Wednesday 16th January 2019

Richy's Blog

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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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