve before the first PM that I could remember left the job, when Margaret Thatcher famously stepped down.

Yet her premiership has felt a little like crashing through a bad peal. Periodically it threatens to fire out, but somehow recovers and we plough on to the end, perceiving the cause to be worthwhile. Perhaps it was arranged for a special occasion or it was a first for someone. But it felt a lot, lot longer. Whether you dislike Mrs May or feel sympathy for her, that’s how her time at the top has felt to many.

Well today, she told the world we are entering the final lead, with “that’s all” due to be called by the end of July.

Ironic perhaps after that analogy that there were no actual peals rung in Suffolk today or indeed any quarter-peals. And Friday evenings are rarely good for us personally from a ringing perspective, with the process of gathering the family from five separate locations for the weekend a lengthy one. It was made even lengthier this evening though, as the level crossing next to Melton Railway Station got stuck in the down position, causing gridlock in the rush hour just when that process of gathering the family in began!

The weekend is a long one too, as the final of the annual glut of bank holidays at this time of year takes place, but it is worth noting that it is planned to have a practice at St Mary-le-Tower on Monday night, so do please come and support us.

I won’t feel as tortuous as Theresa May’s time as Prime Minister!

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Thursday 23rd May 2019

Today was the EU elections, a vote that wasn’t meant to happen and both Ruthie and I did our bit at the polls, with Alfie joining me whilst I placed my cross in a box after work so that he could see democracy in action.

However, a more direct effect on the day was that with mother-in-law Kate carrying out the duties she usually does on election day into the early hours, she was unable to look after our nieces as she had planned whilst their parents worked and therefore Ruthie stepped into the breech to go round to her mater’s abode to child-sit, whilst I stayed in to look after our own children.

It all meant that there was no time for ringing for us, although there is rarely time on Thursdays anyway with my wife’s choir practice and the need to also get the boys to bed.

Instead, I found myself engrossed in a Facebook discussion on whether ringing is good for the environment. Granted, we do a lot of travelling by car to get to ringing, although that is sometimes travelling that we might otherwise have done and if you take that out and consider the actual act of ringing is done with materials and fittings that can last for centuries with no electricity or gas used in the process, the art itself is carbon neutral.

Those from The Green Party looking for our vote today would be delighted with that!

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Wednesday 22nd May 2019

Ringers at Pettistree.There was an understandably upbeat mood at Pettistree practice this evening following Saturday’s victory in the Suffolk Guild Six-Bell Competition at Polstead. Photos of those present with the Mitson Shield appropriately included Ruthie and her mother Kate, who – along with Mike Cowling, Mary Garner and Mark Ogden who were also there tonight – were in the actual winning band. It is worth noting that bar myself, Mrs Munnings and Mike Whitby (who was away over the weekend and therefore not in the victorious team on this occasion), this isn’t a band of twelve-bell ringers drawn from across the county, as is a (unjust in my opinion) criticism levelled at St Mary-le-Tower whenever they win the striking competitions. Rather these are mainly six and eight-bell ringers from a radius of only a few miles from this rural tower. The quality that has now won three Mitson Shields and the South-East District Striking Competition has been worked up to mainly through the hard work of Mr Whitby and Mrs Garner in raising standards on six through a diverse, interesting and flexible repertoire of methods and touches and a social element that many bands don’t seem to embrace. Pakenham have also showed what can be achieved in recent years and so I’m hoping this success can encourage more to take part in the Guild Striking Competitions next year and not be put off by the myth that “St Mary-le-Tower will just win it again anyway.” The gauntlet has been laid down!

My wife and mother-in-law’s visit to the weekly session at this ground-floor six was sandwiched in between attending a farewell party for Mrs Eagle’s pets’ vet beforehand and a trip to The Greyhound afterwards, whilst others preceded it with a quarter-peal of Annable’s London Surprise Minor.

That QP wasn’t the only in the county today either, with a 1280 of Plain Bob Major rung at Halesworth for the Deanery service, whilst a peal of Turramurra Surprise Major was rung on the front eight at SMLT, with this increasingly popular line being Method of the Month in the Project Pickled Egg series. Happy Anniversary to George and Diana Pipe too – I imagine there was quite an upbeat mood after that 5184 too!

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Tuesday 21st May 2019

With mother-in-law Kate very kindly looking after Alfie and Joshua, Ruthie and I attended an extremely positive parent’s evening with Alfred’s teacher and we were visited by Mrs Eagle after she had run Ufford practice where a first quarter-peal for one present was almost rung, but my wife and I partook in no ringing.

Elsewhere, though, Mrs Munnings’ mater wasn’t the only active ringer in Suffolk, with a brace of QPs rung on the county’s bells. One was a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Oakley, the other was a 1260 of Stedman Triples on the back seven at Offton before the weekly session on this ground-floor eight.

A generally positive evening all round then!

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Monday 20th May 2019

Brakes on the car fixed at great expense, I was able to get out to St Mary-le-Tower practice and whilst the ringing was mixed, the night as a whole was a positive one. Although a half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus ended up going faster than even I would have liked, it started absolutely brilliantly (arguably some of our best twelve-bell ringing for a long time, even if it was for a relatively brief period), there was some very well rung Kent Treble Bob Maximus (despite a debate beforehand on the point of singles in Kent!) and a couple of leads of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus to complete the session was very useful to a number in the band.

Even beside all that though, the atmosphere was marvellous, with a decent number present celebrating Diana Pipe’s birthday both in the ringing chamber and in The Cricketers afterwards where we were joined by her husband George and the conversation included updates from Amanda Richmond on the conditions of Arnie Knights (sadly not very good) and Nigel Newton (improving and more upbeat), Nigel Farage’s unexpected milkshake and some very kind words about this blog (thank you!).

Nice that the car was able to take me there!

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Sunday 19th May 2019

Yesterday was about participating in striking competitions, today was largely about preparing for them.

On Saturday 15th June, The Ridgman Trophy – for ten-bell teams representing the ringing organisations of the east of England – is due to be held at The Norman Tower and I would certainly urge as many who can come out to not only support the Suffolk Guild band but also welcome our friends and neighbours from potentially as far and wide as Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire. As we all know, there is plenty to do in Bury St Edmunds, from shops, places to eat and of course places to drink and there should be some wonderful ringing, with the Ely Diocesan Association the team to beat in recent years.

However, home advantage gives us an opportunity to practise regularly on the bells where the competition is taking place, something we don’t usually get to do and so we are trying to make the most of it, which included this afternoon’s fifty-five minute session on the bells. It was curtailed somewhat due to an early evensong and it wasn’t the complete band, but most of the team fitted in two-and-a-half courses of the test method Cambridge Surprise Royal to compliment quarter-peals rung here on Easter Sunday and 7th April. Intricacies were tested, familiarisation with who we work with, the line, etc was continued. All jolly useful.

Exeter Cathedral.One week after the competition here, some of the best ringers in the world will gather in Exeter for the 2019 National Twelve-Bell Final, arguably the biggest ringing event on the planet and if you do fancy a weekend away then you could do a lot worse than soaking up the atmosphere. To that end, do check the day’s website for more info.

Ipswich won’t be competing and with expectations well and truly in check we are unlikely to feature in next year’s final planned for 20th June at Sheffield Cathedral or any in the very near future (unless we end up hosting one). However, we hope to be at one of the eliminators pencilled in for Aston, Chester Cathedral and Walsall in the 2020 Contest and with a squad prepared to give it a go, preparations have already begun, continuing this evening with another two-and-a-half courses of Cambridge Surprise, this time of the Maximus variety and rung consecutively as part of a quarter-peal. And excellent preparation it was too. Rung with life and pace and well struck, it wouldn’t be out of place at an eliminator in the competition. It was nice too to ring it for conductor David Pott’s father-in-law Alan, with our thoughts very much with him and particularly his wife Claire and their children.

Throughout our packed afternoon, we were very grateful to first sister-in-law Becky and then my Mum and Dad for looking after the boys whilst we rang and to mother-in-law Kate for lending us her car. For as we drove around and travelled back from the South-West District yesterday, our brakes made increasingly worrying sounds, meaning we didn’t really want to risk gallivanting around the county today in our usual vehicle, and so the use of her automobile allowed us to join in the important practicing for forthcoming striking competitions.

Some will consider striking competitions quite a frivolous use of church bells and out of context they are, but if the art becomes dull and ringers uninterested then progress stalls, we lose ringers and standards for service ringing suffers and striking competitions are one of the many mediums available to keep ringers entertained and interested and to encourage progress.

As are peals and so it was great to see the peal rung at Euston this afternoon, especially as it must have been very personal and special for Julian Colman. Not only rung for a good reason, but it will contribute to the raising of standards within our borders.

That said therefore, the most important ringing of the day was for morning worship at Woodbridge before attending the service downstairs, with a quick burst of call-changes on the front six once I’d parked the car in a busy town centre and all followed by the annual dash to get away before the 10k race – the reason parking was difficult - blocked us in!

It’s lucky we got out, as there was a lot of preparation to be getting on with!

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Saturday 18th May 2019

Andrew Kelso - Ringing Master of the Essex Association, but more pertinently for the purpose of this blog one of the judge’s for today’s Suffolk Guild Striking Competitions – echoed my sentiments entirely with his words of encouragement ahead of him and fellow judge Brian Meads announcing the results of the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy. The general gist was that the act of controlling a heavy lump of metal going full circle to strike when you want it is already a considerable skill, even if it is ‘just’ in rounds. However, of course we should all be endeavouring to improve upon that and there was plenty of endeavour on show in what I consider to be one of the best and most fun mediums of the art for improvement.

Indeed, the 2019 SGR Competitions ticked all the right boxes in my humble opinion. They were held in the South-West District at two of the most wonderful locations in the county, with Polstead and its lovely ground-floor ring set on top of a hill overlooking the rolling countryside that this part of Suffolk has more of then anywhere else within our borders and the tower that houses the 21cwt octave of Lavenham literally towers magnificently over said countryside. A multitude of members from across the county mingled in slightly unexpected sunshine and many of them seemed to find it a useful and enjoyable experience. And it produced some absolutely super ringing across a morning and afternoon of competition, sandwiching a superb lunch at Polstead Village Hall where the results of the Six-Bell Competitions were announced.

Ringing at Polstead before the competitions got underway. Ringing at Polstead before the competitions got underway. Outside Polstead church before the draw. Guild Patron George Vestey addresses the crowds before the draw in Polstead church. Listening to the ringing outside at Polstead. The Hollesley band. Enjoying lunch at Polstead Village Hall. Judges Andrew Kelso and Brian Meads giving the Six-Bell Results at Polstead Village Hall.  Mark Ogden & Ruth Munnings receive the Mitson Shield on behalf of the Pettistree band from Brian Meads at Polstead Village Hall. Judges Andrew Kelso and Brian Meads giving the Six-Bell Results at Polstead Village Hall. Listening to the Rose Trophy Eight-Bell Competition inside and outside the church at Lavenham. Listening to the Rose Trophy Eight-Bell Competition inside and outside the church at Lavenham. Listening to the Rose Trophy Eight-Bell Competition inside and outside the church at Lavenham. Listening to the Rose Trophy Eight-Bell Competition inside and outside the church at Lavenham. Andrew Kelso & Brian Meads giving the results for the Rose Trophy in Lavenham church. Andrew Kelso & Brian Meads giving the results for the Rose Trophy in Lavenham church.  Neal Dodge collects the Lester Brett Trophy on behalf of the Great Barton band from Andrew Kelso & Brian Meads at Polstead Village Hall. North-West District band who won the Rose Trophy. (from Rowan Wilson) Those who partook in the Guild Six-Bell Competitions from the North-West District.

Ruthie and I were delighted to be in the Pettistree team that won the Mitson Shield – the first time it has been competed for since the death earlier this year of Hubert Mitson who donated the trophy – for the third time and to have won it so convincingly ahead of some talented bands following 120 changes of complete and utter concentration which kickstarted a brilliant day of ringing. However, it was also a day of celebration for Great Barton who won the Lester Brett Trophy and the North-West District who won the Eight-Bell Competition, meaning a 2-1 victory for the NW District overall!

Personally we were grateful to those who kept an eye on the boys whilst we rang, with the trio of brothers particularly appreciating the large churchyard during the morning’s proceedings, whilst it was also great to see the Guild’s Patron George Vestey, who like last year spoke wonderfully before events got going. Thank you to judges Andrew and Brian for carrying out their duties so encouragingly and constructively, as well as to our hosts the South-West District and well done to Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase on what I know from experience is a draining – though incredibly satisfying – day when in that role.

The only downside was that despite tremendous turnouts from the South-East and North-West Districts and the runners-up of the Mitson Shield being the South-West’s Woolpit, there was otherwise a lack of representation from our host District and the North-East District. The absence of SW bands was disappointing as we were in their neck of the woods - although it has to be said that their hosting was magnificent – and having held an apparently terrific District Competition a week ago, it was a big pity not to see any of our friends from the NE. They were of course the ones with the furthest to travel - although it wasn’t a short journey for us or indeed Hollesley right out on the coast – and I expect the quarter-peal at Wissett made joining us prohibitive, but I am really hoping that their considerable talents (and I know there is plenty in that corner of the Guild) will be out in force when the Competitions are due to go to their part of the world in twelve months time, along with some more teams from the also talented SW. Well done also to Michelle and Matthew Rolph and Pete Lock on ringing their first in the method in the 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor.

After a spot of tourist business as we searched out Harry Potter’s childhood home, we left others to the post-contest drinking and returned for an evening of more competition, albeit in a more passive sense, as we took in Manchester City’s record-equalling 6-0 FA Cup Final defeat of Watford and then the latest Eurovision farce as local ringer Pete Faircloth came round to have a chuckle at it all. There was a considerable amount of talent on display in Israel tonight, but there was more – IMHO – in Polstead and Lavenham.

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Friday 17th May 2019

A quarter-peal was rung at Exning today, Suffolk’s most westerly ring of bells, but everywhere to the east within the county, it seems to have been a lot quieter on the ringing front.

That included us, with the usual – but extensive - collection of the family for the weekend making any ringing impractical, without any footnotes for the passing of Grumpy Cat. Even in Exning.

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Thursday 16th May 2019

Turville in Buckinghamshire is a real village with a real church with a real – recently augmented it appears – ring of six bells. It is more famous in many people’s minds for being the location that doubles up as the Vicar of Dibley’s eponymous community and of course its church. However, it is otherwise an entirely fictional place, with entirely fictional inhabitants. Yesterday’s quarter-peal purportedly rung yesterday at St Barnabas was causing some amusement amongst ringers who had noticed it today. Although the method appears to be a genuine one!

The 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Horringer today was real though, rung at a real place, by real people! And with it being Trevor Smith’s first QP it is more worthy of all the likes that chairman of Dibley Parish Council David Horton’s joke entry on BellBoard has garnered and more, although sadly as it hasn’t happened in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge or London (or ringers from there) it is unlikely to. Well done and congratulations anyway Trevor!

We weren’t quite so active, although we both went to work, the children went to their places of education and Ruthie went to choir practice. All in real places with real people!

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Wednesday 15th May 2019

After my night out ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on Monday, it was Ruthie’s turn to go out ringing, joining Jane Harper’s birthday celebrations at Pettistree practice and at The Greyhound afterwards, in amongst the ringing of methods such as Lightfoot and London Surprise Minor, all of which followed a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor.
Elsewhere there was a quarter-peal of Turramurra Surprise Major at Horringer, but for me it was a quiet evening in looking after the boys. Well, it was my turn...

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Tuesday 14th May 2019

Teaching learners how to ring by counting places can be a big challenge. To my mind, ringing does call-changes – learners’ initial steps into change-ringing itself – incorrectly. We instruct them to swap places with certain bells, rather than telling certain places to swap. Instead of calling “two-to-three”, we ought to be calling “seconds-to-thirds”, as having taught them the art of finding their way by bell number, we then expect our learner to negotiate methods by place position. It’s only my opinion and it is unlikely that centuries of habit will be changed, so it is what it is.

Therefore, with that in mind, I found the video that was shared online this evening involving a character named Prof. Belfry explaining counting places an entertaining and useful introduction to the process and is well worth watching!

Not that we were using our knowledge of counting places today. Instead, despite having a morning off to take Alfie to an appointment, our day was pretty mundane, certainly from a ringing perspective, but other ringers elsewhere in the county were busier, with the practice at Offton preceded by a quarter-peal marking Stephen Cheek’s forthcoming significant birthday. The Suffolk Guild Treasurer – who very generously stood those of us who went to The Cricketers following last night’s St Mary-le-Tower practice and AGM a drink each - has been a huge bonus to ringing since returning to the exercise, not just at SMLT but also the South-East District and the SGR, most notably in his current role for the organisation, so the felicitations heading his way are much deserved. And he’s quite good at counting too!

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Monday 13th May 2019

Not every tower needs its own AGM, but over the last few years, we at St Mary-le-Tower has found ours to be particularly useful. On a regular basis, probably about thirty or so ringers man the heaviest twelve in Suffolk on Sundays and/or Mondays from across the county and even beyond our borders and so it is important that what we offer is democratically reassessed and those in charge of implementing it “held to account”, for want of a better phrase!

This last year has generally been a positive one. We have lost Laura Davies and Louis Suggett, but gained Chris and Jill Birkby. The broken eleventh clapper that prevented us ringing the twelve over Christmas was a blow, but it has been replaced by a different design similar to the tenor’s and one used at Winchester Cathedral that has a better record, so we should hopefully have more good luck with this troublesome and far-too-frequent issue! A hoped for entry into the National Twelve-Bell Contest didn’t come to fruition, but there are definite ambitions for it to happen in 2020 and in the meantime we have enjoyed success in the District and Guild Competitions and the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition.

St Mary-le-Tower AGM. St Mary-le-Tower AGM. St Mary-le-Tower AGM. St Mary-le-Tower AGM.

Therefore, this meeting – held downstairs in the church and again chaired by the Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin - was a positive one, all topped by a drink in The Cricketers. The officers David Potts, Stephen Cheek and Owen Claxton were quite rightly thanked for their efforts, as were Amanda Richmond and – in his absence - Jonathan Williamson for their work with our learners and an active programme was looked ahead to. And the general consensus is that whilst there is still work to do (as arguably there always should be if we are to progress), standards are rising.

As if to back this up, the practice which preceded it saw some Yorkshire Surprise Royal inexplicably collapse in a heap as I arrived, but finished with a superb touch of Stedman Caters, called by Richard Weeks for the first time and superbly at that.

Richard has been one of a number of positives at SMLT over the last twelve months. I am glad that our AGM gave us the opportunity to recognise them.

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Sunday 12th May 2019

Cotton.Cotton bells are rung from a quite unique position, even for a county that includes East Bergholt (where incidentally the South-East District are planning to visit on Saturday 1st June), with ringers exposed to the elements as they ring this ground-floor 10cwt eight. Although I have always thought that more should’ve been done to look after this novel ring, it is perhaps unsurprising that with their open circumstances and lack of a regular local band that they became unringable. And subsequently with those conditions, I imagined that would be how things remained, for some time at least.

However, a chance discovery of a Facebook post from an acquaintance expressing his privilege at playing the bagpipes for the dedication of the war memorial in this village just north of Stowmarket today led me to see mention of “energetic ringing of the recently repaired church bells”. Let’s hope this will now be a regular occurrence – it would be nice to ring on these bells again.

I was ringing on more familiar bells from more traditional surroundings this morning, as I helped man the twelves of St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh ahead of their services, either side of a visit to Costa Coffee with my fellow SMLT ringers. It was nice to see the return of the Birkbys and SE District Secretary Abby Antrobus back from their lengthy trips to exotic locations at the former, along with our learner Karina who is now joining us on Sundays, whilst at the latter we were boosted by the visit of Katie Hill, her fiance Tom Waterson and her sister Rosemary’s other half Martin Cansdale, a superb touch of spliced Surprise Major being rung as the boys and I arrived.

Meanwhile, the monthly peal at Aldeburgh was again a first in the method for the Guild and the entire band, this time a Yorkshire-above line called Jefford Delight Major, whilst yesterday’s quarter-peal of Edge Hill Bob Minor at Woolpit was a first for Pam and Paul Ebsworth. Well done to Pam and Paul yesterday and the band on the coast this afternoon.

Perhaps we might even soon see a first QP at Cotton for seven years...

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Saturday 11th May 2019

Congratulations to Halesworth ‘1’ on winning the Patricia Bailey Trophy (for method ringing), hosts Theberton on winning the Call Change Trophy and the Beccles teams on earning the Harry Archer Trophy for being the most improved band in this evening’s North-East District Striking Competition. Nine teams is a very decent turnout for a District contest and hopefully we will see the likes of the winners and other participants Rendham & Sweffling and Yoxford at Polstead in a week for the Guild Competitions, as there is clearly some enthusiasm and quality there that it would be great to see pitched against teams from across Suffolk.

Talking of next Saturday, teams and names for lunch need to be in by Monday to Ringing Master Tom Scase and I would again urge teams of all abilities to take part, especially with the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy offering an opportunity for silverware for all. And if you’re not taking part, please do come along and take in the atmosphere, which is usually superb, with ringers from all over the county mingling, whether that’s whilst listening to the ringing from the churchyard, with a cuppa in the Village Hall or even a cheeky pint in The Cock Inn (which opens at noon), with both of the latter being up the hill on the Green.

God willing it’ll be a busy day, but for today it was a lot quieter, certainly on the ringing front, although we did pop along to Messy Church at Melton and were far too excited about making our first visit to the new Aldi at Martlesham Heath, where we bumped into another local ringer!

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that if you plan on visiting us at St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice (and as ever, all are very welcome!) this Monday, it is also our tower AGM, which means the ringing will finish at 8.30. Please do still come, but the earlier you get there the better!

We hope to prepare for the SGR Striking Competitions at Polstead and Lavenham, inspired by the efforts of those who partook so successfully in the NE District Striking Competitions!

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Friday 10th May 2019

Janet CroughtonToday was the funeral of Janet Croughton (previously Stannard) at Barrow. She was a lovely lady and one of those reassuring constants whenever I returned to Suffolk whilst I was living in the West Midlands and so whilst I haven’t seen her for many years, I was disappointed not to be able to make it this afternoon. However, I was pleased to see a peal rung in her honour on the 11cwt six beforehand, as well as a quarter-peal dedicated to her memory at Horringer, five miles across the fields, woodlands and large estates of that lovely part of the county.

Elsewhere within our borders meanwhile, a 1280 of Kent Treble Bob Major was rung at Henley, whilst further afield a record length of Addington Surprise Major (a “not trivial” method in the words of one of the participants) at Walkden in Greater Manchester featuring various friends and acquaintances caught my eye, with the band apparently met with a tea put on by the ladies of the church afterwards. It is nice when ringing is appreciated, even more so after 10,080 changes and 5hrs58mins of it!

No ringing for us though, not untypically for a Friday, but our thoughts were with Janet’s family, especially her son Paul.

RIP Janet.

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Thursday 9th May 2019

“Ambassador, you are really spoiling us!”

US Ambassador's Reception at Winfield House. US Ambassador's Reception at Winfield House. US Ambassador's Reception at Winfield House. US Ambassador's Reception at Winfield House.

I wonder how often this phrase associated with a certain chocolate and hazelnut confectionery was gleefully uttered this evening as one hundred and twenty selected ringers enjoyed the hospitality of the US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson at his official residence Winfield House in Regent’s Park. Although I’m still not sure what it was for other than a very kind gesture of appreciation for the exercise, it seemed that those present were very much enjoying a gathering of drink, canapés, speeches and of course handbells.

There was Suffolk and Suffolk-related representation at the glitzy event, with George and Diana Pipe’s nephew David there with his wife Cecilia and their boys Henry and Alfred (who both took part in the superb handbell ringing), John Loveless (who grew up and learnt to ring within our borders), St Mary-le-Tower band member Anne Bray and of course Guild Public Relations Office Neal Dodge. Well done all on representing ringing so magnificently and particularly Neal on representing the SGR brilliantly – again!

Our evening wasn’t quite as exciting, although Ruthie did go out with the girls from work at The Red Lion for a meal as I listened to more exciting European football on the radio (it has been some week for that!), whilst elsewhere in the county a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles at Huntingfield which was a first inside for Keith Dennis – well done Keith!

I hope he was spoilt afterwards to reward his efforts!

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Wednesday 8th May 2019

Woodbridge.Good news and good PR for Woodbridge’s ringers, with an article on page three of the Melton, Rendlesham & Woodbridge edition of the In Touch magazines covering the Friends of St Mary’s Church – the organisation that raises money to help maintain and support the church that houses the 25cwt eight – handing over a cheque of £40,000 to Rector Keven McCormack (or ‘Kev the Rev’ as he is affectionately known) for the refurbishment of the bells. Nothing major. There isn’t going to be a ten appear in this grand tower just yet (although it has always struck me as something that would greatly benefit ringing locally and in Suffolk) and there is no recasting, but it is needed for work to help their go and this donation is hugely generous.

No actual ringing for us on this wet May day though, as neither of us made Pettistree practice this evening and no performances recorded on BellBoard from Suffolk either, even with the announcement today that Baby Sussex is now Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor and the general public’s first sighting of the newly born royal.

Nonetheless, we had a very pleasant afternoon in the company of Ruthie’s best friend Fergie, up from Brighton, taking in a spot of shopping, the school pickup and some veggie burgers for tea!

Not as exciting as appearing in Melton, Rendlesham & Woodbridge In Touch though.

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Tuesday 7th May 2019

This Saturday the North-East District is due to hold the next of this summer’s local striking competitions. I haven’t been to it for some time, but I have some affinity with it. I have judged a couple of them, one in 2006 at Worlingham with my brother Chris and 2012 at Chediston with Ruthie (where our then impending wedding was nearly off as we disagreed about who won in a ridiculously close contest!), whilst I even partook in one as a reserve for Southwold in the 2007 version at Saxmundham, but as Guild Ringing Master I popped along to some of them as I tried to get to as many District events as I could, simply to take in the atmosphere and “show my face.”

One in particular that stands out in the memory was the 2009 Competition at Theberton. A big turnout on a beautiful sunny day in picturesque surroundings and superb ringing on lovely bells in the pretty thatched church. Ten years later, almost to the day, the contest returns to the same village and God willing once again a big turnout will enjoy a beautiful sunny day and I imagine some superb ringing on what remains a lovely 6cwt ground-floor six. Even if the weather isn’t as nice, the Church Hall is very close to hand!

My experience of the North-East’s contests – in line with the other Districts I have been to – is that there is ringing of a very high quality from a wide range of teams and an enthusiastic membership and so I’m hoping that despite being the District geographically furthest from proceedings at Polstead and Lavenham on 18th May, there will be a big contingent from this corner of the county for the Guild Competitions in eleven days time, with Rendham amongst the winners of the Mitson Shield in recent years and Halesworth also putting in good showings, whilst the District band have won the Rose Trophy five times, all within the last thirteen years. It would be great to see more bands flying the flag for the NE at a Guild level though.

Likewise for all the other Districts too. It’s no secret that the South-East District tends to put in the most entries, but there are other teams from the SE capable too, with active bands at various towers around the District, whilst the North-West has put forward winners in the six and eight-bell competitions recently, most notably Pakenham just two years ago. And being held in the South-West District, it would be fitting to have entries from towers here, especially as towers such as Lavenham and Clare were among the early winners of the competition, whilst Woolpit have been runners-up in two of the last three contests for the Mitson Shield.

As ever, reasons abound for why people don’t enter, including of course the practical, with wedding ringing or holidays often preventing bands being able to enter, although allowances can be made for the former if teams want to arrange ahead of time a particular time to ring.

Some bemoan ringers ringing for several bands, but whilst some ringers – myself and Ruthie included – might ring for two towers where they regularly ring, I’m not aware of anyone ringing for more than that. Indeed, it is positively discouraged, with the South-East District nobly going to considerable lengths to ensure that they don’t have to ask anyone already in another band this year.

Some point to the same teams winning all of the time, but as alluded to above, it is not always SMLT who win or even a band from the SE District.

Some seem to have been put off by their past performances, but very few towers will ever do very well by just entering every now and then.

Some fear negative comments from the judges, but that rarely happens as it is very much frowned upon.

Some feel they shouldn’t enter because their tower has more bells than the competition level, but my personal view is that the six-bell is a contest between six-bell bands, not six-bell towers and in fact Pettistree have even entered the eight-bell in the past despite only have six bells at their home tower!

Besides, all of these reasons (again just in my opinion) are negated by the fact that the whole point of striking competitions – especially at this level, but even with the Ridgman Trophy and National Twelve-Bell – is to bring friends new and established together in a social and fun environment to help progress the striking of those partaking. It isn’t professional sport.

Therefore, please do put an entry and names for lunches in to Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase by Monday 13th May.

The fact that I have rambled on here about something happening another day rightly indicates that there wasn’t much to report from today, at least from a ringing perspective. No quarter-peals or peals reported on BellBoard from within our borders and we didn’t do any ringing ourselves, though that is not unusual for a Tuesday.

Instead, we eagerly anticipate what will hopefully be busier days of ringing ahead – good luck to all those participating in Theberton on Saturday!

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Monday 6th May 2019

Locally the main headline was the fire at the old Fisons factory between Bramford and Claydon.

Nationally and internationally the significant headline was the birth of the newest member of the Royal Family, as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (or Harry and Meghan to their mates) became parents for the first time, of course prompting a flurry of quarter-peals and peals in his honour, including in Suffolk at Woolpit, where a 1260 of Double Oxford Bob Minor was rung. Although – as is the normal order of things with such matters when it comes to the Windsors – the Prince’s name is unknown to the general public and is likely to be for a day or two at least. Not that this will stop the twenty-four hour news channels bombarding us with constant coverage with no new information, although even the BBC’s royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell (reputed to once have been a bellringer incidentally, though thus far completely unverified!) saying not everyone will be interested in today’s happenings.

For all those headlines though, our Bank Holiday was mundanity itself. Ruthie went to work, Joshua, Mason and myself made a thrilling trip to Tesco and we popped briefly to mother-in-law Kate’s to collect Alfie after his sleepover with them up in Kessingland.

It did get more interesting this evening though, as I went along to St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice. I mentioned on the last BH that holding our usual Monday night session on public holidays can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes we can get a large crowd with visitors coming with their own usual practices cancelled, other times we are thin on the ground as regulars go away. Whereas we got the former on Easter Monday a fortnight ago, the latter was the case this evening.

Trophies at St Mary-le-Tower. From l to r; the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell (for the SE District Method Six-Bell Competition), the David Barnard Memorial Trophy (for the SE District Call-Change Six-Bell), George W Pipe Trophy (for the Essex and Suffolk Twelve-Bell Competition) and the Mitson Shield (for last year’s Guild Six-Bell).It meant our repertoire was limited, although for all that I tried to keep them going for people trying to feel their way through, the brace of failed attempts at Cambridge Surprise Royal mostly collapsed due to those who should know better and were well within our capabilities. Still, it gave more opportunities for our learners Sonia and our young ringers Leona and Karina, the latter of whom was still rightly on a high from being part of the band who won Saturday’s South-East District Call-Change Striking Competition at Sproughton. Indeed, thanks to her, there was a unique sight on the side with four striking competition trophies on show – the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell (for the SE District Method Six-Bell Competition), the David Barnard Memorial Trophy (for the SE District Call-Change Six-Bell), George W Pipe Trophy (for the Essex and Suffolk Twelve-Bell Competition) and the Mitson Shield (for last year’s Guild Six-Bell). The only one missing is the Rose Trophy for the SGR Eight-Bell Competition, currently held by the South-East District and not won by the ‘Tower’ since 2016. It is motivation for us to have five trophies on the side in two weeks after this year’s Guild competitions at Polstead and Lavenham, but I hope also for towers across the county who are more than capable of preventing us from doing so! For now though, the photo opportunity was too great, just in case there are only three there soon!

With an early shift at work in the morning, there was no post-ringing refreshment at The Cricketers for me tonight, but plenty of headlines to mull over.

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Sunday 5th May 2019

Another day, another party for Alfie to attend and more trying to fit in other stuff around it!

This time, Alfred’s celebrations were happening closer to home in the Community Hall in Woodbridge, but nonetheless started before morning worship at St Mary the Virgin’s church had finished and on the same day as we had been invited to Africa Alive by Ruthie’s mother Kate, where she and Ron are currently caravanning it up with the boys’ cousins Katelynn and Anna.

Therefore, having earlier rung on the bells upstairs and attended much of the service that followed in the church, I left Ruthie to finish her choral duties and Mason and Joshua with some fellow junior church parents and tried to keep up with AJM as he hotfooted it excitedly to the party venue, clutching his chum’s present and card in eager anticipation. And once my wife and other two sons had joined us and the celebrations came to their natural end, we set off up the A12 to Kessingland, where apparently the bells were rung very well this morning.

As it happened, with not long until the neighbouring zoo was due to close and the black clouds that have typified the weather of this Bank Holiday weekend hovering menacingly overhead, we didn’t actually go to Africa Alive, but instead let the children loose at the park whilst we watched over them with warming cups of tea and then had some food, before we eventually left, leaving Alfie for a sleepover with his grandparents and cousins.

Meanwhile, in addition to a 1440 of Plain Bob Minor rung at Pettistree for Evensong, Ben Keating was having a highly productive day in ringing terms, as he rang his first quarter-peal of Treble Bob and his first of Grandsire in the successes at Great Barton and Pakenham respectively. Well done on both of those Ben and on fitting it all in around the rest of your day!

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Saturday 4th May 2019

One of the tenuous excuses for subjecting you all to this blog is highlighting how active bellringers like Ruthie and I can still balance the exercise with what can be a demanding non-ringing everyday life and today perhaps demonstrated our delightful struggle better than almost any entry I’ve made, as we attempted to literally be in two places at once. For this afternoon, we were needed in Sproughton to ring for St Mary-le-Tower in the South-East District Striking Competition, whilst Alfie was wanted nearly fifteen minutes away in Campsea Ashe for the birthday party of one his schoolfriends. Those who know me and/or regularly read this will be aware of how much I enjoy a striking contest and so I really didn’t want to miss this occasion, but we were both determined that if we could help it that our son didn’t have to forgo something he was so excited about.

Thank God therefore that with a combination of fortuitous timings and the goodwill and kind flexibility of our bandmates, fellow competitors and SE Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson that we were able to make it. With a 1.45pm draw and 2pm start for the competition and 2.30pm beginning for the party, it was just possible to ring and for me to then get Alfred to his peers for a couple of hours of games, food and inflatable guitars in between much frolicking on a bouncy castle, providing that the aforementioned parties were happy to oblige.

They were and so my wife and I partook in 120 changes of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the gallery-ring of six that I learnt to ring on, whilst the boys supervised their grandparents setting things up at the village hall up the road, before I scooped up AJM and took him for some exhausting-looking partying.

Gathered at Sproughton for the draw for the South-East District Striking Competition. Gathered at Sproughton for the draw for the South-East District Striking Competition. Other participants outside listening to the competition at Sproughton. St Mary-le-Towerbands,

It did mean missing the rest of proceedings, but it was entirely worth it for the sheer joy on the boy’s face as he bounced and ran about with his friends. And we did make it back in time for a double team photo as we discovered that in our absence, both the St Mary-le-Tower method team that Mrs Munnings and I had rung for and our call-change counterparts had won our respective competitions. In answer to the sound of rolling eyes (does that make a sound?) and resigned sighs, some context is needed here. Both the contests for the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell and the David Barnard Memorial Trophy were close and it was an extremely positive experience for a young learner, as Karina won her first ever striking contest, surely something to be celebrated by ringers generally. Plus, throughout those participating, the primary purpose of the medium was largely met. Although I wasn’t there to take it all in, I understand that the quality of the ringing was high, with an important – but fun – focus on striking and many members getting an opportunity to partake and thus make it a nice social occasion.

For those able to be there at least!

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Friday 3rd May 2019

When I mentioned the sad passing of Paul Stannard’s mother Janet Croughton last week, I remissly forgot to mention that her funeral is due to be held at Barrow at 2pm on Friday 10th May. I’m sure many will want to attend and I imagine they will all – or certainly most will be – aware of when the funeral is, but just in case someone is intending on attending and didn’t know when and where it is happening, then please make them aware.

On this Friday though, there was nothing of particular note to report, bar of course the FNQPC ringing a 1260 of Doubles at Earl Stonham.

God willing there will be busier days ahead for the art that Janet so enjoyed.

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Thursday 2nd May 2019

We both got to work. We got the boys to their places of education. We managed to vote in the local elections. And Ruthie partook in choir practice. There was no ringing for us though.

Others were managing ringing in Suffolk though, as the annual L Martin Daniels Peal Tour of the area racked up a brace of successes, with 5040s of Minor at Campsea Ashe and Doubles at Monk Soham.

Busy days for us all, just in different ways.

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Wednesday 1st May 2019

Welcome back from Japan and (soon to be home to a brand new ring of twelve) Singapore to Mike Whitby and Pippa Moss, as they partook in this evening’s pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree.

I imagine tired out from their considerable travels, they were understandably gone by the time I arrived at the session that followed, but there was still a decent number in attendance, ringing a variety of methods from Grandsire and Stedman Doubles, to some Plain and Little Bob Minor spliced, a course of Annable’s London Surprise Minor and a touch of Ipswich Surprise Minor and some nice sounding ringing that I recorded when I arrived at eight, before the majority retired to The Greyhound afterwards.

Meanwhile, a quarter-peal was also rung at The Millbeck Ring at Shelland for the birth of the host’s granddaughter – congratulations Janet and Gordon!

And welcome back again to Mike and Pippa!

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Tuesday 30th April 2019

May is due to be the month of striking competitions, starting with the South-East District’s, pencilled in for Saturday at Sproughton and which I would still urge as many SE teams as possible to enter. A nice six in a lovely village, easily accessible just off the A14 and from Ipswich just a couple of miles down the road and with The Wild Man and the village hall available to shelter in if the weather isn’t pleasant enough to sit in the churchyard listening to some superb ringing.

However, there is plenty lined up beyond the competitions across the county. All being well it begins on the first day of the month with the Ten-Bell Practice at Beccles, but then followed by the North-West District Practice – preceded as usual by a quarter attempt – at Wetherden on the morning of Saturday 11th, the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice on the evening of Monday 13th, the Second Tuesday Ringing the next day at Felixstowe and Falkenham, Helmingham Monthly Practice from 7.30-9pm on Friday 17th and the South-West District Practice at Cowlinge – focusing on Reverse Canterbury Doubles – on Saturday 25th, on the same day that the NW District are slated to round off the month and kick-start June with their Quarter-Peal Week, including a QP afternoon on the 31st and an evening meal.

Much to support therefore – and please do if you can – but April still had some ringing left in it with a quadruple of quarter-peals. One was presumably instead of a planned peal as the L Martin Daniels Peal Tour of the area unusually took in a quarter-peal, with a 1296 of Minimus rung at Ringsfield, but the other three appear to have been successful in their aims, especially the Little Bob Major at Lavenham 1272 of the eponymous Cavendish Delight Minor rung at the 11cwt six in the picturesque village on the Essex border on the Golden Oldies QP Day. Meanwhile a 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung at Gislingham.

Personally though, our ringing for the month was done on a quiet day for us. God willing more ringing awaits us in May.

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Monday 29th April 2019

L Martin Daniels’ Annual Peal Tour of the area appears to be more focused on Norfolk than Suffolk this year, with another one north of the border at Swanton Morley today. However, there was also one this side of the River Waveney as a 5040 was rung at Wissett.

They didn’t include Ipswich Surprise Minor in their repertoire for the 2hrs30mins of ringing on this lovely ground-floor six rung in a round tower, but if they had they would have been relieved that Leeds United’s Argentinian manager Marcelo Bielsa wasn’t calling it, at the very least judging by the video of his attempts to pronounce the name of our county town, which was causing much worldwide amusement today!

I can pronounce it I’m glad to say, having been born and brought up there, but I didn’t make it into town to attend the weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, with a late shift at work putting paid to my attempts to get out. Hopefully there should be a session next week on the May Bank Holiday Monday, but do check before you come along, just to make sure we are actually ringing!

For now though, our friends from the Lancashire Association were doing more ringing in the county – and our neighbouring county – than I was.

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Sunday 28th April 2019

Another Sunday, another quarter-peal of eight spliced Surprise Major methods. Unlike the one at The Norman Tower precisely a week ago though, I had to work a little harder for this success. Whereas I only rang the same eight leads five times over in Bury St Edmunds on the last Sabbath, this evening at St Mary-le-Tower I was ringing a lot more leads and calling it to boot.

However, my efforts were entirely outshone by Richard Weeks who at short notice rang what was his first QP of spliced. And it was well rung, not just by him but by all of the band, with some extremely good ringing throughout the 1280 changes on the front eight.

I was pleased to conduct too, especially as I had only been asked to call it earlier today, with the original person slated for the role being unwell at the moment. It was nice to ring it for Nigel Newton’s safe return from Spain following his horrific cycling accident there. He shattered his pelvis and had to be operated on over there, but he is now back in the UK at Colchester Hospital, as referenced rather wittily by the footnote to this and Friday’s quarter at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre at St Peter’s in Norwich on Friday.

It all followed on from an active morning, as with the choir still on a well-earned break from their efforts over the Easter weekend, Ruthie and Alfie joined Kate in going to ring for the service at Pettistree, whilst Joshua, Mason and myself went to St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh, with a visit to Costa Coffee sandwiched in between.

Meanwhile, our efforts later were but a fifth of the county’s QP output today, with Pudsey Surprise Royal rung at the Norman Tower and a brace of 1260s of Plain Bob Minor on the back sixes of the 16cwt eight of Hollesley and 14cwt octave of Kersey, whilst the 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Rougham was a first in the method for Serena and Mark Steggles – well done to Serena and Mark!

Another Sunday, another busy day of ringing in Suffolk!

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Saturday 27th April 2019

The headline from this afternoon’s Suffolk Guild AGM at St Matthew’s church in Ipswich is that subscriptions are going up, from £15 to £20 for most. It raised questions for some on value and even on the existence of the SGR. After all, what do we get for our subscription? The truth is, not much directly. We do get insurance, important in these times. We get to ring bells anyway regardless and much of the Guild’s outlay appears to go on things like Central Council affiliation, Annual Reports, travel costs, etc.

Do we need a Guild at all therefore? Well, I suppose no. But there are a lot of things that we don’t need in life and I think that we are generally better off having the organisation rather than not. It offers us all an organised network of advice, practical support and financial support. It offers a focal point for PR and ensures that there is always a point of contact for interested parties, who can always then put those interested parties in touch with the right people. I always feel fortunate that when one hears of small, localised groups in other hobbies that are in danger of finishing because they only have a handful of members from which all their organised activities are arranged and enjoyed, that each and every band in Suffolk is backed up by a network of 700-800 made up of people of all ages and a multitude of skills and abilities. And it organises days like today, the Guild Striking Competitions (this year planned for 18th May at Polstead and Lavenham) and the Guild Social (this year pencilled in for being held by the North-East District on Saturday 21st September), where ringing friendships across this vast county can be renewed and made. If it costs me less a year than it does for me to watch an hour-and-a-half of Ipswich Town losing (which they did for the twenty-fifth time out of forty-five this season this evening), then I am happy to do that and I imagine most members are. And indeed, that seems to be the case, at least from the quorum that attended today and voted in favour by a vast majority.

Having tea at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM in St Matthew’s church. 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM in St Matthew’s Church. Brian Whiting speaks at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM in St Matthew’s church. 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM in St Matthew’s Church. 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM in St Matthew’s Church.

Other issues did come up and will need considering. The motion to raise the concession age of 65-74 to 70-79 and the age for free membership from 75 and over to 80 and over also brought about a suggestion from Hollesley’s Peter Harper that we do away with concessions altogether, which I’m broadly in favour of, providing it was established that a majority of over 65’s were happy with it too, although I believe concessions for those still in full-time education should still be retained.

And how the income is spent perhaps needs reviewing. Half of the subscription goes to the Bell Restoration Fund and so whilst our subs are a pittance compared to other hobbies where subs can be hundreds of pounds before you even get into the cost of equipment, it is considerably more than comparable ringing associations, such as just over the border in Essex where they apparently pay just £8 a year for membership. It has been suggested that we cut the subs in half and fund the BRF through fundraising. Personally – for what it’s worth - I wouldn’t want this. I’m not convinced that asking the relatively small proportion of active Guild members (essentially – though not exclusively – those who regularly attend District and Guild events) to voluntarily contribute ad hoc to individual projects (some of which they will feel less connected to than others due to circumstances and/or geography) will raise as much money for projects as bringing in £15-£20 each from hundreds of members automatically every year. However, I do think we ought to reconsider to what extent we spend on projects. Pretty much all are grateful for the grants we give towards the considerable costs of their projects and for many it makes a genuine difference. But it has been suggested that not all need a grant, or at least as big as we give. Also, whilst most restorations have a tangible impact on the art (St Margaret’s not far from where we were meeting being a good example), should we be giving grants for augmentations? Clearly there have been augmentations that have had a positive effect, such as at Bardwell, Campsea Ashe and Ixworth for example. However, do we need more bells per se when we don’t have enough ringers to man all of them already? More to the point, should the Guild’s stretched funds be paying for them? Plenty for the Guild and its members to consider methinks.

Considering the issue of a subscription rise, the meeting was a relatively brief affair at just an hour-and-a-half, but included much else. On the down side, we were unable to find a Secretary and Annual Report Editor to replace the outgoing Carl Melville and Michelle Rolph. Both have done tremendous work, which makes it all the more imperative that these vacant positions are filled as soon as possible. Both roles also have very particular skills too, so if you feel you have those skills or know someone else who does, then please let Chairman Rowan Wilson know.

On the plus side though, Neal Dodge has made a most welcome U-turn and decided to stay on as PR Officer. To my mind, Neal has been the finest PRO the Guild has ever had (much better than his predecessor!) and really taken advantage of local and social media to give us frequent – and importantly – quality publicity. There were also new members elected – including our young learner at St Mary-le-Tower Karina – and certificates were given (metaphorically in the case of those not present) to those who joined the SGR fifty years ago, including Past Masters Stephen Pettman and Amanda Richmond, whilst it was also good to see other PRMs George Pipe and David Salter present, the latter in glorious technicolour!

Ringing at St Clement’s at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM. Ringing at St Clement’s at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM. Ringing at St Clement’s at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM. Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM. Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM. Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM. Ringing at St Matthew’s at the 2019 Suffolk Guild AGM.

What really makes the day though, is everything that goes with it. We caught up with familiar faces and made new acquaintances, thoroughly enjoyed the superb and plentiful tea and appreciated the wonderful service that included a hymn to the tune of Hyfrydol, but with words written by Jonathan Williamson featuring places and dialect of the county! And of course there was lots of ringing, as there should be. Either side of a trip to McDonald’s to sate the boys’ hunger, we helped out at SMLT and before that went to St Clement’s. I’ve always considered these the best of the rings in Ipswich’s redundant churches, but full credit to Katharine Salter and those who have helped her for improving the go of these bells, tidying it up and putting new ropes on! There was also ringing at St Lawrence and St Margaret, whilst we and many others rounded our ringing off at the church hosting the business proceedings.

Next year we are due to go to the South-West District on 18th April 2020 and having been to the towns of Stowmarket, Felixstowe, Hadleigh, Beccles, Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich over the last few years, I’m secretly (although not so much now that I’ve written this!) hoping that in twelve months we’ll be going somewhere rural. Our towns definitely provide plenty of reasons for holding the Guild’s showpiece event, such as the transport links, facilities and lots of other things for people to do in the immediate surroundings, but our county has some of the most beautiful countryside and this time of year as it comes to life is a fantastic time to experience it.

That doesn’t take away how brilliantly this was hosted by my colleagues in the SE District today though. Thank you to Jonathan and his team of helpers for a great day out. Whatever the headlines were.

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Friday 26th April 2019

Striking competition season is on the horizon. For all the focus on tomorrow’s planned AGM, after that there is only one week until the South-East District Striking Competition is due to take place at Sproughton, itself seven days before the North-East District’s pencilled in at Theberton, ahead of the South-West District’s at the newly-augmented Little Cornard on Saturday 22nd June. And in amongst that the Guild Six and Eight-Bell Competitions will – all being well – be held on Saturday 18th May at Polstead and Lavenham respectively.

It is for me the most fun way of progressing one’s ringing, but whilst the one-off contest is the usual format, today I came across mention of something different. In the Cambridge District of the Ely Diocesan Association, they are currently in the middle of The Gipson Trophy, a league format involving a handful of towers with home and away fixtures held on practice nights. It actually appears to have been going on from as far back as at least 1995, so I’m not sure how I have never come across it before and imagine many reading this will already know of it (and perhaps even partaken in it?) and seems quite a good idea, especially for those who feel apprehensive and cautious about throwing themselves into bigger contests.

There has been sad news these last few days however, with the news that Janet Croughton – better known to many as Janet Stannard – and mother of Barrow ringer Paul Stannard died on 16th April. She was a lovely lady and a big part of a family that will forever go down in the ringing folklore of Suffolk ringing generally and particularly in the west of the county. May she Rest in Peace.

I hope that she would’ve been pleased to see the activity upon bells within our borders today, including that recorded on BellBoard from the funeral of Easton tower captain John Newson who died last month. Rest in Peace John.

Elsewhere, well done to Tig Sweet on ringing her first quarter-peal of London Surprise Minor in the 1320 at Ashbocking, to Sal Jenkinson and Michelle Rolph on ringing their first QP of Surfleet Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Worlingham and to Jane Holland on ringing her first of seven Surprise Minor methods inside in the 5040 at Rumburgh as the annual L Martin Daniels Peal Tour of the area appears to have got underway.

God willing, as is striking competition season.

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Thursday 25th April 2019

When I first returned from my time living, working and ringing in the West Midlands in 2005, Thursday nights at Grundisburgh were the scene of arguably the best weekly practice in Suffolk. Pretty much every week, Stedman Cinques and Surprise Maximus were honed upon what was then the 8cwt twelve, along with a range of methods on six, eight and ten, including Bristol Surprise Royal.

Grundisburgh.Sadly, that gradually dwindled until for some time there was no weekly session at all at the little red-brick tower. Happily they restarted, primarily due to the efforts of Joanna Crowe, who – with Stephen Pettman understandably unable to commit now he lives in Felixstowe with the B&B – took over the running of them.

Ruthie and I have rarely been able to join them though, as once my wife returns from choir practice to relieve me of sole childsitting duties at home, there isn’t enough time to make it out to the Big G and be of any use. However, with Mrs Munnings and her choral colleagues having a week off following their considerable exertions over the Easter weekend, she stayed in and enabled me to get out to join Jo and others on a Thursday evening for the first time in a long time.

And I was pleased that I could. This is nowhere near the standard it was fourteen years ago, but still has the potential for being a very useful practice. The twelve bells continue to offer the possibility of progress for ringers of all abilities across all numbers and although the go off the bells is quite difficult, they are light enough for pretty much any learner to ring any of the bells. This evening, it realised some of its potential with a session that saw Vince Buckman and Linda Garnham ringing Plain Bob Doubles inside and Anne Buswell got the opportunity to ring a course of Yorkshire Surprise Major.

Ringing around a bed at Great Munden on Debenham’s Easter Monday outing.In between there were opportunities to chat, allowing my mother to tell us about the Debenham outing which she and my father attended on Monday and took them to Great Munden in Hertfordshire, a now privately-owned church which uniquely – as far as I am aware – has a ring of bells rung from around a bed!

That’s almost as unusual as us getting to Grundisburgh practice.

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Wednesday 24th April 2019

Although like anywhere it goes in peaks and troughs across the years, the attendances at Pettistree’s weekly session have always been good and the repertoire wide and eclectic for a rural six.

This evening though, circumstances combined to see that they were down to the bare bones. With Ringing Master Mike Whitby and usual replacement RM Mary Garner – who I had a rather pleasant phone conversation with earlier in the day as she stood in Worcester Cathedral waiting to sing – both absent tonight, it was down to Ruthie’s mother Kate Eagle to run the ringing. Except as soon as she had conducted the pre-practice quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor, she was called away by work. With Mark Ogden also needing to get away after the QP, and quite a handful of regulars away for one reason or another, a team effort between Mike Cowling, Peter Harper and my wife ensued to run things amongst a sparse turnout.

They were perked up with the visit of David Hallett, who learnt to ring here when the bells were rehung in 1986 and who this evening had brought his son Ollie to have a go. And very well he did too by all accounts and even with the limited numbers much was still rung, including some Little Bob Minor for Sam Shannon to treble to and Cambridge Surprise Minor.

Elsewhere in Suffolk meanwhile, a peal was rung on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower of Barking Surprise Major, an Uxbridge-above method and I’m sure rung very well.

I expect that was followed up by well-earned refreshment in the pub, as was Mrs Munnings’ ringing as she popped to The Greyhound. That is something that rarely changes through all the peaks and troughs of Pettistree’s attendances!

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Tuesday 23rd April 2019

Happy St George’s Day! Except it isn’t, at least if you follow such things to the letter, as it can’t strictly speaking be held during the Easter Octave of which we are three days into.

That said, regardless of whether it falls during Easter or not, there is rarely much fuss made of 23rd April. Therefore, whilst there were ringing performances across England dedicated to the country’s patron saint (at least until St Edmund is recognised!) today, there was nothing in Suffolk. Indeed, there weren’t any quarters or peals rung within our borders, at least none recorded on BellBoard at the moment.

And that lack of ringing activity was replicated in our household as I returned to work after the long, hot weekend and we reverted to our usual quiet Tuesday evening in, enjoying each other’s company and on this occasion raising a low-key cuppa to St George!

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Easter Monday 22nd April 2019

Every time we approach a bank holiday Monday, the question at St Mary-le-Tower – where our weekly sessions are on Monday nights of course – is... “Shall we have a practice?” Usually we aim to get a quorum of local ringers before we even consider inviting ringers to travel distance to join us, but even then we can be met with a low turnout, by its nature restricting what we can ring.

On other occasions though, we have evenings like this evening when we benefit from the presence of others who usually can’t come due to circumstances, work or because they normally ring elsewhere at the end of the first working day of the average week. On this light, warm evening at the climax of an abnormally scorching day for the time of year, we gladly welcomed the Eareys: Ralph, Tessa and Ellie, visiting ringers such as Brian Meads and David Rothera from Chelmsford Cathedral (where they don’t ring on Bank Holidays as a rule) and returning students Colin Salter – and also his mother Katharine on this occasion – and Alex Tatlow, on top of the regular support we get from Essex like Stephen Cheek and David Sparling, and Bury St Edmunds like Catherine and Julian Colman and Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson which meant that even with some absentees we had a large crowd packed safely into this famous ringing chamber.

In turn, that allowed for a wide repertoire of methods to be rung on twelve (once we’d got the correct second!), from call-changes to Little Bob Maximus and Grandsire Cinques to Stedman Cinques and a half-course each of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus, in the main rung very well.

Earlier in the day, a quarter-peal was rung in Suffolk at Redgrave, albeit for the Norwich Diocesan Association Quarter-Peal Week, but Ruthie and I took advantage of the day off and the sunshine to have what constitutes a lay-in these days and a spot of garden work and so with that and my ringing efforts I felt I had earned a pint in The Cricketers post-session where the conversation mainly consisted of Saturday’s planned AGM in Ipswich, from tower grabs to the meeting itself. I’m glad we decided to have a practice on this bank holiday Monday.

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Easter Sunday 21st April 2019

Easter Sunday may not carry the same magic as Christmas, but it is probably the most important date in the Christian calendar, essentially when we celebrate the central USP of the faith, with today being the climax. And between us Ruthie and I did our bit with singing and ringing. My wife with her choral duties at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge this morning and this evening and me with helping the band at the same church man the 25cwt octave upstairs – before the boys and I joined a packed building for the service – this morning and then this afternoon as I pulled the tenor in at The Norman Tower to a quarter-peal of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods on the back eight of the twelve.

The latter was originally arranged as part of our preparation for the Ridgman Trophy, due to be held on these wonderful bells in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 15th June, but as has nearly always been the case it is extremely difficult to get ten particular people together from across this vast rural county. However, with home advantage this year, this was still a useful exercise for those in the band to get completely familiar with the intricacies of the bells. As I have said before, the ringing on the bells that will be used on competition day is the most important in preparations, so we have a great chance to make the most of those bells being within our borders.

It was also nice to ring with Jimmy Yeoman for the first time. I have heard so much about his abilities and like everyone else I have been impressed reading on BellBoard the achievements of this latest young star of Suffolk ringing, but I am pleased to see him in action and like the rest of the band he didn’t disappoint on this heavy eight.

Meanwhile, the news today from Sri Lanka was shockingly tragic and led some to enquire that following the call for us to ring for a fire-damaged cathedral, if we are going to be asked to ring in solidarity with those effected by these dreadful events where hundreds – including many partaking in Christian worship on this Easter Sunday – over the next few days. Perhaps look out for such a request, but for now, although there was ringing dedicated to it across the UK, there wasn’t anything rung on bells in this county.

There were other quarter-peals beyond our own 1280, with a 1260 of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles rung on the back six at Bures and a 1320 of Primrose Bob Doubles was rung on the 10cwt five at Old Newton.

I am pleased that the ringers of Suffolk – including Ruthie and myself – were able to do our bit for Easter Suunday.

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Holy Saturday 20th April 2019

It was a fun-packed day for the boys as our attendance at St Mary’s Playgroup Fair was sandwiched in between Alfie going to a schoolfriend’s birthday party and all of us celebrating the fourth anniversary of our niece Anna’s birth.

This all left no time for any ringing, even if there was much to do on what is a traditionally quiet day for the exercise, but there was some taking place in Suffolk on this Holy Saturday. Unsurprisingly, one was on handbells, with the peal in Bacton being Peter Waterfield’s two hundredth in hand – congratulations Peter! There was a performance on towerbells too, although the quarter-peal at Great Finborough was rung half-muffled.

I’m sure they had as much fun as we did!

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Good Friday, 19th April 2019

Today was a Good Friday in the Christian sense and a good Friday in the wider sense.

This afternoon, I felt as reflective as I am ever going to with a two-year-old and five-year-old quite rightly demanding my attention as we sat in on the end of Ruthie and her choral colleagues singing at St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge as part of the Three Hour Devotion. The boys were actually very well behaved for the few minutes we were there, allowing me to contemplate the real meaning of this weekend.

The Wolery.However, whilst we were there, in Old Stoke there was a very welcome return to the BellBoard columns for twice Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master David Salter as he conducted a quarter-peal at The Wolery in the blue shed at the top of his and Katharine’s garden, his first since his stroke just before Christmas. It comes off the back of a positive prognosis that suggests that he is at no greater risk of suffering a bleed to the brain (which apparently caused his stroke) than the rest of us and is a remarkable recovery from where he was in the immediate aftermath of what happened.

Earlier I had had the pleasure of seeing him in person as Mason and I made our annual Good Friday visit to the Salter’s abode, so that the boy could play computer games with their youngest son Henry and I could do some peal-ringing. Usually this consists of a brace of peals (indeed on one Good Friday we did ring three!) with a huge, superb lunch in between, but with everything that has happened and the uncertainty of recent months then Mrs Salter understandably committed to just the one peal, which on this occasion was a 5152 of Tregear Delight Major. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the method, not being a big fan of making sevenths in Major away from the half-lead. It always feels very unnatural and can often lead to much fudging, with participants automatically dodging and granted we probably didn’t ring it as well as this talented band could have. Yet there was – as is usually the case when we get it right here – some superb ringing at times, more mesmerising than I typically get in other ringing I normally do elsewhere. And it was great to be back here, over four months since our last peal on this 9lb 8oz eight. The ringing of peals here is often mocked, but personally speaking the ringing I have done here has been extremely useful in honing and progressing my skills, especially in recent years where opportunity to do so elsewhere has been limited.

And we still had the benefit of that super lunch, a fine spread that encapsulates the hospitality here and which has been much missed this year. Welcome back David, on this good Good Friday.

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Maundy Thursday, 18th April 2019

The overwhelming feeling amongst the ringing community today seemed to be one of questioning obedience, as many across the world answered the call from Prime Minister Theresa May, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York to ring today in solidarity with those affected by the fire at Notre Dame earlier this week. Yet some seemed bemused as to why we should be ringing for stones and mortar, as whilst the events on Monday were horrific to watch, the outcome – under the circumstances – was relatively positive, with much saved, the structure still standing and most importantly of all, no one was killed. Indeed, some compared ringing’s reaction to that to the Grenfell fire a couple of years where of course many people tragically did die. Though that may be an unfair comparison as many did ring for Grenfell, as it was suggested that those who put forward this idea had been inspired by a combination of ringing’s magnificent efforts in marking the centenary of the end of the First World War back in November and the bells of Paris ringing out as the famous cathedral burned, which perhaps sowed the seeds of an idea that may not have seemed possible back in June 2017.

Others objected to ringing because it is Holy Week and whilst the silence of bells at this time appears to be more of a ringers’ tradition than set in canon law (indeed, one of the things that seems to have arisen from this is how many of the clergy were unaware that not ringing during Holy Week is even a thing, which perhaps confirms what many of us have said about its effect or real purpose), this has to be respected. And yet, with clergy calling upon their ringers to mark this dreadful event, many dutifully did, with forty-eight performances recorded on BellBoard for Notre Dame on Suffolk’s bells today, from tolling (including Kesgrave, which isn’t usually found on BB) to the quarter-peals of Doubles at Buxhall and Grandsire Triples at Halesworth. Congratulations to Paul Ebsworth on ringing his 550th QP in the former and well done to Keith Dennis on ringing his first on eight in the latter.

There was also much publicity attached locally to the ringing with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge appearing about 1hr40mins into Mark Murphy’s breakfast show on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning and then precisely the same amount of time into Stephen ‘Foz’ Foster’s show on the station this afternoon, North-East District Secretary Kate Gill spoke very well about their ringing at Beccles.

Meanwhile, there was even a quarter rung in France for the occasion, which also happened to be the first quarter-peal on the brand new 5cwt ten at Vernet-les-Bains. This is a much deserved landmark for those who have worked so hard towards this and I hope it will be the first of many.

Neither Ruthie or I were able to partake in any of the ringing though, with me at work, then greeting Mason as he was brought back from a trip to Cadbury World that my parents had very kindly taken him on and finally putting his younger brothers to bed whilst my wife sang at the Mandy Thursday service at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, although she did have the pleasure of listening to the ringers there ringing out for Notre Dame.

Whatever your thoughts on ringing for our French friends, I am glad that the ringers in Woodbridge and so many others were able to create some positive PR for local ringing out of such a terrible event.

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Wednesday 17th April 2019

Change-ringing’s USP is that ringers from anywhere of any ability can generally go along to just about tower in the world that practises ringing in the English style and join in with the local band in their ringing and usually at the pub afterwards too, in the process making new friends.

This was perfectly demonstrated this evening as I partook in the pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree with Paul Axon from Sydney in Australia ringing the treble, his first QP in the Northern Hemisphere – well done Paul!

It wasn’t the only quarter on Suffolk’s bells today though, with the 1320 of Fryerning Surprise Minor at Woolpit being the first blows in the method for Andrea Alderton and Stephen Dawson – well done Andrea and Stephen!

Our efforts were followed by a session run by Mary Garner in Mike Whitby’s absence and despite being slightly low on numbers still saw an eclectic repertoire of methods rung, including the familiar in Stedman Doubles, Cambridge and Norwich Surprise Minor, the increasingly familiar in Lightfoot Surprise Minor – especially for Jane Harper – and the entirely unfamiliar St Augustine Bob Doubles. The latter is a method that Anne Buswell’s friends on the Isle of Man are striving to ring a quarter-peal of, but the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that it is simply as if you were ringing Grandsire Doubles with a single at every lead-end. I believe it is when calls are added that it gets more complicated though!

And it was all followed by a drink in The Greyhound with our Australian visitor and his wife as change-ringing’s USP displayed itself magnificently.

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Tuesday 16th April 2019

Mercifully it seems that although considerable damage was caused by yesterday’s fire at Notre Dame, much of the interior has remained undamaged, including the Grand Organ and even down to the candles which appear not to have melted!

Still, it is a dreadful position they find themselves in and the charred structure of this famous house of worship is a very sorry scene and so therefore much support is being sent to Paris from around the world. Including from the bellringers of the UK, with the Archbishop of Canterbury calling upon us to toll a bell for seven minutes at 7pm on Maundy Thursday in two days time in solidarity. The Central Council have endorsed this, though expanding upon it, recognising how difficult the precise request might be for most ringers and if you are happy to do so I would urge as many towers as possible to show their solidarity with our friends across the English Channel. It would also be an opportunity to show how important bells can be in helping people cope with circumstances such as these. Although many will understandably perhaps consider it more important to be ringing for Easter rather than the bricks and mortar of a cathedral.

With it being traditional for church bells to remain silent during Holy Week, there will be some debate as to whether bells should be rung for this, but mini-rings to at least allow the exercise to continue and that was in evidence with the quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at The Millbeck Ring in Shelland.

Meanwhile, a reminder that names for tea for the Suffolk Guild AGM at St Matthew’s church in Ipswich on Saturday 27th April need to be in by next Monday, the 22nd. Please do come and support those who are putting so much time and effort into this event. There are proposed rule changes in regards to subscriptions and a new Public Relations Officer to elect, but also many friends to meet and make, ringing at towers across the county town, time for reflection in the service and that tea to consume! It should be easy enough to get there, whether it be by train, bus, Park & Ride and even in the car and details of parking and transport have been released, along with the agenda. Rowan Wilson will be chairing the occasion for the first time and so I’m sure she will appreciate as much support as possible and knowing her I expect the meeting itself will be pushed along where appropriate, aided by much being available to take in ahead of time, such as the officers’ reports.

By that point I hope that many towers within our borders will have shown their solidarity with Notre Dame.

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Monday 15th April 2019

In one respect, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is the bane of the lives of change-ringers, with “the bells, the bells” and the hunchback. Yet of course we all watched as horrified as the rest of the world at the images this evening of this famous landmark burning ferociously and seemingly out of control. Perhaps even more horrified than most. For all that this week change-ringing has been introduced to France with the hanging of ten bells in Vernet-les-Bains, the bells at Notre Dame are not hung for the type of ringing we do and yet I couldn’t help but relate the dreadful events by the River Seine to the places familiar to me where I tend to carry out my ringing. It would be a dreadful scenario to see St Mary-le-Tower, Pettistree or Grundisburgh going up in smoke for example and such thoughts did flash across my mind as we watched flames licking up through the louvres of famous towers.

Thank God that within minutes of it being announced that there was a real danger of the building being completely destroyed, positive reports began coming through that the blaze had been brought under control, but I imagine there will be years of painstaking and expensive refurbishment and rebuilding ahead.

One of the striking reactions to the disaster was the sound of bells across the French capital ringing out in solidarity with the stricken building in Holy Week, a time when bells are usually silent, but as is typical for this week every year, the bells of St Mary-le-Tower weren’t being rung and so therefore there was no practice for me to make, as will be the case at many towers across Suffolk leading up to the Easter weekend.

Let us pray that the bells of Notre Dame will be ringing out sooner rather than later.

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Sunday 14th April 2019

It was a day of ringing socialising, but no actual ringing for us today.

With the boys having been out very late for them last night, it only seemed fair to give them a lay-in and so Ruthie wandered up to St Mary the Virgin’s (benefitting part of the way from a generous lift from Elaine ‘Mrs Roger’ Townsend who was on her way to ringing at Rushmere St Andrew) to carry out her choral duties, whilst I allowed the trio of brothers (and myself!) a gentle and leisurely wake-up, before we were taken by taxi back to Clopton Village Hall to retrieve the car from its overnight resting place.

Gathering for the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner at Fynn Valley Golf Club. L to r; Stephen Cheek, Jill Birkby, Chris Birkby and Mason at the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner at Fynn Valley Golf Club. Amanda Richmond speaks at the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner at Fynn Valley Golf Club. David Potts speaks at the St Mary-le-Tower Dinner at Fynn Valley Golf Club.

Having just about recovered from yesterday’s celebrations, a weekend of socialising was completed with the annual St Mary-le-Tower Dinner. For the last few years we have held this at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, with little complaint, but they say that a change is as good as a break and so we returned to where we held it before our regular trips to the coast for this special meal, Fynn Valley Golf Club. And what a difference since last time we were here! We found ourselves in brand new facilities that a lot of us didn’t even know were being built. They were light and airy, and – a major plus compared to FFGC – a room to ourselves, allowing us to fully unwind without disturbing others. We found ourselves on what was unintentionally the ‘Rambling Ringers’ table with Claire and Ian Culham, Stephen Cheek, Jill and Society President Chris Birkby eating, drinking and conversing with us, but there was much mingling between the three tables and especially the children present as they ran free outside together, though Joshua ran a little too free as I had to briefly retrieve him from the golf course!

Good food was enjoyed in good company and it was particularly lovely to see Don & Helen Price who we hadn’t seen for over a year and George Pipe. Well done and thank you to Amanda Richmond for arranging it! This was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

The only disappointment was that we couldn’t hang around for long at the end, but it was for a nice reason as we were looking after and feeding the boys’ cousins Katelynn and Anna whilst their mother went to work, bringing the day to an exciting crescendo for the children!

Meanwhile, it was a busy day for Suffolk’s bells, with three quarter-peals and a peal rung in the county. A 1260 of Doubles was rung at Redgrave, whilst the 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower and 1320 of Allendale Surprise Minor at Great Finborough were firsts in the methods for Deborah Blumfield and Josephine Beever respectively – well done Deborah and Josephine! And the second-Sunday peal at Aldeburgh was – as it usually is – a first in the method for the entire band and the SGR, with the method in question on this occasion being Tyburn Surprise Major.

I’m glad that someone was making up for our lack of ringing whilst we were socialising!

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Saturday 13th April 2019

We seem to be riding the gamut of life events this month. A funeral, birthday party and today a wedding. It wasn’t a ringers’ wedding, but rather one between a couple at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge who we have got to know very well, Charlotte and Gregory. However, bells were mentioned in dispatches as due to an unfortunate clash of dates that saw the Woodbridge ringers on their annual outing, on this occasion to North Essex there was a danger that there might not be any ringing. With the happy couple really wanting bells for their big day, we had no hesitation – with local Ringing Master Bruce Wakefield’s permission of course – therefore in arranging a band for the occasion. Thank you very much to Chris & Jill Birkby, Chris & Mary Garner, Pippa Moss and Elaine Townsend for joining us in providing the important backdrop to our friends’ big day – they were extremely grateful.

The family at the wedding reception in Clopton Village Hall. The boys playing outside Clopton Village Hall at the wedding reception.In addition to our efforts up in the ringing chamber, Ruthie also sang a solo with ‘her’ choir, before we headed on to the reception at Clopton Village Hall and several hours of afternoon tea, speeches, play for the many children and much dancing. It’s been a long time since we’ve had the opportunity to let our hair down to this extent! The boys did brilliantly, keeping going until our taxi arrived at ten and even until we finally got home to put them to bed.

It did mean that I was unable to ring in the peal at The Norman Tower, but I was delighted to see that it was scored. Well done to Nathan Colman on making his peal-ringing debut of Maximus and to young Jimmy Yeoman who was ringing his first blows of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus. For the latter it completed an impressive week that started with his first peal of Maximus in an extremely noteworthy performance of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Birmingham Cathedral and then partook in a 5120 of eight-spliced Surprise Major at Meldreth in Cambridgeshire yesterday. This is a very talented young chap.

Congratulations as well to Nathan’s father Julian who preceded the peal with his 250th Park Run. Super stamina Mr Colman Senior!

That wasn’t the only success on the county’s bells today either, with a handbell peal rung in Bacton and a quarter-peal of Turramurra Surprise Major was rung at Bardwell and was the first in the method for Dee Smith, Martin Kitson, Francis Herne and conductor Christian Burrell – well done to them all!

And as we prepared ourselves for the matrimonial festivities ahead this morning, we took in a report on BBC Breakfast, which raised the subject of ringing as a sport again, sending sports presenter Mike Bushell – who usually tries out new or unusual ‘sports’ for the show - out to Wokingham to speak with John Harrison, who many will recall spoke at the fringe meeting at 2012’s Suffolk Guild AGM, before then interviewing Dickon Love in the studio afterwards, all starting at about 8.40am. Sadly it is no longer on iPlayer, but for those on Facebook the interview is on the Bellringers page (Scoll down to ‘Dikon Love’. Ed.) and there is a video of some of it on YouTube, though only a recording of it playing on someone’s TV. Hopefully someone will find a way of sharing the full piece online for all to watch, because – putting aside the debate about whether ringing should be a sport or not – this was a superb bit of PR, with both John and Dickon speaking wonderfully.

Meanwhile, the official confirmation this afternoon of Ipswich Town’s relegation to the third tier of English football for the first time in sixty-two years felt like a major life event for us Tractor Boys. It may have been inevitable (see my New Year’s Day blog for example) and in the scheme of things pretty insignificant (apart from job losses at the club and the detrimental effect to the local economy), but it was rather a sad occasion. Thank God we had a happy life event to celebrate today.

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Friday 12th April 2019

Well done to outgoing Suffolk Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge on another great bit of PR for ringing within our borders, this time in regards to Suffolk Day on Friday 21st June, as he spoke to Mark Murphy’s stand-in Wayne Bavin on the morning show of the county’s local BBC radio station today. Wayne is a bit more commercial in his outlook (though eminently likeable) and so it was actually quite a tricky interview for Neal when trying to get across the technicalities of the exercise as Wayne fell into just about every stereotypical hole he could’ve, but Mr Dodge handled it brilliantly I felt.

It is another reminder that he will need to be replaced at this year’s SGR AGM in Ipswich on Saturday 27th April and so whilst hopefully someone has been lined-up to continue his good work, if you feel you could help – or know someone who you feel could – then please do let those at the head of the Guild know, such as Chairman Rowan Wilson, Secretary the Revd Carl Melville or Ringing Master Tom Scase.

Tom meanwhile was conducting a quarter-peal of Little Bob Major at Helmingham. Which can’t be bad PR for Suffolk ringing.

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Thursday 11th April 2019

Second Thursdays when I’m on early shifts generally mean that Ruthie and I don’t see much of each other. The first opportunity we get to meet is after she has finished work, when she promptly heads off to choir practice and to the Surprise Major session at Ufford, held on this week as the usual Tuesday practice is forsaken with the W.I. meeting next door. An example of a tower working with the local community.

Her presence was worth it for partaking in a productive get-together and was followed by a visit from her mother Kate with an incubator and some eggs. It was an egg-cellent way to finish a second Thursday.

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Wednesday 10th April 2019

A real rarity today as Ruthie and I not only rang with each other, but rang a quarter-peal together, as I answered a call for help from mother-in-law Kate. She had had very little sleep last night as she had been called out twice on behalf of E.B.Button, one of which was quite a protracted affair and so understandably she didn’t feel in a fit state to go for a QP attempt of multiple Surprise Minor methods. Therefore, she offered to look after the boys whilst we popped out to ring what proved to be a successful 1440 of six Surprise Minor methods – a 720 of Lightfoot, Rossendale, Stamford and Wearmouth, followed by a further 720, this time of Cambridge and Ipswich, thus bringing the number of methods Mike Cowling and I have rung together over the last couple of days to eleven – rung before the weekly practice at Pettistree. It was a good effort and a relief too after two unsuccessful attempts in recent weeks, with mistakes minimal and dealt with quickly.

Framlingham church tower (eight bells, 16cwt) from the walls of Framlingham Castle. Framlingham church tower (eight bells, 16cwt) from the walls of Framlingham Castle. Alfie at Framlingham Castle.

The reason why this is such a rarity is due in no small part to what happened precisely five years ago, when Alfred John Munnings was born and so earlier we celebrated the day by taking him and Joshua to Framlingham Castle for a dinosaur egg hunt, a fun way to explore this wonderful piece of history, as we delved into the museum, had some cake in the café and walked along the top of the ancient walls, taking in the fantastic views across this lovely little town and the surrounding countryside, including the imposing church tower that houses a 16cwt eight. And our visit was only enhanced by bumping into fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringer and Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond!

However, whilst we enjoyed our quarter this evening, we weren’t in the position to hang around for the session that followed upon the ground-floor six, so instead we picked up Grandad Ron and enjoyed a cuppa back at home with him, Kate and the boys as Alfie showed off his presents.

Meanwhile, Ipswich Town took one step closer to officially being relegated with a defeat. That is not a rarity.

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Tuesday 9th April 2019

In my (much!) younger ringer days, there were no bells hung for change-ringing on the vast Felixstowe Peninsula. If you travelled as far east as the rings of bells in Ipswich Town entre and Rushmere St Andrew, there was nothing from a ringing perspective between you and the North Sea. It always seemed a pity.

Falkenham.Felixstowe.That has long changed and I have delighted in ringing on the wonderful 5cwt ground-floor six at Falkenham and lovely 7cwt eight rung from the cosy ringing chamber in the red brick tower of the Victorian church of St John-the-Baptist in Felixstowe on many occasions, but whilst I rang a peal on the former way back in 2006 (with some girl called Ruth Eagle – whatever happened to her?), I hadn’t rung one on the octave of the latter. Until today that is, as I partook in a 5184 of five Surprise Major methods, which also seems to have been the first peal of spliced on the bells. Although my revelation that this was my peal-ringing debut on these surprised the rest of the band and local Brian Aldous, none of who would have been as shocked if I’d said I was once a woman.

Having only usually had the chance to snatch brief rings on these bells in between climbing up and down the staircase to relieve whoever was looking after the children downstairs whilst I was ringing (though I did once attend a Friday night practice here when I was Guild Ringing Master without such responsibilities), it was great to fully appreciate how nice these bells are over the 2hrs42mins that took in Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Yorkshire Surprise Major.

With the fifth anniversary of Alfie’s birth tomorrow, the peal of five methods was of course especially arranged for him and the occasion of the forthcoming landmark and I am extremely grateful for my fellow band members for taking the time to travel out – in most cases quite some distance – to ring at this far extreme of Suffolk. The peal itself perhaps didn’t flow quite as much as I hoped, but flew by – always a good sign – and at many times saw some tremendous ringing.

To demonstrate their generosity in giving over of time, afterwards David Rothera headed straight off for London to attend the College Youths practice, whilst Brian Whiting was going to The Norman Tower for their weekly session, with Offton practice cancelled tonight due to a lack of numbers – it is worth noting that there won’t be a practice there next Tuesday either due to it being Holy Week.

‘Bunny’ did find time to join us briefly for refreshment in The Owl & Pussycat across town, as we relaxed post-ringing and I reflected on how nice it is to have such good bells to peal on the Felixstowe Peninsula.

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Monday 8th April 2019

Having not made it to last week’s session, it was my first opportunity this year to enjoy arriving at St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice in daylight following the recent change of the clocks.

Me on the 11th at St Mary-le-Tower practice, George Vant on the tenor and Diana Pipe in between watching on.It wasn’t just the light evening that sent me into the ringing chamber in an upbeat fashion. It was pleasant stood on the stairs waiting to come in overlooking the rooftops of Ipswich listening to ringing going on and I was then greeted with a super turnout of about twenty-five that included visits from Nathan Colman, London ringer Peter Emery up this way to prepare his boat and George Vant making his first return since moving to the South Coast last summer, bringing a ringing friend with him who we were very pleased to welcome.

Again, the only downside was news about Nigel Newton’s condition in Spain. The hoped for move to a hospital in Seville which would be a stepping stone to a transfer back to the UK has been delayed by a blood clot and so we continue to pray for a safe return for him.

Hopefully he will be buoyed by news of a positive evening back at SMLT, although I couldn’t top it off with a drink at The Cricketers as with another early start at work tomorrow it was back home for an early night, but this was a fun evening at a welcoming practice in a jovial atmosphere. If you would like to join us next Monday, we won’t be ringing as it is Holy Week, but there are plans afoot for a session on the evening of Easter Monday in a fortnight, so please join us then and enjoy arriving in the daylight!

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Sunday 7th April 2019

Alfie and Awesome Abi at his birthday party. Alfie blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.It was an operation akin to organising a wedding in miniature, but it was worth it as Alfie and eighteen of his peers and other hangers on like his brothers and cousins partied away noisily in anticipation of the forthcoming fifth anniversary of his birth, as Pettistree Village Hall shook to the sound of disco and games organised by Awesome Abi who lived up to her name! Whilst she was carrying out her duties, we – with the help of Ruthie’s sister Clare, her mother Kate and Grandad Ron – prepared food, made cups of tea and hosted the parents that like us are used to doing the circuit of watching children’s parties. It was lovely too that my Mum and Dad could come along, but most of all that Alfred had a good time. He was particularly pleased to come away laden with lots of presents!

On the way back, we passed Peter Harper travelling the other way to the village we had just left for a quarter-peal very kindly dedicated to AJM’s forthcoming landmark, as well as the birthdays of former local ringer Molly Waterson and conductor Mike Whitby’s granddaughter Eliza – thank you guys!

It wasn’t the only quarter-peal today within our borders recorded on BellBoard, with a 1264 of Plain Bob Major rung at Bures and a 1440 of Cambridge Surprise Royal was completed at The Norman Tower in addition to that success on the ground-floor six.

And earlier, I had managed to fit in some ringing before the party, helping man the bells at St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence in Ipswich, although having promised the boys a visit to Costa Coffee afterwards, there wasn’t enough time to get to Grundisburgh too. It was a decent morning of ringing, both at the former and the latter where a touch of Stedman Doubles was rung amongst much amusement, but our ringing today was overshadowed by the sorry news that SMLT ringer Nigel Newton has suffered a dreadful fall on his bike whilst cycling in Spain, smashing his pelvis in the process. He is currently in a Spanish hospital awaiting transfer to Seville and in good hands therefore, but our thoughts are with him, with uncertainty about how and when he’ll get back to the UK.

God willing he will be back in the country soon and ringing again in the not too distant future.

And hopefully we can relax a bit now Alfie’s party is done and dusted!

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Saturday 6th April 2019

Another Saturday, another ‘experience’. This time it was for Ruthie’s sister Clare and it was less high octane than a week ago, as she took my wife along with her to the luxurious Seckford Hall for a few hours of pampering that included facials, massages, spas and afternoon tea, whilst I had a less relaxing but nonetheless joyous day with the three boys and earlier I collected the spectacular birthday cake for Alfie’s planned party tomorrow.

St Peter Mancroft. St Peter Mancroft. St Peter Mancroft.

It was an upbeat day, but it precluded us from heading to Norwich for the South-East District Training Day at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre and then ringing at St Giles across the city afterwards. Still, it seems to have been a good day out, judging by reports from those who were there and the pictures taken.

Meanwhile, well done to former resident Suffolk Guild member Maggie Ross on ringing her first peal of Avon Delight Maximus at St Magnus-the-Martyr in London today. One of my fondest memories of my time ringing in Birmingham was arriving at St Philip’s Cathedral for a peal attempt of this to find the late, great Peter Border’s giant frame hunched over a piece of paper with the line on it.

“Boy”, he said to me, “I invented this method, but I can’t remember a blinking thing about it!”

It may have been in his final years when his powers of recollection were sadly lacking, but if the originator of this super method and one of the exercise’s greatest found this a stretch then it is a considerable achievement for anyone.

To top a good day, even Ipswich Town won. Now that is an experience.

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Friday 5th April 2019

A quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor by the FNQPC was rung at the lovely gallery-ring 9cwt six of Earl Stonham, but that seems to have been the only ringing performance in Suffolk recorded on BellBoard today.

Ringing – as has become the norm on a Friday evening – had to take a side step for us with the gathering of family members from five different locations for the weekend and so instead it was a game of random BB selection to liven the evening up. My first three selections can be found here, here and here. I can’t wait to some more actual ringing!

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Thursday 4th April 2019

Aunty Janet with us on a visit to Ickworth House in 2014.Almost exactly a month ago, mother’s sister Janet, an aunt to Chris and I sadly passed away. In a sense it was a relief, as she had been suffering from Motor neurone disease for over a year, a debilitating illness for anyone, but especially for someone who so loved walking and travelling. Of course though, there is much sadness that she was inflicted with it at all as it drew to a premature end an active life that otherwise may have had many more years to enjoy. She was someone we enjoyed spending time with and she featured frequently on here, when we visited Lincolnshire to see her and Uncle Mick and when they came here to Suffolk, including a lovely meet-up at Ickworth House a few months after Alfie was born. She loved visiting stately homes.

Today’s funeral in Thrapston, where she and her sisters Carol and our Mum Sally grew up was therefore an important occasion to help celebrate her life as well as meet with family not often seen, such as our cousin Emma and particularly Janet’s son Anthony who for many years has lived on the continent.

And it was a lovely service. I was privileged to read the eulogy, which mother had written, whilst my younger sibling read a poem very well and following the burial at the town’s cemetery and visit to our grandparents and great grandparents graves nearby, we all headed off to the wake at the local bowls club, with views across to the splendid tower of the neighbouring village of Islip, home to a 12cwt six. Although a serious incident nearby involving police cordons and the two major roads through this otherwise bustling but laid back little town – Huntingdon Road and Market Road – being closed could have very easily scuppered our plans!

It was a lovely send-off for a lovely lady. The only pity from an arrangement point-of-view was that we didn’t get the opportunity to ring on the eight bells here that my brother and I had our first handling lessons on thirty years ago. Although we had enough, with Ruthie and Becky also there, as well as local ringers - and good friends of the family - Len and Lesley Hallifax to man the octave, practicalities meant that there wasn’t a chance to do any ringing on this occasion.

Elsewhere they were busier. Less than ten miles away from where we were, a peal was rung at Barton Seagrave on a busy day of peal-ringing in Northamptonshire generally, whilst back in Suffolk, well done to Kate Gill on ringing her first quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor in the Ladies Guild success at Worlingham and to Ben Keating on ringing his first of Minor inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob at Great Barton. Congratulations also to Sally – who rang in the latter – and Tony Veal on their thirty-second wedding anniversary!

We didn’t make it back in time for any ringing though, but we were glad to have made the lengthy journey to see Aunty Janet off.

May she Rest In Peace.

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Wednesday 3rd April 2019

Pettistree Greyhound.Whilst Ruthie enjoyed an evening at a Pettistree practice preceded by a quarter-peal attempt for former Suffolk Guild Secretary Mary Garner’s birthday and followed by her very generously standing the ringers a drink each in The Greyhound  in celebration of the occasion, I had a lovely night in with the boys. There are benefits to nights in!

Meanwhile, a 1260 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung on the back six at Horringer, whilst yesterday a QP of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Easton in memory of Tower Captain John Newson who sadly passed away on 23rd March.

Back at the session my wife attended tonight, a good attendance rang more Surprise Minor – amongst much else – on a positive night.

Happy Birthday Mary!

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Tuesday 2nd April 2019

I’ve heard of it and seen clips of it, but tonight I watched Agatha Raisin episode Hells Bells in its entirety for the first time, years after most will probably have taken it in. Frankly the ringing scenes were the most laughable I have ever seen, but of course that is from a ringer’s perspective. And the cringeworthy ringing aside, I actually enjoyed it and found the episode quite amusing in its own right. It is worth reiterating before ringers splutter into their coffee and rant at length to Points of View, the main purpose of such shows is entertainment rather than accurate representation that most of their audience wouldn’t appreciate. Still, it is a pity that they couldn’t have done a better job of representing the exercise.

Anyone considering using ringing in any future programming would have benefitted from watching the art in full flow at places like Offton, where this evening a quarter-peal was rung before the weekly practice.

At least they were doing it properly!

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Monday 1st April 2019

I can’t tell you how many orders for left-handed bellropes were made or hoax performances were put on BellBoard this morning, although I was amused about the story of the new lightweight spire being put on the central tower of Lincoln Cathedral.

With me on a late shift and otherwise occupied with shopping for party bag contents, I was spared any potential practical jokes however. That late shift did mean there was no time for any ringing this evening and therefore no St Mary-le-Tower, but there was ringing elsewhere in Suffolk today, with a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor rung at Brandon.

Meanwhile, as we enter the month of Easter, Holy Week will be starting in a couple of weeks. This is when many towers will lie silent due to tradition, although personally I feel it would be more appropriate to ring more or ring differently, such as half-muffled. How many members of the public actually notice us not ringing? Nonetheless, it is what it is and so towers like SMLT won’t be ringing on the evening of Monday 15th April and if history is anything to go by, The Norman Tower will refrain from practicing the following night. Yet Pettistree usually ring on the Wednesday of Holy Week (Ringing as usual, 7 - 9pm. Ed.). Therefore, it is well worth checking with a tower you are planning on going to or indeed that you aren’t going to in order to check if ringing is on or not! To travel a long distance to ring at a tower that wasn’t ringing would be no joke...

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Sunday 31st March 2019

Following six consecutive very early starts, one of the last things I wanted this morning was to lose an hour of sleep, but I have to admit that the extra sixty minutes of daylight in the evening – especially on a bright sunny day like today – are an uplifting occurrence.

For all that it seemed unfortunate for mothers on Mothering Sunday to be deprived of more sleep on the morning of ‘their’ day, we tried to make the day as special as possible for the mothers in our life. Having helped Alfie and Joshua to deliver their gifts and cards to Ruthie in bed and made her a cuppa, I dropped Mason off at his mother’s and then headed to St Mary-le-Tower specially to pass cards to my Mum. Then, having been to church at St Mary’s in Woodbridge to join my wife at the service, we gathered together at the home of sister and brother-in-law Clare and Kev for surprise afternoon tea for mater-in-law Kate, with all the food made by her daughters. And quite superb it was too – well done Ruthie and Clare!

It was the highlight of a very upbeat day, with ringing at SMLT decent and the first sight of actual hard copies of the Annual Report as South-East District Secretary Abby Antrobus brought a collection for distribution ahead of the Guild AGM in just under four weeks time. The digital version on the website is brilliant, especially when getting the printed copies physically out to all members ahead of the meeting can be logistically challenging, but it is nice to see the actually hard copy itself! If you are able to get them out where others might not be able to, then please do!

I look forward to having a proper read when I’ve had a bit more sleep!

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Saturday 30th March 2019

Ruthie will testify to the frustrating truth that whenever I am asked what I would like for my birthday or Christmas, I generally shrug my shoulders and mumble incoherently along the lines of “I don’t know”. I am generally pretty content with my lot and so nothing material particularly springs to mind when friends and family very kindly ask what I would like for a present.

However, especially in the last year, I have been the delighted recipient of some wonderful “thinking outside the box” gifts. I absolutely loved the weekend away and brewery tour of Adnams in Southwold that my wife so generously arranged for the fortieth anniversary of my birth, whilst dinner with Ipswich Town legend John Wark and sponsorship of what is still (following this afternoon’s 2-0 loss at home to Hull City) one of only two victories for the Tractor Boys at Portman Road this season and the only one of 2019 thus far was also very special.

Nissan GTR. Aston Martin. BMW i8.This morning I enjoyed something also generously gifted to me over the festive period three months ago, this time by mother-in-law Kate and Ron, as I undertook an exhilarating driving experience at Carver Barracks near Saffron Walden. It required an early start on par with the last five at work this week, but the spirits were lifted as we passed through the pretty north Essex town and in particular the stunning church of St Mary-the-Virgin where only last month Mrs Munnings and myself won the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition with St Mary-le-Tower. And the experience that followed was entirely worth it as I drove two laps each in a BMW i8, Aston Martin and Nissan GTR round the track accompanied by an instructor, as well as being a passenger in an exhilarating ride driven by a professional. Having never driven cars of this standard before, it felt as daunting as before peals that I have rung at St Paul’s Cathedral and York Minster or any of the National Twelve-Bell Finals I have been fortunate to partake in, but the further I drove the more confident I got. Although I think it is probably the first time I have ever been told to speed up when driving!

Ruthie and Mason very patiently watched on, although the twelve-year-old boy was captivated by the loud engines, fast cars and exhibitions of doughnuts and handbrake turns, before we returned to Kate’s for tea, a drink out in the sunbathed garden and recounting of my adventures.

Santa Croce, Pastrengo, Verona.Meanwhile, it was a very quiet day for quarter-peals and peals in Suffolk, but ringers from within our borders were notably busier, especially Laura Davies, Stephen Pettman and Louis Suggett who were ringing in the first quarter-peal on tower bells in the Verona Diocese in Italy, with a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles at Pastrengo.

Now that might be an experience to ask for as a present next time round!

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Friday 29th March 2019

It’s rare that we get out on a Friday night, whether that be to ringing or anywhere else. Once everyone in our household has been gathered together for the weekend from five different locations, there simply isn’t enough time once little people have been readied for bed too.

Three of us managed it this evening though as Alfie, Mason and myself attended a bingo night to raise funds for the former’s school and a jolly good night out it was too. Having initially struggled to keep up (it has been many years since I last played and I didn’t catch that what we were after was to complete mathematical symbols on our cards!) in a lively hall that included quite a few excitable older pupils, I quite enjoyed it, although Alfred was upset at not winning anything.

Afterwards, we returned to our home for the evening, with mother-in-law Kate very kindly putting us up ahead of looking after the younger brothers whilst their eldest sibling, Ruthie and myself have a very early start in the morning.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, others were getting out too, with a trio of quarter-peals rung on bells in the county today. Well done to Sarah Plummer and Peter Lock on ringing their first QP of Beverley Surprise Minor in the 1272 at the ground-floor six of Blythburgh, but there were also QPs of Major, with a 1264 of Plain Bob rung at Henley and 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise at Ixworth.

Lovely to see lots of us ringers getting out and about, in one way or another.

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Thursday 28th March 2019

It is a sign of where we find ourselves in life that instead of being out ringing – most likely at Grundisburgh practice – and then imbibing afterwards, we were at home, as the boys slept upstairs, searching online for party bags ahead of the planned celebrations for the forthcoming anniversary of Alfie’s birth. God willing it will all be worth it.

It was therefore a quiet day on the ringing front personally, but also it seems across Suffolk, at least as far as quarter-peals and peals are concerned, with nothing from the county’s bells recorded on BellBoard.

There are hopefully busier days of ringing ahead as we should – if the normal order of proceedings in the calendar occurs – head into April. The Beccles Ten-Bell Practice is due to take place next Wednesday evening for example and whilst I believe that places are now all taken for the South-East District’s Training Day at the superb new facilities at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre in Norwich on Saturday 6th, SE Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson may still be on the lookout for experienced help. On the same day a memorial service will be held for Buster Crouch at Horringer, with open ringing either side. All being well, Bungay will host an Eight-Bell Practice on the evening of Monday 8th and then the Second Tuesday Ringing the following day, with the latter also planning on going to Ditchingham just across the border in Norfolk. Meanwhile, the North-West District Practice on the morning of Saturday 13th is pencilled in for Barrow, and the Helmingham Monthly Practice for Friday 19th from 7.30-9pm, before the month is due to be rounded off with the Guild AGM in Ipswich on Saturday 27th. Please do support whatever you possibly can. Despite the wonderful place we find ourselves in life, we hope to get along to as much as we can.

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Wednesday 27th March 2019

Ruthie was mildly despondent on her return from Pettistree this evening. At its root was the second loss in three weeks of a quarter-peal attempt of four Surprise Minor methods spliced. The quartet of lines are essentially one. London below the treble and Norwich above the treble. Two of them are Wells below the treble, which is simply London but with a couple of the places altered. That brace of methods are Stamford and Wearmouth, with the former being Norwich above the treble, the latter being Westminster above the treble, although the only difference happens to be that in the first someone makes sixths at the lead end (as in Plain Hunt) and in the second someone makes seconds over the treble at the lead end with the other four bells dodging in 3-4 and 5-6 (as in Plain Bob). Correspondingly, Rossendale and Lightfoot have the same relationship to each other as the above, only the line below the treble is unadulterated London.

It is simpler than it seems in the paragraph above, but when all spliced together in a QP at the end of a long day, it isn’t surprising that it can catch a band out and so it was again this evening. Still, it is but part of a longer-term concerted effort to increase the Surprise Minor repertoire at this ground-floor six that will be aided by tonight’s experience and concerted practicing.

And generally it was apparently a more upbeat occasion than when I went a week ago, with more attending the ringing and many more people in The Greyhound afterwards!

Despite the loss here, there was a success on Suffolk bells with a 1260 of Bryn Bob Minor rung at Great Finborough being the first in the method for the entire band – well done all!

Nothing to be despondent about there!

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Tuesday 26th March 2019

The recent George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition and Saturday’s National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminators have whetted my appetite for striking competition season domestically. God willing there will sunny days mingling with friends new and well-established, listening to good ringing in picturesque locations. Again I urge as many bands as possible to take part. Firstly because the atmosphere at these gets better and better with each band that adds its name to the competition, but also because is a really fun way of focusing on striking. It is one thing to get through a piece of ringing, but another to ring it well. Anyone who is friends with Cambridgeshire ringer Sue Marsden on Facebook and heard that video clip today of some pretty dreadful striking from a visiting band at a tower she happened to be in earshot of will know what I mean. Although we should be striving to ring as well as we possibly can every time, it naturally doesn’t happen all the time, especially at practices where ringers will be trying new things out. It is often at striking contests where ringers seem to pull their best ringing out of the top draw and it is a wonderful feeling.

Particularly if you have never entered a team, then do consider one for the planned six-bell competitions for the Mitson Shield or Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy at Polstead and/or the eight-bell for the Rose Trophy at Lavenham on Saturday 18th May, as well as in your District contest. For the record, the South-East’s is pencilled in at Sproughton on 4th May, the North-East’s is at Theberton a week later and the South-West’s at Little Cornard on 22nd June. Forget all you’ve been told about the same teams winning over and over. Six different teams have won the Mitson Shield in the last fifteen years (only four different teams have won English football’s Premier League title in the same period for comparison). Forget all you’ve been told about ringers ringing for several teams. Some – Ruthie and myself included – sometimes ring for two teams to enable ringers from those towers to also partake, but I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head who has rung for more than that and it is generally frowned upon. Just let put your entry in!

No ringing for us personally today though. However, I did note with sadness the passing of Tony Parry. Although I never knew Tony, I am eternally grateful to him for setting up Campanophile, the forerunner to BellBoard. Not just because it makes it easier to report ringers activities through this blog, but for the way it changed the sharing of ringing performances. Many readers of this will recall how different things were before his site appeared, but younger readers may find it difficult to comprehend that not all that long ago, one often didn’t find out about a peal or quarter until several weeks after it happened when it appeared in The Ringing World. In the case of columns and columns of tightly packed QP reports in the RW, you might not even notice it. I expect for this and his part in the formation of the now thriving Central European Association will mean that more will be said in the coming days, but on this occasion my attention was brought to his passing via a reference to a piece on the Cambridge District – where he did his early ringing – of the Ely DA website. Having suffered from Motor Neuron Disease which ultimately led to the demise of Campanophile but more pertinently robbed him of quality of life over a decade-long period of time, I hope he now rests in peace.

Thanks to his efforts, I was able to note that the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton and a 5088 of Cooktown Orchid Delight Major at Ixworth were both successful today. Hopefully good practice for striking competition entries.

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Monday 25th March 2019

Following this morning’s very early shift at work, I had a pretty productive afternoon. Washing was hung up to dry, more put on, hung up to dry and more put on. The dishwasher was emptied and loaded again. The weekly shop was done and at a satisfyingly low price. And a couple of jacket potatoes were bunged in the oven and ready for when the boys and Ruthie and returned from their places of education and work.

All of which meant that unusually I got to the early part of St Mary-le-Tower practice and enabled me to watch our young learner Karina treble to some Grandsire Doubles. She has trebled to Doubles already apparently, but it was the first time I had witnessed it and I was impressed with her control generally. She has – I believe – also been to sessions at St Margaret’s and Sproughton, but we are aware that Monday nights at SMLT amongst the ten and twelve-bell ringing that is understandably the main focus of the evening isn’t the ideal occasion to teach a learner and so her progress is all the more noteworthy. Much credit has to go to Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond and current South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson for guiding her.

She was arguably the one who came out of tonight with the most credit over a couple of hours where nothing really went all that well. There was plenty of endeavour, but we were missing a handful of ringers and generally speaking it was just one of those nights and in the scheme of things a mere blip. God willing the next time will be as productive as my afternoon!

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Sunday 24th March 2019

How many bellringers does it require to fix a fence?

Fixing the fence. Fixing the fence.Well, on this occasion, three, plus an honorary non-ringing ringer and two young sons of ringers. With the recent period of very windy weather taking its toll on a rotten fence post and despite our neighbour’s kind patience in putting up with our fencing panels laying on his lawn, this afternoon we welcomed mother-in-law Kate and Grandad Ron to lead the way in putting new posts up and secure the once stricken fencing. With pleasant conditions aiding our efforts we were even able to overcome an abundance of concrete we hadn’t been expecting and a productive job was completed before Ruthie headed off for afternoon tea at Milsoms in Kesgrave with her work colleagues.

Earlier, the boys and I had been to morning service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh sandwiching a visit to Costa Coffee. At the former we peaked at Yorkshire Surprise Maximus in the presence of George Pipe, at the latter it was nice to see Bredfield ringers Vince Buckman, Ann and Michael Pilgrim who considerably boosted the numbers.

Elsewhere in Suffolk meanwhile, there were a trio of quarter-peals rung on the county’s bells, with a 1282 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal rung at The Norman Tower, 1280 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at St Margaret’s in Ipswich and 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Kersey. Requiring twenty-four ringers.

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Saturday 23rd March 2019

A logistically challenging day of partying today as we aimed to get Alfie to two parties occurring simultaneously this afternoon.

One was a celebration of the marriage of the brother of mother-in-law Kate Eagle’s brother – and therefore Ruthie’s uncle – Colin (or Wob as he is affectionately named in the family) to his other half Ali. The actual ceremony was a low-key event held yesterday and attended by close family, so this afternoon’s reception at Sutton Village Hall was for the wider family and friends and was a nice opportunity to catch up with my wife’s family and for the many children gathered to play in the park adjoining the hall.

The other was back in Woodbridge for the birthday of Alfred’s best friend from school Jed, an occasion that it would have been very sad for AJM not to attend. There was a superheroes theme and so the boy went dressed up as Batman to be entertained by a Wonder Woman and Spiderman.

In the end, there was enough time to enjoy the former before I then took the middle son to his mate’s party, before returning to collect the rest of my family and then gathering up the partygoer and thus getting the best of both parties!

There was plenty of partying going on in Bristol, Leeds and London too, as the three eliminators for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest took place on this pleasant spring day. Congratulations to the Ancient Society of College Youths, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Melbourne, Oxford, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths on qualifying to join hosts Exeter at the city’s Cathedral in the final on 22nd June. Particular congratulations to former Suffolk Guild resident member Molly Waterson on getting through with Bristol, but there were many with local connections taking part, such as George and Di Pipe’s nephew David and great-nephews Alfie and Henry and one-time Norman Tower regular Phil Wilding on getting through with Cambridge and one-time SMLT ringer Ian Mills on his success with the Cumberlands. Commiserations meanwhile to Stephen Pettman’s brother-in-law Peter Hill on their nonetheless valiant efforts with Hursley and our friends from Norwich – including former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd – on just missing out at St Mary-le-Bow.

It is a timely reminder to all bands across the SGR to consider entering one of the striking competitions within our borders over the coming months. As things stand, it all kicks off at Sproughton for the South-East District competition on Saturday 4th May, with the  North-East District planning on competing at Theberton a week later, whilst on the same day as many will be converging upon the South-West of England to compete for the Taylor Trophy, the South-West District of the Suffolk Guild are due to compete at Little Cornard. And the Guild Competitions are pencilled in for Polstead on the morning of the 18th May and Lavenham in the afternoon.

Every year I urge as many towers as possible to enter teams into their District and/or Guild contest and again I do so this year. When lots of bands enter, the atmosphere is wonderful and it really makes it worthwhile the judges travelling in, sometimes from quite some distance. Judging is pretty much always presented as guidance rather than criticism, the number of ringers taking part in multiple teams is vastly reduced from previous years and as Pakenham, The Wolery, Pettistree, Grundisburgh and Rendham have shown in recent years in the Mitson Shield, anyone can win, before you even get on to the call-change competitions which offer further silverware. Please do encourage your band to have a go and get in touch with Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase for more details.

And regardless of how you get on, have a party for the occasion!

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Friday 22nd March 2019

Last night was probably the worst night for sleep we’ve had since Joshua’s first few months as he kept us awake with his obvious discomfort at a cough he has, all a nasty throwback to those early sleep-deprived times. It meant we felt in a bit of a daze all day, although the late shift at work helped a little.

Thank goodness we weren’t required in any of the ringing performances on bells in Suffolk today then. Well done to Tracey and Robert Scase on ringing their first quarter-peal of London Surprise Minor in the 1440 at Ashbocking, whilst there was a handbell peal in Bacton and a 5050 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Horringer to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Brian Whiting’s first peal, also rung in the same tower. Those fifty years have been filled with over a thousand peals, many of them helping to advance other ringers and of course a lot have been rung to his own compositions of a special length, as was this one. Congratulations Brian!

I hope he got a better night’s sleep before it than we did!

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Thursday 21st March 2019

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!

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Wednesday 20th March 2019

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!

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Tuesday 19th March 2019

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!

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Monday 18th March 2019

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!

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Sunday 17th March 2019

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!

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Saturday 16th March 2019

Debenham.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!

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Friday 15th March 2019

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!

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Thursday 14th March 2019

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.

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Wednesday 13th March 2019

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!

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Tuesday 12th March 2019

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!

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Monday 11th March 2019

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.

Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this evening – l to r; Jill Birkby (with back to camera) on 3rd, David Stanford on 11th, Ian Culham, Richard Weeks on tenor, David Sparling on treble & Stephen Cheek on 2nd.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!

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Sunday 10th March 2019

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!

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Saturday 9th March 2019

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!

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Friday 8th March 2019

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.

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Thursday 7th March 2019

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.

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Wednesday 6th March 2019

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.

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Tuesday 5th March 2019

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.

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Monday 4th March 2019

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.

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Sunday 3rd March 2019

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!

Meanwhile, there were QPs rung at Pettistree and Rougham, with a 1296 of Kent Treble Bob Minor and a 1260 of Grandsire and Stedman Doubles rung respectively.

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.

St Clement.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.

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Saturday 2nd March 2019

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.

South-East District Ringing Meeting at Offton. South-East District Ringing Meeting at Offton. South-East District Ringing Meeting at Offton. South-East District Ringing Meeting at Offton.

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!

Teams coming out at Portman Road, Ipswich Town vs Reading.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.

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Friday 1st March 2019

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.

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Thursday 28th February 2019

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!

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Wednesday 27th February 2019

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!

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Tuesday 26th February 2019

The scene at Ufford Park Hotel as viewed from our table this afternoon. Believe it or not, the tower of Ufford church is on the horizon!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!

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Monday 25th February 2019

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.

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Sunday 24th February 2019

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.

Crowded into Costa Coffee after morning ringer at St Mary-le-Tower. Amanda Richmond & Ian Culham sitting as comfortably as they can in a crowded Costa Coffee.Earlier 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 lap!
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!

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Saturday 23rd February 2019

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!

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Friday 22nd February 2019

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 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’.

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Thursday 21st February 2019

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.

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Wednesday 20th February 2019

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.

Nonetheless, they managed a quarter-peal there beforehand, with the 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor being a first in the method for Sal Jenkinson – well done Sal!

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!

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Tuesday 19th February 2019

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.

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Monday 18th February 2019

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.

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Sunday 17th February 2019

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!

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Saturday 16th February 2019

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.

Gathered in the Parish Rooms at Saffron Walden. Gathered in the Parish Rooms at Saffron Walden. Gathered in the Parish Rooms at Saffron Walden. Gathered in the Parish Rooms at Saffron Walden. The Ipswich band waiting in the ringing chamber to ring. The Ipswich band waiting in the ringing chamber to ring.  Jed Flatters pours beer whilst Chris McCarthy and Nigel Gale wait patiently.  Jed Flatters pours beer whilst Chris McCarthy and Nigel Gale wait patiently. Judges Andrew and Simon Meyer give their comments and results. Julian Colman collects the 3rd place certificate on behalf of The Norman Tower band.  David Potts collects the George W Pipe Trophy on behalf of the winning St Mary-le-Tower band.  The results.  Left to right; John Loveless, Linda Garton, George Pipe & Diana Pipe (taken by Mike Whitby)

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.

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Friday 15th February 2019

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.

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Thursday 14th February 2019

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!

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Wednesday 13th February 2019

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!

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Tuesday 12th February 2019

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.

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Monday 11th February 2019

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...

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Sunday 10th February 2019

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!

Brandeston.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.

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Saturday 9th February 2019

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.

One of the tables at the Pettistree Dinner at The Greyhound. Mary Garner making her short speech at the Pettistree Dinner! Mike Whitby making his speech at the Pettistree Dinner. Kate Eagle collects ‘Mary’s Monthly Plate’.

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!

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Friday 8th February 2019

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!

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Thursday 7th February 2019

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!

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Wednesday 6th February 2019

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.

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Tuesday 6th February 2019

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...

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Monday 4th February 2019

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!

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Sunday 3rd February 2019

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.

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Saturday 2nd February 2019

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.

Ringing at Parham for the South-East District Meeting. Ringing at Parham for the South-East District Meeting. Ringing at Parham for the South-East District Meeting. Ringing at Parham for the South-East District Meeting. Ringing at Hacheston for the South-East District Meeting. Ringing at Hacheston for the South-East District Meeting. Getting ringers in and out of Hacheston ringing chamber at the South-East District Meeting. The view from Hacheston ringing chamber.

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.

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Friday 1st February 2019

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.

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Thursday 31st January 2019

Lord Lieutenant's letter.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.

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Wednesday 30th January 2019

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 the quarter-peal of 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, from Allerton to Zylverne.
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.

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Tuesday 29th January 2019

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!

Parham. Hacheston.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.

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Monday 28th January 2019

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...

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Sunday 27th January 2019

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!

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Saturday 26th January 2019

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!

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Friday 25th January 2019

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.

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Thursday 24th January 2019

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!

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Wednesday 23rd January 2019

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!

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Tuesday 22nd January 2019

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!

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Monday 21st January 2019

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!

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Sunday 20th January 2019

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 Double Oxford, 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.

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Saturday 19th January 2019

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!

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Friday 18th January 2019

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.

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Thursday 17th January 2019

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!

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Wednesday 16th January 2019

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.

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Tuesday 15th January 2019

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!

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Monday 14th January 2019

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!

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Sunday 13th January 2019

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.

The peal band at Aldeburgh – l to r; Roger Whittell on 4th, Mary Dunbavin on 3rd, Mary Garner on 2nd & Neal Dodge on treble. Taken by Mike Whitby.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!

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Saturday 12th January 2019

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...

Mason and me outside the home dressing room at Ipswich Town. Ruthie, myself & Mason on the Ipswich Town stadium tour before the match. 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!

Our view of the Ipswich Town vs Rotherham United match. Ruthie, myself and John Wark in the Sir Bobby Robson Suite after the match.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.

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Friday 11th January 2019

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!

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Thursday 10th January 2019

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.

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Wednesday 9th January 2019

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.

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Tuesday 8th January 2019

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!

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Monday 7th January 2019

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.

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Sunday 6th January 2019

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.

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Saturday 5th January 2019

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!

The view from the west window of Coddenham ringing chamber. Ringing at Coddenham for SE District Meeting. L to r; Elaine Townsend on the 3rd, Mark Ogden watching on, Anne Buswell on the 4th. Ringing at Coddenham for SE District Meeting. L to r; Stephen Cheek watching on, Jonathan Williamson on tenor, Mike Cowling on treble, Roger Coley on 2nd, Elaine Townsend on 3rd, Mark Ogden watching on & Anne Buswell on 4th. Judging underway for the ‘Bake-Off’ at the SE District Meeting at Coddenham. Cakes entered into the ‘Bake-Off’ at the SE District at Coddenham. Results of the ‘Bake Off’ being announced by Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson at the SE District Meeting at      Coddenham. Results of the ‘Bake Off’ being announced by Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson at the SE District Meeting at      Coddenham.

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?

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Friday 4th January 2019

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!

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Thursday 3rd January 2019

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.

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Wednesday 2nd January 2019

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.

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New Year’s Day 2019

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!

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