Tuesday 21st May 2024

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New Year’s Eve 2020

Good riddance 2020, shut the door on your way out.

Yes, finally we are at the end of the worst year of most people’s lives, deprived as we were for the majority of it of so many freedoms, seeing loved ones and of course ringing on church bells. Any year is bad for someone at some point and will often elicit the wishes, “Happy New Year, I hope it’s better than this one.” Today, that seems to be the stock phrase as we all geared up to see off this dreadful, dreadful year.


Three dates in particular stand out as lows in a year of lows – 4th March, 16th March and 8th September.

George W Pipe. The first was the day that most of us found out that George Pipe had died the day before. It didn’t come as a surprise as he had long been in ever declining health, but it was still a sad, sad day. Although we’d been deprived of his considerable ringing prowess for several years, in more recent times his immense presence in the ringing chamber and over the previous weeks his presence at all, a huge number of ringers lost a dear friend and we lost someone that was almost family. He was my brother Chris’ Godfather and as a little boy I recall calling him Uncle George and like so many others I was inspired by him. Having finished John Loveless’ excellent biography of him this morning, I realised just how much, in the way that I tried to carry out the roles of Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild and St Mary-le-Tower, although never with the same success and effectiveness as GWP. Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes is as fine an obituary to him as you can possibly get and has been a rare thing to look forward to this year.

St Mary-le-Tower. Pettistree. 16th March was of course the day when we were last able to ring in the way that we had all taken for granted, as I went to SMLT practice one last time (God willing just for now) for a poignant evening. Theatres apparently refer to it as ‘Dark Monday’ and that name can be applied from a ringing perspective. I have tried to keep upbeat, but I simply cannot hide how much I have missed it. The socialising, the opportunities, the wonderful places and bells of all quality and none, the quarters, the peals, the teas, the post-ringing drink. Every year has bad moments on a personal and/or wider level. Death, illness, terrorist attacks, natural disasters occur, but normally we can either escape these tribulations or mark them through ringing and obviously this hasn’t been possible for the past nine months. There was a brief return in a very restricted, unsatisfactory fashion, albeit it was an uplifting moment when I first stepped into SMLT’s famous old ringing chamber that won’t ever have witnessed anything like three pairs of masked ringers ringing two metres apart from each other! And Ringing Room of late has offered some much needed mental exercise and is a quite incredible development that its inventors Leland Kusmar and Bryn Reinstadler deserve unlimited credit for, enabling ringers worldwide to ring together in these times with their amazing platform. Likewise platforms like Handbell Stadium and Ding are magnificent developments that our ringing predecessors could never imagine. However, none of it is anywhere near as good as the real thing and when we lost our Pettistree quarter-peal attempt on RR this evening due to technical issues it seemed a very 2020 way of it happening!

Alan J Munnings. Meanwhile, 8th September was the day that mine and Chris’ father Alan died. He had been diagnosed with cancer towards the end of last year and had been doing OK, but in the last couple of weeks took a turn very much for the worse. Mercifully he didn’t suffer badly for too long in the end. Quite how much the pandemic and the subsequent pressure on the NHS – whose doctors and nurses have been inspirational considering all they have had to endure this year – contributed to his chances of surviving are unquantifiable, but what is certain is that the restrictions put in place made his last six months depressing for him and us, as just when he could’ve really have done with the support of ringing, ringers and family he was largely deprived of them all, although we and friends did as much as we could and continue to do so for Mum. Sadly, the restrictions also prevented us giving him the send-off he deserved (as it did for George Pipe and so many others), although we remain forever grateful to all those who sent cards and messages and offered to help, did what ringing they could for him and made his funeral at Sproughton as good as it possibly could be with everything that is going on.

Is there anything positive that can be said for 2020 then? The easy answer is no. To their credit, BBC Radio Suffolk have in recent days been encouraging listeners to share their positives of the year, but there seems generally little good to say about a year that saw some of our very basic freedoms ripped from us through no fault of our own, plans destroyed, potential precious memories lost, jobs gone, businesses going under, children’s education jeopardised and of course countless lives lost through this terrible virus.

That said, we are fortunate compared to others. Although Ruthie is currently furloughed for a third time and naturally worry creeps in about the future, we both still have jobs and our health at the moment and are blessed to have spent the various lockdowns in a wonderful part of the world, as well as managing a holiday in Kent in place of the cancelled Rambling Ringers Tour to Leicestershire. And it wasn’t all misery as we strove to make the most of an extremely bad situation. I can’t lie and say that being cooped up with young boys missing going out and seeing friends wasn’t fraught at times, but the unexpected extra time with them was generally a rare plus of this year and we at least have a garden to release them into to relieve the cabin fever!

Also, the way that ringers have – like society more widely – have rallied round has been uplifting, doing what they can, keeping in touch with isolated band members, ringing handbells in all sorts of locations and circumstances, running online striking competitions, holding quizzes via video and running AGMs on Zoom. If this had happened twenty - even just ten – years ago, I dread to think what state ringing would’ve come out of this, but technology has hopefully meant that more bands have stayed intact and ringing minds sharp and God willing gives the exercise a much better chance of surviving this enforced break.

And lest we forget, we did actually get two-and-a-half months of normality before restrictions came in, including with our ringing. We went to three really well attended South-East District Practices at Woodbridge, Monewden (complete with a Bake Off!) and St Margaret’s in Ipswich, as well as the Pettistree Ringers’ Annual Dinner at The Greyhound and just snuck a QP Day two days before Lockdown 1.0. We even got to go to Walsall to practice for Ipswich’s entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, even if the competition was ultimately cancelled. The Not! The Twelve-Bell Live programme that Matthew Tosh and his team – who usually run a live broadcast of the final – was another superb example of ringers making the best of things. Incidentally (for reasons unknown to me), the ident that I supplied for the programme was today shared on the Contest’s YouTube channel!

Personally, Ruthie and I rang six and nine quarters respectively since we departed the much underestimated 2019 and in the same period I rang in three peals. Across the county, 136 QPs have been scored, many of them on handbells or online. Not many when one considers that last year 531 were rung, but impressive in the circumstances and when one compares the numbers rung up until and including 16/3 this year to the same period last year, then for once 2020 comes out on top, 101-93. Likewise, although no peal has been rung for the Guild since the 5184 of Ealing Surprise Major on the Cambridgeshire eight of Fulbourn, the SGR still racked up twenty-seven peals this year. Up until 16th March, twenty-four had been rung in the organisation’s name.

Down the years, the final day of the year has often meant ringing a peal at Grundisburgh (fifteen in all, although none since 2015), but apart from our unsuccessful but still well-rung burst on Ringing Room, there was of course no ringing for us. Debenham ringers were apparently ringing the New Year in virtually, whilst Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart rang in a 1344 of Plain Bob Major on RR, a platform that also hosted a quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus featuring Past St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd and his fellow Norwich ringer David Brown, who along with his wife Gillian Knox joined us, other St Peter Mancroft ringers Ros Burrough & Ben Trent and SE District Chairman Mark Ogden and the Colmans Cath, Julian and Nathan from Bury St Edmunds for an impromptu virtual gathering to see 2021 in. Indeed, it took us a couple of hours into the New Year!

That was a lovely way to see in an otherwise quiet last few hours of 2020. In the past we have rung the New Year in at Hollesley, but even when we haven’t we have either had people round or spent it with Ruthie’s family at my mother-in-law Kate’s house. Tonight though, it was just ourselves and Mason, once Alfie and Joshua had gone to bed. It was a long way from the excitable children and social mingling that we saw 2020 in with, but which that year has subsequently taken from us.

Good riddance 2020, welcome 2021. Happy New Year everyone!

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Wednesday 30th December 2020

It was an unusually busy day in the news for this time of year. Politicians are mercifully absent from our vision over a typical Christmas with parliament closed, but today they were excessively prominent. The newly agreed trade deal with the EU was approved in the House of Commons, much to our relief it was announced that primary school children will go back to school next week (providing the situation doesn’t change drastically and let’s face it that is a strong possibility), more areas in England were plunged into Tiers 3 & 4 and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK from next week.

That last bit of news is arguably the most significant, especially for a ringing blog (which it still is, despite appearances to the contrary at times), as of course God willing the vaccine is the most likely way that we will get back to proper, full-on, restriction-free ringing in the next few months. Whilst the first vaccine is already being given out, as most will know there is enough with this latest one to ‘do’ everyone and is easier to keep and transport and gives real hope of us ringing the bells of Suffolk in the spring. With the 2021 Guild AGM due to be on 10th April in the South-West District and the Six-Bell Striking Competitions in the North-East District on 15th May, Boris Johnson’s comments at this afternoon’s Downing Street press conference that he is “confident that things will be very, very much better” by 5th April are encouraging on the face of it, although of course understandably ambiguous by what exactly that will mean for activities like bellringing.

Still, there are a couple of events worth putting into your brand new, bright blue Ringing World Diary (that one hopes gets used more than the 2020 light blue one) that are due to take place over the first few days of the New Year, albeit predictably online. One is a lecture on The Mathematics of Bell Ringing lined up to be hosted by Gresham College and led by their Professor of Geometry Sarah Hart from 1-2pm on Tuesday 5th January and then available on their YouTube channel afterwards if you can’t watch it live. And before that this weekend, the South-East District are planning to hold what they hope will be regular social events on the first Saturday of each month, initially on Zoom until we can meet again as we once did to ring actual bells, hopefully in the not too distant future. All being well, this new old initiative will start at 4pm with Hilary Stearn hosting a quiz, followed by virtual socialising afterwards.

We can certainly vouch for Hilary’s quiz-hosting skills as she has been hosting a quiz for us Pettistree ringers every Wednesday evening for the last few weeks and we particularly enjoyed tonight’s as we won it!

Afterwards, as we normally do, we then dived into a Ringing Room practice, which was notable for Joanna Crowe doing her first ringing on the platform and impressively so! Within minutes of registering with RR, she was trebling to Grandsire Doubles and by the end of the session was within just a few blows from completing a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor in a style that we could only have dreamt of achieving on our first go!

Mercifully we have improved vastly since those humble beginnings, but like most ringers we are some way behind the standard of the band who got up extremely early this morning to ring a peal of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced ‘in hand’, the first ‘handbell’ peal on eight on Ringing Room, with David Pipe and Philip Earis becoming the first to ring Norman Smith’s composition from every pair of bells into the bargain.

Meanwhile, there was a lovely article shared by the CCCBR from The People’s Friend about ringing, featuring fellow blogger Mary Jones of Norfolk who writes the superb The Accidental Ringer blog, as well as Tina Stoecklin. Well worth a read.

As is Methodoku Mayhem, a puzzle book by master composer Mark B Davies, based on sudoku puzzles, only with methods, as the name suggests! It was a Christmas present for me, but actually I haven’t had a look-in with Alfie getting stuck in!

Woodbridge.That certainly kept him and me occupied for a while, whilst our day ended finally watching a DVD we have had for months that covers the final service that the Reverend Canon Kevan ‘Kev the Rev’ McCormack took at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge back in February and then the meal afterwards that we attended at The Abbey School. Sadly the only ringing that appeared was a couple of bells being rung up, competing with the wind that was notably strong that day, but it brought up many happy memories. Not just of the occasion that watching back seems so dreamy with hundreds of people gathered together shaking hands and hugging without a mask in sight (although it was the first event that I recall coronavirus being any kind of issue as two people who were due to come stayed away having only just returned from China), but also of the two quarter-peals we rang on the 25cwt eight to say farewell to a rector who was very supportive of ringing.

It certainly beat hearing from our politicians.

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Tuesday 29th December 2020

George W Pipe.Update on the reading of my eagerly awaited copy of George Pipe’s biography Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes by John Loveless. I have just finished the chapter on his trip to Washington DC for the historic peal at the Cathedral in 1964, having also taken in his and Diana’s massive impact on ringing in Australia and the huge amount they did for autism services in East Anglia, amongst much else. Thus far this is an eclectic and fascinating in depth look at the life of someone I knew all my life, but whom I have still learnt new things about through these pages, whilst there is much in there even in the first hundred pages to interest those who didn’t know him or even those who aren’t bellringers, covering as it does local history generally as well as ringing history. I imagine most reading this have already discovered this, but if you haven’t got a copy yet, then I would again urge you to do so!

Some have read it in one sitting and I would happily do so too, but today exhibited why that hasn’t been possible and why I have only got this far after four days! For having overseen the boys’ breakfast I sat back this morning to read some more absorbing pages, only to be stopped in my endeavours by an incident between the two youngest sons and then this afternoon I was occupied with the first decorating in our house since we moved in nearly three-and-a-half years ago. Tis the season of misbehaving children and decorating!

Other ringers were busy with actual ringing, online and – where possible – in hand, particularly in Shropshire where husband and wife Gail & Matthew Lawrence rang an impressive peal of 129 Treble Bob Minimus methods. I rang quite a bit with them when I lived and rang in the West Midlands, ringing six peals with Gail and ten with Matthew, all for the Lichfield & Walsall Archdeaconries Society and they are a lovely couple who I’m pleased to see have occupied themselves so successfully this year!

Closer to home, well done to Norman Tower ringer Timothy Hart on ringing his first of Surprise in hand with the 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major on Ringing Room with other ringers with strong links to Suffolk ringing.

Grundisburgh. The Wolery. St Mary-le-Tower.

No such activity for us, but not unusually I found myself delving into Andrew Craddock’s excellent Pealbase and particularly the section on the those who have circled the most towers to peals. With a minimum of five towers needed to appear, I don’t get a look in as I have only circled Grundisburgh and The Wolery, albeit with only the sharp second to circle St Mary-le-Tower as well. Interestingly though, it features two other Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Masters in the top four, with Martin Thorley leading the whole pack on sixty-five towers (thirty-two within our borders), three places above David Salter in fourth. Trevor Bailey just sneaks into the top twenty and there are then many more from our county who appear. In keeping with the start of this blog entry, GWP also shows up of course, although perhaps surprisingly far down at 253rd, with all eight towers he circled being in Suffolk.

Bishop John Waine with Bishop Martin Seeley.Meanwhile, I’m sure George would’ve been saddened to learn today of the death of former Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and therefore also one-time President of the SGR, The Right Reverend John Waine. His time in the role was from 1978 to 1986 and so I don’t recall it from my personal memory, but he confirmed me in 1996 at St Margaret’s in Ipswich and he returned to lead services such as that at Clopton on 8th September 2013 in thanksgiving for the restoration and rehanging of what is now an easy-going, lovely little six, so I’m very sorry to hear of his passing, as I’m sure many other members are.

I’d like to think that he and George are together now sharing lots of fascinating tales though!

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Monday 28th December 2020

An article on The Guardian website written on Boxing Day (or the 26th if you think today is Boxing Day) but shared on Facebook today raises the old-age issue of decline in church attendances and the future of church buildings themselves, but in the context of all that this year has thrown at us. For many years it has generally been accepted that many churches – especially rural ones – will close in the face of dwindling, aging congregations essentially dying off. Most believed that this process would accelerate as soon as in the next decade, but the restrictions that have seen businesses, theatres and stadiums closed to the public and much move online has also forced churches to do likewise and in all likelihood has brought the process forward to possibly immediately. This article wonders if even once restrictions are lifted whether many churches will reopen, with online services proving to be more appealing to people who typically haven’t been to church regularly and indeed many who did.

My personal hope is that generally there is only so far that online life can take over in-person life in normal times. As has been shown in 2020, football can be played without fans in the ground whilst they all watch on TV, festivals can be held online, families and friends can gather via video and even ringing can be done with a band remote from each other and in these times when keeping people apart as much as possible has been a necessity that has been a Godsend that has allowed to keep things going of sorts. However, the novelty wore off long ago and none of it is sustainable for the human spirit and the mental health of most people. One of the consequences of everything this year is that we all want to meet and do things together in person more than ever. We will need places to do that in though and I’m hoping that some communities will see a renewal of appreciation for the church family and often magnificent buildings in their midst.

Hopefully a good number will also find ways of using the building for uses beyond ‘just’ religious functions, such as baby groups, concerts, exercise classes and anything else that would be appropriate ways to breath new life into these churches, but the truth seem to be that many will close and probably much sooner than we could’ve imagined twelve months ago whilst many of them were heaving with people attending Christmas services. Of course, that raises the question of ringing’s future, with the vast majority of rings hung in churches. If a large proportion of churches close, what will happen to the bells in their towers? Especially in our county, where the majority of churches are already part of huge rural benefices filled with churches that were struggling on their own before. The Central Council has been making inroads into being as well placed to face this challenge as it can and perhaps the more direct lines of communication they now have with the Church of England as it looks to map out a path to a resumption of ringing from the current circumstances, will help in this. Another reason for ringers to earn the trust of the C of E and stick to the guidelines in the coming weeks and months.

Even if I wouldn’t want it to replace the real thing, with the possibility of fewer towers to ring at, Ringing Room may became an important resource to help in the teaching of learners and honing of skills, so it is encouraging to see the country’s top ringers pushing boundaries on the platform, with a 5088 of twelve Major methods rung spliced being the first peal on RR of variable treble, which is enabled with a lead of Seven Stars and a bob at the start of each part of this highly musical cyclic composition that I’d love to try one day, preferably on real bells. Although I wouldn’t want to start as early as they had to in order to minimise internet problems!

No such activity for us on a day at home where the main highlight beyond everyday family life was watching the final part of The Nine Tailors TV series, but perhaps this impressive performance is a sign that online ringing is very much here to stay, even once normal life returns, but obviously the art has been using the internet to promote and support its activities for years and maybe no better than the SGR through Webmaster Chris Garner’s considerable and much appreciated efforts. Personally I believe we have the best website of any organisation that I have come across, an opinion shared by others both within and without our borders. As with any site though, a little revamping is occasionally needed and you might have noticed that the menus have changed and pages added (as well as a new picture on the homepage) and I would certainly urge you to make yourself familiar with it all. If it doesn’t show up any differently then do a forced reload by pressing Ctrl+F5.

God willing the website will be overseeing a much better future for our churches and our bells than The Guardian fears.

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Sunday 27th December 2020

Between Christmas Day and New Year it is easy to lose track of the days even in normal times. This year, with no work and no ringing for either of us to guide us through the calendar, it took the weekly Sunday morning video chat with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers to remind us that it is the Sabbath, although it was basically the only indicator that it was. Still, it was as usual lovely to catch-up with everyone and their tales of how they celebrated the 25th, as well as debating when Boxing Day is and therefore whether we’re actually in Tier 4 yet! For the avoidance of doubt, we are of course and there was also a sensible managing of expectations that it is likely we will be in Tier 4 until the end of next month at least and therefore a return to even restricted ringing on Suffolk’s heaviest twelve will not be on the cards for quite a few weeks yet. I think we all need to accept that towerbells will be out of bounds in the county for another month or two and hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised rather than disappointed when ringing does return!

For now, I made the most of what is the best alternative (bar Minimus with Ruthie on handbells, which didn’t go great last time we tried after a few drinks on Friday!), as I joined another open session on Ringing Room that saw what is left of my ringing brain cells given a useful workout with some Stedman Triples, Bristol Surprise Major, Yorkshire Surprise Major and Grandsire Caters. Not everything went, with me not hearing a bob I should’ve been making ending the Stedman and considerable lag for all making rhythm and striking difficult and seeing us move ‘tower’, but I’m glad again that I did it.

The practice had already been running since 7.45pm when I joined just after 8pm and was advertised as going on until 11.45pm, but whilst kudos is due to those who do manage the whole four hours, I thought I ought to rejoin my wife (who is yet to build the courage to do RR with strangers).

Therefore, after an hour or so, we settled down with some of the stockpile of cheese we have and having found The Nine Tailors on YouTube watched parts one, two and three of the TV series. Like most bellringers, I am aware of the general story, that of a murder mystery being solved to the backdrop of a long length peal and that the construction of Kent Treble Bob Major is important to the tale, but I’ve never read the book by Dorothy L Sayers or watched it on TV, so this was a long time coming. All very twee and gentle, but the perfect way to occupy such an evening.

Otherwise, our day was spent with me helping Ruthie build our new coffee table by generally staying out of the way making cups of tea whilst she built it!

What a way to spend a Sunday. At least, I think it was a Sunday.

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Boxing Day 2020

Boxing Day 2020 (though strictly speaking as today is Saturday the Boxing Day bank holiday isn’t until Monday) began with the same feeling as most Boxing Days down the years have. Slightly hungover and subdued after the end of the main festivities. On alternate years, after that there is the pick-me-up of Mason’s arrival and so it was this morning, prompting a second wave of present opening for the teenager. Usually after that though, we have become accustomed to looking forward to a jolly good feeding at Ruthie’s Gran in the company of some of my wife’s family and/or an evening and overnight stop at my parents in what is essentially Christmas Day II.

There was none of that this time round of course, as whilst the 12.01am entry to Tier 4 in theory allowed Joshua a minute to mingle with others after his isolation ended at midnight, it wrote off any notion of seeing anyone else, although we did manage a walk around the country footpaths nearby to get rid of empty bottles at the bottle bank and more importantly to get the youngest son out of the house and exercised. And we met virtually with former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross and her other half Tim Palmer, as well as Neil & Nikki Thomas from Norfolk and Graham & Kristine Wright from Hampshire for a lovely chat and catch-up over a few drinks that took in conversation about ringing, pubs (the Wright’s have their own bar!) and football.

That said though, although it was another lovely day spent with family, with a few (though not as many as yesterday!) drinks, another feast of food (with Ruthie cooking her third turkey dinner in ten days) and much enjoying of presents (including more reading of Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes), like so many occasions this year when we have done things that despite people’s best efforts just haven’t been anywhere near as enjoyable as normal (ringing, going to the pub, birthdays, etc), I was already wistfully dreaming of next Christmas, hoping for a much more normal one. When one scallywag on social media a week ago when Boris Johnson cancelled the Christmas plans of millions noted that there were only “370 sleeps ‘til Christmas”, they summed up the mood perfectly. We, like many others have been able to make the most of this year’s celebrations and as I mentioned yesterday we are so much more fortunate than many others, but this Christmas has very much been one to just get through in eager anticipation of what God willing will be a much better one in 2021.

Therefore, as we went to bed with the menacing sounds of Storm Bella whipping around the house, Boxing Day 2020 ended up feeling much like most other days in 2020!

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Christmas Day 2020

In A Christmas Carol, the protagonist of the story Ebenezer Scrooge is forced to face Christmas past, present and future. In recent weeks, the boys have really been into Charles Dickens’ famous tale and we have watched lots of it in various forms and it certainly came to mind today.

Typically Christmas past has been spent with something like fifty-to-sixty different people, from ringers to choristers to family, before you even consider the hundreds of churchgoers we encounter across the three or four churches we have been to in one capacity or another as part of the Christmas morning circuit.

Between us, for our Christmas present we physically met just nine people, four of whom were us, as Joshua’s period of isolation continued for one last day.

Christmas Ringing at Pettistree.Three of the other five were Chris & Mary Garner and mother-in-law Kate Eagle, who Ruthie rang with at Pettistree, in one of the few aspects of the day that looked anything like our normal Christmas. It was of course carried out socially distanced, with face masks and for good measure with the west door wide open for maximum ventilation, which was also where the band entered and exited in order to minimise contact with the few coming to church. I’m glad that bells were ringing out across the village for this special day, with my wife even excited to ring up and ring down for the first time in nine months!

The Norman Tower Band.It was also wonderful that there was much ringing managed across the county, with a combination of bubbles and some large, spacious ringing chambers allowing the art to be carried out at The Norman Tower (video), Clare, Halesworth, Hawkeden, the Ipswich towers of St Clement and St Lawrence, Lavenham, Poslingford and Woodbridge, where there was ringing yesterday as well, with a Suffolk band completing a quarter-peal on Ringing Room on Christmas Eve too.

No ringing for me on this day for the first time since I learnt to ring though, as I had to stay at home with my poor isolating youngest son (who has done very well with it all) and his elder brother, but I did at least see another couple of people today when I visited my Mum with Alfie. My Aunty Marian – sister of Dad and a ringer herself once – was already there for the day and so we exchanged presents and had a natter. Even within the original restricted guidelines granted us for Christmas, it had been our intention to spend the evening there and stop overnight, especially with it being the first Christmas without Dad. However, whilst this all too brief visit was not what we had hoped for until recently, it was nice to see my mother and aunty to impart seasonal felicitations to them and vice versa.

Me reading the George Pipe biography by John Loveless, ‘Shake my hand and I'll show you the ropes’. Christmas dinner at our house.We did see others virtually though. Before preparations really got going for dinner, we spoke to Ruthie’s family and at 8pm we joined Simon Rudd and friends for a festive version of his now usual Friday evening gatherings where we all imparted what we had done today compared to what we would normally do and ‘Elton John’ made an appearance. As did author John Loveless, whose biography of George Pipe Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes was in our bounty of gifts and which I snatched a read of at every opportunity in between ‘helping’ prepare dinner (although Ruthie was the main magnificent cook!), washing up (so much washing up!) and constructing a seemingly endless conveyor belt of toys. I am onto the second chapter and absolutely absorbed in it, as I knew I would be – well done Jake! And if you haven’t received a copy, I highly recommend that you do!

In the main though, it was just us, all day long, as it has been for a lot of days this year. And that was fine. Better than fine in fact. Better than being alone. Better than spending it stuck in the cab of a lorry in Dover for the third or fourth day running. Better than working in our bulging hospitals. The boys’ joyful enthusiasm was exhausting but also infectious, from the gasps and squeals as they opened their presents first thing, to the food, drink and laughter. Importantly too, as many have commented, the stripped back festivities actually intensified the true meaning of the day.

However, God willing, our Christmas future will be more like our Christmas past than our Christmas present.

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Christmas Eve 2020

I have done plenty of reading back past entries on my blog this year. Not through any self indulgence on my part, but merely reminding myself of better times and that we were once allowed to meet together, socialise together and ring together, go pretty much wherever we liked, whenever we liked and with whoever we liked (within reason!). It wasn’t a dream, despite it already feeling like it was even just nine months on.

Whilst for the first one hundred days after ringing on church bells was necessarily banned, I pressed the Random button on BellBoard to prompt recollections from my musings in years gone by (also a few pre-blog!), when the opportunity has arisen (and it often has this year), I have looked back on what we were doing on the same date previously and this time of year perhaps more than any other.

This time last year thoughts were naturally turning in unfounded anticipation to 2020 with 2019 drawing to a close, with hopes and ambitions that in hindsight now look ridiculous. Tame as they were in comparison to everything that has happened since the turn of the year, we were living in changing times already 366 days ago, with Brexit, a new Prime Minister seemingly with full control of his destiny and a new decade on the horizon. Yet I was able to comment on how ringing and ringing at Christmas in particular offered “reassuring continuity” in that “ever-changing world.” One year on and sadly ringing is unable to offer that reassuring continuity, for me and many others in a drastically changed world. There was no going to St Mary-le-Tower to ring for Nine Lessons and Carols as I have done on just about every 24th December that I can remember, bar a handful of years when I was permanently resident in the West Midlands. For others they will be missing ringing for and – in most cases – going to Midnight Mass and there will be other ringing normally done today, such as the peal attempt at Imperial College in London.

However, this is where some reassuring continuity shone through these disturbingly and depressingly unfamiliar times. Obviously a peal couldn’t be rung on the 9cwt six at Long Stratton in Norfolk as there has been for the last sixty-five Christmas Eves, so well done to Colin Salter, David Brown and Simon Rudd on continuing this seasonal sequence by ringing a 5040 of seven Minor methods on handbells, socially distanced in the south aisle, especially with considerable flooding around the village making getting there apparently quite hairy!

And whilst we couldn’t gather in the famous ringing chamber from where we usually ring Suffolk’s heaviest twelve on 24/12, some of us were at least able to meet via video for a festive drink together and to impart Yuletide greetings for tomorrow, with some wonderful headwear on show!

Kimberley Hall band.Meanwhile, there was ringing in Suffolk, with a couple of handbell touches rung in Moats Tye, complete with a picture of a chilly looking band! If nothing else, hopefully the coming weeks will allow restrictions to ease enough to allow ringing in hand to be done indoors in the warm!

Elsewhere, others were jingling their bells at 6pm as requested, although we forgot about that!

In further positive news, ringing features about 29mins into Evan Davis’ BBC Radio 4 show this afternoon, with Thomas Ashwin-Siejkowski and John Hall presenting their COVID Chronicle about how they have coped without ringing properly on church bells since March. They express perfectly my feelings of the lack of ringing over the last few months, describing the physical, mental and social aspect that has been so difficult to recreate, although as they recognise, online ringing platforms such as Ringing Room and video technology has done a superb job in keeping so many of us going.

For all that, I pray that on this date in 2021 I am writing about a traditional Christmas Eve, complete with proper ringing with unlimited numbers on church bells.

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Wednesday 23rd December 2020

Every time it is announced someone from government will be giving a press conference I am filled with dread and in my defence that currently seems justified. Following Boris Johnson’s effective cancelling of our Christmas plans on Saturday (with Joshua in isolation until the end of Christmas Day), this announcement just after 3pm today by Matt Hancock that from the start of Boxing Day that Suffolk and a number of other areas in East Anglia and the south-east of England were being moved into Tier 4, means that everything left that had at least partially compensated for the decimation of our usually much anticipated family Christmas is now cancelled too. No panto on the 26th, no meeting much missed relatives and friends even outside. After tomorrow, John Ives will have to shut its doors for the third time in nine months and whilst most of us once dreamt of being paid for staying at home, it inevitably sows seeds of worry for the future.

In a ringing sense it makes little difference except that bands can’t meet anywhere in the county in person to ring handbells unless they are from the same household, as the CCCBR guidelines make clear. It has to be said that after ringing on the 25th (providing no further announcements are made to stop that and I imagine many will understandably decide not to ring in light of the current situation), the prospect of any ringing on church bells within our borders before the clocks are moved forward seems incredibly unlikely. The vaccines cannot be given out quickly enough as far as so many of us are concerned, but at least at the moment – God willing – that gives us hope of proper normality next year.

Kibworth Beauchamp.As is often the case though, amongst such gloom there was light. I smiled at the twelve suitably festive touches on handbells in Crowhurst, East Sussex. We enjoyed seeing ringing feature 27 minutes into the second episode of Michael Wood’s Story of England, a fascinating series that takes the viewer through the history of the country through the history of Kibworth, a large collection of villages in Leicestershire wherein the 10cwt eight of Kibworth Beauchamp is rung. There was ringing at The Norman Tower for the Nine Lessons & Carols and in memory of the Very Reverend James Atwell, Dean of St Edmundsbury between 1995-2006 who died recently. Simon Rudd will now be welcoming people to join him virtually at 8pm on Christmas Day via Zoom, so if you are friends with him on Facebook he’d welcome you joining him for a seasonal special of his weekly Friday video chats. Indeed, even if you aren’t on Facebook but are friends with him, I’m sure he’d welcome your company.

And another depressing December day at least ended on a positive note, as we met with our fellow Pettistree ringers on Ringing Room for the general weekly session and pre-practice quiz set by Hilary Stearn, who is due to also be setting the questions for the first South-East District virtual meeting of 2021 planned for 4pm on Saturday 2nd January. On this occasion we were a little short on numbers, but still had enough for some decent six-bell ringing that again saw Alfie bonging behind to some Grandsire Doubles and more attempts at Cambridge Surprise Minor.

Meanwhile, as is usually the case, this will be the last blog entry that most people will likely read before Christmas Day, so despite everything, with ringing or not, family or not, I hope you all have as wonderful a Christmas as you possibly can in the circumstances.

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Tuesday 22nd December 2020

Two months ago, when we and our fellow Pettistree ringers first tried Ringing Room, we struggled to even string rounds together, eventually peaking at getting through some Plain Hunt on six. Ten weeks later, six of us this evening rang a 720 of Kent Treble Bob Minor, well-struck and at times very confidently in ringing much more reminiscent of what we used to achieve on the ground-floor six under the much-missed tutelage of Mike Whitby.

We are a band that in normal times on actual tower bells are capable of ringing any of the forty-one Surprise Minor methods and many other methods on six and eight with little to no recall, so an extent of Kent wouldn't typically be deemed an achievement for us. However, for that we have improved on this impressive resource, this is still far less natural and instinctive than ringing on towerbells. Apart from Mike Cowling who has impressively notched up three quarter-peals (since ringing on church bells ceased in March, it was also the longest that any of us have rung for over nine months and there was noticeable weariness creeping in towards the end. It meant that when Mark Ogden (Two as Michael J Cowling; one as Mike Cowling) who did superbly in conducting in an extra task that I couldn't contemplate throwing in just yet!) very sensibly called “that's all” after 720 changes rather than carrying on to the 1440 contemplated, we felt a genuine satisfaction at what we had just done.

A QP is still the aim and we plan to 'meet' once more before 2020 is out, but for now it was a pleasing way to end another pleasant enough day that saw us get the tower's copy of the bumper triple issue Christmas and New Year edition of The Ringing World. And I mean bumper! Packed with all sorts of interesting articles, very little of which I had seen online already and which was reflective of this difficult year in the kind of depth that is hard to replicate online.

I was enthralled by Mark Eccleston's article about the history of peal-ringing at Birmingham Cathedral for a start. For all that I benefitted from ringing peals there – mostly on Monday evenings – over the years I was resident in the West Midlands, rather than vice versa, I feel extremely lucky to have been even just a tiny bit of the story that Mark excellently delivered.

However, Suffolk features strongly in this edition too and not just via the significant part that Rod Pipe – who was born and raised in the county and learnt to ring at Grundisburgh – played in peal-ringing in the UK's second city. The Norman Tower band gets a mention on What’s Hot on BellBoard, David Stanford carries out a lovely interview with Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson, whilst twice-Past Ringing Master of the SGR Stephen Pettman has a page about ringing in Italy, which primarily is promoting a free CD of bells being rung there.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the Pillaton and St Mellion Handbell Ringers on winning the CCCBR's 'People's Choice' prize at the climax of the organisation's YouTube competition, though bad luck to Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart on missing out! These monthly competitions have been a marvellous distraction from all that has been happening in recent months and I hope they can find something similar to help us through what seems like what will be tough few months ahead. Well done to our PRO and birthday boy Neal Dodge on his work on this and deserved special mention in the thanks.

For the first time, I also noticed the 'Other popular features' on the bottom of BellBoard’s homepage and was drawn to the 'Most liked performances of all time', which features two peals from within our borders, both at The Wolery. Although, whilst undoubtedly the aforementioned Mr Dodge's first of Little Bob Major was noteworthy, there must be a story that I don’t know about behind how it garnered a hundred votes!

I don’t expect our 720 will trouble that list, but we’re chuffed with it nonetheless!

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Monday 21st December 2020

At the start of this usually festive week, the tone in the Central Council update today was sombre, as it confirmed what many had expected. In the areas in the newly formed Tier 4, ringing just won’t be possible, even on Christmas Day. There is also caution urged for those in Tiers 3 and – like us in Suffolk – Tier 2 and a warning that things could change again even in the short time between now and the 25th. I have always said how wonderful it would be for bells to be ringing out at Christmas, but there will be many who will simply feel it is not worth the risk and that has to be accepted, even if it means you can’t get enough to ring.

President Simon Linford also says that it is clear that most ringers seem well placed to make their own judgement, which is largely in line with how decision making is being delegated to a more local level. Whilst the CCCBR is at pains to point out that all they are doing is offering guidance amongst the myriad of changing restrictions imposed upon society more generally, many still seem to react quite aggressively towards what they perceive to be ringing’s representative body’s intrusion into ringers usual freedoms. However, ultimately it is down to everyone to take sensible decisions, although as with St Mary-le-Tower, many bands will have the decision taken out of their hands by understandably jittery incumbents.

Despite this and the general backdrop of this mutant strain spreading at an alarming rate that today saw country after country close their borders to the UK and which may yet see whatever limited plans any ringers have for Friday abandoned, this most unfestive 21st December was personally not all that bad, given the circumstances at least.

For even though I couldn't use this last day of planned annual leave before Christmastide to do all those last minute seasonal jobs that I had hoped to do, with Joshua continuing his isolation and Ruthie at work, it was lovely to spend more extra time with my two youngest sons, which in general has been a rare silver-lining throughout the tribulations of 2020.

And although sad as it is that we can't do it in person, come this evening and with the boys tucked up in bed, we enjoyed meeting virtually with our friends Charlotte and Gregory for curry, booze and a four-hour natter.

Even in the absence of festive cheer and ringing, it is still possible to have good days. Here's hoping to even better ones generally and for ringing in the near future though.

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Sunday 20th December 2020

The atmosphere was certainly subdued on the St Mary-le-Tower band video chat this morning, reflecting the mood more generally following yesterday’s announcement, but also because with services at SMLT understandably being restricted to just online until at least the New Year, that having built up to ringing first when we assumed Suffolk would enter Tier 1 at the start of the month and then over Christmas, it was even more disappointing that we wouldn’t be doing any from this famous tower where the bells have rung out on the 24th & 25th December for decades.

We weren’t completely downhearted, with some joviality as we pondered why Chris Birkby was dressed as a vicar and celebrated the Sparlings’ fibre victory. And with the ringers thanked in the church’s eNews and it commented how nice it was to see us when we are of course often unseen upstairs, we reflected on how positively the handbell ringing had been received by those arriving for church.

Ringing more broadly has also had a weekend of good PR, the majority of which was brought to my attention yesterday morning, but which was overshadowed by developments later in the day, as it was revealed across the BBC that John Taylor & Co has received a massive £3.45m of National Lottery funding, which well help secure the future of this important bell foundry. Impressively it was reported on the Beeb’s website, about 1hr 21mins into the Today programme on Radio 4 and 2hrs 51mins 48secs into the Breakfast show on BBC1, all yesterday, but of course still available to read, listen to and watch (the latter via Taylor Bells appreciation society on Facebook).

Washington National Cathedral.Meanwhile, I noticed an article in the Paris Review describing the writer learning to ring at Washington Cathedral today, conjuring images and sensations which are still easy to recall even all these months later. Wonderful stuff.

There was more entertaining writing about ringing - which on a day that was entirely spent at home with Alfie and the isolating Joshua whilst Ruthie went to work was most welcome – as I read CCCBR President Simon Linford’s amusingly titled Yule Blog. Again there was much info crammed in, such as the idea to take a mobile ring round to companies in the future to tap into the team bonding market, with a suggestion that Ringing Room could help do it in the current circumstances. And having rung the fifth at Birmingham Cathedral quite a few times, I can certainly recognise his description of ringing it in cold weather!

Although I didn’t touch a bellrope (cold or otherwise) today, I still managed some ringing as I joined an open Ringing Room practice that was so popular that we were split into separate groups and took in lots of eight-bell ringing from Erin Triples to Double Norwich Court Bob Major.

Poslingford.As interesting as all this online stuff was though, the main highlight was hearing of actual ringing in Suffolk. Today that came in the form of some handbell ringing in the churchyard of St Mary’s at Poslingford done by Christine & Richard Knight and Alan Mayle. Apart from anything else, its good to see Richard out and about!

It certainly lifted my mood!

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Saturday 19th December 2020

There was a deep trough at just after 4.30pm today, when the Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the latest of a series of depressing announcements that on this occasion informed us that the relaxed restrictions for five days over Christmas had been reduced to just the one day – Christmas Day, the last day of Joshua’s isolation, which essentially crushed any hopes of any meaningful contact with any of the rest of our family, including my Mum on the first Christmas since Dad’s death. Sadly, it presumably also means that with Suffolk reverting back to Tier 2 on the other four days of that period that ringing on church bells will not be possible.

In complete contrast to this morale-sapping news, the intensely depressing afternoon was sandwiched by some very enjoyable and upbeat occasions. For tonight we took part in another quiz by video, this time with the group based around the friendships initially forged in Tunstall at the Green Man (which is pleasingly now open – or at least open as any other pub currently – again after many years closed) between myself, Kala and Toby, who later became Mason’s Godparents. That friendship has developed to include our other halves and our children, who apart from my teenager eldest are all about the same age, but this was very much a grown-up evening, with our rude place names round getting dragged out for another outing and much drink and banter.

St Lawrence.Earlier in the day, things were more family-friendly, but still jovial, as we joined a crowd of around twenty-five for the virtual Christmas Ringing in Ipswich. Much socialising and catching-up was done with familiar places and happily also not so familiar faces, before and we were all split into three Ringing Room sessions – one for tune ringing, one for handbell ringing and one for towerbell ringing. We chose to go in the latter excellently led by Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson for a useful introduction to the medium for Ralph Earey and John Taylor, as well as some ringing on six and eight that included some well-rung St Clement’s College Bob Minor that we demonstrated again afterwards when we all reconvened, whilst the handbell ringers gave us a burst of Kent Treble Bob Minor. Well done to all concerned on a fantastic event in the circumstances, which also raised over £250 for the Bell Restoration Fund and also saw David & Katharine Salter and their son Henry ring the bells at St Lawrence in the only bit of real-life ringing possible the occasion.

It seems incredibly far off following this afternoon’s announcement, but God willing we can all meet in person to ring on actual church bells on the last Saturday before Christmas 2021.

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Friday 18th December 2020

Pettistree.St Mary-le-Tower.It is precisely a week until Christmas Day and in the normal scheme of things my inner child would be bursting out with excitement in eager anticipation of my favourite day of the year. Whilst going about my day, I would be mentally mapping out what I would be planning on doing in precisely seven days. The ringing at Pettistree and St Mary-le-Tower (and in previous years Sproughton too), seeing many, many friends along the way and then the family tour. Dinner amongst a vast crowd at mother-in-law Kate’s, a catch-up amongst an even vaster crowd at my wife’s Gran’s and then a more sedate but comfortable and enjoyable tea at my parents and with an overnight stay there an opportunity for the designated driver to truly unwind with a few beers and some of my mother’s deceptively potent punch!

However, with practically none of that happening next Friday and so much else that usually happens (carol services, parties and the like) and builds up the festive feeling also absent this month, I have to admit to feeling a bit ‘meh’ about it all. That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to it. And that’s also not to say I’m not enjoying the very different build-up to the big day. Even in these times, it’s hard not to feel festively cheerful when walking home from work with a brightly wrapped box containing six bottles of wine gifted by your employees. The John Catt Yuletide meal – where they generously pay for us all to enjoy three courses and whatever drink we can manage – is typically one of the biggest highlights of the lead-up to Christmas, but obviously hasn’t been possible during this long, dark, increasingly difficult winter. It has been much missed, but our chinking present is all the more appreciated in the circumstances.

And even though it can’t be done its normal fashion this time round, there was warm glow felt when listening to the annual PR on BBC Radio Suffolk for the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich tomorrow. This afternoon’s interview with Lesley Dolphin speaking to Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson and twice-Past SGR Ringing Master David Salter can be heard from 2hrs 10mins into the show and is great publicity for the art locally, as well as giving an insight into what ringing and ringers are doing in these extraordinary times.

Additionally, both our virtual get-togethers with Simon Rudd & friends and then my uni mates tonight were full of seasonal cheer. The latter took the form of a quiz largely based around the season and featuring charades and actually saw us win, all carried out in festive dress, with jumpers and silly hats prominent. Meanwhile, the former got our evening underway in merry fashion with our host fresh from another couple of Ringing Room quarter-peals and included a brief appearance from Dr Tatlow who further raised the spirits by revealing that as one of those invaluable NHS workers on the frontline he has had his first vaccine.

Such news gives hope that God willing Christmas next year can be enjoyed as it should be, even this one can’t.

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Thursday 17th December 2020

That’s it. I’ve had enough of 2020. This morning, it flipped another middle finger in our direction as a message from the boys’ primary school informed us that someone from Joshua’s class has tested positive for coronavirus and therefore our youngest son has to isolate. Until the end of Christmas Day. Therefore, although the rest of us in our household are free to go about our business, the practicalities of Joshua’s dependency on us as a four-year-old (and naturally we don’t want to leave him behind) means that even our already heavily scaled back seasonal plans are now reduced to what most of our days have been like this year, just with presents and probably a bit more food and drink. Even at its best it will all be a far cry from the veritable feast of socialising and human contact with dozens of friends and family that the 25th December typically is for us and all the more heart-breaking that it means we can’t spend any time with Mum on her first Christmas Day since Dad died. God willing we’ll still have a nice time and we are still more blessed than so many others, but as far as I am concerned I just want vaccines out as soon (and safely of course!) as possible so that we no longer have to lose more precious time with family, friends and doing things that we love.

JB’s first day of enforced isolation saw me working from home whilst looking after him, which wasn’t ideal but not disastrous as things at our mainly school-centred business begin getting quiet. However, whilst not the most exciting day (but then we’ve got used to that over the last few months), it was nice to spend some unexpected extra time with him. And there were good news stories elsewhere and involving ringers with Suffolk connections, with Christine Hill ringing a family quarter-peal on Ringing Room yesterday at the start of her retirement and Simon Rudd today ringing his 150th QP on the platform in a performance that also featured SMLT regular Nigel Newton, whilst a band from within our borders were also quarter-pealing on RR with a 1296 of King Edward Surprise Minor. Well done to North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner and conductor Stephen Dawson on ringing their first in the method.

Meanwhile, David Salter and Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson’s planned interview with friend-of-ringing Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk on Friday has now been brought forward to 4.10pm as they talk about the mainly virtual Ipswich Christmas Ringing on Saturday. If you haven’t already donated to join in (with Saturday’s event, not the radio interview!) and you can, then please do help raise some money in these tough times.

Come this evening and I was watching a different sort of ringing-related broadcast as I watched the recording on YouTube of last night’s talk to the St Martin’s Guild by CCCBR President Simon Linford on the record peal of 100 Surprise Major methods rung all-the-work in 22400 changes at Loughborough Bell Foundry in 2005. You may think that the subject matter is beyond your abilities (and to be fair it’s beyond the abilities of most) and therefore not worthwhile tuning in for, but actually it is an extremely interesting and useful insight into learning multiple methods that can help anyone ringing any number of spliced. Plus it was entertainingly told, interjected with lots of stories and personal tales connected with the project’s evolution through various practice peals over a number of years, including how the relationship with his now-wife Eleanor blossomed as it went along and her troubles reciting Tellurium!

Nice as well to focus on something other than 2020 and its constant insults.

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Wednesday 16th December 2020

Wednesday evenings for us now mean quizzing and then ringing with our fellow Pettistree ringers, the former again excellently and entertainingly hosted by Hilary Stearn, the latter on Ringing Room and another useful session. We tried Cambridge Surprise and Kent Treble Bob Minor, whilst Alfie knocked behind to some Grandsire Doubles and whilst there was more chat (as well as amusing videos) than usual, we finished feeling satisfied with an evening’s efforts that saw some decent striking and shows progress from a few weeks ago.

Suffolk Guild Secretary Kate Gill should also feel satisfied with her efforts on RR yesterday, for although the quarter-peal attempt she was in wasn’t to be, the 720 in an unfamiliar method is more than we have managed yet!

Our ringing on the platform came at the end of a day off work as I continue to use up my remaining annual leave before the year is out and with Ruthie also off it was a productive day of seasonal food and present shopping from a hectic Asda on the outskirts of Ipswich to the more rustic and genteel surroundings of Grange Farm Shop in Hasketon, all topped with a hot drink in the café at Dobbies and sandwiched in between dropping the boys off and then up from a Christmas jumper day at school. That in turn had inspired us to have our own turkey dinner, which my wife pulled off with tremendous skill! It felt a pretty festive day!

However, the main headline generally and for ringing was that the relaxation in rules for Christmas that will allow many families some much needed time together is due to still happen, despite pressure in recent days for them not to. From a ringing perspective that means that the planned ringing regardless of the current tier a tower finds itself can also still go ahead.

Tier 1: Medium alert
Can ring up to six bells, maintaining social distance of 1m+ mitigations of face coverings and hand hygiene, provided tower affords good ventilation and subject to specific risk assessment. Limit ringing to 15 minutes pending results of ventilation research. Rule of 6 applies to handbell ringing indoors and outdoors.

At a time of year where the sound of church bells is arguably more synonymous than any other time it is great news and we are thrilled to be able to do our bit – God willing – next week.

For all that though, in keeping with the sentiment of ringing on church bells since it first resumed in its restricted form in July, there should be no pressure for anyone unsure on returning just yet to come and ring. Safety has to come first, but I hope that as many as do feel happy to ring, can and do.

That five day period of eased restrictions should be underway in a week, so what has become normal for Wednesday evenings may be a little different in seven days!

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Tuesday 15th December 2020

After a busy few days in the context of restriction-ridden Suffolk, it was a quiet Tuesday night at home more akin to pre-COVID Suffolk.

Happily on what would’ve been the 93rd birthday of my Uncle Eric (late husband of my Dad’s sister and one-time ringer Marian, but also the man who first took my brother Chris and I to ITFC games) Ipswich Town won, but we did no ringing, online or in hand.

However, although nothing noted on BellBoard today was done within our borders, there was plenty going on around the country, including a handbell peal in Norfolk, which was a one hundredth together for Michael Clements and Past Ringing Master of St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd.

For us though, it was an evening of trying to get young children getting excited about Christmas to sleep, without working around Ringing Room sessions, meetings, choir practices and presentations.  Perhaps even at the moment we need the odd quiet evening.

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Monday 14th December 2020

Print and digital came together to entertain me today!

For as I perused the copy of The Ringing World that arrived with us this morning, my attention was drawn to an article encouraging readers to listen to the latest edition of Fun With Bells, which consisted of a series of interviews with people “who write, blog and vlog about bells”. I was naturally drawn to Mary Jones talking about her superb blog The Accidental Ringer of course, but also Will Bosworth on the subject of the RW and Simon Edwards speaking about YouTubing. However, of greatest interest to me and I imagine most Suffolk ringers was precisely 39mins in when Bardwell Ringing Master Ruth Suggett makes an appearance imparting a fascinating insight to Tower Talk, the newsletter produced by ART and which Ruth is the editor of. It is well worth a read, as indeed this podcast is well worth a listen too.

It was of real interest to hear how much others who ‘report’ on ringing also feared how difficult it would be to maintain content through such a long, sustained period of time without any actual ringing. As they all pointed out with glorious positivity though, there has been so much happening one way or another and it was absorbing hearing how they have all been adapting to these trying times.

Being a ringing blogger, I have always tried to take in as many other ringing blogs over the thirteen years mine has been rambling on for. Mary’s certainly impresses me, providing a genuinely useful point of reference for ringers and non-ringers and especially as she too has provided a phenomenal output since she started in September 2018. According to her, she has put up 740 entries in that time. Incidentally, having realised that I was approaching my 5040th blog entry God willing in the near future and having in mind that – restrictions allowing – that I might ring a peal on the day for it, I recently worked out that unbelievably that particular entry should fall on 11th August 2021 – mine and Ruthie’s wedding anniversary! I may have to aim for a suitable length on the 5000th entry...

Virtual Christmas Ringing.Another ringing blog that I was an avid reader of was that written by Past Ringing Master of the Guild David Salter, but although he no longer writes it we are due to hear from him and current SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson on Lesley Dolphin’s BBC Radio Suffolk show on Friday at around 4.20pm in regards to the virtual and live Christmas ringing on Saturday. Lesley is a friend of ringing, once a ringer herself and a marvellous advocate of the exercise locally and apparently passes on her seasonal greetings to all members. The prospect of David & Rowan’s stint on the airwaves will hopefully also give encouragement to those who have not yet committed to attending the event with a donation of at least £2 to do so. Whilst it isn’t how any of us would have liked the occasion to happen, in the circumstances it ought to be a jolly get-together and I’m hoping to catch-up (and even ‘ring’) with friends not seen for a while.

Pettistree.All being well we will be there and still buoyed by our first notable success on Ringing Room tonight. Our ambition had been to ring a quarter-peal for the anniversary of the rededication of the ground-floor six at Pettistree, something that would normally be marked by a peal attempt on the bells themselves. Though we weren’t quite up to speed for a QP attempt this evening, we produced some pretty decent ringing throughout and were pleased to score 240 changes of Kent Treble Bob Minor, exactly thirty-four years to the day after that rededication. Hopefully it is just a stepping stone on the way to our main ambition, which remains a QP, but at least it is something we can now share with the world of ringing, both in print and digitally!

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Sunday 13th December 2020

For all the virtues of Ringing Room, which have grown on me since we finally gave it a go a few weeks ago, there are issues unique to online ringing that make it a frustrating medium and sometimes impossible to use, as we discovered this afternoon. We and our fellow participants in a planned Pettistree quarter-peal attempt on RR had gathered virtually for a practice already rearranged from yesterday morning, but one of the band unexpectedly found themselves on a tablet rather than their usual laptop and it seemed to have the effect of causing a considerable lag of their ‘bell’. Combined with one or two other technical problems, it meant the ringing was necessarily slow and it was difficult to get a rhythm going. Despite this, we did produce some well-struck Kent Treble Bob Minor, but ultimately it proved too much to achieve anything substantially meaningful and so we hope to ‘meet’ again tomorrow when said ringer will hopefully have their laptop back!

Addlethorpe.Other bands were having better luck today, on church bells (with the household QP at Addlethorpe, as well as the household touch at Potterhanworth, both in Lincolnshire), online and on handbells, most notably in Reading where a 5760 of the regular 147 Treble Dodging Minor in hand was rung in 2hrs2mins by Colin Newman and the two young Page brothers Daniel and Jack. An impressive effort from a talented trio.

Their footnote remembered Past Master of the Ancient Society of College Youths (from 1984-85) Paul Williams of Newport, who sadly died this morning, apparently suddenly and completely unexpectedly of a heart attack. I didn’t know Paul, but knew of him and other ringers in Suffolk knew him better and not only was he clearly a superb ringer but by all accounts extremely generous, with his annual Tallow Chandlers’ Hall lunches by all accounts the stuff of legend! I’m sure others who knew him well will speak in more detail on him, as many already are, but it was a sad and shocking backdrop to the day.

It was a day that began with our return to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge for morning worship after Lockdown 2.0, where amongst a sparse, socially distanced, masked congregation we learnt more about St Lucy on her feast day than I ever imagined I would and the boys behaved well despite having to sit patiently throughout without even any Junior Church possible in these current times. From there our day saw a rehearsal at home of a nativity we’re involved with - of which more should become clearer over the next ten days or so - and the broadcast of a virtual carol service from the Illuminati choir that features Ruthie’s beautiful voice! Some of it was of performances from previous concerts and carol services, but much of it was recorded individually by my wife and her fellow choristers and then cleverly put together to produce a sound that sounded for every bit that it was coming from a choir singing together next to each other from a church or hall. Mercifully they didn’t have as many problems with online singing as we had with online ringing today!

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Saturday 12th December 2020

We all want to be back ringing church bells with the same freedom as we had at the start of this year, but whilst that isn’t possible and won’t be for probably at least four or five months, that doesn’t mean we should down tools on the exercise until then. And I don’t just mean participating in the art for fifteen minutes when we are allowed.

The first issue of the CCCBR and ART Survival & Recovery Newsletter released this week immediately gives ringers access to ways to not only get through what could be a long winter, but to come out ready for ringing’s full resumption, whenever that may be. In its debut, the publication highlights how there is much to get stuck into from a ringing perspective, such as 50 Virtual Ringing Things, the Online Learning Portal and Surprise Major Ringing Room Practices being held throughout December. Please do get involved in what is going on if you can and/or encourage others to do so. You may already be involved in the various online ringing platforms such as RR and Handbell Stadium and/or meeting regularly via video with other ringers or you might have been unable or even unwilling to partake in such things, but please consider how important it is to keep as many of your fellow ringers connected and engaged in the art and as practiced in change-ringing and its camaraderie as possible. Currently the best way is by freezing outside on handbells or online. Hopefully we can all do our bit to keep ringing going during these difficult times.

Not that we were doing anything ourselves today (there is plenty planned for the coming days), but rather a spot of shopping and helping the boys complete Christmas cards for the their classmates were our main tasks on a grey Saturday.

Al being well, next Saturday ought to be a little more active in a ringing sense, as the traditional festive ringing in Ipswich on the final Saturday before the 25th December is held – largely – virtually. It would be great to get as many members joining, especially at this time of year at the end of 2020 when by and large we haven’t been able to meet in person. And it will hopefully raise plenty of money for Guild funds.

God willing we will be ringing on the town’s bells in person in twelve months time though.

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Friday 11th December 2020

In keeping with yesterday’s blog, we fixed the bathroom door.

Oh, and part of our evening was again pleasingly occupied with ringing-related activity without leaving our home as we joined Simon Rudd for our weekly virtual pub where we discussed drunk squirrels, the 2010 National Twelve-Bell Final at Crediton and subsequent shenanigans and knitted characters with a difference! If you are friends with Simon on Facebook, look out for the link he puts up and don’t hesitate to join us for our high brow conversations every Friday at 7.30pm!

Our busy week has also meant that I only just caught up with CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog, but it is another entertaining, informative piece, including the exciting news that in the New Year bands of under-eighteens will be able to ring in all tiers, albeit under controlled conditions of course. Apparently further details are in this week’s Ringing World, which we haven’t received yet, so I shall have to wait to find out more, but hopefully it might open up some more ringing opportunities for Suffolk’s young ringers.

Gislingham.Ringing – or lack of it – in our county also gets a mention, or more particularly Gislingham, as having seen a letter in The Telegraph from someone seemingly perturbed that it was “illegal” for the bells there to be rung, Simon relays how he got in touch with the letter-writer to explain the ringers’ position. Not only does it show local ringers in a positive light for following the guidance, but it also seems a triumph of how ringing on this 14cwt ground-floor eight has been run by Alan Stanley, Kay Lucas et al since their augmentation in 2006 from a situation where ringing was initially carefully managed due to some disgruntled residents (with one even barging in on a Young Ringers practice to vent their disapproval) to one where the villagers are now missing the sound of bells! Well done to all there and here’s hoping for all concerned that this fine octave – and all church bells – are ringing free of Covid-19 restrictions as early in 2021 as is possible.

Meanwhile, the Central Council’s YouTube competition is coming to a head with a ‘People’s Choice’ contest, where anyone can vote for their overall winner of winners from a line-up of all those who were victorious in the monthly competitions, which includes Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart for his hilarious and brilliantly put-together ‘Tim Handbell Robot’. Good luck to Tim, who could win £200 if he wins – get voting!

Such busy times!

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Thursday 10th December 2020

Although of course it has involved no actual travelling to towers or physically meeting with other ringers, this week has pleasingly been one of busy ringing-related evenings.

After Tuesday’s College Youths meeting and yesterday’s Ringing Room sessions, tonight I watched last night’s talk to the St Martin’s Guild on the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest by the competition’s Chairman Mark Bell and Secretary Haley Barnett and now available on YouTube. As someone who has enjoyed this competition in many different ways from the first one I went to in 1991 when it was held at St Mary-le-Tower, I found this a fascinating hour or so. It was particularly interesting how much emphasis they placed on the importance of the social aspect of the event as I have long extolled the virtues of socialising with ringing, whether that is with a drink in the pub after practice or with our striking competitions. Indeed, in giving advice on attracting more to local competitions, Haley & Mark urged organisers to make the social offering as appealing as possible, particularly with events like this where a finite number of ringers will participate. For me, our competitions are at their best with a large number of teams and ringers from as far a geographical spread as possible and lots of supporters listening to ringing, catching-up with friends and making new ones in the churchyard, local teashop and/or pub.

Other ringers within our borders were having a busy day of ringing too. Well done to Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart on ringing his first Treble Bob on eight (presumably in hand as I’m pretty sure he’s rung quarter-peals of Treble Bob Major before!) in the 1312 of Kent Treble Bob Major on Ringing Room, whilst on the same platform a band of Suffolk ringers rang a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor.

Meanwhile, as I was watching Mark & Haley’s talk, Alfie was busy reading the entire contents of the Radio Times out loud and Ruthie was singing with the Illuminati Choir online in the kitchen having been out to another socially distanced choir practice in St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge earlier. Oh, and our bathroom door fell apart.

Apart from the door, it was a pleasingly busy evening.

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Wednesday 9th December 2020

Alan J Munnings.Yesterday was precisely three months since Dad died and whilst he has rarely been far from our thoughts since, he has been particularly at the forefront of minds this week, with his obituary and words of thanks from Mum appearing in the latest edition of the Ringing World and today saw us intern his ashes in the churchyard of All Saints in Sproughton.

It was a short, but moving ceremony, attended by a small number all socially distanced and wearing facemasks in the open air on a mercifully dry afternoon, the Lord’s Prayer said and a few lovely words spoken by the Reverend Annette Shannon who led the service. There was much reflection of course, but in keeping with how father would’ve liked it, this was also as convivial and upbeat as circumstances allowed, a rare opportunity to catch up with family, something we won’t be able to do properly – if at all with some – over Christmas. Lovely also to speak with local ringers Phil and Sandy Jones, who did much for Mum and Dad before his death and who kindly attended today.

This was an important moment in moving on, although hopefully not the final act, with hopes of a Guild service next year to remember those members lost in recent months, but whose final send-offs have been deprived of having all their friends and family there and in most cases a wake afterwards. And it would be lovely at some point in 2021 to ring a quarter-peal or even a peal on these bells so familiar to father to remember him, ringing out over his final resting place.

That is something we will have to patiently wait for, but for now Ruthie and I have been fortunate to have been able to ring on Ringing Room. Clearly it isn’t as good as the real thing and I can’t wait to be doing proper ringing on proper bells as soon as possible, but in their absence it has helped keep our change-ringing brains sharpened. No more so than tonight, with pretty much the entirety of our evening dedicated to the online platform, starting with a productive practice with the Pettistree ringers that saw us successfully ring a 120 of Grandsire Doubles and a course of Cambridge Surprise Minor amongst much else, all again led by Mark Ogden with our gratitude.

Preceding it was another superb quiz by Hilary Stearn that we won on a tie-break, but followed in our household by me joining one of the frequent open sessions on RR. On this occasion it had already been going for an hour or so before I arrived at 9pm, by which point the practice was turning to Project Pickled Egg, which many hopefully recall is a project seeking to shake up the world of Treble Dodging Major by trying to introduce a more eclectic range of musical methods for Treble Dodging Major into the repertoires of ringers of all abilities. Such endeavours are something I was keen to encourage in Suffolk before ringing on church bells stopped in March and I am even more enthusiastic after this vast period of abstinence. I got in some practice now though as I partook in some Lessness Surprise, Cornwall Surprise and Cooktown Orchid Delight (with some occasional help from my wife on the sidelines!), all done with ringers from across the world and really working parts of my thought processes which have considerably underused for most of 2020!

Good fun and a nice way to end a poignant day.

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Tuesday 8th December 2020

Good news for ringers and ringing today, in the circumstances at least. For CCCBR President Simon Linford announced that with the art very restricted at best and pretty much non-existent in most places for some time and after discussions with the House of Bishops Covid recovery team, the risks have been weighed up and it is deemed as safe as it can be at the moment to ring over Christmas. It will be subject to the current Tier 1 restrictions, with a maximum of six people ringing for fifteen minutes at the most (although it does seem to suggest this may be extended depending on a tower’s characteristics, I guess such as the amount of ventilation) with face masks on, hands sanitised, but with the distance during ringing between ringers from different households now reduced to one metre.

Tier 1: Medium alert
Can ring up to six bells, maintaining social distance of 1m+ mitigations of face coverings and hand hygiene, provided tower affords good ventilation and subject to specific risk assessment. Limit ringing to 15 minutes pending results of ventilation research. Rule of 6 applies to handbell ringing indoors and outdoors.

Do read the guidance notes on the Central Council’s website please and judge where your tower and indeed yourselves fit in. It is imperative that in the enthusiasm to ring bells at this important time in the Christian and ringing calendar that no one who is reluctant to ring is pressured into ringing, but it would be wonderful if as many of those who do feel safe and happy to ring could do so in just over a fortnight’s time.

The update signs off on an even more positive note that we “may not be far away from ringing being less restricted.” Let’s try and stay within the guidelines and we stand more chance of this happening.

For all this and the launch today of the UK’s first approved coronavirus vaccinations that God willing will get us more or less up to full ringing again in the next few months, this second Tuesday evening of the month was spent as almost every second Tuesday of the month since restrictions first began in March have been as I virtually joined fellow members of the College Youths for the Society’s monthly meeting and there was much to remind us that for all the progress in the right direction we are still in the midst of necessary restrictions that nonetheless continue to wreak destruction on people, businesses, organisations and events.

Two bits of business raised particularly highlighted the times we live in.

One was whether the society should recognise peals rung in its name through online platforms, prompted by a 5088 of Kent Treble Bob Major rung on Handbell Stadium attributed to the ASCY on 8th November. In line with the general debate ringingwide, some feel very strongly that peals should only be counted ‘officially’ if rung on actual bells, but personally I feel that’s slightly disingenuous. For most – especially at the height of lockdown when this peal was rung – the only way that peal-ringing can be undertaken in these extraordinary circumstances is to take advantage of the incredible technology that allows ringers to ring together from far apart. For what its worth, my opinion is that such performances should be categorised separately as handbell peals are for record-keeping, but I may find myself in a minority when it is debated at next month’s meeting!

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - geograph.org.uk - 136670Item two of the business that was very 2020, in fact concerned an eagerly awaited occasion in 2021. Society representative on the committee of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Tessa Simpson confirmed what many had feared – that following Sunday’s committee meeting the eliminators for next year’s competitions have been cancelled. Sadly, this means that we won’t be listening to some of the best ringers in the world competing at The Norman Tower on Saturday 27th March as planned and indeed there is uncertainty over whether the final at Guildford Cathedral lined up currently for 26th June will go ahead or if so in what format, with no eliminators to whittle down the entrants.

Additionally – and understandably – Phil Ridley told us on behalf of the hosts that they need to raise funds to plug gaps from money pulled out of the event due to the financial difficulties that so many have suffered this year. Therefore, they are launching fundraising, starting with a virtual quiz on 9th January, of which I’m sure more details will be made available soon.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

We voted to continue supporting two of the ART Awards, the total raised from the ‘Drink In to Help Out’ scheme has passed £2,000 and Helena Thorpe was the latest new member elected virtually as this organisation continues to embrace magnificently the online world in its fourth century.

Handbell band.Here in Suffolk there was positivity too, as in Bury St Edmunds the restored Norman Tower handbells were broken in with a 360 of Plain Bob Minor by the Guild’s current Chairman Rowan Wilson, immediate Past Master Jed Flatters and fellow local Julian Colman, outside in freezing conditions that required gloves and hats!

Lots of good news then!

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Monday 7th December 2020

Nostalgia abounded this evening, as I rewatched the special Christmas episode – the last episode ever in fact until its remaking this year – of All Creatures Great & Small featuring bellringing at the heart of the storyline. I have watched it a few times since it was first broadcast in 1990, but it is years since I last saw it and since then I have seen ringing depicted in many TV programmes from Midsomer Murders to Father Brown to Agatha Raisin, all with varying degrees of success. None of them do it as well as this thirty-year-old production though, at least in my humble opinion. There are the usual shots of non-ringing actors barely in control of their ropes, but these are kept to a minimum, whilst there is also a slight slip when it is suggested that they can ring Grandsire Triples on six! However, pretty much all the terminology is spot on and apparently the scene where Tristan sails to the ceiling was accidentally authentic when the actor Peter Davison – who I have heard unsubstantiated rumours had dabbled in the art previously like his character – leant on the rope thinking the bell was down and clung on as the already-filming camera caught it all!

Grinton.We rang at Grinton where the ringing and church scenes were filmed when we were on the Rambling Ringers Tour of Yorkshire in 2014, whilst Sproughton Ringing Master Ralph Earey came across the filming itself, which despite the snow-covered ground was filmed in the summer! And on a family holiday to the area the following year we rang and socialised with some of the ringers drafted in to help make up the numbers in the ringing and pub scenes and were able to give us some behind-the-scenes info which was fascinating to a twelve-year-old me.

As I watched it, I was taken back to those fond childhood family memories and especially of my father Alan who was already in my thoughts as his obituary appeared in the latest edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning. It’s lateness was mainly down to my tardiness, as the right moment to sit down and write it didn’t seem to present itself in the weeks immediately after his death, but I am pleased to see it in there and am grateful to editor Will Bosworth on getting it in print relatively swiftly after receiving it, given the circumstances at the RW at the moment.

The rest of the publication was again interesting, particularly the article on Ringing Room and I would again encourage as many members as possible to give this a try to prevent too much rustiness creeping in, with the full-on resumption of church bell ringing still likely many months away. Ideally get your local band together online to run weekly practices, as Pettistree, Rushmere St Andrews and other ringers in Suffolk have been doing, but if that isn’t possible the beauty is that you can join almost anyone anywhere at the drop of a hat, with a number of open sessions advertised via BellBoard’s Virtual Hub and/or the Ringing Room Take-Hold Lounge on Facebook throughout the week. As I would do in usual times, I urge you to branch out and ring with as many people as you can as often as you can.

There were again many performances on the platform – as well as another, Ding – today and it now seems such a staple part of ringing life it is easy to forget that it is only a few months old. Perhaps one day we will even feel nostalgic for these exciting early days of online ringing!

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Sunday 6th December 2020

Today didn’t really feel like a Sunday.

Ruthie was at work all day and so we didn’t go to church as they reopened for public worship. And I decided against committing to going to St Mary-le-Tower with the boys on my own for some outdoor handbell ringing when not 100% of what the weather would be. However, with many SMLT band members gathered in suitably sized groups socially distanced ringing rounds on twelve – with Colin Salter admirably ringing four-in-hand – in the churchyard or watching, there wasn’t even a video call with our fellow ringers to allow me to make it resemble the Sabbath morning.

Pettistree.That said, we did do some ringing this evening, or at least what constitutes ringing these days, as we joined our other Pettistree ringers for the latest practice for a planned quarter-peal attempt on Ringing Room. There seemed a general acceptance that our original aim of scoring it for the anniversary of the rededication of the ground-floor six and the first peal on them might just be beyond us, with that date coming in just over a week. Tonight’s session was by far our best though, with three efforts reaching a couple of courses or thereabouts and each piece improving in confidence and striking as Alfie very patiently and quietly sat alongside us reading the festive edition of the Radio Times that we had purchased earlier today, with the only real issues being technical ones, like a message flashing up on Mary Garner’s computer asking her to restart her PC and blocking her view of RR! Such is ringing in 2020.

Otherwise though, my day was one of trying to occupy the boys on a chilly but mercifully sunny winter’s day that took in magazine shopping for them and a long walk that took us alongside the River Deben and beyond and into darkness.

It may not have felt like a Sunday, but it was a rather nice one!

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Saturday 5th December 2020

It’s the first Saturday in December and even in pandemic Suffolk that means the South-East District ADM day. This is an important occasion from the perspective of running the District and keeping its members connected and in the loop, but it is also a lovely social occasion that I look forward to immensely, a chance to meet ringing friends in the lead-up to Christmas. Therefore, I was delighted to hear that this year’s was to go ahead.

Being 2020 it was via video rather than in a pleasant village hall somewhere in our beautiful countryside, having done some ringing together and shared a natter with the characters of this corner of the ringing community over a plentiful tea, but the main business was carried out and we got the opportunity to catch-up with others afterwards. There was even a chance for a brief burst of ringing as we helped Chairman Mark Ogden demonstrate Ringing Room as a means to encourage those present who haven’t given the platform a go to do so. I would wholeheartedly concur with the sentiment. For all the recent positive developments in regards to vaccines, it is likely to be four or five months until even the most optimistic estimations for the resumption of the full-on, limitless ringing that once gave so many something to look forward to and enjoy and so it will be important to keep as many ringers as possible mentally sharp in regards to change-ringing as we wait. Having not had the chance to use it until only a few weeks ago and being slightly dubious of its usefulness and enjoyment before that, I have found that facets of the mental stimulation that the art typically gives me have been satisfied to a certain extent. Chomping at the bit as I am to get back to the real thing, in the current circumstances, apart from handbells it is the next best thing.

St Clement, Ipswich. Barking. Cretingham. Holbrook. Orford.

Nice as well to see Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson’s video message which struck the right tone and reiterates the need to follow the rules for the greater good of the exercise in the long run and it was an element of a brisk but information-packed meeting that saw those members we lost this year remembered, the officers all re-elected without any objection, hopes for a more spacious ringing chamber at St Clement’s in Ipswich were imparted and an announcement that there are plans to resume monthly SE gatherings on the first Saturday of each month, starting with 2nd January. This a welcome development, even if of course they will all be virtual for the next few months, rather than in places like Barking, Cretingham, Holbrook and Orford. Additionally, now familiar topics like John Loveless’ biography of George Pipe Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes, the virtual Christmas ringing in a fortnight and the revamped St Edmund’s Clapper Competition were raised, whilst in the socialising post-business David & Katharine Salter gave us an update on the research into the planned book on the history of the SGR. Remember to let them know if you have any interesting stories of ringing within our borders from times gone by and/or the personalities of the organisation’s past that could help them put everything together.

All in all, it was an uplifting event, but we very nearly didn’t make it and indeed we were a few minutes late as about an hour beforehand Joshua in his youthful exuberance managed to bang his head quite badly, leading to much concern and a call to 111 that was reassuring but was still ongoing as the ADM got underway online. Mercifully and most importantly, he seems alright though!

Bosham peal band.Nationally, it was encouraging to see the easing of restrictions allowing for more handbell peals, including a 7360 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung in the Sussex village of Bosham which was the longest length of Surprise in hand for the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild, beating a record only set a month ago! Nothing locally to report though, which made it all the more pleasing to be able to attend today’s SE District ADM. God willing come the first Saturday of December 2021 though, we will be able hold it in person in a nice village hall somewhere, complete with ringing, a tea and of course friends!

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Friday 4th December 2020

Society has largely ground to halt this year anyway, so as the first snow of the winter fell this morning I didn’t get the sinking feeling that I usually get when the white stuff came out of the grey skies as we started our day.

Typical then that it didn’t actually lay for us on our side of Suffolk but it served to boost the fledgling festive atmosphere, especially for the boys and it set us up in a jolly mood for our weekly catch-up with Simon Rudd and friends via video this evening. However, it turned into a bit of a regaling of various ailments (especially kidney stones!) after we discovered that Bury St Edmunds ringer Julian Colman had joined us just fifteen minutes after returning from hospital having had an artery unblocked! Good to see him looking so well considering and to hear that Richard Knight is doing alright after being in the wars health-wise recently and we hope his recovery continues.

Otherwise it was another quiet day from a ringing perspective within our borders. For once we can’t blame the snow though!

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Thursday 3rd December 2020

There was a pleasing mixture of the pre-pandemic, during-pandemic and possibly post-pandemic world today.

No more so in our household than for Ruthie, who preceded her now usual weekly Thursday night virtual gathering with the Woodbridge Illuminati Choir with an actual in-person, real-life practice with the choir of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge as she used to do before restrictions began in March. Of course it was very different in most senses to before, in line with the now familiar precautions aimed to keep people safe. Rather than being in the smaller – though still relatively spacious – Church Centre, they were instead considerably spread out in the vast church itself, their hands awash with sanitiser and wearing face masks, but my wife enjoyed her return to some form of normality, as well as meeting up with her newer choral chums on video afterwards.

Whilst she was partaking in the latter with her headphones on, I was able to sit alongside her watching last night’s talk to the St Martin’s Guild by David Pipe – son of Rod who learnt to ring at Grundisburgh and therefore nephew of George and Diana – on Treble Dodging Minor on our TV. There are few better positioned to expound upon the intricacies of this particular subject, having not only rung a peal of 1053 Treble Dodging Minor methods in 2005 and 72,000 changes – still the longest peal yet rung – in 100 Treble Dodging Minor methods two years later. His particular focus was the structure of the 147 regular Treble Dodging methods, which were coincidentally rung to a 5760 on handbells in Reading on a day of long peals that also saw a 6060 of Original Minor rung in Liverpool. Even though the vast majority of ringers won’t be able to contemplate ringing the 147 together (although it is on a wish-list of things I’d still like to achieve in ringing), this should be a much-watch for anyone working their way through the world of TD Minor, as he described the basis of learning the regular 147 methods that allows one to learn multiple methods with the minimal amount of learning. Don’t – as so often happens when I and others suggest these short-cuts to ringers trying to learn Cambridge, Ipswich, Norfolk and Primrose as four separate blue lines – roll your eyes and insist that we “don’t complicate things”. Rather, stick with it, because the unusual circumstances have allowed us the rare opportunity to listen at length to a master of the art explain something in a careful way that - if you take the time to take it in – could help you to learn Treble Dodging methods in the future.

There are other interesting looking talks due to come over the next two Wednesdays (and afterwards as recordings on YouTube), with Haley Barnett and Mark Bell planning to take viewers behind the scenes of organising the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest – which as Secretary and Chairman of the competition respectively they oversee – at an unprecedented time in the contest’s lengthy history next week, and then on 16th December CCCBR President Simon Linford is pencilled in to give an insight into long length ringing. Indeed, there is a list of planned talks going into February – currently culminating in Linda Garton imparting the story of ladies’ peals - and even once ‘normal’ life and ringing returns I can imagine things like this and Ringing Room could be part of the ringing experience, especially for working ringing parents like ourselves more limited in our opportunities to get out even at the best of times!

Barham. The new 6 on the truck at Barham. One of the bells at Barham being lifted up the tower. One of the bells at Barham being lifted up the tower. The bells in situ at Barham.

For now though, we were also able to appreciate a good old fashion augmentation, one that God willing will benefit Suffolk ringing and ringers into that hoped for future, as the old four at Barham returned to St Mary’s today as a six for installation in the presence of the church’s former vicar and immediate Past Secretary of the Guild Reverend Carl Melville who was the instigator of this fabulous looking project. It was all recorded by SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge with photos and through a superb bit of PR about 2hr 35min into Lesley Dolphin’s show on our local BBC radio station this afternoon.

With all this going on, I missed out on joining one of the open Ringing Room sessions this evening, but in a way it was satisfying not to be able to join because I was too busy. In a pre-pandemic, during-pandemic and post-pandemic way.

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Wednesday 2nd December 2020

Gathered for the Pettistree AGM. (taken by Mike Whitby)This evening saw a break from our weekly Pettistree Ringing Room session as we – and those who understandably aren’t as keen on RR – gathered virtually for the annual tower AGM. Delayed from it’s planned date of 22nd November and not held in The Greyhound or Thong Hall as has become the norm in recent years because of everything that has been going on, there was naturally a lot of reflection on what we have missed out on this year, socially, from a ringing perspective and financially, albeit there was also relief that we had fitted in the enjoyable yearly meal and the very successful QP Day before restrictions deprived us of such pleasures.

Encouragingly though, there was tentative thought given to ringing next year. That we should return to the village inn for the band meal when we are able (though recognised that almost certainly won’t be in its usual February slot) and consider where we might go for a potential spring outing and – with more certainty than we’ve been able to plan anything since March – an autumn outing.

It was all in keeping with the more positive outlook abounding today generally. Lockdown 2.0 has now ended and although we’re dispiritingly in Tier 2 and thus still unable to ring church bells, it meant that Ruthie was able to return to work after a month on furlough as John Ives reopened, fans were allowed back in football stadiums and there was a more expansive variety of ringing reported on BellBoard to compliment the now familiar collection of online performances.

However, it was the announcement of the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for use in the UK from next week that is the best bit of ringing news on this chilly early December day, for if all goes to plan (and granted we’ve not been used to anything going to plan lately) it will God willing mean that partaking in the art in the way that we used to do before restrictions stopped everything should be possible maybe as early as just after Easter, but certainly - one would hope – in 2021.

All being well, there will be better year to report on at the next Pettistree tower AGM!

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Tuesday 1st December 2020

We usually wait until December to get the Christmas decorations up, but this year we feel really late to the party! There’s normally some who have the lights up in November. However, 2020 has been so utterly dreadful that a sizeable number of residents in our area (which bar reports via social media and the news are the only ones we have been able to go by recently) have had the decs up and twinkling for weeks. Still, our corner of lockdown Suffolk is now suitably bedecked for the season as the boys excitedly opened the first door of their Advent calendars and helped us put the tree up after I’d returned from work, before festive tunes blared out in our living room in a joyous process completely at odds with much that has gone before us all in recent months. I can see why some put theirs up a while ago!

George W Pipe.With Christmas – though not as we normally know it – on its way, it is probably as good a time as any to remind readers that George Pipe’s biography Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes will make an ideal present, so if you haven’t already bought a copy then do go to The Ringing World shop and purchase a copy! And get yourself one too!

All the festivities helped to distract from another quiet day on the ringing front and although that may change from tomorrow when up to six people from different households can meet outside (and in Cornwall and on the Isle of Wight inside too) to ring handbells, BellBoard was today primarily full of online ringing, albeit it impressive nonetheless. God willing much more can be rung to celebrate Christmas. Once it gets here!

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Monday 30th November 2020

After handing over a cheese Advent calendar to me in a chilly, wet M&S car park in Martlesham on my latest day of annual leave, my mother Sally imparted the uplifting news that she had sold her vast collection of bound Ringing Worlds going back decades to a notable figure in the exercise for a generous donation to Suffolk Guild Bell Restoration Fund.

At the same time, she revealed how easily she gets hooked on the content from years ago, as indeed I do and it has to be said that the RW does get more interesting when looking back in the archives, which is the same for many things, including arguably this blog. However, we enjoyed reading the latest edition of the ‘Comic’ on its arrival today in the post. Most particularly I was drawn to Linda Garton’s excellent article covering the stats of the 500+ all-ladies peals rung since the first one in 1912. Most notably to us within our borders is that few have rung in more ladies peals then one-time Bramford ringer Christine Hill and nobody has conducted more than her. Well done Christine!

There are limited opportunities for her to add to those figures compared to normal times for the time being, further underlined by the Central Council confirming today that in Tier 2 – as we in Suffolk are due to be from Wednesday – that ringing indoors with people from different households shouldn’t be done, whilst handbell ringing with bands made up of ringers from different households ought to be done outside and with no more than six people. These are just guidelines and again it is not up to the CCCBR or SGR to police ringers. There is nothing they can do to stop ringers stretching the rules or even flouting them. However, if you even think about doing that though, there are at least two important considerations. One is how you’d feel if through those actions you helped spread Covid to others (not necessarily from yourself) and God forbid the worst came from that. Understandably, you may feel the risk is extremely low in an area where the number of cases are still fairly minimal in the circumstances, especially with hand sanitisers and face masks and the other precautions we’ve all been taking since ringing resumed after the first lockdown. In that case, at least consider the damage it would do to the trust being placed in ringers. Everyone in society is currently being asked to be overcautious, in some cases with quite severe consequences financially and/or mentally, but most are nonetheless digging deep and it wouldn’t be a good look for ringers and the art if in this context some participants of the exercise felt happy to jeopardise their community’s and church’s efforts in these tough times for all. There is a different dimension in the tower-incumbent relationship at the moment, where we are being watched more closely than ever before by the CofE and priests and if we are to ultimately regain the freedom to be largely left to get on with the exercise with the relatively little interference that we enjoyed before, then we need to show we are worthy of the trust that allows us to do so. It is also worth reading the background to how these decisions were reached and particularly the planned experiments with CO2 meters that in time may see the length of ringing time increased from the current 15 minutes, which the CCCBR also released today.

If everyone in the county generally does likewise there might just be the possibility of us being in Tier 1 for Christmas and therefore able to ring church bells and at one metre apart at that, which will be good news for us and those who commented that church bells are the sound that reminds them of the festive season in a Facebook feed of BBC Radio Suffolk presenter James Hazell, so listen out for a possible (hopefully positive!) mention on his show tomorrow lunchtime!

All being well it will mean there will be more good news for ringing tomorrow too.

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Sunday 29th November 2020

We may not be able to ring actual church bells nor until later this week meet other households for handbell ringing even outside, but for me, today had most of the elements that make ringing so special.

Primarily it was the people, as it is in normal times. Familiar and unfamiliar and in the circumstances large in number. Also though, actual ringing and testing brain processes lesser tested since March. And the exercise’s main USP that allows participants to enter just about any ringing chamber and join in freely. Sadly the main aspect missing was actually going anywhere, but in current times we take what we can!

St Edmund's Clapper Competition Poster.The day started with a contribution to the Suffolk Guild’s St Edmund’s Clapper Competition as we made a donation towards the South-East District entry in order to enter this morning’s St Mary-le-Tower Quiz, a contest made up of four rounds of five questions each, excellently devised by David Stanford, Abby Antrobus, the Williamsons and Stephen Cheek. There was controversy when it came to landlocked regions of Italy, but in all seriousness it was a jolly fun way to begin the day and we were delighted to welcome SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson and Simon Rudd and his fellow Norwich ringers Gill Knox and David Brown, the latter fresh from his remarkable peal-ringing exploits yesterday.

In total, more than £100 was raised from this event that helps the SE District in what is currently an apparent two-horse race with the North-West District. Hopefully the North-East and South-West Districts will join the race soon!

Then after another quiet Sunday afternoon from a ringing perspective that was otherwise busy with playing indoor football with the boys and trying to keep the house tidy behind everywhere they went, the day ended with that brain-testing as I joined an open Ringing Room session advertised via RR’s Take Hold Lounge that I would urge members to explore if you haven’t already. Ever since ringing as we know it stopped in the spring, many have spent much time on Ringing Room and thus progressed to some incredible achievements, including that staggering aforementioned 5760 of 147 Treble-Dodging methods spliced. However, until we recently began using the platform with the Pettistree ringers we hadn’t had the opportunity with work, parenting and the subsequent exhaustion to partake.

For all our progress over the last few weeks though, having done nothing more testing than Kent Treble Bob Minor for two-thirds of a year, I have to admit to itching to test myself a little more through this medium and I certainly got to do that tonight! Having introduced myself to a large crowd of ringers from across the UK of whom I only knew Nick Elks and Sue Marsden, I was thrust straight into a well-rung course of Ipswich Surprise Minor, before then participating in Erin Caters, touches of Stedman Triples and Caters and even a new method, St Andrew’s Delight Minor, the type of method I usually dislike ringing but which I was delighted to test myself with! I have to admit to struggling a bit with the ropesight on ten bells on this platform which still doesn’t feel anywhere near as instinctive as when hanging off the end of a rope controlling a bell weighing several hundredweight, but it was a much needed chance to blow some cobwebs away!

It was a long practice though, as having got underway at 7.45pm it was advertised as going until 10.45pm and indeed they were well in when I joined - once we’d watched Strictly Come Dancing and got the boys to bed - and when I eventually ducked out at about 10pm they seemed to be gearing up for Lessness Surprise Major amongst much else. There was a pleasing sense of flexibility about it as people of varying abilities came and went and so I would encourage readers to do as I would usually encourage you in normal times, to meet with other ringers at other practices to broaden your opportunities. I certainly felt all the better for stretching myself in this still unfamiliar medium and it was nice to meet new people.

The Ellis family.Meanwhile, well done to the Ellis family on their 5040 in Oxfordshire that was nine-year-old Dominic’s first peal, as well as his parent’s first in hand, an example of how ringing affords generations the chance to achieve together. Another element that makes ringing so special.

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Saturday 28th November 2020

Pettistree.Many of the challenges associated with online ringing befell us this morning on our latest practice for the planned Pettistree quarter-peal attempt of Kent Treble Bob Minor on Ringing Room. Internet speed affected some, lag knocked one or two off course, I still find myself forgetting to push the button when my mind is ringing away and Ruthie managed a three-pull dodge tremendously despite also helping Joshua get dressed at the same time! We also suffered from a more traditional issue when a couple members of the band slept in. And no, it wasn’t us for once!

No such troubles for the band who rang the mightily impressive 5760 of 147 Treble-Dodging methods spliced on RR, the longest length and most methods rung in an online performance thus far. Even then, the challenges associated with ringing on such a platform were still influential here, with an extremely early start made to avoid the unpredictable effects of using the internet at busier times!

Meanwhile, a reminder was sent out for the South-East District ADM - due to be held at 4pm next Saturday – by Chairman Mark Ogden when we ‘met’ this morning and Secretary Abby Antrobus via the Suffolk Guild Facebook page. It is as usual the last of the District ADMs to be held, but for the first time – as the other District ADMs have had to be – is planned to be run on Zoom. Hopefully without the same challenges as we met on our Ringing Room session this morning!

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Friday 27th November 2020

St Clement, Ipswich. St Lawrence, Ipswich. St Margaret, Ipswich. St Mary at Quay, Ipswich. St Mary-le-Tower, Ipswich. St Matthew, Ipswich. St Nicholas, Ipswich.

The annual Christmas ringing event in Ipswich is usually a glorious gathering of ringers from across Suffolk (and often beyond) in a town buzzing with a festive bustling spirit on the Saturday before the big day, but of course it isn’t really possible to put on the event to anywhere near its full extent this year. Therefore I was really pleased with the announcement today from Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson that there will be a virtual event held over Zoom involving Ringing Room, change-ringing and carols on handbells and general catching-up which should be a fun occasion from 11.30am-12.30pm on 19th December. And all for a donation of just £2 per person! It may not be the way we would all like it to happen, but there is nothing we can do about that and I think in the circumstances it is a tremendous effort to put this on, so please do support it.

We should be well versed in meeting ringing friends via video by that point, with our latest online pub gathering with Simon Rudd and chums a highlight of our Friday evening, as it has been for quite a few months now, with the usual eclectic range of conversation ranging from what ringing we might or might not be able to do when we emerge into Tier 2 next week to Peter Sanderson’s famous neighbour and relative then to trouser incidents.

I wonder what subjects will come up in conversation on 19th December?

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Thursday 26th November 2020

It was pretty dispiriting to learn today that when the current lockdown ends next week that Suffolk will be lumped into Tier 2 of the restarted regional restrictions, despite still having one of the lowest rates of cases in the country and in almost every part within our borders having been going down for some time.

Still, rules are rules and so we have to live around them somehow and that includes ringing, which judging by the CCCBR’s previous (23rd October) advice on the exercise in Tiers 2 & 3 will mean that we shouldn’t be ringing on church bells and handbell bands will have to meet outside in the cold – that should sort the proverbial ‘men from boys’! That said, on a thread on the Bellringers Facebook page on the subject, Central Council President Simon Linford said he is due to meet his team tomorrow and the House of Bishops Recovery Group early next week and hopes to clarify what will be possible for ringers in plenty of time for the first Sunday post-lockdown on 6th December.

Besides, we remain in lockdown for now of course, which meant another sparse day of ringing on actual bells, but at least one Suffolk ringer managed to ring real bells, albeit in a very 2020 way. Well done to Mike Cowling on ringing his first quarter-peal of Treble Bob Minimus in the 1296 of eleven methods, rung with his brother Geoff 200 miles apart via Zoom!

Apart from Geoff ringing another QP of Minimus via video (this time over Facebook Messenger), much of the rest of the performances noted on BellBoard today were either tolling single bells, ringing handbells within a household or through online platforms like Handbell Stadium and Ringing Room.

It appears that will be the norm for the vast majority of England for a few weeks yet.

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Wednesday 25th November 2020

Well done to fellow blogger Mary Jones (whose blog The Accidental Ringer is a far more witty and interesting read than mine!) from Norfolk who conducted her first quarter-peal, impressively ‘in hand’ on Ringing Room, with it being her first QP on the platform altogether.

We can certainly appreciate her success all the more for our own efforts on RR in recent weeks and indeed tonight. That was once we had got on to the video chat in order to communicate with our fellow Pettistree ringers, with technical difficulties preventing Alfie (minus another tooth!), Ruthie and myself from getting in for Hilary Stearn’s pre-practice quiz. Such are the problems of our current age!

Pettistree.Once in, we did manage to partake in a reasonable session in the circumstances. Ringing through this medium still doesn’t come anywhere near as instinctively as when one is going with the flow of a turning bell and so the ringing is typically slower and more hesitant than the same ringers would typically produce on a Wednesday night upon the ground-floor six in St Peter and St Paul. However, we are definitely improving. Hilary managed her first of online Treble Bob, whilst the band practicing for a quarter attempt topped the hour off with a well-struck course of Kent Treble Bob Minor.

Meanwhile, I read CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog, which includes mention of consultations on the merits or otherwise of direct membership of an organisation for ringing. There is understandably much discussion on how ringing will go forward after things hopefully return to normal next year, with that normal actually likely to seem quite different in some respects. Are ringing organisations such as the Suffolk Guild the way forward? Well I guess it depends on how well those organisations work, but in the SGR’s case I believe we are well placed to help in the art’s recovery in this large, rural county, with a network of support from teaching, maintenance, promotional and financial perspectives which was active before the pandemic and will hopefully not only pick things up again once able, but perhaps supported by other members who maybe have a new appreciation of how lucky we are to be participants in this wonderful hobby.
There will probably be new aspects too though, through a revitalised Central Council that I think has really come to the fore during these strange times, better coordination across the exercise and particularly a greater use of online support. Including Ringing Room and blogs!

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Tuesday 24th November 2020

Gradually there are things to potentially look forward to. Apart from Ipswich Town playing again (Ruthie had the right idea watching the Great British Bake Off final!), judging by tonight’s latest depressing night at Portman Road that I followed on another quiet night in. They may struggle to find 4,000 fans that want to come back...

St Mary-le-Tower.However, David Pott’s email to us St Mary-le-Tower ringers about our availability if and when we can hopefully return to ringing (some) of our bells raised the spirits, as did the suggestion from Health Secretary Matt Hancock that life might be getting back to normal after Easter. Although how that will translate to the timeline for resuming proper full-on ringing is yet to be seen. There are still plenty of imponderables.

Apart from Ipswich Town. There don’t appear too many imponderables there to look forward to!

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Monday 23rd November 2020

Mondays have become very positive days in recent weeks.

For the third week in a row the first day of the working week saw another good news announcement on vaccinations which are ultimately going to be the thing that gets ringers back to full-on bellringing, amongst other things of course. There were even proclamations about life getting back to normal as soon as just after Easter, although as previously expressed on here I shall approach such hopes with an ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ attitude. Still, it is all extremely positive compared to where we were even just over a fortnight ago.

The Norman Tower. St Mary-le-Tower. Beccles.
Lavenham. St Peter, Sudbury. Eye.

Meanwhile, the announcement of plans for a return to regional measures appears to confirm that the current blanket lockdown across the UK will end as planned on 2nd December. Hopefully Suffolk will remain in Tier 1 (although seemingly not far off Tier 2) as it was before the lockdown and all being well that means a return to ringing (as well as up to 4,000 fans at Ipswich Town in another positive development for me!), although these will be tougher restrictions than before and the CCCBR (Latest guidance. Ed.) have yet to clarify if that will be the case and indeed if further loosening of restrictions in ringing chambers – as approved before lockdown – will now be advised. With details of which areas will be in which tier apparently due to be announced on Thursday, we may know for sure later this week if we can return to ring at least some of our bells from ten days time.

It was also a happy Monday as I had a day off work and therefore got to walk the boys to school in almost magical frosty conditions that amazed Joshua, as well as walking them back, whilst in between spending time with Ruthie on a day of shopping, adjusting tyre pressures and other productive tasks.

Of course there was no ringing today on a night when St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice was once a high enjoyable staple of my activities, but God willing another positive Monday has taken us even closer to that returning.

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Sunday 22nd November 2020

Our day began and ended with meeting ringing friends virtually, starting with the once again usual weekly Sunday morning chat with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers who in normal times would be ringing on Suffolk’s heaviest ring of bells and finishing with the latest practice for the Pettistree quarter-peal attempt on Ringing Room due to take place next month.

The latter was an extremely productive hour-long session, with the ringing again confident. It was during our efforts tonight that we decided to plump for Kent Treble Bob Minor as the method of choice for our attempt, primarily because we felt that the more time spent in pairs would give us invaluable space to put ourselves back right if we strayed and the long frontwork would give seconds-place bell a respite for a lead! There would also be fewer calls than in Plain Bob Minor, but the bobs themselves need work on the basis of this evening. However, we have made brilliant progress in a short space of time and so hopefully more practice should make better.

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - geograph.org.uk - 136670Earlier, our chat with other SMLT band members was enjoyable and brought up a couple of bits of business. One was in regards to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest for 2021. Having entered the cancelled 2020 competition we have been asked if we would like to enter next year, as the committee presumably attempt to nail down as many certainties as they can in the circumstances. Pleasingly, when David Potts relayed this to us, the response was unanimously in favour of us entering. That we will be at The Norman Tower, London’s St Michael’s Cornhill or Portsmouth Cathedral on Saturday 27th March still seems incredibly doubtful, but there is clearly a determination to hold the contest, even if it has to be held later in the calendar, with our video chat also confirming that Guildford Cathedral – the hosts of the final currently planned for Saturday 26th June – have provisionally left Saturday 2nd October clear in case it is moved back.

St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. Perhaps we should hold the contest in Australia, where twelve-bell ringing is clearly thriving in a way we can only dream of in the UK, at least judging by the peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Sydney’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. That it was rung by an entirely local band in a place that doesn’t benefit from the abundance of twelve-bell ringers and towers that we do in this country is impressive and uplifting in itself, but in these current times even more so, being the first peal of Maximus – and indeed on twelve at all – on towerbells anywhere in the world since the 5042 of the same method at St Stephen-the-Martyr in Bristol itself on 15th March.

Meanwhile, our other bit of ‘business’ was that we shall be having another quiz next week, this time with participants donating an entry fee to go towards the South-East District’s efforts for the revamped St Edmund’s Clapper competition that is aimed towards raising money towards the Bell Restoration Fund. There is a poster on this very website that explains in more detail about that, whilst a recent email (Link to info.) from Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge to members outlines other ways that can boost the SGR’s fundraising, which has understandably taken a big hit this year, as most organisations’ have.

Such as the Ecclesiastical Draw, where the more nominations we receive from members, the more chance we as an organisation have of winning £1k. Click on the Nominate us button on the Fundraising & Shopping page and fill in a few details to help.

Then there’s shopping with easyfundraising, who will donate to the SGR for no extra cost to you when you shop through them. You can register here.

There is also a similar scheme called Amazon Smile that will donate 0.5% of purchases to the Guild if you ask them to, which you can do here .

In between our chats it was another very quiet day as we occupied the boys with building tall towers, although we wouldn’t recommend hanging any bells in them! It was great fun, but we were glad of our video chats either end of the day too!

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Saturday 21st November 2020

The Society of Royal Cumberland Youths have been unfortunate with the timing of their Peal Weekend this year. It is typically held on the third weekend of November and usually sees around thirty peals successfully completed. When The Ancient Society of College Youths held their annual Peal Weekend – on the third weekend of September, as it normally is – they were at least able to benefit from handbell bands from different households being able to meet and seventeen peals were scored, which was on par with previous years. For the SRCY’s big weekend this weekend, they are faced with restrictions that don’t even allow most members to meet for handbell peals.

Impressive therefore that they managed to tick one off today with the first ‘handbell’ peal on Ringing Room with a 5040 of three Minor methods in 2hrs 14mins, involving Julia Cater of Penrith and Tina Stoecklin & Simon Gay from Glasgow. It’ll be interesting to see if any others are managed over a weekend that Suffolk’s ringers usually contribute strongly to.

There was nothing even approaching such activity for us on yet another mundane, quiet Saturday where – bar a trip to the bins – we didn’t even leave the house. Lovely as it is to spend time with the family, I think we would all appreciate getting out and about together and seeing people and personally within the sound of church bells ringing.

We – and the Cumberlands – will have to wait for now though.

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Friday 20th November 2020

We might not have been able to ring church bells for St Edmund’s Day today, but it was wonderful to see members managing to do some ringing for the day. Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson was on Ringing Room with David Stanford and conductor Brian Whiting to ring 28 changes of Little Bob and St Clement’s College Bob Minor and then 180 changes of Plain Bob Minor, whilst the Colman family took advantage of having three handbell ringers in their household to ring 540 changes of PBM. Well done and indeed thank you to those ringers for ensuring that even in the current circumstances this day of the Suffolk’s patron saint was marked.

Rosie and Richie.Further afield I was both immensely impressed and much amused with the 1260 of Stedman Triples in Bosham in West Sussex which was not only a first quarter-peal for robots Rosie and Richie, but was also conducted by the former! It seems very in keeping with this year as ringers try to make the most of a pretty dreadful situation.

The same can be said for the weekly virtual pub with Simon Rudd that has allowed us to connect with ringers from across the region, country and indeed the world that we usually wouldn’t be able to. This evening, Linda Garton at one point brought up the subject of the East meets West peal tour, which usually takes place in April/May each year. Unsurprisingly they have decided against holding the 2021 tour as even in the unlikely circumstances we can return to peal-ringing by that point, the uncertainty around what we may or may not be able to do in the next few months means that all the organising of towers, accommodation and ringers would be ambitious. Anyway, as Linda commented, would a full-on peal tour be a sensible reintroduction to peal-ringing after over a year’s absence?

Such talk got me thinking as to what the best approach would be to a return to peal-ringing on church bells. One gets on a roll with regular peal-ringing. In my busiest times I was ‘peal fit’, taking them in my stride, whilst when I have only occasionally rung peals – sometimes one every few months – those peals have been much harder work personally and so my initial thought is that having a run of peals to get back into the groove would be ideal. However, it is worth noting the issues that professional football has faced on their return following an unprecedented break in the modern era. With the postponed 2020 European Championships set for mid-June next summer and this season having not started until September when usually it would be underway at the start of August, the frequency of matches is far greater than these highly-tuned athletes have been used to. Combined with an absence of a gentle pre-season to break them in, the number of injuries is much increased from what one would expect at this point in the season, apparently by 16%. Although it is hard to compare ringers with footballers, it perhaps points to a sudden burst of regular peal-ringing not being the most sensible approach.

We won’t likely be able to test the best strategies for a return to peal-ringing for quite a while, but at least ringers have been able to mark this St Edmund’s Day in some fashion.

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Thursday 19th November 2020

Whatever hope the spring might bring, we all know that there is a long tough winter ahead for now, certainly from a ringing perspective. However, as Ringing Room and our handbells at home have shown us there are ringing-related things to help keep us occupied during the long nights and short days. And now Virtual Hub, a page on BellBoard introduced as a home for the increasing myriad of online ringing-related events.

The diary of events included a link to a talk by John Loveless on his biography of George Pipe, Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes, which he gave to the Cambridge District of the Ely Diocesan Association this evening. These talks hosted by Dave Richards have been a rich source of interesting online content since we were mainly confined to our homes for our evenings a long eight months ago and tonight’s was no different. Even though I was very familiar with the content, it is still fascinating hearing Jake talking about George and the many other characters – mostly from Suffolk – that he touches upon in the book and talk and I think he is getting quite slick at this promotion business!

Hopefully there will be many more similarly interesting events to keep us occupied in the coming months.

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Wednesday 18th November 2020

Band after QP on 20/11/2015. Taken by Mike Whitby.As a St Edmund’s Day without change ringing on church bells approaches, it was lovely of Mike Whitby to share a photo on his Facebook feed of the band after a quarter-peal I rang of St Edmund Surprise Major at Ufford for the occasion in 2015.

Ruthie and I were ringing with a couple of others from that band this evening, but not in a way that any of us could have envisaged back then, as we joined in the latest weekly Pettistree Ringing Room session on what in usual times is the practice night on the ground-floor six. Having enjoyed another fun quiz hosted by Hilary Stearn (taking in subjects from rivers to contemporary US politics to Harry Potter, the latter much to Alfred’s pleasure!), it was a productive hour or so too, with bobs tackled, some good, confident ringing and a more eclectic range of methods rung, including some Kent Treble Bob Minor which was going swimmingly until a conductor error in the fourth lead of five! Mark Ogden again led things patiently in what aren’t the easiest conditions and there were plenty of examples of those present trying new things and improving, including Alfie who bonged behind to some Plain Bob Doubles with no help needed. That our six-year-old son could join us in ringing when perhaps taking him out to St Peter and St Paul – or indeed anywhere - on a dark, chilly school night wouldn’t be feasible is another benefit of this platform which continues to grow on me.

That’s not to say I’m not praying we are change-ringing on church bells for St Edmund’s Day next year!

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Tuesday 17th November 2020

I have known Philip George, a ringer from Cambridgeshire since we joined him and other St Neots ringers on the ringing weekends away on the second Bank Holiday weekend of May and last weekend of October, organised by Tim and Catrina Griffiths (parents of superstar ringer Tom who also attended the weekends) when Chris and I were young boys. We went for a number of years, taking in places like Cumbria and Wales in the spring and Essex and Leicestershire in the autumn and so we rang with him and his wife Sheila quite a bit at the time.

Therefore I have been pleased to see them making the most of these months of restrictions with regular quarter-peals of Minimus in hand from Little Gransden and delighted to see Philip win October’s Central Council YouTube Competition on the theme of Most Effective Instructional Video, with a humorous yet 7min 54sec on bell inspection which is well worth a watch if you haven’t already.

Appropriately highly commended was someone else who I have done much ringing with around the country in recent years, Steve Askew from Staffordshire, who has joined us on Rambling Ringers for the last few tours. His video was an excellent half-hour An Introduction to Change Ringing, aimed at non-ringing folk completely unfamiliar to the art and therefore it could be a useful recruitment tour. It also features some of Suffolk’s ringers and most particularly our youngsters, with some of them ringing at St Martin in the Cornmarket in Worcester at the Ringing World National Youth Contest in 2014 (with a particular focus on Neal Dodge’s striking, which I glad was positively remarked upon!) 7mins in and then at Brandon within our borders 12min 50sec in. Again, well worth a watch!

November’s theme – and as things stand the last of these monthly competitions – is ‘Film that promotes ringing in the most positive way’, so hopefully an SGR member can find something to enter!

For now though, well done to Philip and Steve!

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Monday 16th November 2020

In this odd year, I have found myself with more days of annual leave left than I usually would at this point and so today I took a day off. With Ruthie on furlough but the boys at school it allowed for a productive day at a reasonable pace, with a trip to the tip and much cleaning and tidying up without Alfie and Joshua following up behind us making a mess again, whilst also allowing some relaxation time with a cuppa and TV programmes of our choice.

The Norman Tower. Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - geograph.org.uk - 136670Meanwhile, there was more good news on the vaccine front which from the perspective of this blog will God willing allow ringing as we knew it before March to resume again at some point in 2021. At what point exactly though, is unclear even if the vaccines work as well as hoped, for it seems generally accepted that it will take months to roll it all out enough to allow restrictions to be completely ended. That means that there is still uncertainty over ringing events in the spring, such as the Suffolk Guild AGM currently due to be held the South-West District on 10th April and six-bell striking competitions planned to be held in the North-East District on 15th May and even those pencilled in for the summer, including the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest set for Guildford Cathedral on 26th June and it was the likelihood of that event going ahead that was the focus of a thread on the Bellringers Facebook page today. Most pertinently within our borders, it seems almost inconceivable that the eliminators will go ahead in March, including the one due to be held at The Norman Tower. Even in the unlikely circumstances that ringing was able to resume freely by 27/3/21, it is not likely to have resumed long enough for twelve-bell bands to prepare properly for those eliminators. Whilst a final in a one-off format with invited participants is one option that has been mooted, a perhaps more satisfactory possibility is that the competition is held later in the year. A lot will depend on what the restrictions are by that point of course and whether the venues hoping to hold the ringing are able to accommodate any change in the dates of the competition. Hopefully they will as so much effort has gone into arranging these events, often years in advance, and we will still hear some of the world’s best ringers competing in the county next year. Understandably though, the contest’s committee are adopting a wait-and-see policy for now, with entries not invited yet, which they normally would be by now. There’s not a lot else that they can do at this point, so watch this space!

In the here and now though, the latest development in the saga surrounding the board of The Ringing World was the most significant thus far as the Chairman of the Board David Grimwood announced his retirement from the role. Whatever the rights and wrongs of all of this, I hope it will help the RW move forward into a vital period of time for this 109-year-old publication and ensure its future.

A future that God willing will feature a SGR AGM, the striking competitions and the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in 2021. And more productive though relaxing days off for me!

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Sunday 15th November 2020

Depressingly (some) ringers have again showed their worst side, hot on the heels of the embarrassing incident with Susan Calman. This time, some have also turned on the Central Council, with President Simon Linford taking the brunt. I have been nothing but impressed and grateful for the efforts of Simon and his team since ringing on church bells had to cease earlier this year, from the first definitive announcement on 16th March that left no room for doubt as to what ringers should do. Since then they have guided (not instructed as some have accused them of doing) ringers in the understandable absence of direct instruction from the government as restrictions have eased and then been tightened again to various degrees in different areas. Perhaps more importantly they have put ringing on the Church of England’s radar when apparently we weren’t even a consideration with them, not something we’ve ever really needed to worry too much about but will be vital in the coming months and years. And this has not been carried out by highly paid executives, but volunteers juggling their own careers and lives in these troubled times.

It was sad therefore to read on Simon’s Facebook feed that he has been subjected to pretty abusive emails about the CCCBR’s handling of ringing through the pandemic. While the restrictions placed upon ringing have been frustrating and we are all desperate for more normal ringing, he and the Council are at the behest of greater powers and if it wasn’t for Simon and his team there wouldn’t have been any ringing at all. Suffolk’s ringers have been superb in keeping within the rules, so I’m confident that they haven’t been involved in this sorry episode, but hopefully the ‘guilty’ parties will temper their approach and be more considerate.

St Mary-le-Tower.Of course the current restrictions meant that there was no ringing for us to go to this morning, so our only interaction with ringers today was via video with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers. Still, it was a jolly meet-up as one ringer revealed they were being fed by their neighbours, another was readying themselves for exams this week and another is starting a new job tomorrow.

The rest of our day was entirely uninteresting from a ringing perspective, although we had a pleasant walk in the woods with the boys and a nice evening in.

I expect Simon Linford was hoping for his Sunday afternoon to be a little less stressful from a ringing perspective.

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Saturday 14th November 2020

Inveraray, All Saints.After such positivity yesterday, it was a pity that today saw a degree of ringing-related negativity. Last night a programme called Secret Scotland with Susan Calman aired featuring a piece on ringing filmed in Inveraray’s famous bell tower. Apparently a video of this section was put up as a trailer on her Facebook page and in the thread that followed were a number of critical comments along the lines of her not taking ringing seriously and perpetuating the public’s vision of ringers as monks swinging up and down on a rope. It prompted the presenter and comedian to remove the clip and go into detail as to why. And all of this was carried out in full view of her tens of thousands of followers.

I can understand the frustration felt by ringers. Cringing is usually the default reaction when I am watching the exercise being portrayed on TV, whether it is in a fictional setting or in a documentary form and having got round to watching last night’s programme this evening I can confirm that this piece fell into plenty of the usual traps. As is the norm, the sound and pictures didn’t marry up, the language used was typically awkward - presumably relayed without any real understanding of what they were saying – and it was unfortunate that due to social distancing that they couldn’t give her a proper go, leading instead to her having to swing chime it and thus to those complaints. If you wish to catch it, it comes right at the start of the programme. However, as always with these things, we have to appreciate that the aim of them is generally to entertain and even when informing it generally has to be done in an entertaining fashion. Besides, the actual technical intricacies are not as important as putting it in front of a wide mainstream audience, which is why it is disappointing that the view many might take is that ringers are a pedantic – and perhaps therefore boring – bunch and that a likeable ‘influencer’ willing to give the art valuable airspace has been made to feel that she was wrong to do that. Arguably, not a great look.

On a more upbeat note though, we enjoyed this week’s copy of The Ringing World which landed in our letterbox this morning, especially the back page which is quite probably the funniest in the publication’s 109 year history! Meanwhile, the pages and pages of fascinating content on women in ringing in this special edition gripped me more than any I can ever recall. Linda Garton’s article on the first all ladies peal in 1912 was absorbing, as was Vicky Wilby’s account of the readmittance of women to the Ancient Society of College Youths, Elva Ainsworth’s psychological evaluation of the gender imbalance in ringing was a gripping read, whilst Julia Cater’s expert insight into ringing heavy bells is relevant whatever your gender.

Two articles that particularly resonated were those by Julia Cater & Chris Sharpe on tower captains and Jennie Earis about ringing with a young family. On the former I found myself trying to work out which type of tower captain I was, albeit it is a while since I’ve run a practice. I’d like to think that I have always tried to give every ringer a chance regardless of gender, age or anything else, but of course a topic explored in this issue was unconscious bias, so I’ll leave others to judge! And on the latter I was interested to hear Jennie and Philip’s attempts to balance parenthood with ringing. Like us they are active ringers (though their abilities are far beyond ours!), so it is reassuring that they have faced the same issues. It has to be said that we are lucky that I work close to home and of course Ruthie’s mother Kate is also an active ringer, so she has been able to get out to ringing as a parent too, but I recognise the comment about peal-ringing proving quite burdensome to the other parent. I am very aware that when I go peal-ringing that this then means that my wife is left literally holding the baby (indeed babies) for a large proportion of a weekend or for an entire evening.

There is so much to take in, but two messages stuck out. One is that times have moved on and people have changed. We all mature and evolve our views and things we said and did even just ten-to-twenty years ago embarrass (even shame) us now and it is clear that the atmosphere that women have had to ring in decades gone by was very different. No one can alter their past views, but we all need to look at how we can make things better for all now and there were plenty of suggestions for moving forward. I was particularly struck by the suggestion that more ringing should be planned around mothers of young children which would also help any parent and indeed people who work on shifts. This was an enlightening read and well done to all who put it together.

Pettistree.Before we got absorbed in the RW, Mrs Munnings and I partook in our first practice for our maiden attempt at a quarter-peal on Ringing Room, which is due to be done next month in place of the annual anniversary peal attempt at Pettistree. As a band we were beset by problems with internet speed and children invading the room with no consideration that we were negotiating a bob, but actually we produced some decent ringing, albeit as a band who can ring Surprise Minor (and indeed Major) trying to get to grips with Plain Bob Minor. Mark Ogden was leading us patiently, but this is still very new territory for us and having heard the tales of how others now prolific on the platform struggled at first, I am reassured that we will continue improving.

And it was at least more positive than the reaction to last night’s Secret Scotland.

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Friday 13th November 2020

A Friday 13th in 2020 didn’t bode well, but actually in the circumstances it was a pretty positive day.

Particularly this evening on Simon Rudd’s weekly virtual pub as we celebrated our hosts birthday tomorrow, even climaxing with a performance of Happy Birthday from his seventeen guests!

Also positive was the announcement from the Central Council about their long-term plans for ringing’s recovery once things begin returning to normal. They are working on a Survival and Recovery Toolbox and much else as they aim to keep as many ringers as possible active in the exercise in one way or another. Please keep your eyes peeled over the coming weeks!

The band plus Pudsey.Likewise the positivity was kept up with Woolpit ringer Nigel Gale partaking in forty changes of Pudsey Surprise and Little Bob Major on Ringing Room to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the first Children in Need programme, which was appropriately eight-year old Isla Beckingham’s first of Surprise Major. Well done Isla!

St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney.Keeping up the upbeat vibes, it was pleasing to read of the quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Sydney’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Australia where of course they are largely free to go about their business in a way we can only dream about here. It offers hope that such freedom is possible again in the UK at some point.

Not all Friday 13th’s need to be unlucky, even in 2020!

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Thursday 12th November 2020

Thursday 2nd June-Sunday 5th June 2022. Note the dates, if you dare.

It is a long way off, but that is a good thing currently as God willing it should allow ringing to get back to normal, for that is the extended Bank Holiday weekend announced today to celebrate what is due to be the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and I’m pretty sure that ringing will want to fully celebrate.

Hopefully that is something we can look forward to with some confidence – this year has reiterated that nothing can be planned with 100% confidence – but more immediately something we can look forward to is George Pipe’s biography Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes and today it got another publicity boost with author John Loveless’ interview with friend of local ringing Lesley Dolphin on her BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon. Starting just after forty minutes into the show, it will hopefully generate further interest in the publication. For all that George was a giant of ringing, there will be much for non-ringers to enjoy in the book, such as his interest in church history. And the in depth detail of characters of Suffolk ringing from times of yore will no doubt fascinate anyone interested in local history. In my experience, speaking on the radio – and especially via phone – is quite a nerve-racking and off-putting experience, but Jake came across really well, getting plenty of information over without overloading the listener.

John’s day was accompanied by some ringing via Ringing Room with a 1320 of Norwich and Cambridge Surprise Minor spliced, but ours was instead accompanied by parents evenings for Alfie and Joshua over the phone and Ruthie joined the Illuminati choir for a video session on a very 2020 day. Here’s hoping those 2022 dates will be less 2020ish!

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Wednesday 11th November 2020

Ringing Room. It isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and indeed I was dubious at how fulfilling pushing a computer key to simulate ringing a bell would actually be, despite the fact that many have made much use of it since its inception in March, with quarters and peals rung on the platform. Yet it is really growing on me. Of course it isn’t as good as the real thing, but in the circumstances it is helping keep change-ringing going when it hasn’t been possible on church bells to any meaningful extent and especially whilst restrictions prevent handbell bands meeting. I can also see it could be a useful tool for teaching and another medium through which to enjoy the art even when ringing gets back to normal.

Pettistree.As we’ve been finding out on Wednesday evenings recently with other Pettistree ringers, it isn’t easy as it feels a little like starting all over in the exercise again. Frustrating as a band that was ringing a wide variety of Surprise Minor methods before the first lockdown, when we struggle to get through Plain Hunt on Five, but also as satisfying as on real bells when we get it right. And we are increasingly getting it right, with one plain course of Plain Bob Minor rung particularly well. That is encouraging, especially as we have plans to attempt a quarter-peal on the platform instead of the usual mid-December peal attempt to mark the anniversary of the rededication of the six bells there in 1986 and first peal on them twelve months later!

In the absence of ringing for most on towerbells at the moment, some were using RR to mark Armistice Day today, as the nation again remembered those who sacrifice their lives for our freedoms. Those who could, tolled a bell – which is perfectly within the current guidelines - including here in Suffolk at Pettistree – as revealed by the Garners on our video chat prior to the online practice – and at Redgrave by Chris Davies, whilst Pam & Neil Avis rang handbells in Brantham.

Meanwhile, an email from John Loveless confirmed he is due to speak to Lesley Dolphin on her BBC Radio Suffolk show about George Pipe’s biography at 2.40pm tomorrow, so listen out or listen again later!

I also read CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog tonight which focused on survival and recovery as the art - like so much else - looks to survive what looks like being a long, tough winter and then aim to recover next year. Part of that is the ‘Cast of 1000’ which is similar to something we tried to get off the ground in the SGR in my time as Guild Ringing Master, where essentially we aimed to support those who specifically needed support. Although that never really got going in an official sense, I’ve always thought that the Guild and its members have been superb in offering time and expertise to learners willing to accept it and God willing they’ll get the opportunity to do that again in the near future and perhaps even be a part of this Central Council initiative.

Simon also crams in plenty of other info in another typically entertaining and informative entry, including the playlist for October’s YouTube competition, the theme of which was ‘Most Effective Instructional Video’. There is no representation from within our borders, but still plenty of interesting content to take in. The monthly competitions seemed to have been overlooked slightly with the rapid change in ringing’s circumstances in recent months, but it has been an example of how well ringing and ringers have adapted to things this year. As has Ringing Room.

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Tuesday 10th November 2020

Today was about elections.

Not the US Presidential one which still rumbles on, but in The Ancient Society of College Youths, where the November meeting elects officers for the twelve months ahead. Usually this is held in London and a new Master is elected for a year, traditionally being the Senior Steward of the past year who in turn is replaced with the election of the member who had been Junior Steward since the previous election, before finally a replacement is elected to begin the same progression to ultimately – all being well – to become Master two years later.

Tonight was very different of course as for the first time the elections took place online.  And with much of her year as Master having been decimated by heavy restrictions on ringing and even gathering socially, Swaz Apter was quite rightly given the opportunity to continue for a rare second year – the last to have a second year in the post was Paul Carless precisely two decades ago and before that John Mason in the mid-1950s – in the hope that she will be able to lead the Society in more of its usual events in 2021. Therefore, Ryan Noble and James Marchbank were elected to continue in their roles of Senior and Junior Steward respectively, whilst those in other positions were all re-elected en masse.

Meanwhile, Toby Bence of Rothwell in Northamptonshire became the Society’s first virtually elected member, whilst two more were put forward for election at next month’s meeting, where the plan is also to elect the Independent Examiners.

Naturally as the organisation moved from one period of twelve months to the next, the online nature of gathering over much of 2020 and likely much of 2021 too was reflected upon and it has to be said in a largely favourable light. Obviously everyone wants to meet again in person as soon is safely possible, but for those of us unable to regularly join in with ASCY events in person the online meetings and especially Saturday night’s Anniversary Dinner – which apparently around 250-300 people joined and from which the speeches can now be watched on YouTube if you wish - have been a rare silver lining to the dark clouds of this year. Indeed, Alexander Taft III from Washington in the USA said as much as he proposed Dickon Love for re-election as Librarian and with Dutch ringer and fellow Rambling Ringer Harm Jan de Kok seconding Dickon from the UAE it outlined how much further these video meetings can reach then when they’re held in the usual location of the UK’s capital. For that reason it seems that the Society is considering holding online gatherings even once they can return to their usual activities, as a way of complimenting their ‘in person’ events for those who can’t physically get to these. I’m not sure if such an approach would have the same benefits for the Suffolk Guild where travel should be less of an issue, but it is encouraging to see one of the tools forced upon us in these circumstances potentially benefitting ringing when things return to normal.

Apart from voting at the push of a button, other aspects were very much of the current times too, with understandably no notices of peal attempts in the coming weeks with bands unable to meet to even ring handbells and an astonishing £1,754 raised up to this point with the ‘Drink In To Help Out’ scheme. Additionally, Swaz looked ahead optimistically to next year’s planned events, with the Country Meeting due to be held on 12th June in Worcester and on another upbeat note, gratitude was extended to Past Master Clarke Walters for donating a copy of George Pipe’s biography Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes to the Society’s library. A good moment to remind readers to listen out for author John Loveless’ planned interview with Lesley Dolphin on her BBC Radio Suffolk show on Thursday afternoon.

St Martin in the Bullring.Locally, well done to Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart on ringing his first quarter-peal on eight ‘in hand’ with the 1344 of Plain Bob Major on Ringing Room, something we can certainly appreciate as a considerable achievement with our toils in getting used to this nonetheless useful ringing platform! There were other achievements of note on RR, with it’s first ringing on sixteen as 64 changes of Littleport Little Surprise Sixteen was rung for the sixteenth birthday of the ringer of 3-4, Lewis Benfield in place of what was apparently due to be a trip to ring on the sixteen at St Martin’s in Birmingham, whilst on Facebook Messenger a handbell QP of 137 Minimus methods was rung by Lynn Scales and Suffolk ringer Mike Cowling’s brother Geoff.

No such activity for us. Instead I was content voting in elections, rather than reading about other elections!

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Monday 9th November 2020

Hope. We haven’t had much of it this year, but today’s announcement that the first effective vaccine for Covid-19 appears to have been found gives us just that. Of course various caveats are attached, such as it being reviewed and approved, the logistical challenge of storing it at the -80 degrees centigrade it needs to be kept at, of making enough of it and getting everyone vaccinated and due to that it isn’t going to see an immediate return to normal life. Additionally, quite apart from being heavily conditioned to hope not being realised as an ardent Ipswich Town fan, 2020 has severely lowered many people’s expectations generally, so until if and when it is actually being rolled out and restrictions lifted I don’t expect I’m alone in displaying a certain “believe it when I see it” attitude. Important also to realise that a vaccine on its own won’t necessarily allow everything to go back to normal, but rather will probably need to be accompanied by improving treatments and maybe some of the more humane and – in the long-term – realistic protocols, such as better, more frequent hand-washing and maybe even masks in some circumstances.

However, it is the strongest indication yet that there is light at the end of tunnel. And indeed it does offer hope. Hope that the suffering this illness has caused to so many will be considerably reduced soon. Hope that businesses and people’s livelihoods can recover in the near future. Hope that families and friends can meet again freely and without unnatural limitations before too much more precious time is lost. Hope that the irreplaceable shared human experience that large crowds offer can come back before many of the places that enable them to convene disappear. And hope that ringing can return to the limitless nature that makes it such an appealing way of life for thousands of ringers soon. Probably not as early as the spring, although hopefully we will be doing more ringing than we got used to between lockdowns. Possibly late summer next year though. Or God willing by this time in 2021. We simply can’t tell for sure at the moment if any of that is realistic. There is so much that needs to go right in an unprecedented fashion (the news from Denmark in regards to mink is a reminder of how fragile the world’s recovery is), but it is uplifting to even dream about again going on outings, quarter-pealing, attending large ringing events, joining practices on a whim and marking occasions with peals!

George W Pipe.It also offers hope that we can properly celebrate the life of George Pipe as we would probably have done with large crowds from across the world at his funeral in March and the launch of his biography in May, but at least for now the ringing family has the next best thing with the much anticipated release of that biography by John Loveless, Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes. With my copy due to be a Christmas present I’ll have to wait until the end of next month to read it, but others were gleefully announcing the arrival of their copy and with the latest edition of The Ringing World dropping through our letterbox this morning we were able to enjoy Michael Wilby’s superb review of the book and take in an excerpt of the first chapter. What can instantly be seen will chime with those of us who were fortunate to listen to GWP hold court, bringing to life characters of the art long gone and reaffirming that we have a treat in store when we do get to read it!

Hope needs to be kept in check as many have pointed out today, but for once there is potentially much to look forward to!

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Sunday 8th November 2020

If you’d said twelve months ago that we would be banned from visiting (or indeed going anywhere near) relatives and friends, gathering in groups larger than certain numbers, opening a pub, going to watch a football match, attending church or ringing bells, there would’ve been a huge amount of understandable incredulity. Having been stripped of so many of our freedoms this year, we have hopefully acquired a new appreciation for them and by association those who have fought for those freedoms on our behalf, many of course suffering horrific injuries, mental traumas and/or death in the process.

Bury St Edmunds, The Norman Tower. Woodbridge.Sadly, unlike like Remembrance Sunday last year and in complete contrast to 11th November in 2018 when so many towers – all bar three of the ringable ones in Suffolk – were rung for the occasion by so many ringers, including thousands of ringers thanks to the superb Ringing Remembers project (of which so much good work has potentially been undone in 2020), the sound of half-muffled change-ringing in England was absent as the country remembered the sacrifices made by so many for us. A number were able – as outlined by the CCCBR guidance and if allowed by incumbents – to toll a single bell, on their own at churches up and down the land, with Julian Colman at The Norman Tower, Peter Summers at Dalham, Mark Steggles at Great Livermere, David Stanford at Hasketon, Neal Dodge at Ingham, Danny Wiilis at Ixworth, Alan Baker at Lavenham, May Garner at Pettistree, Christine Knight at Poslingford and Bruce Wakefield at Woodbridge doing just that within our borders, whilst the Colman family impressively rang their longest family length in hand with a 720 of Plain Bob Minor. Well done guys!

Meanwhile, the CCCBR announced that ringers have been asked directly by Lambeth Palace to ring a single bell at 6pm every day this month as part of their call to prayer, with the Church of England Recovery Group of the opinion that this would constitute an act of individual prayer and therefore be within the current regulations.

Bellringers in England have been asked to support the Church of England’s call to prayer during this month of lockdown by ringing a single bell at 6pm each day. The request came directly from Lambeth Palace, and has been repeated by many individual Bishops.

That may not be possible in many places, but if you can it would be a way of keeping us in the C of E’s minds whilst we can’t ring multiple bells in church towers, as we aim to return – ultimately – to the previous freedoms we had as ringers.

Meanwhile, another – very different - announcement was being made via BellBoard by Richard Smith. Many will recall his recent resignation from the board of the Ringing World, but he was at least continuing his role as Digital Consultant and working on BB. Until now it appears, as he stated his displeasure at what he perceives to be a number of contentious points in the RW’s response to his resignation and what he believes are their underestimated figures of potential drop-off in subscriptions if they raised rates by as much as he quotes. His announcement apparently initially appeared to close the site and whilst it is now open again, Richard won’t be making any updates to it or fixing any bugs.

Mercifully the ringing done on our county’s bells is noted on the site for now, but for us we were only able to revert back to the online meet-ups with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers in a depressing regression, although it was nice of course to speak with everyone as Ralph Earey contemplated out loud digging up the patio laid in the first lockdown in order to have something to do in the second lockdown, Colin Salter showed us round his new abode and David Sparling and Jonathan Williamson gave updates on their injuries in varying degrees of graphic detail!

God willing when Remembrance Sunday next comes round in twelve months though, we can instead ring together again in vast numbers for those who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms, with a renewed appreciation of those freedoms.

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Saturday 7th November 2020

In normal circumstances and depending on what my brother did this weekend to celebrate his fortieth birthday yesterday, we may very well have been in London this evening for The College Youths’ 383rd Anniversary Dinner. Of course, although there were hopes even as recently as a few weeks ago that it might be held in person, it couldn’t happen. Perhaps the very fact that we had been planning on making this our first attendance at the ASCY dinner for years perhaps prompted the pandemic in the first place.

However, almost as soon as it was announced that the event as a human gathering was to be cancelled then members were informed that – in keeping with 2020 generally – it was going to be held virtually. In ordinary times it might have been ambitious, but whilst obviously the special, memorable atmosphere could not be replicated, most of us are used to doing things by video and so tonight we found ourselves attending an occasion usually attended by hundreds of people from our living room whilst also getting the boys ready for bed. We didn’t get dressed up in our finery as others admirably did, but we enjoyed elements familiar to one of the highlights of the year for many CYs. There were the various toasts, the speeches from the Master, someone from the church – on this chilly November night the Rector at Cornhill The Reverend Charlie Skrine - and a guest – which this time was the editor of the Ringing World Will Bosworth who confessed to making the speech in his jeans – and a medley of some of the handbell performances from previous dinners put together by Master Susan ‘Swaz’ Apter and Past Master Paul Carless that prompted Philip Earis to impart in the chatbox (it is 2020 after all) his gratitude for them showing his “greatest hits.” Thank you to all concerned for putting it on.

Our three course meal for the College Youths. Our three course meal for the College Youths. Our three course meal for the College Youths.

Even when we don’t attend (which admittedly is most years due to circumstances), I enjoy following those who are attending via social media. Typically that would involve peal attempts in the morning and various gatherings in the pubs of the capital in the afternoon, but with the Secretary Simon Meyer having sent a menu out there were instead photos of ringers in their kitchens preparing their meals and sharing their results as we ourselves (well mainly Ruthie) spent the day preparing our three course meal of butternut squash & sweet potato soup, lamb and Key Lime Pie.

Sudbury, St Gregory.Meanwhile, there was a notable amount of PR for ringing in the media today. Taylors got a mention in a BBC News article for its £449,918 share of the government’s £1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund which was also reported on their own website, CCCBR President Simon Linford pointed ringers in the direction of a superb article on young bellringers in The Week Junior and locally the East Anglian Daily Times reported on the campaign to raise £60,000 to refurbish the 15cwt eight at St Gregory of Sudbury.

God willing, I look forward to ringing on their restored bells in the future. When normal circumstances return hopefully.

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Friday 6th November 2020

Happy Fortieth Birthday to my brother Chris. He is – as most will know – an extremely accomplished ringer - although his work meant that even before March’s cessation of church bell ringing he wasn’t able to ring as much as he and others would like - and so I had been arranging a peal at The Norman Tower in his town of residence for a few weeks time. Sadly any hopes of that happening had to be abandoned some time ago, as were any ambitions of celebrating the occasion together and with the current lockdown he was deprived of even just going out for a meal. Additionally, after he had arranged that wonderful meal with Ipswich Town legend John Wark for me when I had reached my fifth decade a couple of years ago, I was keen to arrange something equally special for him. However, the restrictions nationwide and beyond made that a harder task and scuppered all sorts of ideas that had originally sprung to mind. Nonetheless, he seemed genuinely pleased with the driving experience at Silverstone that we, Mum and Aunty Marian clubbed together to get him and I still had the opportunity to speak to him on the phone as he prepared for his posh takeaway and a night in with his wife Becky as he made the most of his special lockdown birthday.

Appropriately on the fortieth anniversary his birth, today was also the day when the biography of his Godfather George Pipe – Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes – was released. If you have pre-ordered then your copy will be winding its way to you and should arrive early next week, but on tonight’s virtual pub with Simon Rudd and friends, the author of this eagerly anticipated book John Loveless was able to show off his copy to us and remind us that he is due to be on BBC Radio Suffolk on Thursday afternoon being interviewed by one-time ringer Lesley Dolphin.

God willing that will be something to look forward to on a day when for the second day running there were no peals rung anywhere (at least recorded on BellBoard) and much of that which was rung online and nothing from within our borders as far as I can see. Not unexpectedly in the circumstances no footnotes for my brother’s big day then, when otherwise there probably would’ve been.

Therefore, from us, Happy Birthday Chris!

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Thursday 5th November 2020

Despite the daily number of coronavirus cases actually falling for the last few days, we – like everyone else in England – entered another depressing lockdown today, God willing for just a month. That means a return to a ban on ringing in churches – although as reported in yesterday’s blog it is within the guidelines to toll a single bell on Remembrance Sunday providing you have permission from the incumbent and with the suggestion of ensuring someone knows you’re going to do it – and households mixing, meaning the art is dealt the double blow of towerbell ringing (for all that the fifteen minutes on restricted, generally dreadful sounding combinations was frustrating, it was at least something) and most of the handbell ringing that kept the exercise going in recent months will have to cease. It is so sad to be back at this point and whilst some criticism has been levelled at the Central Council, in my humble opinion the organisation has done well to get ringing on the church’s radar as the C of E attempts to recover too. Without the CCCBR we might not have even got what we have got, but it is also down to all of us to show we can be trusted in these times and so unfortunately we have bite our tongue and follow the rules.

However, things aren’t exactly the same as back in mid-March when we went into lockdown for the first time. The first performances on Ringing Room didn’t appear on BellBoard until a couple of weeks after the cessation of ringing on church bells started and the shock and sense of loss was greater. In addition, days later both Ruthie and I found ourselves trapped at home with the boys, although the lovely weather helped us to let them loose in the garden. This time, whilst my wife again finds herself furloughed, the boys are still going to school. As time goes on there will have to be lots of questions on what we are prepared to sacrifice in order to manage this illness and mercifully it seems children’s education is no longer (or at least not currently) something that we are prepared to sacrifice and personally I agree. The education lost at this point (and there is plenty that has already been lost) will effect them for years, possibly even a lifetime and especially without the possibility of playdates, it is vital for their mental wellbeing to be with their friends.

Also unlike the spring, I am still going into the office. My time working from home went OK, but it wasn’t as easy or effective as doing it from a desk and computer set up specifically for the job. Additionally, whilst not being able to phone as many of our clients from home wasn’t such an issue earlier in the year when most of them were only contactable by email, the increase of phone calls since I came back to the office in July mean that it is pretty essential that we in the sales team come in, especially when commission is resting on our ability to effectively do our job. And I have never felt unsafe there. Our offices are spacious even when everyone is there, but particularly today as I was one of only four people in the large two-storey building and every possible protocol is in place. Nor does my commute to work endanger anyone as it is only a few minutes walk away!

Generally it seemed quieter around Melton and likewise in the world of ringing, much like it was a few months ago, but at least now the aforementioned online ringing gives ringers within our borders the opportunity to carry on ringing in that form and that’s just what some of them did with Alex Brett-Holt’s first multi-method quarter-peal rung by a Suffolk band on RR. Well done Alex!

Let’s hope there is more of the same over this lockdown.

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Wednesday 4th November 2020

Pettistree.Whilst the world’s eyes were on a US election that was still some distance from being decided as we went to bed tonight about eighteen hours after the last polls there closed, we were focused on our latest Ringing Room session with the Pettistree ringers. We were a couple of regulars short and so it was a little choppy at times, but it was also Peter Harper’s first go on the platform, we eventually managed some decent Plain Bob Doubles and even dabbled in some call-changes on eight and some rounds on ten, which of course we wouldn’t be able to manage at the ground-floor six itself. And we enjoyed the chimes on Chris McArthur’s clock!

It is a sign of the times that where the practices we used to have at St Peter and St Paul were preceded by a quarter-peal attempt, tonight we started proceedings with a virtual quiz excellently put together and hosted by Hilary Stern. It is the type of thing we’ve become used to (although perhaps thankfully it wasn’t anywhere near as boisterous as the drink-fuelled Friday night quizzes with my uni mates!) and we’ll probably have to get more used to in the next few weeks at least. As if to reiterate that, we were also told that the Sunday morning virtual coffee shop gatherings with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers are due to return this weekend as the art that once took us to so many places with so many people is once again reduced to whatever communication we can manage from within our house.

John Loveless with a copy of GWP's biography, image by kind permission of Linda Garton.On a more positive note though, some of you might have seen via social media that John Loveless has received his author’s copy of Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes, the biography he has spent a couple of years writing, in the main with George. If you have ordered a copy then that will be heading out to you when it is released on Friday and if you haven’t then hopefully the image of Jake holding a real copy in his hands will encourage you to get one!

Meanwhile, prior to tomorrow's new lockdown, handbell ringers were getting in their performances before restrictions on mixing households comes into being, including some here in Suffolk. Not unexpectedly they came at two venues that have become increasingly popular in the county's ringing columns in recent months, in Bacton where a peal of thirty-two Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung for the NDA and in Bury St Edmunds’ Castle Road where a brace of quarter-peals was rung.

Further afield, some rang for Remembrance Day early as most won't be able to with the new restrictions, but following an announcement from the CCCBR today, the updated guidance allows for tolling on Sunday, providing you have the incumbent's permission.

That will hopefully take some of the focus away from the US election...

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Tuesday 3rd November 2020

From Thursday it is likely that ringing even on handbells will become even harder as households won’t be able to mix unless in support bubbles. I imagine the Perrins family in Australia, the Pages in Reading and maybe the Pipes of Willingham just over the Cambridgeshire border may pop up in the peal columns, but the mix of bands we saw ringing today will presumably be a rarity over the next month and possibly longer if experience is anything to go by.

Today’s peals on a relatively busy day of peal-ringing for the times featured Suffolk connections. Not least one that was rung within our borders, unsurprisingly in Bacton where a 5040 of sixteen Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung for the Norwich Diocesan Association in 1hr 51min, but also in Campton in Bedfordshire where one-time Bures ringer and new author John Loveless rang the longest peal in hand for the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild in 6272 of Superlative Surprise Major that took 3hr 10min.

No such activity for us, as we spent the night in, Ruthie watching The Great British Bake Off and me listening on the radio to Ipswich Town losing. Unlike many handbell ringers, Tuesdays aren’t much different for us in or out of lockdown!

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Monday 2nd November 2020

Back when we were free to ring peals, it used to be a running joke that Brian Whiting would ring the treble and often wearing red to boot. That’s not all he has done of course, composing and calling many peals, but indeed, of the 148 peals I have rung with the Suffolk Guild’s Handbell and Mini-Ring Trustee, sixty-two of them have been with the ringer affectionately known as Bunny ringing the treble, although I have somehow managed to treble to two of the peals we’ve rung together. And altogether, 358 of the 1,087 peals he has rung have been from the number one. Therefore, it is not surprising that on Pealbase’s newest feature of ringers who have rung more than one hundred peals on tower bells, he is the highest placed of the SGR’s current resident members. What is slightly surprising though, is that as many as fifty-eight ringers come above him in the overall list. However, there is a ringer who has trebled even more of my peals than Brian and that is the late Mick Edwards, who sadly passed away earlier this year and rang all the 103 peals we rang together from the treble. Additionally, he just pips Past Guild Ringing Master Martin Thorley to the title of having rung the most peals for the SGR from the treble by 364-325, at least according to this list which goes back to 1934.

Llandovery.Leicestershire ringer Brian Warwick leads the way on exactly 1,600 peals on the treble, even almost precisely fourteen years after his death, whilst the highest person on the list that I have rung a peal with – though ironically she never trebled to any of them - is Liz Bowden, who comes in at number three having only been overtaken last year when Nicola Turner rang the treble to a 5040 of ten Surprise Minor methods at Llandovery in Wales.

The Wolery.There is a perception among some that ringing the treble is the easy way out, but that simply isn’t the case in the main. Quite apart from the fact that in a number of peals – such as Stedman, Erin or variable treble – the treble is involved with all the work, a well rung treble is vital to holding a peal together and Brian Whiting was invaluable during our project to work up to peals of forty-one Surprise Minor, as was Mick Edwards for our peals rung at pace at The Wolery.

There was no treble ringing to peals by anyone in Suffolk today though, with only three peals rung anywhere and as has become the norm in recent months they were all on handbells, so nobody was adding to Pealbase’s new list.

Ashbocking.As for me, I’m nowhere near making the list at all having rung just twelve of my 631 peals from the treble, which includes my debut in the medium at Ashbocking in 1992. That hasn’t been by design on my part, rather that I’m usually happy to be placed and for some reason I’m rarely put on the treble. Maybe it’s because I ring so many with Brian Whiting!

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Sunday 1st November 2020

The first day of a month is more associated with new beginnings, but after last night’s announcement and with the expected lockdown 2.0 from Thursday looming, there was more a feeling of things ending. Of course the hope is that we can resume things in thirty-one days, but for today, ringing on church bells for Sunday worship signed off and so did the formal worship itself. We didn’t partake in the art ourselves, but the bells at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge rang out for the final occasion until at least December as we arrived for the service for the last time until at least Advent has begun for Ruthie to do her last singing for now.

Clare.It was a bittersweet occasion therefore as we shared a pew with Ruthie’s gran and joined junior church to make poppies ahead of a Remembrance Sunday in a week that we won’t be able to mark as we would like to, either in church or by ringing church bells. It will be the case everywhere else of course, such as Clare where they also noted it was to be their last ringing there for now.

Meanwhile, I hadn’t noticed when listening to the Fun With Bells podcast yesterday that the narrator on the first story about the bells of Danbury in Essex was St Mary-le-Tower ringer Jonathan Williamson, which gives you another excellent reason to listen!

We’re probably going to need more like this over the next month.

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Saturday 31st October 2020

Halloween this year was more frightening than ever before. Watching Boris Johnson’s latest announcement, some scary figures and predictions were shared, enough to persuade the powers that be to further restrict our freedoms again from this Thursday. With that meaning that church services – bar funerals – will once more be banned and non-essential activities to cease as we were instructed back in March, ringing on tower bells will end and with reinstated restrictions on who you can meet outside of your household, much of the handbell ringing that has kept many sane in recent months will now have to end too.

There are some differences to the regulations we were issued with in the spring, such as sport continuing (with Ipswich Town victorious and England winning the Six Nations this afternoon that currently seems a positive!) and importantly the schools staying open (the value of education has certainly been reinforced in 2020), but it is nonetheless a depressing scenario especially as the aim of reaching a point of safety with this dreadful illness a seemingly impossible or at least distant one. Still, it is clear that for now something needed doing and we’re not losing as much from a ringing perspective as we did nearly eight months ago, with the extent to which we could carry out our once liberatingly limitless art still extremely restricted, albeit far better off for the hard work of the Central Council.

The Ringers' Arms. The Bicycle Ring. To cheer you up as we face up to a bleak November, do have a listen to the Fun With Bells podcast entitled Halloween tales from the Ringers Arms, which unsurprisingly includes mention of the bells of Dunwich that are said to toll from within the North Sea where they now rest. And on a day that personally saw us traversing the local area for pumpkins that we later carved and lit up, we were boosted by the arrival of The Ringing World for the first time since we were entrusted with the delivery of the Pettistree ringers’ copy of the publication. Of course the statements of Richard Smith and the RW Board (although not David Smith’s as that was released too late to go to print this week) were the most notable content of this edition, but there was plenty other highlights in the journal which still seems to be doing well in the circumstances under the tremendous editorship of Will Bosworth. What’s Hot on BellBoard remains a favourite feature with me, whilst in an age of instant debate on social media I am delighted to see the Letters page still remains very active. And I enjoyed the article on ringing on the Bicycle Ring – upon which another couple of quarter-peals were rung today – and at Warden Hill in Cheltenham - the lightest ring of bells permanently hung in a church – since restrictions were eased in the summer. Although that won’t now be possible from Thursday.

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Friday 30th October 2020

For the second Friday in a row, a statement in regards to the Board of the Ringing World was the focus of the world of ringing. Or rather statements. For once many had digested the statement from the Board in this week’s RW - which many received today – in response to Richard Smith’s resignation a week ago, then a statement on the statement surfaced from Board member David Smith, saying that he hadn’t signed off on the statement that had been made public with his name attached. In part, this seems to have been due to time differences (with David being in Australia) that meant he was unable to check the final version before it went to print, but then from what he was saying it seemed to be that the approach of the statement changed and – to quote David himself – it “includes a detailed comment that is nonsensical”. Such has been the proliferation of statements on the subject in the last seven days, there is a page dedicated to the subject on BellBoard. As I said last week, I don’t know the full facts on this sorry episode and I imagine that everyone concerned has the same aim of the wellbeing of the ‘Comic’ being maintained, but the result makes for worrying times for anyone who holds any affection for the publication, which includes me. Hopefully the issues – whatever they transpire to be – can be dealt with.

Again it was something that came up in the weekly virtual pub courtesy of host Simon Rudd, with former Board member Linda Garton able to offer an interesting perspective on the news from the Ringing World, whilst Simon himself was at pains to point out that when he had spoken with current Board member Graham Lay earlier in the week that he had been suitably guarded with what he could say on it all. Still, there was lots else spoken about to lighten the mood, such as David Brown’s Munro climbing and Julian Colman’s incident with a Penny Farthing bike!

Perhaps such stories should be sent into the Ringing World to take people’s minds off the latest round of statements.

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Thursday 29th October 2020

Bungay, St Mary.During the usual morning routine of getting ourselves up, dressed and fed whilst also ensuring the boys got up, dressed and fed before we all departed to our various locations for the day, it was lovely to hear positive words about the 15cwt eight during an interview on Mark Murphy’s BBC Radio Suffolk breakfast show about the grant allocated to carry out needed repairs to the wonderful tower of St Mary’s church from the Culture Recovery Fund via the Churches Conservation Trust. The piece starts about 2hr 25min into the show and about three minutes after that one of the interviewees talks about how the sound of the bells made him feel like he was home after many years away.

There doesn’t appear be any inference that the bells will directly benefit from the money, but the subject of funds for ringing projects was at the forefront of my mind following reading something written on the Bellringers Facebook page by Roger Booth. The general gist is that he feels the way Bell Restoration Funds – which collectively help Guilds and Associations raise something in the region of £350,000 each year towards bell restoration projects apparently – needs to be reviewed with the changing situation we find ourselves in. On the one hand, BRFs may become more important than ever before with traditional means of fundraising through the also hard-hit public and churches dwindling in current circumstances. However, it is also true that the demand for new bell projects will probably reduce – possibly significantly – as we come out of this, with churches likely to close and those that remain open probably less likely to countenance ambitious projects, especially those involving bells. Already the order books for those in the bell trade are apparently being run down and the Keltek Trust are anticipating that there will be more bells seeking new homes than new homes that will be available. Half of the Suffolk Guild’s subscription goes to its BRF, so this is an important subject for us, as it will be for so many other ringing organisations and it will be interesting to see how things pan out in this respect.

Talking of ringing projects, a spectacular one could potentially be happening in Birmingham, where a proposal to build a ringing school in an old building in Manor Farm Park in Northfield featured on the local newspaper’s website. Judging by the pictures it may be something similar to The Ringing Centre at Tulloch in Scotland and which has been very successful. It is all very exciting and I hope it comes to fruition.

Whilst those are hopes for the future of the exercise, it’s past was explored in fascinating depth as tonight we watched the recording of the talk that John Loveless gave to the St Martin’s Guild via video last night on the biography he has written of George Pipe, Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes. I would certainly encourage people to watch this hour-long presentation, especially if you haven’t made the decision to order the book yet. With the time to put more across than any advert or even this blog can do, Jake was able to give a real flavour of what those of us who are getting a copy can expect and whilst there was obviously mention made of George’s brother Rod who was a leading light of the ringing scene in the UK’s second city, this was an excellent insight into ringing and ringers within our borders, from Helmingham to St Mary-le-Tower, all featuring in the much anticipated book.

Meanwhile, the county featured in a couple of quarter-peals on Ringing Room, with an entirely Suffolk QP of Cambridge Surprise Minor and Tim Hart’s first in hand with the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung by an East Anglian band. Well done Tim!

For all the potential issues with BRFs and closing churches, it feels like there is still much positivity in ringing, whether that be Ringing Room quarters, GWP’s biography, ringing schools or the residents of Bungay’s thoughts on their bells!

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Wednesday 28th October 2020

Pettistree.The now weekly Pettistree Ringing Room practice didn’t go quite as well as last week. Having finished last week with treble dodging and considering Kent Treble Bob and Surprise Minor, we struggled even with Plain Hunt on this wet Wednesday night the type of which – in normal times - might have seen us huddled together round the heater in the ringing chamber of the ground floor six that connects us all. That said, there were mitigating circumstances. Alfie jumped on a delicate area just before I was about to launch into changes, Mary Garner was attacked by their cat in mid-flow and Elaine Townsend’s internet connection lagged behind making it difficult for her to keep in place. Worth noting as well that it was only our third session practicing in this new medium, which still doesn’t come as instinctively as when one is holding onto a rope that is controlling a moving lump of metal weighing several hundredweight! And it has to be said that we did manage some decent ringing at points and there is definite potential to ring more advanced stuff if we’re not being sidetracked by other issues. Mark Ogden – who has been superb in organising and running the practices – had to be very patient!

Elsewhere in Suffolk, ringers were ringing actual bells, with Bruce Wakefield tolling the 25cwt tenor at Woodbridge before and after the funeral of one-time British diplomat Sir John Margetson and a band ringing a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major on handbells in Bury St Edmunds.

Meanwhile, a piece of ringing during an episode of Escape to the Country was spotted by ringers on social media. Not the piece that we did at Kersey with former ETTC presenter Tim Vincent in 2008, but a more recent episode that did some filming at Buckley in Flintshire – another 14cwt eight – with presenter Alistair Appleton. Unfortunately I can’t find a link to the episode anywhere, but you can view the clip on the Bellringers Facebook page and it is nice to see some ringing PR, particularly at the moment.

It will be a while before ringing can fully benefit from such publicity, so for now we shall try to get better on Ringing Room.

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Tuesday 27th October 2020

There was so little to remark upon from a personal ringing perspective today that I found myself watching a recent documentary on famous Suffolk artist Maggi Hambling wondering if I might hear the sound of local bells, perhaps at Aldeburgh where unsurprisingly a substantial amount of filming for the programme took place. However, there was nothing in an otherwise interesting fifty-eight minutes, bar what sounds like a bell being rung up just after 19min 20sec in as a friend walks through the subject’s garden. Quite where that bell is from I can’t make out, although I believe she lives in the Saxmundham area, so perhaps someone round there can identify it!

Beccles.Thankfully other ringers in the county were doing something noteworthy in the art, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung in Beccles being Chrissie Pickup’s first quarter-peal on handbells for thirty years and Mike Cowling’s first in hand on six – well done Chrissie and Mike!

And there was also CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog, which touches upon the frustrations of trying to give guidance for ringing in these ever-changing times and the stories on the Women in Ringing website that aims to deal with gender imbalance and includes some figures on the proportion of females ringing in QPs in Suffolk last year. He also touches upon Minecraft and TikTok!
At least he wasn’t scraping around for content for his blog today!

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Monday 26th October 2020

Shake my hand and I'll show the ropes.Apparently sales of Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes - the biography of George Pipe written by John Loveless – are going very well, am indication that this is fast becoming a must-have book, so do get a copy now, either from The Ringing World shop or the previously mentioned District representatives.

The Bicycle Ring.Sadly Monday nights at St Mary-le-Tower, when and where George once held fort so famously, are still on hold and so it was another quiet night in searching for something to watch on TV when once we honed our skills on ten and twelve and then socialised with friends in the pub, but there are signs in the peal columns of BellBoard that the art he was so passionate about is increasingly adapting to the circumstances it finds itself in. Following a relatively healthy number of peals on Saturday, today saw six rung, the busiest Monday in the medium since the day ringing as we knew it stopped on 16th March. They were all on handbells of course – including one in Norfolk called by past Ringing Master at SMLT Simon Rudd and well done to Nikki Thomas on ringing her first of Surprise in hand in that 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major – as were most of the quarter-peals rung today, along with the now usual online performances as well on the adapted Bicycle Ring. However, it is encouraging to see more in ringing happening.

And it is encouraging that so many copies of George’s biography are selling!

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Sunday 25th October 2020

Every 25th October I note that it is the anniversary of my very first blog entry in 2007. Looking back over previous entries on 25/10 today, I was fascinated by how some of them were snapshots of ringing at the time they were written. Interesting for example that in my debut musings I imparted how I attended a Grundisburgh practice that saw us ring a typically eclectic range from the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods spliced through to Stedman Cinques, despite tower Ringing Master Stephen Pettman – and presumably others – being away on his biannual ringing trip to Italy. Precisely two years later though, with Stephen and others again away on the next edition of the Italian job, Sunday morning ringing didn’t even happen with myself and a two-year-old Mason meeting with just Daphne Pegg, Don Price and Gill Waterson. Sadly Gill is no longer with us, whilst both Daphne and Don stopped regular ringing here or anywhere else some years ago. Fast forward exactly three years to 2012 and I happily reported the first practice there – bar a one-off for some visiting ringers and one or two other sessions – for eighteen months. Although not back up to the levels of what was – IMHO - the best practice in Suffolk in 2007, before the cessation of ringing across the UK earlier this year, ringing on a Thursday night was once again the norm, whilst with the help of returning ringers such as Joanna Crowe and Mark Ogden and new residents of the village like David and Gillian Twissell and others, it is one of the towers that has been able to resume ringing on the Sabbath in recent months.

Meanwhile, the 2008 entry lamented how plans for a quarter-peal morning and then attending the South-West District Practice at Hadleigh had fallen through, but highlighted how in my time as Guild Ringing Master we were able to contemplate such a day out that we wouldn’t be able to with the responsibility of managing a growing family in later years! By 25th October 2011 I was PR Officer – a role that I enjoyed immensely, but which Neal Dodge has taken to a whole new level since succeeding me – and speaking with Ed Beavan from the Church Times about Bailey Day ahead of an article that then appeared a couple of days later. 2014 saw ringing carried out in memory of St Mary-le-Tower ringer Simon Griffiths within our borders and beyond, three days after his shocking and completely unexpected death at the age of just fifty-six years old. Twelve months later and in the ringing chamber that Simon graced I caught a lovely moment between an eighteen-month old Alfie and George Pipe George Pipe & Alfie on 25th October 2015. in a literal snapshot. At the time George was only ringing occasionally, but we were at least blessed with his presence, he was relatively well and at a time when we are anticipating his biography by John Loveless, it is a reminder that for all that he was a giant of the exercise who was much in demand, he still had plenty of time for all, even toddlers and their story books! And no 25/10 entry (or indeed probably any of the 4,750 daily entries I have made) have been as involved as the tenth anniversary entry in 2017 that happened to coincide with the incredible 25,056 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Alderney, which was – and still is – the longest peal rung on twelve bells and gave me cause to consider how ringing’s relationship with technology and the media had evolved to the point that this could be followed as a live event throughout the 16hr 7min of brilliant ringing and made it an event of real interest to non-ringers.

Increasingly with each passing anniversary I am struck by how much I and my life has changed since 25/10/07 and feel grateful for it. Mason’s growth from a ten-month old with club foot to a thoughtful teenager doing well at secondary school, the wonderful introduction of Alfred and Joshua to our lives, Ruthie and I becoming wife and husband, buying our first house and our mercifully more settled lives, which we pray continues. However, never has the difference between two anniversaries just a year apart been greater than between today’s and 2019’s. Never would I have ever imagined back then that 366 days later that ringing as we have always known it would have been on hold for over seven months and with no definite end of this dreadful purgatory in sight. Will it be the spring? Late summer? Will it still be continuing come the fourteenth anniversary of this blog? Nobody really knows, but for the sake of the exercise and the physical and mental well-being of so many of its participants I hope that we can be back to full-on, free ringing of limitless numbers of ringers, practices, events, quarters and peals as soon as possible. Sadly it will be without Dad of course, with his death being the lowest of so many low points since 25/10/2019, another being that for the last six months of his life he was deprived of the hobby he so enjoyed, his friends and many precious moments with his family.

One of the few silver linings of the restrictions has been that having seriously considered stopping writing the blog with the fear that it would have no purpose in a world where we couldn’t ring church bells, I have received more requests to continue writing it than ever before! It has to be said that ringing activity has been greater than I anticipated, with the various online ringing platforms like Ringing Room, what has been achieved on handbells, the resumption of church bell ringing in a limited format and the video chats that have kept ringers connected, in addition to the ringing-related news from the various changes to regulations for ringing in a society trying to keep COVID at bay (although it does seem to just be kicking the can further down the road), incidents such as Richard Smith’s resignation from The Ringing World on Friday (the board has replied with what is effectively a holding statement on their website today) and of course making noise about the aforementioned GWP biography Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes, as well as the hoped for history of the Guild which members should’ve received an email about today.

As for today itself? Well if God willing I get to write blog entries on future 25th Octobers I imagine that I shall reflect on this one as giving more of a snapshot of its time than any other. Never before on the blog’s anniversary has our ringing had to be restricted to a limited number of bells rung socially distanced whilst wearing masks that make conducting extremely awkward, whilst everyone else had to wait outside in the rain listening and hopefully it will never have to be again on subsequent 25/10s. Likewise I hope that our socialising after ringing featuring in any possible future anniversary entries aren’t forced outside where groups of us no bigger than six have to shout across several metres to communicate. Although on the plusSocialising at distance in Christchurch Park beneath the tower of St Margaret’s following ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. side it was lovely to ring with Mum again as she did her first ringing (bar a practice solo effort at Sproughton last week) since March and we did our first ringing with Owen Claxton since our return, whilst at least the sun was shining by the time we gathered in Christchurch Park beneath the tower of St Margaret’s church for our refreshments from Costa Coffee. I’m still unsure whether our ultimately successful purchase of new trainers for the two youngest boys whilst in town afterwards was a bonus though!

Elsewhere it was a similar picture. The first service ringing at Pettistree was done ahead of an outdoor harvest festival in the churchyard, four of the eight bells were rung at Woodbridge and further afield at Elstow in Bedfordshire the first ringing on three levels was carried out, whilst also alluding in its footnote on BellBoard to the differing opinions on what is and isn’t safe to do in an art that once thrived on being practically limitless.

Yes, I think this anniversary entry is very definitely a snapshot of ringing in the current times.

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Saturday 24th October 2020

Apart from Saturday 20th September in the midst of the College Youths Peal Weekend, today saw the most peals rung – with eight – in a day since 16th March, the day when ringing on tower bells ceased following Boris Johnson’s fateful announcement that evening. It is encouraging considering that we went weeks at one point with no peals rung at all, but actually it was the achievements rather than the numbers that caught my attention in the last couple of days. In particular, yesterday’s quarter-peal of Plain Bob Royal in Melbourne in Yorkshire where all bar the conductor were ringing their first QP on ten in hand and then today the 1272 of Plain Bob Minimus rung on Ding from Italy and the UK which was Luca Greenslade’s first as conductor and the 5040 of forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced in Bovey Tracey in Devon - an impressive feat on towerbells, even more so on handbells, but particularly as a first peal of spliced in hand, as it was for Peter Richards. However, most notable of all was Andrew Waddell ringing his first peal, rung on handbells. This is an achievement that I’m fairly sure is pretty rare, as the vast majority ring their first peal on towerbells, but according to the excellent Pealbase he is the third this year alone following Callum Clark on 28th August and Jeff Del Papa on 26th June. I can’t see anywhere even on Pealbase where you can see at a glance who rang on handbells for their first peal, but I suspect that three in four months is probably down to the unusual circumstances of 2020!

Non-ringing Saturdays were largely unusual for us before this year (even at the start of this year), but of course now they are sadly the norm. We did at least have something nice to do this week though rather than simply sitting at home or going shopping, as we were invited round to Ruthie’s Gran’s for tea and left suitably stuffed as we normally do!

Meanwhile, the aforementioned CYs today released details of the menu that was planned for the now sadly cancelled Anniversary Dinner on 7th November to enable members to cook the meal - with the recipes also attached – as they join the proceedings virtually by video on the evening, with speeches planned to make as authentic an experience as it can be at the moment. Although we’ll maybe resist getting a kebab afterwards as I and others had to do on one occasion! Any members of the ASCYs reading this who haven’t received Secretary Simon Meyer’s email should get in touch with him – his contact details are on their website.

For tonight though, we enjoyed our tea whilst others were peal ringing.

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Friday 23rd October 2020

Today was notable largely for two ringing-related statements that will have ramifications in differing ways.

Richard Smith’s resignation as a director of The Ringing World is shocking, not so much for the resignation itself, but for the reasons he gave in an extremely candid and no-holds-barred statement aimed at the RW Board and particularly the Chairman David Grimwood. I cannot comment on the accuracy of what Richard says, but it would be sad to lose him as he has done so much for the publication, especially on the digital side of things and particularly with BellBoard which he set up at great speed when Campanophile first went down in 2012. Whatever the full background to this, I hope the situation can be resolved as for all that the online world has led many (myself at times) to question the ‘Comic’s purpose, it is still held as a valuable ringing resource by many and it seems to be at an important crossroads at a difficult time.

In comparison, the update from the Central Council about ringing in tiers two and three of the current restriction structure in the UK is fairly tame. It is perhaps a sign of the times that a statement from the CCCBR about whether huge swathes of the country should or should not rings bells seems quite ordinary in the scheme of ringing announcements. However, it is an important clarification if you live somewhere that these restrictions are currently imposed, as some readers of this blog are. Important too for Suffolk though, as although we still mercifully seem to be miles behind most of the country on the numbers of coronavirus cases, it isn’t inconceivable that we might find ourselves in the second tier at some point in the coming weeks and months.

Essentially, they are now saying that legislation in those tiers doesn’t prevent ringing from happening, but they are still not advocating ringing in those areas. As the CC themselves point out, there are so many grey areas, especially with something like ringing where there obviously can’t be any specific guidance handed down from the government, but after discussions with the next best thing in this context – the Church of England Recovery Group – they have been able to clarify their stance.

It has to be said that there has been some rather unfair criticism levelled at the Central Council on this. They have never taken on the role of being a ringing police force and so the suggestion that they are imposing rules on ringers that have to be obeyed is wide of the mark. Ringers aren’t obliged to listen to them, but if we want ringing to be allowed to start fully at the earliest opportunity our best bet is to listen to the CC’s team of ringers with medical expertise and their direct line to the CofE Recovery Group. For as long as most of us can remember, ringing has had a huge amount of freedom to ring bells that essentially aren’t ours. There is considerable justification to us doing that in the sense that much of the fundraising for bell projects is raised through ringing or organisations external to the church and of course it is ringers who spend much time maintaining them, but we are ringing on church property and it is the church that takes the flak if we go too far. God willing in the near future we can return to the freedoms we had to ring bells in churches for outings, quarter-peals, peals and other non-church related ringing, but to get to that from the current circumstances when no one is simply free to do what they like will take a lot of tact and patience. I don’t like it anymore than most and have my reservations about the need for things being as strict as they are, but what we have at the moment is better than being told to stop altogether again because ringers are not to be trusted with such relaxations of restrictions without bending the rules or even disregarding them.

George W Pipe. Lesley Dolphin with Richard Munnings at St Mary‑le‑Tower, Ipswich.Still, amongst all this, there is still ringing-related stuff to look forward to, not least John Loveless’ biography of George Pipe, Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes which is available to pre-order ahead of its release on 6th November and as part of the publicity John is booked in to speak to Lesley Dolphin at some time from 2.30pm onwards on her BBC Radio Suffolk show on Thursday 12th November, which should hopefully garner interest in the book beyond just the ringing community. Whilst we all mainly know him from his ringing feats and his influence on the exercise, he was also very well known in the wider community and it sometimes felt as many of my non-ringing friends and acquaintances knew him as those through ringing. The book is also pitched at those who – like George – have an interest in church history and those who don’t know much about ringing, so this will be of interest to the non-ringing community. Therefore I’m looking forward to hearing Jake speak with Lesley who herself learnt to ring under the tutelage of myself, Alan McBurnie and Kate Eagle a few years back for a radio project and may well have met George at the time.

It would have been interesting to get GWP’s thoughts on today’s developments at the RW, a publication he was passionate about. Hopefully they will usher in a more promising future for it rather than being the catalyst for its demise.

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Thursday 22nd October 2020

Thursday evenings before restrictions decimated the freedoms of life used to be choir practice for Ruthie. Combined with looking after the boys (willingly of course!), it meant we couldn’t help out at nearby Grundisburgh or the monthly Surprise Major Practice at Ufford (although those had come to a natural end just before the cessation of ringing), but singing is my wife’s other great love and talent, as many seem to be discovering after her singing of Abide With Me for Dad’s funeral. Primarily this has been through singing for the choir at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, but just before lockdown she had joined Illuminati. Sadly, almost as soon as she started with them things shut down, but they have now begun meeting via video and Mrs Munnings has begun recording some pieces. The latest was this evening and it was lovely to see her enjoying meeting with her choral colleagues and talking about and listening to music.

Meanwhile, John Loveless is due to speak next week on the evening of Wednesday 28th October about his biography of George Pipe – Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes – to the St Martin’s Guild in their weekly video talk. It is a timely reminder that you can pre-order a copy from representatives in each Suffolk Guild District or directly from The Ringing World Shop, but it also encouraged me to see who and what else is planned for the coming weeks. There is much for everyone, but I was particularly drawn to talks such as Alan Regin’s about his role as Steward of the Rolls of Honour, appropriately pencilled in for 11th November, David Pipe’s planned presentation on Treble Bob Minor on 2nd December and a talk entitled ‘Uncovering the secrets of the 12 bell contest’ the following week by a yet to be named presenter. Wednesday nights are now set aside for practicing on Ringing Room with the Pettistree ringers and so unless anything changes I shan’t be able to watch any live, but they are typically available on YouTube afterwards, so I hope to watch these talks then and would certainly urge others to take a look at what is being held and indeed has been held and take in some fascinating ringing-related presentations!

Wednesdays and Thursdays are now getting busy again!

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Wednesday 21st October 2020

More fun on Ringing Room with the Pettistree ringers this evening. However, as well as fun, there was progress. In only our second session and just a week after we could barely string rounds together, we were ringing some actually very decent Grandsire Doubles, Plain Bob Minor and Treble Bob Minor, Alfie bonged behind really well to some Plain Hunt on five and despite her reservations, Anne Buswell rang Plain Hunt on Six perfectly. And all this despite Mary Garner’s trigger happy finger! Such is the confidence following tonight, suggestions of Kent Treble Bob Minor, Cambridge Surprise Minor and Norwich Surprise Minor were made and even a target set of ringing a quarter-peal for the anniversary of the dedication of the bells in mid-December, an occasion typically marked by a peal attempt on the ground-floor six, but obviously impossible this year.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major was rung on handbells in Bury St Edmunds, the latest of a number of successes in hand within our borders. Hopefully they had as much fun as us!

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Tuesday 20th October 2020

Ipswich Town have had a very decent start to this delayed 2020-21, fan-less season. From six games thus far they had lost none, winning five of them and they were top of the table. With us fans unable to attend any matches in person currently (and likely most, if not all, of this season), last week I suggested to Ruthie that as a birthday present she could buy me a ‘ticket’ on iFollow for tonight’s game away at Doncaster Rovers. I think even the non-football fans amongst you will probably have guessed how proceedings went this evening...

The Tractor Boys’ 4-1 loss was as depressing as it was expected amongst us ITFC fans who have generally learnt to expect the worst from the boys in blue over the last decade or so and yet when I think back to those dark days of the spring when there was no sport at all to enjoy, it was nice to be watching a Town fixture with all the ups and (predominantly) downs that are normal for us. Football (or indeed most sports) without supporters there is just not the same and I can’t get used to it, but as with so much else in life it is better then nothing.

So it is with ringing at the moment. We can ring at the moment, as we can watch live football on the TV, but it just isn’t the same. However, there was at least a peal in Suffolk today, with another 5040 in hand rung in Bacton, whilst further afield author John Loveless partook in 2hrs 42mins of Lincolnshire Surprise Royal on handbells, Exning ringer Jimmy Yeoman was a member of the handbell band that rang a 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major in Edgbaston in the Birmingham suburbs and a 5760 of forty-two thirds place Delight Minor was rung in Reading.

All getting on much better than Ipswich Town today.

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Monday 19th October 2020

St Mary-le-Tower.I miss Monday nights at St Mary-le-Tower. The opportunity to hone one’s skills on marvellous bells, sometimes refreshing old skills and learning new ones and then a chat over a drink of one’s choice in the pub afterwards. However, I can’t deny that without the need to get into Ipswich in time to make it worthwhile to me and my fellow ringers me turning up, things are less hectic.

This evening for example, once back from work, Ruthie had time to pop out to get something for tea, we had said tea at a leisurely pace, I helped Alfie build some Lego and Joshua play with his Peppa Pig supermarket and then their mother got them to bed, all without the rushing about that we used to get when we once went out at the end of the day. Even before the restrictions deprived us of such pleasures, there were plenty of spare nights to have such relaxed evenings and so I shan’t feel guilty about dashing out the door to get back to Monday night practices at SMLT, but it does worry me that by the time that we can get back to proper, full-on ringing that many will have simply got too used to an evening in and when offered the choice between that and going ringing, they will simply take the easy choice. For some, I think ringing had just become something to do, even a chore, which is dreadfully sad considering the almost limitless opportunities ringing offers, at least in normal times (and arguably even in these times, with Handbell Studio, Ringing Room and the like) and I imagine they will be the hardest to tempt back when the time comes. On the flip side I’m hoping many ringers will be even keener then ever before, having gained a new appreciation of how blessed we were to have access to something like ringing. God willing we won’t have too long to wait to find out which will be more prevalent.

For now, some of the ringers in the county have been making the most of things, with another quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major in hand in Moats Tye, an example of how within our borders expanded ringing is still possible.

However, with the announcement today that Wales will be returning to a nationwide, pretty much full-on lockdown from Friday, ringing will have to stop completely there for the three weeks until they have assured residents it will be lifted and whilst we still have amongst the lowest rates of cases in the UK, they are actually higher than some of the Welsh areas shortly to see their businesses decimated by more closures. Therefore, it isn’t inconceivable that even what limited ringing we currently have in Suffolk may have to be stopped at some point over the winter and whilst – as Central Council Officer Vicki Chapman urges in her blog – even if we are further restricted it is important to keep bells ringing if possible, a return to free and unlimited participation in the exercise still seems some way off.

I might have to get used to these relaxed Monday evenings for quite a while longer.

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Sunday 18th October 2020

Poster for GWP biography.With pre-ordering of John Loveless’ biography of George Pipe – Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes – now open and promising to be an absorbing exploration of a fascinating life and – due to George’s inextricable association to ringing within our borders – Suffolk ringing, I was delighted this afternoon to hear more about the seeds of another book that should be a must-read for ringers in the county.

Those who attended the SGR’s first – and God willing only – virtual AGM almost exactly a month ago may recall that the paperwork that GWP had gathered as part of his research into a hoped for book on the history of the Guild was voluntarily taken on by the Salter family and as Katharine and David explained to me post-lunch today over the phone, the plan is to carry out George’s intentions. In what I think is a nice touch and great idea, they are looking to speak to many of the organisation’s longest serving members to get tales of ringing here – both their own and those of characters of the Guild’s earlier years now sadly no longer with us. There will no doubt be an immense bank of stories from members that should build up an extremely compelling picture of the organisation and whilst they are intent on contacting some directly, they would also like to hear the accounts of as many as possible. Therefore, if you have anything to impart and/or know someone – especially those who are not online – who might have something of interest, then please do email Katharine on ipswichstclement@suffolkbells.org.uk.

There are few better qualified to take on such a project. Between them they have rung nearly three thousand peals for the SGR, David has been Ringing Master twice and Katharine has in recent years being carrying out invaluable work with the rings of bells in Ipswich’s redundant churches and they have racked up decades of service to the Guild. Already they have unearthed wonderful nuggets of information and it is interesting that David has been unable to find any evidence of the meeting on 2nd April 1923 in Lavenham that has long been held as the point of formation of the Guild. Although he assured me that it was definitely formed ninety-seven years ago and all being well this book will be appropriately timed with the Guild’s centenary due in 2023!

Ipswich, St Clement. Ipswich, St Lawrence.Even aside from this though, it was great to catch up with a couple that in normal times we would see regularly and whilst David is one of those who needs to be extra careful in the current circumstances, it was good to hear that in the context of all that has happened to him in the last couple of years he seems to be doing well, even accompanying his family to ringing at the six of St Clement and five of St Lawrence since ringing resumed.

Neither Ruthie and I were adding to the history of the Guild or indeed ringing generally as we went to church at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge where the local ringers continued their return to the art upstairs. It is a pity that with current timings and restrictions that by attending church we are unable to ring here or at St Mary-le-Tower, but it has been important to us and the boys to slot in a return to church and junior church on our Sunday mornings, particularly with my wife now resuming singing duties every other week. Accepting as I am that this as good as it will get over the winter, I am hoping that the spring will allow for our plans to open up a bit.

St Martin in the Bullring.Meanwhile, Exning ringer Jimmy Yeomam seems to be settling into ringing in Birmingham, as he partook in a touch of Plain Bob Major in hand outside St Martin’s in the Bullring with restrictions preventing them ringing on the towerbells and also a peal on handbells, one of two peals recorded on BellBoard today, both of which were 5088s of Bristol Surprise Major composed by Don Morrison.

All being well, I suspect that Jimmy has a long, fruitful time ahead of him in the UK’s second city’s ringing scene if he wishes, but perhaps he might still play a big part in the future of the Suffolk Guild. In the meantime though, please do get in touch with Katharine and David if you have anything that help us piece together its history.

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Saturday 17th October 2020

Ringing is a decent indication of the situations around the world currently.

Vernet-les-Bains.The ground-floor ten of Vernet-les-Bains just north of the France-Spain border have been rung in what seem to have been less restrictive circumstances to here in the UK, with Past St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd even able to help with a mini summer school and quarter-peal there on a visit at the end of August, but apparently local restrictions mean that sadly ringing there has to stop for the time being.

St Peter's Cathedral, Hamilton.Meanwhile on the other side of the planet the complete opposite situation is in place, as today a peal was rung at Waikato Cathedral in Hamilton, New Zealand on day when their General Election was held in pretty much normal circumstances. Congratulations to Jacinda Arden on re-election as Prime Minister in the latter and to John Barnard in the former on becoming a rare 2020 first pealer.

There was a peal rung in this country too, but as has become familiar since the free and open ringing on towerbells was abruptly but necessarily stopped in March, the 5056 of Plain Bob Major in the Derbyshire village of Great Longstone was rung on handbells, whilst former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross was ringing a quarter-peal in hand in Maidenhead and Norman Tower ringer Ben Keating rang his first QP on Ringing Room – well done Ben!

For us though it was another mundane day for the boys and us, the days when Saturdays used to give us plenty of ringing events and other things like going to football to look forward to now just a distant memory. Although having got Halloween costumes, Joshua’s insistence on wearing it when I popped to the village shop for some milk amusingly took mask wearing to a new level!

Bildeston handbell ringers in 1920 (by kind permission of Katharine Salter).One thing that stood out was a picture shared on the Rural East Suffolk in Old Photographs Facebook page featuring five handbell ringers from Bildeston from 1920. The line-up include Harry Lister who rang hundreds of peals for the Guild, but also three Whittells, including Keith ‘Tinner’ Whittell, father of Neville and therefore grandfather of Katharine Salter and great grandfather of George and Colin. It is a fascinating piece of local ringing history.

And our mundane day was climaxed by watching the return of Strictly Come Dancing.  It isn’t ringing related, but it’s return in the absence of the joy of regular ringing offered something to enjoy, for those who do enjoy such things. That said, it was starting a month later than usual, was laden with necessary regulations, social distancing, bubbles, one less judge and a sparse, masked audience. Ringing isn’t the only measure of the UK’s restrictions.

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Friday 16th October 2020

Today was a sort of Birthday Mark II, without the worry of getting up by a certain time to be somewhere in the morning, the working week over for another couple of days. Therefore we tucked into some of the gin very kindly got for me by Ruthie for yesterday and a Chinese takeaway and sat back and relaxed.

There was time for the usual Friday night virtual pub with Simon Rudd & Co. as the Sparlings braced for Essex’s move up – or down, depending on how you look at it – to tier two of current restrictions, Ben Trent told us about his recent parachute jump and Linda Garton told us how many all-ladies peals there have ever been.

Meanwhile, although the weekly updates from the Central Council have now been moved to Mondays (However there was a "weekly" update published today. Ed.), they did provide some clarification on ringing in the two highest tiers of the government’s new system. Essentially if in tiers two or three, then ringing is “not recommended”. Although even the CCCBR admit there is nothing they can do to stop anyone flouting these regulations and it is unlikely that the police will be raiding ringing chambers, this is – and has been since restrictions were first imposed upon us in March – a matter of trust. I don’t like the rules, as many others don’t, but the fact is that the only way we will be in a position to resume proper, full-on ringing that makes it all worthwhile when the time comes, is by showing we are worthy of the trust put in us by the Church of England Recovery Group. For now – and God willing for as long as possible – we in Suffolk are able to continue ringing, even if it is in its restricted form.

It is also possible to ring handbells together, as was shown in Drinkstone today, where Nigel Gale rang his first of Major in hand. Well done Nigel!

A nice note on my Birthday Mark II!

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Thursday 15th October 2020

Birthdays can often be a day of reflection as one gets older. Not so much in response to the almost inevitable question “what does it feel like to be a year older?” I don’t feel any different today as a forty-two year old to what I felt like yesterday as a forty-one year old, but it does usually bring past birthdays to mind more readily. It doesn’t feel all that long since I was entering my thirties with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, feeling old for the first time, as ridiculous as that seems now, but of course it is an absolute age ago. I still vividly remember realising almost with an audible gasp on my twentieth birthday that I was halfway to forty. Recollections come flooding back of becoming an adult and before that a teenager, even when I hit double figures. Much has been learnt and mistakes made in that time and I am certainly a different person to who I was when I look back!

Of course, life is very different now to back then. Indeed, life is very different now to what it was at my last birthday! That occasion wasn’t much more exciting than today’s as it happens, but of course it fell amongst much freer times, with much having been enjoyed – such as the St Mary-le-Tower Open Day a few days earlier – and to look forward to, such as quarter-peal and peal attempts, rather than the bare diary and sense of disappointment as each passing weekend means another event missed.

The wearing restrictions of recent months and Dad’s recent death certainly added to the sense of reflection today, although when looking back I realise how blessed I am now to have so much. A job I enjoy and have been in for over twelve years, a house of our own, a growing and – God willing – a healthy family and many friends, who were among the vast number of good wishes imparted to me via Facebook and texts today. Thank you everyone!

Sadly there wasn’t much opportunity for any footnotes (not that I would expect any for a fairly insignificant landmark), but there was ringing in Suffolk and near to home at that as a band gathered to ring handbells in Pettistree to celebrate the birth of a second child for Stewart and Louise who run The Greyhound, where in normal times the ringers would regularly meet after a practice night. Congratulations to them!

My celebrations were pretty low key, even taking into account the current subdued times. With a possible early start in the morning for Ruthie we partook of a couple of glasses of wine before on a quiet night not too dissimilar to most nights over the last seven months, with plans to celebrate a little more heartily tomorrow night at the end of the working week.

The Argeth Association.Still, we enjoyed watching the video of the first ringing on MINECRAFT™ (those with teenagers will probably know all about it!) which featured one-time SMLT ringer George Vant.

It may be something to reflect upon on any future birthdays.

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Wednesday 14th October 2020

One day short of my forty-second birthday and I began learning a new skill. Or at least a new way of doing an old skill.

This evening, Ruthie and myself – and Alfie – joined fellow regular Pettistree ringers in trying out Ringing Room for the first time. And I have to admit that I was more impressed than I thought I would be. It is no substitute for the real thing of meeting together and ringing real tower bells in the beautiful ancient churches we are privileged to ring in, but in the absence of doing that, this seems a useful, fun way of keep our ringing brains going. Our peak was Plain Hunt on six tonight, but actually we were managing to get to grips with the rhythm and striking as we grappled with ringing familiar stuff in an unfamiliar fashion and were pretty chuffed with our last couple of pieces. There was much laughter had as people got on the wrong stroke, joked about light set bells and my wife claimed at one stage to have broken a stay!

I can also see how it has been useful for teaching learners who have never touched a bellrope to ring methods, as I have heard has been the case in places and even with our debut session Alfie was able to show its potential in that respect as he joined in with some rounds and even some Plain Hunt on five under the supervision of his mother. Although the video of him doing it didn’t go wrong due to him, but rather my wife as she tried to film whilst also ringing!

Elsewhere others more practiced were showing what can be done on the platform with the latest quarter-peal on the platform being a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung with a band from Cambridgeshire and Wiltshire, whilst the Perrins family from Australia shared a video that gave an insight into what one would have heard if they were sat in on their recent impressive handbell peal of Scientific Triples.

Poster for GWP biography.Meanwhile, we in the South-East District received an email from Guild PRO Neal Dodge that we can order a copy of George Pipe’s biography by John Loveless – Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes – at bulk ordering rate of £16 rather than the full-rate of £18.50 if we place our order with Stephen Cheek. In the North-West District Kate Gill is doing the honours and in the South-West it is Christine Knight, whilst they’re still looking for someone in the North-East if anyone wants to take on the role (Email now sent out to all NE members. Ed.). Wherever you are in the Guild though, there should be the opportunity to benefit from the bulk ordering rate. As if you needed any further encouragement to order a copy!

I’m looking forward to receiving my copy when it arrives (it has been mooted as a Christmas present for me!), but for now I’m quite looking forward to occupying myself with Ringing Room!

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Tuesday 13th October 2020

One of the few and unexpected bonuses of the restrictions placed upon us ringers this year is that the second Tuesday evening of each month is now well and truly ensconced as College Youths meeting night for me, having only previously been able to get down to London for it on a handful of occasions. Granted, it isn’t the same pub-based social event that it usually is, but it has been nice to feel involved with proceedings as they have unfurled throughout the year.

That said, there was a slightly subdued undertone to this month’s business, even by the standards of 2020. Understandably so too, as the cancellation of the Anniversary Dinner next month was reflected upon and Treasurer Graham Firman spelt out that without steeplage from the monthly practices, donations from the usual dinners and fewer new members and yet many of the same outgoings (for example, with more handbell peals, there are fewer ringers paying peal fees per performance), there may be a substantial deficit in the Society’s accounts.

These were countered with positive attempts to limit the damage of these effects, with plans for a sort of virtual Anniversary Dinner event to be announced and a suggestion from Past ASCY Secretary Phil Rogers for members to Buy A Drink For The Society (or Drink In To Help Out as Philip Earis apparently suggested!) on dinner day, by donating the price of a drink or two (which as Phil pointed out is about £5-£10 in the capital!) to the Society’s general fund.

Certain moments indicated that this was a meeting very much of its time, with Ben Meyer being ‘appointed’ as Society Online Meeting Facilitator, his uncle and current Secretary Simon Meyer briefly disappearing with technical difficulties and the accounts being ratified after their initial ratification in April was delayed in the hope that meetings would soon resume in person, but of course which haven’t.

Poster for GWP biography.And afterwards, John Loveless imparted to me how unnerving it was “presenting into a hole” after he put in a well received sales pitch for his biography of the late, great Ipswich ringer and Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild George Pipe, ‘Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes’. A timely reminder – if you should need one – that it is possible to pre-order a copy (or indeed copies) of this eagerly anticipated hard-back book in readiness for release on the 6th November. As indeed many already have, with eighty copies already ordered and I suspect many more after this evening’s presentation to the Society that GWP was a member of for sixty-five years. Make sure you get a copy too!

Meanwhile, CCCBR President Simon Linford’s blog touched upon quite a few of the topics that mine has recently (although I doubt he has the time to root through my lengthy ramblings for ideas!), such as the ringing being done beyond the UK’s mainland, the article in The Spectator, the spectacular handbell ringing of the Page brothers and Colin Newman in Reading and the latest update on the restrictions on ringing.

The Perrins.However, he also quite rightly pointed out the incredible peal of Scientific Triples rung in Australia by the Perrins’ on handbells. What is so challenging about this is that there are different calls and a line that doesn’t have too much to grab hold of and whilst it was pealed on handbells by a band from Birmingham twelve years ago (itself an impressive achievement), this is only the second time it has been achieved and arguably a bigger achievement than the first, being rung as it was by the same family in a part of the world without the ringing opportunities usually afforded those of us in the UK and particularly for the Brummies.

In addition, Simon mentions a conversation with Bruno Peek, the man usually responsible for overseeing various national events, such as the celebrations for the Queen’s ninetieth birthday and the marking of the seventy-fifth anniversaries of VE & VJ Day and between them they have come up with the notion of a competition nominally entitled the ‘World’s Favourite Bellringer’! Look out for more details, possibly even in the national press!

For all that none of us want the current situation to last any longer than necessary, it is uplifting to see what ringing and ringers have achieved in these restricted times. And nice to attend College Youths meetings!

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Monday 12th October 2020

With the announcing of a new three-tier lockdown system across England, I felt a strange feeling of relief in keeping with this strange, dreadful year, that we in Suffolk fall into the first tier, meaning that restrictions don’t get any worse for us. Of course that means we’re still stuck with the ‘Rule of Six’ and the lack of exemption for young children, our poor struggling pubs shutting at 10pm and all the other limitations we have had for a month already. However, that does at least allow us invaluable time with family and friends from other households, means we could still go to a pub if we can get babysitters and of course we can still ring bells. If we get to the second tier when it seems that households aren’t allowed to mix, then I imagine ringing won’t be allowed in most cases (albeit as yet there has been no confirmation from the Central Council that this would be the case), although mercifully we seem a long way off that within our borders currently. God willing it stays that way and we can at least maintain the ringing we are doing at the moment, unsatisfactory as that is compared to the limitless nature of the art in normal times.

First tier status should allow gatherings such as that in Moats Tye today that enabled Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson to ring her first quarter-peal of Major in hand with the 1280 of Plain Bob – well done Rowan! Here’s hoping that we remain in the first tier and she and others are therefore afforded the opportunity for more ringing achievements!

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Sunday 11th October 2020

St Mary-le-Tower. Tunstall. Brandeston.

We had a change of combination at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. With Lucy Willliamson visiting her parents Jonathan and Sue, they were able to ring the sharp second, followed by the third and fourth, then Peter Davies on the seventh and myself and Ruthie on the tenth and eleventh. Without having to heave the 34cwt tenor in on six, we were able to expand our repertoire to Minor, the first for us since my wife rang in a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Tunstall and I rang in the 1250 of Wells Surprise Minor that preceded it at Brandeston on the Pettistree Quarter-Peal Day seven months ago. The course of Plain Bob was also sandwiched by some call-changes and Grandsire Doubles, with some very good striking, particularly impressive for being the first towerbell ringing that Lucy and Peter had done since March. In the context of an art that usually has practically limitless opportunities to ring different bells in different churches, with different people in all sorts of methods for almost any length of time, the use of a slightly different unsatisfactory combination of six (especially when I was still ringing the eleventh, the only towerbell I have rung since ringing on church bells ceased over half a year ago!) barely registers on the interesting scale. However, as with most other aspects of life we have to make the most of such small pleasures, although how much longer society generally is prepared to get by on small pleasures remains to be seen.

Even afterwards for post-ringing refreshments in Christchurch Park the effects of the restrictions were obvious to see. In normal circumstances, we would be gathered together in a large group (sometimes over twenty of us) indoors at Costa Coffee at this point, but today in separate groups we hovered awkwardly around the park benches with the grass too damp to sit on whilst I tried – largely unsuccessfully – to extract the dregs of my hot chocolate with all the trimmings from the bottom of the mug without a spoon present, whilst attempting to retain what dignity I have left!

Come this afternoon and we were privileged to be invited to attend the confirmation of our good friends Charlotte and Gregory, held in Felixstowe, especially as they were only allowed to invite five to join them under the current regulations. Held at England’s first ever reinforced concrete church St Andrew’s, whilst it was a shame that it wasn’t at the nearby St John the Baptist’s where I might have considered contacting Brian Aldous to see if any restrictions-friendly ringing might have been possible for the occasion, it was interesting to ‘grab’ a new church in Suffolk as we had never been inside here and we were pleasantly surprised. Despite the fascinating, but less-than-inspiring exterior, the interior is bright, vast and quite traditional. And apparently a tower had been planned (I have no idea why it wasn’t built), so there might have been bells here for us to ring if history had panned out differently!
Sadly though, there was a sparse attendance to take it all in and witness the confirmation of our friends and others as of course current rules meant that numbers were limited and restrictions extend even to socialising with our family, something very private but still being regulated by the government, which is particularly frustrating with the inclusion of young children like Alfie and Joshua in the ‘Rule of Six’. It meant that for the simple act of leaving the boys with their grandparents Kate and Ron whilst we went to the coast and then enjoying a gratefully received delicious homemade curry afterwards we had to exclude someone that has been under the same roof as us anyway. In our circumstances the only real option was dropping Mason back off at his mum’s, meaning unfortunately he again missed out on more of our family’s socialising.

Beyond mainland UK though, other ringers are being able to carry out the exercise to pretty much its usual full extent. In Australia and New Zealand they have been ringing peals and quarters, the Isle of Man has been ringing as normal since the island was declared virus-free over the summer, whilst on the Channel Islands where a number of QPs have been rung they rang on twelve on Alderney for the first time since restrictions were lifted. And in Kenya, all six bells at St Thomas in Kilifi were rung together for Sunday service for the first time for a while.

Even within the current limits, it was nice to see that the Hill family rang handbells at the funeral of Christine’s father Dick Pegg at Bramford, along with some of the 10cwt six before and after the service. As with Dad’s recent funeral, I imagine it won’t have been exactly the send-off that they wanted for this lovely man, nor the one he deserved, but it sounds like they did a grand job of making the most of it all.

Meanwhile, with other members of the congregation from St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge present at the confirmation this afternoon, we were delighted to hear positive reports about the ringing there this morning, including from retired priest Reverend Peter Wintgens who imparted that his wife Alison had enjoyed her first ringing on the bells for months. Such changes are small pleasures, but important nonetheless.

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Saturday 10th October 2020

It was a day for the mums.

Whilst Ruthie was joining her sister Clare and the boys’ Grandad Ron took her mother Kate out to afternoon tea at Milsoms at Kesgrave for her recent birthday, I took the brothers round to my mother’s for a cuppa and catch-up.

At her abode she treated the children to a video taken by her father of their father when I was twelve or thirteen, ringing the treble at St Mary-le-Tower in the early 1990s, ringing the treble to some Grandsire Cinques in the presence of several familiar faces looking a lot younger (as we all did!), such as Owen Claxton, the visiting Peter Hill, Amanda Richmond and Mum herself. And the less said about my bright red trainers and green trousers, the better!

Guild of St Cuileáin Handbell Band.With the morning dedicated to a tidying task that feels a little like painting the Forth Bridge (although the never-ending painting job on that is no longer a thing), that left little time for any handbell ringing, but that certainly wasn’t the case in Reading where a 15120 of twenty-one Treble Dodging methods was rung in 4hrs 47mins, the longest length for all the band in terms of changes rung.

I’m sure mother Jenny Page would’ve been chuffed on this day for the mums.

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Friday 9th October 2020

George W Pipe.Today is the day from when one can order a copy of Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes, the biography of Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master George Pipe written by John Loveless. From now on, you will be able to go to The Ringing World shop where you will find a list of merchandise including diaries for 2021 which will hopefully be used more than its predecessor and the newly available book, priced at £18.50 (including packaging and UK postage). Merely put the number of copies you want in the box alongside, follow the instructions and you will get a copy of one of the most eagerly awaited ringing publications for years. I am looking forward to getting a copy and would recommend ringers from within our borders to get a copy as it is apparently packed full of tales of local ringing and ringers, amongst much, much else from this fascinating life. John has put a huge amount of work into this over the last couple of years and worked closely with George himself on it, so I hope that people make their work worthwhile.

Meanwhile, the art that meant so much to GWP got some unexpectedly good news this morning. Cases have been rising fairly rapidly, with even East Suffolk being put on a watchlist (although this is probably largely due to the single, but large outbreak at Bernard Matthews factory at Holton), causing more worry amongst the jittery authorities making decisions for society and I expected the next major decision on ringing restrictions to be a tightening or even another cessation. I was pleasantly surprised therefore by the pre-update announcement by the Central Council that the go-ahead had been given by the Church of England Recovery Group for the distance between ringers from different households whilst ringing to be reduced from two metres to one.
It is important to note that this is not with immediate effect though.
Rather, the CCCBR are mindful that announcing such relaxations whilst everything else is being tightened needs to be handled with care. Therefore, it is planned to go hand in hand with guidance – that they are currently working on – to make risk assessments on a local and individual basis, allowing decision-making to be transferred to association and guild level. This seems eminently sensible. Presumably ringing in a ground-floor and/or well ventilated ringing chamber in Suffolk carries a lot less risk than in an enclosed one in the Midlands for example and so therefore the former needs to be making decisions on a different basis to the latter. Look out for this in the next week or two, but for now, the current guidance of two metres remains in place. It is also worth noting that future weekly updates will now appear on the CC’s websites on Mondays from 19th October, so look out for those too to help you keep track of what you should or shouldn’t be doing.

These developments were a talking point on Simon Rudd’s Friday night virtual pub, along with swear words (particularly good fun!) and Simon’s impressive efforts on Ringing Room today. And with John Loveless and Linda Garton also there, George Pipe’s biography. Did I mention that you can order a copy today?

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Thursday 8th October 2020

Westminster Abbey.Mary Wakefield, wife of the infamous Dominic Cummings, wrote an article earlier in the year that featured at the centre of arguably the most well known scandal of 2020. Barnard Castle-gate and all that. Her article in the latest edition of The Spectator is unlikely to garner the same widespread publicity and analysis, but it has certainly caught the attention of ringers as she writes – very well it has to be said – about how much she misses the bells of Westminster Abbey. These are bells that in normal times can often be heard ringing out behind various news reports in this hub of the UK’s political scene and sometimes I get the impression that they are considered by some reporters in particular to be a bit of a nuisance, as they try to carry our interviews or do pieces to camera over the top of something being rung exquisitely on the 30cwt ten by the superb band called upon, usually to mark royal occasions. It is nice therefore to hear that they are appreciated by the public.

That she misses bells as a non-ringer also raises what reaction we might get when full-on ringing returns. Will we be embraced by a multitude of Mary Wakefields delighted by the return of change-ringing dancing across the towns, villages and countryside of Suffolk? Or will residents in earshot of our towers have got used to the peace and quiet and be put out by the resumption of noise invading the once silent breeze? Sadly it is likely to be a long time (probably the spring at least the way things are going) before we have to confront such issues, but bands will no doubt be putting plans into place (as best we can in such circumstances) for the full resumption of ringing one day and hopefully making neighbours aware of when it will be happening and to what extent, once they know.

Stonham Aspal.One member of the public who does seem to appreciate the exercise is Simon Knott, who runs the Suffolk Churches website and it was whilst perusing his newest entries that I came across the entry for Stonham Aspal. In it he goes into great detail about the unusual tower here and as a context gives a broad overview of the history of towers, change-ringing and ringers themselves, mentioning the Baileys, Chenerys, Pipes and Wightmans. Like Mary Wakefield, he speaks of the names of “sequences”, or methods as we know them of course. I really hope we can tap into these sorts of views of our art, even if they are quite romanticised!

They may both find the act of ringing on Ringing Room less romantic, but even though I haven’t partaken of the platform yet I am grateful that it has enabled bands and ringers to meet together and carry out change-ringing over the last few months. On last night’s Pettistree video chat, Elaine Townsend told us about how she and other Rushmere St Andrew ringers have been using it to practice weekly and I have been pleased to see some of the county’s regular quarter-pealers ringing QPs on it, including a 1260 of Single Oxford Bob Minor today, which was a first on RR for Buxhall’s Tony Mason. Well done Tony!

It’s not quite the same as Westminster Abbey’s bells ringing out at full pelt, but I hope Mary Wakefield will have approved anyway.

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Wednesday 7th October 2020

Pettistree.Wednesday nights used to be a hive of activity at St Peter and St Paul in Pettistree, before government restrictions put an end to such things. Usually around at least a dozen ringers would mingle in the ground-floor ringing chamber from where this six is rung, often in the church when not ringing and even in the churchyard on nice summer’s evenings at a practice normally preceded by a quarter-peal more often than not successful (indeed before lockdown there was a 100% success rate with these in 2020 and going back a couple of months before that) and followed by a convivial drink or two in The Greyhound next door. Typically either Ruthie or myself would be present for an eclectic session of method ringing with a band that were active together in and out of the tower (with the annual dinner held at the aforementioned inn being one of the few social occasions we’ve been able to enjoy this year), resulting in a group of ringers comfortable ringing together producing a high standard, with victory in last year’s (and sadly still the last occasion it was held) Mitson Shield Suffolk Guild Striking Competition testifying to that. It has been a pity therefore that we haven’t all met in the seven months since.

Pettistree Zoom.Until tonight that is, as Mary Garner convened a video chat of the regular ringers. Partly it was for a spot of business as she and husband Chris revealed that they’d got a new clapper which used to belong to Stoke St Milborough in Shropshire before the old ring there was famously replaced a few months ago by an octave cast in Italy and there was a request for a new address for the tower copy of the Ringing World to be sent. My wife enthusiastically volunteered us for that...

Fulbourn.There was actual ringing going on in the county though, with a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor on handbells in Bury St Edmunds, whilst north of the Norfolk border the Norwich Diocesan Association Peal Secretary Richard Carter was getting very excited that the organisation had finally reached double figures – with the 5040 in hand in Trowse - in its peal totals since the much-missed 2019 slipped into history! Encouragingly, despite there being no peals rung in our name since the 5184 of Ealing Surprise Major at Fulbourn in Cambridgeshire on 13th March, the SGR total stands at nearly three times as much with twenty-seven.

However, our Pettistree get-together was mainly just to get together and catch up with each other, with no services at the church and therefore no ringing there, although three bells were rung for VJ Day in August. It was interesting to hear what others have been getting up to, but even more interesting to hear what we may all be doing in the coming weeks as we collectively decided to delve into the world of Ringing Room from next week!

Wednesday nights might once again be a hive of activity for us.

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Tuesday 6th October 2020

There have been a couple of threads on the Bellringers Facebook page in recent days that have expressed many ringers’ frustrations at the continued restrictions on ringing, unlike most social media debates largely held with refreshing respectfulness without resorting to name-calling and swearing. Especially considering there were considerably differing views on the subject. There are some that feel that what we in ringing are currently subjected to is overly restrictive and I have to say I am sympathetic. With face masks and hand sanitiser overload (we wash our hands with sanitiser twice on the way into ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and twice on the way out), it seems disproportionate that we can’t ring closer than two metres apart and for longer than fifteen minutes. However, although I would happily go back to ringing normally tomorrow if allowed, I also recognise that we can’t and why we can’t. The CCCBR have – IMHO – done magnificently to get ringing going again, considering that initially the exercise wasn’t even on the Church of England Recovery Group’s radar and the church has (by many people’s measure) been incredibly cautious with their response to the restrictions, for better or worse. And with things getting tighter throughout society, I think we’ll do well to hold on to what we currently have for the whole winter, let alone gaining more freedoms.

That said, it will be interesting to see what the spring brings. I find it hard to believe (although I would’ve found a lot of the things that have happened in recent months hard to believe beforehand!) that after a long hard winter that will have brought many businesses and sports clubs to their knees (if not finished altogether), really stretched what many can take (indeed arguably a large proportion of society seem to have already reached breaking point) and in all probability will prevent families time together at Christmas that is needed more than ever before, that people just won’t have had enough and be prepared to live with the risks, which will God willing be much reduced with treatments and/or vaccines by that point. If that does happen (and perhaps the opposite will have happened and we’ll be so worn down that we’ll just give up on life!), then it will be interesting to see where ringing fits into all of that. Yes, viewed in isolation, ringing isn’t the most vital thing in the world at the moment, but it is an important outlet socially, physically and mentally for so many people who by spring will have been deprived of its benefits for an entire year. For all that I think the winter will be another few dull, restricted few months, the spring could be interesting!

For now though, some ringers are making the most of the situation. October’s update on the Stowmarket Project to augment the eight to a ten and rehang the bells in a new frame was published, whilst this morning a band apparently got up at 4.30 to ring the peal of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced on Ringing Room, apparently to avoid internet delays, in a perfect example of the difficulties of peal arranging in 2020! Here in Suffolk though, more conventional peal-ringing was being carried out on handbells in Bacton where a 5040 of twelve Surprise Minor methods was rung.

No such exertions for us on another quiet evening in. Like many other ringers, I can’t wait to get back to proper, full-on ringing to occupy a few evenings!

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Monday 5th October 2020

Whitechapel Bell Foundry is in the news again, three years after it closed. Proposals had been put forward to preserve the buildings but incorporate a 103-room hotel, plans that I think a lot of people thought was the likely future of the site. However, with an online public inquiry on the site’s future due to start tomorrow, there is another proposal that may see the casting of bells happening there again. The alternative proposal is being put forward by Factum Foundation and Re-Form Heritage and details can be found on their websites, but broadly speaking it is apparently not going to be on the same scale as before, but will no doubt generate support amongst many in the ringing community. I’m not sure how viable it is, but I have to admit that this proposal does appeal to me more personally. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.

St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney.Of course many of the bells cast at this famous location over the last few centuries have hung silent in recent months, so it was uplifting to read of a peal rung today on actual towerbells, which as it happens were all cast by Whitechapel. Obviously it wasn’t in this country, but nonetheless the 5000 changes of four spliced Surprise Royal methods – Cambridge, Oakham, Swindon and Yorkshire – rung in Australia at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Mary in Sydney offers hope for us all that at some point (please God soon) we can all return to such activity. And it did feature one lucky UK ringer with fellow Rambling Ringer Andrew Mills ringing the seventh.

No such luck for us and with it unlikely that over the next few months we’ll find ourselves in the Antipodes, that my handbell ringing will improve dramatically or that I’ll get enough (indeed any) time on Ringing Room, I expect peal-ringing is a pleasure (yes, I’m aware that for many of you it isn’t a pleasure, but it is for me!) that I will have to wait a long, long time for. Instead, where my Monday evenings were once a sociable trip out to St Mary-le-Tower practice and then The Cricketers afterwards, tonight was what Monday nights normally are now – at home, trying to find something new to watch on TV, albeit in the pleasurable company of my family. Indeed, that’s what every evening is like now. I shall have to be patient to ring Suffolk’s Whitechapel bells.

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Sunday 4th October 2020

The deaths of George Pipe in March and my Dad Alan last month have been low points in a year of many low points. However, today the focus was on celebrating their lives.

George W Pipe.For today full details came out on the release of John Loveless’ much anticipated biography of George, Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes. Pre-ordering is open from this Friday, 9th October ahead of the release date of 6th November, which coincidentally is his Godson – and my brother – Chris’ fortieth birthday. As outlined on the websites of the Central Council and The Ringing World and on here previously, but worth reiterating, this is 240 pages crammed full of GWP’s photos and sketches, anecdotes and a fascinating exploration of this extraordinary life, as well as information of many of the characters of Suffolk ringing and his incredible exploits in Australia – where he was a major part of the formation of ANZAB – and in the USA where he was one of the band to ring the first peal at Washington Cathedral on a trip that took in so much more than that peal. With George himself having worked with Jake on this, any of you who had the privilege of listening to the great man holding forth with tales of ringing will already know that this will be an entertaining and absorbing read, but even if you didn’t know him, there is plenty for you and importantly it is written with ringers of all abilities in mind, with technical terms explained. And all this will be available for just £18.50, including packaging and postage in the UK. I can’t wait to read it and whilst this will be a book for all, it should be a must-read for ringers within our borders in particular, with George being respected throughout the world of ringing and a superb ambassador of ringing in the county. Jake has spent the last two years working really hard on this, with a lot of extra work put in this year following George’s death and the amazing reaction to his passing, especially at a time when coronavirus was starting to take over many people’s thoughts. Therefore, get to the RW shop on Friday and get ordering!

Meanwhile, we received the link from Stephen Cheek who had very kindly filmed father’s funeral at Sproughton, appropriately from the ringing gallery that Dad so frequently rang from before coronavirus restrictions sadly curtailed that pleasure. It is one of the few (indeed the only one that comes to mind) positives of the restricted circumstances in which we had to hold Dad’s final hurrah, that we have this video. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to hear the Rev Annette Shannon’s lovely address, Chris’ reading of You Can Shed Tears, Ruthie’s beautiful rendition of Abide With Me and the recording of the 8cwt six ringing the eponymous Alliance Minor method as we left. You should be able to watch it if you wish by clicking on here.

It is a sign of the times that we are living through that this wasn’t the only service we attended that became available to watch online today, as the harvest festival at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge was livestreamed. My wife’s wonderful singing makes an appearance just before fifty-one minutes in, as do we (mercifully silently!) about fifty seconds later! It was the first service here we had attended as a family since before lockdown, but also saw the return of junior church where the boys enjoyed making paper pumpkins in St Mary’s Church Centre, complete with all the familiar regulations of face masks where necessary, constant handwashing and separate household groups. It was still great to be back though.

On the way in it was also great to listen to the bells here being rung. The local ringers have done superbly ringing handbells to accompany the arriving congregations since churches were allowed to reopen, but due to the frame being painted and holidays, this morning was the first time they had been rung for service for six-and-a-months. And considering that none of the quartet had rung towerbells in that time, I thought they produced some pretty decent ringing.

Ampton.The call-changes on four of this 25cwt eight wasn’t the only ringing in Suffolk noted on BellBoard, as the ringing on all bar the second of the 8cwt four of Ampton also features, as does the fifth handbell peal of forty-one Surprise Minor rung on our soil since ringing on towerbells was halted and then restricted earlier this year, with today’s being rung in Bardwell. It is impressive and uplifting when the scene for ringing generally is so desolate, so hopefully there are more to come!

With plenty of extra time for most of the rest of us though, the perfect time-filler will be reading George Pipe’s biography, so remember to get ordering on Friday!

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Saturday 3rd October 2020

Between The Ancient Society of College Youths and the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths there is much mutual respect and of course friendship, as is typical across ringing. Indeed, mine and Ruthie’s is a cross-society marriage! With it being one of the conditions of joining one society that you can’t be a member of the other (I was once a member of the SRCY, but in order to join the ASCY at a time when being a member of that made more sense in my days of ringing in Birmingham, I had to sadly renounce my membership of the Cumberlands), there is clearly rivalry between these London based but non-territorial organisations, membership of which is something to be aspired to by many ringers worldwide.

However, today highlighted how the usual activities of both have been decimated by the restrictions placed upon us all this year.

Upon waking up to the news that US President Donald Trump had been taken to hospital after his positive coronavirus test this week, it was another, ringing-related story that most grabbed my attention, as an email from College Youths Secretary Simon Meyer confirmed that this year’s Anniversary Dinner due to have been held on Saturday 7th November had been cancelled, possibly for the first time its centuries long history. There had been valiant efforts – particularly on Simon’s part – to ensure that it could be held, even in a restricted fashion but it is not a shock that it has come to this. We had harboured ambitions of attending for the first time since 2011, but had long given up on the notion some time ago, partly because it was always uncertain that it would go ahead, but also because even if it had been held I can’t imagine that it would’ve been anywhere as enjoyable an occasion with all the limitations that would’ve been placed on it. Still, this is extremely sad news.

Come the afternoon, our attentions – and especially those of my wife – turned to the Cumberland Youths’ latest General Meeting and then their AGM which immediately followed it. Typically this is held in the capital, I imagine with a large crowd from across the country, but as with the Suffolk Guild AGM a fortnight ago and so many other similar events in 2020, it was being done over Zoom.

That said, as with the monthly ASCY meetings that I have been able to join since they went online earlier this year, this was a nice opportunity for Mrs Munnings to partake in something that typically she wouldn’t be able to. And I sat alongside her, as John Loveless was very kindly speaking about my Dad who had been a member of the society since 10th July 1971. It was lovely to see so many people nationwide taking in the achievements of a modest man who I’m sure would’ve been surprised but chuffed at the outpouring of love and respect for him since he died. Thank you Jake for the wonderful words about Dad. As well as for the plug for the blog!

It was also nice to hear the meeting remember Essex ringer Mick Edwards who has rung more peals for the SGR than any other non-resident ringer, many of which I had the pleasure of ringing with him at The Wolery.

Even after the main reason for me tuning in, I was interested to follow the meeting with my wife, with their members being encouraged to partake in their Peal Weekend next month with handbells as the College Youths did with theirs last month, and a report from the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest committee confirmed what we have heard from others involved in the organising of the 2021 competition that the chances of the eliminators – including one at The Norman Tower - being held on its planned date of Saturday 27th March are slim, with it uncertain as to whether they happen at all. Nothing has been confirmed (understandably they are holding off as late as possible until making a firm decision), but various options are naturally being explored, such as an invite-only final at Guildford (where the locals have gone to a huge amount of effort over the last couple of years for the event) or holding it all later in the year, but as with so much we will have to just wait and see.

At the end of the General Meeting, Any Other Business included John talking about the George Pipe biography, with ordering possible from next week – look out for more details shortly!

Bray. Monks Risborough. Watlington. Turville. Hambleden.

Meanwhile, the footnote to the quarter-peal rung in hand by Philip & Sheila George – who we have rung much with in the past on St Neots ringing weekends - in Little Gransden struck a chord with me as I contemplated that today we would probably have been on the South-East District Outing. Of course that wasn’t to be, but it did get me thinking of my ideal outing. Many would love a day of ringing on the finest bells, but whilst I wouldn’t sniff at that, I often most enjoy days when the quality of the bells is varied, including some stinkers! I have also always thought about organising an outing around towers which have featured in TV and the movies, many of which are relatively close together in the Home Counties. Perhaps Bray (where the inside shots were filmed for the famous Midsomer Murders episode Ring Out Your Dead which centred around ringing), Monks Risborough (which provided the sound of the bells) and Watlington (where the outside scenes at the church were filmed). Then maybe Turville (which most famously features as the Vicar of Dibley’s church) and then Hambleden (a tower that stars in episodes of Marple, Poirot and numerous other programmes and films).

That’ll have to be for another time though, as so much will be for the Ancient Society of College Youths and the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths.

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Friday 2nd October 2020

Unlike Donald Trump’s (and whatever our thoughts on him I’m sure all decent folk will wish him well with his recovery), Joshua’s COVID test mercifully came back negative today, which was a relief. Although too late for the school to take the boys back and thus preventing Ruthie from going back into the shop, as I am only a few minutes walk from work it made sense for me to return to the office. As shown for over three months during the spring and early summer, it is perfectly possible for me to work from home, but the mechanics of the work itself are far easier from the office.

Before receiving the good news that we had been granted our freedom, I had begun the day working from home upstairs, listening to BBC Radio Suffolk whilst I worked in isolation. In the course of this temporary working situation, I was intrigued listening to an interview from The Hold – the new home of the Suffolk Records Office collection – which was held 3hrs 28mins into Mark Murphy’s breakfast show from the North Entrance where visitors are greeted by “the sounds of Suffolk”, including the sound of bells. In a discussion with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge there was a suggestion that they may be using a recording of Rushmere St Andrew bells from 1968 which is in their online archives, but it was too indistinguishable behind the interview to identify precisely. If anyone can identify the bells used that would be brilliant, although an actual visit may be in order!

Meanwhile, the East Anglian Daily Times website caught my attention with two articles, one sad, one happy.

On the former, I was sorry to hear of the death of former Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich Diocese and therefore Past President of the SGR Richard Lewis. For the majority of his time as Bishop here between 1997 and 2007 I was living, working and ringing in the West Midlands, but I know how popular he was, including amongst ringers and of course in normal circumstances there might have been a peal in the offing to remember him.

Sudbury, St Peter.On the brighter side though, it was lovely to read of the £1.7m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the project at St Peter’s in Sudbury, which includes a new wheelchair accessible gallery floor where the 20cwt ten will be rung from. Very exciting news and something to look forward in a time when the future is constantly being pushed further and further back.

For now the weekly CCCBR update on ringing’s place within the myriad of changing regulations and guidelines captures perfectly the times we are living in. This week the emphasis is on ringing in areas where stricter restrictions are in place, particularly where households are not allowed to mix. As far as can be told, ringing is not exempt from that rule and so unless somewhere is fortunate enough to have a large household of ringers at their disposal, change-ringing on tower bells simply won’t be possible in those areas.

Mercifully that is nowhere near the case here in Suffolk at the moment, with the number of cases still amongst the lowest in the country, but of course we are still restricted in what we can do, both from a ringing and fundraising perspective. Therefore on the latter, Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson announced plans at the recent SGR AGM to revamp the St Edmund's Clapper, a competition that has helped to raise money for the Bell Restoration Fund and before that Friends of Suffolk Bells for many years and today she sent an email to members outlining in writing those plans, which opens it out to individuals and groups as well as towers towards District funds. Do please read it and get thinking what you can do virtually or (within whatever restrictions apply at the time) in person.

We gave it some thought as we finished the day with a chat with Simon Rudd and ringing friends via video (where amongst other things, we attempted to work out the timings for ringing something on Ringing Room with a band that was simultaneously in three different days!), celebrating our restored freedom with a drink or two!

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Thursday 1st October 2020

I suppose it was only a matter of time. It is apparently ten months since coronavirus is thought to have first infected people in the UK, but thus far the restrictions put in place to delay the inevitable spread of an illness that clearly isn’t going anywhere were the only impact of this illness. Mercifully so I guess, as for all that I am increasingly dubious of the merits of such drastic restrictions that seem to be damaging more lives in one way or another than the virus (although granted it is difficult to judge because of those restrictions), I wouldn’t want ourselves or anyone else we know being inflicted with this.

However, today the virus itself became an issue in our household for the first time. Over the last day or two, we’ve noticed the odd cough from Joshua, but nothing that could be described as ‘persistent’ or ‘constant’. Last night and into this morning though, it has increased in frequency and so we checked with 111 who said we ought to get him tested. Therefore, we called our respective places of work and the boys’ school and settled into a routine that became normal over the spring as I worked from upstairs and Ruthie occupied the children downstairs, much to the disappointment of Alfie who had been looking forward to showing his schoolfriends the gap from where his first tooth had dropped out this morning!

The only deviation from this was when we went to the Copdock Park & Ride. Hopefully it is a sign that testing is a lot easier to access that we had no trouble at all booking a slot for this afternoon and so during my delayed lunchbreak we (they suggest when children are tested that two adults come if possible) travelled to the far south-western corner of Ipswich for a well organised experience. We all had our masks on and from the moment we entered the site we were guided clearly by hand signals, signs and phone without leaving the car (as per the rules of course), although as with all children eleven or under we had to do Josh’s swab for them. And very well behaved he was about it too, as we poked around at his tonsils and up his nostrils in an undignified fashion, before we left, handing his double-bagged test through our window to a man with a long grabber! God willing his result will come back negative and we can get on with what life we allowed to currently, but until we get it back we are housebound and isolated. It’s a good job on this occasion that we have no ringing lined up for the foreseeable!

Meanwhile, mother-in-law Kate Eagle today very kindly sent me the link to the recording of Dad’s committal from Tuesday which was led by Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild the Revd Lawrence Pizzey, which can be viewed by clicking on here. It is a comfort that with so few actually being able to attend in person that many could watch it live and can now watch it subsequently up until 29th October. It is only a few minutes long, but I’m sure many will be interested to hear Lawrence’s experiences of ringing with father.

It was an evening of watching recordings of live events, as I took in Central Council PR Officer Vicki Chapman’s talk from last night to the St Martin’s Guild. I’ve known Vicki since I was a youngster when she rang at St Margaret’s in Ipswich and so I was keen to watch it anyway, but having been PRO for the SGR for five years and with PR tied into my job of sales to a certain extent, the subject matter was also of great interest. This was a fascinating presentation, done with humour and whilst there was much detail it never got mired in that detail. Do take the time to watch this absorbing 1hr10mins via YouTube if you get the chance and whilst you are it you may find presentations of interest to you via the SMG’s Training Resources page.

If we get quarantined for the next fortnight, I might find myself revisiting some of them to pass the time!

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Wednesday 30th September 2020

This morning’s cancellation of the next Suffolk Show a full eight months before it was due to happen may seem par for the course this year, but even in the context of 2020 where just about anything that people look forward to has been cancelled, postponed or gone ahead in a restricted fashion that has been far from satisfactory, this news has me worried. I think it’s fair to say that most people have become resigned to things being no better than this as we enter 2021, but I think many of us have been harbouring hopes of things starting to return to normality in the spring, even if it is with the kind of measures and precautions that a few months ago would’ve seemed inconceivable. If this announcement is anything to go by, we are now entering a seemingly endless situation whereby nothing can be planned until we have absolute certainty and yet the reaction to a virus which isn’t going away (at least not for a long time) and the subsequent restrictions applied suggests that we will have uncertainty for some time too. Unless in a year’s time by some miracle we have eradicated coronavirus, is the 2022 show to be cancelled? And likewise a further twelve months on, the 2023 show? And so on.

I’m less worried about the effect on this showpiece event, although I enjoy the atmosphere around the local area when it is on and still hope that one day the Guild can have a presence there again. Rather, my concern is what it means for other aspects of life and most particularly ringing. If the Suffolk Show is not safe to go ahead at the end of May, will the SGR Striking Competitions be possible earlier in the month? Or the AGM in April?

Ringing shall have to follow the rules and should do, as we strive to show we can be trusted to act responsibly, but God willing it doesn’t automatically follow that because the Suffolk Show at the end of May has been cancelled that we can’t expect more expansive ringing to be possible by then. The county’s show is a huge event that usually sees 90,000 people present across two days, something that absolutely dwarves gatherings for practice nights or even our AGM and Striking Competitions which should be much safer and easier to keep track of those attending and certainly take far less organising than an event the size of the Suffolk Show. Ultimately if we can’t hold the Guild’s main events in the spring, I hope we can hold them in person later in the year. Restrictions allowing, it is so important to get these events happening in 2021 at some point.

At least ringers within our borders are still managing some ringing, with a handbell quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor in Bury St Edmunds and Past SGR Ringing Master Jed Flatters very kindly informed that there was ringing done in hand on Sunday prior to the service at the Cathedral where our friend Charlotte was being licensed.

Meanwhile, it was again interesting to read Central Council President Simon Linford’s latest blog, where he spoke of introducing incoming students to the Birmingham ringing scene, even if it isn’t to the same extent as they normally can, the attempts of the ringers at Nantwich in Cheshire to adjust where their ropes fall to allow them to ring more bells socially distanced, how ART is adapting to the current situation ringing finds itself in and the good news that the Loughborough Bellfoundry Museum can reopen. As usual, well worth a read.

I just hope that come the spring he will be talking about ringing returning to normal.

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Tuesday 29th September 2020

The restrictions that have been imposed upon us to varying degrees for most of this year have deprived us all of so much, from watching football, going to pubs, seeing loved ones and ringing bells amongst much, much more. Although not easy due to the indefinite, seemingly never-ending nature of the restrictions, in the main most of us have been able to suck them up and convince ourselves to get through them with the promise of a return to normal, better times ahead, albeit it is hard to see the majority of the population (many of whom seem already to be at the end of what they feel they can take) doing this beyond the end of this forthcoming winter.

However, in regard’s to Dad’s death, it has been pretty much impossible to reconcile ourselves with the damage caused by the ‘cure’ to coronavirus. His last six months were fairly depressing for him, deprived of doing something he enjoyed, seeing his many ringing friends and much precious time spent with family. They have also deprived us and others of marking his death with ringing, although we have been greatly touched by what those who could, have done. And today, the conditions in which we had to hold his funeral and committal felt like a final insult. A sparsely filled All Saints church at Sproughton for the funeral, with no ringing on the familiar 8cwt gallery-ring of six possible or singing allowed and an even sparser turnout at Seven Hills afterwards at the committal. And no wake where we could reminisce with vast numbers of friends and family to properly celebrate his life. No large turnout of people from all aspects of his life from far and wide cramming in to offer support and reassurance that he will be missed. It wasn’t what this gentle, kind, respected man deserved for his one and only final send off.

Service Sheet. The flowers from Mum & Aunty Marian on the left, and myself, Chris, Ruthie, Becky & the boys on the right.That all said, I think we offered him the best possible farewell in the circumstances. Even putting aside how reassuring it was to have the familiar faces of E B Button & Sons undertaking the undertaker role, they guided us magnificently through these unchartered waters of congregation limits, face mask etiquette and other aspects of seeing off a loved one under ever-changing regulations. The Rev Annette Shannon at Sproughton and Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild – and Best Man at my parents’ wedding in 1976 – Revd Lawrence Pizzey at Seven Hills both spoke brilliantly, with the latter giving a fascinating insight into ringing with Dad in the 1960s and 1970s in peals and on ringing tours to North America. The flowers turned out wonderfully with the art Dad so enjoyed represented visually in spectacular style. The recording of Ruthie singing Abide With Me was met with admiration and was extremely moving this afternoon, especially as the sun broke through during it following the rain that greeted us. Ralph Earey marshalled the recordings superbly at church. The tolling as we entered was moving. Local ringers Phil and Sandy Jones guided everyone marvellously. The recorded ringing – Sproughton Alliance Minor rung by the local band and Cambridge Surprise Maximus from St Mary-le-Tower – were a welcome interlude in services when singing wasn’t possible. Mason, Alfie and Joshua behaved themselves tremendously. For all that the numbers were far, far below what they would’ve been without the wearing restrictions in place, it was lovely to see who was there, which was pleasingly representative of his life, with relatives, neighbours, work colleagues and ringers from Debenham, Ipswich, Offton and Sproughton and beyond represented in the restricted crowd of just thirty. Additionally, some were able to watch the committal via a livestream, which should be available to watch again soon, as should the recording of the funeral so kindly carried out by Stephen Cheek. And it still showed what a full and content life he lived.

For me, the funeral is usually a point where we move from mourning to acceptance, moving on with life, but never forgetting. Circumstances beyond our control mean that this has been compromised, but over the last three weeks we have been left in no doubt as to the affection that father was held in. And of course we won’t forget him. At Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays – not least mine in a couple of weeks and especially my brother Chris’ fortieth in November – and all sorts of family occasions his absence will be unavoidable. However, also in ringing when the focus in society changes from saving lives to living life and – amongst everything else that has suffered so tragically in recent months – ringing can get going properly again. At District and Guild events where with Mum he was a fixture, but also weekly ringing. As Jonathan Williamson so excellently wrote, when mother enters the ringing chamber at SMLT and twenty seconds later Dad doesn’t, we will remember him.

For all the sadness of the day though, it began and ended positively. This morning, with the day off I had the chance to drop the boys off at school. Now that I don’t do late shifts at work I haven’t had the chance to do this, but with the current restrictions I didn’t even get the chance to drop Joshua off for his first day at school. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity to take them together for the first time ever and am glad that I did. It was a strange experience though. Gone are the hundreds of pupils and parents converging upon this small part of town and instead it was eerily quiet. There was no bundling them off to the nearest teacher, but rather specific points and people to leave them with, all of which worked well, despite me initially dropping Alfred off without his bag and then forgetting to mention to the teachers that we would be picking them up early today!

And at the end of the day, thanks to mother-in-law Kate looking after the children, myself and Ruthie joined my younger sibling Chris and his wife Becky and Mum in having a meal at The Wilford Bridge round the corner from us in Melton where there was much upbeat reflection on the day and Dad’s life. For all the restrictions, I hope we gave him a suitable send-off.

Rest In Peace Dad.

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Monday 28th September 2020

Laxfield. I am extremely impressed by the publicity for the project to replace the 15cwt six in a 15th century frame at Laxfield with a 17cwt eight in a brand new steel frame. They have a superb website from where one has been able to watch the last ringing on the old bells just under three weeks ago, as well as their removal by Taylors and also includes detailed information about the project, bells, local ringers past and present and ringing generally. It sports some superb communications, with a blog and links to their Instagram and Twitter accounts and Facebook page. Recently there was a report on the BBC News website and just thirty-three minutes into Lesley Dolphin’s Radio Suffolk show this afternoon, ten minutes was dedicated to the exercise, primarily based around the project. Local tower captain Fiona Shuttle and Suffolk Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge brilliantly portrayed what is happening up the tower of All Saints church, as well as linking in some of the other projects around the county such as Combs and Hitcham, and how ringing is having to adjust to the current restrictions. And I loved one-time ringer Lesley’s description of the Keltek Trust – who have gifted the seventh and eighth at Laxfield – as some sort of dating service for bells and churches! All round great publicity – well done Fiona and Neal!

Meanwhile, it was nice to see the first peal rung on tower bells in the UK since March, as a 5040 of Minor were rung on the 1cwt private twelve in Little Eaton in Derbyshire. Of course as a private ring of bells these aren’t under the jurisdiction of the Church of England guidelines, but rather those of a private house and so I expect was perfectly ‘legal’. However, I also imagine all reasonable precautions were taken and whilst some might be understandably uncomfortable with this performance I think it should be viewed as ringers just trying to do something they enjoy (and have had virtually no opportunity to enjoy in the last six months) in the safest possible fashion within in the constantly changing guidelines in a private environment probably no more risky than going to a pub for a few hours.

God willing the opportunity to ring a peal (or indeed any length!) on the eight of Laxfield will not be too much far away.

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Sunday 27th September 2020

St Mary-le-Tower.There was no way that we were ever likely to get up for 5.43am to listen to it, but thanks to iPlayer we can listen whenever we like to the St Mary-le-Tower’s appearance on BBC Radio Four’s Bells on Sunday from this morning as the familiar 34cwt twelve rang out to Cambridge Surprise Maximus across the airwaves.

We were privileged to ring on those same bells later in the morning for the service, although of course only half of them and for just fifteen minutes as has now been the norm for a couple of months now with little incident thus far - God willing it remains so. Indeed, our ringing on this occasion was probably as eventful as it has got up to now as Ruthie knocked her glasses off within a few seconds of starting, prompting Jonathan Williamson on the other side of the famous ringing room to carefully remove his and place them on the table in front of him! As has been normal, despite this, those in the band again rang superbly in what still feels very odd circumstances with the spread out weight range making it difficult to strike the right pace, even after all these weeks.

Great Bealings.However, the norm of meeting in Christchurch Park with fellow SMLT band members afterwards was forsaken this time as we were heading off to Great Bealings church for a harvest service. The original plan to hold it outdoors was scuppered by the wet and windy weather, as was the planned picnic afterwards which for us eventually took place on our living room floor, but it was nice to sit in a church service with the whole family and the first one of new rector the Revd Nigel Prior that I have participated in.

Later my wife and I sat in on another church service, albeit this time remotely as we watched our friend Charlotte being licensed as a Children’s and Families’ Minister in a ceremony at the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds. I don’t know if the bells of The Norman Tower are usually rung for such events, but it is a pity that the opportunity to ring for it wasn’t available. It would’ve been lovely to ring for Charlotte on her special day.

Hawkedon.There was ringing planned for there though this morning I believe and the art was certainly being undertaken elsewhere in Suffolk, with the first ringing since the resumption of the exercise carried out at the 8cwt five of Hawkedon, whilst handbells were again rung at Woodbridge, ahead of what is hoped to be the return of ringing on some of the 25cwt eight there next Sunday.

Whatton-in-the-Vale.Meanwhile, we were touched by the ringing at Whatton-in-the-Vale in Nottinghamshire by members of the Society of Rambling Ringers in memory of Dad as they rang 480 changes of Grandsire Doubles upon five of the 13cwt octave.

I’m sure my father would’ve appreciated it, as I’m sure he would have appreciated Bells on Sunday today.

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Saturday 26th September 2020

Much to Ruthie’s relief, this afternoon we returned the Ringing Worlds that I have been absorbed with since we took them home a fortnight ago. The opportunity arose with a visit to Mum’s ahead of Dad’s funeral this week. It is worth noting that whilst the limited thirty spaces we are allowed to the funeral are filled, there is a live stream to the committal afterwards, which I am more than happy to send the link to for anyone who would like to watch it. And if you would like to make a donation to his memory then if you wish we would be delighted if you could do so to EACH and Cancer Research UK, care of EB Button & Sons at 24 St John Street, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 1EB.

Our trip to the suburbs of Ipswich was a pleasant way to spend some of what was a very wet and windy day, with autumn seemingly now set in on a day otherwise memorable only for a trip to the post office to pick up a parcel for a very excited Joshua and to a busy Next for some new wellies for him. I suspect much of the next few months will be carried out indoors, which will be bad news for those businesses like pubs and restaurants who have just about kept going by expanding their outside space. It will also presumably mean that handbell ringing that has been undertaken in gardens, parks and the like will probably have to move indoors, but of course that is perfectly possible and legal here in Suffolk and elsewhere where the virus hasn’t spread too badly thus far, with up to six different households allowed to meet together providing that there isn’t more than half a dozen in said gathering. How long that will last remains uncertain, so hopefully ringers – including here within our borders – will take advantage whilst they can.

Across the country that seems to have been the case, with peals of Minor, Royal and Maximus in hand rung in Bristol, Oxford and Kent respectively and numerous quarter-peals notched up, but nothing in this county, albeit there were handbells rung in the rain outside St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge yesterday for a wedding.

Laxfield.Meanwhile, there was great PR on the BBC News website about the project to restore and augment the 15cwt six at Laxfield. Something may appear in the Ringing World I suppose. Not that I’d find out though...

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Friday 25th September 2020

Not unexpectedly, the weekly Friday update from the Central Council offered nothing new on the restrictions, with the general expectation I imagine being that for the next six months, what we are currently doing will be as good as it gets with the biggest hope being that we aren’t reined in if restrictions generally get tougher. However, they did impart that Gloucestershire ringer David Pouncey is joining the CCCBR’s guidance team. As a recently retired GP with experience of epidemics in Africa and even coronavirus patients, David’s introduction should offer reassurance to ringers and – perhaps more importantly – the Church of England Recovery Group who will ultimately be responsible for the exercise’s immediate future.

Dordrecht, Grote Kirk.As mentioned though, that immediate future looks unlikely to change much and so Friday nights may consist of virtual pubbing for the foreseeable, as it has done for the last few months and as it was this evening. It climaxed with a quiz night with my uni chums, which was preceded by Simon Rudd’s kind weekly invite for a drink and catch-up with a myriad of ringing friends. On this occasion it was great to catch up with Harm Jan de Kok – who I have known all his life from Rambling Ringers – live from the Netherlands, who was able to update us on the new ten for Dordrecht, whilst John Loveless was able to tell us that George Pipe’s biography which he has written is due for release in mid-November. Keep looking out for more details! Ben Keating was excited about Sunday at The Norman Tower when he is due to ring for the first time since March and South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden even made a brief appearance from Ipswich Railway Station whilst waiting for a bus. All very exciting.

In fact, probably as exciting as it will get for a while!

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Thursday 24th September 2020

I haven’t been spending all week reading two-decade old copies of The Ringing World, honest!

However, I did dip into the summer of 2001 this evening, of which the June was one the best my ringing ‘career’ and it featured prominently in the RW at the time. Albeit not from the angle of ‘Richard J Munnings has a great month!’ The ‘illegal’ peal at St Martin’s in Birmingham (‘illegal’ because one of the methods didn’t produce a full fifteen-lead course which was against Central Council ‘rules’) featured on the front page of the ‘Comic’ in the 22nd June edition, the week before I was part of a winning team in the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest for the first time with the Brummies. The preview in the 29th June edition suggested that having won the competition for the first time in six years the previous year on home soil that there were question marks over how well Birmingham would “travel”. As it happened, this was just the beginning of a run of fifteen victories in twenty years, but we weren’t to know that at the time of course. Therefore that sunny day at South Petherton in Somerset holds a very special place in my memories. And it meant Birmingham was on the front page of the Ringing World the following week in the 6th July edition as the first four pages were dedicated to a report on the final, brilliantly written by now CCCBR President Simon Linford (honing his blog writing skills of the future) and featuring photos taken by one-time Grundisburgh ringer Rod Pipe. Happy memories indeed!

Meanwhile, my lunch break was a busy one, as I travelled to Martlesham to order flowers for Dad’s funeral, returning home in time to meet someone about some work and then to have a quick chat on the way back to work with Hollesley ringer Nigel Bond who was on his way to The Riverside to support our local cinema. It was only a fleeting chat due to our respective time constraints, but it does show that I haven’t just been constantly reading Ringing Worlds!

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Wednesday 23rd September 2020

As we bunker down for months of more evenings in without any ringing, the array of online talks that have helped occupy some of the evenings over the last six months may be needed over the next six months.

Tonight saw me tuned into the St Martin’s Guild’s latest talk, which on this occasion was being done by former Central Council President John Anderson who as a Birmingham ringer of many decades and Past Ringing Master of the SMG was imparting his recollections of the exercise’s personalities in the UK’s second city. Many of the characters were names familiar to me though before my time, but it was fascinating to listen to him talking about them and interesting hearing his memories of ringers that I did ring with, such as Peter Border and of course Rod Pipe and his tales of living with one-time Suffolk ringer Barrie Hendry. John himself was one of the many ringers I looked up to in my time ringing there. He’d cut back a fair bit on peal-ringing by the time I got to the West Midlands, but I still managed a handful with him (all on twelve) and he was a bandmate in two of the three National Twelve-Bell Finals I managed to blag myself into. And he is always such absorbing company, as this evening’s hour-long session reiterated.

That said, I missed the start of it, albeit for a good reason. For Dad’s funeral we wanted to sing Abide With Me, one of his favourites. Of course we’re not allowed to have a packed church singing it and so the next best thing is to have Ruthie singing it. Understandably she didn’t want the pressure of singing at the service itself, but she was keen to sing it for her father-in-law and so Plan B (or I suppose Plan C) was to make a recording of her singing it. Which we managed after work today, with the help of choir master and organist Bob at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge. It was very moving, not just listening to Ruthie singing so beautifully (as usual), but also being inside this building. This is where we got married, where Alfie and Joshua were Christened and where we used to go regularly for us and boys to meet with friends and worship and yet it was the first time for half a year that I had set foot inside here, although my wife has been a couple of times for services. It all looked a bit odd, with rows of pews taped off and handwash and strict instructions on entry, but of course this is all necessary overkill to avoid unnecessary overkill.

It is that sort of considerable caution from the church that has seen ringing follow course and why peal-ringing on real life tower bells in the UK has been absent from the columns of BellBoard since March, but at least handbells have been able to continue and in Bacton Suffolk has one of the most prolific and impressive centres of the medium. Today, the latest entry came with a peal of seven Surprise Minor methods in 1hr39mins.

Hopefully they can continue their output, as there isn’t likely to be much else over the next six months. All being well, bar some very interesting online talks.

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Tuesday 22nd September 2020

It comes to something when the Prime Minster announces that weddings can only be attended by fifteen people, pubs will have to shut at 10pm and police will be out in force to ensure that people don’t meet family or friends in groups of seven with the kind of resources that haven’t previously been available for catching murderers and muggers and yet I felt relief. We can still meet others (albeit as children are included in this ‘Rule of Six’ that severely reduces our options for meeting others) and although it has been heartbreaking restricting Dad’s one and only send-off to thirty mourners, at least we haven’t been reduced further in that respect.

The Norman Tower. Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - geograph.org.uk - 136670 Also, as far as I can make out, it shouldn’t affect ringing’s current guidance, but with Boris Johnson warning us that the new restrictions will likely be with us for another six months, it seems improbable that the restrictions on the art will be loosened before the spring, as I think most of us were expecting for a while now. That seems to put an end to any of the events that we might usually have in the first quarter of the New Year, including the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition in February and in all likelihood the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Eliminators in March, one of which is due to be held at The Norman Tower. The former will probably have to be postponed until 2022, but after cancelling this year’s latter contest I imagine organisers will be keen to do all they can to save next year’s and at least ensure that the years of planning from Guildford’s ringers won’t go to waste as Sheffield’s did this year. Perhaps the eliminators could be moved back to April or May, but if not it may be held as a one-off final in a different format.

That all seems a very, very long way off at the moment though, however relatively relieved I felt today.

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Monday 21st September 2020

I took a nostalgic trip back to the late 1990s this evening. Tony Blair was Prime Minister, Ipswich Town actually had a very decent team and there was much excited anticipation of the looming Millennium.

None of this was what took me back over twenty years though. Over the weekend I finally managed to bring my peal records up to date, years after I lost them from a computer incompatible with just about every electronic device in existence. I was helped by having not added to them for seven months, but inspired when it became clear many of the blank gaps had been filled in on BellBoard by others over lockdown and that actually relatively few of my 631 peals were unrecorded in my records or on BB. Therefore, after my mother – presumably looking for something other than funeral arranging to think about – had got her copies of the appropriate years of Ringing Worlds down from the loft, I set about searching for the peals I hadn’t got details of.

Job completed last night and having resisted being sidetracked by the fascinating history detailed in the pages of the ‘Comic’ whilst updating records, I could hold out no longer, selected a year and delved in. 1999 just happened to be the year pulled out and offered a cornucopia of interesting stuff. Some of it was general, such as the first quarter-peal on English style tower bells rung in the Netherlands and probably on the European mainland, performed upon George Dawson’s mini-ring years before peal-ringing on the continent became as normal as change-ringing in some parts of the UK. Some of it was related to events I attended, such as David and Cecilia Pipe’s wedding and the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final in York, both fondly recalled by myself, if somewhat hazily! There was also plenty of interest from Suffolk. Such as the peal of LlanfairpwlIgwyngyllgogerychwryndrombwllllantysiliogogogoch Surprise Major at Mindinho-le-Tower in Newmarket that got me wondering if conductor David Salter had time to say “go” before the first call. The back page story behind the first quarter-peal of Sweffling Surprise Minor rung at the eponymous tower, as recollected by Stephen Bedford. And the pictures of past and current Guild officers when they were even younger than now! If you have that year’s RWs to hand then look out for Jed Flatters, Philip Gorrod, David Salter and Rowan Wilson.

Ironically though, the standout features in the 1999 copies were actually from 1998.

Worcester, All Saints. Sproxton. Claines.

One was the three record, long length peals rung in one day, featuring five ringers (Tom Griffiths, John Loveless, Alan Regin, Frank Rivett and Martin Whiteley) who rang in them all, whilst Andrew Mills ‘only’ rang two as he was otherwise engaged ringing 3hrs54mins on the 48cwt tenor at Worcester Cathedral behind to a 5015 of Grandsire Cinques before partaking in a 10032 of Lambeth Surprise Maximus down the road at All Saints, the final 10,000+ of a day that also included a 10000 of Broadheath Surprise Royal at Claines and 10080 of Ytterbium Surprise Major at Sproxton in Leicestershire that started just after midnight.

St Mary-le-Tower.The other was from within our borders though, with a report on how St Mary-le-Tower celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the SGR, with peals of seven Surprise Maximus peals first pealed at 'The Tower’ – Yorkshire in January, New Cambridge in February, Superlative in March, Pudsey in June, York in July, Cambridge in September and Rochester in December during a busy year of twelve-bell ringing on the heaviest bells in the county. Author George Pipe completes the article by saying “It is our hope that the younger ringers coming through will be able to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Guild in a similar way!” There’s a challenge for 2023...

Not that such activity is going to be possible anytime soon with further restrictions expected this week, with one teaser being released tonight that pubs will be forced to close at 10pm in what feels like another random punt at delaying the inevitable. I can’t imagine 2020 being a year people take a nostalgic trip back to in the future.

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Sunday 20th September 2020

It was a day of trying to live around the ‘Rule of Six’ guidelines that came into force last Monday.

Personally, I find them frustrating. For example, we went round to visit the new home of fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies and her boyfriend Joe this afternoon. Except not all five of us could.

We aim to be law-abiding citizens and when it comes to ringing we are keen to contribute towards convincing the decision-makers that the exercise is able to act responsibly and within the rules. Therefore this morning, three couples – Claire & Ian Culham, Jill & Chris Birkby and ourselves – carried out socially distanced ringing for the maximum fifteen minutes, with hands sanitised twice (at the bottom and top of the stairs) before and afterwards, with masks worn from the moment we stepped into the church. Yet, what odds that if restrictions are further tightened – which seems imminently probable – that things like ringing are most at risk of being halted?

‘Rule of Six’ in action with SMLT ringers in Christchurch Park after ringing.Still, even beyond the act of ringing (which saw Mr Culham conducting and adding St Martin’s Bob to our list of Doubles methods rung here since the resumption of ringing), the illogical rules around social gatherings were still followed, despite making arrangements difficult. We needed to ensure that Mason, Alfie & Joshua were looked after whilst not putting ourselves in any illegal situations and to that end we were grateful to Karina. And afterwards, our now usual meeting in Christchurch Park was carefully planned to ensure that groups of no more than six gathered, sat far apart from each other, with South-East District Secretary Abby Antrobus very kindly joining our group.

By and large I don’t object to restrictions as we approach winter, as of course we don’t want things to get too out of hand before we can work out ways of reducing its risk, vaccine or no vaccine. However, it is all getting very wearing and mentally draining as we face up to a long winter where seeing family looks likely to be made difficult when support from a mental and practical sense will be much needed. Indeed, I am now getting far more worried about the restrictions than the virus. However, as things get tougher, it will be important not only for ringing to stick to the rules, but for ringers to stick together, to keep in touch. Use whatever online platforms you are able to, whether it is to ring on Ding, Handbell Stadium or Ringing Room or to meet on Zoom for a virtual pub, quiz and simply a chat. If you’re not internet savvy, then phone ringing friends and/or - restrictions allowing – meet up for a chat or handbell ringing. God willing we can still ring tower bells as we get through the coming months, even if it is in the current largely unsatisfactory form.

Even then, ringing’s return can be used as positive publicity, as was shown by the report on BBC News today, which also managed to put a youthful spin on our image at the same time!

Meanwhile, a Suffolk quarter-peal was rung on Ringing Room which was Alex Brett-Holt’s first on the platform inside and Lesley Steed’s first as conductor – well done Alex and Lesley. There was also ringing done at Grundisburgh in memory of Dick Pegg, conducted by his son-in-law and Past Guild Master Stephen Pettman.

And for all that it was a pity that the eldest boy couldn’t join us for our visit to Laura and Joe’s, we had a very pleasant few hours in their company as we brought our barbecue over and we had a guided tour of their lovely abode – thank you guys! Much ground was covered in conversation, including exciting plans for handbell quarters and peals in the near future, so watch out for that!

Providing restrictions allow...

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Saturday 19th September 2020

The view of the AGM from Christopher Munnings’ sofa! (Taken by Christopher Munnings)When I was Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, I used to sit at the top table, dressed in a suit and sporting the Master’s badge (usually given a quick iron by Ruthie beforehand!), in front of around a hundred ringers in vast spaces such as the village halls of Ixworth and Henley as part of an occasion that would see me running ringing sometimes for huge numbers of members (Chediston at the 2009 AGM particularly stands out!) and punctuated with opportunities to socialise in churchyards, over tea and in the pub.

We viewed today’s delayed, 2020 SGR AGM from the floor of Alfie and Joshua’s bedroom, just about the only space quiet enough we could find in the house with the children glued to the TV eating their tea when Alfred wasn’t delving into the world of piano playing downstairs. Although towards the end we were invaded by the younger boys and I got clobbered by a book at one point! It summed up this year in our household.

Sadly there was no ringing of course, no socialising (although there was some light hearted chatter beforehand) and no tea (though Ruthie and Alfred had made us cake as we broke the ‘no food upstairs’ rule just this once!) and there were some aspects unique to the virtual nature of proceedings. At first, no one knew who ‘thero’ was, although after some technical problems on their part it was figured out. My brother Chris sent a picture of us on his TV. Mother-in-law Kate Eagle joined from a campsite in Sussex on her holiday. There was the obligatory moments when people began speaking without unmuting themselves, to be met with cries of “unmute yourself!” And I thought Chairman Rowan Wilson did well considering she was required to do more talking than in the usual circumstances when it would be shared with other contributors able to chip in as and when needed.

For all this and that it went on longer than was expected after its blistering start, this was in the main a couple of hours I’m glad I spent out of my otherwise (now normally) less than busy Saturday. Especially after Dad’s recent death and all that has happened in the last few months, the minute’s reflection on the passing of members was particularly poignant. Jenny Scase from Debenham and Robert Rolph from Lakenheath were pleasingly virtually presented with certificates for fifty years membership whilst others were deservedly recognised for their long and significant contribution to the Guild. And I was delighted that Guild Webmaster Chris Garner was given Life Honorary Membership. Chris has constantly been on top of what I believe to be the best ringing website around and of course I am personally grateful to him for taking the time to put the blog up so promptly!

Virtual ringing and get-togethers were also raised, including the hope that the Districts will hold their ADMs online in the coming weeks, but in a sign that normality hasn’t entirely evaporated, Offton pipped Sproughton and The Millbeck Ring to the St Edmund’s Clapper, which prompted Rowan to reveal plans to revamp and boost the competition that could raise so much more money for the organisation. And plans for a hoped for future were revealed. God willing by the time the next AGM is due to be held on its usual date of the first Saturday in Easter – which in 2021 is 10th April – we will be able to meet in person in the South-West District, although there are also contingency plans to hold it later in the year again if needs be. Hopefully the North-East District will get the chance to hold the Guild Striking Competitions (as they should’ve done this year) on Saturday 15th May and it was revealed that a booking has already been made to hold the Guild Social at Horringer (as it was meant to be today) on Saturday 18th September.
Laxfield. Barham.Meanwhile, news was hot off the press that Laxfield had been awarded £66,600 towards the project to recast and augment the current six to an eight, which along with £12,000 granted to them by the SGR has meant that work to remove the bells can begin on Monday. PR Officer Neal Dodge also mentioned that there is due to be features on BBC Radio Suffolk in the near future on this and the project to augment the four of Barham to a six.

To top everything off, Christine Knight was able to impart more info on the much anticipated biography of George Pipe. I have been privileged to see a little bit of the book added to since his death in March, but Christine has been working closely with author John Loveless on proofreading what promises to be a fascinating insight into one of the greatest and most loved ringers on the planet and was able to reveal that an advert is due to go in The Ringing World in mid-October. There will apparently be 180 pages, a hundred photos plus illustrations and a wide variety of aspects covered. Christine teased us with some of the content which will feature sections on the Pye brothers, the wider Pipe family and other local ringing characters, as well as the story of how he and Howard Egglestone revitalised the Guild in the 1960s and 70s, his part in the formation of ANZAB and the ground-breaking peal at Washington Cathedral that he was invited to ring in. As well as that, the book will cover his many other skills and interests beyond ringing, such as writing, drawing, public speaking and church history and it is aimed to appeal to ringers of all abilities and even those who might not have known George. Terminology is explained and he was such an encyclopaedia of ringing and church history that this will be of appeal to anyone who is interested in such things. And all this will be available in a hard-copy book at just £18.50 including packaging and postage. Look out for the advert, watch this space and spread the word!

I’m not sure what George would’ve made of all of this, but I’m pleased that we managed an AGM today. Even if it was a far cry from past ones.

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Friday 18th September 2020

With a rapid increase of cases of coronavirus in the UK – though still not of hospital admissions and deaths and not here in Suffolk where cases have actually gone down this week – the likelihood of the distance between ringers in ringing chambers being reduced to one metre seems to have diminished, something mentioned in today’s weekly Friday update from the Central Council. According to a more expansive message on the CCCBR Facebook page, it is still on the table, although the developments nationally mean the suggestion is being approached by the Church of England with more caution.

However, although there are currently ominous noises being made about a second lockdown generally, Council President Simon Linford confirms that at least the current ‘Rule of Six’ doesn’t affect the longer-standing guidance for ringing. Well not for most towers anyway, although the ringing at Guildford Cathedral will have to be scaled back!

Channel Islands Ringing Centre.It was interesting therefore to speak with Stephen Rossiter in Simon Rudd’s virtual pub this evening, as he is currently in the Channel Islands, where he has been ringing tower bell quarter-peals free of restrictions. Although – as the footnote in one of the quarters highlights – he did need to take a test to prove he was negative! He also imparted the interesting news that with the islands’ parishes switching to the Diocese of Salisbury from the Diocese of Winchester, the ringers are doing likewise, having recently voted to transfer from the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild to the Salisbury Diocesan Guild. Having experienced the troubles of getting members from Districts in the SGR to other Districts for Guild events when they share the same land mass, I have always marvelled at how apparently active the island ringers are in W&P events!

Meanwhile, there has been a tremendous, heartening response to our request for people to get in touch about Dad’s funeral. So much so that places are now full up. Sadly that does mean turning people away, a completely alien concept to me for funerals. The church should be filled to see father off, but instead we will be sparsely spaced out. There will be a recording of the service available afterwards and if anyone would like to be a part of the day to pay their regards, they are more than welcome to join us at the committal later in the afternoon, although that will be a shorter service. Numbers on this are also restricted though, so please let us know if you plan on coming. If you can’t, I am more than happy to send the link to the live stream to anyone who wishes to watch.

Although with the way thing are going, I can’t guarantee things won’t alter...

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Thursday 17th September 2020

Cotton.Any ringing at Cotton until last year was a rarity and particularly notable. However, today’s quarter-peal on the back six of this 10cwt eight rung from the open ringing chamber was a different level in the circumstances as a band rang the first QP on more than five church bells in England for six months. It was an idea of conductor Simon Smith inspired by the Theatre Royal doing ‘outside’ live performances in a tent, was within current regulations and was definitely approved by the incumbent Reverend Carl Melville as he rang the treble ahead of his installation as Rector of the Bacton Benefice which Cotton is a part of! Congratulations to all, especially the Past Secretary of the Suffolk Guild Carl.

Meanwhile, the notice of Dad’s death went on the Ipswich Star’s website today. Arrangements for his funeral are complicated by the restrictions on numbers we have to adhere to, which not as low as the poor souls whose final farewells – which should be witnessed by as many loved ones as possible – could only be attended by a handful at the beginning of lockdown, is still a depressing limitation. Mum has ensured that family and close friends have had the option to attend, but there are a handful of spaces, so if you would like to come then please do let us know as soon as possible. If you can’t, there will be a recording of the funeral and a live stream of the committal afterwards, so also contact us for details of that if you wish to watch it.

In what has become an almost daily update call between us, mother was also able to impart how George Pipe’s interment at St Mary-le-Tower went, in a ceremony attended by seventeen or eighteen and where five bells were rung by Owen Claxton and couples Chris & Jill Birkby and David & Gill Sparling.

It is a shame more bells couldn’t be rung for this giant of the exercise, who – like Dad, Dick Pegg and others – deserves so much more, but at least ‘proper’ ringing was going on somewhere within our borders.

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Wednesday 16th September 2020

It is precisely six months since the dreadful announcement that halted the active tower bell ringing scene in the UK in its tracks. Sadly I expect once we do get back to full-on ringing we will have lost ringers who have simply got out of the habit of going ringing, which is a big pity. I have always felt it is a privilege that I have ringing in my life, something which has introduced me to friendships across the country and the world, many with the type of people I would never have had the pleasure of mingling (dirty word that this is now) with, going to so many beautiful places I would never have gone, surrounded by history, giving me physical and mental exercise I don’t imagine I’d typically get and offered a regular social outlet that I probably wouldn’t have had, certainly not to that extent and definitely in parenthood. I met my wife through it and as many have reminded me with fondness recently I owe my existence to it due to my parents meeting through ringing! In the last half a year, ringers have been incredibly resourceful in ringing and socialising online and through handbells and we are at least able to ring tower bells again. But I can’t pop out to the myriad of practices and events whenever the opportunity arises and wonder who I might bump into on this occasion, such as a well established friend or maybe a new acquaintance. I can’t hone my striking or practice or add to my method repertoire.

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - geograph.org.uk - 136670 Depressingly, it is hard to believe the flexible, gregarious form of the art that made it so appealing to so many of us will have returned in a further six months, with spring and the return of warmer weather likely to be the earliest that restrictions will be eased again. As CCCBR President Simon Linford alludes to in his latest blog, that leaves a lot of uncertainty in the early part of 2021 for ringing. In last week’s College Youths monthly meeting, a report from the recent committee meeting for the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest suggested that the eliminators for next year may – like this year – have to be abandoned, which of course would sadly mean that The Norman Tower would miss out on being Suffolk’s first tower for three decades to host the biggest competition in ringing. Personally from afar it would make more sense - as a one-off in these times when everyone has had to be flexible with their diaries and what is normal – to prepare a slightly later date in April or even May to give them the best possible chance to go ahead, but there may be many insurmountable hurdles to such a scenario. In the scenario that the eliminators can’t go ahead – and it is merely understandable contingency planning at the moment as I understand it – then apparently there has been a suggestion that a Final in a different format could go ahead at Guildford Cathedral on Saturday 26th June (when God willing restrictions will be far more relaxed) to ensure their years of considerable planning don’t go to waste as the Sheffield Cathedral ringers’ sadly did this year. Watch this space I guess.

I also expect that the birthday peal for Mason’s fourteenth birthday in January and possibly even Alfie’s seventh in April will likely fall by the wayside, but let’s keep our fingers crossed that we can meet in some real life way for the Guild AGM on 10th April! For now though, a reminder to join this year’s postponed AGM from the comfort of your own home at 5.30pm on Saturday.

There will be members to be remembered at that, including my father, but also sadly Dick Pegg too after he died yesterday. Dick learnt to ring at Bramford nearly eighty years ago and although he hadn’t rung for some time, he was supportive of ringing, not least with his wife Daphne and their talented ringing family that includes their daughters Liz and Christine, their respective husbands Stephen and Peter and granddaughters Katie and Rosemary, as well as their other halves Tom and Martin, all of which includes a Past SGR Ringing Master, Past ASCY Ringing Master and an impressive collection of peal-ringing exploits. It is quite the family dynasty and our thoughts are with them at this sad time as they mourn the loss of a lovely, gentle man.

Indeed, through the Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson and following a suggestion of my brother Chris, I have asked that the SGR consider holding some sort of thanksgiving for those members lost who ringers haven’t been able to gather together at their funerals for to pay their respects due to the restrictions this year. Happily it was met with a positive response. Hopefully in six months’ time we will be able to say with more certainty that such things will happen later in the year, even if we aren’t ringing by 16th March 2021.

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Tuesday 15th September 2020

Ipswich, St Margaret.Look out for the tower of St Margaret’s church in Ipswich which houses the 14cwt eight restored and rehung a couple of years ago, if you are watching TV in a few months. Perhaps all individually by then when no one will able to go anywhere near anyone else, same household or not. For today the Antiques Roadshow was filming in the town’s Christchurch Park, much of it – judging by photos shared on social media – in front of the Mansion and beneath the aforementioned flint tower.

There was no ringing there today (not that I imagine it would’ve been particularly welcome on this occasion!), but there was ringing online, on handbells and on tower bells throughout the country marking the eightieth anniversary of Battle of Britain Day. Nothing in Suffolk and nothing by us on an otherwise unexciting day in this Munnings household. Or at least compared to being on the Antiques Roadshow!

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Monday 14th September 2020

It almost felt like old times today.

Although odd that it is in September and it isn’t the same as doing it in person, there feels something very nostalgic about encouraging members to attend the Guild AGM on Saturday. The agenda is available on this very website and whilst ringing is restricted currently, it is important that this important function of the Guild’s running is carried out effectively by as large a quorum as possible, that decisions which could effect the organisation’s and/or local ringing’s recovery post-restrictions are made with the approval of a sizeable proportion of the membership. This is usually a nice day out around the meeting itself, with ringing, socialising, worship, food and drink and so I’m conscious that this is essentially the least anticipated part of the day left! However, for all the endeavours to keep ringers together by Zoom, Ringing Room, handbells and localised ringing on tower bells, it will also be nice to see ringing friends that we haven’t had the chance to see for several months.

Meanwhile, the good work that has been done to keep the geographically spaced out St Mary-le-Tower band together since regular, unfettered ringing was last carried out in mid-March continued tonight with our first virtual pub. Despite host Stephen Cheek leaving us hanging on for such a long time that we thought he might have been mimicking the wait we used to have at The Cricketers, a handful of us enjoyed a chinwag over a now (for us at least) rare Monday night drink.

One of the subjects of conversation that came up was that with George Pipe’s internment taking place on Thursday afternoon and Diana understandably wanting bells for it, a way has been worked out to get five of the bells in this famous tower so synonymous with George ringing for the occasion, largely thanks to the reduction last Friday of the time permitted between ringing from seventy-two to forty-eight hours, but also to the tremendous support of the incumbent the Rev’d Canon Charles Jenkin, who was very happy for the ringing to happen in three days time.

Ringing at SMLT twice in a week? It’s almost like old times.

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Sunday 13th September 2020

It was a generally positive day.

Ipswich Town started their league season with a win and on TV at that (which is almost unheard of!), although I listened on the radio with the lack of a crowd still making for an unnerving experience.

Birmingham, St Paul.Birmingham’s ringers managed to ring call-changes on the diatonic back octave of St Paul’s in the UK’s second city by ringing from two floors, with videos shared on the Bellringers Facebook page exhibiting some very impressive striking in trying circumstances.

And in Ipswich we again managed some superb six-bell ringing at St Mary-le-Tower which the rest of the band very kindly allowed me to dedicate to Dad at a tower he was a band member of and with friends who had all known him for years, with no likelihood of me being able to ring a quarter or peal for him in the foreseeable. We also enjoyed more socially distanced refreshments in Christchurch Park afterwards, but with gatherings limited to six people from tomorrow we will have to rethink what we do on Sundays. Although the new rules make life extremely difficult for a family of five (albeit that’s just at the weekend) and personally I think the number of six is an impractically low number before I even get onto the inconsistency of it all when more than six people who know less about each other (and in some cases are often complete strangers) can get together in various indoor venues whilst we can’t sit in the back garden with more than one other person from our own family, us ringers are determined to stick to the rules and not to flaunt them when so much trust is being placed on us by the church. However, it would be a massive shame not to continue some form of post-ringing meeting which has been a rare thing to look forward to in a year when we have all been deprived of just about everything we look forward to. Therefore, there was much discussion on how we can do something similar but within the rules and safely.

It was particularly nice for ourselves and especially Mum to have the company of friends after this week, albeit in a different part of the park with the space in front of the Mansion and beneath the tower of St Margaret’s church that houses the 14cwt which we usually sit in fenced off in readiness for filming of the Antiques Roadshow this week.

Grundisburgh.Meanwhile, thank you to the ringers at Grundisburgh and the Suffolk band who rang a quarter-peal on Ringing Room who also remembered father in their ringing and again to Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock and his fellow ringers at Potterhanworth in Lincolnshire for a mention of him in the footnote to their ringing this morning, whilst there was handbell ringing outside St Mary the Virgin church in Woodbridge as the congregation arrived and a cat apparently tried to conduct the ringing!

What a positive day.

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Saturday 12th September 2020

There were at one point a couple of options for how we might spend today.

One was for ourselves, my uni mates and their other halves and children to meet for a restrictions-friendly picnic in Warwick, but with the looming ban on gatherings of more than six it was decided to stay ahead of the curve and avoid such a gathering.

The other was to join our friends Charlotte & Gregory and their daughters Ava & Bea for a wander round Woodbridge’s churches on the day that Ride + Stride took place.

In the end though, both were usurped by wanting to visit Mum at the end of a difficult week, with her grandchildren offering light relief as we discussed various details about the funeral. That is due to take place on Tuesday 29th September at 1.30pm at Sproughton, followed by a committal at Seven Hills at 3pm. In normal times (and for all the desperate attempts to persuade us that the depressing current circumstances are a “new” normal we should all just accept, these are not normal times), we could just put that out there and allow those who wish to attend to come. However, we will be subject to the regulations that sadly limit us to just thirty at each occasion, which will mean many simply won’t be able to join us, although as we understand it there is nothing stopping those who would like to be there outside to pay their respects to do so, although there should be a live stream for those who can’t or would prefer not to. Anyone who would like to attend or watch online, please let us know as soon as possible so we can work out numbers.

Earlier we had visited father’s sister Marian who was taking in the latest edition of The Ringing World which included a feature on Exning ringer Jimmy Yeoman, whilst at both homes Mason was chuffed to show his great Aunt and Nanna his first published work, a piece in a book called Hunted – Beyond The Tale, a collection of short stories selected from entries into a competition for writers aged 11-18 from across the UK. And mother very kindly sought out her back copies of The Ringing World from the loft so I can finish updating my peal records.

It wasn’t what we had anticipated for today, but was nonetheless a nice one in the context of this week.

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Friday 11th September 2020

There were more much appreciated messages of affection for Dad and even some more ringing as friends and fellow Rambling Ringers Janet & Mike Dew rang some rounds at The Plantagenet Ring at Church Lawford in Warwickshire and dedicated it to father.

However, it was also nice to do some normal (or at least what has become normal in recent months) socialising via video as we partook in an upliftingly boisterous quiz with my uni friends and before that met Simon Rudd and others – including David Porter, a ringer from Charleston in the USA who was still in mid-afternoon – for a drink across the internet. It was mainly a lovely distraction, but also nice when Simon recounted fondly how he was present when my parents first met each other on Jim Pipe’s ringing tour in 1974.

Another much appreciated memory of Dad to join the other much appreciated memories and thoughts. We are very lucky to have such support.

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Thursday 10th September 2020

I returned to work today. There was no pressure on me to do so and indeed John Catt Educational were at pains to allow me as long as I felt necessary after everything, but yesterday was a productive day from a practical point of view and a boost psychologically, bar having to tell the boys which had been the aspect we’d been dreading most of all. I’m a people person though, which is a big part of what has made the last few months so wearing. However, the company of others can be uplifting at such times and with only a small number of practicalities to be carried out at Mum’s which brother Chris was able to help with, the boys at school and Ruthie at work, I felt my day was better served going in to the office.

Potterhanworth.It was a good decision, with plenty to catch up with to occupy myself and everyone being very kind, whilst meanwhile the messages of support for us and love and affection for Dad continue, as does our gratitude. Many kind words and thoughts were sent via Facebook, email and – unexpectedly given the current circumstances – with a footnote on BellBoard as Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock and his mother Yvonne very kindly rang a quarter-peal in father’s memory at Potterhanworth in Lincolnshire. Thank you Chris and Yvonne. And indeed, thank you again to everyone who has sent messages, it has been very much appreciated.

My thoughts were of course still very much of Dad and with Mum particularly, but the goodwill has helped. As did going back to work.

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Wednesday 9th September 2020

A bittersweet consolation to the death of a loved one is when it becomes clear how well thought of they were. Sadly it is rare for the opportunity to present itself in life for a simultaneous outburst of affection, but in the immediate aftermath of the loss it is usually a considerable comfort to those left behind. That has certainly been the case today with so many messages of love and support from around the world for my father Alan after his death last night. My Facebook profile and email inbox was teeming with thoughts from friends and acquaintances from all aspects of my life, most of who had also met my Dad and recalled him with much fondness. Naturally though the ringing family were most prominent, with many remembering ringing with him, the kind words of advice he offered to many and the kindness he generally showed to all.

They were all more appreciated than I can possibly express, but two summed up how important ringing and the ringing family is in life and death for those of us lucky enough to be absorbed in the art. One was from Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock who said how much the last few months and the passing of father had made him appreciate how important the Ramblers’ Tours in the summer and Reunion meals in February – and indeed it can be said of so many ringing events – are for keeping up with friends and how important it is that we never take that for granted, something that most of us have been guilty of in the past. And Jonathan Williamson highlights the bonds that ringing gives us all and how it helps in grieving loved ones. We are very fortunate to having ringing and ringers at this time, even if it is in such a restricted way which means that we can’t actually meet so many of them.

God willing that is a situation that will change soon and although following last night’s announcement that gatherings indoors and outdoors are to be limited to just six people, there was encouragement from a ringing perspective with the clarification offered today, with church services exempt and presumably allowing us to keep ringing with the precautions we have now got used to. And hopes were raised by Boris Johnson this afternoon with the potential “in the near future” of tests that would allow people to find out within minutes (rather than days) if they have COVID-19 and thus – so the theory goes – allow society to essentially revert to normal, including (although of course not explicitly laid out by the Prime Minister!) ringing, one hopes.

In the current refreshed normal, this would typically be significant news for me as I seek any light at the end of the tunnel that might signify the back of this depressing loss of the free and limitless art that usually gives us so much to look forward to and support through tough times like today. However, it was but a minor footnote to a day where my brother Chris and I descended upon our childhood home to help our mother Sally, both morally and practically. Both there and over a spontaneous lunch at The Swan in Westerfield, it involved much reflection on Dad’s life and discussion on the funeral, with mother-in-law Kate very kindly meeting us in the back garden with E.B. Button reassuringly overseeing the arrangements. And there were tough moments as I was involved in telling his sister and our Aunty Marian and an upset Mason, whilst Ruthie broke the news to his other grandsons Alfie and Joshua who – to differing degrees – understandably struggle to contemplate the exact meaning of what they were being told.

However, the boys, Ruthie and myself were happily distracted by the visit of Alfred’s Godmother and my wife’s best friend Fergie whilst on a visit to her hometown. And we were comforted by all the messages from everyone. Thank you to you all.

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Tuesday 8th September 2020

Alan J Munnings.Late this evening, I received a call from my mother Sally that we had been dreading, but expecting. Many will know that my father Alan has been suffering from cancer, albeit before lockdown getting better, but in the last week or two he has taken a real turn for the worst, with much of the last fortnight spent at Ipswich Hospital. Sadly, tonight at about 10.45, he died, mercifully in peace.

It is a source of sadness that due to restrictions he had been unable to ring for months. Bar the odd carefully planned visit and the recent uplifting gatherings in Christchurch Park after Sunday morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower – which following tonight’s announcement banning meetings of more than six people from Monday we will presumably be deprived of – he hadn’t seen many of his friends. He hadn’t been able to go on holiday, we weren’t allowed to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday in June properly and time spent with his sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren were restricted. His funeral will not be able to be what it should have been.

Yet that shouldn’t detract from the fact that this gentle, softly spoken soul was held in high regard, loved by many. At St Mary-le-Tower, Sproughton, Offton and other places he and Mum regularly contributed to before everyone was told to stop, as well as in the South-East District, the Suffolk Guild as a whole and on Rambling Ringers he was an invaluable and reassuring presence. He was a very content man, with no desire to consume himself always striving for something else, happy instead with the blessings he had, from family, friendship, ringing and travel. Although the day he retired was one of his happiest!

Laxfield.Of course, it overshadowed everything in our day. For all that the striking wasn’t perfect, you can tell why the work is being done to them and having not rung there for years I’m not sure how they complied with social distancing, but following the last few months it was lovely to hear the rustic, rural six of Laxfield ringing out on this lovely late summer’s evening via video link at 7pm, the last ringing on them before restoration and augmentation to eight. And I had enjoyed seeing fellow College Youths via the latest of the society’s virtual monthly meetings.

Family Quarter Peal.However, it was Dad and especially Mum who were foremost in my thoughts as we went to bed. Sadness, yes, but also happy memories. Holidays, birthdays, Christmases, ringing, the terrible dad jokes, the joy of seeing him so happy at mine and Chris’ weddings to Ruthie and Becky respectively, how good he was with his grandchildren and how he chuffed he seemed when I became SGR Ringing Master. And that family quarter-peal at Pettistree a few years ago.

RIP Dad.

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Monday 7th September 2020

With my father Alan still in hospital, Ruthie and I took the opportunity to visit him this evening after work, bumping into someone we knew being picked up after being discharged, on the day when an acquaintance’s child was being operated on after breaking their arm and a poor teenager from Kesgrave was taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital after being shot on the way to the school. It was a busy day for the hospitals I’m afraid.

Not so much so for ringing. Details on how to join the Suffolk Guild AGM via Zoom on Saturday 19th September were imparted via an email from Chairman Rowan Wilson, which are important to read, especially if you have never used Zoom or attended a meeting on it.

However, there are no ringing performances recorded on BellBoard from within our borders and more widely just one peal, rung on handbells unsurprisingly. There wasn’t even anything particularly noteworthy on the various ringing social media pages, unless you are interested in applying for a job as a Mechanical Assembler at O’Shea Engineering in Weston-super-Mare. Oh and one ringer highlighted how they had kept up in the art on what looks like Ringing Room. Whilst in hospital of course.

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Sunday 6th September 2020

There was a change from the refreshed normal this morning as we stepped aside for others to ring at St Mary-le-Tower for service ringing, as Ruthie had been asked to sing at the service at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, which I watched from home on the church’s YouTube channel and which can still be viewed. Her starring moment as part of a quartet can be heard just after forty-five minutes into the feed.

Our den – no room for bells yet!She also rang handbells outside with some of the other local ringers, including Ringing Master Bruce Wakefield who later rang handbells with some of his grandchildren, but my wife’s burst of call changes on eight and Plain Bob Minimus in the shadow of the tower that holds the town’s 25cwt octave was all the ringing that our household was involved in today. Instead, my afternoon was spent with the boys playing football in the park and then building dens in the woods. Impressive as our structure was, I’m not sure it is sturdy enough to support a ring of bells yet!

Meanwhile, it was interesting to read the debate on the Bellringers Facebook page prompted by Julia Cater’s enquiry as to why some have joined The Ladies’ Guild and others haven’t. It is an organisation that thrives in these parts, to a large degree because of the work of Betty Baines who rings along the Norfolk/Suffolk border, but apparently that isn’t the case across the country, which is one of the reasons why some don’t join it. Others weren’t even aware of its existence, some hadn’t been invited. However, a substantial number didn’t want to be part of a single-gender organisation (although I didn’t spot any comments that denounced its existence) and I can entirely empathise. Personally I think that anything that singles out women in such a way is counterproductive to the aim of equality, but as some pointed out in the thread on FB, when The Ladies Guild was set up it was a necessary oasis for women for whom it was seemingly commonplace to be belittled on the basis of their gender in ringing chambers. One would hope that these days there wouldn’t be a need for it for that reason.

On the same social media page, I was also impressed by the ingenuity of the Carlisle Diocesan Guild who held their striking competition on Ringing Room, with seven teams ringing one hundred rows of rounds and call changes on six which had to include Queens (135246). We simply haven’t had the opportunity to get involved with Ringing Room, but this sounds a super idea and with the SGR holding its AGM virtually this year and another QP rung on the platform by six of the county’s ringers today, maybe a virtual striking competition might also be possible here in this refreshed normal!

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Saturday 5th September 2020

Normal for now was very much the prevailing mood of the day generally. The Central Council of Church Bellringers’ AGM which should have been held today in Nottingham was instead held online, as so many similar occasions have been in recent months and indeed the Suffolk Guild AGM is due to be in a fortnight’s time. And Ipswich Town and England’s footballers returned after half a year and nearly a year respectively.

The former was attended by CC Reps, work groups and officers via video where they could all participate, whilst everyone else could watch via YouTube. Things have vastly improved with ringing’s representative body in the last few years and even putting aside the unusual circumstances, this was a very different experience to when I used to attend these meetings as one of the SGR’s reps a decade and before ago. Granted, they have never been more needed than this year, but led superbly by President Simon Linford, they have carried out the task brilliantly, helping not only to guide the art through it’s most difficult period since the Second World War, but importantly in creating and building a dialogue with the church authorities that has allowed ringing on church bells to resume.

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic that was the reason behind the restrictions that have caused so much damage alongside preventing the multitude of potentially devastating unknowables when it first reached our shores was a running theme through the meeting. There is much that the CCCBR want to press forward with but largely couldn’t until restrictions are eased enough. Such as the Cast of 1000, which aims to achieve something that we tried to get going years ago locally of ensuring that there is a large pool of experienced ringers willing and able to go to special, targeted practices (like a Surprise Major practice for example) and ensure that sufficient numbers and expertise are present. Also, establishing support to help ringers going to college or university where there isn’t a student society set up. And the launch of Mobile Belfry 2.0, which is aimed at being easily transportable and erected, but to be rung like a church bell. Although apparently Taylors are planning on casting the bells for the ring shortly, free of charge!

The restrictions of the last few months haven’t been entirely bad for the organisation though, with an apparent underspend of about £1,000 due to not paying out for events that would typically have taken place this year!

That said, there is an understandable desire to get back to proper, full on ringing and there was discussion on how we move forward towards that. There was a suggestion that we all write to our local MPs and bishops extolling the virtues of the art, both personally and in society and perhaps more tangibly that we work closely with our local diocese as it seems likely that many future developments will be led more locally. Action is already being taken to get closer to the ultimate aim too, as in addition to the guidelines presently awaiting approval from the Church of England Recovery Group that would see the required distance between ringing ropes reduced from two metres to one, it seems that a move to reduce the current gap between ringing at the same tower from seventy-two hours to forty-eight hours is on the cards. Small steps, but in the right direction and good progress considering that substantial easing of restrictions in society generally as well as in ringing is unlikely before the spring. The whole occasion was an interesting snapshot of where the exercise is in these strange times, as demonstrated by what was probably the first time that the President had gone missing during the meeting! Nice as well that the Suffolk Guild got a mention towards the end as the planned hosts for the meeting in our centenary year of 2023.

I didn’t watch all of it avidly – one can’t when in a house with young children – and although I wouldn’t advocate watching it all on YouTube (though the slides make it fairly easy to pick out sections one may be interested in as you flick through) where both the first and second halves are available to play back, I was able to follow it whilst doing odd jobs in the kitchen and along with the Tractor Boys actually winning (that is hopefully a new normal!) along with the national team also coming out victorious, it provided a welcome distraction to what I did in between. Many are already aware that my father Alan’s health hasn’t been great this year, but even in that context it’s been a rough week for him that has seen him end up in Ipswich Hospital. This afternoon therefore, I took the opportunity to visit him, on my own, with only one visitor at a time permitted, although mine and my mother’s paths crossed.

Potterhanworth. Team 5 at Cheriton Bishop – l to r ; Alex Riley, Chris Woodcock, Bryony Dorrington, Richard Dorrington, Richard Munnings & Geoff Wells. (Susannah Scruffington-Smythe) Meanwhile, another quarter-peal of Singles was rung at Potterhanworth by Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock and his mother Yvonne, this time for the RR for a Past Master of the Society Reverend Richard Dorrington, whose ashes were interred in Cornwall today. It is nice that the Woodcocks were able to do that for a lovely man and it meant that that picture of the winning band in the 2018 Devon Call Change Striking Competition which featured yours truly – as well as Richard - got another airing!

The day was wrapped up in fairly dramatic style (for these parts anyway) as a fire nearby - that filled the village with the overpowering stench of smoke - coincided with a power cut and so whilst the children played with the neighbours children over the fence out back, we rang some handbells and tried to push ourselves on some Double Bob Minimus. Which for our level in hand is normal for now.

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Friday 4th September 2020

It was a big day for Joshua today, as our youngest son went to primary school for his schooling for the first time. It was just for the morning as part of a bitty few days as they also try and fit in some of the introduction period that he would normally have had last term, but he was delighted to get dressed into his new uniform and although apparently there were a few tears when he first realised he wasn’t going into the same classroom as Alfie, by all accounts he strode in happily chatting with his new teacher about his recent visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour and spent the morning listening to stories, doing drawings and eating raisins!

I say “apparently” as sadly, unlike when his older brothers started school before him, I was unable to join Ruthie in dropping him off for this momentous occasion due to the current restrictions. Restrictions which also meant that today was the first day that any of the boys had been to their seats of learning since schools were closed in March. Truthfully, over that time and particularly at the peak of lockdown, it was often hard work all of us being stuck pretty much permanently under the same roof, especially for my wife who took the burden of schooling the youngest two, but it was also an unexpected bonus to spend so much extra time with them. Nonetheless, from an educational and a social perspective, it is absolutely vital that they now have as much of an uninterrupted school year as possible and it was a joy to hear their individual tales of their days which each of them had clearly enjoyed.

Potterhanworth.God willing they will all finish their year in July when they’re supposed to, by which point hopefully ringing will be back in full flow, but there was no new information from the Central Council’s weekly update. Still, there was plenty of ringing going on, with a brace of handbell peals and even a couple of quarter-peals at Potterhanworth in Lincolnshire, one on the front three and one on the back three, both by the double-handling Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock and his mother Yvonne.

Nothing in Suffolk however, although it was a big day in our little corner of the county, especially for Joshua.

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Thursday 3rd September 2020

The shortlist for the latest monthly Central Council YouTube competition, which on this occasion was looking for the best video demonstrating change ringing not on tower bells. As far as I can tell, there are no entries from Suffolk this time, but it is still a fine selection of ringing videos, including some from ringing friends and acquaintances, such as St Neots ringer Philip & Sheila George ringing their handbells back-to-back and with masks on, sometime Rambling Ringer Stephen Croxall and other Cambridge Youths demonstrating change-ringing at The Utrecht Festival of Music in 2015 and another Rambler James Ramsbottom explaining call change theory on pint glasses. I was also almost hypnotised by the plain course of Plain Bob Minor that was visually brought alive in a way rarely seen in the art before! We wait with bated breath for the winner to be revealed!

That was all very impressive, as was the peal in Bosham in West Sussex which was the first of twenty-three Surprise Major methods on handbells for the entire band. Well done to them all!

No such exertions for us, which left plenty of time to take in those videos!

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Wednesday 2nd September 2020

St Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore.The school holidays seemed to have signalled a break from the various interesting video talks that had occupied many an enforced evening in over the lockdown, but as many children returned to their seats of learning for the first time in nearly half a year, tonight saw the return of the St Martin’s Guild webinar. Being centred on Birmingham they have of course the benefit of calling upon a vast array of ringing expertise to impart to ringers and today was the turn of Alistair Cherry. I don’t know Alistair personally, but I know of him and know him to be a tremendous young ringer. Since arriving in the premier ringing scene in the world from Lincolnshire in 2013, he has partaken in some of the most impressive performances in the exercise, such as the first peal of Maximus in Singapore, peals of multi-spliced Minor and long lengths including the longest peals on twelve and fourteen. And many peals of cyclic spliced Maximus, which was the subject of his absorbing talk this evening. As he himself admitted, this is a niche subject, yet in explaining it Alistair took in many of the basics of composing along the way and even if you never ring a peal of cyclic spliced Maximus – and let’s face it, most won’t – then it can be understood and is such a fascinating insight.

Earlier, we were visited by mother-in-law Kate, who came bearing gifts following her trip last week to Scotland, along with Alistair’s magnificent presentation helping to lighten another darkening evening as the nights rapidly draw in with autumn having started yesterday meteorologically. The return of schools is coinciding with more than just the return of interesting video talks.

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Tuesday 1st September 2020

Peasenhall.There was great excitement in Peasenhall today as buses began stopping for public service in the village for the first time in years. It reminded me that before lockdown I had been considering how getting about to ringing could be done in a more environmentally friendly manner. How one could continue to travel to the towers in Suffolk in beautiful but isolated locations to meet friends and ring bells without going by car.

The answer was that frankly, it isn’t possible, by and large. Before restrictions, if I wanted to travel even just to Aldeburgh to their weekly Monday night practice from Melton, there is no way I could without jumping into a car. Heck, as I have discovered when carless, I can’t even get to St Mary-le-Tower for Sunday mornings or Monday nights. It isn’t feasible for practice nights to be moved to during the day, thus excluding people working 9-5. Nor could they all move to weekends, where apart from competing against each other over a shorter period of time than the usual five night working week, they would all be competing against everything else that happens on Saturdays and Sundays. Again, it just wouldn’t be practical. The new bus going through Peasenhall – whilst welcome for the villagers and with expansion no doubt considered if it proves popular – further highlights just how impractical a means public transport is for getting ringers around our vast rural county, with the last bus going through this community by 6pm and not at all over weekends. The only peal on the 10cwt ground-floor six since the end of the 1980s was rung back in 2012 and only a handful of quarters have been rung there this century, so whilst they were rung for Armistice 100 on 11th November 2018, I’m not sure how regular ringing on the bells described as in ‘poor going order’ has been in recent years, but even if you could, you wouldn’t be able to at any normal time of the week on this new bus.

Still, I hope that won’t put District & Guild officers and QP, peal & outing organisers from taking us to the far flung corners and picturesque idylls of the Guild, once we are allowed to do such things again. Not many towers or groups function effectively with just ringers purely from walking or even cycling distance and so in most places within our borders we need cars to get participants together to further the art. However, perhaps when that time comes, more car-sharing can be arranged and/or timings of certain ringing could be organised with bus and train timetables in mind. Maybe the good old coach outing might make a comeback?! More than ever before we need to ensure as many ringers as possible can get to ringing events easily.

Perhaps it is something for the CCCBR to ponder too, but for now Simon Linford’s President’s Blog didn’t make any mention of it. Not that I would expect it to! Still, it is again an entertaining and interesting read. I especially like the notion of a website to answer the questions about compositions, conducting and methods. Not everyone understands all the terms as they learn (I certainly didn’t!) and this should help many to progress without being held back by misunderstanding and confusion.

Talking of progress, he also mentions the guidance awaiting approval about reducing distances between ropes being reduced to one metre and the 2021 Forward Plan, both of which will hopefully mean that those aforementioned hopes to meet together as we once did will happen as soon as is safely possible.

For all that, in present circumstances online platforms are doing a good job of getting some ringers together and that was in evidence here in Suffolk as Drinkstone was one of the locations for a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor on Ringing Room, along with Colchester and Sabarat in France, rung by a band with strong links to SMLT.

I can’t see a similar performance happening at Peasenhall though. At least, not with them getting there by bus anyway.

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Monday 31st August 2020

If I didn’t like football or enjoy all that ringing typically offers, I would say that life was pretty much back to normal with only minor caveats that fail to detract from my everyday experiences. Shopping at the supermarket is now downgraded from the apparently life-threatening, tactical event it was at the height of lockdown to just the plain old stressful and undesirable operation it always was before. Both Ruthie and I have been back at work for months, seeing plenty of people, albeit in carefully managed circumstances. We’ve been able to meet with friends, again with care. A holiday has been had. Pubs have been frequented by us and eaten at too. And we have been to a number of tourist attractions, such as Colchester Zoo, Dover Castle and today on this Bank Holiday Monday to the Harry Potter Studio Tour near Watford.

It was different from when we last visited over four years ago, quite apart from the fact that Mason and Joshua were able to join us and the major additions of a couple of attractions. There weren’t quite as many crowds, with numbers limited as they are at pretty much everywhere currently, but even this made for a more relaxed day. Although in keeping with all businesses it is hard to see how it would be feasible financially to continue in such a fashion beyond this year. And the magic of walking through the newly installed Forbidden Forest with frighteningly large spiders encroaching was somewhat shattered by a big blue sign warning everyone to stay two metres apart!

Sadly though, my two favourite pastimes of watching football and partaking in the limitless opportunities that ringing offers are still restricted in ways that make them far less pleasurable experiences to normal. God willing fans are due to be allowed back into football stadiums in just over a month, but even then it will be far from the bustling, noisy occasion that makes it so appealing to those of us who like going to watch the beautiful game.

Equally hopefully, the guidance to reduce the distances between ropes being used in our ringing chambers to one metre will gain approval from the Church of England Recovery Group, but still it will be far from the art that holds the interest of so many of us. I am chomping at the bit to go to places, ringing on all numbers at length with the abundance of friends and acquaintances that we are blessed to have made through the exercise. There is much ringing going on and it was interesting to watch some of the recording of the entire handbell peal rung on Thursday in Wedmore in Somerset featuring one-time Suffolk ringer Barrie Hendry, but as much as I enjoyed that and our day in the world of Hogwarts, it just doesn’t feel like we are anywhere near to normality yet.

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Sunday 30th August 2020

Recruitment in ringing is not easy at the moment. There have been encouraging tales of people learning to ring on Ringing Room and then subsequently on handbells, but by and large it is impossible to bring potential learners in currently. However, it is important that we keep ourselves in the minds of the public, partly as something for them to try out when it is possible, but also so they are prepared for more ringing as and when more is able to be done, as well as making them aware of ringing’s current circumstances.

Therefore, top marks to Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson and Campsea Ashe ringer Glenys Fear for their appearance about forty minutes into Luke Deal’s breakfast show on BBC Radio Suffolk which perfectly explained the restrictions on the art in the present moment, as well as the hopes for that anticipated reduction of social distancing in the ringing chambers of England to one metre. Although by her own account the early wake-up call wasn’t entirely to Rowan’s liking!

Campsea Ashe.Although Glenys makes the very valid point that ventilation in the gallery ringing chamber from where the 6cwt six is rung is excellent, but for now the two metre restriction that is applied in a blanket style across every ringing chamber of all sizes and situation across the entire country means that it is not possible for more than one bell to be rung at the village’s St John the Baptist church. However, with that distance cut in half, every other bell could be rung.

We have been blessed to get six bells ringing at St Mary-le-Tower over the last few weeks – albeit with an awkward to ring six with a vast weight range and a very odd sound – and we got that opportunity again this morning, this time with Ellie Earey undertaking her first ringing since before lockdown as she rang the seventh alongside her father Ralph on the eighth as we rang some call-changes and then Grandsire Doubles, before we again retired to Christchurch Park for takeaway Costa Coffee.

Woodbridge. Mayfield.Meanwhile at Woodbridge, where ringing in hand was carried out for service outside today, the frame has been painted and we had the pleasure of the company of the new vicar the Revd Nigel Prior this afternoon, who was very complimentary of the handbell ringing for his induction earlier this week and expressed his provisional happiness at the 25cwt eight – or whatever combination is possible – being rung again if and when the local ringers are happy to resume, which of course they shouldn’t feel pressured into. He appears amenable towards bells and bellringers and has a knowledge of the art, including – crucially – its current limitations, having still been present in his previous parish of Mayfield in East Sussex when the ringers of the 19cwt octave were given the go-ahead to begin ringing again last month. All of which is very encouraging.

Snape Maltings - geograph.org.uk - 229437 That said, our purpose in meeting was nothing to do with ringing, but rather in regards to junior church at St Mary the Virgin, as well as at it’s ‘satellite’ church at Great Bealings. It was held in the beautiful setting of the home of one of the JC leaders in Snape, overlooking the marshes and with our friends Gregory & Charlotte present, we had arranged to go for a drink afterwards, with our respective children in tow. And although our first choice of The Golden Key were unable to accept us for a drink as their dishwasher was broken, we were at least able to enjoy that drink at The Plough & Sail at the nearby Maltings before returning home.

It was a lovely way to end a day that started with such good PR for local ringing.

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Saturday 29th August 2020

This morning was set aside for a playdate for Alfie with his best mate from school Jed who he hadn’t seen since March, which doubled up as an introduction between Jed’s little brother and Joshua who are due to be starting at school together next week.

This afternoon though, I popped in to see my father Alan who has been a little under the weather recently and in the process was offered the opportunity to read The Ringing World. As we don’t subscribe and with visits to my folks being rarer in recent months for obvious reasons, I hadn’t read a copy of the RW since before lockdown and with a large proportion of a typical copy until that point made up of reports of quarter-peals and peals that have – for all the admirable endeavours of ringers online and in handbells – largely dried up since restrictions on ringing church bells, I had wondered what it was looking like these days. Editor Will Bosworth is to be congratulated for producing a publication that – judging by this week’s edition which I read today – has kept up enough content to be interesting. QPs and peal reports appear to have been rationed to stretch them further, with most of the columns filled with performances from February, but Will has done excellently in encouraging contributors to send in all manner of content.

The article that most caught my eye was what it seems is the first of a series of articles on gender equality in ringing. It confirmed the premise of the study, which is that whilst in the early stages of learning to ring – such as the levels of ART - there is generally a 50-50 split between male and female ringers, by the time we get to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest (which the report itself points out isn’t the definitive peak of ringing excellence, but is indicative of it) the numbers of males taking part is considerably more than females, particularly round the back end and when it comes to conducting. Although the numbers are more even in the Ringing World National Youth Contest, which suggests that something happens as men and women get older rather than and/or as well as they progress through the exercise. Many will have theories on what that may be.

Still, it was interesting to compare to a letter republished a century on from its original publication in the RW that spoke of the need to encourage young conductors, which was a noble ambition but tellingly only referred to males. For all that this latest study has identified an imbalance between the genders, we have mercifully moved on from 1920!

That said, at least they could ring church bells one hundred years ago, but in the absence of the chance to ring any on this latest ringingless Saturday, at least we had some pleasant endeavours to fill the void!

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Friday 28th August 2020

It’s Friday and these days that means its time for the weekly update from the Central Council on ringing’s gradual path to recovery from the restrictions placed on it back in March. As with the last couple of weeks, there is no major change. Although there was clarification that ringing now doesn’t have to be for a service, all the other restrictions apply, such as the time limit of fifteen minutes, the wearing of face masks and distancing of two metres between ropes being rung or 1.5m for those hanging in a straight line. However, on that last precaution, the guidance for a reduction to one metre has been submitted for approval, but hasn’t been approved yet, so that remains as it has been for now.

Still, we were able to return to a couple of the nice habits we have developed since restrictions came into place, such as our Friday night video chats. One of those was another quiz with my uni mates, but preceding that was a chat with Simon Rudd and friends, including briefly Richard Carter and Neil & Nikki Thomas before they set off on an ultimately successful handbell quarter in North Burlingham.

Clare.There was also success in hand within Suffolk, as a 720 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung by Christine Knight, Alan Mayle and Maurice Rose in Poslingford in memory of Frank Gilbert who was Ringing Master of the South-West District between 1970-74. Impressive as that is (especially to someone like me who really struggles on handbells!), I’m sure that this trio of ringers would agree it is a pity that something more substantial to remember him simply isn’t possible at the moment, especially on the 28cwt eight of Clare where he once rang. God willing, one Friday update at a time we are gradually getting closer to being able to do ringing that will do justice to characters of the Guild’s history like Frank.

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Thursday 27th August 2020

Aldeburgh.Aldeburgh is well known within our borders and indeed beyond for the monthly second Sunday peals that are rung there most months of the year. I hope that when such things are allowed that these peals can resume. I know that peal-ringing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for me it is a vital medium for raising standards and generating interest, giving many something to aim for and thus ensuring they stick with the art when otherwise they may have become uninterested. That is particularly the case here where for decades the skills of some of Suffolk’s best ringers have been honed on this lovely 11cwt eight and where – at least in the ones I have partaken in, but I imagine in the vast majority of others too – the quality is typically high.

It isn’t just peals that can help achieve this of course. At this time of year, Brian Whiting’s quarter-peal tour usually combines two aspects of the art that also help raise standards and generate interest, often – I’m led to believe from those who have rung on them, including my wife and my mother-in-law – leading to some extremely good ringing. In keeping with the utter wipeout that 2020 has been, this tour couldn’t happen, but they are trying their best to make up for its absence this week, with another handbell quarter rung for Plan B QPT at Moats Tye.

Meanwhile, I was prompted into my above thoughts as I wandered the vast churchyard of the aforementioned closed St Peter and St Paul on the coast whilst waiting for our chum Gregory and his daughters – and Goddaughters of Ruthie and myself – Ava and Bea for a picnic on the beach. It turned into a relatively chilly experience, but we all had fun, especially the children in this beautiful seaside town.

I can’t wait to return to ring the bells though!

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Wednesday 26th August 2020

When ringing on church bells was stopped in March, most participation in the art was done by households, in their house together, especially when no two households were supposed to mingle.

Worlingham.However, Geoff Cowling and Lynn Scales have managed to do most of their ringing – over twenty performances noted on BellBoard including eleven quarter-peals – from separate locations via Facebook Messenger. Meanwhile though, Geoff’s brother and Blaxhall ringer Mike seems to have been altogether quieter on the ringing front, with his last (peal) entry on BB being a peal he rang at Worlingham almost six months ago. Which is a pity, as having returned to the exercise four years ago, as well as being invaluable to the local ringing scene and indeed beyond, I expect he’s really enjoyed his return, where it has taken him, some of the stuff he has been ringing, much of it very impressive.

I was pleased therefore to see him join forces with his sibling today for what has been claimed (with considerable justification I imagine!) as the first QP rung on handbells by brothers over two hundred miles apart, as they scored a 1272 of eleven Minimus methods as Geoff sat in Herefordshire and Mike here in Suffolk. Well done all round!

More conventionally, (entirely) within our borders, another quarter was rung in hand in Moats Tye, whilst we were quiet on the ringing front. There’s no way we Munnings could compete with the Cowlings today!

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Tuesday 25th August 2020

The discussion on Mark Murphy’s breakfast show on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning about what Christmas might be like this year reminded me that typically this date gives me my first pangs of excitement over my favourite time of the year. I don’t get the tinsel out (although we have found bits of it dotted in and around the boys’ bedroom since last year for some reason), hoard mince pies (mainly because I really don’t like them) or even start planning my shopping (which will probably start at some point on Christmas Eve), but I just get a little tinge of anticipation at this point.

This 25th August though, I have lost all sense of time, with all the usual landmarks of the calendar lost until 2021 and not helped by a day that felt distinctly autumnal for a day leading up to the summer bank holiday weekend.

And it is difficult to get excited about a day where many of the best bits will probably be mainly stripped out and which is at the other end of precisely another four months of not being able to properly do what we enjoy, if we get to do them at all.

Ipswich, St Clement. Ipswich, St Lawrence. Ipswich, St Margaret. Ipswich, St Mary at Quay. Ipswich, St Mary-le-Tower. Ipswich, St Matthew. Ipswich, St Nicholas.

That includes ringing of course, of which there is much that adds to the season normally. As things stand that won’t be possible to anywhere near the usual extent. For example, the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich looks like it will be a very restricted, essentially invited event as it will likely have to be if restrictions are as strict as is anticipated. That’s if it happens at all of course. And there probably won’t be scope for gatherings at this or the other ringing that usually takes place on or around the 25th December.

Still, the wearing situation we find ourselves in is something that ringers have been getting to grips with admirably, including here in Suffolk, where for the second day running - despite some pretty dreadful weather – a couple of handbell quarter-peals were rung in Moats Tye.

Hopefully there will be much, much more before Christmas.

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Monday 24th August 2020

There may still not be any church bell ringing on a Monday for now, but there was nonetheless some ringing-related activity in Suffolk to report.

Barham. Bells being lowered from the tower at Barham. (Taken by Carl Melville) Bells being lowered from the tower at Barham. (Taken by Carl Melville) Bells being lowered from the tower at Barham. (Taken by Carl Melville) Bells being lowered from the tower at Barham. (Taken by Carl Melville) Bells being lowered from the tower at Barham. (Taken by Carl Melville)

Such as the four at Barham being lowered from the tower to Taylors in Loughborough for tuning, welding and the addition of two new trebles to augment to a six.

And such as Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson’s first quarter-peal in hand, impressively rung at the first attempt and one of two handbell QPs rung in Moats Tye. Well done Rowan!

Meanwhile, there was handbell ringing outside St Mary the Virgin church in Woodbridge by local ringers ahead of the induction of The Revd Nigel Prior as the rector here. It was a service that in normal times would’ve happened two or three months ago and which we would’ve hoped to attend, but instead we tuned into the live stream on the church’s website. Well, the first nine minutes and thirty-four seconds of it before the stream cut out anyway!

At least ringing news was able to fill in the extra space on our Monday evening, although I’ll be delighted when actual ringing does!

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Sunday 23rd August 2020

St Mary-le-Tower.More six bell ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on Suffolk’s heaviest and largest weight-range six this morning, with the returning Sue & Jonathan Williamson ringing three & four, Jill & Chris Birkby ringing seven & eight and myself and Ruthie ringing eleven and twelve as I called 120s of Doubles, first of Grandsire and then of Plain Bob.

Afterwards though, as we and others who had come along to listen gathered in Christchurch Park, much of the talk was of the possibilities once (or if, as one cannot be sure of anything at all these days) the distance between ropes is reduced to one metre as indicated by CCCBR President Simon Linford on Friday. Once again it is important to note that this is only an agreement in principle and that new guidelines are not in place or confirmed yet, but with a potential increase in permutations it is worth towers preparing for the possibilities now as we did this morning over hot drinks.

We weren’t the only ones in the county ringing, though again the ringers at Woodbridge are having to ring on handbells with the 25cwt eight out of action due to the frame being painted.

Meanwhile, Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson sent out an invitation to and agenda for this year’s AGM due to be held on Saturday 19th September, delayed from April and for the first time ever held remotely on Zoom. When originally postponed it had clearly been hoped that by being held later in 2020 that we could have held it together with friends, in person, but after it became obvious that wasn’t going to be possible, the only option was to hold it by video. As Rowan admits, this will preclude some from taking part, but hopefully it will give others a chance to attend who normally wouldn’t be able or even inclined to travel to take part. It has to be said that when I normally encourage people to come along to this event, the meeting itself is the least appealing aspect of a day that would typically take in much socialising, ringing and eating in the company of friends well established and new in wonderful old churches, village halls and often a timber framed pub, but from a purely charity perspective it is arguably the most important part of the day. Therefore, please do take the time to contribute and/or take in as the running of the Guild is more important than ever.

God willing by Saturday 10th April 2021 we can all be in the South-West District for the full show. And hopefully we will be able to ring more than six bells at St Mary-le-Tower.

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Saturday 22nd August 2020

It felt almost like a normal Saturday today. We did some shopping for the boys in the shops of Woodbridge and Martlesham and Ipswich Town were well beaten, albeit in a friendly away at Tottenham Hotspur, one of the best football teams in the country and indeed in Europe. Even the fact that we didn’t do any ringing wasn’t entirely unusual even by pre-restrictions standards. Particularly in recent years with the boys we’ve tried not to fill every Saturday with ringing and a quick glance at my blog confirmed to me that we haven’t done any ringing on the fourth Saturday of August for years. In fact, it was just what I might have considered a pretty mundane, dull Saturday, before the events of March occurred anyway.

However, of course it has wearingly become the norm to essentially just get through Saturdays finding something to fill the time of particularly our youngest, adorable yet demanding (!) boys, rather than breaking them up occasionally with ringing or football to attend. I miss the opportunity to go out to ringing events and for all that it is great that we can go to the pub, follow ITFC games (yes, really!) and pop down the local playground, it is frustrating that we are unable to enjoy ringing in the full freedom that makes it such an engaging pastime, albeit at least we can ring at all, which is preferable to the situation that existed until a few weeks ago.

The Bicycle Ring. Vestey Ring.To that end, after a ‘brainwave’ (just the one!) of mine, I wondered whether there may be scope for making the Vestey Ring safe to ring at length in the current circumstances. There have been an incredible - in current circumstances – twenty-eight quarter-peals on The Bicycle Ring in various outdoor locations around Gloucestershire over the last couple of months or so as restrictions have eased and although it is a very different set-up (as the photo shows), I did wonder if it was feasible to adapt the Vestey Ring for some safe sessions, quarters and maybe even peals. Therefore, yesterday I emailed the Vestey Ring Trustee Brian Whiting as well as the Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson and Ringing Master Tom Scase to explore the feasibility and their thoughts. They very kindly discussed and looked into it, but sadly the practicalities just wouldn’t work. The mechanism needed to bring the rope circle out to a safe distance would essentially make them unringable and as the bells are hung in pairs on the frame we would still be restricted to pairs of ringers from the same household ringing next to each other. God willing by the time more reliable, warmer weather comes round again in the spring we will be back to some kind of normality in ringing at least, but if not and outdoor restrictions are eased significantly then the Vestey Ring may give us extra options for those of us less proficient on handbells!

Alfred Grimes' handbells.Talking of handbells, I had a lovely little chat via Facebook with the manager of the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre Nikki Thomas about the 1344 of Plain Bob Major she partook in yesterday to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of ringing great William Pye, rung on handbells owned by Alfred Grimes that William Pye himself rang peals on. It is a fascinating link to the exercise’s past and although we ring on tower bells that are centuries old, there seems to be something much more intimate about handling the actual bells that one of significant characters of the art also once handled. It was also something interesting to think about on a very normal, mundane Saturday.

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Friday 21st August 2021

It is a sign of the times that Ipswich Town’s fixtures for the 2020/21 football season were released today, when the season would usually have been several weeks in, yet still before everything from the 2019/20 season has been finished (the Champions League final isn’t due to be played until Sunday) and the anticipation levels were considerably lower than usual with fans not being allowed into the stadiums that need to be occupied by paying punters for many clubs to survive. Although the latest dreadful (mercifully curtailed) season in the history of ITFC has probably also contributed to the levels of apathy in these parts. That the beautiful game has reached this point is progress though, from the soul-sapping absence of sport for those long, weary spring months.

Progress too for ringing, as Central Council President Simon Linford reported back on his meeting with the Church of England’s Recovery Group via the Bellringers Facebook page that a number of things had been agreed in principle for the exercise to move forward. This includes reducing the social distancing to one metre between ropes, which will allow more bells to be rung in most towers. Again in principle, it has been agreed for decisions on what can be allowed to be made on a more localised basis with geography and differences in ringing chambers, such as the size of the room, whether it is ground floor or rung from a balcony, ventilation, etc taken into account. In addition, issues such as same households being able to ring for longer and the use of simulators for practicing were raised. Face masks are still to be worn though and it is important to note that current guidelines still apply for now, with Simon not envisaging getting draft guidance to them until early next week, although there is apparently no need for this guidance to also be approved by the National Institute for Health Protection, Public Health England’s successor.

Positive times for ringing and football.

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Thursday 20th August 2020

Delia Thelma Hammerton.There is a lovely obituary of Rushmere St Andrew ringer Delia Hammerton written in the latest edition of The Ipswich Society newsletter and shared via the Suffolk Guild Facebook page today by Ipswich Deanery Rep Jonathan Williamson. When we ring with someone, it can be easy to forget that they often have a life beyond the exercise. Delia was admittedly one of those for me. She was Delia the ringer, someone who didn’t reach dizzying heights in the art, but did well enough. However, quite apart from being a lovely lady, as the kind words written by her friend Linda say, there was so much else she was involved in and clearly respected and loved for. As Debenham ringer John Taylor says in the thread that accompanies it on FB, it is such a pity that the restrictions put in place in an attempt to hold back coronavirus deprived her of a proper, well attended send-off.

Eglwys Gadeiriol Llandaf 01 Meanwhile, there was shocking news from Llandaff Cathedral where a ringer broke his arm during maintenance on the 24cwt twelve. By one account it involved some sort of slider malfunction during work on the clappers, but mercifully he was with someone else, which is why it is always so important that one never works on bells alone. God willing he will make a speedy recovery.

There was happier news to report today too though, with Guild Secretary Kate Gill partaking in a 720 of the newly named Margaret Howes Place Minor and the first course of Plain Bob Major rung on that same platform by The Norman Tower Sunday service band. As they say, a positive achievement by all – well done!

That was something nice to read about, along with that lovely piece on the much missed Delia.

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Wednesday 19th August 2020

The Wolery.It is precisely six months today since I last rang a peal. That is the longest I gone without ringing a peal for eighteen years, but that was at a time when due to circumstances I cut back on a lot of my peal-ringing. When the 2hrs 3mins of Elmore Surprise Major came round at The Wolery, thoughts were on what a very enjoyable peal it was and the date for the March attempt set. Even though coronavirus was in the news and had reached these shores, I don’t think any of us seriously expected that just a month later that ringing on church bells would cease and not return for another third of a year. Peal-ringing isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but it is where I have experienced my best ringing and I miss the opportunity to gather with friends to achieve something. We simply haven’t had the chance to join in with the online ringing opportunities and frankly my handbell ringing is a million miles away from peal standard!

If the rumours that were being shared on some corners of social media today are to be believed, an event may imminently be happening that I and others would have wished to ring a peal to mark. God willing the suggestion that ‘Operation Forth Bridge’ (the death of the Duke of Edinburgh) is not as imminent as intimated, but at 99-years old and in frail health it is something that sadly wouldn’t be unexpected. The speculation was enough for the Central Council to share the guidance on the Facebook thread alluding to the situation, which was initially released last October for such occurrences, but of course was written in very different circumstances and led some to suggest that the rules should be loosened for such an event. However, for all that many view that the current restrictions in society generally seem OTT (and with numbers of people hospitalised and dying of the virus falling, even as society opens up, I am sympathetic of that viewpoint), it is important that we stick to the guidelines and the notion of breaking the ‘rules’ in such circumstances will seem illogical for most. Still, it may do as well to read up on the guidance and for your tower to be prepared for what may be considered a likely event in the coming years.

On an altogether happier note, well done to the Suffolk band who continued with their quarter-peal on Ringing Room yesterday, despite the loss of their tenor ringer Alex Brett-Holt partway through for very modern-day reasons! God willing that won’t be an issue in the next peal I attempt!

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Tuesday 18th August 2020

The replacement of Public Health England with a new organisation called the National Institute for Health Protection isn’t normally something that would be mentioned in this blog, but of course these aren’t normal times! Therefore, whilst ringing’s representatives haven’t been directly communicating with PHE, PHE have been involved in the process of approving ringing’s return and so I don’t expect I am the only ringer who has wondered how this may affect ringing’s resumption. Will they be keen to revisit the decision of the art starting again, will they be looking to micromanage considerations of any further easing of restrictions or will they be happy to essentially hand over future plans and decisions entirely to the Church of England who will know their churches best?

Whatever the consequences of this reorganisation, as CCCBR President Simon Linford reiterates in his latest blog shared today, we shouldn’t be expecting the current restrictions to ringing to be eased until more is known about the effects of schools reopening and coronavirus’ spread as the weather gets colder over winter.

Hitcham.However, as he also points out, there is still positivity in the exercise, as he highlighted a list on the new, improved Dove website that imparts the projects going on around the world, such as here in Suffolk at Hitcham, where the six are being restored, rehung in a new frame and augmented to eight. Although it doesn’t mention the project to augment the octave of Stowmarket to ten, so perhaps someone needs to inform Dove!

In addition, he speaks about the progress being made by ringers – himself included – through online ringing platforms, which last week saw the first quarter-peal rung on dumbbells rung from different locations and today a mightily impressive peal of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced was rung on Ringing Room. Difficult enough on normal towerbells, so very well done to them!

For all that though, I really hope we can get back to full on, ‘proper’ ringing as soon as possible even if that won’t be soon. Many stalwarts of the art, the driving forces of ringing here and further afield seem to have grown really disillusioned with the absence of the focus that practices, quarters, peals, outings and progress in the art offer and I fear that if it takes too long for normal ringing (or at least very close to it) to return that a huge chunk will have been ripped from this centuries old exercise that gives so many so much joy. God willing the changes at the top of the country’s health system will only hasten its return.

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Monday 17th August 2020

On Friday, a delegation of ringers is due to meet with the Church of England Recovery Group for the first time since the current guidance was agreed to discuss the path for the art in the coming months and Central Council President Simon Linford is keen to go equipped with the views of the ringing community. Most particularly in regards to whether we would prefer for social distancing to be reduced and thus allow more bells to be rung, but still only for a quarter of an hour or retain the social distance measures we have at the moment (no ringers from different households ringing any closer than two metres apart, or one and a half metres for ropes in a straight line) but increase the time we can ring for. Indeed, Simon has set up a poll on the Bellringers Facebook page between the two options, with the respondents thus far overwhelmingly voting for the former. I’m sure that he would be happy to hear views via email for those not on social media.

Mr Linford makes it quite clear that this won’t decide what might happen next (indeed, both might be possible), as ultimately we are entirely in the hands of what the C of E decide, who in turn are at the behest of Public Health England. They in turn are due to be disbanded by the government shortly, which highlights just how convoluted the whole process is and what an insignificant part ringing is in it all. Please do put your thoughts forward though, it will give them an idea of the wishes and priorities of ringers when they speak to the church in four days time.

That said, the CCCBR President points out that nothing at all is likely to change until the effects of children returning to school next month is better understood and it becomes clearer how the dreaded winter is likely to unfold in terms of coronavirus, normal flu and other traditional illnesses for the time of year. As suspected by so many (myself - increasingly - included), the chances of anything even resembling normal ringing before this dreadful year is out seem very slim.

This didn’t stop some (understandably) impatient contributors to the thread below the poll appearing to be getting a bit ahead of themselves on what might (or some perceive should) be possible, but some conceivable suggestions came about that may help form the basis of moving things forward when the time is deemed right. Such as testing before ringing, however fanciful that notion might seem at the moment. And perhaps more feasible in the foreseeable future, applying more flexible restrictions at ground-floor and gallery rings and/or in areas where the presence of COVID-19 is low, as it is mercifully so in Suffolk and East Anglia currently. Although again this would all need to be led by those above ringing in the pecking order and as part of such moves in wider society. Interesting times for all of us may lay ahead.

St Clement's Church, Cambridge, England - IMG 0650 Face coverings are – for now – benefitting the art by allowing us to ring under current guidelines, but there is another way in which they doing good for the exercise. For if you purchase a handmade, homemade mask from DingDongMerrily on Etsy, all the proceeds will go towards the £250,000 fundraising target for the exciting project to hang a new ring of six at St Clement’s in Cambridge, rung from the first floor and easily accessible for the public. If you haven’t got a mask – or fancy a spare – then this seems the place to go!

Our industrious efforts were focused on our respective jobs and looking after the children, with a Monday night without ringing sadly now the norm. Although God willing, the efforts of Simon Linford and co will hopefully mean that it shouldn’t be the norm for any longer than necessary.

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Sunday 16th August 2020

Generally I try not to point out successes that are gender-related, such as “first female band to...” or “first woman to...” and the like. Not because I don’t rate such successes, but in sense quite the opposite. By congratulating someone for being the first female or band of females to do something, I feel that I am being patronising, as if it wouldn’t be expected of them, that they are somehow inferior to males doing the same thing. The “not bad for a girl” syndrome if you like. In a world where we are all striving to achieve genuine equality regardless of gender, race, sexuality, disability and the like, it seems counterproductive to single out achievements that are considered achievements because the band is female. A peal of forty-one Surprise Minor is impressive for example, regardless of who it is rung by.

However, where there are inexplicable anomalies it is worth investigating and pursuing solutions. Such as why there is a roughly even number of males and females in the early stages of learning to ring, but when it comes to the more ‘advanced’ stages it becomes predominantly men who partake, such as in complex peals of spliced and in particular the ringing of heavy bells. On the face of it, there really shouldn’t be any reason why as many women as men shouldn’t be active in ‘advanced’ and heavy bell ringing. The notion of strength is really a very outdated one, as good handling of any sized bell is predominantly based on technique rather than physical prowess. On a regular basis – in normal times at least – I ring regularly with Laura Davies, Suffolk Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson, Amanda Richmond (whilst in full health), Katharine Salter and of course Ruthie amongst others who are all accomplished ringers on heavier bells, whilst even from a male perspective, Andrew Mills – one of the few people to have pulled the 82cwt tenor of Liverpool Cathedral in to a peal – is hardly a tall, muscle-bound beast. And of course they and other females are amongst the best change-ringers we have in the county. As with nationally though, when it comes to much of what might be considered advanced ringing (such as spliced in quarters and peals, ringing the heavier bells, etc), they are usually in the minority. Why should that be?

Finding out is why Julia Cater – at the insistence and with the support of the CCCBR – has set up a research group. However, for all the statistics and analysis, the best way of getting to the root of this anomaly is to hear the experiences of ringers from all backgrounds. Therefore, we are all – male and female – being encouraged to share our stories via the group’s website. Please do take part if you have experiences that you think would be relevant to this subject.

At St Mary-le-Tower we have a reasonable balance of genders in the regular band, but this morning we had a precisely 50-50 ratio, although that was mainly because we had three husband and wife teams ringing, allowing us to ring six of the thirteen bells, as we have done on the previous two Sundays. There was a slight change to what has become the norm as with the Williamsons absent, we welcomed Tessa & Ralph Earey for their first ringing since March, with none taking place at Sproughton yet. Jonathan’s absence meant that I was running the ringing which consisted of 120 changes of Plain Bob Doubles sandwiched in between some call-changes, having listened to four of the ancient five bells of St Lawrence being rung beforehand. Although we did get to hear Jonathan’s voice as he spoke about East Bergholt bells right at the beginning of and then about twenty-one minutes into the twenty-five minute the Fun With Bells podcast that is well worth a listen.

Great Bealings. Great Bealings bell. Great Bealings bell.

In another change from the current normal order of things, we didn’t join our fellow ringers in going to Christchurch Park to enjoy takeaway refreshment afterwards as instead we returned to Great Bealings for the monthly Woodbridge, St Mary-the-Virgin junior church service. On this occasion we were able to hold it outside with the boys having a chime beforehand, whilst afterwards I got the chance to go upstairs and take a look at this mixed ring of five bells dating from three different centuries from 1626 to 1910 and four different founders, before a picnic in the churchyard.

Euston.Elsewhere within our borders, BellBoard records that the first ringing at Euston since restrictions were lifted was done, that half of the bells at The Norman Tower were rung to 75 changes of Plain Bob Doubles and with the bells out of action at Woodbridge with the frame being painted, handbells were again rung outside.

Meanwhile, I was impressed by the ringing at Elstow from two floors – as can be watched on YouTube - and the peal in Reading where the band didn’t know what method they would be ringing from a selection of fifty-one different methods until the last half-lead of the previous extent. It was all very impressive, regardless of the genders of the ringers...

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Saturday 15th August 2020

The current situation the world is facing is tragic in so many ways, but it is nothing compared to what the world faced between 1939 and 1945 and particularly in Asia and the Pacific, where warfare was especially horrific for all concerned. And yet also relatively forgotten.

They weren’t forgotten today though, as the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day was marked, primarily by a moving ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, but also by the sound of church bells ringing across the world. Here in the UK that was in the restricted fashion that we have become accustomed to over the last month, but it was particularly pleasing after the traditional sound so associated with the celebrations of 1945 had been necessarily absent for the VE Day celebrations in May.

The ringers who rang the bells at Burgh, Clopton, Grundisburgh & Hasketon for the 75th anniversary of VJ Day enjoying some socially distanced refreshment afterwards at The Turks Head. The ringers who rang the bells at Burgh, Clopton, Grundisburgh & Hasketon for the 75th anniversary of VJ Day enjoying some socially distanced refreshment afterwards at The Turks Head. Mike Whitby and Chris & Mary Garner at Pettistree where they rang for the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.

Here in Suffolk, they rang out either with change-ringing or tolling at The Norman Tower, Burgh, Clare, Clopton, Grundisburgh, Hasketon, Ixworth, Pettistree, Woolpit and I imagine other towers within our borders not noted on BellBoard or Facebook. Even if not at full pelt, it is still wonderful to see that the county’s bells and ringers were marking the occasion.

There were also handbells rung, with a personal performance from the Colman family at the cathedral, and another family effort in the town’s Westbury Avenue, whilst the Avis’ rang a 120 changes of Plain Bob Minimus in hand in Brantham.

Neither Ruthie nor I me had the opportunity to do any ringing, but my wife was up at dawn to join her mother and sister to travel to Melton Old Church where the boys’ grandad Ron played bagpipes at the grave of Mrs Munnings’ grandfather who was one of the thousands of Allied troops who suffered so horrendously as a POW under the Japanese.

For all that we are suffering currently, it really is nothing compared to how he and so many others suffered between 1939 and 1945 and indeed beyond. Today though, at least they weren’t forgotten.

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Friday 14th August 2020

Whilst speaking with my uni mates via video which since lockdown began has become a Friday night staple, one of our number introduced their new girlfriend and so as an introduction to myself ringing came up. She seemed more fascinated by the subject then anything else that occurred during the evening, especially when it was explained to her by my friends that they had always been intrigued by me disappearing on evenings and weekends to go ringing and returning having had quite a few drinks and seemingly a jolly good time!

It is a reminder on the day after A-Level results were released and ringers and indeed non-ringers get excited about the new chapters and new freedoms they are due to have in new places in the next couple of months how much the situation lends itself to recruitment to the art. I certainly found that my participation in the exercise moved from mockery to genuine interest when I made the friends at university that I still have and although things aren’t the same this year, as God willing restrictions ease further I would encourage ringers about to embark upon this new adventure of education to be proactive in promoting what we do.

Of course what we do is severely restricted at the moment, but at least it has expanded in recent weeks. Still, it is important that we continue to abide by the guidelines as we look to garner trust amongst the decision-makers who will play a big part in us eventually getting back to the freedom in ringing we had at the start of this dreadful year. To that end, the weekly Friday updates from the Central Council are useful, with today’s providing quite important clarification on the 1.5m rule in regards to ropes that fall in a straight line and those who are exempt from wearing face coverings due to medical reasons, with the guidance on the latter being that if you can’t wear a mask then you shouldn’t ring.

Handbell ringing in the beer garden of The Bull in Bacton (by Joan Garrett)Still, handbell ringing continues to flourish, including here in Suffolk where a 120 changes of Kent Treble Bob Minor were rung in the beer garden of The Bull in Bacton.

Not that Fridays have ever generally been fertile ground for ringing for Ruthie and me, but the restrictions prevented us from going anywhere for ringing. However, I did get out generally as I took another day of leave from work to look after the boys, this time meeting up in Melton Park with their friends and our Goddaughters Ava and Bea and their father Gregory before having lunch with them.

It was a social kind of day in the circumstances and perhaps more days like this may generate more interest in ringing!

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Thursday 13th August 2020

Felixstowe.It was another day off work to look after the children and the most fun one thus far, as having dropped something off in Felixstowe, the boys and I made a visit to the beach there off the cuff. Having parked up directly outside St John the Baptist church which houses the lovely little eight there, I approached with a little trepidation following reports from other seaside resorts in recent weeks (and indeed almost entirely throughout ‘lockdown’) and fully prepared to disappoint the boys if it transpired that the beaches were too busy in these social distance aware times.

On Felixstowe beach.I had nothing to fear as it happens, with the seafront busy but not crowded and so we enjoyed a paddle in the North Sea just beneath the pier and grabbed an ice cream, with both boys covered in blue from their bubblegum flavoured treats!

It involved no ringing, but others in Suffolk were partaking in the art on Ringing Room, with the 1320 of St Clement’s College Bob Minor being Alex Brett-Holt’s first quarter-peal in the online platform. Well done Alex!

And we did host a ringer, as for the second week running, fellow St Mary-le-Tower band member Laura Davies and her boyfriend Joe parked their car at ours whilst they undertook successful time trials on their bicycles in the Tunstall area and then joined us in our back garden for refreshment afterwards at the end of a day where many in Suffolk were anticipating thunderstorms that never came.

I’m just glad they didn’t disrupt our day of fun at the beach!

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Wednesday 12th August 2020

St James church, Dunwich - geograph.org.uk - 66684I got briefly excited when I saw the headline Dunwich Bells Ring Again on p14 of the local In Touch magazine that finds its way to our letterbox on a monthly basis. Alas, it wasn’t news that the single 4cwt Thomas Mears II bell of 1832 at St James is to be added to, but – as most of you will have almost instantly realised – is reference to the bells of the many churches of this once great port city lost to the North Sea due to coastal erosion across the centuries and which myth tells us ring out from beneath the surface. In particular, it is that folk band The Silburys have filmed a video to accompany their song The Dunwich Bells, which can be viewed on their website (or on Youtube).

Whilst the time that those bells actually rang is on a highway called History Road, I was on Memory Lane. This week I have noticed a number of my peals from my time ringing in Birmingham and with Birmingham ringers have appeared on BellBoard in recent months, primarily added by Owen Battye, Paul Needham and Andrew Warboys who have presumably been occupying their extra time over lockdown!

Memories immediately came pouring forth. Many were in the UK’s second city itself, where Monday night peals at St Philip’s Cathedral and occasionally on Tuesdays at St Martin’s-in-the-Bulling were almost as regular as many practice nights and featured ringing of all sorts of methods, with Stedman Cinques and Bristol Surprise Maximus typically the ‘safe score’, but others were further afield. My first peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus, rung on the back twelve of the Bullring, the series of Orion-above Surprise Maximus peals of Mintaka, Bellatrix and Alnilam that we rang at the Cathedral at the beginning of 2000, David Pipe’s comeback tower-bell peal at Kingsbury in Warwickshire after a two year absence due to injury, peals at Taylors’ Loughborough Bell Foundry Tower, Great St Mary in Cambridge and Peterborough Cathedral that were all part of fun, boozy weekends away, a 5016 of Stedman Cinques at York Minster and a 5001 of spliced Septuples and Sixteen on the only ring of sixteen in the country all stood out, but they were amongst so many more during a period of ringing I look back on very fondly. I was very much the weak link in most – if not all – of those successes and feel fortunate and privileged to have been a part of it, especially as I don’t know how I would fare in the current (before COVID-19 at least) world of elite ringing. In reality I was in the right place at the right time!

It was an altogether quieter day for me today though, certainly on the ringing front, with those days feeling a very long time ago now and this hot August Wednesday not anywhere near as exciting. Well, bar those few seconds when I thought the bells of Dunwich might be ringing again!

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Tuesday 11th August 2020

Ruthie & me in the Coach & Horses for our anniversary meal.Ruthie and I did something very exciting today – we went to a pub! Joyful an experience as going to a nice tavern nearly always is, this evening’s visit to the Coach & Horses in Melton was extra special for two reasons.

One, that it was the first time we’d been to a hostelry for almost precisely five months since we and several other ringing friends ate in The Lion Inn in Little Glemham at the halfway point of the Pettistree Quarter-Peal Day on 14th March, our last ringing day out and the kind of event really missed by me and I imagine others too.

The other reason was that this roasting hot Tuesday marked exactly eight years since we became husband and wife in a ceremony attended by many ringers and featuring much ringing on the day and around the country, which we were extremely touched by.

Therefore, with mother-in-law Kate very kindly looking after the boys, we ventured to one of our locals for what was a superb three course meal with a couple of pints each, which thanks to the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme and a voucher that my mother and father very kindly got me as a birthday present last year only ended up costing us £9!

What is more, for all the stories that have been in the news about overcrowded bars (typically in the large towns and cities of the UK), our venue tonight has got the set-up absolutely perfect. We had booked and it was lucky we did, as if we had gone there on the off-chance we would’ve had a long wait with all the tables taken inside and out when we arrived. Yet because they have used their outdoor space so effectively, there was never any point that we felt crowded in and with hand sanitiser on just about every available post, a window to order from the outside, face masks worn by all the staff and being sat down at a completely empty, wiped down table, we felt no more at risk of catching anything than we would have done before coronavirus rudely interrupted life here. Even though we were sat indoors, like our return to ringing, we felt totally safe.

St Mary-le-Tower. Evesham. Maidstone, All Saints.

Meanwhile, the group stages of the competition on the Bellringers Facebook page to find the most liked ring of bells weighing between 30 and 40cwt drew to a close with the vote on Group Eight featuring St Mary-le-Tower. Disappointingly SMLT were denied progression to the next stage by Evesham and All Saints in Maidstone, but that they finished as the best of the rest amongst some very strong contenders is reassuring confirmation for those of us who believe they are an extremely good ring of bells that we are normally fortunate to ring regularly.
For all that they and other church bells in Suffolk weren’t being rung today, there was another handbell peal rung within our borders, again of forty-one Surprise Minor methods in Bacton.

No ringing for us though and although I have been pleased to take them in since they went online after church bell ringing ceased, even I wouldn’t have been crass enough to sacrifice our anniversary meal to watch the latest monthly College Youths meeting and so for once I passed on that particular ‘pleasure’.

I’m glad I did though, as I had a lovely evening out with a very special lady to celebrate a very special day. God willing we can celebrate in a similar fashion in a year’s time, only hopefully it won’t be such a novelty by then!

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Monday 10th August 2020

Sadly Suffolk’s entries into the July CCCBR YouTube competition for Best Ringing on Eight Bells or More didn’t win, but the victorious video featuring Devon call-changes on the 10cwt eight of Bridgerule was worthy of coming out on top. And of course there is a new opportunity for SGR members to win with the August competition, with the topic being Best video demonstrating change ringing not on tower bells. This isn’t limited to just handbell ringing, so I imagine might feature ringing on Ringing Room, Handbell Stadium, pianos, etc. Get recording Suffolk!

Meanwhile, it was interesting to note that the peal in hand rung in Bromley in Kent was dedicated to the forthcoming 150th anniversary of the birth of William Pye, of whom more info can be found here. William wasn’t a ringer from within our borders, but has a place in the ringing history of our county, most particularly at St Mary-le-Tower where he not only partook in the historic first ever peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, which was rung at SMLT almost exactly 112 years ago on 15th August 1908, but by some accounts – including Colin Salter’s excellent history of ringing here which can be found on the ringers’ website - was the one who suggested the idea. Of course it is harder to arrange anything at the moment, but it’ll be interesting to see if Suffolk’s ringers do anything to mark the anniversary of his birth on or around 14th August.

As it will be interesting to see what Suffolk’s ringers come up with for the Central Council’s August YouTube competition.

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Sunday 9th August 2020

After our return to ringing last Sunday, Ruthie and I were prepared to bide our time for our next turn, with St Mary-le-Tower in the fortunate position of having more ringers than bells currently. However, with the combination of three couples ringing three, four, seven, eight, eleven and twelve allowing us to ring the most number of bells possible under current guidelines, in the park post-ringing last week it was decided that it was best to continue with this set-up for the foreseeable future, introducing couples as and when one couple can’t ring.

Therefore, the same six ringers – Sue & Jonathan Williamson, Jill & Chris Birkby and myself & my wife – underwent the same precautions as seven days ago to ring the same bells. The only slight differences saw call-changes swapped out of our repertoire for some Plain Bob Doubles and having felt a little stifled by our reusable face masks last time out, Mrs Munnings and I tried some disposable ones. It has to be said that they felt a bit better, although pulling the 25cwt eleventh in to Doubles on a six with a 30cwt weight range on a roasting hot day is a hard job made even harder by not being able to breath as freely as one would like!

Christchurch Park. Me ‘parenting’ in Christchurch Park.Also in a slight change to the last Sabbath, Mason joined his siblings and other ringers to listen and then partake in some Costa Coffee takeaway in Christchurch Park, by which point we were joined by Colin Salter, who along with his mother and father Katharine and twice Past Suffolk Guild Ringing Master David had rung three of the six bells at St Clement. It’ll be interesting to see how our get-togethers in the park evolve as the weather gets cooler and wetter, but for now it is becoming a social gathering to look forward, not something we’ve had much of in recent months. There was plenty of entertainment as another Past SGR RM Amanda Richmond got the three brothers racing against each other, we all watched the local black cat climb and then try to get out of a nearby tree in the shadow of the tower that holds the 14cwt eight of St Margaret’s and I was squashed by my two youngest in a demonstration of parenthood in action.

According to BellBoard, elsewhere in the county the first ringing at Woolpit for twenty-one weeks was carried out for the resumption of services there, handbells were rung outside St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge in the absence of the 25cwt octave and extremely well done to Ruth Suggett who rang her first quarter-peal in hand on only the third occasion that she has ever rung actual handbells, having made the most of Abel and Ringing Room since church bell ringing was stopped in March. Phenomenal achievement Ruth!

We were less active this afternoon, instead taking advantage of the hospitality of mother-in-law Kate Eagle and the boys’ grandad Ron for our second BBQ of the weekend, which was certainly easier in these temperatures than hauling the eleventh at SMLT around! Thank you guys!

Meanwhile, St Mary-le-Tower is due to make its debut in the Bellringers Facebook page’s informal competition to ascertain the most liked ring of bells with a tenor weighing between 30cwt and 40cwt. The vote for Group Eight – which SMLT appears in with Evesham, All Saints in Maidstone, Leighton Buzzard and Cornhill in London - is planned to take place on Tuesday 11th August, with the two towers that get the most votes going through to the next round. Don’t let our experience this morning put you off voting for them!

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Saturday 8th August 2020

In this BBQ weather, it seemed eminently sensible to have a BBQ and so we did as we hosted Ufford ringers Susanne Eddis and Pete Faircloth to ours for some sausages, burgers and spicy kebabs that were too spicy Susanne!

Christchurch Park. Other ringers did manage ringing too, including locally where a quarter-peal was rung in hand in Ipswich’s Christchurch Park, whilst in Reading, six handbell peals were rung on six different sixes in six different unpealed rooms at the same address with all 42 Thirds Place Delight methods from the 147 regular Treble Dodging Minor methods.

Well done them, although I’m not sure it was entirely the activity for such BBQ weather!

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Friday 7th August 2020

There was a fascinating thread on the Bellringers Facebook thread (Started by Andrew Ellis.) inspired by a one-time Suffolk ringer this evening. It was on the subject of how far back in time you could be linked with just one connecting ringer. For example some reading this will have rung with at least someone (and probably several) who were original members of the Guild when it was formed in 1923.

Grundisburgh.It emanated from Warwickshire ringer Clarke Walters who said he had rung with St Mary-le-Tower ringer George Symonds who he was led to believe had rung with a ringer who rung for the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Clarke himself added he wasn’t 100% sure he’d got that right as he felt that another generation in between would make more sense. However, it does seem feasible. George Symonds rang his last peal aged 98 years and a month old (becoming the oldest ever peal-ringer in a record that I believe still stands) at Grundisburgh in September 1973, putting his year of birth at 1875. If he began ringing in his early teens, it isn’t inconceivable that he rang with some old boy or gal who had celebrated the Duke of Wellington’s historic victory 70-75 years earlier.

Meanwhile, clarification of guidelines for ringing for the seventy-fifth anniversary of another significant event in British history, VJ Day has been released by the CCCBR. There had been concern that the suggestion a bit back that ringing take place for this event at 11am on Saturday 15th August would contravene the guidelines for Sunday ringing as it wouldn’t be possible to leave the required seventy-two hours between ringing. However, as the clarified advice makes clear, if approved by the local incumbent, it would be in line with the guidelines for the same band to ring the same bells in face masks with all the other myriad of precautions on the 15th and then the 16th. And I imagine if bells aren’t yet being rung on a Sunday morning (perhaps because services haven’t restarted yet) then 11am on Saturday 15th may be a good opportunity to get the bells ringing again.

There was also the weekly Friday update from the Central Council on more general ringing, which on this occasion merely notes that their reference of face masks has been altered to face coverings in line with the wording in the Church of England and Church of Scotland’s own guidance, plus clarifying that where greater restrictions are reimposed – such as currently in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and, West Yorkshire – that this only effects the art in handbell ringing in people’s gardens and not on church bells. (Also ...clarify that ringing does not specifically have to be for a service, but should still be with the permission of the incumbent.)

And whilst we didn’t do any ringing today, we enjoyed Simon Rudd’s weekly video chat with him and others on a day when he had been busy on Ringing Room, including a SMLT QP also featuring David Stanford and Nigel Newton rung from across East Anglia. I wonder what George Symonds and the ringers who rang for the Battle of Waterloo would make of that? Or indeed them being discussed internationally via social media!

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Thursday 6th August 2020

Without the usual summer holiday activities for the children and child-sitting options largely unavailable this year and the latter unusually relied upon substantially throughout July already, I am having to be flexible with my holiday allocation this month and use some of it to undertake child-sitting duties myself. Therefore, today was the first such day and mercifully with lovely weather that allowed them to use the garden extensively.

It was lovely to spend so much quality time with them throughout the day, but equally I was delighted that Ruthie and I could welcome some adult company too this evening, as having let them use our driveway to park their car whilst they undertook time-trials on their bikes in the Tunstall area, fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies and her boyfriend Joe returned for a cuppa out the back of ours before embarking on their journey home.

Having also had a cuppa with Ruthie’s gran after she’d very kindly briefly looked after the kids whilst I had to run an errand, it was nice to spend the day with people of all generations!

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Wednesday 5th August 2020

Westminster, St Margaret of Antioch.As Central Council President Simon Linford points out in his latest blog, even once we get to full ringing again, we are facing an uncertain future in the art. He says that he has heard of bands that won’t be returning because their members are too old to come back (although God willing there will be a time at some point when all can return with confidence to our ringing chambers regardless of age) and also highlights St Margaret’s in Westminster – home to a 26cwt ten – where the church is one of a number apparently closing for good for public services. Church closures are something we’ve been expecting for some time, but I imagine this current crisis will hasten what would’ve eventually happened, giving us less time to prepare for the loss of churches with rings of bells. There may be many in our rural county, so we perhaps need to think about what we can do to find new homes for bells or ways of ringing them after they close.

We have plenty to think about in terms of retention, recruitment and our relationships with our neighbours in the future and so now seems a good moment to point you in the direction of the recent announcement on Recruitment and Retention on the CCCBR website, something that has far more info than I can reasonably sum up on here, so please do have a thorough read and think about how your tower can get going again when we get the go ahead for a full resumption, whenever in the distant future that may be.

For now, handbell ringing continues to represent the exercise in Suffolk, with another peal of forty-one Surprise Minor methods rung in Bacton today.

If more churches close and bands disband following this crisis, then we may be relying on handbells to help ringing into the future.

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Tuesday 4th August 2020

More Suffolk representation in the monthly Central Council competition with the playlist of contenders for July’s search for the best ringing on eight bells or more. St Mary-le-Tower features twice with some eight-spliced Surprise Major and I suspect what was one of our half-courses of Cambridge Surprise Maximus rung in preparation for our participation in the eliminator at Walsall of the ultimately cancelled 2020 National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition.

Obviously I hope that one of these win, but there is plenty of high quality ringing on show, including at my favourite twelve of Towcester, a superb extract of a peal of spliced on the back eight at St Paul’s in Birmingham, the magnificent sounding Inveraray and the Devon Call-Changes on the ten of Christ Church in Swindon.

Meanwhile, Exning’s Jimmy Yeoman was ringing in a quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus on Ringing Room with his fellow Cambridge ringers. It’s nice to have had Suffolk representation there too!

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Monday 3rd August 2020

St Mary-le-Tower.The latest of Patrick Deakin and Jack Pease’s informal, just-for-fun, tournament-style competitions to find the most popular of certain categories of bells was announced today on the Bellringers Facebook page and again it features Suffolk representation. This time it is to find the “finest rings between 30 and 40cwt” and competing in Group 8 with Evesham, All Saints in Maidstone, Leighton Buzzard and Cornhill in London is St Mary-le-Tower. It is tough competition, but whilst for various reasons SMLT is often maligned locally, many beyond our borders recognise them as a fine ring of bells and we are blessed to be able to ring on them regularly, in normal times at least. Get ready to put your vote in!

They are arguably the most famous peal of bells in the county and a twelve that usually attract ringers from across the country and around the world and so those of us in the band do feel an obligation to ensure that they are run and looked after properly and the most obvious way we do that as a collective is through the annual AGM. Typically that would be held in April or May, either in the church or the ringing chamber, but of course that wasn’t possible this time around. However, now that the bells are being rung again – albeit in a very limited fashion as is necessary currently – it seemed a good time to hold the 2020 meeting. In theory we could do that in person outside, but practicalities necessitated that like most meetings this year – and as is the plan for the Suffolk Guild AGM on 19th September – it was held via video.

Twenty of us gathered in our houses (and in Amanda Richmond’s case, her car) for a meeting led as usual by St Mary-le-Tower’s vicar Rev’d Canon Charles Jenkin and which covered various topics. One was whether membership of the Suffolk Guild should be a pre-requisite for being a member of the Tower band, which we agreed it should, whilst we also discussed the merits of a formal Deputy Ringing Master’s position. Meanwhile, the events that usually round off the calendar year and would normally see the dates rubber-stamped were discussed with varying degrees of resignation. There doesn’t seem to be any likelihood of the Tower Open Day that tends to be held in the autumn being held, ringing for the Christmas Tree Festival usually held at the end of November and beginning of December and the festive ringing on the final Saturday before Yuletide will largely depend on how flexible restrictions will or won’t be by then and even the most likely event to be able to go ahead – the curry night normally held on the first Friday of December – is at best “possible” with probably many more ups and downs ahead in the coming months.

For all that though, the main business was fairly straightforward, with David Potts voted in as Ringing Master & Tower Captain, Stephen Cheek as Secretary & Treasurer and Owen Claxton as Steeple Keeper and whilst the effects of coronavirus restrictions was the main theme running through much of what we discussed, George Pipe was of course also on our minds as we looked back on the fifteen months since we last held our AGM, with his passing in March another low point of a difficult year, although it has to be said the mood of those present tonight was largely upbeat and jovial.

God willing though, the next AGM will be held in happier circumstances and in each other’s presence and with the bells being fully rung again beforehand.

Meanwhile, another peal in hand was rung in the county, predictably at the centre of handbell excellence in Bacton, this time in the forty-one Surprise Minor methods in an impressive looking performance.

For us though, our main focus was the bells of St Mary-le-Tower. Bells that may be ‘champion’ bells soon”!

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Sunday 2nd August 2020

There are quite a few things I have got used to at various points over the last few months. Working from home. Football matches played in empty stadiums. Queueing outside shops. Wearing face masks. Even not putting any shoes on for days on end at one point. However, I’ve never got used to not ringing.

I have other things in my life besides ringing, such as football, history and of course a family that I have enjoyed spending much more time with since March. Besides loved ones though, ringing is the main thing in my life. It is the only thing I have really excelled at and have a modicum of respect from others for, it is what I normally spend much of my spare time doing, where most of my friends are from and how I met my wife. Indeed, it is how my parents met too and therefore I owe my very existence to it! Good ringing (and contrary to perceptions, a lot of what we do here in Suffolk is good) is so enjoyable to me whether I am partaking in it or not, in the same way as others enjoy good music, good fishing or a good film. Before lockdown, I would typically be ringing on a Saturday, a Sunday morning, Monday night and often Wednesday evening in various places with various people and so I have missed doing it immensely since I was forced – necessarily so – to stop doing it at all nearly five months ago.

Therefore I was delighted today to finally get the opportunity to ring on church bells again for the first time since 16th March at St Mary-le-Tower, the same tower I last rang at before leaving in much more subdued fashion as I arrived this morning. However, longing as I have been to get back, I am also anxious that my participation doesn’t ultimately kill someone and so I was also pleased to see the precautions taken to make this as safe as possible. The result was that with face masks on, hand sanitiser put on at the bottom and the top of the stairs on the way up and down (as well as the hand sanitiser we used before getting out of our car), social distancing adhered to, the short amount of time spent in the ringing chamber and the time elapsed since anyone else was in this famous old room, there was no point at which I felt any more at risk than any other time I’ve ever been in this or any ringing chamber.

Gathered in St Mary-le-Tower churchyard ahead of service ringing this morning. Precautions in place - hand sanitizer at the top of the stairs. Sue & Jonathan Williamson waiting by 3 & 4 to ring. Jill & Chris Birkby waiting by 7 & 8 to ring.

And the actual ringing was extremely pleasing too. With couples Sue & Jonathan Williamson ringing three and four, Jill and Chris Birkby ringing seven and eight and myself and Ruthie ringing the back two, we were suitably distanced from each other’s respective households, but it produced an odd sound. The call-changes and Grandsire Doubles were well rung nonetheless, especially given the unusually wide range of weights that made pace and striking less natural, even before taking into account that none of us had rung tower bells in at least 139 days and was well recorded for posterity, both outside by David Potts and Laura Davies (with the latter featuring on the Bellringers Facebook page) and inside by myself, as can now be listened to on YouTube. Although it got quite hot in our masks!

Relaxing in front of Christchurch Mansion after ringing.Beforehand we had arrived in plenty of time, in earshot of three of the ancient five bells of nearby St Lawrence being rung by Amanda Richmond, Colin Salter and Karina Wiseman, and left the boys with my Mum and Dad who kindly looked after their grandchildren whilst we rang (with no one but those ringing allowed in the ringing chamber of course) ahead of climbing the stairs one husband and wife team at a time and afterwards we gathered with our pre-ordered hot drinks with other members of the SMLT band in Christchurch Park in front of the Mansion beneath the tower of St Margaret’s, a social get-together itself well worth coming out for.

Handbells @ Woodbridge.Elsewhere in Suffolk, they also rang six of the twelve at The Norman Tower, four of the 13cwt eight at Ixworth and there was family handbell ringing outside St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge as past Guild Secretary Bruce Wakefield and his wife past Guild Librarian Gill rang with their daughter Alyson and granddaughters Poppy and Willow.

Berwick-upon-Tweed,Brass Bastion. Peal Band. Meanwhile, the peal-ringing tour in Northumberland saw Katharine Firman impressively become the first person to ring one hundred peals of Bristol Surprise Maximus in hand in a 5138 that was also her two thousandth peal in total.

Reading about handbell peals are something I have definitely got used to reading about!

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Saturday 1st August 2020

As I watched Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup Final in an empty Wembley stadium on the first day of August in what may be the answer to a quiz question in years to come, I was prompted to think where we might be come the next FA Cup Final. God willing it’ll be at its usual time in May, at a packed national stadium. Although it might be a step too far to even dream of Ipswich being there considering we’ve only won one game in the competition over the last decade!

In the process it also got me trying to imagine where we might be generally by then. Each announcement that something has been postponed during this dreadful year has almost invariably been followed by “but we’ll be back in 2021 bigger and better than ever before.” Arguably next year is the most eagerly anticipated year in the history of mankind and whilst most people have written 2020 off as a short-term measure, I wonder whether the populace will be quite as prepared to see everything called off and severely restricted next year. Or indeed if many businesses (especially pubs, restaurants, theatres, etc) could survive that long in the current form.

Yet we do need to stop the virus getting out of hand. It may not be in the numbers it was two or three months ago, but it is still killing people (although precisely how many seems to be open to debate), so we can’t simply go back to exactly the way things were, at least until a vaccine or effective treatment has been found. However, I have seen many suggesting that with or without a vaccine, a COVID UK in 2021 may see life return to pretty much normal, but hopefully with much better and regular testing, contact details taken everywhere you go, hand washing/sanitizing every time you enter and leave somewhere and obligatory wearing of face masks in public.

It will be interesting to see how ringing would fit in with such developments (which it has to be said are mere conjecture on the eternally unreliable social media), but of course it isn’t entirely up to us. We are – quite rightly – at the behest of the church, who are in turn taking their lead from Public Health England and the government and if we are to maintain the trust they have placed in the ringing family thus far, we have to continue doing what we’ve been doing over the last few weeks.

That means that ringing on Saturdays continues to be online or handbells, but at least a peal-ringing tour – which must be the first one embarked upon since church bell ringing was halted in March – to Northumberland is boosting numbers in a medium that has understandably been hit this year, with a brace of performances in hand in Berwick-upon-Tweed adding to a couple rung yesterday and contributing to five in total nationwide today.

Meanwhile, a video shared on the Bellringers Facebook page shows all six bells at Shirenewton in Wales being rung due to three ringers ringing upstairs and three from the ground floor in a tower where apparently they are designed to be rung from either.

Perhaps a few strategically drilled holes and lengthened ropes might see full ringing possible more widely next May, even if an FA Cup Final in a packed Wembley isn’t possible!

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Friday 31st July 2020

Temperatures soared to 37 degrees centigrade in the south of England today, far better conditions in which to take a tent down than the rain we usually get when carrying out this task and a world away from the weather when we settled down for our first evening on the outskirts of Canterbury six days ago. Not such great conditions for travelling home on the busy road network of the south-east of the country though!

We’re sorry to be leaving, as we generally are when we finish a holiday, but I think even more so this time. Our expectations were cautious in the current climate and yet we were able to have a largely normal holiday if you ignore the unnatural restrictions that we all have to follow. That said, I’m still sad that we couldn’t have been on Rambling Ringers this week. For all that we have really enjoyed riding on trains, occupying beaches, gawping at exotic animals and exploring castles (the type of stuff we try to incorporate into our ringing holiday anyway), I have missed the traversing of country lanes to obscure places and testing my ringing agility in new locations with friends from across the world.

God willing we will be able to do just that in 2021 in Leicestershire, but the announcement as we were travelling back to the homeland that the easing of restrictions is being halted with a rise (although it appears a fairly minimal one) in case numbers it still seems depressingly far away. The Central Council’s weekly update doesn’t seem to suggest this affects the resumption of ringing on church bells that is now well and truly underway, although it does confirm that the wearing of face masks for ringing will be mandatory from 8th August in line with the broader rules announced by the government today. However, whilst the easing of restrictions in Leicester on 3rd August should enable ringing to return there, the tightening of restrictions across much of the north of England may have the opposite effect on the exercise up there.

Mercifully, despite a predictable rise in cases across our vast county with more places open, the presence of the virus within our borders and quite far beyond remains barely detectable in the scheme of things. Whilst we have to remain vigilant and careful and of course have no choice but to follow the guidelines (as the CCCBR update highlights, if we don’t follow them the ringing family won’t be trusted and the chance of the art benefitting from any further future relaxation of restrictions will be reduced), hopefully ringing can at least continue as it is in Suffolk for now. Although the depressing warning from the now famous Chris Whitty that we may have gone as far as we can in easing restrictions whilst COVID-19 is still prevalent in our society suggests that we will be ringing in a considerably restricted fashion (if at all, depending on how things go) for some time to come.

Still, having got back to Melton this afternoon, we had plenty of time to enjoy the silver linings of our restricted lifestyles as we enjoyed a drink with Simon Rudd and many others and then a quiz with my uni mates (that was laden with nostalgia with the airing of some videos from our time together in our halls of residence!) via video. And thanks to Kate and Ron, we had a fantastic week away to raise the spirits, even in this roasting weather!

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Thursday 30th July 2020

View from the top of Dover Castle, featuring St Mary-in-Castro and in the distance the coast of France.Dover Castle is somewhere I have always wanted to visit. I love castles anyway and there is something fascinating about places right on the edge of a place and in this case particularly an entire nation. Therefore I had been looking forward to today’s trip immensely and although I was disappointed not to see the famous tunnels beneath it (which are closed until some point next month for the usual reasons that things are currently closed), this famous location didn’t let us down. Even though there were the now familiar restrictions that make such outings less relaxing than they once were, history was explored and spectacular views from the roof of the castle taken in across the English Channel and to the French coast, which was quite clearly visible on a clear, hot day.

Although Dover’s only ring of bells hung for change-ringing is at St Mary the Virgin down in the town (and which I once heard whilst wandering the town before catching the ferry on a Munnings family holiday in the 1990s), it would have been interesting to explore St Mary-in-Castro (where one bell is hung in the ancient tower) next door, but this too was closed to the public today. God willing I can visit it in the future though as I would love to visit Dover Castle again!

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Wednesday 29th July 2020

Apparently the Honeyguide Bird helps guide the Honey Badger to (you’ve guessed it) honey in a bit of teamwork that it would be nice to see applied more often amongst the human race!

It was a gem of information picked up whilst exploring this afternoon’s destination, Howletts Wildlife Park, a partner site to Port Lympne where Ruthie was a zookeeper for the day almost exactly a year ago. Visited after a leisurely morning on the campsite, it was a less stressful experience than our visit to Colchester Zoo recently, with more space to wander in beautiful sunshine, sunshine that led to a very pleasant evening back at base.

Back in Suffolk, there was no ringing within our borders or from any of our ringers as far as I could tell, but there was a performance from one former resident of and three regular visitors to our county, as one time Bramford ringer Christine Hill partook in 63 changes of Stedman Triples on Ringing Room to celebrate the recent anniversary of the birth of her husband Peter, along with the birthday boy himself, their daughter Katie and her husband Tom.

All great teamwork that I imagine the Honey Guide Bird and Honey Badger might appreciate!

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Tuesday 28th July 2020

Another day at the beach, this time with a particular purpose.

A day on the beach.Father Paul Blanch was vicar at what is now our parish church of Melton and the neighbouring Ufford where a peal was rung as a farewell to him and his wife Maggie when they left in 2005. In his time there they struck up a strong friendship with Ruthie’s mother Kate to the extent that we were invited to ring a quarter-peal in 2009 at their then parish of Wolstanton in Staffordshire on the way back from a trip to Scotland and prior to a very convivial meal very kindly laid on by them, and Mrs Eagle trebled to a 1344 of Hunslet Bob Triples for his induction as vicar at Kirton-in-Holland in Lincolnshire just under three years ago. Now though, he is priest at Holy Trinity in Ramsgate (sadly – for what it’s worth at the moment – without bells hung for change-ringing) and so my mother-in-law had arranged for us to meet Paul and Maggie for fish ‘n’ chips and ice cream (all extremely generously bought for us by our hosts) on the beach whilst the children built sandcastles and paddled in the English Channel, the outline of the French coast just visible from the promenade up above.

I expect for a while we’ll be experiencing more beach than bells, but it was a lovely day out.

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Monday 27th July 2020

Flying a kite on Whitstable beach.Today was a very coronavirus restrictions compliant day out as following a wet morning and with considerable gusts of wind continuing for the remainder of this summer’s Monday, we were able to enjoy some kite flying, a picnic and some ice cream in pretty much complete isolation across a vast swathe of Whitstable beach.

After a pleasurable day in the seaside town that is home to a 7cwt six and 3cwt eight, we returned to the campsite for a relaxed evening in sunnier but still windy conditions, stopping only for me to help a new neighbour to level up his caravan.

Not unusually for the current times, there was no ringing from Suffolk to report in our absence, with the only performances of the last few days noted on BellBoard again coming from the ringers of Woodbridge on handbells outside St Mary-the-Virgin as the congregation arrived for the service there yesterday morning.

God willing with more days like today over the coming months we may have more to report sooner, rather than later.

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Sunday 26th July 2020

RHDR, Green Goddess. Built by Davey Paxman & Co. of Colchester in 1925.It was interesting to compare a venue we visited last year to when we again visited it today in the COVID-inflicted UK. Almost exactly twelve months ago, we went to the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway as part of Ruthie’s thirtieth birthday celebrations. We had the freedom to go with her very ill grandfather, meet up with her school chum Lizzie and her daughter, enjoy a lunch by the playground whilst the children played and wander the model railway exhibition at leisure.

Today, we cautiously shuffled as far from others as possible as we (even the boys) and most others there wore necessary but alienating face masks, sat in compartments separated up by character destroying (but again necessary) Perspex partitions, the model railway exhibition was closed and we were only allowed to do one half of the delightful route. We chose from New Romney to Dungeness and back, with lunch at the latter beneath the lighthouse and amongst stunning scenery (if you ignore the looming power station!) a wonderful highlight that underlined how this was still a highly enjoyable day out, even in these restricted conditions.

As enjoyable as this all was, it meant that we missed out on the first change-ringing at St Mary-le-Tower since we all left post-practice drinks in the famous old ringing chamber on that depressing night in mid-March. Still, we got to hear a clip of Diana Pipe, David Potts, Colin Salter and Karina Wiseman ringing 1, 4, 7 & 10 in some socially-distanced and strictly no more than fifteen minutes bit of ringing, with them being the only ones in the room for that quarter-of-an-hour, wearing face masks and not touching other ropes. It is a weird, largely unsatisfying sound, but we know this is how it has to be for now. God willing it is but the initial steps to a full return to ringing that we once enjoyed, whenever that is, but as with so much else currently we have to take what we can for now and personally I’m delighted that the bells at SMLT are up and running again.

As I was to visit the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway again. Hopefully both bells and railways will be fully up and running soon.

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Saturday 25th July 2020

Today should’ve been the seventieth Rambling Ringers Tour, due to go to Leicestershire this year, but of course, like everything else in 2020 that anyone was looking forward to, it was postponed to 2021 some time ago for the first time in its long history. We had been intending on going, although we had also begun looking into non-camping options for this time round before lockdown made it all academic. It’s not that we don’t enjoy camping, but in recent years it seems to have been more difficult to get all the Ramblers together on a campsite next to each other as we used to do and thus, with us having to stay near our tent after the boys have gone to bed, it has been harder to join in with the socialising amongst fellow RRs, which is the main reason we enjoy it. Nonetheless, it would’ve been better than no holiday at all, which we had resigned ourselves to.

Therefore, when mother-in-law Kate – as restrictions were being eased – said she’d booked her caravan onto a campsite in Kent and asked if we wanted to bring our tent and join her and the boys’ Grandad Ron then we jumped (albeit more cautiously then we usually would) at the chance.

Our home for the week.As a result, we found ourselves putting a tent up in drizzle on the Camping and Caravanning Club site just outside Canterbury, before an evening of torrential rain. Whether on Rambling Ringers or not, it seems that some things on a holiday in pandemic Britain don’t change.

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Friday 24th July 2020

The video chats that have emanated from Simon Rudd’s very kind open invites on Facebook have been an uplifting experience at the end of the week (some of them pretty tough weeks over the last few months), giving us the opportunity to catch up with all sorts of characters of the art. This evening’s was a particularly jovial one though. David Sparling was buoyed by his first bike ride after his recent cycling accident, Nikki Thomas was chuffed with calling a handbell quarter earlier today, Nathan Colman showed off the impressive collection of violins he’d made and John Loveless was in high spirits as he prepares to send his biography on George Pipe to the Ringing World.

It came on the day of the death of Dennis Brock of Sunbury in Surrey, who at 101 years old was reputed to be the oldest living ringer. As much as over a century of life is something to be celebrated, his passing is nonetheless sad news, as is the fact that his passing can’t be marked by ringers in the way that it usually would be.

Eastwood, NSW, Peal Band. Sydney, St Mary's Cathedral. Bridgwater.

On a happier note though, I was impressed by the peal of Stedman Cinques rung in Australia with a lengthy list of achievements (which either preceded or followed a quarter-peal at Sydney Cathedral for most of the band) and pleased to see some of the first ringing on the new twelve at Bridgwater in Somerset, even if it was necessarily on four of them.

It was all very uplifting in fact.

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Thursday 23rd July 2020

Personally, today was largely as normal as it might have been without coronavirus. We both went to work and with it being the summer holidays the boys were looked after, whilst Ruthie was working late at the shop to change stock around, which would’ve made it impossible for her to go to choir practice or for us to go ringing, even if either were happening at the moment.

Meanwhile, the mandatory wearing of masks from tomorrow in many indoor settings seems to have prompted the Church of England to “strongly advise” wearing face coverings in churches too, apart from exceptions. This means that they will be needed for ringing in church towers, although judging by pictures I had seen so far most ringers have been wearing masks anyway and at St Mary-le-Tower it was already mandatory as soon as one steps into the church, so we intend to wear them on the planned resumption of ringing this Sunday.
For all that today suggested it, we’re not quite at normal yet!

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Wednesday 22nd July 2020

St Lawrence Jewry.I put my vote in for them, but sadly Lavenham were soundly beaten by Jewry in today’s round of the competition on the Bellringers Facebook page to find the best heavy eight hung for change-ringing in the world. It’s a shame, but all just a bit of fun of course!

As is reading CCCBR President Simon Linford’s blog, the latest of which I read today and in amongst various issues congratulated Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart on his victory in the Central Council’s June YouTube competition and reflected upon ringing’s recent restricted resumption.

Guildford Cathedral.That resumption hasn’t occurred just yet at St Mary-le-Tower, but it is due imminently on Sunday morning. However, it will be even more restricted than we initially imagined. We always knew that we wouldn’t be ringing all twelve or indeed anywhere near that, but twelves generally offer up a number of variations and I was certainly buoyed by seeing what Guildford Cathedral managed on the Sabbath three days ago. SMLT’s rope circle is relatively compact for a 35cwt twelve, certainly compared to places like Guildford and Winchester Cathedral for example and after Stephen Cheek and Owen Claxton had measured up in the tower, it was found that our options once social distancing is taken into account are very limited.

Therefore, a hastily convened meeting over video was called for this evening to run through what was possible and how we can maximise options in the forthcoming weeks. Someone quite rightly pointed out that the presence of coronavirus in Ipswich and Suffolk generally is (for now and God willing for the future) almost minimal, but we have to be subject to these nationally set rules and are determined not to take advantage of the goodwill of the authorities at the county town’s civic church. Much debate was therefore had, such as whether the third is in a straight line with the fourth and fifth (for ropes falling in a straight line social distancing can be reduced from 2 to 1.5 metres), but after deciding it wasn’t, focus mainly turned on what ringers from the same household (who would be able to ring side-by-side) could do and possibilities have been mooted for the near future. For now though, it was decided that the most important thing is that the bells are rung and the plan is for this Sunday that a combination of the treble, fourth, seventh and tenth will be rung. Like so much else in the ongoing mess of this tragic pandemic, it is far from ideal, but is still far better than nothing at all!

I can’t wait to focus on some actual ringing than online competitions about ringing.

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Tuesday 21st July 2020

It’s perhaps a good job that we’re not going out ringing (or indeed anywhere) in the evenings in the near future, as the discovery today that our dishwasher has broken down means that once back from work and having fed a family of four (five when Mason is here) and put to bed the children we will be spending most of our downtime in front of the sink!

Meanwhile, it was a good day for peal-ringing nationwide in the context of current circumstances as five were rung, all on handbells. And all by people presumably not side-tracked by a broken dishwasher.

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Monday 20th July 2020

Another fascinating talk via video this evening hosted by Simon Rudd on behalf on his fellow ringers at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich as former Gressenhall and now Western Australia ringer Roger Lubbock gave a presentation on his and his wife Pat’s road trip from their home near Perth to the most northerly point of the country over two thousand miles away. I know of Roger but don’t know him personally and yet I was engrossed in the pictures and information he imparted over an hour (from what was 3-4am for him in an impressive bit of dedication!) that occasionally made me feel I was in the outback Down Under. Of course many north and south of the River Waveney do know him, which drew a huge crowd of Suffolk ringers. Thank you Roger for an extremely interesting evening.

St Mary-le-Tower.The talks continue as although ringing has returned to East Anglia’s heaviest twelve on Sundays, Monday night practices are still off the table for the foreseeable future, as they are everywhere on the UK mainland. That is in part because of the seventy-two hour period needed after ringing has taken place and it has been pointed out that this time restriction would make it impossible for many places to ring at 11am on Saturday 15th August for the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day – as encouraged by the CCCBR and gleefully reported by me in this blog – and then ring for Sunday services the following day. I suppose if the same band rang the same bells on both occasions some incumbents would be happy with that, whilst it is possible that there will be some towers that for whatever reason can’t be rung on the Sabbath that may be able to be rung the day before. Either way, it is something to consider if you are planning on ringing church bells on 15/8/2020.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Lavenham will be up against Jewry in London in the latest round of the tournament-like informal, fun competition on the Bellringers Facebook page to find the best heavy eight. I have rung a peal at Jewry and can vouch for how good they are and I know some questioned how the 21cwt octave of St Peter and St Paul got more votes than Debenham in the group stages, but they remain Suffolk’s sole representative left in the competition and it would be great to see them do well!

It would also be great to ring on them again soon, but for now I’m happy enough taking in the weekly Mancroft talks!

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Sunday 19th July 2020

Offton.This afternoon should’ve been the Offton BBQ in the lovely spacious gardens that surround Brian and Peta Whiting’s beautiful old house set in the wonderful rolling countryside that surrounds it. Many who read this will know that it is one of our biggest highlights of a normal year. However, as you may have noticed, this isn’t a normal year and so instead of sitting beneath the wide (admittedly murky today) skies of central Suffolk playing bowls, enjoying a BBQ, the vast array of puddings and almost endless amounts of homebrew, we were at home trying to occupy restless boys whilst we awaited a friendly masked plumber called Norbert to stop our toilet from leaking and flooding the house!

If you’d told me at the start of the year that we would have to miss out on this fundraiser that usually sees the ringers of the 8cwt ground-floor eight winning the St Edmund’s Clapper, I would’ve been gutted, but whilst of course still disappointed we have long accepted that like anything else we’d been looking forward to in 2020 that it wasn’t going to be happening.

St Mary-le-Tower.Ironically it came on the most positive day from a personal ringing perspective since ringing on church bells was halted on that dreadful mid-March day four, long months ago. Although we hadn’t been given the go-ahead to ring at St Mary-le-Tower for this morning, handbell ringing was undertaken by some hardy souls in the drizzle outside the church as the congregation arrived for the first service since restrictions were eased. And via the video chat that the rest of us joined – and which briefly featured a ‘live stream’ of the aforementioned handbell ringing – SMLT Ringing Master David Potts was able to impart the brilliant news that ringing is due to resume there next Sunday! It has to be said that in difficult circumstances the Rev’d Canon Charles Jenkin and the church have been extremely supportive of getting the bells ringing again and so we are grateful to them for allowing us to get (some) of these famous bells ringing again.

Clare. The Norman Tower. Beccles. Ipswich, St Lawrence.

Meanwhile it was heartening to hear that the treble, third, fourth and sixth of the 28cwt (also famous!) eight at Clare were rung and the treble, third, fifth, eighth, tenth and tenor of the 27cwt twelve of The Norman Tower also rang out for the first time in a third of a year, whilst three of the ten bells were rung at Beccles, three members of the Salter family rang a trio of the ancient five bells at St Lawrence in the county town and there were more handbells rung outside St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where due to the lack of an incumbent and work by Taylors planned for the coming weeks the 25cwt octave won’t be ringing for at least a month-and-a-half, a similar timeframe to Horringer where there are no services until the end of August and the rector is self-isolating! It would be great to hear where within our borders have been able to get going again.

Further afield, an article in The Guardian highlighted that ringing was starting up again on some of the 48cwt twelve of Southwark Cathedral, the Hortons showed what can be achieved with a large ringing family at Smethwick with the first QP on church bells on the UK mainland since 20th March and it was fantastic to see that all six of the 28cwt six of Hoar Cross in Staffordshire were able to be rung as (unlike in the vast majority of UK ringing chambers) the ropes fall far enough apart for all six to be rung whilst socially distanced! I’ve rung a peal on these many years ago (when the entire band was taken there in Richard Grimmett’s people carrier!) and can vouch for the COVID-19 compliancy of this particular ringing chamber, but there is also video evidence, though not from today. YouTube also shows how the ringers of Eling in Hampshire have been carrying out ringing post-lockdown.

Great Bealings. Picnic outside Great Bealings church. Me chiming the bells at Great Bealings. Alfie and Joshua chiming the bells at Great Bealings.

And although we didn’t get to do any full-circle change-ringing on this occasion, I did have the opportunity for a tower grab! In the last year or so, St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge – where Ruthie usually sings in the choir and we occasionally attend church – joined with nearby Great Bealings and this morning it was the setting for a small scale junior church service as a means to reintroducing the little ‘uns and their parents back to a Sunday service. That was great and the outside offered a super place for the children to run about in at a venue I frequent drive past on the way in and out of Ipswich but have never stopped at, but the highlight for me was being asked to chime four of the five bells hung dead here via the Ellacombe apparatus, something which Alfie and Joshua also relished joining in with!
Additionally, an announcement today by Chelmsford Cathedral and former Ipswich St Margaret ringer and current CCCBR Public Relations Officer Vicki Chapman is encouraging us to ring – if we have the incumbent’s permission, as we always ought to seek anyway – at 11am on Saturday 15th August for the seventy-fifth anniversary of VJ Day, in accordance with the guidelines of course. Having missed out on marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day with bells a couple of months ago, this should be a welcome opportunity to expand ringing’s resumption and God willing a further step towards feeling normal!

Or at least as normal as one can feel when the Offton BBQ isn’t being held!


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Saturday 18th July 2020

The Central Council of Church Bellringers last night released what is apparently now going to be a weekly Friday evening update to keep ringers in the loop on how the guidance is – or indeed probably for a while, isn’t – changing and was highlighted in an email to Suffolk Guild members by SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson. It offers further clarification, making it clear for example that the use of mitigating measures such as face masks doesn’t allow for a relaxing of social distancing, although where ropes fall in a straight line that can be reduced to 1.5 metres providing ringers of those bells remain facing the centre of the ringing circle.

It further underlines the cautious and sensible approach ringing is taking to returning. Hopefully it will also reassure those towers and/or vicars who are understandably awaiting an official ‘sign-off’ from Public Health England to give the ‘green flag’ to ringing, as that is unlikely to happen any time soon, if at all. CCCBR President Simon Linford has made it clear that they aren’t going to chase PHE up on this as they have an awful lot on their plate and ringing is a tiny part of everything they are dealing with, especially as PHE have described it as ‘approved guidance’, the Church of England are very happy with it and many towers have been ringing without objection or (although early days of course) without incident. Worth considering is the consultation and advice that has gone into painstakingly putting this guidance together, taking into account the advice of the church, those in the medical profession, those who are ringers and those in the medical profession who are ringers! This hasn’t been put together on a whim and although as with any guidance for anywhere or anything reopening after lockdown this won’t be 100% secure and has an element of hope as we all face these unprecedented times, it has been done in a way that severely minimizes the risk and I hope it convinces more towers and ringers to return and vicars to allow them, particularly here in Suffolk where mercifully the numbers of cases remain a handful across our vast county of 1,466 square miles. Although it is also very important that no one should be pressured into going back if they don’t feel safe in doing so (especially if they are considered vulnerable) and likewise incumbents should be allowed the right to be cautious in what they allow in their church. Safety has to come first, even if it can feel OTT and frustrating – these are difficult times to make such decisions.

Mercifully in other ways the easing of restrictions have allowed us to celebrate birthdays in a more relaxed and expansive way, albeit still not in the same way as we once did and this afternoon we welcomed some of Ruthie’s family for a celebration of the recent anniversary of her birth with a BBQ brought by her mother Kate and the boys’ Grandad Ron as a present! Thank you guys! Once my wife had built the gift we had a lovely afternoon in glorious sunshine.

God willing we’ll be able to gather together in a ringing chamber in the near future too – we may find out more next Friday.

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Friday 17th July 2020

Extremely well done to Alfie, who today won an award only offered to one pupil in his school a year for the respect he has shown to the environment in recent months. This has mainly been achieved by work he has done at home whilst out of school and so seems extra special. The only disappointment was that rather than being presented to him at an assembly which is obviously not possible, Alfred got the impressive shield not unlike a small version of the Mitson Shield via the head of the school dropping it off to me at work, but he was so pleased to receive it and hasn’t let it out of his sight since, even putting it on the shelf next to his bed at bedtime!

It was the highlight of another positive Friday that again saw us both at work, an enjoyable video chat with Simon Rudd and friends whilst we were sat in the garden and then hosting a quiz for my uni friends.

Meanwhile, the news that the government hopes for “significant normality” by Christmas suggests that the restricted ringing many have been able to undertake thus far since the Central Council guidelines were essentially approved – though not signed-off yet which is holding things up at St Mary-le-Tower and I imagine a number of other places – by Public Health England may be with us for the rest of this year at least.

However, as well as congratulating my children on their achievements, I’m still hoping to be able to congratulate Suffolk’s ringers on their achievements on church bells in the not too distant future.

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Thursday 16th July 2020

Happy Birthday to Ruthie, a wonderful wife, mother, aunty, singer, musician and of course ringer!

We celebrated by partaking in the fortnightly St Mary-le-Tower Ringers’ quiz via video and in some of the three bottles of gin (something we’ve really got into since lockdown came into force) that her mother and Ron got her, drunk from the gin glasses that I gifted her!

The quiz was a typically jovial occasion, albeit slightly more lowly attended than normal and featured rounds provided by multiple people that included one on the Suffolk Guild Annual Report. And we won again! If only we were so good at quizzes when you actually win something!

Beforehand I was able to watch a recording of half of Gareth Davies’ talk on the Churches Conservation Trust’s Facebook page and hosted by one-time SGR Annual Report Editor George Reynolds! It was a fascinating talk that importantly seemed to get rave reviews from non-ringing viewers that will hopefully have tweaked enough interest to get some new recruits!

All in all, I think Ruthie enjoyed her birthday!

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Wednesday 15th July 2020

I have rung a fair few heavy bells in my time and I think generally done alright at it. Indeed, I have pulled the 35cwt tenor at St Mary-le-Tower in to eight peals, some in quite trying circumstances such as the 5042 rung on a roasting hot June afternoon last year. However, the heaviest bell in Suffolk is the heaviest bell I have ever rung to a peal and I am well aware of place in the scheme of the tenor ringers of the country. I do alright, that’s it, so I was keen to catch Julia Cater’s talk this evening via video on the subject of ringing big bells.

Partly it was to check I am doing it right and I was reassured that I appear to have the right idea at least, even if I don’t do it as well as others! However, I know Julia to be one of the best ringers of heavy bells and as is always the case with those who are expert at something, knew that it would be a fascinating insight. And so it was! The 1hr 21mins talk highlighted how anyone healthy should be able to ring big bells, highlighting the example not just of herself, but also the likes of her daughter teenage Bethany and Rambling Ringers youngsters Jemma Mills (now Meyer) and Luke Riley, with the latter two filmed when they were young teenagers ringing the tenors Exeter Cathedral (72cwt) and Liverpool Cathedral (82cwt) (Luke ringing up Liverpool's tenor) – the two heaviest bells in the world hung for English style change-ringing – respectively. Well worth a watch and I hope that it encourages those watching who haven’t yet garnered the confidence to ring heavy bells to do so when we’re all up and running properly.

Thankfully it can be watched via the St Martin Guild’s website (as can John Warboy’s talk from last week) as apparently the one hundred person limit for Zoom meetings was reached minutes before the talk even started and it allowed me to catch it later as I had been unable to join it live at 7pm, due to a combination of the weekly shop, it being my turn to put the boys to bed and then getting a Chinese takeaway as part of an early birthday celebration for Ruthie.

I’m glad I did catch it and God willing I can put the tips collected tonight into practice on some big bells in the near future!

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Tuesday 14th July 2020

Congratulations to Lavenham which along with Bristol Cathedral progressed from Group C in the polled competition being run in the form of a tournament on the Bellringers Facebook page to ascertain the best heavy eight. It’s all just a bit of fun of course, but there were a few raised eyebrows that Debenham didn’t do as well in the same group!

Congratulations also to Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart whose ‘Tim Handbell Robot’ video has won the CCCBR’s YouTube competition for June which was searching for the Most Interesting/Unusual Video. And well deserved it is too! July’s competition is ‘Best Striking on Eight Bells or More’ – let’s see if we can get another Suffolk winner!

Meanwhile, a St Mary-le-Tower band were ringing a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major on handbells in Ardleigh south of the Essex border and it looks like for now that it will only be through that medium that bells will ring out at SMLT on Sunday. With the announcement last night that face masks will be mandatory when in shops but not until 24th July, it was noticeable that most ringers recorded in photos and videos from ringing on Sunday were already wearing masks, despite being in more space than most shoppers will be. Along with the slightly disconcerting sound of strange combinations of bells, it further underlines just how cautiously and sensibly ringers are approaching this resumption and that is certainly the case at Ipswich’s civic church where the Rev’d Canon Charles Jenkin is understandably awaiting the sign-off from Public Health England which frustratingly still hasn’t arrived. God willing it will come soon and we can ensure that the bells are fully established as part of this church’s resumption of worship.

Even in this atmosphere of ringing returning in a careful and restricted manner, traditional ringing gatherings and lengthier pieces still seem some way off and in the latest monthly College Youths meeting held by video reflected that as it announced that handbells were going to be the theme for the society’s peal weekend planned for the 19th & 20th September in the likely scenario that peals on church bells will still not be possible then. Uplifting though that details for events such as the Anniversary Dinner and Country Meeting were confirmed, even if they were for 2021 and 2022 respectively! And much amusement came on the subject of what will become of Bill Cook’s table. Which is apparently becoming a box for the London Twelve-Bell Competition.

We probably need to get back to ringing soon, at places like St Mary-le-Tower, Debenham and indeed the victorious Lavenham.

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Monday 13th July 2020

Throughout lockdown and especially in the depths of the restrictions, many people we know have reported that their alcohol content has gone up. Understandable when for long periods many have found themselves with a lot more spare time and a lot more depressing news to deal with. However, our drinking has actually reduced a little. We’ve always enjoyed a few at the weekend and then typically we will usually have a drink once or twice a week at The Cricketers and/or The Greyhound after the respective practices at St Mary-le-Tower and Pettistree. Without those practices though, we have stopped short at midweek drinking at home on our own.

We willingly made an exception this evening though as we watched fellow SMLT ringer and Immediate Past South-East District Ringing Master Jonathan Williamson give a typically fascinating talk on wine to the ringers of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, who have very kindly allowed us to gate-crash their highly interesting talks in recent weeks. Wine is literally his business as he co-runs Wines of Interest in Ipswich and there is practically nothing that he doesn’t know about the subject, which he also puts across in a truly engaging fashion. I am always absorbed when he gets talking on something that I enjoy very much but only have a surface knowledge of and the large crowd assembled via video seemed to be too, judging by the level of questioning afterwards! Thank you Jonathan for a very entertaining hour or so.

St Mary-le-Tower.God willing soon I will be able to tell him in person, something that seems a step closer following an email tonight. Although some towers were given the go-ahead by their incumbents to ring yesterday following Friday’s latest update from the CCCBR, nothing will be happening at St Mary-le-Tower until the official sign-off of the Public Health England guidance on ringing’s resumption that by all accounts is all but rubber-stamped. However, with the measures that will need to be put in place fairly straightforward and easy to implement and therefore hopefully not needing a lot of notice to set-up (in the main most of it is how people act on the day rather than any materials needed ahead of time, such as hand sanitiser) we ought to be ringing there this Sunday if the sign-off comes through in time and so a message was sent round asking for volunteers to ring should we be given the green flag within this limited framework. We have put one of us forward as of course the other will have to look after the boys who won’t be allowed in the ringing chamber in these circumstances, but God willing that one of us will finally do some actual ringing on actual church bells for the first time in four months.

One place it won’t be happening just yet is Woodbridge, partly because permission is needed from the incumbent which isn’t possible until The Revd Nigel Prior makes his delayed arrival to take up post, but also because the 25cwt eight will be out of action for five weeks from 10th August whilst Taylors repaint the frame. That said, the local ringers – including Ruthie – put on a much-appreciated display of handbell ringing yesterday morning and a couple of videos were shared on local ringer Jackie Shipley’s Facebook feed for those who are friends with her via that particular medium.

No ringing for us today though, as instead we turned our attentions to a spot of midweek ringing and that wonderful talk by Jonathan.

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Sunday 12th July 2020

Thank you to my brother Chris and his wife Becky for our Christmas present, which was a family ticket to Colchester Zoo. At the height (or perhaps that should be depths?) of the restrictions put in place to help control the spread of coronavirus, there was apparently a real danger that this staple of the East Anglian tourist scene wouldn’t reopen and so we were absolutely delighted when it did recently and even more so that we could redeem that yuletide gift. Therefore, having booked a 2-2.30pm arrival slot, we headed into Essex with considerable excitement for our first proper family outing since last year.

Ruthie and the boys at Colchester Zoo. The church at Colchester Zoo.And it didn’t disappoint. The usual collection of animals from exotic locations were appreciated, from penguins to elephants to sloths, the latter of which Alfie particularly wanted to see for some reason, whilst I was also extremely interested to visit the ruined church there for the first time. However, it was more stressful than one might usually expect as we herded three boys along the increasingly crowded pathways of this oft visited escape (usually) from the real world. For all their admirable efforts to make it as safe as possible in this new world (with one-way systems, hand sanitiser on almost every corner, there were simply – in our humble opinion – too many people around. The usual tactic of joining a crowd and going with the flow obviously wasn’t possible on this occasion and so there was lots of waiting around for people seemingly unconcerned about social distancing or standing behind the red lines painted to keep visitors from touching the glass that many would normally press their noses against to view the variety of creatures beyond.

Hollesley. Ringing at Brewood this morning. (Steve Askew) Worcester Cathedral.

It all seemed a world away from the efforts of the country’s bellringers this morning as many resumed in the art in church towers for the first time in four, long months, reports of ringing on tower bells for Sunday service dominating BellBoard after weeks of online and handbell performances. That included social distant ringing on the treble, third, fifth and seventh at Hollesley, whilst there was a video on Facebook from Mark Regan of ringing on what it seems had been dubbed the ‘Covid Eight’ at Worcester Cathedral! Meanwhile, our fellow Rambling Ringer Steve Askew put a photo up of ringing in his home tower of Brewood in Staffordshire which gives a good visual indication of how what is being done to make a resumption of ringing as safe as it possibly can, with social distancing, face masks and hand sanitiser all on show. It is completely at odds with the scenes at Colchester Zoo and indeed most supermarkets, many high streets and countless beaches. It further reassures me that what we are doing with ringing is sensible as we aim to begin the lengthy journey back to full-time ringing.

As if to back up this necessarily cautious response by the art and the church, at St Mary-le-Tower the Rev’d Canon Charles Jenkin is very keen for the bells to be ringing again, but is understandably anxious that first Public Health England’s guidance is signed off before giving the go-ahead for the bells rung from this famous ringing chamber to ring out again.

Me in the garden on the St Mary-le-Tower video chat this morning.The subject came up in the weekly video chat for SMLT’s ringers that has replaced the post-ringing coffee that we once had and hopefully will have again in the not too distant future. It was slightly delayed due to an oversight by usual host Stephen Cheek that initially saw two separate meetings going on simultaneously before we eventually gathered together. It was all very pleasant as I sat in the back garden, but for the first time though, I was participating on my own as Ruthie attended church at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge, where beforehand she partook in some rounds and Queens on handbells outside the church with the Wakefields and Alison Wintgens and then a course of Plain Bob Minimus with Bruce, after they had already rung some more rounds, Queens and Plain Bob Minimus ahead of her arrival.

She was back from a shortened service - with no singing, no communion wine and no shaking of hands at the peace, with an attendance of about fifty dotted around this large building, all having booked their place earlier in the week – in time for another outdoor video chat with some other fellow churchgoers.

God willing it is things gradually returning to normal in the long run, when I hope to feel more at ease at places like Colchester Zoo!

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Saturday 11th July 2020

Progress of sorts in the long-awaited return to ringing. According to a message from CCCBR President Simon Linford widely circulated on Facebook, the guidance from Public Health England that the art was waiting for has not been signed off, but the expectation is that they will be broadly in line with what the Central Council had put forward and indeed with a slight easing in regards to social distancing suggested by PHE themselves. Specifically that it can be reduced to 1.5m for ropes that are in a straight line and providing the people ringing them are facing forward and are at least two metres away from ringers opposite. It means we’re sort of OK to go-ahead, with Simon himself saying that “No one is telling anyone they cannot ring provided it is in accordance with the guidance.” (See Opening cathedral and church buildings to the public, p9 & Coronavirus (COVID-19)

It may be that it will be too late for many to make plans for ringing on Sunday, with some – such as ringers at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich – sensibly cancelling their ambitions to ring for service tomorrow. And it is important to note that not only will this be in a very restricted fashion, but it also won’t be possible everywhere, maybe even in the majority of towers. Partly this will be because a lot of ringers – however much they love ringing – will be very wary of taking unnecessary risks. This will be particularly true of older ringers and those whose health is vulnerable and absolutely no one should feel pressured into ringing. In many places it may not be possible due to those making decisions at their church. At Ufford for example (where services are only to be held every fortnight, alternating with Melton), those tasked with the daunting and unenviable job of cleaning the church feel unable to stretch to the ringing chamber from where the 13cwt eight are rung. This too is completely understandable and I expect entirely common amongst churches across the land that rely on – often elderly - volunteers. Hopefully this view will change in the next few weeks though, both of those ringers not comfortable on coming back and those churches unable to allow it for whatever reason currently. God willing the virus will be less and less prevalent (especially here in Suffolk where mercifully it is barely around for now) as we go along and also it is worth noting that this isn’t a gung-ho mass convergence to the ringing chambers of the UK. This is framed in a carefully constructed set of guidelines by ringers in the medical profession, encouraged by the C of E and approved and tweaked by Public Health England themselves, who if they thought there was any notable concern would’ve quick to shut this avenue down. That’s not to say that even in this restricted format that our ringing chambers would be 100% safe, which is why nobody should be made to feel guilty for not going back yet. However, nothing we do in life is 100% safe even before COVID-19 appeared and it is – in my humble and admittedly unimportant opinion - important for the mental well-being of many ringers, churchgoers and even residents (not to mention for the future of the exercise itself) that as restrictions in the Church of England ease that ringing does resume in some way, even if we have to accept it is this manner for the foreseeable future.

All that said, the latest news on ringing’s return was not the most important aspect of our day by a long chalk. That honour goes to Joshua, who today celebrated his fourth birthday. It is a running joke in our family that our youngest could be described as ‘strong willed’, but in all seriousness it has been a joy to see him grow from the tiny, fragile being he was four years ago today, to the boisterous, often joyous little lad whose way with words frequently has us in stiches.

Those celebrations were not as limited as his brother Alfie’s had to be back in April, but still not as free as they might have been as a succession of relatives had to visit at different times, with garden conversations and also an exchange of presents with my father as we handed over his birthday and Father’s Day gift. This was a beautiful drawing done by St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies done of St Margaret’s in Ipswich, where Dad has supported the ringing for decades and where his father Jack was Ringing Master. Thank you Laura! If you haven’t already seen her work, do check it out via her Facebook page!

Joshua waiting for a haircut in a 2020 COVID-19 UK! Joshua opening a present in the presence of his brothers. Joshua playing with a present.My father’s grandson enjoyed his big day, with a haircut (complete with face mask that he was very keen to wear!), lots of presents and lots of cake and (although he won’t appreciate it now at least) his mother and father even managed four courses of Plain Bob Minimus on handbells – Happy Birthday Joshua! Although nothing compared to the suffering coronavirus has afflicted across hundreds of thousands worldwide, I have found it sad that I haven’t been able to arrange peals of appropriate length and/or numbers of methods to mark the boys’ birthdays as I have managed to do for every birthday of all three of my sons, since the one we scored for Mason’s thirteenth back in January and whilst we didn’t have handbells to do anything for Alfred’s sixth three months ago, we are delighted to have done something for JB’s special day today, however small. I pray that I’ll be able to arrange peals for their anniversary of their births next year. All being well, today’s developments are the start of making that possible.

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Friday 10th July 2020

It is the end of my first week back at the office. It has to be said that working from home worked a lot better than I imagined it might and the extra time spent with Ruthie and the boys was a marvellous bonus to the otherwise far from ideal situation. However, although without the distraction of work colleagues I actually found myself being more productive in our abode, the actual mechanics of it all were a lot more cumbersome and so a return to my familiar desk specifically set up for the task – with the calendar still poignantly displaying dates in March as I’d left it all those months ago – was welcome on Monday, as was seeing some familiar faces not seen for a while, albeit only a very few in a sparse office.

With Ruthie now well and truly settled back into working at the shop, it is another large chunk of normality returned to our life. Apart from the boys going back to school and Ipswich Town depressing me on a weekly basis, the last major bit of life we need back is ringing.

However, that return is still not confirmed, despite hopes that Public Health England would’ve given us approval by lunchtime today. It therefore looks unlikely that ringing will be returning this Sunday, sadly. Still, safety first and as someone else remarked, we’ve waited this long, so another week won’t hurt.

For now then, we enjoyed our now usual Friday night video catch-up fix. The uni quiz didn’t happen tonight, postponed instead to next week amongst an array of tired workers and parents at the end of a week when many (teachers among them) have upped their workload. Not that it matters as with all of us distributed across the country this was all to be done by video and so we still ended up in the same place as we would’ve done anyway! And we still gratefully accepted the weekly invitation from Simon Rudd – fresh from ringing his fiftieth quarter-peal in Ringing Room (BellBoard makes it only 49! Ed.) with an intercontinental 1280 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major – to chat via a video, an invitation also accepted by Suffolk ringers Cath & Julian Colman and South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden, as well as fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers David & Gill Sparling. It is well worth joining in if you are friends with Simon on Facebook and it was a jovial way to finish a week mainly spent in the office.

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Thursday 9th July 2020

CCCBR President Simon Linford popped up on Facebook today asking the question of the most bells rung to a handbell peal by just one family and inevitably the Bailey brothers of Leiston and their peals of Maximus in hand about a century ago came up frequently and may well have answered the President’s question!

Simon also sent out another update on the subject (on facebook) of the resumption of ringing today, confirming that a huge number of people are involved in the process of giving it the OK, but that they hope to have guidance confirmed by Friday lunchtime. Even though the delay has been frustrating, it is nonetheless reassuring that thorough consideration is being given to it and proper dialogue (however longwinded!) is in place between those making the decisions on such things and bellringers who can relay the nuances of the art.

There was nothing from a personal ringing perspective to report though, with the handbells sat on the side on this occasion as my time was mainly taken up with preparing a suitable quiz for my uni mates tomorrow. I’m not sure that the question of what the most bells rung to a handbell peal by the same family was will quite cut it!

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Wednesday 8th July 2020

Orion Max Band. Suffolk flag.Yesterday I remissly overlooked the impressive 1344 of Orion Surprise Maximus which was the first quarter-peal in the method rung on Ringing Room and which not only featured St Mary-le-Tower ringer Colin Salter but also his elder brother and former SMLT ringer George, the latter of whom called it. Well done lads on flying the Suffolk flag so magnificently!

Ringing Room has rather passed us by with me working full-time, Ruthie home-schooling during the day and then the children often demanding of our time into the evening throughout most of its existence thus far, but we have been able to take in numerous interesting webinars in a more passive way that still allows for disruptions from the boys. The latest one came this evening as John Warboys gave an introduction to composing. I think he could have spoken all night and frankly I could’ve listened for that long too as he explained what can be a complicated part of the exercise in a careful and detailed fashion. I have been privileged to ring and socialise much with John, especially in my days ringing in the Midlands and always found his thoughts on composing and conducting fascinating and so it was on this occasion. As I said yesterday, there are few better qualified to give an insight into the subject. It certainly drew a large audience and rightly so, with mention made of a sequel!

For all that though, I still yearn for actual ringing on actual church bells, but we still await the go-ahead from Public Health England, who admittedly have a lot on their plate at the moment. Central Council President Simon Linford sounds unusually downbeat on the matter in his latest blog, although he does also mention the 20% discount offer for ringers who’d like to go Champing, if you’re looking to have some sort of holiday this year!

Meanwhile, some of you may have been following Patrick Deakin’s light-hearted (though heavily debated!) competitions on the Bellringers Facebook page that have seen people voting for their favourite twelves and then tens through a tournament style contest. Now he’s started one for the best heavy eight and Debenham and Lavenham both feature, appearing in Group C, so if you want to vote for them look out for the opportunity!

Whilst Ringing Room has given ringers like Colin and George Salter a platform for some impressive achievements, God willing we’ll get the opportunity to ring on bells like Debenham and Lavenham again soon.

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Tuesday 7th July 2020

St Mary-le-Tower.The National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest website has had a refurb and as part of that included a news report from BBC Look East about the 1991 Final, which was held at St Mary-le-Tower. It features an absolute abundance of younger versions of very familiar faces (including myself in my red stripy jumper near the end with Ralph Earey’s famous demo bell) from Suffolk and nationally, most particularly then Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond who was interviewed. Well worth a watch to see how many ringers you can recognise!

From the past to the future, as one of the participants that day is due to give what should be a fascinating webinar tomorrow. John Warboys – who was conductor for third place Bedford on that summer’s day twenty-nine years ago – is planning on giving an introduction to composing at 7pm on Wednesday 8th July. There is frankly very few better placed to give this than the man who cracked fitting the standard forty-one Surprise Minor methods into 5040 changes amongst so, so much else and I would strongly encourage all who can to watch by clicking on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86520699035?pwd=VndkMDhqVXlCYUR6eDJCQVM3ZnhsQT09.

And in the present there was a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor rung in Bardwell, although nothing from us personally today. Still, at least it left time to watch that wonderful report!

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Monday 6th July 2020

It is 111 days since I was last in the offices of my employers John Catt Educational. Very nearly sixteen weeks and not far off four months. It is a long time, although not as long as I have gone without ringing tower bells. Therefore, when I returned to the office today for the first time since we all left in mid-March with Boris Johnson’s urgent warning ringing in our ears, I was expecting it to feel almost like a new job.

Perhaps because it was such a familiar location prior to them or maybe because I have continued working full-time at home in the meantime, it felt remarkably normal to be there again. There was still a slightly strange feel to it all, with a peak of six there and only three of us by the end of the day in a two-storey office that is usually the workplace of the best part of twenty employees, but all seemed familiar.

St Peter Mancroft.God willing we will get that same sense in our ringing chambers soon, but we still await the go-ahead from Public Health England to even begin our very restricted resumption, so for now I was pleased to join the ringers of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich via video to listen to their vicar Rev’d Canon Edward Carter speak on his passion of board games (indeed he has made some!) during an entertaining hour in their company. Next week, St Mary-le-Tower’s Jonathan Williamson is due to chat about wine, so do look out for the link from Simon Rudd or the Norwich Diocesan Association’s Facebook feeds over the few days!

Maybe I’ll appreciate a glass of wine after a week of going into the office!

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Sunday 5th July 2020

St Mary-le-Tower. Bury St Edmunds Cathedral.God willing, in a fortnight we shall be ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for the return of Sunday services at Ipswich’s civic church, albeit in the restricted fashion that we all ought to be broadly familiar with by now. As we also ought to be aware of now is that ringing’s resumption in this country has been delayed as we await the go-ahead of Public Health England, hopefully this week. There was some ringing of church bells reportedly anecdotally, on social media and on BellBoard, but whilst it should be stressed that they were only going against guidance rather than breaking any laws, many ringers welcomed back churchgoers with handbells and even mobile mini-rings that allowed social distanced ringing outside. Well done to those who rang handbells at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral to a couple of touches of Plain Bob Minor.

For SMLT’s ringers though, we again enjoyed what has become a staple of our Sunday mornings for the last three-and-a-half months as we caught up via video, learning about Diana Pipe going viral, hearing about David Stanford’s first drink at The Turk’s Head since before lockdown and took in Abby Antrobus imparting important details of her toast.

There was a return to public worship at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge this morning which we considered one of us attending (the notion of returning with the boys whilst social distancing remains is fanciful), but with it clashing with our chat with our ringing chums, we instead joined others unable or unwilling to go via a video chat later in the morning. And of course ringing on the 25cwt eight couldn’t resume just yet.

Hopefully there will be more to report from a ringing perspective over the next couple of Sundays.

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Saturday 4th July 2020

Today should’ve been the Ringing World National Youth Contest in York. Discussions about holding it there next year are apparently ongoing, whilst by one report it is already confirmed that all being well the 2022 competition will be held in Exeter. However, whilst there was no entry planned from Suffolk as far as I know (although reassuringly the notion of another entry was being encouraged in March’s GMC according to the recently approved minutes) and as we’re too old and the boys aren’t up to a standard (yet?) to compete we were unlikely to attend (although I’d like to go along in the future as it seems a jolly good day out!), this is a further reminder that so much ringing has been lost due to restrictions necessarily placed upon us since 16th March.

That said, today was ‘Super Saturday’ (as dubbed by the media) as pubs, hairdressers and churches reopen more expansively. That latter reopening was expected to include ringing, but as yesterday’s announcement from the CCCBR made clear, that has had to be delayed until next weekend at least. Although that message doesn’t seem to have reached the band that rang a 420 of Doubles and Minor in thirteen minutes at Old Marston with a performance that would’ve been perfectly legitimate (providing that it was for a service and the ropes are two metres apart) if it were only a week later! It is reasonable to assume that the last minute amendment to the date of ringing’s resumption (the CCCBR weren’t made aware until late on Thursday apparently) may not have reached everyone and I hope that is the case here as it would be a pity for our newly-founded relationship with the powers-that-be to be put in jeopardy. We as an exercise are going to need their full support if we are to make a full return to ringing.

No danger of us finding ourselves in a similar position as we were nowhere near a ringing chamber today. Instead, we enjoyed listening to some ringing with the playlist of entries for the June YouTube Central Council Competition, which had the theme of Most Interesting or Unusual Video. There is one featuring an outing within our borders (starting with ringing in the old ringing chamber at St Margaret’s in Ipswich) by the North-West District of the Essex Association, ringing at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre on a joint SGR North-West and South-West District training morning from last year and Tim Hart’s brilliant handbell robot video. However, there are others well worth watching too, such as the ringing on twenty-four handbells at an event to celebrate the life and ringing career of Rod Pipe (who learnt to ring at Grundisburgh), his son David and grandsons Henry and Alfie doing some incredible blindfolded ringing on randomly selected pairs of handbells and of course that touch of Stedman Triples rung by Graham & Katharine Firman and their ringing robots! July’s theme is Best Striking on Eight or More, so get your entries in!

In this still online-heavy version of the art usually carried out in centuries old churches, well done to Maureen Gardiner of Stowmarket, Andrea Alderton of Felsham, Lesley & David Steed of Buxhall and Stephen & Lucy Dawson of Woolpit on ringing their first online quarter-peal through Ringing Room, which is also the longest bit of ringing in the county since the middle of March!

Meanwhile, ironically on a day when we couldn’t ring in churches but could go to a hostelry, we did ring but didn’t go to a tavern. The latter was because going to a pub with the two youngest boys in particular can be pretty stressful at the best of times, so the notion of us doing it currently doesn’t strike us as being particularly relaxing, which defeats the purpose of going! And the former merely saw us doing some more handbell ringing this morning to get the brains going for the day!

Orwell Peal Band.Others were doing more on handbells though, even within the county with another peal in Bacton, whilst Exning ringer Jimmy Yeoman rang in the 5152 of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods spliced in Reading and just over the Cambridgeshire border the first peal of Maximus for three-and-a-half months was rung in Orwell, featuring the editor of the Ringing World and some young ringers on a day when they might otherwise have been in York.

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Friday 3rd July 2020

Letter p1. Letter p2. Letter p3. Letter p4. There is a lovely letter in the Bury Free Press this week from a non-ringer that Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge kindly shared on the SGR Facebook page. It says how much he missed the sound of church bells since it had ceased and how he was looking forward to hearing them again and it makes the art’s return even more worthwhile.

He also spoke of the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Competition that he happened across in February and of George himself, further showing the respect and affection people had for GWP throughout not just the ringing family, but also beyond.

In addition, the project to augment Stowmarket bells was mentioned in his very nice letter, as it is in the approved minutes of March’s GMC meeting, which are now on the Guild’s website. Also mentioned in there is the project to augment the six of Hitcham to an eight, with a postscript to the notes seeming to indicate that the bells will be returned and work carried out about three months after Taylors resumed work, which should make that about the end of August by my calculations. Hopefully we will get the chance to ring on this brace of augmented rings – and other projects such as Combs, Fornham St Martin and Laxfield, which were also in progress when restrictions struck – before 2020 is out.

God willing that ambition isn’t overly effected by the announcement today that the return to ringing has been delayed slightly and now shouldn’t take place this weekend. It is disappointing as although I hadn’t got any lined up yet, I know of others in Suffolk that had. However, we are at the behest of the church authorities more than ever currently and the CCCBR have built up a really good relationship with those coordinating the reopening of public worship in England’s Anglican churches, so it would be a pity to endanger that, particularly at this delicate stage of proceedings.

For now we contented ourselves with Simon Rudd’s invite to chat which welcomed in another collection of ringers chatting casually about many topics ringing and non-ringing related and featured York ringer Tina Sanderson briefly from her town of youth Ipswich as well as a boozy quiz with my uni mates afterwards as our social life on Fridays continues to improve since restrictions condemned everybody to the same restrictions at the weekend as us. Although the pubs are due to open again tomorrow, so that may change shortly.

Hopefully the return of ringing will help our social life. And also make that contributor to the Bury Free Press feel better.

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Thursday 2nd July 2020

Your starter for ten.

Whilst being interviewed by BBC Radio Suffolk’s Mark Murphy on Monday, did Neal Dodge say he was ringing for a wedding on Saturday at:

  1. Great Barton
  2. Great Livermere
  3. He didn’t say

It transpires it wasn’t answer a) as I had erroneously stated in my blog three days ago and whilst it is b) where the Guild’s Public Relations Officer is ringing for what must be one of the first marriage ceremonies in the country for months, the answer is actually c)! I guess I was just assuming!

Our luck with questions continued on into the fortnightly St Mary-le-Tower Quiz Night via video, where for once we didn’t win, much to the relief of everyone else! Congratulations to the Sparling family on winning and well done to Colin Salter on hosting a superb evening of rounds on strange laws and animal sounds amongst much else! All jolly good fun!

Meanwhile, following an apparently successful GMC meeting held by video on Sunday, SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson sent an email round to members confirming that this year’s main Guild events will be shifted to 2021, with the planned hosts for this year now getting another chance next year, meaning that the AGM will still be held by the South-West District, the Six-Bell Striking Competitions by the North-East District and the Eight-Bell Striking Competition and Social by the North-West District.

There is also due to be an AGM this year, held on Saturday 19th September via Zoom, as many ringing organisations have already had to do since restrictions on gatherings came into place. As Rowan herself points out, this may mean some probably won’t be able to join (although I imagine a sizeable proportion of those previously unable to do such things now can!), but even if regulations did allow for the usual numbers of around a hundred attendees, she is absolutely right to say it wouldn’t be sensible to expect members – a good number of whom will have been classed as vulnerable during this pandemic – to attend in person in a crowded setting. Hopefully the two months notice will give those not yet set up with the technology to get set up with it!

Mercifully the easing of restrictions has meant that an increasing amount of ringing has been achieved without the help of technology in the actual carrying out of the exercise, as shown by various handbell quarters and a peal in a garden in Reading. However, online ringing continues to be used to a substantial extent, including a QP of Plain Bob Minor featuring SMLT ringers past and present on Ringing Room and the first ever peal on the platform.

I wonder if that will come up in a quiz question one day?

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Wednesday 1st July 2020

At midnight, we will be precisely halfway through 2020. I think it can be said that the first half has been pretty dreadful. Thousands of deaths, businesses going under, people trapped in their homes and pretty much anything enjoyable abandoned, including ringing. I took a few moments to read my blog entry of New Year’s Day and it seems almost laughable in its upbeat outlook, but of course it was no different really to any other entry I’ve made on 1st January in previous years. The hopes for the AGM and striking competitions locally and nationally have been forlorn (although I guess there is some ambition to hold at least the AGM before 2021(Now set for 19/9/2020) comes along), Ipswich Town’s promotion (they didn’t even get to finish their season!) never materialised and that “enjoyable and progressive year of ringing” was cut short before we’d even got a quarter of the way through.

God willing the second half of the year will be better and the signs are encouraging. Football is back, Ruthie has returned to the shop and ringing is due to resume in many places in England this month. I would urge you to read and reread the guidelines sent out by the CCCBR. There are many points to note, including ones you may not have thought about, such as avoiding ringing heavy bells that would see more potentially harmful droplets expelled by the ringer of such a bell and ensuring that new learners aren’t amongst the returnees to reduce the risk of having to go and rescue them and thus increase the risk of any virus present being passed.

Fulbourn.I was also drawn to the halfway point last year when I spoke of the Guild’s peal totals since its formation in 1923. With its one hundredth anniversary approaching, I have always thought it would be lovely for the SGR to ring its 10,000th peal in time for its centenary. Providing that peal-ringing on tower-bells is restricted for months rather than years, the good news is that we remain on course to have rung 10,000 peals in one hundred years. The 5184 of Ealing Surprise Major rung at Fulbourn in Cambridgeshire on the 13th March that was the last peal rung in our name was by my calculations our 9,839th in our history meaning that even if there aren’t any more rung this year (and I’m perhaps foolishly optimistic in thinking we may get a handful in before 31/12/2020) we have two years to fit in 161 peals. Three years if we look to appropriately ring it during 2023. Even if we can’t hit the ground running in January 2021 and/or we have a total as low as 2019’s (which was our lowest for fourteen years) then that still seems eminently doable in the normal order of things. Although I appreciate we aren’t in the normal order of things and may not be for quite some time.

There were notable performances with Suffolk connections noted on BellBoard today though. A family touch of Oxford Treble Bob Minor involving the Hills featuring former Bramford ringer Christine Hill (and therefore - pre-lockdown at least - frequent visitors to the county) was rung on Ringing Room, whilst past Ringing Master of St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd was part of an East Anglian quarter-peal of Deva Surprise Major on the same platform.

For all that we have nearly finished the first half of the year though, it’s effects were still on show until nearly the end of this 183rd day of 2020 as we attended Joshua’s introduction evening in readiness for his planned start at primary school in September, which was done by video of course. It is the same school Alfie has been attending for the last two years (remotely for this last term and a bit), so mercifully in these uncertain times we are already familiar with the set-up, but we thought it important to keep up with proceedings, especially in the circumstances. When we attended the corresponding evening for Alfred a couple of summers ago it was in the school hall in the company of other parents in the same boat sampling the school dinners, so this felt a little more clinical than previously, despite the school’s best efforts.

Hopefully the second half of this year will see us move towards a return to these types of events being more like they once were.

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Tuesday 30th June 2020

Leicester being put back into a strict lockdown last night is a sign of how things may be for the foreseeable and although thus far Suffolk and East Anglia generally has mercifully been one of the lesser afflicted parts of England (despite newspaper reports that we could be in for an imminent local lockdown due to a 50% increase of new cases within our borders last week, it was pointed out that this was in fact from two cases the week before to three last week!), it shows how difficult it will be to plan anything.

However, as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a speech in my old neck of the woods Dudley this morning, we “cannot continue to be prisoners of this crisis” and whilst things clearly can’t just be business as usual for now, those words were ringing in my ears as I resumed giving thought to a peal attempt that I had already been planning for December at The Norman Tower to mark my brother’s fortieth birthday the month before. I have no idea if we will be allowed to by then, but the thought occurred to me that if we are given the go-ahead then I will need to get a willing band in place in plenty of time to be ready to go.

It also gives me something to aim for from a ringing perspective whilst I don’t have any to speak of from a personal perspective, other East Anglian ringers were partaking in the art with St Mary-le-Tower band members Nigel Newton joining Norwich ringers David Brown and past SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd with a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Major on Ringing Room before Colin enters the world of work tomorrow. Good luck Colin!

Meanwhile, Exning’s Jimmy Yeoman was part of an impressive 1344 of Bristol Surprise Maximus on the same platform rung by a local Cambridge band.

There were also more handbell peals, including two of Treble Dodging Minor rung simultaneously in the same garden in Wilmslow in Cheshire. All done socially distanced of course.

On a sadder note, it was sad to see that The Black Bull in Frosterley in County Durham is not reopening, possibly never. Apart from being a pub fondly remembered on our one and only visit during the Central Council weekend of 2008, it is also the venue of a ring of twelve out the back. First and foremost it is a dreadful situation for the villagers and particularly those who work in and run the pub, but many ringers will be anxious to know what will become of the bells. Hopefully, like Leicester, it might open again one day.

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Monday 29th June 2020

It was good to hear from a couple of the Guild’s officers, as the voices of Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge and Treasurer Stephen Cheek resonated in our living room today, as the former spoke on BBC Radio Suffolk to presenter Mark Murphy 3hrs 36mins 30secs into his breakfast show this morning and the latter gave an enlightening chat on the subject of Morris Dancing – one of his other great loves – on the weekly virtual get together of St Peter Mancroft, Norwich’s ringers and friends this evening.

Great Barton.Neal did well in not only getting across why ringing has not been able to happen in church towers, but that ringing is God willing returning – for Mr Dodge that is due to be as early as Saturday for a wedding at Great Barton! He was also very careful to point out that this isn’t a full-on return as we all know.

He is doing something that all towers planning on resuming ringing should also be doing at a local level as we look to make a more regular sound in areas that have of course been living in silence for the last three months. Let neighbours know when you will be ringing and for how long. It may be too late to do that via newsletters, especially if you are planning on resuming this weekend, but most communities have a Facebook page and maybe you might consider sending leaflets round to local residents if that is practical. However you do it, please try and ensure that those whose support will be important as we look to increase our ringing are aware of what you’re doing.

St Peter Mancroft.The subject of resuming ringing also came up after Stephen’s webinar as it was revealed that – all being well – they will “probably” be ringing again on the heaviest twelve in Norfolk and East Anglia (albeit only select bells to maintain social distancing of course) on Sunday 12th July ahead of a 2.30pm service there.

However, the highlight of the evening was the talk that preceded it by St Mary-le-Tower’s Secretary Mr Cheek on a fascinating subject. I’ve never been tempted to partake and I have to admit to often feeling relieved that ringing doesn’t have to put up with some of the perceptions people have of it when promoting the exercise, but I confess to being very interested in the traditional activities of our land. And of course as Stephen pointed out there are similarities between the two pastimes, such as the drinking afterwards and socialising, as well as governing bodies that can generate much grumbling amongst their respective participants!

Good work Stephen and Neal!

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Sunday 28th June 2020

St Mary-le-Tower.If I’m honest, I’ve thought that some of the now usual Sunday morning video chats with our ringing colleagues from St Mary-le-Tower and fellow churchgoers at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge have become somewhat subdued on occasion as we have wearily lived through this lengthy period without ringing upon church bells necessarily forced upon us due to the rapid spread of coronavirus.

However, the recent announcements that churches are due to be able to reopen for services from next weekend and subsequently that ringing is a part of that reopening (albeit in both cases in a cautious and restricted fashion) led to a couple of very upbeat online get-togethers that moved beyond hope and excitement and into the beginnings of actual planning. The conversation with our non-ringing churchgoers reminded us that of course our return to ringing chambers are entirely reliant on the churches opening and that might not necessarily be the case everywhere with an issue raised that priests over seventy may not be allowed to officiate. At SMLT though, that shouldn’t be a problem, with its latest parish newsletter emailed to me suggesting that services are planned to resume from mid-July onwards. And in our conversations with the ringers at the county’s heaviest twelve feelers were put out for joining a rota of ringers to allow a safe resumption on these famous bells.

Not that there wasn’t plenty of ringing endeavour on show in the current absence of church bell ringing on the UK’s mainland, with four peals on handbells rung, three of them with a Suffolk connection as former Ipswich ringers George Salter and Simon Rudd ringing in a 5088 of Bristol Surprise Major in the eponymous city and 5056 of eight Surprise Major methods spliced in Norfolk’s Great Hockham respectively, whilst a 5040 of thirty-three Surprise Minor methods was rung spliced within our borders in Bacton. Mr Rudd even followed it up by partaking in the impressive first QP of Zanussi Surprise Maximus on Ringing Room.

Rosie & Richie Robot.That band included Graham and Katharine Firman who also appeared in the other standout performance of the day as they rang 111 changes of Stedman Triples with their handbell ringing robots Rosie and Richie in Bosham, West Sussex. It is a brilliant technical achievement and the video of their ringing is a must-watch!

Searching for coins in Woodbridge.We did some handbell ringing too, although our efforts were hampered by the children endearingly interrupting us, a visit to the churchyard of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge searching for ‘coins’ beneath the tower that holds the 25cwt eight there and then a video chat with the boys’ Grandad Ron and his family on the occasion of his son’s birthday, although all interruptions were happily accepted!

As are the planned resumptions of services and ringing in churches, judging by our upbeat video chats this morning.

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Saturday 27th June 2020

Monk Soham. Bedfield. Cratfield. Laxfield . Tannington. Wilby. Worlingworth.
Tannington Peal Board. Tannington Peal Board.

Tannington is the type of place I have missed going out to since ringing ceased and our lives were necessarily restricted. It was lovely therefore to see photos from the Reverend David Mulrenan’s Facebook page featuring shots of the church and its surroundings. David is a lovely chap, a ringer and now one of the priests in the Four Rivers Benefice that includes the five of Monk Soham, sixes of Bedfield, Cratfield, Laxfield and the aforementioned St Ethelbert King and Martyr and the eights of Wilby and Worlingworth and his pictures included a couple of peal boards in the ringing chamber of the 10cwt ground-floor six. One recorded a 1992 peal conducted by the late Past Ringing Master of the Suffolk Guild J Martin Thorley rung for the 80th birthday of Daisy Jane Harvey, the other was one conducted by me in 2010 rung in memory of her during my time as SGR Ringing Master. That was after an early shift at work at a time when I had the energy following early shifts for such things on a lovely little six once pealed very often (over fifty times between 1969 and 1973) and even to some long lengths, with a 7320 (the day after Robert Scase’s first peal on the occasion of his 21st birthday!) and then a 10,200 in 1981, which were the longest peals of Doubles in the county and for the Guild.

David said that there has only been occasional ringing there in recent times, although the bells themselves are in good order and he himself rang for the first time for a while just before Christmas, so this may be one of those places that could benefit from a surplus of ringers helping out whilst we are ringing on a limited number of bells. Maybe something for the ringers of the area to get on to!

For all the progress of recent days though there is still no such activity for now of course, but I did see a ringer as Mason and I popped over to see fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies and her boyfriend Joe for a socially distanced catch-up from their front doorstep and elsewhere it was encouraging to see at least one peal was rung for the tenth day running for the first time since the cessation of ringing church bells on 16th March.

Laura is also keen to get back to ringing, as am I. Perhaps we might even ring at places like Tannington in the near future?

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Friday 26th June 2020

We were awoken by a thunderstorm this morning, an ominous sign for a day that actually turned out to be largely positive.

Partly that was fuelled by the good news last night of plans for a resumption of ringing, which is all very welcome, albeit cautious and of course not for a week or so at least, probably more for the majority. Therefore, this Friday our interactions with ringers were carried out as they largely have been for the last three months – by video. We’ve really grown to enjoy Simon Rudd’s weekly open invites, which have enabled us to catch up regularly with some familiar faces such as Maggie Ross, David & Gill Sparling (the former of whom has had a rough week after an incident involving him, his bike, a pothole and a tractor, but he is mercifully OK apart from a few cuts and grazes) and Simon himself, as well as getting to know others such as Reading ringer Stephen Rossiter and Norwich ringer Ros Burrough. Last night’s announcement offered a subject for discussion and it was noticeable how encouragingly cautious everyone was about going back into the ringing chamber. I think the way that ringers and ringing is approaching the resumption of the exercise is entirely right. It is important for the art itself but also the mental wellbeing of so many ringers (and indeed also those within earshot of the bells who may have been missing the sound) that ringing starts up again, but it can’t be done in a gung-ho fashion and from all I’ve seen and heard thus far ringers will be taking this carefully.

Liver Bird.We followed up our ringing chat with a quiz with my uni friends, leaving little time for ringing handbells today, but elsewhere in the vicinity others were more active as the Wakefields rang 72 changes of Reverse Canterbury Minimus in Woodbridge in celebration of Liverpool becoming Premier League champions yesterday.

Perhaps the thunderstorm was for all of Liverpool’s rivals because our day was far from as ominous as its start had indicated.

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Thursday 25th June 2020

Only yesterday I noted that it had been one hundred days since we had been asked to cease ringing church bells and mused that it may be at least another one hundred days before we could ring again. Just before today came to a natural conclusion though, the announcement came from CCCBR President Simon Linford that ringing is set to return in the coming weeks (in July which was my original guesstimate, although that was never made with any expertise and I’d long dismissed that as likely!) as an integral part of the Church of England’s resumption of activity. Please read it carefully, as well as the link to the further information, for this isn’t a return to the art as it was straight away. It will be socially distanced, for a maximum of fifteen minutes and only for Sunday service ringing. For the foreseeable there will be no peals, no quarters, not even practice nights.

There is no doubt it won’t be as fun and as Simon says the novelty will probably wear off quite quickly. I imagine it will also be sporadic and more feasible for some towers than others and there will be a large number who will understandably be unwilling to come back yet, especially the more vulnerable. However, it is an important symbolic moment, especially as it had become apparent that the church hadn’t even thought about ringing until enquiries were made (well done to all concerned on putting us on the agenda!) and it will hopefully create a pathway to ultimately returning to full-on ringing. Personally I am chomping at the bit to get going again, even if it is on just three or four bells!

Guildford Cathedral.Appropriately enough, the announcement came at the end of a day when I had already been dreaming of a possible future. God willing that life has returned to normality enough by then, in precisely twelve months time it will be the Friday of National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final weekend and ringers will already be gathering in Guildford where the biggest ringing event in the world is due to take place the following day. After the cancellation of this year’s Final at Sheffield (and indeed the eliminators before them that we were to have partaken in), the anticipation for next year’s is already heightened, but the appetite was further whetted today with a video message from Phill Ridley on the 2021 Final’s Facebook and Instagram pages outlining the plans for the set-up at the Cathedral and its vast open space.

All being well, one of the three eliminators to determine who will join the hosts on the 30cwt twelve in Surrey in 366 days time is planned to be at The Norman Tower on Saturday 27th March. Of course there is much less certainty around that than there usually would be and depending on how the battle against coronavirus has gone and what restrictions may be in place at that point, it remains to be seen in what form the day will take. If it takes its traditional shape though, this will be a tremendous day out and I imagine the kind of thing that people should be itching to get out to after all of the abandoned events of this year.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Past Master of the College Youths Paul Carless, who this evening finished climbing Kilimanjaro. Well, sort of. Six and a half years ago, Paul was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia and ever since – alongside ringing seventy-three peals, mostly of a tremendously high standard and many rung from heavy bells - has been fundraising for Bloodwise - or Blood Cancer UK as they are now called - who carry out research of and support those with blood cancer. His latest venture to raise funds was to have been climbing Kilimanjaro, but of course that couldn’t happen, as with pretty much everything else in recent months. Undeterred though, he climbed the same amount (including taking into account the climbing and descending they would’ve had to do on the real thing to acclimatize) up and down his stairs at home over the last few days, in the process raising over £7,000 against a target of £2,500! He has a Just Giving page if anyone wants to donate further.

Nothing quite so noteworthy occurred in our household, with our evening family-related as I spoke to my brother Chris on the phone and then spotted my mother in a photo from her youth in Thrapston on the Peterborough Diocesan Guild Facebook page!

It is fun to look back as well as forwards!

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Wednesday 24th June 2020

It is one hundred days since we were all asked to cease ringing on church bells and we reluctantly rang the bells of St Mary-le-Tower down at the end of the weekly practice, had a poignant farewell drink together in the famous old ringing chamber and somberly made our way back to our homes which many of us have barely left since.

At the time, I wasn’t really expecting much to report on in this blog as bar a handful of households containing the equipment, talent and opportunity to ring handbells together it seemed there would be little ringing activity, particularly as attempts to ring via video seemed impractical. Jed Flatters, Tim Hart and Rowan Wilson’s attempt on that first Saturday was amongst some of the amusing results! I had wondered about stopping writing the blog altogether, but thought it would be a pity for it to end like this and so therefore I began using the Random button on BellBoard to bring up performances from the past to prompt recollections and connected tales (however tenuous!) to bulk up the content in what I imagined would be sparse times for a ringing blog.

However, with the introduction of some extremely clever online ringing platforms like Handbell Stadium and Ringing Room, the social interaction with ringers via video and the gradual easing of restrictions allowing for more handbell ringing (yesterday four peals with the bands together in person were rung in one day for the first time since that fateful 16th March announcement), it has sometimes clogged up my already rambling blog entries a number of times in the last three months, fascinating as it has often been for myself looking back.

Therefore, with the government making yesterday’s 5pm briefing their last daily one (I guess unless things get really bad again) and today’s performance from pushing the Random button on BellBoard the one hundredth in a row, it seemed like a good time to end this enjoyable habit. That’s not to say I believe that this whole sorry coronavirus saga is over or even anywhere near an end and even with the more relaxed attitude being displayed in society, I’m not convinced that we will be ringing on church bells for another one hundred days at least. However, the timing just seems right.

Great Barrington.The last performance of this century run of performances covers familiar ground. The 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles that was Mary Hardie’s one and only quarter-peal was at a Gloucestershire tower – Great Barrington – as many of the hundred have been. It featured ringing friends Dave Matthews and Simon ‘Swebb’ Webb as a good number have also featured. In addition, it was rung in 2012 which is certainly one of the leading years of the ton of performances, although even I haven’t had so much extra time on my hands to start analysing the stats of all the ones that have appeared. That it was rung on 16th May that year also put it in the middle of striking competition season, which has led me to lament the absence of these usual highlights of my ringing calendar occasionally over the last few weeks.

According to the blog, on that Wednesday just over eight years ago I was urging people to enter the Guild Striking Competitions that were held three days later at Blythburgh and Leiston in the North-East District. This is one of my most fondly remembered local contests, with the six-bell competitions held in one of my favourite spots in Suffolk, with an immense spread of food, a pint in the local pub and some different winners. And in the end, a total of eighteen teams entered from both sides of the county.

In the here and now, it was lovely to read the article on the East Anglian Daily Times website about the removal of Stowmarket’s bells ahead of their rehanging as a ten later this year, if all goes to plan. Good to see the tower captain Winston Girling featuring.

Sad as it is not to be ringing tower bells today though, I expect it would’ve been hot old work on the hottest day of the year that most want to get out of the way and forget as soon as possible, with even sitting at home working on the computer quite draining!

Pettistree. The Pettistree Greyhound.Still, I wouldn’t complain about being able to ring at somewhere like Pettistree on an evening like this, where the practice would’ve no doubt spilled out into the churchyard whilst some high-quality six-bell ringing went on inside and the beer garden at The Greyhound next door would’ve beckoned. That feels like a lifetime away, especially after one hundred days without church bell ringing!

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Tuesday 23rd June 2020

For all the easing of restrictions over the last month or so, today’s announcement on further lifting of restrictions from 4th July from the House of Commons by Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed like the most exciting thus far. The reopening of pubs and restaurants is welcome and hopefully it will prove practical for us to pop along to one of the many magnificent taverns we have locally. Hairdressers being able to fling open their doors will be a relief to many, including Ruthie who will be glad not to have to cut the boys’ hair again! Being able to visit other people’s houses will hopefully make childcare easier in the coming couple of months. And the reduction of social distancing from two metres to one (although two is still advised if possible) opens new possibilities for ringing returning.

That still won’t be immediately as quite apart from the fact that many will still be understandably wary of gathering in some of the confined ringing chambers of the UK, meeting indoors is still restricted to two households at a time and of course we are at the behest of church authorities. However, churches are due to also reopen for services in eleven days and in today’s CCCBR President Simon Linford’s blog, he has revealed that thanks to the efforts of Mark Regan, ringing is on the Church’s agenda along with choirs and organs as they plan ahead for reopening churches. It is very important that coronavirus still represents a threat, but life needs to get going again in the long term and it seems right that gradual steps are taken towards that aim, especially as the virus seems to be as under control as we’re likely to get it without a vaccine or effective treatment. Caution is still the buzzword, but it will be interesting to see if more ringing might be done on private rings with bands of two households from 4th July onwards!

For now though, Ringing Room continues to offer opportunities for ringers, including some here in Suffolk. Well done to Guild Secretary Kate Gill on ringing her first quarter-peal on the platform (and in the process becoming the 500th person North Leigh’s Alison Merryweather-Clarke has rung a QP with) in a 1260 of Doubles and to Colin Salter on ringing his first quarter of Surprise Major ‘in hand’ in the 1280 of Cambridge.

For us however, the main highlight of the day was popping round to wish our niece Katelynn a Happy Birthday and taking in news that the interviews and unused idents from Saturday’s Not The Twelve-Bell Live – including John Loveless’ interview that features a considerable bit about George Pipe – will be put up on the contest’s YouTube channel over the coming days, as revealed by Matthew Tosh revealed in a message I watched this evening.

Stoke Minster.The lack of much actual ringing personally saw me pushing the Random button on BellBoard for the ninety-ninth day in a row, which brought up a 1296 of Oxford Treble Bob and Cambridge Surprise Minor at the Minster of St Peter ad Vincula in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire on 4th September 2011.

The Vestey Ring.That early autumnal/late summer Sunday saw Ruthie working at Boots as was pretty much the case every Sabbath at the time, but Mason and I were helping with The Vestey Ring at the Sutton Country Fayre. Might The Vestey Ring come into its own in the coming weeks after today’s announcement?

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Monday 22nd June 2020

Gradually, things seem to be getting back towards some kind of normal (I dislike the term “new normal” because to my mind it seems to be setting us up for permanently accepting a restricted lifestyle that frankly would be intolerable in the long term). Thus far that has mainly passed us by with work, education and pleasure, but today our household made its first steps back towards what it once was as Ruthie returned to working at John Ives.

What followed was a very different experience to when she was last there in mid-March, with limits in place of numbers inside, one-way systems, strict policies on where people can try on shoes and my wife had to don a very fetching plastic face visor.

With me still working from home, it meant that we have had to take advantage of our social bubble for child-sitting duties, although how feasible that will be in the long-term only time will tell. It was odd that after three solid months of being with the children, that I was working in a house of silence. That extra time spent with them has – as mentioned yesterday – been wonderful, but also exhausting and we have come to appreciate how important those breaks apart are for them as well as us!

Radway. Bletchingdon.For all this progress though, it was of course another Monday night without a St Mary-le-Tower practice and so I pushed the Random button on BellBoard again. This time it brought up a 5040 of Doubles at Radway on 24th April 2016, trebled to by Sue Marshall who inspired so many up until her death last July when she spent her last few months defying her ill-health by ticking off many wishes, including ringing her two thousandth peal in the 5040 at Bletchingdon in March 2019. As I said at the time of her death but am happy to reiterate here, she was a lovely lady, who I was privileged to know through my ringing on Rambling Ringers and in Birmingham.

On 24/4/2016 I was enjoying the company of other ringers, as we attended the annual St Mary-le-Tower dinner, an informal occasion that we look forward to immensely but which of course is one of so many events necessarily sacrificed in 2020. On that Sunday afternoon four years ago we went to Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, as we did for many years, but last year we went to the brilliant brand new facilities at Fynn Valley Golf Club where we liked having a room to ourselves and we had been planning on returning in April. Hopefully we can go there in 2021.

For now though, ringers continue to adapt well as they have generally done over the last quarter of a year without church bell change-ringing. Eased restrictions have recently allowed for more traditional ringing on handbells and even mini-rings (albeit with huge ringing circles!), but technology has helped to aide ringing to continue, ringers to stay in touch and extra time has allowed us more time to take in many webinars put on by ringers. Ringing Room, Handbell Stadium and the like have helped with the first aspect and we’ve caught up with many ringers via video chats such as the Sunday morning chat with fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers and Simon Rudd’s Friday evening open invitations in regards to the second. The third aspect has been particularly interesting and personally I have enjoyed taking in some of the the talks hosted by David Richards via the Cambridge District of the Ely Diocesan Association, such as Mark Davies’ on composing, as well as separately Simon Linford’s first webinar on PPE to an international audience and last week’s presentation by Alan Regin on ringers lost in the First World War to the ringers of St Peter’s Mancroft in Norwich. This evening, Ruthie and I joined them again to listen to Simon Smith. He is one of their own, a superb ringer and an incredibly nice guy and over the strictest period of lockdown he set about taking photos of the city. For many years we have all been enjoying Mike Whitby’s wonderful photographs, taken using the kind of perspective that most of us wouldn’t consider, but Simon seems to have only really taken to photography as a way to occupy himself on his daily exercise. However, he produced a fascinating series of pictures documenting a place – that for all that I dislike their football team – is a beautiful one and it was very interesting listening to him talking through a selection of his near 2,500 photo collection in the company of friends from north of the River Waveney, as well as Norman Tower ringer Joan Garrett. Next week, Suffolk Guild Treasurer and St Mary-le-Tower ringer Stephen Cheek will be talking Morris Dancing, so look out for the link!

Stowmarket 5th being lowered through the trapdoor in the ringing chamber floor.Meanwhile, as SGR PR Officer Neal Dodge shared a YouTube link for Dr Maureen Gardiner’s interview with Lesley Dolphin from Friday, it was lovely to see that work has got underway removing the bells at Stowmarket ahead of work to rehang and augment them. Another hopeful sign that God willing things are gradually getting back to some kind of normal.

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Sunday 21st June 2020

Today was a notable date. It is the summer solstice. It is also Suffolk Day. And this year it is Father’s Day too.

On the latter I was treated to being bashed over the head with my own card by Joshua as he attempted to wake me up, but it was an endearing way to begin a pleasant day. It has to be said that whilst the last three months solid of looking after our children with no break has been exhausting, it has also been a wonderful upside of the dreadful circumstances that we have all found ourselves in that we have got to spend a lot of extra time with the boys and so I was already more aware than ever before entering this Father’s Day of how blessed I am.

Of course, with no pubs open the main treat I desired wasn’t available and nor was it possible to ring church bells, which is usually a lovely way to start the day off. That also meant that the fourth annual Suffolk Day couldn’t be marked in a way that we ringers would typically mark it, but there was considerable activity from the Guild’s members on Ringing Room and on handbells in Bury St Edmunds!

I was able to enjoy the company of ringers though, in the form of the weekly Sunday morning video chat with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers which was a largely upbeat affair that noted Colin Salter’s birthday and Karina Wiseman’s success at ringing Plain Hunt on six to handbells in Christchurch Park. She’s already better on handbells than me!

Worcester Cathedral.Meanwhile, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard took me to 11th March 2012, a day when a quarter-peal at Worcester Cathedral featuring the now St Mary-le-Tower ringer Laura Davies on the second as well as Alison Regan on the third. Alison was an inspiration to many female ringers (Laura included I know), showing how unimportant gender was compared to style when it came to ringing heavier bells. Sadly, she was to die only four months after this QP, far, far before her time.

Grundisburgh. Pettistree.The venue is a famous one and one I have been privileged to ring at, although disappointingly my one and only peal attempt here was lost. On the day that the aforementioned 1346 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus was being rung in 1hr 6mins, I was succeeding with a peal of Maximus, albeit at the less grand Grundisburgh. However, our 5040 of Yorkshire was notable for being (now Dr) Alex Tatlow’s first of Maximus. It was also my 465th peal in a year that from a personal peal-ringing perspective was dominated by my efforts to reach my 500th by the time that 2013 started, hence my busy few days in the medium during that March week! Despite a fairly disastrous December for losing peals, I was ultimately able to just about scrape in my half-thousandth with a peal at Pettistree two days before the year was out. That also meant that I wasn’t sweating on the then traditional New Year’s Eve peal of Grandsire at Grundisburgh to succeed in my twelve-month challenge!

We finished the day off with a BBQ with the boy’s grandparents Kate and Ron late into the evening and yet still some time before daylight departed this notable date.

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Saturday 20th June 2020

Today would’ve been the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Sheffield Cathedral. Yet another highlight of the 2020 calendar stricken from our emptying diaries. We haven’t been to many in recent years and although we had been considering going (not least because as Ipswich had entered the eliminators there was a very slim chance we may even be participating!) there is no guarantee we would’ve been in South Yorkshire this weekend with hundreds of friends well known and new.

However, even if we hadn’t made it we would’ve endeavoured to watch the superb day-long coverage led by Matthew Tosh (but supported by an incredibly skilled and dedicated team behind the scenes) of the entire final from the draw through to the results several hours later. Obviously with no ringing there was nothing to cover, but we got the next best thing as the team produced the tremendous three-hour Not! The Twelve-Bell Live programme this afternoon featuring interviews of participants, judges and those who were part of its beginnings, as well as individual idents, including mine (about 1hr 31mins in)!

Among those interviewed were a number I have been privileged to ring and socialise with over the years (the beer consumption also frequently came up in conversation during the show!), including quite a few I rang with in the competition itself, such as Richard Grimmett, David Pipe, Stephanie Warboys and the legendary Fran Dodds who has rung in and won more finals than anyone else.

Also amongst the interviewees was John Loveless who spoke about George Pipe’s biography (about 1hr 4mins in) which is due for release in October and will be available via the Ringing World – watch this space! George came up in a few stories throughout this, unsurprisingly considering he judged and rang in three finals apiece and was such a big character in the world of twelve-bell ringing.

Suffolk featured in other ways too, directly and indirectly. David’s father and George’s brother Rod was inevitably brought up, Bury St Edmunds ringer Tim Hart was mentioned for his work on 3-D printed handbells and of course The Norman Tower is pencilled in for hosting one of the eliminators in next year’s contest, on Saturday 27th March 2021. Although nothing is certain currently, like much else arranged within the next twelve months and beyond.

The production was perhaps not as slick – which was entirely understandable in the trying circumstances – but it certainly helped fill the hole that the absence of the actual event left.

And although the only accompaniment to my day was an appointment at the tip (as it has to be currently) and a visit to my parents to drop Father’s Day cards off this morning, it was refreshing to see other ringers from our county past and present also managing some actual real-life handbell ringing face-to-face, with George Salter ringing 1-2 to seven Treble Dodging Minor in Bristol (rather than possibly ringing for Bristol today) in 1hr 57mins and seventeen Surprise Minor methods being rung in 1hr46mins within our borders in Bacton.

Ampney Crucis.Meanwhile, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today was a 1296 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Ampney Crucis in Gloucestershire featuring Dave Matthews and Simon Webb who I have done much ringing with and taking me back to 14th September 2011.

According to the blog, on that day Ruthie and I rang a peal of Iceland Surprise Major at The Wolery, home of David & Katharine Salter’s ring of eight at the top of the garden. Mrs Munnings – or Miss Eagle as she was then – was once a regular peal-ringer (indeed she and her mother Kate were leading peal-ringers for the SGR for a couple of years) and even though she hasn’t rung a peal since 2014 there are still only three people who have rung more peals with me. Mary Dunbavin, Tom Scase and David Salter for those who are interested and even those who aren’t. I hope one day that she will feel able to start peal-ringing again, partly because I miss her joining me for my peal-ringing, but also because she is an asset for any peal band, far more so than me! Sadly though, the longer she goes without ringing one, the less likely it is that she will I fear.

Our efforts that evening were preceded by a quick blast of three leads of Bristol Surprise Major recorded by their aforementioned son George and still on YouTube for the world to enjoy. Just as today’s Not The Twelve-Bell Live is. And God willing next year there will be coverage of the Final at Guildford (a reminder that they already have a Facebook page set up for it!) to enjoy on YouTube too.

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Friday 19th June 2020

The UK’s Covid-19 alert level dropped from four to three today. Exactly what that means seems fairly vague, but according to the BBC it means that “social distancing is relaxed”. At this moment in time, two things in particular seem to currently prevent a return to ringing tower bells in churches. One is that it is carried out in confined spaces where the illness is more likely to spread. The second is social distancing, with the gap between pretty much every rope in the ringing chambers of the country less than two metres apart. Of course today’s announcement doesn’t give the green light for Britain’s ringers to descend upon their local tower (even if they all wanted to at this point), but God willing it represents another positive step towards that aim.

Oake.For now though, I got my ringing fix from ways that have become familiar over the last three months. That included pushing the Random button on BellBoard, which today brought me to a 1260 of St Simon’s Bob, Plain Bob and Grandsire Doubles at Oake in Somerset on 29th November 2017. I don’t believe I have rung at the 8cwt five, although Oake Place Doubles has been rung in Suffolk, especially on handbells in Bacton where it has featured in twenty-seven peals there since 2013.  Nor do I know any in the band, although I have heard of some of them. And 29/11/17 wasn’t a particularly memorable blog entry (bar a few firsts), though a few days later the South-East District ADM at Brandeston saw significant changes with Mark Ogden taking over from Ralph Earey as Chairman, Abby Antrobus succeeding Jane Harper as Secretary and Tracey Scase taking the baton from Eric Brown in the role of Treasurer.

I also got to listen to Dr Maureen Gardiner talking to one-time ringer Lesley Dolphin 1hr 22mins into the latter’s afternoon show on BBC Radio Suffolk about the project to rehang and augment the eight of Stowmarket to a ten. Although like most things this year delayed by coronavirus, the three new bells have been cast at Eijsbouts in the Netherlands and are ready to be shipped to Nicholson’s in Dorset where the new frame will be constructed and the plan seems to be to have them being hung in the tower of St Mary and St Peter church in September. Importantly though, it was great PR for ringing in the county at a time when it is difficult to come across whilst none is happening. Some have used the angle of talking about online platforms like Handbell Stadium and Ringing Room to generate some publicity, but undoubtedly ringing PR is at its best when we have something to take the non-ringing public to, such as open days, events or just everyday practices and the like. These few minutes will hopefully help keep the art in people’s minds in the meantime though, so well done Maureen and everyone involved in the project!

In addition, we joined quizmaster extraordinaire Simon Rudd’s generous weekly invitation to a video chat to see who we might ‘bump’ into. This evening the aforementioned Mark Ogden was one of the attendees, so it was nice to catch up with him.

Our day was then climaxed by a 1990s quiz with my uni friends via video. It has been an irony that since others have been housebound every evening as we usually are on a Friday anyway, that our weekend social life has improved considerably. That’s one thing that we hope doesn’t change as the alert level drops.

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Thursday 18th June 2020

We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs Of Dover were the soundtrack of the day following the death of Dame Vera Lynn this morning, something which was marked by ringing today and stirred up a lot of memories for many people, especially those of an older generation.

St Mary Redcliffe.Likewise, pushing the Random button on BellBoard has stirred up several memories over the last three months and so it did today from a multitude of perspectives as it brought up a 1254 of Grandsire Cinques rung at St Mary the Virgin in Redcliffe, Bristol on 12th July 2015.

For a start the band featured some familiar names from various aspects of my ringing life, such as Jenny Pick and Matt Dawson from my Rambling Ringers youth onwards and Simon Webb and Tim Waller who I rang with occasionally during my days in the West Midlands and all the ringing that emanated from there, and since. The tower is a famous one of course and one which Ruthie and myself rang a peal at in 2007. And on 12/7/2015 I was on the way back from a memorable stag weekend for my brother Chris in Edinburgh with fellow ringers Ralph Earey, Alex Tatlow, Phil Wilding and his now brother and father-in-law Carl and Steve Munford, although the less said about the journey home the better!

In the here and now, more memories were stirred by hearing the voice of Ben Woolf 1hr 42mins into Lesley Dolphin’s BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon. Ben learnt to ring at Sproughton with his brother Joel and father Stephen in the 1990s and indeed I worked on their farm for a couple of days during the roasting hot summer of 1995, even getting to drive a tractor! I was privileged to ring in Joel’s first and only peal (as I am to ring in anyone’s first peal) at the tower that they and I learnt to ring at in 1997, but all three of Ben’s peals were rung whilst he was at Warwick University with ringers such as Tom Griffiths and John Thurman. However, circumstances meant that the boys gradually drifted from the art as many do, although Ben did ring a quarter-peal as late as 2015 in memory of his father Stephen. Although not on the airwaves in relation to ringing – he was talking about his business Oak House Farm & Butchery ahead of Suffolk Day on Sunday – it was lovely to hear another ringer making their voice heard during these times when we can’t do it with church bells!

We heard – and indeed saw – a lot of other ringers via video as we joined with the fortnightly St Mary-le-Tower ringers quiz, this time excellently hosted by Simon Rudd. Again much mirth was enjoyed as we took on rounds about famous people, SMLT itself, music and even our social media posts, before a final dash around for objects chosen by our quizmaster. And although we won again, we were spared hosting the next quiz by an enthusiastic Colin Salter – thank you Colin! And thank you Simon for a wonderful couple of hours of entertainment!

Every couple of weeks these quizzes offer up a real highlight of the week, but it’s not the same as actually being with our ringing colleagues. God willing though, we’ll meet again...

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Wednesday 17th June 2020

Ipswich Town’s season down amongst the poverty-stricken nobodies of League One may have ended a week ago, but the Premier League returned this evening in the eerie silence of empty stadiums. Like most things returning it isn’t the same as before, but it is better than not having it and hopefully the first step back to complete normality at some point.

We hope for the same thing with ringing. I expect that when we are God willing allowed to ring, it will be in a partial manner probably far from satisfactory. From all that has been said and advised thus far and with the experience now of several activities outdoors and in reopening, I imagine it may be on a limited number of bells and with a maximum number of people, ringing the same assigned bells and with what will seem like an unnatural number of precautions making it far from as free and enjoyable as it was back in March. However, whenever that moment may come it would be better than not ringing at all and hopefully the first step towards complete normality.

Dorrington.Ramblers Winners.For now most performances noted on BellBoard are still being done online or on handbells. That included the impressive first Maximus done on Handbell Stadium and also a 1272 of Minimus tapped on handbells by current Ringing Master of the Society of Rambling Ringers Chris Woodcock and 72 changes of Plain Bob Singles (it would’ve been his 72nd birthday today) by him and his mother Yvonne in Dorrington in memory of the Ringing Master of the Society from 1973 to 1976 Reverend Richard Dorrington on the day of his funeral in Cornwall. We only really got to know Richard and his wife Bryony after they rejoined the Ramblers tours in recent years and found him a lovely man and one of my favourite memories of him was being in the same winning team in the fun Devon Call-Changes competition at Cheriton Bishop on the 2018 Tour to Devon, something that Chris also remembers in his footnotes. I was sorry to hear of his passing last month and also that his funeral – like everyone who has died during these times of soul-sapping restrictions – had to be held with limited numbers when I’m sure many would’ve travelled down to the far south-west of the country. RIP Richard.

In these sad times though, it is lovely to hear of happy news and that has come with the progress of the work to augment the bells of Stowmarket from eight to ten and this project was briefly mentioned by friend-of-ringing and one-time ringer herself Lesley Dolphin on her BBC Radio Suffolk show today where she mentioned that it is due to feature on her show on Friday afternoon, which is planned to run from 2-6pm – listen out for that!

Cowbridge.Meanwhile, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today was a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Cowbridge, a 15cwt 1722 Evan II & William Evans eight, rung on 10th January 1988.

On the same day in Suffolk, quarter-peals of Grandsire Doubles (Annual Report 1988, p54) and Pudsey Surprise Major were rung at Polstead and the aforementioned Stowmarket respectively at the start of another busy year for the Guild. The AGM was held in Nayland, the Six and Eight-Bell Striking Competitions were held at Yaxley and Eye and both won by St Mary-le-Tower, the SGR Outing went to East London and the Anniversary Dinner was held at Woolpit in November, sixty-five years after the organisation was formed, all under the stewardship of Ringing Master Stephen Pettman, Chairman Revd Lawrence Pizzey (who my mother spoke to on the phone last week and is apparently doing well and getting frustrated with Americanisms!) and Secretary John Girt. A reminder that God willing (who knows after all that’s happened in the last few months?!) that in three years we will be celebrating the centenary of the Suffolk Guild.

That’s the goal...

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Tuesday 16th June 2020

This Saturday was due to have been the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final at Sheffield, the biggest competition – and arguably event of any kind – in world ringing. At this point I would probably have been considering who might win, wondering if Exeter might follow-up their shock victory of last year on home bells by winning up north this year, whilst noting that Birmingham haven’t gone more than a year without winning the Taylor Trophy since their incredible current winning streak began in 2000. I expect too that others such as the College Youths and Cumberlands would’ve been vying for the title and I would’ve mused over how well the hosts might have done, but of course with the eliminators having been cancelled back in March, we don’t know exactly who would’ve been competing in Yorkshire in four days time.

We hadn’t got round to considering if we were going to go before coronavirus stopped everything, although in theory we could’ve been participants, unlikely as that was in our first attempt for over a decade. However, even if we hadn’t gone I imagine we would’ve been tuning into Matthew Tosh’s excellent day-long, professional coverage of the occasion. That may not be happening with no actual event to cover, but Matthew is due to host a programme from 1-4pm on Saturday called Not The Twelve Bell Live on the Contest’s YouTube channel, which is planned to feature a look back over the history of the competition, with interviews and stories and should include an interview with John Loveless about George Pipe at some point.

Kenn.For today though, I worked, whilst Ruthie took the boys to visit her grandmother in her garden and then I read of the impressive efforts to ring forty changes of Plain Bob Doubles using dumb bells each rung in different locations and I finally took in the winning entries for the CCCBR’s May competition for best YouTube clips of ringing on six bells and under. Some very good ringing there and well worth a watch.

Worth.Meanwhile, when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard it took me back to Armistice Day 2016, a Friday when of course most people were at work and so 11am – although marked by me as I noted on my blog entry – will have been lost amongst the hustle and bustle of normal everyday life for many. However, ringers in Suffolk remembered with quarter-peals rung at Buxhall, Pettistree and Stonham Aspal, as they did in the performance I came across on BB today, a 1260 of Doubles on the 9cwt 1928 Gillett & Johnson six of Worth in West Sussex.

Earlier that year, the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest was held at Aston and not unusually was won by Birmingham. We followed that via Matthew Tosh’s excellent coverage. It won’t be the same on Saturday, but I’m hoping to watch what he puts together and would recommend you all endeavour to do so too.

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Monday 15th June 2020

Today was a day that saw much of British society not yet reopened allowed to fling open their doors in a very controlled fashion. Zoos, safari parks, drive-in cinemas, years ten and twelve at secondary school, ‘non-essential’ shops (including John Ives, though Ruthie remains furloughed for now) and churches were welcoming visitors, filmgoers, pupils, customers and worshippers missed for the last three months, but of course there is no return for ringing in churches.

Therefore, ringing in the UK remains restricted to handbell and online ringing, with Past St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd noticeably busy ringing quarter-peals in both mediums, with an ‘in-the-flesh’ 1296 of Plain Bob Major in South Walsham and then three on Ringing Room with a variety of ringers including current SMLT ringers Nigel Newton and David Sparling, or as much as anyone is a current ringer at any tower at the moment.

Simon then capped it all off with being host of the Mancroft talk via video being done by Alan Regin. Quite apart from being a superb participant of the art and prolific peal-ringer, Alan has done incredible work researching the names and in some cases lives of ringers killed in the First World War, which provided the basis of much of what ringing did to commemorate the centenary of the conflict between 2014-2018. This evening he predominantly spoke of those lost from Norwich and Norfolk (the talented band at Tibenham was particularly hard hit), but he also went through some fascinating photos and postcards (including a some of The Norman Tower and neighbouring St Mary’s in Bury St Edmunds) and detail of ringing and ringers of the time, such as Bertram Prewett, the most prolific peal-ringer lost to the terrible war of just over a century ago and who the ringing chamber at Ypres is named after. Alan also touched upon the 6cwt eight in the Belgium city, as well as hopes for a similar ring at the church in the French village of Thiepval in the shadow of the famous war memorial at the centre of where the Battle of the Somme was fought. A really interesting hour or so.

Hartlepool, St Aidan. Darlington, St Cuthbert.Meanwhile, I reached for the Random button on BellBoard again. Initially it came with some ringing from St Aidan in Hartlepool on 18th April 2018, both of which have come up on my forays into the past since lockdown. I’m beginning to wonder just how random this feature is! As if to underline that suspicion, when I pushed it again, it took me a mere twenty miles down the road and six years earlier to a QP of Plain Bob Doubles at St Cuthbert in Darlington on 18th March 2012, a singularly uneventful weekend from a ringing perspective personally. Although leisurely popping round to my Mum and Dad’s and then to Ruthie’s mater Kate on Mothering Sunday for a meal would be quite extraordinary! And it was the weekend that the three-part series How God Made the English was first broadcast, although mine and Ruthie’s appearance (ringing at St Lawrence with my mother and Peter & Jane Harper) in the series wasn’t until 35mins into the third episode broadcast a fortnight later.

However, the 1260 up north on that day was significant for being the first of eleven quarters for Jak Frost, all rung on this 18cwt 1937 Gillett & Johnston eight.

St Mary at Quay.Meanwhile, I was sad to learn today that Suffolk Mind are going to be closing their centre at Quay Place in December, better known to most ringers at St Mary at Quay in Ipswich, home to a 7cwt six in need of some TLC. Sadly however, although I always got the impression that Mind were happy to do something with the bells (there was even talk of augmenting to eight when the project was first mooted), lack of finance ultimately scuppered the plans. Quite apart from the sadness that a charity has been unable to make it work in a building that they did so magnificently to redevelop and bring back to life this wonderful old church, it makes the future of the bells very uncertain too. Much will depend on who takes it on next and in the current climate that may take a long time. Even if things are reopening today.

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Sunday 14th June 2020

Amongst admiration for Ian Culham’s moustache and Chris Birkby’s haircut on this morning’s St Mary-le-Tower ringers’ video chat, it was interesting to hear – via Diana Pipe – about how ringing is being done in Australia in these early days post-restrictions. Unlike in neighbouring New Zealand and closer to us the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man where they are currently completely free of the virus, the Aussies are undergoing a restricted return more akin to what I imagine we will have to do here in the UK when we are finally given some kind of go-ahead. It sounds like limited numbers are able to come along, ringers are assigned a rope that they have to stick to rather than ringing different bells as one would usually do, ringing is only being done on Sunday mornings and access to ringing chambers is more laborious with people unable to share the narrow staircases and corridors that a lot of churches have to upstairs rings. They are aided by having shorter social distancing than we have at the moment, although if ours is reduced to a metre as has been persistently called for (by those in the hospitality sector rather than bellringers!) in recent days, that will make a return to ringing before an effective treatment and/or vaccine for COVID-19 more feasible, but for now Mr Culham still seems to be right about being cautious in regards to organising the 2021 George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Striking Competition next February.

The opening up of churches is more immediate and on our video chat with fellow churchgoers at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge that followed on from our ringers’ chat, it was encouraging to hear of the plans to allow people to come in for private, individual worship from tomorrow and of course what happens in churches will ultimately have a bearing on when ringing in the same buildings may be able to safely resume.

Marston.For all that what the ringing family has achieved since ‘lockdown’ (especially in performances like the one on Ringing Room today that was rung with eight ringers from eight countries across four continents), change-ringing on church bells isn’t happening yet th and so to distract myself from that fact I pushed the Random button on BellBoard and came to a 1260 of Doubles on the 4cwt six of Old Marston in Oxfordshire on New Year’s Day 2018. What lay ahead in the following twelve months personally was a largely satisfying year, with Alfie starting primary school and Mason secondary school, both in successful fashion and we enjoyed England’s male footballers reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup. It was a year of thirteen quarter-peals for Ruthie and nine for me, as well as nineteen peals.

However, it was the gloriously long and roasting hot summer later that year that I remember most fondly from 2018 and particularly ringing in it. The Guild Striking Competitions at Earl Stonham and Debenham were marvellous as participants and supporters mingled in the sunshine and we even managed a pint in the beer garden of The Woolpack at the latter. Events like the South-East District Practice at Dennington and Framlingham (and another pint in another beer garden afterwards!), The Ridgman Trophy in St Albans (and to continue a theme, a pint in a beer garden afterwards) and the Offton BBQ (with much beer throughout!) were all enjoyed in weather conditions more akin to on the Mediterranean, although of course it all stopped the night before we went camping on the Rambling Ringers Tour to Devon! Which we still enjoyed.

In fact, it isn’t too dissimilar to the summer we’re currently having, but of course without any of the ringing. Or beer gardens. However, beer gardens are due to be back soon and as Australia is showing, God willing ringing should be back one day too.

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Saturday 13th June 2020

It felt almost normal today. A meeting with my parents to mark my father’s recent 75th birthday, which was very pleasant in a sunbathed garden, albeit not the celebration that would’ve taken place were it not for current circumstances. And then a BBQ in the garden of mother-in-law Kate, with our hosts, before a walk home. It was very enjoyable and in its own way remarkably normal after all we’ve been through over recent weeks.

Except of course, it wasn’t completely normal. Both occasions were far from as relaxed as they once would have been, with current regulations – eased as they are - leading to some anxiety, especially with young children around, who for all that they’ve been great in the weird circumstances we’ve found ourselves in since mid-March don’t instinctively practice social distancing. Although not all adults do either!

And – if we had been privileged enough to have been selected, we would’ve been in Boston in Lincolnshire representing the Suffolk Guild for The Ridgman Trophy, the annual ten-bell striking competition for the ringing organisations that border the Ely Diocesan Association and typically a highlight of our ringing calendar. Last year’s was held at The Norman Tower and personally I had been hoping to climb the many steps of this famous ringing location.

Kirkby Malzead.Alas therefore, although we spent the day in the company of ringers, we did no actual ringing and so I again turned to the Random button on BellBoard, which today brought up a 1269 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung on 15th July 2012 at Kirkby Malzead in North Yorkshire. There were familiar names in the band, but the 16cwt 1909 Gillett & Johnson six themselves are known to us too, as we went there only a couple of years after this QP on the 2014 Rambling Ringers Tour, on Yorkshire Day (1st August) indeed. There is even photographic evidence that we were in the ringing chamber where the treble and tenor were (and I assume still are six years on) rung from either side of a view-obscuring clock case, although according to the blog we were more preoccupied trying find somewhere to eat beforehand!

Ipswich, St Mary-le-Tower.However, on 15/7/2012, we were receiving the dreadful news that due to a fairly innocuous looking bulge in the side of the tower, ringing at St Mary-le-Tower had to be suspended. Although we were shortly after allowed to ring the front eight, it would be two-and-a-half months before all twelve could be rung together again. At the time it felt terrible to not be able to ring on all our bells, but when you consider it is pretty much three months now since we last rang at SMLT – or any other church bells – at all, it doesn’t seem as terrible. I would take only ringing on the front eight at the moment!

There was some change-ringing from a once familiar source in Suffolk recorded on BB today though, as a handbell peal was rung in Bacton. Indeed, it was almost normal.

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Friday 12th June 2020

Today should’ve seen the start of Euro2020, the four-yearly European Championships for the best teams on the continent, our fair land included. I would’ve taken in the opening fixture Turkey vs Italy with more relish than I normally would a match between these foreign lands, probably even taking in the opening ceremony. A wallchart would almost certainly have taken its place on the living room wall and after their performance at the World Cup two years ago I would have been eager to see England in action, with their first game in the tournament against Croatia having been pencilled in for this coming Sunday.

Alas, like pretty much anything planned for this year it couldn’t happen, even more so as unusually it was being held in multiple countries across Europe. It is due to go ahead on the corresponding dates in 2021 starting with what will likely be the most eagerly awaited meeting between the Turkish and Italians on Friday 11th June, but that seems a long way away, especially at the moment.

Much like the return of bell ringing seems, but it is interesting to note that on The Government’s website in the section about churches, bell ringing is mentioned – along with choir practices, Sunday school and the like – on a list of things that currently can’t be carried out in churches. A bit like when your destination starts appearing on road signs on a long journey, it actually raises hopes that at least we’re being considered. Of course though, it’s likely that government officials and maybe even the Church of England won’t fully understand the intricacies of ringing, ringers and where we ring, but I imagine that the Central Council will give guidance to them if they fail to give the go ahead when it might be appropriate for ringing to resume or even if they consider ringing has been given the go ahead too soon.

Therefore for now we contented ourselves with another of Simon Rudd’s Zoom chats. We’re getting into these as they bring in a random selection of people from the ringing family for us to catch up with, as well some familiar regulars. It was great to socialise with Maggie Ross again, as well as to speak to Peter Sanderson. And it was lovely to ‘meet’ Ben Keating, who along with Laura Davies is one of two astounding artists of churches within the Guild membership.

Quarter peal band.Simon himself was fresh from the first quarter-peal of Maximus on Ringing Room rung by twelve ringers, which appeared appropriate as just before I joined his chat I had listened to him and Nikki Thomas – who was also on the chat – speaking to BBC Radio Norfolk presenter Kirsteen Thorne 2hrs 39mins into her breakfast show on the subject of RR. It seems an excellent idea to promote this currently, especially locally, as it shows to a local audience that could be recruited that there is still a way into ringing even whilst we can’t ring church bells.

North Cave.Coincidentally, Suffolk Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge was on the airwaves on 12th April 2019 speaking to BBC Radio Suffolk, the day that the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today was rung. That was a 1260 of Minor - consisting of 720 changes of Surfleet Surprise and 540 of Plain Bob – rung at North Cave in the East Riding of Yorkshire, an 11cwt 1919 Taylor’s ring of six.

It is a reminder of the simple act of ringing in such normal circumstances that we are missing, on a day that I was reminded of the special football we are currently deprived of.

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Thursday 11th June 2020

Happy 75th Birthday to my father Alan. For his 70th, 65th and 60th birthdays we had big parties and quarter-peals and peals were rung. Sadly none of that can happen this time for obvious reasons and a combination of work and bad weather meant a visit wasn’t possible, but I did have a chat with him on the phone (my parents still haven’t managed to get a camera set up for video calls!), allowing the boys to also wish him felicitations. Meanwhile my brother Chris had the opportunity to go round to see him and generally he had as good a birthday as one can have when nowhere is open to celebrate! It is a pity though, as for putting up with my younger sibling and I all these years, being a wonderful Grandad and father-in-law and for his dedicated, selfless service to Suffolk ringing. Happy Birthday as well to his daughter-in-law and our sister-in-law Becky. God willing we can celebrate together properly in the not too distant future.

Stanton in Peak.Meanwhile, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today took me back to when we were celebrating another family birthday, namely that of Mason’s. For the 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Stanton in Peak in Derbyshire on 29th January 2017 was two day’s after my eldest son’s tenth birthday and so this was a weekend of celebration. On the Thursday we’d rung a 5010 of Plain Bob Major at Grundisburgh, his actual birthday on the Friday was marked with much opening of presents, Saturday with the visits of family and Godparents and then on 29/1/2017 he had a party at the now permanently closed down Flux.

Ashover.The QP in the Midlands itself also drew some memories of Alan McBurnie’s quarter-peal trips in the area. Richard Taylor – who rang the treble in this particular performance – and his father Peter were very welcoming to us and even rang in one success for us when Richard conducted the 1259 of Grandsire Caters at Ashover in March 2007.

Not the kind of thing we are able to do on the UK mainland, but it has been a different matter in Australia, New Zealand and the Channel Islands recently and presumably will now be possible on the Isle of Man with the announcement that after twenty-two days with no new cases, social distancing – essential, but the bane of hopes to return to ringing – has been scrapped.

Nonetheless, I expect some ringers there will still be interested in the talk that Cambridgeshire ringer Gareth Davies is due to give at 1pm on Thursday 9th July on the subject of ringing as part of a series of online talks and lectures being run by the Churches Conservation Trust. It should be a very interesting watch.

For now though, it was a fairly mundane day, belying its significance in our family.

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Wednesday 10th June 2020

Sizewell Beach.Baby steps and all that. The furthest anyone from our household has been since 14th March when we went on what these days would be viewed as quite an extravagant quarter-peal day and pub lunch that took in five villages, is the outskirts of Ipswich to visit my parents. Today though, whilst I remained at home to work, Ruthie, Alfie and Joshua travelled to Sizewell beach for a picnic with the boys’ grandparents Kate and Ron. On a chilly day for the time of year, there was never any danger of the crowded scenes we have seen on other beaches in recent weeks and so this seemed quite a safe way to test the water. Although they didn’t test the water in the other, literal sense. Well apart from Alfred who came back with a wet trouser leg!

This is how it’s going to have to be in the foreseeable future, because even if coronavirus does stick around without treatment or a vaccine (and it is likely to do so for months at least), society has to get back to as much normality as possible and that includes us. Ruthie isn’t due back to work until August and with myself still able to carry out my employment as effectively as one can in the current climate from our abode, I am sticking to the guidance to work from home for the time being and we don’t plan to send the boys back until September at the earliest. And I don’t expect ringing on church bells to return any earlier than that either. The risk will remain as we gradually return to the facets of our lives that existed previously, but hopefully it will be as managed as possible, with that risk reduced whilst still getting on with life. A first trip to the beach and journey more than a few minutes from Melton is perhaps an initial step in that.

Edgmond.Back in 2012 over the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend it was completely the opposite. It was hard to know where to go next with so much going on and the freedom to see so much and it was on the Sunday of that weekend that the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today was rung. That was a 1344 of Plain Bob Triples rung at Edgmond in Shropshire, one of a staggering 1290 performances recorded on BB rung over that special – though cold and wet – four-day weekend.

Twenty-eight of those were in Suffolk and two of those featured myself, with a peal at Gislingham on the Saturday and another one at St Mary-le-Tower on the Tuesday. On 3rd June 2012 my ringing was limited to SMLT and St Lawrence in the morning, before I went to Pettistree for a superb event there and then an ad hoc street party under cover after the original plans had to be abandoned due to the dreadful weather that dogged pretty much the whole occasion.

St James Garlickhythe.On that day though, the most notable ringing was coming from a barge as the art played a huge and noticed part in the spectacular though drenched pageant on the River Thames, with a quarter-peal on the bells that now hang in St James Garlickhythe in London and a visit to the ringers from actor and presenter John Barrowman. It was superb PR for the exercise.

In the here and now though, ringing nationally is still restricted to handbell ringing and online ringing, with the latter enabling a quarter-peal on Ringing Room featuring a band from Hasketon and Ipswich, as well as Great Hockham north of the Norfolk border. I’m sure given time they will manage even more, but baby steps and all that.

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Tuesday 9th June 2020

In these odd times, Ipswich Town’s season today came to a premature end over a month after it was due to finish and a fortnight after they would’ve been involved in the play-offs if they had extended their season to that. Even before coronavirus reared its ugly head, this season had turned decidedly bad for ITFC and I have to admit I wasn’t desperate for it to start again.

Unlike ringing, once it is as safe as it can be until a vaccine or treatment is found. However, as repeated a depressing amount of times on this blog recently, that isn’t expected to be soon, so I am grateful to technology for keeping me in touch with the exercise and its participants. Although I simply haven’t had the opportunity to get involved in Ringing Room, I have been enjoying CCCBR President Simon Linford’s fortnightly blog which highlights how the online world is helping ringing and ringers, including how there is now a link to some of the many superb training webinars and videos on YouTube. He also speaks about the issue of pushing learners too much, saying that good call-changes ought to be a reasonable target. My personal view is that we ought to then encourage ringers to go beyond that, especially as some very talented ringers wouldn’t get beyond that without a gentle nudge in that direction! However, I suppose the main point is that we shouldn’t force ringers past what they are comfortable with – it is better having a ringer enjoying doing a good job of call-changes or Plain Bob Doubles and thus contributing, then putting them off and losing them altogether. Well worth too looking at The Accidental Ringer’s blog entry on this subject.

I’ve also enjoyed the monthly College Youths meetings currently being held online rather than in London where I can rarely get to on a Tuesday evening. This evening a member lost in the First World War but details of whom Alan Regin only recently found was remembered. He was Alexander Burnett Hurst who learnt to ring at Cavendish and also rang at Glemsford and Long Melford, but appeared to have stopped ringing after a very public argument with a ringer from Glemsford in Bell News.

Sad – but expected - news was relayed as Secretary Simon Meyer informed the ninety-four watching that the Country Meeting due to be held in Oxford next month has had to be cancelled. However, plans to move it to 2022 have been put in place, whilst the 2021 Country Meeting is being planned for 22nd May in Worcester. And although a considerable amount of negotiation has had to be carried out, the Annual Dinner is still pencilled in for Saturday 7th November at the now usual venue of Leonardo Royal St Paul’s Hotel, albeit expected to be with a lower than usual attendance. It was also good to hear from Phil Ridley on plans for next year’s National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in Guildford on 26th June and encouraged people to visit the 2021 Final Facebook page and Instagram page. The former of which I found, the latter of which I couldn’t.

That said, the new freedoms that have allowed handbell bands to gather outside continues to see more traditional performances appear on BellBoard, including three further peals, all of which means that there is plenty to report already without pushing the Random button on the same website.

North Perrott.Nonetheless, I did and when performance that came up was a 1260 of Doubles rung at North Perrott in Somerset on 16th July 2009 I felt I ought to mention it, as although rung for the sad reason of the passing of the tower captain of nearby Martock, Malcom Butcher the previous week, 16/7/2009 was actually a day of celebration for us.

Campsea Ashe.For this was the twentieth birthday for the lady who is now my wife. We celebrated with another event linked to the fundraising efforts for the project to augment the four at Campsea Ashe to six. Although the Summer Exhibition of Arts and Crafts held at The Old Rectory next door to St John the Baptist church wasn’t held for Ruthie’s birthday, the lovely evening at the height of summer in the vast garden overlooking the surrounding countryside and the debut quarter-peal we rang on the mini-ring that was the forerunner of The Vestey Ring helped us celebrate her entering a decade in which she got a degree, married, became a mother, took on a new job and bought a house. It is probably as good a juncture as any to reiterate publicly my gratitude for her love and support, particularly in recent months as she has taken on full responsibility for the difficult task of schooling the children and allowing me to continue in my work, all whilst wondering what the future might hold in her own job in these uncertain times, sadly as so many others in retail are currently. There is no one else I would have wanted to have been in lockdown with more! Not even Ipswich Town Football Club.

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Monday 8th June 2020

Gradually the positive days are increasing in frequency. Today (for us, tomorrow for them!) New Zealand lifted all their restrictions bar opening their borders and still encouraging social distancing after more than a fortnight with no new cases of the illness that has crippled the world, meaning that life is essentially back to normal there, albeit in the knowledge that there will be more cases at some point. That is good news for them, including their ringers, who have already been taking advantage of their greater freedoms in recent days.

Bromley Peal Band.It offers hope to us in the UK, especially in light of the ‘low’ numbers of deaths announced today, which at fifty-five are a long way from the thousand-plus we were getting at its worst thus far. Still, the usual caveats apply to weekend figures that they are usually lower and with all the large gatherings of the last couple of weekends, it will be interesting to see where we are in a few weeks with all this. Either way, although pubs may be opening their gardens for drinkers in a couple of weeks in another potential bit of good news today and another different band rang a handbell peal, it still seems unlikely that activities such as ringing in church towers carried out in enclosed spaces with participants close together will resume anytime soon.

Trumpington.Therefore I pushed the Random button on BellBoard again and on this occasion it brought up a 5056 of Bristol Surprise Major rung at Trumpington – which has already appeared before on these lockdown sorties into the past – on 10th October 1965 and featuring some legends of the art, including some I have had the privilege to ring with. In the case of the late Tudor Edwards that was largely limited to a single peal of Stedman Sextuples at St Martin’s-in-the-Bullring in Birmingham, but I did more with the sadly also late Sue Rothera along with her husband David and even more with John Fielden when I rang in Birmingham with him.

Henley. Benhall. Barking. Ipswich, St Clement. Lavenham.

However, this peal was almost exactly thirteen years before I was born and so I’m unable to call upon the blog or even personal memory. Thanks to the superb work of Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge and South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden though, the Annual Report from that year gives us an insight into Suffolk’s ringing fifty-five years ago. In his report (pp4 & 5), Guild Ringing Master George Pipe gave a typically impassioned plea for more to get involved in SGR and District activity and relayed how the Striking Competition – held at Cavendish in September 1965 – saw representation from all five Districts (as it was then before the Central District disappeared with the reorganisation of the Districts in 1978) with the young band of Henley topping the eight-team entry. On the same day in the mid-60s that that band was pealing just over the Cambridgeshire border, quarter-peals of Plain Bob Major were rung at Bures, Lavenham and Hollesley, but whilst there were no peals for the Guild on 10/10/1965, the seventy-five rung in the Guild’s name that year represented the best tally in four years. Among them were five involving my father Alan which included first peals for Martin Whittell in the 2hrs40mins at Benhall and David Derrick in the 2hrs50mins at Barking. It also featured an all-Alan peal at St Clement’s in Ipswich, although why when they had already rung one of Plain Bob Major at Lavenham a couple of years earlier for my pater’s debut I’m not sure!

An all-Richard peal is one I have yet to attempt, although a Suffolk one was being planned before injury to one of the band members scuppered it before we even tried and we never got round to doing it after then, but perhaps one day we will. And what a positive day that would be!

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Sunday 7th June 2020

East Bergholt. Cotton. For the fourth day running we were online talking to friends. As with every Sunday morning since the end of March, it took in a cuppa with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers and Woodbridge St Mary-the-Virgin churchgoers. In the former, Jonathan Williamson and David Sparling want to encourage people to send in recordings of a couple of minutes or so of their stories about curious rings of bells, such as Cotton or East Bergholt for an ART podcast. If you have anything you wish to share then get in touch with Jonathan.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s news that churches are to be reopened for private worship – rather than the resumption of services and the like in church – steered the conversation to making plans for what we might need for a return to ringing at SMLT. It was all discussed in the full awareness that it won’t be anytime soon, but this is the first relaxation of the restrictions surrounding the buildings which most of us do our ringing in and if previous announcements of lockdown easing (including this one) are anything to go by then when it does become safely feasible to ring in church towers again, it will be announced at quite short notice, so it is sensible to be prepared by thinking of hand sanitizers and how to safely use the spiral staircase, as was mentioned today.

Hollesley.For the second day running, when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard it took me back to a busy Sunday in 2008 whilst I was Suffolk Guild Ringing Master. On this occasion it was 17th February (though I attributed it the 19th in another blunder on my part!) when a 5056 of Plain Bob Major was rung on handbells in Willaston. According to the blog, I was juggling running the Sabbath morning ringing at the aforementioned heaviest twelve in the county and then helped out at it’s lightest, took a then one-year-old Mason to a birthday party, before returning to ringing with another lost QP attempt of Surprise Major spliced at the half-lead as part of the project I mentioned yesterday, this time of seven methods following a success in six methods on the same 16cwt eight the previous month. And it was all topped off by curry at Saffron, a once regular haunt for us.

Orford.It was also the end of SGR Peal Week 2008, although despite an impressive haul of eleven successes the final day was marked with a loss as sadly an attempt at Orford for local Ringing Master Richard Moody’s first peal. Happily he did succeed during the following year’s Peal Week in an effort I was delighted to be a part of and generally I think this annual focus on the medium has been really useful for encouraging such endeavours. Although that was Richard’s one and only peal (his work and the geographically isolated location of his home tower somewhat limited his opportunities), many other firsts during SGRPW have opened the door to a world of peal-ringing and therefore ultimately helped the progression of many a ringer.

As should Project Pickled Egg and this evening I was engrossed in a webinar given by the driving force of the project and author of a book on the subject due to come out this summer, Simon Linford, who entirely unconnectedly is now President of the Central Council. This is the initiative to specifically design a pathway for ringers from those just starting out on Treble Dodging Major rather than simply blindly working through the ‘standard’ eight which generally came together as a set by accident. Therefore, after much consultation over Facebook with eight-bell ringers of all abilities, a ‘core seven’ methods were selected for their familiarity, musicality, usefulness to composers and introducing different elements (such as points, wrong hunting, changing direction at the leadend, etc) which will give a grounding for learning more methods. Beyond those there are lots of recommended methods, that can do a similar jobs to the seven, such as Kenninghall and Turramurra Surprise Major, but this evening’s talk was mainly on the inception of PPE and the Core Seven, which actually aren’t radically different to the standard eight, with all bar Lincolnshire, Pudsey and Rutland retained plus Cornwall – which as Simon pointed out was first pealed at Helmingham in 1936 – and Lessness. The morning version of the talk that he did is on YouTube and is well worth a watch and there are plans for further talks, so watch out for announcements on that.

After all, I think a lot of our ringing fix will still be via video for a while.

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Saturday 6th June 2020

Exactly a year ago society and ringing marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the D-Day landings. It was done on a huge scale, even though it fell on a Thursday. How different things are for the seventy-sixth anniversary.

366 days ago world leaders gathered together with thousands of others – including frail veterans - shoulder to shoulder and shaking hands in scenes that would currently be viewed with horror due to their sheer recklessness. There were 177 performances associated with the occasion on BellBoard from 18th May to 16th June 2019, all bar a handful rung on church bells, from village sixes like Pettistree to cathedrals like Newcastle and Worcester as ringers travelled locally and nationally from multiple households to ring. This time round, as with the severely reduced VE Day celebrations a month ago, there will be very little if any change-ringing on church bells, although there was a handbell peal of Minimus rung in Hendon.

God willing in a year’s time, we can all look back on this and be grateful for regained freedoms, perhaps as we prepare for a 5077 of something on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Although, as this crisis has taught so many, you can take nothing for granted, as the CCCBR will testify looking back on the plans being put in place twelve months ago for the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day, which I excitedly revealed on my blog with no more idea then anyone else of the unprecedented events awaiting us in the near future.

Swan Bells. Vernet-les-Bains.Still, it is important to search for the light at the end of the tunnel and hope again comes from the Antipodes where they have been less badly hit by COVID-19 and thus seen restrictions ease more freely and has included a return to ringing for some long before it is likely to be the case here, despite ringing on church bells being suspended after it was in the UK. The 168 changes of Plain Bob Triples on Swan Bells in Perth is believed to be the first ringing on tower bells in Australia since lockdown was implemented and was the same touch as the last ringing on the bells on 22nd March. Hope also from France which has been hit hard, with ringing at Vernet-les-Bains on a spread out rope circle.

And although the wetter, cooler weather doesn’t seem to have curtailed the newly established freedom to ring handbells with others at a safe distance outside for some, with a couple of handbell peals in Reading and a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major in Cumbernauld in Scotland, ringers have still been using online sites again to ring together, with the most notable performance in this respect on this latest lockdown Saturday being the first peal of Royal on Handbell Stadium on the busiest day of peal-ringing since normal ringing activity stopped in March.

Llangarron.Nonetheless, I felt drawn to the Random button on BB which on this occasion brought up a quarter-peal rung on 26th October 2008 at Llangarron in Herefordshire, an apparently nice 9cwt 18th century Rudhall six in a two-tier frame. According to the blog, on the same day meanwhile, I was in the depths of a busy Sunday, not unusually so at the time, as I ran the morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower then put on my other Ringing Master’s hat (or rather badge) to Campsea Ashe for a ringers’ service in the midst of fundraising for augmenting the then grotty four with a dark ringing chamber hidden up the tower to the wonderful six they now are, rung from a specially built gallery taking in the light from the church and the west window. This was my first grab of the bells, but subsequently I rang in a fun striking competition (on another busy day of ringing!) as part of their annual Ringing Festival (exactly eleven years ago to the day as it happens) to raise money for the project, where the judges were non-ringers who judged which piece sounded nicest to them and then I rang in my first and probably only (unless our handbell ringing improves dramatically during lockdown!) peal of Minimus in the last on the bells before augmentation. After a brief respite on 26/10/2008 we were then out ringing later at Ufford for a lost QP attempt of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major spliced at the half-lead. This was part of a project organised by Alan McBurnie increasing the number of methods with each success that saw more losses than scores but was great fun and culminated in eventual completion of all eight methods in the same tower five months later.

No such activity today, but the day was bookended with some jovial video chats, firstly with the Reverend Paul Hambling and some of the congregation and fellow Messy Church participants from Melton, as well as from Ufford and then with our friends Charlotte and Gregory for a curry.

Hopefully in a year we will get to eat curry together in person!

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Friday 5th June 2020

Apsley End. Brightwell Baldwin.The performance that came up today when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard was a 5040 of forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced rung at Apsley End in Hertfordshire on 10th March 2016, featuring the person who has rung more peals than anyone else in the history of ringing, Colin Turner. This was one of two peals that he, his wife Nicola, conductor Peter Ellis and Ian ‘Glint’ Fielding rang that day (the other being of another impressive thirty-five Delight Minor methods spliced at Brightwell Baldwin over the Oxfordshire border), during a year when he managed a record 334 peals. It was his 6,739th peal and just four years later he has reached 7,748 peals and even in this curtailed year of church bell ringing he has managed forty-six since 2020 started seemingly innocuously five months ago, all according to the marvellous Pealbase. It probably feels stranger to him than most of us that it isn’t possible to ring on church bells at the moment.

According to the blog, on 10/3/2016 we weren’t doing any ringing and indeed I was commenting on how it was virtually impossible to get out ringing on a Thursday with our parenting duties and Ruthie’s choral practicing, something which has since got even harder with the subsequent arrival of Joshua (who we were expecting at that point) and Ruthie joining an additional choir practice on Thursdays. However, others were busier, with Neal Dodge and Alex Tatlow ringing a brace of peals that day, one at Great Livermere and one at Whepstead.

Although I had rung a peal at The Wolery the day before (on 9th March 2016, not 2015 as I assigned it for some reason!), my peal-ringing that year was not as active as Neal and Alex’s, let alone Colin Turner’s. Indeed, in comparison to the thousand-plus peals that Colin has rung since then, I have rung just sixty and thus far this year a mere three. Whilst one of those was for Mason’s birthday as I had up to that point done for every birthday of each of my sons, I have sadly missed the opportunity to ring one for Alfie’s sixth birthday and it seems certain that I shan’t be able to mark the fourth anniversary of Joshua’s birth in July with a peal. Indeed, even a peal I had started arranging before lockdown for my brother Chris’ fortieth in November for December at the Norman Tower appears unlikely at this stage, whether that be due to social distancing, other restrictions or simply because people may not feel safe to come out and spend nearly four hours in an enclosed space with eleven others!

For now therefore, our interaction with other ringers – and indeed anyone – was via video on another otherwise social Friday evening. That included an online quiz with my uni mates, but before that I accepted another of past St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd’s open invites to a video chat. On this occasion it connected me with fellow Rambling Ringer Harm Jan de Kok live from the Netherlands and former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross and generated much conversation. Harm Jan was naturally pleased by the video released today on Facebook of Matthew Higby playing the new ten due for Dordrecht, Simon’s fellow Norwich ringer Ben Trent relayed his week of delivering mail dressed in fancy dress for charity, Mr Rudd ran through his busy day of ringing that took in six different groups on Handbell Stadium and Ringing Room and Maggie informed me that the man that inspired her to call me ‘Rishi’ is now Chancellor of the Exchequer!

It was a fun evening and not a peal in sight!

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Thursday 4th June 2020

More fun and games with the fortnightly St Mary-le-Tower Ringers’ Quiz, which is fast becoming a real highlight in the absence of ringing. Having won the inaugural competition two weeks ago, it was our turn to host the contest this evening and so we found ourselves setting a sizeable number of participants questions on British sitcom characters, numbers, Suffolk churches from the air (inspired by Neal Dodge’s superb competition on the Guild’s Facebook page a few weeks ago), football teams nicknames and rude place names! Ultimately the winner was Simon Rudd, who joined us late after doing an excellent webinar with Nikki Thomas about Abel for the Cambridge District of the Ely Diocesan Association, which was interjected with pictures of sitcom characters popping up! The talk itself – which we watched afterwards – is well worth a view for the content, as well as pictures of Geraldine Grainger and Sybil Fawlty appearing just nine minutes before the end! Although having heard of Jonathan Williamson’s tale of winning the Offton quiz on Tuesday after arriving half an hour late, clearly a delayed entry is the way to win these things!

It came at the end of a day that saw the boys making fairy bread, me making sales and Ruthie making conversation with her sister from a distance in the back garden, as per the new regulations, although the cooler, storm-threatening weather conditions seem to have prevented more of the socially distant outdoor performances we have seen on BellBoard this week. Thank goodness therefore for the Pipe boys in Willingham for keeping peal-ringing going on this grey, cool day with their unique birthday compliment to new adult Ewan Hull.

Douglas. Peel.With an announcement today setting out plans to further lift restrictions on the Isle of Man – where there are no active cases of COVID-19 - on 15th June that is due to see bigger gatherings of people and a reduction of social distancing to one metre, I imagine hopes may be raised of a resumption of ringing on the 18cwt twelve of Douglas and 9cwt eight of Peel - similar to on the Channel Islands - in the near future.

Laughton, All Saints.Meanwhile, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BB today was a 1320 of Old Oxford Delight Minor (Westminster Surprise Minor above the treble) rung at Laughton in East Sussex on 20th October 2011.

According to this blog, on the same day I was attending Mason’s parents evening and also taking a call from BBC Look East about Bailey Day, which was to take place two days later. That was an event held to mark the one hundredth anniversary since a peal of Plain Bob Major was rung at Leiston by a band made up entirely of the extraordinary Bailey brothers. At the centre of it all was a rerun of the original peal, rung at the same tower to the same method and same composition, which I was privileged to conduct, but surrounding that were quarter-peals rung on the day at Kelsale, Rickinghall Superior, Saxmundham, Southwold and Theberton, as well as on handbells in St Margaret’s church vestry, whilst the first QP of The Bailey Brothers Surprise Minor was rung three days earlier before Pettistree’s weekly practice.

In amongst all of this, there was an exhibition put on, free entry to The Long Shop Museum with a SGR badge and the East Anglian Daily Times sent a photographer and reporter, the latter of whom turned out to be someone I now work with and who can still recall the research he had to do into Plain Bob Major!

Although not as much research as we had to put in to this evening’s quiz!

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Wednesday 3rd June 2020

Following his recent appeal for a very good quality 1973 copy of the Ringing World with a front page featuring drawings of Suffolk churches by George Pipe for the fiftieth anniversary of the Guild, John Loveless has now been alerted to quite a few to scan and copy for the back page of GWP’s biography which Jake has written. He is very grateful for the response!

Like much else to do with ringing though, we can only anticipate this eagerly awaited book, although there was much ingenuity amongst ringers again, including by Phillip and Sheila George who essentially rang simultaneous quarter-peals of Plain Bob Minimus by swapping bells between two pairs – 1-2 & 5-6 for Sheila and 3-4 & 7-8 for Phillip. Pretty impressive, but it seems not something that they are looking to repeat! Meanwhile some St Mary-le-Tower ringers met out the front of Christchurch Mansion for some socially distant handbell ringing and spectating and David Kemp, Linda Garton and the aforementioned Mr Loveless rang a peal in John and Linda’s garden.

Birmingham, St Paul. Aston.No such shenanigans for Ruthie and I as we resumed our usual daily activities of schooling and working respectively and pushing the Random button on BellBoard again. This time it brought up a 5002 of Bristol Surprise Royal at St Paul in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham. This is a 12cwt ten that was completely new in 2005 and put in just as I was leaving the West Midlands, so I have never had the benefit of regular ringing on this superb ring. However, I had the pleasure of ringing a peal there the following year ahead of attending the wedding of Richard and Charlotte Grimmett in the same church and the associated festivities. Indeed, that was one of two weddings I had the pleasure and privilege of attending at that same church in the same year, with Michael and Victoria Wilby’s marriage ceremony taking place in July, an occasion also preceded by a number of peals, including one I rang in at Aston.

No weddings will be taking place in churches for the foreseeable future, although with churches due to reopen next month that offers hope for weddings, funerals and indeed ringing. Once we do get back ringing we may have a celebratory edition of The Ringing World to fondly look back at one day!

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Tuesday 2nd June 2020

We are due to be hosting the St Mary-le-Tower ringers’ quiz on Thursday evening after winning the inaugural contest nearly a fortnight ago. Therefore the last few days have seen an upsurge of putting our ideas together and we had great fun today – when I wasn’t working and Ruthie wasn’t schooling the boys – sourcing and considering photos for a picture quiz round.

There is talk amongst those fellow partakers of the art at SMLT of socially distanced handbell ringing outside for those in the Ipswich area and indeed others were doing just that across the UK (including a peal in Cheshire for the first time since lockdown) and there was another quarter-peal on church bells in New Zealand to give us ringers here some hope as they rang a 1260 of Grandsire Doubles in Auckland. The situation is very different there of course, but as with everywhere else, there is no vaccine and so hopefully it may show the way for the exercise to do likewise here when God willing things in this country reach a similar stage. Although that seems unlikely to be very soon.

Potterhanworth.Once upon a time we were able to ring side by side in the wonderful ringing chambers of Great Britain, as the Random button on BellBoard reminds me on a daily basis. On this occasion it brought up a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Potterhanworth in Lincolnshire on 26th November 2005, conducted by a regular reader of the blog Chris Woodcock. Chris is also Ringing Master of the Rambling Ringers, whose tour is one of a vast swathe of ringing events not happening this year due to the pandemic and he is one who has to be particularly careful in the current circumstances. Therefore I was delighted that he was one of quite a few who have very kindly contacted me to say how much they are glad that I have continued the blog through these troubled times, which makes me feel better about my ramblings!

Grundisburgh.The day he was conducting that QP was pre-blog, but actually a day I remember quite well as it was when one my funniest memories in ringing occurred. For on 26/11/2005 I was ringing in a very well-rung peal of the ‘standard eight’ Surprise Major methods on the back eight at Grundisburgh when partway through conductor Mike Whitby – with a look of confusion on his face – questioned James Smith on whether he had swapped with the third. Cue a few seconds of James looking either side of him in utter bemusement before he replied, “I am the third!” Despite this brief aberration, we completed a super 5184 before retiring to The Dog across the picturesque (though dark on this autumnal evening) green in this lovely village.

No peal-ringing for us today, so more time for setting quiz questions!

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Monday 1st June 2020

For many of Alfie’s age, today saw a return to school after ten weeks away in what has been an incredibly difficult decision for parents, ourselves included. We have decided not to send our six-year-old son (yes, he is six, even if the lack of a peal to mark his sixth birthday means he isn’t officially yet!) nor his three-old brother Joshua back to their places of education for the time being. Things may be easing and I’m largely supportive of that and in other countries where they have returned children to school over the last month things appear to have gone as well as one could expect in the circumstances. And it has to be said that whilst Ruthie has done magnificently schooling the boys in these trying, uncertain times, it has been incredibly difficult and hard for them not to be getting the invaluable full-time education from professionals. However, the huge crowds massed together with little social distancing in evidence on beaches, parks and at UK protests over events in the USA over the weekend suggest that things may get worse again soon and with Ruthie furloughed until the end of July and me still able to work from home, it seems prudent for us to avoid taking more risks than are necessary. They’ll have to go back at some point and without vaccines and the like in place, as we will have to do with so much else including ringing, but as with not rushing back to ringing chambers at the first available moment, this just reduces the risks for as long as is practical.

That said, there was generally a sense of relative freedom today. Much handbell ringing was done involving ringers from different households in sunbathed gardens across the country (including a peal in Reading), as well as a 1296 of Norwich Alliance Minimus at the Alderney Ringing Centre, although there was also Ringing Room action including an East Anglian band of Nigel Newton, David Brown and Simon Rudd ringing a 1320 of Cotswold Treble Bob Minor and 73 changes of Plain Bob Minor for Adrian ‘Arnie’ Knights’ seventy-third birthday by Rowan Wilson, David Stanford and Brian Whiting. And we welcomed the boys’ grandparents Kate and Ron around the back at a social distance for morale boosting catch-up.

Barnes.There was no ringing for us this time though, but whilst my walk to the office is not a long one, not having to make it there and back twice a day does afford a little extra time on top of not going out in the evenings, so I enjoyed looking through the entries for the Central Council’s May YouTube competition (including the video I sent in of an extremely good quarter at Bredfield just before lockdown and of some mesmerising handbell ringing from Bacton) and was pleased that BBC Radio Suffolk presenter James Hazell’s request for people’s “worst noises” didn’t bring forth the suggestion of bells ringing! And again I pushed the Random button on BellBoard which today took me to another Mike Wigney (who you’ll recall is the inspirational ringer who has rung over a thousand quarter-peals from a wheelchair) production. This time it was a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Barnes in Greater London on 22nd April 1989, which was a first inside for Patricia Chapman, who has since sadly passed away.

Hevingham.I was only very early on in my life as a ringer at the time and so there was nothing much to report from my own personal ringing annals, but on the same day a peal was rung for the Suffolk Guild at Heveningham which was a first of Blackburn Place Doubles for all the band and the SGR.

According to then Guild Ringing Master Stephen Pettman’s report in that year’s Annual Report (pp10-12) that month also saw the Guild Outing go to London to ring at Aldgate, Cornhill, St Andrew’s in Lambeth, St John’s Waterloo Road and the notorious Queen’s Tower at Imperial College, whilst the following month St Mary-le-Tower won the Guild Six-Bell and Eight-Bell Striking Competitions at Buxhall and Stowmarket respectively.
From a personal respective it was year that saw the maternal the death of mine and my brother Chris’ maternal grandmother and a peal arranged to her memory later in the year on the 14cwt eight of Thrapston – where she lived – involving a band from Suffolk and Northamptonshire. However, it was also the year that my future wife Ruthie was born!

And it was a year that George Pipe was still very much in his prime during a life that I enjoyed reading about in the copy of the Ringing World that my parents very kindly sent us and which features his extensive obituaries from David House and Laith Reynolds. It highlights just what an extraordinary life he had and further whets the appetite for John Loveless’ biography of him.

It may offer some material to help with the boys’ reading until they go back to their places of education.

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Sunday 31st May 2020

Usually Sunday mornings would be pretty busy for us. Ruthie would be singing in the choir at St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge, whilst I would be ringing, either upstairs on the 25cwt eight before joining my wife downstairs for the service or at St Mary-le-Tower and then Grundisburgh, with a trip to Costa Coffee in between and – if I was partaking in the art in Ipswich on the first Sabbath morn of the month – sometimes at St Lawrence too. All having got three young boys out of bed, breakfasted and dressed in time for the early start.

Since ringing at churches was suspended in March though, Sunday mornings have been less stressful, but not as fulfilling. The weekly video chats with our SMLT ringing peers and then fellow churchgoers afterwards have helped give something to focus on, but we – and particularly my wife – were delighted with a much more productive morning. Even before our ringing chat Mrs Munnings had already done a near two-mile walk before we then had a quick blast of Plain Bob Minimus on handbells for some mental exercise too.

At about the same time the Wakefields Bruce and Gill were ringing handbells across town, but the rest of our day was spent without the sound of bells as Mason, Joshua and myself took a walk around the nearby countryside in the hot temperatures beneath the clear, bright blue skies.

Hackney, St John at Hackney.Meanwhile, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard took me to a 1360 of Kent Treble Royal at St John at Hackney on 2nd September 2018, which was another Sunday not all that long ago but in what feels like a completely different age. In fact that day epitomises much of what we have lost to the necessary but wearing restrictions of the last couple of months. This blog tells me that the main focus was football as Mason and I joined my brother Chris as we took in the Tractor Boys’ match against Norwich City, the big East Anglian local derby where nearly 30,000 people crammed into a tiny corner of Suffolk’s county town from across the east and beyond. None of which is possible at the moment of course, although the announcement last week that the Premier League is planning to start up again in mid-June – albeit well above ITFCs level (League One where we play is likely to be brought to a premature end shortly) and behind closed doors as they’ve been doing in Germany for the last fortnight very successfully – is a huge boost to the flagging morale of millions.

Hamilton Cathedral.Having travelled in by train (currently discouraged), we did manage some ringing at St Margaret’s where we were very kindly taken on a tour by Ringing Master John Girt of the new set-up further up the tower where this eight was previously rung from for centuries. Sadly, that is also something that we can’t do currently, but hope springs forth from the resumption of ringing on the Channel Islands this weekend and the quarter-peal of five Doubles methods rung in New Zealand today on what appears to be the front six of the 20cwt eight at Hamilton Cathedral. Both places have been far less affected by coronavirus than here in the UK, but it does seem to show – subject to what might happen in the coming weeks – that ringing in a COVID-19 world with no vaccine may be possible.

God willing those Sundays will again be as busy as they once were one day soon.

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Saturday 30th May 2020

With all due respect to those who rang the impressive 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major on Handbell Stadium last Monday, today saw the first ‘standard’ peal for three weeks as the Pipe boys from Willingham became the first band to ring a 5040 together in the same room on the same set of handbells since... Well, since the Pipe boys from Willingham rang a 5040 together in the same room on the same set of handbells on 9th May. It was also eldest son Henry’s one hundredth peal – congratulations to the great nephew of Ipswich’s very own Diana and of course George.

Meanwhile, whilst the launch of two astronauts from the USA were a nice distraction from coronavirus, we were enjoying the sunshine and later took in a very good report on BBC News about how ringers are using Ringing Room to continue ringing during lockdown. It was good to see some familiar faces such as Robin Hall and Mark Davies (who recently did that superb webinar on composing) and I thought it struck the right balance between showing the ringers ingenuity and that it isn’t meant as a future replacement for actual ringing on church bells.

Swaffham.I also clicked on the Random button on BellBoard again. On this occasion it brought up a quarter-peal rung at Swaffham in Norfolk on 11th November 2007 and featuring Beccy and Jonathan Dickenson. I used to do quite a bit of ringing with one or both of them in initial couple of years after my return to Suffolk, primarily with QPs arranged by former Pettistree ringer Paul Norris, including five in a day north of the River Waveney in October 2006. Both very good ringers who have sadly – for us in East Anglia at least – moved out of the area and good company and generally I enjoyed Paul’s arrangements which were worthwhile the long journeys, at least before our circumstances began changing.

Paul has also been present at one of the many key incidents that Ruthie and I used to have, that tended to see keys being lost and requiring some occasionally ridiculous solutions to either get us to where we needed to be or finding the lost keys. On the 11/11/2007 I found myself in the depths of such an incident when I discovered on that Remembrance Sunday morning that Ruthie had left early with my keys in her bag for a 1260 of four Doubles methods at Pettistree with her mother, leaving me stuck at the Eagle’s abode (where I’d spent the night after joining them for the Hollesley outing to Hertfordshire the day before) and unable to drive to St Mary-le-Tower where I was due to run the ringing on one of the most important Sabbaths of the year. The solution came from the unusual source of my now wife’s non-ringing sister Clare, who was very generously able to get me to SMLT via her boyfriend’s work and then had to sit through the morning’s ringing! Mercifully we seem to have become more responsible with keys, but with us currently leaving the house much less frequently it is less of an issue at the moment anyway!

Even with the easing on who we can see and where from Monday, I still can’t imagine we’ll be leaving the house too much more in the very near future either. Therefore I am still on the lookout for different things to keep us occupied whilst at home and have noted the Project Pickled Egg webinar that Simon Linford is planning on giving twice next Sunday at 8am and 7pm – I would encourage any Surprise Major ringer within our borders (or indeed beyond) to do likewise!

Hopefully we will have seen more peals rung by then too!

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Friday 29th May 2020

Responsible but upbeat messaging from the Stewardship & Management Workgroup of the Central Council today with guidelines on things to consider when returning to ringing church bells. And there is much to consider. Bells have not been rung and in most places won’t have had any maintenance carried out on them for two-and-a-half months and so before any ringing is done on them it will be essential that checks are made. Neighbours used to the silence will need to be primed. Perhaps the period before we do get going again may be useful for putting some form of sound control up (my personal thoughts, not those of the CCCBR), but certainly building or reaffirming relationships with residents will be more important than ever.

Exning.It is important to note that with social distancing of two metres still in place and people from other households still being discouraged from meeting together in confined spaces for all but the most essential tasks, bands generally gathering together to ring at churches is still a long way off I imagine, but with bellhangers and the like now allowed back into towers to work and these guidelines, we seem finally to be able to move in the direction of getting back to ringing, as outlined by Paul Mason and Andrew Mills testing the newly fitted clappers at Suffolk’s most westerly tower Exning and thus doing what is believed to be the first actual change-ringing on actual bells hung in an actual church tower since the practice was suspended back in March. Good to see one of our towers making the news!

Still, for now and the foreseeable, I found myself pushing the Random button on a still sparse looking BellBoard again and for the second day running it took me to the days following a very special event in our lives as it brought up a peal rung on handbells at Aldenham School in Hertfordshire on 18th April 2014 and featuring familiar names, including Samuel Austin who I have had the pleasure of doing much ringing and socialising with in the past. He is an extremely clever, quick-witted Scouser who is not only an extremely good ringer but also an excellent musician.

Ufford.Southwark Cathedral.The Wolery.However, after yesterday’s performance took me back to our wedding, today’s took me back to the birth of Alfie just eight days previous to the aforementioned 5152 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major in the Home Counties. I was still on paternity leave, although 18/4/2014 was actually Good Friday and therefore a bank holiday. Usually I would’ve been partaking in the brace of peal attempts rung at The Wolery either side of a fantastic spread from our hosts David and Katharine Salter. With Alfred’s due date being the day before though, I obviously couldn’t commit to them and indeed I refrained from peal-ringing for several weeks beforehand that saw me have to turn down an attempt at Southwark Cathedral, which had been disappointing, though entirely necessary. However, we did get to take the new born child along to Rectory Road to socialise and allow Mason to enjoy his usual Good Friday playdate with his peer Henry, as a brace of peals were scored in the blue shed at the top of their garden. And as with our wedding, we were touched with the performances dedicated to this life-changing event, culminating with a 5040 of Munnings Little Delight Major rung at Ufford through my sleep deprivation. Happy days fondly remembered!

That said, in the context of the current circumstances, today will be relatively fondly remembered. With everyone currently having to spend Friday evenings at home as we have had to spend just about every Friday evening for the last five years, lockdown has conversely drastically improved our social lives on the first night of the weekend. On this occasion both of us joined in with a game of Family Fortunes on my now usual weekly catch-up with my uni friends, but beforehand we also finally took up Simon Rudd’s invite to a video chat. Quite a few others from across the country and particularly Norfolk did too. It was lovely to reacquaint with some like Nikki and Neil Thomas and Simon Smith, as well as speak to others I don’t know so well. Lovely to hear that on the Channel Islands of Alderney and Guernsey where they have been less affected by coronavirus (indeed, they apparently have no infections currently) that ringing on tower bells is being cautiously restarted.

It was all a very upbeat way to end an upbeat day.

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Thursday 28th May 2020

Another day of good news. The relaxation of restrictions which will allow up to six people to gather in gardens so long as social distancing is observed is not only welcome for its main purposes of seeing family and friends in a more private and relaxed setting, but also widens the scope for getting handbell bands together from different households. Perhaps we might see quarters and peals on twelve with face-to-face bands in the traditional sense again?

Premier League football looks set to return in ‘just’ three weeks and the launch this morning of ‘track and trace will hopefully offer some reassurance to those who will be understandably nervous of returning to ringing chambers for health reasons when we are given the go ahead to go back.

Reedham.Nonetheless, nothing about today was much different to most of the weekdays (and to an extent weekends too) from the last ten weeks or so. Whilst that primarily meant work for me and parenting for Ruthie and what might be the tenth and final applause for the wonderful staff of the NHS, I did get the chance to enjoy the blog of The Accidental Ringer, who was reporting on the latest of the weekly video talks for the ringers of South Walsham in Norfolk. On this occasion it was given on “Big Bells and the ladies who ring them” and was given by Julia Cater, who is one of the best female ringers of heavy bells around. Having rung peals with Julia (including on the heavyweight bells of Exeter Cathedral and York Minster), I can testify that like our very own Laura Davies and the late Alison Regan amongst others, she shows that it is not size that matters but technique and so she would’ve been the perfect person to speak on the subject and apparently gave a very enjoyable talk.

That said, it is still the case that whilst there are more prominent female ringers at an elite level and ringing big bells than there once was, it still tends to be men who come to the fore generally. Partly that may be that young men in particular may be more prone to showing off by ringing big bells or complex peals to an extent that women don’t feel the need and perhaps even now in these times when it needn’t be the case that women are expected to be the primary childcare in a family and therefore get fewer opportunities. However, I don’t really see a reason why there should be fewer women then men at the top of the art and hopefully more will be given the chances to show what they can do.

Meanwhile, Simon Linford gave the latest on the 123rd Annual Meeting of the Central Council which is due to be held in September and entirely unlike any of the previous 122. Like most meetings social or business these days, it looks like it will have to be a largely virtual affair, although exactly how and to what extent is still being considered it appears.

St Magnus the Mertyr.And for today performances on BellBoard were either rung on handbells or mini-rings with a band from the same household or via the internet in one way or another. Therefore I reached for the Random button on the site, which on this occasion brought up a quarter-peal rung at St Magnus the Martyr in the capital on 16th August 2012. The bells here have been a tremendous resource for ringers of all abilities since being cast in 2008 and 2009 and then hung in this previously empty tower in the City of London during the latter year and which Ruthie and I rang at back in 2011 on the morning after the last time we attended the College Youths’ Annual Dinner.

On the same day as that 1260 of Plain Bob Triples was being rung though, we were in Ireland. More precisely in Limerick before moving onto Killarney whilst on our honeymoon following on from our wedding five days earlier at Woodbridge. It is a beautiful country that we would love to visit again one day when travelling is considered less reckless and is a trip that Mrs Munnings and myself still fondly remember, as we do of the big day itself of course. We were also touched by the various quarters and peals rung at the time to celebrate it. Although logistics didn’t allow for us to have everyone there we would’ve liked, it was a wonderful day shared with family and many friends and some lovely ringing.

God willing we will soon be able to spend more time with some of them soon.

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Wednesday 27th May 2020

Whilst the daily death tolls constantly remind us of the impact on health that coronavirus has had and why we find ourselves in these unprecedented circumstances and I haven’t touched a bellrope for seventy-two days, it seems to be when we come to days when highlights of typical year would’ve happened that the impact on life itself seems most stark.

Personally it has been difficult to miss out on taking the boys to Ipswich Town matches, a weekend away to celebrate the boys’ Grandad Ron’s birthday and so much from a ringing perspective, such as the National Twelve-Bell Striking Competition, the AGM day, South-East District Striking Competitions and Guild Striking Competitions.

The Vestey Ring.I haven’t been to the Suffolk Show for a few years (I’ve not got round to booking the time of work and re-mortgaging the house to take the whole family along and enjoy everything it has to offer), but I could certainly appreciate the sorrow amongst those who would’ve been at the first day of this year’s show today had it not been for this pandemic. Even from afar I love the atmosphere around the area with Trinity Park being less than ten miles away from us. And I do have fond memories of actually going to the event, not least from the last time I made it along in 2011 when I helped man the The Vestey Ring on a gloriously sunny day, even finishing with a historic quarter-peal at the end! We were popular that day, but I also had the opportunity to explore the hundreds of stalls, shows, food, drink and the marvellous atmosphere. Sadly the chance to promote the art here hasn’t presented itself since, which is a pity as it was magnificent PR. As I understand it the costs to have an individual stall are far beyond the budget of the Guild and so we have to find someone who is willing to let us tag along. The most obvious candidate is the Diocesan tent, but the impression I got nine years ago was that whilst the noise of the bells was enjoyed by and caught the attention of the passing punters it was a bit much for those who had to listen to them for two days solid! God willing a way can be found to make this happen again in the future.

Pettistree.That said, it was unlikely that we would’ve changed our recent habits and joined the anticipated 95,000+ total visitors in going along on either day this year and so in a sense today for us went largely as I imagine it probably would’ve done even without the current restrictions. It is half-term, so Ruthie would’ve been at home with the boys as she was today, albeit without having spent almost every waking hour of the last two-and-a-half months with them beforehand! My day was taken up with work, although of course still from our house. However, one of us would likely have gone to Pettistree’s weekly practice and probably The Greyhound afterwards – another treat that would usually have broken up the usual weekly routine currently though necessarily withdrawn from us in these weary times. Although it afforded the opportunity to read CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog (#10).

Nonetheless, with not much actual ringing to report (bar an impressive QP of twenty-three Surprise Major methods on Ringing Room), I reached for the Random button on BellBoard again and on this occasion came up with a handbell peal rung on 29th March 2018 in Hitchin featuring John Loveless, who most will know set out in the exercise within our borders and is currently in the process of finishing off the eagerly-awaited biography of George Pipe. The 5152 of Superlative Surprise Major was particularly impressive for being rung silent and non-conducted, which meant that the band all knew the composition and rang it without any calls being put in verbally or visually. Indeed, it seems to have been a culmination of a project of ringing peals of the ‘standard eight’ Surprise Major methods – Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, London, Pudsey, Rutland, Superlative and Yorkshire – in such a way and are believed to have been the first band to achieve this in hand.

On that same day just over two years ago it was actually Maundy Thursday and my mind was predominantly occupied by the announcement that Mick McCarthy was going to finish being ITFC manager, but it also prompted me to consider the AGM at Bury St Edmunds that was at that point forthcoming and particularly the SGR’s own change at the top as Alan Stanley’s successful five-year stint came to an end. He was subsequently to be replaced with Rowan Wilson and I have considerable sympathy with her currently. She is very much a doer and very driven to do as much for the Guild as possible, so these must be very frustrating times for her in that sense.

Hopefully one day she – and the rest of us – will be able to get going again sooner rather than later and we can return to enjoying those highlights of the year!

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Tuesday 26th May 2020

Positive news today, as John Taylor & Co restarted operations after halting their projects and furloughing their staff when restrictions first began. The influence of Taylors can be found throughout Suffolk up its church towers and since the closure of Whitechapel a few years ago their importance to the art has increased (although they are far from the sole providers of the services they offer), so this is very good news for the exercise.

It is also an upbeat sign that God willing we are one day closer to returning to ring many of the bells they have cast that are hanging in church towers, but for now the 216 changes of Plain Bob Minor rung on handbells at a social distance across a lawn today indicates where we’re up to in this slow burning, tragic saga. Although no performances of London and/or Durham rung to reflect the main headline of the moment!

The Wolery. Helmingham.Meanwhile, after yesterday’s bank holiday I returned to working at home and despite it being half-term, Alfie did do some learning as we were blessed with another hot, sunny day and come the evening enjoyed watching the episode of Only Fools and Horses where scenes were filmed down Rectory Road (where The Wolery is) and at Helmingham church (right at the end), which by the power of TV is transferred to the seaside!
Worle.And pushing the Random button on BellBoard is still part of my daily ‘entertainment’ and today brought up a quarter-peal rung at Worle in Somerset last Christmas Day, aptly in St Nicholas Bob Doubles, which saw Martin Blazey complete the calendar to quarters, which means he has now rung a QP on every date in the calendar. Unsurprisingly I don’t need the blog to tell me what I was doing that day, as I was doing what I have broadly been doing on 25th December for most of my life – ringing and then spending the rest of the day with first Ruthie’s family and then mine, opening presents, eating, drinking and generally making merry. Although only five months ago, it seems a lifetime, yet despite it being even longer until next Christmas, it is still very much in the air (some may say very unlikely) that our day will be spent in anything like the same way as normal. Will we be able to ring? Will we be able to see family, let alone go into their homes or vice versa? Hopefully we will on all fronts.

Now that would be positive news!

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Monday 25th May 2020

I’m not entirely sure what we would’ve been doing on this Bank Holiday Monday if it wasn’t for the current restrictions. In the past for a brief while it meant going to the Central Council Annual Meeting, but I went to my last meeting almost exactly a decade ago in Derby and the meeting is now held in September anyway. Even further back it was when we went on the St Neots’ ringers weekend away, organised by the late, Tim Griffiths, whose son Tom is now quite rightly considered one of the world’s best.

More recently though, it has tended to be a quieter day from a ringing perspective, bar when St Mary-le-Tower have held their weekly practice. Last year I took the boys to Framlingham Gala Fest, but otherwise the day has often been spent pottering around at home and so it was actually not much different, although Ruthie may have been at work if the shop wasn’t still closed and there was still that sense that we were stuck at home because we had to be.

Therefore, there was plenty of reminiscing of days when we were less restricted. Primarily from a footballing perspective as BBC Radio Suffolk ran a programme celebrating the late May Bank Holiday Monday of twenty years ago when Ipswich Town beat Barnsley 4-2 in the Division One Play-Off Final at Wembley, the last time ITFC were promoted to the Premier League and indeed the last time the club achieved any success. It was a match that my brother watched having travelled down from our West Midlands base of the time on a wonderful day.

Grappenhall.However, pushing the Random button on BellBoard brought up memories of when I first moved to the Black Country when I went to university in Dudley in 1997, as it highlighted a quarter-peal of Titanium Surprise Major rung at Grappenhall (an eight replaced with a new ten last year) in Cheshire on 17th April that year. At that point I was weeks from taking my A-Levels which ultimately took me to the University of Wolverhampton that autumn and thrust me into the Birmingham ringing scene less than ten miles away and which I was to enjoy for eight years before my return to my homeland. I was blessed to have a way into the best ringing in the world through my connections to David and Rod Pipe and particularly the latter’s roots in Suffolk and within a few days of being greeted at the bottom of the steps to St Martin-in-the-Bulling’s famous ringing chamber by David before my first practice there, I was very kindly being asked in peals, although I wasn’t to actually score one until nearly two months in. That was a nerve-wracking 5040 of Newgate Surprise Maximus at St Philip’s Cathedral across the UK’s second city, which was still only my fiftieth altogether and seemed a long way from the peal of Minor at the familiar Sproughton for my forty-ninth! I am forever grateful for the opportunities I was given by the Brummies, but also in Suffolk, starting with the 8cwt gallery-ring of six where I learnt to ring.

Alfie having his first practice at cycling without stabilisers.Meanwhile, today was bookended by catching up with my father’s sister and former ringer Aunty Marian on the phone and a trip to the park to give Alfie his first go on his bike without stabilisers. Like our handbell ringing, it is a promising start, but God willing more is to come!

As I imagine there is from Handbell Stadium after the first peal was rung on this platform set-up specifically to meet the challenges of ringing under the restrictions of the last ten weeks, as a band from Cambridgeshire, Berkshire and Staffordshire rang a 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major. An impressive effort and a new way to spend a Bank Holiday Monday.

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Sunday 24th May 2020

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Dominic Cummings’ comings and goings over lockdown which are currently making the headlines, there is no denying that seeing family outside of your household is far from the easy arrangement it once was. And so it was this afternoon when seeing my parents from afar to see them in person for only the second time since all of this began. It was all very convivial and extremely good for the mental well-being of all concerned, but also very long distance and unnatural. Frankly I can’t wait for a time when we can somewhere near to family and friends and relax!

That they haven’t got the facilities to join in with calls (though not for the lack of searching) doesn’t help, but thank God for the technology that allows us to keep in touch with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers and then Woodbridge St Mary-the-Virgin churchgoers as has become the norm for a Sunday morning. With the former it was nice to hear from Abby Antrobus and Diana Pipe about their lockdown birthdays this week on a chat where the topic of ringing was conspicuous by its absence.

Rode.Therefore, bar the now usual collection of performances rung online (including what is believed to be the first transatlantic quarter-peal with half the band in the UK and half the band in the US) or in hand by households of ringers,  the performance that came up today when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard was the only the source of ringing-related content for this blog entry . On this occasion it was a 1260 of Newby Bridge Bob Minor rung at Rode in Somerset on 25th April 2018. On the face of it, quite an ordinary quarter-peal, but looking at the band (and these days there is plenty of time to check their ringing habits on BB!) they are extremely frequent quarter-pealers, with all bar one already having rung dozens in the medium in the short amount of 2020 that we were able to ring church bells, which suggests it would probably have been of a high quality. Only John West hasn’t got quarters under his belt this year yet, having – according to the footnote to his last QP in December - set off Down Under until March. Whether he got back or not isn’t clear, but I suspect if he has returned there wouldn’t have been time for much ringing in the UK!

The method they rang on 25/4/2018 was one of those dreadful methods that I dislike personally, with three blows in one place here and four blows in one place there, but ringing such unfamiliar though not complicated methods usually raises the concentration levels and I imagine that was probably the case here.

On the same day – so my blog says – my wife and her mother Kate were ringing with another band used to partaking in well-rung quarter-peals as they went to Pettistree for the weekly practice and rang in the QP attempt that typically precedes it. Unusually on this occasion it was not scored, although it was of the “Cambridge Twelve” Surprise Minor methods spliced and as usual they had a very enjoyable evening afterwards, climaxing with a drink in The Greyhound next door. Those were the days when spending time with friends and family was so much easier.

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Saturday 23rd May 2020

Ston Easton. Alderney, St Anne.If there is one thing that the cessation of ringing on church bells has allowed ringers to do more off, it is going into stats and it was a post on Facebook from John Thurman about the numbers of twelve-bell towers that he has rung peals at that inspired me to do similar. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, John and I were on not too dissimilar trajectories in our ringing generally, but especially peal-ringing. Indeed, we rang thirty-two peals together in a five-year period, most of them in Birmingham and/or on twelve or above. However, whilst I stepped away from regular peal-ringing for a short while, then moved to Suffolk and got distracted by parenthood(!), he continued regularly ringing at the top level. He is also a more talented ringer than me, as the successes such as the 25200 of 210 Treble Dodging methods spliced at Ston Easton last December and the 25,056 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Alderney in 2017 testify, with it being highly unlikely that I would’ve been capable of either even if I had continued at that sort of level.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that I have pealed nowhere near the same number of twelves as JT, who at more than one hundred ‘big ticks’, makes my total rather paltry in comparison with just twenty-eight (thirty if you include the sixteens of St Martin’s in Birmingham and Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, which I’m not sure if one should or not) and whilst John rang peals at eighteen different twelves in 2001, the most I managed in a calendar year was in 2000 when I pealed five – Amersham in Buckinghamshire, Cambridge, Shrewsbury and the cathedrals of Exeter and Peterborough. And it is a while since I grabbed a new twelve - either 2012 when I rang my first one on twelve at The Norman Tower where I had already rung peals on the ten before augmentation or way back in 2008 when I rang peals at Newcastle Cathedral and Mike Dew’s private twelve in Church Lawford in Warwickshire.  It was all great fun, travelling somewhere new on a Saturday and sometimes making a weekend of it and I’d love to pick it up again one day (it would be great to ring a peal at Liverpool Cathedral one day to complete the heaviest five for example), circumstances permitting.

Runner beans/mini-ring frame.By “circumstances” I primarily mean when parenthood needs to be less hands on (maybe even when the boys might partake in it with me/us?), but of course at the moment and for the foreseeable future, nobody is adding a new twelve to their peal totals, let alone me. Therefore, although there was more online and handbell ringing activity recorded on BellBoard today, we spent this latest lockdown Saturday in the same way as many other ringers probably did, with more mundane tasks, although not necessarily unsatisfying. Ruthie was quite rightly pleased with her efforts to construct a frame for her runner beans so sturdy you could almost hang a mini-ring on it!

It was a positive development on a generally positive day and there was some positive news that the search for the 1973 Ringing World edition mentioned earlier this week has taken some encouraging turns and in the process given the Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson some ideas for the SGR’s centenary year in 2023 and revealed that plans for the Dinner that year are already under way!
Wellington Cathedral.Meanwhile, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today was on 11th February 2016 and rung on the other side of the world at Wellington Cathedral in New Zealand and was a 1320 of London Surprise Minor on what appears to have been the front six of this 27cwt twelve. My mother and father went to NZ a few years ago and it is somewhere I’d be fascinated to visit and ring in, having heard only good things about it.

Ufford.According to the blog, on the same day that our ringing peers in the Antipodes were quarter-pealing on the North Island, on the same day we should have been doing some ringing by popping along to the Second Thursday Surprise Major Practice usually held at Ufford but on this occasion being run at Hollesley. These practices have been extremely useful over the years, but just before the cessation of church bell ringing, Mike Whitby and Kate Eagle had laid out a plan to turn these into more focussed monthly QPs on the second Tuesday when there hadn’t previously been a session on the 13cwt eight of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary due to the WI meetings that were once held across the churchyard, but which had been freed up by those stopping.
Hopefully that will still be the case whenever things get up and running again, but on this occasion just over four years ago we were sort of self-isolating long before that became a thing, as illness spread through our household. At the time we always felt assured as one ever could be that other opportunities to ring were forthcoming shortly, so it didn’t matter too much, disappointing as it was at the time.  Of course now we have no real certainty of when we will return to change-ringing on church bells (some proclaim that it’ll never return, but God willing that doesn’t turn out to be the case), but at least handbells and technology allow it to continue to a point.

When we aren’t all going into our stats.

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Friday 22nd May 2020

Small things are big triumphs at the moment. Like managing a few extents of Plain Bob Minimus on handbells or getting Alfie and Joshua learning. Today’s victory was finally removing a fence post that the boys’ Grandad Ron had (very) securely fixed into the ground when we moved in and has certainly done its job, but which after the reorganisation of our garden was no longer necessary. I started digging it out during my lunchbreak yesterday and after Ruthie had periodically been continuing the dig amongst schooling the boys I helped her finally pull the monster amount of concrete that had been holding it very firmly in place in today’s lunch break before I returned to work for a rest! And the day was topped off with a game of Blankety Blank with my uni mates via video.

East Farndon.It was in all honesty a more productive day than the one I came across on 30th April 2016 after I had pushed the Random button on BellBoard, although I noted that many of Suffolk’s ringers were doing much ringing beyond our borders. The performance that took me there was a 1272 of Carlisle Surprise Minor rung at East Farndon in Northamptonshire featured a couple of familiar faces in the form of Pam Bailey – who is a good friend of my mother – and Paul McNutt, who is a very understated, but extremely talented ringer who I had the good fortune to ring nine peals with, all but three of them on twelve and featuring efforts of spliced Cinques and Maximus, a couple of Bristol Surprise Maximus and efforts in Avon Delight Maximus, Orion Surprise Maximus and Saiph Surprise Maximus. To underline his ability, even in the short period of time that we have been able to ring on church bells in 2020 he has managed a peal of Bristol Max and 5760s of eighty-three and sixty-four Treble Dodging Minor methods spliced.

That day was a busy day within in this branch, with four QPs rung in what is just one of ten branches within the Peterborough Diocesan Guild and I hope that such activity will be possible sooner rather than later – it is interesting looking at the PDG’s website that their AGM which had been due to take place on Saturday 13th June is now pencilled in for Saturday 19th September. Whilst that may prove to be optimistic, hopefully their AGM and our own AGM will be able to take place before 2020 is out.

Now that would feel like a big triumph!

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Thursday 21st May 2020

St Mary-le-Tower Ringers’ video quiz.This evening was possibly the most fun evening we have had since lockdown began as we joined in with the first online St Mary-le-Tower Ringers’ quiz, hosted magnificently by Sue and Jonathan Williamson. That we somehow won only added to the enjoyment as we took on rounds that covered pictures of cartoon characters, song lyrics, world landmarks from the air and a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-inspired round, all topped off with a scavenger hunt. As winners, we have now taken on the role of quizmasters, so we can’t guarantee it being as good next time!

There was some sad news that I learnt today though, as I heard of the death of Coral Fry. She was a lovely lady and I got to know her and George when I lived and rang in Tunstall on my return to the county fifteen years ago. Our thoughts go out to George and their family.

It is a sobering reminder of why things have to be as mundane as they have been and indeed today took on a familiar looking format of me working, Ruthie schooling the boys and the weekly applause for the NHS and other key workers, all without going any further than the top of our front garden. And of course I clicked on the Random button on BellBoard to see what metaphorical journey down memory lane it might take me.

Aslacton.On this occasion, it took me back to 1993 with a quarter-peal rung over the Norfolk border at Aslacton on 15th April, which was the most methods rung for Harold Turner and Anthony Sargent and featured some familiar names. Many within our borders will know of Paul Cattermole (who sadly passed away in July 2009) and Jeremy Warren, but it was the latter that I did the most ringing with, particularly around those earlier years of my ringing. In fact, Jeremy rang in my first peal inside later that year in the peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus on the morning of 11th September when that date was more synonymous with being the wedding day of David and Katharine Salter rather than events of precisely eight years later.

Along with their nuptials, it was generally a year of celebration for the Suffolk Guild as it celebrated its seventieth anniversary, had a great year of PR and won the Ridgman Trophy at St Neots in Cambridgeshire. When the SGR won it again the following year at Tollesbury in Essex, we had won it three times out of the seven times it had been held up until then and nobody had been victorious in it as often as us at that point. However, we haven’t won it since, despite coming close on a number of occasions. Ten bells is the only level I haven’t won a striking competition on (I’m rather conveniently glossing over the one-off four-bell at Campsea Ashe to raise funds for the augmentation there many years ago!) and therefore one that I am keen to get under my belt, but I shan’t get the chance this year with next month’s planned contest amongst the debris of destroyed plans.

Still, if we have more nights like this I can just about cope with all that we’re missing.

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Wednesday 20th May 2020

There isn’t much going on at the moment and when much is happening its generally not good, so it is natural to reminisce and there was definitely a massive dollop of that today.

It has been doing the rounds on social media over the last couple of days, but today I watched the ringers’ Songs of Praise from 1991 for the first time probably since it aired. Indeed, I had forgotten about it until it popped up on Facebook earlier this week, but it is a real gem of ringing history with the entire episode devoted to the exercise. St Martin’s-in-the-Fields in London was packed in a way that one can only dream of in these socially distanced times and whenever the camera panned across the congregation familiar faces leapt out and possibly many others that I didn’t notice due to the near thirty years taken off them! I’m pretty sure that I saw Woolpit ringer Val Mayhew in there and I definitely saw Andrew Wilby and his son Michael, as well as fellow Rambling Ringer Phil Ramsbottom. And George Pipe towers above everyone in every sense alongside Diana and is interviewed about 27mins 40secs into the 34minutes-long programme. It is also interesting to see filming at Melbourne in Derbyshire when the now twelve was an eight. Well worth a watch even (or perhaps especially) almost three decades later.

Bristol, Christ Church.Coincidentally, when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard on this hot May Wednesday, it also took me back to the start of the 1990s with a peal rung at Christ Church in Bristol on 16th November 1990. Not that it was a particularly happy time as this was the month that my paternal nana Lillian Munnings passed away, but as ever the response of the ringing family was a big comfort, particularly to a twelve-year-old me. Either side of that 5040 of Bristol Surprise Royal in the south-west of England peals rung at Hadleigh on 10th November and at St Mary-le-Tower on 17th November were dedicated to the memory of my father’s mother. She was a lovely grandparent and great supporter of ringing events, so she certainly left her mark on the art locally!

Happier football memories were brought to the fore as well this evening as I took advantage of ITV showing the legendary Euro 96 tournament in full to watch the best England match of the competition (many argue one of the best ever from our national team) as they beat the Netherlands 4-1.

The Wolery. Pettistree.That doesn’t sound like it left much for the here and now and in a sense you’d be right, in the sense that in the present nothing much happened personally or from a wider ringing sense that was any different to the last couple of months. Instead of going to The Wolery or attending Pettistree practice and going to The Greyhound afterwards, my Wednesday evenings are now for our weekly shop, whilst more broadly the ringing recorded on BB was restricted to various online performances and handbell ringing (bar a quarter on The Waikato Mini Ring in New Zealand where the restrictions seem to easing more than here) and for the eleventh day running no peals anywhere in the world were recorded since the Pipe boys (who along with the Perrins family of Australia had been keeping peal-ringing going on their own!) rang a 5040 at their home in Willingham way back on 9th May.

Even peal-ringing seems like something to reminisce about.

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Tuesday 19th May 2020

John Loveless’ biography of George Pipe is an eagerly awaited publication. It’s launch has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but the extra time has allowed Jake to make some amendments and additions which became necessary following George’s sad passing a couple of months ago. Primarily this is in the form changing the tense of much of what he has written and adding the incredible reaction from across the world to George’s death, but he is also looking for help in the back cover. He has in mind – very fittingly – to use the front page of the Ringing World edition of 6th April 1973 (issue no. 2332) which features seven Suffolk churches all drawn by GWP. He is hoping to find a copy of good enough quality to scan, which his own copy isn’t after nearly fifty years and whilst Will Bosworth is planning on searching for a copy at the RW offices in Andover when he next goes in and we have Guild Librarian Abby Antrobus on the case from our end, if anyone has this copy in very good condition then let me know and I’ll let John know.

Whilst former Bures ringer Mr Loveless is busying himself with what is sure to be a fascinating book, our activities today were rather less fascinating. More home schooling and home working, all of which was very important and worthwhile, but not very exciting. Although some home ringing for Alfie and me was rather more fun!

Waterloo Tower.Therefore, I reached for the Random button on BellBoard again to see what it would bring up this time to bulk up today’s blog. On this occasion it took me to a 1260 of Plain Bob Royal on the back ten of the 15cwt twelve hung in Waterloo Tower, a free-standing, secular tower in Quex Park in Kent on 1st May 2010. A QP at QP if you will. Apparently it was used as a film location in Blake’s 7 (it first appears just over five minutes into the episode titled ‘Bounty’ and frequently after that if you’re interested), but it has long held a fascination amongst ringers, especially before mini-rings increased the numbers of places to unusual locations to ring from and as a boy learning to ring I was intrigued when I first visited there on a ringing outing. I think it was a Guild outing in the 1990s, but my memory may be playing tricks on me!

On the same day as Elizabeth Shearman and Benjamin Legg were ringing their first quarter of Royal on this novelty venue, Ruthie and I were partaking in the South-East District Striking Competition at Sproughton. Although poorly attended, it was a typically enjoyable day that even allowed us to have a pint in the now shut (and was before COVID-19 became an issue here) Wild Man, with St Mary-le-Tower coming out on top this time in the ringing.

We are in the midst of what would’ve been striking competition season, locally and nationally and I have missed the fun of these days. They are a misunderstood medium, with many people thinking a bit too much about them, whether they are fair, what the judges are there for, how good you need to be to take part, but for me they are first and foremost a fun, important way of helping to raise standards, not just on the day but generally. I think George Pipe found them very important too and having judged three National Twelve-Bell Finals and rung in a further three and won countless competitions regionally and locally, I imagine striking competitions may get a mention in his much awaited biography!

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Monday 18th May 2020

‘Stick With It Suffolk’ is the new mantra announced today and is appropriately timed. The temperatures outside are rising, the sun is shining, some restrictions have been eased, the county has one of the lowest infection rates in the UK and the handbell quarter-peal from Hamilton in New Zealand offers a tantalising glimpse of what the next stage in ringing could be one day here.

However, essentially things haven’t changed. We still need to be careful and restrained in the hope that ultimately something approaching normality will return sooner rather than much later.

Therefore, we played it as safe as possible, as we have tried to do ever since restrictions were introduced a couple of months ago, working, schooling and ringing from home, although not fundraising from home as Grundisburgh ringer Gillian Twissell is, for which she was interviewed by Luke Deal about 1hr 53mins 50secs into this morning’s BBC Radio Suffolk Breakfast Show whilst she was sat in the bath! And with lots of extra time in the evenings and plenty of ingenuity from others online, much ringing related is still happening on the internet. Today I personally enjoyed watching the maths lesson led by ringer Emily Russell with the help of fellow ringer Dale Winter using change-ringing as the basis of the tutorial!

Chirk.Of course, the digital world has also allowed my mind to wander through ringing’s past by pushing the Random button on BellBoard and on this occasion it brought up a performance that on its own was largely insignificant, but was part of a wider significant response from ringing to a notable event, albeit one that I - like many others – were slightly bemused by. When Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was engulfed by fire on 15th April last year it was a shocking sight, particularly for any of us who appreciate churches and cathedrals. Yet it was just a building and it all actually turned out a whole lot better than it could have done as at one point there was apparently a very real danger of the towers and possibly therefore most of the cathedral collapsing altogether, and mercifully nobody died. Therefore, the call from then Prime Minister Theresa May and the Archbishop of Canterbury to ring bells in solidarity with the fire-damaged building and the French people was met with a good deal of consternation, especially as it was Maundy Thursday (when most church bells would typically not be rung) and no such call had been made for when many had died in Grenfell Tower just a couple of years earlier, although many ringers did mark that tragedy sporadically and off their own backs. To give the Archbishop and PM their dues, they may not have been awoken to the ability of ringers to respond to events in such numbers until the incredible display of mass ringing to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War just five months earlier, but whilst clearly well meaning, it was a decision that was to be scrutinised further later that weekend when a terrorist attack in Sri Lanka killed many in churches celebrating Easter and yet which received no similar call to ring in solidarity, although again ringing did mark it.

Nonetheless, many, many towers rang with what I could describe best as “questioning obedience” and rang in one form or another, including eighty-five performances within our borders and the random performance that I came across from BB when the 7cwt tenor at Chirk in Wales was tolled. That one of the six was merely tolled did demonstrate the logistical challenge that there were more bells to ring nationwide than ringers to ring them all at the same time and indeed neither of us joined in as Ruthie was at choir practice and therefore I was at home looking after the boys, although my wife did hear the bells of Woodbridge ringing for the occasion as they rang some call-changes on the back six of the 25cwt eight.

Of course ringing can’t react to the terrible consequences of the coronavirus pandemic or indeed anything else for that matter, but it has been heartening to see bells being tolled from private rings – including from Janet Sheldrake and Gordon Slack with The Milbeck Ring in Shelland – and with handbells for the now traditional applause for the NHS and key workers at 8pm on Thursdays.

Hopefully it is a sign that although we can’t ring as we wish to, we can stick with it for as long as is necessary.

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Sunday 17th May 2020

The Swan Tower.Despite international problems with Zoom, we still managed our now traditional Sunday morning video chats with fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers and then St Mary-the-Virgin Woodbridge churchgoers. Although those issues meant that some on the former could be heard but not seen and meant we missed out on Diana Pipe’s company altogether, we were encouraged by news that the ringers at Swan Tower in Perth in Australia are planning on starting to ring again next week. It may be in different circumstances to here in the UK where we have been hit harder by coronavirus, but it gives hope that one day change-ringing at churches will resume, whenever that may be.

Some thought was being given to that return online, albeit with tongue-in-cheek, as it was suggested that ‘open air’ ringing chambers could be created by knocking a few walls through. Inevitably Cotton and East Bergholt came up...

Barrow Gurney.Meanwhile, BellBoard clearly wants me to take notice of Barrow Gurney in Somerset as for the second day running a performance on the 11cwt eight appeared when I pushed the Random button today. I don’t think I’ve ever rung there, but Mike Whitby rang his one thousandth quarter-peal there back in 2008 and it is a place familiar to a few Suffolk residents who have ended up in or near there in recent years. Robert Beavis (if he’s still reading this after his Facebook message yesterday!) and Alex Tatlow have both rung twelve peals apiece there, whilst Philip Moyse, George Salter and Molly Waterson have all rung two each.

However, none of them featured in the QP from 17th December 2015 that BB offered forth on this occasion. According to the blog though, I wasn’t do any ringing. Rather, I was talking to BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Lesley Dolphin about one of the highlights of the ringing calendar locally, the Christmas ringing around the churches of Ipswich that was to happen a couple of days later.

Perhaps it will happen again this year, but as with anything planned for 2020 and indeed beyond, there is uncertainty over whether it will at this point.

At least in our household we can do ringing of some sorts with our toy handbells, which have given us much needed exercise for our ringing brains, especially when we are rarely available when Ringing Room invites arise. Having generally got the hang of Plain Bob Minimus (even with Joshua telling us not to be “so noisy” and then storming off with the bells!), we started on Double Bob this evening, picking it up surprisingly quickly!

And it was probably easier than trying any ringing over Zoom today!

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Saturday 16th May 2020

Yoxford.This afternoon should’ve seen a goodly number of folk gathered outside the rarely visited 11cwt ground-floor six of Yoxford in the North-East District for the Suffolk Guild Six-Bell Striking Competitions. I expect I would’ve spent the last couple of weeks or so encouraging as many as possible to enter and make this as big an occasion as possible, extolling how accessible the village right by the A12 and twenty minutes walk from Darsham Railway Station is in the rural context of our beautiful county. Probably pointing out that the two pubs in the community of The Griffin and The Kings Head would be open to enjoy a drink or two, urging even those not ringing to come along to take it all in.

Ruthie cutting Joshua’s hair.I’ve always desired this day to be as much like the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final as is practical. Well this year, it has succeeded. As those who were planning on going to Sheffield for the competition for the Taylor Trophy next month will find on 22nd June, those of us planning to be at St Peter today had to find other more mundane ways of passing the day. In our case, that was in much the same way as every Saturday for the last two months, as we pottered around getting jobs done about the house that admittedly wouldn’t have got done and have been useful to do. Although haircuts for myself and the boys and an alleged hit and run accident at the Melton traffic lights just before I walked past on the way to the shop for some essentials and the subsequent emergency services presence made things a little different to what we have become accustomed to.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how things might have been panning out sixteen or seventeen miles up the road. The response to my post on the SGR Facebook page asking who had been hoping to enter the competitions for the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy gave an indication of sorts, but I imagine – judging by recent years – that there would have been between ten and fifteen teams. St Mary-le-Tower may have entered a couple of teams to allow as many of our large band at different stages of ability to partake. I’m pretty certain that the most recent winners of the method competition Pettistree would’ve been keen to defend their title, whilst also from the South-East District typically Debenham have become contenders in recent times, whilst Hollesley have moved from the call-change competition and will be better for the experience. And with Clopton entering at a Guild level in the call-change contest for the first time last year they would hopefully have been looking to continue their improvement with another entry this year. It would have been nice to see Offton and Sproughton back in the competitions, although they didn’t last year.

Being held in their backyard, there would have been representation from the NE after their absence last May, with Past Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod indicating in my unofficial FB poll that Halesworth were planning to be there, whilst the Rendham & Sweffling band have been regulars previously. Hopefully others in the area would have considered entering. At the other extreme and having the furthest to travel, past experience suggests that there wouldn’t have been any teams from the South-West District bar Woolpit, who having finished runners-up in three of the last four competitions must have fancied their chances this time. And from the North-West District Great Barton have put a team into both the method and call-change competitions for the last few years, winning the latter on the last two occasions. Wonderful as well that Thurston have entered the contest for the Lester Brett Trophy the last couple of years and I’d like to think that they would be travelling over to this side of the county in hope and expectation. Meanwhile, 2017 joint winners Pakenham would also have been heading over with justified confidence.

Whatever the results (and to my mind it is becoming more and more open with each passing year and the standard higher), it would’ve been interesting to see how the new format without the Eight-Bell Competition for the Rose Trophy (which has been pencilled in for Saturday 19th September at Horringer, but as with everything else in 2020 is subject to circumstances beyond the organisers’ control) afterwards would have effected the atmosphere. I have to admit I was a bit of a fan of having the six-bell and eight-bell on the same day, giving something else to go on to, but there is no denying it felt a little like ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ and made for a long day for the judges in particular, which as I found out when I was Guild Ringing Master sometimes made finding a pair for the role quite difficult!

Barrow Gurney.In fact, so much so were the striking competitions in my thoughts that when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today and it brought up a quarter-peal of London Surprise Major rung at Barrow Gurney in Somerset on 29th January 2004 my first thought was about that year’s contests. Three and a half months after the 1280 that completed QPs of Surprise Major methods from the ‘standard’ eight for Thomas Longridge and Paul Mason, the SGR Striking Competitions were again in the NE District at Reydon and Southwold with SMLT the winners in both (there wasn’t a call-change competition in those days). Although I wasn’t there as I was still living in the West Midlands, the North-East are superb hosts (the vast feast at Blythburgh in 2012 immediately springs to mind!) and I’m sure it would’ve been a great day out.

As I’m sure today in Yoxford would’ve been.

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Friday 15th May 2020

If this pandemic hadn’t forced this year’s National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest to be cancelled, I suspect the news today of a fire at Sheffield Cathedral where the final had been due be held next month would have caused quite a few palpitations amongst organisers. Mercifully those with local knowledge suggest that this wasn’t a big fire and was far away from the main cathedral and the tower that holds the 34cwt twelve that had been expected to be rung by some of the best bands in the world on 20th June.

Although terrible (especially as the affected area was the base for a homelessness charity), from the perspective of ringing’s biggest event it is now academic, with a cessation on ringing on church bells called two months ago tomorrow. As other restrictions have been lifted this week, the question has inevitably been asked about when and how a return to ringing might take place and so the guidelines sent to College Youths members this morning by ASCY Secretary Simon Meyer was most welcome. It is the most comprehensive guide specifically aimed at ringing and ringers and has been drawn up by ringers Andrew Kelso – who along with Brian Meads judged the Suffolk Guild striking competitions at Polstead and Lavenham almost exactly a year ago – and Philip Barnes. The latter is recently retired Executive Medical Director and Consultant Neurologist and the former is currently a Consultant Neurologist and Medical Director of Newham University Hospital and are both experienced, active ringers, so they know their stuff when it comes to the safest return to ringing whilst coronavirus is still a widespread danger to so many. Please read their advice. (Central Council guidance & advice.)

Much of it has been mused online in recent weeks and is common sense, but also a confirmation of our worst fears that until social distancing is relaxed and/or a vaccine found, ringing will be a very restricted, largely unmusical affair. Until such a point and only from when it becomes safe to do so (therefore not now or for a while yet!), ringing on church bells will be reduced to short periods (no quarters or peals), with constant cleaning and hand-washing in ringing chambers removed of clutter and entry only permitted to a set number of people, climbing spiral staircases one at a time. With almost every rope in UK ringing chambers hanging less than two metres apart, ringing on adjacent bells shouldn’t take place unless by people from the same household, although the suggestion of plastic shielding between ropes (albeit the safety of such a measure would need to be tested before implementing). Striking competitions are out the window for now, as are people sitting out – so the boys aren’t coming ringing anytime soon – and those with underlying health conditions would be encouraged to consider very carefully whether they should return to ringing in such circumstances. As I think most of us have feared for a while but perhaps suppressed, it looks like we won’t be returning to anything resembling the way we carried out our ringing before 16th March until 2021, but at least there is a clearer path mapped out for getting back into ringing chambers to ring when it is deemed safe and appropriate. Thank you Andrew and Philip for their time in putting it together.

Eyam. Newcastle Cathedral.For now though, I again pushed the Random button on BellBoard which today brought to the forefront a 5040 of Plain Bob Minor at Eyam in Derbyshire rung on 9th January 1983. This was the first peal at the first attempt for Charles Hunt and Mandy Palmer (although it was the former’s only peal and the latter rang just two more, both of which were later that year) and conducted by Paul Flavell, another who rang in that peal at Newcastle Cathedral over the 2008 CCCBR Meeting weekend.

Euston. Harkstead. Offton.

Here in Suffolk meanwhile, it was the start of busy year of ringing. The Diamond Jubilee of the Guild was celebrated with a Dinner at Ipswich Town Hall and the AGM was held at Debenham High School, with Stephen Pettman taking over from Martin Thorley as Ringing Master. An impressive 153 peals were rung for the SGR, with first peals for sixteen members including Ralph Earey, Richard Rapior, Tracey Scase and my mother-in-law Kate Eagle and firsts as conductor for Simon Curl and James Smith (1983 Guild Report, p10). Euston and Harkstead were augmented from five to six and Offton from six to eight, the Guild outing went to London and the first SGR Eight-Bell Striking Competition was held at Clare, with the South-East District coming out victorious.

No striking competitions in 2020 though it seems. One way or another it just doesn’t seem the year for them.

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Thursday 14th May 2020

I never thought that I would be discussing antibodies in this blog, but the news today that a reliable test for whether someone has had coronavirus has been approved by Public Health England gives hope – albeit heavily caveated - that it may help in easing the lockdown process and from our point of view get back to ringing church bells. Even when it is deemed safe to ring in churches again, there will undoubtedly and understandably be a number wary about returning, but perhaps this sort of test may offer reassurance of some kind. Of course, it might not, but the longer this goes on, the desperation for positive developments increases.

Rise. Newcastle Cathedral.Whatever the significance or otherwise of this news, ringing and ourselves continue as we have done for the last seven or eight weeks, with home-schooling, home-working and home-ringing. And I again pushed the Random button on BellBoard, on this occasion stumbling across a 5040 of Stedman Doubles rung at Rise in the East Riding of Yorkshire on 5th April 1994. I don’t remember much about the 1904 Taylor’s five that – if I recall correctly – I rang at the following year on the forty-fifth Rambling Ringers Tour, but Dinah Rhymer (who has since become Dinah Donovan) and Neil Donovan were both in the peal of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus I rang at Newcastle Cathedral during the 2008 Central Council Meeting weekend that has already been mentioned on here a couple of times during lockdown.

On the day that they were ringing in what at the time was officially Humberside, David Salter was four days away from becoming the Suffolk Guild Ringing Master for the first time at the AGM at Dalham, the start of a twelve year period where he held the role for eight years over two stints either side of Stephen Pettman’s second time in the job, before I became SGR RM at the 2006 AGM in Bury St Edmunds. It is a role that David and Stephen carried out superbly and I hope that I did it justice over my five years. I certainly enjoyed it, with it giving me the opportunity to travel our beautiful county meeting lots of new friends and acquaintances and catching up with well-established friendships and I imagine current Master Tom Scase is frustrated at not being able to do the same.

God willing, with the help of science such as revealed today, we may all be able to do that again someday in the not too distant future.

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Wednesday 13th May 2020

Alfie & Ruthie doing science in the garden.More people started going back to work today, following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Sunday evening. At the moment though, it is those who can’t work from home who aren’t in what is considered essential work but deemed useful, such as construction workers, garden centres and even estate agents. Therefore, with John Ives falling into the category of places that won’t be opening until next month at the earliest and me being able to work from our abode, nothing much has changed for us. Ruthie tried to teach Alfie fractions (my comment that a quarter was a fourth of a peal wasn’t considered helpful by my wife for some reason) and had better luck doing science with him and I continued to communicate with a myriad of clients also still working from home rather than schools.

Nice as well to speak with my mother and father Sally and Alan on the phone, who are well, occupying themselves with occasional walks and with a jigsaw puzzle club that seems to work around other ringers Abby Antrobus, Dick & Daphne Pegg and my brother Chris and his wife Becky, as well as trying to find a camera to allow them to join in with video calls!

Hexham Abbey.Meanwhile, when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today, it brought up a 1344 of Rutland Surprise Major rung at Hexham in Northumberland on 7th September 2010. It was rung for the arrival of the Revd Mike Slade to The Chollerton Benefice nearby which has no change-ringing towers within it, hence the QP on the back eight of the 21cwt ten.

He has since retired apparently, as has the Reverend Canon Kevan McCormack from St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where in normal times my better half would be singing every Sunday morning and I would typically be ringing the bells every other week. The arrival of his successor The Revd Nigel Prior from Mayfield in East Sussex has been delayed by the current situation and it is unlikely we will see him for a couple of months at least, but according to the blog, on 7/9/2010 we were meeting his predecessor ‘Kev the Rev’ in the early stages of planning for our wedding.

Framlingham. Wickham Market.It was also a significant day for Mason as he started nursery, but we did manage some ringing as we first rang a 1250 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Framlingham and then helped at the weekly practice immediately afterwards. Helping at places like this and Wickham Market – as we did for a few weeks - have been amongst some of my most satisfying moments in ringing. So many ringers are restricted to whatever the handful of other ringers who usually go to their home tower can ring. I would always encourage such ringers to branch out to other practices, District and Guild events and the like if they can, but I know it isn’t always possible and so it is also important for more experienced ringers to pop along to such towers to help out when they are able.

Today though, ringing across the country was again restricted to handbells in households with a set of bells and ringers, and online platforms, including a first QP on ReBel and an East Anglian effort on Ringing Room featuring St Mary-le-Tower’s Nigel Newton and Norwich’s David Brown and former SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd ringing a 1320 of Duke Of Norfolk Treble Bob Minor.

People may be going back to work, but whilst easing restrictions on ringing are still a way off, there is still plenty that can be done through ringing.

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Tuesday 12th May 2020

I recently mentioned that Colin Salter had shared a history of ringing at St Mary-le-Tower with his fellow bandmates and now it is on the SMLT ringers’ website, so do check it out. Written well and fascinating – well done Colin!

Gloucester Cathedral.Meanwhile, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today was a 1282 of Cambridge Surprise Royal rung at Gloucester Cathedral on 3rd June 2008, a first of Surprise Royal inside for Ben Gooch. He has since rung a further seven QPs of Surprise Royal, but that belies the phenomenal quarter-pealing output of Ben who had already rung an impressive sixty-nine quarters in the short time this year that we had before ringing towerbells ceased almost two months ago.

Marlesford.According to the blog, on the same day as this early landmark for him, Ruthie and I were ringing, which was unusual for a Tuesday. In the absence of my better half’s mother Kate and the use of Ufford bells which my now mother-in-law looks after and runs the ringing of, my then girlfriend Miss Eagle and I were helping out at the weekly practice, which was happening at nearby Marlesford.

Parham. Hacheston.Present that evening was Simon Cottrell. He was the driving force behind the augmentation of Parham’s bells mentioned yesterday, as well as that at Hacheston a few years earlier and always willing to offer advice and expertise on other similar projects. He was also charming, witty and wonderful company, he enjoyed the art immensely, always looking to improve. It may be almost a decade since he passed away, but he is still fondly remembered, especially with his son John now learning.

His ringing – in the normal way at least – is on hold for now, as it is for everyone of course, but although over the last day or two things on BB have been quiet even by lockdown standards, as Central Council President Simon Linford highlights in his latest blog, Ringing Room passed one thousand users a day recently, so the ringing community continues to be engaged in the art, encouragingly.

That included with the College Youths, which for the second month running ran its monthly second-Tuesday meeting by video this evening, again led by Ringing Master Susan ‘Swaz’ Apter. Somewhat inevitably, UK20 – the ringing tour of the country for overseas members held in August – has been postponed to 2021 and there were obituaries, but largely this was a positive, upbeat occasion in the circumstances. George Pipe was remembered in a letter to Secretary Simon Meyer from Alan Potts, who fondly recalled a ringing tour to Suffolk and Norfolk George many years ago, prompting Simon to hope that Alan might send more letters as he was missing the wonderfully crafted letters of GWP! And those of us ‘present’ also got to do an online vote – a first for the Society – which saw Tessa Simpson re-elected as the ASCY’s representative on National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest committee.

Even in the absence of ringing church bells, there is still plenty of ringing to engage with, including Colin Salter’s history of the art at St Mary-le-Tower!

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Monday 11th May 2020

Confusion reigned from Boris Johnson’s statement last night, but to all intents and purpose life for us continued as normal today as we set off into another week of increasingly weary lockdown. I can still work from home for John Catt Educational and John Ives remains shut, so Ruthie still has nowhere to go. Alfie is in one of the year groups that may go back to the school on 1st June, but for now he – like Joshua – has to be educated from our property. And of course a time when ringing at churches with our friends still appears months away, backed up by essentially reiterated guidance from the Central Council released today.

Boston Mass., Church of the Advent.Therefore, I pushed the Random button on BellBoard for the fifty-sixth day running, which today brought up a 5088 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at The Church of the Advent in Boston in the USA on 3rd November 2007. I’m always impressed with what bands in towers in places like the US – where change-ringing is practiced in isolated spots compared to here in the UK – manage, with QPs and peals usually giving a good indication what a ringing group is achieving.

For the second time in recent days it takes me back to an early time in this blog. It was a day when my now mother-in-law Kate Eagle was attempting to call her first peal in an attempt on the lovely 9cwt ground-floor six of Otley. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, although she did manage it just three months later during Suffolk Guild Peal Week 2008 at her home tower of Pettistree and a quarter was managed immediately after our loss on 3/11/2007.

Parham.Later in the day, Ruthie, her mater and myself journeyed on to Parham, which at that point had only very recently been augmented into the enjoyable little six that they are now. Initially we were ringing for a wedding but then an unsurprisingly busy South-East District Practice on this then rare ring at a time when Mrs Eagle was the District Ringing Master.

The new bells of Stowmarket. (by kind permission of Stowmarket Bells Facebook page)Hopefully when we come back to ringing we may have another augmented peal of bells in the form of the ten of Stowmarket and today I got my first glance of the new front three bells with pictures of them shared on the Stowmarket Bells Facebook page.

A welcome good news story in these difficult, confused times.

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Sunday 10th May 2020

The 9.45am Sunday morning video chats with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers have been useful for getting us up. Otherwise, without the need to log in to work by 9am during the week and of course nowhere else to get to at the moment, I expect that our awakening would be a bit more gradual or as gradual as one can expect with young children in the house!

However, our more focused, earlier start was nothing compared to that made in the Willingham household of the Pipes where father David and sons Henry and Alfred were up at 2am to start a handbell attempt of forty-three extents (30,960 changes) of Treble Dodging Minor methods. Unfortunately that was lost after just over 19,000 changes in the twenty-seventh extent, but it was still met with much admiration from those of us not able to contemplate such attempts at the best of times, let alone in a lockdown. I suspect another will be happening soon.

Also on a suitably busy Sabbath morn for bellringers the first ten-bell quarter-peal on Ringing Room was rung with an impressive 1280 of Bristol Surprise Royal, which was followed up with the first all-the-work (i.e. every inside bell ringing every bit of the method) on ten ‘bells’ on the platform with a 1260 of Plain Bob Royal.

Vestey Ring.There was a sad note too as on our ringers' chat this morning we remembered Sproughton ringer Delia Hammerton who sadly died earlier this week. She herself claimed not to be as proficient as others around her, but she was certainly a lot better than she ever owned up to and was dedicated and enthusiastic, qualities we will need in abundance if ringing is to come back stronger after this time. She also partook in a significant bit of ringing as she trebled to the first QP on The Vestey Ring, rung in trying circumstances at end of the second day of the 2011 Suffolk Show as everything was being packed away very noisily around us!

Hanwell, St Mary.Funnily enough, the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard was rung precisely two years later on 2nd June 2013 when a quarter of Grandsire Triples was rung at Hanwell in Middlesex with the immediate past editor of the Ringing World Robert Lewis bonging behind.

On the same day though, Ruthie and I were experiencing a first, although we weren’t to know it for sure until a couple of days later. For on the 2/6/2013 we rang what we thought had been a peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus rung in very hot conditions at Chelmsford Cathedral, but which transpired to be a false peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus rung in very hot conditions at Chelmsford Cathedral. The conductor had miscalled it and fudged it so it came round at the right point, but in the process we had repeated rows, which isn’t allowed of course. Having spent the days afterwards double-checking, they informed us later in the week that it was indeed false and so despite our efforts it didn’t count. Peal-ringing history is littered with false peals, especially the further back in time when checking of compositions was harder without the help of computers, but this was the first – and as far as I am aware the only thus far – that either Ruthie or I had been involved in.

No such likelihood of it happening again soon (for all our newfound enthusiasm for handbell ringing, any peal attempt, let alone a false one isn’t on the cards!), something reiterated by Boris Johnson’s statement this evening that says that depending on a myriad of factors “some hospitality businesses” may open in July at the earliest. If that even reaches fruition, then it sounds like it will still be in a limited and restricted fashion and therefore the notion that ringing on church bells will take place at the same time (which was my most optimistic guestimate) is clearly a non-starter.

Nonetheless, and even with the windy chilly weather that quickly descended on us this afternoon to replace the glorious weather that remained just this morning, we enjoyed our daily exercise with a walk through the woods. Which was worth getting up for!

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Saturday 9th May 2020

After yesterday it was back to what we’ve had for the last month-and-a-half, which was spending the day largely doing nothing of note, although we did have a lengthy video chat with the boys’ Grandad Ron on the occasion of his significant birthday, along with others from his family.

And elsewhere the Pipes in Cambridgeshire again provided something for the peal columns, apparently ahead of what is due to be a “monster marathon length” attempt tomorrow.

There was also good news from Stowmarket where they announced their new bells have been cast in readiness for the augmentation at St Peter and St Mary from eight to ten, although when the timeline from here still hangs in the balance due to current circumstances, as far as I am aware.

Marston.Meanwhile, the performance that popped up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard today was a 1260 of five Doubles methods rung at Marston in Oxfordshire on 20th May 2012, rung on the original five after they met short for Minor. It can be frustrating meeting short and I have been the victim of and cause of quarters and peals meeting short. However, as this band almost exactly eight years ago showed, it is still possible to do something.

On the same day there was a variation on that theme as a third Sunday practice at St Mary-le-Tower had met too short to be of use and so instead a quarter-peal for our learner Sean Antonioli was rung, although with a poorly five-year-old Mason in tow it was lucky that there were more than enough for a QP attempt, which was ultimately scored.

That was Sean’s first on eight and was rung on a busy day of firsts in Suffolk, as Clare Veal rang her first quarter of Major in the 1264 of Plain Bob rung at Stowmarket, Sue Bowerman rang her first quarter-peal in the Plain Bob Doubles at her home tower of Hollesley and the first ever QP of Maximus rung at The Norman Tower was completed with a 1346 of Yorkshire Surprise.
Such activity isn’t possible at the moment, so it is nice to reminisce about such busy and productive days!

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Friday 8th May 2020

In recent days we have watched one of the multitude of programmes on the Second World War and it is a reminder of just what a dreadful period it was. Currently we are in the midst of another pretty dreadful period and there have been many comparisons between now and then. There are ways in which we appear worse off. At least during the war they had the comfort of seeing family and friends in person and going down the pub for a drink to escape the situation. Nor did every trip to a shop or walk feel like a daring raid, something to be done as quickly and carefully as possible.

However, although the deaths from coronavirus are tragic, the daily loss of young lives that would never otherwise have happened that soon and the fear of a bomb dropping on your house is incomprehensible, even in these times. And of course our ancestors had to live with the war for six, long years. God willing, even in the current worse case scenarios, our way of life will be disrupted for a couple of years at the most.

For now though, it meant that we couldn’t mark VE Day in the way we would have, but we still had a socially distanced street party and ringing marked it as best it could with two handbell peals and numerous other performances including pieces of Plain Bob Minimus in hand in Suffolk in Brantham with Pam and Neil Avis and Woodbridge with Bruce and Gillian Wakefield, with Bruce following up on his ringing Bastow Little Bob Mimimus yesterday.

With all this going on, I don’t really need to bulk the blog up with the performance that came up when I pushed the Random button on BellBoard. However, having had mused on whether a peal conducted by Bernard Groves would appear for a third day running, I was mildly amused that instead a peal conducted by one of only six ringers to have conducted more peals – Barrie Dove - appeared. Indeed, the 5088 of Bravo! Surprise Major rung at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Anne in Leeds on 27th December 2018 was C Barrie’s 3175th peal as conductor and into the bargain the band included another of the six, Peter Randall. Two of Mr Dove’s peals as conductor featured myself, both in Newcastle over the Central Council weekend in the north-eastern city in 2008.

According to the blog meanwhile, on the 27/12/2018 the boys and I were occupying that strange time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve by visiting my parents in the company of Mason’s friend Henry Salter in the immediate days following his father’s stroke when his mother Katharine was going to Addenbroke’s and back daily. David’s subsequent impressive recovery - like VE Day - gives us all hope of better times after dark days.

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Thursday 7th May 2020

For the second day running, the Random button on BellBoard coincidentally brought up a peal conducted by Bernard Groves. Although the odds on that happening must still be pretty long, it’s also not entirely surprising as he has conducted 3072 peals, a total surpassed by only six other ringers – Barrie Dove with 3297, John Pladdys with 3432, Michael Mears with 3452, John Mayne with 3780, Peter Randall with 3846 and Derek Sibson with 4014. My forty-five as conductor is paltry in comparison! Thank you to Andrew Craddock’s superb Pealbase for those figures.

Grundisburgh>Only one of Bernard’s impressive tally was with me in the band, rung almost exactly eleven years ago when Anthea Edwards very kindly asked me to ring in a peal of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Grundisburgh, but the performance that I came across today was one of Wetherspoon Surprise Royal Yorkshire bar places being made instead of the 3-4 dodge in sixths and ninths place bells – on handbells in Reading on 19th November 2007.

At that time I was making one my earliest blog entries and if you think they’re bad these days you should look at them back then! Nonetheless it relays my struggles to balance parenthood and running St Mary-le-Tower practice, whilst also trying to find new employment. It is a reminder that for all the uncertainty of our current times, things are a lot more settled for me personally these days.

Still, it is a pity that due to the current restrictions that we won’t be able to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day tomorrow, especially with ringing, but with a socially distanced street party planned outside ours tomorrow we enjoyed colouring in some bunting for the occasion. For all the restrictions it will hopefully be a lovely day and I look forward to seeing if a Bernard Groves peal will appear on BellBoard’s Random button again!

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Wednesday 6th May 2020

One feature of having BBC Radio Suffolk as my companion whilst I work at home in isolation from my similarly home-working John Catt colleagues is spotting the bellringers appearing on the station and today saw another one appear as Hollesley ringer James Mallinder spoke to Mark Murphy about 3hrs 54mins into the latter’s four-hour morning show. It was in his important role as Cabinet Member for the Environment on East Suffolk Council and the return of green bin collections and so ringing wasn’t mentioned, but without being able to get out to see friends and acquaintances in the exercise it is nice to hear voices of fellow participants in the art.

Although I am one of those ringers who has been on there in recent weeks, there was no appearance from me across the airwaves on this occasion as the day took on a pattern that has become very familiar since ‘lockdown’ began.

Allendale.Therefore I reached for the Random button on BellBoard again and got a peal that was rung on the August Bank Holiday Monday of 2005 at Allendale in Northumberland. The method named after this far northern village is familiar to those who ring lots of Surprise Minor, but I don’t know too much about the place.
However, a few in the band are familiar to me featuring as it does fellow Rambling Ringers Andrew Mills, his mother Christine and the late Denis Mottershead. Denis in particular is a fondly remembered character from our early days of going on Ramblers with lots of eccentric quirks, but a very good ringer with high standards which still permeate through the Society to this day.

At the time of their 5120 of Bristol Surprise Major I was just settling back into Suffolk and my little pink cottage in Tunstall, having only moved back after eight years in the West Midlands the previous month, with ringing helping me to do that. Only a couple of weeks earlier I had rung my first peal with Ruthie in a peal at Woodbridge to mark the sixtieth anniversary of VJ Day (which is marked by a peal board in the ringing chamber behind the rope of the sixth and was rung in record time that saw considerable mutterings from Arnie next to me!) and I was shortly to ring a peal of Superlative Surprise Major at Grundisburgh which - if I recall correctly – I did extremely well to get to only slightly late having slept in and been woken up by a call from conductor Stephen Pettman who was stood outside the church with the rest of the band waiting for me!

No such problems for the Perrins family of Australia I imagine, who were again flying the flag for peal-ringing in these restricted times with another impressive effort on handbells from their own home. However, whilst our efforts on handbells weren’t quite as impressive, we were still chuffed with our efforts at Plain Bob Minimus as I rang the tougher pair of 3-4.

I don’t think our efforts would be worthy of the Central Council’s competition for the best ringing on YouTube, but there is still plenty of good stuff out there and the CCCBR is encouraging people to send in recordings to be judged, with this month being for six bells or fewer. Do check it out – it would be great to see an entry from here taking the £200 prize!

Brewood.Meanwhile, a great idea from fellow Rambling Ringer Steve Askew from Brewood in Staffordshire who had been requested by the local community for the 21cwt eight to ring for the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day. Obviously that isn’t possible at the moment and so rather smartly he has shared a recording of the bells on the village’s Facebook page for people who wish to play. Perhaps an idea for towers within our borders, especially if they have had a request for bells on Friday. Or indeed for any occasion.

If people in Suffolk haven’t heard enough of ringers already recently!

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Tuesday 5th May 2020

I have been critical of the Central Council in the past, but in recent times reforms seem to be making them a more relevant organisation and with Simon Linford they have an absolutely superb President, with all due respect to previous Presidents who have carried out an extremely difficult and unenviable role in the past.

It is in the coronavirus crisis and the cessation of ringing that they have really come into their own though, IMHO. Ringers are a varied bunch in terms of abilities, ambitions, opportunities and indeed involvement in the art and the current situation has effected them in different ways, so having a central body to advise and guide the wider ringing family has been useful. No more so in terms of what we should and shouldn’t be doing in these unprecedented times in regards ringing. Whilst Boris Johnson’s announcement on 16th March made it pretty clear to most ringers that gathering from different households to ring towerbells had to stop, that it didn’t (understandably of course!) specifically mention ringing appeared to place doubt into the minds of some and so the CCCBR’s subsequent announcement immediately afterwards helped to ensure that the message was clear to all UK ringers. And thus, bar a few straggling quarter-peals and the odd bit of tolling, no ringing on church bells in this country has occurred since.

However, with hopes rising that restrictions throughout society generally will start to be eased very soon, there has been much debate as to when we might all be able to return to ringing. Despite generally unwavering support amongst the British public over the last few weeks, there is a sense of spirits flagging and a fear of what toll it is taking on mental health and other health issues and like football fans (myself included) keen to see some football (even if it is only on TV), ringers are understandably desperate to return to the art for some physical and mental exercise. That aforementioned varied ringing family have many different views on what point in the gradual easing of the lockdown that return should and could occur and with ringing chambers in numerous different settings (some open, some very enclosed, some with big social-distancing friendly rope circles, some accessible from outside a church, etc), we can’t really rely on guidance from government or even the Church of England who will probably be unaware of the peculiarities of ringing.

Therefore, today’s statement from ringing’s ‘governing’ body is most welcome. Essentially the CCCBR are using ringing medical knowledge – in the form of ringer and former NHS Consultant and Medical Director Dr Philip Barnes – to review the health implications of a return to ringing in regards to COVID-19, which is due to be published on the organisation’s website this week and in the next edition of the Ringing World. The plan seems to be to review that at least monthly and as and when any relevant developments occur. Watch this space!

Redenhall.For now though, I find myself pushing the Random button on BellBoard again, which today took me to 23rd October 2013 and just over the Norfolk border to Redenhall, where a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung featuring a number of Suffolk residents.

According to my blog entry it was on a busy day for ringers and bells within our borders. We were in the depths of a very successful South-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight and there was a peal rung at The Wolery, whilst I was straddled across both mediums as I lost a peal attempt of Ashtead Surprise Major on the front eight at St Mary-le-Tower that was already fraught after traffic troubles in and around Ipswich, but scored a quarter-peal afterwards. Long before lockdown I was missing taking part in the monthly Wednesday night Surprise Major attempts at SMLT, but it got to the point that it wasn’t really fair on Ruthie that I was getting home from work to a household where she has been looking after at least one child all day and then immediately leaving for the entire evening for some peal-ringing!

I suspect that whatever the Central Council advice is in the coming weeks and months, that is still one thing that I won’t be returning to when we all get back to ringing!

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Monday 4th May 2020

Normally the first Monday of May would’ve been a bank holiday, but this year that has been moved to Friday to coincide with the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day. I’m sure that would’ve been a wonderful day of celebration with bells playing a big part and there are apparently still well-meaning though misguided requests for bells to be rung. However, it is important to note that apart from essential maintenance and the like, no one should be entering ringing chambers as restrictions currently state:

...The Central Council’s guidance to ringers is that currently it is too early for any return to ringing and that the current suspension of all ringing of any kind should remain in place. This includes chiming of single bells and the use of Ellacombe chimes.

Being a ‘normal’ Monday though, I found myself working from home, whilst Ruthie home-schooled the children. With the news suggesting that even with the hoped for easing of some restrictions that people like myself who can work from our abode will continue to be doing so for months to come, and the earliest that children won’t be returning to their places of education until 1st June at the earliest – and that likely to only be certain year groups and/or in shifts and smaller groups – we may have a lot of Mondays like this come in the coming weeks.

Perhaps we’ll also get more bellringing dance tracks along the lines of the one set to some Stedman Caters simulated from the sound of bells of Edinburgh Cathedral which we had a listen to tonight. Even if the style of music isn’t your type it is a very clever use of change-ringing and well worth a listen!

Trumpington.Meanwhile, the Random performance from BellBoard today was a 1260 of Grandsire Triples rung at Trumpington rung on 31st July 2010. This nice 10cwt eight just outside Cambridge is what might termed a ‘peal factory’, where I believe effective sound control allows for annual peal totals frequently in double figures. It is isn’t just the quantity that this tower is well known for, but the quality and it has seen many impressive peals of Major down the years, featuring many of the superb ringers that have rung in the neighbouring university city.

We last rang there on the 2016 Rambling Ringers Tour, which is a reminder of the sad news confirmed earlier this week that this year’s Tour has – like so much else in 2020 – been postponed until 2021 (what a year that could be!). Friends, the freedom of travelling the country’s marvellous countryside between some hidden gems and some brilliant ringing will all be much missed.

Funnily enough 31/7/2010 was the first day of that year’s Tour to South Wales, but we weren’t to join it for a couple of days. Instead ours was a ringing-free day, although ringers were present at ours as we held a BBQ in the times when one was allowed to do such things.

It is unusual these days that we did more ringing than on a blog entry from the past, but that was the case today, as we took advantage of our new handbells with some more (mixed) attempts at Plain Bob Minimus. We don’t want to go overboard, but it is fairly addictive after weeks without doing any ringing and it is nice to feel like we’re actually achieving something beyond merely surviving! And to do something other than just working and home-schooling on this not bank holiday Monday!

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Sunday 3rd May 2020

Alfie & Ruthie with 3-4 & 1-2!We have handbells! With the knock of the door from a masked delivery driver and the sound of his footsteps rapidly making an escape – as is the norm these days – we were in possession of some colourful toy bells! Not overly sophisticated, but they are good enough for what we need whilst on lockdown and with no towerbell ringing available to us. Primarily the ambition is achieve some Minimus change-ringing for Ruthie and me when we can get the opportunity (which we did this evening, even completing a few courses of Plain Bob out of several attempts), but the new toys were attractive enough to entice Alfie into some rounds on six and even Plain Hunt on Four before he got distracted by playing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. At the moment, we’re a way off emulating the efforts of the Stevens of Sweffling (as featured on Facebook) or the Pipes of Cambridgeshire today!

Dordrecht.It is all jolly good fun, but I still found time to push the Random button on BellBoard, which brought up a peal rung at Dordrecht in the Netherlands on 14th January 2012. This light eight has been one of ringing’s biggest successes, providing a focal point to many a trip away on the continent and has its roots in Rambling Ringers. It was on Ramblers that Paul de Kok did most of his early ringing and Paul who was the driving force behind this first permanent ring of bells on the continent to be hung specifically for change-ringing. It was a predominantly Ramblers band that rang the first peal on the bells back in 2008 and the de Kok family followed Paul in learning the art, mainly on those wonderful fortnight-long summer tours.

That 5088 of Uxbridge Surprise Major was rung at the start of a busy year for ringing, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics offering much focus, but on that particular day we didn’t do any ringing as we celebrated birthdays and I was a week into recovering from a kidney stone!

Wheathampstead.Mercifully no such issues for me currently and so this morning we caught up via video with our ringing friends from St Mary-le-Tower (where the new edition of the parish magazine Inspire featuring an excellent piece by David Potts was mentioned) and afterwards church friends. With both chats, the reopening of churches in Germany gave hope of something similar happening here in the coming weeks and in respect to ringing whether that could signal a return to some ringing chambers. I suspect that could be possible at some places such as ground-floor rings with large ringing chambers (the infamous – in a ringing sense - Wheathampstead has been picked out as ideal in recent days!) if given the go-ahead, but I suspect in most cases social distancing will make it unfeasible to return any time very soon.

I think we may need those handbells for a while yet!

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Saturday 2nd May 2020

South-East District Striking Competition day. Or at least it would have been, but of course like everything else it wasn’t. Which is a pity as it is a lovely afternoon out.

Pettistree.On this occasion the morning was probably much the same as if the contest had gone ahead, as we enjoyed a lazy Saturday morning watching Minions, but after that we would’ve made the short journey up the road to Pettistree for the 2020 contest. Whereas the results of the cancelled National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminators a few weeks ago were guessed by a vast social media audience missing a day out of bells and booze, there probably isn’t quite the same appetite to predict how proceedings at the ground-floor six would’ve gone this afternoon and we can’t be 100% sure who would’ve entered. Still, I couldn’t help but look out the window at the occasionally sunny - albeit breezy - conditions and ponder how in normal circumstances things might have been unfolding just four miles away.

The bells are easy to ring and so I imagine that there would’ve been a high standard of ringing and that it would’ve been a close contest. However, like all peals of bells, they have their little quirks and so I suspect home advantage would’ve counted for a lot. That said, St Mary-le-Tower can never be discounted in such competitions and I always feel that the Debenham band are never far off winning the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell Method Competition – how appropriate might it have been for them to win at Jenny Scase’s first SE Striking Competition since becoming District Ringing Master?

Last year, SMLT won the David Barnard Memorial Trophy Call Change Competition at Sproughton, which we entered for the benefit of our learner Karina Wiseman and it certainly served its purpose of boosting the confidence and enthusiasm in the art of the young ringer. I expect this time round though, she would’ve probably have been ready for taking part in a method ringing entry and so therefore there wouldn’t have been a team from ‘The