Thursday 20th January 2022

Richy's Blog

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Monday 17th January 2022

We were still missing a handful at St Mary-le-Tower's weekly practice this evening, including our Ringing Master David Potts, but with a number of returnees, stand-in RM Jonathan Williamson was able to run a productive session that was already underway with a very decent sounding touch of Plain & Little Bob Caters spliced as I arrived outside (though the sound quality on the video I made of it doesn't do it justice!) and finished with the test piece of Grandsire Cinques for the George W Pipe 12-Bell Competition due to be held at Waltham Abbey on Saturday 19th February.

Afterwards a goodly number retired to the Halberd Inn, including Paul Bray who was joining us for the first time for a few years and whose return was a great help tonight. It was a nice way to finish a nice evening.

Elsewhere, the Suffolk Guild's peal totals were being added to with another handbell success in Bury St Edmunds, with the 5056 of Plain Bob Major conducted by Alan Mayle.

Good to see they had a full complement of ringers for it!

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Sunday 16th January 2022

It is unusual to listen to a service live on the radio on a Sunday morning as you are preparing to go out and ring at the same church, but it happened today on Sarah Lilley's show on BBC Radio Suffolk and indeed on BBC Radio Four and worldwide, whilst we got our household up, fed, tested and out the door to St Mary-le-Tower.

The Beeb's crew were busy removing their equipment by the time we got to ringing, an hour later than we usually ring due to a rejig of the service times to accommodate their time on the airwaves. Sadly absences for illness and injuries meant that we were considerably short, but with Ruthie again joining us with still no choir for her, we were able to ring a couple of touches of Plain & Little Bob Triples spliced, Grandsire Triples and Yorkshire Surprise Major on the front eight and some Stedman Triples on the back eight.

After we'd been to Costa Coffee for post-ringing refreshment, popped round to see Aunty Marian - sister of my father Alan and former ringer - to drop something off and had lunch back at home, we were back at SMLT, tea packed in lunch boxes for the boys as they had to accompany us again with our usual childsitters all unavailable. They were very good during our latest practice for Ipswich's entry into this year's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest, although the band thought they themselves were being deprived of TV tomorrow after my wife reprimanded our sons at one point!

Once Amanda Richmond and Colin Salter had got Hawkear up and running though, it was a productive hour-and-a-half as we rang the touch of Stedman Cinques four times that we are due to ring at The Norman Tower in our eliminator on Saturday 26th March. Our band for this is an expansion from our Sunday morning band, taking in regular practice night attendees too, but even so we were a couple missing on this occasion, which meant a little bit of a shuffling of band placement and me ringing a different bell to that which I have been ringing thus far. This was not only useful this afternoon, but more long term, as we need to be prepared for any subsequent absences, especially on the day.

The Norman Tower.Meanwhile, the venue where it is planned that we compete with the likes of Birmingham, the Cumberlands, Sheffield, Towcester, Leeds and the hosts in sixty-eight days time was the scene of a quarter-peal of Grandsire Cinques, which was Stephen Dawson's first on twelve. Well done Stephen!

And Happy Birthday to former Guild Secretary Bruce Wakefield whose 81st birthday was mentioned in the footnote to the ringing at Woodbridge this morning. Although not preceded by a mention on the radio.

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Saturday 15th January 2022

Bardwell QP Band.Congratulations to Pat Lees, who having teased us with her 699th quarter-peal just over a week ago at Rougham, today rang number 700 in the 1260 of Grandsire Triples at Bardwell. A big achievement and great to see.

It joins last night's 1296 of Norwich Surprise Minor at Monewden by the FNQPC in the list of successes in the medium within our borders this weekend, but there was no such ringing activity from us on a day when football training for the boys was followed by an afternoon round at the abode of our friends Charlotte and Gregory and their daughters for a buffet, much tea and plenty of catching up.

I did find time to take in information on ringing, as I opened my weekly email from Ringing Forums. This is - as the name suggests - a forum for discussion on ringing topics, but crucially it is intended that this is a platform in which to discuss, debate and more importantly enquire without the negative aspects that often accompanies such things on social media. Thus far in my experience, I'd say it has been successful in this aim, with lots of interesting content, new information and opinion, all dealt with in a very civil and helpful manner. It will work best though the more who contribute to it, so please do subscribe. Even if you have nothing to contribute, it is worthwhile following, as I have discovered.

One discussion in this week's update was initiated by CCCBR President Simon Linford, who shares a link to his latest blog, prompting a thread on the importance of peal ringing and noted how it is being carried out by fewer young ringers. Hopefully it is a trend we can do something about here in Suffolk where I believe peal ringing can offer inspiration and motivation to young ringers, but regardless of whether peals are something on their radar, it was uplifting and encouraging to see the photos online of the inaugural Young Change Ringers Association Winter Event, held in Birmingham today with what appears to have been a huge crowd of youngsters gathering and ringing much from call-changes to Bristol Surprise Maximus.

God willing many will be ringing their 700th quarter-peal in the coming years.

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Friday 14th January 2022

The Ringing World arrived with us today and for the second week running there was nothing noticeably Suffolk related bar the usual quarter-peal and peal reports, although the front cover piqued my interest, adorned as it is with a stunning photo of Kinver in the snow, a 12cwt eight in that southern slither of Staffordshire to the west of the West Midlands, upon which I rang a brace of peals of Double Norwich Court Bob Major in 2001 and 2002, conducted by the late Martin Fellows. And there was plenty of other interesting bits and pieces from beyond our borders that make it a worthwhile read.

Our evening involved a recent innovation though, as we joined Simon Rudd for his virtual Friday night pub where the Norfolk market town of Attleborough was a focus of conversation for many different reasons, as was one attendee's various incomplete Christmas presents from one person! It was generally a jovial chat over a drink that was a nice way to finish the first full working week of 2022, as was reading The Ringing World.

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Thursday 13th January 2022

Recently details of the celebrations for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend at the start of June were announced and now the CCCBR have put things in a ringing context. As with the Diamond Jubilee a decade ago, the four days offer plenty of opportunity for ringing to be done, whether that be peals, quarter-peals or general ringing, but it has been suggested that a particular focus for ringing should be when the Service of Thanksgiving is due to be held at St Paul's Cathedral on Friday 3rd. Central Council PR Officer and former Ipswich St Margaret's ringer Vicki Chapman also suggests taking a look at the CC's Composition Library for inspiration for appropriate methods and compositions and a BellBoard event has been set up for performances linked to the occasion. Additionally, there is a reminder that the actual anniversary of her accession to the throne is on Sunday 6th February, for those who would like to mark it.

My reading development today!With the short days and cold weather in the immediate aftermath of the festivities at the end of a December of bright lights and anticipation, it is easy to yearn for a summer of celebrations and (hopefully!) hot, sunny conditions, but actually today I received a late Christmas gift as Ruthie very kindly presented me with a copy of Simon Linford's 'The Core Seven and Beyond', having waited to see if anyone else got it for me. Therefore, I finished up reading the absorbing autobiography of the late Ipswich Town legend Paul Mariner - which was another present from my wife via Santa Claus - and delved into the CCCBR President's publication. As previously mentioned, this looks a superb book for anyone starting out on Treble Dodging Major, offering an actual planned pathway to gradually ringing harder and harder methods, rather than simply doing the 'Standard Eight' and then hitting a ceiling or trying to try out random one-off methods with whoever else you can find to ring them with. However, there is plenty of interest for ringers like me who have done plenty of Treble Dodging Major over the years, especially from a conducting perspective. And having followed Project Pickled Egg (the project this book has been inspired by) from the beginning with intense interest, this has further inspired me to encourage more PPE involvement locally. There is even mention for a Suffolk ringer, with the James Smith composed Cooktown Orchid Delight Major featuring - one of my favourites!

There may have been Pickled Egg stuff being rung in the county, and there was certainly ringing going on, but bar a handbell peal in Bacton, there was nothing from within our borders noted on BellBoard today. God willing it'll be much busier for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

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Wednesday 12th January 2022

It was a fairly brief practice at Pettistree for me this evening. In part that was because in the well ventilated church on a cold night, it was a very chilly experience, especially for those who had been there since ringing in the quarter-peal right at the beginning of proceedings! With The Greyhound still shut for it's annual rest after Christmas, there wasn't even a post-ringing drink to extend things.

Joshua tenpin bowling.However, it was also short because I got there quite late having spent the latter part of the afternoon at Tenpin in Martlesham for the birthday party of a couple of Joshua's classmates after school. Josh was delighted to come joint top in his first game of tenpin bowling, but it made things a little more hectic than a typical Wednesday and saw my late arrival to the ground-floor six of St Peter and St Paul. Still, I was able to contribute in a vaguely worthwhile way by calling a couple of touches of Grandsire Doubles and a 120 of Stedman Doubles, as well as ringing in some London Surprise Minor as Mary Garner ran things with patience (especially with the minutes of rounds before the London whilst Mike Cowling, Mark Ogden and myself spent ages passing the buck to each other for the job of calling it!) and humour in the absence of usual Ringing Master Mike Whitby.

Elsewhere in the county, the Guild's first towerbell peal of the year was rung with a 5088 of Pudsey Surprise Major at Henley, with a composition from the conductor Brian Whiting that uses the sixth as the treble, which is great to see.

And great to hear was Mark Murphy MBE's interview with Neal Dodge SGR PRO, 3hrs 38mins44secs into the former's breakfast show on BBC Radio Suffolk about the Guild's support for Suffolk Day on 21st June.

Unless something extraordinary happens in the meantime, by then the days will be longer. Hopefully the practices will be too!

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Tuesday 11th January 2022

I somehow ended up dogsitting whilst I worked from home today, mercifully with a recovering, low maintenance dog who pretty much sat on the sofa all day, but from a personal ringing perspective it was an unremarkable day, although one of us would have been helping out at Ufford practice if it wasn't for a mix-up with the keys, which for once wasn't our fault (reference any of the 12,633 key incidents attributed to us!).

St Sepulchre without Newgate. Offton.Not so for ringers elsewhere in Suffolk, with the practice at Offton preceded with a quarter-peal of Bristol, Cambridge, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Yorkshire Surprise Major, whilst down in London, Ipswich ringer Colin Salter is clearly benefitting from working in the capital and being able to regularly ring with the College Youths as he rang in a 1344 of six Treble Dodging Maximus methods at St Sepulchre's on the Society's meeting night.

All much more interesting than dogsitting!

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Monday 10th January 2022

The days are currently short, grey and cold, the afternoons still dark early and the mornings dark late, but today details of two big events in June when the days should be long and God willing the weather bright and hot were announced, and hopefully offer much opportunity for great publicity for ringing.

Suffolk Flag.One was the long bank holiday weekend from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, the other Suffolk Day on Tuesday 21st. Previous versions of these have given ringers the chance to arrange special ringing, sometimes at rarely rung towers and the latter event often makes a big play of bells in the celebrations, so do look to arrange something and make bells a big focal point of proceedings in communities across the county!

For now though, we are still in the depths of a bleak midwinter and its effects were being felt at this evening's weekly St Mary-le-Tower where COVID directly and indirectly and other issues meant that only nine were present. That included an entire chain of command, with Ringing Master David Potts, as well as Jonathan Williamson, Amanda Richmond and Stephen Cheek all absent, albeit none have coronavirus as far as they or us are aware.

Fortunately, we did have the current Suffolk Guild Ringing Master Katharine Salter, myself as Past Ringing Master of the SGR and SMLT and an array of ringing experience to hand and so we fashioned a very productive session in the circumstances, especially for Sonia Docherty who got plenty of opportunities to treble to Plain Bob Doubles and behind to Grandsire Triples - with great effect - in between requests for Cambridge Surprise Major, Superlative Surprise Major and Stedman Triples on the front eight. Afterwards, as Chris & Jill Birkby, David Stanford and myself enjoyed our post-ringing refreshment in the Halberd Inn, we were briefly joined by the vicar Tom Mumford who kindly popped in especially to say hello, having just finished a meeting at the church which was set to the backdrop of our ringing.

Meanwhile, the first peal of year for the Guild was rung today, but it was far more than just that, as the admirable progress of handbell ringing in the county stepped up a notch in an impressive way in Bury St Edmunds. Extremely well done to SGR Chairman Rowan Wilson and Past Ringing Master Jed Flatters on ringing their first peal in hand in the 5040 of Plain Bob Major and congratulations to former Guild Peal Secretary Alan Mayle on his 1100th for the organisation he has served with such distinction.

Imagine what they could achieve by June!

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Sunday 9th January 2022

I've recently started watching Winter Walks, a low-budget but extremely relaxing series following various well known personalities whilst they take picturesque walks through the countryside of the north of England, accompanied only by a 360-degree camera and from a distance by a drone providing some stunning shots of the landscape. Currently I am trying to watch them on the rare occasion when I get half an hour's tranquility in our otherwise delightfully lively household and having got one such opportunity whilst Ruthie was reading bedtime stories this evening, I took in the poet and author Lemn Sissay traversing the route between the pretty looking Cumbrian village of Dent and it's railway station - the highest mainline station in the UK - which is actually four miles away in Cowgill, in a set-up reminiscent of that at Wickham Market's station which is actually in Campsea Ashe. I have rung in Cumbria, when I was kid, on one of the St Neot's ringing weekends organised by the late Tim Griffiths (where one of my abiding memories was coming across a carload of Ipswich Town fans when we going down one of the many isolated lanes between towers!), but with towers with bells hung for change-ringing sparse and far apart it isn't overly conducive to something like a Rambling Ringers tour and too far to pop up to from here and so I haven't been back since. It is something I'd like to put right one day, as it is a beautiful part of the world.

In the course of his soothingly gentle meanderings, he pops into the village church of St Andrew and highlights how much it is the centre of the community and how important a church can be to people of any faith or none.

Haverhill.However, as we all know, they are expensive to upkeep, which is why 'Walking Grandad' and Haverhill ringer Gordon Adams was on BBC Radio Suffolk, 2hrs 43mins 50secs into Sarah Lilley's show whilst we were driving to Ipswich for morning ringing, as having walked an impressive 4,000 miles last year (getting through five pairs of walking shoes in the process!), he is planning on walking a further three hundred miles before the eighty-eighth anniversary of his birth on 1st February in order to raise funds for the Friends of St Mary's Church where he rings on the 12cwt six. He is also asked about ringing, which he has been doing since 1944 and is also outlined in a recent article on SuffolkNews. Good luck Gordon!

St Andrew's Church, Dent (2)Meanwhile, back on Lemn Sissay's wanderings, as he leaves Dent, the 8cwt six are ringing, something that inadvertently or on purpose links in the sound of bells to the atmosphere of this small place dwarfed by the towering hills it sits in and seems to tie in with the prominence and importance of the church he mentions a few minutes earlier.

Westhorpe.This is something I imagine they are hoping to replicate within our borders at the even smaller village of Westhorpe, where the phenomenal publicity push about the project to restore and augment the five at Westhorpe saw Clive Mees being interviewed earlier on in Sarah's morning programme. Super to hear the greater detail that seven and a half minutes can sometimes provide above a limited printed article, including that locals are being recruited for a new band as part of the project, pleasingly. Good luck Clive!

Hopefully our ringing at St Mary-le-Tower this morning also provided a welcome sound in the county town. We were a little short due to various reasons, but we still managed some Grandsire and Stedman of the Caters variety, as well as some Little Bob Maximus before refreshment at Costa Coffee, with my wife helping to mitigate for some of the absences as her choir wasn't singing in Woodbridge this morning, although I'm glad to see that after having to call off ringing last Sunday, the bells at St Mary-the-Virgin were rung once again today.

Nothing else for us after that though on a largely uninteresting afternoon and evening from a personal ringing perspective. At least it gave me the chance to watch Winter Walks.

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Saturday 8th January 2022

One underlying purpose of this blog throughout has been to demonstrate how active ringers such as ourselves balance ringing with life and today perfectly demonstrated how it isn't always possible.

Having reluctantly avoided last week's South-East District Practice at Debenham, I had briefly been minded to pop over to Bury St Edmunds for the North-West District's Practice at The Norman Tower. However, I quickly realised that we wouldn't be able to combine that with the boys' football training. This is a real highlight of their week now, even in the constant rain we had over the course of the day and with there having been no sessions for the last two Saturdays due to them falling on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, there was no way we could get away with forsaking it for the brothers to watch us ringing!

St Mary's church - - 1406281 Still, hopefully there was a good turnout for an event that we have enjoyed going to in the past, but it is worth noting that if you are planning on going to Bungay for the Eight-Bell Practice on Monday evening that it has been cancelled for the usual reason most things get cancelled currently. However, there is an alternative practice at the better ventilated gallery-ring of Ditchingham, although the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that this would be over the Norfolk border and on six!

Great Barton. St James Garlickhythe.Meanwhile, back in the NW District, well done to Joshua Watkins on ringing his first blows of Single Oxford Bob Minor in the quarter-peal of that and St Clement's College Bob that he called at Great Barton this afternoon, whilst down in London, Drinkstone ringer Nigel Gale was ringing in a peal at Galickhythe.

It is great to see Suffolk's ringers balancing ringing and life so successfully!

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Friday 7th January 2022

Westhorpe. More publicity generated from the Westhorpe project caught my eye this evening, as I came across an article about it on the Suffolk News website, whilst ITV broadcast a piece on it today that is brief but again great PR.

Clopton.Meanwhile, we enjoyed catching up with Simon Rudd and friends at his weekly virtual pub where John Loveless updated us on progress with his next publication and David Stanford appeared having moved Clopton practice to this afternoon, apparently with very good results.

Rougham. Earl Stonham. Elsewhere in Suffolk, well done to Pat Lees on getting to within one of her seven hundredth quarter-peal in the 1320 of Plain Bob Minor on the 15cwt six at Rougham, whilst Muriel Page's birthday was marked with a 1394 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Earl Stonham. Happy Birthday Muriel!

For us though, it was a very quiet, ordinary Friday, especially on the ringing front.
Not much to generate any publicity in the local media anyway.

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Thursday 6th January 2022

There was an interesting obituary on the EADT today for former Suffolk ringer Barbara Vaudrey, who died on 17th December at the age of 99 years old. It only mentions the exercise in one line (understandably given all she did in her life), but there was also a photo from the 1970s or 1980s, at an unnamed tower, of Barbara with a band. One looks like a young Winston Girling, but I'm not sure who the others are. Perhaps someone can identify them?

With no ringing this evening, there was time to discover more reading of ringing interest, as I caught up with CCCBR President Simon Linford's 'Golden Blog', which talks of his adventures with Devon style call change ringing and compares the value of The Ringing World to other specialist magazines. He also speculates how many peals might be rung this year compared to previous pre-pandemic years and guestimates that it may be 25% down compared to normal years past. We are only six days into 2022 and so it is hard to judge on this alone, but the thirty-eight peals rung thus far is up against eighty from the same period in 2019 and therefore suggests we may be ringing about half the number to usual. God willing the situation with Omicron will settle down in the coming weeks and allow more to be rung, including here in Suffolk where we still await the Guild's first peal of the year, but it certainly doesn't look like we'll be anywhere near normal levels for some time.

What Simon doesn't do on this occasion, which he has in recent blogs, is take readers to a far corner of the Central Council's website, but I shall continue to do so with this site. Today, I point you in the direction of the 'Subscriptions' page, as of course subscriptions are due! There has been tremendous support shown and endeavour displayed by members and officers in these trying times, but they have been tougher financially for organisations like the SGR over the last couple of years, so prompt payment would certainly help, if you are able.

Horringer.Meanwhile, there was a 1260 of Doubles rung at Horringer of Grandsire and Eynesbury, St Martin's, St Simon's and Plain Bob.

Nice to see that and also to see such a lovely obituary for Barbara and ringing featuring in it.

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Wednesday 5th January 2022

Pettistree.I finished the twelve days of Christmas in the same way as I began them - ringing at Pettistree.

My participation in the pre-practice quarter-peal tonight was also my first ringing since that which I did at Sproughton on Christmas morn, after caution over COVID saw all the ringing I had planned in that time wiped out, taking in a peal attempt at Stonham Aspal, the South-East District Practice at Debenham, Sunday morning ringing and the twelve-bell and regular weekly sessions at St Mary-le-Tower. Therefore, I was extra pleased to be out.

On the face of it though, it didn't look an overly appealing prospect. Ringing on this ground-floor six in the depths of winter is a chilly experience even in normal times, let alone with the ventilation that is necessary at the moment, but the drop in temperature from the balmy conditions we saw 2022 in with exaggerated that. With The Greyhound shut as it usually is for most of January after a hectic December, there wasn't even the prospect of a drink in a warm pub afterwards.

Indeed, we were a little short for various reasons and yet this was still an extremely productive and enjoyable evening's ringing. The 1440 of Ipswich & London Surprise Minor spliced beforehand was something different. Both are familiar methods, but can easily catch one out if you're not completely on the ball, but this was a very decent start to an annual QP total that we hope will be more comparable to that of the 59 rung in 2019, rather than the 12 of 2020 and 28 of 2021.

Ringing at the first Pettistree practice of 2022.Following on from this, the first practice here and my first ringing of the year was also pretty good, with a typically eclectic range of methods, from Grandsire Doubles for Sam Shannon to treble to and Elaine Townsend to conduct, to Netherseale Surprise Minor as requested by Chris McArthur and Norwich Surprise Minor, as well as a touch of spliced Minor that also added Little Bob, Beverley, Cambridge and Surfleet Surprise to evening's repertoire, all rung well.

In between ringing, Mike Whitby was handed a birthday card for his forthcoming birthday and Mike Cowling exhibited his new copy of The Core Seven and Beyond by CCCBR President Simon Linford based on the Project Pickled Egg project. Speaking with Mr Cowling and having taken a glance, this looks like being an extremely useful publication for those getting to grips with learning Treble Dodging Major methods in particular, but even for those who have been doing it for years, the 'spicy' section can offer inspiration and new methods. Having watched PPE evolve over recent years, it is great to see this book now in print.

Barham.Meanwhile, Barham started up their Wednesday evening sessions again from tonight, whilst our QP was not the only one rung in Suffolk, with a brace of quarters rung in Shelland at The Millbeck Ring as a 1260 of Stedman Triples conducted by David Stanford and a 1312 of Double Norwich Court Bob Major conducted by Brian Whiting were successfully scored.

A nice way to finish the twelve days of Christmas.

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Tuesday 4th January 2022

Get your bags of oranges and sugar out, for today entries are open for Dalemain's 2022 Marmalade Competition, including a category just for bellringers, which is due to run until 11th February with the awards ceremony planned for 14th May.

I'm not a marmalade maker myself, in big part to not having the time and I'm not likely to have more in the near future after I returned to work today following my break for Christmas, although of course that meant from home where I have spent the vast majority of the last few days anyway.

Westhorpe.With it being Tuesday though, this evening was quiet enough for me to read the ITV piece on Westhorpe's A-peal for Mary Tudor, the project to raise over £100,000 to restore this unringable five and augment to six. More good PR from this news.

Freckenham.Talking of PR, the Guild's Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge has put a clip of some ringing done at Freckenham following the quarter-peal rung on the 10cwt five yesterday on YouTube.

No quarter-peals in Suffolk today though. Perhaps everyone's too busy making marmalade.

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Monday 3rd January 2022

More fantastic progress on handbells for Suffolk's ringers today, with all bar Alan Mayle ringing their first quarter-peal of Royal in hand in the 1280 of Little Bob in Moats Tye. Very well done to Rowan Wilson, Jed Flatters, David Stanford and Brian Whiting, who are already extremely accomplished towerbell ringers, but who have used the troubles of the last couple of years to progress on handbells too.

Freckenham. Woolpit. Packenham.
Freckenham, Woolpit & Pakenham

Quarter-pealing on the county's church bells was also occurring though, with the first QP at Freckenham for a decade, a 1320 of Norwich Surprise Minor rung at Woolpit and a 1260 of Armitage-is-the-name Bob Minor scored at Pakenham, the latter of which was the first in the method for Pat Lees, Neal Dodge and Joshua Watkins - well done Pat, Neal and Joshua!

The present installation at Westhorpe. (by Neal Dodge)St Lawrence.There was more positivity involving ringing in the county in the media on this Bank Holiday Monday, with the East Anglian Daily Times carrying news on their website of the project to restore the five at Westhorpe. It ties in magnificently with the significant local Tudor history, which I absolutely love. The notion of having bells ringing out that Mary Tudor would probably have recognised the sound of is mind-blowing to me, especially when one considers how the five at St Lawrence in Ipswich would've been heard by Thomas Wolsey. We are so fortunate to ring on bells that link directly to a time of centuries ago. Look out too for something on ITV Anglia as they apparently did an interview this afternoon.

Stowmarket.Meanwhile, the new ten at Stowmarket - which God willing will be hung and ready to ring later this year - got a mention from the winner of Lesley Dolphin's 'Dolphin's Dart' competition Linda about 1hr 10mins into Lesley's BBC Radio Suffolk show this afternoon, which was an unexpected PR bonus for ringing within our borders.

For all this positivity in the art in this county though, we were going another day without ringing as I decided against going to St Mary-le-Tower practice as we continued our self-imposed limitation on our contacts. We don't have to and indeed if we did for every positive case we've happened to inadvertently come across we wouldn't have gone anywhere for the last three weeks. However, with the time that we spent indoors in close proximity and sharing takeaway with Ruthie's unfortunate best friend Fergie who subsequently tested positive and it being only just seven days (which seems to be the current general period of greatest risk) since we last saw her, we decided we might as well avoid the last remaining engagement either one of us had before we plan to return to school and work, and keep the risk to a minimum whilst it is still practical to do so. For us therefore, the highlight of the final day of my fortnight long break from work for Christmas was me taking the boys for an impromptu kickaround in the park as darkness fell.

The Norman Tower.Whilst we're not ringing right at the moment, hopefully enough will be to make the North-West District Practice at The Norman Tower from 10am-noon on Saturday a well attended event, especially as an email yesterday from NW District Secretary David Everett to Guild members confirmed it is still due to go ahead. Please do go along if you can and if you need further details and you haven't seen his email, then get in touch with David.

Also, keep an eye out for further details about the Festival of Suffolk, which is the county's contribution to the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations this year and may offer ringing opportunities, including for our ever improving handbell ringers!

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Sunday 2nd January 2022

2022 has started very quietly from a personal ringing perspective, but that has mainly been out of choice. Not because we haven't wanted to go ringing - we could have done with ringing to lift the subdued post-festivities boredom of this time of year! Rather, following our very close and prolonged contact with a subsequent positive COVID case a few days ago, we are trying to be as careful as possible when it comes to contacts, just to be on the safe side. Today, that meant missing out on what could've been a productive day of participation in the exercise.

Ringing at Woodbridge - where I had originally been planning on going - this morning was cancelled a couple of days ago due to a lack of numbers and the choir weren't singing at the service afterwards due to a coronavirus case amongst its members and so Ruthie and I could've gone to St Mary-le-Tower instead if we weren't being so careful. This afternoon was potentially more difficult logistically as we had committed to the first of Ipswich's practices this year for our planned entry into the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest in March, which was held at SMLT and of course involved a finite number of ringers. However, having warned those going of our situation in order for them to decide if they wanted to risk ringing with us and with fourteen from the squad (which is essential for an entry into this competition even in normal times) due to be in attendance and thus leaving them with enough if we didn't go, it was decided it wasn't worth the risk on this occasion.

Bradford Cathedral (6539533961) Long Ashton.Therefore, we remained at home all day, the highlight being football in the garden, playing Snap with a pack of Ipswich Town playing cards that Father Christmas brought last week and reading the thread on the Bellringers Facebook page about the longest length of ringing before losing a peal. It was inspired by an attempt lost yesterday after 3hrs 30mins, which isn't too much longer than my longest, which was very near the end of an attempt of Bristol Surprise Major in 2001 on the 30cwt eight at Long Ashton on the outskirts of Bristol, but both of these are small-fry compared to the time some of the lost long-lengths quoted by others on the thread, with an attempt at 27,827 changes of Stedman Cinques at Bradford Cathedral in 1995 coming to grief after nearly fifteen hours and one of the record attempts of Minor on handbells by Philip Earis, David Pipe and Andrew Tibbetts when a go at 72,000 changes ended prematurely after about seventeen hours appearing to be the record holders!

Successful or not, it is all a lot more ringing than we've managed in 2022 thus far.

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New Year's Day 2022

Happy New Year!

We awoke late in the morning with suitably sore heads, but were greeted with bright sunny weather that was perfect to lift any post-festivity blues. Indeed, it was apparently the mildest New Year's Day ever recorded in the UK, with temperatures reaching 16.3 degrees centigrade in central London.

It would have been great conditions in which to head over to Debenham for the South-East District Practice and then an afternoon watching Ipswich Town play, but of course COVID - now entering its third (or possibly even fourth by some accounts) calendar year of misery on our shores - reared its ugly head to prevent that happening.

The latter was postponed after the Tractor Boys' opponents Lincoln City suffered an unfortunate outbreak in their squad, but we decided to stay away from the former due to an abundance of caution following our prolonged contact with a subsequently positive case a few days ago and thus missed Liz Christian becoming SE District Secretary.

Outside at Debenham for the South-East District Practice. (Mike Whitby) Ringing at Debenham for the South-East District Practice. (Mike Whitby)I did see photos by Mike Whitby from the event and hear about how it went and how well attended it was - as the January one typically is - from my mother Sally later as my brother Chris and I went round hers to move some heavy furniture ahead of her carpet being taken up, in an operation that was as brief as possible and with all three of us masked throughout indoors and lateral flow tests taken beforehand.

To be in a position to safely rid ourselves completely of such precautions due to this dreadful virus being rendered even more impotent is one of my hopes for 2022, although it is not something that I have any control over in the wider scheme of things and of course there are all sorts of variables (I imagine largely unforeseeable currently) that will contribute to whether such a utopia could be arrived at.

Otherwise my ambitions for the forthcoming twelve months are largely to keep myself and my family safe and healthy whilst also getting on with life, as we managed to do for much of 2021. God willing we can finally hold the Suffolk Guild AGM in person again on Saturday 23rd April and the six-bell striking competitions can return in the Districts and on Saturday 21st May the Guild contests for the Mitson Shield and the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy and following it's successful reintroduction into the calendar in September last year, I wonder if the SGR Eight-Bell Striking Competition will once again be held then. Understandably after the last two years, very little is firmed up at this point, but hopefully all this will occur in 2022.

Two events planned for this year that do have details advertised and involve Suffolk ringing are the George W Pipe 12 Bell Competition due to be held at Waltham Abbey on Saturday 19th February and then one of the National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest eliminators lined up for The Norman Tower on Saturday 26th March, with both set to feature teams from Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. If these do go ahead as we come out of another difficult winter, then it is hopefully a promising sign that everything else should follow in the warmer months when illness generally has been less prevalent, even over the last two summers. Hopefully that will allow the Suffolk Guild to attempt to mount a successful retention of The Ridgman Trophy at King's Lynn in Norfolk on Saturday 18th June, Rambling Ringers to finally go to Leicestershire and maybe even personally for us to attend the College Youths Anniversary Dinner in November. As already intimated though, there are still lots of variables that could scupper any such ambitions.

If we dare to, looking even further ahead, next year will be the one hundredth anniversary of the Guild and we finished 2021 on 9,858 peals rung in its name since its formation in 1923. The happenings of the last twenty-two months means that it is going to be more difficult then we might have once imagined, but if we were to reach the fitting landmark of 10,000 peals before the end of our centenary year then we need 142 rung over the next twenty-four months. Peal-rates generally are much lower of course, but 71 a year sounds doable - get organising!

Tostock.There were no peals rung for the SGR today, but ringing in the county for 2022 got underway, with Tostock having rung the New Year in whilst remembering their former ringers Dr Ann Gath and Lionel Grooms and a date touch was rung at Offton, whilst Norman Tower ringer Ben Keating rang his first peal of Minor inside over the Cambridgeshire border at Holywell. Well done Ben!

Meanwhile, congratulations to friend of ringing Mark Murphy from BBC Radio Suffolk on his MBE in the New Year Honours. Along with his wife Lesley Dolphin (who actually learnt to ring partly under my 'tutelage'), Mark has done much to publicise ringing locally and in my opinion probably deserves the honour for just that, but of course it is for so much more.

With the lovely weather and that successful SE District Practice at Debenham, it all made for a good start to 2022, even we couldn't participate in any of it.

Happy New Year!

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The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Suffolk Guild of Ringers.