Thursday 23rd May 2024

Richy's Blog

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New Year's Eve 2021

If at the start of last year I'd have told you that in 2021 that we wouldn't be able to spend time with friends and family in person for the first quarter of the year, we'd have been home educating a four and six-year old from home as schools were shut for the first two months, we wouldn't be able to go to a pub until April, watch a football match until August, ring bells properly until May or that it would take until nearly the end of July for the Suffolk Guild to ring its first peal of the year and yet it would generally be considered a relatively good year, I think you could have considered me crackers with some justification. Although that could be the case regardless!

Yet in comparison to the disaster of 2020 that preceded it, this year could indeed be considered a relatively good year. Unlike the previous twelve months that were largely marked by a seemingly hopeless loop of lockdowns, lost freedoms and overwhelmed hospitals, this year has gradually seen those freedoms restored and thanks to vaccines the deadly edge has been taken off coronavirus, although the last month has undoubtedly been a setback.

Of course, there has still been disappointment and sadness. Ringing was unable to properly mark the passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and then his funeral in the spring, although the efforts of the county's ringers in getting so much tolling arranged were impressive. The Guild AGM and the ADMs of the North-East and South-East Districts had to be held in the now familiar awkward sphere of Zoomland and for the second year running the six-bell striking competitions within our borders were lost. Personally, I was resigned but gutted that the birthday peals for Mason's fourteenth birthday and Alfie's seventh couldn't be rung, those opportunities lost forever of course. And we lost the well respected and considered Newmarket-born composer and conductor Alan Barber, as well as Pettistree tower correspondent Hazel Judge and twice Past Ringing Master David Salter, amongst others of course. For their loved ones, 2021 could justifiably be considered a worse year than 2020 and our thoughts our with those they have left behind.

Grundisburgh. Offton. Leiston. Barham. Buxhall. Hitcham. Stowmarket. Laxfield.
Grundisburgh, Offton, Leiston, Barham, Buxhall, Hitcham, Stowmarket & Laxfield

Next to last year's often overwhelming despair though, this has been largely a year of positives, many of them possibly appreciated more than ever before. To see so many people at Horringer for five teams from both sides of the county competing in the SGR Eight-Bell Striking Competition for the Rose Trophy in September and to not only take part in the Ridgman Trophy at Braintree at the end of October on behalf of the Suffolk Guild, but to win it. To get back to ringing quarters and peals - especially the one at Grundisburgh for Joshua's fifth birthday that also remembered his grandfather Alan and others lost since we had last been able to ring a peal and the Ruby Alliance Major at Offton for Richard and Christine Knight's Ruby Wedding Anniversary three months ago - and indeed ringing properly generally. To read about the handbell peal at Leiston replicating the peal in hand of Stedman Cinques by the famous Bailey brothers a century earlier. And to follow the progress of restorations and augmentations at Barham, Buxhall, Hitcham, Stowmarket and Laxfield, even if the understandable and entirely sensible decision to postpone the Service for Absent Friends at the latter and therefore also the chance to ring on the new 17cwt eight at All Saints was one of the disappointments of the year.

On a personal, non-ringing level, although the Rambling Ringers Tour to Leicestershire was again postponed, we enjoyed our camping trip to Kessingland with Ruthie's family and my wife's new job in education has seen more work from home (for the time being), but also free weekends. Meanwhile, despite the considerable disruption to their education over the last two years, all three sons received really positive reports for the term just gone. For the Munnings family in Melton at least, it has been a good year generally, thank God.

The boys tuck into food at our New Year's Eve ‘party’!All that said, 2021 ended as it began, at home, on our own as we exercised caution. That meant doing exactly as we did 365 days ago - putting on a spread of food on our dining table to try and generate a party atmosphere for the boys and again meeting friends via video. Twice in fact. Easy as it can be at this time of year to forget, today is a Friday and so former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd held his weekly virtual pub earlier in the evening, before opening it up just before midnight, where it was lovely to speak with one-time SMLT regulars Anne & Paul Bray for the first time in ages!

A better year than last year therefore ended in a strangely positive way that sort of sums up an odd but relatively good 2021.

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Thursday 30th December 2021

Daft as it once would've seemed, it was always ambitious to think that we would get through all our plans over Christmas and New Year with Omicron driving ever more frightening numbers of coronavirus cases, even if mercifully that is still not equating to anywhere near the same rise in hospital admissions. Although there have been close calls and we were unable to meet with other friends earlier this week as they had tested positive a few days before, with an abundance of mitigation, caution and negative lateral flow tests, we have felt as safe as anyone to enjoy a big family Christmas, which was our main aim at the outset. We have also been able to meet friends, visit other relatives and even go to the footy with over 26,000 others last night, but having spent several hours in the company of Ruthie's best friend Fergie (and even shared pizza with her) on her seasonal visit to her home town, when she messaged us to say she had tested positive this morning, we felt we ought to let those who we were planning on meeting in the coming days know about our predicament. All parties reluctantly mutually agreed that it was best to err on the side of caution and thus our plans to meet our friends Gregory & Charlotte and their daughters - and our Goddaughters - this afternoon and my wife's family tomorrow to see 2022 in were scrubbed out.

Debenham.Additionally any plans to join the South-East District Practice at Debenham on Saturday from 11am-12.30pm and ringing on Sunday morning (although Woodbridge where I was going to have rung today cancelled their ringing that day due to a lack of numbers) have been voluntarily crossed off in our new diaries to further reduce any possibility of us spreading the virus if we do have it. With the boys (as well as ourselves) excited about watching Ipswich Town's match against Lincoln City on New Year's Day following yesterday's fun evening out, we were also given a conundrum of whether we could mitigate the risks enough to safely attend the game at Portman Road or would have to disappoint our sons, but the announcement at lunchtime that the fixture has been postponed with our opponents unable to field a team due to a COVID outbreak there took that decision out of our hands, perhaps fortunately.

Hasketon. Burgh. Our quiet day did at least give us time to put up goalposts (thank you Chris & Becky!) and for me to continue reading Akenfield, the book written in 1960s from the words of Suffolk characters who had lived in similar village communities. Today I read the bit about Robert Palgrave, the tower captain, who I have often heard it said was based on Cecil Pipe. On the basis of the mentions of Burgh and Hasketon and his son that was "one of the best in the world" and had gone to university, that would tally!

Rattlesden. Great Finborough. Thurston. Tostock.
Rattlesden, Great Finborough, Thurston & Tostock

For all that it was a blank Thursday for us though, it was a busier day for other Suffolk ringers, with five quarter-peals rung within our borders. Particularly so for Joshua Watkins and birthday girl Deborah Blumfield who rang their first quarter of Buxton Bob Minor in the 1260 on the 11cwt ground-floor six at Rattlesden and their first blows of Pinehurst Bob Minor, Hempsted Bob Minor and Quernmore Bob Minor in the successes at Great Finborough, Thurston and Tostock respectively. Well done to you both and Happy Birthday Deborah!

Meanwhile, the set was complete with a 1320 of Little Bob Maximus at The Norman Tower, the first QP of Maximus in the county since the 1344 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at the same venue way back on Sunday 1st March 2020.

God willing we can join in with everything soon!

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Wednesday 29th December 2021

On this mild fifth day of Christmas, there were to have been at least two peal attempts on Suffolk's bells, including one that I was due to be in. However, the rules on facemasks led to both being postponed in one way or another.

Some who probably would've been ringing in these were participating in the brace of quarter-peals on handbells in Bury St Edmunds, with a 1344 of Plain Bob Major and 1440 of Kent Treble Bob Minor rung.

Stonham Aspal.For us though, the extra time afforded me by the postponement of my morning engagement at Stonham Aspal allowed another lay-in in a rare week of lay-ins and then more tidying, as well as a quick weekly shop.

At the Ipswich vs Wycombe match.However, whilst there was no peal-ringing, there was football, as Ruthie and I took Alfie and Joshua to their first evening Ipswich Town fixture and - at the sixth and fifth time of asking respectively - the first time that either of them had actually witnessed an ITFC victory as the Tractor Boys beat Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 in an exciting match in front of another big, boisterous crowd as Kieran McKenna made his debut as our manager.

I'm glad we've been able to do some of things planned for this mild fifth day of Christmas.

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Tuesday 28th December 2021

Debenham.With doubts expressed about Ipswich Town's planned New Year's Day fixture against Lincoln City due to a COVID outbreak amongst the opposition's squad, it was reassuring to receive an email today from South-East District Ringing Master Jenny Scase confirming that the plan is still for the District Practice on the same day to go ahead on the wonderful 21cwt ground-floor eight of Debenham from 11am to 12.30pm. The ringing chamber here is another perfect venue for the current times, with vast doorways through to the church and the outside, whilst the open porch adjoining it allows for safe shelter in case of rain. If you can support this opening event of 2022, then please do, but remember to take your mask and take a lateral flow test as close to leaving as you can beforehand.

Bungay. Kersey.It is the first of a handful of ringing events in Suffolk lined up for January, with the BAC due to meet at Laxfield on the 6th (Now re-arranged to Thursday 3rd February. Ed.), the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice is penciled in for 7.30pm on Monday 10th and between 3-4.30pm on Saturday 22nd is when the South-West District hope to hold their Practice at Kersey. And it is worth noting that the inaugural Young Change Ringers Association event is actually booked in for Saturday 15th in Birmingham, rather than the 8th as I originally said it was. Of course, with all these events, plans may change, so keep an eye on this website's ‘What's On’ section, the Guild's Facebook page, this blog and make sure you are register with Chris Garner to receive email updates from the SGR.

Brome. Winston.In the here and now, there was ringing in the county as this month and year draws towards a close, as the first quarter-peal since 2011 was rung at Brome and the same band rang a 1260 of Doubles at Winston, whilst congratulations are in order for the Colman family in Bury St Edmunds on ringing a quarter in hand. Especially well done to parents Cathy and Julian on ringing their first QP of multiple methods on handbells.

Not unusually for this week we didn't do any ringing, but we were in the same town with ringers as we visited my brother Chris and his wife Becky for the last bit of Christmas present opening of the year and a catch-up.

Meanwhile, the latest CCCBR Photo Competition - with the theme ‘Ringers in Action’ - winners were announced and although sadly there were no winners from within our borders, I'm pleased that members got in the spirit and represented us with some great photographs.
God willing there will be plenty of opportunity for brilliant ringing pictures next month too.

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Monday 27th December 2021

With friends we were due to meet today unable to join us due to them getting positive COVID results a few days ago, the boys had most of the day free to play with some of their Christmas gifts before we then welcomed Ruthie's best friend Fergie on her seasonal visit to her home town for an evening of games such as 'Hungry Hungry Hippo' and something called 'Don't Upset The Lamma' which seems to involve lots of complicated rules in order to get wet.

All Saints' parish church, Campton, Beds - - 63211 Sheffield Cathedral.As previously agreed, there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening, which meant no ringing for us and there was nothing noted on BellBoard from Suffolk's bells today, although given current difficult circumstances, there were a reassuring number of peals rung around the country involving former ringers from within our borders, with Maggie Ross ringing in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus at Sheffield Cathedral and John Loveless conducting the 5088 of Bristol Surprise Major at Campton in Bedfordshire.
I'm glad that COVID didn't stop their plans!

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Boxing Day 2021

Lateral flow tests have been almost as much a part of this Christmas for us as tinsel, gifts and Santa Claus. I can't say I've enjoyed sticking a cotton bud up my nose every time I am joining others, but the negative results from them have ensured that we could enjoy three days of seasonal family festivities as safely as can be expected at the moment. Which is not something I was 100% convinced would be possible even a few days ago.

Can you spot Kate Eagle in this photo? Ruthie enjoying the festivities.Having woken up at our gratefully received overnight stay at mother-in-law Kate's and discovered that she is in a picture in the Ipswich Town Annual that she had given Alfie as a present yesterday, we completed the main part of our celebrations with relatives today, with dinner and tea at Ruthie's Gran's either side of watching Cinderella, the pantomime currently running at the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe.

Henley.Very enjoyable it all was too, but it involved no ringing. However, others in Suffolk were making up for it, with a 1317 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six of the 8cwt eight at Henley, no doubt made possible by negative lateral flow tests.

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Christmas Day 2021

Merry Christmas one and all!

And how wonderful it was for bells to be fully ringing out with the sound of what we do being a major part of people's festivities, from carols to festive pop songs to seasonal TV programmes.

Ringing at Pettistree. Ringing at Pettistree. Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. Sproughton.
Christmas Ringing

For my part, after a bell-less 25th December last year, it was joyful to be at Pettistree, St Mary-le-Tower and Sproughton providing that Christmas soundtrack for those communities. I shared that joy with Ruthie at the first venue where we rang some very nice Cambridge Surprise Minor and with my wife dropped off in Woodbridge - where five bells rang out to add to the festive feel - for choral duties, the boys accompanied me in the ringing chamber of Ipswich's civic church where the highlight was Stedman Triples on the back eight with Christmas jumpers and even reindeer ears on display and the help of Richard Weeks whose return has been a bonus in recent weeks. I then finished my morning's ringing with my mother Sally at the gallery-ring six where I learnt to ring with an impressive number of ringers, including local Simon Curl, who I haven't seen for years and was looking well.

Dad’s grave at Sproughton.Before the boys and I continued on with the rest of the celebrations, the churchyard here was the location for a spot of reflection as we took a look at my father Alan's grave and mine, Alfie and Joshua's first glimpse of his new stone. It is a lovely one two, reflecting his love of owls as well of his family. On a day that has traditionally been spent with him, it was nice to visit him, especially after ringing on the six that he so loved ringing on.

Me enjoying a spot of fizzy.Having picked Ruthie up again, the rest of the day was - as usual - one without bells, but no less enjoyable, as our new-look Christmas Day took us to my mother-in-law Kate's for the rest of the day for a turkey dinner, with a walk to her mother's and back for tea. It wasn't the full-on family experience that festivities with my wife's uncles, aunts, nieces and many cousins typically is due to isolation and an understandable abundance of caution, but we had food, drink, each other and a bed for the night, so thank you to Ruthie's mother and gran for their wonderful hospitality. Much Lego building was done, slime dispatched and even the last few seconds of the Queen's speech taken in, as well as TV galore as we sat back and relaxed.

I hope and pray that you all had a wonderful day too, although I appreciate that on this occasion we were blessed in the current circumstances to manage what we did.
Merry Christmas one and all, with bells on!

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Christmas Eve 2021

Christmas 2021 is very different to Christmas 2019. Also mercifully it is very different (thus far!) to Christmas 2020. For pretty much everyone of course, but particularly personally. 2019 saw us end our 25th December as most of my 25th Decembers have ended, at Mum and Dad's in Ipswich where the designated driver for the day could relax with a few drinks and we were very kindly put up for the night.

The boys and presents under the tree at Mum's. Mother's Christmas Tree.Since my father died last year, our family were determined that it wouldn't just be mother and our Aunty Marian occupying each other until evening for Christmas Day. Of course there was nothing we could about that last year and sadly the scenario we wished to avoid was what happened all day long, but this year, with my brother taking on the hosting duties tomorrow and Mason due to go back to his mother's on Boxing Day, we began the festivities twenty-four hours early to allow Mum and Aunty to see all three boys open their presents and more importantly at this time of year spend time with them.

Christmas Eve ringing at St Mary-le-Tower 2021 style!Many thanks to mother for the gratefully received roast dinner and then tea either side of the excited gift opening and subsequent playing, building and solving of Scotland Yard inspired puzzles before all bar my Dad's sister went to St Mary-le-Tower where myself and the two Mrs Munnings present rang for the Nine Lessons and Carols, a reassuring return to normal Christmas traditions, albeit we were all ringing in masks. Earlier it had been confirmed that as a ringing chamber completely separate from the public part of the church we would be able under the current rules to ring maskless, but as a band we have decided to continue with masks on for the time being. Still, although we didn't manage to ring all twelve as the youngest sons periodically requested 'comfort breaks', we enjoyed some good ringing on the back ten, even with masks on.

St Mary The Virgin, Long Stratton - - 906626We returned home for more seasonal familiarity, as we ensured that Santa Claus and his reindeer had some sustenance for their busy night, whilst elsewhere ringing again offered some further seasonal familiarity as for an incredible sixty-seventh year running, a peal was rung on 24th December at Long Stratton just over the Norfolk border. As with twelve months ago it was understandably rung on handbells, with David Brown conducting and Richard Carter and former SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd ringing alongside him. It was lovely that Frank Arnold who only Mick Edwards has rung more peals for the Suffolk Guild as a non-resident member and twice Past Ringing Master of the SGR David Salter were remembered in the footnote, as they have arguably done more between them to keep this record going for so long.

Offton.On this side of the River Waveney there was also ringing, with a 1280 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung on the 8cwt ground-floor eight of Offton for the season.

Meanwhile, the night before Christmas wasn't entirely traditional, as we also joined the aforementioned Simon Rudd for his weekly Friday virtual pub where we chatted about plans for tomorrow and how some were later to ring for Midnight Mass. It was all very social and enjoyable, but a very different Christmas to that of 2019.

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Thursday 23rd December 2021

A quiet day in for us was basically because we were preparing for the visit of Ruthie's schoolfriend Verity and her fiancée Jade for dinner. For an occasion initially postponed by COVID worries last month, we were cautious about this, with lateral flow tests done just beforehand as we aimed to catch up with very good friends safely.

The Norman Tower.Elsewhere, Suffolk's ringers were ringing, most notably at The Norman Tower where a 1259 of Grandsire Caters was rung for the Nine Lessons and Carols Service and on that seasonal note, this is - as usual - the last blog entry that most people will get to read before 25th December. Therefore, I hope that you all have a safe and Happy Christmas and are God willing able to appreciate ringing for the big day and reminding people of the true meaning of the festivities!

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Wednesday 22nd December 2021

Nostalgia usually features prominently at this time of year. After all, celebrating Christmas is something we have been doing all our lives and I'm sure that most of us will have happy memories that we can specifically associate with this time of year. In recent days we've found ourselves watching a lot of the festive favourites on TV that we often end up watching every year, such as A Merry Tudor Christmas with Lucy Worsley & The Truth About Christmas Carols and Midsomer Murders & The Vicar of Dibley's seasonal offerings, whilst this afternoon saw The Muppet Christmas Carol make its essential and warming entrance! Carols and Christmas songs have been listened to on an almost constant loop and God willing, the company of family will be enjoyed, Santa Claus will make his visit and churches will be filled with joyful people taking in the real message of the occasion. Throw in ringing and it's towers and characters into the mix and there is a reassuring familiarity and timelessness about it all.

The triple Christmas edition of The Ringing World which arrived with us today captures that brilliantly, with an abundance of history brought to life in its glossy pages as I grabbed the chance to read it on this grey December day.

Debenham.Included in that is a superb article by John Loveless about the - then record - 16608 of Oxford Treble Bob Major at Debenham in 1892, featuring a venue dripping in history and names that I have known from my youth of gazing up at pealboards at St Mary-le-Tower and other local ringing chambers.

Ringers, bells, churches and even pubs of the county feature elsewhere in the 110 year-old journal though.

Haverhill.Ringing Reverend Max Drinkwater from Haverhill - inspired by Ed Sheeran and Elton John's new joint seasonal ditty - writes about the significance of bells in everyone's Christmas celebrations.

St Lawrence.St Lawrence in Ipswich get a mention as the oldest complete five hung for change-ringing in Richard Smith's piece about the oldest ring of bells.

Stoke-by-Nayland. Ufford. Wingfield .
Stoke-by-Nayland, Ufford & Wingfield

Carvings wood and stone in the churches at Stoke-by-Nayland, Ufford and Wingfield star in the photos in Alison Alcock's article.

Hadleigh.And The Eight Bells at Hadleigh near the eight bells of Hadleigh also appears in Chris Hutchinson's update on his 1000 Bell Pub Crawl.

I had read as much as I could before I felt duty bound to take it to Pettistree practice this evening, seeing as we only receive it on behalf of the band at this ground-floor six.

That session was another productive one also attended by my mother Sally in the one-off absence of a practice at Sproughton. There was considerable Grandsire Doubles focus for Sam Shannon on the treble, but also Double Oxford & St Clement's College Bob Minor spliced, London and Netherseale Surprise Minor and a selection on some of the methods rung tonight then spliced.

Beforehand I had rung in the quarter-peal of the ‘Cambridge Twelve’ Surprise Minor methods spliced whilst Ruthie sang at the Woodbridge Rotary Club Open Air Carol Service at Whisstocks Place as the boys watched on with Granny Kate, but I turned down a very tempting offer to go to The Greyhound afterwards for the same reasons as I left straight after the SMLT practice on Monday.

Barking.Meanwhile, our 1440 wasn't the only success in the medium within our borders today. Indeed it wasn't the most notable either, with the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Barking being a first quarter for Clem Day. Well done Clem!

Hopefully an event you look back on nostalgically in the future!

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Tuesday 21st December 2021

Elizabeth Tower.

On the day that it was announced that Big Ben - arguably the most famous bell of all - will ring out on New Year's Eve to welcome in 2022 (a rarity since renovation work began in 2017), we were doing no ringing today.

Rather, on my first day off for the Christmas holidays, I took the children down the park whilst Ruthie had a meeting for work over video at home and I then did some festive shopping as I zigzagged around the local shops.

Nothing was noted on BellBoard from within our borders either, on a quiet day for ringing in Suffolk. Unlike how midnight on New Year's Eve in Parliament Square should be.

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Monday 20th December 2021

It was the end of the year in two regular aspects of my life, but of course not in a normal way, as is in keeping with this very odd year.

Today was my last working day of 2021 at John Catt Educational, but there was no excited chatter with work colleagues about Christmas plans or the raffle for calendars and wine. Rather I was rounding off my workload for this twelve months in our bedroom with the boys on their holidays now and rather boisterously enjoying that fact downstairs!

St Mary-le-Tower.Come this evening and with no practice there next week, it was the last practice of the year at St Mary-le-Tower, but of course held in a well ventilated ringing chamber, facemasks on, lateral flow tests taken beforehand (indeed I took mine at the last possible moment before heading out) and the post-ringing visit to the pub forsaken on this occasion for a drink beneath the hung-up ropes and multitude of pealboards. Getting back to ringing these bells properly has been fantastic after being unable to for the majority of 2020 and so although missing a handful of regulars, it was great that a year that began struggling on those oft depressing Ringing Room sessions ended with a repertoire that included Caters of the Stedman and Erin varieties and Kent Treble Bob and Cambridge Surprise Royal, before climaxing with a well rung bob course of Grandsire Cinques.

Woolpit. Aldeburgh. I passed on a beer afterwards, anxious not to push my luck too much in the days leading up to what we pray will be as full, enjoyable and safe a family Christmas as possible, although we are keen to support as much local ringing as we can in these tough times and mercifully it seems others in Suffolk are too. Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson joined us at SMLT having earlier rung in a 1344 of Little Bob Major on handbells in Bury St Edmunds, whilst there were 1260s rung at Aldeburgh and Woolpit of Plain Bob Doubles and Buxton Bob Minor respectively. Well done to Edgar Wilhem on ringing his first quarter-peal inside in the former. And whilst I'm at it, beyond our borders, well done also to former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross on ringing her most methods in hand in the 5040 of seven Minor methods in Maidenhead.

The ringing year seems to be coming to a productive conclusion for Suffolk's ringers past and present.

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Sunday 19th December 2021

After the enjoyment but anxiety of yesterday, today was deliberately less adventurous, as we gave the boys a rest from lateral flow tests, which Joshua in particular finds very distressing.

Woodbridge.Therefore, whilst Ruthie undertook her choral duties at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge at the morning worship and then this evening at the Nine Lessons and Carols, Alfie, Josh and myself stayed at home, although I did watch the evening's Christmas offering on their livestream.

Pettistree. Ampton.Others were ringing in Suffolk, including at Woodbridge for both the aforementioned services, but also at Ampton with a 1272 of Plain Bob Minimus and Pettistree where they rang a 1274 of Cambridge Surprise Minor.

God willing we can get a bit more involved in the coming days.

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Saturday 18th December 2021

Today should've been unquestionably enjoyable and in the main it was.

Football training for the boys on a Saturday morning is a highlight of their week and is a joy for us too, watching them being so happy. And there was added fun as the parents were asked to join in with a game too!

On a busy day, there was just enough time to return home to change the boys out of their mud covered trousers before we headed into Ipswich for the Christmas ringing in Suffolk's county town, where as is the norm when I get the opportunity to participate in this event I joined in the ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, pulling the eleventh in to some Grandsire Cinques.

The Kevin Beattie statue. Mason meeting Kevin Beattie in 2017. That left us in the right place for our next engagement and the first of a trio of planned Ipswich Town fixtures at Portman Road that are part of the ‘Pack Out Portman Road’ initiative that through discounted ticket prices aims to do what it says on the tin. With pyrotechnics and 29,000 fans waving flags -as can be seen at the start of the highlights video - welcoming the team, crazy golf and Santa Claus in the fanzone, the atmosphere was incredible, but although the 1-1 draw with Sunderland was entertaining, it means that neither Alfie or Joshua have watched the Tractor Boys win, despite this being their fifth and fourth match respectively. Still, it was great fun for the boys in particular and nice to catch up with my brother and Norman Tower ringer Chris, who joined us and to see the new and impressive Kevin Beattie statue opposite the stadium, remembering a man that Mason and I had the pleasure of meeting at a previous match in 2017.

None of this was done with the company of Ruthie though, who had her own enjoyable day lined up, that took in choir practice for the forthcoming Nine Lessons and Carols at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and then this evening her work's Christmas party at Ufford Park.

In normal times, it would've been a hugely satisfying and enjoyable day, filled with the things we enjoy most and an abundance of the festive spirit liberally sprinkled throughout the day.

However, it was a day spent on edge, with COVID having a big effect, albeit mercifully not as big as the effect it was having twelve months ago when we couldn't do any of these activities. I was fifteen minutes late to ringing at SMLT, in part due to a misunderstanding with my wife over picking her up from choir practice, but also from trying to lateral flow a five-year-old and seven-year-old.

St Mary-le-Tower.Once there, we were of course all masked up in the typically well ventilated ringing chamber in the most visible sign of the times we are currently living in, whilst afterwards we were grateful for a cuppa very kindly made by Diana Pipe and chocolate biscuits generously supplied by Sue Williamson for just those who had rung on the 35cwt twelve that was nonetheless a lot smaller and more low key than the big social event that usually follows this event and unites those who have rung across the town centre, allowing us all to catch-up with friends from all over Suffolk and beyond, usually for the last time before Christmas with many.

And if I'm honest, I had considered a number of times if we should be contributing towards packing out Portman Road this afternoon with another 90,000+ cases of coronavirus recorded nationwide today. If it wasn't the sheer excitement that the boys had for the occasion, I might well have decided to stay away, but in the end I decided to mitigate our presence as much as possible. Instead of travelling in on packed trains as we normally do, we drove in and also thus avoided our original plan of cramming into McDonalds after full-time. Us adults wore masks throughout, including during the match, tried to stay out in the open as much as possible and held back at the end to allow the bulk of the crowds to get out, but I don't mind admitting that even I felt a little anxious at times. God willing we won't regret our decision to go along, as there is due to be much family time to be had and ringing to be done in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Ruthie's day was also marked by lateral flow tests and anxiety at a time when we all ought to getting more relaxed and at ease, and elsewhere within our borders there may be signs that other ringers are feeling similarly anxious, with no quarters or peals rung on real bells in the county for the third day in a row, largely unheard of at this time of year pre-pandemic.

It is very hard to enjoy many such simple pleasures at the moment.

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Friday 17th December 2021

Pealbase continues to throw up interesting categories and I had a little explore of the two newest ones in some downtime today.

Exeter Cathedral. Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Aerial view of St Paul's Cathedral St Mary Redcliffe 01
Tenors over 2 tons!

One is ‘Ringers who have participated in peals where the tenor weighs 40cwt or more.’ Despite ‘only’ needing Liverpool Cathedral to ring peals at the ‘Big Four’ of there, Exeter Cathedral, St Paul's Cathedral and York Minster, I've never really thought about ringing at as many big rings as possible, but it did surprise me slightly to see that I have only rung in five peals on a ring of bells weighing over two tons - Exeter on 23rd September 2000, York on 28th April 2001, Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin on 1st September that that year, St Paul's on 2nd January 2006 and St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol on 9th April 2007, the latter of which also happens to be Ruthie's only one on such a big ring, also surprisingly.

Mark Regan appears at the top of the list with 385, but the ringer who was once of Suffolk who comes in highest is John Loveless with 152, who learnt at Bures and has rung a peal on every bell over 40cwt in the world hung for change-ringing. Of those still resident in the county, Norman Tower ringer Ian Holland tops the list with 17, although Nigel Newton - who travels from Essex to ring regularly at St Mary-le-Tower has rung 30. With the tenor at SMLT being the heaviest within our borders at 35cwt, it is expected that Suffolk's ringers wouldn't feature prominently on such a chart.

The other category that I had a look at was one that tells me which bells I need to circle towers and how often I've rung specific bells to peals. Unlike the previous category it was unsurprising that I have circled The Wolery and four times at that, with the treble and tenor needed to circle a fifth time. Although I was slightly taken aback that I have rung the second there 33 times, which would appear to be my most pealed bell by a considerable distance.

Meanwhile, Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter was on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon talking to Sarah Lilley, 42mins 49secs into the afternoon show about tomorrow's planned Christmas ringing in Ipswich. The interview is almost as traditional as the ringing and today it was again great PR. However, although it is great that the bells of the county town are due to be ringing when last year ringing was only possible at St Lawrence - thanks to the Salter family bubble - and on Ringing Room last year, it still isn't the full-on experience, with fewer ringers about to usual and no social gathering.

That is of course due to the further rapid spread of omicron that now means that face masks are to be worn in ringing chambers. Except that an update to guidance has been announced today by the CCCBR that outlines that there are indeed exemptions to this. Those exemptions are in ringing chambers that are completely closed off from the rest of the church, such as Earl Soham, Hadleigh, Pakenham and Wilby, but not where the ringing is done in the same space as the public can occupy in a church, such as many ground-floor rings, like Dalham, Harkstead, Kersey and Wenhaston. However, it has to be with the agreement of the incumbent and if you do go for a peal without masks (and indeed any length of ringing) with people from other households, then all other precautions ought to be taken, with good ventilation and everyone taking lateral flow tests, ideally as close beforehand as possible. If we want to give ringing the best chance of continuing through these tough times whilst also not endangering people's health, lives or overwhelming the NHS, we need to do it as safely as we possibly can.

With that in mind, it is understandable that the Guildford Open Day that was planned for the New Year has been cancelled. I don't expect it will be the only ringing event to suffer the same fate in the coming weeks, including in Suffolk.

My evening was spent in a way that has become normal for a Friday during the pandemic, albeit not for a few weeks, as I joined Simon Rudd and friends virtually for a drink and chat that ranged from which ringer our host saw on a coastal walk last Christmas Day to hearing about another's car troubles and traffic hold-ups that meant that they didn't make a quarter-peal they were booked to ring in Poole.

Great Bealings.And although my wife missed all of that as she was singing in a Carol Service at Great Bealings, she made it back in time for us to meet my uni mates via video for a Christmas get-together.

I enjoyed it too, even if it didn't leave any time to add to my Pealbase statistics.

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Thursday 16th December 2021

To the backdrop of more jaw-droppingly staggering numbers pushed by Omicron, I did my bit today by getting my booster jab, an impressively quick process that took about five minutes from me walking into our GP's to leaving boosted, with the fifteen minute waiting time afterwards no longer necessary from today onwards. Following on from Ruthie getting hers earlier in the week, we feel as safe as we possibly can, but we're taking nothing for granted. There are Covid cases at school, amongst friends and in ringing and so daily lateral flow tests have become a part of my life now. Still, with mathematics that suggest that in theory everyone in the UK will have caught coronavirus by the early days of the New Year, at least vaccination reduces the chances of us adding to the bulging workload of the NHS, God willing.

Parham. Hacheston.Meanwhile, CCCBR President Simon Linford's blog that I read yesterday continued his commitment to highlight far flung corners of the Council's website, on this occasion taking us to the Shop, with perhaps intended good timing with Christmas presents at the forefront of many people's minds at the moment. Therefore I too am intent on continuing to do the same for this site. This time I point you in the direction of the BAC's ‘Bell Restoration - How to Make it Happen’ page. It has been surprising to me how many projects have steamed on through the pandemic, giving us something exciting to look forward to in these uncertain, often depressing and restrictive times, but they are daunting tasks to take on and know where to get started. As this page shows, a great place to begin is the Chairman of the Belfry Advisory Committee - which is currently Chris Davies - and getting ‘Organising a Bell Restoration Project’ from the CC and ‘Simon Cottrell's Paper’ from the BAC Chairman. Apart from being hugely entertaining, engaging and energetic company, Simon had a lot of experience of bell projects from being the driving force behind the successful jobs at Hacheston and Parham and I've heard his paper is an excellent source of guidance and advice. Well worth looking at if you are contemplating a bell restoration project I imagine.

Meanwhile, a peal I was due to be in during the Christmas period was not unexpectedly postponed today as the organiser wanted to stick to the guidelines, but didn't feel they and others in the band could wear a mask for three hours of ringing, which is understandable. It was disappointing, but not unexpected and hopefully by getting my booster jab I am contributing to us getting to a position where we can get rid of these restrictions sooner, as well as - more importantly - reducing some of those jaw-droppingly staggering numbers.

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Wednesday 15th December 2021

Barrow.I chose football over ringing this evening and wish I hadn't. Ipswich Town's latest humiliation was televised to the nation as they lost 2-0 at Barrow (the town on the Cumbrian coast, not the village near Bury St Edmunds with a ground-floor six!), mercifully tucked away on ITV4 where viewers were probably limited to fans of the respective teams and those expecting the snooker. Or wanted a good laugh.

It was an anti-climax to a day that was generally anti-climatic, with my afternoon off which was initially booked to take Joshua to a classmate's birthday party that was recently postponed due to you-know-what, instead reduced to pottering around the house doing jobs that are more practical whilst the children are out of the house, useful as it was. Although I enjoyed wrapping my first Christmas present of the season!

At least CCCBR President Simon Linford's Yule Blog raised a bit of cheer, including his introduction of Spice, a social network that introduces people to something new and which the ringers of St Paul's in Birmingham have apparently been using to their advantage.

Pettistree.Meanwhile at Pettistree, a 1320 of three Surprise Minor methods was rung before the practice. They definitely made the right choice I think!

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Tuesday 14th December 2021

Omicron is sadly sending us back to a sad past that we are desperate to leave behind. A past of dire warnings of the NHS being overwhelmed, a past of events being cancelled, a past of worrying that Christmas will be ruined by a glancing blow from this Covid-19. It is mentally draining after nearly two years of aching for a life of going about one's business without being worried that through no fault of your own you might inadvertently impact negatively on the lives of others.

Case numbers continue to rise and although th e most important stats of numbers in hospital and numbers dying from coronavirus mercifully remain stable for now, it seems to be anticipated that these too will rise sharply over the next week or two, but what that will mean for ringing over the next month or so remains to be seen. It is already having some effect on the exercise's activities, as this evening's monthly College Youths' meeting was moved online for the first time since July due to a number of the members coming into contact with a COVID case and therefore prompting a safety-first approach from the ASCY to avoid a potential spread in the lead-up to Christmas.

As with when they were legally unable to gather during most of last year and this, the plus side from a personal point of view was that I could join in with the business and goings on of this London-based society when I can't practically do so when these occasions are held in person in the capital. There were crucial differences this time though. Since last time I joined them, Ryan Noble has become the Master and was therefore leading proceedings, although Immediate Past Master Swaz Apter was pleasingly present, having also been unable to join the in-person event. Additionally it was great to hear reports of actual ringing at actual practices, including - amongst a repertoire of Stedman Cinques and Maximus of the Avon Delight, Bristol Surprise and spliced varieties - mention of a pocket watch being flung across the ringing chamber at St Paul's Cathedral after being caught in a rope! Encouraging also that there were many peals rung for the Society since last month's meeting, although perhaps telling that only one attempt on handbells is definitely planned before next month's meeting, or at least which was imparted tonight. And it was uplifting to listen to Secretary Simon Meyer running through the programme of the big events lined up for 2022, some of which required voting upon and which I was pleased to get involved with.

However, I was sorry to hear that Essex ringer and Past Master of the CYs David Rothera recently had a stroke. David has very kindly helped out with many Suffolk Guild peals in the past, including several that I have organised, so I was also happy to hear that he has subsequently made a very good recovery.

Meanwhile, it was interesting to hear about the life of Norwich member Donald 'Sam' Mortlock, who has just passed away and who I hadn't put two and two together and worked out before David House's words on him this evening that he was the same Mortlock often referenced with much respect by Simon Knott on his superb Suffolk Churches website and who had written The Guide to Suffolk Churches with help from George Pipe on the bells side. To increase the connection to here, he was seemingly born within our borders.

Offton.Whilst I was taking this all in from our dining table, other ringers in our county were ringing, with the practice preceded as usual by a quarter-peal, which on this occasion was a 1312 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Surprise Major, composed and conducted by the ground-floor eight's Ringing Master Brian Whiting.

Even closer to home, Ruthie took up the rallying call to get her booster jab today, something that I hope all eligible ringers do in order to try and make ringing as safe as possible and ensure that the exercise is not completely sent back to that dreadful past.

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Monday 13th December 2021

In line with many others in England, today marked the start of working from home full-time again. I haven't been in the offices of John Catt Educational for a complete working week since last year, but it is easier and more practical to make phonecalls from my desk and with the equipment designed for the job, so I have been going in two or three days a week for the last few months. However, we are now entering what is always a quiet period for us in the sales team which communicates primarily with independent schools who in the main have already started their festive breaks and so I can work from home as effectively as in the office until the New Year at least.

It may seem a futile gesture whilst the boys are still going to school, Ruthie remains at work, we are due to watch football with thousands of others in the coming weeks, go to pubs, meet friends, have been away for the weekend with others, are planning on meeting friends and God willing spending Christmas with family, but whilst I have always felt perfectly safe in our vast, open offices with only a handful of colleagues across two floors, it is one less place for me to catch coronavirus from or pass it on to.

St Mary-le-Tower.Besides, it feels slightly less absurd than my evening, where in the well ventilated ringing chamber of St Mary-le-Tower, where everyone had produced negative lateral flow tests beforehand, hand sanitiser was used between pieces, everyone stood relatively far from each other and we knew exactly who was there, we had to wear facemasks. Afterwards though, we retired to the Halberd Inn where in common with pretty much all pubs I've been in recently I saw very little ventilation in comparison, we all sat together in the corner chatting over a drink and sharing a space with people we didn't know who may or may not have tested before coming out, all unmasked.

Such contradictions further fuel the issue around ringing peals which was the subject of some consternation on social media, with the insistence that masks are worn for them meaning some peals are being called off, but this evening's near two hours entirely masked gave me greater confidence in ringing a peal with a mask on and again there were peals rung on church bells today, so perhaps it won't be as big a problem as feared.

Nonetheless, there were none rung in Suffolk today, but there was a quarter-peal rung in hand. The upturn of handbell ringing in the county has been one of the few silver linings to the tumult of the last two years to the extent that the 1344 of Plain Bob Major rung in Bury St Edmunds is quite normal now. That it is though, is in itself impressive.

Our ringing at SMLT tonight was less than normal though. Personally I believe what we achieve at this provincial twelve far from the main centres of 'elite' twelve-bell ringing in big cities like London and Birmingham is extremely good and is often commented to me by visitors. A big reason for that is due to the high standards set by our Ringing Master David Potts and in a sign of those high standards, following a couple of below-par weeks, David had decided on a focus on odd-bell ringing to help nail our leading. If I'm honest, I wasn't entirely looking forward to it. For me the beauty of ringing is variety and I enjoy cementing and improving old favourites by trying new methods that make the once tricky 'easier' methods seem more straightforward and familiar and therefore allow for more concentration on striking in those. There is more than one way to skin a cat though (please don't skin cats!) and tonight showed that as we had quite a productive session, mainly of Caters, but also of Cinques, as well as a brief foray into rounds on the front eight to give one of our Wednesday learners Judy a go. Grandsire was rung, as you might expect, but also Plain and Little Bob spliced and Erin, but most importantly, it was well rung.

And for all the concerns that now see me working from home, I'm glad that I can still go ringing.

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Sunday 12th December 2021

As usual on such trips away there was no ringing on this Sunday morning for us, as despite the presence of ringers in our group, we are in the minority. Besides, there aren't actually any rings of bells hung for change ringing in Hunstanton.

Instead our morning was primarily spent packing our belongings in readiness for our departure from The Gingerbread House which has been our home for the last couple of nights, before visiting the Sea Life Centre on the seafront. This is somewhere we went to a couple of years ago in the summer of 2019 during a day off from ringing on the Rambling Ringers Tour to Norfolk and it has to be said that the weather was more pleasant on this mild December day as we wandered about outside watching seals getting fed, than on that wet, windy and cold July day nearly eighteen months ago!

It rounded off a lovely weekend away for which we are very grateful to my mother-in-law for - thank you Kate!

We left immediately afterwards though, leaving Joshua in the care of his grandparents and great granny as we had to get back to Ipswich this afternoon. Or more pertinently Alfie had to for his classmate's birthday party at Jump In on on Anglia Retail Park on the outskirts of Suffolk's county town, an energetic couple of hours of bouncing followed by the obligatory pizza and cake, whilst we took advantage of the proximity of shops to briefly do a bit of a bit shopping.

Christmas on the Hills. Christmas on the Hills.That wasn't the end of our weekend's activity with Ruthie's family though, as we then met up this evening for ‘Christmas on the Hills’, a festive outdoor trail on the Seckford Hills where the boys were amazed by a magician, threw snowballs at The Grinch, toasted marshmallows and met Santa Claus, from whom they received early gifts.

Woodbridge.It was all wonderful stuff that got us well and truly into the seasonal spirit, but our busy day left no time for ringing. And although we know there was a practice at St Mary-le-Tower for Ipswich's entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in our absence and ringing for morning worship at Woodbridge is noted on BellBoard, there were no quarter-peals or peals from within our borders noted elsewhere on the site. It looks like it was a quiet day from a ringing perspective for other Suffolk ringers too.

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Saturday 11th December 2021

Peals are such an important element of ringing. Combined with other aspects such as outings, quarter-peals, tours and similar, it is part of what makes the art so absorbing and more than 'just' pulling ropes on a Sunday morning, as much as that is of course the primary purpose of what we do, and they really help raise standards through the concerted and prolonged focus on ringing that you can't get to the same extent in any other aspect of the exercise.

However, the impact of the new rule that facemasks have to be worn in places of worship is probably greatest in this aspect of the exercise then any other. Wearing masks for relatively short periods of time is no big ask, even for a quarter-peal as we and others did when we first returned to the medium on towerbells earlier in the year. Extending that to two or three hours (or even longer sometimes) could be less practical. I did have to wear one for around sixteen hours when I was a poll clerk in May, but even then I did have the chance to periodically step outside and take it off and of course I wasn't exerting myself physically as much as pulling a 20cwt bell in for 5000+ changes for example. Apparently there are negotiations ongoing to see if some flexibility can be granted for ringing, I guess from the perspective of it being a physical activity and that most ringing is being done with far more ventilation than in many other places, including those where masks haven't got to be worn currently, such as pubs and restaurants.

In the meantime, it makes arranging peals an even more uncertain activity than it has been since July when we could properly start it on towerbells again. Personally I would like to arrange a peal for the fifteenth anniversary of Mason's birth at the end of January and an email I read this morning from the organiser of a peal I am due to be in later this month suggested it might be in doubt if we have to wear masks. From my point of view, I am willing to try ringing a peal in a mask, but I would prefer not to for that period of time, especially if other measures that have been largely successful in keeping ringing safe thus far are assured (such as good ventilation and lateral flow tests) are in place, and I can certainly understand if others can't even entertain the option. It would be interesting to know how those who have been ringing peals today and yesterday have done things, because I am keen to continue enjoying my ringing as fully as possible whilst protecting myself and more importantly others against Omricon and indeed any variant of coronavirus.

View from our bedroom window in The Gingerbread House in Hunstanton on Saturday morning.Not that I concerned myself too much with the issue today as we enjoyed our only full day of the weekend in Hunstanton, from waking to views of The Wash to a walk on the beach, greeting Ruthie's sister and her daughters to enjoying the panto of Aladdin at the Princess Theatre, a huge tea to Christmas bingo for the children. All great fun!

Meanwhile, back in Suffolk, a quarter-peal of Grandsire Triples was rung at The Norman Tower for the Carols by Candlelight Service at the Cathedral. Hopefully there will be a opportunity for some peals in the county in the coming weeks too.

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Friday 10th December 2021

Tannington.Hempsted Bob Minor is one of those types of methods I don't enjoy ringing so much, involving more than two blows on the front, making seconds on the way to or from leading and the like. However, as a variant of the more familiar St Clement's College Bob Minor, it is a method that can produce some really good ringing, being just about different enough to induce extra concentration and focus whilst being being familiar enough to introduce some comfort. I imagine it was rung very well by the FNQPC in the 1308 of it scored at the 10cwt ground-floor six of Tannington tonight.

Whilst they were doing that, we were traversing the countryside of Suffolk and Norfolk, dark but joyfully lit by bursts of festive lights in pretty villages and isolated homes, as Mason, Ruthie and myself made our way to Hunstanton for our annual weekend away with my wife's family in the lead up to Christmas. Again it is thanks to the generosity of mother-in-law Kate and as usual she has found a wonderful, big house to put the large number of relatives up, which on this occasion is The Gingerbread House, a spacious three-floored Victorian town house in the town on the coast of The Wash.

By the time we arrived, Alfie and Joshua were already there having travelled up with their granny, grandad and great granny after school, the top floor had been set aside for us as our accommodation and tea was very kindly being prepared for us before we sat back for a relaxing evening of conversation and drink.

It didn't involve any ringing though, so it is a good job that the FNQPC were busy in the exercise today!

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Thursday 9th December 2021

As with the once normal order of things, yesterday's government announcement on COVID restrictions has been followed today by amended Church of England guidance and the first update to guidelines on the CCCBR website since 27th August. Page five of the CofE's updated information specifically mentions ringing and seems to suggest advice that the vast majority of ringers have been following ever since restrictions were fully lifted on 19th July, which is to maintain good ventilation and use hand sanitiser. They highlight that social distancing is not required, but make no mention of masks, but the Central Council states (As agreed with The CofE Recovery Group. Ed.) that there is no exemption for ringing from the wearing of face masks. They have thus far been excellent - in my humble opinion - in guiding the art in these unprecedented times and arguably that and the common sense, caution and diligence that ringers have followed has thus far worked, with much ringing done in almost complete normality with very little spread of coronavirus emanating from ringing as far as I am aware. That could change of course though and so whilst the aim has to be to keep bells ringing normally, especially over Christmas, no one should feel pressured to return to or continue ringing in the current circumstances if they don't feel safe to. And we have to continue to be as safe as possible when participating in the exercise.

Neither Ruthie and myself did any ringing today, but not due to any concerns over safety as we continue to get on with life as much as we can through regular lateral flow tests and keeping a close eye on symptoms and the local situation, praying that we don't end up in close contact for any length of time with someone infected or even worse catch the virus itself and worse still pass it on to someone else, particularly someone vulnerable. Rather, it was my wife's double choir practice night which meant that combined with looking after the children, getting out to ring was impractical.

Therefore, the closest I got to ringing was an accidental phone call from South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden and more practice on my eBells on Ringing Room as I attempted to with Little Bob Minor what I managed with Plain Bob last night and then brushed off the cobwebs on Lessness Surprise Major with a single 'bell', before the unpredictable internet connection made it too difficult to carry on. Here's hoping that we shan't be restricted on real bells so that this ends up being my main medium of ringing again!

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Wednesday 8th December 2021

You can generally tell how bad the coronavirus situation is by the frequency of Downing Street press conferences and for all that some believe the timing of this evening's was more to do with distracting everyone from allegedly illegal governmental parties last December, they are beginning to occur with a worrying regularity, especially as we approach what we hope will be our first near-normal Christmas for two years, when we pray that we can once again spend this special time of year with family, friends - and in our case - bells.

Still, whilst the announcements made today may well have an effect on where I work from after the weekend, as someone double-vaccinated and hopefully shortly to be triple-vaccinated, I shan't find my way barred to football matches or theatres for the lack of a Covid pass, at least of course providing I haven't got the virus. And actually, very little should change in regards to ringing, although we might see a few more masks in ringing chambers where otherwise we've been more cautious and diligent than much of the rest of society since restrictions were lifted completely in July.

Apparently it also doesn't preclude schools putting on performances before the end of term, but having missed out on Alfie's festive offering on Monday due to the weather (although as has become unremarkable over the last twenty-one months, we were sent the video of it today), we were able to watch Joshua's this afternoon in person. It was all outside of course, but still adorable as they performed their repertoire including the familiar Away in a Manger, as well as the perhaps less universally known Clip Clop, Don't Stop and I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, with Josh bouncing up and down and doing the actions exuberantly being an endearing image!

Me trying my eBells out.Later, Ruthie was picked up by her mother Kate for the practice at Pettistree, the latter having already rung in a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor, before finishing in The Greyhound next door, whilst simultaneously I was polishing my Plain Bob Minor on 3-4 on my eBells at home without causing exasperation to others.

Hitcham.Elsewhere in Suffolk, more experienced handbell ringers than I were ringing to a level far above what I can comprehend doing in hand as a 5040 of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung in Bacton and my mother-in-law's exertions weren't the only QP success within our borders as a 1280 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major was rung on the new 15cwt gallery-ring eight of Hitcham.

God willing there won't be too many of those Downing Street press conferences in the coming weeks to jeopardise such activity.

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Tuesday 7th December 2021

Bungay. The Norman Tower.The CCCBR's latest photo competition on the theme of ‘Ringers in Action’ is due to close on 19th December and adding to the picture I sent in recently, some more from Suffolk have appeared, hopefully increasing the chances of a winner from the county! Two are of ringing at Great Barton from the start of 2020, with one presumably taken at the first practice night of the decade there (judging by the date attached to the photo at least) and the other from the North-West District Practice on 8th February last year, which featured on this blog. A good time to remind readers that the NW District have a Practice at The Norman Tower lined up for this Saturday (although as I write this it doesn't say at what time, so do check with District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner if you wish to go), with an emphasis on five, six and eight bell ringing. Also worth noting that a couple of days later on the Monday evening that it is planned to have the monthly Eight-Bell Practice at Bungay and on Saturday 18th the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich is penciled in from 11.45am-12.15pm.

In addition to those, there is also a photograph of ringing at Hadleigh, which I assume by the photographs I have from the event is of ringing at the Guild AGM there in 2016 and pleasingly features my father Alan in the bottom left corner and his distinctive grey coat hanging on the wall just behind Jonathan Williamson.

Meanwhile, I finished watching the interview with Michael Moreton, recorded on the morning of the College Youths' Dinner Day in St Paul's Cathedral's ringing chamber a few weeks ago and free to view on YouTube. With the help of others in the room, he was able to recollect all sorts of anecdotes, from joke dolls to ringing for royal occasions at Westminster Abbey, whilst George Pipe again got a mention. A fascinating insight into a long, illustrious life in the exercise.

Offton.Whilst I was watching that, there was ringing in Suffolk going on, with a quarter-peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Major preceding the practice on the 8cwt ground-floor eight of Offton. Perhaps there were some more entries from tonight for the CCCBR's photo competition therefore!

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Monday 6th December 2021

Last winter Covid completely closed society, pretty much throughout the season. There was nothing bar the bare essentials of life. Work, education, shopping, but no going to watch nativity plays, having a drink in a pub and no ringing. A year on, we are mercifully in a better place, but the virus continues to disrupt life.

This afternoon, Alfie and his classmates were supposed to be giving their Christmas performance to their families. With Alfred having given us an impressive near perfect rendition of 'Good King Wenceslas' on the piano last night in preparation, we were very excited. To give the school credit, in order to allow the opportunity for as many as possible to watch in these current times, they had decided to hold it outdoors, but of course as soon as it became clear this morning how bad the weather was going to be this afternoon, it was always going to be cancelled. With the school unwilling to move it indoors - even with precautions - it meant that for the second year running we were unable to take in his festive performance, always a special moment for children and parents. God willing we shall be able to watch Joshua's performance when it is planned to come round.

St Mary-le-Tower.It is a sign of the times, as is that we were one ringer down at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice this evening whilst they wait for a PCR test result after being 'pinged'. Hopefully they are alright, but they weren't the only ones missing as we were a little short in the ventilated ringing chamber which is a compromise we have accepted in order to ring where we weren't able to a year ago. Nonetheless, we managed a pretty productive session, which included some Plain Hunt on Eleven to focus on rhythm and striking (followed by some Grandsire Cinques that collapsed when I put a bob in slightly early!), but also some reasonable Stedman Caters and half courses of Cambridge and Yorkshire Surprise Royal, all climaxed by three leads of Kent Treble Bob Royal, before we retired for a drink in the Halberd Inn. None of which we could've done last winter.

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Sunday 5th December 2021

The Norman Tower on Saturday 26th March 2022. Mark the date in your brand new black Ringing World Diary. Or at least as much as one can mark any date in these times. For that is the day that some of the best twelve-bell bands on the planet are due to come to Bury St Edmunds for one of the three eliminators for next year's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest and following this evening's draw for those eliminators, the team who have won this competition more than everyone else put together, Birmingham, one the aspirational London-based societies, the Cumberland Youths, regular finalists in recent years, Leeds, a team with great pedigree in this contest, Towcester and former finalists Sheffield who were due to host the final in 2020 before you-know-what stopped life in its tracks and who are penciled in to host the final in 2023. And, TWO teams from Suffolk, as the hosts are joined by St Mary-le-Tower.

Personally, I am absolutely delighted after years without representation, that both sides of the county are now fully represented in the biggest striking competition in the world of ringing. Whilst it is great that Ipswich are able to continue a fine tradition in this competition (especially after we missed out on our reentry just under two years ago due to the aforementioned pandemic), it is fantastic that our friends from the west can begin a new chapter in the contest after the augmentation of the ten in the famous ancient tower alongside the Cathedral nine years ago afforded many talented ringers in the area to progress on twelve, clearly to good effect. Although clearly in competition with each other on the day, both towers have long helped each other out and I hope that this friendly local derby will help us together to reinforce the rising standards on higher numbers within our borders.

I would've been happy being drawn at any of the trio of towers that are lined up to host events in just under four months time. A trip down to London to St Magnus-the-Martyr would've been a jolly adventure, whilst a weekend in the lovely old city of Chester in a rarely visited part of the world for us would've been a fun getaway. However, there are obvious advantages geographically to being in Bury St Edmunds, as well as the fact we are already familiar with the bells, with some having rung there regularly, whilst many of us have rung in quarters, peals and even other striking competitions there.

Additionally, I hope it adds extra motivation for Suffolk Guild members to come along on the day to support the local teams and hear some magnificent twelve-bell ringing.

Earlier, we at SMLT had been undertaking our latest practice for the competition, once some of us had got past the members of the public who had entered the open door and ascended the stairs in the mistaken though perhaps not unreasonable belief that Trees @ the Tower might be found up there before being sent back down by the ringers already up the tower! And we were pretty pleased with our efforts too. Without knowing the exact touch or where we would be ringing, the practices have largely been about conditioning the band to focusing and concentrating on ten minutes of Stedman Cinques and getting an idea of who is best placed where. It seems to be bearing fruit, with definite improvement detectable to us and Hawkear, which gave all our pieces three out of five stars this afternoon. A very reasonable foundation to build on.

It wasn't the only ringing I did today though, as I rang at Woodbridge for the service that I attended downstairs afterwards, but I did get the opportunity to catch up with some ringing media of the weekend.

First up was listening to North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner's superb interview with Sarah Lilley on BBC Radio Suffolk yesterday morning, which Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge has very kindly put on YouTube. In it, she speaks about the handbell ringing she and others were going to be doing around Stowmarket later in the day, but also the latest on the project to augment the town's eight to ten, which will hopefully see them all ringing out in time for Easter.

Barham.I also got the chance to read The Ringing World which arrived with us on Saturday. As hoped, the first peal on the six at Barham and the 5024 at Aldeburgh which was Alan Mayle's two thousandth towerbell peal got a mention on 'What's Hot on BellBoard', but there was another link to ringing in the county through the article on the recent interview with Michael Moreton in the ringing chamber of St Paul's Cathedral, which was broadcast live online at the time and which I subsequently watched the start of this evening. Michael is someone we have had the pleasure of listening to, not least in the pub following a peal he rang with us at his home tower of St Peter's in South Croydon back in 2007 and he is full of fascinating stories, so it is unsurprising that he is the first stalwart of the College Youths to be interviewed in such a way. However, the idea is firmly rooted in Suffolk as George Pipe had suggested that such an interview should be held with Reydon ringer and one of the CY's longest serving members Don Price, which led to an interview with George being set up for 2019. Sadly ill health and his subsequent passing meant this never happened and unfortunately Don is seemingly not well enough to be interviewed, but hopefully the legacy of GWP's original idea will be similar chats with other longstanding members of the ASCY.

Meanwhile, well done to Stephen Dawson on ringing his first quarter-peal of Royal in today's 1296 of Little Bob at The Norman Tower. Bells that God willing we'll all be listening to on Saturday 26th March 2022.

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Saturday 4th December 2021

St Felix, Rendlesham.I can't deny that I felt a little delicate this morning! Mercifully we awoke (as planned!) at my mother's house, where she very kindly and helpfully occupied the boys whilst we had a rare lay-in and ensured that we were in a safe state to get on the road, which eventually took us to Messy Church and a hearty lunch of jacket potatoes at St Felix church in Rendlesham with our friends Charlotte and Gregory who run it.

Trees @ the Tower at the bottom of the Tower!There was definite relief on my part that the original plan for a peal at St Mary-le-Tower for Trees @ the Tower didn't happen after all and that we weren't in the first of two quarter-peals for the occasion, which set off at 10am, especially as even for the 2pm QP that we rang in I still couldn't claim to be 100%. All the more pleasantly surprising therefore that the 1368 of Grandsire Caters was actually a very good effort.

Meanwhile, for those still searching for stocking fillers for Christmas, Simon Linford's Project Pickled Egg-based book The Core Seven and Beyond: A Guide to Treble Dodging Major is now for sale. I'm really hoping that Suffolk's ringers can get engaged with PPE, which could widen our members' repertoire, enjoyment and engagement and this publication should be a good companion to anyone wanting to progress in Treble Dodging Major.

Usually on this particular Saturday, we might have been able to make inroads at the South-East District ADM, but some time ago it was decided to hold it online. I can't say I wasn't disappointed as it seemed a depressing throwback to last winter and personally having sat in various well ventilated though chilly venues (including the aforementioned Messy Church today) and outdoors at events like football at length, I felt OK with spending half an hour in a hall or church somewhere running through the business of the day. However, I'm well aware that for many others it might have been an off-putting proposition and of course the recent uncertainty caused by Omicron may well have put even more people off. Although we can't tell how many would've turned up to an in-person event, I think the District Committee can feel justified in their decision in the circumstances as a reasonable number of members turned out for the occasion, including John and Shirley Girt, with the help of Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter. It was lovely to see them.

Lovely as well to get a few more details on the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich, which is due to take place on Saturday 18th December and to generally hear about how towers have been getting back to ringing, even if things clearly aren't completely back to normal. And good to feel a part of things even as I made pizza in the kitchen within earshot!

However, perhaps even more disappointing than having to hold proceedings online (God willing for the last time ever) though, was the failure of anyone from our huge District to come forward to replace Abby Antrobus as Secretary (not for want of trying by Abby and the Committee!), meaning that this duty will now have to be shared out amongst the other Committee members. Obviously it isn't practical for many people - ourselves included currently - to take it on, with life in general being busy with work, parenthood and other reasons and there are certain attributes that would suit some much more than others, such as being organised, but I find it hard to believe that out of the near-three hundred members in the SE that there is absolutely no one who can and will take on the role, especially with the support on offer and modern communications. If you know someone who could do the job and would be willing or indeed you feel you could do it, then please, please, please do make SE District Chairman Mark Ogden and/or SE District Ringing Master Jenny Scase aware.

The South-East District isn't the only one in Suffolk looking to fill an important role though, as after another uninspiring afternoon at Portman Road, Ipswich Town sacked the manager Paul Cook after just nine months in charge.

He too may be feeling a little delicate.

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Friday 3rd December 2021

Today, I felt a little like the Reverend Geraldine Granger in the first Vicar of Dibley Christmas special, ‘The Christmas Lunch Incident’. For those who aren't familiar with the 1996 comedy classic, the titular character ends up having to eat multiple dinners with her parishioners on 25th December, by the end being barely able to move through the sheer weight of food consumed! After two large meals out and copious amounts of alcohol, I wasn't far off needing to be taken to my bed in a tractor bucket.

Appropriately, one of the meals was a Christmas one as the John Catt Educational festive offering took us to The Green Man in Tunstall. This was a real trip down memory lane, back to an establishment that was a second home when I lived in the village, a mere couple of minutes walk beneath the star-filled clear skies from the little pink cottage that was home for a year when I moved back to Suffolk from the West Midlands.
It all felt very familiar, but it has definitely changed. In my time it was pretty much entirely a pub for drinkers and not one with a good reputation in some quarters. Now it seems to be getting a good name for food and from my experience this afternoon it is completely merited, as I tucked into a three course meal of wood pigeon, turkey and cheesecake.

With Ruthie and the boys coming to pick me up though, meal number one was complete and meal number two was about to get underway, as we dropped our sons off at Mum's and walked into Ipswich for the St Mary-le-Tower curry, typically held on the first Friday of December. As is the norm, we met beforehand in the usual post-ringing pub, but since the last time this has of course changed to the Halberd Inn and so this was the first occasion in its present guise that my wife had been.

From here it was a walk up Norwich Road to the Maharani for my follow-up meal and more great grub and good company and typical high octane accounting as Amanda Richmond tried to work out what everyone owed! And a good number of us topped the night off with a short stroll to St Judes Brewery Tavern, before we wandered back to my mother's where she was very kindly putting us up for the night.

Earl Stonham.Elsewhere, other ringers from the county were doing some actual ringing within our borders, with an all-Scase quarter-peal rung on the 9cwt gallery-ring six of Earl Stonham. Which was certainly more than I or the Vicar of Dibley would've been capable of doing today.

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Thursday 2nd December 2021

“Almost a Greek island, with a mixed gin and cold meat.”

Thus went the first, cryptic clue of ‘Dolphin's Dart’, the daily competition (well, from Monday to Thursday now) on one-time ringer Lesley Dolphin's BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon show (although it was being presented by Sarah Lilley with Lesley on holiday) that gives out three clues about a place in the county for the listeners to try and guess where they're talking about.

I didn't instantly work out where it was with the first clue, as of course my main focus was on my work, but the second clue that gives its geography and tells competitors a number of distinguishing factors about the place made it obvious to me and I imagine will to a number of you if you haven't already worked it out. Or cheated by scrolling down. For at this point, it was revealed that the village in question was south-east of Framlingham and there are six bells in the tower, with the oldest bell made by Richard Baxter and dating from around 1416. Oh, and the local pub is called The Bell.

Barham.A week ago, the county's local radio station was carrying word of the first peal at Barham, but if you fancy having a ring at this new six by joining them at the practice, you need to note that according to the Guild's Facebook page, yesterday's weekly session was the last until January, due to the cold weather. It is understandable if towers consider that it might be too unpleasant as the weather gets colder whilst we try to maintain ventilation, particularly with a new band that you don't want to put off too much! However, I'm hoping ringers generally stick with it, using extra layers and heating as much as possible, especially as most ringing chambers are not overly warm anyway throughout the winter! As always though, nobody should feel pressured into coming along if they don't want to, whether that be due to the temperatures, anxiety around COVID or both.

There was no opportunity for either myself or Ruthie to go along to any ringing, cold or otherwise, as it was my wife's choir night, which makes it impractical for either of us to get anywhere such as Grundisburgh to make our presence worthwhile.

Meanwhile, the answer was...


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Wednesday 1st December 2021

CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog has certainly caused a stir, especially about ringers taking the Basic Awareness safeguarding training being compulsory from next month. This really is such an important thing to do and yet such a simple task, to take a little time out to do an online course which is generally common sense. It won't stop anyone intent on causing harm from trying to do so, but it should help the rest of us from spotting important signs. Please do take the time to do them, as surely we want everyone to feel safe and be safe doing ringing.

Gislingham. Debenham. St Mary-le-Tower.
‘Record’ Towers - Gislingham, Debenham & St Mary-le-Tower

It seems appropriate therefore, not only to continue to highlight one of the lesser known pages on this website - as Simon does for the Central Council's website again - but to make that page the Safeguarding one, where there is much invaluable information on the subject. On the CC site, Mr Linford leads folk to the Record Peals section and Suffolk features in many places. A 10,080 of Plain Bob Minor at Gislingham in 1822 which appears to be the longest. The 16,608 of Oxford Treble Bob Major at Debenham in 1892 was a record up until 1927. At St Mary-le-Tower there were first peals of Plain Bob Cinques in 1950, Cambridge Surprise Maximus in 1908, Pudsey Surprise Maximus in 1930, Superlative Surprise Maximus in 1927 and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus in 1929, whilst the first handbell peal of Maximus was rung in the Oak Lane Rooms alongside the churchyard there in 1888. Additionally, the first (only?) peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Sixteen in hand was rung in Newmarket in 1991. As Simon says, fascinating.

Elsewhere on the CCCBR website, the photo competition with the theme 'Ringers in Action' continues, now with a new entry from me! I've always loved the picture of Alfie and Joshua sat intently watching the handbell ringing in Brian and Peta Whiting's beautiful garden the last time the Offton BBQ - a highlight of a typical calendar - could be held in the distant summer of 2019 and seemed to fit the brief, especially as up until now there haven't been any shots of handbell ringers in action. Fitting too that two of those in the shot were handbell ringing today, as David Stanford and Brian Whiting rang in Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson and Past Guild Ringing Master Jed Flatters' longest length of ringing in hand with the 2464 of Plain Bob Major in Bury St Edmunds. With my struggles on 5-6 to the same method that I was practicing on eBells this evening, I am full of admiration, so well done both of them!

Pettistree.Meanwhile, two others in the photo were enjoying their newly regained freedoms following Alfred's negative PCR test result from yesterday as the boys returned to school to see their friends again, whilst their mother Ruthie celebrated her freedom with a night of ringing at Pettistree with their Gran Kate that took in a quarter-peal of Carlisle Surprise Minor before a practice that was topped with a drink in The Greyhound next door.

Horringer.That wasn't the only success on towerbells in the county today though, as all of those who rang in the aforementioned handbell performance also participated in a 1312 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Horringer, showing what an engaging hobby this is.

I only hope that everyone does their safeguarding training to help ensure that is the case for all.

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Tuesday 30th November 2021

Hoorah, at last!

Three days after Alfie's Saturday morning PCR test, this afternoon we finally got confirmation of his result, which thank God was negative. However, after another day off school for Alfred and Joshua, it took us chasing it up and discovering there had been a scanning issue in the process, Ruthie's call seemingly unblocking the system as within minutes an email confirming AJM's safe status arrived, much to the relief of Mike Whitby who was on the phone at the time enquiring about our availability for a quarter-peal!

Not only did it allow mother-in-law Kate Eagle to pop round with Advent calendars for the boys with not enough for Ufford practice to go ahead tonight, but also means we are now happy to get out to ringing again, providing we get negative lateral flow test results beforehand, even if we didn't end up doing any this evening. However, other ringers were going about participating in the art across Suffolk at various Tuesday evening practices, although there was nothing noted on BellBoard from within our borders.

Our Christmas tree.Meanwhile, with no opportunity over the next few days (providing nothing else stops our plans), we succumbed to putting up our Christmas tree slightly earlier to when we usually would, with the boys' excitable help, as we celebrated negative test results!

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Monday 29th November 2021

And still we wait!

All four of us spent the day at home, bar Ruthie going to get the weekly shop from click & collect, as I worked from home and the boys forsook a return to school whilst we spent another day anxiously checking for a text confirming whether Alfie's PCR test on Saturday is positive or negative.

Again it meant missing ringing that we had lined up at St Mary-le-Tower as I decided not to go to the weekly practice as a precaution. I didn't have to and we don't consider ourselves particularly noble for staying away from ringing, but the exercise as a whole has been tremendous for doing more to stay safe than it has to and than much of the rest of society has. Unventilated shops, pubs and restaurants have been bustling with largely unmasked punters since the rules on face coverings were removed in July, yet ringers have continued ringing in increasingly chilly ringing chambers with open doors and windows, hand sanitising between touches and in circumstances where many have been gathering together from different towers - such as District events - wearing masks, whilst I know that other ringers who have suspected they had COVID have stayed away until they can be sure they are safe. In one case, they actually did have the virus and so it was a good job they didn't come ringing and spread it! We don't want to jeopardise the good work of others that has meant that by and large ringing has avoided many cases occurring directly from ringing, bar some rare and unlucky cases such as the North-East District Meeting at Reydon last month. That despite most towers returning to full-on unrestricted practices without limits on numbers, large-scale events being held and multiple quarters and peals being rung everyday for more than four months. God willing that will continue throughout the winter and I hope that the cautious actions of ourselves and other ringers can further reassure those still understandably anxious about returning to the art.

Aldeburgh.Others in Suffolk were more active from a ringing perspective, although even the quarter-peal at Aldeburgh only happened due to meeting short at their practice. Well done to Harold Humphreys on ringing his first of Grandsire Doubles though.

However, hopefully we won't have to wait long for busier days for ringing and for us.

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Sunday 28th November 2021

Waiting. And more waiting. Then even more waiting.

That was the general theme of our day as we awaited an email or text confirming the result of the PCR test that Alfie took yesterday. None was forthcoming, as we knew might be a possibility as they had given us a vague timeline of "a couple of days" for the result as we left the test centre, but it led to a very quiet and frankly dull day. Indeed, it was all very much a throwback to times past with the only real diversion - bar listening to Ipswich Town on the radio playing a rare Sunday fixture - was a meeting on Zoom.

Pettistree.This meeting was the Pettistree AGM, which - fortuitously for us in the circumstances - had been shifted from in the church to online, not due to COVID, but rather the expected bad weather. It wasn't the social occasion it has been in the past, but we were still glad to be able to attend to our impart our gratitude to those who have worked so hard to ensure a successful return to ringing on this ground-floor six, as well as to vote for the important roles that they hold. In the main that was a simple re-election for people who have carried out the jobs so excellently, but one change of post-holder was forced upon us with the sad recent passing of Tower Correspondent Hazel Judge. Whilst we were delighted that my mother-in-law Kate Eagle had volunteered to take it on, Hazel was spoken of and remembered fondly a lot throughout the meeting.

Most of the business was swiftly worked through, apart from discussion on the practicalities of the weekly practices as the weather gets colder. As all ringers will have experienced since we got back to ringing towerbells back in July, ventilation has been extremely important, with many towers using CO2 monitors to gauge its effectiveness. At Pettistree, the ability to open up the ringing chamber to the vast church and even vaster outdoors has meant we have been able to keep the CO2 levels well below what seems to be the generally accepted standard, but of course it also makes for a chilly experience, albeit even with doors and windows closed this (like many ringing chambers it has to be said!) has never been particularly warm over the winter! Therefore, there was much healthy debate on how we could maintain the safe air whilst also ensuring as pleasant a ringing environment as we can, resulting in a plan of action involving a trapdoor and potentially shortening the sessions. All of which should reassure any visitors wishing to ring with us.

St Mary-le-Tower.As I hope mine and Ruthie's decision to stay away from ringing whilst we await poor Alfred's PCR test result, even though we actually don't have to, resulting in me missing morning ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and both of us Ipswich's latest National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest practice at the same venue this afternoon. Although judging by the Hawkear results that Stephen Cheek shared, it looks like they more than coped without us!

Henley. The Norman Tower. Others elsewhere in Suffolk were also able to ring where we couldn't, such as at Henley with a 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung on the back six and at The Norman Tower where Ben Keating rang his first quarter-peal of Royal in the 1296 of Little Bob. Well done Ben!

Most importantly, God willing Alfie will be better soon, but also we can join in with such ringing again soon. Instead of just waiting.

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Saturday 27th November 2021

Omicron is the new word on the lips of everyone. It is the name given to the latest variant of coronavirus which has apparently now arrived here and has concerned the government and its advisors enough to announce one of those press conferences which were once a daily occurrence to say that everyone going in shops and on public transport will have to wear masks, order that everyone travelling into the UK will have to get a negative PCR test and insist that anyone coming into contact with someone with the new variant isolates for ten days in a depressing throwback.

It is a reminder that for all that Covid-19 is no longer the threat to people's health and therefore everyday life including ringing that it once was, we haven't got it entirely under control, but we didn't really need that reminder as after the boys' football training this morning, Alfie couldn't stop coughing. It was definitely new and definitely persistent and so we decided to book him a PCR test ASAP, leading to me taking Mason back to his mother's early to reduce the risks of him catching anything off his younger brother and then a trip to Copdock for his test and much talking to masked volunteers through our car window before handing a sealed bag with his test to someone with a grabber through the smallest possible open gap in our window. Mercifully, AJM seems generally alright, feeling far more chilled about his 'illness' than he was about the prospect of sticking a swab down his throat! And of course whilst poor Alfred has to isolate at home, the rest of us are perfectly at liberty to get on with our lives until the result arrives and even if he tests positive, unless we are told he has this new variant.

However, in keeping with the general approach of ringers, we are being cautious. That sadly meant cancelling the reciprocal hosting of Ruthie's schoolfriend Verity and her fiancée Jade for dinner this evening and also ringing in the morning, as well as in all likelihood our presence at tomorrow afternoon's practice at St Mary-le-Tower for Ipswich's entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest and Ruthie's debut real-life appearance with the Illuminati choir afterwards.

Homebrew.Once returned from the test centre therefore, our day was subdued and mundane, as we still did much of the cleaning and tidying up that we had been planning to do in preparation for our guests (my wife did such a cracking job on the oven that the door now doubles up as a mirror!), made and devoured the lasagna that we had been intending to serve them and tucked into our cloudy but tasty homebrew.

Little Cornard. Thrapston.Thankfully other ringers were free to get out and about to participate in the exercise, with Ringing Gym at The Norman Tower and the South-West District ADM held at Little Cornard, both of which I hope went well. Whilst there was also ringing from within our borders noted on BellBoard with a 1260 of Doubles at Aldeburgh for the town's Christmas light switch on on, my attention was caught by the 5800 of Thrapston Surprise Major rung at the eponymous 14cwt eight to celebrate the eight hundredth anniversary of the church where I was Christened. This was the Northamptonshire town in which my mother Sally grew up, learnt to ring and famously (locally at least) taught many ringers and indeed this was where my brother Chris and I first learnt where to handle, whilst this method was the one we chose to ring in celebration of Mum's fifty-sixth birthday in 2009 when we rang a 5056 at Grundisburgh.

Barham.Meanwhile, Thursday's first peal on the new six at Barham made the BBC website today with a super report about the 5040 of seven Treble Dodging Minor methods on the 11cwt ground-floor ring.

God willing Omicron won't prevent us from ringing in similar performances in the coming months.

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Friday 26th November 2021

This week's edition of The Ringing World arrived in the post with us today, as usual packed with lots of interesting stuff. Apart from the usual peal and quarter reports, there was nothing Suffolk-related, bar very tenuously so, with former Bures ringer John Loveless writing an absorbing article on the recent two hundredth anniversary of the first peal of Superlative Surprise Major, whilst one-time Ipswich St Margaret's ringer Sue McCouaig featured in the piece on the Fire Service Guild's AGM.

Aldeburgh. Barham.No mention of ringing in our county in 'What's Hot on BellBoard,' but that could possibly change with Wednesday's peal at Aldeburgh and last night's at Barham gathering votes on the 'leaderboard'. Even if they don't get in the top five for the next edition, hopefully both will at least get a mention, so get voting for them!

We weren't doing anything to trouble this section of the exercise's weekly journal. Indeed, we weren't do any ringing at all and unusually now for a Friday we weren't even catching up with ringers via Simon Rudd's weekly virtual pub as we were enjoying homemade pizza at Joshua's classmate Harry's house, where we were very kindly being hosted.

And there was nothing recorded on BB from elsewhere within our borders to appear in any future editions of The Ringing World.

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Thursday 25th November 2021

It was a day of much ringing excitement.

Barham.Most particularly at Barham, where the first peal on the newly augmented six was rung, accompanied by a report about 3hrs 35mins into Lesley Dolphin's BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon show that even featured some of the ringing in the opening minutes of the 5040 of seven Treble Dodging Minor methods. Well done to all concerned, especially Tower Captain Paul Corbett who was interviewed by reporter Ben Parker.

Excitement too amongst the St Mary-le-Tower band, as our entry into the 2022 National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest has been confirmed. We aren't due to find out for another ten days where at and who against we shall be penciled in to be competing on Saturday 26th March, but details of available practice slots at the lined up venues of Chester Cathedral, St Magnus-the-Martyr in London and of course The Norman Tower have certainly whetted the appetite and make it all feel a bit more real!

Old Black Lion.Beyond ringing within our borders, there was also positive news with the granting of planning permission for the regeneration of the Old Black Lion pub in Northampton, which is planned to include a ringing centre.

With that as a backdrop, my evening was pretty mundane from an actual ringing perspective, with only a solo session with my eBells, Wheatley and Ringing Room to report, whilst Ruthie attended her first choir practice at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge after the retirement of choir master of forty-five years Bob Pegnall.

Good job that there was plenty of other ringing excitement to keep my attentions occupied then!

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Wednesday 24th November 2021

Aldeburgh. Clare.Congratulations to Past Peal Secretary of the Suffolk Guild Alan Mayle, who today rang his two thousandth peal on towerbells when he pulled the tenor in to a 5024 of six Surprise Major methods spliced at the tower where he has rung more peals than anywhere else, Aldeburgh. That this eight on the coast is the leading peal tower for a man from the west of the county where he is in charge at the 28cwt eight of Clare is of course because he has been an integral part of the high quality second Sunday band there for over thirty years and indeed he has rung more of Major than any other stage, with the superb Pealbase putting the number at 964 - another landmark could be on its way! However, he has also rung over a hundred of Royal and thirty-three on twelve in an impressive roll-call that has seen him call 747 of his two thousand and rung more than a thousand of them for the SGR. He has even endured thirty with me!

Rickinghall Superior. Thornham Magna. Pettistree.
Rickinghall Superior. Thornham Magna & Pettistree

That 2hrs 53mins wasn't the only ringing from within our borders recorded on BellBoard today, with quarter-peals of Doubles rung at Rickinghall Superior, Thornham Magna and Pettistree, the latter of which was followed as usual by a practice, which on this occasion was attended by Ruthie, who was taking a break between finishing one lot of work towards qualifications for her job and starting another lot. She had earnt the time out and the pint in The Greyhound afterwards!

Meanwhile, the coverage of the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury was also a reminder that it is precisely three decades since my paternal grandfather Jack died whilst waiting for a bus into Ipswich to undertake Sunday morning ringing at St Margaret's and he was naturally in my thoughts at various times throughout the day.

I had considered arranging ringing to mark the anniversary, but as with yesterday's theme, circumstances made that impractical and so I am delighted that others were able to do some ringing within our borders. Especially Alan!

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Tuesday 23rd November 2021

This week has a ‘what we could have been doing theme’ running through it.

St Helena's church, LundyA trip to Lundy Island that we were very kindly invited on got underway from a ringing perspective with a peal and two quarter-peals up the tower of St Helena and a handbell quarter in Government House. And no doubt a few drinks in the Marisco Tavern.

Of course it wasn't practical to spend a few days in the Bristol Channel, but I am keen to go again as soon as it is. It is a few years since I went on the last of my four visits to the island and especially at this time of year it is beautifully atmospheric and far less busy than during the summer. In good company, with some ringing and walking is a great way to spend a few days and it would be lovely to finally get a peal on the ten, as they got today.

Barham.Meanwhile, Thursday is due to see the first peal on the newly augmented six at Barham, an attempt I was honoured to have been asked in but which also saw circumstances prevent me from accepting. This should be a special event and even more so as the local ringers have turned it into great PR with an article on it on the East Anglian Daily Times website today.

Offton.Others were ringing in Suffolk ahead of what will hopefully be an addition to the county's ringing columns later in the week, with the practice at Offton preceded by a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six and I imagine a drink in The Limeburners afterwards.

We spent this evening as we have spent just about every Tuesday in recent weeks though, with Ruthie taking in the final of the Great British Bake Off and me listening to Ipswich Town playing on the radio, although the less said about the latter the better! I did add a twist by sorting out our bookshelves, but for all that I love spending time with the boys and reading bedtime stories and appreciate how blessed we are, I would be lying if I didn't occasionally imagine us on Lundy Island with a pint in hand!

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Monday 22nd November 2021

It is extremely difficult to plan any ringing event at the moment. Covid still exists and people - including ringers - have been catching it in large numbers. However, we are free of restrictions at the moment and have been for over four months and the consensus from the decision makers seems to be that the situation is stable enough to continue like that, for the time being at least. It is unsurprising that there are contradictions in the way we are all going about things, none of which anyone should be judged for. These remain strange, unprecedented times.

Little Cornard. Bures.We ring in ventilated ringing chambers with every conceivable opening opened and then drink in pubs with little to no ventilation in many cases. Recently, the North-East District understandably moved their ADM from an in-person occasion at Aldeburgh to an online one. In contrast, the plan still seems to be to hold this Saturday's South-West District ADM at Little Cornard with ringing on the 8cwt ground-floor six, a service, tea and of course meeting, as well as an opportunity to ring at Bures afterwards for the Christmas Lights Switch On. Yet just a week later, on the same day as thousands of fans are due to sit outside at Portman Road to watch Ipswich Town play Barrow in the FA Cup, the South-East District are planning on holding their ADM via Zoom, understandably concerned that not many members will want to sit in the cold for the business of the day. God willing it will be the last winter that we feel compelled to take such action, but it further underlines that carrying out ringing in the coming months will still not be quite the experience it was twenty months ago.

Whatever form ringing's events take though, I hope that members support them, including Ringing Gym at The Norman Tower on Saturday morning. Especially as there are the usual types of important decisions to be taken, most notably in the SE. As current Secretary Abby Antrobus reiterated in the email she sent to members today, she will be standing down from the role this year and so a new Secretary needs electing. Please do consider who might be able to take the job on, if not yourself. Abby can't carry on due to increasing work commitments and her ongoing role as the Guild Librarian, but (as Ruthie can testify) whilst it is true that the job can be demanding, there will always (as Ruthie can again testify) support and as the outgoing Secretary points out, you meet lots of lovely people!

She repeated her plea this evening at St Mary-le-Tower, where the ringing was a productive one, despite my input. I arrived late, albeit just in time to stand behind someone for some Yorkshire Surprise Maximus. That I then pulled the eleventh off ahead of some Grandsire Cinques in about eighths place kind of set the tone of my ringing, although I hope I was still useful as we rang plenty on ten and twelve, with Abby doing well inside to Cambridge Surprise Royal, Sue Williamson likewise on the treble to Yorkshire on the same stage and Sue's daughter Lucy inside to the latter method on twelve.

Meanwhile, Ruthie joined a number of other ringers and even more beyond the exercise at Pettistree for the funeral of local ringer Hazel Judge and then at Hacheston Village Hall afterwards for the wake. I was sorry not to be able to attend due to work, but pleased that my wife could and that Hazel had a super send-off with ringing before and after.

My ringing was followed by a drink in the Halberd Inn, another mix of well ventilated ringing followed by a drink in an unventilated pub! I think ringing is doing very well negotiating its way through these contradictory times!

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Sunday 21st November 2021

Ringing Masters and Choir Masters have much in common. They invest a lot of time, planning and effort into leading a group of volunteers, are the face of that group and take the brunt of the bad, as well as the good related to them and through that work produce something to be heard and enjoyed. One crucial difference is that choirs can always be seen in the church and they are part of services and therefore Choir Masters are known by the congregation. Our art is often hidden away and as such the invaluable work of Ringing Masters and Tower Captains goes largely unnoticed by those beyond the ringing family. I'd hazard a guess that in many churches a large proportion of those attending worship have no idea who the Ringing Master is, let alone know them.

I was contemplating this as this evening I attended Evensong at St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge which on this occasion was marking the retirement as Choir Master of Bob Pegnall. A near full church, the return of the Reverend Canon Kevan 'Kev the Rev' McCormack, a sermon by Roy Tricker - Lay Canon and well known author and speaker on the subject of Suffolk's churches - and a huge choir full of choristers past and present, all topped off by a buffet, tea, coffee and wine afterwards. It was a big event and it did occur to me that similarly sized send-offs for retiring Ringing Masters are probably very rare.

That said, Bob is fully deserving of it. Since Ruthie joined the choir here almost a decade ago, they have been kindred spirits and I will be forever grateful to him for taking the time out to help my wife record her beautiful rendition of Abide With Me for Dad's funeral last year. And after forty-five years in the role, he had become almost as much a part of the building's furniture as the pews!

The boys did well too, having already sat through the morning service in the same venue, as well as up in the ringing chamber beforehand where I rang the sixth whilst dodging the low autumnal sunshine shining right at me.

Ashtead.Elsewhere, Cumberland Youths Peal Weekend continued with Suffolk representation, as one-time Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman continued his tour of the South-East of England by calling a 5088 of six Surprise Major methods spliced at Ashtead in Surrey, but as with yesterday there was also success within our borders with a band entirely made up of ringers from our county, with a 5056 of Bristol Surprise Major rung on the 17cwt eight at Elveden.

It wasn't just ringing for the SRCY happening on our soil today though, with a 1344 of Yorkshire Surprise Major rung at The Norman Tower and well done to the entire band who rang their first of Rose of England Treble Bob Minor in the 1320 at Redgrave.
Hopefully it will all be appreciated by the church.

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Saturday 20th November 2021

Cumberlands Peal Weekend
St Mary the Virgin, Essendon

It is Cumberland Youths Peal Weekend currently, which started yesterday and continued into today with impressive quantity and quality and features Suffolk connections. Birmingham student and one-time Exning ringer Jimmy Yeoman was in a 5001 of Stedman Cinques at St Magnus-the-Martyr in London on Friday and then travelled into Kent today for a 5120 of five Surprise Royal methods spliced at All Saints in Maidstone. Meanwhile, one-time Bures learner John Loveless conducted a 5088 of Bristol Surprise Major at the 15cwt eight of Essendon in Hertfordshire.

Most pleasingly though, was a 5039 of Grandsire Caters rung on the back ten at The Norman Tower by a band entirely made up of SGR resident members and which also celebrated St Edmund's Day.

As a member of the SCRY, Ruthie was very kindly asked to participate and she did give it serious consideration. It is almost exactly seven years since my extremely talented ringing wife last rang a peal, which coincidentally was also a 5039 of Grandsire Caters rung for the Cumberlands on their Peal Weekend, albeit at Grundisburgh.  Since then, parenthood and weekend working has made committing to the medium much harder, especially the longer it has gone on. Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the first of her 282 peals though and now that she no longer works on Saturdays or Sundays it is something she has thought about returning to. Anyone who has not rung a peal for such long time will tell you that going for another one is a considerable step psychologically and so this felt a bit too big and important occasion to leap back in.

Nonetheless, she had a bottle of Cumberland Ale on a day that was one of those sorting out days, all set to the backdrop of football and keeping up with the Cumberland Youths Peal Weekend.

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Friday 19th November 2021

St Martins church and Bullring -Birmingham -England The Ringing World arrived at ours this morning, giving us some new reading material in our household, with plenty of interesting content again, whilst it was also interesting to read on the CCCBR website about the first Young Change Ringers Association event, which is due to be held in Birmingham on 8th January 2022, complete with an opportunity to ring on the UK's only ring of sixteen at St Martin's in the Bullring and a social event in the evening. If you are a young (which in this particular context is under thirty years old) ringer or you know one, then do consider joining or encouraging your young ringer(s) to join and to book this date in your gleaming new Ringing World Diary. Joining is just £15 for a year, but with a stack of benefits specifically aimed at helping youngsters in the art.

Buxhall.Reading gave over to talking and listening this evening as we joined Simon Rudd for his Friday virtual pub - once a sound issue that threatened to leave us all in silence had been rectified - where the Sparlings recounted their successful and enjoyable week in Norfolk for the Quarter-Peal Tour that finished yesterday and Julian Colman reported favourably on the newly augmented eight at Buxhall where he attended the practice this week, which take place on the first, third and fifth Tuesday of the month.

Aldeburgh.There was ringing on the county's bells today as well, with a quarter-peal rung at Aldeburgh remembering the brother of local ringer Jane Savage - and Uncle of Sally Mason who rang in this 1260 - Gerry Cottle and with the band's best wishes to Jane as she leaves for Wookey Hole. All the best Jane.

It is the latest performance in a busy week for Suffolk's ringers, all of which you should be able to read about in The Ringing World in the near future.

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Thursday 18th November 2021

Grundisburgh. Orford.Congratulations to Past Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase on ringing his 750th peal in the 5040 of seven Minor methods rung at Grundisburgh today. Tom is my leading peal ringer, with all our 192 peals together being rung since 2006, when I arranged his first of Bristol with the 5056 of the Surprise Major version at Orford. Pleasingly, he has since rung another thirty-seven, including one of Royal, conducted thirty-six peals, become a stalwart of the high quality second Sunday Aldeburgh peal band, was an extremely reliable member of the band who worked up to peals of the forty-one Surprise Minor a decade ago and long passed my current total of 634 peals.

Giorgio Scienza.Also nice was that the peal was rung in memory of Giorgio Scienza, who many a ringer from Suffolk will have fond memories of from Stephen Pettman's biennual ringing trips to Italy.

Elsewhere, the Norfolk Quarter-Peal Tour continued representing the county north of the River Waveney with another handbell score in Sheringham, as well as quarters of Bristol Surprise Major at North Creake and Grandsire Triples at Wells-next-the-Sea.

Meanwhile, those who knew Pettistree ringer Hazel Judge might like to know that her funeral is due to take place at 11am on Monday 22nd November at St Peter and St Paul, with ringing from half an hour beforehand and then afterwards on the ground-floor six she did so much of her ringing on. I imagine there will be plenty of ringing for this popular local ringer.

For today though, on a busy day of ringing for many of Suffolk's ringers, the only ringing I did was on my own, online, whilst Ruthie was going to her choir practices. A spot of eBells practice on 3-4 in Plain Bob Minor and Major was followed by a brief bit of single-bell Project Pickled Egg stuff, before dodgy internet connection made it pretty unfulfilling. God willing I can do some proper ringing on real bells that don't rely on the internet, including maybe a few more peals with Tom Scase.

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Wednesday 17th November 2021

Pettistree.Pettistree practice this evening was another productive session, with focus on Netherseale Surprise Minor, but also Grandsire Doubles and climaxed with a well rung touch of spliced Minor, whilst it was preceded by a quarter-peal of Norwich Surprise Minor. Numbers are still low compared to what they once were, but the standard remains high, which is food for thought ahead of the band's AGM planned for the weekend after next.

Talking of AGMs, Woodbridge won't be practicing next Tuesday (23rd November) as they will be holding theirs, so please don't go along that night expecting ringing! However, I know that much like many places, any support would be appreciated at their weekly sessions.
Meanwhile, the Norfolk Quarter-Peal Tour continued with quarter-peals in Cromer and at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich and I expect ended today with a drink, as did mine in The Greyhound with the Garners and Sam Shannon. An enjoyable finish to a productive evening.

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Tuesday 16th November 2021

St Matthew.The two main themes on friend of ringing Mark Murphy's BBC Radio Suffolk breakfast show this morning were the fiftieth anniversary of Led Zeppelin playing at St Matthew's Baths Hall in Ipswich and listener's thoughts on winter. I can't say to have much to offer on the former, other than to note the obvious that the world famous band were playing in the shadow of the tower that houses the 10cwt six in the neighbouring church of the same name.

The subject of the latter was of more interest, seeing as I have lived through it a few times. I am a much bigger fan of spring and summer, with the warmth of the sun, nature coming to life, the abundance of outdoor activity to choose from. Even autumn is preferable, with the colours of the leaves and its slightly cosy feel. If it wasn't for the excitement of Christmas and New Year, there isn't much that I like about it. Returning from work in the dark, the constant battle to get warm, the dreadful weather.

In that context, you wouldn't think that I would enjoy ringing in the chilly, draughty ringing chambers that most of us ring in. However, although I wouldn't object to better insulated and warmer rooms to ring from, I'm often quite glad of the physical activity, mental workout and social interaction to warm the body and mind, not to mention a pint in the pub afterwards!

Ironically enough then, this evening was a night in at home, me listening to a rare Ipswich Town FA Cup victory (only their second in twelve seasons!) on the radio whilst Ruthie watched Bake Off and indeed there was nothing much on BellBoard that indicated activity from the county's ringers, bar a handbell quarter in Sheringham in Norfolk, although of course there would have been practice nights within our borders.

It gave me the chance to also read CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest blog entry, which as usual crams much into his thousand words that also usually appear in The Ringing World. He talks about ringing on Remembrance Sunday, ringing as a performing art and giving a talk to the national DAC Conference, as well as the latest on the project to set up a ringing centre at the Old Black Lion in Northampton. Additionally, he gives a link to The Central Council's Situations Vacant page. Please take a look and if you have the time and attributes needed, then do consider volunteering. The Council is changing for the better in my humble opinion and I hope that our membership can help it continue its evolution from the dry, closed shop it once seemed. And he finishes with a new feature of his jottings, where he highlights something on the CC's website, which on this occasion is the Rolls of Honour page.

I may shamelessly copy the idea in fact and do the same for the Suffolk Guild website, starting with the Resources for Teachers page, which is packed with useful and interesting tips, articles and links.

Indeed, do take the time to explore the site generally. If you aren't ringing, then it may take your mind off the winter cold!

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Monday 15th November 2021

Ruthie had a meeting at work this evening, which meant that I couldn't go to St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice.

Disappointing as that was, this cloud did have the silver lining of allowing me to watch England's men's football team qualify for next year's World Cup in Qatar on the TV with the boys as the Three Lions played out an incredible 10-0 victory over San Marino in a mismatch akin to sticking a village band getting to grips with Plain Bob Doubles into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest.

I was even afforded time to read the two issues of The Ringing World which arrived with us today, coming together presumably because we were a bit slack in renewing the subscription for the Pettistree tower copy that we are responsible for. Last week's highlight from a Suffolk perspective was on the back page, where one can find the report and photos of the Ridgman Trophy at Braintree, which (I may have mentioned) we won, whilst on the back page of this week's a photo of St Mary-le-Bow in London taken by Norman Tower ringer Ben Keating features.

Our day was quiet from a ringing perspective therefore, but so it was across the county it seems, at least as far as BellBoard is concerned, although it was the busiest day yet on the Norfolk Quarter-Peal Tour.

It's great to see others able to ring, even if we couldn't.

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Sunday 14th November 2021

Across the country, millions stood in silence to remember the victims of war, especially those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. And God willing to learn lessons to avoid more war.

Armed forces marching through Ipswich. Armed forces marching through Ipswich. As they are for so many other occasions, bells are an important part of the commemorations, particularly half-muffled bells. It is a moving sound and perhaps never more so than this year after not being able to do it in 2020. My spine was tingling as we arrived at St Mary-le-Tower in the rain to the sound of the back ten ringing out muffled at backstroke and both Ruthie and I were pleased to be able to participate in some Stedman Caters (well maybe less so with that for my wife!) and Grandsire Cinques. And having gone for post-ringing refreshment in Costa Coffee, we managed to catch the armed forces marching through the town centre as we made our way to the shops.

Monewden.Of course ringers across Suffolk were also marking the day in a similar fashion. There will have been more, but just on BellBoard it is noted that there was ringing at Clare, Cowlinge and Woodbridge, quarter-peals at The Norman Tower and Great Livermere and a peal at Monewden, all half-muffled. Well done to Claire Free on ringing her first inside, just a week after her first of Treble Bob.

Meanwhile, the Norfolk 2021 quarter-peal tour continued with a 1344 of Plain Bob Major on handbells in Sheringham.

The Ridgman Trophy at St Mary-le-Tower.We returned to SMLT this afternoon for the latest practice for Ipswich's planned entry into the 2022 National Twelve-bell Striking Contest, where things didn't go quite as well as last Sunday. Having discovered earlier in the day that Hawkear was completely thrown by the muffles, we were unable to use what has been an extremely useful tool in judging where our performance is up to. The muffles also didn't help us in our efforts get into a comfortable rhythm or get to grips with our striking to a high enough standard, to the extent that it was even mooted stopping to take them off, although with the time taken to ring the 35cwt twelve down, take the muffles off and ring the bells back up again it was decided not to, although we did finish the session off by ringing all thirteen bells down (not all at once!) before an enthusiastic group of volunteers scurried up the ladder to remove the muffles ahead of tomorrow night's weekly practice. Additionally, with just twelve ringers present, the hour-and-a-half was pretty relentless. However, despite the first touch lasting just four changes before having to be set up due to the glasses of one of the band falling halfway down their face, this was still a very useful blast of Stedman Cinques. Although we won't know the actual touch until the Committee are due to meet in three weeks time, it is still important that we get familiar with this principle's intricacies and I feel we are doing just that, with the ringing getting increasingly confident over the last week already. And we were inspired by the appearance of The Ridgman Trophy in the ringing chamber, newly engraved with the Suffolk Guild's name on it, with the plan being that until the competition is next penciled in at Kings Lynn for 18th June next year, the trophy should visit the towers represented by the band who won it, such as The Norman Tower, Debenham, Drinkstone, Offton and Pettistree and I imagine perhaps the SGR AGM lined up for 23rd April.

Therefore, we returned home - via my mother Sally who had very kindly looked after the boys again - very pleased with our latest preparations, as well as our ringing for Remembrance Sunday.

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Saturday 13th November 2021

Personally, the day was more about football than bellringing, as Alfie & Joshua had football training and then later we all joined my brother and Bury St Edmunds ringer Chris (as well as Josh's classmate Harry and his father) to watch Ipswich Town draw 0-0 with Oxford United in a match that was more exciting than the scoreline suggests.

East Raynham.Indeed, there was nothing noted on BellBoard from Suffolk, although the North-East District held their ADM via Zoom whilst we were at Portman Road. However, there was a QP rung yesterday at Monewden of Hempsted Bob Minor but overlooked by myself in the blog, whilst today the Norfolk Quarter-Peal Tour featuring some of Suffolk's ringers added another couple of successes to its numbers today, including Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson calling her first of Lincolnshire in the 1252 of the Surprise Major variant rung at the wonderful gallery ring eight of East Raynham. Well done Rowan!

At least they scored more quarter-peals than Ipswich Town scored goals! 1-0 to ringing I think.

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Friday 12th November 2021

Heathersett.Some of Suffolk's ringers were in Norfolk today for the start of a quarter-peal tour which got successfully underway with a 1250 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major on the 9cwt eight of Hethersett, but actually within our borders there was nothing noted on BellBoard and from a ringing perspective it was a very quiet one for us personally. Indeed, we didn't even undertake our usual Friday evening chat with ringers via Simon Rudd's virtual pub, as Ruthie went to a work event and the boys and I watched England beat Albania 5-0 on the TV, with Harry Kane's third goal (3mins 5secs into the video) seeing Alfie trying to replicate it in our living room for the rest of the night and somehow avoid breaking anything!

Meanwhile, the CCCBR's latest photo competition is now up and running with the theme being 'Ringers in Action', where they are looking for photos of people ringing. Here's hoping for some entries from the county's talented photographers!

Perhaps they'll get some photos to enter in Norfolk in the coming days...

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Thursday 11th November 2021

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.

Across the country, shops fell silent, pedestrians in the streets stood still and even the vital talks at COP26 stopped for a couple of minutes at 11am on the eleventh day of the eleventh month. As did I, as I paused from my work to consider all those who sacrificed their lives in order that we can live ours freely now. Pleasingly, ringing also did its bit, including here in Suffolk with a half-muffled quarter-peal of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Pettistree ahead of the Act of Remembrance at the village's war memorial in the churchyard this morning.

Handbells on sale in Aldeburgh. Taken by Julie Hughes.No ringing for us today though, as with work and Ruthie's choral duties there was no opportunity, although I did have a go on my eBells, as I try to do regularly when I get a spare few minutes to myself. I don't think I am at the stage to justify forking out for real handbells just yet, but others may be interested in a set spotted at One Five Seven Antiques & Interiors in Aldeburgh by Julie Hughes and Richard Rapior and apparently selling at £900. Thank you to Julie for bringing them to my attention and it was lovely to hear that Trevor has tentatively returned to the ringing chamber. Hopefully we will see more of him as he is one of those characters that when I see him at a ringing event, all seems well with the world!

Meanwhile, the College Youths have elected a Ringing Master, as is usual at their November meeting, which was held this year on Tuesday evening. That new Master is Ryan Noble, who learnt to ring in Buckinghamshire before going to university in London. I have rung with him once or twice, including when he joined St Mary-le-Tower practice on 9th August 2010, a visit noted in my blog entry of that day. He is clearly a very talented ringer judging by the peals and quarters he has rung, including most recently a return to SMLT for that 5040 of Stedman Cinques in memory of George Pipe last month. As is traditional, he has stepped up from his role as Senior Steward, which - also as per tradition - is now filled by the previous Junior Steward, who on this occasion is James Marchbank, whose role is now being carried out by Andrew Bradford.

Exciting as that all is, my thoughts are with outgoing Master Swaz Apter. After her own two years of preparation as Junior and then Senior Steward, she was only four months into her year in the role when everything stopped for Covid and although she was quite rightly elected for a rare second year to allow her the chance to lead the Society properly, even then we have only been ringing properly for four months and throughout that period she has been battling - cheerfully it has to be said - serious illness that prevented her from attending the Country Meeting Dinner at Worcester in September and Saturday's Anniversary Dinner in London which is normally the spectacular climax to a Master's term. That said, I'm not sure that I have ever known such a popular ASCY Master and she led the Society superbly online through such a difficult period.

Blythburgh.Back in our county, congratulations to Past Suffolk Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod on ringing his 1100th QP in the success at Blythburgh which he conducted, but in particular well done to Erika Clark on ringing her first as she trebled to the 1260 on this 10cwt ground floor six.

God willing there will be more ringing on Sunday for Remembrance Sunday, especially after last year when we couldn't do it properly. If you can help out at a tower to ensure the bells ring out, then please do. It is the very least we can do to remember them.

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Wednesday 10th November 2021

Pettistree.How useful would it be to have a ringing chamber where a box could be built into the floor and raised at a touch of a button if the rope is too short and even lowered into the floor if too long? Going further, it could even sense when the ringer needs more or less length and adjust automatically. Although it could be disastrous if they malfunctioned halfway through a peal! All very far fetched of course and totally unnecessary, but it was a discussion held in jest as we prepared to ring the six down at the end of Pettistree practice, especially as Elaine 'Mrs Roger' Townsend pondered whether to have a box or not for ringing the third down.

Bromham church - - 85974 It was a lighthearted way to end a focused and productive session that was jovial throughout, despite the loss of the pre-practice quarter-peal attempt of Carlisle Surprise Minor. A typically eclectic range of methods was rung from Grandsire Doubles to Norwich Surprise Minor to Netherseale Surprise Minor, the latter of which led into the introduction of King Edward Surprise Minor to Hilary Stearn. In between ringing I enjoyed chatting all things Ipswich Town with Hollesley ringer and fellow supporter Sam Shannon and listening to Mike Cowling's account of the Suffolk Guild peal at Bromham that he rang in earlier today. And my evening was topped off by a convivial drink in The The Greyhound next door.

St John-on-the-Wall.Meanwhile, it was lovely to see another peal remembering Past Ringing Master of the SGR, David Salter, as his son George rang in a 5040 of the 'standard' forty-one Surprise Minor methods in Bristol, the latest of a large number of performances rung throughout the county, as well as online, in Devon, Essex, Greater London, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Somerset and Yorkshire, illustrating how well thought of he was by so many across the country.

I imagine David would've been chuffed to hear that Andrew Stone rang in his two hundredth peal in the aforementioned 5152 of Yorkshire Surprise Major in Bedfordshire. Indeed, he rang in sixteen of those. Well done to Andrew, who is a very talented ringer - three of the four peals I have rung with him were of Maximus - who has been a big boost to ringing at Offton and The Norman Tower in particular and so I'm delighted he has reached this landmark. All without the help of automated boxes.

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Tuesday 9th November 2021

How do we keep young ringers engaged in the art these days? I was encouraged by being in a ringing family, aspiring to get to the level my parents were at, competing with my brother and being inspired by the names I saw in The Ringing World which I was familiar with from a very early age. Others won't have that context though and my youth was long ago, way before the distractions of the internet, social media and to an extent computers.

If you have a young ringer that you are hoping to keep progressing against this backdrop, you may find Sunday's talk by Colin Newman, who coached the Oxford Diocesan Guild Youth Team to success at the last two Ringing World National Youth Contests and is Leader of the CCCBR Youth Workgroup a useful experience. Proceedings kick-off at 7.30pm, but you will need to register in advance.

Offton.I expect our evening in of watching Bake Off and following Ipswich Town's penalty shoot-out victory over Colchester United wouldn't be deemed particularly interesting to any age group, but luckily things were more interesting in Offton where the pre-practice quarter-peal was successful with a 1280 of Bristol Surprise Major. Hopefully such achievements on this 8cwt ground-floor eight will engage young ringers as much as they did when I was a young ringer.

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Monday 8th November 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.More Stedman Cinques focus this evening at the weekly St Mary-le-Tower practice as we continue our preparation for a planned entry to the National Twelve-bell Striking Contest next year. Like yesterday, it was most about getting as familiar with the principle as possible. When we are due to eventually ring competitively on Saturday 26th March 2022, it will be on a completely different ring of bells, with a different touch and with a full complement of band God willing, with not everyone able to make it on Monday nights, such as both Ruthie and I at once without imposing yet again on childsitters. It is difficult therefore to compare our efforts from Sunday afternoon, but nonetheless our ringing tonight was pretty decent, especially the final touch of Stedman and it seemed to spread to much of everything else we rang, with half a course of Yorkshire Surprise Maximus a highlight of a session of highlights, all climaxed with an impressive lower of the back ten (even if I did fail to chime the tenor at the end!) in preparation for putting the muffles on for Remembrance Sunday this weekend.

It was also all listened to by Hawkear, which Stephen Cheek brought to the Halberd Inn for interested parties to study afterwards, including myself, who was pleasantly pleased with how well I rang the treble to Grandsire Cinques!

During the practice we were joined by Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson (who along with SGR Treasurer Mr Cheek and Ringing Master Katharine Salter made for a fine array of the ‘top table’ present), fresh from ringing in the 1344 of Plain Bob Major on handbells in Bury St Edmunds.

Good to see focus on other things too across Suffolk

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Sunday 7th November 2021

There was a pleasant blast from the past this morning as when I went to ring at Woodbridge for the service I attended afterwards, I was greeted by Paul Wakefield, the son of Bruce and Gillian. Sadly he hasn't rung for some time, with the church he regularly attends a modern place with no bells, but he rang up St Mary-le-Tower with his father when I was a young ringer and he features in the band photo of Summer 1991 that hangs on the walls of the famous ringing chamber.

We were able to see that photo first hand this afternoon, as with my mother very kindly looking after the boys, Ruthie and I went to Suffolk's heaviest ring of bells as preparations for Ipswich's planned entry into the 2022 National 12-bell Striking Contest got underway. Aside from more tragic and important issues, it was a huge disappointment when we were unable to compete at Walsall last year when the pandemic stopped the competition in its tracks before we had had the chance to compete for the first time in thirteen years, especially as we were producing arguably our best ringing for years at the time.

This year the test piece is due to be Stedman Cinques, but until the contest's committee's planned meeting of 5th December we won't know the exact touch or if we will be ringing at The Norman Tower, St Magnus-the-Martyr in London or Chester on Saturday 26th March and so this hour-and-a-half session was primarily for getting the band together and focusing on Fabian's principle. My wife commented that she couldn't remember the last time she had rung it and I suspect there may have one or two others in similar positions, especially as compared to the familiar and fixed half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus we were lined up to ring last time, Stedman is full of all sorts of variables and can collapse at a moment's notice. Therefore, this was the start of what is intended to be an intensive three or four months.

We've started well too. Despite the keys being delayed, one ringer arriving 'fresh' from a seventy-two mile cycle ride, another getting stuck trying to get out of Colchester and our treble ringer being held up by someone from Paraguay looking for a Mass, the squad of ringers that we have and need got underway and although we're not quite up to competition standard yet, we rang encouragingly well in something which has often been a nemesis for us and many other bands.

Great Barton.They were ringing the Caters version of the principle at another of the county's twelves, as a 1299 of it was rung at The Norman Tower for Evensong, whilst just up the road at the 8cwt six of Great Barton, Claire Free was ringing her first quarter-peal of Treble Bob in the 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor. Well done Claire!

Meanwhile, we enjoyed the usual day-after-the-night before video of the handbell ringing at the College Youths' Anniversary Dinner, which was typically phenomenal, especially under such pressure. And it featured lots of pleasant blasts from the past!

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Saturday 6th November 2021

A busy, varied day for us spent with decreasing in numbers of people as it went on, but still very enjoyable throughout.

It started with dozens of now familiar parents and their children at the boys’ football training, but sadly decreased as we then went onto Pettistree for the South-East District Practice. There seems an understandably increased amount of anxiety over coronavirus, as despite falling case numbers there is still a lot of it out there and as the moving of the North-East District’s forthcoming ADM to online testifies, memories of the outbreak from their Practice at Reydon last month are still fresh in the mind. Still, it was a pity not to see more of the many who have been ringing again in the last six months at the this ground-floor six.

Ironically, it may be the case that the abundance of precautions in place to make these events as safe as possible that may be putting others off. Not so much the hand sanitising or even the masks, which shouldn’t be a imposition to most of us, but especially as the weather gets colder the ventilation that is a necessary evil for the foreseeable future. I won’t lie. Whilst for the time of year the weather was quite pleasant, it was very chilly with quite a breeze, particularly when one was stood right in the flow of air going through the building. However, I hope that ringers will simply put the extra layers on as you might to go and watch any outdoor event at this time of year and help support the art in these tough times.

South-East District Practice at Pettistree. South-East District Practice at Pettistree. South-East District Practice at Pettistree.
South-East District Practice at Pettistree

In the circumstances, SE District Ringing Master Jenny Scase managed to run a very effective and enjoyable session, with some excellent London Surprise Minor a particular highlight.

 Orford church and village from the top of the castle. Town Cryer's bell on display at Orford Castle. Following a spot of lunch, our next engagement was with even fewer people, but for an important occasion as we met my brother Chris and his wife Becky for his birthday today. With a room at Hintlesham Hall booked as a treat for him overnight by his wife, they were on this side of the county and we’d collectively plumped for meeting at Orford Castle for a wander around nearly nine hundred years of history at this ancient landmark, before we all had a drink in The King’s Head in the shadow of the tower where the village’s 10cwt eight hangs. Happy Birthday Chris, I hope you had a great day!

Back in their town of residence, a quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters was rung at The Norman Tower by a combined local and St Mary-le-Tower band to celebrate the wedding this afternoon of the latter’s new vicar Rev’d Tom Mumford to the Rev’d Laura Pope. Congratulations Tom & Laura and well done to Sue Williamson on ringing her first on ten, an indication of her continued progress on higher numbers since she began regularly ringing at SMLT. And that with a pandemic getting in the way!

Meanwhile, our day ultimately ended at home, with just us after the boys had energetically danced their way through Strictly Come Dancing and gone to bed, photos of the College Youths’ annual Anniversary Dinner at the Great Connaught Rooms popping up on our social media feeds, following a typically busy morning of ringing for the Society.

As I said yesterday, God willing we can join friends there in a year, but for now, we enjoyed our busy, varied day with decreasing numbers of people.

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Friday 5th November 2021

A decade ago to the very day, Ruthie and I went to the annual Anniversary Dinner of the Ancient Society of College Youths in London. We had intended to go last year, but of course it didn’t happen in the usual way, although they did a magnificent job of putting on a virtual event that we enjoyed joining!

We had decided against going to this year’s 384th Anniversary due to be held at the Grand Connaught Rooms tomorrow night, unwilling to spend a substantial amount on an occasion that when we would’ve got tickets we perceived could have been downsized with social distancing and masks. However, unless anything dramatic happens in the next twenty-four hours, it is due to go ahead at its usual full pelt, albeit with the usual care we have got used to taking – in ringing at least – since restrictions were lifted in July and so it was a joy to see social media featuring ASCY members beginning to gather in the capital for the weekend. One lamented that having treated themselves to First Class for the train in that there was no food. Others were on the London Eye.

Chilcompton.I imagine there were ‘some’ Dinner Eve drinks and there was certainly ringing, with two peals rung – including one that also celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of the first peal of Superlative Surprise Major – and a quarter-peal featuring former Great Barton ringer Alex Tatlow. And further afield a peal was rung at Chilcompton in Somerset to celebrate Raymond Haines’ sixty years membership of the society I have now been a member of for almost twenty-one years.

It is all a glorious contrast to the online occasion it had to be a year ago, but sadly there was news today of a planned in-person event being shifted online, as North-East District Chairman Sal Jenkinson emailed members to announce that their ADM planned for Saturday 13th November at Aldeburgh will now be held on Zoom, with ringing being carried out on Ringing Room. Note as well that the North-West District Practice on the same day is also now due to be held on RR and Zoom.

Framsden. Earl Stonham.Meanwhile, congratulations to Bernard and Dora Pipe on their recent Diamond Wedding Anniversary. I am one of the few to have rung a peal with Bernard as he bonged behind to a 5040 of Plain Bob Triples at Framsden in 1994, but I haven’t seen him for a long time, so I am pleased to hear of this anniversary and to see it celebrated with today’s quarter-peal at Earl Stonham.

No such activity for us though, as instead we joined in with Simon Rudd’s weekly virtual pub and chatted solar panels, gin and Braintree, with a number of us having met in real life there at last Saturday’s Ridgman Trophy.

All very enjoyable, but God willing we may be at the College Youths’ annual Anniversary Dinner in precisely a year.

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Thursday 4th November 2021

Offton. Felixstowe. Particularly at the moment, it is sensible to take the advice that I didn’t take myself when I attempted to join Grundisburgh practice a few weeks ago, and check ahead if you hope to attend the weekly session of a tower you don’t usually go to. However, it is helpful too if towers advertise widely in advance if they know they won’t be practicing and two towers did just that on the Suffolk Guild’s Facebook page today. Therefore, as I write this, at least 78 people know that there is no practice at Felixstowe tomorrow on Friday 5th November and 101 know that there will be no session at Offton on Tuesday 16th November, although there was a pre-practice 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six there earlier in the week that I missed.

Pettistree.Meanwhile, congratulations to Mike Whitby, as I didn’t realise that last night’s QP at Pettistree was his 1700th as conductor. Another deserved landmark for a ringer who has done so much to progress so many ringers around here over the years, often through his quarter-peals.

As usual for a Thursday though, there was no opportunity for us to go ringing anywhere this evening as it was Ruthie’s double-choral night, although I don’t mind a jot as it is something my wife is very good at and enjoys immensely. And she knows in advance if they’re practicing or not!

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Wednesday 3rd November 2021

Autumn continues and with it the days and evenings get colder and mutterings and murmurings increase about ringing over the winter when it should of course be colder still whilst we continue undertaking the exercise with doors and windows wide open to those freezing elements. Although the North-East and South-West District ADMs are planned to be held in person in the coming weeks, the South-East District have taken the decision to hold theirs via Zoom on Saturday 4th December because they are worried that there won’t be many members who would be prepared to sit through a business meeting in a room open to the Advent conditions outside and people are understandably anxious about attending sessions where they will be subjected to whatever the weather throws at them.

Bramford.However, I really hope folk stick with it. Since ringing resumed fully way back in July, bands of all abilities have been picking things up (Bramford is the latest tower I have noticed have started their practices again), District & Guild events have been taking place, striking competitions have been held, quarters and peals have been rung and even recruitment has been happening. There is a real momentum building up now and it would be a pity for that to stop for the sake of sticking a few extra layers on and whacking the heating up where possible, especially as – if we’re brutally honest – a lot of ringing chambers aren’t all that warm even in ‘normal’ times! Perhaps a silver lining to all this is that it may prompt bands and churches to consider making ringing chambers more comfortable in the future!

This evening, Ruthie dressed for the conditions and headed out in torrential rain to Pettistree, where Saturday’s SE District Practice is due to be held and the ventilation is superb. She was glad she did too, as despite having a band already there after a successful quarter-peal beforehand, they were quite short on numbers tonight. That said, my wife still came home reporting a wide repertoire of Doubles and Minor, including a number of different Surprise.

The Millbeck Ring.That success on the ground-floor six preceding the session and rung for the forthcoming anniversary of Peter Harper’s birth wasn’t the only successful QP in Suffolk today, with a 1260 of Stedman Triples rung in Shelland on Janet Sheldrake and Gordon Slack’s private bells, The Millbeck Ring, which were previously in Claydon.

Meanwhile, CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog entry (#46) touches upon the ‘ownership’ of learners, a subject that is as relevant here as it is elsewhere. It is natural to feel that a learner that you and/or your band have introduced to the art and spent months teaching ‘belongs’ to your tower. For the good of ringing though, the learner and indeed the band that they have started with, it is best that they also benefit from the experience and expertise of other teachers throughout the art, whether that is them coming to the learner or the learner going out to other towers and District & Guild events or ideally both. And that they’ll be happy to do it in the cold too!

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Tuesday 2nd November 2021

For a few weeks, The Ringing World was reaching us very promptly often by or at the start of the weekend. This week’s finally arrived with us today. In this context and in a world of instant or almost instant news on social media, BellBoard and even occasionally this blog, you might wonder what the point of the 110-year old publication is.

St Brynachs Church NevernYet there is still the same anticipation as I used to get when it arrives, wondering what I might find inside about what friends and acquaintances have been getting up to. There are usually articles that I haven’t found online, such as this week’s on the restoration and augmentation at Nevern in Wales that also saw a visit to the ringing chamber from Prince Charles, the interview with ringing MP Chris Loder and of course the letters page, which on this occasion features correspondence about class in ringing, which raises interesting points in an art that I have always considered a great leveller. Great as well to see further focus on university ringing societies. I also like to find reference to Suffolk, which here comes in a prominent form with the peal at Horringer on 22nd October coming out well in front on ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard?’ And from excerpts from the journal of a century ago, brief mention is made of the first local band peal for twenty years at the “celebrated Suffolk tower” of Debenham.

Meanwhile, the report of Saturday’s Ridgman Trophy at Braintree which the Suffolk Guild won (have I mentioned that?) is now on the competition’s website, complete with photos of the band and our beaming Ringing Master Katharine Salter.

No ringing for us personally today though, as even if we did any on Tuesday usually, we couldn’t this evening as Ruthie was singing with her choral colleagues for the All Souls service at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge. No ringing elsewhere within our borders noted on BellBoard either, but plenty beyond them, including a peal of Bristol Maximus in hand in Birmingham featuring former Exning learner Jimmy Yeoman which was the St Martin’s Guild’s first of Maximus on handbells for twenty-one years (in the days when I was ringing there, albeit not in such impressive fashion I hasten to add!). Which readers of The Ringing World should be able to read about in a future edition, when it arrives!

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Monday 1st November 2021

Kedington.October’s District events were apparently rounded off with a well attended South-West District Practice at Kedington on Saturday afternoon, where Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter and her son Colin were able to take along the freshly collected The Ridgman Trophy on the way home from Braintree.

Pettistree. Bungay. Aldeburgh. Little Cornard.The Norman Tower.

November too has much lined up to carefully enjoy. On Saturday, the South-East District are planning on holding a practice at the ground-floor six of Pettistree from 10-11.30am, whilst in a week there is due to be a Bungay Eight-Bell Practice on the 15cwt octave at 7.30pm. Then on the Saturdays 13th and 27th the plan is to hold the North-East District ADM at Aldeburgh and then SW District ADM at Little Cornard respectively and on the same day as the latter this month’s Ringing Gym at The Norman Tower is pencilled in. Great to see so much in person stuff being held, but with plenty of care being taken with ventilation, hand sanitisers, face masks and requests for attendees to take lateral flow tests beforehand, which I think most have been anyway. Please do all you can to stay safe whilst also supporting these events, if you can.

That is all plans for the coming weeks, but today there was already ringing in the county, with a 5069 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung at Grundisburgh in memory of Sir David Amess, the MP killed last month at the age of sixty-nine.

St Mary-le-Tower.And I was at St Mary-le-Tower, where after the cancelled practice last Monday due to worries over how secure a row of peal boards were, we returned in an attempt to pick up from where we left off. To an extent we did too, as although we were unusually short on this occasion which limited what we could do on twelve, we did much of quality on ten with Stedman Caters and Surprise Royal rung. Although a half course of Cambridge Surprise Royal was initially stopped early on, in the process providing us with a contender for ‘Quote of the Year’, as the ‘offending’ ringer explained that “I missed a dodge and went back to do it.”

It was of course all rounded off with a convivial drink in the Halberd Inn and a nice way to start November.

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Sunday 31st October 2021

COP26 starting was very much at the forefront of many people’s minds today, with mention made on BBC Radio Suffolk of the Church of England’s ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030, which will no doubt affect ringing which is carried out using some of the CofE’s resources. Perhaps our ringing chambers might become a bit more comfortable in order to make them more energy efficient!

Gaia. The handbell peal band ringing under Luke Jerram’s Gaia. Climate change was also brought into sharp focus as we visited the Grand Hall of Ipswich’s Town Hall to view Gaia, which is a replica of the floating globe by Luke Jerram which has provided so many fantastic photos at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich (including an image on the front cover of The Ringing World) in recent weeks, but is in Suffolk’s county town for the Spill Festival. Our photos couldn’t quite compete with those taken from the ringing chamber of the 39cwt twelve north of the Norfolk border or of handbell bands ringing peals underneath it, but it was still a spectacular sight and a reminder of what so many are desperate for events in Glasgow to save.

Ringing within our borders has been doing its bit to make noise about the event, with Beccles added to the list of places marking it yesterday, whilst I had a chat with the vicar of St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge Father Nigel Prior, who was genuinely delighted with the efforts of the ringers here, with this morning’s ringing also dedicated to the cause. Great to hear a vicar being so glowing about the ringers at their church.

However, this morning showed how difficult it will be for ringers to tackle one aspect of their carbon footprint when ringing – travelling. The 8.45am start for service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower is difficult enough to make by car with young children in tow, although helped by the extra hour of sleep afforded by the turning back of the clocks overnight, we were pretty much there on time this morning. By public transport though, it would not just be impractical, but impossible, with no buses or trains able to get us into Ipswich anywhere near early enough for ringing at SMLT.

Therefore, I was glad of my car, especially on this occasion as I joined in with Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and some really well rung Stedman Cinques. Although when my mother reprimanded Joshua across the ringing chamber as we were ringing rounds ahead of Little Bob Max it did cause confusion for one member of the band who thought “go” had been called!

A trip to Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshment followed before our trip to see Gaia and later we popped round to the abode of mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle for tea and a Halloween party with the boys’ cousins. I have to admit we’ve never really got into Halloween, preferring to remember it is actually All Hallows’ Eve (as a number of performances on BellBoard today did), but of course for little children in particular, it is an opportunity to get dressed up and excited, as they did with zombies and Wednesday Adams costumes and sweets aplenty.

Terling, All Saints church - - 425385 Certainly more appropriately on church bells, it was lovely to see the late Essex ringer Mick Edwards remembered in a peal rung at Terling in his home county. No one has rung more peals for the Suffolk Guild as a non-resident member than Mick and I was privileged to ring in 103 with him, so I was sad that he couldn’t be remembered properly when he passed away in the depths of the first wave of coronavirus last year and it is lovely to see that has since been righted with another peal at Inworth last month and in a quarter-peal at Great Totham in August.

Great Barton.Meanwhile, back within our borders, a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung on the 8cwt six at Great Barton to welcome Rev’d Ben Edwards as vicar at Holy Innocents and Thurston, no doubt with hopes and prayers for what can be achieved by him there.

For many though, thoughts were on COP26 and the hopes and prayers for can be achieved by world leaders there.

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Saturday 30th October 2021

Saturday 7th May 1994. Unusually for a day pre-blog, I can recall quite vividly what happened. Ipswich Town managed to survive relegation from the Premier League with a 0-0 draw at Blackburn Rovers at the expense of Sheffield United who went down to what was then Division One due to conceding a last minute goal to Chelsea. As a fifteen-year-old I shamefully gloated at Sheffield United fan and then local ringer Iain Mitchell who I happened to be with that afternoon at the South-East District Striking Competition at Holbrook.

John Major was Prime Minister, Toni di Bart was number one with The Real Thing (I’m sure the membership will all recall it, but just in case, here it is), David Salter was Guild Ringing Master and I was still at secondary school. It was also the last time that the Suffolk Guild won The Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell striking competition essentially for ringing organisations in East Anglia, plus the Lincoln Diocesan Guild and sometimes the Leicester Diocesan Guild.

The Ridgman Trophy.
The Ridgman Trophy

Over the last twenty-seven years, many SGR Ringing Masters have tried to end what was the longest any previous winners on the contest had gone since being victorious, including myself. It has not been due to a lack of effort and indeed ability, with many second place finishes and close calls, but this is a tough region to come out on top in with so many talented ringers and teams.

St Michael's Church, Braintree Today though, finally, a Suffolk Guild team won The Ridgman Trophy again and Ruthie and I felt privileged to be a part of it. I only played a relatively small part as I was just bonging behind to the test piece of Grandsire Caters at Braintree in Essex, but my wife was literally right in the centre of the action, ringing the sixth, which along with the fourth, fifth and seventh had to make the unusual start of ringing one blow where they were, instead of dodging off. All did it faultlessly and indeed the entire band rang brilliantly and although we only caught snatches of the other bands, it feels a well deserved victory.

Hopefully it is something that Guild members feel a part of too. After all, it is largely due to the ringing that the bandmembers do with ringers at places like St Mary-le-Tower, the Norman Tower, Debenham, Drinkstone, Offton, Pettistree, Woodbridge, Woolpit and others that we ring regularly with that we can get to such a position to win a competition like this. Well done to all concerned, especially Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter on getting us together and thank you to my Mum for looking after the boys whilst we were south of the River Stour.

Ringers outside at Braintree for Ridgman Trophy. Ringers outside at Braintree for Ridgman Trophy. Listening to the results in beer garden of the Boars Head. Listening to the results in beer garden of the Boars Head. Katharine Salter receives the Ridgman Trophy from the judges Kate & Paul Flavell.

Quite apart from winning, this was a superb day out and the local ringers and competition organisers should be congratulated on holding this whilst also adapting proceedings to the current circumstances. The normal procedure of bands waiting on the stairs to go in once the previous band had finished was abandoned for a period of time to allow the ringing chamber – where windows and doors were open - to air, aided by a shorter test piece to normal, and a fan at the top of the stairs that appeared powerful enough to get an aeroplane off the ground! Plus multiple bottles of hand sanitiser to hand and even the results were given outside in the beer garden of the local ringers’ usual pub, The Boars Head.

Earlier, some of us had retired to that same tavern, although as they weren’t doing food we also went on to the town’s Wetherspoon’s, The Picture Palace after enjoying our ringing on this refurbished light ten, although many of us who had been here previously – including David and me who rang a peal here a decade ago – couldn’t recall the steep ladder up to where they are rung from!

Nice as well to catch up with friends, most of whom we hadn’t seen for a couple of years, such as David Griffiths who I have known since we were both boys when we rang on the St Neots ringing weekends organised by his parents, Alban Forster who I used to ring with in Birmingham, Cambridge ringers – and new Suffolk residents – Liz & Phil Orme and others we have only seen via video in that time, like Lesley Boyle and Gareth Davies. It was a lovely day out.

Elsewhere, there was ringing happening to mark the anticipated start of COP26 tomorrow, including within our borders. Well done to the ringers who rang at Barham, The Norman Tower and Woodbridge whose efforts were all included on the BellBoard page for the event, whilst I imagine there were others too.

West Stow. Rougham.And on a day when a peal at Crediton in Devon was apparently lost after two and a half hours when the tenth clapper came out, quarter-peals were successfully rung in this county at Rougham and West Stow, the latter of which was the first on the bells since 2010.

Meanwhile, the tentative plan (what other type of plan is there these days?) for the 2022 Ridgman Trophy is for it to be held in June (October was mooted as an alternative following today’s successful break from the norm) at Kings Lynn in Norfolk, with Erin Caters being the suggested test piece. God willing it’ll go as well as today’s did and hopefully the Suffolk Guild will win again!

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Friday 29th October 2021

Framlingham Castle.For Ruthie and the boys it was an exciting day of ghost tales and Halloween trails at Framlingham Castle and pumpkin carving at home for an occasion that bothers us adults very little but gave the children something other than computer games to get enthused about.

For me however, it was a less exciting (though obviously very important!) day at work, but my wife and I were able to enjoy a drink together as we joined Simon Rudd and friends for his virtual pub, which this week took in participants from across Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and even France.

Although that was with ringers and the art did come up in conversation in amongst discussing travel and words starting with the letter ‘g’ that might be more appropriate than ‘gun’ for use in a playgroup setting, we didn’t do any ringing and whilst there was some going on in the county, none of it made it onto BellBoard.

Perhaps everyone was doing other exciting stuff, like Ruthie and the boys!

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Thursday 28th October 2021

Saturday is due to see the return of The Ridgman Trophy, the ten-bell striking competition for the ringing organisations that border onto the Ely Diocesan Association, including the Suffolk Guild. It is typically held in June and was last hosted in the summer of 2019 within our borders at The Norman Tower, with the Hertford Association coming out on top. Of course, like just about everything else in life, it wasn’t held in 2020 and I didn’t really expect it to be held this year.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to hear a few weeks ago that it was indeed going ahead, albeit much later in the calendar than usual, and even more so when Ruthie and I were selected to ring. It is planned to be less regimented then has been the norm, with the usual process of having the next band waiting on the stairs for the current one to finish in order to keep teams coming through efficiently, being forsaken this time round for a period of time between teams to allow the ringing chamber to air.

St Michael's Church, BraintreeAs I found out during my time as SGR Ringing Master, this is a difficult enough contest to prepare for, with the band being gathered from across the county amongst ringers who typically have very busy diaries. This time round there has been no real opportunity to get ready for it, especially as current Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter has obviously had other things to deal over the last month or two. We would really appreciate any support then as we ring at the competition venue of St Michael’s in the north Essex town of Braintree. The norm of these is that the draw is done in well advance, but still kept secret from the judges, so I can’t reveal on here when we are ringing, but I’d be more than happy to let anyone who would like to come specifically to hear us when we’re on, providing they don’t pass it on!

Blythburgh. Kersey.There was no ringing for us today, as although there was no Illuminati choir for Ruthie, she was still practicing with her choral colleagues at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge (which Joshua joined her for on this occasion), thus making it impractical to get to Grundisburgh practice. Still, others in Suffolk were ringing, as all bar Mike Cowling were ringing their first quarter-peal of Netherseale Surprise Minor in the 1296 at Blythburgh – well done to all concerned! And following on from the surprise peal some of us rang at Offton for their Ruby Wedding Anniversary last month, Richard and Christine Knight were able to ring a peal for it themselves today, as both participated in a 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Kersey. Nice as well that their friend Anne Rueff could come up from Surrey to ring this one as well.

Additionally, it means that the peal totals are coming along nicely for the Guild. Since we were able to resume proper full-on ringing nearly three and a half months ago, there have now been twelve peals rung in our name since that first one at Grundisburgh. That is less than half of what was achieved over the same period in 2019, but far more than I imagined might be possible earlier this year and comparable amongst a less active peal-ringing scene generally, as a glance in the peal columns of The Ringing World – which don’t quite cover a couple of pages yet – indicate. I hope it all continues to pick up, as in my humble opinion peal-ringing gives something for ringers to aspire to, bringing up standards.

As do striking competitions, which would make it all the more pleasing to be ringing in Braintree on Saturday.

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Wednesday 27th October 2021

Pettistree.Ruthie was a last minute call-up for this evening’s pre-practice quarter-peal at Pettistree as one of the original band had pulled out due to recently coming into contact with someone who has since tested positive for coronavirus.

Of course, they didn’t need to. They would have been expected to take lateral flow tests, but legally and even ethically there was no obligation for them to isolate. Indeed, I expect many in society wouldn’t have, especially as all the ringing at this ground-floor six is being done in a ringing chamber open to the outdoors and the vast church, providing considerable ventilation. However, it is another indication of how carefully ringers are taking things at the moment and should offer another layer of reassurance to any feeling understandably anxious and uncertain about returning to the art at this time.

In their absence, they were apparently slightly low on numbers for the session that followed the 1320 of Durham & York Surprise Minor, whilst my wife was also disappointed not to be able to retire to The Greyhound afterwards as no one was going, but she still enjoyed her evening out.

She was pleased too – as I’m sure the rest of the band were – to be able to dedicate the quarter to local ringer Hazel Judge who died last week and conductor Mike Whitby’s father Geoffrey who sadly passed away this morning. Our thoughts are with Mike and his family, including James, Sarah and Ed.

Meanwhile, Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter has announced her intention to hold a weekend of ringing over 30th April and 1st May to celebrate the life of her husband – and twice Past SGR Ringing Master himself – David, involving tower grabs, quarters and peals. Please do message her if you wish to be involved.

Ipswich, St Lawrence. Hollesley.Mrs Munnings’ QP tonight was not the only ringing in Suffolk mentioned on BellBoard today. 120 changes of St Martin’s Bob Doubles were rung during the weekly Wednesday lunchtime ringing at St Lawrence in Ipswich in memory of Anthony Peake who Bruce Wakefield did much ringing with in the 1960s, and in Hollesley a peal of Barking Surprise Major was rung in 3hrs 5mins.

Talking of Hollesley, one of their ringers James Mallinder features on the front page of the East Suffolk Magazine which arrived at our house today, in his role as the council’s Cabinet Minister for the Environment. Nothing last minute about his appearance in the publication, even if Ruthie’s appearance in Pettistree was!

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Tuesday 26th October 2021

Wakefield - Cathedral If allowed, I imagine this time next year there may be a number of peals of Cambridge Surprise Royal, as according to (the now sadly late) William Butler’s ‘On This Day’ section on Pealbase, the first peal of the method was rung on this day 199 years ago, with a 5400 at All Saints in Wakefield.

Lavenham.Closer to home, this section also points out that exactly fifty-eight years ago, the first peal featuring a band all called Alan was rung at Lavenham, which also happened to be my Dad’s debut in the medium, as the fiftieth for Alan Barber, who sadly died recently having rung 1637 peals.

St Peter's Church, Saltby - - 595089 However, whilst the first peal of Asterby Surprise Royal – rung today at Saltby in Leicestershire – should be referenced in this section in the future and the pre-practice quarter-peal of Superlative Surprise Major at Offton will go in the record books for this date, we weren’t doing anything that will appear when people of years to come look back on 26th October 2021!

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Monday 25th October 2021

Ever since my first blog entry precisely fourteen years ago, the 25th October has been a day where I naturally become quite reflective.

Often that is thinking about the changes to me, my life and to ringing. There was a bit of that today, family members, friends and ringing characters lost, but also those who have appeared, but actually, I mainly found myself thinking back ‘just’ a mere year.

For back then, I wrote despairingly of the situation that ringing and society found itself in. By this point in 2020, we were restricted to the mentally wearing and unsatisfactory socially distanced ringing for fifteen minutes that was all we could do for several months, before having to gather in groups of six or fewer outside afterwards if we wanted to see others, which was tactically difficult when there were five of us out and about as a family! We were just a couple of weeks away from Lockdown 2.0 where ringing indoors was stopped altogether, ultimately for the entirety of the winter and into the spring, bar a brief period around Christmas Day.

365 days on and there are some alarming figures flying around and even by the standards of most winters where illnesses serious and otherwise are floating around and hospitals are pushed to the limit, it is clear that things are very tough at the moment and there may (probably will?) be some form of restrictions coming our way in the coming weeks and months. Mercifully since 25/10/2020, vaccines have been introduced and subsequently given out to the vast majority of the UK population and it has to be said that ringing has felt one of the safest places outside home to be. Unlike almost everywhere else I go to on a regular basis, ringing chambers have in the main been as ventilated as they possibly can, with doors and windows wide open and fans on even on the coldest nights we’ve had thus far. They have generally been attended by familiar faces mostly (as far as I am aware entirely in fact) easy to track and trace and who have usually had a lateral flow test beforehand and where unpredictable mixing has occurred at events like District events masks have been worn indoors, including when ringing, whilst in some ringing chambers CO2 monitors have helped us to keep on top of how safe the air around us is. And for me and most others it now seems second nature to get a dollop of hand sanitiser in between touches!
God willing then, hopefully ringing can keep going through whatever happens between the clocks going back on Sunday morning and then going forward again towards the end of March, as it has been since mid-July with little to no issue as far as I am aware, aside from the unfortunate North-East District Ringing Meeting at Reydon. The return has generally been a real joy personally, to see friends again and to ring with them, drink with them, eat with them and experience ringing in all its glory, rings of bells rung as they were designed to be rung. Returning to normality, to all intents and purposes.

Ironic then, that on a day when I had been most struck by the difference between the restrictions of twelve months ago and the freedoms of today, that the now well re-established weekly practice at St Mary-le-Tower this evening was cancelled. Not Covid related as one might instantly leap to assume these days, but still for a fairly unusual reason. Apparently one row of the multitude of peal boards in the ringing chamber was looking less than secure yesterday morning at service ringing and with it not possible to check before the session tonight, it was decided to play it safe and not go ahead on this occasion. It is a pity, especially after not practicing a few weeks ago when the Reverend Tom Mumford’s licensing and being keen to get as much practise in as possible after eighteen long months out of action, but it was the right decision to be on the safe side and it has now been sorted, so ringing should return on Sunday.

Meanwhile, it would be remiss of me on this day not to recognise that which hasn’t changed throughout the years of me writing this blog – the patience of Webmaster Chris Garner (and the wonderful work he does with this website generally) and therefore also of his wife Mary and of course the patience of my wife Ruthie who regularly loses me for a while, particular when I get carried away with a blog entry, such as todays! Thank you Chris, Mary and Ruthie.

Thank you also to all who give feedback, positive and less so. My aim is to celebrate and encourage Suffolk ringing and to record and inform about it and its characters and achievements, both now and historically. I don’t always get it right, either factually or in tone and whilst I try to avoid offending or upsetting anyone, I am indebted to anyone who politely highlights where I have so that I can rectify it! However, what really encourages me to keep writing (apart from the enjoyment and almost therapeutic release I get) are the messages I get from readers, of whom there still seem to be quite a number from across the county, country and the world, from some of the best ringers to learners and even occasionally non-ringers. As ever, future, currently unknown circumstances will dictate how long I keep writing the blog, but as long as others enjoy it, I hope to keep going and I am grateful to get to another reflective, but also celebratory 25th October.

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Sunday 24th October 2021

It is over ten years since I was Suffolk Guild Public Relations Officer, but my attention is still naturally drawn to things that could be good PR for ringing.

St John the Baptist's Church (2) - - 627700 Norfolk ringer Mary Jones’ fantastic blog, The Accidental Ringer, imparts a superb sounding idea for attracting potential recruits when she speaks about a wedding at the 8cwt gallery-ring of six at Reedham, where the young congregation who would probably never usually set foot inside a church were apparently enthralled by the ringing they could see. I can concur from the many marriage ceremonies I have rung for at Sproughton (another 8cwt six rung from a gallery) that this is often true. Mary ponders how ringers might be able to take advantage of that brief window of opportunity by giving them a publicity leaflet wishing the newlyweds well, but also giving details of the art and who to contact to give it a go. I suppose some might think it an inappropriate moment to thrust recruitment literature in front of people, but it certainly gives one food for thought and might be worth exploring!

Closer to home, there was good PR already being carried out. Woodbridge are planning on ringing at 6pm on Saturday ahead of COP26, as I imagine many other towers across the county are hoping to and hopefully the ringing at those towers is being as well advertised as here. As I sat down for the service after ringing for it, it featured very prominently in the notices, with an hour’s quiet reflection in the hour leading up to ringing also lined up in the church.

The ringing I did there though was the sum total of my contribution to the art today, as instead our afternoon was made up of brewing beer, one of the birthday presents I gratefully received last weekend. This one required us to make the wort first and so was more involved and scientific than when we usually get brewing. Helped by the video that accompanied the instructions, we had good fun making it!

Meanwhile, there was a quarter-peal at The Norman Tower as a 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung in memory of Air Marshall Sir John Kemball KCB CBE DL, a performance that I’m sure will have been well received and therefore good publicity for the exercise.

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Saturday 23rd October 2021

Not much to report from a ringing perspective today, personally or countywide.

I can’t speak for other ringers in Suffolk who I suspect were ringing somewhere, even if it wasn’t noted on BellBoard, but our day was taken up with buying football boots for the boys and reading this week’s edition of The Ringing World, which arrived with us this morning. There was plenty of interest in there, including an article by Gill Fielden – who I rang with a lot in Birmingham back in the day – about her father Harold Schofield’s hugely successful efforts in raising the standards of ringing at Bradford Cathedral (visited by us on the 2014 Rambling Ringers Tour) in the 1950s and 1960s and an amusing account of a thread on a community Facebook page about the bells ringing at a practice night!

Bar some quarter-peals in the performance columns though, there was nothing related to Suffolk ringing in this issue and not likely to be much in future ones either, if we have too many Saturdays like this in the county!

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Friday 22nd October 2021

Pettistree.Ringing at Pettistree is of a high standard for a ring of six in the depths of the East Anglian countryside. An eclectic range of methods are rung singularly and in spliced and in the main rung really well, with the Mitson Shield still held by the band here for winning the Guild Six-Bell Method Striking Competition the last time it was held and the Cecil Pipe Memorial Bell also won a couple of times for coming out on top in the South-East District Method Competition.

Much of that is down to the leadership of Mary Garner and Mike Whitby, but is built on the dedication of ringers like Hazel Judge, who last night we learned had sadly passed away. Hazel herself wouldn’t profess to being an expert ringer or indeed necessarily even aspire to be, but when her health allowed, she was such a valuable ringer to have around at the ground-floor six, as well as at Sweffling and Wickham Market where she also rang. Willing to ring when asked, she was also willing to help out in any way she could, which included very kindly looking after children to enable us to ring in quarter-peals. And if you asked for the bells at Pettistree in the last few years, you would probably have corresponded with Hazel at some point as she was the tower correspondent. She was also one of the most fun ringers I knew, responsible for arranging cards for bandmembers celebrating birthdays, wedding anniversaries and the like, which were often handed over with an envelope full of sparkles! We will all miss her immensely on the local ringing scene.

On a happier note, it was lovely to see the peal at Horringer which has already made it to the top of BellBoard’s Highest Scoring Performances. The 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major on this lovely 8cwt ground-floor eight was rung in anticipation of the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Past Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond’s Aunt Ivy tomorrow. Clearly related to her energetic niece, Ivy was on BBC Radio Suffolk yesterday being interviewed by Lesley Dolphin (3hrs 50mins in) for climbing the equivalent of the height of Mount Everest in aid of Great Ormond Street and offers me an opportunity to thank those who have donated to my birthday fundraiser on Facebook for the same worthy cause since last Friday and remind those who haven’t donated yet and might want to, that there is still a week left to contribute, if you wish!

Meanwhile, I read an article today that speculated about how much more technology may be impacting on our lives by 2031. It all seems far fetched at the moment, but I imagine that in 2011 we wouldn’t have imagined meeting by Zoom and ringing in bands from around the country and world from our own home. Perhaps we will be ringing in virtual ringing chambers as part of the metaverse almost as if we were actually in the room together? Maybe to an extent, but as is the case now, I hope ringers will overwhelmingly prefer to ring in actual ringing chambers.

That said, we enjoyed our usual virtual gathering with Simon Rudd and friends this evening, with car valeting a subject of conversation, which might not (or might!) come as a surprise to one prominent Norman Tower ringer!

Elsewhere in the county, that prominent peal at Horringer wasn't the only ringing success. Well done to Tess Styles on ringing her first QP inside in the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Ashbocking.

I imagine there will shortly be another quarter-peal at Pettistree in memory of Hazel, who did much to help the band there to be so successful.

RIP Hazel.

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Thursday 21st October 2021

CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog makes interesting and entertaining reading again, explaining the Council’s stance on the ringing for COP26, but also the research going into designing a “cool, comfortable, breathable, versatile young ringer’s top”, with his thoughts on polo shirts seemingly in line with mine!

Recruitment was a major topic in his forty-fifth edition of what has been a very welcome addition to the CC’s website. Clearly we are going to need to recruit. Numbers at practices and events have been better than I feared since we returned to full-on ringing more than a quarter of a year ago, but nearly everyone I have spoken to has said that their band has lost at least one or two from what they had pre-Covid. In part this might be due to the apprehension that many will still understandably have about gathering in groups indoors and perhaps they will return when they feel a bit more comfortable. I am also aware of new recruits locally at Wickham Market and Woodbridge, which is encouraging, but more widely ringing generally could benefit from a recruitment campaign similar to the successful ‘Ringing in the Millennium’ and ‘Ringing Remembers’ campaigns. However, I hope towers are themselves considering ways of attracting new blood, young and old, in the church and out, even if realistically we can’t expect to do anything effective on a major scale until the spring when the weather improves and our well ventilated ringing chambers get a bit warmer!

Retention is also very important and on that subject and further to my mention of the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre in Norwich earlier this week, members will have noticed MRDC Manager Nikki Thomas shared their calendar on the Guild’s Facebook page. There is plenty planned for the coming weeks, so please do take a look to see if there is anything that might be useful to you, your band and/or anyone you know.

Cretingham. There was ringing in the county today from an established band of ringers who are amongst those who will be instrumental (hopefully along with many, many others) in keeping the art going over the winter, as a quarter-peal was rung on the ground-floor six at Cretingham. For us it was a quiet day from a ringing perspective – bar my attempts to ring Little Bob Major on my eBells by myself with a dodgy internet connection - as Ruthie practiced with her choirs.

Meanwhile, I wonder if any ringers will have a spare £300-400 to bid for the original ‘See England by Rail’ poster that features The Norman Tower which was mentioned on Lesley Dolphin’s BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon as a favourite lot of her guest advertising tomorrow morning’s auction at Lacey Scott & Knight.

If they do, it might get a mention on this blog, even it is unlikely to make it to Simon Linford’s blog!

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Wednesday 20th October 2021

Sad news today, as it was announced that Sunday’s Service for Absent Friends planned for Sunday at Laxfield has been postponed. This would’ve been another wonderful opportunity for ringers to meet up again after such a long time apart, but I feel particularly sorry as one of those to be remembered was my Dad Alan, who was robbed of his one and only chance for a proper send off last year by the same virus that has now seen this weekend’s service called off.

However, it is an understandable decision and on balance the right one, especially as it is being stressed that this is merely a postponement, not a cancellation. It comes on the back of a number of Covid cases from the recent North-East District Ringing Meeting at Reydon. They are awfully unfortunate as – although there must have been some – I haven’t heard of any cases directly linked to ringing since its full-on return three months ago, with ringers having been very careful with masks worn at District events and many practices, as much ventilation generated as can possibly be mustered, hand sanitisers in plentiful supply, lateral flow tests taken beforehand and some towers even insisting on only allowing people who have been double-vaccinated into their ringing chamber. Ringing still seems one of the very safest things we can do indoors at the moment, certainly compared to going to the supermarket, pub, restaurant, nightclubs, etc, but as this shows, this dreadful illness can still sneak through and bringing everybody together for a church service (especially as it would exclude any isolating with coronavirus) probably wouldn’t have been advisable in the circumstances.

The decision also comes against a backdrop of concerns over rising numbers of cases generally in society, expected as that may have been and apparently with still a small percentage of those ending up in hospital or even worse and whilst the government dismissed the notion today, there is talk of mandatory face masks and even dreaded social distancing returning. Undoubtedly – and as has always been forecast – the UK is in for a tough winter, but God willing ringing can keep going through it all. Most ringers are fully vaccinated (as far as I’m aware, all that I regularly ring with in fact) and even now getting booster jabs and therefore so long as we keep our ringing chambers and churches fully ventilated (that means all doors and windows open where possible), sanitise our hands between touches, keep taking the lateral flow tests and wear masks when requested, then the art should be able to continue. I imagine more will get postponed or cancelled at various points over the next three or four months, but hopefully practices, meetings, quarters, peals and much else will still happen on Suffolk’s bells, albeit with much care.

That certainly seems to be the intention at Pettistree, where the ground-floor ringing chamber, west door and access to the airy church with open south doors make for an ringing experience which is as safe as we can hope for, if a little chilly!

It allowed for a productive session, preceded by an attempt to improve on last week’s quarter-peal of sixteen Surprise Minor methods spliced, with what we hoped would be a better struck effort, good as the 1296 of seven days ago was. Sadly we didn’t manage it, although having rung one half of it well before coming unstuck in the second, we did ring the latter very well after a break. All being well, it is an indication that we could meet Mike Whitby’s stated long-term ambition to ring twenty-three Surprise Minor methods.

Afterwards at the practice, an eclectic repertoire from the decent sized crowd that attended tonight saw much rung from Grandsire Doubles to Surfleet Surprise Minor to Stedman Doubles to spliced Doubles & Minor, all topped off with a drink in The Greyhound with Sam Shannon and Jane & Peter Harper.

Meanwhile, the latest edition of Tower Talk – edited by Bardwell Ringing Master Ruth Suggett – is out and as usual is a great, uplifting read. A great tonic on a depressing day at times.

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Tuesday 19th October 2021

There was concern expressed in the news today over the future of the names Nigel, Carol, Maureen and Bertha, as apparently no newborns in the UK were given those monikers in 2020.

For now though, the names are very active in Suffolk ringing. Personally I regularly ring with Messrs Gale and Newton, whilst many will be familiar with Carols Brown and Girling and of course Maureen Gardiner is North-West District Ringing Master. I can’t think of any Berthas, but I’m happy to be told otherwise!

Meanwhile, many will be aware that there is a call for bells to ring at 6pm on Saturday 30th October for ‘Clang for Climate’ ahead of Cop26, which is due to start the following day. I don’t believe this is meant as a political thing (after all, who doesn’t want to protect the planet?), but The CCCBR have been understandably neutral on the subject of endorsing this, although there is a BellBoard event set up to link any performances to. Hopefully there will be ringing for the occasion in the county’s towers, as if nothing else it would be great PR.

Before that, there is a session planned for Thursday from noon to 1pm at the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre in Norwich for improving your ringing and ringing more fluently and possibly with an opportunity to ring at Plain Hunt if you wish. If you would like to join in, then please do contact the Manager Nikki Thomas on and even if places for this are gone then do consider taking advantage in the future of this magnificent facility not far away from us.

Offton. Barking.Some ringers were honing their skills within our borders though, with a 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major rung before the practice at Offton and a QP was rung at Barking for a lovely cause, as members of Olive Barnard’s family (a talented bunch!) rang a 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Barking in a touching tribute to her memory following the burial of her ashes in the churchyard.

Ufford.Our ringing family was unusually busy for a Tuesday evening too, as Ruthie went to Ufford to answer a call for help from her mother Kate Eagle, Ringing Master at the 13cwt eight, in the process taking Alfie along with her. Although the only ringing he did was on the little wooden bell on the wall, there seems to be a tiny flicker of interest in the art from the seven-year-old.

We need an Alfred or two to complement the Nigels, Carols and Maureens of the Guild. And make up for a lack of Berthas!

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Monday 18th October 2021

After his curtailed visit last week, we were delighted to welcome St Mary-le-Tower’s new Vicar, The Reverend Tom Mumford back to our weekly ringing practice, where – either side of him grabbing a bite to eat – he sat in on us ringing really rather well, with Stedman Caters, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, London No. 3 and Yorkshire Surprise Royal, Kent Treble Royal and Little Bob Maximus amongst the repertoire, before he joined us in the Halberd Inn.

For what my opinion’s worth, I am very impressed with what I’ve seen so far. A young man, sociable, a football fan (of Newcastle United, but also now Ipswich Town where he was invited by the club to a recent match), who enjoys a beer like us and whose tale of his recent stag do was utterly relatable!

God willing we’ll be able to welcome him again at future practices!

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Sunday 17th October 2021

My birthday celebrations continued today as mother-in-law and Ufford Ringing Master Kate Eagle very kindly cooked us a roast dinner, which was gratefully received and much appreciated – thank you Kate!

Earlier I had been to St Mary-le-Tower to ring in some Stedman Caters, Little Bob Maximus and Grandsire Cinques (and collect my birthday presents from my mother!) before retiring to Costa Coffee ahead of picking Ruthie up from choral duties at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and later meeting with the boys’ friends - brothers Ralph and Lucian and their father Chris - at Melton Park (which ended in me somehow playing in two separate games of football at the same time!) and then that meal at Kate’s.

Ipswich, St Margaret.As we headed out of Ipswich, we were accompanied by the sound of St Margaret’s bells ringing out and it occurred to me that now that we’re ringing earlier at SMLT on Sunday mornings, that I could’ve helped out on the 14cwt gallery ring eight. However, it isn’t easy currently to simply drop in on a whim, especially with unvaccinated children. If I’d thought about it and realised beforehand that I would have the time to go along, I could’ve contacted someone to find out. It would be good to fill that longer gap that I now have between coffee shop and collecting my wife from church by being useful somewhere, especially as my understanding is that Grundisburgh’s ringing chamber is reasonably enough still only open for fully vaccinated people, thus preventing me attending with the boys.

Otley.No such issues for others in Suffolk today though, as quarter-peals of Plain Bob Doubles, Plain Bob Major and Double Norwich Court Bob Major were rung at Otley, Henley and The Norman Tower respectively, the latter of which celebrated the birthday of another Past Guild Ringing Master, Jed Flatters.

Happy Birthday Jed, I hope you’ve enjoyed celebrating yours as much as I have celebrating mine!

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Saturday 16th October 2021

No ringing for us today, but we did see ringers as my brother Chris and his wife Becky came round to very kindly bring me a birthday present and card.

There was ringing representation at another aspect of my life frequently mentioned on here, the football, as Gareth Davies and Simon Rudd represented opposite sides of the Cambridge-Ipswich match in the diplomatic (though from our perspective, disappointing) 2-2 draw.

The handbell peal band ringing under Luke Jerram’s Gaia.We couldn’t get tickets for that as they were sold out, though we saw some footy as the boys went to training and although there was no ringing for us and indeed none in Suffolk noted on BellBoard, further afield there was some impressive ringing. Such as the 5000 of London No.3 Surprise Royal at Abingdon in Oxfordshire on the East meets West — Peal Weekend (which is presumably in place of the usual week long tour that would typically take place in May), the 5090 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Guildford Cathedral and 5040 of four Treble Dodging Maximus methods spliced at St Michael Cornhill in London. And also the second handbell peal under ‘Gaia’ in St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, featuring Mr Rudd before he departed for The Abbey Stadium.

Whilst we didn’t manage ringing or Ipswich Town, at least Simon did!

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Friday 15th October 2021

Tragic events sixty miles away in Leigh-on-Sea quite rightly dominated many people’s thoughts today and were marked by ringing footnotes.

Selection of my birthday presents!It all made for a strange contrast to my day personally as I celebrated my birthday, with cake at work and cards, presents and booze at home, as well many lovely messages from people, starting with former local ringer Jasper Dickinson giving me felicitations in person as I bumped into him out and about this morning! I was delighted also by the donations to Great Ormond Street Hospital via a fundraiser that I set up on Facebook for the occasion and had raised a generous £185 by the time the day was out. If you haven’t seen it, please do donate if you feel able, as it is a cause close to our heart for all they did for Mason.

Otherwise though, it was actually a relatively quiet day, especially on the Suffolk ringing front, but it was a lovely day on a Friday where there was much sadness elsewhere.

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Thursday 14th October 2021

I really should listen to my own advice, even if nobody else does.

Grundisburgh.This evening, when unexpectedly Ruthie decided not to go to her usual choir practices due to feeling a bit under the weather (nothing that suggests it is Covid-related thankfully), I thought I might pop out to Grundisburgh to help boost numbers there for the practice. They have been one of the many sessions that have returned in recent weeks, such as Aldeburgh, Clopton and Wickham Market and I understood on a weekly basis. They require anyone who enters the ringing chamber to have been vaccinated twice, which of course I have been, but I also did a lateral flow test, which came out negative.

However, I forgot something that I have suggested to others before heading out to practices you don’t usually attend – calling ahead to check they’re ringing! Therefore, I arrived just before eight to find everything in complete darkness and definitely no sound from the county’s lightest twelve. It was a pity, but entirely my fault. Let that be a lesson!

Wiveton church, Norfolk Meanwhile, having recently watched A Passion for Churches presented by Sir John Betjeman on BBC iPlayer and speculated where the bells being rung by Billy West were, it was interesting to see the subject brought up on the Bellringers Facebook page today by someone else who had happened across the 1974 programme. Roger Lubbock had very kindly emailed me only earlier this week to suggest that rather than it being Holt as I had guessed, it is the 11cwt six of nearby Wiveton, something backed up by a number who responded to the thread.

I shall definitely listen to their suggestions!

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Wednesday 13th October 2021

Up until a couple of weeks ago, the weather was warm enough for it not to be an issue, but now that nights are drawing in and have gotten considerably colder, us ringers are starting to be tested on our dedication to ringing in well ventilated ringing chambers.

Pettistree.This evening at Pettistree was a chilly experience, with the west and south doors open and fans on and so I kept my jumper and fleece well truly on throughout ringing! Of course, it is only going to get colder, with even word of snow in the next fortnight incredibly enough, but I really hope ringers stick with the art which needs them. God willing this will be the last winter when we have to go to such extents to keep illness under control and if we’re honest, many ringing chambers can be a little on the cool side when we get deep into the season normally, with old, sometimes ill-fitting windows and doors and often ineffective heaters. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at times, but I hope that ringers continue meeting and ringing together over the next few months as we aim to keep things going as well as we can before hopefully the spring, better weather and a potential recruitment campaign from The Central Council can help to build things up again.

I did shed my layers for the quarter-peal of sixteen Surprise Minor methods (the Cambridge twelve plus Lightfoot, Rossendale, Stamford and Wearmouth, although Mike calling for Warkworth did cause a collective double-take!) which was very kindly dedicated to the forthcoming anniversary of my birth and rung before the session, where we were probably four or five regulars short. They were missing for PCC meetings and unexpected visits to the vets rather than being put off by the low temperatures, but we’ll certainly need as many of them as often as possible over the coming months, as will be the case at lots of towers.

My ringing was followed by a quick pint at The Greyhound and then a Chinese takeaway when I got home. Both of which were enjoyed in the warm!

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Tuesday 12th October 2021

Hawkear results from last night’s St Mary-le-Tower practice were sent through today and as usual made for useful and interesting reading. Having made a note of the bells I’d rung, it was easy enough to check how I’d done and allow me to pinpoint areas where I can improve. Not only that, but much like when I am ringing in a striking competition and am conscious that someone is paying close attention to how well struck my ringing is, I really felt myself upping my game and focusing on every blow. Whilst that is what I should be doing all the time, when one drops the odd backstroke or leads slightly late usually, it is easily overlooked and forgotten about. Such focus on striking can only be good, so long as you don’t beat yourself up over ringing that hasn’t gone too well and look to learn from it.

Hitcham.There was other reading available to me on this autumnal Tuesday too, as I read The Ringing World, which arrived yesterday. There is a wonderful obituary about Newmarket-born Alan Barber, written by Stephen Bell, whose brother Graham was once vicar at Pettistree and there is further Suffolk-related content with mention of the first ringing for Harvest Festival at Hitcham since 1919 in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’, whilst the merchandise order form in the middle of this week’s edition features John Loveless’ biography of George Pipe, Shake my hand and I’ll you the ropes, in case you’re looking for Christmas present ideas for anyone who hasn’t already got a copy.

Drinkstone.Meanwhile, as usual I had BBC Radio Suffolk on as a backdrop to working from home, which included ‘Dolphin’s Dart’, the competition hosted by Lesley Dolphin on her afternoon show that gives clues to help listeners identify a village or town in the county. On this occasion it was Drinkstone and the geographical clue that imparts information about the community quoted Simon Knott’s superb Suffolk Churches website in describing the tower as “one of the earliest Suffolk towers built specifically to accommodate recreational bell-ringing, dating as it does from the last years of the 17th century, when this sport was beginning to take off.” Although no mention of an eminent member being locked in the church after going to the toilet after ringing on the 10cwt six for the 2018 Guild AGM!

It made for jolly good listening and reading, as did last night’s Hawkear results!

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Monday 11th October 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.This evening at St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice, I rang the tenor behind to some Grandsire Caters, the eighth and then the second to Stedman Caters, the third to Yorkshire Surprise Royal, the ninth and later the tenth to London No.3 Surprise Royal, bonged behind to Stedman Cinques, pulled the tenor in to Lincolnshire Surprise Royal and the twelfth to Yorkshire Surprise Maximus. It is unusual for me to remember everything I have rung at a session, let alone which bells I rang, but I had been making a note as I went along, as suggested by Stephen Cheek.

For Hawkear is back up and running and with the results not likely to be sent to us for a day or two, which bells we rang to what is easily forgotten without notes and therefore the results would be fairly meaningless on a personal level.

When we do get them, we should see evidence of a practice that improved greatly as it went along, especially on ten, but also with the couple of leads of Yorkshire Max we ended with, before we retired to the Halberd Inn for a drink.

What was also great was the sight of visitors. We welcomed the new Priest-in-Charge the Revd Thomas Mumford at the beginning and although he very apologetically had to leave early for a meeting, he made it clear he would like to get to know us well, even hoping to come up next week for a longer visit and suggesting us going round to his new abode for a garden party next summer. Regardless of whether that all happens, he seems a very approachable, friendly young chap (and he is young!) who had heard of us from ringers in Sudbury where he has come from. He has had a go in the past too, so knows a little of what we do already!

We had ringing visitors too. Nigel Gale from Woolpit came up for the first time for eighteen months and we were delighted that Norman Tower ringer and Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson could join us again, fresh from a handbell quarter-peal of spliced Plain Major in Bury St Edmunds earlier in the day. She wasn’t the only one present tonight who had rung a QP in hand today either, with Nigel Newton and Amanda Richmond having travelled north of the Norfolk border to ring in a 1312 of Kent Treble Bob Major with fellow SMLT regular David Sparling and Past Ringing Master at ‘The Tower’ Simon Rudd.

A busy day of ringing for many in Suffolk then, including myself, as I can verify!

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Sunday 10th October 2021

Aldeburgh.I was privileged to ring in the 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Aldeburgh this afternoon. Not just because it was the second Sunday peal on this 11cwt eight and at that the first here since before the pandemic. These are usually associated with a high standard of ringing, with a consistent band ringing methods typically unpealed by the Guild, organised by David Salter who was hugely instrumental in the superb reputation that these peals have garnered down the years.

And it was because of David that I felt particularly privileged to ring in this 2hrs 47mins on the coast, as one of his successors as Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase got a band who between them had rung almost three thousand peals with Mr Salter. It meant I was in good company for this appropriate way of remembering DGS, even if initially there was a danger that we wouldn’t get going at all, at least on eight, as the closure of the Orwell Bridge severely held up two of the band.

This message was bizarrely relayed via my mother who was very useful in keeping us updated, but eventually we were all gathered and without any Evensong to be finished by, it didn’t matter that we were half-an-hour late in starting.

The peal itself was very enjoyable. For a band as good as this, the method was well within our capabilities, as was the composition, but Alan announced that there were to be “no heroics” today. And it paid off. There seemed to be a bit of understandable tiredness towards the end, but this was a really good performance, well struck throughout. I think it was a suitable way to celebrate David’s contribution to peal-ringing at a tower where he sadly fell just one short of ringing two hundred peals.

Great to hear from Richard Rapier that ringing at St Peter and St Paul is now fully up and running on Monday evenings and Sunday mornings, albeit – in keeping with so many places – they are down on two or three from pre-Covid due to various reasons, whilst apparently there were about a dozen at a reasonably attended North-East District Ringing Meeting at Reydon yesterday.

My efforts on the 8cwt seventh wasn’t the only ringing I did today, as I rang for the service that the boys and I attended and Ruthie sang for at Woodbridge, where we were unfortunately missing Bruce Wakefield with some back problems that have also contributed to Tuesday’s practice being cancelled. Get better soon Bruce!
Elsewhere in Suffolk there was a quarter-peal of Grandsire Cinques rung at the Norman Tower for the County Harvest Festival. It is great to see Sunday afternoons a hive of ringing activity on the county’s bells again and I feel privileged to have been a part of it.

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Saturday 9th October 2021

Some of the riders passing through Great Finborough. Great Finborough.There was more than a ripple of excitement in Melton today as Stage Six of the Women’s Cycle Race dashed through the village at a rapid pace, preceded by a multitude of police motorcycles and followed by numerous support vehicles. With no ringing in the local area to celebrate it’s passing, we decided to take the boys down to see it and are glad that we did with all the activity surrounding it proving thrilling for them, but elsewhere on the route Suffolk’s ringers were providing a soundtrack to proceedings. Well done to those at Clare, Cavendish, Glemsford, Long Melford and Wickham Market who answered Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge’s call for bells with general ringing and at Great Finborough they rang a 1260 of the suitably named Tour of Britain Bob Minor as the bikes raced past.

College Youths peal band.
The College Youths peal band at St Mary-le-Tower

Ingham.That wasn’t the only quarter-peal of the day in the county though, with four Doubles methods rung on the 12cwt five at Ingham, whilst I was glad to see a peal finally rung at St Mary-le-Tower in memory of George Pipe, delayed of course by the pandemic with an attempt already lined up when Boris Johnson first necessarily stopped such pleasures nineteen months ago. I believe a local peal for George is in the offing, but it was appropriate that this 5014 was rung by the College Youths who were so important to him after sixty-five years of membership, conducted by his nephew David, of Stedman Cinques which he so enjoyed ringing, and at a venue that was essentially his second home.

I did contemplate going into town to listen and maybe even meet up with the band afterwards, as indeed I considered going to either the North-West District ADM at Wickham Skeith (where apparently twenty-seven were in attendance, which is reasonable in the current circumstances) or the North-East District Ringing Meeting at Reydon, but in the end I was happy enough soaking up the excitement in Melton.

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Friday 8th October 2021

Pringles tubes duly dispatched with Alfie at school, a day at work was carried out and evening spent at home.

The handbell peal band ringing under Luke Jerram’s Gaia.As usual, that took in Simon Rudd’s weekly virtual pub where two of the participants – our host and Nikki Thomas - in yesterday’s handbell peal beneath ‘Gaia’ spoke about ringing in front of an audience that peaked at an impressive but daunting fifty and the Sparlings spoke of the Women’s Cycling Tour coming through their area ahead of its planned arrival in Suffolk tomorrow, hopefully to the sound of bells.

Grote Kerk, Dordrecht.However, the only sound of bells we heard today was a week old, from the Netherlands and on YouTube, with the first rounds on the new ten at the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht shared with the world.

Cretingham.Meanwhile, the sound of bells could be heard in Cretingham today as a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung on the ground-floor 7cwt six.

At least other ringers in the county were ringing, even if our day was more to do with Pringles tubes, work and quiet nights at home!

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Thursday 7th October 2021

Internet issues made practicing Plain Bob Major on my eBells a very frustrating experience and reinforces my view that - for all that they have helped progress my ringing in hand - there is absolutely nothing as good as the real thing! As usual for a Thursday evening though, there was no option of the real thing as I was at home looking after the boys whilst Ruthie went to her two different choir practices, before returning with two tubes of Pringles to be devoured by tomorrow so Alfie could take them to school for a project that we only discovered about this afternoon! The sacrifices we make for our children.

The handbell peal band ringing under Luke Jerram’s Gaia.Meanwhile, many will have seen pictures this week of ‘Gaia’ at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, but today’s photo by Neil Thomas of the peal band – including past St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd – ringing a 5040 of Plain Bob Major under Luke Jerram’s art installation, in front of an audience is a very striking image, and much better than trying it on eBells with dodgy internet in our living room!

A very striking image and much better than trying it on eBells with dodgy internet in our living room!

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Wednesday 6th October 2021

Yesterday was my mother-in-law Kate Eagle’s birthday, but this evening was the only opportunity to gather her daughters, grandchildren and their Grandad Ron together to celebrate at hers. With the children satisfied with McDonalds, us adults enjoyed takeaway curry and much chocolate cake was consumed and I hope we made it a happy birthday for someone who has been of great support to us throughout the years.

Pettistree. Polstead.In amongst this post-work party, I popped out to Pettistree to ring in the pre-practice quarter-peal of Ipswich Surprise Minor, which of course we also dedicated to Kate’s birthday. This was a super quarter with only a couple of small method mistakes (one of which was me trying to ring Norfolk Surprise Minor at one of the lead ends!) and well-struck throughout. It seemed of a suitably high standard to mark the 1250th QP on the bells since their rededication in December 1986, something that has helped sustain a high quality of ringing over more than three decades of ringing, in the process attracting ringers from far and wide, helping to improve the ringing of a number of ringers (myself included) and seen a number of striking competitions won, with the Mitson Shield still in our possession following victory in the last Guild Six-Bell held at Polstead nearly two-and-a-half years ago. Appropriate also that we rang a 1250, brought round two changes after a single at wrong.

Offton. The Sorrell Horse. Our efforts weren’t the only success in Suffolk noted on BellBoard today, with a 1282 of Rutland Surprise Major rung on the ground-floor eight of Offton and some of that band ringing a 1344 of Plain Bob Major on handbells at The Sorrell Horse at Barham.

Well done to all concerned and Happy Birthday for yesterday to Kate!

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Tuesday 5th October 2021

Although we didn’t practice at St Mary-le-Tower last night, we still used Hawkear on our ringing and although it didn’t work on one of the touches due to a disagreement between Jonathan Williamson's foot and the USB connection, we still got the results through for the other one from Stephen Cheek today. As usual, it makes for useful reading, highlighting areas of one’s ringing that one might not have perceived at the time and which hopefully can be used to improve one’s ringing for next time. I would certainly encourage bands to consider getting this as it is used to aide ringers, not to put them down. We certainly feel it has benefitted us.

Wickham Skeith.More immediately for most towers, ringers could benefit from the North-West District ADM on Saturday afternoon, which NW Secretary David Everett emailed members about today. They have only a few names for tea, so I hope more put their names forward to Peter Davidson at the host tower Wickham Skeith and make the time and effort being put into this worthwhile.

Reydon.If you’re really keen, you could conceivably ring at Reydon first for the North-East District Ringing Meeting, where there will be tea and coffee and modern facilities available. Even if both aren’t possible, I hope if you can, you support one of them at least. Such events are so important for networking between ringers of all abilities that can be mutually beneficial and for giving learners new opportunities.

That is due to happen, but looking back, I’m sure many will be interested in the photo shared on the Guild Facebook page of “veteran Melford” ringers at Debenham in 1970, with the question of who features arising. One is apparently Ernest Ambrose, whilst George Symonds – as Neal Dodge quite rightly points out – is also there.

Looking to the present though and there was a pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton, with a 1280 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major rung ahead of the first Tuesday night session there for three weeks.

Meanwhile, the CCCBR website was an interesting source of information today with their PRO Vicki Chapman announcing the launch of Ringing Forums, which will hopefully serve as somewhere for ringers to ask for advice, best practice and the like on all sorts of topics, all being well without getting debates that descend into backbiting as can often happen on social media. Please do check it out.

And do check out President Simon Linford’s latest blog entry (#44), the other read of interest today from the Central Council’s site. Much ground is covered as usual, encouraging ringing organisations to look objectively at the homepage of their website in light of the North American Guild’s new site, emphasises the need to get permission to do work on bells after a talk he and Mark Regan gave to the Church Buildings Council and DAC’s annual conference and muses about how much to use The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee planned for 2022 for the purposes of recruitment.

There is much lined up for that four day weekend next June, as outlined on the Royal Family’s website. God willing our ringing will be well and truly up to speed by then. Hawkear should help.

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Monday 4th October 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.This evening, I had an audience with the Right Revd Martin Seeley, the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and of course therefore the President of the Suffolk Guild. Well, myself and a few hundred others as he led the licensing of St Mary-le-Tower’s new Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Thomas Mumford and the theme of his sermon was ‘what is St Mary-le-Tower known for?’. He was getting at its place as Ipswich’s civic church, its history, its choral tradition and the tower and spire, but of course I instantly thought of how well known it is worldwide amongst ringers in a way that probably reaches far further than any of those aspects, even if the church itself – understandably – can’t comprehend it. Through George Pipe and the incredible achievements of the band here in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, this is a location that draws people in from across the country and the planet, including for a peal attempt due to take place this Saturday afternoon. And to paraphrase GWP, you can have a magnificent choir (and they do, as was showed tonight!), but you can’t hear them across the rooftops of the town. Indeed, the Bishop started his sermon by saying that not just was St Mary-le-Tower the only church he could see from his house, but the only one he could hear, thanks to the 35cwt twelve.

Therefore, for all that it was a pity that they had to hold this occasion on a Monday night, we were delighted to ring out before the service with a couple of well rung touches of Grandsire Cinques (for all that I’d preferred not to ring four courses of it on the eleventh!) and then even a little afterwards as we rang the bells down in readiness for checking. All in all, I like to think we gave good first impression of the ringers to Tom and I’m glad ten of us were able to join in his licensing. As well as having an audience with the Bishop!

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Sunday 3rd October 2021

It may surprise those who know me and have got used to my dubious timekeeping over the years, but I hate being late. I don’t like the idea of letting people down or putting them out.

This morning was one such occasion. Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on Sunday mornings has recently reverted back to starting at 8.45, which is tough anyway, but trying to get two young boys ready to take with me makes it all the harder! Today saw us arriving fifteen minutes after the start of ringing, as a well-rung half a course of Surprise Royal was just getting underway, but there were at least more than twelve present already and I was able to contribute to a couple of courses of Little Bob Maximus and a bob course of Grandsire Cinques that finished bang on 9.30 in an impressive bit of pacing that reminded me of my days ringing at St Martin-in-the-Bullring in Birmingham on the Sabbath morn!

Our visit was made even more fleeting as we passed on going to Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshments, as the vicar’s wife at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge was very keen for the boys to play a part in the Harvest Service at 10am and so it was straight there after setting the eleventh at the end of ringing in Ipswich. Even if I trimmed that journey down to the bare minimum (within the speed limit of course!), it is extremely unlikely that I would get there, find a parking space and pull the boys up all the stairs to the ringing chamber in time to ring on the 25cwt eight, but it seemed typical of the morning to arrive on the Market Hill as they were ringing down!

My fortunes changed by the afternoon though, when I got to Pettistree as the ground-floor six were being rung up and I was even early enough to pull the back two up (although not both at once!), before I then rang the third to a very enjoyable 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor in a breezy ringing chamber that was definitely well ventilated! After a few minutes to allow the room to air a bit more following our forty minutes of effort and to give Chris Garner time to swap with his wife Mary whilst she sound-checked her organ for the outdoors Harvest Service we were ringing for, we rang a touch of St Martin’s Bob Doubles prior to leaving.

Henley. Bardwell. Euston. Hitcham.

There were other quarter-peals rung on Suffolk’s bells today too. Four more in fact. Cambridge Surprise Minor was rung on the back six at Henley. Well done to Alex Brett-Holt on a first QP on eight in the 1344 of Plain Bob Triples at Bardwell and to Deborah Blumfield and fellow local ringer Trevor on their London to Brighton cycle ride to fundraise for Ovarian Cancer Action, Breast Cancer Now and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. They have a fundraising page if you wish to donate and add to the amazing £1,068 raised thus far. Meanwhile, well done also to Neal Dodge and conductor Stephen Dawson on their first of Andover Bob Minor in the 1260 at Euston. However, the headline act from countywide ringing perspective is the 1280 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Hitcham, which was the first on this new eight and the first time tower bells have been rung here for the Harvest Festival since 1919 – better late then never!

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Saturday 2nd October 2021

There was pretty dreadful weather in our part of the world this afternoon. Heavy rain and heavy wind made it a real stay indoors climate. It’s a good job we packed plenty into this morning therefore.

Ashbocking. Ringing at Ashbocking for the South-East District Practice. Ringing at Ashbocking for the South-East District Practice. Ringing at Ashbocking for the South-East District Practice.

At the centre of it all was ringing and most specifically the South-East District Practice at Ashbocking, another ground-floor six with the doors wide open, hand sanitiser readily available and masks on indoors, even in this spacious church. With those reassurances, we were able to get on with a productive session, with much from Treble Bob to Plain Bob Doubles to spliced Doubles to Cambridge Surprise Minor at the tower which was the venue for my first ever peal 632 peals and twenty-nine years ago. Well done Ringing Master Jenny Scase on running it well and thank you to the local ringers on their hospitality, including tea and biscuits!

Beforehand we took the boys to their latest football practice and as the ringing continued on the 10cwt six, we had to leave to get Joshua to the Woodbridge Community Hall for a birthday party, whilst Mason, Alfie and myself headed on to St Felix church in Rendlesham for the first Messy Church there, run by our friends Charlotte and Gregory.

Grundisburgh.Having returned to collect Josh and Ruthie from the party though, there was time to settle down to listen to football and read The Ringing World, with the 5065 of Grandsire Caters at Grundisburgh on 23rd September coming top of ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’, amongst much other interesting content. Something nice to read whilst one hunkers down from the weather.

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Friday 1st October 2021

The Nabbers Facebook page occasionally up throws up some bits of information and today they released a list of towers that have become unringable in the last three months, including some in Suffolk. Ongoing projects to augment to eight at Buxhall and ten at Stowmarket are presumably behind their inclusion on the list, but I’m not precisely sure why the 10cwt six at Assington is. (Dove reports “Ringing prohibited”. Ed.)

Meanwhile, Dove’s Guide now offers what it calls Customised tower selections, which could make the life of an outing organiser a lot easier and is worth exploring. For example, if one wants to organise an outing to the 25cwt eight of Woodbridge and the surrounding area, Dove will tell you that within five miles there are the sixes of Hasketon, Bredfield, Burgh, Clopton, Pettistree, Wickham Market, Tuddenham St Martin and Rushmere St Andrew, the eight of Ufford and twelve of Grundisburgh.

The Dordrecht band.Not that we were ringing on any of them - or indeed anywhere - today, although as has become the norm on a Friday evening, we did meet virtually with other ringers from across East Anglia through Simon Rudd’s ‘pub’ and elsewhere in the county the FNQPC rang a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor at the gallery ring at Earl Stonham, whilst Cathy Colman featured in a QP on Ringing Room. And further afield, the first quarter-peal on the new ten at the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht in the Netherlands was rung, with a few familiar faces in the band, including a handful of Rambling Ringers.

Back to the UK, and the CCCBR shared on their website their response to the Church of England’s consultation on GS2222, its review of the future course of the church. Personally I think it concisely puts across the essence of ringing, that its purpose is to ring for church services, but highlighting that without all the other elements of the art – outings, striking competitions, quarter-peals, peals, etc – there would be far fewer ringers to man bells on Sunday mornings. With that context, it also encourages the C of E to work more closely with the Central Council over bells in churches that are being closed down, of which there may be many in the near future.

Hopefully we can prevent more rings of bells joining that list of unringables on Nabbers.

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Thursday 30th September 2021

Me trying my eBells out.More eBells focus for me whilst Ruthie went out for her double choir practice. This evening I concentrated entirely on ringing 3-4 to Plain Bob Minor on Ringing Room (where today there were performances on BellBoard – including a quarter-peal featuring Cathy and Nathan Colman - after yesterday having its first blank day since 19th October last year) as I strove to get beyond just coursing one hand after the other. And pretty chuffed I was with my efforts too, although I’m still a long way off the high standards already being set by others in Suffolk.

Meanwhile, in a more leftfield and with a tenuous link to ringing, I wonder if I was the only ringer (apart from my wife) who watched Gyles Brandreth talking about long length speeches about six or seven minutes into the latest edition of the ‘S’ series of QI who immediately thought of long length peal attempts, especially when he was discussing the toilet arrangements!

Mercifully, for all my practicing, my handbell abilities don’t call for me to think about such logistics!

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Wednesday 29th September 2021

Pettistree.Ruthie’s turn to go out this evening as she popped out to Pettistree practice where apart from bemoaning that they made her ring Stedman and lead down, she was pleased to support the session!

Gislingham.Beforehand, a quarter-peal was successfully rung on the ground-floor six to complement the peal of Zelah Surprise Major rung at Gislingham on another good day of ringing in Suffolk, for them and others, including Ruthie.

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Tuesday 28th September 2021

Sutton Hoo helmet (replica) I was quite pleased with myself today, as I took a lunchtime walk to Sutton Hoo and back, whilst I felt quite chuffed listening to Ipswich Town’s 6-0 victory against Doncaster Rovers, their biggest victory since we beat... Doncaster Rovers 6-0 in 2011. My day involved no ringing though I’m afraid.

Not so for former Suffolk ringer Molly Waterson whose epic ‘Molly Week’ Quarter-Peal Tour around Northamptonshire continued with a further five QPs, but nothing from within our borders noted on BellBoard.

Ashbocking. Reydon. Wickham Skeith. Laxfield. Kedington.

Still, October is due to be with us (or is it us due to be with it?) on Friday and plenty is lined up to occupy the county’s ringers on what are hoped to be busier days, starting with the South-East District Practice planned for this Saturday at Ashbocking between 10.30am and noon. Then seven days later the aim is to ring at the towers that the final stage of the Women’s Tour cycle race are planning to go past, whilst the North-East District have a practice at Reydon and the North-West District their ADM at Wickham Skeith lined up. The hope is to hold the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice at 7.30pm on Monday 11th, Ringing Gym at The Norman Tower on Saturday 23rd and the Service for Absent Friends at Laxfield, where all being well there will be ringing on the new octave from 4.15 - 5.45pm ahead of the 6pm service. And the month is due to be rounded off locally by the South-West District at Kedington from 3 - 4.30pm on Saturday 30th.

Please do support whatever you can – you don’t have to walk to them!

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Monday 27th September 2021

Sitting in an already lengthy queue of traffic outside the local petrol station at 6.45 on the dark, wet morning that autumn seems to have begun, was not where I would’ve chosen to be in the normal scheme of things. However, thanks to the panic buying over a fuel crisis that didn’t exist until people started panic buying and our car telling us in alarmed fashion that we only had fifteen miles of fuel left, it was necessary to allow us to continue on about our business this week.

Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower practice.That included me going to St Mary-le-Tower this evening for the weekly practice, where although we only had eleven, we still managed an impressive repertoire of Stedman Triples (which I listened to from outside as I popped out to the car to get something), Cambridge Surprise Major, Grandsire Caters, Stedman Caters, Yorkshire Surprise Royal and Lincolnshire Surprise Royal before we tucked into some cake very kindly left us by the Mayor for yesterday’s ringing for the civic service and then retired to the Halberd Inn.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, whilst the Ringing Room exploits of the Colmans didn’t require any travelling, others did journey into Bury St Edmunds to ring a handbell quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major. I hope they didn’t have to wait too long for fuel to get there!

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Sunday 26th September 2021

St Mary-le-Tower. Pettistree.The unnecessarily created fuel ‘crisis’ is close to causing us issues in regards to getting out to ringing. We currently have enough in the car to get us about tomorrow during the day, but getting to St Mary-le-Tower practice in the evening is looking decidedly dicey, especially if we want to keep some spare for unexpected journeys or emergencies, let alone Pettistree on Wednesday if we still can’t find any. Therefore, when we travelled into Ipswich this afternoon to ring for a civic service at SMLT, we decided to travel in via Martlesham and Woodbridge Road that took us past four petrol stations, all of which were closed, bar one which was selling fuel we can’t put in our vehicle.

On the plus side, it meant that we arrived to ringing early and allowed us to contribute to some Stedman Triples & Cambridge Surprise Major on the front eight and Grandsire Caters and call-changes on ten, whilst the boys tucked into their lunches and dragged us away for a toilet break.

Earlier in the day, our diminishing fuel supply was able to get us to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge for the morning service, preceded by me ringing upstairs, but in between that and our fuel hunt, our day was one of homework reluctantly carried out by our sons and roast dinner, although the weather remained unseasonably warm for such cuisine.

Henley.Meanwhile, elsewhere in Suffolk, a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Triples was rung at Henley, whilst it is great to see Thursday’s peal at Grundisburgh flying high on BellBoard’s ‘Highest scoring performances’ leader board. Rung by a band with enough fuel to get there.

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Saturday 25th September 2021

With ridiculous queues outside those petrol stations that have fuel left in a crisis seemingly created by people short of a brain cell or two, today was – for once – a good day to use the train.

Not that our choice of transport was due to the gridlock on the UK’s forecourts caused by an overreaction to just a handful of them being closed earlier in the week. Rather, it was necessary if we were to fully enjoy our afternoon’s activity in Norwich – gin making! This was one of those gift experiences very generously given to Ruthie as a birthday present and obviously something that involved much drinking of alcohol, hence why we left the car at home and made our way via the tracks and stations of East Anglia.

Ruthie & me outside St Peter Mancroft. Inside St Gregorys Antiques & collectibles.What fun as well! We’d headed up there with plenty of time, thus allowing us a wander around the city to see the sights such as St Peter Mancroft and even to take in a trip to, a superb use for a church no longer wanted or needed for worship and presumably once where bells were rung from the now cluttered gallery, at least judging by the holes in the ceiling. Lunch – and even a warm-up beer – was enjoyed outside St Andrew's Brew House in the shadow of the church of the same dedication which holds the sadly unringable 15cwt ten, but the main purpose of our trip up north was the opportunity to make our own bottles of gin at Gyre & Gimble, a self-styled gin academy, tucked away upstairs off Charring Cross.

The first of many gins. Ruthie with her gin!Over two hours of playing with flavours and distilling with free refills as we went along followed our arrival and made us glad that we let the train take the strain, enjoying a beautiful sunset across the Norfolk countryside as we returned home.

Landguard Fort Earlier, we'd taken the boys to football training before dropping them off with Granny Kate who very kindly looked after them and even took them to Landguard Fort, but there was no time for us to do any ringing and indeed bar Nathan Colman and his mother Cathy ringing a quarter-peal in the only performance on Ringing Room noted on BellBoard today, there were no quarters or peals in Suffolk generally.

Perhaps our ringers couldn’t get any fuel to get to ringing.

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Friday 24th September 2021

When I think back to The Ringing World when I first read it in the late 1980s, I think of the rough paper, indistinguishable black and white photos and dry looking front covers. The contrast to the issue that arrived in the post with us this morning couldn’t be greater. Bright, colourful, glossy and youthful, the work that has been done in recent years and particularly the change of printer recently has led to a publication that could appeal to non-ringers too or at least catch their attention.

Of course, content helps and on this occasion it was certainly helped by photos and reports from last week’s Ringing World National Youth Contest in Worcester, a real glimmer of hope for the exercise with a show of youthful enthusiasm and talent.

Leiston.Sadly, there was no representation from Suffolk this year, but the county does feature prominently in the rest of the issue, not least with the superb article by John Loveless on the recent peal of Stedman Cinques in Leiston for the centenary of the incredible Bailey brothers doing the same. And not just superb for the mention of the blog (thanks Jake!), but for the wonderful detail in words and photos of the rural siblings who achieved what at the time was mainly the prerogative of big city bands and even to this day is no small achievement. Also, it was nice to see Adrian ‘Arnie’ Knights given mention as the last ringing pupil of the brothers. He was happily able to ring in the peal we rang on the 20cwt eight a decade ago to mark a hundred years since their also impressive brotherly 5024 of Plain Bob Major, but as most will know he is sadly too ill to ring now. As John says, I’m sure he would have enjoyed it all.

However, there was also significant representation with The Norman Tower’s winning piece in the Guild Eight-Bell Striking Competition mentioned in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’, along with the peal at Offton and quarter-peal at Poslingford for Christine and Richard Knight’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary.

Stansfield.There may be another to be added to the section for next week’s issue, with a 1260 of Doubles at Stansfield for their happy event rung at Stansfield, apparently following a lunch and a loss elsewhere when Richard’s rope broke!

Conductor Simon Rudd eventually joined us from the celebrations with them for his weekly virtual pub where the size of David Sparling’s ice ball was commented on and Mark Ogden relayed his plans for handbell restoration at a very reasonable price!

Meanwhile, the QP on the 10cwt ground-floor five in the South-West District wasn’t the only one within our borders today as the FNQPC rang a 1308 of St Clement’s College Bob Minor at Ashbocking in memory of David Salter and as part of Elizabeth Christian’s Blue Pathway.

I hope to read about it in a bright, colourful, glossy and youthful issue of The Ringing World.

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Thursday 23rd September 2021

If it is a choice between helping out at a real ringing practice nearby or ringing online, all ringers ought to really be helping local bands by popping out and grabbing hold of a rope in a church tower if they can. That’s not to say every ringer should be going out on every night of the week as that can get a bit much, especially for those with children or non-ringing partners and if we insisted on ringers dedicating their every spare hour to ringing and nothing else we’ll lose huge swathes, which would be counterproductive. However, it would be a pity if practices that could really do with even just one or two more to progress found themselves not only competing with TV, sports, computers and whatever else modern life offers people, but also with Ding, Handbell Stadium and Ringing Room.

As far as I’m aware, that hasn’t been a big issue and indeed, looking at BellBoard there are definitely fewer performances on RR - around half of the number of performances have been rung on there in the two months since restrictions were completely lifted compared to the previous two months and a quarter of the number in the two months previous to that.

Sometimes though, there isn’t ringing on anywhere nearby or one simply can’t get out. I wouldn’t have it any other way, as it is lovely to spend time with the boys as they grow up and I feel blessed to have it, but if circumstances were different, I would probably drop Ruthie off in Woodbridge on a Thursday evening for her brace of practices with the choirs of St Mary and Illuminati and then pick her up either side of helping out at Grundisburgh practice. Those aforementioned blessed circumstances don’t allow for that though and so I am grateful for online ringing and particularly my eBells, as once the boys were in bed, I put in some more practice on them.

On this occasion, I started by continuing with my efforts at Kent Treble Bob Minor on 5-6 and was chuffed with my efforts, but I am aware that ringing the tenors are probably the easiest pair to ring, for me anyway. Providing it is a plain course – as all my ringing in hand has been thus far – then they are coursing together and thus so long as one of the my bells is in the right place, then the other isn’t too hard to put where it needs to go, even when separated by the treble. Therefore, I decided to step ‘back’ to Plain Bob Minor, but this time on 3-4 and discovered first hand how much harder it was! Still, I was pleased to get better at that and finished my solo session with some Cambridge Surprise Minor back on 5-6 and did a decent job after a few goes, reinforcing to me that if I really want to progress, I need to focus away from the tenors.

Others in Suffolk were also ringing online today and in the case of Tim Hart putting my efforts to shame with a 1728 of twenty-seven Surprise Major methods in hand on Ringing Room, whilst Nathan Colman was on the same platform participating in a 1280 of Quedgeley Surprise Major.

Pleasingly though, there was ringing on real bells in the county too, including across town from Tim and Nathan in Bury St Edmunds, where a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor (no doubt rung better than my efforts on handbells!) was rung at The Norman Tower in memory of David Salter. Meanwhile, whilst disappointed not to have been able to accept the kind invitation to ring in this morning’s peal attempt arranged for David at Grundisburgh, I am pleased that a 5065 of Grandsire Caters was rung.

Nice to see real ringing and online ringing going on, hopefully complementing each other.

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Wednesday 22nd September 2021

Despite failing to score it, this evening’s pre-practice quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree could still be classed as a success. The aim was ambitious, but achievable at one of the best six-bell practices in Suffolk. Sixteen Surprise Minor methods, starting with a 720 of the siblings Lightfoot (London below the treble, Westminster above) and Rossendale (its sixth place version) and their cousins Wearmouth (Wells below, Westminster above) and Stamford (its sixth place version) and then a 576 of the ‘Cambridge Twelve’.

Three attempts of the former got progressively better and longer before a break outside in the twilight then gave us the energy to successfully ring the 720. Were it not for time and the ringers outside in the dark waiting for us to finish to come in, we might well have gone on to get the full quarter, but undoubtedly our efforts had helped to lubricate our brains and perhaps more tangibly meant that there was a band of ringers capable of spliced Surprise Minor from the start of the session that followed.

That session was productive. Chris McArthur was keen to ring Norwich, so we rang Norwich, which I called from the treble. Anne Buswell and Elaine Townsend wanted to ring Beverley, so that was also rung. Sam Shannon had a focus on trebling to Grandsire, whilst Anne also had more handbell focus in the church. A touch of London and Wells was also very enjoyable and most useful. This was a good night’s ringing.

There were no other performances from within our borders noted on BellBoard to make up for our loss, with St Mary-le-Tower ringers David Stanford and David & Gill Sparling ringing a handbell QP in Essex in memory of David Salter, but ringing from the county is due to feature in the forthcoming issue of The Ringing World, with John Loveless’ article on the handbell peal of Stedman Cinques in Leiston and The Bailey Brothers lined up for publication.

Although sadly there will be no QP from this evening’s ringing at Pettistree in any future issues.

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Tuesday 21st September 2021

It is fifteen years today since Ruthie and I began going out and of course a lot has happened in that time, personally and more broadly, in ringing and in life generally. I feel blessed that she has been by my side throughout it all.

Ours is a relationship that has blossomed into a family thank God and was born from ringing, but we weren’t participating in any today. Still, it is funny where one comes across the art and whilst searching BBC iPlayer at lunchtime I found A Passion For Churches whilst searching for something else to watch whilst munching on my sandwiches. This is from 1974 and follows Sir John Betjeman exploring the churches of the Norwich Diocesan Association and 22mins 53secs in there is a burst of ringing. I couldn’t make out precisely where it was from, but as they featured Bill West, it may well have been Holt, where a lot of his peals were rung and which would’ve been a six at the time and perhaps ground-floor. I expect someone would be able to confirm! Right towards the end though, at 47mins 40secs in, there is no doubting that it is the bells of St Peter Mancroft in the county city ringing out for Easter Sunday.

Someone who may have been able to fill in any gaps was David Salter, who had a wonderful knowledge of the history of East Anglian ringing. That knowledge – amongst much else – will be missed, but there is now an opportunity for his friends to leave their thoughts and memories of him (and donations to the Guild Jubilee Fund) on his tribute page on, as shared by Katharine today. I’m sure there will be many.

Later in the evening, I was pleased to have a read of CCCBR President Simon Linford’s Blog (#43), which is worth taking a look at, if nothing else to generate some thought on teaching learners and also about making call-change a target in itself.

Meanwhile, it was great to see our peal at Offton on Sunday making it into the top five of BellBoard’s Highest scoring performances table and thus onto the homepage of BB (joining the handbell peal at Leiston), perhaps further helped by the photos of Christine and Richard on their big day forty years ago now added to the performance report. It was for a lovely cause and so it is nice for it to feature prominently and whilst it is unlikely we’ll overtake the 40320 changes of 336 Treble Dodging Minor methods rung in hand in Reading that remains way out in front, it would be wonderful to see it climb a little further.

Iken.Talking of my peals appearing in tables, a new feature on Andrew Craddock’s excellent PealBase lists the peals of Doubles with one hundred or more methods and/or variations rung and thus includes the peal I rang in at Iken in 2013 to mark the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, appropriately one of my many memories of David Salter, who conducted it.

No such ringing activity today though as instead I sat back and allowed my wife to indulge in the new series of The Great British Bake Off. There was no better way for her to spend our anniversary!

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Monday 20th September 2021

No ringing on towerbells for me today, as this evening Ruthie went to The Apex in Bury St Edmunds with most of our childsitters and so I was needed more at home to look after the boys, than I was at St Mary-le-Tower practice. And I shan’t be ringing towerbells on Tuesday night either, as indeed the band at Offton shan’t be as the weekly session has been called off.

Still, it gave me an opportunity to try some Kent Treble Bob Minor on my eBells for the first time, buoyed by how well they prepared me for the real thing on Saturday. And again, it went quite well, with the usual caveat that it’s far from perfect! Even better though, was that Alfie had a go on 5-6 to some rounds on six, even compensating for the slight delay in striking and patchy internet connection!

My endeavours with Kent in hand certainly reinforced my admiration for the band who rang a quarter-peal of it on handbells in Ipswich, as indeed my attempts at Plain Bob Major in this last week have done likewise for my admiration of the band who rang a 1296 of that in hand in Bury St Edmunds.

Meanwhile, please note that there is no practice at Offton on Tuesday night.

Kedington.However, it was uplifting to receive a What’s On for October via email from Chris Garner and John Taylor, a sign that there is more going on. Do take a look and please support where you can, especially the South-West District’s first event since ringing’s return, which is due to be held on the 11cwt six of Kedington from 3-4.30pm on Saturday 30th.

I imagine some of that calendar of events will be publicised by Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge, but today he was the one being publicised in a YouTube video about the opening of the new London Underground stations at Battersea Power Station and Nine Elms this morning. Watch for extremely – and deservedly – complimentary comment for his poster 2mins 27secs into the video.

Amazing what one can find when one’s not ringing on a Monday night!

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Sunday 19th September 2021

Poslingford.1981 was a good year for Christine & Richard Knight. As Ipswich Town fans who rang in the peal we rang at St Matthew’s up the hill from Portman Road in memory of Sir Bobby Robson back in 2009, they would’ve enjoyed the team under his management winning the UEFA Cup in the May and perhaps even Escape to Victory – the film featuring a number of Town’s players – appearing a few months later. Most significantly though, they were married on 19th September at Poslingford.

Precisely forty years later, eight of us were absolutely delighted and privileged to celebrate the Ruby Wedding Anniversary of a couple who have done so much for the Suffolk Guild and particularly in the South-West District, generally and in various roles, including as Peal Secretary, a role that Christine currently holds. Above all though, we all consider them good friends. Anne Rueff even travelled up from Surrey to ring in the 5040 of Ruby Alliance Major at Offton, having known Mrs Knight since uni days in Birmingham.

I’m glad to say that we certainly made her travels worthwhile with a super 2hrs 49mins of ringing. My modern day barometer of how I feel a peal has gone is if I’m worried if any bits might appear on YouTube. Whilst some peals can have choppy bits that you hope aren’t recorded and shared to the world as a representation of your efforts out of context, I can safely say that I’d be pleased to come across any of our ringing this afternoon online.

Which was impressive, as although the method was largely Yorkshire Surprise, the back work with the treble, two dodges in 5-6 rather than the more familiar three and the wrong dodges made this something that needed considerable focus, before one even got onto the half-lead singles! The result was ringing that I feel justifies my belief that peal-ringing is so very important to the exercise, as it is only typically in peals you get ringing as good as this. Not all peals produce ringing of this standard, but very little ringing over shorter periods can match what can be achieved over two or three hours of 5000+ changes.

We topped our efforts off with a drink in The Limeburners nearby, whilst Richard and Christine marked the occasion with ringing themselves as they rang a quarter-peal at the same church as they were married in, but they were blissfully unaware that we had been planning our peal and so we also got a lovely message from them thanking us.

The brace of performances weren’t the only noted on BellBoard rung in the county today, with a 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Major rung at Bacton.

Meanwhile, SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge was on BBC Radio Suffolk with Sarah Lilley again this morning 2hrs 45mins in relaying how yesterday’s Guild Eight-Bell Striking Competition went and who won the Rose Trophy in another great piece of PR, but that we were listening to him in the car will tell you that we hadn’t made it quite in time for the new old start time of 8.45am at St Mary-le-Tower for service ringing. We weren’t too late though, getting there as the first touch came round and therefore in time for some Stedman Caters and Grandsire Cinques before popping to Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshment.

And on Ringing Room, Simon Rudd led a band in ringing a 1250 of Oxford Treble Bob Minor that also celebrated forty years of marriage for Richard and Christine. Happy Anniversary guys, 1981 was indeed a good year!

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Saturday 18th September 2021

When the Guild Eight-Bell Striking Competition has been held in its traditional slot after the Six-Bell Striking Competitions on the third Saturday of May, it has felt a little like after the Lord Mayor’s Show, tagged on the end after lunch/tea when many participants from dozens of teams competing for the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy and the Mitson Shield had gone home. Those leftover – often reluctantly – began competing again and people tired a little at the end of a long day, including the judges.

Rowan doing the draw outside Horringer Community Centre. Refreshments in Horringer Community Centre. Listening to ringing at Horringer. Katharine Salter giving the results outside Horringer Community Centre. Katharine Salter giving the results outside Horringer Community Centre.

Today, it felt like a glorious occasion, a real event. A big part of that was that despite the resumption of ringing a couple of months ago, this was the first SGR event since the Social in the North-East District two long, long years ago. The first opportunity to meet up and chat with friends, many of whom we hadn’t spoken with virtually or otherwise over that time. No activities to do, no pressing timelines, no ringing at all for some. Simply catching-up over the tea and cake that our hosts at Horringer very kindly provided us.

However, although I always quite liked the whole day of six-bell and eight-bell competition ringing that has traditionally welcomed the summer of ringing in the county, I think the move to separate the contests has been the correct one in its own right. To have five teams representing three districts was superb, as was the attendance of fifty-to-sixty, with relatively little overlap in those ringing in the competing bands, impressive in the circumstances with a number still understandably reluctant to join in with crowds at the moment.

Ruthie and I both rang for the South-East District who finished second with a blistering pace, whilst it said a lot for the high standard of ringing that St Mary-le-Tower finished fifth in a piece that I also rang in and felt was a good performance that would’ve been quite highly placed on another day. Very well done to the Norman Tower on deservedly winning with an entry pleasingly shared on YouTube. It was interesting that they rang Yorkshire Surprise Major rather than Grandsire Triples as the other bands did. My personal preference is to ring Surprise Major in this as you just need to keep on the line, allowing one to concentrate more fully on the striking, rather than also having to keep on top of a touch which is an additional distracting factor to my mind, although it can depend on the band and those who prefer Triples will point – with justification – to the benefit of a tenor setting a beat. Having said that, the ringing from all the bands was brilliant and certainly didn’t make the job of judging easy for Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter and her son Henry, a role somewhat forced upon her by Covid. Well done to all who took part, on a lovely peal of bells perfect for our long awaited return to competition ringing.

Picnicking in Ickworth Park.The Social element also made for a fantastic day, with ringing at Barrow for the North-West District apparently very well attended, although the we didn’t make that as the boys had football training. We did make it in time to enjoy our picnic under a tree in Ickworth Park, where we were joined by the Salters and later enjoyed chatting over a cuppa whilst periodically keeping up with Ipswich Town’s first win of the season, which excited the boys immensely, as well as me!

Handbell Ringing in the beer garden of The Six Bells in Horringer. Handbell Ringing in the beer garden of The Six Bells in Horringer.The day was topped off by a drink and handbells in the beer garden at The Six Bells, as I had my first go at Plain Bob Minor on real handbells, something that in my circumstances has only been made possible by the eBells that Tim Hart very kindly sent me a few weeks ago.

Earlier in the day, the event was publicised magnificently by Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge, 1hr 23mins into Sarah Lilley’s BBC Radio Suffolk show, as well as revealing some wonderful history of striking competitions and prizes!

Neal also featured prominently in this week’s edition of The Ringing World which we had already received and then handed to Mary Garner when she visited ours this morning. He was responsible for a great double-page article on last month’s simultaneous ringing at the three towers of Sudbury, whilst David Salter and the first quarter-peal at Hitcham were also mentioned in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’.

However, today was all about the Guild Eight-Bell Striking Competition and Social. Thank you to those who organised and hosted this event safely but in pretty much a normal way. There was sanitiser almost on tap, ventilation aplenty, gaps between teams ringing to allow the air in the ringing chamber to clear, holding the draw and results outside. We were blessed with the weather, but even in the Community Centre which was the only place where those present spent a long time indoors, it was a vast, airy space. All in all, it was indeed glorious!

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Friday 17th September 2021

Mason is becoming increasingly useful as he cooked tea for us this evening, leaving me with the chance to play football with his younger brothers and generally relax.

Normally we would be rushing around to prepare a meal and get the boys to bed before tuning in for Simon Rudd’s weekly virtual pub, but ironically having got ready well in time at a leisurely pace, there was no meet-up this evening as our host wasn’t about.

Still, it left more time to watch the clip about 7mins 50secs into today’s Morning Live about Taylor’s Bell Foundry, featuring some great shots of ringing from various places including Liverpool Cathedral and on the foundry’s own ring in Loughborough.

Bar some ringing on Ringing Room involving Cathy Colman this evening and her son Nathan in the very early hours of the day (and later hours of yesterday for one of the band!), there weren’t any quarters or peals rung in Suffolk today. Though there were teenagers cooking tea.

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Thursday 16th September 2021

Me trying my eBells out.I am enjoying my eBells kindly sent by Tim Hart, but I was reminded why I don’t get to practice on them as much as I would like in endearing fashion this evening. With Ruthie at choir practice and the boys occupied with computer games I took the opportunity to further hone my Plain Bob Major in hand with the spare half or so I had before we hosted my wife’s recently visited best friend Fergie. It is actually reasonably good now, although far from perfect and not helped by Joshua running in three or four leads into a course and loudly requesting assistance with his game!

It may well have been going on somewhere in Suffolk, but there was no handbell ringing within our borders noted on BellBoard today, although the Page brothers and Alex Riley who rang that extraordinary long length yesterday rang another impressive peal in Reading today of four Surprise Maximus methods, albeit that was in 332 fewer methods, 35232 changes shorter and 11hrs 22mins less, but of course with three extra ringers than twenty-four hours earlier!

St Peter.And whilst there was nothing on BB today, I listened to some of a recording of Sunday’s quarter-peal of Grandsire Caters at St Peter’s in Sudbury which was livestreamed on Facebook at the time and shared on the SGR FB page. The camera operator takes in most of the 1259 whilst wondering around the town, church and even in the ringing chamber at one point. Well done to the band for not being distracted and more generally for producing some nice ringing to listen to.

Cretingham bells.Meanwhile, it was lovely to find the account of the restoration, rehanging and augmentation of the ground-floor ring at Cretingham (complete with photos that might make good entries for the CCCBR’s current photo competition Bells in Art!), which has been added to the Restoration page on this very website, which more broadly is a fascinating place to glance at the projects in Suffolk past and present.

I’m tempted to get the boys doing some bells artwork to enter, if nothing else to help ensure they don’t interrupt me whilst practicing on my eBells!

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Wednesday 15th September 2021

For years we were used to seeing the handbell exploits of Philip Earis, David Pipe and Andrew Tibbetts. Now, there seems to be a new generation of handbell ringers looking to astound us with their exploits. Following their 30240 of 212 Treble Dodging Minor methods spliced in June which was the longest of spliced and the most methods rung all the work, the Page brothers Daniel and Jack and fellow Rambling Ringer Alex Riley today extended those records to 40320 and 336 at the same venue in Reading, taking 14hrs27mins to do so. Incredible stuff and well done to these three young lads.

During the time that they were sat ringing methods including Ashbocking, Barham, Ipswich and Sutton, there were multiple performances noted on BellBoard being rung in Suffolk on a busy day of ringing in the county. Well done to Nathan Colman on ringing his first quarter-peal as conductor on towerbells in the 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Horringer, a success he attributes to the opportunities he got on Ringing Room. During those torturous lockdowns when we were unable to gather in person to ring, the hope was that the online ringing platforms such as Ding, Handbell Stadium and RR would enable ringers to stay ringing fit and even progress and most importantly benefit ringing on actual church bells and this is a great example of that working.

Meanwhile, there were a couple of peals rung in memory of Past Guild Ringing Master David Salter within our borders, with a 5040 of forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced rung in hand in Bacton and a 5184 of Mortlake Surprise Major rung at Orford, whilst I was pleased to be able to contribute to remembering a ringer who did so much for my ringing and many others in Suffolk as I rang the fifth to a QP of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree.

Ours was a very well rung piece too, steady and well struck with very few method mistakes, but it was the limit of my ringing today as I returned home for Ruthie to replace me for the practice that followed on the ground-floor six, although sadly they were a little bit short on numbers this evening.

Hopefully somewhere they won’t be short on numbers in the future though is Felixstowe, where Jacky Savage has reported they had a very successful Open Day/Have-a-go-morning on Saturday, with six apparently coming back on Friday and a further six registering an interest. Jacky is now on the lookout for help to teach them!

Who knows, perhaps the next generation of handbell ringers will be among them!

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Tuesday 14th September 2021

Typically for a Tuesday, there was nothing to report from a personal ringing perspective. If it was practical to travel to London I would have been making a detour from heading to St Mary-le-Bow to Cornhill for this evening’s College Youths practice, presumably due to the clapper breaking on the eleventh of the former two changes into the first touch of Stedman Cinques of yesterday’s practice for the London Twelve-Bell Competition, as recounted in the entry that has finally knocked the handbell peal at Leiston of almost a fortnight ago off the top of BellBoard’s Highest scoring performances.

However, with work and parenthood meaning that reliably getting from Melton to the centre of the capital for the 6.30 - 8pm session and back on the last train is at best difficult, probably resulting only in a piece or two of ringing and a hastily knocked back pint for my efforts. Or I’d have to drive down after a day’s employment and back after adding a long evening to that. Not ideal.

Horringer.Therefore, it was the usual Tuesday night in for us, but there was ringing for other Suffolk ringers with the pre-practice quarter-peal at Offton dedicated to David Salter. And there is an opportunity for the county’s ringers to do some ringing on Saturday at the Guild Social and Eight-Bell Striking Competition at Horringer. Even if you’re not taking part in the competition, do please come along to the ringing at Barrow for the North-West District Practice in the morning, the picnic in Ickworth Park or grab refreshment at the vast Community Centre whilst bands compete with what should be some superb ringing.

It’ll probably be more practical than travelling to London!

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Monday 13th September 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.This evening’s latest fully ventilated, lateral flow tested, hand sanitised, attendance limited weekly St Mary-le-Tower practice was our most expansive since our return nearly two months ago. With fourteen present, we had the scope to try lots on ten and twelve, as we rang Grandsire Cinques and Little Bob Maximus on the latter and Stedman Caters and Surprise Royal of the Cambridge, London (No.3) and Yorkshire variety. And whilst understandably some of it was a little rusty, I was impressed that all bar the London came round and with how well we rang them considering the time that has passed since we last had a session like this!

Of course, it was followed by a drink in the Halberd Inn where my Mum and David Stanford reminisced over their early ringing days in Bedfordshire and word came through that new interim priest in charge Revd Tom Mumford is planning on visiting us at the practice on 11th October, a week after he is due to be licensed.

Meanwhile there was ringing elsewhere in the county, with Nathan Colman on Ringing Room and across Bury St Edmunds a band were ringing a handbell quarter of Little Bob Major.

All much very expansive.

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Sunday 12th September 2021

Woodbridge.The good news is that the split wooden rope shaft on the seventh at Woodbridge has been fixed. The bad news is that there were only enough to ring the front six for service this morning. This is the type of band I feared might not make it through the months and months of lockdowns, mainly because it is made up of ringers very loyal but also very involved with lots of other things. However, they have come back with gusto, ringing on Sundays for morning worship, Tuesday for practice nights and at weddings and generally picking things up well after the enforced breaks. Sadly though, they have lost one regular who has moved away and another who is out of action until they have a hernia operation, so they are little lighter on numbers than they would wish. Therefore it was nice to help out with the boys watching on for the first time for a year and a half before we then attended church downstairs.

Meanwhile, it was lovely to see ringing being done in memory of twice Past Master of the Guild David Salter, not just here in Suffolk with today’s quarter-peals of Doubles at Redgrave and Grandsire Caters at St Peter in Sudbury and yesterday’s of Plain Bob Doubles in the first quarter-peal on the rehung back six of the newly augmented eight at Hitcham, but further afield with a 360 of Grandsire Doubles at Mistley in Essex, a peal of Bristol Surprise Major at his most pealed tower outside of the county Milton in Oxfordshire, a 1272 of Minimus at Healing in Lincolnshire and a 1260 at Bathwick in Bath, Somerset. It is a sign of the esteem and affection he was held in far and wide and a good moment to say that in the absence of a funeral, the family have suggested that for anyone who wishes to do something in his memory, they could donate blood, as without NHS Blood and Transplant they would’ve have less time with David.

Those performances within our borders were accompanied by a QP of Grandsire Cinques at The Norman Tower to celebrate the life of the Very Rev’d James Atwell, the former Dean of St Edmundsbury and a 1290 of Doubles and Minor at Rougham for the ninetieth birthday of Elizabeth Teverson.

Our ringing today was limited to my burst of call-changes on the tenor of the front six of our nearest ring of bells hung for change-ringing, as church was followed by the inaugural Messy Church for St Mary-the-Virgin (I had to construct a bird table, believe it or not!) and then a trip to Kingston Fields to meet up with non-ringing friends Chris and EJ and their children.

Decide for yourselves if our absence from the exercise was good news or bad news!

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Saturday 11th September 2021

There are not many days pre-blog that I can specifically pinpoint and remember with such clarity, but Tuesday 11th September 2001 is one. I was involved in a car accident in the morning and therefore didn’t make it to work, although I wasn’t injured so didn’t end up in hospital. I then had to get back to Dudley where I was living at the time because my housemate had locked himself out on a day that he was due to fly away on holiday. Once back home, we witnessed the carnage unfolding in New York and Washington on the TV, wondering what was going to happen next or when it would all end.

It was completely and horrifically unfathomable. I forgot that I’d been in a car accident earlier in the day, my housemate didn’t fly out on holiday that day and I had a phone call from Rod Pipe informing me that that evening’s peal attempt at St Martin’s-in-the-Bullring in Birmingham was being cancelled, partly because it seemed inappropriate, but also I imagine because it would’ve been difficult to be in the right frame of mind after everything that had happened.

There was ringing done that day, much of which recorded the horror of the ringing community to what had just unfolded, but precisely two decades on there was even more ringing done, with the significant anniversary bringing much news coverage and numerous new documentaries over the last few days and thus putting it in the forefront of people’s mind.

Pleasingly though, there were also footnotes celebrating the Ringing World National Youth Contest, held in Worcester today. Congratulations to Kent Young Ringers on winning the Call-Change Competition, the Oxford Diocesan Guild on winning the Method Competition and indeed to all who participated and helped give hope for the future of the exercise.

Appropriately, the Young Change Ringers Association was introduced in the latest edition of The Ringing World – printed in its new format – where the founders were interviewed, although I don’t fancy the chances much for the future of Grandsire, judging by their near unanimous disliking of this staple of many a practice night, even if I do empathise with them! Please do take the time to read the article and/or their website and if you have a young ringer in your band then do encourage them to get involved.

Elsewhere in ‘The Comic’, with the handbell peal of Stedman Cinques rung in Leiston for the Suffolk Guild at the start of the month still far ahead on BB’s highest scoring performances list, it unsurprisingly gets a star billing in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’.

There was no ringing from within our borders noted on the site today – although hopefully the Open Day/have-a-go morning at Felixstowe went well – and there was none for us either. In fact, we predominantly had a day of football rather than bells, as the boys went training and we then headed into Ipswich to meet my brother and Bury St Edmunds ringer Chris for the Tractor Boys’ latest ‘at-least-it-couldn’t-get-any-worse-could-it?’ moment, whilst Ruthie very sensibly opted to sing for a wedding at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, before we settled down back at home for the Last Night of the Proms.

And the day ended on an upbeat note with the news that eighteen-year-old Emma Raducanu won the US Open tennis tournament. Lovely to see such joy in New York, exactly twenty years after there was such sorrow.

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Friday 10th September 2021

A very sad day today as Suffolk ringing lost one of its greatest representatives, as Past Guild Master David Salter passed away in the early hours of this morning.

David was one of those most closely associated with my ringing life, for which I shall be forever and immensely grateful. It was for his and Katharine’s wedding almost exactly twenty-eight years ago that I rang my first peal inside and he gave me the chance to call my first peal. His and Katharine’s ring of bells at The Wolery is my leading peal tower and David my leading peal ringer and conductor. I succeeded him as Suffolk Guild Ringing Master and he was one of the first people I would ask for advice from, whether specifically on the role we both carried out or ringing more generally. And Ruthie and I counted him as a very good friend. Indeed, we were pleased to have seen him a couple of times in recent weeks after Katharine had told us that he didn’t have too much time left, although if circumstances had allowed we would’ve liked to have seen him more. The Guild has lost one of its most significant characters – leading peal ringer, leading conductor of peals, twice Ringing Master, discoverer of huge amounts of the SGR’s history, compiler of compositions for the Annual Report, CC Rep and helper of numerous learners throughout the county. He will be missed here and far beyond for his skills in conducting as well as his friendship to so many and our thoughts are with Katharine, George, Colin and Henry.

Katharine very kindly let me know the news in a phone call this afternoon and was at pains to make clear that it was David’s expressed wish that he didn’t have a funeral, but there may be a ringing event in the nearish future to celebrate his life. Of course, that is something for further down the line.

In light of that news, everything else about our day was quite rightly overshadowed. My wife went out in Woodbridge with some work colleagues, meaning that unusually I joined Simon Rudd’s weekly virtual pub on my own for a recounting of camping van trips and a tour of Costessey ringing chamber in Norfolk (including a fascinating eighteenth century pealboard) before their practice night got going.

From a ringing perspective though, it was a typically quiet Friday for ringing personally, although it was nice to see David remembered in the footnote to the quarter-peal of Walkerville Surprise Major on Ringing Room with a band featuring Cathy Colman.

RIP David.

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Thursday 9th September 2021

Me trying my eBells out.Since Tim Hart very kindly sent me a pair of eBells recently, I have been patiently trying to get to grips better with handbell ringing. I can now get through a course of Plain Bob Minor, which anyone who has seen me ring in hand previously will testify is considerable progress. This evening, with the boys happily occupied in front of the TV and Ruthie at choir practice, I decided to have my first concerted efforts on eight on Ringing Room. PB Major was crashed through with an embryo of competence, which is better than it sounds as the internet wasn’t entirely playing ball. As indeed was the case with RR to a certain extent, as it wouldn’t let me experiment with anything other than Plain Bob, an issue which social media suggested I wasn’t the only one to have.

Still, I am determined to continue my efforts on my eBells, inspired by the numerous Suffolk Guild members who have now rung an impressive multitude of quarter-peals in hand since circumstances forced us off towerbells for substantial periods (there have been sixty-four QPs on real handbells within our borders in the last eighteen months compared to just seven in the previous year and a half) and also by Tim himself, who having rung his first quarter in hand less than a year ago, today rang his first of twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced in a 1728 that also wished a Happy Birthday to Hasketon ringer David Stanford.

Blythburgh. The Norman Tower.Meanwhile, there were also quarter-peals in the county rung on real towerbells. Well done to Jonathan Iles, Sal Jenkinson, Nicole Rolph, Matthew Rolph and Peter Lock on ringing their first QP of Carlisle Surprise Minor in the 1272 at Blythburgh, whilst there was also a successful 1260 of Double Oxford and St Clement’s College Bob Minor rung at The Norman Tower, again starring Mr Hart on a busy day of ringing for him.

There is due to be ringing on both days this weekend at Little Cornard too, as part of their Harvest Fair, as advertised 2hrs 29mins 10secs into Lesley Dolphin’s show on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon, with the SGR getting a brief mention.

I don’t think my handbell ringing is worthy of mention on the airwaves though!

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Wednesday 8th September 2021

Dad at our wedding with Mum, Ruthie and myself in 2012.It is one year since my Dad Alan died and so he was often in my thoughts as I went about my business today, especially whilst I was being a father this evening, watching the England men’s football match on the TV with my excited boys. Life has gone on and indeed accelerated in the last year, as father’s death coincided with the announcing of the ‘rule of six’. Twelve months on, children have returned to school, adults to work and ringers to ringing chambers. Life has indeed gone on, but days like today do make me ponder more than usual what he might think of current goings on. I imagine he would be delighted to be back to ringing, seeing his friends and his family and generally getting out and about, which makes it all the sadder that he isn’t here to enjoy it all.

Grundisburgh.Although the opportunity to put a footnote for him a year on was lost with the loss of the pre-practice quarter-peal of sixteen Surprise Minor methods spliced at Pettistree this evening that Ruthie was ringing in, I was pleased to be able to remember him with the peal we rang at Grundisburgh a few weeks ago and of course he is always remembered by us.

Despite the QP loss, my wife still enjoyed a decent session at the ground-floor six afterwards and once the footy finished and the boys got to bed, I was able to enjoy CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog entry that spoke of BellSim and looked back at the Council’s AGM on Saturday.

Woolpit.Meanwhile, congratulations to one of our CC Reps Neal Dodge on ringing his one hundredth quarter-peal of Doubles in the 1260 of Plain Bob on the front five at Woolpit on Monday in a success I didn’t spot until today. And looking ahead I’m sure all help will be welcomed by Jacky Savage at Felixstowe for the Open Tower/Have-a-go Morning on Saturday, whilst a week later I hope large numbers of members are planning on going to the Guild Social and/or taking part in the Eight-Bell Striking Competition at Horringer.

It may be sad that a year on that Dad isn’t here to enjoy it, but I’m certain he would’ve been chuffed at how much is going on.

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Tuesday 7th September 2021

I have no idea how many towers I’ve rung at. When I left for university twenty-four years ago, I neglected updating my tower records, distracted by new ringing challenges, drink and occasionally studies. Through outings and Rambling Ringers I still enjoy going to new and unfamiliar places to ring, captivated by the wide variety of locations one can participate in the exercise at. However, I couldn’t even estimate how many different rings of bells I’ve rung upon with any kind of accuracy.

Barrow.Certainly nowhere near as many as Guild Treasurer from 1995-2000 and Barrow ringer Paul Stannard, who today was the focus of an article on the website of the East Anglian Daily Times for ringing at his 6000th different UK tower, an article which also delves into some absorbing local ringing history around his famous family. Almost every aspect of the art has a section of ringers who turn their nose up at it and it’s fair to say that so called ‘tower grabbers’ have some who believe that it is bonkers and even ‘sad’ dedicating so much time, effort and finances to ringing at as many different towers as they can and will sometimes perceive that such activity doesn’t encourage good ringing. As with other maligned aspects of our hobby such as peal ringing and striking competitions though, I feel that it is a part of our pursuit that helps keep many ringers interested and thus means that there are more ringers in the exercise to ring at churches on Sunday mornings and for other services and important occasions. Additionally, as alluded to, it takes ringers to all sorts of lovely, fascinating places that one simply wouldn’t go if it wasn’t to go to ring the bells. And personally, I think it is essential experience for learners to ring at as many different places – good and especially bad – in order to help their progress. Therefore, well done to Paul on this milestone and the PR. It is a total that I am unlikely to ever reach, regardless of whether I keep records.

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Monday 6th September 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.Apart from bells, the predominant sound at St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice this evening was laughter. I’m not sure if there was something in the hand sanitiser or whether the extra ventilation went to our head, but much of the session seemed to be spent laughing.

The sixth ringer going wrong with the bob at one in Stedman Triples set the chuckles off and they weren’t helped by the treble ringer to some Grandsire Caters thinking they were ringing Stedman. Primarily though, the guffawing was fuelled by the story of how the visiting Sandersons had got a lateral flow test for tonight’s ringing that involved Amanda Richmond, Karina Wiseman’s shift at work, a startled young boy and a confused mother.

Pleasingly, the ringing also raised a smile on a productive night where we were low on numbers but considerably aided by our visitors Peter and Tina from York, with Stedman Caters being pretty good (helped by the treble ringer not ringing Grandsire!), but the jovial atmosphere continued into the Halberd Inn after ringing, where talk turned to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, with plans for our 2022 already in motion. However, I was also glad to hear that whilst numbers continue to be restricted here, visitors are welcome by prior arrangement, so do get in touch if you wish to come and join the laughter.

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Sunday 5th September 2021

Another Sunday hearing bells, rather than ringing them.

My view of Westminster St Margaret’s and the Abbey just past the Elizabeth Tower.On this occasion we were in London and the bells I was listening to were those of Westminster Abbey. At the time, I was sat on a boat at the foot of the heavily scaffolded Elizabeth Tower where Big Ben is hung, waiting with the boys, their cousins and their Grandad Ron for a cruise along the River Thames. From our position, with the wind diminishing and amplifying the sound, I wasn’t entirely sure whether the superb ringing was coming from the 30cwt ten at the Abbey or the 26cwt ten of St Margaret’s in the foreground, but it transpires it was the former all being rung for the first time for eighteen months.

St Paul’s Cathedral and The Millennium Bridge from the boat. Southwark Cathedral from the boat. St Magnus-the-Martyr from the boat. St James Garlickhythe from the bus.

Our jaunt down the river afterwards took us past some of the other towers that hold the capital’s famous rings, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Southwell Cathedral and St Magnus-the-Martyr before turning round at Tower Bridge, whilst either side a open top bus tour took us by St James Garlickhythe at one point amongst others I’m sure, but of course the children – and Ron for that matter – were more interested in the sights, such as the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, although we only saw glimpses of the latter due to that part of the route being closed for a marathon.

Meanwhile, Ruthie, her mother Kate and sister Clare were at the Palladium as a birthday treat for my wife’s gran as they took her to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Thank you very much to Kate for a fun day out of sights and sounds, especially the bells!

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Saturday 4th September 2021

After a month and a half of pretty much normal life, it has at times been easy to forget about Covid. Ringing has been done with the type of ventilation only usually reserved for record temperatures, countless tests carried out, hands sanitised to within an inch of their life and we’ve continued wearing a mask when indoors in places with strangers – such as shops and pubs – and when asked in a ringing chamber, but by and large we have been able to get on with life almost as we did before the pandemic, especially in regards to ringing.

However, today highlighted how it is still effecting the exercise.

This year’s CCCBR AGM was held completely online for example, with all the officers and reps interacting and business carried out via video. Understandable given the time needed to put everything together that simply wasn’t available and that it wasn’t possible for most of the overseas delegates to travel to the UK to attend.

Closer to home, it looks like the South-East District ADM is due to be held online in precisely three months time. I have to admit that my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. What became more apparent than ever during the lockdowns is that the meetings at these events are vitally important, but the aspect least enjoyed by the majority who attend. It is meeting up together, come rain or shine, in the hot or cold for chat, a cuppa, food, the pub and of course ringing. Therefore, the thought of yet another business meeting on Zoom is a depressing throwback. However, I entirely understand the reasoning behind it. The virus is still around, as a peal planned for today cancelled due to a member of the band coming into contact with someone positive reminds us. And it is a matter of deciding whether more are likely to join a meeting from the comfort of their home or in a room chilled by the opening of all the doors and windows in December. Additionally, as ever – for all that vaccines have made this dreadful virus a far less fearsome prospect – uncertainty over what exactly the situation will be makes planning anything at the height of our first winter with vaccinations very, very difficult. God willing though, this will be the last time we will have to hold such events in such a way.

Barrow.Besides, it has been great to see the SE lead the way in getting District events up and running in real life again, although the North-West are hoping to hold their first practice on the ground-floor six of Barrow as part of the Guild Social in a fortnight and the South-West recently set up what was by all accounts a superb afternoon of ringing at Sudbury’s three rings of bells recently. My home District were again active today as well, with a Quarter-Peal Day that saw a 1274 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at Ashbocking and 1440 of Durham Surprise Minor at Pettistree.

We didn’t contribute to it (in part due to a misunderstanding of our availability), although we did hear the conclusion of the latter before joining the successful band in the beer garden of The Greyhound next door, as we aimed to get out at the end of an afternoon pottering around at home that in turn followed the boys’ attending a football training session at a local club this morning for the first time. They enjoyed it immensely, although it may make Saturday morning ringing even more logistically difficult!

Still, with them more worn out than would usually be the case on a Saturday lunchtime and Ruthie at a work event, it gave me the chance to read the latest issue of The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning, which appropriately featured concerns about how ringing was going to cope over the winter with cold ringing chambers and the inevitable rise in coronavirus cases, but also sported a photo by SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge of St Margaret Pattens, Eastcheap in London on the front cover and an account in the RW from a century ago about the infamous long length at Debenham of 1767 which the conductor allegedly used as an alibi for a murder, before seemingly confessing on his deathbed and claiming a fast horse enabled him to get away with the deception.

My afternoon also allowed me to listen to the end of the aforementioned Central Council meeting. Despite not being intended as an exciting occasion and particularly on this occasion getting bogged down in a tedious debate on the wording of the ruling about the numbers of independent examiners they needed, it was good to hear how upbeat they were on moving forward, with a recruitment campaign planned for the spring next year when God willing we’re out the other end of the expected tough winter, whilst mention of out of date websites for ringing organisations reminded me how lucky we are to have our Webmaster Chris Garner keeping this site constantly updated and interesting.

Additionally, plans were laid out and suggestions sought for the 2022 AGM which it is hoped to be held in Nottingham, although thought is being given to how it could also be accessed online for reps who can’t travel. And although not mentioned whilst I was listening, in 2023, the Suffolk Guild is due to hold the event as part of our centenary celebrations.

2I pray by then we will be able to safely forget about Covid a lot more.

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Friday 3rd September 2021

Stoke by Clare. Felixstowe.An email from Suffolk Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge last night prompted me today to take a look at the route for Stage Six of The Women’s Tour cycle race that is due to run from Haverhill to Felixstowe on Saturday 9th October. This is usually a good opportunity to give ringing exposure at a local and even national level and this shouldn’t be any different, with the peloton planning on travelling directly or almost past rings of bells in Stoke by Clare, Clare, Cavendish, Long Melford, Monks Eleigh, Stowmarket, Coddenham, Wickham Market and Woodbridge and conceivably within earshot of crowds (if not TV cameras) in Great Finborough, Ashbocking and Pettistree, whilst I imagine the bells could be heard by gathering spectators at the 13cwt six near where the race is planned to begin and 7cwt eight close to the intended finish line. Neal is understandably keen for towers to ring along the route and if you would like to ring I’m imagine there may be opportunities. This could be tremendous PR for the exercise.

No such opportunities at the end of what has been a good week of publicity for ringing in the county, but having missed the last two due to hols, we did join other ringers for Simon Rudd’s weekly virtual pub where we saw actual bells as Ros Burrough briefly joined us from Costessey practice with guest appearances from a new learner and Mike Clements, who judged the 2008 South-East District Striking Competition at Brandeston and has long been a very good ringer to call upon north and south of the River Waveney. In the company of Cathy Colman (who along with her son Nathan was again achieving on Ringing Room today), drink top-ups, the SE ADM and campervans were also included in an eclectic range of topics. Although not women’s cycling.

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Thursday 2nd September 2021

Felkenham.Another couple of quarter-peals were rung in Suffolk today, one on towerbells and one in hand, the former at Falkenham of Plain Bob Minor, the latter in Shelland of the Major version. Meanwhile, The Norman Tower held it’s first practice in its new Thursday night slot.

No such activity for us, with Ruthie’s spare time taken up with singing for a funeral of a former choral colleague at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge and later going to choir practice at the same venue, whilst for the boys and I it was watching the England men’s football team’s comprehensive victory in Hungary on the TV.

Well done to the bands in Falkenham, Shelland and Bury St Edmunds for giving me ringing-related content today therefore!

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Wednesday 1st September 2021

The Bailey Brothers. The Bailey Brothers. Bailey Brothers' Peal.

In many respects, the Bailey brothers of Leiston would’ve been a very ordinary set of siblings for a time when rural families were often large, usually stayed close to home and the males typically did manual work on the land or at the local firm. Thanks in part to ringing and events done to celebrate their achievements in the art over the years, we know they were extraordinary in the exercise. For a group of ringers in a far corner of our county to ring what they rang collectively was special. It is perhaps a sign of what they achieved that it took a band of some of the country’s best ringers drawn from across the land to come to St Margaret’s church in the town to replicate something that these brothers did together in their own community, as former Bures ringer John Loveless gathered a band that included three Past Masters of the College Youths, a Past Master of the Cumberland Youths, the first person to ring a hundred peals of Bristol Surprise Maximus in hand and conducted by a member of the Westminster Abbey Company of Ringers to today recreate the Bailey’s handbell peal of Stedman Cinques of a century ago. From the various clips I have heard, the ringing was unsurprisingly high.

Today's band.

It was more than just the peal though. An exhibition provided by Mike Cowling and put together by Linda Garton provided context and the publicity around it helped to generate a number of interested spectators from the non-ringing public and will hopefully increase understanding of ringing amongst them and maybe even encourage new recruits. The article put up today on the EADT website is also a very good follow-up, with lots of photos and even a little demonstration!

Additionally, there was what was apparently a nice lunch afterwards and a few of Suffolk’s ringers joined them, including Diana Pipe, who those present were delighted to see. I imagine that George would’ve been in his element at this occasion!

Modern day ringing chamber during a lull at Pettistree practice!The 5004 changes rung in 2hrs 55mins joined a couple of performances within our borders that I have missed this week, with a 1280 of Superlative Surprise Major rung at Offton yesterday and a 1300 of Plain Bob Doubles rung at Chediston for Sarah Downing’s marriage to Joseph Parker by the bride’s parents and her uncles, which must have been lovely. And this evening, I also added to the tome of Suffolk ringing on BellBoard as I rang the tenor to a quarter-peal of Lightfoot Surprise Minor (London below the treble, Westminster above) at Pettistree, which preceded a typically eclectic practice night. Doubles of the Grandsire and Stedman variety was rung, whilst Minor took us through much from Single Oxford Bob through to spliced and saw Anne Buswell and Jane Harper ringing Beverley and London Surprise superbly.

Meanwhile, it is encouraging to have a fuller What’s On for the month ahead, which is due to start with the South-East District Quarter-Peal Event, whilst a week later Jacky Savage would appreciate help for an Open Tower & Have-a-go morning at Felixstowe. Seven days on from that, the North-West District are planning on holding a Practice as part of the Guild Social Day focused on Horringer where the Eight-Bell Striking Competition for the Rose Trophy is also pencilled in. Hearing from those organising bands, it seems they are struggling more than usual to get bands, which is perhaps understandable as ringers weigh up what they are happy to do at the moment. However, I would really encourage members to take part. This isn’t serious sport, it is just a bit of fun and one of the variety of elements that goes towards making ringing interesting for as many people as possible and I’m sure there will be all the usual safety precautions. It also isn’t for those who may be perceived as the best ringers. This is a real team effort and it would be great to have representation from across the SGR and as many teams taking part to make it worthwhile the judges that Ringing Master Katharine Salter has asked to judge to travel over.

It is also one of a number of Guild events that Chairman Rowan Wilson emailed members about today, that also includes the service to remember ringers lost during the pandemic who couldn’t be seen off in the proper way due to restrictions to numbers at funerals, which is hoped to be held at Laxfield at 6pm (with ringing from 4.15-5.45pm) on Sunday 24th October. Also included is a new feature called ‘Ringing Gym’, planned to be from 10-11.30am on the fourth Saturday of each month at The Norman Tower, starting on 25th September. Being run on the simulator, the idea is to help with handling and/or having a practice on six and eight. Please do contact Rowan if you are interested.

One wonders what the Bailey brothers would’ve made of simulators and the like?

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Tuesday 31st August 2021

St Margaret, Leiston
© 2021 Mike Cowling

Where else can an interview with Johnny Ball - mathematical entertainer and father of TV presenter and Radio 2 DJ Zoe – be followed by an interview with former Bures learner and now superstar of ringing John Loveless? Well, local BBC radio it transpires, and particularly on the Suffolk version as Lesley Dolphin posed questions to Jake 51mins into her afternoon show on the subject of tomorrow’s planned peal attempt of Stedman Cinques on handbells in the Lady Chapel at St Margaret’s in Leiston, the home of the town’s 20cwt eight. Despite initially threatening to be side-tracked by the pronunciation of Cinques, it was a good few minutes of PR for the event and will hopefully encourage listeners and ringers to come and listen quietly and take in the exhibition being set up by Mike Cowling.

I believe there should be a write-up on it in The Ringing World, but there was plenty to read in the current edition. Two contributions got my attention. One was a letter from Clarke Walters suggesting a section on BellBoard to advertise peal attempts for those who wish to listen to a peal, something I suggested a few years back for this website and was set up, but which never took off. The other was a typically entertaining and thought provoking read from Norfolk ringer Mary Jones that speculated that there should be a sort of clearing system to enable ringers from towers with an abundance of ringers, to help out at towers where they may be short for ringers on Sunday mornings. And there was still Suffolk representation, with a Ringing Room quarter featuring Cathy Colman in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’ (with another from her son Nathan from last night a potential future entry), Haverhill’s ringing Priest-in-Charge the Rev’d Max Drinkwater comments on the various reports and initiatives aimed at guiding the church into a much changed future and an extract from the journal a hundred years ago gives a fascinating insight into why it took nine years after the formation of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich for the Suffolk Guild to come into existence. Which I imagine will be of more interest to John Loveless than to Johnny Ball.

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Monday 30th August 2021

There were a couple of notable peals rung today.

Abel.One is an example of how technology can help the progress of ringers with limited ‘real life’ opportunities as a 5056 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung by the Abel Ringing Simulator and one single actual human ringer ringing a dumbbell. That ringer was Luca Greenslade in Italy, for whom the chance to ring a peal would be rare, even though some bells in the country can be rung in the English change-ringing style, so he is to be congratulated on his proactiveness in ringing his first peal!

The other was more indulgent, but an exhibition of how there is always new ground to break. No one could claim that the 5040 of Plain Bob Minimus rung on handbells in Bristol in what at 43mins16secs is believed to be the fastest peal yet rung, is furthering the art per se, but it is the type of thing that will contribute towards making the exercise interesting to a number of ringers, especially the younger ones who will be vital in helping the art to flourish over the next few years and even decades.

Nothing from Suffolk was noted on BellBoard and nor did we do any ringing however. Being a Bank Holiday Monday it was unsurprising that there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower, as not welcoming ad hoc visitors yet to boost our numbers, too many from the current rota of ringers were away to make a session worthwhile.

Amongst those unable to commit to this evening’s ringing were ourselves, as we were returning from a lovely weekend in Brighton with Fergie, Ruthie’s best friend, bridesmaid from our wedding and Godmother to Alfie, as well as with her boyfriend Anthony. As it happens, we would’ve made it back in time, but it was touch and go for a while. Indeed, when during an excruciating period of almost two hours in which we barely moved in complete gridlock at Thurrock Services (having already paid £2.50 for the privilege of taking about an hour to crawl a couple of miles to the Dartford Crossing) Alfie asked if we would have to sleep in the car overnight, I couldn’t answer in all honesty that we definitely wouldn’t. There were chaotic and bizarre scenes that at one point saw a man dressed as Spiderman appear to find out what was going on and amongst much jostling for position, a lorry bumped into a car, but eventually we escaped.

After all that though, I wasn’t in the mood to attempt a peal on my own or even one that just took 43 minutes!

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Sunday 29th August 2021

We may not have done any ringing, but we heard bells today. Well, one at least, as the single bell in the turret of St Martin’s church near our host Fergie’s home in Brighton chimed to call people to worship as we had breakfast on an unusually lazy Sunday morning.

St Peter’s Brighton as it currently looks.We also walked past the 25cwt ten of St Peter’s, although too late to hear them ring, let alone join in. If indeed they are ringing at the moment as much of the church and tower are in scaffolding.

Our passing of this church was on the way to the famous pier where we took in football on TV and a performance from Elvis Shmelvis – both of which captivated the boys to varying degrees – whilst we ate lunch in Horatio’s Bar, before grabbing some of the rides, which was fun, even if trying to get on a mat with Alfie at the top of the Helter Skelter was an awkward operation!

Leiston.Meanwhile, there is due to be an interview with John Loveless on BBC Radio Suffolk at 2.50pm on Tuesday about the handbell peal attempt of Stedman Cinques at Leiston on Wednesday to mark the centenary of the extraordinary Bailey brothers doing the same. I’m sure it will be well worth a listen.

Blythburgh.Whilst that is all planned for the near future, it was a busy day of ringing in Suffolk with a trio of quarter-peals rung on the county’s bells. Sadly – although excitingly for her – it looks like we are losing another member of the ringing Rolph family, as the 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles at Blythburgh was rung as a farewell to Rosie, called by the also departing Nicole. It is always likely that young ringers within our borders will disappear elsewhere one day, but it is a pity for the North-East District to lose these talented youngsters at the same time from the local ringing scene. Hopefully others in the District can step up to fill the void, along with new ringers.

Elsewhere, there was a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Royal at The Norman Tower and well done to Trevor Smith on ringing his first QP away from cover in the success at Bardwell.

Great to hear of change-ringing, even if we weren’t able to hear any ourselves.

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Saturday 28th August 2021

Barking.Great to see a quarter-peal rung on Suffolk bells today and more of the county’s ringers making appearances on BellBoard for the first time since restrictions were lifted a month and a half ago, with a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles on the 11cwt six of Barking rung from the ground-floor in a ringing chamber wide open to the church.

We weren’t doing any ringing though, within our borders or indeed beyond as we continued our break in Brighton with Ruthie’s best friend Fergie by wandering down to Oliver’s. This is a shop that sells only Harry Potter merchandise and although not affiliated with the franchise, it is clearly approved of by many involved with it, judging by the many autographed and personalised photos from the actors of the films on show and it was an obvious place to go for the many Potter fans in our party!

Afterwards we wandered the vibrant streets of this bustling city, eventually finding lunch at Mrs Fitzherbert's where we munched on Japanese kebabs whilst a large, noisy protest wandered past and football fans mingled ahead of the local team’s Premier League match against Everton. It seemed a long way from Melton, in every sense!

Meanwhile, it was interesting to note that there was only one performance on Ringing Room noted on BB today. I’m glad that RR, Handbell Stadium and Ding are there and they clearly offer a lot now in terms of teaching and ringing opportunities that might not be easily taken advantage of otherwise, but I’m also absolutely delighted to see that it isn’t stopping people returning to real-life ringing chambers where we really need them to get actual bells going again, such as Barking!

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Friday 27th August 2021

More socialising with Ruthie’s former schoolfriends, but we had to travel a bit further today as we made our way down to the south coast to visit her best and closest friend of all, Fergie, who lives in Brighton. We’ve been before, but since last time her flat has been completely changed around in an impressive use of space equivalent to a rehang and augmentation of a six in tiny tower to an eight!

Our arrival came after a leisurely day of travelling that even fitted in a swimming lesson for Alfie (with Joshua insisting on coming along to watch!) and with our host still at work when we completed our journey, a detour to Newhaven to stretch our legs before being greeted by our bridesmaid and Alfred’s Godmother for an evening of fish ‘n’ chips and much catching up.

It didn’t involve any ringing for us though and bar a quarter on Ringing Room for Cathy Colman, there was nothing in Suffolk noted on BellBoard today. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to do more ringing soon. Once we’re done socialising with my wife’s schoolfriends!

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Thursday 26th August 2021

Leiston.Sadly yesterday’s peal attempt of Stedman Triples at Leiston was lost, but more great publicity has come out of it with an article about the Bailey Brothers and photo on the EADT website of the band meeting Norman Bailey’s granddaughter Jackie Kingston afterwards. And of course there is still the planned handbell attempt of Stedman Cinques and an exhibition on the siblings next week.

Most of the band made up for the disappointment of losing the peal on Wednesday by taking part in a quarter-peal of Grandsire Cinques at The Norman Tower this evening (Happy Birthday to Great Barton ringer Ben Keating!), but there was no ringing for us today. However, it was still a busy day as I took Alfie to his swimming lesson, we all went to Kingston Field to meet up with some of his classmates and parents for a chilly but enjoyable three hour picnic (we seem to have spent much of this year trying to stay warm in this park!) and then thanks to the generosity of mother-in-law Kate who came round to child-sit, we made the short walk to visit Ruthie’s schoolfriend Verity and her partner Jade, several months after they moved into the village at the height of lockdown and a few weeks after our initial visit was scuppered by my wife having to isolate.

All of which left too little time to participate in any ringing, but enough to read more great PR about it!

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Wednesday 25th August 2021

September has traditionally been a month when practice nights return to normality after the holiday season of August, but this year it looks like it will hopefully see many practices returning after coronavirus. Although towers have been able to legally hold open sessions with unlimited numbers for over a month now, understandably some have been cautious with limited numbers or not yet having practices.

The Norman Tower. Sproughton.One such tower is The Norman Tower, where despite service ringing and weekly quarter-peal attempts, the practice night had not yet resumed. However, from next week the plan is for the practices at one of Suffolk’s three twelves to get going again on their new night of Thursday as opposed to the previous Tuesday, as was always the intention pre-Covid. Meanwhile, Sproughton are due to start up again on Wednesday evenings from next month. As far as I know, the former is not restricting numbers attending, whilst I don’t know at the latter, but as with visiting any tower currently that might not be expecting you, it is best to check rather than just going along.

Pettistree.In the meantime, whilst waiting for practices to resume on the 8cwt gallery-ring six where I learnt to ring, my mother Sally has been coming to Pettistree’s weekly sessions and although we haven’t been to either of the last two, we were there tonight to ring and catch-up with her. As an added bonus, she brought fellow Ipswich ringer Roger Whittell who is the latest ringer to be stepping back into the art that has given them so much for so long and needs as many like him as possible.
Ringing at Pettistree viewed from the outside as the night draws in!The ringing itself was typically eclectic with Grandsire Doubles at one end and spliced Minor at the other end, all preceded by an enjoyable – albeit perhaps too brisk at times – 1296 of the ‘Cambridge Twelve’ Surprise Minor methods spliced, all of which was carried out in a ringing chamber and church that were particularly well ventilated on a breezy evening that saw darkness already arriving when myself, Ruthie and the boys left early.

All this came at the end of another day of holiday that enabled me to take Alfie to his latest swimming lesson for the first time and my wife to participate in an infection control webinar from home for work in a display of extreme dedication, but elsewhere, Bury St Edmunds ringer Tim Hart was adding to his impressive collection of achievements in hand as he rang in a 1728 of twenty Surprise Major methods spliced on Ringing Room.

The town has been an admirable hotbed of activity on RR over the last year or so, but I’m also looking forward to hearing about that enthusiasm and those increased skills being transferred to The Norman Tower on Thursday nights from next week!

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Tuesday 24th August 2021

Leiston.Some more good publicity about the peal attempts planned in Leiston tomorrow on the 20cwt eight and Wednesday next week on handbells in the Lady Chapel to mark the centenary of six of the Bailey brothers ringing a peal of Stedman Cinques in hand, this time more broadly with an article on the East Anglian Daily Times website. There is even reference to our peal there a decade ago to mark the centenary of eight of the famous and talented siblings ringing a peal of Plain Bob Major and a photo of us preparing beforehand, which highlights the length of time that they maintained their incredible achievements for a group of brothers from a rural community in the days before fast communication and easy transport. The article tells of the exhibition that will accompany the efforts of the handbell band in eight days time, but Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter and Chairman Rowan Wilson also use it superbly to encourage new recruits.

PR and recruitment is also a theme in CCCBR President Simon Linford's latest (holiday) blog as he gives an update on the Central Council new mobile ring and also points readers in the direction of a well put together (though lengthy) video explaining ringing. Well worth a read and well worth a watch.

Also on the CC's site is the new Photo Competition, for which the theme is 'Bells in Art' and already has an example of ringers' kneeler. Get entering Suffolk's ringers!

There was no opportunity for us to find a subject for an entry today, as our day was largely taken up by swimming lessons and a visit from our friend Matt.

Nothing as worthwhile publicising as the events in Leiston.

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Monday 23rd August 2021

Unusually for the time of year, striking competitions were a prominent subject in conversations at St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly practice and in the Halberd Inn afterwards.

Horringer.Most immediately – in less than a month in fact – the Suffolk Guild Eight-Bell Competition for the Rose Trophy is due to be held at Horringer as part of the Social being held in the same village. Regardless of Covid, the intention was always to move it to the third Saturday of September and indeed it was lined up to start in its new position last year, but as a standalone contest with judges travelling specifically to judge, it would be great to get as many teams as possible participating. Even better if there was representation from every District. Please do get entries in to Ringing Master Katharine Salter, as it would be wonderful to have at least five or six teams competing on these wonderful bells!

The following month meanwhile, it is the intention for The Ridgman Trophy – the ten-bell contest for ringing organisations that geographically border onto the Ely Diocesan Association – to be held on Saturday 30th October, apparently at Braintree. This is typically held in June, but of course couldn’t happen this year or in 2020, but I have to admit that I thought this wouldn’t happen until 2022, so this news was a pleasant surprise.

Further ahead, the George W Pipe 12-Bell Competition in February and National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminators (including one planned for The Norman Tower) may be some months away, but with ringing on twelve within our borders still only just getting going, it may not seem all that distant in reality!

Laxfield.Another, completely different event is also now on What’s On for October, as the Service For Absent Friends is planned for Laxfield on Sunday 24th. The idea behind this is to remember SGR members who died during the pandemic and couldn’t have properly attended funerals and wakes, such as my father Alan for example, but also too many others and so I hope a big attendance is possible on the day, with the nice bonus being the opportunity to ring on one of the county’s new eights. Please do spread the word, especially to those who might not read about these events online.

Much of it was imparted by Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson after she rang with us in a session at SMLT this evening that took in Plain Hunt on Eight, Cambridge Surprise Major, Stedman Triples & Caters, Grandsire Caters, a collection of handling issues (the third seemingly proving tricky this evening for some reason!) and then a pint of Brewster’s Brew.

Earlier Rowan had rung in a handbell quarter of Little Bob Major in Bury St Edmunds, further evidence of the progress made in hand by Suffolk’s ringers since they were given the chance to focus on it when ringing on towerbells wasn’t allowed.

As our holidays from work continued, our day was spent differently but still productively as Alfie had his first ever swimming lesson whilst I was back home being run through my paces by Joshua’s exercise class, before we met up with our friends Charlotte and Gregory and their daughters in Kingston Park ahead of retiring to the beer garden of the nearby Cherry Tree for a meal and drink, albeit only the Ghost Ship 0.5% for me with my evening later in mind.

In between that and travelling into Ipswich, there was just enough time to catch ringing vicar Revd Max Drinkwater doing his regular piece on BBC Radio Suffolk about the week in the life of a vicar, pretty much exactly forty minutes into Jon Wright’s show. He came across brilliantly again, although there was no mention of forthcoming striking competitions!

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Sunday 22nd August 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.After their return last week, we were able to hear the twelve of St Mary-le-Tower in all their glory this morning for the first time in seventeen months as we returned to the exercise after our ringingless holiday. It was just call-changes, but they were well rung and it was very moving to finally hear them again in person after all this time. What is more, we followed it up with a course of Little Bob Maximus, which whilst a little rusty, came round and was a pleasing thing to do. And despite Chris Birkby’s protestations, he ran the ringing superbly in usual Ringing Master David Potts’ absence.

Rosie & Richie Robot.It was nice as well to see Richard Weeks again on his first trip here since the start of last year. He also pronounced his (tongue in cheek!) disappointment that what he had considered to be his impossible composition of Stedman Triples had been successfully rung, although it was noted that it took a robot to call it in the popular, eye-catching performance by Rosie and Richie Robot in November!

Our ringing was followed up with a trip to Costa Coffee with my mother Sally and others, before an afternoon of more washing and popping over to drop something off for local ringer Peter Faircloth and have a pleasant chat on his doorstep.

Grote Kerk, Dordrecht. Grote Kerk, Dordrecht. I also found time to congratulate Dutch father and son Paul and Harm Jan de Kok on their work to install a ring of ten in the Grote Kerk in Dordrecht in the Netherlands, which now accompanies the much-visited eight in ‘t Klockhuys. They shared photos of the vast, spectacular ringing chamber that highlights their phenomenal efforts, predominantly carried out by just the pair of them and throughout the pandemic of course. I remember visiting Covehithe on Rambling Ringers in 2008 with Paul and him telling me that the (now sadly unringable) 11cwt ground-floor five were until recently (at that time) the nearest ring of bells hung for change-ringing to him when at home. Now he has two rings of bells down the road from him!

Leiston.Meanwhile, we are close to an event that has been long anticipated as a band are due to attempt a handbell peal of Stedman Cinques in the Lady Chapel of St Margaret’s church in Leiston from 10am on Wednesday 1st September. This is to mark the centenary of the famous Bailey Brothers doing the same for the first time and it is being well publicised locally, with articles in the parish magazine (on p8 and with a photo of the brothers on the front) and in the August edition of the Leiston Observer (on p13) about it, with mention also of a planned attempt on the 20cwt eight a week beforehand. Although naturally quiet will be needed, visitors are being encouraged to come along and listen – it’ll be great for people to be able to hear more twelve-bell ringing in Suffolk!

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Saturday 21st August 2021

One week after putting our tent up, we were taking it down as our holiday came to its planned end. The journey home can often be a long, subdued affair taking much of the day. However, with Alfie cheerful after getting £2 from the tooth fairy and the journey home a short one down the A12, our household was a relatively upbeat one as the boys reacquainted themselves with TV and computers and the adults got washing done and caught up on the goings on we had missed out on with much less online access to usual over the last seven days.

That included the quarter-peal rung on Ringing Room yesterday by a band featuring Norman Tower ringer Cathy Colman ringing their first blows of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Quedgeley Surprise Major, a slight variation of Quedgeley Surprise Major, which in turn is a slight variation of Yorkshire Surprise Major. Well done Cathy and co! For good measure, Cathy and her son Nathan rang a QP of Yorkshire on the same platform today.

There is also the article in The Times about the mayor in a northern Spanish village telling “urbanites” coming in to escape city life and moaning about various rural activities including bellringing to essentially put up with it all or go home in a story that will resonate with many countryside communities in the UK. And closer to home, the article in the Ipswich Star in the nostalgia section that features photos of many familiar venues and characters, including my mother Sally ringing at Sproughton in 2007 and the flailing legs of what looks like either Colin or George Salter with their mother Katharine at St Mary-le-Tower from 2004, Ruth Suggett leading proceedings at Ixworth in 2008, a visiting band at St Mary-at-the-Quay the year before, further back at Horringer with what looks like then future Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Amanda Richmond on the far left, Edwardstone bells being removed in 1986 and the band at East Bergholt with the refurbished bells in 2002. There is also a link to a well presented article from May that I missed at the time about the return of ringing at Framlingham. If you haven’t already (after all, it is four days old), then do take a look and see who you can recognise, including maybe even yourself! It is a fascinating read and timely too, as the exercise hopes to encourage lapsed ringers back.

We also got the chance to read last week's and this week’s copies of The Ringing World, the former of which saw the handbell quarter at West Row on 2nd August in the top five of ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’. As usual, there is plenty to read about Suffolk-related and otherwise.

Meanwhile, Past SGR Secretary Carl Melville was also asking for help to ring at Cotton from 11.50 to 11.30am on Wednesday 25th August for a funeral, although of course he may now have a band. If you can help though, I’m sure Carl would appreciate the offer, just in case he is still short.

In the here and now though, there was no ringing from Suffolk bar that aforementioned success on RR noted on BellBoard and none for us. We were too busy travelling and catching up.

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Friday 20th August 2021

We’re not really beach holiday people. Even on our days off ringing on the Rambling Ringers Tours which our holidays are usually based around, we tend to ‘do’ things, like riding trains, visiting friends and going to transport museums.

Today though, after promising it throughout a week of rain, dark clouds and cool winds, we were pleased to take the children to Kessingland beach for lunch and play in dry, warm conditions ahead of another sunny evening that saw us take advantage of the fish ‘n’ chip van visiting the campsite, the kids climbing trees and Alfie have a tooth drop out, which wasn’t connected to either activity.

Whilst we were doing all that in the far north-eastern corner of Suffolk, almost slap bang in the middle of the county, Brian Whiting’s Quarter-Peal Tour saw another couple of handbell QPs rung, this time in Moats Tye, one of Plain Bob Minor and one of spliced Major. Very far from a beach.

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Thursday 19th August 2021

Blythburgh.Another busy day of ringing in Suffolk and for Suffolk’s ringers. Congratulations to Nicole Rolph on her degree, job, house and passing her driving test, as outlined in the footnote to the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor at Blythburgh that she pulled the tenor in to. I hope she finds the opportunities to continue her ringing in Northamptonshire, especially on my favourite twelve at Towcester!
On the other side of the county at The Norman Tower meanwhile, congratulations also to Joan Garrett and her husband Alan on their wedding anniversary, as imparted by the band who rang the 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major which was also Ben Keating’s first in the method. Well done Ben!

South of the Essex border there were further positive footnotes to QPs, as Brian Whiting’s Quarter-Peal Tour continued with Stedman Triples at Great Bentley and Double Norwich Court Bob Major at Great Holland.

No ringing for these Suffolk ringers, but Ruthie, her mother Kate and myself did at least remain in Suffolk today, although in a part of the county where the towers are actually within the Norwich Diocesan Association. Such as the 13cwt six of Kessingland across the fields from where we are currently staying and the 12cwt six of Carlton Colville, which I would like to think were – before the tower became unsafe – heard from the nearby East Anglia Transport Museum that was our destination today after a relaxed morning before the noon opening time. A fun afternoon of travelling around the site on trains, trams and trolleybuses was had by all before we returned to the campsite for a sunny evening that saw all the children finding friends to play with.

We hope for more fun tomorrow. And another busy day of ringing for Suffolk’s ringers.

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Wednesday 18th August 2021

Band at All Saints, Sudbury. Taken by Neal Dodge. Bells at All Saints, Sudbury. Taken by Neal Dodge.
Sudbury Ringing Festival
All Saints
© Neal Dodge

Well done to Derek Rose and all those who arranged and attended the simultaneous ringing of all three rings of bells in Sudbury on Sunday, something that doesn’t seem to have happened for a long time, but will hopefully be repeated annually from now on. Thank you also to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge on sending photos from the day.

We couldn’t join in this time as we were already on holiday and that continued today as we made the trip to the North Norfolk Railway from Sheringham to Holt, my favourite heritage line with views I just don’t get tired of. A couple of return journeys sandwiched our sandwiches and a wander into Sheringham, which is a lovely little seaside resort.

Meanwhile, back in Suffolk it was a busy day of ringing, with 1260s of Grandsire Triples at Bardwell and Orford, the latter of which was one of a pair on Brian Whiting’s Quarter-Peal Tour, with the other being a 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major at Southwold.

Good to see ringing flourishing within our borders across the county.

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Tuesday 17th August 2021

On another wet, wet day, we made what was arguably the oddest journey I think I have made in my life, as from our holiday base just five miles from the UK’s most easterly point, we travelled to... Woburn Safari Park. Yep, that’s right, Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire, not all that far from the furthest point from the sea in this country.

The explanation for this bizarre detour from our coastal accommodation to the heart of England was a mixture of forgetfulness and Covid, involving a special photography experience at this popular destination for Ron and Kate that was initially postponed due to the pandemic and then reorganised inadvertently for this week not realising that they would be 114 miles away on holiday with eight others. Mrs Eagle’s solution was to book us all in for the safari whilst they were taking up close photos of rhinos and the like, but it meant leaving so early in the morning that we had to park outside the campsite gates overnight as they were still locked shut when we set off. On the way, the journey was lengthened further by both ours and the mother-in-law’s Satnavs not being up to date enough to include the new layout of the A14 at Cambridge (although ours did feature the ‘new’ bit of the A11 that means one no longer has to take their life in their hands when crossing from the car park to ring at Elveden!) and torrential downpours that made driving conditions difficult, but it was ultimately worth it. This is a wonderful attraction and the boys were ecstatic at driving past zebras, waiting for giraffes to clear the road and monkeys climbing over cars.

Bungay.However, by the time we made it back to East Suffolk, it was getting late and children were hungry and it was a bit of an effort finding somewhere to eat, briefly exploring Bungay beneath the 15cwt eight of St Mary’s church before finding our way to Smokey Joe’s in nearby Ditchingham for some massive burgers!

Still, with the campsite damp and dark on our return, Ipswich Town losing again and everyone very tired, the atmosphere was subdued tonight, for all that we were happy with a lovely day.

Hopefully it was more of the latter emotion than the former at Offton following a successful quarter-peal of Double Norwich Court Bob Major, whilst hopefully Nathan Colman and his mother Cathy were still happy with their 1250 of Morrocosialatydolychachacha Surprise Major on Ringing Room yesterday, especially the former who called it. Happy Anniversary to the latter and her husband Julian.

That anniversary was part of a lengthy but upbeat footnote also dedicated to National Tell A Joke Day and National Rollercoaster Day, as well as imploring all to have fun and live large. Which for all the oddness of the journey there and back, I think we did today!

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Monday 16th August 2021

When I’ve mentioned to friends in recent days that we were going camping in the north of the county this week, they all said “Well, you’ll have good weather for it!” Without taking the time to check the forecast for myself therefore, I was expecting a lovely week of blue skies and warm sunshine ahead of us. Well, either those forecasts were wrong, or our mates were being polite, at least judging by the rain and grey clouds today that forced us to reconsider a trip to the beach.

Norwich Cathedral whilst we queued. Dippy the dinosaur in Norwich Cathedral.Still, the alternative was not a terrible one. Indeed, it was a very nice one as instead we headed inland and over the Norfolk border to Norwich. Pantomime hatred of the football team and its fans (a number of whom I actually count as my friends) aside, this is a lovely city, full of history that includes churches, many of which I have been to in order to ring bells. On this occasion though, I was actually visiting one for the first time as we went to the famous Anglican cathedral, a building devoid of bells hung for change-ringing of course. In fact, pleasingly we had to queue to get in, albeit that was because of the reason of why we were visiting today – Dippy the dinosaur. It is currently on tour from the Natural History Museum and so represented too good an opportunity to miss, for us and it would seem many others.

That included local ringer Simon Smith, who we happened across in the vast nave of the cathedral also gazing in awe at the cast of the well known diplodocus. Lovely to catch up with him for a few minutes before we and him continued on with our days.

The Bell Hotel. Dinosaur in front of St Peter Mancroft.For us that was a search for lunch that eventually ended at The Pantry Restaurant on the third floor of Jarrold’s that took in many full venues such as The Bell Hotel, which would’ve been an apt place to eat at for us ringers! It then continued on to a shopping expedition that was more to Ruthie’s sister’s liking than my wife’s and a bit of dino spotting on the city’s dinosaur trail.

Elveden. Horringer. It involved a lot of waiting and wandering around, but at least there were plenty of views to take in, especially of towers, but there was no ringing for us. Back in Suffolk though, there was ringing as Brian Whiting’s Quarter-Peal Tour (the ‘Plan B’ version) which started with a 1344 of Plain Bob Major on handbells in Thorrington in Essex on Saturday continued today with another 1344 of PB Major, this time on towerbells at Horringer, as well as a 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Elveden.

At least they didn’t need nice weather for that!

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Sunday 15th August 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.This morning for service, the twelve of St Mary-le-Tower in Ipswich rang out together for the first time since a superbly rung half-course of Cambridge Surprise Maximus rounded off the practice night on ‘Dark Monday’ on 16th March last year. It was an event worthy of mention on the homepage of the church’s website, garnering tremendous good PR for the art in the process, particularly at SMLT.

I imagine it sounded wonderful, but of course we weren’t there to hear them as after yesterday’s day of travel and putting our tent up, our holiday got properly underway. That didn’t include any ringing as even if it was as simple as it used to be to turn up at nearby towers to join the locals, with only three full-on ringers in our party of ten it wasn’t really an option for 70% of our group to hang around whilst we indulged in the exercise.

Instead, we walked a matter of yards to Africa Alive to see the neighbours we have heard since we arrived, even being able to pop back to base for lunch before returning afterwards to take in more animals, interesting talks, ice cream, the obligatory visit to the gift shop and even a shot of what I believe was Benacre church in the distance where a single 9cwt bell cast in 1622 by Brends of Norwich hangs.

All very enjoyable, although I can’t deny that I’m not looking forward to God willing having an opportunity to ring on St Mary-le-Tower’s twelve when we’re next ringing there!

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Saturday 14th August 2021

The 2021 Rambling Ringers would've ended yesterday, but of course it didn't happen this year, although they did hold what was by all accounts an extremely successful weekend a week ago. And today, we began a week of camping, as we joined Ruthie's mother Kate, her sister and her girls, and the boy's Grandad Ron on a site next to Africa Alive in Kessingland.

Therefore most of the day was spent packing, driving up the A12 and putting our tent up, before sitting back and relaxing with a beer, whilst the children enjoyed the playground directly opposite us, before we went to bed with the sound of various zoo animals in the background.

Amersham.Meanwhile, good to see one-time Bardwell ringer Louis Suggett taking part in the peal of spliced Maximus at Amersham, although there was nothing noted on BellBoard in Suffolk.

Perhaps the county's ringers are all on holiday.

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Friday 13th August 2021

Perhaps it is a sign of these more open times that we were a little low on numbers at Simon Rudd’s virtual pub this week. Holidays, practices and going out are probably contributing, whilst the Sparlings were slightly late joining having just come from ringing a handbell quarter with Gill’s father Roger.

There were also no Colmans, perhaps in part to the participation of Nathan and Cathy in the transatlantic 1344 of Superlative Surprise Major on Ringing Room.

Nonetheless, there was still much conversation, from stargazing to acceptable gin ratios. Which is possible to do in open times or not.

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Thursday 12th August 2021

Although 5000 entries short of my blog, CCCBR President Simon Linford’s fortieth blog is now available to read on the Central Council’s website and as usual it is well worth a read. Not least because it is appropriately upbeat , even suggesting that the changes in people’s work/life balance is helping attract lapsed ringers back to ringing, with more people working from home and therefore having more time in the evenings to make practices when they would’ve previously got home too late from their commute. ART have apparently received a number of “unsolicited” enquiries, which is very encouraging. Additionally, he recommends advertising through local Facebook groups, with pretty much every community sporting such a group.

Acton.We have seen in recent years how Suffolk ringing has benefitted from returning ringers, such as Joanna Crowe, Mark Ogden, Mike Cowling and Andrew Stone, the latter pair of whom were contributing to ringing within our borders, as they rang in a 1259 of Grandsire Caters at The Norman Tower on a busy day for the exercise in the county, with a 1260 of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles rung at Acton and Nathan Colman making up a fifth of the band that rang the 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor on Ringing Room, whilst ringing a third of the ‘bells’.

No such activity for us, with Ruthie going to choir practice and me reading other people’s blogs.

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Wednesday 11th August 2021


It seems quite a remarkable number to mathematicians. Indeed, it is described as ‘The Perfect Number’ and ‘Plato’s Number’. To most people though, it is largely an obscure number. However, for us ringers, it is a significant number, of course largely in part due to the same properties that made it so notable to mathematicians, but also because it is a length synonymous with peals.

Therefore, when some months ago I realised that today would be my 5040th blog entry, my first thought was that I should attempt a peal. Normally at that point, I would probably have begun making plans, but a number of factors prevented me from instantly leaping into arrangements.

One was that in a stroke of sheer coincidence, it is also mine and Ruthie’s ninth wedding anniversary and so with today obviously being a work day, it meant that I would have to take time out of the office, unless I rang it in the evening, thus sacrificing any anniversary celebrations.

Grundisburgh.Monewden.All of that was academic in light of the biggest factor though. Lockdown. When I’d first noticed this forthcoming landmark, we were in the depths of the winter lockdown when there was a lot of uncertainty about whether we would be able to stand next to each other before the end of the year, let alone ring peals and let alone as soon as this. And once it was clear that peal-ringing was going to be possible, it wasn’t until after I’d been emboldened by our first foray back into the medium at Grundisburgh a few weeks ago that I properly got round to organising a 5040 on the 5040th day of the blog. Combined with another peal attempt in the county having already been organised taking eight ringers, I was pleasantly surprise to arrive at Monewden this afternoon with a very good band. Things all seemed set to bring that idea of several months ago to fruition.

Unfortunately, all the best laid plans and all that. I’ve rung in attempts that have come a cropper due to Oxford Treble Bob Minor before. There’s seems to be something about this lesser rung cousin of Kent, particularly for those in 3-4 at a bob, that seems to cause complete confusion, but on this occasion it was compounded by me going wrong in the last lead of the extent of Ipswich Surprise we had begun with as I made the error of thinking ahead to the start of the next extent. It meant that we began the extent of Oxford that followed badly and unsurprisingly when the first call came there was a mix-up that saw bells swap and ultimately brought the attempt to a premature end.

On the plus side, one would rather lose a peal in the second extent to the second from last and whilst that was too late to start the peal again on a hot afternoon, it did give us the chance to ring a quarter-peal. Many will be aware that I’m not keen on going for QPs after a lost peal attempt, but most of the band had very kindly travelled some distance to oblige my whim and so it was only fair that we had something to show for it all. The 1260 of Plain Bob Minor that we subsequently scored was a very pleasant performance and it at least allowed me to put a footnote for our wedding anniversary.

I was pleased as well to find The Cretingham Bell open too, where myself and PR Officer Neal Dodge enjoyed a drink in the sunbathed beer garden and he filled me in on a bit more of the background to Sunday’s ringing in Sudbury and the project at St Peter’s, especially why only the front six will now be able to be rung from the new gallery floor being put in.

Helmingham.Meanwhile, it was great to see the other peal attempt in Suffolk was successful, as a 5184 of Fordham Surprise Major was rung at Helmingham in memory of Alan Barber to his composition, a fitting tribute to a fine man.

With all that done and dusted, Mrs Munnings back from work and Pettistree practice forsaken on this occasion, we celebrated nine years of marriage with a meal in the garden and a little fizzy. A small token of my immense appreciation for her putting up with me and for her support. Not least across 5040 days of blog.

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Tuesday 10th August 2021

All Saints. St Gregory. St Peter.
All Saints, St Gregory & St Peter, Sudbury

There is a potentially exciting afternoon lined up in Sudbury this Sunday, as Derek Rose is arranging for all three rings of bells in the town to be rung simultaneously. With the 26cwt eight of All Saints, 15cwt octave of St Gregory and 20cwt ten of St Peter, that will need at least twenty-six ringers and so ringers will be appreciated. The plan is for everyone to meet at St Peter’s at about 2.15pm and from there for bands to branch out to the individual towers to ring and with a ringing time of about an hour-and-a-half or so, it is hoped that people could ring at all three if they wish and providing there are enough ringers left in each tower to man all the bells.

Suggested by The Friends of St Peters, apparently this is a revival of the Sudbury Ringing Festival once held annually from 1876 on the anniversary of the augmentation of St Peter’s to eight on 29th June, although of course it couldn’t be held on that date this year. I hope that Suffolk’s ringers (and indeed from anywhere else who would like to take part in this town near the Essex border) can support this.

Being the second Tuesday of the month, this would typically mean joining the College Youths for their monthly meeting by video. Mercifully they can now hold them in person after weeks of weekly twelve-bell practices with unlimited numbers in the capital, but unfortunately the basement location at Williamson’s Tavern seemingly makes it too difficult to provide a live link as they had looked into and so once more my membership will be largely from a distance for now. However, I was amused by the email from Society Secretary Simon Meyer where once under ‘Meeting Instructions’ a Zoom link would’ve been accompanied by various technical options, now it reads “Arrive at pub. Buy beer. Go downstairs to meeting room at 8.25.”

Halesworth.It all meant a quiet evening for us, but elsewhere in the county, well done to Matthew Rolph on his first quarter-peal on eight as conductor in the 1260 of Plain Bob Triples on the ground-floor eight at Halesworth, whilst online Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart was ringing 7-8 to a 1728 of seventeen Surprise Major on Ringing Room.

For all that is planned for Sunday in Sudbury, today was also an exciting day of ringing for some.

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Monday 9th August 2021

With varying degrees of sympathy, most ringers have long been of the opinion that if one doesn’t like the sound of church bells ringing then you don’t move in near a church. Regardless of political persuasion, that a government minister has supported that view – as seen in a video shared today of Jacob Rees-Mogg in parliament – is encouraging.

Barham.The same should apply to new rings of bells, as the potential must be quite obvious by the tower shaped structure. Therefore, hopefully the residents of Barham will be supportive of the practices on Wednesday evenings starting up on the new six. In keeping with a lot of places, it is restricted in numbers and who rings there currently, but I’m sure in the long term the learners there will be delighted to welcome help, so look out for future announcements!

Somewhere the neighbours should be familiar with the bells is at St Mary-le-Tower, where Monday evenings are now alive with the sound of bells as they were for decades before the pandemic silenced them. Due in part to isolation (only through a possible contact with a positive Covid case, not as a case themselves) and forgetfulness, we didn’t have our full twelve that had been on the rota for tonight, but this was still a useful session on eight and ten, climaxing with a superbly rung touch of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods spliced.

Even better was the news that from next month the plan is to expand the numbers allowed in this famous ringing chamber to fifteen, which ought to give us the opportunity to ring even more.

It may also mean more people joining us in our new post-ringing venue, the Halberd Inn. A drink after practice with good friends is always an enjoyable experience, but the surroundings since we began coming here have certainly made it a more pleasant experience in a less crowded, more homely, friendly environment where the bar staff and their dogs come to talk to us! When circumstances allow, it is another good reason to come and join us on a Monday night.

Beforehand, I was sent on my way buoyed by listening to the Revd Max Drinkwater’s latest diary on BBC Radio Suffolk, 47mins 05secs into Jon Wright’s evening show. As a young ringing vicar capable of peals of spliced Surprise Major, Max is already a valuable asset to ringing in the county, but being a media star helps too, especially when he drops in a mention for the art as he did on this occasion!

Meanwhile, well done to Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman who was a part of the band who were all ringing their first quarter-peal of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cambridge Surprise Major in the 1250 rung on Ringing Room. And at least they wouldn’t have bothered the neighbours!

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Sunday 8th August 2021

Last night, Alfie and Joshua had a sleepover at Granny Kate’s, whilst Mason was being a typical teenager and having a lay-in, meaning that our ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and subsequent refreshments in Costa Coffee was done without any children under our care.

That ringing saw Ruthie do her first on eight and ten since our return to the art on real towerbells, as she bonged behind to some Stedman Triples on the back bells and then inside to Grandsire Caters, the latter of which was the first time Claire Culham had trebled to this unaided and was also an impressive performance by Sue Williamson in a touch that featured more plain leads than calls!

The Norman Tower.Elsewhere, it was pleasing to hear of the first ringing on twelve at The Norman Tower since March 2020 and indeed – as far as I’m aware – the first ringing on twelve on real towerbells in Suffolk since then too, whilst later in the day a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Royal was rung at the same venue for Evensong.

Fun on Dunwich beach!For us though, our ringing for the day ended when we left SMLT. That wasn’t the last we saw of ringers today however, as following a spot of lunch we had a rendezvous on the coast with a pair of fellow participants in the art. The venue was Dunwich, the ringers were former Halesworth local Maggie Ross and her partner and former Birmingham ringer Tim Palmer on a weekend visit to the county, the combination of which briefly prompted discussion of a subject I have to admit I hadn’t considered before. Namely, did any of the churches famously lost to the sea over the centuries have bells used for change-ringing?

I have to admit that I don’t know. One imagines not as I’m pretty sure it would be fairly common knowledge. Additionally, the briefest of research that I have managed has only found record of a three at All Saints, which seems the most likely to have hosted change-ringing, but it would be interesting to hear what others who know more can impart!

Jellyfish.That was but one of a vast range of topics covered as we caught up with these good friends, first on the beach as the boys played on the beach, made new friends and gawped at a jellyfish that was discovered by others and caused quite a stir, and then back in Melton at the Coach and Horses. It was lovely to catch up and God willing something we’ll get the opportunity to do again in the near future.

Meanwhile, I did have the chance to read this week’s Ringing World, which is adorned on the front cover by an excellent photo taken by Ben Keating of St Edmund King and Martyr in Southwold, home to the 10cwt eight that hosted the 2016 Rose Trophy. Inside there are further Suffolk links with an amusing letter suggesting a ringing equivalent of cricket’s The Hundred, a review of a book about Olive Rogers the wife of the late, great Harold Rogers who learnt to ring within our borders and our recent peal at Grundisburgh also appeared.

For all that though, I was engrossed in the pieces written by Arthur Reeves on learning methods and Jack Page on the record handbell peal rung in Reading. All well worth a read.

Amazing what you get the chance to read without children about!

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Saturday 7th August 2021

This was the type of Saturday that I had often dreamt of over the last seventeen months. Indeed, there were times when I had considered we would never be able to have such a day. A ringing-football-ringing sandwich that took us first to Falkenham for the South-East District Practice, then to Portman Road for Ipswich Town’s first game of the 2021/22 season, before ending the day at The Greyhound in Pettistree for the annual dinner for the local band.

Our time on the Felixstowe Peninsula ringing this morning was part of the first SE District Practice to feature ringing on actual church bells since March last year. Frankly, within this corner of the Suffolk Guild, it is difficult to think of anywhere more suitable to visit in these current cautious circumstances. A ground-floor light six completely open to the airy church and the vast outdoors of which there is plenty in this isolated part of the world.

However, with an unknown proportion of the membership still understandably anxious about returning to ringing even as coronavirus rates and hospitalisations appear to level out, and a decidedly wet weather forecast, there was uncertainty about how many would come out.

Ringing at Falkenham for the South-East District Practice. Ringing at Falkenham for the South-East District Practice. Ringing at Falkenham for the South-East District Practice.
Ringing at Falkenham for the South-East District Practice

In the end, despite the rain, around twenty made it. In normal times, I might have bemoaned that such a small proportion of the District’s membership came out to such an event, but in the circumstances, it was wonderful to be with so many ringing friends, before one even gets on to the ringing under District Ringing Master Jenny Scase’s leadership that included much from call-changes to Norwich Surprise Minor and the hospitality of the local ringers with tea and biscuits on offer. Thank you Lesley and co!

Similar uncertainties surrounded the footy too, although on a larger scale of course. Bar a couple of thousand social distanced home supporters to a pair of fixtures before Christmas, this was the first time that unlimited numbers of fans had been allowed into this stadium since the same day as the South-East District last met to ring actual church bells. And like the ringing earlier in the day – and despite a disappointing result – it was wonderful to be back amongst 21,000 supporters singing, cheering and moaning collectively in a fantastic atmosphere.

Joshua & Alfie at the football.What made it even more special was that it was Joshua’s first ever live football match, buoyed by his enthusiasm during Euro 2020. Despite being overwhelmed by the noise (especially the roar when the Tractor Boys scored!), he seemed to enjoy it and said that he wanted to go again, so all in all in was a successful afternoon!

Pettistree Dinner at The Greyhound. (taken by Mike Whitby) Mary Garner speaks at the Pettistree Dinner.
Pettistree Dinner

As was the evening, as Pettistree’s ringers gathered for their annual meal in the ancient pub next door to the church where we do much of our ringing. Typically held in February and originally slated to be held last month, this was the first opportunity that we had to hold this yearly highlight. Chatting, eating and drinking together as we once did without a second thought. There was no need for the presentation of Mary’s ‘Monthly’ Plate, which after being awarded virtually to Hilary Stearn a few months ago had already been handed over by the previous recipient Mark Ogden, but there were still – on this occasion quite moving – speeches by Mary Garner and Mike Whitby.

The best bit of all though, was that it was entirely real. It actually happened!

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Friday 6th August 2021

Pleasingly, there are a number of places we could be this weekend, but unfortunately one place we can’t be is on the Rambling Ringers Weekend in Lincolnshire. This is in place of the annual tour, which like last year couldn’t go ahead, as although a fortnight’s tour of around eighty towers involving ringers from across the UK is perfectly legal now, the logistics of confirming a tour that typically takes the best part of a year to put together at less than a month’s notice was never going to happen, especially with the varying degrees of caution being put in place by towers.

Therefore instead there is a weekend of peals, quarters, general ringing and a meal in Lincolnshire, which got underway today with a 5040 of eight Surprise Minor methods spliced at Brant Broughton and 5056 of Superlative Surprise Major at Heydour.

Whilst some of the many ringing friends we are blessed to have were gathering and busying themselves ringing a hundred miles north-east of us, our main activities were our day jobs, but we did at least participate in Simon Rudd’s weekly virtual pub, as a new puppy was introduced and John Loveless gave us an update on his new book, as well as telling us about the “points for peals” that the CCCBR used to apply many, many years ago.

Felixstowe.From the distant past to the near future and on the Suffolk Guild Facebook page, Jacky Savage is on the lookout for a ringer for a wedding at Felixstowe on Saturday 28th August. Do please contact Jacky if you think you might be able to help.

Although like the Rambling Ringers Weekend, that is also somewhere else we can’t be.

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Thursday 5th August 2021

Ampton. Barham. Hitcham. Pakenham.

Great to see more Suffolk pictures appearing on the CCCBR Photo Competition on the theme of Bells and Installations, as Ampton, Barham, Hitcham and Pakenham make appearances and hopefully increase the likelihood of a winner from within our borders!

Meanwhile, it is touching to see ringing helping with the grieving process, with the leading performance on BellBoard being a quarter-peal yesterday at Padbury in Buckinghamshire rung in memory of Eliza Stanworth by a band of her parents and grandparents. I don’t know the background, but it must have been incredibly difficult to ring and her mother Celia posted on the Bellringers Facebook page that it would mean a lot to them if it got lots of ‘likes’, so please do so if you haven’t already.

At the time of writing, already 220 people have liked it, a lovely example of the ringing family offering support and elsewhere there was also ringing in memory of others and it can’t be underestimated how such footnotes can help.

However, there is almost ringing for happier reasons, no reason and apparently silly reasons, such as the footnote to what is probably the first ever performance of the Pudsey variant, D-H Lawrence Treble Place Major, rung on Ringing Room by a band including Norman Tower ringer Cathy Colman. And at her home tower, well done to Ben Keating on ringing his first quarter-peal of Surprise Major in the 1312 of Yorkshire. It is all part of ringing’s rich tapestry.

Framlingham Castle.Not that we did any ringing today, with the main highlight for Ruthie and the boys being going to Framlingham Castle and – as I couldn’t go as I was working – for me finding more photos of Suffolk’s bells!

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Wednesday 4th August 2021

For me, ringing’s USP is that generally speaking, any ringing that hasn’t been arranged for a specific band – such as quarters, peals and to an extent weddings – is open to anyone who wishes to join. With Covid, that is not so assured for now, with a number of towers understandably restricting attendance at their ringing to just a few local ringers on a rota as we ease our way out of restrictions, but it remains a principle of ringing that one can join anyone else’s ringing and they would be welcomed in with a common language.

Wells Cathedral.Therefore, the announcement on the Bellringers’ Facebook page from Wells Cathedral Ringing Master Andrew Deamer that their Friday night practices will now only be open to the local band caused a stir. That the only opportunity that visiting ringers will have to ring there would be on a Saturday evening “every 6 weeks or so” in what many perceived to be an unhelpfully vague statement, seemed to only fan the overwhelmingly negative response. Although not in as strong tones as some on the increasingly meandering thread below Andrew’s message (that he tried valiantly to respond to individually, which must have been wearing and time consuming!), I largely agree with their sentiment. The openness of ringing practices at all levels is vital to ringing’s survival, giving everyone access to a network of 40,000 ringers, whilst also offering another aspect of enjoyment that helps keep many ringers engaged in the art. However, it is worth noting that as the heaviest ring of ten hung for change-ringing at 56cwt, they are bells that may need careful managing and it is worth noting this is just an experiment and there may even be even a way in for visitors with the invitation that if “you... would like to take part in an open practice – then please contact me.” Overall though, initial coronavirus caution aside, I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

Mercifully it isn’t the case at Pettistree practice, although precautions such as masks whilst ringing, hand sanitiser at the ready and as much ventilation as can be brought through this ground-floor ringing chamber remain in place. This evening’s session was preceded by a quarter-peal of the ‘Cambridge Twelve’ Surprise Minor methods spliced, as Ruthie succeeded where I failed a fortnight ago and was followed by a decently attended practice in current circumstances.

Me trying my eBells out.That and the open ringing afterwards was followed by a drink in The Greyhound, reopened following its closure of the last week, but I was at home throughout it all. Primarily that was to look after the boys, but once they were in bed, I finally got the chance to have a go the eBells that Tim Hart very kindly sent me last week. Just a gentle introduction that saw me gradually improve at Plain Hunt on Six and Eight on Ringing Room to the extent that I gave myself a go at Plain Bob Minor, with surprisingly decent results! And once she returned from her night out, they also gave my wife entertainment!

Others in Suffolk are far more proficient on handbells than me thankfully, such as the band who rang a 1344 of Plain Bob Major in Moats Tye. Hopefully I can reach their standard, but also enjoy popping in to open practices. Although not at Wells Cathedral.

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Tuesday 3rd August 2021

Ever Given at Felixstowe.
Ever Given at Felixstowe

There was lots of excitement in the local media (and even nationally) about the Ever Given - infamous for blocking the Suez Canal and much global trade a few months ago - arriving at Felixstowe Docks today, but in amongst it all there was a slot on BBC Radio Suffolk for ringing vicar from Haverhill, the Reverend Max Drinkwater, 42mins 40seconds into Jon Wright’s evening show. There was no mention of the art as it was all about the week in the life of a vicar, but he came across magnificently.

Nothing as exciting for us, but we were happy enough to hear about infamous ships and listening to celebrity vicars!

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Monday 2nd August 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.With all the windows wide open at St Mary-le-Tower for the weekly practice this evening, it was hard not to notice what seemed a larger than usual presence of seagulls surrounding the tower. It felt a little like we were in a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and gave a menacing backdrop to this week’s session that at times was amusingly bizarre, such as when the tenor ringer had to hand over the 35cwt tenor as they believed their trousers were falling down and they couldn’t keep the backstroke up! And the touch of spliced miscalled before the first change of method!

All of which led to a jovial atmosphere, but also a very decent hour and a half of ringing, as although we were down on the twelve that had been selected from the rota due to work reasons, there was still much done on eight and ten. A number of the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods were rung, we did do some spliced in the end and before ‘Trousergate’, Grandsire Caters had been going along nicely. Topped off with a drink in our new post-ringing pub of the Halberd Inn where the conversation took us through ringing Eastenders-style and recounted funerals gone wrong, it made for a great night out!

Hitcham. St Margaret.Meanwhile, it was great to hear of a successful dedication of Hitcham’s new eight yesterday, as well as to see the video of them ringing on the Guild’s Facebook page in front of a packed church. Wonderful also to hear of another relatively recent project resuming ringing, with St Margaret’s in Ipswich having their first practice tomorrow, although as with everywhere at the moment, it is best to get in touch with the locals if you intend to join them, rather than just turn up as we have been used to before the pandemic. With John Girt currently recovering, Ipswich Area Rep Jonathan Williamson would probably be the best person to contact for now.

Elsewhere in Suffolk meanwhile, a family handbell quarter-peal was rung in West Stow, whilst on Ringing Room, Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman rang in a 1280 of Cambridge Treble Place Major and 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor, the former of which was his first in the method, the latter of which was his first as conductor away from the tenor. Well done on both counts Nathan!

Hopefully he was undisturbed by seagulls in his efforts!

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Sunday 1st August 2021

A new month and new hopes for future plans.

Falkenham.Saturday is due to see the first real-life ringing at a South-East District event since many of us descended on St Margaret’s in Ipswich seventeen months ago, with Falkenham sensibly selected as the venue for this initial foray back into District towerbell ringing. As an easy going light six, rung from the ground-floor completely open to the church and with a west door that opens up to the outside and located in a sparsely populated village in an isolated area presumably rarely visited by outsiders (compared to most other places at least), there can be few places safer in current circumstances to do one’s ringing, so I hope a lot take advantage - in a safe fashion – as is possible. Especially tea, coffee and cake are being provided by the locals!

Meanwhile, I have begun tentatively making plans for another potential peal attempt and today I was delighted to hear that the ambition is to hold the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition in 2022 on Saturday 19th February at Waltham Abbey.

On this first day of this new month though, the final day of last month was also on my mind. When talking about the City of London Festival of Bells yesterday, I failed to point out that there was representation from Suffolk with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge trebling to the 1312 of Plain Bob Major at St Olave, Hart Street and inside to the 1288 of Grandsire Triples at St Magnus the Martyr. Additionally, Exning youngster Jimmy Yeoman was in the band that rang in the peal of Stedman Cinques at the latter tower and one-time Bures learner John Loveless rang in the quarters of Stedman Cinques at St Mary-le-Bow and Grandsire Caters at St Clement Danes in Westminster, the second of which also featured former St Mary-le-Tower ringer Tina Sanderson, one of two that she rang in, along with the 1344 of Yorkshire Surprise Major at St James Garlickhythe.

Ringing in the capital continued on into today too and through the livestream on Facebook I was able to watch some of it as it happened, catching part of the half-peal on the aforementioned Bells of Bow at the start of a big day for fellow Rambling Ringer Jemma Meyer and her husband Ben.

My ringing today was more modest, but still important as I helped man the front six at Woodbridge ahead of a service that we attended and was followed by refreshments and biscuits afterwards for the first time since the pandemic, much to the unfettered joy of the boys!

That was it for our ringing today though, as the rest of the day saw us visiting friends in Ipswich and enjoying a gratefully received roast at the mother-in-law’s – thanks Kate & Ron!

Hitcham.Elsewhere though, there was ringing and quite significant ringing at that, as the new eight at Hitcham were dedicated. I have to admit that I missed that it was happening, but I was heartened looking through the village’s Facebook page that there seems a lot of support from the community and I imagine a big crowd for this long awaited occasion.

And lots of excitement at the opportunity to – God willing – plan for ringing on these bells in the future!

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Saturday 31st July 2021

Ufford.Great to be back ringing for a wedding today and great to be back ringing at Ufford for the first time since before the pandemic. Wonderful as well to see a packed church for the ceremony itself, with there being more bridesmaids, page boys and flower girls than we were legally allowed to have in the same room together until recently!

Therefore, I was delighted that the ringing we produced was up to standard as either side of the service we rang some excellently struck pieces of Plain Bob and Cambridge Surprise Minor on the back six with a band that could ring far more but was quite rightly ringing something within its abilities really well. I am always conscious on such occasions that quite apart from our efforts being part of a special day, we are getting paid for our performance and I always imagine that a ringer might be in the congregation and/or listening to a video of it at a later date, so whilst it is important to ring well at anytime, I am always pleased when we produce good ringing at weddings!

Alfie.It also reacquainted us with the nearly forgotten quandary of what to do in the period between ringing whilst the marriage is happening, especially with children present. This afternoon Alfie, Joshua and Mark Ogden’s granddaughter Adele were in the ringing chamber with us and ideally we would’ve taken them outside, but it was perhaps typical of the British weather that the only rain of the day came down at that point and so instead we tried to let them play together and have a go on the little wooden demonstration bell whilst only periodically having to tell them to turn their volume down in this gallery ring separated from the church only by a glass partition!

I also occupied myself by reading the latest edition of The Ringing World which arrived in the post this morning and which I took with me for the very purpose of having something to read. Inside, the only Suffolk related content I could find bar quarter-peal reports was a reprinting of a letter from 30th July edition of 1971 written by none other than George W Pipe. He writes – in the eloquent style that we all loved – about his deploration of the “childish” names for the methods in a peal a few weeks earlier in a peal at Salford of ‘Magic Roundabout Spliced Surprise Major’. It was written in a different era of course, but for once I actually disagree with the great man. Obviously there is a time and a place for it (you wouldn’t ring Swirling Vortex of Doom Treble Place Minimus – as was quartered on Ringing Room yesterday – in memory of someone for example), but generally it is small ‘fun’ things like this that help towards maintaining the interest in the art of many ringers and thus means they are kept in the exercise benefitting it on Sunday mornings in particular. And if the ringing is good, in most cases it really shouldn’t matter what the method is called.

St Paul's band.However, what interested me most from the pages of this week’s publication was Richard Grimmett’s insight into the peal of Superlative Surprise Major rung with a band on two different floors at St Paul’s in Birmingham in May in order to comply with the dreadful though understandable ‘Rule of Six’ that was the law for all indoor activity at the time. Not only does it go into the practicalities of such an achievement, but also paints a very moving picture of how the band have tried to keep together over the last sixteen months, something that many bands will be familiar with.

Perhaps the only downside to ringing for the wedding was that it meant we couldn’t go to the City of London Festival of Bells held today. Although it is perhaps unlikely that we would’ve managed to arrange getting down there with children or through getting babysitting, it would’ve been nice to have soaked in the atmosphere of what seems to have been a roaring success, with two twelve-bell peals (although not yet associated with the event on BellBoard, the 5040 of Bristol Surprise Maximus at Cornhill was a part of proceedings) and eleven quarter-peals plus general ringing involving many ringers who won’t have had the opportunity to gather together for almost a year and a half. And the rare tolling of Great Paul at St Paul’s Cathedral in memory of those who have died during the pandemic struck the right tone, especially in light of what happened in Chester a couple of weeks ago. Lots of video can be found on the event’s Facebook page.

It’s great to see ringing in all its forms flourishing today!

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Friday 30th July 2021

Apologies to anyone who might have sent me an email over the last day or two, but my email account had stopped sending and receiving emails as it had essentially got clogged up, entirely due to my failing to regularly delete old emails. So much so in fact, that I had around 20,000 emails going back to 2008!

Peal bandCue an evening of sifting through an abundance of emails that dealt with various Guild Ringing Master issues, test rings, SGR Peal Weeks, setting up the Symphony of Bells in Ipswich, arranging quarters and peals from the mundane to the extraordinary, such as the Guild’s only peal on fourteen thus far, emailing a vast range of people from learners about training days to people like Roger Bailey and David Pipe for peals and BBC Radio Suffolk’s Mark Murphy and Lesley Dolphin for PR. It was a fascinating snapshot of my life back then when I was generally a lot busier with my ringing and the danger was that it could be a little like looking for information in old copies of The Ringing World, where I might become distracted by what else I found and thus a long job would take even longer! Therefore, I decided to put my head down, be ruthless and hit delete on all bar a handful of emails. It made the task a lot quicker and effective (although I still have 10,000 emails left!), but very boring!

Still, I got a break from it for a little while as Ruthie and I joined Simon Rudd and friends as usual for his Friday night virtual pub, whilst Cathy Colman – who was amongst the attendees for our video soiree – and her son Nathan were having a more interesting evening than me by ringing in quarter-peals of Norwich Surprise Minor and Yorkshire Surprise Major respectively on Ringing Room.

The Norman Tower.Meanwhile in their town of residence, a 1344 of Little Bob Major was rung at The Norman Tower yesterday in anticipation of the return of their practice nights in their new Thursday evening slot when they feel safe to start them up.

All of which sounds more fun than deleting thousands of old emails.

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Thursday 29th July 2021

Over the last year and a bit, a common feature in our household and others has been an increase in parcels arriving, with much of that time seeing us avoiding shops and being at home more. Pretty much all of that stuff comes in Ruthie's name and their contents are known to us, or at least to her. It was a pleasant surprise therefore when a parcel arrived this morning addressed to me and of which I didn't know the contents.

What was inside was courtesy of Tim Hart, who had very kindly sent me a pair of customised eBells and a (tongue-in-cheek!) ambition to ring 14-spliced together. That may be ambitious, but they have given me the motivation to push myself on handbells. And particularly exciting that they are not only the first pair made in different colours (with a colour scheme that Tim quite rightly assumed I’d approve of!), but also customised with ‘Richy’s Blog’ written on them! Thank you Tim!

Richy's eBells.
Richy's eBells

eBells have been one of the incredible silver linings to this pandemic, allowing many to get as close to the real experience as it is possible to get when we were completely isolated from each other and even now as things open up allows for a new dimension in handbell progression. One person who I know has been using them is Tim’s fellow Norman Tower ringer Cathy Colman who along with her son Nathan has probably taken advantage of online ringing more than anyone else in Suffolk, and she was at it again today as she rang in a 1320 of Cambridge Treble Place Minor on Ringing Room.

Perhaps I’ll make more use of it with the contents of my parcel this morning.

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Wednesday 28th July 2021

Horringer.Hot on the heels of the Suffolk Guild’s first peal of 2021 on Saturday, the second was rung today and the first one on eight since March last year, as a 5184 of Cambridge Surprise Major was rung on the superb ground floor eight of Horringer to welcome The Reverend Canon Max Osborne to the benefice and also as Rural Dean of Thingoe.

It makes Brian Whiting and Mike Cowling the leading peal ringers thus far this year, with the latter making it to the first weekly practice at Pettistree for sixteen months, as did we. As was once almost as normal as breathing, it was preceded by a quarter-peal, but in these still cautious times, the open session didn’t start until a period of airing the ringing chamber had been observed and all ringing was done with masks on.

Ringing at Pettistre. Ringing at Pettistre. Handbell practice.
Tonight at Pettistree

However, the rest of the evening was perfectly normal. Despite heavy rain earlier in the day and the threat of more as the wind swirled dark clouds about in between sunny spells, the evening was pleasant enough to take advantage of the wide open spaces of the churchyard with the boys, whilst the ringing consisted of the once usual eclectic mix of Doubles and Minor to cater for learners and the experienced alike, including a very decent but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at spliced Surprise. There was even a handbell practice for Anne Buswell from the aforementioned Mr Cowling.

Notice at The Greyhound.The only damp squib on a positive evening was arriving to find a message written on a blackboard outside The Greyhound saying that due to one of the staff getting a positive coronavirus test, the pub is closed until next Wednesday. Mercifully non of the ringers appear to been here since last week so shouldn’t be getting ‘pinged’ from this as it appears to have only closed earlier today, but it was a pity not to be able to enjoy a pint at this fine establishment.

Bardwell band.Elsewhere in the county meanwhile, other ringers were having an equally productive evening as a 1260 of St Clement’s College and Plain Bob Minor was rung at Bardwell.

Peals, quarter-peals and practice nights. For however long it may be, ringing in Suffolk feels like it is back.

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Tuesday 27th July 2021

Well done to former Ipswich ringer George Salter who today rang his first handbell peal of Surprise away from the trebles in the 5152 of Bristol Surprise Major in Yatton in Somerset.

No such activity for us, but that did give me time to sit down and send a message to John Girt, who many of you will now know was taken ill last week. Mercifully he is recovering now, but I – like many others I imagine – was keen to let him know we are thinking of him and Shirley.

Meanwhile, CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog entry (#39) appeared on the Central Council’s website late this tonight and included mention of the General Synod's discussions on their 'Mission Review’, which sets out their plans for reorganisation of parishes and closures of churches. The closure of churches – especially in rural areas of which ours is of course predominantly – was something for which we’ve been bracing ourselves for years, but like much else, Covid-19 seems to have brought forward the reality quite considerably. I haven’t read all forty-nine pages of the report, but Simon picks out a frightening sounding part of it which says “Four dioceses in our survey were thinking about shutting 152 churches over the medium term (5 years).” Crude maths suggests that would be about forty per diocese (although I don’t imagine it is as neatly divided out as that) and in a county where the majority of Church of England churches have a ring of bells hung for change-ringing we could be looking at losing a substantial number of bells in Suffolk over the next half-decade. God willing we will be able to swiftly react to such closures to ensure the bells are still rung or at least find a new home.

After all, for all the progress on handbells made by many within our borders and – like George Salter – beyond, I wouldn’t like to lose any ring of bells if we can help it.

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Monday 26th July 2021

It was a day spent mainly on my own. Ruthie and the boys had left for the day before I got up and were still out when I returned at lunchtime and at clocking off time from an office where I was the only one in on ‘my’ floor at work.

Still, it gave me the opportunity when home alone to read the latest edition of The Ringing World, which saw Suffolk feature through a brace of quarter-peals rung by Cathy Colman on Ringing Room and a handbell peal by Jimmy Yeoman appearing in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’ and an article by Stephen Pettman – conductor of the only Suffolk Guild peal of 2021 thus far – on behalf of Giovanni Vecchi the captain of the Ferrara Cathedral ringers in Italy, about the ‘Il cammino dei campanari’, a sort of ringing pilgrimage.

St Mary-le-Tower.Eventually I was reunited with my family, but only briefly before I went out to finish a lonely day with a relatively large crowd at the weekly St Mary-le-Tower practice. It is limited to twelve ringers for now, but nonetheless it remains almost liberating to have more than a handful in the ringing chamber and to stand next to each other ringing the bells as they are supposed to be rung. Still no ringing on the twelve that we were ringing so superbly before the pandemic and which are much missed, but that is part of an understandably gradual reintroduction to more expansive ringing. There seems hope of getting the famous twelve ringing again soon though, even if just to some rounds, with the ringing on ten being particularly good. Amazing what a sixteen month gap has done to our ability to ring plain leads in Grandsire Caters! On eight meanwhile, a good range of the ‘standard’ eight (although also of PPE) was rung as cobwebs were blown away during a useful and enjoyable session that was starting in fine style as I arrived. And it was all topped off by my first post-ringing visit to the Halberd Inn, where we got served straight away and enjoyed a convivial drink in nice surroundings.

Amongst our numbers was Suffolk Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson, who earlier in the day rang a handbell quarter in Bury St Edmunds in memory of Alan Barber on the day of his funeral, whilst the other QP from the county today was for this lovely man, as Nathan Colman trebled to a 1250 of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Real Yorkshire Surprise Major – which unsurprisingly is a slight variation of Yorkshire Surprise Major – with a transatlantic band on Ringing Room.

Nice to see not everyone spent their day alone today!

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Sunday 25th July 2021

Whether it was from vaccinations or a return to peal ringing, following our activities yesterday there were sore arms aplenty in our household this morning.

It didn’t stop us contributing to service ringing though, albeit unusually at Pettistree where we helped contribute to some Norwich Surprise Minor and then Grandsire Doubles, before we headed on into Ipswich for the reason that we couldn’t make ringing at St Mary-le-Tower on this occasion. For mother-in-law Kate – who also joined us in ringing at Pettistree – had booked us into Brick History, an exhibition of some stunning Lego models depicting the history of the world, held in The Hold, the new “heritage facility” for Suffolk. As well as the Lego, we also took in other exhibitions about local history, having been welcomed by the sound of bells, although having first heard them on the radio when this venue opened a few months ago, I still can’t work out where they are from. A fascinating place that is well worth a visit.

Afterwards, we briefly visited my Mum who had earlier listened outside to the Triples being rung at SMLT, before we ultimately made our way to Ruthie’s mother’s abode for a barbecue in unexpectedly roasting weather.

Meanwhile, others in the county were spending this afternoon ringing, with a trio of quarter-peals rung within our borders, as a 1260 of Grandsire Triples at The Norman Tower featured a band of members of a highly productive handbell club enjoying being able to ring towerbells again, a 1344 of Plain Bob Major at Henley preceded the evening service at St Peter and Nathan Colman rang the third to a QP of three Minor methods spliced on Ringing Room.

And all hopefully done without sore arms. Or fingers.

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Saturday 24th July 2021

13th March 2020. That’s when a peal was rung for the Suffolk Guild of Ringers for the 9,839th time. At that moment, even with coronavirus casting a massive dark shadow over the UK, I don’t expect many thought it would be 498 days until the 9,840th would be rung for an organisation that even in its most fallow years rings in the region of sixty to seventy peals.

19th February 2020. That’s when I rang my 631st peal. At that moment, especially with coronavirus being newsworthy but not – in most layman’s minds – particularly a threat, I never imagined it would be 521 days until my 632nd peal when typically the longest I would ever typically go between peals is a month or two.

Grundisburgh.24th July 2021. The day when the SGR and Richard J Munnings finally rang another peal. Primarily the 5040 of five Minor methods at Grundisburgh this morning was arranged to celebrate the recent fifth birthday of Joshua, the first I have been able to ring for his birthday since the three Surprise Major methods spliced we rang at Ufford over two years ago. Obviously I can’t fill in the gaps of what was originally supposed to be a complete set of annual peals from their birth to adulthood, but I am nonetheless delighted to be able to get them up and running at the earliest opportunity.

However, although it wasn’t intended to be the first peal after such a long period of time for a Guild with a notable and active history of peal ringing (that honour would’ve gone to the ringers who rang at Offton on Wednesday if it weren’t for their unfortunate loss), that it was gave added significance to our success in its own right. Of course though, it was our first opportunity to welcome the new Rector Katrina Dykes who started here since the last peal on these bells. Also since the last peal on these oft pealed bells rung in February last year, the tower has lost three of its former ringers. George Pipe whose world famous ringing career began in the wobbly red brick tower. Conductor Stephen Pettman’s father-in-law Dick Pegg who also rang here. And Josh’s Grandad and my Dad Alan who supported the ringing on the county’s lightest twelve and before it ten for half a century.

The actual ringing was well within the capabilities of the band, but of course this was the biggest test any of us have had since ringing returned and this was arguably the most difficult peal I have ever had to arrange. Uncertainty as to what would actually be permitted until relatively recently meant that organising the band was left a lot later than I would’ve wished, with a number already booked up as people – especially ringers – excitedly fill up their diaries now that we can, whilst at the other extreme others understandably don’t feel ready to return to ringing chambers for three hours just yet. On top of that, only people who have been fully vaccinated are allowed in Grundisburgh’s ringing chamber, which while it adds another reassuring layer of protection to those ringing there, prevented me from asking some people.

This was a hard-earned peal and a very special one for so many reasons. Please like it on BellBoard if you haven’t already and highlight that Suffolk peal ringing is back!

It was followed by a pint outside The Dog across the green in the centre that was wonderfully bustling as guests arrived for a wedding that the bells were going to be rung for, whilst the boys were brought by Ruthie, fresh from getting her second jab on her first day of freedom following her isolation, with the multitude of negative lateral flow tests that have been taken in our household over the last eights being another reassurance as I entered this once very familiar ringing chamber for the first time in sixteen months. Lovely also to sit down and chat properly with Brian, James and Stephen for the first time for ages.

Mike Cowling had to dash off to Little Glemham to ring for another wedding, especially as he had to negotiate the traffic for Lattitude, but we headed off to my wife’s Gran for tea and biscuits and according to BB there weren’t any other quarters or peals rung in the county.

God willing it won’t be another 498 days until the Guild’s 9,841st peal or indeed another 521 days until my 633rd though.

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Friday 23rd July 2021

Beginnings and endings.

Wherry Albion.On a day when this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Latitude at Henham Park and Newmarket Nights in... well Newmarket, all started up, Ruthie finished her isolation with another negative lateral flow test and we finished our week with our regular Friday night virtual pub with Simon Rudd and friends. And relieved that David Stanford and then Mark Ogden hadn’t been called upon by an axeman when they both disappeared for a while, it was a jolly relaxing and jovial way to spend an hour or so as we talked wherries and how various towers are opening up.

Interesting to hear that St Peter Mancroft in Norwich are doing things similarly to St Mary-le-Tower with restricted numbers and the ground-floor eight of Saxlingham Nethergate in Norfolk are doing fortnightly practices utilising the outdoors, whilst here in Suffolk The Norman Tower are continuing with their weekly quarter-peals attempts (although sadly last night’s was lost very near the end) until they feel confident that it is safe to start practices on their new night of Thursdays.

Meanwhile, Nathan Colman joined us just after conducting a 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor, beginning with two bobs at home and ending with a single.

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Thursday 22nd July 2021

Hitcham.Although recorded a couple of days ago, today was the first opportunity I got to listen to the videos shared by Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge on YouTube and the SGR’s Facebook page of the new eight at Hitcham ringing for the first time. This is one of the many projects that have given us shards of good news and hope through even the darkest times of the pandemic, so it makes it extra special to hear them being rung in their full glory now. God willing I’ll get the chance to ring them in the near future.

Falkenham.From the far east of the county meanwhile, Falkenham were ringing out on their practice night for the first time since ringing was first stopped last year, with part of it filmed and very kindly shared on a busy Guild FB page by Jonathan Williamson. Lovely to hear another ring in their full glory.

There was ringing in other forms to real towerbells within our borders today though. The first handbell quarter-peal in Colin Salter’s Ipswich flat was scored with a 1344 of Plain Bob Major, whilst on the conductor’s usual stomping ground of Ringing Room a Suffolk band was ringing a 1296 of Donottar Delight Minor to celebrate today’s casting of the two new trebles for Buxhall’s augmented ring of eight. More information can be found on Taylor’s website.

Hopefully we’ll hearing them in their full glory soon too.

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Wednesday 21st July 2021

In ringing terms, it was a day of losses.

Unfortunately the first peal attempt on towerbells in Suffolk for over sixteen months was lost at Offton, although mercifully ‘only’ about a third of the way through.

Meanwhile, our attempt at a quarter-peal of the ‘Cambridge Twelve’ – Berwick, Beverley, Bourne, Cambridge, Durham, Hexham, Hull, Ipswich, Norfolk, Primrose, Surfleet and York – Surprise Minor methods (so named as they are all Cambridge above the treble) at Pettistree fell at almost the final hurdle, with just a few leads to go.

In both cases though, there were upsides, quite apart from simply having the opportunity to lose towerbells quarters and peals again.

The former on the 8cwt ground floor eight was followed by a successful 1408 of Rutland-based Fordham Surprise Major in memory of Alan Barber that was nonetheless the first quarter on more than six real towerbells in the county since March 2020, whilst our efforts blew a lot of cobwebs away and were followed by a visit to The Greyhound.

We were met in the beer garden there by the holidaying Harriyotts John and Sonia who it was lovely to catch up with, even if without a practice here until next Wednesday, it didn’t involve any further ringing. It was also lovely to meet Merlin, mother-in-law Kate’s new dog, a lovely fluffy, incredibly laid back four month old puppy who I imagine will become familiar to and with ringers as the exercise opens up!

For all that opening up and the activity on real towerbells within our borders, it was nice to see continued success on Ringing Room in the county as well, with Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart celebrating his birthday with a 1728 of fourteen Surprise Major methods spliced in hand. Happy Birthday Tim and well done on not joining the list of ringing losses in Suffolk today!

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Tuesday 20th July 2021

The events at Chester Cathedral should serve as a warning to how we approach ringing in a post-restriction world.

Broadly speaking, as I understand it a peal that the band there had arranged seems have been advertised on the Cathedral's social media as being for 'Freedom Day.' Of course, those who surf social media looking for something to get angry about had something to get angry about and reacted in the usual overbearing manner that many of them do. As per the normal order of such things, the Cathedral backed down and the peal was called off.

Which was a pity, as apparently the ringers neither requested nor sanctioned the ringing being promoted as it was. Indeed, it hadn't been arranged for such a reason, but rather in memory of a local ringer, though in case we need it, the happenings in the North-West should remind us that ‘Freedom Day’ is a politically-laden phrase, much like Brexit. For some it is a reason to celebrate, but for many others it is a source of anxiety. We may be free of restrictions, but we are still battling coronavirus. It is just a shame that the bellringers of Chester Cathedral have been unfairly caught up with the feeling around it all.

On a happier note, it’s great to see Suffolk bells featuring in the current CCCBR Photo Competition, with the theme being Bells and Installations. Although I can’t see that it says who sent them in, they showcase the bells of Bardwell, Ingham and Lavenham up in their frames. Hopefully we’ve got a winner in there somewhere!

Meanwhile, it is great to see Woodbridge’s practice night up and running in their spacious, well ventilated ringing chamber again, complete – so it says on BellBoard - with cake and red wine! For Golden Wedding anniversaries and birthdays of course, not ‘Freedom Day’!

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Monday 19th July 2021

In the weeks immediately after ‘Dark Monday’ – that dreadful 16th March last year when ringing on towerbells had to stop – I had perhaps naively envisaged the day when we would be given the go-ahead to resume ringing again with no restrictions at all to be one of unfettered joyous abandon, ringers across the country dashing to as many towers as possible in a fashion not too dissimilar to VE Day in 1945, everyone grateful to be back and even the most apathy-ridden participants of our art having gained a new appreciation for just how very privileged and fortunate we are to be a part of this limitless art.

Halifax band.Today, that day cameWalsall. and indeed there were elements of ringers throwing the shackles off having sacrificed the joys of the exercise for sixteen, long, long months for the greater good. All twelve were rung at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich for the first time since before the pandemic and it must have been glorious to hear them all ringing out again. Likewise, there was a video on Facebook of the 72cwt twelve of Exeter Cathedral ringing out in all their glory for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. The first towerbell peal in the UK since the end of the 2019/20 winter was rung at Halifax involving Exning youngster Jimmy Yeoman, who was among five who then travelled over a hundred miles to ring in a 5016 of Stedman Cinques at Walsall. And it wasn’t just on twelve that ringers were celebrating freedoms once taken for granted. There was a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major at Highweek in Devon, quarter-peals on eight and ten bells rung across the country and I imagine numerous practice nights up and down the land that flung open their doors and welcomed unlimited numbers for the first time for the best part of a year and a half.

However, as the wearing, soul-destroying lockdowns and restrictions continued throughout most of last year and the first half of this year, it became increasingly obvious that when the day did come when restrictions were lifted that things wouldn’t go straight back to normal. Even just in the ringing family that makes the art so wonderfully unique, there are some who won’t – indeed can’t – risk coming back whilst coronavirus still lurks, even though it is likely to be with us for years, probably forever. Despite vaccines appearing to do their job and keeping the vast majority of people out of hospital and even from getting particularly poorly, the numbers catching the virus are still rising rapidly and so therefore many are understandably anxious about ‘Freedom Day’.

St Mary-le-Tower. As a result, this evening’s weekly session at St Mary-le-Tower was still a very restricted occasion. A maximum of twelve from a rota were permitted in the room, all of whom had to show proof of a negative lateral flow test today and the intention is to maintain that until the end of next month. On this occasion, with one of the dozen present being Sonia who was only tentatively returning with a sore shoulder and having not rung at all since the early months of last year, ringing all the bells wasn’t practical tonight, but hopefully we’ll get the chance to get this wonderful twelve ringing out in their entirety soon – they have been much missed! Even so, it was great to ring on more than six at last, with the front octave getting a good airing to Triples of the Grandsire and Stedman varieties and Major with Little Bob and Cambridge, as well as some call-changes, but (and I never imagined I’d say this!) the highlight was a bob course of Grandsire Caters. I always said that I wouldn’t feel fully free until we could walk into any ringing chamber and join any number of ringers for ringing and I’m still absolutely chomping at the bit to properly get going, but nonetheless it felt great to do more ringing on these bells than we have done for such a long time and it felt a far cry from those dark winter Monday nights toiling away with a handful of us on Ringing Room!

In keeping with the pervading caution, I also passed on going to the pub afterwards. There is still a possibility that Ruthie may come down with the virus after her close contact with a positive case, but God willing this weekend will be our first opportunity to go out together after her isolation and there are plans that I’m keen to be able to go ahead with, so I didn’t want to risk those with a quick pint at a busy Ipswich pub where the likelihood of being deemed to have come into contact (however meaningful or not) with a stranger with Covid and then being instructed to isolate seemed too much a risk. As it was, those who did go to The Cricketers were put off by the crowds, turned back and went to the quieter Halberd Inn, which judging by their positive reviews may become the venue of choice post ringing.

Besides, I felt I ought to get back to my bored wife as she remained housebound for the fourth full day running, but also because ours was a subdued household due to the sad news last night that her mother Kate’s dog Mia died at just short of eight years old. It was a dreadful shock, completely out of the blue and very upsetting, especially following the old age that her predecessor Max got to and it won’t be the same her not leaping up to us excitedly when we go round to my mother-in-law’s, whilst she was a familiar sight at Pettistree when Mrs Eagle sometimes took her with her when she went ringing. We have happy memories of her though.

Whilst she was foremost in our minds today, elsewhere in Suffolk there was ringing going on other than our efforts at SMLT, with a handbell QP rung in Bury St Edmunds, whilst across town Nathan Colman was taking part in a transatlantic 1280 of Cambridge Surprise Major on RR. They are for the better in my opinion, but they are a reminder that some things have changed forever, even on the day when things are supposed to be back to normal.

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Sunday 18th July 2021

Woodbridge.Ruthie’s third full day of isolation meant that today was pretty the same for her as yesterday and the day before. However, the boys and I are still able to go about our business freely and so we did, again the reassurance of negative lateral flow tests, we left my wife behind and on this occasion headed to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge where I helped ring the bells. One of the ringers was unable to come at the last moment and so we only rang the front five, but this is the last time that the band had to be selected (hopefully ever, but who knows what will be thrown up after the last sixteen months) from a rota of ringers and limited to six. From Tuesday, practices are due to start up again and there will be no more limits on numbers.

I didn’t realise at the time, but the ringing we did was also dedicated to Bruce and Gillian Wakefield’s Golden Wedding Anniversary and it seems fitting to celebrate this couple who have – like so many others – kept the band here together over nearly a year-and-a-half of no or restricted ringing. These are the types of bands that I think we’ve come to appreciate more over this dreadful period. They aren’t peal-ringers with a vast repertoire of Surprise methods, yet through dedication and loyalty have managed to keep the bells ringing when called upon, whether on handbells, through tolling and now through getting the majority of this heavy eight with a long draught ringing out on a Sunday morning and for weddings.

It is clearly the weekend for significant wedding anniversaries for Suffolk’s ringers, with the 1320 of Plain Bob Minor rung at Woolpit celebrating the Ruby Wedding Anniversary of Astrid & Nigel Gale. Congratulations to the Wakefields and Gales!

Mine, Alfie and Joshua’s time out and about without their mother continued onto the service that I’d just rung for and then to a Junior Church meeting. The pandemic has made ringing’s relationship with the church more important than ever and so I’m pleased to be involved in St Mary-the-Virgin’s set-up, with Father Nigel Prior asking how we could fit any help I could offer around my ringing. Apart from a trip to a surprisingly quiet Melton Park as the hottest day of the year eventually began cooling down though, the rest of our day had to be spent at home, at least if we wanted to spend any time with Mrs Munnings.

Hopefully come Saturday, Ruthie will be able to join us out and about.

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Saturday 17th July 2021

Last night’s announcement from the CCCBR that there are no longer any restrictions (including no compulsion to where masks) on ringing was welcome, even if many – including here in Suffolk – are approaching things cautiously. However, Ruthie won’t be able to participate in any of it to start with as her isolation continued today.

Hollesley.The boys and I can get out and about though and feel safe to do so with daily negative lateral flow tests and so we did just that this morning as Joshua attended his classmate’s birthday party. Even then, this was outdoors in the vast open space of Alderton Recreation Ground and parents had to drop their children off and leave. And whilst Josh was partying, Alfie and I went to Hollesley Recreation Ground – where we were the only ones there bar a man and his dog and Alfred (aka Ronaldo) thrashed me (aka Messi) 5-1 at football with some impressive skills – and then to Shingle Street for the boy to have his lunch and a paddle, with the tower of All Saints which holds the village’s 16cwt eight rarely out of sight.

It involved no ringing of course and having returned home to my wife and the boys’ mother to spend time with her, there was nowhere we could go and there was no ringing from within our borders noted on BellBoard, but hopefully the CCCBR’s announcement will encourage more ringing events to ring at.

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Friday 16th July 2021

Ruthie received confirmation this morning that her colleague has indeed tested positive for Covid-19 and so my wife will definitely need to stay at home until the end of next Friday. Amongst much else that means no ringing on real bells for her over the next week, but also most immediately meant that she had to spend her birthday today housebound.

No pint in the local therefore, or indeed anything that would mean her going beyond the front door, but although the rest of us in her household are free to go about our business, we kindly remained at home to try to make her birthday as happy as possible. Presents and cards were opened and messages exchanged with her many, many well-wishers on Facebook and of course she already had a footnote for the occasion from the quarter-peal she rung at Pettistree on Wednesday, when she was allowed to do such things.

Additionally, we joined with Simon Rudd and friends via video for a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ from the assembled company and then individual performances from David Stanford and Linda Garton when they had the misfortune to join afterwards!

Meanwhile, there was more online ringing within Suffolk as Norman Tower ringer Cathy Colman was in the band who rang an impressive 1344 of Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Surprise Major spliced on Ringing Room.

At least Ruthie could hone her RR skills over the next week, if nothing else!

Happy Birthday Mrs Munnings!

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Thursday 15th July 2021

As a society we are in a strange situation where restrictions are being fully lifted and we seem to be accepting of coronavirus cases are going up because they are far, far less likely to result in people burdening our already exhausted NHS, yet still insisting that people who are deemed to have come in contact with someone who has had a positive Covid-19 test have to isolate for several days. Inevitably, that means more and more people are being isolated and with that businesses shutting down and lives put on hold and it is hard to imagine how this situation can continue for another month as it is due to, as it is conceivable that there won’t be anywhere left open at all by that point!

Regardless of that, these sort of in-between set of circumstances we have are now having a direct impact on our household, as Ruthie was told today that she needs to isolate and her playgroup needs to close due to someone at work waiting for a PCR test result. If that comes back positive, she will be housebound until Friday next week, taking in choir practice tonight, her birthday tomorrow, a visit to some friends over the weekend, singing at St Mary-the-Virgin on Sunday morning and ringing at St Mary-le-Tower and Pettistree, not to mention a week of work.

It is ironic that whilst ringing is part of greater freedoms, and as the exercise responds to the lifting of restrictions on Monday, whilst also reflecting that more people are catching the virus, St Mary-le-Tower are expanding the numbers at their practice, but limited to twelve from a rota, whilst Pettistree is opening up their practice (from 28th July. Ed.), which will be running from 7.45-8.30/8.45pm, but remaining outside when not ringing and wearing facemasks when ringing. In both cases, there will be much ventilation.

Blythburgh.The Norman Tower.Even now though, Suffolk’s ringers are practising the art in a more expansive, though safe way, with quarter-peals today at the ground-floor six of Blythburgh and on part of the wide rope circle in the spacious rope circle of The Norman Tower. Well done to Keith Dennis on ringing his first of Minor inside and to Matthew Rolph on his first of Minor as conductor in the 1260 of Plain Bob in the North-East District.

Meanwhile, there was also ringing from within our borders on BellBoard, as Cathy Colman - along with the rest of her nationwide bandmates - rang her first quarter-peal of Drivel List Treble Place Major (Superlative Surprise Major with the treble making places at the back instead of dodging) in the 1250 rung on Ringing Room. Well done Cathy!

At least there is still RR if most of us are going to end up isolating over the next month!

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Wednesday 14th July 2021

Pettistree.Another Wednesday, another quarter-peal at Pettistree. How it used to be and God willing how it’ll be from now on, hopefully preceding a welcoming practice in the spacious surroundings when the vicar is happy to give the go-ahead.
With the reassuring return of the holidaying Harriyotts from Sussex meeting them afterwards, this evening’s involved Ruthie ringing the fifth of the six to a quarter of Doubles before retiring straight to The Greyhound, as has been the normal order of things over the last two months since such ringing was – thus far – safely resumed in the most expansive form it has taken since pre-pandemic.

Perhaps appropriately on a day when CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog (#38) entry on the Central Council website focuses - amongst other things – on ringing’s online resources, what has also been the normal order of things over the last year is ringers from the west of Suffolk ringing QPs on Ringing Room. Sometimes just amongst themselves, sometimes with Val Hewer from Canada and sometimes with friends and family from Essex. Today, it was the latter, as a band from Buxhall, Felsham, Stowmarket and Woolpit rang a 1296 of Pontefract Delight Minor with John Steed of Chelmsford, brother of David and brother-in-law of Lesley, both of whom were also in the band.

Another week, another set of successes for Suffolk’s ringers.

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Tuesday 13th July 2021

Ringing’s most immediate focus is on the 19th July onwards. The government has given the green light for all restrictions to be lifted, but what precisely that means for ringing is not entirely clear. In theory we should be legally free to ring as we did pre-pandemic, but understandably many have been waiting for guidance from the CCCBR, who have been a useful guide throughout all of this, especially when things were at their worst. However, they have been very quiet, worryingly so some perceive. Today, they have released what amounts to a holding statement on their website and more extensively on their Facebook page explaining the silence. Essentially they are waiting for the result of a meeting planned for Thursday between the Places of Worship Taskforce and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the sticking point seems to be whether churches are going to be one of the settings where facemasks will be ‘expected’ to be worn.

Woodbridge.Meanwhile, ringing in Suffolk continues to prepare for next week, with Woodbridge planning on holding their first practice since March last year next Tuesday, having been given the go-ahead by the Rector, further highlighting how important a role local responsibility will play compared to blanket guidelines and regulations from now on.

For now though, there was ringing taking place within our borders, albeit partially and online as Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman conducted a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor on Ringing Room.

And ‘Freedom Day’ comes just too late for the College Youths to hold their second Tuesday meeting in Williamson’s Tavern this evening as had been hoped and so it was held completely online for (hopefully!) the last time, especially as there were unusually quite a lot of technical issues. A large chunk of proceedings were taken up by the results on the recent consultation with members (apparently 264 of us) on the Society’s approach to electronic peals and put forward seven motions due to be discussed at next month’s meeting, including support for the usefulness of online ringing, but saying that peals rung in such a way wouldn’t be put in the Society Peal Book and would be analysed separately by the ASCY Peal Recorder.

There was a poignant moment as Secretary Simon Meyer read out Allen Twywell’s obituary, which had been written and sent in by Alan Barber, whose own sad and apparently unexpected death was announced yesterday.

Otherwise though, there was an upbeat mood as the Society also looks ahead to actual ringing, with plans to celebrate Jim Bullock’s eighty years of membership on 27th September in what is thought to be a unique landmark, along with confirmation of the rearranged City of London ringing celebrations on 31st July, hopes to have a stand at the RWNYC in Worcester on 11th September, the Country Meeting in the same city a week later and the London Twelve-Bell Competition due to be held on 23rd October.

With all this opening up in ringing locally and nationally, I hope ringers will continue to do what they can to ring as normal again, such as regular washing of hands, wearing facemasks where requested, testing and most importantly getting vaccinated. I intend to do all of the above and today after work I did my bit on the latter as got my second jab. Having managed to move it forward I couldn’t get it in Woodbridge which would’ve been ideal, but getting to Walton Pharmacy in the suburbs of Felixstowe was no great hardship and so I travelled down there with Ruthie (and therefore also the boys) as backup in case I didn’t feel up to driving back and became one of the 73% in East Suffolk to have been vaccinated twice.

Hopefully it will help in ringing’s preparations for post-19th July.

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Monday 12th July 2021

If there was ever a morning after the day before, it was this morning. Mere hours after coming so close to seeing England become champions of Europe and a day of partying for Joshua’s birthday, we all had to drag ourselves from our slumbers well before any of us would’ve preferred in order to get to school and work, all in a slightly subdued atmosphere following the national men’s football team falling short last night.

It was a mood not helped by the sad news of one time Cambridgeshire ringer Alan Barber’s death, a lovely chap known to many in the Suffolk Guild, an organisation he rang thirty-seven peals for, whilst my one and only peal with him was for the College Youths at St Mary-le-Tower, composed and conducted by him.

There was some better news though, with confirmation that – as expressed as the intention a week ago – the lifting of all Covid-19 restrictions should take place in just seven days, barring anything very dramatic happening in the meantime. From a ringing perspective the most important aspects are the removal of restrictions on numbers of people indoors and the need to social distance and to put masks on in all bar the most crowded of situations, such as supermarkets and shops and other places where you might be inside with a large number of strangers, rather than with a handful of others you know in a ventilated ringing chamber.

In theory, this should mean that by the laws of England we will be free to start doing ringing as we were before restrictions were first necessarily forced upon us sixteen, long months ago. Of course, it won’t be that simple. As I write this, we are yet to hear the results of discussions between the CCCBR and the Church of England which could shape how many decide to proceed with ringing, whether it be jittery incumbents or reluctant ringers, of which there will understandably be a sizeable number. However, there is clearly a switch to individual responsibility and it seems quite a few decision makers in churches have already been happy for up to six ringers to ring in a way that is almost like the art used to be pre-pandemic, even allowing peals, as has been perfectly legal since 17th May and God willing as we move forward currently unsure vicars and ringers will feel increasingly reassured.

Nonetheless, whilst Falkenham has easy access to the outdoors and church to give plenty of space for plenty of people and plenty of ventilation and therefore ought to be as safe as possible for now and are happy to welcome all to their practice on Thursday next week (although it would help Lesley Barrell if you let her know if you’re going along), others with ringing chambers with less open space are choosing to break themselves in gently with limited numbers from a rota for a short period, such as SMLT. Different towers will likely take different approaches, all of which need respecting, so if you are planning on getting and about, more than ever, check with the locals first!

Great Livermere.Before all that though, Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge is in need of one more ringer for a noon wedding at the 5cwt five of Great Livermere on Saturday for £25. If you can help, please contact Neal via Facebook or his email and maybe you might be able to contribute to someone else’s morning after the day before.

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Sunday 11th July 2021

Today was a day of celebration in our household. Well, until about five-to-eleven tonight that is.

For the vast majority of the day, the main focus was marking our youngest son Joshua’s fifth birthday, celebrating five years of seeing him growing from the fragile (though large!) baby that entered the world to the ball of energy being of now. A well-liked boy who is generally very well meaning and learning fast, which is particularly encouraging after the disruption that he, his brothers and their peers have had to their education over the last sixteen months.

Enthusiastic present opening was punctuated by a trip into Ipswich for his Mum and Dad to ring with his Nana Sally at St Mary-le-Tower, before we then welcomed his great grandmother, all three grandparents, great Aunty Marian, his Aunt Clare and his cousins round for a party. With more people then we are currently permitted indoors, we were rather relying on the weather playing ball and were blessed with a generally sunny and dry afternoon that allowed us to socialise and eat in the back garden and helped Josh have a lovely birthday.

Sadly, England’s male football team were unable to complete his perfect birthday by winning their first trophy since 1966 and all that, as instead their opponents Italy were victorious in this evening’s final of Euro 2020. They gave it a jolly good shot though, taking an early lead and ultimately took things to penalties before an agonising loss, leading to a late but memorable night, especially for the boys who have got so much joy from this tournament that I hope they always remember.

Woodbridge.Ringing did mark the occasion, with a quarter-peal of Wembley Surprise Major rung on Ringing Room whilst the match was being played, but there was also ringing in Suffolk noted on BellBoard, even if it wasn’t for the football. There was ringing at Woodbridge for the morning service, as I hope there now is in some form or another in most towers within our borders and beyond, whilst there was a handbell QP of Plain Bob Major rung in Bury St Edmunds.

That is all worthy of celebration and although the footy didn’t give us another reason to party, this was still a day worthy of celebration.

Happy Birthday Joshua!

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Saturday 10th July 2021

19th July is still earmarked as ‘Freedom Day’, which is wonderful from a ringing perspective in particular, as it should allow those who wish to ring together as we once did to do so again. However, there is still much trepidation and anxiety amongst some, including ringers of course, and understandably so with cases of Covid-19 still rising rapidly, even if subsequent hospital admissions and deaths mercifully aren’t.

Today I began asking for ringers for a peal attempt in earnest for the first time in sixteen months for after 19/7/21 for the fifth anniversary of Joshua’s birth tomorrow. As we aim to make the return as safe as possible whilst also enabling full-on ringing to get going again though, the tower in question reassuringly has some ground rules, with all participants needing to be double vaccinated and to log in with the NHS App with the QR code that is specific to the ringing chamber. Ventilation also shouldn’t be a problem. That said, I honestly have no idea what response I’ll get, as I can’t expect everyone who was once happy to ring in peals when I asked them pre-pandemic to necessarily be comfortable doing so again now, or at least not just yet. I shall not be trying to twist the arm of anyone who has any doubts and I hope that will be the case with anyone arranging any ringing.

Falkenham.Meanwhile, via the Suffolk Guild’s Facebook page, it was great to hear that also after the planned scrapping of restrictions in nine days time that Falkenham will be holding their first post-lockdown practice on the Thursday of that week (22nd). This ground-floor ring is one place where ventilation and space will be plentiful and pretty much as ideal as you can get in the current circumstances. They are a lovely little six to boot too! Hopefully they will get lots of support.

As I hope the latest issue (July) of Tower Talk – edited by Bardwell ringer Ruth Suggett – will get, as it is an upbeat edition that is full of useful articles and interesting stuff that I hope everyone takes the time to read, especially as we approach the 19th July and those potential new freedoms.

Although plenty are taking advantage of the relative freedom we already have in ringing in hand and on towerbells, there wasn’t anything in within our borders noted on BellBoard, albeit Essex-based St Mary-le-Tower ringer Nigel Newton and Past Ringing Master at the same tower Simon Rudd rang a quarter-peal of Richborough Delight Minor on Ringing Room.

Nor did we do any ringing on another day that painting, weeding, washing and tidying were our main tasks, although I took an interest in the thread on the Bellringers Facebook page that wondered if there would be ringing done in honour of the England men’s football team if they win the Euro 2020 final tomorrow and if there was any done to mark the nation’s victory in the 1966 World Cup final. On a day when we sadly lost Ipswich Town legend Paul Mariner, I thought back to my own research into whether ringing was done to celebrate the Tractor Boys’ triumphs in the FA Cup in 1978 and UEFA Cup in 1981 when he was playing for us. If such achievements occurred today I can’t imagine we could let it pass without doing something, but from the Annual Reports of 1978 and 1981 and looking through BellBoard, no mention is made in the footnotes of the ringing done in Suffolk at the time. I imagine it was perhaps deemed inappropriate at the time for ringing to be done in honour of things like football and others in the FB thread suggested it may still be now, but I’m hoping that we get to have that debate come Monday morning!

God willing, I hope we will also get the chance to debate and make judgments on whether to ring after 19th July.

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Friday 9th July 2021

St Clement.Lovely to see the footnote to today’s peal of Stedman Doubles at St Clement in Cornwall. When considering full-on ringing as I hope will happen post-19th July, it is a natural worry after so long without regular ringing on bells that the public will not be happy with bells ringing for two or three hours or for quarter-peals or even just Sunday mornings. It is easy to overlook that there are many residents – often more than we imagine I expect – actually really enjoy the sound of bells ringing out across their communities.

Not that we were doing any today, although we were again socializing with other ringers from Suffolk and beyond through Simon Rudd’s kind weekly invitation to his Friday night virtual pub, where chickens and the Sparling’s self-made gin were amongst the many subjects of discussion and Alfie showed off his thumb trick to the assembled ‘gathering’!

Ashbocking.Later, one of those present was achieving as Cathy Colman rang her first quarter-peal of Ringing Room Treble Place Major on the platform itself, whilst there was also the return of the FNQPC at Ashbocking with a 1296 of Plain Bob Minor. Which was lovely to see and although there aren’t many of them around this isolated ground-floor six, I hope it was as appreciated as that peal in Cornwall by the local residents!

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Thursday 8th July 2021

Today felt more about yesterday than today. The boys were surprisingly awake this morning after their very late night last night, but all the talk at the school gates was of the football, as it was in the news and even in the footnote of the 1320 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on handbells in Hereford.

And having commented that yesterday was the first day for two months that no peals had been rung, it seems one was rung after all, in Wedmore in Somerset, featuring one-time Suffolk ringer Barrie Hendry. There was no doubt that today was a peal ringing day though, with six rung nationwide.

Meanwhile on Ringing Room, well done to the band who rang their first quarter-peal of St Alban's Delight Minor - five of whom were from Suffolk - and to Norman Tower ringer Cathy Colman on ringing her first blows of I Can't Believe It's Not Yorkshire Surprise Major.

On a day when Joshua did his first school sports day but we weren't allowed to go and watch, there was no ringing for us today though. We were still getting over yesterday!

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Wednesday 7th July 2021

Pettistree.Typically on a day when Ruthie and I had rung a decent 1341 of Bourne Surprise Minor at Pettistree to an entertaining composition made up entirely of singles, that would be the main feature of our day.

However, it was the events unfolding at Wembley that had prompted me to ask for the QP to be brought forward (and thank you to the band for agreeing to that) that was the main focus of our day and night. Footy anthems were playing on the radio nearly all day, flags were flying and “Football’s Coming Home” was almost a standard greeting to anyone at school, work and in the shops, even at towers, where I wonder if it was just a coincidence that when the gaze of even lots of non-football fans were on a certain match, that today was the first day for a couple of months when no peals were noted on BellBoard!

Of course, it was all building up to England men’s semi-final with Denmark at Euro 2020 for what was to be an historic result, as for the first time in my thirty-plus years of following the Three Lions in tournaments and since the famous 1966 World Cup, they won a game to reach the final. That is due to be against Italy on Sunday, the fifth anniversary of Joshua’s birth and whilst his adorable request to invite Harry Kane round might be ambitious, he was delighted at the notion of them playing on his birthday! Indeed, both him and his brother Alfie did incredibly well to stop up until the end of the match, which due to extra time didn’t finish until almost 10.30pm. Although we may regret it in the morning!

Besides our own success earlier though, there was other ringing within our borders that was jostling with Sterling, Grealish, Southgate and co for headlines, as Tim Hart and David Sparling repeated their impressive performance of eleven Surprise Major methods in hand on Ringing Room and at least ensured that even if ringing wasn’t the biggest feature of today’s blog, it was still a fairly prominent one!

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Tuesday 6th July 2021

Bradfield St Clare.A visit from my mother to sign some paperwork and have a catch-up was the closest we got to anything ringing related personally today, on a day that was more balls than bells with the first of the Euro 2020 semi-finals to determine who we hope will be playing England in the final on Sunday being the main entertainment this evening. Although I also enjoyed looking through the CCCBR’s photo competition ‘Ringing throughout the Seasons’ which featured a photo of Bradfield St Clare from Suffolk. The next theme appears to be ‘Bells and Installations’, so get entering!

Ashbocking.There was ringing going on in the county though to add to yesterday’s tolling at Ashbocking by Elizabeth & Stephen ‘Podge’ Christian for the NHS, although the only performance involving anyone within our borders reported on BellBoard today was the 1728 of eleven Surprise Major methods spliced rung on Ringing Room that was the most spliced Major to a quarter-peal by Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart and St Mary-le-Tower ringer (though Essex resident) David Sparling.

Well done Tim and David on that impressive achievement and thank you for giving me some actual ringing to write about!

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Monday 5th July 2021

Do you remember when you could go out without having to ensure you’d got a mask with you? When you could enter a room without having to count how many people were in there? When you didn’t have to spend time with others without being anxious about getting ‘too close’ to them? When we could ring more than Minor on towerbells?

It is worth remembering that this was simply everyday life before. The freedom to do as you wish, so long as it wasn’t illegal, but it feels almost dreamy now, some kind of fantasy world. Unless anything terribly drastic occurs in the meantime though, today's announcement of what they hope will happen from 19th July should mean that we can regain those freedoms in just a fortnight.

Personally I can't wait, reassured by what seems to be the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments. With nothing to stop or even temper the deadliness of coronavirus, our ringing chambers were a potential death-trap. Over a year on, with a greater knowledge of the effect of ventilation on the virus backed up by a majority of adults being fully vaccinated (around 70% in Suffolk – I expect in ringing that percentage is even higher) and numbers in hospital low (a week ago the numbers in hospital with Covid across this whole county of over three quarter of a million people was in single figures), our ringing chambers are now far, far safer, even more so if we continue to keep them ventilated and keep sanitising our hands.

However, I am aware that for some, there is still understandable anxiety at returning to normal, especially after the necessarily alarming messaging of the last sixteen months. Some will be waiting to see how things go before getting back into a tower to ring and they should never feel pressured into going back, but I’m hoping that they will be reassured by the generally cautious approach that many ringers and towers appear to be taking towards the long awaited ‘Freedom Day’ that is due for two weeks time. A number insist they will still wear masks for now, and hand sanitising will remain in use.
And at St Mary-le-Tower it is planned that for the first month, Sunday morning ringing will be limited to ten ringers and on Monday evenings to twelve on a rota. Personally I don’t think it is necessary in an area that has the second lowest rates in the country and with the other precautions like ventilation and hand sanitising that will remain in place, but it hopefully offers further reassurance to those unsure about returning that this is still a careful comeback. I also entirely understand it, especially at a place like SMLT where conceivably we could have gone straight from the mere six allowed currently to twenty or even thirty people turning up, which may have been quite overwhelming in the circumstances.

All being well though, I really hope that at St Mary-le-Tower and everywhere else we return to the main USP of ringing to my mind, that any ringer can join any band and be welcomed in and God willing that should be perfectly possible in the coming weeks.

There are caveats though. There may still be a spanner in the works, with final confirmation of all restrictions going not strictly speaking due to happen for another week and we are yet to hear the Church of England’s response to all this – keep checking the CCCBR website for developments!

St Mary-le-Tower.Regardless of all that, for now we remain under the current restrictions that I pray will be the last we are ever subjected to and so this evening I went to ‘The Tower’ for another limited Minor practice, which (once our sixth member had got the message they were ringing!) was quite a fun session in the circumstances, with Surprise methods London, Primrose and Norwich rung individually and then spliced with Cambridge in a pleasing climax. All topped off by a drink in the damp beer garden of The Cricketers, having initially tried the Halberd Inn, only to find it closed “due to unforeseen circumstances”.

The Norman Tower.Elsewhere within our borders meanwhile, the main centre of ringing seems to have been Bury St Edmunds, where quarter-peals were rung on handbells and at The Norman Tower. Both were 1273s rung for NHS, Social Care & Frontline Workers’ Day on the seventy-third birthday of the National Health Service, an organisation we should remember has kept us going throughout this pandemic and helped get us to the point where we can hopefully regain all our freedoms in two weeks time.

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Sunday 4th July 2021

Woodbridge.Kudos to Bruce Wakefield on getting six ringers together at Woodbridge for this morning’s service ringing. Having got a sextet, two had to drop out, one to see family, the other with a bad wrist. Thanks to Elspeth Hilson and Bruce’s wife Gillian we were back up to the maximum number allowed in ringing chambers at the moment, but then one of the other local ringers turned up for ringing an hour early, forgetting that on the first Sunday of the month, services here are now held at 11am! Step in Jackie’s husband Peter to save the day and enable us to ring the front six – thank you Peter!

After that we attended the service and then returned home for more decorating, gardening and cooking, but no more ringing, but elsewhere in Suffolk others were ringing too, with another handbell quarter-peal rung in Moats Tye.

Hopefully they didn’t have as much trouble getting a band together as Bruce did!

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Saturday 3rd July 2021

A wonderfully busy day today that took us from home in Melton to Martlesham, Ipswich, Woodbridge, Orford and Rome (sort of). New shoes were (eventually!) bought for the boys, Ruthie contributed to a couple’s special day, we met dozens of friends and we ended the day elated along with most of the nation. I even found time to make a sausage pie for the first time!

SE District walk, © Mike Whitby.The replacing of Alfie & Joshua’s footwear seemed like the longest part of the day, taking us reluctantly to Martlesham and – having had no luck there – Ipswich and only just left enough time to grab lunch at our abode before my wife went to St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge to sing for a wedding, during which time I took my crash course in banger pastry. My culinary exploits done and dusted, my youngest sons and I collected their mother and we were off to Orford for the South-East District Meeting, and although we arrived too late to join the walk, we were in time to meet the walkers as they re-entered the village and join them for a drink at The Jolly Sailor, where the stunning views from the beer garden was compensation for dodging the giant hornet that seemed to be particularly attracted to bellringers!

It was lovely to see those who came along, but especially Norwich ringers Ros Burrough and her son Edward, the former of whom is a regular of Simon Rudd’s Friday night virtual pub. Although our paths must have crossed at ringing events before, this was the first time we had spoken in person rather than in our end of week video drinks and indeed it was mention of this event at last night’s ‘gathering’ that had encouraged our visitors to join us.

Come the evening and was my cooking was eaten, we were meeting another ringer, as local ringer Peter Faircloth came round to watch England thrash Ukraine 4-0 in Italy’s capital at Euro 2020 on the TV, which set up their first semi-final in this competition for twenty-five years. It was great to catch up with Pete over a few beers. Impressive too that Alfred stopped up to watch it all, although with the next game due to kick-off at 8pm on Wednesday we may have a difficult decision to make on whether to let him stay up late on a school night to watch it!

For all that activity though, oddly we didn’t do any ringing, especially as it involved an event for ringers! However, current restrictions meant that I couldn’t volunteer to ring for the wedding at Woodbridge – where call-changes on six were rung - as the boys wouldn’t have been able to sit in the ringing chamber whilst I rang and they also made it impractical to hold a District Practice that might have reasonably expected ten-to-twenty attending and of course limited to just six in the room to ring on this 10cwt eight, although we did visit the church.

Still, others in Suffolk did manage some ringing. On handbells, the Colman family rang a quarter-peal in Bury St Edmunds to celebrate the eightieth birthday of one of the true stalwarts of the Guild, Winston Girling, an occasion also marked by Catherine in the transatlantic 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on Ringing Room. He was already one of the members I looked up to by the time I became SGR Ringing Master, but as the Chairman at that time he was a big help to me and he has done a huge amount of work with the BAC and is deservedly a Vice President of the organisation he has served for over sixty-five years. Happy Birthday Winston!

Barham.I’m sure he is delighted to see the main ringing headline from within the county, with the first quarter-peal rung on the newly augmented six at Barham, an important landmark for any new project. I imagine a peal isn’t too far behind!

God willing I’ll have the opportunity to ring on them soon. If I’m not too busy!

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Friday 2nd July 2021

Even as things open out, one of the few good things to come out of the last sixteen months has been our weekly meeting in Simon Rudd’s virtual pub and although there were penalty shoot-outs at the Euros and Andy Murray playing at Wimbledon in the background, a group of us joined him this evening for more joviality, with ringing for weddings and late brides amongst the subject matter as Simon had rung for a wedding last Saturday where the bride was half an hour late. It prompted others to recall ringing for their wedding, including ourselves where I essentially rang Ruthie in at Woodbridge!

No ringing for us and none reported on BellBoard from Suffolk today, but our host Mr Rudd was fresh from scoring a quarter-peal of the not too simple Fermanagh Surprise Royal on Ringing Room with friends from across the UK. Something else that is one of the few good things to come out of the last sixteen months.

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Thursday 1st July 2021

There is stuff planned for this month and indeed in the immediate future. Tomorrow the plan is that South-East District members meet at 3pm in the car park in Orford Quay for a walk around a beautiful part of the world. Sadly no ringing is planned on the 10cwt eight as restrictions make it impractical, but it will be nice for members to meet in person and hopefully a lovely afternoon for a wander.

Meanwhile, I happened across a number of purple banners during the course of my day reminding folk that Monday is earmarked for NHS, Social Care & Frontline Workers Day. Ringers have been asked to mark the occasion and although we can’t do so entirely in the way that we might have done, I hope that as many of Suffolk’s towers as possible can ring out in support with general ringing and/or even quarter-peals. More details can be found on the CCCBR’s website.

Today saw things happening in the county too, with a peal rung on handbells in Bacton and a quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung at The Norman Tower, the latter of which I listened to the start of on Facebook thanks to Ben Keating.

God willing there’ll be more of the same as the month goes along.

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Wednesday 30th June 2021

Worcester Cathedral.Young ringers are the main focus of CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog entry. There is the Ringing World National Youth Contest, which as things stand is due to go ahead on Saturday 11th September in Worcester, one of the most important ringing events to get up and running again once the restrictions are God willing scrapped on 19th July, even if it is being held a couple of months later than it usually is. It is mentioned in Simon’s scribblings as it is where it is planned to launch the Young Change Ringers Association, which he has already mentioned and sounds an exciting way of helping young ringers who can sometimes feel a bit isolated amongst a sea of us oldies, however well-meaning we might be.

Also sounding exciting is something else that the President mentions, as he outlines the progress of the project to introduce ringing into the National Curriculum, with Jason Hughes – who I used to ring and socialise with occasionally during my days ringing in the Midlands - developing lesson plans that can be taught by non-ringers. Who knows what this could do in attracting young ringers to the art?

In the here and now though, with the peals in hand in Leicester, Liverpool and Portsmouth meant that there was at least one peal rung on every day in June, the first calendar month that this has happened since February 2020. Hopefully this will be the norm again, as it was before the pandemic.

Pettistree.Meanwhile, some of Suffolk’s handbell ringers were continuing their progress with a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major rung in Hasketon and there was a quarter-peal at Pettistree for those selected this week, but for us it was a normal day of schooling, work and spending time with our own potential young ringers.

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Tuesday 29th June 2021

One of my ambitions for when I am allowed to return to full-on ringing is to be entirely familiar and comfortable with a range of Project Pickled Egg methods in much the same way as I am with the ‘standard’ Surprise Major methods. PPE – for all that the acronym is better known for something else now – is the increasingly popular project to introduce more Treble Dodging Major methods to the repertoire of ringers, whether they are just starting out on the world of TD Major or experienced and looking to ring ever more complicated but musical and satisfying peals.

For a while a few weeks ago, I was practicing a selection regularly with Wheatley on Ringing Room, ideally on a daily basis, with the Cast of 1000 sessions giving me a monthly focus. Recently though, with those sessions not due to resume until September and distractions like watching the Euros and more socialising with restrictions easing, I haven’t been able to practice quite so often. In fact, it has probably been a fortnight or so since I last gave them a go, but this break has arguably proved to be a useful litmus test of how ingrained these methods have become. For over my lunchbreak, I gave some of them of a blast, with Lessness, then Kenninghall, Deva and even Glasgow recalled with no revision. Indeed, only Cooktown Orchid Delight needed a brief glance at the line beforehand. Not all of it was perfect, but most of it was well-rung and they seem to be settling down in the correct part of the brain!

My efforts also helped settle the nerves ahead of what was occurring immediately after work as England took on Germany in Euro 2020. Facing the Germans is usually where our tournaments end (not to mention that we had only ever won one knockout match in the men’s European Championships and that was via a penalty shoot-out twenty-five years ago) and so in keeping with many English fans, I was fully expecting the worst. In the end, we needn’t have worried as England won 2-0 to continue their participation into the quarter-finals in front of more than 40,000 supporters in what – after a year of empty or near-empty stadiums – was a movingly boisterous, noisy Wembley Stadium.

Meanwhile, well done to Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart on ringing his first quarter-peal of Major ‘in hand’ as conductor with the 1280 of Yorkshire on RR. I’m not sure I can even contemplate ringing Yorkshire on handbells, let alone call a QP of it with two bells under my control, but at least it is one PPE method that I don’t have to familiarise myself with!

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Monday 28th June 2021

If I’m perfectly honest, bar the usual vital weekday occupations of work and family life, my attentions were mainly grabbed by a thrilling evening of football at Euro 2020, as I watched two games that both involved extra-time and between them fourteen goals, with both matches seeing teams coming back from 3-1 down in the last few minutes and even a penalty shoot-out thrown in for extra entertainment value.

However, in this ringing blog, you’ll be pleased to know there was ringing to report too, including here in Suffolk, where yesterday’s handbell band in Bury St Edmunds was augmented by Past Guild Peal Secretary Alan Mayle for a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major. Meanwhile, in ringing 120 changes of Durham Surprise Minor on Ringing Room today, the Halesworth band completed a lockdown project to ring all forty-one of the standard Surprise Minor methods. Well done to them all, especially Pete Lock, SGR Secretary Kate Gill and Past Guild Chairman Philip Gorrod on ringing them all, but also to Keith Dennis and Nick Hughes on ringing thirty or more of the methods.

Elsewhere in the exercise, the latest edition of the Survival & Recovery newsletter is out, kicked-off by St Mary-le-Tower ringer David Sparling. The last issue in April spoke of hoping to no longer speak of survival. Pleasingly, apart from in the title, I can’t find a single mention of it, with recovery very much the dominant theme as we hope to return fully to our ringing chambers in the coming weeks. Please do read every word. Even before watching football.

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Sunday 27th June 2021

CambridgeUniversityGuildBand. I missed it when it was rung on Wednesday, but when I saw it mentioned on the Bellringers Facebook page today, I was impressed by the ringing of Original (essentially Plain Hunt) on twenty-eight handbells by the Cambridge University Guild, apparently followed by Rounds on sixty-six! Not exactly cutting edge stuff and someone in the thread that followed thought that change-ringing in hand may have been done on thirty-two, but it is still quite mind-boggling and would’ve taken an incredible amount of focus. And it is nice to see a young band doing something different and showing such enthusiasm for pushing boundaries, all of which bodes well for the future of the art at a time when we will need as much enthusiasm as possible. Such numerically large, youthful bands would also be much appreciated!

There were no problems getting numbers for service ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this morning though. Indeed, with only six allowed to ring, we met seven! When imparting the band via WhatsApp – which has become the primary form of communication for the SMLT band over the pandemic – it was done with initials. Fine for most, but it was overlooked that DP for Diana Pipe could also mean DP for David Potts! Therefore, when we arrived on the drag, we were greeted by the Tower Ringing Master ready to ring. Instead, he listened from the churchyard whilst Di rang with us upstairs, before meeting us in Costa Coffee afterwards, the first the boys, Ruthie and myself have been inside this once familiar haunt for over fifteen months.

Cracked rope guide.Even if we aren’t allowed to ring them all yet, at least the county’s heaviest twelve have all their bells available, unlike at Woodbridge, where there have been developments since what we believed at the time to be the seventh slipping its wheel a week ago. Upon inspection, it transpires that actually the rope guide that directs the rope down to the pulley had split and the rope had become jammed in the crack, meaning that this bell is out of action for a while. They were still able to ring the front six today and of course they aren’t allowed to ring all eight anyway, but is very unfortunate and very frustrating for the local ringers.

Presumably there was less frustration for the Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson, Past Master of the SGR Jed Flatters and Trustee of The Vestey Ring and the organisation’s handbells Brian Whiting on completing their handbell quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor in Bury St Edmunds, but more frustration in our household as attempts to put up a new wall bracket for our TV ended in failure due to some oddly placed material in our walls. We even got in gratefully received family help, but the job was just too difficult, unexpectedly so.

How many people will it take to get our wall bracket up? Hopefully not as many as it takes to ring Original Twenty-Eight.

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Saturday 26th June 2021

Clare. This week’s issue of The Ringing World arrived with us today. There were Suffolk links, with a small piece on the appearance of Clare’s bells on our local BBC Radio Station during Suffolk Day and a letter from Norman Tower ringer Ian Holland about past investigations on the potential for putting bells in the tower at Ely Cathedral.

Huntsham.However, other content caught my eye. Such as the response from Robert Brown to a letter asking for an explanation of the four peals rung at Huntsham in Devon since restrictions on indoor mixing eased on 17th May. He assures readers that even if it wasn’t within the CCCBR guidelines, it was fully legal and above board in the context of the rules of the country, with the quartet of peals all carried out with just six ringers on this 8cwt eight, as per the rule-of-six. It is worth reiterating that the time limit of forty-five minutes is just guidance from the Central Council. After all, there is no time limit at all for indoor mixing generally and as with pretty much all ringing I am aware of, efforts to ensure these peals were safe was far more thorough than most other meetings with other households in wider society, as the ringers were all fully vaccinated, tested and with no symptoms and they even took into consideration local infection rates and of course ventilation. Additionally and again in common with most ringing performances, if someone did fall ill, the track and tracing would also be far quicker and more straightforward than from many interactions in supermarkets, pubs, concert venues, etc.

Robert makes no mention of it, but presumably the peals were also carried out with the full knowledge and blessing of the incumbent and this is important going forward, as we need to work with them even after restrictions are lifted - God willing on 19th July – as we seek to reassure understandably anxious rectors. We can’t be gung-ho about our return and nor should anyone who is uncomfortable about returning to full-on ringing feel pressured into coming back. However, as one doctor in the news recently said, we need to start treating the virus with some proportionality. It isn’t going away anytime soon, but whilst the recent rapid rise in cases appears alarming, if the vaccines are still keeping the vast majority from even ending up in hospital as the evidence appears to suggest, this is a virus that should be as under control as we can expect for the foreseeable future and something we ought to be able to live with as we have done for time immemorial with other viruses and illness. We will still have to continue with caution, but with the research into ventilation in ringing chambers by David Pouncey and the increased ringing activity with no major issues thus far, I hope more and more ringers feel reassured enough to contribute to ringing’s recovery in the coming months.

Connected to that, there is another aspect that we have to consider as our towers start ringing out over their communities – our neighbours. For fifteen months, local residents will no doubt have got used to the silence that has been the case for the majority of the time, so the piece at the end of this RW on complaints about the clock at Kenton in Devon should serve as a reminder to us all – if we need it – to work with locals as the amount of ringing increases. This may be about the clock chiming in the middle of the night rather than change-ringing on the 12cwt six, but the fact that it has taken just one person complaining a mere four years after moving into the village shows how potentially little it can take to cause issues for ringers. The article points people in the direction of the CC’s Complaints Helpline of 07503 152 223 and and the advice on offer at Please take note of these details if you haven’t already. Hopefully you won’t need them, but if the worse does happen it may be an invaluable source of help and advice.

On a more positive note though, I hope the introduction of The Little Purple Ringing Book on the back page will offer those returning ringers assistance. It seems to be based on the reference section of the Ringing World Diary, but much more expansive. There is more information via the RW’s shop, including a link to the article in the ‘Comic’.

We weren’t contributing anything to the art today ourselves, although we did see one other ringer as we took advantage of an unusually hot, sunny day for the time being to go round to mother-in-law Kate’s for tea and to help the boys’ Grandad Ron to sort the shed out! Nothing worthy of inclusion in The Ringing World though.

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Friday 25th June 2021

Guildford Cathedral, the South Front. - - 136670A year ago, I spoke of my hopes that by today people (who knows, maybe even us) would be gathering in Guildford for tomorrow’s National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final. Of course, precisely twelve months on, we are still in the position where it isn’t deemed safe for twelve people to gather in the same room (even one as vast as the Cathedral’s ringing chamber), let alone hundreds more there for the occasion and so today I write in the hope that in 365 days we will finally, finally be released and able to have unlimited numbers in the Surrey city for the biggest event in world ringing. The event’s Facebook page (now renamed 2022) gently stoked the anticipation by suggesting that Exeter – who won the competition when it was last held in 2019 – might win to keep the Taylor Trophy in Devon for a fourth year, whilst there also seemed to be activity on their Instagram profile. Although I can’t see exactly what on the latter what without signing into the site. Which I tried, but it wouldn’t let me. Presumably I’m too old.

I may not be able to get the hang of Instagram, but at least the last fifteen months have seen me become proficient at Zoom, which is fortunate as it has at times been a vital social outlet. It continues to be a useful focal point on Friday evenings where Simon Rudd invites friends to join him for a drink and chat in his virtual pub, but on this occasion it felt almost like a drop-in centre! Our host briefly opened proceedings from the home of Neil & Nikki Thomas (the latter quite rightly chuffed having earlier rung an achievement-laden handbell quarter of Norwich Surprise Minor, which like us at Pettistree had been scored after proving elusive for so long!), before disappearing to ring a successful 1344 of Little Bob Major in hand, whilst the Sparlings also made a brief appearance before going out for dinner. Those of us who remained entertained ourselves by exploring the sights of Campton and its surroundings and comparing glass sizes.

Earlier, the entertainment came in the form of good old-fashioned face-to-face socialising in our home, as Ruthie’s best friend and bridesmaid from our wedding (almost nine years ago now!) Fergie introduced us to her boyfriend Anthony and his daughter. We spent a wonderful hour or two eating Harry Potter sweets with disgusting flavours (I definitely got vomit!) and catching-up.

However, I pray that in a year we will have the opportunity to be in Guildford at the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest Final.

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Thursday 24th June 2021

Melton Old.Singing rather than ringing was the most notable aspect of our day, as after over a year of meeting with the Woodbridge Illuminati Choir on Zoom, Ruthie met with them in person this evening. With more than six of them gathering it had to be done outside of course, but along with being able to do it in the gloriously secluded churchyard of Melton Old Church (home to a single 5 cwt Miles Graye bell), much like ringing even in our less than satisfactory current circumstances is still better than having to do everything online, it was wonderful for my wife to be able to sing with others in such numbers.

Once I'd got the boys to bed in her absence, there wasn't time to check out any open Ringing Room sessions, as I had contemplated. However, others did get onto RR, although in Suffolk one of the usual RR bands were ringing real handbells together in real life! Well done to Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart on ringing his first of Rutland Surprise Major in hand - thus completing the 'Standard' eight to handbell quarters – and his first in the method on real handbells in the 1280 rung in the Cloister Gardens of Bury St Edmunds Cathedral.

Great to hear of ringing as well as singing in the county.

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Wednesday 23rd June 2021

Norwich Surprise Minor. It proved elusive to us as a Pettistree band attempted to ring a quarter-peal of it on Ringing Room over the wearing, tough, dark winter. Attempt after attempt was lost for reasons ranging from human error to internet issues as this familiar staple of our extensive six-bell repertoire failed to go. It suddenly felt quite unattainable.

Pettistree. Back on the ground-floor ring on this sunny evening though and it was once again routine as we rang in what was certainly the best quarter-peal I’ve rung in since we were allowed back onto towerbells over a month ago and maybe even the best ringing that I’ve been involved in over that time full-stop. Although there were a handful of dropped strokes, there were no discernible method mistakes, the striking was decent and rhythm generally consistent, with conductor and tenor ringer Mike Whitby only needing to check the speed occasionally.

It was a lovely culmination to a lovely evening that had earlier seen us celebrate our niece Katelynn’s ninth birthday with KFC, cake – and for the children – the hot tub.

Meanwhile, ours wasn’t the only ringing in Suffolk today, with a handbell quarter rung in Moats Tye and another impressive transatlantic QP featuring five ringers from the west of the county and Val Hewer from Eastern Ontario. Well done to Stephen Dawson, Andrea Alderton and North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner on ringing their first of Kentish Delight Minor in the 1320 rung on RR.

Clearly not an elusive method for them!

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Tuesday 22nd June 2021

For a Tuesday evening it was quite a social occasion, as I watched England’s latest match in Euro 2020, with Alfie for the first half whilst his mother made an unplanned trip to Tesco and then in the second half with Ruthie and then an impromptu video catch-up with some of my uni mates as we watched the footy together from hundreds of miles apart.

It all left little time for ringing, online, on handbells or on towerbells, but at least one other ringer from Suffolk was ringing, as Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart rang his first quarter-peal of Bristol Surprise Major in hand in the 1312 on Ringing Room which was also St Mary-le-Tower ringer David Sparling’s one hundredth on the platform. Well done Tim and congratulations David!

Meanwhile, there is now a page on this website recording the performances and photos from the county’s response to Prince Philip’s death in April, as well as a letter of thanks from HM Lord Lieutenant, Clare, Countess of Euston, which should form an interesting record of a significant of a historic moment. If you have anything to add then I’m sure it’ll be most welcome.

There is also now a link to the approved GMC minutes from February’s meeting. On a typical Tuesday evening, it might have helped pass a few minutes, but there was no time this evening as we were too busy being social!

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Monday 21st June 2021

It had been hoped that today would be ‘Freedom Day’, the first day in fifteen months where we could go about our lives completely free of coronavirus restrictions. Of course, we discovered a week ago that it wouldn’t be the case and that we shall have to wait until at least 19th July to get back to normal life (or at least as much as people will allow), including full-on ringing.

Therefore, this evening, we were again restricted to six ringers at St Mary-le-Tower where we rang a quarter-peal that was already my fourth since we returned to ringing chambers over a month ago, but a useful one in particular for Karina Wiseman, whose steady progress – bar a spot of handbell ringing since – was brought to a shuddering halt when we were forced to top ringing towerbells in March last year. Already reassured by living and ringing in a county where if the rates had been replicated countrywide would’ve probably seen us free to get on with life today, I was further encouraged by the research done by David Pouncey on CO2 levels in ringing chambers and imparted in the latest issue of The Ringing World, which arrived at ours this morning, complete with a photo of St Paul’s Cathedral taken by former Great Barton ringer Alex Tatlow. In the article running through the results, he backs up what I have suspected from my ringing at places like SMLT and Woodbridge where I initially feared ventilation wouldn’t be great enough as to be safe for a return of more than six ringers. After experimenting with various degrees of ventilation at a variety of types of ringing chambers, David concludes that with ventilation, even the smallest ringing chambers can be considered safe to ring in, although ventilation is still important at the moment.

Cart Shed, Moats Tye. The Norman Tower. Woolpit. Clare. St Lawrence.
Ringing for Suffolk Day

There was certainly no issues with ventilation when we sat outside The Cricketers in their wet beer garden to celebrate conductor Colin Salter’s birthday after ringing at the end of a day that was also Suffolk Day. Whilst this couldn’t be celebrated with quite the gay abandon that had been hoped for until recently, ringing did its bit to mark the day, with a brace of QPs of Major in hand – one of Plain Bob and one of spliced – in Moats Tye and more towerbell quarters at The Norman Tower and Woolpit. Meanwhile, call-changes were rung in Clare where Mark Murphy was broadcasting his breakfast show on BBC Radio Suffolk and which can be heard in the background over the last ten-fifteen minutes of his programme (and they get a mention about three minutes before the end and also with Bishop Martin Sealy – the Guild’s President – in the final interview) and a photo of birthday boy Colin with his mother and SGR Ringing Master Katharine appeared in the copy of the East Anglian Daily Times which was delivered to us today for some reason, for the ringing they did with Bruce & Gill Wakefield and Peter Davies at St Lawrence, which was also mentioned on the EADT website.

Additionally, Tim Hart of Bury St Edmunds rang in the 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major on Ringing Room.

Freedom Day may not have transpired today, but it felt like the county’s ringers had been freed today.

Happy Suffolk Day!

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Sunday 20th June 2021

Woodbridge.I much prefer ringing the back six at Woodbridge to ringing the front six, primarily because the sound is more complete and pleasant with the tenor of the entire ring at the end. It isn’t always practical, with getting the 16cwt seventh and 25cwt eighth up not a quick job, especially on a Sunday morning when time is tighter, so it was lovely to ring the back six today. For all of ten seconds. That was how long it was until the rope slipped wheel on poor Peter Mayer on the seventh, jamming the rope tight as the bell rang itself down, the third different bell that has happened to here since ringers returned to the tower last month. Whether it is weather conditions or that they haven’t been rung much over the last fifteen months, a combination or something else, it is unfortunate.

On this occasion it meant Peter moving round to the treble in this spacious room and so it wasn’t disastrous and I was pleased to still be able to enjoy the view from the tenor box of the River Deben going off towards Bawdsey and the North Sea. The best view in Suffolk ringing in my opinion, even if today it was a little misty and murky!

With the receiving of cards, handmade presents and beers from the boys and Ruthie beforehand and the service afterwards, it was a pleasant way to start Father’s Day, a poignant one with it being the first one since Dad died, but a really nice one, as my wife made chocolate cake, Alfie got his Ipswich Town Monopoly board game out and we popped round to Kate’s to hand out cards to their Grandad Ron.

And at least I got to do some ringing on the back six at Woodbridge. Even if it was ever so briefly!

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Saturday 19th June 2021

On the BBC News website today appears an article about residents’ reaction to Ipswich having the lowest Covid rates in the country currently. I raise it not just to reassure. Although with just five cases in 100,000 it suggests you’ll struggle to come across anyone with coronavirus (even less so to catch it, even less so to get ill enough to end up in hospital and even less so – God forbid – to die from it) in a full house at Portman Road, let alone a ringing practice with even 20-30 people in attendance. Rather, I highlight it because it features a ringer, with St Mary-le-Tower youngster Karina Wiseman among those asked for her opinion. And a very wise one it was too!

Meanwhile, the other Suffolk ringers making headlines were the band who rang the quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major in hand rung in Bury St Edmunds in a success that seems to be becoming pleasingly routine.

Orford Castle Keep No such endeavours or headline-making for us though. However, hopefully we are closing in on the return of plenty of ringing choice on Saturdays, outlined by an email from South-East District Secretary Abby Antrobus to District members yesterday about the hopes and plans for forthcoming events. With it still not possible to have more than six people in a ringing chamber at once, they have sensibly elected to have a walk around Orford followed by refreshments without any ringing for their July event in precisely a fortnight, but on Saturday 7th August the hope is for ringing at a tower to be confirmed and then on Saturday 4th September to hold the annual Quarter-Peal evening followed by a meal that has typically been held in August and proved very popular over the years.

God willing that will all be happening in the coming months, but for today there was no ringing for us as instead we were invited round to the abode of our friends Charlotte and Gregory and their daughters for a defiant BBQ under the cloud and occasional spit of rain. Leaving it to others to make the headlines.

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Friday 18th June 2021

It was a day of youngsters achieving in the exercise.

30240 Spliced Treble Dodging Minor band.Most notably, the young trio of Alex Riley and the Page brothers Daniel and Jack rang an astonishing 30240 changes in 212 Treble Dodging Minor methods on handbells in Reading in 10hrs 14mins, some of which was recorded and shared on the Bellringers Facebook page and was absolutely mesmerising. I don’t know Daniel and Jack, but as a fellow Rambling Ringer we have rung much with Alex over the last few years and along with his also talented sibling Luke they were very patient and superb company for Mason, Alfie and Joshua on various campsites whilst on tour! I’m particularly chuffed for him, but impressed with all three.

As I was with a Suffolk ringer of the younger generation who was also achieving today. Well done to Nathan Colman on ringing his first of Surprise on two bells in the 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor on Ringing Room. It may not be quite as headline grabbing as the long length rung in Berkshire, but its more than I have ever managed (not that that is a particularly high bar!) and it is laudable how Nathan has used RR to progress his ringing to such an extent!

Our activities were nowhere near as interesting, with the most exciting part of our day being watching the 0-0 draw between England and Scotland at Euro2020 on the TV.

Thank goodness for younger ringers achieving!

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Thursday 17th June 2021

Buckfast Abbey, Buckfastleigh, Devon 8 Today, I came across a video on YouTube of the 41cwt twelve at Buckfast Abbey being rung up in three minutes, controlled but brisk with no discernible faults. Very impressive, although the amount of effort and numbers needed is a reminder why we don’t regularly ring the 35cwt twelve at St Mary-le-Tower up and down in peal! Well worth a watch though!

And worth a read is today’s latest update from President Simon Linford on the CCCBR’s conversations with the House of Bishops Recovery Group, which reiterates that current guidance around ringing remains until 19th July. Simon finishes the announcement by highlighting that we do our ringing on church property and for all that we may feel we own the bells (with good reason in many cases as they have been maintained and paid for by ringers and ringers-initiated fundraising), when we ring church bells we are ringing them on church property and so – and this is actually true, Covid-19 or no Covid-19 – we have to respect the wishes of incumbents. This may allow greater flexibility, as some will be happy for ringers to ring longer than the forty-five minutes (which remains the recommended length of time of ringing), as some have shown already with peals rung on some towerbells. However, it also means that in some places ringing may still be restricted by understandably anxious incumbents even after all restrictions generally are lifted. All the more reason to work with them now and build up trust with them.

Meanwhile, there was a quarter-peal rung at The Norman Tower on what is now their practice night, albeit they haven't been able to hold one in its new slot as Covid struck before the actual switch from Tuesday to Thursday could happen.

God willing they'll be able to do that very soon. And hopefully the twelve at Buckfast Abbey can be raised as impressively in the near future too.

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Wednesday 16th June 2021

Pettistree.I’ve been more comfortable in quarter-peals. On a muggy evening, pulling the fifth at Pettistree as the fourth of the back five back and forth into a 1260 of Doubles with a rope that was too long (it was that or a knot which I’m also not mad about!) saw me get my first blisters of my return to real life towerbell ringing. With lots of going between thirds and fifths in quick succession with St Martin’s, St Nicholas, St Simon’s Bob and Winchendon Place amongst the seven methods (Grandsire, Plain Bob and Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place were the other three) rung with a course of Stedman, there was lots of heaving this not-always obedient bell in different directions in quick succession and having to wear a facemask didn’t take away any of the discomfort!

Still, even though this is already my third quarter on these bells since restrictions eased, I still feel incredibly grateful to be able to do this much, even if I’m chomping at the bit to release the shackles fully as soon as possible. And with only myself from the Eagle-Munnings bubble ringing on this occasion, it meant that I didn’t have to ring one of the front three (which are the only ones in the tower where the ropes fall less than a metre apart) and that I could have a change of scenery. However, without Ruthie and Kate forming our trio, it wasn’t possible to ring all six under current guidance, although as a bubble of two, Pippa and Mike were able to ring the second and third to at least allow the back five to be rung rather than any odd combinations.

Whilst the ringing may have been uncomfortable, post-ringing was exactly the opposite as the band relaxed outside The Greyhound next door, where discussions were undertaken with landlord Stewart (once we’d gently pulled this Scot’s leg over the football!) about the ringers meal we had planned for here on 3rd July, but which now has been complicated with the continuation of current restrictions.

God willing those restrictions will be in place only a month more and we can soon be ringing more QPs and peals on towerbells. Even uncomfortable ones!

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Tuesday 15th June 2021

It was a quiet day personally, on pretty much every front, including ringing.

I did do something very important though, as I did my safeguarding training course. It may seem like red tape and unnecessary red tape to some, but if we are to attract young ringers in particular, it is imperative that parents, guardians and learners trust that ringing is done in a safe environment. Much of it is common sense, but it can sometimes make you think of things that you wouldn’t have thought of and should help prepare you for potential difficult situations.

Having done that, I had time to read CCCBR President Simon Linford’s latest blog, which mentions in passing the Cast of 1000 session I had with him on Saturday and plans for this project moving forward. He also makes a prediction that we will never see as many peals rung as were rung pre-pandemic and he may well be right. Many who spent every weekend (and quite a few who then also spent most weekdays) peal-ringing will likely not return to such levels for all sorts of reasons from finding they have got used to the extra time not peal-ringing has freed up, to ill-health, to understandable anxiety about spending three or four hours indoors with other people. And I envisage it will be very difficult to peals going at once regular haunts after such a long break.

However, I really hope that things do pick-up as I still believe that a strong peal-ringing scene is hugely beneficial to the art, often filtering down higher standards from striking and method retention honed from concerted, focused ringing across 5000+ changes, not to mention the social element and that it is an aspirational element that has helped engage and retain many ringers who would otherwise have been lost to the art. Personally I would find ringing a lot less fulfilling without peal-ringing, as I would without outings or tours for example. My mind has already turned to potential peal opportunities post 19th July.

Hopefully it’ll also lead to fewer days as quiet as today.

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Monday 14th June 2021

And with that 21st June became 19th July. There were sighs and much rolling of eyes and for those whose livelihoods and businesses were relying on the roadmap out of restrictions ending next week in order to get going again there is much fear. However, we can’t say we didn’t know it was coming and it was always stated that 21/6 was the earliest things would happen. As desperate as I am to get back to normal and whatever people’s thoughts on how well or badly they think this has all been handled, this seems to be a sensible move to allow as many people to get fully vaccinated as possible and closer to finishing the job of allowing society – including ringing - to open up safely.

There seems to be more certainty about all restrictions lifting in five weeks time and God willing that will mean lifting all restrictions, social distancing et al, but sadly for now ringing continues in its restricted form as it is currently, as confirmed by the CCCBR. That said, there are hints that the suggested time limit of forty-five minutes may be removed, which would make sense. Quite a few bands have already ignored it to ring peals and whilst that isn’t a reason in itself to abandon the time limit, it was just guidance and of course the general rules set no time limit for being indoors, so this would be a move that would make sense.

Suffolk’s ringers were ringing within the current guidelines today though, with an invited band of six ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for practice night, whilst a handbell quarter was rung in Bury St Edmunds 150 years to the day since the death of Henry Hobart of Bildeston and across town Nathan Colman rang in the 1280 of Crick Major (Yorkshire Surprise Major with places instead of the three-pull dodge in 5-6) on Ringing Room which was the first in the method for all the band. Well done Nathan!

Here’s hoping he – and all of us - will be able to do such things on real bells in five weeks time.

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Sunday 13th June 2021

There was a change of scenery for us this morning as we visited a new church. Our venue today was St Felix church in Rendlesham, where our friend Greg was being commissioned as an Elder. I’m not really a fan of modern churches and this is a church that largely holds no interest as it has no ring of bells, but it undoubtedly serves a purpose in this growing community and the congregation were incredibly welcoming. It was lovely as well to catch up with the new Elder, his wife Charlotte and their daughters – our Goddaughters – Ava and Bea, as well as former rector at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, Kevan McCormack and ringer from there Alison Wintgens – fresh from ringing on the front six of the 25cwt eight – who were offering support to Greg.

It was all followed by a glass of fizzy to celebrate, which set us up nicely for an afternoon of watching England’s first match of Euro 2021 with a beer or two in hand as they beat Croatia 1-0 to continue the celebratory mood.

Although we weren’t a part of any of it, that mood also continued in the county’s ringing, especially in Bury St Edmunds where a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major was rung on handbells simultaneously with one of Cambridge Surprise Minor on six of the twelve bells at The Norman Tower.

Which was a change of scenery for some of the band.

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Saturday 12th June 2021

Dad’s Grave with flowers in Sproughton churchyard.Whilst yesterday was Dad’s birthday and I spoke to Mum on the phone, this morning was our first chance to visit his grave in the churchyard of All Saints church in Sproughton where he did so much of his ringing on the 8cwt gallery ring of six. There is no stone there yet, but flowers were laid there on Friday by mother and my brother Chris and we were pleased to add some flowers of our own on what is my parents’ forty-fifth wedding anniversary, before an impromptu game of tag with the boys. Such a mixture of the poignant and play seemed like something that he would have approved of.

There was no opportunity to ring the bells that I did the majority of my ringing learning on, but I did do some ringing later, albeit on Ringing Room as I joined the last of the Cast of 1000 sessions that is due to take place online. After the summer holidays and hopefully accompanied with the complete relaxation of the restrictions we have been burdened with for fifteen months, these will be held on actual towerbells, which I will be extremely glad of. This afternoon’s practice was still an extremely productive and enjoyable hour-and-a-half though, led by CCCBR President Simon Linford and including much spliced featuring Cornwall, Deva, Lessness and Kenninghall Surprise Major, as well as a course of Glasgow before our leader had to leave promptly at the end for an editorial meeting about his Project Pickled Egg book.

That left the rest of our evening, which having been relieved to discover we hadn’t just watched a player die on the pitch in the European Championships was a fairly laid back, relaxed affair to end an emotional day.

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Friday 11th June 2021

It was a bittersweet day, but the sweet definitely overcame the bitter.

The 2020 men’s football European Championship kicked off in Rome with a pared back opening ceremony and partially filled stadium, but at least there were spectators present, creating an atmosphere. And although delayed by a year and being held across the continent in a way that most fans (and environmentalists!) are not keen on, that it is happening at all is uplifting after the last fifteen months.

Football wasn’t our main focus today though. Rather it was birthdays.

Keanu Heaves & Polly Pingwald.For today was the first anniversary of my father Alan’s birth since he died and I’d be lying if it didn’t play on my mind at times, but another birthday completely overcame the melancholy, as we joined former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross to celebrate the anniversary of her birth. Her celebrations took the form of a murder mystery on Zoom and although bizarrely the game didn’t offer up an answer on who the murderer was, we had a great time with the 1980s theme, dressing up and playing the roles of Keanu Heaves and Polly Pingwald (quite brilliantly in my wife’s case, to the extent that she was the joint winner of the vote for best performer!) with the birthday girl and her friends, some of whom we had never met, some of whom we had met through other social occasions, others who we knew through ringing.

Even after the games ended and my wig was pulled off, the party continued and we enjoyed chatting away and catching up as Friday became Saturday.

Meanwhile, well done to Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman who called a quarter-peal whilst ringing two bells for the first time, in the transatlantic and transcontinental 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung on Ringing Room. Definitely seems to have been more a sweet then bitter day for Nathan!

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Thursday 10th June 2021

My day started with bumping into a Suffolk ringer and ended with watching a Suffolk ringer.

Doing the school run I had the pleasure of catching up with Nigel Bond, who I used to ring with at Hollesley and after trading customary playful insults, it was great to hear he was keeping well.

Come the evening, whilst Ruthie was on the weekly virtual practice for the Woodbridge Illuminati Choir, I watched back one of the presentations from last month’s Recovery Convention, all of which are now available to view on the ART website. It seemed natural to start at the beginning with the first one which was held, Building better relationships with your church, hosted by CCCBR President Simon Linford, but led by Haverhill Priest-in-Charge and ringer Revd Max Drinkwater, and fellow member of the Guild of Clerical Ringers, Tony Ellis. It was a very interactive session, with much input from those in attendance, including a message from Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter on the subject of using deaneries as the basis of a network of ringers.

Deaneries were just one area brought up in a fascinating 1hr 12mins 22secs of discussion, with lots of interesting suggestions. Many of them are very well established ideas, but with a new context having shaken old norms up, there seems a greater impetus and even confidence in doing a lot of them, which we will need as we look to work with understandably nervous incumbents. I could write a huge blog entry on what was discussed, even for me, but instead I encourage people to find the time to watch it if you haven’t already.

Grundisburgh.For all the ringers I saw today (including Ruthie too of course!), I didn’t actually do any ringing, but I was pleased to hear that practices are running at Grundisburgh on Thursday nights again (although of course with just a selected six from a rota as with everywhere else in the country) and also to see ringers from within our borders doing plenty of quarter-pealing, albeit all on Ringing Room. Cathy Colman typically led the way, ringing in the 1250 of Rutland Surprise Major and with her husband Julian and fellow Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart in a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor ‘in hand’, whilst five from the west of the county rang a 1320 of Norfolk Surprise Minor with Val Hewer from Canada.

Personally though, I am looking forward to ringing with Suffolk’s ringers, rather than just bumping into on the school run or watching them YouTube!

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Wednesday 9th June 2021

Pettistree.Mother-in-law Kate had a new car, it was a beautiful humid evening and the bells were ringing at Pettistree. The only outcome could be Mrs Eagle taking the family out for a drink in the beer garden at The Greyhound whilst the sound of five of the six bells at St Peter and St Paul next door rang out over us. Very good ringing it was too from Joanna Crowe, Elaine Townsend, Mike Whitby and the Harpers Jane & Peter before they too arrived outside the tavern with Chris & Mary Garner for a drink and a fleeting chat as we left to get the boys to bed, leaving our table for them at an encouragingly busy inn.

Elsewhere the county’s ringers were ringing handbells with a quarter-peal of Plain & Little Bob Major spliced rung in Moats Tye, whilst to complete the set, Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart and St Mary-le-Tower ringer David Sparling rang their first QP of Cornwall Surprise Major ‘in hand’ with the 1344 on Ringing Room – well done Tim and David!

And further afield, congratulations to former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross on twenty-five years membership of the Society of Royal Cumberland Youths, which she belatedly marked today with a peal of Kent Treble Bob Major on handbells in Reading. One of a number of lovely ways to pass a sunny day that also include taking a new car to the pub to have a drink whilst listening to church bells!

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Tuesday 8th June 2021

I have to confess that I shall miss the second Tuesday monthly meetings of The Ancient Society of College Youths. Like any meeting for anything, they aren’t exciting, but being unable to get down to London for them on all but the rarest of occasions, it has been one of the few silver linings of the circumstances of the last fifteen months that I have been able to feel more connected and involved in the ASCY than I have done for years, able to hear about all the goings on that make the Society tick and voting for things and people, all from the comfort of our Suffolk home, having left work without having to take time off, had tea and got the boys to bed. Indeed, on this beautiful warm summer’s evening, I was able to take in proceedings whilst watering the garden, the voice of Master Swaz Apter drifting across the neighbourhood!

The hope is though, that this will be the last one that they have to hold online, as with restrictions due to further ease they plan to return to their usual venue of Williamson’s Tavern in The City for the July meeting at 8.30pm on the 13th. They are trying to find a way of streaming the meetings online for the many of us unable to get down to the capital every month, but as they are typically held down in the basement where the Wi-Fi isn’t great, this may not be possible.

Worcester Cathedral.Therefore, there was a degree of sadness on my part that this might be the last time that I can join them with a simple click of a button, rather than a myriad of journeys via public transport and an early finish at work. Still, it is great news that things are opening up to the extent that they can contemplate a return to meeting in person, a prospect that has seemed like a pipedream over much of the last year and a bit. And the meeting itself struck an upbeat tone as it looked ahead, confirming that they plan to have a stall at the Ringing World National Youth Contest due to be held in Worcester on Saturday 11th September and giving an update on the planned City of London Festival of Bells lined up for Saturday 26th June, although the latter event in particular was spoken about in considerably caveated terms, recognising the increasing sense that things might not fully reopen on the 21st as hoped.

Encouragingly, the Cast of 1000 project also appears to be planning for the life after restrictions that we pray is imminent, as I received an email from Stef Warboys checking on my availability for the last sessions due to be held on Ringing Room, as well as my geographical preferences for the first practices on tower bells due to be held from September onwards. With these moving onto a more familiar medium for many, it hopefully offers new impetus to more to join up, either as a helper or a learner and I hope lots from Suffolk can and do. Please check the CCCBR’s website for more details.

Meanwhile on this very website, the Guild Treasurer Stephen Cheek has thanked all those who have donated to the SGR by purchasing through easyfundraising and AmazonSmile, which has raised £30.71. It might not sound like much, but it is nearly a couple of subscriptions and it all helps and represents a new way of adding to the funds, especially in these tough times. Thank you all who have contributed!

And thank you to the College Youths for keeping me connected on the second Tuesday evening of the month over the last year or so. I shall miss it!

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Monday 7th June 2021

Suffolk ringers ringing quarter-peals and a St Mary-le-Tower practice followed by a drink at The Cricketers. It sounds wonderfully normal. It wasn’t of course.

The quarter-pealing was done by just one Guild member, at a computer with bands that were distributed around the country and across the Atlantic in the USA, as Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman rang in a 1269 of Cambridge Surprise Minor and 1280 of Krappenhofen Treble Place Major (a variant of Yorkshire Surprise), both on Ringing Room.

St Masry-le-Tower.Meanwhile, the practice at SMLT was limited to six of us selected from a rota, using the treble (Sue Williamson), second (Jonathan Williamson), fourth (Jill Birkby), fifth (Chris Birkby), seventh (Colin Salter) and ninth (myself) of this twelve, whilst the post ringing refreshment wasn’t the most relaxing, with a myriad of apps needed that I haven’t got, a lack of stock and lengthy waits.

Still, it was great to be back in the famous ringing chamber on a Monday evening for the first time since ‘Dark Monday’, that dreadful night of 16th March last year where freedom and ringing as we knew it ended. The ringing was a real pleasure too, with good striking and practically no mistakes as we rang Stedman Doubles and courses of Surprise Minor in the form of Cambridge, London & Norwich. And it again felt perfectly safe. Precautions were taken and the ventilation noticeable, with the open windows and doors giving us a considerable breeze through the room. Whenever society is given the go-ahead to safely proceed in normal life (and reassuringly it seems that vaccines are doing exactly what they were designed to do and so God willing that should be soon, even if not on 21st June), I shall have absolutely no reservations about standing shoulder to shoulder with ringers here.

After all, by that point pubs will be packed with strangers (unlike in ringing chambers where even visitors can be traced with incredible speed and ease if they need to be), but hopefully we won’t be relying on the current system of getting a drink. As with other pubs we’ve been to since they reopened, we had to sit at a table to order drinks. This being a Wetherspoons pub though, unlike the other pubs we’ve been to where someone came to the table and took your order and payment, everything is done by apps that I haven’t got, so I was indebted to Colin for getting me a drink. However, when those with apps checked what was In stock, the only beer (real beer, not lager) left was quite random bottled stuff. At least I got a drink though. By the time I left after almost an hour, Chris & Jill still hadn’t got theirs!

The time it takes us to get served in The Cricketers has long been a running joke amongst us and so it is perhaps reassuring that some normality still exists!

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Sunday 6th June 2021

After revelling in visiting others yesterday, we decided to do some more today.

In the two weekends since restrictions allowed us to meet others indoors, my mother Sally had been away and so this weekend was our first opportunity to visit my childhood home. Whilst there we made ourselves useful by helping Mum get some chests down from her loft that used to store hundreds of copies of The Ringing World going back decades, but more importantly it was great to chat in relaxed circumstances. And whilst in that part of town, Ruthie and I popped over to see former ringer and sister of my father Alan, Aunty Marian, which was also a nice thing to do for the first time in months.

Woodbridge.We didn’t do any ringing today though, albeit we heard the front six at Woodbridge ringing out as we arrived for the morning service. I had volunteered my services to Bruce Wakefield, but I’m happy to report that he already had six enthusiastic ringers, although sadly under current restrictions that meant I was unable to join them. At least the restrictions allow us to visit others though.

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Saturday 5th June 2021

The Wolery.One of the many places that I have missed going to since the government necessarily began dictating who we could see and where fifteen months ago is The Wolery, the private ring of eight owned by David & Katharine Salter, where I would visit on a monthly basis for a peal attempt in between catching up with our hosts and fellow bandmates down in the house, with a cuppa and a biscuit or three afterwards. The ringing chamber in the little blue shed is a bit too cramped for current restrictions, but we can at least visit the Salters in their abode now and so Ruthie and I did just that this afternoon.

A lovely afternoon it was too, catching-up properly for the first time for so long. David & Katharine have done much for our ringing ‘careers’, but we have also enjoyed much time with them socially and in the absence of being able to do any ringing, it was socialising that we did today, with even youngest son Henry (looking much more grown-up than last time we saw him!) joining in!

In fact, so engrossed in conversation were we that time ran away and meant that by the point we had returned to mother-in-law Kate’s where the boys had been, we had missed the virtual South-East District ‘Meeting’. Sadly one or two others had trouble signing into Teams and so also missed it, but hopefully plenty were able to join for Dennis & Joanna Crowe’s talks to members.

St Maryu, Ely.We did at least get the opportunity to read this week’s copy of The Ringing World which arrived with us this morning, although it didn’t feature much in the way of Suffolk connections, bar in the quarter-peal columns and with an extensive focus on bells in Ely, where the 17cwt eight at St Mary’s church have been a common visit for ringing outings from within our borders due to its proximity. There is also a stunning photo on the back cover of the venue alongside the larger – though bell-less – cathedral next door, taken by Great Barton ringer Ben Keating.

Meanwhile, one of the things that we chatted to the Salters about was the book on the history of the Suffolk Guild that they have started putting together. They would still appreciate any memories and photographs that could help piece together ringing in the SGR, not just of the big events, famous ringers or notable peals, but of the many characters who have quietly gone about contributing to the art locally in the period since 1923, the everyday happenings and especially stories that may not be well known. And not just from the earlier years of the organisation’s existence, as this is intended to come right up to the modern day, including as the Guild comes out of the pandemic.

Barham. Hitcham. Laxfield. Stowmarket. Hoxne.

Part of the future history of the Guild should hopefully include the many projects that have been continuing even whilst ringing itself has been restricted, such as the augmentation of Barham to six, Hitcham and Laxfield to eight and Stowmarket to ten, to name a few. Another project that has been going along – almost in the background – is the restoration of the five at Hoxne and adding of a sixth bell. This has been a slower burner, mainly because they are waiting for a disputed faculty for other work in the church before the faculty for the bells can be applied for. A band is being taught in anticipation though and I was indebted to Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge for highlighting an article from last month on SuffolkNews that he had found about the project, which is a great bit of publicity.

Talking about Neal and PR, he is due to feature on East Point Radio again on Monday at 10.45am talking about ringing’s restart, so if you can I’m sure that’ll be worth listening to and will hopefully reach an additional, different audience to the usual local media outlets.

For now though, our day ended with a gratefully received tea at my mother-in-law’s. It is lovely to be able to do such things again.

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Friday 4th June 2021

Giraffe in the Colchester Zoo Whilst Ruthie took the boys to Colchester Zoo for a half-term trip, I couldn’t join as I was working, but we were reunited for Simon Rudd’s weekly virtual pub where numbers were slightly down on normal as people are increasingly doing real-life things. Very little ringing came up in the conversation (bar a bit of background to our host’s recent quarter-peal of Little Bob Sixteen) as instead topics veered from birdwatching to an old favourite, ailments! Still great to catch up with fellow ringers, but we didn’t do any ringing today.

Others in Suffolk were though, as Cathy Colman and her son Nathan rang in a Ringing Room quarter-peal of Xenodocheionology (apparently the history of hotels and inns) Surprise Major, which is Yorkshire with the three dodges in 5-6 replaced with long places, which was the first in the method for all the band. Well done Cathy and particularly Nathan!

Following their experiences this afternoon, my wife and youngest sons might suggest Giraffe, Monkey or Tiger Surprise Major for next time!

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Thursday 3rd June 2021

Great to hear of some genuinely innovative ringing with the quarter-peal of Wolf Wrap Major spliced with Stedman Triples rung on Ringing Room this morning and featuring in the band a Suffolk ringer, with the Norman Tower’s Cathy Colman ringing the tenor. Wolf Wrap is a method designed by a non-ringer called Stan Wagon, a mathematician married to a ringer and apparently inspired by Methodoku Mayhem, the book put together by Mark Davies, who was also in the band. A Wrap method is one where you get runs of bells (where some or even all of the bells run in order, such as roll-ups) across two rows. For example, one row ending 1234 and next row starting 5678. It is not straightforward stuff, so well done to Cathy on her involvement, which hopefully made the early start worthwhile!

Also in the band was CCCBR President Simon Linford, whose latest blog was published on the Central Council’s website yesterday, but which I only got the chance to read today. He asks for technical help for the website and from safeguarding officers for better defining the processes when concerns are raised with the Council and affiliated organisations.

Additionally, he ponders at whether the latest weekend was his quietest late May bank holiday weekend yet (although presumably last year’s can’t have been too busy!), when previously his diary had been filled with CCCBR business (when that was when the Annual Meeting used to be held) and peal attempts, typically at ‘big’ twelves. On that note, it is worth reiterating that next year’s late May bank holiday is due to be moved to the first weekend of June along with an extra BH in order to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, of which greater detail was announced yesterday. Hopefully plenty to arrange lots of ringing around!

We did pay a visit to St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge on this lovely summers evening as the boys played in the churchyard whilst Ruthie went to choir practice, but apart from my now usual solitary PPE focus with Wheatley on RR, we didn’t do any ringing. I’m glad Cathy gave us some ringing in Suffolk to report on therefore!

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Wednesday 2nd June 2021

There was a significant landmark reached today, as a peal was rung for the twenty-seventh day in a row, the longest run since everyday ringing ceased nearly fifteen months ago. God willing we are at the start of the first month of peals rung on everyday since the ‘Dark Monday’ of mid-March 2020 and the return of what was the norm pre-pandemic, when the 1st March 2018 – when the ‘Beast from the East’ brought the UK to a standstill – was the only day in decades when a peal hadn’t been rung anywhere.

That said, peals weren’t the headline act today. Instead, it was the 1320 of Little Bob Sixteen rung ‘in hand’ on Ringing Room, conducted by Past Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower – and new RM at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich – Simon Rudd, which was the first quarter-peal on that number on the platform. As someone who has struggled with ropesight on higher numbers online, I am mightily impressed!

Here in Suffolk, QPs were also the headline makers. Up until Covid-19, it was usual for a peal – typically of Bristol Surprise Major – of an appropriate length to be attempted to celebrate Adrian ‘Arnie’ Knights’ birthday of 1st June, almost all with the birthday boy participating. Sadly, due to a deterioration in his health, this talented ringer (one of the county’s finest in my humble opinion) last rang a peal in the 5070 to mark his seventieth birthday four years ago and of course it hasn’t been possible to ring a peal for this occasion last year or this, but whilst hopefully there will be a 5075 rung for him next year, I was pleased to see a 1274 of Plain Bob Major rung in Moats Tye on his handbells to mark yesterday’s seventy-fourth anniversary of his birth, as was a quarter of Lincolnshire Surprise Major rung on RR.

Meanwhile, Ruthie and I returned to Pettistree for our second quarter-peal since restrictions were relaxed over a fortnight ago. It was done on exactly the same basis as our previous success, with the Eagle-Munnings bubble on the front three where the ropes fall less than a metre apart, hands sanitised, masks worn throughout inside, doors wide open and with my wife and I having recorded negative test results before we came out.

On this occasion though, Elaine Townsend and Mike Cowling took their turn on the rota and we rang a 1272 of Ipswich Surprise Minor. I have to admit that I didn’t ring at my best on a warm evening (no hiding behind internet lag this time!), but it was again great to be ringing on the complete six for an actual real-life quarter. Special mention also to Elaine for whom this was her first quarter-peal since March last year. She didn’t break herself in gently either and deserves kudos for ignoring my mistakes and getting on with it!

Local ringers were making headlines beyond just the ringing community too, with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge interviewed 2hrs 22mins into Lesley Dolphin’s BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon. He was able to mention plans to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the Bailey brothers of Leiston ringing a handbell peal of Stedman Cinques later this year, but primarily he was there to make listeners aware of the exercise’s return. Excellent work, especially as we need to keep residents in the loop as we aim to return to full-on ringing. Hopefully including lots of peals!

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Tuesday 1st June 2021

Having not made it to us by the bank holiday weekend, last week’s issue of The Ringing World finally arrived with the meteorological summer this morning, with Haverhill Priest-in-Charge and ringer the Revd Max Drinkwater getting good reviews for his ’Building Better Relationships with your Church’ presentation as part of the recent Recovery Convention, whilst a superb photo taken by Mike Whitby of Pettistree’s tower on his way to our quarter-peal of nearly a fortnight ago adorns the back cover with some blurb on the bells.

Meanwhile, while the ‘Indian’ variant (or rather ‘Delta’ variant as the WHO have now renamed it) has caused and continues to cause understandable concern, the announcement today that even after a week or two of rising cases that for the first time since March last year the government announced no deaths from Covid-19 anywhere in the UK (with the caveat that the rates are always lower after a weekend) gives hope that the situation will be safe enough to complete the roadmap and return to full on ringing later this month. For now though, practicalities mean that this Saturday's South-East District 'Meeting' is via Zoom at 4pm. On this occasion it is planned for Grundisburgh ringer Jo Crowe to give a talk on Sutton Hoo and her husband Dennis one about restoring a Lightening Jet Fighter at Bentwaters, both of which should be very interesting. God willing though, it will be the last District event we have to hold online and we can get back to real-life events face-to-face that might be more interesting to report in The Ringing World. Whenever it reaches us.

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Monday 31st May 2021

St Mary-le-Tower. No St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Room practice this evening, which was a bit of a pity after our successful session last week, but it was for a very good reason as the Monday night practice took place on the actual bells for the first time since 16th March on ‘Dark Monday’ when ringing on church bells was abruptly ended necessarily but devastatingly. Of course, current restrictions meant that only six could go (proving their presence with band photo shared on the Bellringers Facebook page!) and with a rota set up we will have to wait our turn and so it was a quiet bank holiday evening following a productive but unexciting bank holiday day that saw putting new curtains up giving us an opportunity to invite the boys’ grandparents Kate and Ron round, whilst I also kept an appointment at the recycling centre, popped to Tesco and took the boys to the park for a kickaround.

No ringing for us today therefore, but apart from those fortunate enough to go to SMLT tonight, at least one other Suffolk ringer was participating in the art, as Nathan Colman rang in a 1272 of Norwich Surprise Minor and then called his first quarter-peal on eight in the 1280 of Yorkshire Surprise Major, both on RR. Well done Nathan, especially on the latter! Although for once I was glad we weren’t ringing online too.

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Sunday 30th May 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.Familiar ringing haunts of Pettistree and Woodbridge have already been revisited since ringing on towerbells could be resumed almost a fortnight ago and this morning it was the turn of St Mary-le-Tower. It was perhaps less satisfying than at the aforementioned brace of towers, as unlike there where true sixes could be rung with social distancing reduced to one metre plus, at Suffolk’s heaviest twelve there just isn’t the space. Instead, we had to make do with a combination of Sue & Jonathan Williamson and their daughter Lucy on three, four & five and then Ruthie on eight and myself on the tenor either side of Nigel Newton on the tenth. In the circumstances it was a pleasant enough sound and I thought we did well with most of the band doing their first ringing on real towerbells in months, especially as we had to do it without any lights as the electricity let us down. Unlike with Ringing Room though, that issue didn’t stop us ringing!

It also felt incredibly safe. Most of the band have had at least one vaccination, masks were worn throughout, hands sanitised before we climbed the stairs and social distancing adhered to indoors and out. Windows were also wide open and it was interesting how well ventilated it felt, considering our main worry here is that on the face of it this would be one of the least well ventilated ringing chambers in the county. That it felt fresh and breezy is very reassuring.

Additionally, Ruthie and I had both taken lateral flow tests beforehand that produced negative results. CCCBR guidance encourages people to take these before ringing, but it isn’t a prerequisite and whilst they don’t 100% guarantee that you don’t have coronavirus and aren’t a particularly pleasant experience, they reduce the risk that someone with the virus spreads it in our ringing chambers (even before all the mitigating precautions) and I have discovered that they get easier with each one you take! Personally – especially whilst we’re not fully vaccinated – we feel that if we want to get out ringing (as particularly I do) then the least we can do is make sure we’re as safe as possible for ourselves and others that we ring with, so like the Central Council, I would also encourage ringers to test themselves regularly.

After our efforts in the famous old ringing chamber that must be missing being full to the rafters and twelve-bell ringing, we were reunited with the boys, who Peter Davies had very kindly being looking after as they still aren’t allowed under current regulations to join us inside for ringing. Relieved that they had been perfectly behaved building a woodlouse house, we joined the small numbers that had come along to listen and for takeaway Costa Coffee refreshments in Christchurch Park, before then taking our sons up to the playground.

There was no more ringing for us after that, as my shorts made their 2021 debut and we accepted the kind invite from mother-in-law Kate for our first BBQ of the season and it was surprisingly quiet on the ringing front across the county, with the service ringing at Woodbridge the only performance noted on BellBoard today.

Although sorry not to be there with them, we were glad to be back at another familiar ringing haunt instead.

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Saturday 29th May 2021

The 1260 of St Clement’s College Bob Minor rung by a Suffolk band on Ringing Room was Alex Brett-Holt’s first quarter-peal in the method – well done Alex!

It was far more than we managed from a ringing perspective today (although I did do a bit more PPE practicing with Wheatley on RR, as I’m trying to do everyday), as instead this was a Saturday of chores at home, using the glorious sunshine and hot weather to get some gardening done and dry the usual skip-full of washing.

I’m glad Alex’s Saturday was more interesting!

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Friday 28th May 2021

A cuppa with mother-in-law Kate and the weekly virtual pub with Simon Rudd and friends – including a discussion on the difference between tennis elbow and golfing elbow – set us up for a lovely Friday evening, but although spent with ringers, we did no ringing.

There will hopefully be more ringing for us to come and one occasion that will offer an opportunity for all ringers will be 5th July when the NHS will celebrate its seventy-third birthday and bells have been requested, with further info on the CCCBR website. God willing by then we will be able to ring out fully, but of course we’re yet to see if we will be released on 21st June as we all pray we will and even if we are, there may be some understandable caution from incumbents.

Either way, we are still restricted in what we can do and the guidance given by the Central Council seems to have confused some, so in their usual Friday update they have released a one page summary that is worth a look at if you are still unsure what should or shouldn’t be being done in the ringing chamber and the reasoning behind it.

Ultimately I hope it helps us towards being able to ring with more ringers, rather than just having cuppas and virtual pubs with them!

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Thursday 27th May 2021

A very 2021 evening.

Ruthie had her first vaccine at Woodbridge Community Centre, we then visited Tesco Click & Collect to get the weekly shop and after that adventure we returned home for my wife to join the weekly virtual Illuminati choir session in one room, whilst I practiced on Ringing Room with Wheatley in another, before we eventually settled down in front of the TV together. After Saturday’s full-on Cast of 1000 practice, I am keen to make some of the Project Pickled Egg methods as familiar as possible so that when I’m next ringing them in spliced, it feels it is less by the seat of my pants!

Combined with getting the boy to bed and grabbing some tea, there wasn’t time for me to join others on RR, but some Suffolk ringers were active as part of a band on the platform. Well done to Cathy & Nathan Colman on ringing their first quarter-peal of Yorkshire variant Headcorn Treble Place Major and to Stephen Dawson, Maureen Gardiner, Andrea Alderton and David & Lesley Steed, who along with Val Hewer of Canada rang their first QP of Pembroke Delight Minor.

Redgrave.However, there was also ringing on real bells within our borders, as a peal on handbells was rung in Bacton and a 1296 of York Surprise Minor was rung on the 7cwt six at Redgrave.

Meanwhile, I flicked through last night’s episode of The Great British Sewing Bee today as Yorkshire ringer Andrew Aspland was knocked out following a decent run, as he just fell short of the quarter-finals. Unlucky Andrew.

It also ended my interest in the show, my watching of which – unless any future series feature bellringers - was a very uniquely 2021 experience.

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Wednesday 26th May 2021

Beccles.Regular weekly practices returned to Beccles this evening, according to the ringers’ Facebook page. Pettistree were ringing for the second Wednesday running. A quarter-peal was rung on handbells in Moats Tye and from Bury St Edmunds Tim Hart rang his first QP of Deva Surprise Major on Ringing Room. All very different from what ringing in Suffolk pre-pandemic was like, whether it be due to precautions and restrictions needed, increased handbell activity or simply a style of ringing that didn’t even exist within our borders fourteen months ago. However, it is still more than was possible here in the early weeks of lockdown. Indeed, between the quarter-peals rung at The Norman Tower and Buxhall on 15th March and the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor on Ringing Room on 10th June last year where two-thirds of the band were ringing from Suffolk, there were no QPs or peals attributed to the county. It’s great to see regular stuff happening on our soil again.

We weren’t ringing today, but we were meeting ringers as after they had explored Sutton Hoo, we met fellow Rambling Ringers Simon and Helen Kemp, their son Finley and Helen’s parents at The Wilford Bridge as part of a short holiday to Suffolk over recent days. It was great to meet up with these Yorkshire ringers and see other Ramblers, as with the cancellation of last year’s tour and the reunion dinner in February, there hasn’t been an opportunity to catch-up properly with most members for nearly two years.

Great also to catch-up with former Reydon ringer Phil Moyse who is now down in Bristol and who I discovered when sending an update to an entry on BellBoard is rather nobly volunteering to help them to do some of the updates. Wonderful that one of the nice guys of the art is representing Suffolk in such a way.

Weathorpe.And following the news yesterday about St Mary-at-Quay in Ipswich, I was delighted to receive a message from Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge that the wheels have already been set in motion to arrange a meeting with the new owners about the bells, as well as imparting exciting news about plans to restore the five at Westhorpe. More information should be revealed in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, there is a poster that can be downloaded and printed from the ART website to make the public and churchgoers aware of what is happening in regards to ringing as restrictions ease. God willing the return of longer ringing will be greeted by residents nearby as a wonderful symbol of life returning to normal. However, if we want to return to peal-ringing, quarter-peal ringing, outings and even practices and ringing for services as they were before the pandemic, we need to keep local communities in the loop and onside. Hopefully this poster will be useful to towers as they join places like Beccles and Pettistree in ringing their bells again.

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Tuesday 25th May 2021

St Mary at the Quay.
St Mary at the Quay - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Hot on the heels of the recent good news about St Clement’s church in Ipswich finding a new use with the bells being taken into consideration to boot, today an article on the East Anglian Daily Times website outlined plans for nearby St Mary-at-Quay to be turned into – quite radically – a church. Although the 7cwt six seemed to have been forgotten about with Suffolk Mind, I was sorry to see that they felt unable to continue inhabiting the building after the time, money and effort put into doing it up so nicely. It is lovely therefore that the space is being filled so quickly and by a Christian church that may be more likely to use the bells and may even give a potential source of recruits, albeit it an evangelical one who in my experience aren’t generally very enthusiastic about bells.

Perhaps they might be available to ring when the Suffolk Guild is due to hold the 126th Annual Meeting of the CCCBR in its centenary year of 2023, potentially just round the corner in the Jerwood DanceHouse, but this year’s on Saturday 4th September is being prepared for with nominations being invited for the position of Treasurer on the Council.

For the second year running it is being held virtually, as like so much else there was just too much preparation needed in uncertain times, but God willing by that point we will be ringing properly again, without restrictions. Whether we will be on 21st June as hoped is still unclear, as was the advice handed out – apparently without telling anyone and later backtracked on - to certain hotspots (mercifully not here yet) of the ‘Indian’ variant that people avoid meeting indoors, just as everyone else is getting used to doing that again. This may effect ringing in those areas and there might even be some guidance from the CCCBR, but it seems that the strategy seems to have moved considerably towards individuals taking responsibility, rather than rigid laws handed down from Westminster. Hopefully this will allow ringing to get back to normal at a pace that suits ringers, whether they be desperate to get back fully or whether they are cautious and waiting to see what happens.

Leiston, St Maragret.
Leiston © 2021 Mike Cowling

One thing that should hopefully happen – unless we have a catastrophic repealing of the roadmap – is the plan for a handbell peal of Stedman Cinques to be rung in Leiston on the morning of Wednesday 1st September to mark a hundred years since six of the town’s famous ringing brothers the Baileys impressively did the same in the ringing chamber where the 20cwt eight is rung from. This recreation is planned to take part in the church in order to maximise ventilation and also to enable visitors to listen to the ringing between 10am and 1pm. Being led by former Bures ringer John Loveless, he suggests that there should be much PR surrounding this and judging by the publicity around the peal that we rang there a decade ago a century on from a peal of Plain Bob Major that the brothers had rung, it should generate considerable interest in the local media.

Who knows? Maybe the ringing of the bells at St Mary-at-Quay for its new inhabitants will also generate some local interest?

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Monday 24th May 2021

Real towerbells finally being rung properly in so many places is wonderful progress, but it was noticeable that we were able to do more with just four ringers plus Wheatley at this evening’s St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Room practice than if we’d been in the ringing chamber with six of us. Indeed, apart from Triples of the Grandsire and Stedman variety, it was essentially a Project Pickled Egg session. No Cooktown Orchid, Deva or Kenninghall or even Cornwall and Lessness, but Bristol, Lincolnshire, Superlative and Yorkshire were rung really well in – perhaps ironically – our best practice thus far.

We weren’t the only Suffolk ringers ringing on the platform today, with unsurprisingly – though pleasingly – Cathy and Nathan Colman representing the county in online quarter-peal ringing. Well done to Nathan in particular on ringing his first of Norwich Surprise Minor as conductor which he rang ‘alongside’ his mother, before he later rang in a 1250 of Old Chopper Surprise Major Lincolnshire with a different frontwork in place of the five-pull dodge – that was dedicated to his forthcoming birthday and in homage to his love of building bicycles. Great to see the ringing achievements still coming online for ringers from within our borders.

Happily though, it is also being accompanied by an increasing amount on real bells with face-to-face bands, including another handbell QP in Bury St Edmunds, this time of Plain and Little Bob Major spliced.

Sutton Hoo helmet.Meanwhile, I was curious to receive an email via Chris Garner from a chap called Sam Jacobs who has recently written a history of Sutton Hoo on a website called Kellyco Detectors and had come across references to the famous Anglo-Saxon burial mounds in my blog. Such communication was a bit leftfield, but it is a very good article and interesting to see non-ringers coming across my scribblings. Primarily my writing is aimed at updating ringers on what is going on in ringing and generally things that affect it, as well as what we’re getting up to in the art. However, I often hope that non-ringers might come across it and be interested enough to give ringing a try and whilst I don’t think that will be the case here, it is nice to see it is noticed by others that might be potential new recruits.

Ultimately, the CCCBR’s Photo Gallery Competition will hopefully help the exercise’s recruitment, with the aim being that the Central Council have a collection of photos to provide to the media for all occasions. Like last year’s very successful YouTube Competition, it is to be divided into sections, this time of six weeks each, starting with Ringing throughout the Seasons, with a closing date of 4th July. Do check out the CC’s website for more details.

I may have a trawl through my photos to see if I have anything suitable, but I also hope that before the competition runs its course that I might have the opportunity to take new photos of ringing in action, even after this evening’s superb Ringing Room practice!

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Sunday 23rd May 2021

Today, I rang on the front six at Woodbridge before the boys and I joined the morning worship downstairs where Ruthie was singing with her choral colleagues and the boys went to junior church. Later we met my brother Chris and his wife Becky at Aldeburgh, having a drink in a pub, wandered a busy town and then had fish & chips together, whilst across the country thousands of football fans attended matches on the last day of the Premier League. Elsewhere, a quarter-peal was rung at The Norman Tower and beyond Suffolk’s borders peals were rung. To all intents and purposes, it was a normal Sunday as we once knew it.

However, it wasn’t entirely normal, either in the way it was before the pandemic or since.

This was the first Sabbath for months that ringers could return to church towers to ring congregations in, but it wasn’t a free-for-all of course. The one metre plus rule meant it was possible to ring all the front six at St Mary-the-Virgin where I rang this morning, without the need to miss bells out and the pre-Covid usual half-hour ringing was well within the forty-five minutes recommended by the CCCBR, but we were all masked up and stayed further apart whilst ringing. The ringing chamber was ventilated too and encouragingly for one that on the face of it might seem to be one of the most difficult to ventilate (shut away from the main church and fully enclosed with just a little window to the outside), there was plenty of fresh air circulating, as I can testify having rung the fifth right in front of the window that has a clear path out to the River Deben!

The service remains a considerably socially distant affair with masks on throughout, though the junior church was a first for this year. Nonetheless, like so much else that would normally be held indoors, it was held outside in uncomfortable weather.

As was our visit to the seaside with the west Suffolk Mr & Mrs Munnings, so after braving the beach for as long we could (which was mere minutes as the cold and strong wind battered us!) we were glad that going inside somewhere was now an option! And when in this coastal community, it would seem remiss not to pay a visit to my favourite pub in the county, The Cross Keys, a lovely inn full of character and with a beer garden that looks out to sea, although that was less appealing this afternoon. In keeping with the theme of the day, our entry to this tavern wasn’t a simple one, being greeted at the door and led to a table again wearing masks and making our orders from our seats instead of queueing at the bar. Having walked past the various shops and restaurants open for business but laden with coronavirus precautions, we eventually went to the Golden Galleon for fish & chips, which involved more waiting outside and wearing masks for the little time we were inside. Still, it was great to catch up with my brother and sister-in-law.

Meanwhile, just as it is great to see football fans in stadiums but everyone involved are desperate to get back to full capacities, it was great to see the 1260 of Doubles rung at the ancient tower alongside Suffolk’s Cathedral, but I suspect the local ringers are keen to be ringing quarters on ten or twelve bells again as soon as it is safe. Across town, well done to Nathan Colman who rang his first quarter-peal of Major in hand in the 1376 of Plain Bob rung simultaneously to the efforts at The Norman Tower.

Likewise, it is wonderful to see peals being rung daily again now, even if today there were only two and both were rung in hand. Not that there is anything wrong with handbell peals. Quite the opposite in fact, but when peals are being rung on towerbells without questioning whether they were safe to ring, things will seem truly back to normal!

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Saturday 22nd May 2021

Barham. Laxfield.Great to have a catch-up with new Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter on the phone and to hear how busy she’s been considering how little communal in-person ringing there has been compared to the first month of most Masterial reigns! There have been inspections of projects that the SGR has given grants to, such as Barham and Laxfield and meetings, including that of the Recruitment & Training Committee. She is keen that members and towers let their R&T Representatives know what they’ve been doing, are doing and hope to be doing. Partly that is to make sure everyone feels connected in these times that can still feel isolating for some, but also so the Guild can help where help is needed, get ideas from where things are going right and just ensure that we as a county have the best possible chance to come out of this dreadful time in the best possible shape. Have you lost ringers through the pandemic? Maybe you have gained ringers (through online ringing perhaps?) and want to know how best to continue their progress as we return to ringing chambers? Is your tower teamed up with other towers to strengthen your numbers and abilities? It is more important than ever that Suffolk’s ringers work together as much as possible and for that it would help to have as much of an idea of what is happening at our towers and with our members as we can get.

St Paul's band.One place where it is clear what some ringers are doing is BellBoard, which continues to be awash with an eclectic range of performances, including peals on towerbells. In theory these shouldn’t be happening due to the forty-five minutes time limit recommended by the CCCBR. However, rightly or wrongly, some bands have been ringing peals in towers, as they are entitled to by the current rules generally (with no time limit at all for indoor activity, some of which could be considered far riskier than ringing in controlled conditions with a small group of people well known to you), providing they have the incumbents permission and are using the other precautions, such as masks, good ventilation and by ringing at least a metre apart. The 5376 of Superlative Surprise Major rung at St Paul’s in Birmingham today took things to a new level though, literally! For they rang the peal from two floors, with four on each level. The focus needed must be phenomenal and it is in its own right an impressive performance, putting aside the perceived rights and wrongs of ringing it at all.

Additionally, there were peals and quarters rung on handbells, including within our borders where Joan Garrett is to be congratulated on ringing her first quarter in hand on real bells with the 1260 of Plain Bob Minor rung in Bury St Edmunds. Well done Joan!

Meanwhile, I was using Ringing Room for a Cast of 1000 session this afternoon, in what was the hardest of these that I have done so far. The repertoire on this occasion was the Project Pickled Egg Core Seven Surprise Major methods of Bristol, Cambridge, Cornwall, Lessness, Lincolnshire, London and Yorkshire, with the addition of Cooktown Orchid Delight, Deva Surprise and Kenninghall Surprise Major. Most of the touches were of spliced and every single piece included at least one of the five pieces less familiar to me – Cooktown Orchid, Cornwall, Deva, Kenninghall and Lessness. Apart from a brain freeze on eighths place Lessness (ironically one of the easiest place bells of those methods to remember as it starts in the same way as methods like Cambridge and Yorkshire!) not helped by Alfie and Joshua’s sudden and noisy entrance into the room, I got through the ninety minutes of high-octane ringing without embarrassing myself and more importantly not letting anyone down, especially the learners I was there to help. As a composer of some of ringing’s most highly regarded compositions and author of one of my favourite Christmas presents Methodoku Mayhem, our leader for the practice Mark Davies was perfect for the task of putting together and/or seeking out touches of spliced with just a few moments notice and it was lovely to see Simon Rudd and an another former ringer from Suffolk, Christine Hill and her husband Peter. Ultimately, it felt very satisfying to take part in ringing like this.

Apart from their cameo at eighths place Lessness, the boys behaved impeccably to allow me to properly participant as Ruthie was out on Ipswich Waterfront for her first socialising with her new work colleagues, but she was back in time for us to take in the return of Eurovision, another sign that God willing we are moving in the right direction to complete freedom, including full-on ringing.
Meanwhile, the Pettistree copy of The Ringing World that we take on their behalf arrived, featuring another RR Colman success in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’ – this time for Nathan’s participation in the 1280 of Billy Bob Treble Place Major on 10th May – and a fascinating letter plucked from the publication of a century ago that spoke about the formation of the Suffolk Association and gave an insight into the circumstances that not long after would see the birth of the Suffolk Guild. Which is keeping its current Ringing Master very busy!

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Friday 21st May 2021

Today my mind was on the Guild Striking Competitions. As they typically happen on the third Saturday of May, the 21st is the latest that they can happen and when I happened to take a glance back at the blog (as I occasionally do) I realised that exactly ten and five years ago to the day they were taking place at this late point in the calendar. Both are fondly remembered.

A decade ago, we were in the South-West District at Nayland for the Mitson Shield and the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy, which was the last one that I had to arrange judges for as Ringing Master and whilst we couldn’t make the Rose Trophy at Stoke by Nayland in the evening, it was possibly the first local striking competition that had fulfilled my ambition of them being akin to the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest. There were participants and hangers-on and ringers everywhere, in the churchyard, village hall, teashop, pub and generally milling around one of the many pretty villages in that part of the world, listening to some superb ringing.

By the time that the competitions were held by the North-East District on a rainy day on the seaside at Reydon and Southwold in 2016, the format had changed from the afternoon-evening set-up of five years earlier to the morning-afternoon that it has been ever since after the 2014 competitions held in the South-East District at Ashbocking and Helmingham were so popular that we ran out of time for all the bands in the eight-bell to have their turn!

Personally, I thought it worked well, but it is a long day for the judges and the Rose Trophy always feels a little like ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ and so the plan last year was for the six-bell competitions to be held on the traditional date in May and the eight-bell on the third Saturday of September. Of course that couldn’t happen in the end and having just passed the day that this year’s six-bell competitions would’ve been held on (which incidentally is the earliest date in the calendar that the competition can be held), we can’t do it that way in 2021 either, although there is a possibility that the six-bell contests might be held before the end of this year. As things stand though and unless the roadmap out of restrictions goes catastrophically wrong (and let’s face it, no one would bet their house on things not going catastrophically wrong!), the eight-bell is lined up for Saturday 18th September on the same day as the Guild Social at Horringer.

Exactly twelve months before God willing we can be gathered at one of the hundreds of picturesque locations we are blessed to normally be able to ring at, Suffolk’s ringers were quarter-pealing rather than competing, as Nathan Colman trebled to a 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on Ringing Room, whilst on the same platform his mother Cathy was part of the band who were all ringing their first QP of Xenonosocomiophobia (apparently a fear of pick pockets) Surprise Major, which is Lincolnshire Surprise Major with the five-pull dodge replaced with a different frontwork. Well done again Cathy!

Meanwhile, we weren’t ringing, but we were communicating with ringers in a way that is similarly very 2020/21, as we joined Simon Rudd at his weekly virtual pub, which on this occasion – in a sign of the progress being made currently – came from Neil and Nikki Thomas’ home, as he joined them and two others for an in-person handbell session.

God willing that progress will have continued to the extent that in precisely a year we can be gathered freely for the 2022 Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy.

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Thursday 20th May 2021

You would think that how to go about holding choir practices in these easing restrictions would be reasonably straightforward. They can hold them outdoors for up to thirty, or indoors for up to six. Whilst they have the added complication of the risks that singing carries in regards to the spread of coronavirus, they can at least social distant without having to redraft a rope. However, overhearing discussions at the end of Ruthie’s virtual session with the Woodbridge Illuminati and listening to her describing her earlier in-person practice at St Mary-the-Virgin, it seems that there is some confusion and consternation. For example, for the former choir, where outside could they practice without people thinking it is a concert? And having thought they were adhering to the guidance by singing with what they perceived to be a “small choir” of eight, the latter have had to now reduce their numbers to six.

In contrast, on the face of it is much more difficult to guide ringers through the same circumstances. The myriad types of ringing chambers that ringers can do very little to alter, such as hanging the ropes further apart, although that has been done in one or two places! Big rooms, small rooms, vast rope circles, compact circles, ground floor, upstairs, from a gallery, open to the church, tucked behind an organ, accessible from outside, only reachable by a narrow staircase or past the congregation. Yet in my humble opinion, the CCCBR have guided (and despite the accusations of some, guidance – rather than instruction – is what it has been intended as) us really rather well, using ringers with medical experience to give as much relevant advice as possible.

At the forefront of that has been the Council’s President Simon Linford, whose latest blog entry is available to read and is another interesting and entertaining read that takes in much from that episode of Have I Got News For You to the recent Recovery Convention to a reminder that the deadline for the Westley Award – 30th May – is coming soon. If there is anyone within our borders that you feel is worthy of being put forward for this, then further details are on the CC’s website.

The good work of the county’s steeplekeepers over the last year should mean that Suffolk’s bells are in good working order, including Chris Garner’s  efforts (actually Chris McArthur & Mary Garner this time) that meant we were able to ring yesterday’s quarter-peal at Pettistree (keep voting for it on BellBoard!), but Ringing Room continued to show its usefulness today, including within our borders. Well done to Cathy Colman on being part of the band who were all ringing their first QP of Stourbridge Surprise Major (which is Pudsey with places in 3-4 in seconds and fifths place bells) and to the west Suffolk band consisting of Andrea Alderton, Maureen Gardiner, David Steed, Lesley Steed and conductor Stephen Dawson who rang their first of Berkeley Delight Minor. Well done also to their Canadian bandmate Val Hewer who rang her first of Treble Bob in the process.

Meanwhile, having got the repertoire for the forthcoming Cast of 1000 session I am due to attend, I used RR and Wheatley to help me practice some of the less familiar methods, such as Kenninghall Surprise Major.

I’m still looking forward to doing more ringing on real towerbells though and I hope that choirs can do more soon too.

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Wednesday 19th May 2021

It has been 429 days since I last rang a proper piece of change-ringing on a set of towerbells bells designed to be rung together. 431 days since my previous quarter-peal on a set of real bells. A lot has happened since then. But also, not a lot has happened. Hundreds and hundreds of evenings in with nowhere to go, unable to meet with friends and go to the wonderful locations that we in Suffolk are blessed to ring and socialise in. Teams, Zoom and Ringing Room have done admirably in trying to fill the gap and without them the last fifteen months would have felt a lot lonelier and wasteful, but I – like most others – have missed actually going out to ring on real bells, having conversations with individuals without a screenful of little video boxes listening in or trying to time opening your mouth so as not to talk over others. Ringing bells without an internet lag scuppering a perfectly good piece or double clappering.

This evening was very exciting therefore, as Ruthie and I left the house for Pettistree to ring an actual quarter-peal on actual towerbells, as we have done on a Wednesday hundreds of times before, with people we have rung with thousands of times throughout our lives, but which we haven’t been able to do since March last year.

Sign of the times – our negative tests before we went out to ring the quarter-peal!Of course, this abnormal bout of normality was not entirely normal. Ruthie and I tested ourselves before going out, only the six in the band were allowed in the ringing chamber, all of us bedecked in facemasks and the door to the church and the west doors to the outside wide open to maximise ventilation and the bells were set at backstroke as Mary Garner had very kindly rung them up beforehand in order to reduce the amount of time people had to be in the room, thus causing one or two handling malfunctions as some of us grappled with handling a bellrope for the first time in months (seven in my case)!

Additionally, we had to be very select about who rang which bell. Whilst the ropes for the back four all fall more than a metre apart, the front three are closer together and so the only way all six can be rung under current guidance is with three people from the same bubble to ring the smallest three bells and as myself, my wife and her mother Kate are the only ones of the regular ringers here from a bubble of three (by way of our childcare bubble), it was down to us to ring the treble, second and third between us.

Meanwhile, the ringing wasn’t as polished as we were producing before the pandemic (although far better and quicker than most of the ringing we’ve been able to manage on RR!), as we got used to the striking of the bells and getting them up to the right point of the balance (after months of merely pushing a button), whilst tiredness was beginning to creep in towards the end.

In the end though, we were simply delighted to get back to quarter-pealing and it seems appropriate that the first quarter rung in Suffolk (on tower bells) in 2021 was rung at the tower that has been the county’s leading QP tower each year for years. Well done to Mark Ogden on ringing the fifth (a bell that isn’t the easiest when one is ringing regularly!) and particularly conductor Mike Whitby, who having not done any online or handbell ringing in the intervening time, was doing his first change-ringing since 16th March 2020 when he was at St Mary-le-Tower practice with me on ‘Dark Monday’, the sad night ringing was ordered to stop.

The Pettistree Band.
The Pettistree Band
© Chris Garner

Afterwards, we were reunited with the boys who had been looked after by their Grandad in the churchyard for the duration and met by Anne Buswell, Chris Garner and Elaine Townsend who had come to greet us, before we did something else we hadn’t done for a long time. 232 days to be precise, as we sat outside a pub with a pint, which of course on this occasion was The Greyhound.

Ours wasn’t the only ringing done within our borders today though, with the other ringing recorded on BellBoard being online and in hand to give us a full house of ringing mediums. No surprises that we were represented online by one of the Colman family, this time the son Nathan who rang in a 1269 of Norwich Surprise Minor on Ringing Room, whilst a 1344 of Plain Bob Major was rung on handbells in Moats Tye and was David Stanford’s first in hand as conductor. Well done David!

Hopefully it won’t be 429 days until he gets the opportunity to do it again!

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Tuesday 18th May 2021

As we return to ringing in the towers of Suffolk after an almost unprecedented absence of months, it is important to make sure that everything is in working order and to that end the Guild’s Belfry Advisory Committee is keen that members know that they are available to advise and assist anyone who would like them to.

Falkenham.Great to see ringers taking such things on themselves too though, such as Lesley Barrell and her partner, who shared photos of their considerable efforts at Falkenham on the SGR’s Facebook page. Keep up the good work!

Walking Khush India.Great also to hear a voice of the county’s ringing not heard for many years as former Rendham and Sweffling ringer John Massey was interviewed at length from 2hrs 8mins into Lesley Dolphin’s BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon about his book Walking Khush India. Although ringing wasn’t mentioned, it was fascinating to listen to the tales of his adventures in India.

It was all a lovely accompaniment to my working day as I kept a poorly Joshua company as he had to take a day off school. Indeed, ours is a household of illness including now myself, although symptoms displayed and negative tests have assured us that mercifully we haven’t got Covid. Ruthie seems to have largely recovered from her weekend’s poorliness, but passed it on to not only our youngest son, but also me, which meant I was grateful for Josh being little trouble today as I powered on through my work from home as best as I could in the circumstances.

Nonetheless, we intend to take tests before we do the real-life ringing that we hope to do this week, as hopefully others have been doing before the ringing carried out today, although after a burst of ringing on real bells in towers and in hand yesterday, today’s was mainly done online.

Perhaps everyone else was checking their bells.

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Monday 17th May 2021

Today saw the next step of England’s roadmap to God willing getting rid of all restrictions completely, hopefully on 21st June. There is more trepidation compared to when we’ve entered previous stages, as although infections are still extremely low and hospitalisations and deaths due to Covid-19 even lower, the Indian variant of this soul-destroying disease means that with people now able to meet indoors there is a real fear that cases may spike again as they have done in places like Bolton.

Thus far – and we pray it remains so – the evidence seems to point to the vaccines that now more then thirty-six million people (myself included) in the UK have had still being effective against this variant and thus prevent hospitals suddenly being filled with dangerously ill patients, which is something we are presumably aiming for. Therefore, in keeping with the pervading mood of English society generally as citizens lawfully step back inside pubs, restaurants, bingo halls and theatres, I think ringers can approach the return to restricted ringing on towerbells with cautious excitement, especially as the restrictions are not as tight as they were when we first returned to towers last year. With the space between ringers whilst ringing now reduced to one metre plus and the recommended time limit now up to forty-five minutes, it has led to the types of performances on church bells that have been largely missing from BellBoard since ringing – like so much else – was first stopped on ‘Dark Monday’ in March last year. There were a number of six-bell quarter-peals on rings of six, where one presumes (not personally knowing the ringing chambers used) that the ropes were far enough apart, ventilation satisfactory and facemasks worn, which was incredibly heartwarming.

As was hearing about the forty-five minute practice at Woolpit, complete with encouraging CO2 monitoring results considering this is a ringing chamber that might be considered one of the less well ventilated!

There were peals rung on towerbells too, at Edgbaston in the West Midlands, Huntsham in Devon and at Taylors Bell Foundry in Loughborough and providing they were rung within the rules of this current stage of the roadmap, they were perfectly entitled to, especially as the latter – like handbell peals such as the one in Bacton today – was rung on private property. And if the former pair were rung with the knowledge, understanding and permission of the incumbents – as I’m sure they were – then they were within their rights to ring these 5040s, whilst track and tracing will be far easier from these then from many other endeavours opening up today. However, whilst I admit to feeling a tinge of excitement at seeing peals rung on real towerbells, we have to be cautious not to take the mick. The support of the Church of England Recovery Group has already helped reassure understandably anxious incumbents to get ringing up and running last year and will likely be needed in the coming weeks and months, so I am anxious that when ringing on bells in buildings under the care of the CofE the art isn’t accused of “cleverdickery”, something that Central Council President Simon Linford has already said is frowned upon by those who ultimately could play a large part in how much we can return to what we were once able to do in ringing before the pandemic. As Simon says in a Facebook thread today, society is being guided towards a world of individual responsibility in regards to helping prevent the spread of the virus, but we must use that responsibility wisely, especially with the concerns that variants might put our hospitals under pressure again.

For all that performances on real bells were particularly noteworthy in the circumstances, the main headline from within our borders was on Ringing Room, where Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman conducted a QP for the first time as he called the 1272 of Cambridge Surprise Minor rung by a transatlantic band. Well done Nathan on a notable achievement on normal towerbells, let alone in the still relatively new sphere of online ringing!

We were able to congratulate him directly as he joined the St Mary-le-Tower RR session that I participated in whilst Ruthie worked alongside me, before he went off to attempt another – ultimately successful - quarter on the same platform, this time of the unseasonable Ba Humbug! Surprise Major, another Yorkshire-above style method with a potentially tricky below-work. Whilst with us, he and his parents Cathy and Julian helped us to ring the Triples variety of Grandsire and Stedman and Surprise Major methods Bristol, Cambridge and Yorkshire as we suffered very few technical issues compared to last week.

For all that I enjoyed it though and am impressed by Nathan’s efforts, my ringing highlight was seeing that others were ringing real towerbells properly after all this time. Let’s hope it helps us towards the next – and all being well – final stage of the roadmap in five weeks time, rather than hinder it.

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Sunday 16th May 2021

Ringing handbells in St Mary-le-Tower churchyard. Ringing handbells in St Mary-le-Tower churchyard.A day after my vaccination, I was fully expecting to not be feeling very well, being nursed by Ruthie. As it happened, it was my wife who was not very well, whilst I generally felt fine, bar a slightly tender arm and dull headache and so I left her recuperating in bed with a cup of tea and took the boys into Ipswich to meet up with our fellow St Mary-le-Tower ringers in the churchyard and then afterwards in Christchurch Park, before escaping just as the rain began falling.

Having decided not to commit to participating in the handbell ringing as we were unsure as to how I would be feeling after my dose of anti-Covid juice, I enjoyed listening to others doing it and it was lovely hearing the sound wafting down Tower Street as we approached in sunshine. A jolly good job they did of it too!

They weren’t the only ones in Suffolk ringing in hand as congregations arrived, with Woodbridge’s ringers ringing outside St Mary-the-Virgin and no doubt amongst many others doing likewise across the county. God willing it is the last time ringers will have to do this due to coronavirus restrictions, but with the Indian variant still making headlines and introducing more doubts, who knows what the situation will be by next Sunday?

The same uncertainty applies to so much else in life of course, including choirs, but at least we could hear what is possible during lockdown, as Ruthie’s voice could be heard amongst many others recorded in isolation, but brought together for the Woodbridge Illuminati’s virtual concert entitled ‘Music for Springtime’ which went live this evening and can be listened to on YouTube (complete with her beaming face on the credits at the end!) if you fancy a very relaxing hour.

I think it certainly helped Ruthie feel better.

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Saturday 15th May 2021

Me after my vaccination this morning. God willing one step closer to full-on ringing!The last time I was inside the Woodbridge Community Hall was almost exactly two years ago for the fifth birthday of one of Alfie’s schoolfriends. It was an occasion that saw almost their entire class and at least one parent each in attendance, with mingling and mixing with gay abandon, smiles visible and no testing necessary beforehand. I could never imagine then that my next visit would be with me masked up, socially distanced from everyone else, ready to have a vaccine for a disease that didn’t even exist on my last trip here, in a sterile booth that was but one of many set up in a scene more reminiscent of a field hospital than party venue. No space for dozens of infants to dance uncontrollably or for tables of party food, but my appointment this morning is one of millions of important appointments as we strive to beat the Indian variant in a race against time if we still hope to open up society completely next month, including full-on ringing of course.

There were no noticeable side effects this afternoon from the dose injected into my arm and so I was able to sit in comfort and read The Ringing World which arrived with us whilst I was out. There was some Suffolk references, such as a quarter-peal of Southwell Surprise Major on Ringing Room rung on 6th May where Norman Tower ringer Cathy Colman was a participant featuring on ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’ and a letter from David Stanford’s brother Stephen writing about the bearings of Ipswich bell hanger of the past Alfred Bowell.

However, the main features were on the forthcoming two hundredth anniversary of the first peal of Superlative Surprise Major and a Q&A with Past Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower (and newly elected RM at St Peter Mancroft in Norwich) Simon Rudd, predominantly on RR and the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre. And I found the article on what ringing Open Days might look like post-pandemic interesting, even if it was written tongue-in-cheek.

I was still feeling OK enough later to join an online gathering of Rambling Ringers, which was primarily set up to allow members who haven’t seen each other following the cancellation of a tour and reunion weekend over the last year. However, with uncertainty still abounding, it also doubled up as an opportunity to garner the opinions of the thirty present about this year’s tour. This was due to take place from 31st July for a fortnight, by which point we will hopefully be back to full-on ringing, but towers would need to be confirmed well before then and it seems largely impractical to get confirmation from towers and their incumbents for strangers on a two-week tour involving sixty-seventy ringers going to around eighty towers in the current climate. Instead, everyone agreed that it would be more appropriate to have a long weekend with ringing at various ground-floor rings and all being well it gives us something else to look forward to.

God willing next time we go on a Ramblers’ tour and to Woodbridge Community Hall, things will be back to normal and we can fully enjoy ringing and children’s birthday parties.

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Friday 14th May 2021

Some are sad about it, many were resigned. Either way, the news that the application to turn the old Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a boutique hotel has been approved didn’t go unnoticed in the ringing community. Personally I was always sorry about the prospect of this historic, constant ringing institution disappearing, but once it closed in 2017 it seemed extremely unlikely that it would be possible to start it up again, especially as aspects like the emissions which were subject to grandfather rights only applied because of its long occupation of the site would presumably have been lost. And now others – such as Westley – have picked up the pieces, it was even harder to see any future for the site as a foundry.

It was a topic of conversation in Simon Rudd’s virtual Friday night pub, which also included talk of fish bowls (not necessarily what you’re thinking of!) and impromptu tours of our host’s scaffolding and David Stanford’s house! And David Brown (Norwich City) and Gareth Davies (Cambridge United) were happy to highlight their football teams’ recent promotions to us Ipswich Town fans!

Such joviality was in keeping with an evening that later saw us watching the new edition of Have I Got News For You, which featured in its missing headlines round – that typically takes some headlines from a niche magazine or newsletter – Face to Face, the official newsletter of the Salisbury Diocesan Guild. The primary purpose of the selected publication is to gently poke fun at it and the assertion by the comedienne Jo Brand – who was once a ringer and was a guest on this show – that ringing is “dangerous” wasn’t overly helpful, but generally it was a fairly positive bit of national PR, albeit brief. The extended version due to air on Monday night may see more of the newsletter.

Meanwhile, our video call was sandwiched in between our host Simon Rudd calling a 1352 of Little Bob Fourteen beforehand and fellow guest Cathy Colman and her son Nathan ringing a 1250 of Lincolnshire Surprise Major afterwards, both rung on Ringing Room, but there was no ringing for us, whether online, in hand or on Whitechapel bells.

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Thursday 13th May 2021

Ipswich, St Clement.
Ipswich, St Clement
© Ipswich Historic Churches Trust

Great news shared by Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter and which appeared on the East Anglian Daily Times earlier in this week in regards to St Clement's church near to the Ipswich waterfront. This is one of a number of redundant churches in the town centre and is also home to a nice ring of six, in my humble opinion, but unlike most of the other buildings no longer being used as a place of worship, it currently doesn’t have a use. That it looks like the funding is in place to turn it into a live music venue is great to hear, but even better that the bells have been taken into consideration and that if all goes to plan they will still be able to be rung, with part of the longer term plans apparently seeing the gallery that they are currently rung from being extended. Sadly in such circumstances, the bells are often overlooked and forgotten about.

On online bells today meanwhile, a Suffolk band rang a quarter-peal of Woodbine Delight Minor (which is Kent/Oxford Treble Bob below the treble and Norwich Surprise above) on Ringing Room which was North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner’s first in the method and on the same platform Norman Tower ringer Cathy Colman rang her first quarter-peal of Purbeck Surprise Major (Superlative Surprise Major with the double dodge on the front replaced with places), which was also a debut in the method for the rest of the band. Well done to Cathy and her bandmates and to Maureen!

It was a day of good news for local ringing!

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Wednesday 12th May 2021

Extreme tiredness from a very late night yesterday (or rather this morning) and another unexpectedly busy evening meant that we were unable to make what is hoped to be the final ever Pettistree Ringing Room practice, or least the final one in place of the practice at the tower itself. It further heightens the anticipation for what we hope to be doing in precisely a week!

Hopefully they had enough to make this one last session worthwhile, but elsewhere in Suffolk they were definitely making their time on RR worthwhile as a South-West District band – with a little help from Wheatley – rang 120 changes of Cambridge Surprise Minor which was the first course in the method for Pauline Brown, Eleanor Waller and Tim Forsey. Well done Pauline, Eleanor and Tim!

There was ringing on handbells within our borders too, with a 1288 of Plain and Little Bob Major spliced rung in Moats Tye.

Lundy, St Helen.No ringing for us, though we did do some ringing viewing as we watched Past Master of the College Youths Andrew Wilby’s talk about ‘Bellringing on Lundy’ from last night and which is now available to watch on YouTube. It is a fascinating and at times entertaining history of ringing on this three-by-one mile island in the middle of the Bristol Channel, from the installation of the bells when the church was built in the 1890s, to the restoration and rehanging of the eight in 1994 and augmentation to ten in 2004 and a Q&A session afterwards featuring a question from former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross. It brought back many happy memories of trips I have made there, with lovely walks, drinking and eating in the Marisco Tavern and of course ringing on the bells, where I have rung four peals (two of them with Andrew) and numerous quarter-peals (not all of which are on BellBoard) since I first went there over twenty years ago. God willing we can return in the future, especially as I’m yet to get a peal on the ten.

We’re a bit too tired and busy for such things at the moment though.

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Tuesday 11th May 2021

There was quite a choice of things to do this evening. All online of course, but still progress from where we found ourselves in the weeks after the first lockdown started.

One could tune into a talk about ringing on Lundy Island by Andrew Wilby, which will apparently be available to watch on YouTube, so I thought I might save that for a later date when I hopefully get the chance to watch it.

Another was one of the presentations for the ART Recovery Convention, which tonight was on ‘Attracting and keeping ringers’, but there are still other talks I might hopefully try to tune into later this week.

Therefore, I went for the one thing when this evening was the only opportunity to watch, the monthly College Youths Meeting, although I only just made it after an unexpectedly hectic late afternoon and early evening, for reasons not worth going into here. I was keen to make it though, aware that this might be one of the last online meetings with restrictions easing and God willing allowing them to meet in the Williamson’s Tavern again. And I am glad I did make proceedings, where there was some trouble initially with people (including Master Swaz Apter!) being on mute when they didn’t realise! And there was an upbeat note as Dickon Love announced a day of ringing in London on Saturday 26th June had been requested by the authorities to celebrate the city’s reopening, providing of course that the roadmap goes to plan and restrictions are completely lifted on 21st June.

Notably though, there was a letter from Reydon ringer Helen Price – who apparently taught Swaz – who spoke of George & Diana Pipe, which was lovely. Although sadly she revealed that her husband Don – the third longest serving member of the ASCY alive -  has lost his mental abilities and needs constant care. It is a sad state of affairs for a talented ringer and carpenter and one of the nicest people I have ever met.

Talking of nice guys, many will have known Fred Stentiford who rang at Hollesley, a loyal, invaluable member of the band in this geographical outpost. Sadly he died recently of Motor Neurone Disease, a dreadful affliction as I know from the sorry last few months my Aunty Janet had to endure with MND a couple of years ago, but in his memory there is a JustGiving page raising money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Of course there are so many good causes to give to and one simply can’t donate to everything, but please do consider giving to this, if you can.

Meanwhile, there were more achievements on Ringing Room for mother and son Cathy & Nathan Colman of Bury St Edmunds, this time with their first quarter-peal of Quedgeley Surprise Major, which as previously mentioned is a variation of Yorkshire that has to be concentrated on, lest one sails through the bits that aren’t Yorkshire! Well done again Cathy and Nathan!

For us though, there wasn’t time for RR on a busy evening.

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Monday 10th May 2021

There was a sense of ‘game on’ about today’s confirmation that – unless something goes massively wrong in the next few days – in a week pubs, restaurants, cinemas, museums and the like will let the public in, households will be able to mix indoors and close friends and family can “cautiously hug” each other, as mercifully the social distancing rules finally begin to ease, I pray never, ever to regress back.

Social distancing won’t be completely gone by next Monday, but when change-ringing God willing returns to ringing chambers as it is due to in seven days time, the one metre plus rule will be in place rather than the two metres we had, although my understanding is that two metres should be adhered to when not ringing. Combined with the recommended forty-five minutes time limit, it opens up far more opportunities on towerbells than most of us have had since March last year, including at Pettistree, where there is sufficient distance between most ropes that means with bubbles all six can be rung, as we plan to next week if all goes well. However, there are other places where it won’t be possible to ring all the bells, especially as the rule of six will apply, unless your tower is fortunate enough to have two large ringing families to hand!

We still have to be careful with these new opportunities though, tempting as it is to feel that the shackles have been thrown off. If we want to be truly and fully released next month, then we need to be safe in our ringing. Partly to prevent the virus spreading amongst the ringing family and beyond, but also to show that we can be trusted to ring safely, with Carbon Dioxide monitoring hopefully demonstrating with clear data that as many ringing chambers as possible will be safe to ring in as we go forward. It may need help from a Guild level, but I hope lots of Suffolk’s towers can monitor the levels of CO2 to reassure any understandably jittery incumbents and give us as much information as can be gathered to inform our next moves.

Now is the time – if you haven’t already – to acquaint yourself on the information about CO2 monitoring and the CCCBR guidance on ringing in this next step, whilst SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge has emailed members summarising the regulations, whilst also reminding us that 21st June – the date when hopefully all restrictions will be lifted in England – is also Suffolk Day, so any ringing would be welcomed, even if it is restricted. Do let Neal know your plans when you know them.

All of this is the hoped for future, but for now the only ringing on real bells was on handbells, with Exning ringer Jimmy Yeoman ringing a peal of four Surprise Major methods spliced in Birmingham where he is studying and in his home county a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major was rung in Bury St Edmunds.
Meanwhile, we were experiencing the best and worse of online ringing at St Mary-le-Tower’s weekly Ringing Room practice and hopefully one of the last, if not the last depending on SMLT plans for Monday nights in the tower. This evening, our efforts on eight were hampered by human error, but also considerable technical issues that even meant we had to switch ‘towers’, although we did manage some reasonable ringing in between with Surprise Major of the Cambridge, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire variety.
Afterwards though, a couple of the Colmans were able to join others from around the world to do more ringing, with Nathan even participating in another transatlantic QP on RR, this time of Billy Bob Treble Place Major, a variation of Quedgeley Surprise, which in turn is a variation of Yorkshire, another of those methods that offer enough familiarity and variation that should induce good, focused ringing and which I’m sure did on this occasion.

I think most of us are more excited about the potential return to actual towerbells next week though!

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Sunday 9th May 2021

Today seemed to represent progress through the ‘roadmap’.

Ipswich Town played what will hopefully be their last game in an empty stadium as a season where all bar three of the Tractor Boys’ fifty-two fixtures were carried out with no fans present.

A simple cuppa with Ruthie’s Gran in relaxed circumstances was lovely, especially as such simple pleasures have been rare over the last fourteen months.

Banns of marriage were read out at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge during morning service for the first time since the pandemic first closed our churches in March last year.

Handbell ringing in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin in Woodbridge.And beforehand, there were four handbell ringers outside as we arrived, with Jackie Shipley, Alison Wintgens and the Wakefields Bruce & Gillian ringing some very nice sounding call-changes. When we returned here for the first time in 2021 on 21st March, just the one household could ring.

The easing of restrictions since means that they weren’t alone in their multi-household handbell ringing. Whilst the headline act was the 147 Treble Dodging Minor methods spliced rung in 2hrs 13mins in Reading, there was also other activity in hand within our borders, with a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major rung in Bury St Edmunds.

God willing after next weekend change-ringing will return to our ringing chambers. Now that really would be progress.

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Saturday 8th May 2021

My mother Sally should now be as safe to ring with as anyone by the time – God willing – the exercise returns to towers in the coming weeks, as this morning I took her to Gainsborough Sports Centre again for her second Covid vaccination.

That means that hopefully she will be welcomed back into ringing chambers with confidence, which seems timely as the subject of vaccinated ringers appeared in the letter pages of The Ringing World which arrived with us today. Someone had taken umbrage at CCCBR President Simon Linford’s recent note that those who choose not to have the vaccination might “find their ringing opportunities restricted”, seemingly considering it as some kind of policy for the Central Council. My understanding from previous comments Simon had made was that he wasn’t keen on ‘vaccine passports’, at least for ringing and so personally I read his statement merely as an observation that some will choose not to involve those who have refused the jab that is frankly the main way that we can get out of this nightmare and back to normal life. It will likely happen in wider society and people are perfectly entitled to be cautious around those who aren’t protected, although I hope that this doesn’t prove to be the case. Indeed, the CC recognise that they can’t ban unvaccinated ringers and I am convinced they would have no desire to do so, even if they could. Conversely though, they also have no authority to force ringers to ring with those who are unvaccinated. Regardless of my hopes that as many as possible – especially in the ringing family – get vaccinated, no one ought to feel pressured into having it. However, the potential of restricted opportunities in ringing and life generally is something to be considered by those wavering in whether to get jabbed.

Elsewhere in the RW, there was much on the ringing carried out for the death of the Duke of Edinburgh and his funeral, including the phenomenal effort by Suffolk’s ringers. The county also features in the ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’ section with quarter-peals by Cathy & Nathan Colman and in the ‘Thought for the Week’ which Haverhill’s ringing Priest-in-Charge the Reverend Max Drinkwater wrote on this occasion, whilst St Mary-le-Tower and George Pipe also get a mention in reference to Gail Randall’s setting of George Herbert’s poem ‘The Call’, with GWP’s biography Shake my hand and I’ll show you the ropes by John Loveless is referred to in Australian ringer Margaret Goodyer’s obituary. And there was an advert for Newmarket-based Soundweld.

I only wish I had taken a copy with me whilst waiting for Mum to have her jab!

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Friday 7th May 2021

Trenches, walking the Boudicca Way and fruit in gin were the main topics of this week’s virtual pub with Simon Rudd and friends. We did talk ringing too, with the Ringing Recovery Convention popping up in conversation, but although our host rang in a 1360 of Anglia Surprise Royal on Ringing Roomm, we didn’t do any ringing ourselves and it was quiet on the ringing front in Suffolk generally, apart from Drinkstone ringer Nigel Gale ringing his first quarter-peal of Double Grandsire Triples – which does exactly what it says on the tin – on RR with friends from Sussex. Well done Nigel, I think!

Although I’m not sure where it sits on the excitement scale compared to fruit in gin.

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Thursday 6th May 2021

As I prepared for the anticipated sixteen hours ahead, I had done as much as I could beforehand, considering it was my first time. I knew I’d need sustenance throughout, with no opportunity to nip out to the shops to top up, so I had plenty of food placed close to hand to grab as and when I got the opportunity. Additionally, I needed to make sure I was dressed suitably. Others who had done it before suggested breaking the time into two hour chunks and as we went along I mentally noted when we were a third of the way through and halfway through. The last hour was reached and mercifully, rather than thinking “there’s still an hour to go”, I found myself thinking “only an hour left” with a thankfully glass half-full attitude. And then there was elation at the end and we were released back into the wider world.

Poll Clerk.This was not a long-length peal though, of which I am yet to complete one, although I did go for the extent of Major on Stuart and Liz Hutchieson’s mini-ring in Staffordshire a few years back that we lost ‘just’ three hours in. Rather, this was a different first, as I became a Poll Clerk today for the first time. These are the guys who you see when you go to vote in elections, checking you are registered and handing out ballot papers and having applied a couple of years ago I was selected to be at the Fred Reynolds Centre in Woodbridge for the Suffolk County Council and Police & Crime Commissioner elections being held today, a venue that having arrived at about 6.15 this morning, I didn’t leave until around 10.15 tonight. It was a long day and I was concerned that it might be a pretty dull one too, but actually I found it a fascinating experience, with a steady flow of over 350 voters throughout the day, interspersed with lively and interesting conversation with the other three who were working with me (all of whom were big football fans and so that provided the main subject of conversation) and a couple of visits from mother-in-law Kate who was the Polling Station Inspector on this occasion. Although it was very cold with the doors open wide to allow for enough ventilation in these times of Covid-19 and uncomfortable wearing a mask and visor all day for the same reason! Hopefully the future of ringing won’t be reliant on such measures for too long!

Elsewhere in the county, others were actually doing ringing, albeit not for sixteen hours. Five ringers from within our borders helped Val Hewer from Canada ring her first quarter-peal away from cover in the 1260 of eleven Doubles rung on Ringing Roomm, whilst on the same platform, Cathy Colman was part of the band who were all ringing their first QP of Southwell Surprise Major, a method which whilst above the treble was the familiar Yorkshire, has a potentially tricky looking work below the treble. Well done Cathy and her fellow bandmates and to Val on their achievements.

Clearly they had prepared right!

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Wednesday 5th May 2021

Pettistree.No ringing this evening as we had our monthly ‘social’ for the Pettistree ringers, mainly aimed at encouraging those not interested in or confident enough for Ringing Room to join us. However, this time round there was plenty of talk of ringing, as we considered the guidance for returning to towers on 17th May in the context of the ground-floor six that we were ringing regularly at before the pandemic struck our shores, particularly in light of the measurements made in the ringing chamber by Mary. At 1m+ those measurements suggest that with bubbles we could ring six and even with individuals we can manage at least five bells. Combined with most of the band being vaccinated (a few both times), the use of lateral flow tests, face masks and the considerable ventilation we can get in the ringing chamber there, it has given us the confidence to consider resuming Wednesday night practices and Sunday morning ringing, although of course it would only be an invited band of ringers numbering no more than six. God willing circumstances will allow us to proceed.

Having agreed to this upbeat plan of action, we then enjoyed Hilary Stearn’s weekly quiz, which we won with a fair bit of guessing, but others in Suffolk were ringing, as Nathan Colman rang his first quarter-peal of Kent Treble Bob Major in the 1312 rung on RR – well done Nathan!

On this occasion though, we were happy to be planning ringing, rather than doing it!

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Tuesday 4th May 2021

Having read of the approved minutes from October’s GMC meeting, it is great to see plans already being made for the 2023 Central Council Meeting which is due to be held in Suffolk. Neal Dodge’s PRO Report makes mention at the end that Jerwood DanceHouse on the Ipswich Waterfront is being eyed up as the venue for the main event. It would certainly be a superb showcase for the county and it’s biggest town and it starts to make it all seem a bit more real having an idea where everything might be held.

Whilst like the Guild AGM the meeting itself is very important, it isn’t exactly a thrilling way to spend one’s time, but God willing representatives from ringing organisations around the world will be converging upon us in September in two years time with – all being well – lots of other stuff happening across the weekend. After the last fourteen months, the prospect is almost mouth-watering.

In the immediate circumstances though, the greatest excitement was having a visit from a masked engineer to fix our boiler, meaning we have heating and hot water after a chilly bank holiday weekend and we were able to enjoy a cosy, warm evening in doing nothing much at all.

Others were braving the chilly weather outside to ring though, including two ringers formerly of this county now in the south-west of England, as one-time Reydon ringer Philip Moyse rang his first quarter-peal of Surprise in hand with the 1272 of Norwich Minor in Bristol and past Old Stoke resident and Guild CC Rep George Salter rang his most methods on an inside pair of handbells to a peal in the 5040 of eight Surprise Minor methods rung in Yatton in Somerset. Well done to Philip and George.

Old Black Lion.Meanwhile, CCCBR President Simon Linford shared his latest blog, which featured news of two exciting projects. One is a the National Ringing Centre – or NaRC – in a barn in the backyard of Old Black Lion pub in Northampton, the other is a proposed campaign entitled ‘Generation Next’ which plans to focus on the recruitment of young ringers that includes the idea of hubs for youngsters to learn together.

Both of which will hopefully be well established by the time the 2023 Central Council Meeting comes round!

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Monday 3rd May 2021

In times gone by, the May Day bank holiday would see much ringing activity. Some organisations hold their AGM on it. There is usually a tower open day running, offering the freedom to travel through glorious countryside in some pretty part of England ringing at quaint historic village churches, meeting all sorts of interesting characters. And there would typically be a lot of peals. Today though, there was none of that. Ringing on towerbells is largely still restricted to single-bells, usually not for very long and the notion of hopping from location to location has been ingrained in us as being reckless from the messages of supreme caution rammed home to us when the virus was at its most prevalent and destructive. Hopes are high though, that come the same bank holiday next year we can return to previous traditions.

Today’s tantalising message from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the long awaited scrapping of social distancing is on the cards for 21st June if the roadmap stays on course as it currently seems to be, offers up the very real prospect that full-on ringing should be possible come the August bank holiday. My personal view – and it is just my opinion – is that even with social distancing lingering around, if people are going to be allowed to cram into stadiums, pubs, theatres and nightclubs on the basis of a negative Covid test when things are deemed safe enough for the roadmap to be completed (which will be 21st June at the earliest), then on the same basis full-on ringing should be allowed to go ahead on that same basis, especially as tracking and tracing those at a ringing event is a heck of a lot easier than venues full of strangers. However, if things are thought to be safe enough to do away with social distancing, then with all the other aspects further reducing the rates (hand sanitising, low rates, vaccination, etc.) there should be no practical reason why we can’t get up and running straight away on 21/6/2021, if that ends up being the date when the roadmap does actually end.

There will be many who are anxious and may choose to hold off coming back and that has to be accepted and understood. As with the other times when ringing has been reintroduced throughout the pandemic, the mantra has to be that no one should feel pressured into ringing. Additionally, I expect we will have to overcome much understandable anxiety amongst the clergy before they allow us to ring in some towers to the same extent as we were allowed before, although hopefully the CCCBR’s close working relationship with the Church of England Recovery Group over the last year will reassure all bar a handful. Also, none of us take plans and hopes for granted these days, all of which means that I will still only believe it when I see it and I am ringing side-by-side freely for services, quarters, peals, on outings and the like, but after months of hearing social distancing being treated almost as an acceptable by-product that we will all accept indefinitely, it is uplifting to hear from the PM himself that the ambition from the top is to get rid of this soul-destroying restriction as soon as possible.

There is a danger of getting ahead of ourselves, particularly when one is so keen to get back to proper normality. Before we get to 21st June, we need to negotiate the period from the 17th May first. Guidelines have been published for ringing in that period, but today President Simon Linford has published clarification on the Central Council’s website about the time limits and the role of lateral flow tests in the process.

Whilst on the site, it is also important that you read the safeguarding advice for online ringing shared on Friday, with online ringing likely to remain with us even after restrictions on ringing real bells are lifted.

Beccles ringers collect the Leslie Freeman Award for Long Service in the Community – by kind permission of Kate Gill.
Beccles ringers collect the Leslie Freeman Award for Long Service in the Community
© Kate Gill

Meanwhile, congratulations to the band in Beccles on winning the Leslie Freeman Award for long service in the community – it is absolutely tremendous to see ringers being appreciated in such a way in their community.

For all the lack of ringing opportunity on real bells today though, we did do some ringing this evening, albeit on Ringing Room, as we joined the weekly St Mary-le-Tower practice, as we often would in normal times. In those normal times we would usually be ringing on ten and twelve, but with fewer people confident enough to join in online than in the tower and as a band a smaller range of methods that we feel we can manage through this means of ringing, the repertoire was mainly of Surprise Minor, with Cambridge, London, Primrose and (once the ringer of the second realised they needed to make seconds before dodging twice!) Norwich rung mainly in a decent fashion. Although our troubles with Wheatley continued, hindering our ability to ring on eight as Stephen Cheek Bot had to take over bonging behind to Grandsire Triples!

Elsewhere on RR, other ringers in Suffolk were also successful, with a band from the west of the county ringing a quarter-peal of Barham Delight Minor, which is Cambridge Surprise below the treble and second-place Kent Treble Bob (or more accurately Barnsley Treble Bob!) above the treble. God willing it might be possible to ring it on the new six at the place of the same name as soon as just seven weeks time.

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Sunday 2nd May 2021

There is some strange weather going on at the moment.

As I stood ringing 7-8 to call-changes on ten handbells in the churchyard of St Mary-le-Tower, I was regretting wearing my fleece top as the sun beat down on my back and I roasted uncomfortably. Within moments though, when the sun was hidden by fast moving clouds pushed along by the still chilly breeze, discomfort came from being in the very cold shadows cast by the conditions.

Kingston Field.Later, as were having a picnic at Kingston Fields in Woodbridge with our friends Gregory and Charlotte and their daughters – and our Goddaughters – Ava and Bea, it was generally very comfortable, but then it rained on us.

Of course, we currently have no choice but to endure whatever the notoriously unpredictable British spring weather throws at us if we want to meet people from other households, but we still enjoyed both occasions. The ringing was simple but nice and heard by those able to attend the church service we were performing for and followed by a get-together with refreshment from Costa Coffee in groups of six in Christchurch Park, although numbers were quite down on last time we met in person a fortnight ago.

Ruthie wasn’t with us this time as she was needed for choral duties at church, where outside Jackie Shipley and the Wakefields were also ringing the congregation in with handbells from the churchyard.

The band.Meanwhile, it was great to see more peals being rung, including one in Liverpool where three of the band were ringing the 5040 of Plain Bob Major in hand before attending the concert in the city being used as a tester event to see if such things can be held safely as restrictions are further eased. God willing they can be and will perhaps inform how full-on ringing could be carried out safely when the roadmap is completed.

And hopefully means we will be able to ring and socialise indoors when the weather is strange!

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Saturday 1st May 2021

It was a day of success with caveats.

We were able to diagnose why we have no hot water or heating without having to fork out to get someone in to diagnose it. Only to discover we couldn’t fix it, meaning we will have to fork out to get someone in to fix it.

After eleven hours of football going back an entire month and six matches (and to a time when the club was owned by someone else) without one, Ipswich Town finally scored a goal. They even got two. And actually won! However, it came as the results of others meant that it is now mathematically impossible for us to get promoted this season and are therefore stuck in the third tier of English football for at least another year.

Meanwhile, we joined what was by and large a successful South-East District Practice on Ringing Room this afternoon. Despite some Cambridge Surprise Major which collapsed we did some well rung Surprise Minor of the Cambridge and Norwich variety and pretty respectable Little Bob Royal. Still, it was marred by internet issues on our part that again meant that we had to move rooms, whilst there was a distinctly subdued tone to the mood. Twenty were present and I think we all enjoyed it, but there is no mistaking that for all that RR and online ringing generally has kept us as sharp and ready as most could hope to be at change-ringing after nearly fourteen months without being able to do much of it on towerbells, people seem generally fed up with ringing with people muted on video screens reliant on their broadband playing ball.

Not that it has put everyone off online ringing. A peal of the ‘Core Seven’ Project Pickled Egg methods was scored early in the morning (having to start at 4.30am in order to ensure reliable enough internet connection to score a peal seems another downside of online ringing!), whilst four quarter-peals were also rung ‘on the net’. Increasingly though, online performances have become the minority and there were plenty rung on handbells today, including some Stedman Minimus in Woodbridge by Gillian and Bruce Wakefield.

Just up the road in Melton, we received this week’s copy of The Ringing World, where the front cover was adorned with a photo of Medbourne in Leicestershire by Great Barton ringer Ben Keating and saw Cathy Colman feature in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’ for the QP of Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Major on Ringing Room on the 22nd April. Good as well to read the reports of young ringers getting back into ringing chambers.

Which seems like a success without caveats for once.

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Friday 30th April 2021

With impeccable timing, at the start of a bank holiday weekend, our heating and hot water seemed to have packed up. And Charlie the cat brought a live mouse in which we then had to try and catch. We’ve had better Friday nights.

Still, we were perked up by the weekly virtual pub run by Simon Rudd, as I think our host was too after a couple of days of being a bit under the weather (not that he got much sympathy from the assembled gathering!), as we congratulated new Grandad David Stanford ‘in person’ on a lively, jovial, silly and very upbeat chat.

Meanwhile, there was decent coverage of ringing in the media.

First locally as Guild Chairman Rowan Wilson spoke with Mark Murphy on the local BBC radio station 3hrs 20mins into his breakfast show about ringing for Suffolk Day, which is planned for 21st June, a day that could be significant in so many ways. God willing the freedoms tantalisingly dangled to society generally will be extended to ringing on the same basis on the same day and hopefully we can mark the occasion and the longest day of the year with full-on ringing. There are still hurdles to overcome though and I thought Rowan put across the exercise’s position perfectly.

Nationally, we watched this evening’s BBC 1 programme Royal Wedding: A Day to Remember, which looked back to the wedding of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge which took place a decade ago yesterday. It looks at various aspects of the day, including briefly the ringing at Westminster Abbey, which consisted of 1013 changes of Stedman Caters beforehand and a peal of spliced Surprise Royal afterwards and was ringing of the highest quality and probably the most listened to ringing in history! About 40mins 30secs into the programme, they interview three of the ringers, Jeremy Pratt, David Hilling and Clarke Walters in some excellent PR for the art, even if it is fairly fleeting.

At least it distracted us from the lack of heating and the loose mice for a while.

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Thursday 29th April 2021

The Colman family of Bury St Edmunds could be said to be flying the flag of Suffolk ringing on Ringing Room with some justification. Over the last ten days, son and mother Nathan and Cathy have participated in six quarter-peals on RR between them, including this morning’s 1250 of Johannesburg Surprise Major, a first for her and all bar the conductor Richard Wolfgang who was calling it for the first time. Well done to all, especially Cathy!

Having had a decent go at a course of this Yorkshire-based method with Wheatley during my lunchbreak, I can confirm that whilst a fairly straightforward line, like many similar constructions its familiarity could be its downfall, lulling the band into a false sense of security before catching them out with the unfamiliar bits and with the added challenge of ringing it online, this 54 minutes of ringing would’ve been no walk in the park! I always think one of the benefits of such methods is that whilst not so complicated as to introduce unsure ringing, it does encourage concentration, which in turn usually generates good ringing and having rung with a number of the band online in recent months I am pretty sure it would’ve been a super effort.

The increase of my participation in online ringing with St Mary-le-Tower, Pettistree, Guild and District events (reminder that all being well there are opportunities to ring with the South-East District this Saturday and then the North-West District seven days later) and the Cast of 1000 has seen me join this open and friendly group of ringers less frequently, but if you are looking to expand upon your ringing then I would heartily recommend looking out for sessions advertised on the Ringing Room Take-Hold Lounge on Facebook. There are practices almost every night and throughout the weekend, so there ought to be a time to suit almost anyone, especially as there is no need to book.

As if to reiterate why I don’t always have time to join them, this evening was another busy one in our household. Whilst Ruthie was singing at two choir practices, I got the boys to bed, cooked our tea and took in last night’s talk by Chris Pickford to the St Martin’s Guild about three Victorian era bell foundries in Birmingham - Blews, Barwell and Carr - which can now be watched on YouTube. It is a presentation fascinating in a fashion typical of Chris, delving into aspects of history that have been researched extensively by him. Well worth a watch, especially as there are a couple of references to Suffolk.

A county being represented so well by the Colmans.

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Wednesday 28th April 2021

Shaun the Sheep.It was an odd Pettistree practice this evening. With quizmaster Hilary Stearn informing us she was running late and our Ringing Room Ringing Master Mark Ogden needing to leave at 8.30, we started proceedings with ringing, although with a couple missing for various reasons and one of those present suffering from internet lag, it was a fairly limited repertoire before Hilary arrived to deliver another super quiz. And there was an appearance from Shaun the Sheep. Odd indeed.

Norwich Surprise Minor band.Elsewhere in Suffolk, Nathan Colman rang a quarter-peal on RR for the second day in a row, this time with a 1368 of Norwich Surprise Minor, whilst David Stanford celebrated becoming a grandfather with a 1274 of Major on handbells in Moats Tye. Congratulations to David and to Megan and former local ringer Tim, as well as his mother Suzanne.

There won’t be any time for the new parents to be enjoying Ringing Room practices though, odd or not!

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Tuesday 27th April 2021

Great excitement today as a government announcement and a text message from the NHS confirmed that this forty-two year old can now book appointments for his Covid-19 vaccinations. Great excitement as it gets me one step closer to God willing being safe to those around me and being safer myself and hopefully towards full-on ringing being able to safely start up in less than a couple of months time. After all, as I am absolutely desperate to get back to full-on ringing, the very least I can do is make myself as safe as possible to others that I hope will ring with me when we are given the go-ahead.

St Mary, Hadleigh.That said, I wasn’t able to book any appointment today as the next nearest available appointment slots were tomorrow or Thursday during the day in Hadleigh, where I have often rung on the 22cwt eight, but isn’t a practical location to get to during a working day. However, the lack of available slots is an encouraging sign that lots of others are taking up the invitation to get vaccinated and get society properly up and running again, as soon as possible.

Whether they are vaccinated or not, a number of Suffolk’s ringers were able to ring today, thanks to Ringing Room. Well done to Norman Tower ringer Cathy Colman on ringing her first quarter-peal of Lessness Surprise Major in the transatlantic 1280 rung with her son Nathan, whilst a band from Whepstead, Blaxhall and Bury St Edmunds rang a QP of Plain Bob Minor on the same platform.

No time for such activity for me, as I try to get an appointment booked!

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Monday 26th April 2021

It was a frustrating evening on Ringing Room for the weekly St Mary-le-Tower practice. Primed for the ‘standard’ eight Surprise Major methods, with only six ringers present we needed Wheatley’s help, even with Nigel Newton ringing two. Except the ringing robot wouldn’t play ball. We reset it, moved it around the rope circle, changed the peal speed, but it didn’t want to budge. Eventually, we gave up and reverted to six-bell ringing, only then for our internet to start playing up, causing considerable lag, whilst the member of the band whose internet stops every hour also interrupted one piece!

Elsewhere in Suffolk they were having better luck, noticeably on real bells as a 1344 of Plain Bob Major was rung on handbells in Bury St Edmund by the Guild’s current Chairman Rowan Wilson, Past Ringing Master Jed Flatters, one-time Peal Secretary Alan Mayle and former Chairman Brian Whiting.

Meanwhile, with all the online difficulties we were having, it was nice to be able to enjoy the good old fashioned printed word as The Ringing World arrived with us. Whilst there wasn’t much related to the county bar mentions for Ipswich born and bred George Salter and John Loveless who learnt to ring at Bures in ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard?’ for their impressive efforts in hand a couple of weeks ago in Yatton and Campton respectively, there were still pieces of interest.

One is CCCBR President Simon Linford’s response to last week’s letter from Phil Rogers, which reiterates the guidance that has since been released for ringing – if all goes to plan – between 17th May and 21st June, but interestingly finishes with the sentence “Those who have made a conscious decision not to be vaccinated may find their ringing opportunities restricted.” It sounds ominous, but just as all the previous guidance from the Central Council has been just that with no pretence of it being an order, this is not meant as a warning that they intend to force ringers to have the vaccine before being allowed to ring, even if they could do that. Indeed, elsewhere Simon appears to indicate he is against vaccine passports, at least for the purposes of ringing. However, rightly or wrongly one cannot rule out that individuals and indeed bands – maybe even incumbents – might refuse to take the risk of ringing in a confined space alongside someone who is willingly unvaccinated. I hope that won’t be the case, but it would be understandable and something we may have to accept if we want to encourage as many of those who might reasonably be anxious in returning after all that has occurred over the last thirteen months. Food for thought for any ringers wavering in whether to have the jab.

All this underlines how much the resumption of full-on ringing – which God willing could be less then just two months away – will need to be carefully managed and as part of that, the CCCBR and ART are encouraging as many ringers as possible to register as Recovery Champions. These are ringers who will help to communicate and/or implement plans and guidance on getting ringing going again, whether that be on a Guild-wide basis or in the local area – more information can be found here. We apparently have three registered within our borders according to SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge’s email to members last week, so could certainly do with more.

Personally, ringing’s recovery can’t come soon enough. In the end, our Surprise Minor ringing this evening was very good, especially considering the technological adversity we faced, with Cambridge, Norwich, London and Primrose rung, but it wasn’t what we set out to achieve. Bring on real ringing, when we can get frustrated on towerbells instead!

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Sunday 25th April 2021

There was a brief flurry of ringing family members visiting this afternoon, unintentionally coordinated between the boys’ grandmothers.

Firstly, Ruthie’s mother Kate dropped off some (magic!) beans and as we stood at our front door chatting, my mother Sally arrived with the chocolate that the boys won for their efforts in the Easter Bonnet competition at the recent South-East District online gathering. Worth noting at this point that the next SE event is due to be held on Saturday, again via Zoom, but this time with some ringing on Ringing Room, whilst the following Saturday the North-West District plan to hold their monthly RR practice from 10.30am-noon, with socialising for half-an-hour beforehand. Whilst on the subject of future events, it is also worth noting that the Ringing World National Youth Contest has been moved from 10th July to Saturday 11th September, when it is hoped that it will be held in Worcester. I’m not aware of any potential entry from Suffolk, but if there is, please take note, if you haven’t already!

Woodbridge.My Mum was able to report on how this morning’s handbell ringing in St Mary-le-Tower churchyard and then regulation-friendly gathering in Christchurch Park had gone, seeing as we missed that to go to church in Woodbridge. Running late, we missed the handbell ringing done by Jackie Shipley and the Wakefields outside St Mary-the-Virgin as reported on BellBoard, although we did pass Bruce and Gill in the street as we rushed to the church!

Pettistree.And we were to ring with my mater-in-law later, albeit online as we briefly returned to our Sunday evening quarter-peal attempts with the Pettistree ringers. I say briefly, as score or lose we had collectively decided to make this our last attempt in the hope that in the not too distant future we might be able to try a QP on the ground-floor six that can be easily ventilated.  I think the novelty has worn off and it has become quite wearing focusing intensely at a computer screen for an hour, especially at the end of the weekend, although that is entirely our fault as otherwise we can’t both ring and guarantee there wouldn’t be any interruptions from the boys! As if to sum up the last few Sundays, our efforts came to a premature end after about half an hour of careful, but decent ringing.

On a day when I felt almost overwhelmed listening to commentary of a football match where 8,000 fans were present making familiar and much missed noise, I’m praying that we can soon be making familiar and much missed noise on actual towerbells, as well as continuing those familiar and previously missed family visits.

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Saturday 24th April 2021

ART’s latest Survival & Recovery News-sheet is an upbeat read, with CCCBR Vice-President David Kirkcaldy opening up with his piece “It’s time to talk about ringing recovery”, echoing the thoughts of many ringers when he says “We certainly hope that very soon we will be able to stop using the word survival”. To that end, the publication also focuses on the recovery presentations that I mentioned in Wednesday’s blog, the first of which is due to done by Haverhill Priest in Charge and ringer the Reverend Max Drinkwater on Saturday 8th May at 7.30pm, a schedule climaxed with an online beer tasting, although only open to those who attend at least one of the events! Even the stuff that focused on ringing’s survival was positive, focusing on the relative success of online striking competitions.

Ever since 29th March when groups of six from different households could meet, there have been signs of ringing’s recovery, with many handbell performances – including peals on every day bar two – and that continued today with several impressive performances. Among those was a peal of Bristol Surprise Royal in Edgbaston in the West Midlands featuring Exning ringer and now Birmingham student Jimmy Yeoman.

Nothing anywhere near as impressive for us though and indeed no ringing at all as instead we travelled to Felixstowe to sit in the garden of our friends Kala and Nick to catch up with them and their children.

Felixstowe.As we pray for a greater emphasis on ringing’s recovery though, God willing it won’t be too long before we have the opportunity to ring on the town’s lovely 7cwt eight as well.

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Friday 23rd April 2021

Squirrel brings quarter-peal to halt.

Not a typical reason for the loss of a ringing performance and actually not necessarily the reason for the loss of the QP that Simon Rudd and David Sparling were mercifully only in the early stages of attempting today, but it was speculated at Mr Rudd’s virtual Friday night pub this evening that the squirrels that are frequent visitors to his garden may have been the cause of the power cut that prematurely and suddenly ended their efforts on Ringing Room! Whatever the reason, Mr Sparling’s message ten minutes later that Simon should be in 1-2 wasn’t deemed helpful apparently!

Ipswich, St Stephen.Meanwhile, news that St Stephen’s church in Ipswich – where the Tourist Information Centre was housed until last year in a wonderful use for the building – is up for rent got me wondering whether any further thought might be given to the three bells in the tower. I don’t sense a great desire to get them ringing again after years of only occasionally being rung for Christmas ringing in the town, although it would be good to ensure that these ancient bells (the youngest is the tenor from 1629, whilst the other two are dated at around 1400) don’t go to waste. However, it is a reminder that there will likely be a number of churches which will have to find alternative uses and consideration will need to be made of what happens to the bells in those churches.

Hopefully though, when ringing does return, it will return on as many of our church bells as possible, where quarter-peals are less likely to be lost due to squirrels.

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Thursday 22nd April 2021

Hull Minster.Ringing watch on The Great British Sewing Bee that currently features Yorkshire ringer Andrew Aspland saw the art appear eleven minutes into last night’s edition, the second of the series, which I again flicked through to find the relevant part today! The ringing in question is on the twelve of Kingston upon Hull, a place with a vast, spacious ringing chamber I recall ringing at on Rambling Ringers in 1995 and although fleeting, the clip on national TV is invaluable PR for the exercise.

Meanwhile, Cathy Colman was representing Suffolk in a quarter-peal on Ringing Room of Percy’s Tea Strainer Treble Place Major, which is Yorkshire Surprise Major with the treble making places at the back instead of dodging. Well done to Cathy on ringing her first QP on eight on RR.

No ringing for us today, with the closest being another dose of Glasgow Surprise Major with just myself and Wheatley on RR when I had a spare few minutes when I wasn’t working or parenting. Or watching out for ringing on The Great British Sewing Bee.

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Wednesday 21st April 2021

God willing in one month’s time we will have started the next stage of the government’s ‘roadmap’ to ‘freedom’. This is when – if all goes to plan and we all know how much goes to plan these days – people from different households should be able to meet up within the ‘Rule of Six’ indoors in places like pubs, restaurants, other houses and of course ringing chambers.

It is a point when it was anticipated that we ringers could return to the type of restricted ringing that we did over the late summer and autumn last year and the draft guidance announced for ringing from 17th May (at the earliest) by the CCCBR today indeed confirms that we are due to return to social distanced ringing with a maximum of six ringers for a limited time period and face masks on and hands sanitised. However, as teased by Central Council President Simon Linford when he spoke before our AGM nearly a fortnight ago, it also announced that things aren’t planned to be as restrictive as last time. The reduction of the two metre rule to one metre approved before things took a turn for the worse six months ago, is pencilled in to take effect next month, although only for ringing – two metres is to apply when not ringing. There will hopefully be a “return of enjoyable recreational ringing” rather than just for services and after nearly eighteen months studying this virus the scientific and medical community don’t believe that there is much risk at all from catching it via surfaces that others have touched and so there is no longer the requirement to stick with the same rope, although hands should still be sanitised before ringing and changing ropes. Additionally, the time limit rises from the fifteen minutes to which we’ve become accustomed to three quarters of an hour. Perhaps most importantly, all ringers should perform Lateral Flow Tests and have a negative result before coming ringing.

Meanwhile, the intention is to research the effectiveness of ventilation. At the moment it seems reasonable to assume that ground-floor rings open to the church and with big west doors that can open up to the outside such as Falkenham, Halesworth and Kersey (as well as Cotton of course!) would be safe, but such research will hopefully reveal other ringing chambers will also be of little risk if ventilated.

If all goes well, I hope these measures will make a full-on return to ringing on the completion of the roadmap more feasible, offering reassurance to understandably anxious ringers and of course incumbents, who despite the guidance being agreed with the House of Bishops Recovery Group may in some cases need convincing to allow their ringing chambers to be opened up again after a year of supreme caution.

On that note, I would recommend taking in the talk planned for Saturday 8th May by Suffolk Guild member and ringing vicar Reverend Max Drinkwater on the subject of ‘Building better relationships with your church’. It is the first of a number of online presentations being hosted by ART and the CCCBR with further subjects being ‘How to re-establish ringing in your village’, ‘Getting bells and towers in order’, ‘Managing expectations’, ‘Attracting and keeping ringers’, ‘Holding a successful practice’ and ‘Developing a ringing cluster’, as well as a Q&A session with Dr Andrew Kelso, Ringing Master of the Essex Association and one of the judges at the 2019 Guild Striking Competitions at Polstead and Lavenham. SGR members on the email list should’ve received an email from PR Officer Neal Dodge today with further details, but if you haven’t then please contact either Neal or Webmaster Chris Garner and I’m sure they can send it to you.

That will all have to wait, so for today my main ringing focus was online as I used Ringing Room to practice handbell ringing and then later to join the Pettistree ringers for their weekly practice. Although Ruthie missed Hilary Stearn’s pre-session quiz as choir practice was moved to tonight, she returned home just as Alfie was bonging behind to some Grandsire Doubles and was then able to help us in nearly an hour’s worth of ringing that included Stedman Doubles and Surprise Minor in the form of Cambridge and Norwich, before we left Mark Ogden giving Hilary a tutorial on how to use Wheatley.

Ramsbottom family band.Also on RR from within our borders was John Ramsbottom who rang in a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first ringing lesson for his brother and fellow Rambling Ringer Phil – congratulations Phil!

There was also ringing on handbells in the county, with a 1295 of Plain Bob Major rung at Moats Tye in honour of the Queen’s birthday, which for obvious reasons was marked in more subdued fashion than previously.

I pray that by the time we reach her official birthday on 12th June that ringing on towerbells will be part of a successful easing of more restrictions and that we will be eagerly awaiting the complete lifting of restrictions that will hopefully be happening in precisely two months time.

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Tuesday 20th April 2021

Phil Rogers is a respected voice in ringing. A member of the St Paul’s Cathedral band and Past Master, Secretary and Treasurer of the Ancient Society of College Youths and still a significant voice in the Society, someone I have been privileged to ring with. Therefore, the letter written by him in The Ringing World that arrived in the post at ours this morning is well worth a read. In it, he puts forward his thoughts on how the return to ringing could potentially be managed, whilst recognising that the last year or so has taught us that forecasting the future is “a mug’s game”. As he points out, the possible lingering of indefinite social distancing and poor ventilation in some towers appears to make a return to ringing as it was pre-pandemic unfeasible. What is more, even if the vaccine rollout goes to plan, not everyone will be vaccinated by 21st June, the earliest possible date that we might expect to return to proper, full-on ringing. Additionally, there will be some who won’t be able to get vaccinated or refuse to. He mentions vaccine passports, but even if it were desirable to ban the unvaccinated (which of course would include children) from ringing chambers, would we be allowed to? Much more reasonable would be that ringers are tested and if they are free of the virus then they should be allowed to go ringing. Phil points out that many (such as Ruthie and Mason for example) will already be taking lateral flow tests twice a week as part of going to work and school, so it is something that a lot of ringers will be doing as part of their everyday life.

I have to admit, I entirely agree. Personally, I can’t see how vaccine passports would work generally in society for the reasons that Phil and others have outlined, but using the routine testing that many (if not most?) people will be doing by the time the ‘roadmap’ is due to complete seems to make complete sense, at least for the time being. If on the back of a negative Covid test ringers are allowed to go about their everyday life to weddings, theatres, pubs, sports events, concerts and even nightclubs (where hundreds of drunk people will spend hours crammed in together in places that in my experience are rarely all that well ventilated), then there is absolutely no reason why ringers shouldn’t be able to gather together in ringing chambers (especially ones where ventilation can be created with little trouble) for service ringing, practices, funerals, even quarters and peals as safely as is possible, especially as most present will be known to each other and track and tracing should be far easier than in many other situations, numbers of cases should be lower and – as announced at today’s press briefing – there might even be tablets that could be taken to further reduce the virus’ effect. Of course we shall have to follow whatever rules may be in place at the time, but I hope such conversations help pave a safe passage back to full-on ringing in a way that will reassure as many of those who are understandably anxious about going back to ringing chambers and the Church of England Recovery Group. After all, we can’t really afford to wait until social distancing is deemed unnecessary, if some of the depressing stories of it lasting for years are to be believed. Frankly, I fear for the survival of many bands and aspects of the art if we have to wait beyond the end of this year.

The rest of the latest copy of the RW is again full of interesting and quite diverse content from the making of guitars to trends in bell production and it is great to see the Peal Reports section slowly filling up again as some of the many rung in the early days after the restrictions on meeting other households outside were eased on 29th March. Bar performances featuring Suffolk ringers recorded in the quarter-peal columns, the only reference to anything within our borders that I could find this week was that made to Ipswich architect Brightwen Binyon who designed Sunderland Town Hall in the late nineteenth century, with the fate of the bells there the subject of an article by Christopher Teasdale. (Brightwen Binyon was a younger brother of George Binyon of Whitmore & Binyon of Wickham Market. Ed.)

Bramfield.John Banks' 100th birtday peal band.Meanwhile, Dolphin’s Dart – a competition on BBC Radio Suffolk where one-time ringer Lesley Dolphin invites listeners to her show to guess the identity of a community with a series of clues – went to Bramfield this afternoon, with the detached tower being one of the clues. This round structure houses a ground-floor 12cwt five, a ring of bells fondly recalled by me from when I rang in the first peal on the bells for eighty-one years in 2007 with George Pipe, which was Jonathan Stevens’ 150th (he’s now rung 372) and rung at very short notice by him after I’d only asked him to replace a poorly Ruth Eagle (if you recall her) after a peal at Horringer that morning!

No peals for me today of course and no real ringing, although I did play about with Wheatley on Ringing Room, practicing some PPE methods like Cooktown Orchid Delight, Double Dublin Surprise and Glasgow Surprise Major, as well as trying to ring Cambridge Surprise Minor at the same speed as the fastest peal rung on towerbells, which was the 1hrs 13mins at Hadstock in Essex in 1991. It wasn’t easy just pushing a button for 120 changes, so I took on a new appreciation of the efforts of that incredibly talented band of nearly thirty years ago.

At least one other ringer from within our borders was also on RR today, with Tim Hart ringing a handbell quarter-peal of Yorkshire Surprise Major with Past Ringing Master at St Mary-le-Tower Simon Rudd and current member of the band David Sparling. Tim has used the downtime from ringing on towerbells to his benefit to become an accomplished ringer in hand and I have used it to become increasingly familiar with a wider range of methods that I didn’t used to get the opportunity to ring regularly. However, I pray that Phil Rogers’ letter offers a foresight to what soon might be and that we can get back to ringing in the way that the majority of us enjoy the most later this year.

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Monday 19th April 2021

St Mary-le-Tower.In normal times, if we managed Grandsire and Stedman Triples, Bristol Surprise Major, Grandsire Caters and Little Bob Royal at St Mary-le-Tower on the weekly Monday night practice we would be disappointed as it would indicate that not enough had turned up to ring all twelve. Indeed, we’d have been disappointed not to have rung Surprise Maximus. Tonight on the Ringing Room version we are still restricted to, the aforementioned repertoire was what was on the menu and we didn’t have enough to ring on twelve, let alone Surprise Max.

However, the numbers at this evening’s session were probably amongst the best we’ve had at these since we started them a couple of months ago. We – at SMLT and more broadly in ringing – have to accept that online ringing isn’t for everyone. Indeed, for that I am a great admirer of RR, even I have occasionally grown quite weary of staring at a computer screen to do my ringing, although that is as much to do with my yearning to do proper, fulfilling change-ringing on real towerbells, of the sort I haven’t been able to do satisfactorily for thirteen months now.

Wheatley could’ve enabled us to ring on twelve even with the ten present on this occasion, but we are also accepting that in this medium, we are still learning, even in methods we are familiar with, so we stuck largely to eight bells and although the ringing wasn’t of as high a standard as last week’s extremely good session, this nonetheless represented progress when one thinks back to our initial forays into Ringing Room. What is more, we have a ‘roadmap’ of sorts to focus on Surprise Major with some work on ten, which gives all those attending something to be prepared for in the coming weeks. And again, it was great fun to meet up and ring together.

Transatlantic band.Elsewhere in Suffolk, others were also using the same platform to do their ringing as Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman rang in the transatlantic quarter-peal of Cambridge Surprise Major, but there was also ringing on handbells within our borders with the Wakefields of Woodbridge ringing a plain course of Stedman Minimus and a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor was rung in Bury St Edmunds.

God willing we’ll soon be on actual towerbells ringing our usual range of methods, but in the circumstances it wasn’t a bad day of ringing in the county.

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Sunday 18th April 2021

Road closures. Of the few silver linings to the very dark clouds of the last thirteen months, I’d like to think one of them is that I have come to realise such small things really don’t matter in the scheme of things. Yet I was delighted to have the chance to get annoyed about not discovering the road closure at Tuddenham St Martin until this morning when we reached the road closure at Tuddenham St Martin, with no signs that we spotted on the miles of lanes beforehand that only lead to this spot, warning of the road closure at Tuddenham St Martin.

Delighted, because it meant we were going somewhere, or at least trying to. And in the end, despite a considerable detour shared by other cars also unaware of the road closure at Tuddenham St Martin (did I mention there is a road closure at Tuddenham St Martin?), we were only a couple of minutes late for our ultimate rendezvous, which was St Mary-le-Tower churchyard for a spot of handbell ringing outside to welcome the congregation to the 10.30am service. The Plain Hunt on Six that I rang on 1-2 with Colin Salter on 3-4 conducting, Stephen Cheek on 5-6 and then my wife and Jonathan Williamson on 7-8 and 9-10 bonging behind turned out to be another useful experience in my tentative ‘progress’ in hand as we returned to another once-familiar venue for the first time in months.

In Christchurch Park, with St Mary-le-Tower in the background. In Christchurch Park, with the Mansion in the background.
Christchurch Park

Afterwards, we and those who come to meet up proceeded on to Christchurch Park for takeaway refreshment from Costa Coffee where we all strictly stuck to the regulations in groups of no more than six in front of the Mansion and beneath the tower of St Margaret’s church that houses a 14cwt eight. It was lovely to see friends in person again and for the boys to play safely in space and hopefully another step towards even greater freedoms, which will hopefully include socially distanced ringing from about a month’s time and then God willing unrestricted ringing side-by-side in just over two months time.

For now, there was more tolling for the Duke of Edinburgh in Suffolk at Eye by St John Perry. Since I wrote yesterday that fifty-two towers had tolled on the day of HRH’s funeral, that number has grown to seventy and Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge knows of around a hundred towers who have tolled at least once since His Royal Highness’ death. However, he is aware that it is likely that there are more not yet recorded on BellBoard and he would like to get the full picture of where has tolled so that he can share it with the Lieutenant of Suffolk and maybe even Buckingham Palace. Therefore, if you haven’t already sent up your efforts then please do and/or let Neal know. Apart from it being a nice thing to do and a wonderful record of local ringing’s reaction to a historic event, it shouldn’t do our cause in being fully allowed back into ringing chambers when it is safe to do so any harm to have the goodwill of friends in high places!

Meanwhile, BB was awash with handbell and online ringing, including a half-muffled touch of Plain Bob Triples on Ringing Room by a Bardwell practice night band, also in memory of Prince Philip. Unlike most Sunday evenings this year though, we didn’t attempt a quarter-peal on RR with the Pettistree ringers after the collective decision of the band last week to take a brief break from them and so it was a quiet night in watching TV instead. And avoiding road closures at Tuddenham St Martin.

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Saturday 17th April 2021

The eyes of the country and indeed the world were on Windsor Castle today as the funeral of Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh took place this afternoon. Whatever one’s views on the reaction to his death and indeed to him and the Royal Family generally, I think it was certainly right that ringing marked the sepulture of a man who supported the Head of the Church, the organisation for which our primary purpose is to ring for and whose Award scheme has benefitted the exercise over the years. And it certainly did that, at least as much as it was allowed. Up and down the country, bells tolled out for the considerably scaled down ceremony to see HRH off. That included here in Suffolk, with tolling carried out at fifty-two towers, as well as a half-muffled quarter-peal on Ringing Room by a band from the west of the county.

We didn’t do any ringing for His Royal Highness and indeed I missed the funeral, but that was because it fell during a Cast of 1000 session on RR that had been arranged some time ago, before the Duke’s death. There was a brief pause for the minute’s silence and one or two were a few minutes late because they had been tolling a bell, but otherwise, everyone had agreed to continue as planned, a decision vindicated by the ninety minute practice. These are intense, with usually nine or ten present for the Surprise Major repertoire drawn from Project Pickled Egg. It usually means that I find myself ringing every piece and with a high standard and a duty to be at one’s best for the learners, much concentration is needed in addition to that I need for ringing online generally. Add into that less familiar methods like Deva and they can be a mentally stretching experience.

It is entirely worth it though. They seem to be a great help to those we are helping and the ringing is very generally super and have been good for me too. And although they aren’t meant to be, they are nice socially, albeit the chat is saved until the end after the business of these professional sessions is done. Today’s was run excellently by Cambridge ringer Liz Orme, briefly saw us joined by CCCBR President – and speaker before the Guild AGM a week ago – Simon Linford and featured plenty of Cambridge, Suoerlative and Yorkshire spliced, Bristol and the aforementioned Deva. Very enjoyable and I would encourage SGR members who ring Surprise Major to join either as a learner or helper or if you know someone who could benefit to point them in its direction. Further details can be found on the Central Council website.

Ultimately, it contributed to a good day for ringing on a sad day for many. The art put itself in a positive light and hopefully gave the Duke of Edinburgh a farewell that he would’ve been pleased with.

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Friday 16th April 2021

There are two questions that are generally doing the rounds at the moment.

One is “Have you had a jab yet?” and the other is “Have you got a haircut booked?”.

The former is in response to the still rapid vaccination programme in the UK and in this household the answer is “no”.

The latter is in response to the reopening of hairdressers this week and the answer in this household is also “no.” However, that is mainly because Ruthie, Alfie & Joshua got their haircuts this afternoon after several months of growth!

It meant there was an unexpected delay in me getting Mason as they had the car and got back later than anticipated, but it was worth it for the boys being able to see and hear without having to brush back their hair! And that extra, unplanned time gave me an opportunity to sharpen my Surprise Major skills with Wheatley on Ringing Room ahead of a Cast of 1000 session planned for tomorrow. Most of the repertoire is second nature even after thirteen months of not ringing it as regularly as I have been and Cornwall and Lessness have become increasingly familiar thanks to RR in recent months, but these practices are essentially professional, set-up through much organisation, with great expectations on those helping to make them worthwhile for those learning and I am anxious to make sure that I don’t let anyone down. Therefore, I found myself not only brushing up on those methods but also Deva – which is the most unfamiliar to me – and importantly getting used to these on this platform, which is very different to ringing them on towerbells where the feel and momentum of a bell helps guide you through methods that are unfamiliar, as well as being guided by fellow ringers glances and body language. Hopefully it will enable me to contribute positively to proceedings.

Eventually my shorn housemates returned looking very smart and feeling a lot lighter, I collected Mason and we settled down for our Friday night, as usual kicked off with Simon Rudd and friends in his virtual pub, including former Halesworth ringer Maggie Ross and her partner Tim Palmer who were able to give us an insight into ringing at the Curfew Tower at Windsor Castle at the start of a weekend that will see the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral take place on the grounds.

I imagine that occasion will see much tolling – the most we can currently do on towerbells sadly – tomorrow, but there was some today, including here in Suffolk where the half-muffled tenor at Grundisburgh was rung.

Meanwhile, it is precisely a decade since Clare Veal and Neal Dodge’s first quarter-peal, which was one of two rung that day at Great Barton, with the second seeing Simon Veal ring his first, achievements noted in my blog entry of that day. It was notable at the time and significant in hindsight as they have since rung 529 QPs and 289 peals, as well contributing significantly to ringing in the county. Worthy of marking with a quarter-peal ten years on then, although I don’t expect they ever envisaged they would have to do it online as they did today with a 1260 of Doubles, which was David Howe’s first on RR, Neal’s first on RR inside and his 300th in total and Clare’s first blows on the platform. Well done and congratulations David, Neal and Clare!

I wonder if they’ve had a vaccine or haircut yet though...

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Thursday 15th April 2021

David Stanford receiving the Innovation Award from the Chiarman.Congratulations to Hasketon ringer David Stanford on winning the individual Innovation Award, an informal added extra to the revamped St Edmund’s Clapper competition. His victory for his fantastic The Offton Round Britain Tour quiz that took participants on a virtual coach tour of the British coastline was announced at Saturday’s Guild AGM, but he couldn’t be presented with it until he and SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson met yesterday for the successful handbell quarter in Moats Tye. I agree with the Guild Executive that he deserves his prize for what sounded like a fun idea at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to come up with different ways to make staring at a computer screen entertaining, but also worthy of mention was the runner-up, South-East District Ringing Master Jenny Scase on her Debenham Quiz and also Debenham Walk. Indeed, everyone who is working hard to raise money for the Guild and/or keep ringers in touch in innovative and interesting ways are to be given much credit for their efforts.

It is the type of thing being reported and encouraged in last month’s Recovery Champions’ meeting, a recording of which I came across in the Association of Ringing Teachers Survival and Recovery Toolbox during my lunchbreak. There are lots of good tips and ideas relayed, both for keeping ringers engaged currently, but also in identifying where help is needed and what to be aware of on, and how to prepare for the resumption of ringing. It is just a few seconds shy of 1hr38mins, but well worth taking the time to watch. And it is well worth keeping a regular eye on the Survival and Recovery Toolbox generally.

Also worth watching, is David Hull’s talk to the St Martin’s Guild from yesterday which is now available on YouTube. It is about change ringing and music and there can be fewer if any better placed to expound upon the subject. His compositions are amongst the most rung and admired, including the one used for the famous record peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus rung in Alderney in 2017. I have also had the pleasure and privilege to ring in a number of peals conducted by him to musical compositions (usually his own!), including one of Stedman Septuples and Bristol Surprise Sixteen spliced at St Martin’s in Birmingham back in 2000, which included tittums, eliciting much joy from the band - I seem to recall Stef Warboys calling it “outrageous” in a positive sense! When pushed on the subject of his favourite musical row in ringing, tittums on sixteen was what he replied with and having experienced it first-hand, I can certainly understand!

It wasn’t just the music of compositions and methods that he touched upon though. The quality of bells and striking were quite rightly deemed important and he reiterated a theory that I support, namely that – within reason – there is no such thing as a single ‘right’ pace for a peal of bells. Additionally, he explored ringing’s place in music, all of which was fascinating and presented with his usual dry wit and intelligence.

Meanwhile, I was also watching Yorkshire ringer Andrew Aspland’s debut in The Great British Sewing Bee from last night. I say watched. I’ve never watched it in my life. From what I did see, it seems a carbon copy of The Great British Bake Off in almost every respect and as I only usually watch that passively through Bake Off fan Ruthie, I’m not desperate to sit through another similar show. However, even though I don’t know Andrew, I am interested to see if ringing gets a bit of publicity from it and so I flicked through it on iPlayer until I saw him. As it happened, the main focus on him – albeit pretty brief – is about 25mins 30ecs in and doesn’t include any mention of the exercise, but (spoiler alert!) he wasn’t the one voted off and so he survives to potentially give the art some exposure.

We shall have to wait to see if he wins the competition, but at least we know for sure that David Stanford is a winner!

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Wednesday 14th April 2021

Pettistree.Pettistree practice hasn’t started with Grandsire Triples very often, unsurprisingly for a six. However, Ringing Room and an initially high attendance following Hilary Stearn’s latest quiz enabled us to try it without the need for Wheatley.

Sadly, it was to be the first of a number of pieces that didn’t finish due to internet troubles and fatigue-induced human error. RR has undoubtedly been one of the few positives of the last thirteen months, but there seemed a unmistakable sense that everyone wants to get back to proper ringing on church bells, alongside each other, instead of staring into a screen, battling latency. Of course, that isn’t happening until at least 21st June and whilst the usual form of gradually introducing bad news has meant that increasingly it has been suggested social distancing will linger indefinitely, I pray that ringing can find some way around this to resume fully in a way that is legal, satisfactory to the Church of England Recovery Group and most importantly of all, safe. If not on 21/6/2021 then shortly afterwards. Arguably it needs to on the basis of nights like this.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves generally. We were delighted to win Hilary Stearn’s usual pre-session quiz, despite knowing nothing about Game of Thrones and dodging a debate on whether the first organ transplant was in fact a skin graft as typically some ‘controversy’ was introduced! And it was great as usual to catch-up with ringers and indeed friends, even if we are longing for it to be in person in the ringing chamber and in The Greyhound afterwards.

Other ringers in Suffolk were doing the next best thing though, as a band rang a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Major in Moats Tye to celebrate Guild Peal Secretary Christine Knight’s birthday. Although she hasn’t had much to do in her role as SGR Peal Secretary since March last year and likewise hasn’t had much chance to ring in any peals, but she has always carried out the role diligently but politely (many an AGM has seen her give me a gentle prod for peal fees) and very amenable to travelling the county (and beyond) to help out in peals. Happy Birthday for yesterday Christine!

God willing we can ring together on real bells again before her next birthday, although I can’t promise Grandsire Triples at Pettistree!

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Tuesday 13th April 2021

Today was very much a College Youths day, as I read the online annual newsletter, took a survey as part of the Society’s consultation on whether online peals should count in their records and then attended the monthly meeting, a year after I attended the first one held via video.

Like the SGR’s Annual Report, the ASCY’s newsletter does well in looking back over a year where very much less ringing was carried out and there was reference to Suffolk too, most notably with Ringing Master Susan ‘Swaz’ Apter making special mention of George Pipe in her message from a year when two Past Masters – Andrew Stubbs and Paul Williams - also died, as she described him as “one of the ‘Greats of the Exercise’”. George is also highlighted as one of the proposers to getting the word ‘male’ removed from the membership rules in 1998 in a piece on the history of the Society’s relationship with women and even I appear as part of a photo of those who attended the Shrove Tuesday toast to Revd F Llewellyn Edwards!

Meanwhile, I was delighted to impart my thoughts on online peals for the Society, something that naturally wasn’t even considered a year ago. The general gist is that some would like peals rung on Ding, Handbell Stadium (it was a 5088 of Kent Treble Major rung on Dinner weekend in November which ignited the debate) and Ringing Room counted as any peal would be, whilst others feel that as they aren’t rung on real bells they would devalue peal-ringing for the organisation.

Personally, although I can’t ever see myself ringing a peal online (even a quarter takes a huge amount of sapping focus for me!) and I can’t see as many as the eighteen that have been rung in the last twelve months being notched up across a calendar again as God willing ringing on real bells opens up again, I am in favour of them being counted. The physical aspect is not as great as on towerbells obviously, but then neither is ringing on handbells and the fact we’re not ringing actual bells shouldn’t distract from the fact that change-ringing – which is the common theme that bonds ringing on church bells, handbells and (if you wish to distinguish them) mini-rings – is being done with all the thought processes that go into ringing peals on any bells. Providing a peal is rung through the teamwork of a band entirely consisting of humans with no extra help from computers (such as Wheatley ringing a bell or the pace set artificially by the platform) then I don’t see any problem with it. Additionally, whilst we all hope to return to ringing real bells to the extent we were pre-pandemic, even when we do it seems online ringing is going to stick around for training, allowing ringers vast distances apart to ring together and indeed for peal-ringing, even if not to the same extent as during the various lockdowns since March last year. In the original debate, someone said the Society would risk appearing out of date and stuffy by dismissing such peals as ‘not acceptable’, especially as another issue that is currently of concern is attracting younger members, and I am inclined to agree.

Come the evening and the meeting touched upon that consultation too, but otherwise there wasn’t much new to report on that would interest many outside of the Society, although it was good to see someone put forward for possible election next month as John Thurman proposed R Owen Battye and wonderful to see Swaz hosting proceedings after her recent stint in hospital.

And as the meeting drew to a close, an ASCY peal appeared on BellBoard as former Ipswich ringer George Salter rang his first peal of spliced on handbells in the impressive 5040 of forty-one Surprise Minor methods spliced in Somerset. Well done George.

Great to see others with links to Suffolk also having a College Youths day!

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Monday 12th April 2021

Five weeks after the first step of easing restrictions was made with no major effect on the numbers getting ill, ending up in hospital and/or dying of Covid-19, this morning saw the latest step made as we pray for an equably indiscernible deviation from the downwards trajectory of the those figures in the coming weeks. Pubs are now allowed to serve customers outside (indeed, some were open at one minute past midnight!), hairdressers can open and one can go to the poor zoos who have still had to feed their animals for the last thirteen months with practically no income.

Additionally though, it allows for young ringers groups to ring together in ringing chambers and God willing is the final step before at least restricted ringing can return, hopefully in five weeks time.

Meanwhile, The Ringing World arrived with us today and following The Norman Tower’s prominent feature on the covers of the journal a fortnight ago, this week sees Stonham Aspal on the front, courtesy of a picture from Norfolk ringer Neil Thomas and a unique photo overleaf, courtesy of my mother Sally. It says a lot that I even miss ringing on this 23cwt ten at the moment, for all their foibles and that they are a tough ring of bells, albeit far easier to ring these days after much work. They are the epitome of the variety that the exercise gives us and places it takes us to and I am chomping at the bit to go to such places again. Although I imagine the compact, fairly airless upstairs ringing chamber here won’t be amongst the first we will be able to utilise when we return, with ventilation very much a priority in those initial forays back into full-on ringing.

Inside the RW there were further Suffolk references, from a photo credit to Great Barton ringer (and extraordinary artist!) Ben Keating, to Bardwell ringer Ruth Suggett and Thornham Magna ringer Sylvie Fawcett’s table-topping quarter-peal on Ringing Room of 31st March featuring prominently on ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’.

What mainly caught my eye though was Past President of the CCCBR Chris Mew’s thoughts on ringing’s return. He makes some valid points, many of which have been considered in recent months but are worth reiterating. As he points out, when we do return, there will be many who are anxious and even unwilling and that has to be respected. Hopefully the return can be made as safe as possible to encourage as many as possible back and hopefully when we reach the point where we are given the go ahead it means the prevalence of the virus is minimal.

Will there – as Chris also muses – be anywhere to ring for some though? It has long been expected that an increasing number of churches will shut in the next few years - along with their bells – and it seems to be generally held that the pandemic has hastened and exacerbated this.

With the uncertainty over such things, he makes a suggestion that I have been making for ages - and which current Central Council President Simon Linford made in his talk before Saturday’s AGM - that local bands pool their resources, rather than struggle on with not quite enough to progress, often just a few miles apart, sometimes even on the same night. In the past, tradition, habit and routine have stood in the way of such collaborations, but now seems the best possible opportunity to rethink and for bands to work together to help the art’s recovery.

For now and for all the changes coming into force today, the ringing pretty much continued as it has done since 29th March, with at least one peal now rung every day since, including four today. They were all on handbells outside and amongst a number of performances in hand, but there was also more tolling for the Duke of Edinburgh. In relation to HRH’s funeral on Saturday, the CCCBR have announced that the Church would like a single bell tolled – preferably half-muffled if possible – in the hour (not necessarily for the whole hour) leading up to the ceremony at 3pm.

There was still much online ringing going on though, including in our household as we joined probably the best St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Room practice thus far. A course of Yorkshire Surprise Major and three leads of Bristol Surprise Major were extremely well rung and we successfully rang a bob course of Grandsire Caters and a course of Little Bob Royal in very decent fashion.

Still, I’m hoping that the next steps of Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ in five weeks and ten weeks time will be successfully negotiated and we will be change-ringing on real bells in church towers as soon as possible.

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Sunday 11th April 2021

Sunshine, hail, wind, rain, sleet. There was even snow in some places. It was all too much for the gazebo temporarily constructed in the garden, which we needed to take down in a hurry. Yet still, change-ringing continued, even though the only way for it to happen on real bells is outside. In Suffolk, a quarter-peal of Plain Bob Minor in hand was rung at the Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds, whilst further afield there were QPs of Royal and – for the sixteenth day running – a peal. Which in its own right was a significant one as it was the first of the standard one hundred and forty seven Treble Dodging Minor methods spliced to be rung strictly silent and non-conducted, meaning no instructions were given by anyone throughout. All three of the band just picked up their handbells, rang the peal without a word and then put them down again. Impressive in any circumstances.

Meanwhile, there was more tolling in the county in memory of the Duke of Edinburgh, by Veronica Downing at Chediston and Terry Eagle at East Bergholt.

There was no ringing on real bells for us today though. In the absence of a service at St Mary-le-Tower and therefore no handbell ringing outside and no social distanced gatherings of groups of six ringers in the park, we went to church at St Mary-the-Virgin in Woodbridge, before Alfie and I spent much of the afternoon playing the Ipswich Town FC Monopoly game that he got for his birthday yesterday.

Pettistree.We did do some online ringing though, as a Pettistree band met for our weekly Sunday evening quarter attempt on Ringing Room. For weeks we have been attempting to score one of Norwich Surprise Minor and have got close, but week after week we have ended prematurely. And so it was tonight. Ultimately we were helped on the way by an enquiry by the now seven-year old in our household who had otherwise been sitting very patiently and quietly and our laptop flickering unnervingly every few seconds, but whilst we generally rang very well, there definitely felt like there was a lot of fatigue creeping in to our efforts. Partly because Sunday evenings are not the best time for such attempts, although that is our fault as it is the only time we can offer any kind of guarantees on not getting interrupted by any children, ironic as that is after tonight.  However, also because we have now been attempting these quarters for months staring at a video screen, listening to computer-generated sound. With the ropesight still not as natural as in real ringing chambers, even a QP is a feat of mental endurance when none of us feel entirely comfortable ringing in this way. I can’t hide my admiration for the way that RR has kept the change-ringing brains of ourselves ticking over throughout the last few months, but the suggestion after our latest loss to take a week off and try a different method seems a sensible one.

I don’t think any of us can wait to do our ringing together, indoors on real bells, where we’re not having to star at screens and it doesn’t matter what the weather is!

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Saturday 10th April 2021

Alfie opening presents. Celebrating Alfie’s birthday outside.
Alfie's Birthday

Mourning for the Duke of Edinburgh continued today, but with all due respect to him and those grieving him, today was one of celebration for us as Alfie reached the age of seven years. Seven years of watching him grow from that tiny, fragile being who I tentatively carried after he was handed to me moments after his birth at 2.04am to a personable, intelligent young boy who absorbs information in a way that I can only dream of and is fascinated in the way things work, space, science, football and is actually quite the comedian.

Of course, for the second year running we couldn’t mark it in the way that we would’ve wished. There isn’t a 5007 and/or peal of seven-spliced lined up and no partying with his peers, but there were loads of presents, plenty of messages sent (thank you to all who imparted felicitations), a Harry Potter cum Batman cake (after a last minute change of mind from the birthday boy a few days ago!), a phone call from his Nana and unlike last year’s birthday which had to be held in complete isolation, we were at least able to have his Granny Kate and Grandad Ron round to make use of the gazebo we’d helped them construct yesterday.

The former went on afterwards to Ufford to toll a bell at noon for Prince Philip and she was far from alone across Suffolk. We could clearly hear one of the bells at our nearest church Melton being chimed by the Reverend Paul Hambling, the sound floating across the village and I imagine beyond too. Elsewhere in the county, bells were tolled at Aldeburgh by Richard Rapior, Beccles by Chrissie Pickup, Cavendish by Chris Ward, Clare by Alan Mayle, Falkenham, Hasketon by Linda Garnham, Haughley by Janet Sheldrake, Hollesley by Peter Harper, Ipswich St Clement and St Lawrence by Katharine and Colin Salter, Parham by Jos Slade, Redgrave by Chris Davies, Sproughton by Ralph Earey, St Gregory in Sudbury by Pauline Brown, Theberton by Julia Brown and Tostock by Mark Steggles, whilst Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman rang in a touch of 99 changes of Stedman Caters, as well as a 1269 of Cambridge Surprise Minor with his mother Cath, both on Ringing Room. An impressive response from within our borders, especially in the circumstances and I imagine there will be more in the coming days and then particularly next Saturday, when it was announced this afternoon that the funeral is due to happen at 3pm. Additionally though, this sad situation did at least offer an opportunity to put ringing in a good light and there was super PR garnered by a BBC news report that included mention of the Central Council and also Worcester Cathedral Ringing Master Mark Regan, who spoke at a fringe event at the Guild AGM at Henley a decade ago in 2011.

Talking of which, with all this going on, it might have been easy to forget that it was also Guild AGM day. We didn’t  forget though and indeed we were the first through the ‘doors’ for CCCBR President Simon Linford’s talk on the future of ringing. Simon is a busy chap anyway, combining his considerable presidential duties with running his property development company Czero and The Woodman pub in Birmingham, but after Prince Philip’s death he has naturally been busier arranging ringing’s representative body’s response to the situation. However, he very kindly spared half-an-hour of his time to talk on ringing’s recovery, which was a fascinating insight from someone who has naturally been at the centre of the discussions with the Church of England Recovery Group to allow for what we hope will be the full resumption of ringing. Although he seemed to confirm what many are dreading, that despite proclamations of ‘freedom’ from 21st June, that won’t be strictly true as the intolerable social distancing will still likely be indefinitely lingering around, which of course makes normal ringing very difficult and close proximity teaching practically impossible. Everyday with social distancing in place damages the future of ringing. That said, he spoke positively of ringing adjacently to each other, making the most of large and/or ground-floor ringing chambers with good ventilation and he confirmed that when we return to restricted ringing on 17th May - at the earliest - we should be able to ring for longer than the fifteen minutes we were limited to last year, albeit socially distanced. Thank you Simon for a great talk!

Immediately afterwards, the meeting itself started, with an attendance of nearly ninety - plus a cat or two – and was led superbly by Chairman Rowan Wilson, again in difficult circumstances. As she herself pointed out, usually at these events everyone is easily visible and it is clear if anyone wants to say anything or contribute, but when everyone is muted and spread across three screens it can be harder to gauge the wishes of the ‘room’.

Participating in the AGM, 2021 style.Nonetheless, much was sorted, most notably with the election of Katharine Salter as the new Ringing Master as Tom Scase’s five year term was completed. Rowan quite rightly pointed out how unfortunate it was that his last year in office was essentially washed out by the pandemic, highlighting how her husband Jed Flatters’ last year in the role was arguably his most productive and enjoyable of his half a decade and I concur that my last year in the job was likewise. For me it was an opportunity to do things and get stuff done that I hadn’t been able to in the previous four years, so I entirely sympathise with Tom. Still, he has achieved much and carried out the role superbly, with the SGR Peal Week a big success when we were able to do it and his was a rational, sensible voice to have around at the top of the Guild. He can come across as quiet and shy, but I’ve always felt it a more thoughtful approach and when he says something it is usually well worth hearing. And to boot, he is a very talented ringer who has used that ability to help many during his time as RM. He leaves the position with our gratitude.

His replacement is equally an extremely good ringer who has used her skills to benefit others and no doubt – when circumstances allow – that will increase. She is also very proactive and great at getting stuff done, which is always an appreciated attribute at the top table of a volunteer organisation! It also means that for the first time in the Guild’s near century-long existence, the top three roles of Secretary (Kate Gill), Ringing Master (Katharine Salter) and Chairman (Rowan Wilson) are women, all elected completely on merit without quotas or equality policies needed! We can have no doubt we have a very talented team leading us out of the current restrictions in the art, along with Treasurer Stephen Cheek, PR Officer Neal Dodge and our CC Reps, which now include Cath Colman who was elected as our fourth representative on the Council.

Katharine’s election as only the thirteenth Master of the SGR is historic as it means that she and her husband David become the first couple to have both held the role following his successful stints between 1994-1999 and 2003-2006, which is another plus point to our new RM, who knows exactly what the job entails!

On that note, it was appropriate that David was ‘presented’ with his 50 Year Membership Award during the meeting. I am delighted to see him receive this award as a good friend in the art, someone who has offered me so many opportunities in peal-ringing, along with many others and as alluded to he has done a huge amount for the Guild, not just as Ringing Master, but with his research into the organisation’s vast number of historical nooks and crannies. Congratulations David!

Horringer.There was optimism displayed too, as Rowan stated the Guild’s intentions to hold the Social and Eight-Bell Striking Competition at Horringer on Saturday 18th September, an in-person GMC in October, possibly the Six-Bell Striking Competitions before the year is out and of course next year’s AGM with everyone present in the same room, on Saturday 23rd April. All with the usual caveats and apparently Plans B & C too!

Although regrettable that we had to hold the main event of the Guild calendar online again, it was an admirably upbeat meeting, with new members elected and news that the St Edmund’s Clapper competition had raised over £1,000.

For all the sadness around currently for various reasons, that was something to celebrate. As was our son’s big day.

Happy Birthday Alfie!

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Friday 9th April 2021

Earlier this week, the actor Paul Ritter died. I’d never met him, let alone known him, but I don’t mind admitting that I felt pretty sad about his passing. His starring role as the very deaf, shirtless father of the Goodman family in the sweary but hilarious Friday Night Dinner has helped cheer us up over these last depressing thirteen months. Therefore, despite the lack of any actual connection with this talented fifty-four year-old, it had an effect on us.

The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.That’s why I can certainly understand and respect the sadness felt by so many for the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh this morning. Many perceive that he was a ninety-nine year old man who had spent most of his years living a life of privilege and the vast majority of the population had at best seen him from a distance amongst vast crowds (remember when such things were allowed?) and to an extent I sympathise. Although far from a Royalist, I have a fondness for the Royal Family and my late Aunty Janet used to work for them, but within hours I was a little fed up of the OTT coverage of his far from unexpected death (indeed, there seem to have been numerous occasions over the last few months when it was thought to be imminent) and found myself rolling my eyes at people describing how “tragic” it was that he hadn’t made his one hundredth birthday just two months away. Also, although eight days of mourning have been announced, I find it hard to credit that consideration was given to cancelling and postponing events as a sign of respect, however well intentioned. After the last year particularly, I’m pretty sure the man himself would not advocate stopping everything for him.

However, there is no denying that his passing is a significant moment. As the Queen’s husband he has been the main and closest supporter of the most famous woman in the world and of course the longest serving British monarch. And many ordinary people did meet him and had personal memories of him, even if most of them were fleeting. The Royals mean a lot to many and he was of course at the centre of that and therefore meant a lot, to a lot.

From a ringing perspective, there is a strong connection that the art cannot and should not ignore. His wife is the Head of the Church of England, for whom most bells are primarily rung and as the CCCBR pointed out, the exercise has benefitted through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. Additionally, rumours occasionally surface that he did a bit of ringing himself, although I find it hard to believe.

As was always going to be the case when he died, the Central Council released guidance, which is complicated by the current restrictions. I expect that BellBoard would’ve been straining under the weight of quarters and peals being rung in remembrance of him and indeed there were some on handbells and Ringing Room, but it is a pity that the bells of church towers won’t be able to ring out fully for him across the country. Instead, the main focus of ringing’s response will be tolling, with noon on Saturday being the focal moment, but if that is too short notice then anytime would be suitable according to the guidance, especially on the day of the funeral. Although of course – as it should always be but especially in these current times – only with the agreement of the incumbent and/or those responsible for the church.

Indeed, many were quick off the mark today, including here in Suffolk, with BB noting that bells were tolled at Ampton, Great Livermere, Ingham and Timworth by Neal Dodge, Brandeston by Chris McArthur, Bredfield by Mike Pilgrim, Julian Colman in Bury St Edmunds at The Norman Tower, Buxhall by David & Lesley Steed, Drinkstone by Nigel Gale (who also participated in 99 changes of Double Grandsire Triples with friends from Sussex on Ringing Room), Grundisburgh by David Twissell, Hawkedon by Richard Knight, Horringer by Joshua Watkins, St Clement’s & St Lawrence in Ipswich by mother & son Katharine & Colin Salter respectively, Pettistree by Mary Garner, Poslingford by Christine Knight and Whepstead by Joan Garrett.

Whilst at the weekly Friday virtual pub with Simon Rudd and friends, Linda Garton revealed that she had got up her local tower at Campton in Bedfordshire to toll within minutes of the news that was announced at around midday, thus prompting a local farmer to check his phone to find out what had happened. An example of bells spreading news in a traditional fashion, but with a modern twist!

That chat had followed on from a visit to ours of the boys’ grandparents Kate and Ron to put up a gazebo ahead of Alfie’s birthday celebrations tomorrow, which of course have to be held outdoors, but it was nice to see more people in our garden.

Meanwhile, well done to Norman Tower ringer Tim Hart on ringing his first QP of London Surprise Major in the 1344 on Ringing Room.

When history looks back on today though, I expect it will only be remembered for the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. May all those who have recently passed away – actors, princes, ringers and everyone else – Rest in Peace.

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Thursday 8th April 2021

I hardly saw Ruthie today, which was great! Not because I didn’t see her of course, but rather because after a day’s work for both of us, there was just enough time for a quick bit of tea before she went to St Mary-the-Virgin for a socially distant choir practice in the vast church and on her return from there she was straight into another room for a virtual session with the Illuminati Choir – singing is one of my wife’s greatest loves and she is wonderful at it, so it is great that she is able to dedicate more time to it again after a year where her evenings have been spent sat next to me on the sofa wasting her talents!

As with pre-Covid Thursday nights, it left no time for ringing, but others in the county were participating in the art, with North-West District Ringing Master Maureen Gardiner ringing her first quarter-peal of Norfolk Surprise Minor on Ringing Room – well done Maureen! Meanwhile, Grundisburgh were the latest tower in the county to turn to RR tonight, with my Mum Sally telling me all about it on the phone afterwards.

That call was primarily about Alan Ellis, a ringer from Vancouver in Canada who was very kind to my parents when they visited the city a few years ago, but who has sadly passed away and whose death has already been marked in some QPs.

It was nice to speak with mother though, especially as it still isn’t as easy to meet face-to-face and it helped make up for not being able to speak with Ruthie today!

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Wednesday 7th April 2021

If there are any left, regular readers of this blog will be aware that in addition to the church, family and of course ringing, Ipswich Town Football Club features fairly prominently in my ramblings. They are a big part of my life and despite the generally abysmal fare at Portman Road in recent years, it has been almost as soul-destroying not being able to go and watch them over the last year as it has been to not go ringing.

Long Melford.When at ringing and ringing events on a Saturday afternoon between August and May, in the back of my mind I’m usually wondering how they’re getting on and in the days before you could simply check on your phone, it used to be part and parcel of an outing or at a tea and meeting for me to ask round for anyone who might have heard what their score was or to nip out to the car to listen to the commentary on the radio. Indeed, all the main elements of my blog came together when in 1992 after an afternoon’s ringing and a church service at Long Melford, my Dad Alan tried to liven up a typically lengthy AGM of its time (that then Guild Secretary Bruce Wakefield mentioned in that year’s Annual Report that the meeting came in at under three hours in an almost victorious tone, it gives you an indication how long the meetings used to be in the days before emails and social media allowed much to be resolved before getting anywhere near an AGM!) by announcing that ITFC had just been promoted to the Premier League.

When at just after 11am on this chilly but sunny April day it was announced that a group called Gamechanger 20 led by a Los Angeles businessman called Brett Johnson had taken over my favourite football team, meaning more money for a club very much in need of it and a change in attitude after thirteen years under Marcus Evans that has seen the Tractor Boys living on the footballing breadline tumbling down the football pyramid. For those of us who illogically tie our flag to such things, it offers hope. With the hope that as the year goes on we shall be able to ring side by side and freely see family, it also offers hope that by the time we get to next year’s SGR AGM pencilled in for Saturday 23rd April – almost precisely thirty years on from that fondly remembered day in Long Melford – we shall be celebrating an Ipswich Town promotion whilst ringing, eating, drinking and discussing business alongside family and friends.

None of that will be possible for this year’s AGM. Even if the ‘Superblues’ somehow managed to get promotion this season, it won’t be achieved on Saturday and of course the ringing business will be carried out via Zoom, meaning that we won’t be in a venue somewhere in the county ringing (albeit the North-West District are planning on ringing online), seeing family face to face, although with it also being Alfie’s birthday we hope weather conditions will allow us to see some of them earlier in the day.

One silver lining to the circumstances is that if required to travel across the country to us, CCCBR President Simon Linford might not have been able to join us for his pre-meeting talk which he is due to hold at 6.30pm. That is something that I have mentioned several times already and today offered another opportunity to do so as I read his latest fortnightly blog. On this occasion, he touches upon the importance of getting ventilation into ringing chambers, even creating new ways of getting fresh air in that might not have been possible due to conservation pre-Covid now that this issue has greater importance.

He also highlights the tremendous PR going on and gives an update on the ‘Recovery Champions’ who are looking at ways to get ringing back up to speed for its resumption, which God willing will be possible in a couple of months and hopefully that will include being able to go to Pettistree on a Wednesday evening for the weekly practice.

For now though, these continue online with the use of Ringing Room. However, periodically we have a social evening without any ringing, aware that not everyone in our number likes doing ringing via a computer and tonight was one such occasion. Regular quizmaster Hilary Stearn expanded upon her usual single round, which initially saw our household announced winners before the Harpers – whose computer had thrown them out of our gathering before they could impart their score – phoned in their tally, which was greater than ours! Most importantly of all though, a good time was had by all.

Hopefully today marks the start of good times for Ipswich Town too.

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Tuesday 6th April 2021

Ringers on the airwaves are often a good thing, presenting them as real human beings, even if they don’t talk about ringing.

That was the case with South-East District Area Rep Jonathan Williamson who was on BBC Radio Suffolk this evening, about 3hrs 13mins into Lesley Dolphin’s show this afternoon. Jonathan has been on local radio quite a few times and has spoken about the art before in the process and so although he was on today to explain why he and his business partner won’t be reopening their physical Wines of Interest shop just yet, many listeners will be aware that he is a ringer too and personally I think he gives a good impression of ringers with his informative but jovial tone.

Meanwhile, another ringer could be getting considerable coverage on national TV in the coming weeks, as Yorkshire ringer Andrew Aspland announced through the Bellringers Facebook page that he is a participant in this year’s series of sewing’s answer to The Great British Bake Off, The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC One. I know of Andrew, but don’t know him and I’ve never watched the show, so I don’t know whether I will tune in or not. However, the exercise gets a mention in his bio on the GBSB website and so I hope it gets plenty of mentions and some decent publicity from it whilst he is still in the competition.

Perhaps it’ll give something for The Ringing World to report on in the near future, but for now the latest edition that arrived with us today was still full of interesting stuff from the past and present, most particularly a great article looking back at the centenary celebrations for the publication a decade ago. As usual, there is Suffolk representation, notably in the ‘What’s Hot on BellBoard’ section where Bury St Edmunds ringers Tim Hart and Nathan Colman featured for the 1280 of eight Surprise Major methods spliced on 26th March and 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor on 22nd March – both on Ringing Room – respectively, with the former also seeing Past St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd mentioned in dispatches  for it being his three hundredth quarter-peal on RR.

Also included on these freshest of pages are the towers within our borders that tolled or chimed for the National Day of Reflection a fortnight ago, whilst there is a report on the Henry Johnson Dinner which Ruthie and I ‘attended’ in February.

Not unnaturally, CCCBR President Simon Linford also stars in this issue and allows me another tenuous opportunity to remind you that he is due to give a talk before Saturday’s Guild AGM, with entry to Zoom open from 6.20pm for a 6.30pm start. You should’ve received an email from SGR Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge on Sunday with further details including the link. And today, Chairman Rowan Wilson sent an email with the link – which is different to the one for Simon’s talk – for the AGM itself, with entry to Zoom for that open from 6.45pm. If you don’t have either or both of these emails, then please do get in touch with Neal and Rowan, who I’m sure will be more than happy to send them out to you.

Ipswich, St Clement. Ipswich, St Lawrence. Ipswich, St Peter. Ipswich, St Stephen.
Churches in the care of Ipswich Historic Churches Trust

Hopefully as many as possible will attend. It may not be quite the social occasion it is in person when the business is accompanied by a service, chatting to friends, tea, a pint or two and most importantly some ringing, and it may only be just over six months since the last one due to the quirks of the calendar caused by Covid-19, nor can anyone say it will be exciting. But it is still important that members who can, do join in to help not just reflect what the Guild has been doing and is doing and how it can help support its membership, but also as we – like ringing and so much else generally – face the vital first steps out of this dreadful period. Tom Scase’s five-year term as Ringing Master will be finishing and so I hope a large attendance can see him off with the appreciation he deserves and also to elect his successor. As outlined in the election table, that successor is due to be Katharine Salter, someone who is very good at getting things done in ringing, particularly in recent years with the bells of Ipswich’s redundant churches. Meanwhile, Cath Colman is being put forward to make up the quartet of Central Council Reps that we are allocated and having seen how at ease she has been with others from across the country and world on the open Ringing Room sessions I’m sure she’ll do an excellent job representing the Guild in ringing’s representative body. And item seventeen on the agenda may give us something to look forward to...

As snow fell this evening, I also contemplated that just about the only good thing about the meeting being held virtually is that the weather shouldn’t be a reason to prevent members attending. Although I can’t guarantee any stars of the airwaves.

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Easter Monday 5th April 2021

Boris Johnson’s announcement today that the next step of the ‘roadmap’ in a week has been given the go-ahead is good news generally, including for ringing. God willing it is another step closer to a return of restricted ringing on church bells on 17th May and full-on, unrestricted ringing on 21st June. However, it does allow for ringing on church bells from 12th April for youth groups as part of the out-of-school settings aspect of the next easing of the restrictions. If there are any young ringers groups in the county that could benefit from this then do read the CCCBR’s guidance on this.

Interesting as well to hear chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance’s vague answer at the Downing Street briefing when asked about social distancing, which could either be them avoiding mentioning the indefinite continuing of this intolerable restriction or possibly could be read as suggesting that social distancing will be a more of a general behaviour that will hopefully allow people to use their common sense. Along with murmurings about using possible so-called ‘vaccine passports’ and more readily available lateral flow tests to allow places like theatres, pubs, restaurants and the like to function properly when they reopen, it appears to offer a possible route for a return to ringing where it would be far easier to track and trace people attending than the hundreds and even thousands cramming drunkenly into nightclubs for example. If ringing can’t fully resume in such circumstances at that point, when can it ever?

Although he hasn’t got the ear of the Prime Minister, Central Council President Simon Linford is leading discussions between the art and the Church of England Recovery Group and other churches in the UK and so he may be able to shine more of a light on how such developments might affect ringing when he speaks to us before the Suffolk Guild AGM on Saturday, which has been confirmed as being due to be held at 6.30pm – the Zoom room should be opening at 6.20pm – ahead of the 7pm meeting.

St Mary-le-Tower.All of this has to be online as things stand currently, as does much else we do, even in these more open times. That included this evening’s weekly St Mary-le-Tower practice on Ringing Room, which despite Ruthie and me having to move rooms as our internet played up, others being kicked out of RR periodically and much fun and games getting Wheatley set up on the treble, saw us achieve some decent ringing, climaxing in three leads of Bristol Surprise Major.

Elsewhere on the platform, well done to Norman Tower ringer Nathan Colman on ringing his first quarter-peal of Lincolnshire Surprise Major and his first on eight on Ringing Room in the 1250 he rang in with ringers from across the country and indeed the world.

Despite the threat of snow that materialised to varying degrees and saw peal attempts that would’ve had to have been rung outside cancelled, some did brave the conditions to ring real bells, with another couple of peals – albeit one was in Australia – rung, ensuring that there have been peals rung everyday since we were allowed to meet other households outside a week ago.

Woodbridge.We didn’t ring any real bells today, but we did at least get outside in the cold but sunny weather as we partook in a treasure hunt with an Easter theme run by St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge that started in the porch there and then took us on a pleasant walk around the Market Hill in the shadow of the tower that holds the town’s 25cwt eight.

After this afternoon’s good news, all being well we’ll be able to ring on the octave in the not too distant future.

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Easter Sunday 4th April 2021

Easter Sunday is generally considered the most important day in the liturgical calendar, with Christ rising from the dead being the cornerstone of the Christian faith. For all the ‘secular’ aspect of ringing, such as the limitless scope for pushing body and mind, the fellowship and the social aspect, as well as the scientific and mathematical interest it offers, church bells are mainly there due to the goodwill of the church and primarily to call people to worship or at least (acknowledging that no one these days really needs to hear the bells ringing to know there’s a service) to mark and celebrate church events and to give a vocal reminder of the church’s presence in their community. That is why it was felt important that as many church bells as possible ring out on this special day, despite the fact that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Despite fast falling figures of cases, hospital admissions and deaths even weeks after schools have fully reopened and people have been meeting more regularly, coronavirus is still out there and caution is very much the byword currently and that goes for ringing. Therefore, it was nice to hear of ringing being done and that it all appears to have been done cautiously, including here in Suffolk. Brandeston managed four bells in their high-ceiling ringing chamber with Chris McArthur ringing socially-distanced from the Oswald household. There was also ringing at Grundisburgh and Hasketon and on three at Pettistree and I’m sure elsewhere across the county.

Meanwhile, the front four of the 25cwt eight at Woodbridge were being chimed by husband and wife Bruce & Gill Wakefield as we arrived for church this morning at the start of the busiest day of real-life that we have had for months and months. Usually on this day, St Mary-the-Virgin church is packed to the rafters and if I haven’t had the foresight to save a space somehow, there is nowhere to sit when I have descended the many steps from the ringing chamber here. Today of course, that wasn’t possible and instead people, households and social bubbles were dotted around this vast building. Yet it was great to be here, to see others (even from a distance) and the boys were delighted to see their Great Granny and get a chocolate egg each afterwards!

Handbell ringing at Pettistree.Later, we were out again to see more people, as we went to Pettistree where the ringing on the tower bells this morning was being followed by handbells for an outdoor service this afternoon, which Ruthie had been asked to help out at. In beautifully warm, sunny weather, the boys and I joined her in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul whilst she, Mike Cowling and Mark Ogden welcomed the arriving congregation with some lovely Plain Bob Minor and the youngest two brothers ran around in their spacious surroundings.

The Pettistree Greyhound. In normal times, this pretty little village with its wonderful pub is almost like a second home, so it staggered me to realise that my visit today was the first time I’d been here for over a year, since – as far as I can best tell – February 2020. To be back felt wonderful, but not as wonderful as it was to actually see people that for much of that period have only been visible through small boxes on a laptop.

Our in-person interaction with other human beings didn’t end there though, as we then continued on to the sun-drenched garden of mother-in-law Kate where she and the boys’ Grandad Ron hosted an egg hunt for the siblings and then treated us to a curry before we returned home. Thank you guys!

How marvellous it was to have a day where much of it was spent out and about, where we had to actually plan when to cook our roast dinner, rather than just ask “shall we cook dinner?”, shrug our shoulders and say “might as well, we haven’t got anything else to do.”

There was still time to finish with some online interaction though, albeit ironically with people who we had all seen in-person throughout the day, as we went for our weekly Pettistree quarter-peal attempt on Ringing Room. Some very decent Norwich Surprise Minor was rung for about twenty-five minutes or so, despite occasional internet issues, but eventually collapsed after confusion following a bit of double-clappering!

They were having better luck in ‘Steed on the Hill’ on RR though, as a 1272 of Durham Surprise Minor featuring Buxhall ringers David and Lesley Steed which celebrated the birth of the former’s first grandchild. Congratulations David – Joshua approves of the name!

Whilst it was a pity that we couldn’t join them in the QP columns to mark Easter Sunday, I’m delighted that church bells were able to ring out on this important day for the church.

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Holy Saturday 3rd April 2021

Another significant character of the Suffolk Guild celebrated a landmark birthday today. This time it was Past Secretary and current Membership Secretary and Safeguarding Officer of the Guild and someone who was a huge help during my time as Ringing Master (all in amongst a busy life as a singer!) Mary Garner who was celebrating her seventieth birthday. As with the special birthdays of other Guild notables David Salter, Stephen Pettman and Brian Whiting, we sadly can’t mark the occasion as we all would like to, but at least we got to see her this afternoon as we joined her and others for the South-East District Meeting. This was of course held via video and actually featured very little ringing-related content, bar the announcement of plans for the first Saturdays of the months ahead, with the ambition to do some ringing on Ringing Room in May on the 1st, some more interesting talks in June on the 5th, before the hope is that we can meet en masse in person for a walk – though as things stand, it’s thought unlikely any ringing – in July on the 3rd and God willing finally some ringing on actual church bells in August on the 7th. That final date still seems pie in the sky stuff after the last year, but it is feasible a month-and-a-half after the roadmap is due to complete on 21st June, with the thought amongst the SE officers being that they will hold initial real-life ringing in venues that can be well ventilated and those present can spread out at. Cotton was remarked upon, but being in the wrong district, places like Falkenham and Pettistree are more likely!

Me in my Easter Bonnet!In the main though, today’s event was a social one, with a superb quiz hosted by Hilary Stearn and won by welcome visitor from the North-West District Mary Dunbavin and a friendly Easter Bonnet competition won by my mother Sally in the adult section and Alfie and Joshua in the children section to make me the only Munnings to enter without winning! Still, the main purpose of it all was as a means of keeping as many members connected as possible whilst enjoying ourselves and this certainly achieved that.

Further afield, Ringing Room was hosting the Virtual Call Change Ringing Festival, a CCCBR backed striking competition where the test piece was the Devon call change piece 60 on 3rds. Apparently inspired by a conversation that President Simon Linford (reminder that he is due to give a talk before the Guild AGM next Saturday) had with a band from Suffolk, I don’t know if anyone from within our borders entered, but by all accounts it was a superb event, with sixteen teams – four of them being young ringers teams – entering and the Beverley and District team winning. Congratulations to them and indeed all who took part!

Either side of our now familiar online activity, our day was bookended with real-life stuff, both at St Mary-the-Virgin church in Woodbridge. Morning saw us at a junior church event outside helping other families construct an Easter garden, which whilst another chilly experience turned into a very social occasi