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New Year's Eve 2009

And so not just another year but another decade comes to an end. A decade that from a personal ringing perspective has seen many highs, such as ringing the first peal on sixteen in Ireland at Christchurch, Dublin on 1st September 2001 - the same day as England beat Germany 5-1 on a memorable day! The Guild's first peal on fourteen at Winchester Cathedral last year was another highlight. As was winning the National 12-bell Competition twice with the Birmingham band (2001 & 2003. Ed.)and of course becoming Suffolk Guild Ringing Master, a huge honour to me. Outside of ringing, Mason being born and growing up and the last three years with Ruthie - the poor girl - has been marvellous. But the most stable highlight over the last ten years has been the wonderful friendships I have enjoyed in bellringing across the country and the world but particularly here in Suffolk, even when I wasn't resident in the county. Thank you for putting up with me!

One of the highlights of this year was our New Year's party tonight. Normally as you know we would be in Shottisham dodging party poppers before ringing the New Year in at Hollesley. With Mason in our care this New Year's Eve though we had to stay at home. So we had a party there, which seemed to have been enjoyed by Chris, Clare, Kev, Pete and Susanne (and Sasha the dog) as we drank, ate and Wiied our way into 2010.

It followed on from the traditional 31st December peal of Grandsire Cinques at Grundisburgh which whilst couldn't be described as a highlight of the year or decade was nonetheless very enjoyable and a good way to finish ringing in 2009.

All that is left to say on today though is...
Happy New Year!

Wednesday 30th December 2009

Well done to Robert Beavis on ringing his first peal of Surprise Major today in a performance that I was privileged to be in at Grundisburgh in what was a particularly good effort as he needed the little boys room for the last hour...

It also served as a farewell to Annie Brechin - once a ringer at Burgh and Grundisburgh - who is moving to Prague tomorrow. She once worked at The Turk's Head in Hasketon where we appropriately went for a drink to see her off post-peal. Good luck Annie!

Having picked up Mason I was then involved in a successful quarter of York Minor at Pettistree as a last minute replacement whilst Ruthie did some work and looked after Mason and my snoozing brother who had arrived whilst I was at the practice!

Tuesday 29th December 2009

With John Catt closed down for Christmas and New Year as is traditional and Ruthie not at work, we had a rare lay-in before setting about tidying the house of wrapping paper and presents, making it generally hospitable ahead of our first attempt to hold a New Year's party in a couple of days.

Clare popped round briefly to help and chat, but bar that it was the first evening that Ruthie and I had had the chance to relax with just the two of us for ages, tucking into the various cheeses that people have given us over the festive season.

Monday 28th December 2009

It was an early start for all three of us this morning - Ruthie into work and my brother and I to Chelmsford for a peal attempt of Bristol Max at the cathedral. After a false start in the very first lead, the second attempt went for over a course and was going reasonably well before it collapsed.

Those who know me and/or read this blog will probably be aware of my aversion to ringing quarters after lost peals so my heart sank when David Rothera said 'well if people haven't got any time constraints, I suggest...' However, he wasn't advocating a quarter attempt but rather instead a peal attempt of Cambridge Max. I have to admit I wasn't keen, but as others were I went along with it. Usually these sort of peals suffer as people readjust to a new goal and another three and a half hours of ringing after over half an hours ringing already. And indeed it predictably struggled before the band assembled to ring Bristol rang Cambridge as they should've done, finishing off quite well.

Downstairs we were met by Vicki Chapman, an Ipswich ringer of old to meet her husband Colin and the catching-up continued onto the Railway Tavern, appropriately enough in the shadow of the station.

It was then back to Woodbridge to listen to Town winning 3-0 against QPR before Chris left for home and Ruthie got back from work, their paths crossing briefly!

Come the evening, the festivities of the season continued as we had a few drinks in The Mariners with Fergie and then watched even more football at home!

Well done to Sally Veal by the way, ringing her first quarter since 1982 today at Great Barton.

Sunday 27th December 2009

The unpredictable nature of attendances at ringing on the Sunday morning between Christmas and New Year was perfectly highlighted this morning. We were missing a few at St Mary‑le‑Tower, though just managed some ringing on the twelve - Grandsire Cinques - with the appearance of Hedley with grandson Ben - get well soon Hazel! - and Roger Bailey who had been walking back to the station, heard us ringing and thought we 'could do with some help'! The ringing had been of a disappointing standard, but I think he was commenting more the fact we were only ringing on ten!

Neither Hedley nor Roger had rung at St Lawrence, so next headed there for an impromptu ring before Chris - who was driving me around - and I went to Grundisburgh where we had our biggest attendance for a long, long time for a Sunday morning, possibly the most I remember. With the Hill's and Molly Waterson present, alongside the more frequent visitors of Mike Whitby and David Stanford we rang Yorkshire Max, something that went quite well. And that's without even mentioning Mr Nigel, Anne and Katie's other half Andy who were sat out as we rang our half-course of surprise.

Ruthie was back at a surprisingly busy Boots, so we went to Woodbridge to meet her for lunch before returning to Grundisburgh for a peal attempt of London Major. This was partly as a first for Tom Britten and also for the Guild to complete the standard eight to peals in 2009. Sadly it wasn't to be, but we had only been going for three quarters of an hour so we instead enjoyed a leisurely pint or two by the open fire in The Turk's Head.

Chris and I weren't finished there though as we strove to make up for our day off yesterday as we left for Ufford - via home to pick up Ruthie - for an ultimately successful quarter of Norwich and Cambridge Minor.
The band subsequently retired to Saffron for a curry - thankfully in warmer conditions to the other night - and good ol' catch-up before the three of us went back to Sun Lane for more drink - tis the season - and football.

Boxing Day 2009

Whilst some seemed desperate to get away from Christmas by racing to the sales, ringing peals or going to the football, Ruthie and I were quite happy to relax with family some more.

Dropping off Mason at Kara's first to enjoy another Christmas Day, we once again headed to Ruthie's grandparents where we were also met by Kate, Clare, Kev and of course Sasha the dog. Sadly, her Nan felt unable to come out as she has done in the past which was a shame.

Yesterday Clare and Kev and also Ruthie and I received a spherical jigsaw puzzle based on The Simpsons. Mr and Mrs Douglas had completed their puzzle within hours which kept them quiet but also led to a few marital disputes so Ruthie and I bravely decided to do ours today. And we succeeded - more my better half than me - either side of another splendid dinner, this time produced by Janet who was feeling much better.

As with yesterday and last year, we then headed on to Ipswich to join Mum, Dad and Chris to spend another lovely evening with a wonderful spread and watched the return of the football!

Christmas Day 2009

What does Christmas Day mean to you?

Apart from the main meaning of celebrating Jesus' birth and what his life means to Christians, to me it means not worrying about anything, whether that's the next sale, organising peals or about the bills. It's a wonderful opportunity to spend a leisurely time with family and friends without having to dash off to get somewhere by sometime. Lots more food and drink then you would normally partake in and cosy get-togethers in from the cold surrounded by bright lights in the knowledge that nearby others are enjoying the same. It's also worth remembering those less fortunate than us and counting our blessings, so much more so for me this year. A wonderful girlfriend and son and fantastic family and friends. And there was an abundance of that this year.

It started of course at St Mary‑le‑Tower where the change of ringing time to enable us to ring for the later service didn't really work out. Even with the traditional visits of brother Chris, Roger Bailey and Simon Rudd we only had enough to ring on eight. Still, there was some good ringing and it gave us the chance to share part of our festivities with good friends, a wonderful element of being a bellringer in my opinion.

With no ringing at Grundisburgh and the alternative ringing at Burgh clashing with that on at SMLT, it was off to Sproughton for Mason and me where the Hills and Munnings contributed to a large crowd.

From hereon-in it was a family day as we met Ruthie at her grandparent's in Woodbridge. Although her grandmother has been ill in recent days meaning that Kate was serving up dinner, the welcome and hospitality was still typically wonderful, with a fine feast set before us. There was a wonderful atmosphere too with a crowd of fifteen in total including three under-three's, two dogs and Mr and Mrs Douglas enjoying their first Christmas as a married couple.

Having given our thanks to our hosts, Ruthie, Mason and I headed onto Ipswich to spend the rest of Christmas Day at Chez Ashcroft as we enjoyed some more wonderful and generous hosting, also appreciated by Chris, Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric. Apart from three years whilst in the Midlands and once when our late Nan was ill I have spent every Christmas I can remember like this and though relatives have sadly departed over the years, it has been wonderful to introduce Ruthie and Mason to the Munnings traditions such as the singing Santa sponge in the bathroom!

There were a huge number of presents - enthusiastically handed out by the li'l chap - from under the tree and another great spread as we drank, chatted and generally relaxed - as Christmas Day should be.

I hope you enjoyed yourselves too, we had a lovely day and I think it's safe to say Mason enjoyed himself...

Christmas Eve 2009

Predictably it was slow at work again, but before we left at lunchtime we had a draw for the various gifts that others had sent to the company, primarily made up of calendars, but including one solitary bottle of wine. Michael is our one tea-totaller. You've guessed it, he won the wine! However, he wanted the calendar and I was the most nimble in negotiating a bottle for Santa to have a tipple of when he comes round tonight.

Once released, my first task - bar briefly popping home to drop off the wine and say hello to my beloved and her sister - was to pick Mason up for his first Christmas with us. I had to hold on a while as we waited for his Uncle Tom and Aunty Roz to pop round - incidentally the brother and mother of Christal who shared bridesmaids duties with Ruthie at Clare's wedding - to drop off his and Brooke's first Christmas presents of the festive weekend.

Eventually though, we made it to Ruthie's nan's to meet up with her and the two youngest Eagle girls. She was in good form I'm glad to say and as usual spoilt the li'l chap!

After some tea, Ruthie, Mason and I headed off to St Mary‑le‑Tower to ring for their carol service where we were met by brother Chris, Simon Rudd on his usual Christmas visit and Grace, the sister of the late John Jennings, well-known and well-missed by so many Guild members. She herself was once a ringer but hadn't touched a rope for twenty years. In the style of Jim'll Fix It, her daughter Maureen had arranged for her to come up and ring at the tower she once rang at regularly this evening after email correspondence with myself in recent weeks. And so she nervously grabbed hold and rang some very good call-changes on eight. As we said to her, it's like riding a bike!' Whilst we won't get the benefit it has persuaded her to strongly consider popping up to her local eight in Alfreton (Restricted ringing according to Dove. Ed.) in Derbyshire!

Either side of this joyous bit of ringing, we struggled more than we should've done with Yorkshire Major and Royal, but finished strongly with a well-rung touch of Grandsire Caters rung by a band capable of ringing Stedman.

Whilst I settled Mason down for sleep before Father Christmas' arrival, Ruthie headed off to Pettistree for an evening of drink at The Greyhound and ringing and service at SS Peter & Paul, both in Pettistree before returning full of the festive spirit...

Meanwhile, it was good to see the 55th consecutive Christmas Eve peal scored at Long Stratton over the border with a predominantly Suffolk band and the first quarter inside at Bramford for Andy Green, Katie Hill's better half and up from Hampshire with the Hill's.

Wednesday 23rd December 2009

Christmas Eve Eve went as Ruthie and I had expected at work. She was incredibly busy in Boots as the world seems to have left their Christmas shopping to the last minute and I was very, very quiet at John Catt where all the schools left off for their Christmas holidays a long time ago. It was so quiet in fact that Jonathan sent us home at 4 and announced we'll be finishing at 12.30 tomorrow.

Nearly a week on, the snow is still around, so it was quite an adventure walking and driving on it out in the countryside as we were this evening in Pettistree. It looks pretty though and I contemplated how festive we might be making people feel outside as they listened to our successful quarter of Stedman Doubles.

It preceded a jolly practice as Kate showed us pictures from her recent trip to Portugal, people exchanged cards and chocolates were gobbled up. Oh, and there was some ringing too with a return of variable-treble Doubles and Minor spliced after a quiet couple of weeks.

We went onto The Greyhound of course to discover we had won nothing on the draw but still enjoyed a pint of Wherry before making the steady journey home and briefly popping in to see our neighbour Bob.

Nice to see a footnote to Howard Egglestone in the peal at Winston today and it's fantastic to know he is making a good recovery from his recent cancer scare. I know that a card signed at Saturday's ringing in Ipswich has gone to him but I'm sure everyone will join me in wishing this much respected and much-loved former Ringing Master of the Guild a continued recovery and a Happy Christmas.

And as this will be my last blog entry to go up before the big day, I would like to wish everyone in the Guild - and beyond - a very Merry Christmas. My card distribution has - as usual - been rubbish this year, but thank you to those who have sent us cards. Enjoy your ringing on Friday and I hope you are able to count your blessings.

Tuesday 22nd December 2009

Ruthie and I are very lucky to have and are very grateful for having so many friends from different aspects of our life from bellringing, school, uni, work and life in general. It is difficult - though in a wonderful way - to fit everyone in at this time of year. We regularly see our ringing friends and will continue to do so before and on Christmas Day, though there's many that it's been impossible to catch up with. I've spoken to people like Wellsy on the phone from my uni days, both Ruthie and I have had our works parties and we were able to at least meet up with Toby, Kala and Nick last night from that area of our lives.

After a brief - but treacherous - trip to the Wakefield's to withdraw from the Guild Library, tonight was the turn of Ruthie's old school chums and having caught a taxi from Sun Lane with Fergie, we all met at the typically good - but on this occasion very cold - Saffron Curry House in Woodbridge. It was great to catch up with them, many of whom have returned from uni, though it largely felt like they'd never been away.

On a ringing front, well done to Mandy Shedden and Craig Gradidge on their first quarter of Single Oxford Bob Minor today at Tostock and Happy Birthday Craig!

Monday 21st December 2009

Despite yesterdays good attendance in the snow, the conditions if anything were slightly worse today as all that snow iced up and so I wasn't expecting a big attendance for the last St Mary‑le‑Tower practice of the year. I was right to as well, with people not taking the risk from some rural areas - which I could sympathise with - and others actually unable to get out to Ipswich..

Still, we had enough to ring the twelve and it proved to be a useful practice for both Anne and Stephen as we essentially rang what they wanted before finishing up with a not entirely mistake-free but nonetheless splendid touch of Stedman Triples on the back eight called by David Stanford.

It was then back to Woodbridge to pop round Toby's to see him, Kala and Nick, our last opportunity before Christmas to have a drink with them.

There was an interesting peal of Plain Bob Royal rung at Aston Clinton today where the band had an average age of twenty years, one month and six days and not only included our very own Tom Britten and Louis Suggett but was also rung the peal to Louis' composition, so well done guys!

Sunday 20th December 2009

Well that was unexpected! Some Sunday mornings where there is no conceivable reason for it we are left just about getting eight to ring at St Mary‑le‑Tower and sometimes not at all at Grundisburgh. Today, with the snow at it's worst for years, a lot of the roads essentially ice and channelled between deep show-drifts, we had enough to ring Yorkshire Max at the former and Stedman Triples and Grandsire Caters at the latter. Well done everyone who made it!

The continuation of the bad conditions led me to consider calling off a peal of Christmas Delight Major at Woodbridge this afternoon. When I arranged it back in the summer I thought it might be a nice festive thing to do, but I never imagined just how much the weather would compliment the arrangement! However, it wasn't easy travelling conditions and with a couple of ringers coming up from Essex and Tom coming over deepest Debenham I was expecting what would've been an understandable call from one of those saying they couldn't make it.

There were no no such calls and with a different adjudicator to yesterday in Scunthorpe we set off on the peal attempt. Sadly however it came to grief when the tenor ringer had to give up on what was seemingly proving to be a difficult bell to strike, something I'm sure Bruce will look into.

It didn't get us down however and it had served to warm us up on a freezing day as did a post-peal pint in The Mariners. I left them to it, but Ruthie and I returned later - they had left by that point - before we popped to Castle Kitchen to fulfil Ruthie's urge for egg fried rice and returned to the cosy warmth of home.

Saturday 19th December 2009

With more snowing falling last night, we decided to head into Ipswich for the annual Christmas ringing of all the ringable towers in the town this morning via the main roads rather than the back routes we would usually take in.

Assuming lots of others would be thinking the same and that traffic would still be understandably cautious and slow, we left plenty of time. Or so we thought. A shooting incident outside the Caribbean Club last night (Merry Christmas folks) meant the bottom of Woodbridge Road round the back of the old Odeon and part of the one-way system was closed, causing predictable gridlock, meaning Ruthie, Mason, Giles (who we had bumped into along the way after he'd had similar problems) and I didn't get to St Mary-le-Tower until 12.15 when we were supposed to be finished - thanks to David Potts for running things in my absence. There was only time for some rounds on twelve before we retired to the traditional haunt of the church offices opposite St Margaret's for mince pies, tea and coffee again generously supplied by Angela and Shirley.

The combination of police incidents, the conditions and keyholder issues meant that some didn't make it in at all and frustratingly there wasn't ringing at St Nicholas and St Clement's, a shame for Brian as it was to have been the first time in four years that ringing had been carried out at all the ringable towers. Still, it has to go down as a huge success under such circumstances that so much was rung by so many and our deep gratitude to Brian for organising it. Keep it up Brian!

With the conditions still bad, we nipped in for a quick bit of Christmas shopping in amongst the heaving throngs that are to be expected on the last Saturday before the big day before returning for a quiet afternoon in with Ipswich's game in Scunthorpe another casualty of the weather.

It still wasn't much better in the evening as I dropped off Ruthie at her mate Beth's for a meal and when she was dropped off home later on, it was snowing again. Not expecting too much from tomorrow morning's ringing...

Friday 18th December 2009

The extremely heavy snowfall set a Christmas card scene as we awoke this morning and unlike most across the region it wasn't an issue for either Ruthie or me who were both walking to work. I'd also arranged for Mum and Dad to come and pick up Mason - I didn't pick him up last night because of the Christmas meal - so that I wasn't rushing to get to Ipswich and back on treacherous roads in time for work.

However, at 8.30 I got news that the folks were unable to get to Woodbridge. With Ruthie and me both working and Kara needing to sort stuff out that she puts aside for when she hasn't got Mason or Brooke, we were in a dilemma. Until the problem became the solution...

When Ruthie called work to ascertain her options (I couldn't get hold of anyone at John Catt) she was told the pharmacist couldn't make it in meaning they weren't allowed to open and so she wasn't needed.

That wasn't the end of my problems though as I needed to pick up the li'l chap from his mother's, something that would normally take ten - maybe fifteen - minutes. Forty-five minutes later I was finally at my desk having initially distinguished my car from the other large snowballs parked down the slippery Sun Lane, got stuck twice, helped someone else out, picked up Mason , gone the long way round after a stuck double-decker bus blocked the way I'd wanted to go, negotiated large broken branches and fallen cables and dropped the boy off at home. Phew! They can perhaps keep a white Christmas...

And in the end we were sent home at lunchtime as those needing to get back to far-flung homes in Sudbourne, Snape, Rendlesham, Uggeshall, etc contemplated difficult journeys that put mine in the shade!

For me it was great to spend an afternoon with Ruthie and Mason, building my first snowman with the li'l chap before Clare popped round with Sasha, braving the cold for one of my cups of tea!

Thursday 17th December 2009

It's such a small world. A few weeks ago a guy called Alex started working at work. He looked familiar, I thought perhaps from a previous job or school. Though we had exchanged banter across the office and had worked-based discussions, it wasn't until today's John Catt Christmas meal at The Cherrytree in Woodbridge that I had the chance to discover where I know him from.

It seems - and I found this mind-blowing - that he not only went to the University of Wolverhampton from 1996-1999 (I went from 1997-2000), not only was he too on Dudley campus as I was, not only had he lived in - the now sadly demolished - Queen's Hall's of Residence (far from as grand as it sounds) for his first year (like me), but he had lived in the room next door to me, only a year ahead. We knew the same people, had the same memories - including the legendary penguin incident - and I had even been round his house. Now life had sent us on completely different paths from that same enjoyable but dreary point round to the same small company in a small market town near the east coast!

The meal itself was almost a sideline as we reminisced, but was - as last year - extremely good and extremely enjoyable. Ruthie came and met me afterwards and even benefited from the company's generosity as did other partners of my work colleagues.

As we left, the heavy, heavy snow had already created a winter wonderland and with both of us very cold we took advantage of the kebab shop actually being open to enjoy the delicacy that is kebab meat and chips before we settled down in the warm at home, the snow festively falling beyond our lit Christmas tree. It's hard to imagine Christmas itself being as Christmassy as this!

Wednesday 16th December 2009

Brief flurries of snow that even settled for a while got the office excited about the prospect of a white Christmas today. With a proper downfall apparently coming at the end of this week the odds must be short!

What we did have today had turned to rain - though the freezing temperatures persisted - as we picked Pete and Susanne up for a successful quarter of Cambridge Minor at Pettistree which was most memorable for Susanne's line of 'are we stopping before we start' beforehand.

There were a few away from practice tonight, with some carol singing in Shottisham and others holidaying in Portugal, but there were still a lot there including Giles who was returning for more and has been doing what I wish every learner in the Guild would do - getting around! As well as adding Pettistree to his circuit, he went to Ufford last night, is eyeing up Southwold and is planning on coming along to the Christmas ringing in Ipswich on Saturday. If more did this there would be a lot of practices that would be healthier and learners that would be progressing quicker, as Giles already feels he is.

At this time of the year, the lure of the pub was too much; as it proved for many others. The Greyhound was full to the brim with diners - including Mrs Claxton and the WI! - and we had to wait some time to get a seat. Wonderful stuff!

Tuesday 15th December 2009

It was great to hear from Jacky Savage that Great Barton are now entirely self-reliant for their ringing at Christmas and beyond, though of course she is extremely grateful to all those who have enabled them to reach this point. Well done to all concerned.

It was certainly food for thought as I look to put together my bit for the next Annual Report. As usual there is so much to say and just not enough space and I am already on my second draft! The AGM, striking competitions, social, peals (including Peal Week and all the first pealers of course) and quarters are all positives that need highlighting.

But that's before I even get onto the negatives that I am also bound to mention to ensure things keep moving forward. Again I have a gripe about attendances at district events, something that has been well documented on this blog. It has been due to various understandable reasons, but the lack of progress with Recruitment and Training has been disappointing as was the cancellation of the Guild Training Day and the arguments and sniping that still threaten our ability to go about our business of ringing bells at times.

And I haven't even mentioned the fact that when the report is read by people in March/April I shall only have a year left of being Guild Ringing Master so people will need to be thinking of - and even pursuing - who they want to take over from me. Indeed, it is something that has already had some thought given to it so get your thinking caps on!

It was Uncle Eric's birthday today so I spent some time on the phone to him and Aunty Marion as well as to Chris and combined with the weekly shop and more Christmas present wrapping there wasn't as much time for Ruthie and me to just sit and relax on our traditional Tuesday night in.

Monday 14th December 2009

St Mary‑le‑Tower practice night started early for me this week as I opened up at 7 for an expectant Sean. He is one half of the couple that came up having heard the bells of St Lawrence a few months back. Since then though, Louisa - his other half - has been teacher training in Exeter whilst he has recently been back in his native New York for a few weeks, so progress has been slow so far.

However, when he is here he is catching on quickly and essentially he has the hang of both strokes, though some more practice is needed to gain complete confidence. With him and Louisa heading back to New York to spend Christmas with his family we won't see him until the New Year now, but I anticipate that - after some refreshing - he should be ready to try ringing in amongst other bells.

Whilst Sean was receiving a lesson from me, Alan McBurnie was very kindly helping Anne Buswell get the hang of our treble. That's not as daft as it sounds. Because of the nylon stays they have, the front two are beggars to handle and I thought it might be a good idea to get practicing on it on her own without the pressure of ringing in amongst other bells. And it worked! Thanks to Alan, she was setting it at backstroke - which is more than most can manage on that bell! - and later in the evening rang it well to Plain Hunt on Eleven and Grandsire Cinques.

The rest of the evening saw a respectable but not spectacular practice with Cambridge Royal and Yorkshire Max rung decently and there was a good attendance.

As we head into the busy Christmas period, it is worth mentioning some forthcoming dates in Ipswich. There is of course the weekly Wednesday ringing from 12.30 - 1pm at St Lawrence, but there are also ringers required at St Nicholas this Wednesday from 6 - 6.30pm for a Carol Service if people are about. Also - hope you're getting this - we need ringers at St Mary‑le‑Tower from 2 - 2.30pm next Tuesday (22nd) for the Crib Service and from 6 - 7pm on Christmas Eve for our Carol Service. We will also be ringing at the slightly different time of 9.45 - 10.30 on Christmas Day in case you are available, though there will be no practice on the 28th.

And of course - although he already has enough - I'm sure Brian would not be adverse to people coming along to the Christmas Ringing in Ipswich this Saturday from 11.45 - 12.15pm. I'm going to need Christmas afternoon off to get over all this...

Sunday 13th December 2009

There was another good turnout at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning and if time had permitted we could've rung Surprise Max with an entirely local Sunday service band. As it was we 'made do' with Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Royal!

We were a little shorter at Grundisburgh, but it did mean Erin got a good run-out - she's already ringing the treble to Bob Doubles, so well done her.

Fast forward through an unusually quiet and free Sunday afternoon and the evening was all about Handel's Messiah. It was a rerun of the highly successful event of a year ago to raise money for the Campsea Ashe Bell Project and there had been a rehearsal in the afternoon. Of course Ruthie - who was singing in the choir again - had been at work but we'd decided to pop along to the Dog and Duck in the village opposite it's railway station (or Wickham Market's according to those who decide these things) where a spread had been put on for those who didn't want to go home between the rehearsals and the concert itself.

It was in there we bumped into Suzanne Stevens but not many others as much food was left. At least it enabled us to give her a lift to Hacheston where the concert had been moved from Campsea Ashe due to falling plaster with unfortunate timing. I say unfortunate as the slightly bigger venue just down the road was packed - quite where everyone would've gone in it's original location I'm not sure!

The choir was huge and sounded wonderful, a glorious wall of noise coming at those of us in the audience and Ruthie again really enjoyed herself.

It was good to see so many ringers there partaking and watching, but it was especially lovely to see Alan Rogers on top form, looking and feeling better than he has done for some time and like the rest of us partaking in a standing ovation for the glorious efforts of the choir that had only got together that once this afternoon!

From there it was a quick dash as Ruthie and I had been invited round to Toby's for a few drinks, the first time my better half had been round there. It was an enjoyable night with Toby and Tori and topped off a brilliant evening.

Before I sign off, well done to Jonathan Stevens on calling his first peal on ten yesterday up at Great Yarmouth, no mean feat.

Saturday 12th December 2009

Today should've seen the Guild's first attempt of a peal on sixteen, to be held of course - with Dublin and Australia both a little too far! - at the Bullring in Birmingham. Peals there - unless arranged at short notice - are restricted to Sunday's at 1.15pm which is too early for people to travel from East Anglia without missing Sunday morning ringing or Saturday's at 4pm to avoid events in the church. Thus my breaking of my no peals on a Saturday rule.

With my absence for most of the day, Kate had very kindly arranged to take Mason down to the Bluebell Railway in Sussex to see the steam trains and Father Christmas. Everything was set in place bar getting a couple more Brummies involved to add experience on such high numbers.

Then it began unravelling. And unravelling, with people having to drop out for understandable and unsatisfactory reasons which I shan't go into on a public forum.

However, Ruthie, Ron and his son Tom were also going to Sussex with Kate and the li'l chap so there was no room in the car for me and with some members of the band that was going to Birmingham expressing an interest in doing something this afternoon I set about arranging a peal. Easier said than done. Many had arranged other things in place of their trip to the West Midlands and others were understandably already booked up.

So a peal of Yorkshire Surprise Sixteen in the centre of Britain's second city turned into a one of seven Surprise Minor methods on the back six at Grundisburgh. Still, it was a decent but brisk peal following on from an abortive attempt to ring variable-treble Surprise Minor methods.

And big delays on the M25 meant the returning travellers would be late back, allowing a quick pint in the Turk's Head for the first time for some time.

Eventually we all got back to Sun Lane, Mason clutching onto the toy badger Santa had given him and full of beans, so thank you Kate. I would've loved to have gone along of course, but in the end it was a satisfying and enjoyable day for all.

Friday 11th December 2009

An exciting game of 'Spot the Christmas Tree' on the way to and from his grandparents kept Mason occupied and was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful day.

There was plenty of activity elsewhere in the county though and most notable was Tig Sweet's first of Norwich Minor in the quarter at Earl Stonham today, Kay Lucas' first Triples inside at Gislingham and Charlie Blandy's 50th quarter on the same occasion. Congratulations to you all.

Thursday 10th December 2009

Public transport proved it's reliability again this evening as Ruthie battled to get back from Colchester. Missing a train by moments of course means adding something approaching hours to a journey on the railways, so I was called upon to pick her ladyship up from Westerfield station.

Once that was done, us and Mason fed and the li'l chap put to bed, it was too late to go to Grundisburgh. With next Thursday being John Catt's Christmas meal and the two after that Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve that's me done with practices at our lightest twelve for 2009, a hit and miss year for me here on Thursday nights for various reasons and something that will hopefully improve in 2010!

Wednesday 9th December 2009

Peter Schurr's 79th Birthday Quarter Peal BandRuthie was not needed for this evening's concert in Colchester, so she accompanied me to Pettistree and did some work in the church as I participated in a good quarter of Grandsire Doubles rung by a band capable of ringing something more complicated. The reason we were ringing Grandsire was so we could ring a 1289 in honour of Peter Schurr's 89th birthday today. The star of the show arrived later with his wife Susan to receive a card and partake in several photos including one with the band, meaning I had to break my smile open again!

It was all part of an enjoyable practice with a big attendance that included Giles from Rendham, he of simulator fame that rang his first blows of Plain Hunt at Hollesley on the North-East Training Day back in October. Tonight was all about bonging behind for him and was sufficient to entice him back for more.

He - like most there - joined us in The Greyhound where huge Christmas trees inside and out have appeared since I was last here on Saturday, adding further to the increasing festive feel at the moment!

Tuesday 8th December 2009

I was so poorly yesterday morning - again - that I had to take a day off work. Nothing related to what I've suffered in recent weeks as there was no temperature attached to it, just illness and snottiness and by the evening I was more than well enough to go to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice. Returning to work today though, I found I wasn't the only one suffering. Neil and Wendy had both called in sick and Neil had to go home again today.

There is obviously lots of winter nastiness going round - it's not just the season to be merry - as Ruthie has been unwell and had been worried that she wouldn't be able to perform with the Colchester Institute Chamber Choir at the lunchtime concert at SMLT today. However, she had recovered suitably to give an apparently - and predictably - great performance. She was very grateful to those who came to watch, especially those ringers who had to choose between this and the midweek ringing!

It was lucky that both of us were better too, as Kate had got three tickets for this evening's match between Ipswich and Peterborough, the closest we have to a local derby in Norwich's absence. Unfortunately, the Lord had decided that this evening was the time to take two of His servants and so she was unable to come along, leaving us trying to find someone who fancied a free ticket to the game with less than two hours to kick-off. We tried Toby, but he was suitably chastised by Tori for forgetting they were going round a friends for a meal this evening so he was unable to come. I thought of Kev, but apparently he was in trouble for not doing enough housework, so Ruthie dissuaded me from asking her brother-in-law.

We were getting ready to leave at 6.15 when my brother Chris called from Cambridge. I jokingly asked him if he fancied a free ticket to the game, prompting howls of laughter from myself and Ruthie.

"OK then," was the entirely serious answer. And with that he was on his way. We meanwhile headed down to Portman Road, grabbing a burger and chips outside and a pint inside and awaited his arrival as kick-off fast approached. I wasn't entirely convinced he'd make it, but with literally two minutes to go, he was there, large as life and ready to watch what turned out to be a reasonably entertaining but goalless match. As I've said before, we seem to have everything sorted bar scoring!

Still, it was good to go to our first game of the season - even if it was the first one Ruthie had watched without us winning - and to catch up with Rusty who we bumped into at half-time. Chris stopped over at Sun Lane, grabbing a bottle of wine for us to devour before it all caught up on us!

With my busy weekend and extensive ramblings it went unmentioned - but not unnoticed - that David Rogers rang his first of Major at SMLT on Sunday, with Gordon Slack ringing his 50th peal, so well done guys!

Monday 7th December 2009

You can stay in a job too long - in ringing anyway. It's why we have a five-year limit on Guild officers period in office. Things can get stale. It's not so much of a problem at towers with six or eight bells, perhaps, where the bands are very local in the main. Ralphy at Sproughton for example has run things for years, as have Mike and Mary at Pettistree and Brian at Offton all very, very successfully. You can accept the ups and downs and there's perhaps fewer demands on such a role.

St Mary‑le‑Tower is different. With no disrespect to Grundisburgh, it's the only place in Suffolk that you can be pretty much assured of turning up to practice and ringing on twelve. People therefore travel from across the county and even the region in some cases. It's vital therefore that it is kept vibrant and interesting, that it is worthwhile for those people travelling huge distances to come to practice.

That is why this evening I announced my intentions to step down as Ringing Master at SMLT after the tower AGM in April. It's time for new blood to run things as I feel I have taken things as far as they can go. So get thinking of some suggestions for someone to take over from me!

For now though I remain in charge and this evening's practice kind of epitomised why I feel now is a good time to step down. We had over twenty again and rang Yorkshire Maximus and better (the second time at least) than we could've imagined possible when I took over. It still seems to have hit a rut though. The striking and/or application isn't as it should be and it has been like that for a while. Still, it is as always good to see so many people there.

Ruthie is still suffering and so I dropped her at home on the way to Tescos to again do the weekly shop on my own. Who says I can't do shopping?!

Sunday 6th December 2009

Good to see some old chums from Birmingham enjoying our fine bells at St Mary‑le‑Tower for a peal yesterday morning. I would've liked to have popped down to meet up with them, but Ipswich town centre on a Saturday in the lead-up to Christmas is not really conducive to making such desires practical and of course I was otherwise engaged at Pettistree. I was a little surprised to see it rung for the Suffolk Guild, but it is perhaps understandable as the method and occasion are very much Ipswich and Suffolk related.

It was interesting to note that following ANOTHER complaint from Churches Bar next door about a recent Saturday morning peal (despite their apparent acceptance of our compromise), George went and spoke directly to them prior to yesterday's peal and had a very civilised conversation. We don't want to just capitulate to them but we also don't want to get into a row with them. There are many towers across the Guild that are currently unpealable due to a fear of upsetting the locals that would benefit from this approach rather than the shut-up-shop attitude that means that many are sadly lost from the peal columns.

There was a disappointing turnout at the above tower this morning, but it consisted of some good ringers, meaning the standard was high, especially with a touch of Grandsire Triples on the grand back-eight.

Grundisburgh too suffered from low numbers despite Stephen's return, though not as low as it has been as we were able to ring Surprise Major.

Ruthie was having a later lunch today, so having dropped off Mason at Kara's I popped in to see her, taking in the annual festive treat of the Woodbridge Christmas Fair that filled The Thoroughfare all day. Ruthie wasn't the only familiar face around either as I bumped into Pete from work with Mel and Jacob, Mike and Pippa, Daphne from Pettistree and Richard Hobson from Tattingstone, all enjoying a wonderful event thankfully in winter sunshine.

St Andrew, WissettI couldn't hang around for Ruthie's later lunch however as I was again carrying out my masterial duties at the rededication of Wissett bells. I love these occasions, a real celebration of the hard work put in by so many and this afternoon was brilliant with a packed house and good showing from ringers. They sound more complete outside, but the tenors still shout down inside, but this didn't distract people (plus there are advanced plans to sort this out) and a joyful service was followed by a hefty tea, though I couldn't partake in this as much as I normally would as Ruthie and I were joining Kate, Ron, Clare and Kev for a meal in celebration of Mr Douglas' recent birthday.

It was held in The Cherrytree in Woodbridge and soon turned into a good-natured micky-take of his night in a bus shelter in Ipswich town centre last night! Happy Birthday Kev!

Saturday 5th December 2009

In the first few weeks of my uni course in the West Midlands as I was getting into the exciting Birmingham ringing-scene, I was asked by the legendary John 'Jimmy' McDonald if I would like to ring in a peal attempt at St Chad's Cathedral of a new principal, Martin's Triples that involved calls in several different places. I said yes of course, expecting to score a peal fairly easily surrounded as I was by seasoned and brilliant peal-ringers. We finally scored the peal nearly a year-and-a-half later having attempted it regularly - weekly at times - racking up goodness-knows how many losses along the way. It was fun - though we often got in trouble from David Pipe for spending our post-loss Tuesday evenings in The Gunmakers rather than at the Bullring practice - but it did rather have a hold over us.

Peter's Tree Surprise Minor is - to a lesser extent perhaps - starting to take on a similar status. Last year we lost our peal attempt of it at Pettistree and there have been quarter's lost in the method. But there have also been some scored and with much revision we were set for another peal attempt this morning. Sadly it came to grief again, though in the first extent, so we rang - after another false start - a very good and confident quarter which if we'd had the time I think would've progressed into a successful peal attempt meaning it was far from a wasted morning.

Reasonably happy with that, we enjoyed a pint in The Greyhound where Paul and Margy generously gave us each a 2010 diary which WILL be useful! Especially for our next attempt of Peter's Tree...

Having picked Mason up from Mum and Dad who had very kindly and generously been looking after him for the third day running, I returned to a hard-working Ruthie for some lunch before we were on the road again.

St Mary Magdalene, DebenhamIt was the final ADM of the season, the South-East District one on this occasion at the fine eight of Debenham. There were over thirty there and some experienced ringers and learners who were gratefully received, meaning we could ring plenty from Call-Changes to Bristol Major. But it's still a shame that more couldn't come along to this great event. I've exhausted myself for now trying to persuade people to come along to events they obviously don't want to come to, so I shan't go on about that. But suffice to say you missed a wonderful afternoon of ringing, company and - following the service - a brilliant tea in the cosy cottage familiar to those of you who attend Veteran's Day here.

The meeting was brief but useful as Mum was finally relieved of the treasurers role which was taken on by Anne Buswell and she promptly took on one of the GMC reps vacancies with Brian Redgers taking on the other one. Well done guys and I hope others across the Guild will follow your lead.

Mason behaved himself - with a lot of persuasion at times - and provided the funniest moment of the afternoon. As George Pipe entered, shaking hands as he does, the li'l chap formally offered his and was duly obliged! It was a priceless moment that made George's afternoon!

St Mary the Virgin, Earl StonhamWhilst others went on to the lovely six at Earl Stonham, we of course headed home to get the li'l man to bed, but we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon. I only wish others would give it a go. Oops! I mentioned it again...

Friday 4th December 2009

The normal Friday evening pick-up of Mason from his grandparents in Ipswich took on a certain degree of urgency this week as I not only needed to pick up Ruthie from Westerfield station but also get back for the World Cup draw on TV and get her ladyship to her works Christmas meal at The Black Tiles in Martlesham.

I succeeded. The dates you need to avoid asking me for anything in the summer are the evenings of Saturday, 12th June and Friday, 18th June and the afternoon of Wednesday, 23rd June and Ruthie had a great time with her workmates.

There was a busy night at Southwold with two quarters and well done to Sarah Plummer who rang her first of Yorkshire and Philip Moyse who rang his 50th in the same quarter. Meanwhile congratulations to Michelle Williams and Rona Sporle who rang their first Plain Bob Triples in the other quarter.

Thursday 3rd December 2009

Everyone seems to be ill at the moment. Ruthie was so poorly she couldn't go into uni despite the fact she really wanted to as the lecture was on a piece of music she was writing on. Pete and Susanne couldn't come out to play tonight because Susanne was really unwell and Wendy at work was threatening not to come in this afternoon such was her poor state of health. And Kara was not well too, so she asked if I could pick up Mason first thing this morning rather than after work. Mum and Dad were generously obliging so I was able to help out today.

The li'l chap had his consultant's appointment on Monday and the outcome was that he needs to wear a day-cast for the next six months, gently easing him into it an hour extra a day. To say we weren't looking forward to this is an understatement following the disaster of his recent night-cast, but seeing him wear it this morning I was pleasantly surprised. It's a lot lighter and more sophisticated then the heavy unwieldy and ill-fitting plaster cast he had before as it is made out of plastic and he was running and walking around in it perfectly happily as if it wasn't there.

Tonight's practice at Grundisburgh was the last of three in Stephen's absence and was probably the best as we had thirteen including those who had just rung at St Lawrence as part of the late-night shopping experience in Ipswich. This enabled us to ring plenty for Mr Nigel including giving him a go on the treble to Cambridge Minor. We also rang some Call-Changes on the twelve and Grandsire Cinques as well as some Yorkshire Royal as requested by Jane which went a lot better when we realised she'd actually meant to request Cambridge! I say better as it fired out even when we were all ringing the same method, but an attempt of it later in the evening went a lot better. A good night all in all.

Wednesday 2nd December 2009

Although I have made announcements at recent ADMs and of course mentioned it on this blog, I started organising Guild Peal Week 2010 in earnest today and immediately started getting results, so thank you to those who have replied already. People have been ever so generous with their time and effort for the last three Peal Weeks and of course recently for the St Edmund's Day ringing and it has benefited many people and really produced a feel-good factor for the Guild, so I hope that people can once again get into the spirit of things. Your help will be much appreciated for a mammoth task of organisation.

It was perhaps apt on the back of this that this evening I partook in what I make is the 120th peal for the Guild this year, equalling 2008's total with pretty much a month to still go. It was a peal of Northumberland Surprise Minor (Ipswich below the treble, Carlisle above it) at The Wolery and very enjoyable it was too.

Just a note about St Mary‑le‑Tower. As you will know I've been a little disappointed about the ways things have been going recently and something needs to be done to take us onto the next level. I shall be making an announcement at Monday's practice that I hope will take us forward. If you want to know what that is you'll just have to be there, it's strictly a secret until then!

Tuesday 1st December 2009

Christmas has arrived! OK, OK, the big day that I and many others get so excited by is still some weeks away, but the turning of the calendar to December, the choosing of what we are to eat at John Catt's Christmas meal in only just over two weeks and the putting up of decorations in both the office and at home - for the first time in Sun Lane of course - has got me feeling very festive!

The only thing missing is an advent calendar for Ruthie and me - we left it far too late even though we got the li'l chap's weeks ago - but with this being the first time we shall have Mason on Christmas Day, there is a lot to look forward to if all goes to plan this month, God willing!

Monday 30th November 2009

Congratulations to Dr Abby Antrobus who rang her 300th quarter at Ixworth yesterday, to Ruth Suggett who called her first of Major on the same occasion and to Alex Tatlow who not only rang but called the most methods he'd ever rung in a quarter, also yesterday at Great Barton. Well done to you all.

That has just been the tip of the iceberg for quarters recently, but it's also worth noting what a phenomenal two months it has been for Guild peals. The one we rang in Ipswich yesterday was the TWENTIETH peal for the SGR this month. On top of the fifteen rung during October, that makes thirty-five in sixty-one days, representing half of the ANNUAL peal totals from the paltry totals of the early years of the decade. Thank you and well done again to all involved, because there's been many achievements in those peals.

Coupled with watching the bellringing team on BBC Two's Egghead's quiz show (I know Jason Hughes who was a member) and with Ruthie not in uni today, I should've been quite buoyed going to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening. Sadly though, Ruthie was under the weather and I was greeted by another disappointing attendance, that whilst extremely useful for the likes of Stephen, David, Carl and Anne who had made the not inconsiderable journeys in, meant we were unable to ring Surprise Maximus.

With tomorrow evening put aside for the annual thrill of putting Christmas decorations up at home, I made the trip alone to Tescos after practice, bumping into Anne who had the same idea, before returning to my poorly girlfriend.

One thing of note. This Saturday is the South-East District ADM at the fine eight at Debenham. At announcements tonight there had only been one name put forward for tea. Admittedly you have up to Wednesday (and probably beyond in all reality) to get your names in and a substantial group from SMLT have now put their names down, but this is one of the highlights of the district calendar. Come on folks! People have put in a huge amount of time and energy into getting a tower set up, facilities booked, tea arranged, promoting it and it's for members of ALL levels, especially learners and improvers. The meeting will be brief and informal, the rest will be a wonderful social occasion. And if you aren't a South-East member? Well this is bellringing! You'd be made more than welcome and your presence much appreciated!

Sunday 29th November 2009

Having been generously dropped off at St Audry's by Kate to collect my car, it was a good morning's ringing today as a decent attendance - boosted by the very welcome visits of Alan McBurnie, Anne Buswell, Stephen Cheek and of course my brother - at St Mary‑le‑Tower saw us ring a good half-course of Yorkshire Max as well as Grandsire Caters and Call-Changes on twelve.

Being 5th Sunday, the rotation of services in the Grundisburgh benefice saw today's being held at Hasketon, so Mason, Chris and I headed there where we were joined by Kate, David (Stanford), Mr Nigel, Michael (Pilgrim) and Beryl as Mason set about losing his toy car in the church, prompting a search-party that was ultimately successful!

Ruthie was in Colchester today taking part in the competition she did so well in last year, so she was unable to join us for lunch, but it did enable Chris and me to set off early for the main purpose of my brother's visit this weekend.

Tomorrow will mark one hundred years since our grandfather - and dad's father - was born. Sadly it has been eighteen years since he left us for a better place, but he is still fondly remembered by so many ringers, not least ourselves of course and for some time I've had an eye on organising a peal for the occasion. Trying to arrange a peal on a Monday was impractical with work, SMLT practice and the availability of both ringers and the bells - St Margaret's in Ipswich, the most appropriate place to ring such a peal as he was a long-time ringer here - so I plumped for the closest convenient date which was of course this afternoon.

I think Grandad would've been proud as a great peal of Yorkshire Major - simple method and simple composition rung by a good band - was rung on bells that bring back a lot of memories. They're not the best sounding bells and there are lots of groans from the pulley's, but it always brings back happy memories of ringing as a young lad, especially with Grandad. We were also able to dedicate the peal to Shirley Girt's mother who sadly passed away last week.

With ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower just an hour after we'd finished the peal, Chris and I accompanied Arnie and Brian to The Robert Ransome pretty much half-way between the two towers, before we ascended the stairs to the twelve to ring for the Advent Carol Service, no doubt the first of many festive treats that will call upon our services over the next few weeks.

We were joined by Kate and Ruthie, fresh from her gold award at the competition and Sarah, George and Di's daughter. She has rung a quarter of Grandsire Cinques in the past, but doesn't ring now, so it was wonderful that she felt able to ring some call-changes on eight with us.

From there it was back to Woodbridge for tea and then up to The Angel where we met Pete, Susanne and Jasper for a few drinks. Another couple at The Bell and Steelyard followed before we headed, more in hope than expectation, to the kebab shop. You've guessed it - it was closed!

Saturday 28th November 2009

Mason and I left Ruthie for the afternoon so she could get on with some uni work as it's not easy to write essays and do research with an excitable child dashing around such a humble abode.

Our destination was the South-West District ADM and more specifically Sudbury, All Saints. Over the course of the afternoon I suffered a number of flashbacks to possibly the hardest quarter I've ever rung, the one of Yorkshire here back in August, but the typically large attendance battled bravely and there was some quite good ringing.

Mason and I headed over the road to the hall whilst the service was on to enjoy what is the best play-corner I think I've ever seen! The floor was made to look like a jigsaw and it was stocked with a huge range of toys that kept the li'l chap occupied for the time we spent there, which included a lovely tea and the beginning of the meeting.

It was only the beginning of the meeting though as Mason and I had to leave early - leaving our Guild Chairman representing the top table - as Ruthie and I had a prior engagement. As much as it was a shame to leave the South-West - I always enjoy my visits down there - we had been invited to our mate Kala's 30th birthday party, a fancy-dress affair held at the increasingly familiar St Audry's Social Club.

Kate had very kindly agreed to baby-sit the li'l man as we headed off in our costumes. It was an 'M' themed evening - for Michaela of course - and whilst I went as Moe from The Simpsons, Ruthie was Miss Moneypenny. Anywhere else we might have felt a little silly, but surrounded by milk cartons, maps, Mrs Doubtfire (who was topless by the end of the night - and three Musketeers, we appeared relatively sane. The photos are already on Facebook, though there's not many that are suitable for this site!

It was a great night, most importantly the birthday girl had a good time and we were very grateful to Kate as we arrived back via taxi.

It was a busy day for peals and quarters in our county and for our Guild, but the footnotes that stood out were Louis calling his first peal on ten - again with his own composition - at The Norman Tower in Bury St Edmunds, Maggie Ross calling her first peal of Surprise Major at East Raynham and David Steed ringing the most methods he has ever rung to a peal at Walsham-le-Willows. Congratulations to you all, it's fantastic to see so much being achieved by our members!

Friday 27th November 2009

Well done yesterday to Josephine Beever who rang her 850th quarter at Tunstall. At the rate she and the others are ringing quarters at the moment, the 1000th should be under her belt by Christmas!

Nothing so energetic for me today, apart from the usual drop-off and collection of Mason from Mum and Dad's. As we left, Unky Chris was arriving in anticipation of a very important peal on Sunday.

Thursday 26th November 2009

Recovered to the point that I felt better than I have for almost a week, I skipped (well maybe not skipped) into work only to find that Pete had called in sick with swine flu. For all the mass hysteria that has surrounded this version of flu over the last goodness knows how many months, Pete is the first person I actually know directly to have caught this and I have my doubts about whether this is actually swine flu! Still, we're all hoping he gets better soon.

With my new-found health I picked up Mason who now has a cough and the sniffles (I'm preparing myself for the next round!) and having fed, watered and put him to bed, left Ruthie with him and picked up Pete and Susanne for Grundisburgh practice. In Stephen's continued absence I was running it again and with a decent number there, we were able to give people like Peggy, Anne, Nigel, Erin and her father Chris a decent run-out tonight. With Mr P away next week too, more help would be much appreciated.

Wilby Peal BandI can't sign-off without congratulating Louis Suggett not only on joining the ranks of adulthood (all downhill now Louis!), not only on calling his first peal of Surprise Major at Wilby today but also on composing it. Congratulations too to Ruth who was ringing her first in the method. Most will know that Louis is one of the most promising young ringers in Suffolk, but having rung with a lot of promising young ringers across the UK - many of whom are now household names - I can vouch for the fact that he is one of the most promising young ringers in the country and has a bright future ahead of him if he wants.

Wednesday 25th November 2009

Ruthie was thankfully fine this morning and so left for uni as usual. I meanwhile had decided to call in sick at work as part of my recovery. This illness must really have tired me out too as having phoned work I put my head down on the pillow and drifted off - until noon!

It was a bit of a shock, but I didn't half feel better for it! Still, my aim was to stay out of the cold and to do as little as possible until it was time to pick up Ruthie from her concert duties in Colchester. As you can imagine, I didn't have too much difficulty with that and so I felt pretty good as I headed to Essex. I was even well enough to help Ruthie and her mates move pianos afterwards!

Tuesday 24th November 2009

We were very kindly invited round to Edwin Avenue by Clare and Kev for soup that she had made herself. Having enjoyed that though, we decided to sit down to a sober night, unusual for a Tuesday. I am still not feeling great and want to begin a proper recovery, whilst Ruthie - worryingly - has also started feeling unwell.

Monday 23rd November 2009

Still not 100% but ready to take the world on, I got through work and then onto St Mary‑le‑Tower only to find a decimated attendance at the practice through others illness (including my father) on top of those I already knew were going to be away. Even taking into account illnesses, quite why attendances have dipped so dramatically I'm not sure, especially as I felt we were making decent progress with a belfry full of a good mix of experienced ringers and those keen and willing to learn. It did cross my mind once or twice in my less than top form that perhaps I have taken things as far as they can go. We'll see how the next few months go.

It was good practice for Anne, Gerald and Stephen (the latter two being part of a crowd of six out of the thirteen present that had crossed the border from Essex) and Amanda (still tickets available for her talk on Thursday), Paul and I got an early dose of festivity as we helped Charles the vicar and Stephen the verger to lift the church's enormous Christmas tree into place.

And Ruthie and I took advantage of the same offer we did a week ago at J's, on the way home so thank you again to my folks and get well soon Dad!

Sunday 22nd November 2009

Woke up this morning drenched in sweat and as unpleasant as that is for you to behold it was not nice for me as I was very cold. In any other circumstances on any other day I would stay at home, wrapped up and drinking plenty of fluids. With Mason about, Ruthie at work and Kara without a car to come and pick the li'l chap up, I had to go to the car anyway, so I decided I might as well go to St Mary‑le‑Tower.

Like yesterday, I actually began feeling alright too as ringing at SMLT saw us ring Yorkshire Royal and Stedman Caters, whilst in Stephen's continued absence I ran the ringing at Grundisburgh where Bob Minor was the peak.

Having returned Mason to his mother and had lunch with Ruthie, I had a brief snooze as it all caught up with me, but generally I felt fine. So much so that I rang a quarter of Grandsire Triples at Aldeburgh for Granville's 65th birthday with Ruthie expertly calling it and for which we each received a miniature bottle of wine from the birthday boy for our efforts!

I can't blame feeling under the weather for the badly called Grandsire Triples for evensong - I hate calling that stuff - as I felt perfectly OK for our next engagement, the 24th (or 21st on the 21st or the 25th on the 23rd in 2008 - best to ask Mary!) Pettistree AGM, again very generously hosted by Susan and Peter Schurr at their lovely house in Ufford. In line with almost all bellringing meetings, the business was almost a side issue to the social side of things and was useful but very informal. And I still felt alright!

Saturday 21st November 2009

I began feeling quite queasy last night and still a little as I woke early in preparation for this morning's peal attempt at Southwold. However, as I began getting Mason ready, so I began the long trip to that part of the coast via Ipswich where Mum and Dad very kindly agreed to look after the li'l chap.

It's not often now that I ring peals on a Saturday, but I felt I ought to be doing my bit for St Edmund, especially as so many others had given up their time yesterday and today. Despite feeling fine as we got going with Cambridge Major, I felt a little ill during parts of the ultimately successful peal. Come the end though, I was pretty much right as rain.

I still felt good when Kate came back from the first peal to be rung on Parham bells - well done guys! - and helped remove our second defunct washing machine. Still happy enough I accompanied her to Bennetts to get a brand new eco-friendly one and as I looked after an excited two-year old, the girls expertly fitted it.

Still not feeling anywhere near as bad as earlier, we watched the footy on the tele as Ipswich drew 0-0 with Sheffield Wednesday. Although the result was disappointing, the performance was another good one and providing we start scoring some goals we should be fine. Simples.

Come the evening though, I was feeling pretty poorly and running a temperature. Another early night then...

Friday 20th November 2009

As I stood in my kitchen wearing my sexy pyjamas talking to Mark Murphy on Radio Suffolk about the Guild's St Edmund's Day ringing, normal life going on around me with Mason watching CBeebies - well shouting at it - and Ruthie getting ready for uni, it struck me that potentially thousands could be listening into our conversation. It was a strange start to a strange day. But also a very successful one...

I have spent the last few months organising four simultaneous peals - one in each district - as I did last year for this morning. Unlike last year, ALL the peals were scored. My thanks to all twenty-four ringers who rang, those who were before illness and work prevented them and of course those towers who allowed us to use their bells. But perhaps my deepest gratitude should go to the conductors, Maurice Rose at Barrow, Brian Whiting at Cavendish, David Salter at Falkenham and Jonathan Stevens at Metfield. Congratulations too to Louis Suggett who rang his 50th peal in the one at Barrow and Jim Towler who very generously rang his 2000th tower-bell peal for the occasion at Cavendish. And thank you to those who rang the quarter at Ashbocking, where Phil Sweet who rang his first quarter. Congratulations Phil!

Like last year, it provided the Guild with fantastic PR, not only through my morning conversation with Mark but also when Bruce and I appeared together on Radio Suffolk with Lesley Dolphin on her sofa. Well Bruce went on the sofa, I couldn't fit on! It was very enjoyable, not least because some of my friends had suggested words to fit into the conversation. I succeeded with 'tractor boys' and 'teddy bear', but failed with 'fish'.

Having picked up Ruthie from the station and dropped off Bruce at the Park and Ride, we collected Mason from his grandparents before I prepared for the next stage of the St Edmund's celebrations tomorrow.

Thursday 19th November 2009

It's getting to the point where I may need an agent! Tomorrow afternoon, Bruce Wakefield and I shall be on the famous (if you listen to the show that is) sofa in Lesley Dolphin's studio for her Radio Suffolk show. For those who want to listen (crazy fools) or who want to listen again, the plan is for us to be on between 2.50 and 3.30pm.

As if that wasn't enough for the poor suffering listeners of our county's BBC station, I will be on just after 7am on Mark's show. Whilst the afternoon stint I gather will be more about Bruce and me as people and our lives and relatively in depth, Mark will be ringing me up for a brief chat about the St Edmund's Day ringing.

So it's lucky - barring any disasters on the morning itself - that everything is in place for peal attempts at Barrow in the North-West, Cavendish in the South-West, Falkenham in the South-East and Metfield in the North-East! I've also finally got a band for the Southwold peal on Saturday which was made harder by it being the Cumberland's peal weekend!

With all fingers and toes crossed and a quick prayer to the big man upstairs that everything goes to plan over the next couple of days, I picked Mason up who has today enjoyed his first day at playschool. Apparently it was quite hard to drag him away!

Whilst Ruthie diligently did some uni work, I headed to Grundisburgh to run the practice in Stephen's absence. There weren't too many there, though Peggy got a good run-out and did extremely well, peaking at plain hunt on five, whilst we also rang some Cambridge Major for Anne on the treble. Stephen is away for the next two practices though, so we could do with as much help as is possible on the 26th November (if you're not going to Amanda's much anticipated talk) and the 3rd December.

Wednesday 18th November 2009

Despite the absence of four of our more experienced ringers, we still enjoyed a big attendance and good ringing at Pettistree practice tonight, which followed on from a successful quarter of Beverley Minor and was prior to the Wednesday night pickup from Colchester where I found Ruthie clutching a broom as she helped tidy up. That's what I like to see!

Good to see the St Edmund's Day celebrations get underway early at Southwold this evening with a quarter of St Edmund Surprise Major, the method in which we hope to ring a peal of at the same location this Saturday morning.

Tuesday 17th November 2009

Had a call from a worried Jenny, the tower correspondent from Metfield, one of the locations for the St Edmund's Day peals this Friday. I have to admit my heart was in my mouth for a moment, but thankfully the problem was just a broken stay, though I am very grateful to Jenny for letting me know.

It was one of many calls from bellringers and even Radio Suffolk this evening that - if I'd needed it - reminded me of my position!

Monday 16th November 2009

My car was back at its usual garage in Ipswich today to have the finishing touches put to it following Friday's service, so it meant a lift to and from work from Mum again. With it being St Mary‑le‑Tower practice tonight and Ruthie still in Colchester there was no point in me returning to Woodbridge so I hung around like a bad smell (still need a washing machine but Kate has very generously been allowing us to use hers) at Ashcroft Towers until show time.

I've put Bristol Max on the back-burner for the time being, primarily because attendance has been too erratic to get that going satisfactorily for now. But it's also in an attempt to focus a little more on rhythm and striking on higher numbers. We've done more ten-bell ringing, more Little Bob (a good thing to help rhythm) and tonight we rang two pieces of Yorkshire Max. Although there were periods where there was some really good ringing, I was still disappointed with the overall standard. It wasn't the less experienced higher-number ringers either, some of the more experienced members of the band went astray tonight with too many method mistakes and careless striking. It's not necessarily a criticism. It goes that way sometimes, we're all human. But I felt a little like a football manager who had put out his very best XI available and given my team-talk, only for them to ignore my words and get thrashed by a lower league side!

Still, although the pace of improvement has slowed considerably, the standard has risen, but we can't just consider we've reached our peak and become stale.

Afterwards, Ruthie and I went to J's Fish and Chips at Crown Point in Martlesham, where we used a voucher kindly passed onto us by Mum and Dad - not that we need much excuse to go to the chippy!

Sunday 15th November 2009

As part of Mason and Brooke's christening last week, Kara, Danny and I had been asked to return to St Andrew's church in Melton for the Sunday morning service, not only to show our face as it were, but to partake in another little ceremony to fully welcome the little 'uns into the church.

Despite a very sore head - well what else is there to do in a medieval barn during a power-cut? - it was great to see Mason again as he had of course been at his mother's last night.

However it did mean missing ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower - thanks to David Potts for running things in my absence - and as the family service went on, Grundisburgh too. It strikes me that this place doesn't do short services.

Kev popped rounded, trying in vain to fix our washing machine. I think we might need another new one... Anyone who has one going, you know where we are!

After lunch with Ruthie I was off for my first and only ringing of the day, a peal at Monewden. With such a sore head it was no easy task, but I perked up as we went through and felt a lot better for this effort which - after the loss of last weeks peal at Orford - doubled up as belated birthday and christening compliments to my brother and son respectively.

Once back home were on the road again to retrieve Ruthie's car, still sat in a now very soggy car-park at Leiston Abbey before settling down to a lot quieter evening than last night!

Saturday 14th November 2009

Leiston Abbey is a magnificent place in a wonderful setting. On a crisp, sunny autumn's day it looks beautiful, the kind of place I came back to Suffolk for. I imagine. Because today was not a crisp, sunny day, which was a shame for our mates Kala and Nick who were getting married at said venue this afternoon.

When I dropped Mason off at Kara's this morning, the weather was swapping between stormy and bright but once at the venue it was wind and rain all the way. But it didn't effect us inside as the ceremony went on against a background of trees getting blown sideways as we overlooked the nearby countryside. And the photos were taken without any problems inside. Then the power went off. Luckily the meal had just been served and as there was a medieval theme to the day, candles were already on the table. With the disco still some time away and a generator on it's way, the speeches were made in romantic candle-light, the only downside being it was getting a little chilly!

The disco got underway slightly late before the power kicked in - to huge cheers - three hours after going off. Catching a taxi back - we shall return for the car tomorrow - we looked back on a truly memorable occasion and one we were thrilled to share with a lovely, lovely couple.

Friday 13th November 2009

Friday the 13th is famed for it's perceived magnetism for bad luck. So it was perhaps a risky day to have my car serviced at the usual place in Ipswich. However, with the help of Mum and Ruthie giving me a lift there and back enabling me to drop Mason off at his Nanna and Grandads, this event went without a serious hitch, though it needs bringing back on Monday for some minor work.

The date may also be considered a brave day to head all the way up to Bungay to ring a quarter. But this too - on a blustery night - went to plan as Paul Norris expertly guided us through Lincolnshire Major. Sadly time and finances prohibit me from coming out to ring as often as I like with Paul as they're always a good laugh and we had some good ringing on this lovely sounding eight.

Thursday 12th November 2009

Mason was running a bit of a temperature when I picked him up after work and with instructions to keep him cool, he and I met Ruthie in Ipswich as we headed into Boots for some discounted Christmas shopping similar to what we did last year.

It all meant we were back in Woodbridge too late for me to then get onto Grundisburgh, so we all stayed in the dry.

Wednesday 11th November 2009

Feeling hot, hot, hot... Yes, the boiler is fixed, we have heating and hot water. Now we just need the washing machine sorted.

I was very grateful of course, but it took a little longer than I thought though as Sid the boiler man left not long before Kate came round to pick me up for a half-muffled quarter of Chester Minor at Pettistree, the second of the day here for Armistice Day, hopefully both worthy efforts to mark the sacrifices made by those in the past and currently for us.

The two quarters were complimented by one at Reydon (well done Philip) and the first peal since their famous rehanging at St Lawrence in Ipswich, as ringers marked the day as best they could.

The muffles remained on for a typically good practice before Kate and I left to pick up Ruthie from Colchester and return to The Greyhound for a couple.

Congratulations to Louise Whitehead - former Offton and current Ixworth ringer - who has given birth to her second daughter!

Tuesday 10th November 2009

As most of you will know, Tuesday nights are normally a very relaxed and quiet affair for Ruthie and I. Not tonight though.

Whilst Ruthie was travelling back from Colchester, I was at Grundisburgh along with a handful of others to help Stephen demonstrate our art to twenty-three Brownies and their helpers. It was very crowded and although they behaved well and asked questions, I was impressed by Mr P's presentational style - they seemed genuinely interested.

After a few pieces of six-bell ringing though, I left them to it as I was meeting Ruthie, Kate and Ron at The Regent in Ipswich to watch Ed Bryne, an Irish comedian who confesses that a lot of people don't know who he is. However, if you watch things like Mock the Week and Have I Got News For You, you will probably have seen him on TV. The place wasn't full by any stretch which was a shame, but it was still a very entertaining night.

And it was better than being at home on this occasion as the boiler has followed the washing machine into a coma and now doesn't work, which means no hot water and no heating on top of no washing. Not pleasant...

Monday 9th November 2009

Felt very rough this morning, I'm obviously getting too old for this drinking malarkey! Well maybe cut down on the Broadside...

I was marginally better by the evening as I picked up Ruthie early from Ipswich station and headed down to St Mary‑le‑Tower to help Owen take the muffles off prior to a reasonable but not spectacular practice.

Yorkshire Max was rung and in many respects we would've been happy with that a year, maybe even a few months ago. The fact is though that as a band we need now to be improving the striking and it wasn't up to standard this evening as we look to raise the bar. Again though, we need help to achieve that and it is worth noting that considerable progress has been made to reach this point.

We don't have a free evening this week, so Ruthie and I decided to do our weekly shop after a practice, always a strange experience at that time I find. But we need to eat!

Sunday 8th November 2009

The twelve at St Mary ‑le‑Tower rang out half-muffled as many bells across the UK did this morning for Remembrance Sunday, in my opinion one of the most important Sundays of the year for bells as they are used to perhaps their most powerful effect.

I was delighted therefore to get a large attendance - seventeen, which I would be happy with on a practice night - that included my brother and Stephen and Janet Clarke. A lack of concentration disappointingly brought a good half course of Yorkshire Max to a premature end just a few changes from the end. In all fairness we probably could've sorted it out and no doubt would've on a practice, but I try to avoid too much crashing about on Sundays, especially a Sunday like this.

Having enabled Mason to make another friend at the Grundisburgh playground, we arrived at the village church just as I remembered the benefice's remembrance service was at Burgh and so we continued up to there where we did some decent ringing prior to the two-minute silence by the precariously placed war memorial on a sharp bend of a very busy main road!

With Mason dropped off, his Unky Chris popped round to join Ruthie and me for lunch before us boys went on to Orford for an attempt at a peal of the standard eight Surprise Major methods. Sadly this came to grief after about three-quarters of an hour following on from some very good ringing, but at least it gave us the opportunity to enjoy the delights of The King's Head pub that backs onto the churchyard. With Chris driving I was able to take full advantage!

Back in Woodbridge and with Chris staying at ours, the three of us hit the town, meeting up with newly-instated Godfather Toby and Tori as we drank in The Red Lion, The Mariners and The Bell & Steelyard to celebrate Chris' birthday from Friday. All that cleansing from yesterday down the drain...

Saturday 7th November 2009

MasonIt was a big, big day for Mason today as he was baptised at St Andrew's in Melton with his sister Brooke. Godparents Toby and Kala and her very soon to be husband Nick were there early on, closely followed by Pete from work, his wife Mel and their son Jacob - one of a multitude of kids present - Wellsy and his better half Katie who we were meeting for the first time over from Birmingham, Rusty, his girlfriend Jack and two girls and Becky and Paul who present with the very youngest of a young crowd, Tallulah who at eight days old slept through the whole exciting occasion, whilst Mum, Dad, brother Chris, Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric represented my side of the family.

Clare, Kev and Kate were also going to come along, but Clare was struck down with an illness that would have needed her sat near the font if she had come along, whilst Kate was unluckily called out for business, though she did join us at the post-service do at St Audry's Sports and Social Club where most came back for food and drink as the abundance of youth ran amok in a large room Ruthie and I had not been to since Nick and Kala's engagement party eighteen months ago. In one of those frightening realisations of time passing it is only a week until their wedding!

Gradually the crowds drifted away leaving a handful of us watching St Audry's take on Framlingham in a local league football game that brought a smile to all our faces, before Mason, Ruthie and I returned home for a rest.

It was a necessary rest too as our evening was put aside for a fireworks display at Edwin Avenue, hosted by Kate who had just returned from a relatively successful South-East District practice at Barking and Coddenham.

Mason didn't seem to enjoy them which meant him and I ended up watching Strictly Come Dancing (his favourite, not mine!) as the display continued, but he was placated with a hot dog!

On a massive family day for us it was interesting to note the Scase/Clarke family peal at Henley whilst congratulations to Becky, Alex and Carl on their respective achievements as highlighted by the footnote to the quarter at Great Barton.

Friday 6th November 2009

Having dropped off Ruthie at Ipswich Railway Station first thing in the morning, I found myself picking her up from Westerfield Railway Station after work, all fitted around dropping Mason off for his usual Friday at Nanna and Grandads.

The purpose of picking up Ruthie was that she was helping - along with me, Mum, Dad, Chris and numerous other ringers - with an event I haven't been able to help out with for three or four years. It was the annual Sproughton Fireworks and Bonfire Night, held on the village's Millennium Green and primarily organised - with the help of many - by Ralph Earey, Sproughton's tower captain, hence the high number of ringers cooking burgers, serving drinks, guiding traffic, setting off fireworks and - in the case of Ruthie and me - taking money off people on the way in.

Having Mason was the main reason that we haven't been able to help out in previous years, but we felt it was worth taking him along for his first proper experience of a fireworks display this year, so whilst one of us was doing our job the other was looking after the li'l chap.

We hadn't picked a good night to introduce him to this Great British tradition though as the incessant rain made for a pretty miserable experience. It was testament to the events popularity, the work of Ralphy and his team and the local population that people still came out to enjoy what was a wonderful display.

After a cheeseburger each we were all glad to return to our warm and dry house in Sun Lane and despite a huge display over our back wall, Mason slept like a baby...

Thursday 5th November 2009

It was Sarah at work's last day at John Catt today and so we not only enjoyed chocolate cake for the third time in seven days but also Ferrero Rochers too as we saw her off. Good job I'm not on a diet.

Back at home we took charge of a new second-hand washing machine (thanks Kate and Kev) following weeks of problems with the old one. However, our new appliance tripped a switch when turned on the first time and promptly refused to work after that. So if you think we smell in the next few days you'll know why!

Wednesday 4th November 2009

Clare and Kev came round just before I set off for the November test at The Wolery. Ruthie didn't need to go to the concert in Colchester this evening but as usual she didn't discover this until today so had been unable to commit to this evening's attempt. Instead she entertained her sister and brother-in law.

I partook in a successful peal of twenty-two Surprise Minor methods - all-the-work, meaning we rang every bit of each of the lines - on a chilly evening. It was far from our best effort, but still good experience, especially for Tom who is going through the same education as Ruthie and I were last year.

Tuesday 3rd November 2009

Had a lengthy phone conversation with brother Chris, who regaled me of the goings on throughout the week-long ringing trip to Italy organised by Stephen Pettman. Apparently it was quite a hectic one involving much ringing, drinking, eating, travelling and even helicopter crashes (not involving any of the party I hasten to add) and yet they still managed to ring a quarter in every country they visited - Germany, France, Austria and of course Italy where two were rung in the hotel. One by the Cumberlands, one by the College Youths who managed Major for theirs...

Monday 2nd November 2009

We've rarely put on muffles at St Mary ‑le‑Tower, primarily for the obvious reason that it is no quick and easy task to muffle a 35cwt thirteen. But as many will know, this evening was the pesky Requiem Mass for All Souls Day and we had been requested by Charles our vicar - who is keen on muffled ringing - to half-muffle the bells for this evenings ringing for the service.

So with Ruthie back in Colchester this week, I left for SMLT straight after work, bar a quick change at home and set about ringing the front eight down in anticipation of the arrival Mum and Dad who were also coming down early to help. Once they'd arrived there was much crawling around as Mum and I attached the muffles to the front eight. Half-way through George also arrived and proceeded to muffle the back four, not part of my plan as ringing them up and down really are a huge hassle. Thankfully he was more than happy to muffle them up as he has done for decades.

Predictably muffles started coming off as we were ringing, mainly due to the incredibly poor standard of the ancient rotting muffles we have but as all three that came off were ones I'd put on I obviously have to take the blame for doing a job badly - I have never been good with muffles! Still, it was agreed that if we are to be asked to muffle the bells more often, it might be nice if the church could afford us a new set! And at least with Remembrance Sunday approaching this weekend they can now be left on until Sunday - bar a bit of adjustment and taping up of the stray ones!

And the back four do sound grand half-muffled! We did only have eight though, understandable as most of our Monday night ringers travel in from long distance and this was quite early for these folk to make it after a days work for a relatively little amount of ringing. We did get Stephen Cheek again though and we rang some Cambridge Major on the front eight and Grandsire Triples on the back eight and I think the overall effect was what Charles was looking for. Better be anyway...

Sunday 1st November 2009

Stephen Cheek regularly comes up from Essex to St Mary ‑le‑Tower practices, but like so many is normally unable to on a Sunday morning. Hopefully a few more will follow on every now again, but it is not something I expect as - as I've mentioned before - so many of the Monday night attendees have their own towers to attend and indeed run, so it just isn't possible for them to come into Ipswich on the Sabbath.

It was nice to see Stephen though and he was rewarded for his efforts with Call Changes on the twelve and some Grandsire Caters before he, Mason and I continued on as part of a sizable crowd to the now familiar first Sunday ringing at St Lawrence straight afterwards. Here we rang some Plain Bob, Grandsire and I called what we believe is the first Stedman on the bells since the now famous project to rehang them which incidentally we received word today will feature on the front page of the Christmas edition of The Ringing World. Maybe as George dressed as Santa...

With the Italy crowd not due back until very late tonight, we were still without Stephen or Nigel at Grundisburgh and with no Gill or Daphne either I was not hopeful of avoiding a repeat of last Sunday when we didn't ring at all. Luckily Kate, Pete and Susanne showed up and enabled us to ring on the front, middle and back five but not before the doors to the clock had been left open, thus jamming the second rope and thus giving Pete a bit of a surprise!

All this Doubles ringing should've been a precursor to a peal on the same number at Great Livermere that I was booked in for this afternoon, but sadly I received a call from Jonathan at lunchtime to tell me one of the band had had to pull out at the very last minute. Despite his valiant efforts he'd understandably been unable to get a replacement at this short notice and so the peal was off. I know how he feels!

Still, having dropped Mason off and had lunch with Ruthie it allowed me the opportunity to pop over to see how the Hollesley ringers were getting on with their tower open day. Not very well was the answer when I initially arrived. They'd been open for business since 11 but the torrential rain and howling wind that stripped most of the trees of their leaves over a terrible lunchtime period had predictably kept people away and when I arrived just after 2pm, they'd only had two visitors. However, the improved weather or my arrival - don't know which, but I'm guessing the former - encouraged the crowds along and from there on in there was a constant stream of people all taking a huge interest, including Ruthie's aunt Stella and cousin Freddie who live in the village.

I was able to help a little, but it was primarily a fantastic effort from Alan and Peter, along with a strong showing that enabled us to ring all eight and some Cambridge Minor to show off!

It all finished in time for me to arrive home in time to welcome Ruthie back as the finished the last of NINE consecutive days at work - well done that girl!

And well done to Alex Tatlow who called his first quarter - hopefully the first of many - at Great Barton today. Congratulations Alex!

Saturday 31st October 2009

Almost exactly six months. That's half the year of course. Apparently 181 days. In that time the Guild has rung fifty-nine peals. I've rung nineteen myself as well as twenty-one quarters. Overseen the Guild Striking Competition. Been on numerous outings. Been down to Somerset, over to Birmingham, up to Scotland twice. Ruthie and I have been guests at two weddings. I've turned thirty-one. You get my drift. It's long-time. And it's how long it's been since Ipswich Town last won a game of football in the league.

Admittedly two months of that was pre-season and perhaps shouldn't count, but it's still been fourteen matches and frankly I and many other Town fans had forgotten what it was like for our favourite team to win. One fan had even given up shaving until we won and presumably was beginning to look like a member of ZZ Top.

So imagine my unbridled joy as I listened to Radio Suffolk as we beat Derby County 1-0, much to Mason's bemusement! From a points and position perspective it is a small step in the right direction (indeed we're still bottom) but psychologically it may well be our most important win for years.

It was the undoubted highlight of a quiet day as Ruthie worked again and even Halloween failed to bring any visitors despite our large tin of sweeties awaiting them!

Friday 30th October 2009

The normal drop-off and pick-up of Mason at and from Ashcroft Road was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful day.

Despite having been into work everyday since Saturday during what should have been a study week, Ruthie also found herself doing an online training course for Boots this evening. It's getting harder to label her lazy!

Thursday 29th October 2009

I took delivery of a son with much shorter hair today in readiness for his christening next week. He looks very different!

There was no Stephen at Grundisburgh tonight of course, so I'd rallied the troops a bit and managed to gather fourteen ringers including the Warrens and John Pallant on what I hope proved to be a useful practice for everyone. We rang plenty from Plain Hunt on Seven to Grandsire Cinques and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

Wednesday 28th October 2009

With Kev working and taking the car and Kate unable to offer as many lifts this week, it has come down to Ruthie to get Clare to work and back in Rendlesham. Well Ruthie mainly. But this morning it was my turn to pick her up from the shift we'd dropped her off for twelve hours earlier.

It was a good wake me-up and set me up for a full day in the office with no fancy restaurants or ten-pin bowling in sight, mores the pity!

We did have chocolate cake at Pettistree practice tonight though as we celebrated Susan Schurr's forthcoming 86th birthday, for which we dedicated tonight's rather good quarter of Ipswich Minor to. And it set in motion a good nights ringing with the usual range that predictably finished in The Greyhound where we were met by Kate with Flan, one of the Pettmans' dogs.

Eventually though, after an early start to our evening, Ruthie and I needed to get our tea and so we left them all to it...

Tuesday 27th October 2009

In all my working career combined before I came to John Catt I had never been treated so much. Large Christmas meals, trips on boats, extravagant parties at yacht clubs, not to mention the relatively frequent meals that have all been on the company tab, to the extent that Ruthie has questioned whether we ever do any work!

That assertion was not dispelled by our latest jolly, a trip to Kingpin in Martlesham Heath for some ten-pin bowling for the four of us in the sales team. It's one of those things I'm either dire at or fantastic at whenever I go and today I'm glad to say it was the latter!

This was apparently meant as a team-bonding session, but the next stage of our day out was another reward for our phenomenal success in the near three-month campaign that we finished on Friday. We were met by and treated to a three-course meal and drinks at Milsoms Kesgrave Hall by Jonathan, a wonderful setting, especially in the autumn sunshine.

We did return to work for a while before I made it home for our usual Tuesday night in, bar a trip out to Rendlesham to take Clare for her night-shift.

Well done to Jonathan Stevens on calling his 150th quarter, rung appropriately enough at Sweffling today. It was another busy day for quarters in the county, including a three-bell one (1260 Shipping Forecast Singles) at Finningham by three young lads with not much to do obviously!

Monday 26 October 2009

The change of clocks yesterday morning saw a return to leaving work in the dark for the next few months, a potentially depressing scenario, but ever cheerful as I am, I quite like the change of seasons and the change of clocks, often breathing new life into the normal routine. It signals the approach of Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas, all things I look forward to and that I get quite excited about.

It doesn't appear St Mary ‑le‑Tower practice is something to get excited about though as we had a lowly attendance of fifteen. Admittedly there were a few away with the Italy trip and it being half-term, but there were still some absences I couldn't work out and it left us unable to ring Surprise Maximus, disappointing at the best of times, but especially as we have no practice next week due to the Requiem Mass, which incidentally I would like to remind folk we need ringers for from 7-7.45. It will be on the front eight as they need muffling and frankly ringing the back four down, putting muffles on and then ringing them back up is more than I am prepared to do, but as many ringers as can make it would be gratefully welcomed.

The plus point of a poorly attended practice is that we can give ringers who don't always get as much of a chance on a Monday night when we have a belfry full of people, particularly Pippa, Stephen and Gerald and there was much ten-bell ringing up to Cambridge Royal as well as some decent Plain Hunt on Eleven, all quite well struck in the circumstances. We could still do with experienced twelve-bell ringers to help move these people along as they progress on the higher numbers.

Sunday, 25th October, 2009

The blog is two years old today! Cue party-poppers, a large cake and plenty of booze...

In those two years I've tried to keep it predominantly ringing-orientated as it is a ringing blog, but also showing what I have to fit being the Guild Ringing Master around. I hope it proves entertaining and/or interesting, but perhaps more importantly informative. Either way, I enjoy writing it.

A general theme that has been highlighted almost from day one of the blog is Sunday morning ringing attendances, particularly at St Mary ‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh where I ring most regularly. At the start both were poor in my opinion, but St Mary ‑le‑Tower has improved greatly. We often ring Surprise Maximus or at least on the twelve and although we didn't manage that this morning we did ring some good Grandsire Caters and young Elle Earey rang call-changes on ten extremely well.

Sadly Grundisburgh has in general remained poorly attended and to a certain extent got worse on a Sunday morning and, not for the first time in the last two years, there were two few to ring at all. Without Stephen and Mr Nigel, both of whom are on the same ringing trip to Italy, Mason and I were met with just Don, Gill and Daphne and so after twenty minutes or so of nattering we decided to head off.

It must be very frustrating for Mr P who now of course has to travel up from Felixstowe to run things here and although it would be great to ring all twelve, he only really needs a couple more to turn up regularly to make it worthwhile for him and Don (who travels all the way down from Reydon) to travel these large distances.

With yesterday's peal at SMLT, I make it the Guild has reached 99 peals so far this year and so I was tempted to ring one this afternoon to ensure we got to the ton before the end of October, but instead I chose to give myself an afternoon off. With the li'l chap now back with his mother, I met up with Ruthie for lunch (bumping into my heavily pregnant friend Becky and bloke Paul, just days from dropping!) and then set about doing a autumn-clean at Sun Lane.

I'd got a lot done by the time Ruthie returned from work, but we were almost immediately out the door to Ufford where we partook in a decent quarter of the standard-eight Surprise Major methods and some six-bell ringing for Evensong.

Whilst some of the band headed off to The Wilford Bridge pub in Melton, Ruthie and I had our own date with Toby - and for the first time - his girlfriend Tory. Typically it involved the Red Lion, pool and a trip to the closed kebab shop and therefore a quick visit to Shapla to satisfy Toby's cravings, but as usual it was a good night out and nice to meet Tory.

Saturday, 24th October, 2009

Ruthie was working today and the weather was pretty awful, so with a bored toddler on my hands I took advantage of that saviour of the dull Saturday afternoon - the ringing event. Meeting up with friends new and familiar, going to different places and enjoying time with Mason who in turn enjoyed the toys and attention.

Mind you, he wasn't overly happy at Oakley, the first tower of the South-West District outing I was joining as I'd just woken him up from his slumber! And having fixed a new rope at this nice little six, Richard Knight and John Smith weren't overly happy either - apparently the bells are not easy to get around here.

The li'l chap was a lot happier at Palgrave with numerous musical instruments, animals and toys to keep him occupied as I ran the ringing here whilst Richard dealt with taking the rope at Oakley, leant by Alan Mayle and so in need of retrieval!

Whilst the rest were heading on to Redgrave and Hinderclay to ring and The Mill at Market Weston for a meal, I needed to get Mason back for his tea and meet Aunty Ruthie from work.

I always feel a little like I am ringing with another guild or association when I ring with the South-West district, such is the infrequency that we see most of their members elsewhere in the Guild, but today - as at all the South-West ringing events I've been to - there was a big attendance and with it a large degree of talent. Cambridge Minor, Cambridge Major, Stedman and Grandsire Triples were all rung well. It's just a shame they don't bring those talents out across the county more often...

Friday, 23rd October, 2009

Holbrook Quarter Peal BandCongratulations to Geoffrey Clement on his marriage to Angela at Holbrook today. Sadly I couldn't be there because of work, but there was by all accounts a full church for this popular couple and a quarter was rung prior to the service.

Brother Chris was down in anticipation of the start of Stephen Pettman's Italy trip which sets off this evening and along with Dad he too was quarter-peal ringing at Sproughton for Daphne's 80th birthday (happy birthday for tomorrow Daphne!) so I only saw him this morning when I dropped Mason off for his day of fun at the grandparents.

Click to see bigger pictureIt was a busy day for quarters in the county. As well as a quarter at Ashbocking, there was a significant quarter at Wissett, the first on the bells since their rehanging, appropriately enough for the service of thanksgiving for Peter Eagle-Bott who was so instrumental in the project to rehang these bells that I visited last weekend.

I wasn't quite as busy ringing wise, but having picked the li'l chap up, fed him and left him in bed with Aunty Ruthie doing some work downstairs, I was off to Hollesley (via Wickham Market to drop some photos of Mason off for Kala) where as well as picking some post up from old address (very surreal to see inside the old place!) and nattering with my former neighbour I was able to join the practice there for the first time for a while. It was as usual a decent and useful practice and well worth travelling for.

Thursday, 22nd October, 2009

After a brief visit to the office, Pete and I were off to Brighton to represent John Catt in their guise as at another gap year fair. Unlike the one I went to in Edinburgh exactly a month ago, this event at Brighton & Hove High School was held in four separate rooms and so the through traffic wasn't as great and there were longer periods of standing around with no visitors. What visitors that did come through at this all-girls school were girls of GCSE age who were without cash and more interested in grabbing as many leaflets as they could and so only two books were sold. In fact more were nicked than sold!

The school was also not as grand as the George Heriot's School I went to last month, but like there the welcome was warm with refreshments, sandwiches and brownies served up to us and it followed on from a nice journey down and good grub in Harry Ramsden's Restaurant overlooking the pier on Brighton seafront.

The journey back - with yours truly at the wheel - was not so great as it transpired the M25 had been closed from the A12 junction (ours of course) round to the M11 junction most of the day and of course resulted in massive tailbacks. This prompted us to take a detour - along with most of the world it seemed - but after finding nearly all roads blocked we ended up crawling through Brentwood before eventually making it back to Woodbridge just before 8.30 for a curry with Ruthie and a welcome sit down!

Well done to Tom Scase on his 150th peal in the impressive looking effort at Hasketon today and also to Craig Leach on his first quarter of Plain Bob Triples at Pakefield. Congratulations to both of you.

Wednesday, 21st October, 2009

Chester Surprise Minor - Beverley below the treble, Carlisle above the treble. Not to be confused with Munden Surprise Minor which is Surfleet below and Carlisle above. Not sure if any confusion contributed to the late, late loss of a quarter of the former at Pettistree this evening, but it followed on from some decent ringing and preceded a practice low on numbers but still high on quality as much was rung from Plain to Surprise, Doubles to Minor and the splicing of them all.

Ruthie was needed for front of house at tonight's concert at uni, so Kate and I left the practice early to pick her up from Colchester. With heavy rain that had been going since lunchtime causing quite treacherous conditions, we decided against rushing back to the pub so it was straight back home.

Tuesday, 20th October, 2009

"You must be here to do something for the breakfast show," the doorman asked me as he opened the front door. With a positive reply I was in, being guided through the myriad of corridors to the centre of Radio Suffolk.

And after a quick greeting from Mark Murphy as he stretched his legs and scalded himself with his cup of coffee as the news-team rode the airwaves for a few minutes, I was brought into his studio and introduced after a recording of St Lawrence bells.

With exactly one month to St Edmund's Day, I was here to chat about the Suffolk Guild's contribution to the celebrations. I am arranging simultaneous peals in each district as well as one of St Edmund's Surprise Major at Southwold the following day, but as I intimated on the radio, ringing of any sort would be welcomed from ten or twenty minutes to a quarter and even another peal if you can find any left over peal-ringers! Please get in touch with me anyway. Again it was good publicity to my mind.

Another tread of Mark's show this morning - apart from the 70 stone resident of Ipswich who is apparently officially the heaviest man in the world - was taking good luck charms to tonight's Ipswich game as they desperately searched for their first win. I'd suggested on air taking Ruthie who has seen Town win every game she's been along to, but instead we had a night in after she'd spent the day at Edwin Avenue with her sister and brother-in-law as she wasn't needed in uni today.

Listening to the game on said radio station it didn't sound like the Tractor Boys needed her either as they went 1-0 up against Watford in the 4th minute and stayed 1-0 up until the 4th minute of injury time when obviously everybody must've dropped their lucky rabbit foots or stopped praying. Or our defence once again stopped concentrating to the end. And so the wait goes on...

Monday, 19th October, 2009

I have to admit to not holding out much hope for this evening's practice at St Mary ‑le‑Tower as I sat outside Ipswich Railway Station at 7.45pm waiting for Ruthie's train from Colchester to come in. Partly because I thought that once I got there time would be against us too much and partly because recent weeks have been a struggle numbers wise.

I needn't have worried as when I arrived a decent attendance was already brewing and by the end of the night had reached nineteen with most of those being Surprise Max ringers. There weren't enough to revisit the Bristol we had been making steady progress on until recently, but we did achieve a good half-course of Yorkshire Max and reasonable Grandsire Cinques before retiring.

Next week both here and Grundisburgh we will be missing a few as it's Stephen's popular (particularly this year) trip to Italy, so any help at either would be much appreciated.

Also, the service on 2nd November is 7.45 NOT 7.30 as I said yesterday, so ringing will be from 7.

Sunday, 18th October, 2009

We've been asked now to ring at St Mary ‑le‑Tower before the Requiem Mass of Monday, 2nd November, a 7.30pm service, so if people would be able to ring from 6.45pm then your help would be greatly appreciated. Please let me know beforehand if you can as apparently we need to muffle the bells so we need to have an idea of how many we're muffling.

We had a decent turnout this morning, being able to ring Grandsire Caters with someone to babysit the impeccably behaved Mason and Isabel before I headed off to a nearby petrol station to get my birthday present from Mum and Dad!

I'd organised myself a fairly hectic Sunday - as I like to - but earlier this week Kara had informed me she was being taken away for the weekend for her birthday and so she needed me to have the li'l chap until Monday morning. I don't like to turn down time with him if I can help it, but it did present me with some logistical problems which his grandparents very kindly helped me out with, taking Mason for the afternoon from this point on, meaning I arrived at Grundisburgh childless, a rarity and noticed!

There was another good attendance here as Grandsire Caters was rung again and following lunch with Ruthie I was back again for the main reason why I couldn't have the l'il man until later - a peal attempt of Superlative Major. There was no special purpose for it, just that I fancied a peal in a method that I quite like (though others aren't as keen!) with hopefully some good ringing, which ultimately I was rewarded with.

With a quarter at 6.30 at Hollesley lined up and needing to pick up Mason from Ipswich, it meant that time was tight and I literally only had the chance to pop into Sun Lane briefly to drop the li'l chap off and say hello to my beloved before I was off again.

I got there in time though and with three of us having rung in the peal this afternoon, a large chunk of the band was well practiced in the method that we rang for this quarter, though slightly bored of it by the end!

It was good to see Sarah Whitby too who had accompanied her father and was accompanying us on the piano down in the church so I caught up with her, but I did need to get home and reacquaint myself with my better half...

Saturday, 17th October, 2009

The disappointing cancellation of the Guild Training Day that should've been running today did at least free up the opportunity of joining Jonathan Stevens for the test ring of Wissett bells.

The go of the bells is good and the local ringers should be very pleased with that. However, the job is far from finished and is complicated by the involvement of troubled Taylor's. There is no floor below the bells and a ringing chamber ceiling with many holes in and with the two tenors below the front four which are in turn level with the louvres the effect is that five and six are far too loud in the belfry but subdued outside where one, two, three and four shout out. And no visible sign of sound-proofing which is always a worry, though this may be something that is planned when the rest of the work is done.

We returned home in time for lunch and the visit of Mason's soon to be Godmother Kala who had been unable to come out on Tuesday night. We spent a couple of hours of catching up and chatting before a slow afternoon of watching the football scores (still no win for Ipswich) then gave way for the autumn meeting of the GMC.

There was a good turnout and much useful debate on all sorts from the Life Honorary Members and Vice-Presidents issue to next year's Guild Social. The finances are good and in many respects the cancelling of the training day opened the door to some very healthy discussion on where to take training in the county next. The good news was that we were informed that Taylor's has been bought out, essentially by Hayward Mills which secures the future of the organisation - surely a relief to Wissett! At less than two-and-a-half hours it was relatively quick for a GMC get-together, was as good-humoured as ever and once again served it's valuable purpose before Kate - who very kindly took me over to Stowupland - brought me back to Ruthie who had had an interesting night herself of putting Mason to bed and receiving a visit from Pete and Susanne. It's all go!

Friday, 16th October, 2009

You may remember that last year Ruthie and I held a talk for the Young Farmers on bellringing. Well this evening they came to us.

Over twenty Young Farmers and their parents crowded into Ufford belfry on a visit organised by Amanda, Ruthie's work colleague and as Kate rang bells up from the ringing chamber, I was taking groups of four or five upstairs to view the bells, something that was met with a mixture of fear, excitement and interest.

As was the opportunity for some of them to have a go as Kate and I teamed up to run several of them (and Michael Hatchett the vicar!) though their paces whilst Mason watched on patiently with Aunty Ruthie. A very successful evening was rounded off by us ringing Plain Hunt on Three and the kind of generous round of applause that only non-ringers give to our efforts!

Thursday, 15th October, 2009

Thank you on three fronts.

Firstly for those who had signed up for the Guild Training Day and those who had committed to help as in my blog and the mass email I sent out yesterday it was something I overlooked, but thank you to those.

Thank you also to all those who have responded both to the blog and the email with their thoughts and suggestions as asked for. Some of them were necessarily uncomfortable, though I have never set myself up as someone who is above taking advice - I hope! Thank you anyway, it is being taken on board.

And thank you to all who sent me birthday wishes whether it was via cards, footnotes, Facebook, email, text, phone or face-to-face, it was all very much appreciated.

As were the two bottles of wine and two bottles of beer that work had got me plus the 'rocky road' cake that Pete had made me (the second Pete to make me a cake this week after Mr Faircloth on Sunday!) which must have had literally millions of calories in and for which I'm expecting to have a heart-attack from any minute!

Picking Mason up from his mother (whose birthday it is today as well in one of life's little coincidences) and taking calls from family meant I didn't get the time to go to Grundisburgh and so I happily spent my birthday evening in with Ruthie for whom the final (but not least) thanks must go to. Not only for her presents and card and partaking in one of those bottles of wine with me, but for putting up with this old man!

Wednesday, 14th October, 2009

As feared I have had to call off Saturday's Guild Training Day as my total number of pupils crept up to three today with two of those unable to come for the full day. It's very, very disappointing and has got me thinking as to what we should do next year. Should it be on a simulator? Should it be targeted at specific methods which I feel can be quite narrow and of use to a limited range of members who want to learn that particular method? A wide range of smaller courses perhaps? Maybe we don't want a Guild one at all? As we saw on Saturday with the North-East Training Day at Hollesley, the districts seem to be very successful at running their own courses which is great. Please let me know what you think, either on the Guestbook or to me personally as this is your Guild. I am here to lead, but there's no point to me leading if I'm leading you all off in the wrong direction!

Thank you very much to the scallywags who rang the quarter at Pettistree this evening and their cheeky (though apt!) footnote:

A birthday compliment to Richard Munnings on the eve of his 31st birthday. We were going to ring Ipswich, but were afraid we might not score! 800th as Conductor.

For their efforts, Ruthie and I brought chocolate cake for the practice to enjoy. With my better half not needed for this evening's concert in Colchester, she very kindly drove me tonight, allowing me to have a couple more birthday pints in The Greyhound afterwards.

Tuesday, 13th October, 2009

Ruthie and I were a lot better today and thank you to those who sent messages with good wishes!

We both returned to uni and work respectively with lunch outside the Tide Mill before she caught her train aiding our recoveries on a sunny day.

And we were in a fit enough state come the evening to pop out for a few drinks to celebrate my forthcoming birthday as we shall have Mason on the 15th itself. We were joined by Toby for a couple of beers and some games of pool (Ruthie would like it pointed out that she came out on top!) before we were met by Pete and Susanne and moved onto The Mariners.

The evening was topped by a typically futile search for food. I'm still not sure how the kebab shop in particular makes a profit when it closes before most of it's potential customers arrive!

Monday, 12th October, 2009

First the positive. Well done to Alex Tatlow for ringing his first quarter inside yesterday at Tostock. A top effort from a good young lad who is doing well.

Now the not so positive.

Last night was pretty horrendous. We were understandably stuffed from our curry, but not unusually so. However whilst in bed both Ruthie and I felt very ill and got practically no sleep. It was nothing to do with the curry as everyone else was fine, but such was our state of disease that we both took the day off and didn't even manage St Mary‑le‑Tower practice, a real rarity! As a result, I'm very thankful to Kate for transporting SMLT keys which were in my possession over to Owen's as with George and Di away there would've been no other way for people to get in!

It meant for a long, boring day that even saw me open one of birthday presents from Ruthie early - at her insistence - so we could watch the Family Guy DVD's she had carefully wrapped.

There was one significant occurrence today though as I received a phone-call from Emily Anderson from Mark Murphy's Radio Suffolk breakfast show. I am (oh no I hear you all groan) to be on his show next Tuesday morning at 8am, exactly one month before our St Edmund's Day ringing which I shall be in to discuss.

Hopefully I'll be feeling a heck of a lot better by then....

Sunday, 11th October, 2009

Thank you to Roger Whittell. Because if he hadn't mentioned that there is a Requiem Mass on the evening of 2nd November at St Mary ‑le‑Tower I wouldn't have known. And why do I need to know? Because that's a Monday night. That's right. Of all the nights of the week for them to have it, the church chose our practice night. As those who read my blog and/or come to SMLT practice's regularly will know, it is very difficult to get on a roll on Monday nights, primarily because it is the only place in Suffolk that people can get regular practice on twelve, so the loss of a practice through careless planning is very annoying. So please don't turn up on the 2nd November.

With the help of four visitors from Oxfordshire, we were able to man the twelve this morning even in the absence of a number of regulars as we rang Grandsire Cinques as well as some Bristol Major on the back eight.

Our visitors were then off to Kersey so I couldn't persuade them to come along to Grundisburgh where four extra ringers would have been useful as with Stephen having to cook breakfasts at the B&B, we had seven. It enabled us to do a bit for Mr Nigel as well as a very well rung silent and non-conducted 240 of Grandsire Doubles, though I can't claim credit for that as I was sitting out with Mason at the time!

From here it was off to see the li'l man's godfather-to-be, Toby, who moved into his new flat right behind Melton Grange on Friday, so we were popping in to see him. His 'housewarming' (which actually involved more of Woodbridge's pubs than his flat!) last night meant he was feeling a little hung-over. In fact, he wasn't convinced that he was not still drunk! It was good to meet up again though and we should be meeting for my birthday later in the week when he'll hopefully be in a better state!

Having dropped off Mason at Kara's and met up with Ruthie for lunch, my next engagement was a self-organised birthday peal of Cambridge Major at Hollesley. I may be getting older but I wasn't hanging around and actually when it was rolling along there was some very good ringing.

I would've loved to have hung around for a birthday drink to thank those who participated, but I was off on my next birthday treat, a curry at Saffron of course!

Kate had very kindly arranged it and Ruthie and I were joined not just by her, Clare and Kev, but also Ron, Pete and Susanne. We had a great night destroying Susanne's party kit and consuming typically tasty curry before returning home feeling utterly stuffed but very content.

Saturday, 10th October, 2009

In my role as Guild Ringing Master I don't necessarily do more ringing than everybody else (though more than most I imagine), but I am expected to attend a lot of district events, which I'm more than happy to attend. On occasions - though actually quite rarely - it means having to be at opposite ends of the county at the same time and I am unable to attend both. Today I managed the seemingly impossible!

Well I say the impossible...

Ruthie, Mason (both of whom get dragged out with me on these occasions, but remain remarkably cheerful about it) and I started near(ish) to home at Hollesley for the North-East Training Day on the simulator. It was a hugely popular event, expertly run by Kate in Alan's absence, with a total of sixteen making use of the simulator upstairs and computer programme downstairs. As is the norm on these courses, everyone showed quick and visible improvement over the course of the day with Giles from Rendham even ringing his first blows of Plain Hunt ever, entirely from listening to the rhythm. He'll be OK I think...

After a great lunch at the once familiar haunt of The Sorrell Horse at nearby Shottisham, the event finished just after 3.30, the same time that ringing at Ixworth was getting underway for the North-West District ADM.

So having congratulated the pupils on their progress and left them all in Kate's hands for the fun bit at the end of the day (I believe a Trevor-Helen duet was on the cards!) on the eastern coast, we were on the A14 and out to the far north-west of the county.

Having experienced the sound of lots of bells in different rooms at Hollesley, we were not only met with the sound of the fine new eight at Ixworth, but also the Guild Mini-Ring outside and then handbells in the church!

We had a good ring - though more people seemed happier to mill around downstairs! - which was followed by a brief service, with the vicar at pains to point out she was under orders to move it along!

A huge and tasty spread not only satisfied us but also - more difficult this - Mason who spent the whole time we were there enjoying the vast array of toys on offer!

The meeting was brisk and informal, with only the Guild Chairman (well done Mrs Chairman for coming out after her operation!) and myself holding things up, especially with pleas for pupils for the Guild Training Day! The success of this morning shows how valuable and how much fun this course can be, but so far I still only have two people signed up! If I don't hear of anymore by Wednesday I shall have to call it off.

On a more positive note I was able to announce that Guild Peal Week 2010 will run from Saturday, 13th February to Sunday, 21st February, so start thinking what you might like to do!

We left the reasonable attendance (about forty) to ring through the evening as we aimed to get the li'l chap home as soon as possible for bed. A clear journey was halted though on the hairy bends between the entrance to Ashbocking church and the Swiss Farm a few hundred yards up the road as we were greeted by a sea of hazard lights and a blocked road. A motorcyclist had literally just crashed into a hedge and though he was thankfully coming round he was understandably dazed and in shock. With the emergency services only just arriving it was going to be a long old wait, so with plenty of folk to look after him we undertook a substantial detour to cap off a long but otherwise highly enjoyable day.

It was great to see so many members of the Guild out and about and enjoying themselves and I only hope it encourages many more to join them - especially next Saturday!

Friday, 9th October, 2009

As hoped, last night was a peaceful night for Mason and therefore us and so the li'l chap and I travelled down to Chez Ashcroft fully refreshed.

Clare had picked Ruthie up from Ipswich when my better half had returned from Colchester as they accompanied Kev down to his first driving job in Felixstowe and so having picked Mason up from his big day of fun with Nana and Grandad we headed back to Edwin Avenue to meet the girls.

We made it back into Sun Lane before the heavens opened, not much fun to be driving in...

Thursday, 8th October, 2009

Things are looking up on the two frustrating fronts reported yesterday. I have a band for Sunday's peal and thank you so much to those who helped me out on that.

And I have another pupil for the Guild Training Day! It has been suggested that I perhaps need to explain a bit more about what it involves. One good reference point is the report from the 2007 Guild Training Day, but I have also sent in a brief - if not very technical - description of the simulator itself. Hopefully this will help attract a few more people.

Simulators are a fantastic tool. Particularly in this day and age when neighbours seem increasingly impatient with bells that they move in next door to. It is a way for us to gain valuable practice time, though the actual ringing out of bells - that as we've also found out many non-ringers enjoy too! - on other occasions should not be replaced by this technology. And there are more of them popping up. The one at The Norman Tower has long been used for extra practices, Hollesley has been well used as has the Stowmarket one since it was put in last year and now we have new facilities at Bardwell that Ruth is keen people use as much as possible!

Kara experienced the same problems with Mason's cast this week as we had last weekend and so I picked him up minus this bit of kit today as it's getting sent back. Should hopefully make for a better night's sleep for him and us!

Wednesday, 7th October, 2009

I now have one possible, though not for the whole day coming from the North-West District for the Guild Training Day now just ten days away. Come on folks!

On a similar note of frustration, the fears I expressed recently about peal arranging have been realised as the band I had arranged (bar one) for my birthday peal on Sunday has dwindled considerably and now looks in doubt unless I can pull something special out of the bag in the next three days!

We did at least get a peal at The Wolery this evening though, with seven sixth-place methods (apparently the first time this has been done for the Guild) and the ringing in the Rossendale and Stamford in particular was quite special.

Ruthie could've rung after all too as Colchester Institute told her yesterday she didn't need to be at tonight's concert, though of course that was too late for her to commit herself to this peal. Instead, she spent an evening at home starting on the not inconsiderable amount of work that needs doing as she enters her second year of uni.

Tuesday, 6th October, 2009

Does the Guild want training?

I only say this as with eleven days to go I have no pupils for the Guild Training Day at Stowmarket on 17th October. Zero. No one. Naff all. It doesn't take a genius to work out that with these numbers it won't be much of a training day.

So today I sent my first mass email for a while in an attempt to stir people. Already I've had some replies explaining they have something else on which is fair enough. I don't expect people to live, eat and breath bellringing and I accept that people will have other things going on in their lives. It's more the people who make up weak excuses about it being their shopping day or the only chance they have to dry their towels or even worse just can't be bothered that gets under your skin when trying to organise something like this for people's benefits.

I can appreciate there are some who would be scared or cautious of such an event. Those who only ring in their own tower, their own comfort zone ringing whatever they ring. They may feel they will get shouted at and judged, made to feel small at an event like this. No such thing here! This day more than any other is made for the learner, the improver. Whilst practices and district meetings can carry on reluctantly without learners, a training day more than any other needs learners to take advantage of it. The simulator means no one can hear you so it really doesn't matter if mistakes are made! There are so many learning and social aspects to this you won't get bored either.

So come on learners and improvers, put your name down for this and those more experienced let your learners know and encourage them to come along! You could even come yourself and hone your striking at Bristol Major or Plain Bob Minor or whatever without needing other ringers to do it with!

Today highlighted how quickly the weather has turned from a late Indian summer to deep autumn and some may even say winter. On Tuesdays, Ruthie catches the 2pm train out to Colchester so I walk her down to the station on my lunch and we have a bite to eat. Last week we sat by the river outside the Tide Mill - this week we had to shelter from the rain and cold in the Station Cafe.

It didn't need to be nice weather for our traditional beery night in, which was lucky because it wasn't...

On a positive note though, congratulations to Janet Sheldrake, Gordon Slack and Doug Perry on ringing their first quarter of 7-spliced Surprise Major at Offton last night.

Monday, 5th October, 2009

Peal BandGood to see the first peal on the Guild Mini-Ring since we purchased it. It was rung at the home of its custodian Brian Whiting yesterday and with a possibility of it being pealed when it travels to Italy on Stephen's forthcoming trip it was thought best to make sure the first peal was on Suffolk soil.

It's funny how practices go. Up until a couple of weeks ago we had hordes of ringers coming out to St Mary ‑le‑Tower on Monday nights at a time when I expected numbers to be low due to holidays and other summer-like activities. Now that the nights are drawing in and people are in the area, attendances have plummeted to the extent that we didn't even have enough to ring Surprise Maximus tonight. It was a big shame, especially for Bob who was visiting from Bromham in Bedfordshire. Still it was a useful night for Gerald and Stephen in particular and for teaching Sean to handle. However, I would urge people to keep up a presence, especially experienced twelve-bell ringers who we need if we are to continue the long-term progress we have been making.

Sunday, 4th October, 2009

A busy day of ringing and non-ringing events, just the way I like it.

It started as normal at St Mary ‑le‑Tower, frustratingly just one short for ringing all twelve. Even more frustrating was our attempt to ring Stedman Caters with a band not only capable of ringing it well but who have rung it well. More than half the band went wrong at some stage, purely because of a lack of concentration, the greatest ringing sin, especially on a Sunday morning. After a good start it collapsed in a heap before we finished off with better Little Bob Royal and call changes on ten.

Being the first Sunday of the month we made the short walk to St Lawrence where Mason witnessed the view from the belfry out over the church as the lovely glass balcony has been opened out. There's some ringers I know who wouldn't like it though...

Onwards from here and the sound of St Margaret's ringing in the background, I forsook Grundisburgh this week for the place where I learnt the basics that have stood me in such good stead in ringing - Sproughton.

I was able to help them ring London Minor before I headed off to meet a heavily pregnant Becky, my mate in Claydon - literally next door to Gordon, Janet and The Folly - and the main reason why I went to Sproughton rather than heading the other way to Grundisburgh. She is well and now waiting for the big day as is her other half Paul and her two boys who both enjoyed playing with their trains, as did the li'l chap of course!

There was no resting for too long and after a couple of cuppas I was back in Woodbridge in time to meet Ruthie for lunch and then up to Edwin Avenue to deliver honeymoon pictures (nothing saucy!) for Clare and Kev. Another cuppa and I was ready to meet Ruthie after work and then onto our final but longest part of our day.

Bishop Clive with David Ray, Bells Group ChairmanWe were off to Bardwell where we joined the dedication of their newly augmented eight, a true celebration of all the work put in most notably by Ruth Suggett but also by so many others, a good number of whom were present as the church was packed - and I mean in the literal sense - by ringers, villagers and associates.

It was a marvellous occasion topped off by a wonderful spread and free drinks in the Tithe Barn afterwards. Mason was wonderfully behaved, taking in all the food and attention with equal gusto and with a big smile on his face before even he needed to succumb to sleep!

Saturday, 3rd October, 2009

Mason slept through the rest of the night as we've been very fortunate this has been the norm since he was only a few months old.

As a result he was full of beans as Clare, Kev and Sasha came round for Ruthie's newly-acquired brother-in-law to have a search for the offending bit of wire that had been plaguing our washing machine for the last couple of weeks. And this time there was success, though the rather mangled wire is no longer fit for its original purpose!

It was the precursor to a long but enjoyable afternoon for the South-East District tour of the Shotley Peninsula, an area rarely visited by even the staunchest of district members being - much like the Felixstowe Peninsula - out on a limb. Much like last months district meeting on the aforementioned peninsula though, the numbers were perhaps slightly disappointing. Obviously there were some who had to work, others were peal or quarter-peal ringing and there were various other understandable reasons for not being on this wonderful outing, but what else was there to do on a blustery autumn day like today? And just staying at home in the warm because you can't be bothered is not a valid reason when those who have worked so hard to organise this really would've appreciated your presence!

That said, there were just about enough to make it enjoyable (over twenty over the course of the day) and having picked Pete and Susanne up on the way through, we arrived at the truly unique East Bergholt. Unique not just because it is the heaviest five in the change-ringing world, but also famously for the fact they are still rung - without ropes - from the cage in the churchyard they were left in in 1530 after Cardinal Wolsey's fall from grace meant the church tower was never completed. It was the first time any of my passengers had seen them in action, though for a long time now it has been impossible for anyone other than those trained specifically for ringing them to have a go.

Coupled with a cup of tea and a bit of cake, it was an unusually unphysical start to a ringing outing, but we were made to pay for that at our next destination, Tattingstone. These are a nice five not only spoilt by being quite hard-work but also by the fact an out of tune treble was thrown on the front to create a truly terrible sounding six!

However, the variables of these first two locations highlights what makes ringing interesting, especially on outings. Ringing would be that much duller if all we had were magnificent twelves, grand tens, perfect eights or easy-going sixes. Still, we were glad to move on to Stutton, themselves quite hard-work, but at least in tune. Not that you would've noticed as we messed up a touch of Cambridge, but nonetheless there was some good ringing here otherwise, and tea and biscuits!

Holbrook - where there are more Munnings' in the graveyard than at Ashcroft Road on Christmas Day - were a joy to ring as usual before we moved onto a real rarity, the three at Woolverstone. Individually they go well, but they're tricky as a three. Could be made into a nice six though...

I was more distracted here though by listening to the end of the Ipswich game at Barnsley on the radio. Barnsley scored their winner with the very last kick of the game, but even without that and with an international break now upon us, we would've reached my birthday without a win to our name, not something I ever expected with a mid-October birthday!

The ringing at Harkstead helped soften the blow and also brought to a close a lovely day travelling in wonderful scenery with some good (and yes, bad too!) ringing. Thanks to Peter and Jane for organising it and Kate for running the ringing so well. It's just a shame not more people took advantage of this wonderful social occasion.

Whilst some got lost on the way to the Butt and Oyster at nearby Pin Mill, only to find it full, we got the li'l chap home to bed, something he and us were well and truly ready for!

Friday, 2nd October, 2009

It's over two years since Mason had his big operation to straighten his feet out and thankfully for the best part of that time since he has not had to have any sort of cast on his legs. However, his left foot has progressively been turning in and whilst it doesn't seem to bother him apart from the odd occasion when he trips over it, something will need to be done to straighten it up again. In light of this he has a very important consultancy appointment at the end of next month to ascertain what to do next, but until then he has been given a cast to wear at night. Tonight was the first night of this after Kara had picked it up from the hospital (after a fitting on Wednesday) and dropped it round Mum and Dad's who of course were looking after him today.

It didn't go well. He kept waking up and it was obvious it was causing him some pain and so we had to remove it. We heard nothing for the rest of the night...

Thursday, 1st October, 2009

A change of month (the best month in my opinion...!) and definite change in the seasons. The leaves have been falling for at least a couple of weeks now, but the weather has been almost summer-like a lot of the time, but there was a definite chill in the air this evening as I left work at five, a late evening feel about things already. Still, we were glad to have power at least!

Having picked Mason up, fed and watered him and got the li'l chap to bed, I headed off to Grundisburgh which had been turned into a recording studio for this evening's practice. It is Stephen's bi-annual trip to Italy at the end of this month and he wants to take a CD of English bellringing with him to give to the usually very hospitable natives. There should be ringing from places such as Hollesley, Iken and maybe even Campsea Ashe, but tonight Mr P wanted to get a recording of well-rung and faultless courses of Bologna Surprise Minor (exactly the same as a bob course of London) and Roncobello Place Minor, the cyclic method that was quartered in this very tower earlier in the year.

The Bologna was simple enough to get to grips with and a straightforward enough recording of that was made. The Roncobello was a different matter though and I'm not convinced that spiking wasn't taking place to get Stephen wound up! Eventually we got a recording and the practice was able to continue!

Wednesday, 30th September, 2009

At just after 12.30pm today, Woodbridge ground to a halt. The power had gone, rendering our computers and therefore all our contacts, background information and necessary details useless. The phones had been knocked out too and when we returned from an early lunch, Jonathan had been informed that it wouldn't be back up until 4.20, a bizarrely precise time that of course wasn't met. We were sent home, but without power at mine either, I wandered the streets, popping into Buttons and chatting to the guys at the builders yard opposite mine, two of the few establishments that remained open in the affected area.

Having reacquainted myself with the art of reading printed content and wondering whether I was going to have to get a takeaway, the power finally returned to Sun Lane at 5.30 and I got on with feeding myself in the absence of Ruthie who was in Colchester.

A quick trip to the darkening bottle-bank and then it was on to Pettistree for the practice, another varied evening from Bob Doubles to variable-treble spliced Doubles and Minor with Stedman, Chester and London among the ringing done in between, before I headed off on the resumption of the Wednesday night uni pick-up from north Essex.

Ruthie safely gathered from this evenings concert, a brief trip to Tesco and a strange day was brought to a close with a beer at home.

Tuesday, 29th September, 2009

As was the case at about this time last year, I am facing a Guild Training Day with little or no participants! This year though, the location is a lot more central - Stowmarket - so that takes out one excuse! Please, please do get involved, this is an invaluable course for people of nearly all abilities. So long as you can ring at least rounds then this will help you - it is fun, different and has been the best ringing course I have ever witnessed!

Congratulations to Janet Sheldrake and Doug Perry on ringing their first quarter of Pudsey Major at Offton last night, not an easy method to get to grips with!

Ruthie and I meanwhile returned to our normal Tuesday night in after my exploits last week and listened to the end of what sounded like it was going to be Ipswich's first win of the season as they entered injury time 3-2 up at Sheffield United. Agonisingly though, a minute into injury time, them pesky northerners equalised and I was left with my head in my hands, as no doubt thousands of other Town fans were with theirs.

Monday 28th September 2009

After a weekend of almost constant eating and drinking, the last thing that I needed in reality was another large meal and drink! But having ticked over the target for the current campaign we're working on four weeks ahead of the end this morning, Jonathan insisted on taking us out to the familiar location of The Cherrytree in Woodbridge for a three-course meal on the company. I can't complain really!

Of course I only had the one drink as I was back behind the wheel this evening and needed to be on the ball a bit too as Owen had arranged with me to meet him at St Mary ‑le‑Tower early tonight to show seven girls from the 1st Westgate Rangers in Ipswich how bellringing is done. Most of them had a go and if I'm honest it's highly unlikely we'll get any of them back to take it up regularly, but they did seem interested in what was going on and even applauded politely as piece after piece crashed to a halt on our poorest practice night for a long, long time. Primarily it was down to the lack of experienced ringers with eight Surprise Maximus ringers away tonight (although we still managed a decentish half-course of Yorkshire Max) until I collected Ruthie from the railway station as the usual Monday night term-time routine began badly for the new academic year! I'd left my phone in Kate's car last night when she'd dropped us off - tired and not entirely with it - at home after our mammoth trip and so arranged to pick it up on the way to SMLT tonight. However, my visit coincided with her picking Ruthie's car up from Champkins after the weekend and so I was without a phone - something that my better half was unaware of. Having finally got a message through to her via Anne Bray, I picked her up from the station half-an-hour after she had arrived. I was not popular...

To make it up to her I treated her to a pint in The Cricketers and with nothing in the cupboards at home a good old kebab meat and chips from the usual haunt, before returning home via Kate's to collect my phone. I know how to spoil a lady!

Sunday, 27th September, 2009

More sore heads, tired minds and aching bodies at breakfast this morning, though lots of smiling faces as people recounted yesterday's events.

It was soon time to check-out and make final farewells and begin our journeys home though. Whilst Moog, Ange, Derek and Janet were heading straight back and Clare, Kev, Christal and Kelvin were leaving after a coffee with best man Jim, we had another busy day planned that saw us heading down the west side of Britain. After a brief stop at Tebay Services, we found ourselves in Wolstanton, part of the Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-Under-Lyme conurbation in north Staffordshire.

Our primary purpose of visiting this off-the-beat-and-track location was to visit Paul Blanch, the former incumbent of Melton and Ufford and his wife Maggie, both very popular amongst many ringers in the Woodbridge area and currently residing in this part of the world before heading out on an exciting assignment in the USA very soon.

Having served us with a welcome cup of tea, Paul took us up to the belfry where the local ringers had very generously agreed to join us for a quarter of Bob Major on this lovely easy-going eight, ironically not too dissimilar in weight and go to Ufford. It was another wonderful example of how you can go almost anywhere and ring - please take advantage of this and have a look at your Whats Ons!

After the quarter, we returned to Paul and Maggie's for a brilliant meal and much wine, in keeping with the general theme of the weekend, before we continued on home, driving past familiar haunts of Birmingham and Thrapston and many football grounds (less exciting for Ruthie!) as we completed our round-trip of Britain with the clock ticking close to midnight once again.

Saturday, 26th September, 2009

The big day is here, having been in our minds for months. It started early, though thankfully not as early as yesterday and with more sore heads, especially first thing at breakfast.

There was no time for the girls to feel sorry for themselves though as they were required in Clare's room, along with the mother of the bride to prepare themselves for the noon ceremony. Apart from a couple of fleeting visits to the girls room to drop off various bits that Ruthie had forgotten and having had a bath, prepared myself and had a pint in the hotel bar with Kelvin, I didn't see Ruthie until she entered the registry office alongside Christal and behind Clare, being given away from her visibly and understandably proud grandfather. The overall effect looked fantastic with the bridesmaids in bright red and from a personal point of view I was incredibly proud of Ruthie who looked even more stunning with her hair done and beaming away.

The service was wonderful to be at and Kev was on top form and having tied the knot, the brand new Mr and Mrs Douglas stepped out into the bright sunshine on a beautiful day. The registry office was across the road from the River Tay and a viewing platform and so this proved to be the ideal spot for the vast number of photos that get taken at weddings.

As the bride and groom got whisked away to the next stage of the day, we made our way way across Perth town centre (with the bridesmaids stopping to pose with a cat killer - sorry, I mean a bagpipe player - along the way) to the hotel from where Kate took the four of us to The Maltings where the wedding meal was taking place. I couldn't resist the haggis (whilst in Scotland...), whilst Ruthie managed to get a drink eventually despite having no ID and getting into a disagreement with a neighbouring lampshade.

Much beer and champagne later we were on the move again and whilst Kate did some shopping for the evening's buffet, Ruthie and I occupied the now familiar hotel bar watching the football scores coming in. Ideally I would've loved to sit and watch the Ipswich-Newcastle game on TV that followed the 3pm kick-offs, but Ruthie and I were summoned to join Kate in going onto The Tulloch Institute social club where we were needed to help set the function room up for this evening's festivities, leaving Kelvin and Christal watching the football.

As it happened, I was quite relieved to miss the football, as it was 3-0 to Newcastle at half-time when we arrived back at The Ramada to collect the cake, Christal and a despondent looking Kelvin to return to the social club.

Despite receiving the news that we eventually lost 4-0, we still enjoyed a fantastic night with much food, booze and dancing, a great way to end a great day that most importantly of all seemed to be immensely enjoyed by the happy couple themselves.

Friday, 25th September, 2009

At five to three this morning, Ruthie and I leapt out of bed. At bang on three we were ready for our prearranged pick-up from Kate who duly arrived on time. And so just fifty-one hours after I had arrived back from Scotland in darkness, I was now setting off for north of the English-Scottish border in darkness again.

Whilst Tuesday's journey was only an hour long, today's journey was nine hours in total but a lot more interesting, taking in breakfast at the Wetherby services the obligatory trip to a distillery (the small and friendly Tullibardine Distillery) before arriving at Perth, the location of Clare and Kev's wedding tomorrow and our accommodation for the big event.

The scenery was stunning on the way, especially as we reached Cumbria and then Scotland itself and Perth sits at the bottom of the Highlands, making for spectacular views as you enter the town.

We were greeted on our arrival at the Ramada Hotel by the husband and wife to be, Kev in particular sporting a sore head and sore cheek after having a little too much to drink last night! They were in a fit enough state to take us around Perth and down to the River Tay as we were too early to check into our rooms. It's a lovely bustling place, somewhere between Ipswich and Woodbridge in size but with a town centre much like our county town's.

With the sightseeing done, we went for a spot of lunch at The Sandeman where we met Christal, the other bridesmaid and her chap Kelvin who had both travelled up from Suffolk yesterday with Clare and Kev and both feeling a little worse for wear for last night's pubbing and clubbing!

Eventually we got in our rooms, but there was no time to relax as we were then off to Kev's parents house, where we were introduced to his family - a lovely bunch but very, very hard to understand! - whilst the girls tried on their dresses. Ruthie looks stunning of course!

Having returned from this trip across town, Ruthie got painting her nails a very bright red and we descended to the hotel bar where we were greeted by Ruthie's Uncle Moog, Aunty Ange and grandparents. Whilst Clare and Kev went out into Perth again with his family, the rest us barely moved from the comfy sofas down here until midnight, before we retired after a long, long day and prior to another long, long day!

Thursday, 24th September, 2009

Having dropped off Mason at Kara's after his fleeting but enjoyable visit, I returned home to find Ruthie getting ready for a morning's work! In my absence she'd received a call from Boots asking if she could come in for a bit as someone had called in sick. With nothing scheduled for her at uni today, she was happily in the position to accept.

Following on from my trip to the gap-year fair in Edinburgh earlier in the week, it was the turn of Helen and Maddy to go to one today, this time in Middlesex, allowing them the luxury of not having to leave until lunchtime - alright for some! With Peter and Jonathan in Jersey since Tuesday on another conference and Derek off for the week, the office was incredibly quiet this afternoon, especially by 5.30 when Michael and I left after a slightly later shift!

A trip to Champkins to drop off Ruthie's car for the weekend, a bit of tea (including the deconstruction of our chilli), the packing and then an earlyish night in readiness for a long day tomorrow.

Wednesday, 23rd September, 2009

Great to see Felixstowe finally pealed today, the sound-proofing now truly set up and in good working order. These are one of the best rings we have in Suffolk and it's been a shame - though understandable - that a peal had not been possible on them due to the noise they created in a highly populated area full of hotels and homes.

After yesterday's trip and with the next adventure to Scotland starting in the wee hours of Friday morning, tonight was the only opportunity I had to see Mason this week, so I offered to pick him up this morning. Of course I still had to go to work - where there was lots to tell about the fair and expenses to be sorted - so he spent most of the day at Mum and Dad's, but it was nice to see him first thing and then to spend some time with the li'l chap for a while this evening.

We met a much better Ruthie at Edwin Avenue again, where music was being prepared for Saturday, before we said our farewells (for now) to Clare and Kev, setting off tomorrow morning for their big day, whilst we spent a night in.

Tuesday, 22nd September, 2009

It has been a very surreal, long but largely enjoyable day today. Surprisingly for what was ahead, it didn't start obscenely early. Leaving Sun Lane at 7, I dropped Ruthie off at Colchester Institute on my way through to Stansted Airport.

It's nearly five years since I last flew and so it was enough of a novelty value for me to get excited about being in an airport which was lucky as there was a lot of hanging around once I'd been through check-in and security.

I was even more excited once on the actual plane, trying to work out where we were flying over. Sadly it was very cloudy below, so apart from picking out the A14 and the distinctively shaped Rutland Water, I recognised nothing until we descended back through the clouds and The Forth Bridge came into view as we rushed along over the river itself before landing at Edinburgh airport. Just an hour after leaving the sunny rolling patchwork fields of East Anglia, I was stood on the outskirts of Scotland's capital under dark clouds that were about to drop their contents on us.

Having got off the bus in the wrong place in the city centre, I eventually found George Heriot's School - the destination of the gap year fair I was attending on John Catt's behalf - ahead of time and once I'd set up our table, I wandered round the corner in search of lunch and struck gold. The beef and ale pie and pint of Trade Winds - Champion Speciality Beer of Britain in 2004 and 2005 no less and brewed by Cairngorm - in Doctor's pub was just what I needed before I readied myself for the fair itself, running from 4-6.

We were there under our guise of, a website and book we publish for people looking to take a gap-year and my stall shared the impressive school hall with about twenty-five other companies, organisations and charities connected with gap-years, from teaching programmes, to travel companies to volunteering groups. It was tremendously successful for us all too, with a huge crowd - predominantly of youngsters taking their A-Levels next summer - taking on board information from every stall they could get to. I ran out of leaflets after just forty-five minutes, whilst out of the ten books I had been provided with I sold eleven.

By the end I was shattered, but I still had a lot of travelling to do. Deciding to play it safe (and with the company's money burning a hole in my pocket) I caught a taxi back to the airport where more waiting gave me the opportunity to chat with Ruthie on the phone and report to Pete about the fair.

Eventually I was on the plane and flying back in darkness. When cloud permitted, Britain looked very pretty as it's lights twinkled brightly, particularly as we flew over Manchester, though I'm not sure what we were doing over there!

Back in East Anglia, I strove to get back to Woodbridge by midnight and I succeeded despite appallingly planned road works on the A120 threatening to prevent me even reaching Colchester by midnight.

Although a brilliant day, it was good to see Ruthie again, although she was still very poorly and sitting round Edwin Avenue where I picked her up and ended the day where I had started it so, so long ago, in the comfort of Sun Lane.

Monday, 21st September, 2009

Over the weekend I was sad to hear of Taylor's going into administration. Though not the end and potentially a new beginning even, it is a worrying time for not just the employees (including new father Mitch of course) but ringing in general. Their demise would be bad from a competition aspect apart from anything else.

I was rather happier to hear news of Andrea Alderton and David Roger's first quarter on eight at Ixworth yesterday. Well done guys, a good effort.

I was also impressed to hear of Albert Driver ringing for the Harvest Festival at Redgrave for the 81st consecutive year following the quarter there yesterday. A truly inspiring achievement.

Tomorrow I am attending a gap year fair on behalf of John Catt and I will need the company pool car. However, it is an automatic and having never driven one before I decided to take Ian up to the warehouse at Great Glemham near the old office. It was surprisingly easy to use and by the time that I picked Ruthie up from the station after her first day back at uni, I had well and truly got the hang of it.

It wasn't for personal use however, so I took my car to St Mary ‑le‑Tower practice tonight, sadly minus Ruthie who was poorly. Unfortunately she was one of five regular Surprise Max ringers missing, meaning we didn't have enough for Bristol Max. We still managed Yorkshire Max, but it was a poor effort and in general a difficult night as we had lots of ringers (twenty again) but not enough experienced twelve-bell ringers to help them.

The one shining light was the attendance of Sean and Louisa, the couple who had expressed an interest in learning after their recent visit to St Lawrence. They had turned up to SMLT yesterday morning apparently, but after we'd finished, so they came back this evening and we gave them each a go. They both have the makings of being good handlers if they do indeed want to continue, which they seem keen to do.

The night was finished off by an expected visit by Charles our vicar. Owen had informed me of and Charles himself had phoned me before practice to discuss the fact there had been a complaint about ringing on Saturday and in particular the recent peal of Yorkshire Royal. Predictably it came from the Churches bar that is happy to trade off their location in the churchyard, but unhappy for the church to go about it's business. However, we want to be good neighbours, especially when business is tough and to give them their dues, they have approached us rather than running off to the council as many do and seem happy to negotiate rather than shut us down. They were unhappy about Saturday ringing especially but as they were closed on Sunday's didn't mind if we could ring peals then. Charles' initial reaction was to suggest to us that we cease ringing peals on Saturday mornings. However, he was amenable to my idea that we rather cease Saturday morning peals during the summer months, with perhaps any special one-off Saturday attempts being announced to them in advance. Following the brief meeting about it after practice, the general consensus was this was a reasonable compromise and one that hopefully Churches will be happy with.

One final note in relation to Ipswich's only twelve. This Saturday (the 26th) the Guild Mini-Ring is to be there for the church's Autumn Fair. Sadly Ruthie and I shan't be there as we have more important things to attend to of course, so all help would be gratefully received if you are in town between 10am and 2pm.

Sunday, 20th September, 2009

To all intents and purposes, at it's height, today was a beautiful summers day, with the sun shining brightly and the temperatures better than many of the days during the peak summer months. It was a bit of a shock to walk into Tesco therefore and be met with a wall of Christmas goodies! Coming back outside, the browning leaves on the trees reminded me that yes, it is autumn and summer is passing.

This confusing sensation followed on from a slightly disappointing Sunday morning ringing-wise as we were unable to man the twelve at either St Mary ‑le‑Tower or Grundisburgh. Stedman Caters was achieved well at the the first and Cambridge Major at the second and in between I took Mason to enjoy the pleasures of Grundisbugh's playground, albeit a wet experience for him!

Having dropped him off at Kara's, had lunch with Ruthie - again at work - and had my three-seasons-at-once experience in Martlesham, I made my way to Claydon and more precisely The Folly, home of Gordon Slack's lovely - and now quieter - mini-ring. Well done to Gordon and Janet for their efforts in ringing their first peal of Lincolnshire Major, the first part of one of those busy and tight schedules that I love.

However, that tight schedule meant that when we lost a quarter of Yorkshire Major at Hollesley where I was reunited with Ruthie, we were unable to go for it again. It was a shame as the ringing had been quite good, but it was one of those things. We practiced it a little further for Jane's benefit before Ruthie and I had to dash off for the next stage of our night.

Tomorrow is our anniversary, but with it being a Monday and therefore SMLT practice and a very early start the following morning for a long Tuesday, we decided to mark it this evening with a meal in Prezzo, the Italian restaurant in Woodbridge. The food was fast (three courses in under an hour!) but good and we topped a very enjoyable evening with a drink in The Bell and Steelyard before heading home.

Saturday, 19th September, 2009

It was another enjoyable Pettistree mini-outing as we explored an area close to home. Once Mason and I (Ruthie was working today) had picked up Pete and Susanne along the way, Hacheston and Bredfield were both enjoyed as places that I haven't been to for a while, with good ringing at both. The li'l chap enjoyed drawing at the former (where the touches being called by the grown-ups were, well... interesting) and the toys at the new community hall at the latter of these two sixes.

The good ringing continued onto the more familiar surroundings of Grundisburgh before we transferred en mass to The Moon and Mushroom at Swilland, a lovely pub with a fantastic atmosphere enhanced not only by our arrival but also that of a sizable wedding party. We were joined by Gill Waterson and then - having been picked up by Kate - Clare and Kev at the start of a big week for them.

Pete and Susanne needed to get to Aldeburgh to ring for a wedding whilst I needed to save some money, so along with Mason we had a drink and left the others enjoying their tasty looking meals. We managed to get back to Melton and Woodbridge alive despite nearly being run off the road by a dog collar in a rush, maybe for a wedding...

Ruthie's return saw us head into Ipswich for some necessary shopping after yesterday's eating exploits by the washing machine. I have to admit to finding the big clothes stores in the large towns very depressing, with no indication of the outside weather or surroundings. Still, we weren't in there long and having found a parking space close-by in the social-services car-park we usually use for St Mary‑le‑Tower, we were able to catch Ipswich Town frustratingly throw away a 3-2 lead at Doncaster six minutes from the end, meaning we still haven't won a league game this season. Only another eight months to go...

Friday, 18th September, 2009

Received fantastic news this evening that Iain and Jayne Mitchell (well more Jayne than Iain) have given birth to twins, Elli-Mae and Lemmy. As former ringers at Wickham Market now out at Burton-Upon-Trent, I'm sure many in the Guild would like to extend their congratulations to this popular couple.

Meanwhile, Ruthie and I were having washing machine trouble, with a bit of wire from some clothing seemingly getting lodged in the machine. As luck would have it, as I was popping down to Ipswich and back to pick Mason up after work, Pete and Susanne had popped round Sun Lane to generously drop a seat off for the li'l chap. Whilst there, Pete seems to have fixed the machine - or at least had a jolly good go at it - and the worrying noise that accompanied the cycle has gone, though the wire is still not found...

With much gratitude we offered them tea, though with no booze in the house due to our mini detox, it was a sober evening!

Well done to Robert Beavis by the way, who managed to fit in his first quarter of Ipswich Minor at Earl Stonham before he returns to uni!

Thursday, 17th September, 2009

Another early start meant another afternoon off and Ruthie and I used the time to visit Ipswich town centre for some last minute bits and pieces for the forthcoming wedding. It is frightening to think that with Ruthie working all weekend, going back to uni on Monday and a generally busy week coming up, this was our last opportunity to do this before the 26th.

We then picked up Mason, snotty and chesty but still typically chirpy and having fed him and put him to bed I headed off to Grundisburgh where we had enough to ring spliced Surprise Major, Grandsire Caters and - in honour of Grundisburgh's newest recruits Chris and his daughter Erin - Erin Caters.

I had an email from John Taylor that amused me and further highlights the wonderfully close-knit and yet widespread family that bellringing incorporates. When he visited the practice at Helmsley in North Yorkshire recently he was one of four visitors. The other three? Peter and Jane Harper and Clive Dunbavin!

Wednesday, 16th September, 2009

I can vouch that it is now very dark at 5am when I initially awoke for the first of two early shifts at work. It was still dark when I got to work at six, reacquainting myself with the road-sweep.

However, it left me with time to spend with Ruthie for the afternoon, though we also shared some of that with Clare and Kev before we headed off to Pettistree where we partook in a successful and well-rung 1272 of Cunecastre Surprise Minor (King Edward - which itself is Cambridge with a half-lead place notation of 36 instead of 56 - below and London above) with few mistakes.

The practice that followed was slightly shorter on numbers than usual, but we still managed a decent practice with more variable-treble Doubles and Minor spliced. We were also visited by Susan's granddaughter and her uni friend Elizabeth who hails from Texas, there to see what we English do with bells. Suffice to say that following a brief handling lesson from myself and watching a flawless course of Norwich she had a good idea by the time she left!

With Clare and Kev's wedding fast approaching, Ruthie and I are undergoing a mini-detox leading up to the big day in a week-and-a-half, so we avoided the temptations of The Greyhound to return home for another early night.

Tuesday, 15th September, 2009

People sometimes joke that Taylors Eayre & Smith Co are in fact Tesco and this evening I did wonder if there was maybe a bells aisle I had missed. Having done our weekly shop we bumped into Pete and Susanne and were also passed by Mr Pettman as the ringers of Suffolk converged on Martlesham for their groceries.

It was the closest we got to ringing today as we enjoyed our traditional Tuesday night in. With an early start tomorrow though, it was an early bedtime for me. Rock 'n' roll eh?

Monday, 14th September, 2009

'Doing a Richy'. There are many definitions attached to this description - few of them good - but two came to the fore this evening.

a) To organise one few too many people for a peal attempt.

b) To leave ones car or house keys at a tower or a tower's keys in your car or house.

It now appears that George was guilty of (a) on Saturday as the AWOL ringer from the peal attempt on said morning was innocent of all charges levelled.. One of those things and we still had a very enjoyable peal of Royal. Still, it's nice to know it happens to the best occasionally as well as to me!

Owen was guilty of (b) this evening as he arrived at St Mary ‑le‑Tower practice without the keys. Thankfully the modern age of mobile phones meant we could intercept Diana before she left home and she turned up with the means to get us to the spare tower key.

However, by the time all this had been sorted we were fifteen minutes late in starting and with another big crowd (twenty-three) there was a lot to fit in for a lot of people, with Michael Mills visiting from Essex and Tom Britten brushing up on his twelve-bell ringing before returning to Sheffield. We just managed it with the usual mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. Bristol Max collapsed, but plans are afoot to take this to the next level. Yorkshire Max started badly but got better and we finished off with an almost faultless piece, though I think we could do better still.

However, with two or three regulars away I think this is still an impressive effort and I'd like to thank everyone who is coming to SMLT and I hope they keep coming - I'd like to think that everyone gets at least something out of it - we still managed Plain Hunt on eleven and Grandsire Cinques and it's important to note that as well as those experienced twelve-bell ringers we are keen for people keen to learn on twelve to take advantage of our Monday night practices. Hopefully we won't always be 'doing a Richy...'

Sunday, 13th September, 2009

Sunday morning ringing in Ipswich has been altered and to a certain extent messed about a fair bit in recent months, but today saw the beginning of a welcome addition to the Sunday circuit.

It began traditionally enough at St Mary ‑le‑Tower where we rang Stedman Cinques, though a half-course of Yorkshire Max had to be aborted as it wasn't of a good enough standard for the most important day of the ringing week. Still, it's great to be ringing it at all, especially as we were two or three Surprise Max ringers short of what we normally get.

You may have noticed that Ipswich has a new old five-bell ring available now at St Lawrence and it was to here, just yards from SMLT that a large group walked to for more Sunday ringing. It is hoped that we will regularly ring here after ringing up the road at 9.30ish on the first Sunday morning of each month.

And it seems to be having the desired effect already. As some of us stood at the bottom of the tower with Mason enjoying dashing around new surroundings, a young couple called Sean and Louisa showed considerable interest in the bells and taking up our noble art. If anything it's slightly early as although the plan is to use these newly available bells as a teaching centre, it's not quite ready and no concrete plans have been drawn up yet. Still, they seemed enthralled by it and hope to come up St Mary‑le‑Tower soon.

Having experienced a welcome change from the norm, it was back to the equally welcome norm as Mason and I made our way up to Grundisburgh. Despite one of the new ropes slipping wheel, we had a decent morning's ringing here and another possible new recruit was given a lesson by Stephen as an encouraging morning continued.

After a trip to the park with Mason and then to Kara's to drop him off, I had lunch with Ruthie at home and rested my still aching limbs! I'm getting too old for this big-bell ringing obviously!

And an otherwise uneventful evening was livened up by a chance meeting at the offy as I went for some crisps which saw Geoffrey Clement pop back to ours for a drink or two, just the kind of thing I love about living in Woodbridge town centre.

Saturday, 12th September, 2009

It was a very early start for a weekend. I was ringing a rare Saturday morning peal at St Mary ‑le‑Tower and so I needed to drop Mason off at his Nanna and Grandad's until lunchtime and so getting him ready alone required an earlier than usual get-up.

However, I had also agreed to meet George and Jonathan before the peal at St Lawrence next door to SMLT for the try-out of this historic and highly publicised ring of five. Some of the plastering needs re-doing, the protective floor lifting, the up-lights fully installed and the big orange tarpaulin that currently divides the lower-placed belfry from the church - or restaurant as it is now - needs removing, but essentially the job is done. A little bit of the oddstruckness needs getting rid of, but it is marvellous to ring on an easy-going five where once a difficult five once were and where ringing had been quite dangerous.

It was the first time I recall having such a workout prior to a morning peal, but we had more time than we had expected to recover as it happened.

The 9.30 start time passed with eleven members there for a peal that had been originally billed as Lincolnshire Max, transformed into Yorkshire Max and now looked unlikely to be Maximus at all. As I stood outside with George, he muttered 'Who'd be a peal organiser?' I know what he means!

With 10am fast approaching and still no sight of the missing ringer who had been left a message last night and apparently given a written agreement to ring, George took the decision to start a peal of Royal with Diana generously stepping down.

The peal itself was a pretty decent effort, though I'd run out of puff a bit towards the end, with everyone doing well to ring around me a bit in the last couple of energy-sapping courses!

I was mightily relieved when it came round and I was able to grasp a drink and then get picked up by Mum to see the li'l chap again.

The parents were in a rush to get off to a wedding at Grundisburgh whilst Chris and I accompanied Mason round to Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric's for a visit. As usual it was pleasant and unexciting and very restful for my aching limbs!

The evening saw Ruthie watch the Trianon Music Group (of which our very own Micky McBurnie is a member and Lawrence Pizzey appears to be quite an important part of) at The Corn Exchange in Ipswich as they performed some of the classics from the Last Night of The Proms whilst Chris and I watched the real thing on TV. It truly is a moving occasion and I still wish they'd make Jerusalem the England football team's National Anthem!

Friday, 11th September, 2009

Although both Ruthie and I were working today, it was a bit of of a family day as I dropped Mason off at Mum and Dad's where he was to be entertained by his grandparents and also Unky Chris who is down for the weekend.

Ruthie meanwhile was popping round her grandparents after work where she ended up putting the skills she's accrued with the li'l chap to good use as her cousins Freddie and Poppy also came round.

Having picked Mason up, it was suffice to say we were both fairly cream-crackered by the end of the night!

Thursday, 10th September, 2009

Last night England qualified for next summer's World Cup Finals in South Africa, ironically with a 5-1 win against Croatia, the team that two years ago beat us to prevent our passage to last summer's European Championships. There're still two qualifying games to go, but we've won every match in our group and confidence is high that we might actually stand a chance of winning the whole thing next year.

Normally the media hoo-ha that rightly goes with this kind of achievement would dominate my attentions, but it had to share radio, TV and newspaper space with our very own St Lawrence's in Ipswich. Yes, the return and rehanging of this historically vital ring of five created vast interest nationally, regionally and throughout ringing such as on Ringing-Chat. It's the latest in a fantastic wave of publicity that the Guild and it's ringers have managed brilliantly in the last couple of years. For this particular publicity and the project itself, we have to strongly thank John Blatchly and George Pipe - well done them.

As if that wasn't enough, Trevor Hughes was on Farming Today on Radio Four talking (starts at 8 min 21 sec) about Aldeburgh bells! Brilliant stuff.

Having picked Mason up after another late shift at work and got him some tea, we welcomed Fergie round as we watched The Simpsons Movie, still hilarious as all the episodes are after several viewings!

Wednesday, 9th September, 2009

It's 999 day! Also as it happens, it's the 21st birthday of Ruthie's friend Beth and the two events combined to form the basis of a fancy dress party with an emergency services theme tonight at her house in Woodbridge.

I went as a policeman and in a twist to the theme Ruthie came as a robber, suitably arrested by PC Richy, hence the policeman's hat and stripy top purchased from Felixstowe on Saturday.

After getting past the whole embarrassing walking to the party dressed as cops and robbers whilst sober, we had a great night with much red wine and photos already on Facebook! Police, nurses, firemen - and women! - and even coastguards were present on a raucous night - we were thankful of the lift home from Verity!

I was also chuffed to hear the news that Anne Bray's proposal to the College Youths by George and myself was last night accepted - welcome to the club Anne!

Tuesday, 8th September, 2009

The late starts are proving almost as nice as the early finishes were, though less exhausting. This morning we trundled on down to Bob Champkins to book Ruthie's car Emily in for an MOT, an extremely exciting event. OK, so I lied, it wasn't exciting, but it was nice to relax in the morning instead of rushing about and it was good to have a chat with Bob and Roz, Mason's great Aunt and Uncle.

The late finishes aren't entirely conducive to the post-work weekly shop either, but we still found ourselves in Tesco afterwards, although it was a scenario we found was being shared by Pete from work.

It dug considerably into our usual Tuesday night in, but at least I can have a lay-in the morning!

Well done to Maggie and Naomi for their achievements in their quarter at Halesworth, making sure that whilst Ruthie and I are being lazy, others in the Guild are pushing themselves!

Monday, 7th September, 2009

After the late night yesterday, we had Mason through to this morning and so my first task of the day was to drop the li'l chap - typically full of beans - off at his mother's.

A quiet day - with America on holiday - was then followed by a fairly hectic practice at St Mary ‑le‑Tower. I had happened to look upon my blog entries of about a year ago to confirm what I thought had been the situation - September 2008 was a terrible month at SMLT. With an unbelievable number of absentees, Surprise Maximus ringing was rarely on the agenda with low attendances. Tonight we had twenty-six and not only rang Yorkshire Max twice (including a wonderful piece that was sadly cut short for the 9pm service) but a decent effort at two leads of Bristol Max.

Beforehand, Owen had to put the old tenor rope back on the great bell as with a peal attempt here on Saturday morning, we were less than trusting of the fraying rope that had replaced it!

Sunday, 6th September, 2009

Don Price very kindly gave Mason and me a lift to St Mary ‑le‑Tower this morning. Thankfully there's no problem with the car - that I know off! - but the day we had lined up for ourselves meant it was preferable to leave the car in Woodbridge.

The return of a few people from hols meant we were able to ring on the twelve - including Stedman Cinques - at SMLT, though the absence of others away on holiday saw us just short for Surprise Max. It was a reasonable standard this morning as we approached something like full-strength again.

From there, Mum and Dad were our ride as I forsook Grundisburgh foro a trip to another twelve. We had all been invited - though Ruthie sadly couldn't come as she was working - to our good friends the Dews for a Rambler's barbecue and an opportunity for those who hadn't already to have a go on The Plantaganet Ring in their garage.

On the way we popped into the nearby Rugby Riding Club where we met up with Aunty Carol and cousin Emma and Mason loved the horses, before completing our journey to Church Lawford.

It was a fun afternoon with the li'l chap enjoying the surroundings, food, toys, bells and Mike's remote control car, whilst Daddy also enjoyed the beer (Saddleback from The Slaughterhouse brewery in nearby Warwick and very nice!), the main reason for wanting to leave my car at home!

Mum and Dad had a grab, ringing in some very respectable sounding Little Bob Max, though my only ring was to treble to some rounds on twelve, not easy on a couple of pints with a tiny bell sporting a stay! With Mason in tow, the beer far too enjoyable and having rung a peal here last year, I passed on the opportunity of ringing in a quarter, so I listened instead as they scored a decent 1250 of Yorkshire Major, conducted by the society's president.

Eventually we had to leave though, Mason falling asleep almost the moment he got into the car and Daddy not far behind him!

After being dropped off at Westerfield railway station, the pair of us were met at Woodbridge by the much-missed Aunty Ruthie, darkness already fallen at the end of a long but enjoyable day.

Thanks Mum and Dad!

Saturday, 5th September, 2009

I have said on numerous occasions - and most recently this week - how much I enjoy district meeting days. Today was one such day and one I had been looking forward to.

After a quiet morning it really got going as we excitedly made our way down the A14 to Felixstowe, location for the September South-East District Quarterly Meeting.

Having overtaken a surprised Verity (one of Ruthie's friends) and bought a policeman's hat and a stripy top (the reasons for this will become clear later in the week) we took Mason down to the beach - where we were unexpectedly joined by Dad and a phone-call from Unky Chris - on a pleasant afternoon before making our way up St John the Baptist for ringing on this brilliant eight, service, tea and meeting, with the li'l chap enjoying the toys and tea in particular.

Sadly, not many other people were so keen to enjoy this wonderfully social occasion. In total, seventeen attended the meeting - including a certain two-year old, three visitors from Essex and David Rogers from Norfolk - a truly pitiful attendance for the district with the highest membership and best transport links out of all our districts. It was unfortunate that a quarter-peal weekend in the Midlands took a number of members away as did weddings and the Polstead ringing outing, but this hardly accounted for the other two-hundred members and it was disappointing not to see many, many more people.

I'm sure there are numerous plausible excuses and reasons and to be fair attendances have in the main been decent across the districts, including here, but I'm rather concerned that actually there is a rather sad attitude towards the meeting days from many ringers. Like them or loathe them, the meetings are necessary for keeping members updated and giving them a say - surely no one wants a district and Guild run by quangos made up of a handful of the same people - but they actually account for very little of the day. Today's lasted half-an-hour, if that, was informal and friendly - as they normally are. The rest of the day was taken up with social to-ings and fro-ings both inside and outside the belfry at two of the best and possibly least frequently visited rings of bells in the county, with ringing afterwards at the extremely easy-going six at Falkenham. There was also a lovely tea and nice service in a nice seaside setting. We seem to forget how lucky we are to be able to hold events in places like this.

I hope that more people will support the hard work that Kate, Peter and Jane put in on the members' behalf, especially at next months Shotley Peninsula Tour and December's vital ADM at Debenham and Earl Stonham, as I hope all members will do for their respective districts.

It was good to see the first quarter on the rehung and newly augmented bells at Bardwell, rewarding all the hard work put in by Ruth and co up there.

Friday, 4th September, 2009

I can officially announce that the Guild Training Day will be held at Stowmarket, SS Mary & Peter on Saturday, 17th October - that's next month so get your names in ASAP! This is a fantastic opportunity as has been shown at previous Guild Training Days, district training events and other training sessions held on the simulator both at Hollesley and Stowmarket. With the central location this time travel should be no object, so I hope to see a big crowd there benefiting from what the simulator and experienced ringers there have to offer - they're not there to judge, but to help in any way they can, so please take advantage.

Well done to John Taylor who rang his first quarter inside today at Earl Stonham. Keep up the good work John!

A late shift at work saw me drop Mason off at and pick him up from Chez Ashcroft before we met up with Ruthie lurking at Edwin Avenue!

Thursday, 3rd September, 2009

Suddenly remembered I'd forgotten to put our names down for tea at Saturday's South‑East District Meeting or 'social day' as I prefer to refer to it as. These are really fantastic events in any district, the chance to spend time in and out of a belfry with friends, to learn more about other ringers, to pick up tips and have a cheap tea and usually a pint or two afterwards. It's also an opportunity to ring somewhere different, no more so than this weekend with the event taking place at Felixstowe (a lovely, lovely, easy-going eight) and Falkenham (an equally lovely, lovely easy-going six) in a part of the world that can become easily detached. Even I remember a time when there were no rings of bells on this peninsula at all, so it's still a relatively new experience.

Although the deadline for names was Wednesday, I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem if you contacted Peter Harper, unless of course you're reading this after the event!

There was another low turnout at Grundisburgh as Stephen was again absent, though with Liz nursing a broken leg it's quite understandable at the moment! In Mr P's absence I ran what proved to be a useful practice for Anne as although numbers were low, quality was again high and as well as Grandsire Triples and Stedman Doubles we rang (almost) perfect spliced Norfolk, Primrose, Ipswich and Cambridge in an utterly false but enjoyable touch as I aimed to show just how easy it is to know several methods from just the one, on this occasion Cambridge.

It was then back home where I bumped into Pete biking up to meet Jasper for a booze-up. With Mason in our care though, it was a quiet night in for Ruthie and me.

Wednesday, 2nd September, 2009

Ruthie went to the funeral of Ruth Wright today, a ringer from Halesworth and Woodbridge, her life sadly cut short by cancer recently. The service was held at St Mary 's in Woodbridge and was well attended by both ringers and music folk, a sign of how popular she was in both mediums.

I had gone to work on a later 10 - 6 shift as I had done yesterday (which was good in the morning after the night before!) and so with a trip to The Wolery for the usual 7pm start, time was a little tight this evening. Ruthie had tea ready (what a good little housewife!) and we made it with time to spare.

However, for whatever reason, tonight's peal wasn't our finest as a band. Indeed we had to restart and set off again at about twenty to eight, probably the latest I've ever started a peal! Despite it being more trippy than we usually manage and less of the magical periods of ringing we normally get, we scored the peal in 1 hour 41, a sign that it was still of reasonable quality.

Tuesday, 1st September, 2009

I've had a little break from organising peals, at least on a big scale in recent months, partly because the summer is a terrible time to arrange such things with holidays and a general reluctance to partake in two-to-three hours of ringing when the sun might be shining. But it can also be a deflating experience. You get an idea and think 'that'll be great' or 'it'll benefit so-and-so' and then get a wall of reluctant ringers, many of whom drop out in the week leading up to it anyway! It's understandable but often the reluctance seems misplaced and illogical.

With the winter months approaching and an aim to beat the 120 peals the Guild rang in 2008 - and more importantly a desire to achieve some excellent ringing to see 2009 out - I've got back on the waggon and have started organising a number of peals over the next few months. Hopefully people will be keen, as peal ringing has given me and many others some wonderful ringing (and yes some bad stuff too!) and really helped the development of a lot of our learners, particularly the youngsters.

As always though, I took the Tuesday night off from it all as Ruthie and I had our traditional night in, for once slightly less beer-laden than the day before!

Monday, 31st August, 2009

Ruthie and Clare's fitness efforts have really been rubbing off on me, but I attempted my most adventurous nod to exercise on this Bank Holiday Monday.. With Mason happily sat in his buggy, I pushed him all the way to Tesco and back again first via Martlesham Creek and then along the pavements of the main roads on the way back. It was a journey that took me two hours in total but left me feeling very, very chuffed.

Indeed, having taken the li'l chap back to his mothers and hosted Ruthie for her lunch, the walk I made to Edwin Avenue and back to save a hair-dye disaster (Clare's not mine!) seemed a doddle.

By the time we were walking to Saffron for a curry set up by Pete and Susanne and also enjoyed by Jasper, Kate and Mr and Mrs Nigel, I was well into the groove.

More walking took us home, but only after a session in The Bell and Steelyard with Jasper, Pete and Susanne and involving some dubious games of chess!

Sunday, 30th August, 2009

Having received information suggesting that practically everywhere within a fifty mile radius of Ipswich was to be closed off for the town's half-marathon, Mason and I left early in order to find our way to St Mary‑le‑Tower.

We needn't have worried, as what actually happened was that as the runners made their way along the course, roads ahead were blocked for a period to let them through. As such, despite an abundance of signs for the runners clearly marking the course, we made it to SMLT unobstructed as did more than I had imagined would, enabling us to at least ring on the ten to Little Bob Royal.

Having received a message from Stephen informing me there was no ringing at Grundisburgh, my plan had been to get the cheapest fuel in town from either ASDA or Morrison's and then go to nearby Sproughton, roadblocks permitting. However, Sproughton weren't ringing either, so I went for the 'cheap' fuel anyway and popped by the neighbouring village Bramford on the off-chance they may be ringing as I like to try and help out somewhere if Grundisburgh aren't ringing. Ascertaining their service was already in full-flow, we made our way home via Henley having come across the half-marathon at Westerfield for the only time all morning.

Kara is away for the weekend, so we have the li'l chap until tomorrow, but apart from lunch with Aunty Ruthie and a quick trip up to Edwin Avenue for more Wiiing, the afternoon was a lot less adventurous than yesterday.

This wasn't the case everywhere in the county and congratulations to Alison Evans who rang her first quarter at Tostock and to Sally Mason who rang more Doubles methods to a peal than she had ever done at Cretingham. Well done to both of you.

Saturday, 29th August, 2009

An exciting day for Mason - and the rest of us - started with Kate picking us up from Sun Lane and then Ron from Kirton before the adventure truly began.

The li'l chap loves trains and particularly Thomas the Tank Engine, so imagine his joy when we arrived at the Nene Valley Railway at Wansford where Thomas himself sat awaiting him!

Unfortunately the steam engine was busted today, but we still enjoyed being pulled to Yarwell at the west end of the line and then all the way back through Wansford and then to the east end where we arrived in Peterborough. On the way we had taken advantage of the bar, even though it was still early and perhaps this encouraged the barman to inform us of and direct us to the Peterborough Beer Festival.

Having enjoyed a picnic generously made up by Kate, we joined the queues eagerly awaiting the opening of the gates.

Whilst we sampled the delights of Eagle IPA (we had to didn't we?), the li'l chap had a whale of a time on the merry-go-round on top of a double-decker, one of the many rides for the many kids present.

We couldn't spend too long there as we had to get back to Wansford to ride on Thomas. Despite a twenty minute delay (who said this was just a modern phenomena?) we made it in time to be pulled to Yarwell and back by one of Mason's favourite characters.

A quick cup of tea and a cake and we were back on the road again after a thoroughly enjoyable day out, all made worthwhile by the li'l man's (mainly!) happy face as he took it all in.

In our absence there were a number of ringing achievements, not least at Grundisburgh where Philip Moyse rang his first peal on eight, Jason Busby rang his first of Double Norwich Major and Mary Garner rang her 300th peal, so well done guys.

Congratulations too to Lesley Wilson who rang her 100th quarter as conductor at Buxhall today.

Friday, 28th August, 2009

The day after the day before and with Pete, Jess and Michael all away from the sales team, things seemed rather quiet after yesterday's lively party.

Well done to Robert Beavis who continues to progress well, scoring his first quarter of Norwich Minor at Ashbocking today.

Thursday, 27th August, 2009

I have got use to the generous jollies that John Catt put on for their employees, with hefty Christmas dinners, boat trips and pub meals, but today they went one further and invited the world along!

Well not quite the world, but there were nearly sixty advertisers, school representatives, printers, computer experts and various other people that we deal with in one way or another at this afternoon's - fully paid-for - party at the Aldeburgh Yacht Club, all part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of John Catt in 2009. It was a fantastic do in a fantastic setting with the sea on one side and the River Alde directly on the other with views out to Orford and Iken and we had beautiful weather, though it was a little breezy! As I've said before, we're incredibly lucky to have this on our doorstep.

Madeleine drove both Pete and me there and back to allow us a few drinks, so once back in Woodbridge I had another walk to pick Mason up for the weekend. A bit of tea and then I was on my feet again as we went to The Kings Head to meet Ruthie's mates. Mason and I left Miss Eagle to it as it was past the li'l chaps bedtime, but it was nice to meet up with them again.

Wednesday, 26th August, 2009

Ruthie drove to Pettistree this evening, picking up Pete and Susanne on the way (having got withdrawal symptoms from not seeing them last night!) to Pete's first quarter of Ipswich Minor - well done Mr Faircloth and good effort!

The practice that followed was another decent one, though the 'messing about' at the end didn't go as well as it normally does! Still, a couple of pints in The Greyhound afterwards made up for it!

Had a proper read of the flyer for upcoming South-East District events that came via email and will hopefully soon be on walls in south-east belfries. It should mean that no one has any excuse for not knowing about events in this corner of Suffolk, so please come and support them. However, a very important note at the bottom highlights the age-old problem of getting people to do jobs at district and Guild level. My mother is desperate to pass on the SE Treasurers job (she has a lot else on her plate and has done it for some time) whilst there are a couple of GMC roles vacant. Contrary to popular belief, holding office in the Guild is not a thankless task - in fact we would be incredibly grateful for anyone to take on these vital roles!

Tuesday, 25th August, 2009

So it wasn't a complete waste of an evening then! A year after they came and filmed us at Kersey and months after the episode went on air without a trace of our input, THE Escape to the Country episode was on BBC1 this morning with our feature in! I didn't watch it directly as I was at work, but having got word of it searched 31 minutes into the programme on iPlayer and found our four minute slot.

As it happened, after the initial excitement of seeing it up on the big screen, I was slightly disappointed with what came out. A lot of the shots were of people ringing individual bells up, the narration was incorrect in places and there generally didn't seem as much care taken over it as David Wernham took with our bit on the Inside Out show last year. I've also noticed I say 'absolutely' and 'basically' a lot. I didn't realise my vocabulary was so limited... Still, it's publicity - of the good variety - so I can't complain too much and will hopefully have tempted someone somewhere into a belfry!

PR for our art and specifically for the Guild continues and of course we now have the Guild Mini-Ring to help us. However, Anne Buswell is very short of helpers for it's appearance in Sutton on Sunday, 6th September. It's unfortunate as many people are away - including myself - and Ruthie's at work, so if you can help out then please do. In fact, take a quick look at it's schedule on the mini-ring page and see where it's going - any help is appreciated!

It's not just PR and recruitment that is important to the Guild either. Training is also a vital part of an valuable process and to that aim John Smith has been running 'Triples from scratch' at Sudbury, St Gregory on the last Sunday of each month. He could do with some extra experienced helpers though. I will try over the coming months to make it along, though I can't manage the next two, but any help would be absolutely welcomed basically.

Well done to Louis Suggett on his excellent exam results and Claire Monk on her First Class Honours degree from Sheffield University by the way, big achievements that will hold both in good stead in the years to come.

Ruthie and I did rather less in the way of mental stimulation, having our usual and much needed night off taking in the latest Town defeat and West Ham and Millwall fans turning their game into something akin to the seventies.

Monday, 24th August, 2009

Another great turnout at St Mary ‑le‑Tower this evening with twenty-three coming out at peak holiday time. It enabled us to ring Bristol Max and a decent effort at Yorkshire Max as well as Plain Hunt on 11 and Grandsire Cinques as Stephen, Gerald, David, Pippa and Anne make progress on higher numbers. It's almost too successful at the moment as I look to cram as much in an hour and a half, whilst trying to continue lifting the quality. We need the likes of Messrs Cheek, Rouse, Rogers, Moss and Buswell and also people like Robert Beavis to come through as no band - with twelves bells or otherwise - can go forward by standing still and not welcoming people of all abilities in, but I currently thinking of ways in which to get more in. This may involve quarters or extra practices, but we will have to see.

The tenor rope held out too, primarily because David Potts and ourselves (including Pete and Susanne who we'd given a lift to) had arrived early to tape the top of the sally up. However, this is not a long-term fix so something more will need doing very soon, especially with a peal on the 12th September fast approaching.

We headed to The Cricketers afterwards for a little refreshment, before dropping Pete and Susanne off and finally having our tea, pretty satisfied again with the practice tonight.

Just briefly sticking with SMLT, on Sunday morning the powers that be have deemed it fit to shut off pretty much the whole of Ipswich town centre, including all the roads around the church for the newly set-up Ipswich half-marathon. We'll still be ringing, but if you are planning to pop by you'll need to add a lot more time to your journey!

Sunday, 23rd August, 2009

A role reversal this morning as we were particularly low in numbers at St Mary ‑le‑Tower, but had a good turnout at Grundisburgh.

Ringing was limited to eight at SMLT, including a decent touch of Grandsire Triples on the back eight. However, the main concern this morning was the state of the top of the tenor sally which we had noticed last week was coming apart. Closer inspection after ringing this morning revealed no obvious cause of the damage when David Potts and I climbed to the clock room directly above the belfry. When Ralphy secured a ladder alongside the rope and looked closely at the top of the sally itself though, he found it was on a single-strand! With a peal there coming soon, we will need to act soon - I'm not convinced it's going to hold out for tomorrow's practice!

It is somewhat ironic that as we begin to have rope problems, the bells at Grundisburgh - where the rope saga has gathered some notoriety - were rung down in readiness to attach the new ropes that finally (!) arrived during the week.

The usual crowd was boosted by the appearance of the Hill family, up for a family barbecue at Stephen and Liz's this afternoon. They were minus Christine, apparently in agony from a toothache that saw her in Bury St Edmunds in the middle of the night - hope it's better now! - but plus Andy, Katie's boyfriend who has begun learning and tried his hand at bonging behind to Stedman Caters, though he wasn't helped by others making it hard for him!

Mason and Ben - Hedley and Hazel's grandson - enjoyed themselves at both towers though as the potential future of bellringing got on like a house on fire!

The usual lunchtime of dropping the li'l chap off at Kara's and grub had with Ruthie was quickly followed by a peal of Ipswich Minor at St Matthew's in the homeland, which I had organised to celebrate the life of Sir Bobby Robson. It seemed entirely appropriate to ring it at the church nearest to the home of the football club that Sir Bobby made great and it was rung by a band of Town fans, although it wasn't until yesterday that I was able to get Podge on board, giving me some worries! Particularly well done to Richard who valiantly rang on with an injured hand and to all the band in hot and humid conditions.

I then headed off to Ufford, where I was able to catch most of a quarter of Bob Triples which Ruthie was ringing in, but more importantly was John Pallant's first quarter - congratulations John! Afterwards I called some call-changes as I partook in ringing for evensong before we were invited out for a drink with Clare and Kev at The Red Lion. A boozy evening (again) saw us also meet up with Pete and Susanne and make a new friend called George who was rather worse for wear! We also bumped into Did our near neighbour and after Kev and I had returned to Edwin Avenue to fetch Sasha experienced dog-wars as she 'bonded' with a couple of other feisty little dogs.

The night was topped off with a takeaway curry from the Shapla as the kebab shop was closed - how the hell does that place ever make any money?!

Saturday, 22nd August, 2009

Like everywhere else, times have been tough at Boots lately and although they've kept Ruthie in gainful employment on Sundays, it has been a source of some frustration to her ladyship that they have been unable to provide any extra work over the summer holidays. However, whether it's people being away, a sign of things picking up again or both, they have this week offered her a lot more work, including today.

It left Mason and myself to fend for ourselves, though we did bump into her for lunch, coincidentally as it happened as we were walking down the Thoroughfare to go to the park as she was walking back up to surprise us on her break, so we all went to the park!

A lengthy and welcome chat with my brother on the phone occupied us for the rest of the afternoon before we headed round to Edwin Avenue to join Kev and be met by Pete to watch Ipswich play on the TV. As has been the general rule of thumb this season (and the last few), we were disappointing in front of the cameras and lost 2-0 at West Bromwich Albion. However, there were good signs at times and it has to be remembered that WBA, relegated from the Premier League last season, are likely to be one of our very toughest games this season, so I wasn't too disheartened as we walked back down the hill to Sun Lane.

Friday, 21st August, 2009

As predicted, Pete popped round for a couple of beers and a very sociable evening was enjoyed and the world put to rights!

Well done to David Rogers on his first of treble-bob, rung at Earl Stonham today.

Thursday, 20th August, 2009

We had a one-off early start this morning, though on this occasion Ruthie was in work herself, so after I'd finished I walked up to Kara's to pick Mason up, inspired by my better half's fitness push.

It also saved getting the car out, a luxury I was further afforded as Pete Faircloth came and picked me up to take us to Grundisburgh practice, leaving Mason in bed and Ruthie, Clare and Sasha the dog getting fit on the Wii again.

The practice was a good 'un too, with twelve turning up, enabling us to ring Yorkshire Royal and Grandsire Cinques as well as 8-spliced Surprise Major before Pete and I had a brainwave. With a lot of beer back at his and Susanne away at the moment, we returned to their house and collected a substantial amount of Adnams and made the short walk to Sun Lane where the girls were still at it!

A couple of beers and soon the night was up but maybe we'll do it all again tomorrow...

Wednesday, 19th August, 2009

Ruthie is taking this fitness thing very seriously as no sooner had I walked through the door after my 4pm finish at work then I was sent out to The Thoroughfare nearby to purchase a skipping rope. Whilst out and about I decided to pop into M.G.Whitby & Company, accountants to the stars to grab a line of Francis Goodwill Delight Minor which I had remissly forgotten to look at earlier.

We were ringing this for the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree this evening and although made up of two familiar methods (Ipswich below, Oxford above), it caught some out every now and then and had been lost before. No such problems tonight as we scored a pretty decent effort before the hordes - including Polly who Kate was dog-sitting - arrived.

In our roles it is very handy that Jonathan Stevens and I ring in the same circles and we had a good chat - continued in The Greyhound afterwards - about various projects, old, new and future. Bardwell was foremost in the conversation of course and there looks like there shouldn't be too much trouble finishing that off. But past projects such as Fressingfield and Chediston came up as did current ones such as Wissett, Helmingham and St Lawrence, Ipswich and possible and actual forthcoming jobs at Eye and Stradbroke. It's a fantastic amount of activity and very healthy, but we want to make absolutely sure that the Guild's money is spent wisely and correctly and that Suffolk has a top-class legacy from these jobs, so these chats are invaluable.

Tuesday, 18th August, 2009

Well done to Philippa Weyers from the Norman Tower who rang her first quarter on Friday at Tostock. I initially missed this as it wasn't on Campanophile (shock, horror!), but was able to learn the good news via the North-West's fun website, which incidentally is well worth a read. Lots of pictures which I think always brightens up a website, a good blog from Ruth and Dr Abby's Problem page is hilarious!

It was our first Tuesday night in, undisturbed and traditional for over a month what with visiting sisters, holidays, meeting people at practices and pubs, etc so we put our feet up as indeed it seems Ipswich Town did as they lost 3-1 at home to Crystal Palace. It's very early days of course and I have full and complete faith in Roy Keane, but things don't quite seem to be going to plan...

Monday, 17th August, 2009

A return to slightly more normal shifts today, with an 8am start (which felt like a lay-in after last week!) and 4pm finish, still enabling a sedate evening of shopping and tea before we headed out to St Mary ‑le‑Tower practice.

As with yesterday morning, we were missing several regulars who are on holiday, including about seven or eight Surprise Max ringers, so whilst we were able to ring Yorkshire Max, it wasn't up to its usual standard and we were unable to ring Bristol. However, we again had over twenty there and a learner from Oxfordshire who felt she was too inexperienced to have a go - which was fair enough - so much Plain Hunt, Grandsire, Little Bob and Kent was rung enabling the likes of Robert, David, Pippa and Stephen to progress, so - especially for the time of year - it was a pretty satisfactory practice.

Sunday, 16th August, 2009

There were five surprise Maximus ringers away at St Mary ‑le‑Tower this morning. However, with the appearance of Peter Emery and the visit of Hazel and Hedley Basford from Canterbury, we were able to ring Yorkshire Royal. They also brought their daughter and her two children, prompting me to think that one of these days we ought to get a play-pen in for all these kids that regularly come up on Sunday mornings!

Even Grundisburgh had a slightly bigger crowd to normal, with Anne and Mike Pilgrim paying us a visit, along with their non-ringing friends from Australia.

Mason and I relaxed on the deckchairs in our backyard for a while before he returned to Kara's and Ruthie came back for lunch. As usual though, there wasn't much more time to relax as being a typical Sunday there was somewhere to go and ring.

On this occasion it was a return to Grundisburgh for a worthwhile and well-rung peal of Bob Major for Robert Beavis who even managed to negotiate the half-lead singles that Stephen threw his way!

From there it was back to Edwin Avenue where my better half was again getting fit with her sister and where Kev had been busy landscaping the garden again! As usual, there was little time spent there prior to dashing off for a rerun of last weeks quarter of Glasgow Major at Hollesley, with Katharine Salter being Mary in her absence. I was slightly disappointed with this effort, but it still needs to be put into perspective. The fact that we are ringing the things we have been in this far outpost is a credit to Alan's organising and the band's abilities, so long may it continue!

Saturday, 15th August, 2009

Last time we went to Bardwell, they were a difficult six set in a strange rope 'circle' and we couldn't ring for too long. Since then, a stunning transformation has taken place, with the rope circle 'normalised' and the ring augmented to eight. Thus Jonathan and I were invited along to test them out as part of the process towards deciding whether to give the grant allocated by the Guild. Normally this is a fairly straightforward process, but as Fressingfield showed it's not a given and since then we've sharpened up our conditions.

Thankfully there doesn't look like there should be any big problems at Bardwell. They go well, sound like a good augmentation and once they've done up the belfry it will be almost unrecognisable to the bare belfry with half a ceiling that we visited just over a year ago with Ramblers. There are one or two minor elements - not least the oddstruckness - that need dealing with, but nothing major or insurmountable.

As is normally the case with these visits, Ruthie and Mason were dragged along too, but we were all back in Woodbridge by lunchtime for some grub, a quick shower (it was pretty dirty at Bardwell!) and a reunion with Clare and Kev, now officially back for good and residents of this part of the world.

The li'l chap enjoyed the sandpit as Ruthie and her sister got to grips with keeping fit on the Wii. I've still not made my mind up on whether this is a genuine tool for getting fit or if it's a fantastic practical joke, designed to make people look silly!

It obviously worked for Ruthie as she partook in a successful quarter of Little Bob Max at St Mary ‑le‑Tower. Well done particularly to Philip Moyse and Jason Busby for their first on twelve, but to all involved as it was apparently a very good effort. Congratulations too to Jason and Sarah on their engagement - judging from the Guild Social, the bride may be able to ring a quarter for the wedding!

Meanwhile, Mason and I headed down to the bottom of Deben Road to see the Oliver Cromwell, a steam engine that Kate had already seen in Ipswich earlier today and was now returning having been via Norwich and Lowestoft. I have to admit that trainspotting is not really my thing, but the chance to show the li'l chap a real steam engine motoring past from close up just yards from our house was too good to pass up. And it was quite exciting if I'm honest. The anticipation as a large crowd gathered with me by the level crossings and the forty-five minute wait - with occasional trips to the nearby river to watch the boats - was worth it to see his little face light up! His reaction as we left wasn't such a picture though...

It was then the short journey back home to put him to bed chuntering 'choo-choo' and to wait for Aunty Ruthie's return before we watched the long-awaited return of Match of the Day to punctuate what has been a dull summer of Saturday night TV. God bless football.

Friday, 14th August, 2009

Today represented the last early start for now at work. As I've mentioned, I don't mind the early starts and more specifically the early finishes as it gives me the afternoon off to spend with Ruthie. However, by now I am feeling it slightly, especially when the whirlwind that is Mason returned from a day at Walton-on-the-Naze with his grandparents!

With my eyes dozing a bit come the evening, Hollesley - or anywhere else for that matter - was unlikely!

Thursday, 13th August, 2009

A trip to Budgens with Mason was the highlight of a very quiet and for me (as with the last two weeks) long day. Though I survived the afternoon fully conscious, the early start caught up with me in the evening, so Grundisburgh was not really an option.

Well done to Mrs Roger on her first quarter of spliced at Pettistree yesterday by the way. And you thought I'd forgotten!

Wednesday, 12th August, 2009

As predicted the early start was a tough one, but I made it, even coping with my annual appraisal without falling asleep! Ruthie was a little worse off, though to give her her dues it didn't seem entirely down to the booze. It was bad enough for her not to go to Pettistree this evening, though after a prolonged sleep in the afternoon I felt alert enough to go along.

After a good chat with Jonathan outside before he set off to Fressingfield (the miles that man puts in for the Guild is extraordinary!) I enjoyed a typically decent varied evening's ringing culminating in some spliced at the end that incorporated York, London and various other bits and bobs.

Come nine, I dodged the pub to return to the patient and to get a much earlier night!

Tuesday, 11th August, 2009

Despite the early starts getting a bit tiring, they do enable me to do things I'm not normally able to do. Such as join the Mid-Week Ringers, a group of essentially retired (but not exclusively) Suffolk ringers organised by the Harpers who ring (usually) at a couple of towers either side of lunch on the second Tuesday of the month. Today they'd rung at Aldeburgh in the morning and we joined them at Benhall in the afternoon - eventually. It's not the easiest church to find!

It was well worth the effort with a decent attendance and good ringing on difficult bells, including some London, Cambridge and Ipswich spliced. If you are retired or are off on the second Tuesday it's worthwhile coming along.

Despite an apparent mass enthusiasm for a cuppa afterwards, it was only Alan, Anne and ourselves who enjoyed cake and tea at the Friday Street Cafe, a nice little place I hadn't been to before.

It was the first part of a mini-tour of Suffolk for Ruthie and me today as once back and fed, we headed out to Debenham practice, primarily to meet up with Claire Monk but also to catch up on one of the best run practices in the Guild. Jenny always makes sure every piece of ringing is a useful one and gets a lot in which this evening incorporated most things from call-changes to Stedman Triples and Cambridge Major.

We had a good natter in The Woolpack (once Claire, Ruthie and I had realised we had walked past it and were nearly to Winston!) and then The R & R Tour was off back to Woodbridge to meet an ever so slightly squiffy Toby at The Red Lion for his birthday. It was good to catch up with him, Kala and Nick and also to meet his new neighbour Alice who coincidentally was not only a mate of Kala's but also was a student teacher for Ruthie a few years back. Small world.

So our Tuesday was a bit livelier than usual and very enjoyable, but I imagine I'll pay for it when I get up for my early start in the morning...

Monday, 10th August, 2009

It was back to the early shifts after the weekend and with Saturday's excesses catching up with me (by the way here's a slightly better quality link to that handbell ringing) it was not an easy one!

Come hometime at 1.30 though and I had my second wind (indeed) and we did our weekly shop at Tesco as I enjoyed what is effectively an afternoon off.

Monday nights can hardly be classed as an evening off though, but as is more the case than not, St Mary ‑le‑Tower practice was again an enjoyable and I think useful evening. For a practice in the middle of August, to get twenty-two ringers and ring Bristol Max with at least four of our usual Surprise Maximus ringers away is very, very satisfying.

We headed straight home as a sizeable crowd headed to the pub, being careful not to overstretch the finances too much!

Sunday, 9th August, 2009

Normally when I'm in Birmingham on a Sunday morning - especially these days - it is usually after a heavy night before and today was no exception. Thankfully Bibs was as unkeen on the early start at St Philip's Cathedral as we were so our first port of call - once I'd found somewhere to park the car - was St Martin's where despite the sore heads, jump changes on sixteen, Grandsire Fifteen and Orion and Bristol Max spliced was rung before a three course touch of Stedman Cinques was rung without blemish, the perfect example of how all ringing but particularly Stedman should be done. As I've said before with this principle, it's all about concentration, something we CAN apply to our ringing.

We didn't continue on the usual city centre rounds on this occasion as we had arranged to pop round to my mate Wellsy's as both he and us had busy afternoons lined up. It was good to meet up my old uni chum, but it was too short really as our busy schedules demanded we got on the road.

I say busy as our next stop was the pub, the Saddlers' Arms in Solihull to be more precise, picked purely because it was the first place we came across that was showing Ipswich Town's first game of the 2009/10 football season. Yes, it's back and as the game was being held just down the road at Coventry it had been tempting to go along. However, lack of forethought and money decreed we'd watch it over our lunch and a soft drink as we fell to a 2-1 defeat. It was a frustrating game as we bombarded their goal and did everything bar getting the ball in that net thing enough times, but our performance was encouraging. And as I've said many times before, it could be worse - we could be Naaaaaridge!

Immediately following full-time and via a purchase of new trousers, we left the posh part of Birmingham and made our way home as we had one final engagement, this time back in sunny Suffolk.

We arrived back in time to enjoy a cup of tea and a quick recap of the line for Glasgow Major, before we continued onto Hollesley where after a false start we scored a decent quarter. Such are our expectations that we want to ring it better and so it doesn't appear to be job done just yet!

Saturday, 8th August, 2009

If you want to know how I ended up wearing Paul Bibilo's trousers today then read on. If you'd rather not it's perhaps best you don't!

Actually in reality it's not as bad as it sounds. Having dropped Mason off at home, we were in Birmingham for the wedding of Philip Saddleton and Anthea Edwards and Paul was very generously putting us up at his. We arrived with a lot less time to spare than we had intended and were hurriedly changing into clothes more befitting of the occasion when disaster struck. My trusty smart trousers that have served me so well for several years had finally given up the ghost at the worst possible time. The zip had bust and without the time and means to carry out a repair I was facing the prospect of attending this afternoon's do in my shorts until Bibs came up trumps with a pair of his own. Although a slightly different shade to my jacket, they were pretty much the right size and a Godsend.

It was the first chapter of a fantastic but at times surreal day, not least when ten of the biggest names in bellringing rose during the signing of the register to partake in the ringing of twenty (yes 20!) handbells to a method devised by Philip Earis. As you can tell from this clip that has already made it onto You Tube, it is a quite mesmerising performance and a sound like nothing else I've heard.

Much like the scoreline we received from Carrow Road as Naaaridge began life in the lower leagues by showing they can be just as bad - if not worse - at that level than at Championship level. They were 5-0 down AT HOME to COLCHESTER at HALF-TIME. By the time we had had a pint of lager at The Great Stone opposite Northfield church where the ceremony had taken place and then partaken in a huge group photo on the green, that score had increased to 7-1 at full-time, much to the amusement of many but particularly us, Rod and David Pipe!

It set us in a good mood as our lift - Christine Mills - took us onto Bromsgrove Council House for the reception and a wonderful hog-roast. Ruthie and I made some new friends as we were sat with Nick Haggett from Guildford and Ben Carey and Alex Marchbank from Portsmouth and Milton Keynes respectively as well as catching up with familiar faces.

The alcohol was free and we made full use of it as the speeches and wonderful food were consumed and a barn dance got into full flow.

It was a great night to finish a great day and once we'd got back to Mr B's, a few more beers were drunk and highlights of THAT game were enjoyed before we eventually retired.

In my absence from the region, two ringers in particular have been achieving with particular congratulations going to Becky Canham who rang her first quarter at Rumburgh today, knocking behind to Bob Doubles. Well done also though to Philip Moyse who continues to progress at pace, ringing his first quarter of spliced across the border at Alburgh in Norfolk.

Friday, 7th August, 2009

I have to admit to the week's early starts catching up with me this afternoon as I fell asleep with Mason poking me and still full of energy even after enjoying a trip to Easton Farm Park with his Nanna and Grandad! Ruthie continued pottering around me as I slept, but ringing this evening was never going to happen!

Unlike those intrepid ringers who enabled Michael Carruthers to ring his first quarter inside at Earl Stonham of Bob Doubles and Tom Britten to ring his first of London Major at Ixworth. Well done guys!

Thursday, 6th August, 2009

Good to see the peal of Ipswich Delight Royal rung in memory of Sir Bobby Robson at Grundisburgh today. I'm in the process of getting something organised in Ipswich this month for the same cause, but it's good to see something from Suffolk, a place the great man so loved.

I was at work and unfortunately unable to ring, but with the early starts this week I was able to effectively enjoy an afternoon with Ruthie and a very lively Mason before I went to Grundisburgh for practice. There was no Stephen as with Liz away and with visitors he was manning the B&B, so I ran things tonight. With the Pereira's and Owen there we had eleven, enabling us to ring lots of things on six, eight and ten, though those ropes didn't help...

Wednesday, 5th August, 2009

What with travelling back from Somerset last weekend and going over to Birmingham for a wedding this, we will have been unable to look after Mason for two weekends. With a desire to spend some time with the li'l chap to make up for this, I'd told Kara I could pick him up today after work which was lunchtime this week of course. Whilst we were on holiday, it was Ruthie who had reminded me we were booked in for a peal at The Wolery. Unable to find a babysitter or a replacement, Ruthie volunteered to stop at Sun Lane to look after Mason and I made up five at David and Katharine's in Ipswich.

As it happened, it enabled us to ring forty-two methods and variations in memory of Paul Cattermole. Though I was saddened to hear of his death, I didn't know Paul well. However the others had rung this peal with him many times, so it was very appropriate that we rang this. It was a good peal too, keeping me on my toes, just the way I like it!

A cup of tea, bit of cake and a couple of biscuits and I returned home to reacquaint myself with Ruthie and to get an early night for another early start in the morning.

Tuesday, 4th August, 2009

Typically the weather has perked up dramatically since we returned from holiday, though as I wandered up to work for another early start, only the street sweeper for company and a slight haze over the Deben, it made for a very relaxing start to the day that ended in The Mariners with Fergie and in between saw an ongoing war with flies resulting in many casualties.

Fergie was fine and the pub busy both outside - where we sat - and inside where we bumped into Aaron's father and brother. Apparently The Falklands are proving quite dull for the young Navy lad!

Monday, 3rd August, 2009

It was a double-whammy this morning as I not only returned to work but was in for 6am. I didn't actually mind this too much as the novelty value helped ease me in and with a 1.30pm finish it meant I had an afternoon off to spend with Ruthie who herself had been into Boots this morning to do some training. This basically consisted of her and her colleagues mystery shopping around town and noting what kind of customer service she got and then watching videos of gorillas waving back at her. Ask Ruthie if you want to know what the heck is going on!

We spent our afternoon (well part of it) in Tesco where we bumped into Kara and of course Mason, the first time we'd seen the li'l chap since before our holiday, which was great.

After hearing of a low turnout (although high standard of ringing) at St Mary ‑le‑Tower practice last week, I wasn't expecting too much tonight. However, apart from a touch of Norwich Minor, we started and finished with Grandsire Cinques and in between rang some good Yorkshire Royal and Yorkshire Max, well struck at a good pace which is fast becoming the norm, despite people being away. Although there wasn't enough for Bristol Max, it's a good sign that we can manage this standard during peak holiday season.

Sunday, 2nd August, 2009

It was back to normality today, which actually I quite like. No matter how much I enjoy a holiday - and I enjoyed this one a lot - it's always nice to get back into things.

Much as last Sunday, we had enough to ring some more good Little Bob Royal as well as some well-rung Grandsire and Stedman Caters at St Mary ‑le‑Tower.

There weren't quite as many at Grundisburgh, but more than usual as we rang not one, but two decent touches of Stedman Triples, as well as word that the new, long, long awaited ropes should be with Stephen in the next couple of weeks.

A brief return to The Greyhound to help put away the tent that the Halletts had very generously allowed us to use last night and it was time to meet Ruthie for lunch as she very much returned to normality.

After she'd finished, she drove us to Sudbury - via Kesgrave to drop her workmate Amanda off as she's having car trouble - as we had been invited to ring in the first quarter at All Saints since the extensive work on the seventh had been completed. To say ringing the tenor to this was hard work is a massive understatement. It sucked and blowed a lot and at times just wouldn't rise despite a huge effort from myself. We scored it with some very reasonable ringing in the circumstances, though I felt like I'd been hit by a truck afterwards.

In such circumstances the only thing to do was go to the pub and so Richard and Christine took Maurice, Anita (who had listened outside), Ruthie and me to The Mill Hotel, a lovely place overlooking meadow lands as the evening sun shone down in complete contrast to the weather we'd had on holiday all week!

Tomorrow we start the flexible shifts that we had last year in order to contact schools on the other side of the world and with a 6am start I got an early night in anticipation.

Saturday, 1st August, 2009

It is our last day on Ramblers today and so although the tour continues for another week and new Ramblers arrive, we had the task of taking our tent down and packing up. As with putting it up on Monday, it was a remarkably stress-free occasion and we were soon ready to head for the first tower, Lydeard St Lawrence, an eight with a sharp fifth on the side. Here we rang Double Coslany Court Bob Major - essentially Bristol Major with the treble plain-hunting, thus removing all the dodges - before others rang all nine down. Not a pretty sound!

Combe Florey, a nice enough six, was most notable as being the location of the tour meeting, a typically brief and informal affair. It's main object is to allow members to vote for next years destination, but with so many newcomers wanting to become members (including Ruthie and Claire) a large number of new member proposals were made.

With them on board, the society voted to go to the Welsh Borders next year, although Ruthie and I had personally voted for a proposal to go to Kent. That's democracy for you I guess!

With a meal out arranged this evening, we chose not to eat out this dinnertime, instead getting some sandwiches and crisps and having a low-key lunch in the car at a very wet Halse, the next tower and our final one before we departed.

A quick ring of London Minor at this ground-floor six, our extensive farewells made and we hit the road. The tour has been every bit as good - if not better - than I had hoped for despite the weather. It's been varied, social and good fun, but with a serious approach to good striking, the way ringing should be carried out and all being well we hope to join them again next year.

The journey home started badly as those pesky middle-lane 'drivers' and an insistence on limiting the speed to 50mph on the M5 saw us crawl until almost the M4. And if you ever pass signs for Taunton services and are tempted to pop in, don't! I've never come across anywhere so unprepared for the very task it's meant to perform.

Luckily though, despite periods of driving rain and the engulfing spray that accompanies it, we made it back in time for Ruthie to drive us to The Greyhound at Pettistree, where nearly thirty quarter-peal ringers gathered for a meal arranged by Kate for the South-East District, ironically held in a tent as the rain came down! Although only the quarter at Ufford was scored - with attempts at Pettistree and Wickham Market lost - Kate is to be applauded for taking a district practice that normally only attracted a handful of people and turning it into one of the highlights of the social calendar in this corner of the world.

A thoroughly good night was had by all, even by Mrs Harper despite being mugged by Alan, but come the end, a long and enjoyable (in the main!) day caught up with us - we slept well!

Friday, 31st July, 2009

A later start as we had a long journey, but not before we said hello to our very own Claire Monk who is staying in her uni chum Jenny Crabtree's tent. Claire arrived last night, but we didn't really get a proper chance to chat to her until the first tower Luxborough, an out of tune five in beautiful surroundings near the summit of a steep hill as we began our day exploring Exmoor.

Cutcombe saw me in charge again with Primrose and Rossendale amongst the varied ringing we did on this ground-floor six.

Sad news greeted us at Exford as we heard that Sir Bobby Robson had died. As an avid Ipswich and England football fan he has given me much to celebrate (though of course his achievements at Portman Road were before my time), but his charity work as he fought cancer was an inspiration to all regardless of whether you were a football fan or not. I will of course try and arrange something to mark the life of this champion of Suffolk once I return.

In the meantime, ringing at this six was a little rushed as we had to finish a bit earlier than we had planned due to - ironically enough - a funeral, but we still found time for a 'medium youngsters' band to ring Annabel's London, with ages ranging from twenty to my elderly thirty.

We found the pub at the next destination, Withypool extremely expensive, so we returned to Exford to eat at The White Horse Hotel, which looked expensive but was very reasonable. Ruthie and I stuffed ourselves on their huge burgers and struggled back to Withypool to ring.

The six bells here were OK, but the belfry was covered in green mould and freezing cold and not an overly pleasant place to ring. By this point the Higby's had joined us and we were treated to little Jack's favourite joke - what flies and wobbles? A jellycopter! Priceless.

Another six at Winsford followed and having avoided the very deep ford there, left this picturesque village for Exton where they had left-handed ropes (I don't know either) in this tiny, but quaint ground-floor belfry before we headed back to the campsite via a fuel-stop.

This evening's rain didn't stop at all, meaning we couldn't enjoy our usual beers and conversation outside. However a ten-strong group of late teens, twenty-somethings and this ancient thirty-year-old convened in one of the Crabtree tents for booze and chat prior to retiring.

Thursday, 30th July, 2009

Unky Chris had to pass us to get to the first tower of the day - Tolland - so we rather took advantage of his presence and he generously accepted to trundle us around all day. I say trundle, as having arrived at the very wet campsite five minutes after the Ramblers had started ringing at Tolland, he took us on one of the most terrifying car journeys of my life - now that's saying something!

We arrived just in time to ring a plain course of Bob Major on this 1cwt eight that really wasn't helped by stays on the front bells, before having to set off as we were at the front of packed car park with cars bumper-to-bumper.

More terrifying journeys took us to the romantically named places of Brompton Ralph and Huish Champflower where there were very disturbing noises coming from the ceiling...

It took us nicely up to lunch where we found The Three Horseshoes pub quite by chance. It was a pub full of character and expecting the visit of Andy Caddick, the former England cricketer and resident of the area.

With three pints in us, Chipstable passed in a blur though the ringing remained good and I enjoyed ringing the tenor to some really good Dordrecht Delight Major at Wiveliscombe, though we all appreciated the crude toilet/broom cupboard a little less.

The tenor clapper had to be turned over by Millsy at Milverton, where us old 'uns got ourselves thoroughly confused by the card games that Izzy Dew and James Birkby were playing.

After getting showered by dirt whilst ringing up and then ringing some Netherseale Minor with Andrew ringing from the balcony seat on a very short 4th rope at Fitzhead, Chris took us back to the campsite via Morrison's to collect our tea and all for a bottle of beer!

As the weather cleared again, a boozy evening unfurled as Stephen Croxall joined us and Ruthie and Sharon Mills ended up dancing a waltz across the field. Twas very boozy...

Wednesday, 29th July, 2009

The torrential rain and high winds overnight and this morning brought back bad memories of our camping trip to Devon last year. However, although these conditions lasted pretty much all day, at least we had an excuse to get out of the tent as the first tower - Chiltern Trinity - were expecting us at 9.30.

The tenor of this five was a little awkward to ring up as I found as it's practically on top of the font and directly under a curtain pole, but at least we could get in easily enough, unlike the next place, Pawlett.

Here we discovered the key padlocked to the door and tantalisingly out of reach of the lock! As the minutes ticked by we feared a lockout, a rare occurrence on Ramblers - in eighteen years as secretary and the thousands of towers in that time, Janet Dew only suffered one lockout and that was a three - but thankfully the local arrived not long after when we thought we were starting and everyone got a ring.

Chris Woodcock got a bit of shock at Puriton, our next destination. Leading the bells up, he went to set it only to find he was getting lifted off his feet. Having retrieved the situation and rung the treble down, it transpired - following investigations from Millsy our travelling bellhanger - that workmen who had been painting the frame had failed to put the slider back!

Lunch upon us and with his father going elsewhere, we gave young James Ramsbottom a lift on what proved to be a bit of an adventure. Having left Puriton behind, we headed to the home of our next ring - Woolavington - in search of a pub. We found one, but it was closed. Failing to find one in nearby Cossington (another tower this afternoon) and then located another closed pub, we had got fairly desperate by the time we came across the rough looking Basonbridge Inn amongst the ugly surroundings of factories and a petrol station in Bason Bridge. What we found inside was a pleasant surprise though with a good pint of Doombar, a newly refurbished interior and the best priced food we've found on the road for a long time. It's well worth a visit if you're in the area.

We needed to be back in Woolavington for ringing. Not that we needed to rush as a lockout was threatened for the second time today. Unfortunately, we were waiting outside for this one and with the heavens still unloading, Ruthie and I shared an umbrella with Geoff Wells and Jenny Crabtree before we were let in after an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Ringing was understandably hurried along on this eight, with Dordrecht Surprise Major the highlight for me, before we waited in the dry in the church which had now been opened for an incredibly popular and lively bible group.

It was then back to Cossington for some spliced Surprise Minor and a bit of Ipswich Minor at a very crowded belfry at Wembdon before most people came back to the campsite for a meal that had been cooked up by Helen Rigby, an annual tradition on the tour and usually blighted by pouring rain as it was this evening! Still, it was cosy as about forty people tried to fit into the gazebo!

Today we had an evening tower, so with the parents on site and having to go back past the campsite we took advantage of having a lift to Durleigh with them. We were rejoined by Chris Birkby, the latest sufferer of the de Kok bug who had been stuck in his tent all day. We were then joined for the first time this year by Unky Chris who rather generously bought his parents, brother and Ruthie a pint (each!) in The Enmore Arms after ringing, an incredibly busy place for a Wednesday night in a lovely setting.

Tuesday, 28th July, 2009

Day two of our visit to the Rambler's tour of Somerset and we knew we were in the south-west this morning as we went to the heavy sixes at Crowcombe - which were also anti-clockwise! - and Stogumber where we rang the methods named after the villages, both dire methods with lots of six-fives.

There was time for a quick grab at the ground-floor five at Monksilver before Ruthie and I got ahead of some of the crowd and grabbed some lunch in the pub next door, The Notley Arms where we sat with Mum and Dad and enjoyed the company of the other Rambler's that were taking advantage of this wonderful pub.

After a ring at Sampford Brett, next up was one of those small-world moments as we were let in to the five at Bicknoller by the sister-in-law of our very own Bishop Nigel!

At each tower, the Ringing Master - Andrew Mills at the moment - puts someone different in charge, a nice touch that relieves his duties but also gives everyone the opportunity to run some ringing. Indeed it was on Ramblers that I cut my teeth in this aspect and the next tower today, West Quantoxhead (trips off the tongue doesn't it?) was under my stewardship, but not before we watched on as a fire engine raced urgently down the narrow lane we were parked beside, blue lights flashing and presumably on the way to the big house on which estate the church sits.

Up in the belfry, we were instructed on the unusual clock hammers and the low ceiling over the tenor that meant anyone over three foot would have considerable difficulty ringing. It would be OK for Mrs Nigel though and it didn't stop us ringing all sorts from call changes to Primrose to Lindley Minor.

With no black smoke in sight, we headed on to Holford, a nice but ordinary ring of six where a quip I made about Geoff Wells not being there (as was the official line to his wife) saw a course of Surfleet nearly collapse through laughter.

Another trip to the supermarket and we sat back and relaxed on another chilly but rain-free evening as the kids played rounders and the rest of us continued on the various wine, cider and beer stocks.

Monday, 27th July, 2009

Dropping Mason off at his mother's early on, we set off from Woodbridge in pouring rain that stayed with us until we got half-way across the country. We arrived at picturesque Cheddar in Somerset, our first tower of the 2009 Rambling Ringers Tour in sunshine and were launched straight into a course of Belfast Surprise Major. It was - as it always is - a sign of the variable and quality ringing they we usually enjoy on Ramblers.

This years tour had started back on Saturday afternoon and won't finish until 8th August. It's a mammoth task to organise it which my mother does fantastically but it is a marathon of ringing and therefore variety helps not only to raise the standards but keep fatigue from setting in.

The next tower and the first one after lunch was to be Roberrow, so Ruthie and I headed to The Swan Inn there, a lovely quaint place that nevertheless will be most remembered by us for the girl that came in having locked herself out of her car!

As a local tried to break into the Citroen just a couple of spaces from us, we drove back down the hill to the lovely little six at St Michael's church where we were joined by David Hird who was popping in after a meeting in Bristol and before he headed up to see his mother in Chesterfield! The dedication of the tower-grabber...

After a lengthy touch of Cambridge and London spliced we went on to Shipham, another nice little six but this time upstairs in a cramped octagonal belfry where we had a quick ring of Bourne before moving on.

Whilst the tour continued on, we made the decision to drive to the campsite and put our tent up before the weather turned as had been forecast. Except the postcode on the tour-list was wrong...

Having eventually found it we got the tent up with an amazing lack of drama, waving briefly to Willomena de Kok who - with her husband Paul and their kids before them - had been struck down with a bug not too dissimilar sounding to the one we had back in January and so they hadn't been ringing today. I have to admit, the last place I would've wanted to be with that was a campsite!

We carried on though, finding Morrison's in Bridgewater for supplies. If I'm honest, the supermarket and geographical necessity are likely to be the only reasons we'll go into Bridgewater this week as it's not an attractive place.

Chili cooked up on our new gas stove and the first beers consumed, we wandered along to the Ramsbottom's tent next door to partake in some of their homemade cider which probably won't be a good idea in the morning! But it highlights the good thing about our site this week, that it is only the bellringers on this field and so we gathered in the communal gazebo and drank the night away. It should be a good week...

Sunday, 26th July, 2009

Some very good and enjoyable Little Bob Royal made up for the slightly lower numbers at St Mary‑le‑Tower, with Mum and Dad already on the Ramblers tour that Ruthie and I plan to join tomorrow.

With the early finish that we now have at SMLT, I thought it might be worth trying to see if I could make it to Woodbridge where they ring until 10. Sadly I just didn't make it as Mason and I were climbing the stairs as they were pulling off to ring down.

Grundisburgh was much the same as ever with Peter Emery coming along. There was a huge traffic queue on the way back for some reason before the main event of the day, the Offton barbecue. As I've said before, this is one of the highlights of the year for me and even though I was the designated driver this year, I still enjoyed it as much as I ever do.

This time round we had the Guild Mini-ring, now at it's home under Brian's supervision and I have to admit that despite the dull weather, there was a moment when I viewed the active mini-ring set against lush green trees, poking over a hedge and across the game of petanque being played on the vast expanse of lawn at Kimberley Hall and thought 'this is the life'.

It was also the first time Mason had come along and he of course had a whale of a time, including the realisation that he actually does know what the commands 'look to, treble's going' and 'stand' mean!

Soon it was time to advance home and finish packing as it's an early start in the morning...

Saturday, 25th July, 2009

With Mason's 'help' and Kate's advice, Ruthie and I practised putting the tent up in anticipation of our forthcoming trip as Clare and Kev finished the now enlarged pond off. Hopefully we should be OK if today's run-through is any indication.

Kate and I then headed off for Grundisburgh to ring for a wedding as Ruthie looked after the li'l chap. For reasons known only to herself, the bride wanted ten bells, but we were happy to oblige.

It was the first time that Anne Buswell had done firing, so well done to her as we got it pretty much spot on. Even now I still get slightly nervous in the blows leading up to firing - no one wants to be the one out on their own!

Friday, 24th July, 2009

As much as I enjoy working at John Catt, it is still an absolutely marvellous feeling walking out of work just after 5pm on a Friday knowing you have a week off.

I instantly picked Ruthie up on the way to fetching Mason from his usual Friday haunt of his grandparents and whilst we were down there we took advantage of ASDA showing trillions more balls than any of their competitors by selling diesel and petrol at 'just' 99.9p per litre rather than screwing the public to fill the pockets of their directors as others appear to do. It meant we now have a full tank, something we're going to need over the next week!

Thursday, 23rd July, 2009

Thankfully my house never gets in a state even approaching those that appear on the TV programme 'How Clean is Your House' so I have never needed the services of the two very forceful women who present the show. However, today I had my very own Kim and Aggie, aka the Eagle sisters and a very good job they did too of making the place spic 'n' span. I am very grateful and it's one less thing to do before we go on holiday.

I managed a visit to Grundisburgh for practice night having picked Mason up and put him to bed, but again I was joined by very few, although it was good to see John Pereira and Michael Warren, an 'old man made very happy' (his words by the way!) by a touch of Double Norwich Major! Ah, to be so easily pleased...

Wednesday, 22nd July, 2009

An unusual occurrence happened this evening - we lost a quarter at Pettistree. Such is the standard of ringing at this six and the appropriate organising of band and/or method by Mike and Mary that it is rare for a loss to be recorded. However, this evening's attempt of London Minor by a band that should've had no problem with the method came to an abrupt halt just after the 720 mark had been reached and after too many mistakes anyway. Still, it wouldn't be an achievement if we always got them!

It set the tone for the following practice for a while too, as various pieces struggled or collapsed which isn't typical of a Wednesday night. It did improve substantially though, even with various people away and Variable Treble Mixed Doubles and Minor and normal spliced Minor were the highlights of a practice and night that actually finished quite well.

Tuesday, 21st July, 2009

We don't cook for others very often, but tonight we decided to go for it, inviting Clare and Kev round for some grub and booze. A good night was had by all and we even had a visit from two heads through the window, those of Bob and Did my neighbours!

Another call for help with the Guild Mini-Ring, this time at Pakenham on Saturday, 1st August if anyone can help.

Monday, 20th July, 2009

Stage two of Operation-Move-Furniture-From-Peter-To-Richy's-House was completed after work as I took ownership - again for free - of my workmate's TV cabinet. Good bit of business!

Ruthie and I were a little late for St Mary‑le‑Tower as we were dog-sitting round Edwin Avenue as the residents of the house were longer than they anticipated getting pond-lining - I'll explain later!

We weren't that late as it happened either, arriving just as a decent touch of Grandsire Triples was coming round, the first piece of the evening. It was again a mixed bag with the good, bad and the ugly featuring - I'll leave it up to you to decide who and what fitted into each category! Both touches of Grandsire Cinques collapsed pretty horrendously, as did the Bristol Max and our first go at Yorkshire Max was laboured. However, the second piece of Yorkshire Max again went superbly, though not quite as polished as last week's to begin with.

With our holiday to Somerset coming up we did our money-saving bit and headed straight home, via Kate's to pick some stuff up where we found Kev in the near-darkness digging out a bigger pond. He was still going when we left at nearly 11!

Sunday, 19th July, 2009

Being the first weekend of the summer break for schoolchildren, their parents and their teachers, I was pleasantly surprised by large attendances at both St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh this morning.

Although we didn't get enough to ring on the twelve at SMLT, we still rang some very decent Yorkshire Royal which many places would love to do on a Sunday morning. We also decided to keep the status quo in regards to ringing on Sunday mornings in August, essentially getting a good number to ring out the 8am service rather than risk getting practically non at all for ringing in the 10.30am service.

Via the play equipment in the village where Mason made a new friend, we arrived at Grundisburgh to be greeted by a large crowd, including Owen and the returning Pete. Such was the turnout that we were able to ring Call-Changes on twelve, a good effort.

Having dropped Mason off at Kara's, I then made a trip to Rendlesham to see Peter from work. He wanted to get rid of his very nice TV, so much so that he was prepared to give it to me for free. With it loaded in my car, I returned to Woodbridge to make use of Ruthie's sister Clare and her fiancé Kev, back last night to live here, getting it lifted into my house for the return of lunch with Ruthie and I.

Being a Sunday though, there was no rest and picking Kate up the two of us headed up to Rendham, where we were privileged to ring in Maggie's first peal as conductor. To say calling Stedman as your first peal is impressive is a major understatement, so massive congratulations to her! The peal itself was very well rung with few mistakes. In fact, for the best part of the first hour I had made the only mistake! And having rung my first peal with the Chairman, I can retire from peal-ringing...

Philip and Maggie treated us all to a drink in The Castle in Framlingham, the nearest open pub, before Kate and I returned back to a busy household at Edwin Avenue. It was then a walk down to The Cherry Tree in Woodbridge with Kate, Clare, Kev and the dogs for Ruthie's birthday. A relaxing end to a lovely but busy weekend.

Saturday, 18th July, 2009

It is of course outings season and being very fond of ringing outings I have been looking forward to today's South-East District trip to north-west Essex. Sadly not too many others were as the arrival of the Earey family at the last tower just took us over twenty attendees, though only nineteen of those were ringers. It's a shame as these are really enjoyable occasions where you can meet all sorts of interesting people in places you would never have come across otherwise and enjoy some relaxing ringing in a jovial atmosphere.

With Kate driving and having picked Dad up (Mum was in Aldeburgh at a wedding) from Chez Ashcroft, we arrived at one of those interesting places with interesting people, Rayne. It was a nice little six which they use for beginners on the Essex course, though the door at the bottom is very probably the lowest door I have ever seen. According to the local (who was more Welsh than Essex), the floor had been raised rather than the door lowered! He was also very proud of the various quirks of the church such as the one-handed clock and the vicar that was buried the wrong way round so he could face his parishioners and say 'I told you so!'

Bocking, the following tower had a lot to live up to after that, but still attracted a lot of interest with the wedding rehearsal that was present as we started, the entirely different one that began before we finished, the actual wedding that afternoon and four more before the week was out. A lucrative tower to be a ringer at me thinks...

Stisted was another place with a difference. Due to the elaborate mechanism to open the trapdoor under the tenor rope, the ringer of the said bell was in it's own pen, a suitable naughty corner for the likes of Alan McBurnie! The pretty church with it's pointy hat spire was in a lovely setting too, surrounded on two sides by a very active golf course. Mason loved watching the golfers tee off, though one guy seemed to be getting very frustrated!

However, the highlight of this tower was the news the Wakefields received whilst we were at this pleasant six - they had become grandparents for the fourth time, to their third granddaughter (poor boy!). Congratulations Bruce and Gill!

It was very appropriate that the pub - the Hare and Hounds in High Garrett - followed on from this good bit of news, putting everyone - already enjoying themselves - in a very jovial mood. The pub had been sought out by Kate on a valuable reconnaissance mission on Tuesday night (hard work but someone's got to do it!). It was a good choice and everyone seemed to enjoy their food, including the li'l chap.

Afternoons of ringing outings can seem quite hard work with a good meal and some beer down you, so we were all grateful I think for the three ground-floor rings we went to in the afternoon! Wethersfield (with the wooden column in the middle of the belfry) and picturesque Finchingfield were both familiar from the Pettistree outing almost exactly a year ago today, but Great Yeldham was a new tower for many. Whilst the toy corner (another one!) was the highlight for Mason and Ruthie, I enjoyed a bit of messing around Minor, rung very well as always, though Alan needed reminding what the treble does in Norwich SURPRISE Minor!

It was a tiring day as ringing outings often are, but was extremely enjoyable. Thank you and well done to Kate on organising such a great day out and to all the towers for letting us ring on their bells. To those who didn't come but could've come, please do consider coming along on these outings. Kate went to a lot of time and effort to organise this and it was a shame not more people made it worth her while.

Mason was flat out by the time we returned to Sun Lane and to be honest we weren't too far behind him...

Friday, 17th July, 2009

We had had half an eye on popping along to Hollesley this evening with some birthday cake, but when Mason fell asleep before he'd even had his tea we realised that we wouldn't be very popular if we did go!

Instead we stayed in and watched the first night of The Proms, a favourite of ours.

Thursday, 16th July, 2009

Ruthie doesn't get out of bed early very easily, but apart from Christmas Day, the 16th of July is the only day she is up and about earliest. For today is Ruthie's birthday and she was keen to get up and open her presents and cards. Happy Birthday Ruthie!

After work and having picked Mason up and gulped some pizza down en route, we headed to nearby Melton to visit the birthday girl's Nan where we enjoyed a pleasant hour or so before we were on the move again.

As many will have no doubt seen on the What's Ons, Campsea Ashe is holding an open Art Exhibition and Activities Evening tomorrow evening. This evening was an invite only jobbie apparently, a precursor to tomorrow's event and Glenys had asked me to arrange a band for a quarter on the Guild Mini-Ring. When we arrived the mournful sound of the four at St John the Baptist were ringing out, but Mason, Ruthie and I headed straight round the back of The Old Rectory next door where The Vesty Ring was set up on the patio.

Once the ringing at the church had finished and the band was gathered, Glenys introduced us and what we were doing to a sizable audience and we set about scoring a 1320 of Cambridge Minor in 35 minutes, the first quarter on the bells since the Suffolk Guild acquired them and Kate and Jonathan's first on a mini-ring at all, so congratulations!

A huge round of applause by the massive crowd that had gathered since we'd started at least indicated it was well appreciated and we opened the bells up to non-ringers, Mason - who had been making use of the large garden with his Nan during the quarter - and other ringers present like Hazel and Mum. A good night indeed.

Wednesday, 15th July, 2009

At Gill Waterson's request we rang a quarter of Francis Genius Delight Minor at Pettistree this evening. The name refers to Samuel Francis, though apart from the fact he was from Brandeston I know nothing more about him and as far as I know there was no significance to us ringing the method today. Still, it was a decent quarter and we were able to put footnotes to the birthday girls Pippa and Ruthie for today and tomorrow respectively.

Practice itself started slowly before building up with visits from the Wakefields and Chris McArthur. Particularly good variable-treble spliced Doubles/Minor was rung on a good night.

A couple of pints at The Greyhound in anticipation of Ruthie's big day tomorrow and then it was back to hers for homemade chili. Yum!

Tuesday, 14th July, 2009

It's Ruthie's birthday in a couple of days, but with having Mason and manning the Guild Mini-Ring at Campsea Ashe on Thursday, it'll be a bit of a rush for us and difficult to do anything particularly special. So we moved it forward a couple of days and having looked through Gordon Ramsey's cookbook, I - with help from the nearly birthday girl - cooked up a salmon main and a banana split, hopefully a nice little treat for her!

We'd also been invited next door by Bob for a few drinks, so we duly obliged, having a few cans with him and his mate and work colleague John before making the long journey back next door for sleep!

Monday, 13th July, 2009

The last piece of this evening's St Mary‑le‑Tower practice was an absolutely smashing half-course of Yorkshire Max. It flowed, was well struck and any mistake was minor and instantly self-corrected. It really showed what us ringers can do in Suffolk.

Sadly it belied an otherwise pretty awful practice! Most things collapsed in a heap as people didn't concentrate and even worse didn't do as they were told when put right. Very annoying.

That said, it was a fantastic turnout as over twenty vied for space. Robert Beavis rang the treble very well to Grandsire Cinques in the second best piece of the evening and David Rogers, Anne and Pippa did well when they rang. It was also good to see Brian and Helen after yesterday.

Afterwards it was off to Mannings to sit out the back and for Ruthie to enjoy beer again!

Following on from a very important debate we had at last month's GMC, there is a letter circulating (Emailed to all members 26/7/2009 - the webmaster was on holiday.) from Philip outlining a proposal to be discussed by members in regards the status of vice-presidents. There seems little point in continuing to elect vice-presidents when in fact bestowing those who have done so much for our Guild with Life-Honorary Membership seems much more appropriate. Please do get involved, seek out the letter if it isn't brought to you and even better, get along to your local ADM to have you say and enjoy a good social day out!

Sunday, 12th July, 2009

We were very short at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning, in fact only nine and as such we were limited to Cambridge Major on the front eight and then a lengthy, miss-called touch of Grandsire Triples on the back eight! However, this was the least of my considerations this morning as it emerged that there will be no 9.30 services throughout August, leaving just the 10.30 service for next month. This could be tricky as their is no real point in us ringing for a non-existent service at 9.30. However, ringing for the 10.30 service could see us very short or leave others short. For example, Mum, Dad and Ralphy ring at Sproughton afterwards, myself and Don go to Grundisburgh. I certainly don't want to not ring at all though, that would be unacceptable and would lead to a dangerous precedent in my opinion. Though I'll bring it up tomorrow night at practice, any ideas or advice would be appreciated!

As if to highlight the potential problems of ringing for the 10.30 service, there were only five ringers (plus Mason) WITH Don and me at Grundisburgh after SMLT. Whilst we rang the front five to Stedman and middle five to spliced, Mason sat and pulled in time on the dummy bell. Come the back five he needed to move, not a popular move! However, good old Unky Stephen rang the second down and so he was able to join in our Grandsire!

I'd got Mason until tomorrow morning and so after lunch at mine with Aunty Ruthie, the two of us headed down to The Woodbridge Regatta. As with last night's Ceilidh, it was a lovely reminder of how lucky we are to live in this area as boats raced sedately up and down the river in this beautiful setting. There was of course more than just boats and having bumped into Ruthie's mates Beth, Moley, Mark, Vicky and Gavin, Mason experienced the fun of the fair as he drove the bus on the merry-go-round. His little face was a sight to behold, though the tantrum as Daddy dragged him away wasn't so much so!

Popping into a deserted Boots on the way home, we enjoyed the sunshine and awaited Ruthie's return as we weren't finished just yet. For once she did get to Sun Lane, we were straight off to St Mary‑le‑Tower for a quarter of Yorkshire Royal (having dropped Mason off at his grandparents), arranged by George and Di for two Australian friends that were visiting from Melbourne.

Although we met short as one of the band had forgotten about it (could you imagine the call from George!), Mr Pipe stood down and we rang a quarter of Yorkshire Major on the back eight, with the conducting duties eventually landing on me having gone round the band!

Picking li'l chap up on the way through, we plumped for a takeaway pizza before retiring sober again, with much to think about.

Saturday, 11th July, 2009

With various weddings coming up before the end of the year, Ruthie decided that dress-shopping was a necessity and so we found ourselves in Ipswich, breathing in and darting between the crowds with a buggy and a wide-eyed two-year old.

The highlight was being tapped on the shoulder and greeted by one of my old uni mates, Claire, who came from and now lives again in Bury St Edmunds. Having spent a while introducing and reminiscing, we finished off our trip, Ruthie getting her dress of choice and returning on the Park and Ride that we had come in on. Having said last week that the Underground was the only public transport system I have any respect for, the Park and Ride actually comes pretty close, though ultimately I like being able to jump in my car and shoot straight off too much to be a massive fan of it!

The evening was handed over to the annual Ceilidh, held at Foxburrow Farm and attended this year by Ruthie (still sober), Kate, myself and numerous other ringers including the McBurnies, Harpers and Anne. We missed it last year as it clashed with our Lundy trip, but went the year before and really enjoyed it. It's in a beautiful setting, an open farmyard, bordered by forest on one side and barns and open fields on the others and even though the weather had promised to be grim, it held off and yet again proved to be a fantastic evening's dancing. Despite it being a late 'un, Mason had a whale of a time making new mates with three-year old Sunny and four-year old Katie whilst dancing madly and making a fuss of his second cousin, seven-month old Lily!

Friday, 10th July, 2009

Despite most of Westerfield being shut off for road works (during rush-hour on a Friday, another brilliant bit of planning by the powers that be), I managed to drop Mason off at Mum and Dad's and get back to work on time, though it was a little more long-winded than I would've cared for on the early morning rat-run.

It had all been cleared by the return journey after work and I settled down to another sober night. No shakes yet!

Thursday, 9th July, 2009

Hurrah! Finished envelope stuffing, now we can all get on with our job! Another thrilling day culminated in picking Mason up after work and then running the practice at Grundisburgh as Stephen couldn't make it for some reason. Sadly we were very short, though it seemed to prove a useful practice for Anne and for George Salter, visiting with Deborah Thorley, having been to St Margaret's in Ipswich and finding there was no practice. Maybe an occasion when a little electronic communication would've been handy...

Got our Ramblers tour list off Mum who has again carried out sterling work to organise this two-week marathon. It's in Somerset this year, so once I'd returned to Sun Lane Ruthie and I inspected where we were going on what days and generally getting very excited about our forthcoming trip!

Wednesday, 8th July, 2009

Two running themes of the last couple of days have been stuffing envelopes at work and Ruthie feeling unwell and today was no different.

Having spent the day preparing questionnaire and marketing packs to be sent around the world all day, I headed off to The Wolery alone as Ruthie decided - sensibly - not to ring in our monthly peal attempt at the Salters. An unfortunate breakdown in communication meant that David and Katharine didn't realise until I arrived and so we set about a very enjoyable and brisk peal of Doubles. As I've said, it's impossible to ring bad peals at that speed, though this effort could've been better. Still an enjoyable evening though.

The reason David was unable to get my messages about Ruthie was he had been at the Veterans Afternoon at Debenham. Sadly, due to being on Lundy and - like this year - being unable to get the time off work, I haven't been to one of these as Guild Master, but I have been along to help in the past and always enjoyed them. Apparently today's was as usual an enjoyable day with good ringing and old friendships renewed as sixty-five (an appropriate number) attended, so well done again to Muriel on arranging an event that I know is so appreciated by so many.

Tuesday, 7th July, 2009

It was one of those envelope stuffing days at work so the three of us who have all been off for the last two weeks still don't feel back into the swing of things, though it's actually a very important aspect of our next campaign which will be the one where we will be on varied shifts.

With Ruthie unable to drink, I showed some solidarity as we watched - more out of curiosity than anything - the Michael Jackson memorial service in complete soberness and no doubt with billions of others.

There are two very important dates coming up next week in regards to the Guild Mini‑Ring. On Friday, 17th July it will be at Campsea Ashe and Glenys would really appreciate some help with it. Likewise David would like some help with it the following day at Brundish Fete. The Mini-Ring is of course going to be a vital PR tool, but we need ringers to go with it, so please help out. And as has been shown, anyone can pick it up and you can have great fun doing it!

Monday, 6th July, 2009

As it almost invariably is after such a long break, returning to work was difficult, but at least at John Catt I don't have far to go, thus avoiding the depressing first day back commute. I didn't make things easy for myself by forgetting my password which delayed my start, but other than that it went about as well one could expect.

Although we were missing a few regulars at St Mary‑le‑Tower this evening, we were helped immensely by the visit of James Smith. Even without him we would still have been able to ring Bristol Max, but his help and expertise are invaluable and it was noticeable that we rang reasonable Yorkshire Max and quite good Stedman Cinques before a miss-call!

After our trip to The Cricketers yesterday when most of the beer had run out, we decided to explore for a pub tonight and discovered that Mannings had reopened on Monday nights, so most of us went for a beer there with James. Ruthie sadly couldn't partake. Having been diagnosed with tonsillitis today, she was on doctors orders to abstain for a week. Good job they didn't tell her that before Saturday...

Sunday, 5th July, 2009

Stedman - particularly of the Cinques variety - can be a very delicate beast. One minute it can be going really well, fit to grace a 12-bell final as it was at St Paul's yesterday, the next a slight hesitation and the whole thing collapses in an undignified mess. This is primarily because there is no treble on a set path to cling onto, but it was still amazing to see how quickly a very reasonable peal attempt of said method at St Mary‑le‑Tower fell apart this afternoon. In fact it's safe to say that just seconds after the initial hesitation it was irretrievable.

It was a shame as it was to celebrate Emily Potts' recent birth, arranged by her father David, but it has to be said it was very hot (apparently the heatwave is over!) and was far from ideal peal-ringing weather. At least it also meant there was some ringing at SMLT today following the disappointing absence of ringing this morning.

I'd used the morning to visit Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick, down from Lincoln and stopping at Mum and Dad's. It was great to see them, a rare occurrence as they like us lead very busy lives and so organising a get-together is a struggle! I have to be honest though and say that I lost track of time a little so was unable to make Grundisburgh, so I hadn't done any ringing this weekend until I grabbed hold of the 5th for this afternoon's peal attempt.

After the loss we were met at The Cricketers by James Smith on a visit back to the UK and as always it was good to see him. We should hopefully be seeing a little more of him whilst he's here as I had to dash off after my pint.

Typically for a Sunday evening, there was no wind-down from the weekend as - once Ruthie returned from a successful quarter at Pettistree - we were then straight off to Orford for the next attempt of a quarter of Glasgow Major. We were very much improved and I have to admit to thinking we were going to get this one. Sadly however, it went the same way as the Stedman this afternoon. Within seconds however, a blip turned into termination and another inquest began.

A pint outside The King's Head in the evening coastal sun and a takeaway curry helped soften the blow however!

Saturday, 4th July, 2009

At just after 8 this morning - with Mason dropped off at Kara's - Ruthie and I were stood in early sunshine at Woodbridge railway station overlooking the tranquil River Deben. Less than two hours later we were stood outside St Paul's Cathedral, the scene for this year's National 12-Bell Final and surrounded by hundreds of excited tourists.

On the way we met up with Philip and Maggie who had caught the same train at Halesworth, sat for 15 minutes at Ipswich before realising the train had emptied and was due to go to Cambridge next and passed the impressive Olympic site including the centrepiece stadium.

Whilst our two companions from Suffolk were energetic and walked from Liverpool Street to the cathedral, we went the exciting way via the underground, the only form of public transport I have any respect for in this country. It may be cramped and was sweltering even for the short time we were on it today, but it is prompt, reliable and regular.

The main base for drinkers for the day was The Paternoster, in sight and sound of the famous landmark which had called us to the capital today and a regular haunt for College Youths meetings. We were there just after ten for bacon butties, John Camp (he of Ringing-Chat fame) already sat with a pint in front of him!

To save space, I've compiled a report on the day as it is almost impossible to give the essence of the day in just one blog entry, but safe to say it was a fantastic occasion - with a large Suffolk contingent - and one that I still dream of getting Ipswich involved with. I renewed - and Ruthie made - friendships with ringers from across the country and having stopped for the results where St Paul's took advantage of ringing on their own bells to win Ruthie and I headed back to Woodbridge, tired but full of happy memories.

We made it back, still in daylight, for a kebab, bumping into Kala's Nick and his mate Ollie before retiring early after a long, long but brilliant day!

Friday, 3rd July, 2009

So my two weeks are up! And what a great two weeks! It's been wonderful spending so much time in the sunshine with Ruthie and Mason and I finished it all off with a trip into Ipswich to see Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric. Ruthie didn't come along as she was feeling a bit poorly and Mason slept the whole time, his first word to them being 'bye' as we left, but it was still - as always - a nice afternoon in their company as we chatted about bellringing, Ipswich Town and Andy Murray as he began his - ultimately futile - attempt to reach his first Wimbledon final, eventually losing to Andy Roddick's in today's semi-final.

Whilst commiserations go to Britain's number one tennis player, congratulations have to go to Cathy Newman who rang her first quarter at Hollesley, just a year after learning!

Thursday, 2nd July, 2009

With my two weeks off coinciding with our best heat wave for years, it would have been criminal to not take advantage of the wonderful coastline that our county offers just minutes away and so today the three of us headed up to Dunwich.

We all enjoyed - Mason the most - a game of cat and mouse with the encroaching waves in brilliant sunshine, but with the price of lunch at the nearby cafe absolutely extortionate (obviously no credit crunch in this part of the world) we decided to drive up to Southwold which had been tantalisingly in view in the opposite direction to the less appealing Sizewell Power Station from the beautiful Dunwich beach.

The Sole Bay Inn has always been a favourite of mine and it didn't let us down today before we then wandered the cool church and had ice cream on the pier. Eventually home was calling and with the li'l chap the only one with any energy left we opted for a quiet night in, so no Grundisburgh today.

Wednesday, 1st July, 2009

With us handing Mason back early on Saturday morning this week, I took advantage of our time off and offered to pick the li'l chap up this afternoon rather than the usual Thursday afternoon.

With the hot weather and lots of going backwards and forwards to town via E B Button's for Ruthie to run errands for her mother, he and Aunty Ruthie were exhausted by the evening and so it fell to me to ring in this evenings quarter at Pettistree.

It was hot, humid and sticky and whilst I refuse to ever complain about hot weather (when you consider what we normally have to put up with!), it made getting this quarter of Carlisle Minor hard work, with concentration proving difficult. Still, it was good experience.

The practice itself was a little low on numbers, but full to the brim with quality with variable-treble messing about - at my request - still achieved, as well as Norwich and Ipswich for the visiting Glenys. Speaking of Glenys, she has the Guild mini-ring at Campsea Ashe on Friday, 17th July and like David at Brundish the following day really needs help manning the ring. Please let me know if you can help.

It was good also to see Susanne back in a belfry after her accident, though as her sling indicated, she was in no state to ring again just yet.

Tuesday, 30th June, 2009

I forgot to mention yesterday that there is no ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower on Sunday morning. There is a special service on at 10.30 but the choir are apparently short of practice and need to rehearse immediately prior to the service and therefore last night requested we didn't ring the bells. Disappointing, but a morning off nonetheless.

Ruthie and I set about sorting my backyard out this afternoon, after a passing visit from Susanne - whose arm looks pretty bad but is apparently improving - and Ruthie's Uncle Wob, before we spent a stifling evening in, all the windows and doors wide open!

Monday, 29th June, 2009

Apart from walking Susanne's bike back to hers (I tried riding it but it was far too high for a shorty like me!) we had a lazy day. Though I usually like to be doing something, it was no bad thing as temperatures soared.

St Mary‑le‑Tower practice was a mixed bag tonight. Stedman Cinques was frankly appalling, but the Yorkshire Max was alright and the two leads of Bristol Max were well enough rung at the second attempt to suggest we could try more of it next week, providing everyone turns up.

Robert Beavis also got the chance to ring the treble to Grandsire Cinques, though he wasn't helped by lots of people going wrong around him and I felt quite bad that I couldn't give him more of a go as time got the better of us.

Whilst looking forward to Saturday, it's going to be expensive, so we continued our money saving by heading straight home where we caught the end of Andy Murray winning his marathon five-setter in first men's match under the roof and the latest finish ever at Wimbledon.

Sunday, 28th June, 2009

With my brother Chris down for the weekend to attend yesterdays fantastic social, we were able to - as usual - not only man all twelve at St Mary‑le‑Tower, but ring some pretty decent stuff, with reasonable Stedman Cinques and some good Yorkshire Royal.

Someone made the mistake of opening the door to the church at Grundisburgh this morning (on a Sunday of all days!?) and Mason was in like a shot, acutely aware of the location of the toys at the back! He seemed happy enough and when one of the churchgoers offered to keep an eye on him we ascended the stairs where we rang some bits and pieces on six and seven for young Luke from Bredfield. Eventually I could hear the li'l chaps tones at the bottom of the stairs, keen now to join us!

Next up on a busy day was Blaxhall, where we'd had a request for the bells to be rung following service for their fete. Hazel - having had a ring on these very tricky anti-clockwise six - volunteered to look after Mason downstairs and outside whilst I participated in some Cambridge Minor. There wasn't too much time to enjoy the tents and everything else going on outside, though we did stop for li'l chap to have some cake!

Lunch had with Ruthie in Elmhurst Park - a delightful habit in this brilliant weather - and Mason returned to his mother's, my next next port of call was Badingham for a peal of several Doubles for Sally Mason. She did brilliantly, especially when an irate couple who lived next door (surprise, surprise) came in to complain at this ground-floor ring. Jonathan did well too in standing his ground calmly and politely as they demanded we stopped and after a couple of minutes they disappeared, perhaps to enjoy the many countless opportunities available to them on a sunny Sunday afternoon in a beautiful wide open part of the county.

The day was not done quite yet though, as I met up with Ruthie, who like many others in the band for this evenings quarter-peal attempt at Hollesley had just lost a quarter at Ufford on what was a busy day for others too. Sadly - though not surprisingly - our first attempt at a quarter of Glasgow Major came to grief, but only after three very good efforts and a lot of excellent practice.

Finally we wrapped things all up at The Swan in Alderton where some had curry as some - like us - sat and enjoyed beer at this lovely establishment.

Saturday, 27th June, 2009

Today, it was Ruthie's turn to ring a quarter as I looked after Mason. The destination was Pettistree, the worthy occasion was the village's Open Gardens Weekend.

With Peter and Susan Schurr on hand, the church - which was also participating in the event - always had someone in there as the quarter was completed successfully and the li'l chap and I wandered the churchyard and building on another beautiful day.

The late afternoon and evening was set aside for an event that I have been banging on about for ages and quite frankly really looking forward to, the Guild Social.

Although we didn't get over in time for the ringing at All Saints, Sudbury and couldn't find the church in Elmsett, I understand the ringing went well at both, despite a broken rope at the eight!

I was running ringing at Hadleigh and it was not only a delight to see so many faces familiar and new but also to see all bar one of them at the social afterwards. And what a social! As you will see from Mandy's great report and the pictures, much fun was had on the mini-ring, especially by Mason who not only rang his first rounds (how many do that whilst munching a bread roll?!) but also his first blows of Cambridge Minor! Not sure if I was helping him or he was helping me...

Jason Busby's better half Sarah ended up bonging behind to Doubles by the end of the night, despite not being a ringer and Maggie, Ruthie and I - eventually! - managed a course of Plain Hunt on 6 double-handed! Ultimately, there was a marked improvement in the standard of ringing as the evening went on as people got to grips with and had a good time with it.

The barbecue was fantastic, the strawberries and cream delicious and on a very hot day, the drinks - both soft and hard - were very much appreciated. On such a glorious summer's evening, the setting of the garden at the back of the Guildhall - St Mary's tower and spire overlooking it - was perfect and in the end fifty odd tickets were sold. Of course that wasn't anywhere near as many as had been hoped, but a lot more than we thought there would be until recently! Those of you who couldn't or wouldn't come along, you really did miss out on a special evening. Thank you so much to Richard, Christine and Rolie and of course the Hadleigh ringers for organising and hosting such a brilliant event. Now all we need is for people to look out for an announcement on next years social and for them to keep the day free!

Friday, 26th June, 2009

Whilst the media and millions of fans were whipping themselves into hysteria and near suicide over a man they'd never met, Mason, Ruthie and I attended an altogether more dignified celebration. John 'Jack' Banks' funeral was appropriately referred to as a thanksgiving for the near 102-year and apparently very contented life of this former ringer at the Norman Tower and St Mary's in Bury St Edmunds. It was held at the home of this glorious eight a long time hung dead, with the bells chiming out in rounds and call changes as we left, offering Ruthie and I our first ever opportunity to hear them - and yes, they are wonderful! Mason behaved impeccably in a service also attended by Maurice Rose, Dick Stannard and John and Shirley Girt, before the three of us did a little essential shopping.

Back in Woodbridge, it was a quick bit of tea and we were off to Orford, sadly for some more ringing to mark the passing of a life and at the other end of the spectrum from John Banks. Two weeks ago, 18-year old Tom Marshall from the village was tragically killed in an accident on his bike and his funeral was held earlier today. To mark it we rang a good quarter of Grandsire Triples as Ruthie and Mum looked after the li'l chap in the church.

It was noteworthy that despite the obvious sadness at the respective deaths of John Banks at 101, Michael Jackson at 50 and Tom Marshall at 18, there were today healthy signs of celebration and thanksgiving for their lives from those that loved them, the right way I think once the grieving has subsided.

A quiet evening in, with Mason already asleep in bed was briefly interrupted by my good Samaritan bit as I collected Susanne's bike from The Thoroughfare after she'd had a nasty accident on it, though it was far from a problem and it was actually quite nice to enjoy the evening air on a stifling night.

Thursday, 25th June, 2009

Another day of getting those jobs done that you can't normally do because of work, culminating in picking Mason up for the weekend and then - with the li'l chap in bed and a tired Ruthie volunteering to stop at home looking after him - onto Grundisburgh practice. Again we were low on numbers but high on quality and Stedman Caters was rung reasonably as was Cambridge and Yorkshire Royal spliced.

The visit of Tim Stanford also saw him gently ease his way back in after a prolonged absence from the end of a rope as he did a decent job on the treble and knocking behind to various things.

As the sun finally set, Ruthie and I were gripped by the shocking death of Michael Jackson. Although I quite like a lot of his early music, I can't say I was much of a fan of the guy in his later years, but it is one of those huge news stories that'll no doubt go into the 'where were you?' bracket alongside the deaths of President Kennedy and Princess Di and the September 11th attacks.

Wednesday, 24th June, 2009

More odd jobs done as we popped out to get dirt (exciting I know) and did some gardening before eventually ending up at a bright and busy Pettistree practice, where we were visited by Jasper, freshly tanned from a sunny, sunny biking trip to Scotland.

Still saving money, we decided not to go to the pub on this occasion - I know, what's the world coming to!?

Tuesday, 23rd June, 2009

Amanda Richmond's brilliant achievement of climbing to the summit of the highest mountain on Earth - Mount Everest of course - recently, has deservedly got into the East Anglian Daily Times and onto their website. It reveals an even greater aspect to an already amazing feat - that she is the oldest British female ever to achieve this! Though those of us who know Amanda find it hard to believe she is the oldest to do anything, this deserves additional congratulations.

It puts my lazy two weeks off firmly into perspective, as this afternoon we enjoyed a pint outside The Anchor on a beautiful, sunny, gorgeous day before then hiding away in the Riverside Cinema to watch Angels and Demons. I've never been in the Riverside before and I loved it's quaint and laid back atmosphere compared to the sterile and fortress like nature of the modern cinemas in places like Ipswich.

The film itself was great, well worth watching if you can put up with a bit of blood and guts every now and then and with a great twist that caught me out!

For one reason and another, Ruthie and I spent our evening in at hers, though it was as enjoyable and pleasant as it normally is!

As an extra note, David Mulrenan would still really like some volunteers to help him ring the mini-ring at the Brundish fete on Saturday, 18th July. This will be a great PR and recruitment opportunity for the Guild, so it would be fantastic for ringers to pull together on this one if they could.

Monday, 22nd June, 2009

Sad to see news of the death of Jack Banks at the age of 101, a former ringer at the Norman Tower. Although I didn't know him well, me and five others took great pleasure in ringing a peal for his 100th birthday at Horringer back in November 2007, a peal that Jack himself came and listened to the end of and joined us for photographs afterwards.

On an altogether happier note, did anyone see the article in Saturday's East Anglian Daily Times in regards the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Michael and Heather Earey at Sproughton? In a superb article (though Ralphy is keen to point out that they've aged him!) it highlights the continuation of bellringing through Ralphy and Dawn and then onto their children too. Combined with memories of Jack Banks' smiling face as we completed his birthday peal, it is a nice reminder of how much joy bellringing can give for so long and over so many generations.

This theme continued at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice this evening as the sun set long after we finished. Although a few short and therefore unable to ring Bristol Max, we were able to ring some very good Yorkshire Max and Stedman Cinques, showing what people can do - not just at SMLT but anywhere - if they just concentrate and really listen to their striking. It was also an extremely useful night for Robert Beavis, culminating in ringing the tricky treble extremely well to Grandsire Cinques.

Having fixed the brake pads on Emily, Ruthie's car, her owner was keen to drive tonight and so I was able to contemplate a satisfactory evening on the way home.

Sunday, 21st June, 2009

A morning at St Mary‑le‑Tower memorable for the first appearance of Emily Potts, just eight days into her life and of course oblivious to all the cooing, funny faces and - in Mason's case - pure fascination.

The return of Mum and Dad from their holiday in Iceland as well as the presence of Emily's father and grandfather meant we had a good turnout this morning, culminating in a reasonable touch of Stedman Cinques, although once more a lack of concentration threatened to undo all the good work!

Even Grundisburgh was relatively well attended, with Cambridge Major and Grandsire and Stedman of the Triples variety rung.

Being Father's Day, I had gladly agreed to have Mason until this evening. Unfortunately at the moment I had committed to this I'd forgotten that it was of course the afternoon of the GMC in Stowupland and so I was grateful to my own father and of course Mum for looking after the li'l chap as I attended to Guild business.

Again, I can't say it was exciting and it certainly crossed my mind on a few occasions during the meeting that I could be spending Father's Day with my son, but it was a valuable meeting and of course we haven't got to do it now until October!

Despite a low turnout - just twelve - and Mary's absence (thanks to Christine Knight for minuting the meeting), much was discussed with the very useful proposal to ensure a better quality of bells for the Guild Striking Competitions by giving the towers a free check-up before the day, essential information on child protection and the creation of a Child Protection Officer and lots of particulars about the mini-ring and how much should be charged/donated, etc as well as the creation of a Mini-Ring Trustee, to be Brian Whiting.

Eventually I got away, just in time to pick Mason up and get him back to Kara's for bedtime before Ruthie and I wandered up to a familiar haunt in the shape of the Saffron curry house to meet up with Pete and Susanne for - predictably - curry and lots of wine before Pete, Ruthie and I retired to The Mariners for a couple of beers.

Saturday, 20th June, 2009

Today we should've been travelling down to Rickmansworth for the Ridgman Trophy. Sadly of course we couldn't put a team forward, but it did allow us the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic hospitality of Kate's parents as we celebrated the birthday of Ruthie's Gran.

Mason, Freddie and Poppy all largely got on, generally more interested in toys and food than each other, whilst the rest of the large gathering enjoyed each others company and of course the brilliant feast put before us.

The plan had then been for Ruthie, Mason and myself to pop out for an early evening drink with Ruthie's - and mine by association after all this time - mate Fergie. However, cometh the hour, cometh the rain and with Fergie planning on meeting us at Sun Lane anyway and of course a large amount of wine in the house, we decided to have an equally enjoyable evening in.

Friday, 19th June, 2009

When Jonathan the boss came over to the sales team yesterday afternoon with the promise of two bottles of wine for each sale between then and 4pm this afternoon, we couldn't believe our luck. Having secured two sales I felt satisfied with my four bottles of wine, but when Jonathan then came round with an extra bottle wine for each person at the company I felt even more chuffed. Upon leaving the building, one of my colleagues slotted his bottle of wine into my box, muttering something about not liking wine. Six bottles of wine on my last day before two weeks off - scorchio!

With Mason put to bed we spent the evening making a start on the bottles and contemplating what to do with the next fortnight.

Thursday, 18th June, 2009

With Mum and Dad away tomorrow and therefore unable to look after Mason tomorrow I didn't have Mason tonight and so Ruthie and I considered popping out to a practice somewhere. It's been a while since I have had the opportunity for one reason and another, but with the 12-Bell Final and our holiday with the Rambling Ringers down in Somerset both expensive times and approaching in the next month or so we felt it best to put a little money aside for these and save on the diesel. Hopefully with the autumn and winter months being when we get the most commission at work I'll get the chance to show my ugly mug at a few different places.

Wednesday, 17th June, 2009

A day that lots of bored football fans look forward to immensely - fixtures day! Where many plan away trips to places like Blackpool and Plymouth and others dream that we'll be celebrating promotion against Sheffield United on 2nd May... Of course there's no Naaaaridge and scanning the list of tin-pot grounds and hoofball teams they'll have to go to next season is an added bonus of this years fixtures day - particularly their games against Gillingham (promoted from League Two) that are scheduled for the same day as we play Newcastle, relegated from the Premier League!

On the back of these exciting developments, Ruthie and I headed into Ipswich for a peal of Bamborough Surprise Minor at The Wolery. It was a relaxed but nonetheless concentrated evening, before we enjoyed tea and cake - very popular with young Henry!

Tuesday, 16th June, 2009

Congratulations to Bardwell on winning Saturday's North-West District Striking Competition at Barrow, the final striking competition in the Guild this year and like all the others hugely popular with eight entries. Well done to all concerned, not just on Saturday but throughout the summer of competitions - hopefully people are now getting the idea that these are good fun, not something to be dreaded or feared.

Our Tuesday night in was typically ordinary, except I now have a new land-line number and we watched the culmination of the Great British Menu, the actual meal we'd watched them work up to for months. The life of a Guild Ringing Master is as rock 'n' roll as they make out...

Monday, 15th June, 2009

As we travelled into Ipswich for this evenings St Mary‑le‑Tower practice, the heavens opened, the sky was lit brightly with electricity and the atmosphere rumbled with crashing thunder. It was perhaps good timing as if the storm that continued all evening had started earlier, we may not have got the healthy attendance we did get. Even with some missing, we still had twenty and rang Stedman Cinques, Bristol and Yorkshire Max as well as Plain Hunt on 11 and Grandsire Cinques. Sadly, concentration and striking once more let us down, something that can be remedied and hopefully will. It was good to see David and Melvyn Potts following their happy weekend, Mandy and Craig again as well as Tom Britten, fresh from his appearance as the Belgian Luc Thoux last night!

Sunday, 14th June, 2009

With Mum and Dad, Owen and of course David away this morning, we were a little short at St Mary‑le‑Tower for ringing today, though it was good to see a battered Brian Redgers after his big fall on holiday recently. Still, with Mason behaving out of his pushchair and another welcome visit from Nigel Newton, we were able to manage three leads of Bristol Major and Call-Changes on 10, all a lot better than we could muster at Grundisburgh where with Stephen away we met only five plus Mason. Not that this stopped the little chap joining in on the dummy bell and actually showing some top handling skills - his performance on the mini-ring could be worth the £10 price for going to Guild Social in itself!

With the chirpy boy dropped off and lunch in a sunny Elmhurst Park with Ruthie enjoyed, my next task was to fill in for the second Sunday Aldeburgh peal. It's been a while since I've been in one of these and with usuals Mary, Kate, Alan and Roger all unable to ring this month, the band had an unfamiliar look about it in the context of the settled and consistent band that normally rings these peals. It was still of the high quality you come to expect of these though, despite a choir (we had been pre-warned) rehearsing during our performance! We were also greeted by Mandy and Craig who were with the choir, which was handy as it allowed me an early escape as I needed to be back in Woodbridge as soon as possible.

Ultimately my - and Ruthie and Kate's - destination was Phil and Maggie's in Halesworth for a murder-mystery party to celebrate Maggie's recent birthday and I needn't have worried too much about rushing as a substantial number of the party (including the hosts!) had been delayed by a well-earned drink following a very impressive Pitman's peal at Ufford, part of a nationwide Cumberland initiative that seems (judging by Campanophile) to have been very successful. Well done to the band (particularly Brian!) on achieving a difficult task.

The party was superb, with great food and a huge amount of laughter, perhaps too much in the aftermath of the murder of Hereward Gudgeon in the belfry. Both myself (Fabian Whittington) and Ruthie (Erin - can you see a theme developing here?) were both cleared as the murderer was eventually revealed to be ........(couldn't possibly say!). All great fun, but my head will be sore in the morning!

Saturday, 13th June, 2009

Pettistree outing day today, so therefore an early start to meet the coach in Wickham Market.

Mason loved the views and the general novelty of the coach trip up to West Norfolk, home of lower league football and normally territory that would require passports for us lot from Suffolk.

First up was Mundford, a nice 6cwt 6, cast entirely by Taylors in 1945 and rehung by our mate Millsy six years ago. The small belfry up a short ladder wasn't ideal for two-year olds, so Ruthie and I worked in shifts playing with the li'l chap in the church whilst Kate ran the ringing and others marvelled at the double-sided organ and some went to ogle the men doing judo at the hall only to discover it was a class full of kids.

As is normally the case on these occasions, we were soon hurried onto the coach and whisked away to Gaywood, or the Pink Forest as it had been dubbed and for some reason Mike thought it appropriate for Alan to run the ringing. Once we'd managed to find our way in (for a short while it looked suspiciously like a lock-out) and then retrieved someone to untie the treble clapper (there's comments about striking I could make here but I shall resist!) we actually rather enjoyed this 12cwt 6, whilst Mason occupied himself with a toy boot and the stairs.

Next up was St Margaret's in Kings Lynn, a grand cathedral-like church, where the bells have become infamous for the disastrous rehang a few years ago which actually saw them practically unringable within months. There were many issues that arose from that and the blame apportioned in various directions, but thankfully that all seems behind them and this 29cwt 10 were a joy to ring and - for a 6-bell band - we didn't do too badly, peaking at Grandsire Caters and Yorkshire Major, even if Mason didn't appreciate it!

Often lunch is the best bit of a ringing outing, a chance to sit down over a pint and discuss where you've been that morning and what you thought of the bells and often reminisce on past outings. For Mike, Pippa, Mason, Ruthie and me it didn't quite work out like that today!

Having got our drinks at The Crown and Mitre and got the li'l chap changed, we discovered that this pleasant pub right next to the river didn't in fact do food. Drinks downed and toddler swept up, we wandered the streets of Kings Lynn trying to find a pub that allowed kids in. Conscious of the impending meet-up time back at the coach, we had to settle on fast(ish) food at Wimpy. Mason loved it but the lack of beer was annoying! After all the rush, we were all left waiting on the coach for the Alan McBurnie-led group, with Alan being a little too graphic for Mary's liking about his exact location when she called to find out how far away he was!

Eventually we got to Dersingham where Ruthie expertly ran the ringing at another nice 6 and then East Rudham (again a 6) where we were very generously served tea and cake by the the vicar's wife, the Tower Captain, and where Mason joined in the ringing from downstairs on one of the toll ropes!

By this point a tired band of ringers met up with the North-East District's outing at East Raynham, scene of one of the most highly-praised bellringing TV features ever. This 8 were great and having met Phil and Maggie there, we rang a good three leads of Belfast Major once the Guild Ringing Master had remembered to ring the whole line and not just parts of it!

Leaving the North-East having their picnic, many - from 2 to 70 - slept through the long coach journey back to Wickham Market where some rolled out of the coach and into The Bengal. We needed to get a very tired young man - and indeed ourselves - to bed after a long but very enjoyable day. Thank you Mary and well done on organising such a successful day.

I'm wary that today's entry is long, but before I sign off, there's two notes of congratulation that can't be passed without comment.

Firstly, well done to Adrian Lee on becoming the umpteenth (I literally have lost count!) member to ring their first peal this year as the first peal since re-hanging was rung at Stradishall today. Congratulations Adrian on an impressive achievement and to all concerned at this five.

But congratulations go to David and Claire Potts on the birth this afternoon (4.07 to be precise) of their second daughter, Emily Grace, with word coming through to us as we rang at East Rudham. More sleepless nights for the Potts household!

Friday, 12th June, 2009

No ringing this evening, but still a good night.

In celebration of the birthdays of Nick (Kala's other half) and their good friend (and sort of mine by association!) Ash, we were at Little Glemham at the home of the latter for a barbecue. With a nice warm and light evening as we approach the longest day and a large garden to run around in, Mason enjoyed himself well past his bedtime, as did we. As usual it was good to catch up with Toby, Kala and Nick as well as some of the other reprobates that often frequent the pubs of Woodbridge. A good night.

Thursday, 11th June, 2009

With Mason picked up, fed and put to bed, I headed out to Grundisburgh practice which I ended up running. Though Stephen met me, Liz wasn't very well so he did his dutiful husband bit and left to see to her.

In - though not necessarily because of! - his absence we had a good practice that though low in numbers was high in quality as we had nine Surprise Major ringers, including the birthday boy - Happy Birthday Dad!

Superlative, Rutland and Spliced-Surprise Major were rung along with some Double Norwich Major before I returned to Sun Lane where Ruthie had been keeping the li'l chap company.

Wednesday, 10th June, 2009

We rung a good quarter of Peter's Tree Surprise Minor at Pettistree as we look to have another crack at the peal lost back in December. It seems to have sunk in somewhere in the consciousness, as although there were a few trips (understandable with all the 65's and handstroke roll-ups) there was never any danger of losing it and in the main there was some very good ringing from it.

The practice tonight saw a brief return from Rob and Daphne in between holidays and with their friend, but also saw Glenys Fear appear and ring some Ipswich and there was of course the obligatory but enjoyable variable-treble Doubles/Minor spliced which was rung with just one mistake!

As per usual it was over to The Greyhound where Paul and Margy were disappointed about the collapse of the pub sale and all the plans they've had to put on hold. From a selfish point of view it's great for us that they're staying on as landlords as they're such a good laugh, but it's a shame for them.

I was driving tonight for the first time since the infamous 'Carol Singing' night, but sadly there was no such performance tonight!

Tuesday, 9th June, 2009

Another frustrating ringing day and I didn't even touch a rope! Sadly I had to finally withdraw our entry to the Ridgman Trophy on the 20th. Just too many people are otherwise occupied, including those who told me to contact them closer to the date when I had initially begun arranging in February. It is now my plan to start planning immediately for the 2010 competition in the hope that we can get a squad that is well prepared for where-ever and whenever the next contest is. It's been a depressing couple of days in the life of a Ringing Master that makes one wonder why he bothers when perhaps nobody really seems to want to take advantage of all the fabulous extras that ringing offers you, whether it be a Guild Social or a chance to represent (and realistically win a competition for) the Guild. It's certainly no one persons fault and the reasons offered up are very understandable, especially those expecting child any day soon (!) but apathy seems to have taken hold a little. It's a dreadful shame as so many members are missing out on so much, not just on opportunities to enjoy themselves but also to improve themselves and offer those around them that same chance. Just food for thought.

Our Tuesday night in was a family affair tonight as calls off McClare - Ruthie's Scottish sister - and Unky Chris followed on from one another after a failed attempt to fix my car aerial which seems wholly beggared.

Monday, 8th June, 2009

A disappointing day from a ringing perspective.

I had a call from Richard Knight who is concerned that the Guild Social on Saturday, 27th June is in danger of not even breaking even at the moment. This seems a ridiculous situation for an event like this to be in.

Many from the South-West have put in a huge effort to set up a great afternoon and evening for Guild members. There's no meetings, no competitions, no judges, no aliens or monsters that are going to bite your head of for a missed dodge. There's no requirement for a certain standard of ringer (or even to be a ringer!) and no pressure to do anything other than to be there and enjoy yourself. It's just a good old fashioned fun and relaxed evening. The Guild Mini-ring was very much enjoyed by people of all abilities at Campsea Ashe on Saturday and will be at Hadleigh for this too. It doesn't matter if things go wrong on the mini-ring, no doubt all from Mason to Rolie will have a go and if it sounds rubbish we have a laugh and try again! Barbeques are always a great social occasion, rain or shine and the open ringing will be relaxed and enjoyable. If you want to try something than by all means do, if not, just come along for a ring. But please, please, please, please, PLEASE buy a ticket!

Practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower was a bit hard-work this evening, although I had one of those moments where I realised that this was actually a sign of how relatively far we've come. My main disappointment was the loss of David Potts part way through the practice with a muscle injury which meant we were short for Bristol Max. When I first started running SMLT, my aim would be to have all twelve ringing. Then it was changes on twelve. Then Surprise Max. Now I am disappointed if we don't ring Bristol Max, so I guess we've actually done quite well over that time. The striking was a bit off and Stedman Cinques crashed to a halt, purely down to a lack of concentration, but we were missing a couple of ringers this evening.

On the plus side, Ruthie had got through her recital at Colchester which was marked, with her grandparents, Alan and Kate cheering her on. She'd been very nervous about this afternoon so to get through it and be pleased with it was a huge relief to her. So much so that she insisted on treating me to a pint in The Cricketers after practice!

Sunday, 7th June, 2009

Into the second week of the earlier Sunday morning ringing times at St Mary‑le‑Tower and again we had a good turnout and we rang - at the second attempt - a very good touch of Stedman Cinques, despite a silent-and-non-conducted finish!

There were slightly better numbers than normal at Grundisburgh, but still only had eight. The ringers had been invited by Clare the vicar there to a service afterwards to thank all those who contribute to the church's daily and weekly life. A mix-up with the invites meant there weren't many takers, but Anne and I decided to represent the ringing fraternity of Grundisburgh at the very enjoyable, lively and relaxed service.

I had left Mason with Mum and Dad at SMLT as Kara had asked during the week if I could have him as she was helping her friend move. I was a bit stuck though as I had already committed myself to a peal of Gold Surprise Major at Grundisburgh this afternoon, not an easy peal to replace myself in, especially with a lot of other ringing going on this afternoon. Nor did I want to pull out of the peal - although of course the time with Mason would've been great - as it was to mark the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Although the landings were of course a success, those who carried them out offered an incredible sacrifice and I believe it's only right and proper that we show our appreciation.

The method was also very appropriate for me, as Gold Beach is where my Grandad (on Mum's side) landed in the days following D-Day.

A good peal was rung, but it wasn't the end of ringing today for me. Meeting up with Ruthie back at hers, there was a quick turn-around and then we were off to Orford for another attempt of Belfast Major.

Having allowed one of Philip and Maggie's learners from Wingfield - Sam - a quick grab, we set about scoring a reasonable quarter, again at the second attempt as with last time out.

We all followed onto to The Swan at Alderton, where they have introduced an Indian restaurant, a novel idea in a place this isolated, but one which seems to be working judging by the numbers in there this evening. It was good food and I took advantage of Ruthie driving to have a couple or three beers too - thank you Ruthie!

Commiserations to the hand-bell superstars however. Their attempt to ring 147 extents of Treble-Dodging Minor - that's 105,840 changes! - had to be called round at 63,360 changes after an initial false start of 8,000-odd changes! Still a phenomenal effort and no doubt not the last we'll hear of their exploits!

Saturday, 6th June, 2009

A short but energetic afternoon saw us darting around East Suffolk as we attempted to be in two places at once!

Being the first Saturday, it was of course the South-East District practice, which today was at Hasketon and then Burgh.

However, it was also the Campsea Ashe Ringing Festival and having committed a Master's/SMLT team to the competition, I was informed earlier in the week that our slot was at 3.30. We left Mason in Mum and Dad's care at Hasketon and dashed over to the fun and frivolity.

With Mary on the treble, Ruthie on the 2nd, Kate on the 3rd and myself on the tenor, our instructions were to ring no more than a minute's rounds, no more than a minute's call-changes and then no more than three minutes of general ringing. We managed to stick within this, ringing three plain courses of Bob Minimus for our general ringing. It wasn't enough in the end though, with Jonathan Stevens' Sweffling band coming out on top in the view of the judges who were marking entirely on their enjoyment of the ringing, with some of them being non-ringers. Well done to Jonathan and his team and what a fantastic bit of fun!

The competition wasn't the only element of the day though, as just down the road at Tim and Sheila's, the new Guild Mini-Ring Mark 1 was getting it's first outing under it's recently acquired status.

Lot's of people were having a go with a much interest being generated by those present. It's a hard thing to pick up at first and although the basics are exactly the same as normal tower-bell ringing, it is different of course. However, people were picking it up - even Trevor who had approached with much caution! - and eventually we felt confident enough to go for a quarter. This was scuppered by me missing a bob though as I became distracted listening to what I thought was some double-clappering! All in my head I think!

In many respects it's probably good that we didn't get it, as even after losing the quarter we still only just got to Burgh to see the ringing down!

Having collected Mason it was back home for a quiet night in after a hectic afternoon.

There are a number of congratulations need to be given after today too, especially to the new Mr and Mrs Spiller and Hannah Kidger who has now become Mrs Khan on their marriages today, but also to Phil Willis who became a grandfather whilst ringing at Campsea Ashe (amazing what can happen in such a small belfry).

On a ringing front, well done to Pippa Moss on her first quarter of Stedman Triples at Woodbridge and to Philip Moyse who rang his first of London Minor at Parham and first of Lincolnshire Major at Ixworth - phew, I'm exhausted!

Friday, 5th June, 2009

It's not often that all three of us go to Hollesley practice these days what with Mason's early bedtimes, but we made an exception this week for a celebration of Alan McBurnie's recent significant birthday.

Kate and Ruthie had been to the belfry earlier to hook a balloon to each rope, but this almost threatened to spoil the party as a balloon-related incident led to the stay on the 2nd being broken!

Happily it actually increased the jovial atmosphere, with everyone able to see the funny side and after a bit of patching up the practice continued with Mason setting up an early Nativity scene downstairs. We were able to contribute to a course of Cambridge Major before heading back to Sun Lane to get the li'l chap to bed.

Thursday, 4th June, 2009

No Grundisburgh tonight as our mate Kala came round to see us. In one of those spooky coincidences, she revealed that she'd looked to buy my place years ago, presumably before the current landlord bought it and did it up!

We had a great evening of wine and chatting about what people are up to, her and Nick's forthcoming wedding - a good night.

Wednesday, 3rd June, 2009

We went for Oxford Treble Bob Minor with a band capable of a lot more for the quarter at Pettistree this evening and the results were predictably good, though such are the standards there we weren't entirely satisfied. Still, it showed what pushing the boundaries does for ringing further down the line. All the quarters of Surprise Minor and the variable-treble splicing that we again tried with success at practice tonight have raised the abilities of Pettistree's ringers to ring stuff like Oxford at a higher standard.

Refreshment at The Greyhound (as I took advantage of Ruthie driving) was followed by homemade curry back at Edwin Avenue to cap a satisfying evening.

News may have spread that we now have the Guild mini-ring, with it's first outing being at the Campsea Ashe ringing festival this Saturday, closely followed by it's appearance at the Guild Social on Saturday, 27th June in Hadleigh - make sure you get your tickets. Now David Mulrenan would like to book it for the Brundish Makemerry 2009 on Saturday, 18th July in the gardens of The Brundish Crown. However, he'll need some help manning it on the day, so could people either let him or me know if they can help. This is the kind of thing we envisaged the mini-ring being used for - a very high-profile PR exercise and an opportunity for recruitment in a village where the two bells of St Lawrence aren't much of an appeal! What is more, it should be a fantastic chance to enjoy - in David's well-put words - a good 'old fashioned country fare in a pub garden.' What could be better?!

Tuesday, 2nd June, 2009

Good to see the Bardwell project really get a head of steam up and things seemingly going very well. Hopefully it shall continue in this vein as the interest it has generated - particularly in the local area - with MP's visiting and the school getting involved has been fantastic.

Tonight was the traditional Tuesday night lazeabout, so for once, very little to report!

Monday, 1st June, 2009

A great turnout (at St Mary‑le‑Tower) and a good practice which was particularly satisfying after the week off last Monday. Once again we benefited from the visits of Mandy Shedden and Craig Gradidge as well as David Rogers and even a brief return from Jim Hollins!

Although some of the striking needs tidying up, it was a good return of form with the two single leads of Bristol Max going extremely well, so much so that we are probably ready to expand on this.

Yorkshire also went well as did two lots of Stedman Cinques and some Plain Hunt on 11.

Kate, Ruthie and I then dashed off, with me at the wheel (brave girls!) as we had arranged to have a drink with a returning Aaron in The Mariners back in Woodbridge. Sadly he didn't show (how this boy gets on at sea I don't know!) but we still enjoyed ourselves.

Sunday, 31st May, 2009

A slightly momentous morning today, though primarily for the return of Amanda to St Mary‑le‑Tower following her incredible climb to the top of Mount Everest. We gave her a round of applause and many hugs were exchanged as we were as relieved to see her back in one piece as we were impressed at her huge achievement.

It was also the first Sunday ringing with the new earlier times at SMLT and actually it worked OK for this week as we got 12 arrive for the 8.45 start. By 9.30 - the new finishing time - we had rung Grandsire Cinques, Call-Changes on 12 and some well-struck Plain Hunt on 11 for Rosemary.

Although I'd forgotten initially, there was no ringing at Grundisburgh this morning as the 5th Sunday service was at bell-less Boulge, so I took the opportunity to take Mason down to the play-area in Elmhurst Park, an opportunity that both Mason and I enjoyed!

Once I'd dropped the li'l chap off, I was off to The Ship at Blaxhall, the scene of the Tunstall Ringers Dinner, which this year was also jointly a celebration of Susan Dalziel's 70th birthday. Of course Toby was there behind the bar, so much banter was exchanged and the food was excellent. It was good to catch up with some of those weren't at the practice I went to last month, such as Liz and Annette.

Having returned from there and greeted Ruthie on her return from work, I set about making tea. It was at this point that I received a call from Pete who was at St Mary's down the hill. They'd met short for a quarter of Grandsire Triples to celebrate the rector Kevan McCormack's installation as an honorary Canon. Sadly I couldn't help in the circumstances and despite some ringing around they had to ring a quarter on 7.

There must have been something in the water, as Kate and co and gone to Bury St Edmunds where the service was actually taking place and met short for a quarter of Yorkshire Royal, instead going for Yorkshire Major. On top of that, the early quarter at Pettistree also met one short, so the sunshine must be going to people's heads!

Thankfully they met with a full compliment at Rumburgh, where Granville Lindsay became the 10th member this year to ring their first peal! Well done Granville and well done Julie, one of the other nine who was ringing her second peal.

Saturday, 30th May, 2009

With no ringing events on - being a fifth Saturday - Mason, Kate, Ruthie and I settled down to watch the first half of this year's FA Cup Final on TV and in the process caught the fastest ever FA Cup Final goal, scored by Everton after 25 seconds, ironically against the team that had previously held the record, Chelsea. Chelsea came out on top in the end, but we missed the second half as we made the very short trip to Pete and Susanne's for their long-awaited barbecue.

It was a fine occasion on a glorious day and their huge garden was home to a combined badminton pitch and croquet lawn, both enjoyed by most of us, including Mason!

The li'l chap was a gem throughout, but eventually it was time to get him home, cleaned up and put to bed and so we left the party in other's hands and took advantage of having a sit down ourselves!

Friday, 29th May, 2009

I decided to try and finalise the band for this years Suffolk Guild Ridgman Trophy entry today. Despite starting immediately when I received confirmation of the date and venue back at the beginning of February, this year has been a real struggle to get a band, let alone set -up practices and all the rest that is ideal for such an entry. Nearly everyone who can't make it has valid excuses of course with ringing outings, holidays and - particularly understandably - imminent birth, but it would be a real shame not to enter a competition that we have a genuine chance of winning and showing the Guild in a positive light across the region.

Ruthie was in Colchester tonight on one of those rare occasions when they were having a concert on a Friday night, so with Mason in bed by 7.30 I was unable to go to Hollesley or indeed anywhere else this evening.

Thursday, 28th May, 2009

On one of those wonderful orange sunshine early summer evenings, I was charged with running Grundisburgh practice in Stephen's absence and retrieve the old 11th rope off the top of the tenor (don't ask!). With twelve ringers we were able to do a lot for Anne, including Plain Hunt on 11 and also some well rung Stedman Caters and Yorkshire Royal.

A trip to Tesco's afterwards saw me bump into Sanj, the consultant who used to pop into John Catt. It obviously distracted me from my task (that's my excuse anyway!) which was to get some cat food, dog food and a card for Poppy's first birthday tomorrow, as I came away with the wrong cat food and a card that was missing a comb (again, don't ask!). Shopping is not my strong point...

Wednesday, 27th May, 2009

Interesting fact in amongst the Central Council notes I received and have forgotten to mention. In 2008, there was only one peal rung on fourteen anywhere by anyone. So the Suffolk Guild were leaders in the art of fourteen bell ringing last year... (tongue very firmly in cheek!)

On fewer numbers and at a quarter(ish) of the length, but just as satisfying, we rang a pretty good quarter of Allendale Surprise Minor at Pettistree. This, along with Westminster and the other methods that have the same frontwork (like Lincoln and Coldstream) has often been a method that has caught me out as it's easy to get out of place and the wrong way round on the long frontwork, but tonight I had no problems.

The practice itself went well enough despite a number of absences, although we were helped by the appearance of David Stanford. The highlight of the evening was some messing about with variable treble, the change of methods coming literally at any given backstroke! It was good fun but fired out both times! Still, practice nights are for practicing and pushing the boundaries (and writing essays in Ruthie's case!), so it was very worthwhile, in my opinion anyway.

Afterwards we enjoyed a jovial drink or two in The Greyhound as we recounted drunken exploits and boring council meetings.

Tuesday, 26th May, 2009

Back to work and being half-term it was an even slower day than yesterday as we struggled to get hold of anyone in the schools.

Still it was nice to be back a lot earlier than yesterday and enjoy our usual Tuesday night, or be it at Edwin Avenue this week as we dog-sit.

By the way, congratulations to Josephine Beever who at Sweffling yesterday rang her 800th quarter.

Monday, 25th May, 2009

Last year in Newcastle, Ruthie and I made a weekend of the Central Council Meeting. This year it was a bit closer in Worcester and in order to save some money I decided to go over for the day.

It meant an early start though as I met David Salter outside his at quarter to six as he was taking me there, for which I was most grateful.

We made good time and even with a stop we were outside St Andrew's Methodist Church, the venue for my second Central Council Meeting well ahead of the 10am start. It was here we bumped into a face familiar to many in Suffolk, Howard Egglestone. Looking well and in typically good humour, he was the first of countless old friends from across the country and indeed the globe.

As I mentioned last year, the experience of having representation from aspects of all the ringing I've ever done under one roof is quite surreal and indeed there were 207 present today. From Mike Dew of Rambling Ringers to Steph Warboys from Birmingham to David McLean from the NDA and David Sparling from Essex, it seemed the whole of ringing was there!

The meeting itself was incredibly dull and sad to say mainly living up to the bad reputation the council seems to have. It was two hours before anything remotely affecting day-to-day ringing was even mentioned and in the end the very important issue of child protection and CRB checks was the only thing that most ringers will have found of interest as the day was filled with wranglings about internal CC procedures, honorary members status, the election of Mary Bone as secretary after eight years of Ian Oram and the tedious and farcical election (or essentially re-election) of members of the huge number of committees that work under the Central Council's name. Too many people like the sound of their own voice which did little to shorten the long bore. All the reports were already printed and there for all to read, but I tired of hearing those proposing the reports saying 'I have nothing further to add,' then adding another ten minutes each onto the meeting by essentially reading the reports out. For those put off at the thought of coming to the GMC or our AGM, I suggest sitting through the CC meeting to put these into perspective!

The whole thing was interspersed with the Ringing World meeting and the second meeting of the Ringing Foundation, both mercifully short affairs. On their behalf, I urge you to check out the website and find out more about their work.

Highlights on an otherwise excruciating day was lunch and a pint with Stuart Hutchieson and John Mulvey from the Lichfield and Walsall Archdeaconries Society which saw us return slightly late and meant that Michael Wilby and I got in trouble from one of the stewards for talking too close to the door! I also had a good laugh as I was sat with Lawrence and David (no Stephen this year as he is away) alongside Matt Higby and just behind George Dawson and Andrew Mills as we chuckled away at the ineptness of what was occurring in front of us.

Eventually we got away, thoughts of Derby next year already at the forefront of many people's minds.

Making good time again, I eventually got back to Woodbridge and Ruthie at 9.30, in time to pop round to my new neighbour Bob's place as we had been invited round for a drink where we met another neighbour Didge and met up with his mate Pete again and his girlfriend Hayley. It was a good end to a long, long day!

Sunday, 24th May, 2009

We were missing quite a few at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning, so despite the presence of Peter Emery (normally at Grundisburgh on a Sunday morning), disappointingly we were unable to man the twelve.

It wasn't as disappointing as at Grundisburgh as with Stephen away and with only five (including Mason) no ringing was done at all.

Normally after ringing (or non-ringing) at our second twelve, I would take Mason back to his mother's. This afternoon though, he had an invite to the birthday party of young Milly, Roger and Mary Whittell's granddaughter.

It was held at Maidenhall Sports Centre in Ipswich and complete with bouncy castle and ball pit, the li'l chap was in his element, as was Henry Salter, there with Katharine. With all this and party food and party bags, the little 'uns had a great afternoon before I had to take Mason back to Kara.

I had organised a peal at Tunstall for the 70th birthdays of John Calver (last month) and Susan Dalziel (this month) which of course I'd hoped to ring in. Obviously I couldn't in the end, but I was grateful to those who did and scored a well-received peal from John and Susan.

Following a quarter at Ufford, Ruthie and co had descended to The Cherry Tree in Bromeswell and so I went to join them, a nice end to a lovely sunny day.

Saturday, 23rd May, 2009

After four striking competitions over the last three Saturday's, dotted across the county, today was relatively quiet and more importantly allowed me some rare time with Mason and Ruthie.

It was still busy though!

I like to pop along to the weekly Saturday morning practices at Orford every now and then, but this week I received a request from Richard Moody to come along and partake in discussions over the future of their practices. As I have mentioned in the past, Saturday mornings have been a little mixed in recent times and often there's not a practice at all now. This isn't helped by their far out location, but there's nothing they can do about that of course!

However, the time of the practice, when many ringers are away or sometimes have peals, ringing outings, etc hasn't helped their cause as of late and so with this in mind Richard has decided to alternate practices with nearby Tunstall on a Tuesday night with Richard Wilson running things as Richard Moody often works away during the week. It's a sensible move as Tunstall ringers often come and help out and Orford ringers often go the other way. They may also run a monthly practice on a set Saturday and I hope that ringers can come and help, though I appreciate it's a long way out for most. On a sunny day like today though, it's well worth coming for more than just the ringing at this delightful inlet.

Back in Woodbridge and Kate took Ruthie, Mason and me out to a certain well-known toy shop and returned with a Bob The Builder construction site, complete with sand, diggers and a hat!

There wasn't much chance for him to play with it initially though as we had time for a spot of lunch and were then out again to Ufford where we not only rang for the flower festival, but partook in the cream teas in the village hall afterwards - Mason and Mrs Harper were keener on the chocolate cake though.

Then it was back to Edwin Avenue to play with Bob and lots and lots of sand...

Friday, 22nd May, 2009

It took the whole day to fix my computer at work today, as problems from earlier in the week were sorted and fixed and although it didn't mean I was completely computer-less, it did mean sitting in rather unfamiliar surroundings, making it feel a slightly odd and quicker day. Perhaps I ought to do it more often...

I've travelled a fair few miles recently and with plans to travel a few more over the next few days, I felt I ought to perhaps not add a return trip to Hollesley to my mounting mileage on this occasion. I certainly haven't deserted them - I shall be back as Arnie (Schwarzenegger, not Knights) once said.

Instead it was another pleasurable evening in with Ruthie and Mason.

Thursday, 21st May, 2009

With no practice at Grundisburgh and Ruthie happy to look after Mason, I was happily in the position to accept an invitation to ring a peal of Rutland Major at Gordon Slack's mini-ring at The Folly in Claydon.

The peal was at the request of a good mate of mine, Andrew Mills, who is in Suffolk currently in his official role at Hayward Mills, re-hanging Bardwell. Of course it was nothing much for Millsy, one of only two ringers ever to have pulled Liverpool Cathedral tenor in single-handed, but it was a significant one for Gordon who was ringing his first of Rutland, so well done Gordon!

A chat over a beer in the kitchen and then it was back home where Ruthie had decided to stay rather than ring in the peal as she had some work to do. With Mason in bed we enjoyed another beer before bedtime!

Wednesday, 20th May, 2009

Bit of a rush this evening as I was due to see Ruthie play in her concert in Colchester which started at 7.30.

First though, some time ago I'd agreed to ring in a birthday quarter for Mike Whitaker. On the way to the attempt I came across Mike Whitby so was able to offer him a lift and with the tight schedule hoped that with the conductor safely transported - early! - to Pettistree we might get a prompt start. Sadly an accident around the Foxhall Road part of Ipswich had meant traffic crammed onto the Whitaker's route from Felixstowe.

Add to that three false starts (they did get the quarter! Ed.)to this quarter of Bedford Surprise Minor (Cambridge below the treble, Norwich above and a nod to his previous location of abode) and I had a quarter of an hour to get to Colchester! Of course I didn't make the start of the concert, but was in time to see Ruthie's first piece, so I plonked myself next to Kate (who had got there earlier) and enjoyed the show.

It was then back to Pettistree (via Edwin Avenue to leave my car) for a couple of pints at The Greyhound and to wish Mike a proper happy birthday!

Tuesday, 19th May, 2009

Being our night in, Ruthie and I relaxed round Sun Lane, taking a break from work, ringing and uni after a busy few days on all three fronts.

Tickets are still available for the Guild Social on Saturday, 27th June at Hadleigh. It would be a big shame for so much effort to go into what is a fantastic social Guild occasion that you can enjoy without the need to sit through a meeting or compete in a competition if that's what puts you off going to the AGM or Guild Striking Competitions. So come on guys, get in touch with Richard Knight or Rolie Whiting or failing that Philip, Mary or me who can get you in touch with them!

Finally, David Rogers has asked me to let people know that - just - over the border there will be ringing at Thetford on the morning of Saturday, 6th June to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of Thomas Paine. If you are interested then please .

Monday, 18th May, 2009

It seems to have become the norm for St Mary‑le‑Tower to host someone from the PR-related world on a Monday night, whether it be producers of plays, radio presenters, etc. Tonight we had a visit from Sarah, a photographer from the East Anglian Daily Times. I'd contacted the paper a couple of weeks back in regards to our then forthcoming Guild Striking Competitions but hadn't heard anymore until yesterday when I got a call from Naomi who did an interview on the phone and requested photos of the winners with their trophies. Typically we hadn't taken any on Saturday, but with SMLT holding both of course, it was agreed that Sarah would come along to practice to take some photos.

She was keen to get everyone in on the photo, regardless of whether they had been in the winning teams or not, but I didn't mind as I consider those who ring regularly at SMLT have all contributed towards our success. I didn't even mind young Craig Gradidge being at the front of picture as it's a good PR shot! Hopefully it'll be in either today's or tomorrow's edition so look out for it!

The practice itself was good in content but the striking wasn't great. We rang Yorkshire and Bristol Max (not spliced - yet!) and Craig in particular did well to ring the treble to Grandsire Cinques and Little Bob Max, a troublesome bell that has beaten many more experienced ringers than Craig! Overall though, the practice was a bit hit and miss, possibly due to all the interruptions we've suffered in recent weeks with bank holidays and meetings. Of course there's another bank holiday next week, so no practice again...

Ruthie was having an extra rehearsal and so I left to pick her up straight after the practice, so we didn't have her expertise this evening!

Well done to Adrian Lee on ringing his first quarter on Sunday, significant also for being the first at Stradishall since they were re-hung. Congratulations to all involved, but particularly Adrian.

Sunday, 17th May, 2009

Having spent most of yesterday in the far extremities of Suffolk, today was a day on the coast, back in the more familiar Eastern surroundings of our wonderfully diverse county.

St Mary‑le‑Tower saw us peak at a decent piece of Stedman Cinques on a good morning, before the fun began at Grundisburgh. Bits of rope falling from above on the 11th at Thursday night's practice had caused Stephen concern. A check on the rope revealed it hanging on by a single strand. Easily patched up in the long run, but not a quick job so in an attempt to continue using the 11th this morning he hitched it up and lengthened the tail-end considerably. It was an odd sight, especially as Mr P climbed onto a box to ring it. The amusement value increased as it became obvious the rope was still too short and that he would need a second box. The plan was to ring Grandsire Caters, but it was evident that wasn't going to happen and instead Grandsire Triples on the front eight and Stedman Triples on 1,2,3,4,5,8,10 and 12 were rung before the service.

At this point it is also worth pointing out that due to an Ascension Day service at 7, there is NO practice at Grundisburgh this Thursday.

After a visit from Pete and Susanne for a cup of tea and Ruthie for lunch, I headed over to the far east and Felixstowe. Frank has put in sound-proofing here, an essential in my view as you will all no doubt know. This afternoon saw myself, Mr P, Daphne, Bunny, the Pipes, Garners, Wakefields and Pete and Susanne spend a couple of hours ringing as Frank and Gwen strolled the surrounding streets taking sound measurements. Thankfully it seems as if the latest work has done the trick. Fingers crossed!

After some much appreciated tea back at Ruthie's, Kate then took Ruthie and I over to another coastal 8, Hollesley where - following an aborted first attempt - we rang a good quarter of Belfast Major. It was a well-deserved score, especially as it was the first go at this difficult method for so many.

It was a good evening, although good-natured mention was made of the striking competition rules and particularly how many bands people ring for. I can certainly see their point of view as in the past I thought it was daft that so many teams were almost identical. However, many ringers ring at many places and so I think it is reasonable for those that support a tower week-in, week-out should feel free to ring for those towers if they enter a band. I have tried to reduce the number of cross-overs by re-introducing the call-change element and encouraging tower captains to select ringers not already in a team, but that's not always possible. However, yesterday we had a total of 19 bands in three competitions and something like 70-80 people partaking. The day was enjoyable, the ringing was good and many came away with a huge feeling of satisfaction. In my humble opinion that's what a striking competition - at this level at least - is all about and don't see any reason to change things drastically, though there may need to be a few tweaks here and there.

Saturday, 16th May, 2009

Exning is our most westerly ring of bells, almost marooned beyond Newmarket on that peninsula of Suffolk that projects deep into Cambridgeshire. Indeed, the person who had the shortest journey today was my brother, the official reserve! Along with Dalham, the other location for today's Guild Striking Competitions, it is easy to forget that these towers are members of our Guild too.

For that reason alone it was great to visit this part of the world for what is - along with the AGM - the biggest day of the year for the Guild.

All in all the Mitson Shield and Lester Brett Trophy 6-bell competitions went very well at what is quite a tricky ring of bells, preceded by a long-winded and for some daunting climb up stairs, across balconies, past the organ and up a vertical ladder. What with ringing and timing I was quite fit after around three hours of competition!

Brian Meads and John Hall the judges announced the results after a fantastic tea (hastily added to after Mandy realised there were a lot more people there than had put their names forward for tea!). Well done to Sweffling who completed a double following their North-East success last week by winning the Lester Brett Call-Change Trophy and congratulations and thank you to my band who won the Mitson Shield ringing Cambridge Minor.

Well done to Holly Abell as well, who in her first striking competition and just eight months after her first lesson was part of the Halesworth team that came second in the Lester Brett Trophy.

Despite my decision to reduce the test pieces to 4 minutes Call-Changes or 120 changes, the huge entry of 13 teams meant we were a bit tight for time heading to Dalham for the 8-bell in the evening. After a brief interlude following the North-East's practice which suggested the tenor was up wrong, the competition continued and produced some top ringing on flighty front bells.

Earlier on today, with certificates and draw-names to print, a little boy to take back to his mother's and in need of a shave and shower to make myself respectable, I received a call from Owen asking if I'd remembered to collect the Rose Trophy from St Mary‑le‑Tower. Suffice to say I hadn't, which led to a frantic rush to do all the aforementioned and get the SMLT keys to Owen for him to collect the trophy. We needn't have bothered, with SMLT winning the 8-bell and completing a clean sweep which is all the more satisfying given the high standard of ringing we've had to beat.

Thanks to everyone, including but not exclusively to Exning and Dalham for letting us use their bells, Mandy and her helpers for tea, Brian and John for judging and everyone who organised and/or rang for teams today! (The surplus income from the tea provided a £63 donation for the Bell Restoration Fund. Ed.)

A large crowd retired to The Affleck Arms in the village to collect certificates and enjoy well-earned drinks, before Kate took us back across the breadth of Suffolk to Woodbridge.

Friday, 15th May, 2009

How many of you who know Sproughton ringer Simon Curl: spotted him on Look East this evening? I have to admit I didn't come across the report on the environmentally-friendly improvements made on the tithe barn in the village until the late bulletin, but it was good to see the old place where I've been to many an event on the box and I thought Simon came across well.

It was a highlight of an otherwise uneventful evening as I stopped at home with Ruthie and Mason and prepared myself for a big day tomorrow.

Thursday, 14th May, 2009

An unplanned trip to Ipswich to collect Ruthie after an understandable mix-up at the railway station saw her sat on a train bound for Cambridge as the Lowestoft train pulled away in front, meant that my plans to go to Grundisburgh this evening were scuppered! Luckily the train to Cambridge hadn't left!

Wednesday, 13th May, 2009

Good to see that the North-West District's visit to the Worcester Cathedral Teaching Centre went well, as I thought it probably would do, with a fantastic venue and good people running it.

I offered to do the driving tonight, with neither Kate nor me ringing in this evening's Pettistree quarter and so I not only found myself driving down to Colchester and back to pick Ruthie up from her concert duties but then - having dropped Pete off - found myself transporting an impromptu Christmas singalong from The Greyhound afterwards!

The practice itself had been quite entertaining with Mike getting people learning Allendale Minor and calling a variable-treble touch that seemed to confuse a few, including the treble when he was the treble!

Tuesday, 12th May, 2009

The entries have been flocking in for Saturday's striking competition, with teams from all four districts in the 6-bell at Exning, impressive with the far-flung destination!

I noticed that the deadline is approaching for the summer edition of the Guild Newsletter. With the revelation at the Chediston Re-Dedication that Bishop Nigel reads the publication, it would be good if we could fill it with as much information and entertaining material as possible. I'm in the process of sending a 'Half-Way' report and even Mason has decided that it's about time we heard from his youthful tongue again! Please send stuff into Carol and let's give people something to read.

It was of course our night in, although Ruthie was pre-occupied with essay writing this week!

Monday, 11th May, 2009

With a number away tonight, we were grateful for visits from Janet and Stephen from Lincolnshire, David Rogers, Philip Wilding and Mike Whitby at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice. It still proved a frustrating practice as the striking was poor and although we got through Yorkshire Max relatively successfully, Cambridge Max finally collapsed in the final lead having threatened to throughout the piece. We were also just short for trying Bristol Max, all of which highlights why we need as much support as we can get, especially over these summer months as the likelihood of people being away increases.

Ruthie, me, Philip, David Rogers and my parents settled down to a pint in The Cricketers before putting an up and down evening to bed.

Sunday, 10th May, 2009

With the visit of Adrian from Kingston-on-Thames, we were able to ring on all twelve at St Mary‑le‑Tower, with Mason and Isobel behaving impeccably in the corner. It's good to see that even when we don't ring Surprise Max (or even as this morning, changes at all on twelve) that we can at the very least man all the bells as a matter of course. No doubt that will be tested in the coming months as holidays approach.

Despite the visit of David Stanford's friend Adrienne from Bedfordshire, we still only had seven at Grundisburgh, which was a shame for her. Still, we had a great time testing Don (and some others!) with Annable's London Minor!

After a nice salad (prepared by Chef Munnings) in an Elmhurst Park bathed in sun for Ruthie's lunch, I headed back to Grundisburgh for a well rung peal of Yorkshire Major in honour of Annie's forthcoming birthday, once Stephen had stemmed the flow of blood from his sliced finger! Personally I quite like ringing peals at Grundisburgh on afternoons such as this as you watch the world go by, unlike other belfries where you can feel like you're ringing in a dungeon, completely detached from the summer outside.

I forsook a pint in the Turk's Head afterwards though as Ruthie and I had an engagement in Ipswich this evening. Many of you may remember Ron who we went camping with in Devon last year and some will even know him. He's a good laugh and very popular as tonight showed. Twelve people in total sat down at what was once Temptations Chinese restaurant (now the catchy Ipswich Buffet Restaurant) for a surprise meal, including Geoffrey, Alan and Micky and Ruthie's Uncle Moog and Aunty Ange who we had been given the responsibility of bringing along with the 'Purple Ronnie' (d'ya get it?) birthday cakes (yes, in the plural).

It was a great night and as with previous occasions at this eat-all-you-can venue, I left completely stuffed!

Saturday, 9th May, 2009

It was one of those days that make you - well me at least - appreciate being a bellringer. On a Saturday that would probably otherwise have been wasted by me sitting in front of the TV or doing odd jobs, Mason, Ruthie and I enjoyed a veritable feast of people, places, events and experiences as we criss-crossed our beautiful (and currently spirit-liftingly colourful) county.

First up was the North-West District practice at the nice little six at Thornham Magna, run by Maurice Rose today as Ruth Suggett (and a large number of other district members) were in Worcester for their much-publicised and very worthy training course, which hopefully went well - it deserved to.

Back in Thornham Magna, much useful ringing was enjoyed as Mason made full use of the space in the church and - like the rest of us - partook of the tea, coffee and wonderful homemade biscuits made by Sylvie Fawcett. In the meantime I marvelled at St John Perry's fold-up bike (I want one, I want one!) before the three of us headed back to Edwin Avenue for some lunch.

Ruthie then headed on to Ufford with Kate for a quarter of 4-spliced Surprise Major (apparently in preparation for a Cumberlands peal of the same), which Mason and I came along later and listened to. It sounded nice (very good ringing) as the boy and I wandered round the churchyard and then the village, including the obligatory visit to see the horse!

Afterwards, the whole band enjoyed a deserved pint in The White Lion which Mason and I joined them for.

Although not a rush, there wasn't much time to fully appreciate the fantastic atmosphere at this truly Suffolk drinking establishment as the three of us were then heading up to Theberton, scene of this years North-East District Striking Competition. I wasn't ringing - though Ruthie was designated the official reserve - but I think it important to show my face (keep your comments kind!) to as many district events as possible. Apart from anything else it's utterly fantastic (especially in weather like this) to travel the Guild and enjoy the company of as many ringers as possible.

This event was no disappointment, with eleven teams, a proper ringers tea in a proper village hall and as the competition continued in the golden glow of evening sunshine, Mason had a whale of a time collecting pine cones and getting lost in a sea of bluebells with Richard Stevens in the churchyard!

Jon Spreadbury and Richard Turk announced the results after a very brief meeting and congratulations to Sweffling (including my beloved!) on winning the Call-Changes competition, Southwold on winning the runners-up trophy and Halesworth on winning the overall competition for the third year running!

It was a lovely end to a lovely day and much, much better than watching the TV, tending the garden, going shopping...

Friday, 8th May, 2009

Had a luncheon rendezvous with the Guild Secretary today - well she popped round to Sun Lane during my lunch break with a welcome pile of new members certificates to sign, which really is good to see.

We were a little short at Hollesley, although a lot of useful ringing on 6 was done, including Cambridge Minor and some Grandsire Triples at the end as Kate just made it back from ringing a quarter at Henley.

I also took a phone call from Rolie Whiting entering Polstead and Nayland into the Call Changes Competition next weekend - come on everyone, the challenge has been laid down!

I made it back home in time to see a programme on English Heritage, following it's long, rambling, over-bureaucratic and highly illogical approach to renovating a garden at Kenilworth from Queen Elizabeth's time. It's a tiresome process that many ringers involved in bell projects can relate to!

Thursday, 7th May, 2009

With Ruthie feeling quite poorly (she even pulled out of a concert at Coggeshall today), we spent the evening in at Sun Lane with Mason sleeping peacefully upstairs and so I didn't pop along to Grundisburgh on this occasion.

I've still not received many entries for the Guild Striking Competitions on Saturday, 16th May (in fact I've got more for the 8-bell at the moment than the 6-bell), so please could people let me know if they are planning on entering a band.

Wednesday, 6th May, 2009

I got a text message from Andrew Mills tonight, asking if I could ring in ten peals in one day at Pig‑le‑Tower, a mini-ring in Marston Bigot, Somerset. Whilst it's something I wouldn't mind doing one day - for the sheer novelty - this not only happens on a Saturday but on Saturday, 27th June - the day of the Guild Social.

Talking of which, please do get your tickets for this event!

Today I had to settle for just the one peal, at The Wolery, incorporating some more of the methods (such as Blunsdon and Brentford it's 6th place counterpart) that will go towards making up the 52. There were the expected jokes as we entered Norwich in what started out as a tense affair but finished pleasantly with some very good ringing. We felt it appropriate to ring it in memory of Tim Griffiths as all the band has at some point or another rung with him and so this one's to him.

Tuesday, 5th May, 2009

With the highly successful South-West and South-East District Striking Competitions recently behind us and hopefully an equally successful North-East Striking Competition at Theberton this coming Saturday, now is probably as good a time as ever to encourage people to get their entries in for the Guild Competitions at Exning and Dalham a week on Saturday (16th May). Please, please enter a band if you can, these are FUN events, a great social occasion.

Ruthie and I had our first proper Tuesday night in since I moved back to Woodbridge as we watched Manchester United get through to the Champions League Final again, this time at the expense of Arsenal.

Monday, 4th May, 2009

A slow bank holiday Monday where we enjoyed a rare lie-in before setting about a number of tasks, including trying in vain to get a chest of drawers up the narrow, steep stairs at Sun Lane!

Having decorated the house with drying washing we headed to Edwin Avenue where we could see the TV!

Whilst Kate headed out to Hollesley for what apparently proved an extremely useful Bob Doubles session for Sally, Peggy and Kathy on the simulator, we relaxed watching much Come Dine With Me and The Simpsons, both favourites of ours.

Unfortunately I received the very sad news of the death yesterday of Tim Griffiths of St Neots. His sudden death in just his 50's is a huge shock. Our family know the Griffiths well having been on many of the St Neots' ringing weekends in the past and Chris and I rang with his son Tom in Birmingham a tremendous amount. He was a lovely bloke, a good laugh, something that has been passed onto his daughter and sons and our thoughts go out to his family at this sad time.

Sunday, 3rd May, 2009 - a significant day that most Ipswich Town fans will remember for a long time!

Not for the ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower, though that was good. Despite the absence of some - being a bank holiday weekend - we were blessed with the visit of Hedley and Hazel from Canterbury and with a full compliment of Eareys, allowing us to ring Call Changes on 12.

It almost certainly won't be memorable for another poor turnout at Grundisburgh, where a lengthy touch of Grandsire Triples was the highlight.

Nor will the average Tractor Boy be particularly bothered by the decent peal of Cambridge Max I rung at Grundisburgh with some old pals (many friends from Birmingham, past and current) and new ones (like Alex who judged our striking competition yesterday), though this Blue enjoyed it.

They may have appreciated the post-peal drinking in The Dog where we were joined by Ruthie after a days work at Boots.

No, today would've been memorable to nearly all Town fans for what was confirmed some time during the fifth course of this afternoon's peal - Charlton Athletic 4 Norwich City 2 and confirmation that our closest and fiercest rivals were relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time since 1960.

With all due respect to our Guild Chairman and any other Budgies reading this, this is a particular highlight for those cheering on the Blues, though many could argue (understandably perhaps) that it's not particularly good for East Anglian football.

Today though, I celebrated with Ruthie by walking all of two minutes to The Red Lion and then to The Mariners for a few pints before settling down satisfied. Very, very satisfied.

Saturday, 2nd May, 2009

It was one of those nice busy but not overwhelming days, all with Mason in tow.

Yesterday was Clare's 21st birthday, so she went out last night and with her heading back to Scotland tomorrow, a family meal was held at The Greyhound in Pettistree at dinnertime.

The li'l chap was joined by Ruthie and Clare's cousins Freddie and Poppy, with all three behaving impeccably, as did their Uncle Moog...

There was a little bit of a rush then to Rushmere St Andrews, the scene for the 2009 South-East District Striking Competition. Like all striking competitions (certainly at this level), this was an enjoyable event, with beautiful weather, a pub not too far away, nice ringing and a chance to meet with friends, some of whom we don't get to see too often.

It was fantastic to see entries from the local band and Ufford and along with every other entry, they produced some very good ringing - hopefully we'll see them at the Guild competitions in two-weeks!

George Pipe and Alex Britton had very generously stepped into the breech as judges, Alex (the Junior Steward of the Cumberlands) having accepted my invitation as he was ringing a peal at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning. Their summing up was polite and constructive and with St Mary‑le‑Tower winning, correct! Seriously though, I was well chuffed to collect the trophy from George and Alex as the competition was tough, a very good sign.

With others going on to the pub, we needed to get a tired li'l man back home to bed, but it was one of those enjoyable days that bellringing can give you - if you let it.

Congratulations to Julie Rapior on her first peal, rung at Monewden this morning and to Sally Mason for whom it was the most methods she had rung. The first pealers list is going to need it's own page in next years annual report soon!

Friday, 1st May, 2009

The practice at Hollesley was busy and amusing as we watched Alan trying to get the message of Double Norwich Major across to the band. To his credit, despite writing the line out incorrectly each time, he seemed to be getting through to some!

Thursday, 30th April, 2009

"I've been wanting to go short for a long time."

For those of you who know all four foot whatever of Mrs Nigel, this comment made in regards her newish short hairstyle would provoke much hilarity. It did us and set the tone for a fantastic evening watching Bat: The Symphony, at The Regent in Ipswich. The show is done by the same people as did Vampire Rocks that we enjoyed at this venue at Halloween and is a tribute to the music of Meatloaf. The arena was rocking away to old favourites interspersed with frequent but welcome amusement and we came away a lot deafer, but very, very happy. And not just for a short while either...

Wednesday, 29th April, 2009

Last time I drove down to Colchester for one of Ruthie's concerts at the Institute, my brakes were condemned. So it was with some trepidation that I set off to watch my beloved sing in a relatively brief but enjoyable concert. It was my lucky night as my car survived, but for one of Ruthie's colleagues it was a less fortunate evening as half-way through the first half of the performance she was very ill, in the spectacular sense.

The concert continued - though she didn't - and we were soon off to The Greyhound in Pettistree where Peter and Susan Schurr had very generously laid on a feast accompanied by beer and champagne to celebrate their impressive Diamond wedding anniversary. In this day and age of seemingly throwaway relationships, their dedication to each other for literally life is amazing. Well done and thank you to them both for tonight's spread!

Tuesday, 28th April, 2009

Congratulations to Kersey, winners of the 2009 South-West District Striking Competition, which they achieved with an apparently very well struck 180 of Bob Doubles on Saturday. Hopefully we'll see them in the Guild Striking Competition at Exning on the 16th May - it's not far for them or indeed any in the South-West District!

Kate was currying in Felixstowe this evening, so Ruthie and I were charged with running Ufford practice tonight. Normally we don't see the best of this practice as we're normally only there when they're very short, but with our visit coinciding with that of Mike Whitby's, we were able to achieve an awful lot, with Hilary ringing Grandsire Triples inside for the first time.

Bob Triples and Cambridge Minor were also rung, before we headed back to Sun Lane to catch most of 'Trophy People' on TV. It's always a joy to watch and even more so this time as having visited Birmingham a couple of times since it was last on, Ruthie now knows an lot of people on the show!

Monday, 27th April, 2009

I've got used to teaching non-ringers about our wonderful hobby since I became Guild Ringing Master. Through the medium of newspapers, radio and TV, I - with the generous help of others - have imparted the history, the joy, the complexity and the social aspects of bellringing. Today, a new arena was opened up - that of theatre!

Ashley Pickering from the Deben Players called me today as they are putting on a production called 'Roses of Eyam' about the plague in the famous Derbyshire village in the 17th century. As part of the play, he was looking to make a recording of 5 or 6 bells that would form part of the backdrop. Living in Ipswich, he specifically put St Mary‑le‑Tower forward as the place to make the recording and so we arranged to meet at practice this evening.

The plan had already been that we would try and start the practice at 7.15 as we were finishing at 8.30 for the SMLT AGM, so I felt it wouldn't disrupt us too much. However, a couple of accidents on the A14 seemed to bring the world into Ipswich town centre and so Owen finally got through at 7.30. It also meant I couldn't get through to the railway station to pick Ruthie up, meaning a slightly bedraggled girlfriend had to walk across town, not ideal! A couple of blasts of Plain Hunt on the middle 6, one so he could record inside and one outside and we continued on with our practice. It could be that the recordings might not be quite good enough so we may need to meet elsewhere later this week, but it was nice to be asked to get involved.

Practice itself was rushed, sadly for David Rogers who was visiting and unaware that we were finishing early, but still useful. Apart from Plain Hunt on 11 for him and Rosemary, we returned to the subject of Bristol Max which I think is starting to show signs of developing, before we got down to business.

The Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin very kindly chaired what proved to be a quick and uncontroversial meeting, with the main thing to come out of it being that Charles, Owen and myself are to meet to discuss a new tower constitution.

The meeting closed just after 9, so it was soon time to return a tired Ruthie to Edwin Avenue where she was greeted by tea and her returning mother, full of tales from the last week!

Sunday, 26th April, 2009

With Nigel Newton popping along, we were able to ring Yorkshire Max at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning. Apart from the odd week with Easter, me being away, others being away, etc, Surprise Max has increasingly become the norm on a Sunday morning in Ipswich, a good sign.

No such luck at Grundisburgh though as Double Oxford Minor with Nigel (of the Smith variety) knocking behind. I really hope more people can find their way to Grundisburgh, though of course - as I have found with SMLT - so many people have their own churches to ring and worship at, as is only proper. However, we used to get a decent turnout here, so I can't quite imagine why things are so different now.

I've got Mason until tomorrow morning this weekend. Although not something I can make a habit of, with Sunday afternoons being the only real time I get to do things I can't with a two-year old, it was as always a joy to spend more time with him. The Sasha-Mason Show was hard to control, but along with Clare we all went down to Elmhurst Park for Ruthie's lunch on a beautiful day.

Just a quick mention to those who have BBC Four on their televisual boxes that this Tuesday night - at 9pm - one of the best (possibly the best, though I've not seen the highly-praised East Raynham programme) bellringing programmes is on. 'Trophy People' follows the preparations of the Birmingham and College Youths bands for the 2006 12-Bell Final and was first shown a couple of years back. As someone who has been fortunate enough to have won this competition twice and been to many 12-Bell Finals as a ringer and/or a drinker, it is of obvious interest to me, but even if you are a learner trying to grasp Bob Doubles, this is a must-watch!

Saturday, 25th April, 2009

As you all know, I am a great exponent of people taking full advantage of the cheap and varied spectrum of bellringing available and this morning I enjoyed a dose of it as I travelled south of the border to ring a peal for the Essex Association at Great Holland.

There were familiar faces of course, but I'd never properly met Terry Earle and certainly didn't realise he was a season ticket holder at Portman Road. As you can imagine, there was much to discuss!

The peal itself was a decent effort at Double Norwich, a method I enjoy ringing but easy to get caught out by as I found out!

Despite a tempting offer of beer and lunch, Ruthie was patiently looking after Mason back at hers, so I headed straight off.

We were also awaiting the arrival of her sister Clare and her new dog Sasha, a 13-week old Staffy. Once there, the boisterous puppy gave the li'l chap much amusement, but it was hard work keeping up with the two of them!

The Roy Keane effect has certainly taken hold at Ipswich Town as they won 3-0 at promotion-chasing Cardiff City! Of course it's too late for this season, but it bodes well for next season.

Three more quarters were scored on Alan's tour today as well, Plain Bob Major at Melksham, 6-Spliced Surprise Major at Bradford-on-Avon, Christchurch and Grandsire Triples in the same town at Holy Trinity church.

Friday, 24th April, 2009

After an inspection by Scott from Gobbitt and Kirby, that was it. After just under two years the keys are handed over and I am officially no longer a resident of Hollesley. The good news is that he was happy with everything so I should receive my deposit in full, but it's still quite sad to leave what has been a lovely home for me and at times Ruthie and Mason. The village is lovely and of course I shall return, primarily for ringing, but it is a long way out of the way.

The distance meant I also decided that I couldn't justify returning to Hollesley tonight for practice so Mason, Ruthie and I had a night in.

The 'Somerset' crew had a more successful day than yesterday (where the Yorkshire Major at Edington was the only one of three scored) as four were got today. Grandsire Triples was scored at Wincanton and Mere (where Mary called her first of Triples, so well done her again!), 5-spliced Surprise Major was successfully rung at Mells and Lincolnshire Major at Castle Cary.

Thursday, 23rd April, 2009

Kean-o, Kean-o! Yes, indeed it was confirmed! Roy Keane, winner of zillions of trophies as captain of Manchester United and the manager who took Sunderland from the bottom to the top of the Championship in less than a season and an A-Lister of the footballing world was plodding the pavements and turf of Playford Road where the training ground is as he he took up the Ipswich managers job.

There's a few reasons why some people have doubts, which are too long-winded to go into on a bellringing blog, but suffice to say these are exciting times at Portman Road, highlighted by the world's (and I mean the world's) media turning up for his first press conference.

There were slightly fewer at Grundisburgh where I took advantage of being in Woodbridge to get Mason to bed and then get over to practice whilst Ruthie kept an eye on him. I made up number six and so we rang a 720 of Bob Minor for Nigel before calling it a night.

Wednesday, 22nd April, 2009

It was a dramatic day for all Ipswich Town fans as Jim Magilton was sacked by the club at lunchtime after just short of three years in the job. The season has been truly dismal after all the money that was spent, but the timing was a bit of a surprise after Sunday. I don't expect an Ipswich manager has ever been sacked straight after beating Naaaaridge!

Events moved so quickly that by the time I went to bed, it seemed almost certain that Roy Keane - one of the best players in English football, former Manchester United captain and having already managed Sunderland to promotion having started bottom with them - would be installed as the new boss tomorrow. We shall see.

Of course we were a bit short at Pettistree tonight with the Garners, Harpers, Mike Whitby, Anne and Kate all in Somerset, but a quarter was still scored and the practice consisted of it's typical variety, from plain hunt to Norwich Minor.

Meanwhile the guys in the south-west of England successfully rang quarters at Bristol, St John‑on‑the-Wall (Bob Minor), Bristol Cathedral (Grandsire Triples) and Knowle (Superlative Major).

Today also marks my third anniversary of being Suffolk Guild Ringing Master. I've said it many times, but it's always worth reiterating - many thanks to everyone who has helped me carry out this role thus far, especially officers past and present who have offered advice and most importantly to Mason and Ruthie for putting up with it all! Heck, at least I've lasted longer than Jim!

Tuesday, 21st April, 2009

Sent out an email encouraging people to enter the fast approaching Guild Striking Competitions (16th May - less than a month!). So far I've had one reply - come on folks! This is even more fun than the AGM - you don't even have to sit through a meeting! The competition is fun, the day social and the satisfaction immense win or lose. Don't be put off by the distance to Exning and Dalham. Arrange car-shares - I don't mind taking people if you're brave enough!

I finally have to hand the keys for my flat in Hollesley back at the end of this week and so Ruthie and I spent an hour or so making sure the empty home is as clean as we can get it. The walls need a little cleaning as they are beige painted walls and have some hand marks, etc on, but when you wipe it down it wipes the paint off. Any tips?!

Alan's quarter-peal tour of Somerset really got going today with Lincolnshire Major scored at Chewton Mendip, Yorkshire Major at Ditcheat and Cambridge Major at Pilton, which was Mary's first in method as conductor. Kate also called her first of Cambridge Major at Wootton Bassett yesterday, so well done both of them!

Monday, 20th April, 2009

This evening saw Lesley Dolphin's last lesson - for the radio at least - at St Mary‑le‑Tower. Although the updates are still continuing on Tuesday afternoons, the climax of the project is as April draws to a close, so everything needs to be in for editing this week. She is also on holiday soon, so it was a natural conclusion. My thanks to everyone who has helped with this project, but particularly to Kate and Alan, who have been superb, but couldn't be here tonight. Keep listening out on Tuesday afternoons and have a look at the page on the Radio Suffolk website. Jon Wright from Radio Suffolk was also there filming, so hopefully there'll be moving pictures to show how far she's come!

Whilst Lesley is enthusiastic to carry on bellringing as a genuine hobby rather than just something for the radio, she - and her husband Mark Murphy - are understandably busy people and so it depends on whether she could get the time in the long-run to commit to ringing. If she does decide to take it up, I think she would do very well at it as she has fantastic timing and co-ordination and is a fast learner. As the 'piece de resistance' tonight and to the project as whole, she bonked behind to Plain Bob Doubles in what proved to be the best ringing of the evening! You would've thought we'd missed two months rather two weeks of ringing. There wasn't quite enough for Bristol, but we rang Yorkshire Max and Stedman Cinques. However, there were far too many mistakes and the striking was the poorest it has been for some time. With the SMLT AGM next Monday and another bank holiday the Monday after there is limited opportunity to put that right, which is frustrating.

Talking of AGMs, as the dust settles on the Guild one on Saturday, please begin giving serious thought as to who should replace Mary as Secretary and Keith as Treasurer at the next AGM. Both have done superb jobs, but their five years are up and we need to have potential replacements ready to take over straight away.

The Somerset crew got at least one quarter that we heard of, again stretching the borders to incorporate Swindon - lucky Ruthie and I weren't coming down for this one!

Sunday, 19th April, 2009

Decent turnout at St Mary‑le‑Tower as we rung Call Changes on the twelve and ten as Peter Davies hung off the ladder in the corner and busied himself around us taking photographs for a competition. Unfortunately I couldn't persuade my brother to leave the Formula One race to come ringing, so I left him at Sun Lane!

It was also a good turnout at Grundisburgh where Call-Changes were rung on the twelve there - well done Luke - as we were aided by the visit of Christine Hill, up for the weekend. As satisfactory as all this was, it was all pretty gentle compared to our next destination - Portman Road. Ruthie took the afternoon off for the highlight of most Ipswich Town fans season - Naaaaridge City at home.

Although our season is effectively over, Norwich are still in real danger of relegation, needing to win to get out of the relegation places with just two games left after today. The atmosphere was electric (especially in North Stand Lower where we were 'sat'), the best I have experienced there for some years as we won 3-2 (despite giving them our customary goal head-start) on a brilliantly sunny lunchtime.

Chris was there too, sat above us and I was also able to catch up with Rusty and Kala's brother Rob, both of whom sit in the North Stand Lower.

Having said our farewells to Chris, Kate (who was also with us) dropped us off at Edwin Avenue before heading off to Somerset where Alan's annual quarter-peal trip begins tomorrow. Sadly, Ruthie and I can't go this year as I couldn't get the time off and of course Ruthie returns to uni tomorrow, but I'm sure they'll have a great time anyway!

A quarter of Cambridge Minor at Pakenham brought the highly successful North-West District Quarter-Peal Week to a happy conclusion. As far as I can make out, twenty-five were scored, beating the North-East's total over a fortnight by one! More importantly, a great deal of good was done for local ringers with lots of firsts recorded. Congratulations Ruth on your superb organising of the week!

Saturday, 18th April, 2009

As you should all have been aware, today was a big day. Almost bizarrely it started very slowly as I spent the morning making myself respectable - a long process - and seeing to Mason's occasional whims.

It got going after lunch though as Ruthie, Mason and I travelled up to Halesworth where I was to run things for the pre-AGM ringing. Beforehand we parted company with the li'l chap who we handed over to Kara who rather fortuitously was in town too.

Things were quiet at this eight, with only just enough to ring the eight a lot of the time as most people took advantage of ringing at the rarer venue of Bramfield down the road. We still managed a lot, from Call Changes to Bristol Major before Ruthie and I left for Wenhaston where along with Kate, Maggie and the Knight's we rang a very nice service touch of Cambridge Minor - despite me putting a late bob in!

The service was lovely and hit the right note with the rector Edward Rennard speaking well, before we crossed the road to the huge village hall. It was a large venue, but I'm glad to say we filled it as people seemed to heed our plea to make the most of this fantastic social occasion. There wasn't the 100 I had hoped for, but we weren't far off.

Tea was brilliant, a real treat and thanks to the Blyth Valley Ringers for putting such a great spread on. It was very enjoyable as I signed thirty-one (brilliant!) certificates for new members!

It was soon down to business and Philip was good to his word as he kept the meeting upbeat and moving. There was a slight sticky patch as once again we got bogged down with wording (only the Suffolk Guild could argue the toss over whether the Bishop is a Lord or not and whether that is important!) but in the main the meeting flew by and it was soon time for evening ringing.

Whilst most people took advantage of ringing at Wenhaston, Ruthie and I drove on ahead to Chediston where I was to run the ringing once people had had a ring at Wenhaston. We were met by Ronnie and Graham and a couple from Berkshire and Philip from Colchester, but soon the crowds came in. I hope everyone got a good go, although as I have mentioned before, the ringing is difficult to run at these sorts of events as new faces appear and abilities need to be quickly assessed. To top it all off, we finished with a course of Cambridge Minor rung by a band whose oldest member was Tom Scase! For your information (could be interesting to look back on in a few years!), the band was Craig Gradidge, Louis Suggett, Tom Britten, Robert Beavis, Tom Scase and Ruthie (average age 18.5 we worked out!). The encouraging thing is that with George Salter and Philip Moyse who were both there earlier, we could've managed a (very) young band on eight today!

Thank you to everyone who came. To those who didn't, what I have imparted here is only the tip of the iceberg on what was a superb day and make sure you are at (possibly) Ixworth next year as the North-West host this fantastic event in 2010, on April 10th - please keep the date free!

Talking of the North-West, their Quarter-Peal Week saw more firsts today as Alex Tatlow rang his first quarter at Great Barton. Congratulations Alex! Bob Minor was also rung at Brandon.

With ringing done it was over to the Wissett Plough for a drink before Ruthie, brother Chris and myself headed back to The Mariners via dropping Susanne off.

Friday, 17th April, 2009

The North-West District Quarter-Peal Week really picked up pace today (perhaps they really are trying to beat the North-East's fortnightly total!) with lots of firsts in the eight quarters rung since I woke up this morning!

Well done particularly to Kieran Hart, who rang his first quarter at Wetherden, but also congratulations to Alan Stanley who rang his first away from cover at Wickham Skeith, St John Perry who rang his first of Bob Minor at Thornham Magna, Craig Gradidge for his first of Bob Doubles inside at Stoke Ash and John Ramsbottom for his first of Grandsire at Rickinghall Superior. On top of that, quarters were scored at Buxhall (Doubles), Gislingham (Cambridge Minor) and Redgrave (Doubles again) in a phenomenal effort! Wow!

My day was slightly less energetic as I scoffed myself with more homemade cake brought in to celebrate Madeleine's birthday tomorrow. In fact Mason had a more energetic day than me as Mum and Dad took him to Bressingham to ride on the choo-choos. Of course he had a great time!

With the move and forthcoming AGM, I had forgotten to sort out babysitting arrangements for the li'l chap as I had said I'd ring in a quarter at Grundisburgh. Thankfully Peter Harper had very kindly stepped in for me by the time Mum and Dad had returned Mason to Woodbridge and Yorkshire Royal was scored in apparently decent fashion. Once back and Ruthie was out again, walking the now short distance to Woodbridge's pubs with Fergie and her two flatmates from Brighton, so Hollesley was not possible, but it was nice to enjoy a night in at the new house!

Thursday, 16th April, 2009

Saturday afternoon onwards will be a busy day for me, demanding much of my attention and involving much travel so I decided that it was probably best - if she were agreeable - for Kara to have Mason from lunchtime on the day. Thankfully she was agreeable as although Mason would have a whale of a time, he wouldn't see much of me and he would be up way past his bedtime, so it wouldn't be fair on him.

The trade-off was for me to pick him up earlier today, with Mum and Dad kindly looking after him for the day. It meant for a hectic early evening as once I'd been to Ipswich and back to pick the li'l chap up after work, I headed off to Hollesley, picking Ruthie up on route.

Our visit was two-fold as there are still a couple of bits and pieces need collecting from Mallard Way, meters to be read, etc. But first we tagged on to the end of Lesley Dolphin's latest lesson on the simulator, being brilliantly tutored by Alan and Kate. I have to admit that their experience has been invaluable and as we approach her last lesson on Monday it is mainly down to them that Lesley has fulfilled the fantastic standard she has reached. Tonight she was ringing plain hunt on 4, amazing in the time she's had! Don't forget to keep listening on Tuesday afternoons for us on Radio Suffolk!

After all had been done in Hollesley, it was back to the new home. The plan is from now on it should be easier for either Ruthie or me to make it to Grundisburgh for practice, but this evenings' events meant it just wasn't possible this week.

Well done to Tim Shorman on his first quarter of Cambridge Major at The Norman Tower, all part of the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week of course, as was the local band quarter at Rougham. Well done to all, especially Tim.

Wednesday, 15th April, 2009

A well-travelled and fairly busy Wednesday evening began in typical fashion with a well rung (and steadier) quarter-peal of Ipswich Minor at Pettistree. Elaine showed how far she has come, ringing well today.

Ruthie and I hung around to ring some Cambridge Minor for a poorly Susan, but we were soon off again as I was keen to get to Leiston for their first practice for years. Please do come and support these practices - which will be on the second Wednesday of each month from now on - as Cindy has done brilliantly to get things up and running again.

Jonathan Stevens also joined us and with Michael Rolph's invaluable experience and support, the large numbers of learners and returning ringers there are in good hands. However, members' support would be greatly appreciated and I hope to return in the not too distant future myself. Call changes on 8, Plain Bob Doubles and Minor and Grandsire Doubles were all rung, before we were treated to alcohol and nibbles for the second night running (I could get used to this!) as a thank you from Cindy to all those who had come and supported this fantastic initiative. I even managed to persuade one of the ringers that coming to this Saturday's AGM is not the daunting and terrible experience that so many have the misapprehension of it being - please don't let her be the only one!

On the way back to Pettistree for a drink at The Greyhound, we were treated to the first thunderstorm of the year, lighting our big wide skies in the darkness spectacularly.

The North-West District Quarter-Peal Week continues in style, with another quarter on Monday coming to my attention at Badwell Ash as well as one today at Haughley. Well done to the four who rang their first quarter on a mini-ring at The Folly too!

Tuesday, 14th April, 2009

A slow day back at work with the highlight undoubtedly being the five minute walk home where I could meet Ruthie for lunch!

After briefly meeting my very nice neighbour (Bob, who is a builder!), we headed out to Tunstall for a trip down memory lane. When I lived in this beautiful outpost of Suffolk, I used to wander down from my little pink cottage to practice every Tuesday before Richard would often give me a lift down to The Green Man where I'd meet Kala, Toby and many other local buddies. Sadly now The Man is a lot quieter and no longer frequented by the likes of Kala or Toby, but the rest of the evening was a lot like the old times.

On this occasion, Ruthie and I were over to celebrate John Calver's 70th birthday (on Easter Sunday), as were a number of other old faces. John is a lovely man and I enjoy his tales of the seas and homemade cider!

The practice was typically jovial and Richard does a fantastic job of not only getting so much out of this practice but also - with John - making sure the bells are rung here and at Iken regularly on a Sunday.

After champagne and cake, we headed back to Sun Lane where I enjoyed the surreal experience of watching the end of one of the most exciting Champions League matches ever (Chelsea and Liverpool drew 4-4 to make the tie 7-5 to Chelsea on aggregate) whilst listening to Handel's Messiah from Westminster Abbey which Ruthie had been keep track of whenever we were in easy reach of Radio Three. Such culture!

Well done to David Rogers, who rang his first Minor inside at Barrow as the Midweek Group contributed to the North-West District Quarter-Peal Week.

Easter Monday, 13th April, 2009

Although the advantages of me living in the centre of Woodbridge are numerous, the advantages for Ruthie when she stays over became obvious this morning when it took her just four minutes to walk to work! She used to spend longer than that getting in and out of the car!

In her absence, I continued the clearout and tidy up of the flat in Mallard Way. On my own and empty of all bar a few bits of furniture that belong to the landlords, I had that moment when you stop for a second and realise - after all the rushing about of the previous three days - for the first time that you're actually leaving. What had been a noisy, busy place, home to a growing toddler and with a TV nearly always on is now just a quiet shell. Quite sad, but all part of the moving process. New beginnings often see sad endings. There is still stuff to be done, so it's not the last of the flat I'll see, but it was for the day.

The North-West District are really going for it in their Quarter-Peal Week! Another two today, with another first quarter, this time for Colin White at Redgrave. Well done to Colin and to John Goodwin who rang his first of Grandsire at Walsham‑le‑Willows.

Well worth taking note of and supporting is the sponsored peal attempt at Mandurah in Australia as brought up by James Smith. It's great to see that Roger has done so well after his illness and even better that he is in a position to help raise money for the fight against cancer. Please do help if you can, Roger and Pat have many friends in Suffolk.

Easter Sunday, 12th April, 2009

A respite from moving as Sunday morning ringing took precedence on this most important of days.

With it being a holiday weekend, it was typically hit and miss numbers-wise at both St Mary‑le‑Tower and Grundisburgh. People go away and people visit, but you can never be sure to what extent.

SMLT saw ten there and we were able to ring some very reasonable Grandsire Caters and Little Bob Royal with the help of Melvyn Potts.

Although Stephen was away on holiday (again!) and therefore absent from Suffolk's second 12, we had the pleasant surprise of being visited by Winston and Carol Girling and Julian and Cathy Colman for a family christening. Along with welcome visits by Peter from Woodbridge and young Luke from Bredfield, we were able to ring Call Changes on 10.

Julian and Cathy then rang Yorkshire Major with us, despite not having rung for months. It's just like riding a bike! It was good to see them as I haven't seen them for years.

After that and with Boots - like pretty much everywhere - closed today, Ruthie and I continued the great shifting and disposing of stuff from Hollesley.

Our mate Toby contacted us to ask us if we fancied joining him for a drink now we were in walking distance of Woodbridge's pubs and so we decided to take him up on that offer. We quickly picked up a curry from Saffron - having bumped into Pete and Susanne in there - and got ready. Unfortunately Tobes had to call our date off as he'd been reminded that he was in fact babysitting tonight!

We decided to pop up the Mariners anyway, especially as my favourite pub in town is now just three minutes walk away! It made a nice change from ITV anyway.

The North-West District Quarter-Peal Week got off to a flyer as they attempt to beat the North-East's recent Fortnight! Well done particularly to Nick Vaughan on ringing his first quarter at Euston, but also to Andrea Alderton who rang her first of Bob Minor at Great Finborough. Well done to both of you and good start guys!

Easter Saturday, 11th April, 2009

Kate, Ruthie and I returned to Hollesley to collect the big stuff that needed to go to the dump, including a tatty old sofa that I've had for years, has lost a leg and generally has seen much, much better days.

Much like Ipswich Town. Their disastrous (but sadly not unique this season) capitulation to Doncaster, another below average side made to look world-beaters at Portman Road, meant that it is now mathematically impossible for the Tractor Boys to reach the play-offs this time around. I'd be amazed if Jim has much time left...

Soon another busy day of to-ing and fro-ing between Holllesley and Woodbridge was complete, all with a very well behaved Mason in tow and we relaxed to more ITV. This televisual feast was broken up by a welcome visit from Aaron, back for the weekend and on what is his birthday!

Thanks again Kate!

Good Friday, 10th April, 2009

Day one of the big move.

First though, duty called as ringing was required at St Mary‑le‑Tower for the Good Friday procession. We got nine which was lucky as Owen only half-muffled the front eight! Still, some very good and appropriate ringing was done and thank you to those who came out to help.

By the time I'd got back to Woodbridge and sorted some things out, Ruthie was back from her morning stint helping at Boots and Kate had returned from Norfolk with three chickens to accompany (the same garden not hutch!) Brian the bunny (named after a certain Suffolk ringer of some eminence). We were ready!

Kate's folks had very kindly allowed their trailer to be used for the moving of the big stuff that just won't fit in a car and so our first port of call was Chris and Mary's for the beds and mattresses they were rather generously giving me. Sadly, once back to Sun Lane and the new abode, it became obvious we weren't going to be able to fit the bed up the steep, tight and narrow staircase, so I had to reluctantly return that, although the Garners have kindly allowed me to keep the mattresses for now so we have a bed of sorts!

Apart from a lack of a booster that means we can only currently pick up ITV, everything else went as perfectly as I could expect.

Mum and Dad arrived with Mason having looked after the chap during the day. To say he was underwhelmed by his new home is an understatement - he slept from the moment he came in so he went straight to bed!

Eventually we settled down to watch Emmerdale, Coronation Street and all other kinds of stuff we'd never usually watch, just happy to make Sun Lane feel like a home.

My most grateful thanks to Kate and Ruthie for helping me today, to Chris and Mary for their patience and help and to Mum and Dad for keeping Mason occupied!

Maundy Thursday, 9th April, 2009

Took delivery of my new house keys at lunchtime today making me a very happy boy! Popped round with Ruthie as we once again surveyed the house but this time without an estate agent breathing down our necks.

Hopefully the moving will start tomorrow, but it's nice to finally get in there!

After picking up Mason , we headed straight off to Hollesley where Ruthie joined us too. Primarily we were there to ring for the Maundy Thursday service, but we took the opportunity to give Lesley another lesson, which went superbly. She seems so much more confident and almost doesn't need anyone standing with her, such is her control and - when things do go wrong - her powers of recovery!

Good to see Halesworth back up to 8 and just in time for the AGM (APRIL 18TH, APRIL 18TH!!!) and especially to see the quarter of Stedman Triples rung for their Maundy Thursday service, something I don't think they were overly confident of happening!

Wednesday, 8th April, 2009

With concerts and competitions demanding Ruthie's Wednesday night time in Colchester most weeks, she has had little opportunity to partake in the monthly Surprise Minor peals that she was once a regular member of at The Wolery.

However, with it being the Easter holidays and no such demands on her presence in North Essex, she was able to ring in this evenings peal of 21 Surprise Minor methods. The majority were familiar to us and served as a useful reminder to Ruthie, but there were one or two new ones, not least Sedlescombe and Hathern it's 6th place version.

Of course Ruthie will now be unavailable for these adventures until July at least, but she enjoyed it and it was nice to have her along again.

Incidentally, whilst watching the news tonight about Scotland Yard's blundering head of counter-terrorism, did anyone else ponder on whether Bob Quick was named after a touch of Stedman?

Tuesday, 7th April, 2009

As usual there was no ringing for Ruthie or me on a Tuesday night, but unlike the norm we were out and about as we met up with Ruthie's friends in The Bell and Steelyard pub in Woodbridge, before us two walked down the hill with Fergie and Katharine to The Mariners. A very pleasant evening.

Monday, 6th April, 2009

It's often said that the number of people at your funeral gives a good indication of how much esteem you were held in your life, how many other lives you touched. By that measurement - one which I hold to - then it's obvious that Bernard Fairhead will be much missed and was held in a lot of respect, not that we needed this confirmation. St Leonard-at-the-Hythe in Colchester was packed to the extent that - arriving just in time having negotiated an area keen on roundabouts but not on road-signs - I and many others had to sit in the Lady Chapel as the church itself was already full!

There was a suitably large Suffolk contingent for a man who was a staunch and loyal supporter of our Guild, with some coming down on coaches! The great and the good were there, including George Pipe and John Loveless, meaning the Ringing Masters of the Essex Association, The Suffolk Guild and The Royal Society of Cumberland Youths were present for this former master of the Essex Association. It was also good to see Philip Erith who shared the back of the coach with us and Bernard on that exhausting trip down to Italy a few years back!

It was a worthy send off for a great man.

Following a cuppa, I headed back to Hollesley, where I met up with Ruthie who had very generously begun packing boxes in anticipation of our ever-nearing move to Woodbridge. We stuck around in Hollesley as it was here that we were to meet Lesley again for her next session, with there being no ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower due to Holy Week. Again she moved on phenomenally, eventually ringing rounds on 3 and very well at that too!

The first programme on this project will be on tomorrow (Tuesday) on Lesley's show (she thinks between 2 and 3), so listen out or listen again!

The session showed how useful the simulator could be as Sally could also receive a little extra training for the hour-and-a-half that we were there, all without any of the neighbours knowing of our presence!

Sunday, 5th April, 2009

Being Palm Sunday, the normal service was replaced by the annual procession to Christchurch Park, so ringing was later than normal. Not that it had an adverse effect on belfry numbers, with Yorkshire Max rung as has increasingly become the norm on a Sunday morning. This has of course been my aim for some time, but I don't plan to be content with just that. There is always scope to ring these things better and with the rate the band has been picking things up in the last few weeks, who knows what we may be capable of this time next year?

Talking of the procession, it returns on Good Friday morning, meaning we need ringers from 10 until about 10.30 at SMLT. If you can make it I would be most grateful.

The late ringing in Ipswich meant that Mason and I only made it time for the final touch at Grundisburgh, Grandsire Triples.

Kara was running quite late today as she's had some car trouble of her own and so I had Mason a little longer. Not that either of us minded as the li'l chap and I met Ruthie for lunch and with the sun shining brightly and me walking out and about in a t-shirt for the first time this year, he played on the slide and swings whilst we had our lunch nearby.

With Mason back at his Mum's, I settled down to watch Luton V Scunthorpe at Wembley in the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, a romantically named competition open only to lower league sides and not normally something I'd take much notice of. Today though, with Luton being Alan McBurnie's team of choice, he and Kate and gone down t English footballs national stadium and watched first hand a fantastic game that saw Luton win 3‑2 after extra-time! It was a wonderful result for a team very harshly treated, having had 30 points deducted at the start of the season (for reasons too long and complicated to go into here) that essentially doomed them to relegation from the Football League before a ball was even kicked this season.

That drama over and done with though and Ruthie back from work, it was then on to Pettistree to ring a quarter of Waltham Delight Minor (Primrose above, Where's Jane? (!) below) at a brisk pace which was apparently my fault!

Having stayed on to ring for evensong and then to collect our Palm crosses, Mike, Pippa, Ruthie and myself sat outside The Greyhound until 7, when Paul the landlord took pity on us and let us in for a couple of drinks.

It was then back to Edwin Avenue where we were greeted by Kate, back from London, resplendent in eye-burning orange and with many tales to regale!

Saturday, 4th April, 2009

I have to be honest and admit that I just don't get what is so utterly abhorrent and offensive about bellringing to some people. I'm aware that it can't be everybody's cup of tea and admittedly I've spent my life with folk who - ringer or non-ringer - have in the main at worst been unbothered by bells and at best have received much joy and pleasure through ringing or hearing them. It is even harder to believe that someone could be so outraged by them in Chediston, where the bells project has been supported by the vast majority of the village and has brought about/enhanced a great sense of community in this picturesque part of Suffolk, surely one of the reasons any sane person would move to a small and ancient village.

It has to be pointed out that in the case of bells ringing out for the first time for years, like at Chediston, someone agitated by the bells receives the most sympathy they're going to get off me. It is why I think it is imperative that sound control has to be considered particularly in new or refurbished rings as it's conceivable that just one person can complain and unlike in Aldeburgh last year, the local authorities will take their complaint seriously and hey presto, a ring of bells that has had a large amount of time, money and effort poured into it can be silenced. However, the rude and quite unnecessary things said to one of the ringers as she left lost her any credibility in my eyes on this occasion.

This afternoon, Ruthie, Mason and I joined Jonathan Stevens and the locals for the official test ring to ensure that Jonathan and I are happy enough to allow the allocated grant - paid for by Guild members through subscriptions and peal fees - to be released. Unnecessary some of you may say with the re-dedication already enjoyed, the first peal rung and practices and service ringing already undertaken. But this isn't a simple matter of having a ring and saying whether we enjoy them. Much time - nearly an hour and a half this afternoon - is spent ringing bells in different combinations as Jonathan checks the technical side of things up in the bells and I consider carefully the go, feel and ringability of them from downstairs.

Apart from some of the odd-struckness needing tightening up, It was a relatively simple one this afternoon with a fine job done by Nicholson's, but Jonathan and I still like to ring each bell as we aim to ensure each one goes well enough to be given the money. I also grabbed a quick view off the tower roof, a fine idea on such a beautiful sunny day.

On the way back, the three of us dropped in on the Garner's to inspect a couple of beds they are very generously giving us for the forthcoming move as the bed at Hollesley is about the only bit of furniture I don't own!

With a quick visit from Mum and Dad and Mason fed, watered and put to bed, I ventured up Hollesley belfry for the third night running. This time round it was for the South-East District practice and again it was a fantastically attended event with nearly 30 crammed in and most things from Call-Changes to Bristol rung. Well done again Kate on keeping on top of it!

Just a quick retrospective congratulations to John Taylor for his first quarter away from cover, rung at Brandeston on the 6th February. Apologies for missing that one John, but well done anyway!

Friday, 3rd April, 2009

With Mason tucked up in bed and Ruthie relaxing after working and studying practically non-stop over the week, I popped down the road to Hollesley practice. With the help of Richard Wilson we were able to ring some good Cambridge Major and Grandsire Triples and to top a successful evening off, Bruce and Cathy were presented with their Guild badges having been made members at the recent South-East District meeting at Framlingham. Well done to them both!

Thursday, 2nd April, 2009

With no practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower next week due to the traditional Holy Week silence and probably not one the week after as it's Easter Monday, the opportunities for teaching Lesley Dolphin as part of 'The Big Skills' radio project were looking sparse. We therefore decided to bring her to Hollesley where of course we were able to use the simulator.

If we're honest it wasn't the best of her three practices so far but was still incredibly important. She lost control a couple of times but this is no bad thing. As with almost anything dangerous (as bellringing can be in the wrong hands), knowing how to recover when things go wrong is arguably the most important part of the learning process and of course Alan and I were on hand to help. Despite these blips she still learnt how to set the bell at handstroke, picking this aspect up with her normal speed and careful attention and almost effortlessly getting the feel of the bell and in the main being in full control.

It was good to spend nearly an hour-and-a-half with her and Alan, Micky and myself were able to show her plain hunt on three.

Two things on the website to take note of. Firstly, Leiston are up and running and after an initial first practice on the 15th of this month will be practicing every second Wednesday of each month - please do support them if you can.

Secondly, there is rather good poster available to be printed off and put in your tower for the Guild AGM. Please put it up, please attend and please encourage (and I mean really encourage) others at your tower to come along to what should be a fantastic day. The special announcement will be worth it!

Wednesday, 1st April, 2009

It was the usual first-of-the-month meeting at work and for the third month I won sales person of the month award - the bonus is handy! The 'Good Egg Award' moved on to Scott, but at least I had made some use of it in the end!

The big announcement though was that the National Statistics Office had sent requirements through to Jonathan whereby all our weights and heights needed to be recorded and sent back to them...

Other April Fools jokes saw the probably less amusing briefcase left outside the magistrates court and police station in Ipswich that saw Civic Drive closed for the rush hour, Mike Whitby telling his son Ed he'd got a tattoo and in the current tough times, petrol and diesel were going up by two pence a litre. Oh wait minute, that last one...

Although April Fools was over with by the time I got to Pettistree for practice, there was still a jovial atmosphere, perhaps due to the successful quarter, maybe due to the light evening now the clocks have been moved forward or perhaps both. Either way, it was a good practice with the usual range from Rounds for Daphne to mixed Doubles and Minor which went well despite me trying to ring 5ths place London Major instead of Minor!

Kate and I left early to pick Ruthie up from Colchester, but we were soon back in The Greyhound to give Mary a card for her forthcoming birthday!

Tuesday, 31st March, 2009

Those who know The Vicar of Dibley well will be aware of Mrs Cropley, the old lady who makes strange recipes, like sweet corn and custard sandwiches and the like. I have to admit I thought of her when Peter brought a beetroot and chocolate cake into work for his birthday today. The result was strangely yummy though!

A night off ringing tonight and a beginning to preparations to move out as Ruthie and I tried to do a bit of cleaning to make sure the place is spic 'n' span by the time I leave.

Monday, 30th March, 2009

Session two of 'The Lesley Dolphin Project' at St Mary‑le‑Tower. She is genuinely good at this ringing lark, with good timing and co-ordination. By the end of the evening she was ringing both strokes, even getting the tail-end tucked behind the sally! There was also a photographer - Tom - from Radio Suffolk, so hopefully there should be pictures on their website soon.

With no practice next week with it being Holy Week and the week after being Easter Monday, we'll need to make some different arrangements, ideally for later this week, with the need to follow up quickly what she has learnt also being a vital factor.

I came back from picking Ruthie up from the station to find Lesley watching some Grandsire Triples with little Isobel Potts sat on Lesley's lap. Isobel was there for the whole evening, impeccably behaved with several different people as her father David was called upon to ring in what was strangely a frustrating but also fairly satisfying practice.

The striking was a bit off tonight, but as usual Yorkshire and Bristol were rung, with the second piece of Bristol actually rung quite well as the band show even more progress. The Little Bob to bring it round left a lot to be desired though!

Sunday, 29th March, 2009

I'm in no position to judge of course, but I have to admit I chuckled - with everyone else - when we turned up 10 for a quarter at Hollesley hastily arranged over the course of the day. No, we haven't augmented to what would admittedly be a fine ring of 10 and if the truth were to be told one of the ringers was here for the ride as it were, but that still meant we met one over for a quarter of Cambridge Major for Anne on the treble and Micky inside.

The extra ringers came in handy however, as the first course showed no signs of settling and so Mike quite rightly decided that some concerted practice at the method with standers-behind would be more useful. And so it proved as both Anne and Micky grew in confidence and quality as we produced some quite decent ringing.

It followed a morning of good ringing (if a little short on numbers ironically!) at St Mary‑le‑Tower and at Grundisburgh where we were joined by Molly Waterson, up to see her grandmother.

Good to see the first peal on the 8 at Ixworth scored and with the quality of band ringing was no doubt a good effort.

Saturday, 28th March, 2009

It was a very quiet day with no ringing. Ruthie had very bravely been put forward for work by her mother yesterday as her ladyship had left her phone in her country residence in Hollesley yesterday, so having dropped her off there I wandered Woodbridge with Mason for a bit, bumping into not one, not two, but three Whitby's, including a very pink (and I mean pink!) haired Sarah!

England won a friendly 4-0 against Slovakia in the football whilst I watched Wales and Northern Ireland in their World Cup qualifiers with opposite results. More significant results (for me at least) were from the National 12-Bell Contest eliminators, held this year at Leeds, Rotherham and Sheffield. All being well, Ruthie and I hope to go to the final at St Paul's Cathedral on 4th July (well worth a visit if you've got the time) and we shall hear (or more likely meet up in the pub with) bands from Birmingham, The College Youths, Leeds, Melbourne (Derbyshire, not Australia!), St Paul's Cathedral, The Cumberlands, Southwark, Stockton-On-Tees and York. It should be a good day!

Friday, 27th March, 2009

The work day ended with the sales team stuffing envelopes for the mail-out that will launch our next campaign. It was pretty dull of course but took me back a year when that was pretty much the extent of my work and made me instantly more grateful for the job I do now!

Fish 'n' chips from the van at Hollesley was the order of the day for tea and once we'd put Mason to bed it was practice night at the local for me as Ruthie did some more work at mine.

Only eight short for Bristol Maximus, we had to content ourselves with Grandsire Triples. However, there was cake for Sally's birthday and an amusing meeting that highlighted the busy nature of bellringers lives as we struggled to find a suitable date for the Hollesley outing in September or October!

Thursday, 26th March, 2009

One of the benefits of the new house once I'm in, will be that getting to Grundisburgh practice on a Thursday should be practical much more often.

For now though, the same problems and impracticalities of getting Mason back to Hollesley and then going all the way back out to Grundisburgh and then all the way back to Hollesley or using two cars meant that they had to manage without me again tonight. I'm sure they coped...

Wednesday, 25th March, 2009

Momentous day personally. I received news that I am indeed to move into the house I looked at last week. Whilst Mallard Way has been an absolutely tremendous abode, it's geography was a bit of a pain and not entirely fuel or cost efficient and Mason having to share a room with Daddy and Aunty Ruthie was far from ideal. This new place will give Mason his own room when he comes over and enables me to walk to work. All being well, I should be moving over the Easter weekend.

Ruthie and I weren't in the lost quarter at Pettistree, but nobody seemed too down-hearted by the loss. With the amount that are attempted here, the odd one is bound to go astray. The practice was another good one, with Susan having her first go at 'messing about' (mixed Minor) and Daphne's close family friend Clare who was visiting having a concerted go at Cambridge, not an opportunity she apparently gets very often.

It was easier to find a seat in The Greyhound this week, though still buzzing, especially when Kate started the singing off...

You'll also be glad to know that Jane has booked at least one meal for Peter in May. He won't go hungry after all.

I also received word tonight that Bernard Fairhead's funeral will be at 2.45pm on Monday 6th April at St Leonard‑at‑the‑Hythe church in Colchester. Hopefully there will be a good turnout from Suffolk for this dear and long-time friend of the Guild.

Tuesday, 24th March, 2009

Philip Gorrod, our Chairman, today emailed a letter to Guild members encouraging them to attend the Guild AGM on Saturday 18th April (If you have not received your copy please ). I really would urge you to let everyone see and read the letter and to encourage those you see - especially learners and new members - to attend as it is more than just a meeting, which is of course important in itself. The whole afternoon and evening is a marvellous social occasion and the hosts - The Blyth Valley Ringers - are teeming with learners who would love to meet other ringers (of any ability) from across the county. Please do not allow distance to be an issue either - I'm sure there will be lifts available and it's all worthwhile and much appreciated when you get to the other end.

Well done to Clive Bignell who rang his first quarter away from cover today at Debenham. Next step is inside Clive!

Ruthie and I meanwhile did nothing more than take a welcome call from my brother - sometimes you just need a night off!

Monday, 23rd March, 2009

Clears throat. I would like to thank the following people profusely. Predominately Ruthie, Kate and my mother and father. But also Alan McBurnie, Brian Whiting, Peter and Christine Hill, Tom Scase, Peter from work, Stephen Pettman, Unky Chris, Philip Gorrod and Maggie Ross. These are all people that have given me lifts since my car was diagnosed with brakeuslackus. Tonight I was finally able to pick up my fully functioning, MOTed car from the garage on the way to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice.

It put me in a buoyant mood as I met Lesley Dolphin outside the church gates with Kate - who had taken me to my car - and Bruce Wakefield who was at this positive PR event in his position as Public Relations Officer. I'd also invited Alan McBurnie and his, Kate and Bruce's advice was invaluable as we worked together to use the 'John Harrison method' of teaching the Radio Suffolk presenter.

After giving her the frightening sounding safety warnings and explaining what was happening above, this involved getting her used to the feel of a rope (the 4th) whilst the bell was down and then get her to gradually raise it - under our close supervision of course - before getting her to feel the balance of the bell. Then it was backstrokes and a process that ends with her reaching up and touching the sally whilst still doing backstrokes. It's easier to observe than to explain in this blog, but it seems much safer and very effective as we achieved all of that in half-an-hour before practice! With Lesley making positive noises about continuing beyond the radio project, we could have a very good ringer on our hands! We'll do it again next week with Lesley and I keeping in touch, but with lots of people coming in it was time to start the practice proper. Lesley hung around to watch and record for a bit but had to leave for another engagement, but it was a very encouraging start.

The practice night itself was a joy, with Bristol Max again rung (even the Little Bob to bring it round came, well - round!), some good Yorkshire Max, Grandsire Cinques for Gordon Slack who is getting his 12-bell eye in a bit now and some Plain Hunt on 11 for young Robert Beavis who also did very well.

Such a great evening deserved topping off with a pint and so we went to The Cricketers before Ruthie and I treated ourselves to kebab meat and chips for the first time for a while!

Sunday, 22nd March, 2009

Although hopefully the last weekend I have to rely on others, I was still unable for now to practically get into Ipswich with Mason, so the Sunday morning routine of a fortnight ago was repeated.

As with two weeks ago, Kate took Pete, Susanne, Mason and me to Pettistree where I grabbed a quick ring whilst Hazel tried to keep up with the li'l chap in a busy church!

After tea, cake and football at Pete and Susanne's, it was onwards to Ufford - past the horse again - where were able to ring Grandsire Triples. There is a slope from the window to the ringing chamber floor here and the only practical place to put Mason in his buggy whilst I rang. With a wriggling 2-year old though, the brakes aren't enough to hold buggy and babe on the slope and so I rang the second, right foot keeping buggy in place as said boy hung off me! Not ideal, but we battled on!

With Mason dropped off and for once nothing planned this afternoon, I relaxed by meeting Ruthie for lunch and then watching football on TV (and call Mum to wish her Happy Mother's Day of course!), before the return of her ladyship, a quick cup of tea and back to Ufford where we scored a reasonably rung quarter of half-lead 8-spliced Surprise Major.

It was a good result and one that signals an end to our half-lead exploits for now. We may keep in touch with it as it's been extremely useful for everyone in seeing in sharp focus the intricate structures of the 'standard' eight Surprise Major methods, but we've been doing this for some time now, so it's time to move on. The next step may be Belfast, but with Easter coming next month, tying everyone down to a day and time may be tricky.

Aaron is back from the Navy this week, so Kate, Ruthie and I joined him for a curry at The Shapla in town. We were going to go to Prezzo's next door, but with an hour wait we plumped for poppadoms ahead of pasta. Good to see him again anyway.

Saturday, 21st March, 2009

It was the Pettistree mini-outing this morning on another spanking day. Although numbers were a little low as various people were away we enjoyed good ringing in different places on a glorious sunny day, perhaps ringing at it's best.

Despite yesterday's good news about the car, Mason and I were still relying on lifts and Kate was able to take us and Aunty Ruthie to the first tower, Pakenham. This being our third visit in the last seven or eight months to this lovely 6, the village, church and bells have become quite familiar to Ruthie and me. Maybe it's the large circle for a ring of this weight or the fact they are anti-clockwise that forces concentration, but whenever I've been they seem to bring the best out of ringers and today was no different. Well rung pieces of Cambridge and Norwich Minor were undoubtedly the highlight here.

Great Barton was next and being a long way up and relatively small belfry, Ruthie and I took it in turns to stay downstairs to look after Mason. Not that he minded with a church and churchyard to run amok in with a wand(?!) and we didn't do too badly out of it either. Whilst my better half got to ring Ebor Minor (4ths place Cambridge), I was able to sample the well-rung delights of mixed Doubles and Minor.

The final tower of the day (well it was only a mini-outing) was Ixworth, again familiar to Ruthie and me even in their newly augmented - and now fully grant-aided - state. However, we hadn't seen the TV screen in the church that relayed live pictures of the bells and ringers upstairs, a fantastic innovation and pretty cheap too! With Danny the local helping, we created more good ringing, including Yorkshire Major.

Following a great lunch at The Dog in Norton, it was back to Woodbridge for a lazy afternoon of watching the football scores coming in as Ipswich's forgettable 0-0 draw at home to struggling Watford all but finished off any realistic hope of making the play-offs and all before Easter!

Friday, 20th March, 2009

The highlight of the working day was another trip out to the warehouse near Great Glemham, this time with Peter. I quite like this place, isolated and opposite forest on one side and open fields on the other and on a day like today, it was lovely bathed in spring-like sunshine.

It was darker and colder by the evening however as Ruthie and I got the li'l chap to bed and I went to Hollesley practice. Just short of one for Surprise Major, but we still managed respectable Grandsire Triples.

A big thank you to Ruthie who took Mason down to Mum and Dad's on her own this morning after her train was cancelled (meaning she had to forsake a morning of Colchester Institute) and then took me back down there after work to pick him up. Hopefully it'll be the last time she'll have to that as the good news is the brakes are fixed and the MOT is lined up for Monday, so all being well I shall have my car back for Monday night or Tuesday!

Thursday 19th March, 2009

Two important developments - both of which are hopefully the beginning of a process that will benefit me in the long-term - occurred today. Firstly my car was finally lifted from Kate and Ruthie's driveway and taken down to it's usual garage. With it's MOT also due it's still not 100% that I will ever drive it again, but at least something's finally being done about it.

Secondly, I viewed a quaint little cottage with Ruthie in Woodbridge at lunchtime. It's main appeals are it's two bedrooms (Mason will soon get tired of sharing a room with me) and it's location, but it's also very cheap. Hence there are apparently a lot of other people looking at it so it's far from certain that I will be a Woodbridgian in the next few weeks.
For now, I gratefully received Ruthie's help to pick up the li'l chap for the weekend and return to my current abode (with which I'm still very happy) in Hollesley.

Wednesday 18th March, 2009

Extensive debate on 'Ringing Chat' in regards to method learning, a subject close to many ringers heart. Philip Earis' assertion that if you can't learn a surprise Major method in under minute there is something wrong with the learning process is a bit extreme, but his general message is one I agree with. Too many learners (not just in Suffolk I hasten to add) make life harder for themselves, often because of the way they've been taught. I'm amazed whenever I come across someone who hasn't learnt the place-bells of a method, surely a natural instinct as it makes the learning process much easier by breaking a blue-line down into bite-size chunks. Where you pass the treble is another aide that often gets dismissed as too difficult by learners when in fact it would simplify the process of ringing a method several-fold. Not using these sorts of techniques doesn't stop you from learning, but it makes it immeasurably harder to learn.

Without such techniques, it would have been very difficult if not impossible to ring tonight's quarter at Pettistree. Cinquecento Treble Place Minor was a deceptively tricky but apt method as this was the 500th quarter on the bells, just twenty odd years after the first one and an indication of the enthusiasm that has failed to wain since the bells were done in 1986.

It preceded another varied and enjoyable night with handling practice for Rob and Call Changes for Daphne right up to mixed Doubles and Minor, which in turn proceeded our usual walk to The Greyhound. Tonight it was heaving, so much so we had to wait some time to get a seat, a very healthy sign at a time when the village pub is supposedly dying.

Well done to George Salter who not only rang his first quarter, but his first quarter on a working bell, both at the bottom of his garden last night. No doubt the first of many and perhaps not too far ahead of a peal?

On top of all that, I also received a call from Lesley Dolphin as I walked home from work as we set up arrangements for the 'Big Skill' project I was discussing the other day. It all kicks-off at St Mary‑le‑Tower on Monday before practice and could be quite exciting!

Tuesday 17th March, 2009

Following on from a superb day on Sunday, well done to those who rang the first peal on the rededicated bells at Chediston. The band was extremely appropriate and hopefully it is the first of much ringing on this fantastic six.

I had my first proper read of the new Suffolk Guild Annual Report today, having caught glimpses of it over the last few days. Ruth Suggett has again done a first class job, not least in getting it out well before the Guild AGM (Saturday 18th April, Wenhaston - be there!).

As is well documented in this blog, Tuesday night is normally mine and Ruthie's night in. This week we had a pleasant change from the norm as she was partaking in a competition at Colchester Institute and so I came along to lend my support (driven by Ruthie of course). Essentially the competition was split in two. Soloists of various persuasions were on in the first half and ensembles - including Ruthie who was in the flute choir - were in the second half. They didn't win, but they received encouraging words from Anthony Bailey, a young but relatively well known composer who was one of the judges.

It was a late 'un once we'd got back to mine via Asda, but good 'un.

Monday 16th March, 2009

After a week of speculation, a minibus arrived outside our offices at 11 o'clock, ready to take the whole company on our magical mystery tour. As the journey went on, it became clearer that our destination was going to be Orford (as suspected by many) and sure enough, on a brilliantly clear and sunny day we arrived at Orford Quay where we were met by a small boat, The Regardless.

Our dinner was to be served on The Lady Florence, a boat I've often considered I'd like to go on and would normally take us up and down the river from Shingle Street to Aldeburgh. However, today it had gearbox trouble and so was moored round by Havergate Island, hence our initial journey on The Regardless. Still, it was a beautiful setting (aren't we lucky to have this on our doorstep?) and extremely peaceful and once on board we had stunning views of Orford Castle and church and possibly as far down as Hollesley in the slightly hazy distance as well as the Ness of course.

The meal was great, as was the drink and as with previous occasions all on the company as Jonathan wanted not only to thank his staff for a good campaign but also to kick-off John Catt's 50th birthday celebrations.

Sadly we had to leave, but once back at the office, we were released home at 4. What a brilliant day!

St Mary‑le‑Tower completed this fine day as we had 19 at practice, including a visit from a chap called Phil from Horncastle. Eventually, three pieces of Yorkshire Max were rung (and well again) before we topped the evening off with a lead of Bristol Max (which was rung fine) brought round by Little Bob (or at least that was the plan!).

With Ruthie on competition duty in Colchester, Kate and I then headed off to North Essex to pick her up.

Congratulations to all who organised and took part in the North-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight. Apparently 24 quarters were scored, a phenomenal effort and one that the North-West are already eyeing up to beat in their Quarter-Peal Week next month!

Sunday 15th March, 2009

10 changes. Maybe 20 seconds. Half a lead of Grandsire Caters. There've been shorter peal attempts, but I haven't been involved in them.

The day started with Ruthie leaving Mum and Dad's early to ring a quarter for Bishop Nigel at Pettistree before then going on to work and then a flute afternoon in Woodbridge. Mason and I meanwhile were taken to St Mary‑le‑Tower by his grandparents where a fantastic touch of Grandsire Caters was rung. Sadly, parking difficulties meant that many didn't get there until late on and so the only opportunity we had to ring on the 12 this week was for some rounds over the last two or three minutes.

I was then due at Stonham Aspal at 11.30 for the third and final peal of Roy's peal weekend. With no one heading from Ipswich way, Dad again generously transported me (it's like being 14 again), but quite rightly wanting to get back for ringing at Sproughton I was dropped off over an hour early as he headed back with a tearful Mason.
Thankfully it was a lovely morning, so I took the opportunity to wander around this pretty village and even took some time to soak up some rays!
The reason why Roy was ringing all these ten-bell peals this weekend is because of an ambition to ring a peal on all the ten's available before he died. I had suggested he leave Stonham until last, but as things turned out, he wasn't to meet his maker today.
We were expecting a rough ride from the beginning, but having been put on the 8th, it became apparent from almost the opening rounds that something was not quite right. The rope was set very high, meaning I needed a box. Once I got the box though, I couldn't stop bashing the stay at backstroke. Though it's tempting to make comments about my handling, it was obvious that something was stopping the bell from going all the way up at backstroke. We gave it a go to see how far we could get and whilst it was fine getting down to the front, once I'd led and turned around it was impossible to get it to raise sufficiently and we had to stop.
Close inspection found that the stay was actually sticking on top of the slider, meaning that the slider was jammed by the stay rather than being pushed. Roy thought he could also see some problems with the gudgeons so we decided the best course of action was to not go for the peal. It was disappointing of course, but I could sense some relief that we didn't have to go ahead with what would've been an incredibly challenging peal.
It also worked out quite well for me as it happened! Peter and Christine Hill who were in the aborted attempt and were travelling down to see Dick and Daphne in Capel and so very kindly dropped me off at Mum and Dad's on the way back. It meant I got to see the li'l chap, get some dinner and have a bath, non of which I would've been able to do if we'd succeeded at Stonham.
After spending more wonderful time with Mason, we dropped him off at Kara's on the way to Chediston for the very long-awaited dedication of the rehung 6 there. Congratulations have to go to all who have worked extremely hard over a long period of time to produce a wonderful result.
The service was great and Bishop Nigel's sermon did as usual hit the spot, not just because I got a mention, but also for the revelation that he reads our newsletter! With that in mind and having seen the latest thin edition it perhaps should serve as a call for people to send stuff into Carol!
Following a fantastic tea, ringing afterwards saw many experienced tower grabbers including David Hird and Colin Turner appear and ring in a great course of Cambridge Minor. But it was also great to see those who will directly benefit from the ring, including the aforementioned Tracey Abell and her young daughter Holly who after just four months has already developed a great style and good striking.
It was another mad dash in Phil and Maggie's car (once they'd found their keys) and their abode as we strove to make it to Hollesley for 7 where I was reunited with Ruthie and where we were going for another attempt of half-lead 8-spliced Surprise Major. It came to grief sadly but was as usual good practice and we shall go for it again next week.
A curry in Saffron followed to top off another long but packed and interesting day.

Saturday 14th March, 2009

I made a conscious decision a little while back to limit my Saturday peal-ringing as Mason is growing up fast and is a lot more aware of - and gets a lot more upset - when I leave him. There'll be the odd one, but essentially I want to spend more time with the li'l man and Ruthie. However, some months ago - before the current Mason arrangement had been established - I had agreed to help Roy le Marechal from Hampshire with three peals this weekend at three of our tens. Roy had been a big help with our peal at Winchester Cathedral back in August, both by ringing and getting local help, so I was keen not to abandon him despite my new resolution.

David Stanford very kindly stood in for me at Stradbroke as I decided that two peals was asking too much of my folks and plus I wanted to spend as much time with the li'l chap as possible.

I was reasonably happy to go to Beccles - a 4.30pm start - and then a meal that had been arranged for our visitors and those of us locally who had helped out at this fine 10. Mum and Dad were able to look after the boy and put him to bed and then put Ruthie and I up on our return.

Before any of this happened though, I had to get Mason to Ipswich and then later myself to Beccles.

Because Ruthie and Kate were ringing quarter-peals today, I couldn't rely on them for a lift and indeed I was keen to avoid having to get a lift, wary of how much they've driven me around over the last couple of weeks. So Mason and I went on the short but immensely fun and exciting train journey from Woodbridge to Westerfield where Mum was to pick us up. The smile never left Mason's face and in itself justified my decision to spend the morning with him!

After dinner with the folks, a tearful farewell to the li'l chap and a brief meeting with Mum and Dad's new neighbours (to get them to move their van from across the folks' driveway!) I undertook the next leg of my logistically difficult day.

I'd arranged with Brian Whiting to meet him at Stowmarket railway station, so Dad took me to Ipswich station where I took another short train journey. Having met up with Bunny, we then headed off to Beccles, via Rickinghall to pick Louis up and finally I was at my destination! In many ways it was exciting, but I can't wait for my car to be fixed...

The peal itself was of Isleworth Surprise Royal (Yorkshire mucked about, a new method for me) and for the Winchester & Portsmouth Diocesan Guild (a new Guild for me) and was very good. We didn't expect the welcome we got downstairs though. Alongside the waiting Phil and Maggie and the local were a couple of non-ringers who lived opposite. 'Uh-oh' you may say, but no. Such was their admiration for our 3hrs20mins worth of effort and so impressed with the ringing, they had gone out and bought EACH member of the band a bunch of flowers! We all looked a little strange in Beccles town centre on a Saturday night (no change there you might say), but it was a fantastic gesture, though not one I believe is on the cards in Aldeburgh anytime soon.

From there, Phil and Maggie took me back to their's at Halesworth where I was able to meet up with Ruthie, fresh from her successful quarters of 11 Doubles method's at Huntingfield, Grandsire and Plain Bob at Heveningham, Ipswich at Benhall and Plain Bob Minor at Blaxhall - all in aide of the North-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight of course!

Ruthie drove me as Phil and Maggie collected the visitors as we all headed to The Plough at Wissett where we enjoyed a brilliant meal, good beer and great company before Ruthie and I returned to Ipswich where we took up Mason's fine idea of getting some shut-eye!

Friday 13th March, 2009

With a continuation of my car troubles, it was Kate who generously volunteered to help get Mason to Mum and Dad's in Ipswich.

On our way, we could've been forgiven for thinking the world had gone mad. Kids with red hair, pirates at bus stops and giant lobsters loose on the streets. Thankfully we quickly remembered it was Comic Relief Day before we called the police!

It was a quiet day in the office, with no directors and Peter at a conference in London, so there was a very relaxed atmosphere, perversely producing more work. Maybe there's a strategy there...

Once Ruthie had taken me to Ashcroft Towers to pick Mason up, we stopped off at her Nan's on the way to Hollesley. It was her birthday yesterday so we took her present and card and had a good old natter as Mason wandered the house exploring, not quite working her lamp out!

It was a long 'un, which was great, but having got Mason to bed it wasn't worth going to Hollesley, so Ruthie and I sat back and watched a whole evening of Red Nose TV. It's all for a good cause, but it ain't 'alf dull.

Well done to those at Sweffling who rung the latest quarter of the North-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight.

Last, but certainly not least though, Happy Birthday Aunty Marion!

Thursday 12th March, 2009

I received a call from Anne Bray this evening of the sad death of Bernard Fairhead from Essex. Bernard was a strong and long-time supporter of the Suffolk Guild, often being more regular at our events then many of our resident members! He also went on Stephen Pettman's trips to Italy, including the one I went on in 2005 where he had to spend the whole trip at the back of the coach with me, my brother and the two very energetic Henry kids! Most recently he came to our 85th Anniversary Dinner at Woolpit nearly a year ago today and was known by many members. It's often said of people who pass away that they never had a bad word about anyone, but in all my time of knowing Bernard (which was a while) I never recall him saying anything against anyone. A lovely chap who will be much missed. If anyone would like to know about funeral arrangements and I haven't already emailed you, then please let me know.

The sad news quite rightly overshadowed an otherwise positive day as the wheels have been set in motion on another PR opportunity with our friends at Radio Suffolk. As part of 'The Big Skill', something the station is doing in conjunction with The Learning Skills Council, they would like me to teach Lesley Dolphin (afternoon presenter and wife of our chum Mark Murphy) to ring over three or four sessions. It should hopefully offer us another chance to positively advertise the art we so love, but I am awaiting a call from Lesley herself to sort out final arrangements.

On top of that, there was news of more quarter success in the North-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, with scores at Bungay, Mendham and a bit of fun on 4 at Ringsfield today. However, hat's off to Adam Hay who rang his first quarter at Wingfield on Tuesday. Well done Adam!

Wednesday 11th March, 2009

It was a day of things breaking or not working, though thankfully nobody was harmed in the writing of this blog.

Of course my brakes are still not working and my car is still sat at Kate and Ruthie's as Champkin Auto Repairs booming business means that Bob is understandably snowed under and unable to collect my car. My attempts to arrange a pick-up to the garage it traditionally goes to in Ipswich faltered too, though I shan't bore you with the details of that!

The morning at work was a story of faulty equipment too as our sales system failed to start up, although we were able to enjoy our sun-basked office a little more than usual!

A success was - as has become the norm - the quarter at Pettistree. We rang Zealot Surprise Minor, Bourne above and one of those funny frontworks with three-blows leading below that initially caught us all out before we settled and enjoyed some very good ringing.

We were lucky though as nearing the end of a good course of York Minor, only the second piece of the evening, the tenor rope broke on me. The practice was delayed somewhat as Chris returned home to retrieve a new rope and then Mary skilfully threaded it through the two sets of guides.

Thankfully nothing else broke, fell apart or failed to work as the practice continued at it's usual high standard, Kate and I picked Ruthie up from Colchester and then enjoyed a drink at The Greyhound.

And nothing broke (at least not terminally I guess) at Southwold and Blythburgh as quarters were rung for the monster that is the North-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight!

Tuesday 10th March, 2009

Congratulations to Eleanor Houghton on her first quarter inside at Rumburgh yesterday. Along with the success at Saxmundham today, the North-East Quarter-Peal Fortnight is proving to be a massive boost to ringers of a wide-range of abilities in that corner of the Guild.

Ruthie and I of course had our usual night in, with Ruthie having to drive again as my lack of a car develops into a real saga!

Monday 9th March, 2009

Well done to Kevin Elliott for his first of Minor in the quarter at Beccles yesterday, which of course was all part of the North-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight. Congratulations to those involved at Halesworth in the quarter there too.

St Mary‑le‑Tower enjoyed it's best practice for a long time with 25 attending. We had a visit from Martin Whiteley, an extremely good ringer but modest and nice man from Bedfordshire and also Gordon Slack, Phil Jones, Melvyn Potts and of course my brother Chris, but even without them we would have been able to achieve the two good pieces of Yorkshire Max and a concerted effort at Bristol Max. It just goes to show what can be achieved when enough experienced 12-bell ringers turn up. I have ambitious plans for things like Orion and spliced with a local band in the long-term. That isn't going to happen overnight of course, but with a regular good attendance from experienced ringers on higher numbers I believe this band can achieve a lot as we've shown over the last good couple of weeks. Not only are we making less mistakes now in the things we've been practicing for a while such as Cambridge and Yorkshire, but the striking has vastly improved.

It's not all about the Surprise Maximus of course. Phil did well on his first go at Plain Hunt on 11 and Gordon on his first attempt of Grandsire Cinques. But of course it is good surprise Max ringing that is the goal and who knows, Gordon and Phil could be a part of that in a couple of years!

Although the pub was tempting with so many visitors and locals, Kate, Ruthie and I were very hungry, so we headed straight off to pick up a pizza in Kesgrave and return back to Edwin Avenue.

Sunday 8th March, 2009

With still no car and no way of getting down to Ipswich using public transport with a 2-year old on a Sunday morning, I took advantage of Kate's generosity again today.

Picking up Susanne and Pete on the way, we headed to Pettistree on this different Sunday morning journey. There was a decent turnout and Cambridge Minor and Grandsire Doubles were rung with aplomb.

With a gap until ringing at Ufford, the five of us returned to Pete and Susanne's bungalow and in the bright sunshine enjoyed their huge garden as we played football with the li'l chap who has learnt the meaning of the word 'goal'. He certainly hasn't learnt that from watching Ipswich play...

It was then onto Ufford and another good attendance as we were joined by those who had rung at Hollesley. Mason got into a grump, but having had a brief sleep seemed over it as we left, walking past a horse as the li'l chap 'neighed'!

Kate then helped me drop him off at Kara's and after a change it was off to Waldringfield Golf Club, the scene of the first St Mary‑le‑Tower Dinner for some time.

Unfortunately Ruthie couldn't be there of course as she was working, but we were joined by Brian and Peta (who of course generously invite us to their summer barbecue), Hedley and Hazel from Canterbury (who became regulars back in August whilst awaiting the birth of their next grandchild), Bevan Wilgress (a former and much-missed regular) and his wife and the entire Potts family including one still not due for another three-and-a-half months! In all about 40 enjoyed good food, good drink and most importantly good company and even the handbells made an appearance as the Bray's, Bunny and Nigel performed!

It wasn't to be the end of my socialising today as it turned out.

With Ruthie back from work, I received a call from our good mate Toby who fancied a drink at The Greyhound in Pettistree. Having explained we couldn't drive there, he came and picked us up and we enjoyed a night at a surprisingly busy pub.

It was good to catch up with Tobes, but my head isn't 'alf gunna hurt in the morning!

Saturday 7th March, 2009

South-East District Quarterly Meeting day. Not the most thrilling for many perhaps, but a day that I and others look forward to as it is an opportunity for a nice afternoon out, to catch up with folk, keep members updated with what's going on, enjoy a good spread and of course some useful ringing.

Today's event was held at Framlingham. There were over 30 people there, a decent turnout but still a relatively small proportion of the district. Why a nice social get-together with a short and informal meeting, good ringing opportunities in a nice part of the world on a lovely if slightly chilly afternoon can't persuade ringers out is something us officers need to discuss.

Mason was having a lovely time running around the church and playing in the kiddies corner, but he was obviously not going to be able to do that during the service. We were just going to wander around this lovely market town, but were very kindly invited back to Lyn and Granville's - local ringers - house round the corner for a cup of tea. They also very bravely allowed Mason to be let loose on their piano although the result was surprisingly good!

The service was short and taken by Richard Clements, one of his last acts before taking up an RAF Chaplaincy role for which we all wish him luck and we were soon beckoned back by phone for a great tea and then brisk meeting.

Whilst others returned up the tower for a good evening's ringing that included Bristol Major and Bob Major with a ladies band, Ruthie, Mason and I returned to Hollesley to get the boy bathed and put to bed.

Big congratulations to Philip Moyse who called his first quarter at Reydon as part of the North-East Quarter-Peal Fortnight. The first of many I'm sure!

Friday 6th March, 2009

Unky Chris was very good this morning and having dropped me off at work, took Mason down to Mum and Dad's as he was heading down there.

Meanwhile at work, the Sherlock Holmes in all of us was being exercised as we considered yesterday's announcement that Jonathan was taking the whole company out for lunch a week-on-Monday as a reward for a successful campaign. We were told nothing more than that we needed to dress up warm as we would be afloat. Despite our guesswork, we'll have to wait until the 16th to find out quite where!

Having relied on Ruthie's generosity to take me to Ipswich and back to retrieve the li'l chap, I got him to bed and headed up to Hollesley practice. From one end of the spectrum to the other it was another successful practice night from young Bruce's superb handling in rounds to a nice touch of Stedman Triples at the end.

Talking of successful, good to see the North-East Quarter-Peal Fortnight continuing in style as a quarter of Cambridge Minor was rung at Wenhaston.

Thursday 5th March, 2009

Brother Chris was over for the start of a long weekend visit today. In my - still - car-less situation, I took full advantage and to give him his dues he picked me up from work, took me to pick Mason up and then - once we'd had tea, put Mason to bed and left him in Aunty Ruthie's care - took me to Grundisburgh practice.

It's the first time for a while that I've been as most of you will know and I'm glad I went. As well as the usual diversity of Plain Bob Minor and Major and Cambridge Minor, complimented by Surprise Major (Lincolnshire on this occasion), the evening climaxed in some very good Cambridge Royal, Grandsire Cinques and then Stedman Cinques before Chris and I returned to Hollesley.

More landmarks and firsts were achieved in the North-East District Quarter-Peal Fortnight, this time Plain Bob Royal at Stradbroke.

Wednesday 4th March, 2009

Another interesting debate on peal-ringing on 'Ringing-Chat' that this time extended further to ringers' attitudes in general. It was suggested that compared to other areas such as orchestras, piano players, those who play sports and even the typical church choir, we bellringers lack professionalism in what we do. As bellringing is unlikely to ever demand the interest to become professional, the point was made more in regards to the way many approach ringing. Too many people consider bad ringing as alright and therefore good enough. The gist seemed to be that peal-ringing was the 'professional' way to approach ringing, offering enough constant practice to reach a good level of striking. Whilst I generally agree with this argument, it is of course flawed and not universal and I would like to think that just a little more dedication from learners from the beginning is a more realistic way forward. Go to lots of places, join in other practices, go to district and Guild events, build your way up to quarters and yes, then peals. Generally we all perhaps need to treat our art more seriously, myself included.

It was perhaps appropriate in light of the debate that tonight I was partaking in another peal attempt at The Wolery. These peals are sometimes criticised for various reasons, but they have certainly improved my ringing in general and honed skills I didn't realise I had!
This evening we rang nineteen methods in a brisk 1hr38mins.

I was grateful to Tom who went out of his way to pick me up and then even dropped me off and popped in for a drink with me and the other Pettistree ringers at The Greyhound afterwards, allowing me to meet up with Ruthie once she had returned from Colchester with Kate.

Tuesday 3rd March, 2009

More success in the North-East Quarter-Peal Fortnight as quarters were scored at Metfield and Worlingham. Well done again to all who achieved something which is a long list from just those two quarters!

Ruthie and I enjoyed our night in as usual despite Ipswich's 3-0 capitulation at home to Southampton who are in the bottom three.

Monday 2nd March, 2009

On the first working day of every month, John Catt Educational holds a company meeting. Usually - as it did today - it consists of keeping people up to date of everything going on in each department and then the awarding of the 'Salesman of the Month' award and 'The Good Egg' award.

The salesman of the month award is fairly self-explanatory and I won that for the second month in a row.

The 'Good Egg' award however is someone in the company who the bosses feel have done enough to be recognised, gone above the call of duty, etc. It's not normally awarded to people in the sales-team as we have the other award. However, in a double-whammy I also received this award - 'for putting a good face on'?!

I am of course grateful and chuffed with the recognition despite the vague reasons behind it, but there is a slight problem. When we were at our old offices in Great Glemham, the 'Good Egg' award was the 'Crown' award and consisted of a voucher for use in the local pub there. Now in our new offices, it's the use of a key fob for a month that gives access to the barricaded car-park. Not much use at the moment...

With no car I was again grateful for lifts. Peter gave me a lift from work though I don't mind the walk back to Ruthie's on these light and currently mild afternoons.

In the evening I have to thank Alan McBurnie for getting me about as he took myself, Kate and Anne Buswell to St Mary‑le‑Tower for practice.

It was a bumper turnout too which contributed to a night that started badly as Yorkshire Max crashed out but after a very good touch of Stedman Cinques, it finished with the best half-course of Surprise Max (Yorkshire again) we've had for a long time at SMLT on a practice night. Sadly we had to cut it short a few blows early as we had to finish by 9 for the monthly service they hold in the church on the first Monday of each month.

Despite this, I returned home in a crowded McBurnie-mobile (as Ruthie had been picked up from the railway station during the practice) very satisfied.

It's nice to see the North-East Quarter-Peal Fortnight start well with quarter's rung at Bramfield and Wilby on Sunday. Well done to Tracey Abell (brilliant name for a ringer!) on her first quarter since 1994! Keep up the good work folks!

Sunday 1st March, 2009

Again I was grateful to Kate for a lift as being first Sunday and therefore no ringing at Pettistree, she was able to give Mason and me lift to St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning. Susanne Eddis came along for the journey too so we had a reasonable turnout again, enabling us to ring Grandsire Caters and Cinques as well as Yorkshire Royal.

As we all went on to Grundisburgh it also meant a decent attendance at the second 12 of the day, with Rounds and Call-Changes on 12 achieved with Stephen ringing 1-2.

Once I'd done the leaving-the-bottle-on-the-car-roof trick for the second time in as many days, I wandered over to Kara's to drop the li'l chap off (after a weekend where he seems to have deteriorated into the terrible two's!) and then onto Boots to meet Ruthie for lunch.

It was then up to Market Hill to await a lift from Stephen. With all this walking, outdoor eating and waiting, it was lucky that it was a pleasant day and it was actually quite nice watching Woodbridge go about it's business at a relaxed pace.

Stephen was giving me a lift to Grundisburgh for a peal of Thrapston Surprise Major in honour of Mum's recent birthday. After an understandably edgy start, a brisk and very enjoyable peal was scored before Paul, Anne, Peter, Stephen and myself retired to a very busy Turk's Head where I took advantage of my car trouble by having a couple of pints, knowing I didn't have to drive!

I was back in time to meet Ruthie and Kate who had rung a quarter of Grandsire Doubles at Pettistree, with Kate completing the Grandsire family from Doubles to Cinques in one day!

Saturday 28th February, 2009

Kate and I parked up outside Stowupland Village Hall, briefly famous a couple of days ago as the location for many who were evacuated from their homes as a potentially explosive fire raged nearby.

The village hall was not our ultimate destination but rather the church hall just yards down the road where the next GMC meeting was being held.

This was as usual longer then most 'open' meetings, but as I have pointed out before, it is one of only three all year. And it was well and truly serving it's purpose today. Much time was taken discussing subscription rates and whether we needed to raise them, why they would need to be raised, etc. It showed that whilst subscription rises can prove unpopular we don't just set them willy-nilly and do look to keep them affordable - it just highlights how important and relevant the GMC is. If you don't like it then have a word with your GMC Rep or if you haven't got one then perhaps consider taking up the vacant role!

Having generously driven me there, Kate then drove me back - thanks Kate - where I was able to rejoin Ruthie and Mason - thanks Ruthie - for a quiet afternoon.

I had intended to go to the South-West District practice at Polstead, but whilst I could've gone there I probably wouldn't have been able to stop...

Friday 27th February, 2009

The lack of a car meant some reorganising of the usual Friday morning routine that would normally see me drop Mason off at Mum and Dad's in Ipswich and then travel back up to Woodbridge for work. Ruthie had to leave for a very early lecture in Colchester so was unable to take myself and the li'l chap down to Mum and Dad's and so we arranged that Mason was dropped back off at Kara's for Mum and Dad to pick him up later in the morning.

Ruthie was back in time to generously take me to Chez Ashcroft to pick Mason up after work, but it was all still a bit of a pain and has made me realise how much I really need my car.

Once finally back in Hollesley and the li'l chap in bed, I made it to practice where without Alan and Mickie (they've gone away again!) and Kate we were a little short. It still proved a useful practice for the learners in particular.

Thursday 26th February, 2009

The normal Thursday plans were somewhat disrupted today as first thing this morning I received word from Kara that both her and Mason were laid low by a very nasty bug. We agreed to monitor things as the day went on and I would give her a call this afternoon to see how he was as we both agreed it would be inadvisable to drag him from house to house when he was unwell.

When I called in the afternoon they were both a lot better, but things had taken a twist by that point.

Last night when driving to Colchester and back, I'd become concerned that the brakes seemed 'spongy', with the pedal having to be pressed increasingly far before they responded. I thought I was perhaps being cautious when I took it to Champkin Autos in Melton, run by Kara's Uncle Bob and Aunty Roz and good friends of ours. Imagine my shock when Bob told me all my brake fluid had emptied, despite no visible leaks and that I shouldn't drive the car any further!

However, practicalities called for it to be moved and with no room at his, we agreed for me to shift it back to Kate and Ruthie's and await further instructions some time next week.

With no car this made things tricky, but Ruthie very kindly volunteered to take me to pick Mason up and then both of us back to Hollesley as events and practicalities once again conspired against any notion of going to Grundisburgh practice.

With all this happening I nearly overlooked the fact it was Mum's birthday. Happy Birthday Mum!

Wednesday 25th February, 2009

I like the bright days at this time of year as it gives a tantalising glimpse of the spring and summer seasons approaching. Tonight - or it now feels more like this afternoon - I was able to leave work in complete daylight with no car lights.

By the time I had reached Colchester - via Edwin Avenue for a quick change of clothes - it had darkened considerably however. I was in northern Essex to meet Ruthie who was playing in her first concert after being forced to sit through many on Wednesday nights over the months.

I met her with her friends in the refectory first as we devoured a takeaway curry, perhaps not the best choice of food for such an evening but nice all the same. It was nice to get to know some of the friends I heard so much about but had only 'met' briefly at the competition back in November.

The concert itself was great, really enjoyable, helped on by a half-time glass of wine before we headed back to Suffolk and to The Greyhound to have a drink (of coke in my case) with those Pettistree ringers still in the pub.

Tuesday 24th February, 2009

The building site that our office overlooks has predictably become a muddy bath over the winter months and so with the hapless builders on the site it was surely only a matter of time before someone or something got stuck. Today it happened as quite a large digger was marooned in deep mud for several hours as the workers slipped into puddles and scratched their heads in an attempt to get it out. Most amusing.

With it being Shrove Tuesday, Ruthie and I enjoyed our annual attempt to make pancakes. Ruthie definitely won!

Monday 23rd February, 2009

With Guild Peal Week 2009 done and dusted, I found time to write up the report and send thanks/apologies to all involved. The report is already on the website and should be in the next newsletter, but it will be interesting to see how long it takes to get in The Ringing World and onto Campanophile!

Interesting article in this morning's East Anglian Daily Times on Albert Driver from Redgrave. At 94 he is being quoted as the oldest bellringer in Suffolk. Is this definitely the case? The article also drew comment from our friend Mark Murphy's Radio Suffolk breakfast show. This in turn led him to talk about how much he enjoyed hearing the bells ring yesterday afternoon as he and his wife Lesley wandered round Orford. Now I wonder who that was?

St Mary‑le‑Tower returned to some semblance of normality tonight, with half-term over and the really bad weather some way behind us for now at least. We rang both Cambridge and Yorkshire Max, though we could still do with more experienced ringers coming up to help. Amanda has been off injured and Nigel's work patterns has made it much harder for him to come along, so if we don't get people like the Davids Potts and Stanford as was the case tonight we are having to throw too many learners in together with too little support. Although we got through both pieces and with some reasonable striking at times, we need that extra experience to help polish it off.

We were also without Ruthie pretty much all night as she returned to Colchester today after her long study break. Although I picked her up from Ipswich Railway Station, it was too late for her to do any ringing.

Sunday 22nd February, 2009

With Mum and Dad in Kidderminster for the Rambling Ringers' annual dinner, I expected to be a little short at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning. However, we still managed to ring Call-Changes on 12 and a good touch of Grandsire Caters.

Grundisburgh was it's usual quiet self, with Mason making the seventh person there. We still enjoyed some good ringing though.

It was then time for Guild Peal Week to be wrapped up.

I went to Orford for what turned out to be an extremely good peal and finally Richard Moody's first! Congratulations Richard!

With Sonia Charnley's first peal being successful at Bacton - congratulations Sonia! - we had a total of 7 first-pealers from 16 peals (in turn from 20 attempts) involving 72 ringers, 20 towers and nine conductors (including Gordon Slack's first as conductor). Well done to all involved, thank you to all who rang, organised, called and allowed bells to be rung and apologies to those (mercifully few) people who rang but didn't score. Don't worry, a report will follow, it may just take a bit of putting together!

Kate, Mary and myself had to rush straight off from Orford as we then had a date at Ufford for a quarter. With Alan now back, we were resuming our half-lead spliced odyssey. However, the rust showed and although we got some good bits of ringing and good practice, we were sadly unsuccessful on this occasion.

Whilst Kate left for Scotland to visit Clare and Kev and find her voice (give her a call to see what I mean!), Ruthie and I headed back to Edwin Avenue to resume our house-sitting duties, exhausted but content!

Saturday 21st February, 2009

I hate letting people down. Unfortunately I did this morning in regards the attempt at Great Yarmouth this morning. Last night I'd reluctantly dropped out of the attempt as I thought I only had 11. Frustratingly I had got 12 as I'd not only missed Diana Pipe off the list but had her down as a definite no. Of course there was nothing that could be done once she'd got there with George, but I was still annoyed with myself. On top of that the peal was lost in disappointing circumstances.

On the plus side, three peals were scored for Guild Peal Week today, at Horham, Rendham and Stradbroke, meaning we've comfortably overtaken last years total of 11 scored.

My absence at Yarmouth also meant I was available to run ringing for the 40th anniversary of the Churches Conservation Trust. The only church they look after in Ipswich is St Mary-at-Quay, so 15 or so of us enjoyed primarily Call Changes on this rough but rare 6. We did venture onto Bob Doubles and even Bob Minor, but the 4 and 5 in particular are extremely hard-work even just in rounds, so method ringing was kept to minimum.

Despite a slight misunderstanding of the times (not my fault this one!), an enjoyable afternoon was had and we even had a visit from a lady from Radio Suffolk called Clare who used to ring at Woolpit. She interviewed me and did some recording, which should be on tomorrow's morning show.

Another former ringer at Hintlesham turned up with her young family and although she didn't ring, we may have sown the seeds of a return!

A day that had started so badly had got better and ended very well as Ipswich winning 3-1 at QPR on the TV, much to mine and Mason's joy!

Friday 20th February, 2009

The perils of organising Guild Peal Week - mercifully rare this year - came up and bit me today. For ages I've been one short for the Stedman Cinques at Great Yarmouth tomorrow. I was hopeful of getting someone, even at this late stage, but with so many peals on this week and Stedman Cinques ringers not so large in number in Suffolk, I had to admit defeat and with a good band in place I dropped out.

It's certainly not a big disaster in the scheme of things as the peals at Sweffling and Thornham Magna today not only contained a first pealer in both (the 4th and 5th of Peal Week) but also saw David Rogers' first for 16 years and St John Perry's first for 37 years! Well done to both of them and particular congratulations to our latest first-pealers, Sally Mason and Sylvia Fawcett! These peals also meant we have equalled the total from Peal Week 2008!

As he was down in the area for his peal at Sweffling, we had a welcome visit from David at Hollesley practice, which was also significant for the return of Alan McBurnie, back from his travels to the US, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Peter Harper continued running the practice brilliantly as he has done in the two months Alan has been absent, whilst Mr McB regaled us with tales of white-water rafting, encounters with lions and quarters in Perth and Sydney. Welcome back Alan!

Thursday 19th February, 2009

Whilst Ruthie met up with her friends at Saffron for a curry - and particularly to meet up with her old school chum Kelly, up from Devon - Mason and I headed back to Hollesley, so it meant no Grundisburgh again for me. The notion that at least whilst the current arrangements exist that I will be unable to go along to practice on a Thursday as often as I would like is one I have now got used to, but hopefully I will make it up soon as I wouldn't want Stephen to think I've abandoned him!

Talking of Stephen, he crept into the lead as leading conductor of Guild Peal Week today as he called Barry Dixon's first of Pudsey at Kersey this afternoon. Well done Barry!

Sadly the peal at Wilby was lost, but with so many attempts going on this week, the odd loss was inevitable. At least people are trying!

Wednesday 18th February, 2009

Sometimes luck can play a part in peal organising. Tonight, Ipswich Town Football Club did. Tom Scase was due at the Salter's tonight where we were attempting a peal of Hull Surprise Minor. However, his car suffered a bit of suspension trouble and so suddenly the journey from Debenham to the centre of Ipswich at 6.30 on a Wednesday night wasn't looking very possible.

This is where Suffolk's premier football club came in. They were playing Nottingham Forest at Portman Road just round the corner from The Wolery and with Tom's Dad Robert being a season ticket holder, he was of course heading into Ipswich at just about the right time.

We had a bit of a late start, but Tom was able to get a lift in, we were able to score our peal and Tom was able to get a lift home.

I stayed long enough for a cuppa and a couple of choccy biscuits, but wanted to avoid the footy traffic, so I headed off to The Greyhound in Pettistree to meet Ruthie, the glow of the stadium's bright floodlights seeing me off as I listened to the end of Town's 2-1 win.

Mary and Chris were back from a few days in Canterbury where they had bumped into the Harpers. You can't get away from them anywhere can you?!

Another successful Peal Week day was completed by the news that Gordon Slack called his first peal at Henley, amongst a number of other firsts. Well done to all concerned, especially Gordon!

It also means that we have eight peals this week, already beating 2007's total of seven!

Tuesday 17th February, 2009

As we had Mason on Saturday, tonight was mine and Ruthie's Valentine's Day. We treated ourselves to a meal at the local, the Shepherd and Dog. It was the first time we'd eaten there under the current management and we weren't disappointed as we munched our way through three delicious courses at a pretty reasonable price at that.

We finished the evening off with a few games of pool and a chat with the young chef who is desperately trying to get more people through the doors in these tough times. If you're ever in the area, it's well worth a visit!

Congratulations to Anne Buswell, scoring her first peal inside at Rushmere St Andrew as Guild Peal Week continues apace.

Monday 16th February, 2009

Mixed news on Guild Peal Week as an attempt of Erin Triples was lost at Grundisburgh after some apparently very good ringing. However, news came through to me of success at Wickham Skeith yesterday and even better of a result at Great Barton today which was Craig Gradidge's first peal. Very well done Craig! We're only up to Monday and have three first pealers already!

Met up with Ruthie at lunchtime as she was working this week and so we wandered town, bumping into various members of her family and a couple of friends too - you can't escape anyone in Woodbridge!

With it being half-term it was another week where I was uncertain of how many people would come to St Mary‑le‑Tower practice. Sure enough we suffered a number of holidaying absentees, but we still managed Cambridge Max. However, we could do with things getting back to normal as it's been impossible to build on anything the last few weeks.

We did have a visit from Jenny, a ringer from Scunthorpe. She's only been ringing a year so wasn't up to huge amounts of method ringing, but she made an extremely good fist of call changes on 12 and I hope she felt welcome enough to visit again as she has family down here.

In amongst the first's in Guild Peal Week, it was nice to see a first quarter for Sally Clarke at Ufford tonight. Congratulations on that and on the birth of your first grandchild Sally!

Sunday 15th February, 2009

What proved to be a highly fulfilling day started in a fairly lacklustre way as morning ring at St Mary‑le‑Tower attracted just 9 people. Still, some decent Cambridge Major on the front 8 and Grandsire Triples on the back 8 followed on from some Cambridge Minor.

This was all largely a sideshow though as plans to change the service times were announced. Essentially what is proposed is that there will be a half-hour 9.30 matins and then the communion service at 10.30. It would be impracticable to ring for the 10.30 as there wouldn't be enough time and we would lose ringers to Sproughton and Grundisburgh and/or it would have a considerable knock-on effect to those towers.

On the face of it, ringing for a 9.30 service shouldn't be much different from ringing for the 9.45 service, but often things don't really get going until quarter/twenty past nine and it would also leave a much bigger gap between SMLT ringing and other ringing that follows on, perhaps discouraging ringers.

The decision will be taken next month and will undergo a trial period first if approved. It is good to see the ringers have been taken into consideration in the well thought-out pro's and con's leaflet available. Ultimately we are there to serve the church and what's best for the congregation is paramount, but it would be a shame to see ringing standards slip on a Sunday morning because of any changes.

Grundisburgh suffered a similar ringing fate as SMLT this morning, with 9 turning up here too. More Grandsire Triples, Cambridge Major - of sorts - and Stedman Triples after a game of hide and seek in the churchyard with Mason.

Mason and I weren't long in Woodbridge before we headed back into Ipswich, this time to Mum and Dad's. I've got Mason until tomorrow morning after my night off on Friday and his grandparents had very kindly agreed to look after him as I headed downtown to SMLT for my first attempt of Guild Peal Week.

Despite forgetting to turn off my phone and locking the door, leading to my phone going off and a brief visit from someone who opened the door but thankfully thought better of entering, a good peal of Plain and Little Bob Max spliced was rung by a band made entirely up of ringers who regularly attend Sunday morning and/or Monday night practices.
Eventually I ended up at Hollesley, via Ashcroft Road to pick Mason up, Edwin Avenue to pick Ruthie up and then Mallard Way to drop them both off. Ruthie was to have rung in the quarter of 'just' 8-spliced Surprise Major that we got this evening, but her wrist was giving her grief, so I stood in as she put the li'l chap to bed.

Maggie was able to report that Philip Moyse and John Mortimer had both scored their first peal at Reydon this afternoon, the first two of what could potentially be 6 first-pealer's this Guild Peal Week. Well done both of you!

Saturday 14th February, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day! Or Tacky Love Day as Ruthie romantically refers to it.

For those ringers without partners, not in the mood or - like me - whose partner was at work, there was plenty to keep you occupied today.

It was of course the official start to Guild Peal Week, though sadly the attempt at The Norman Tower in Bury succumbed to the usual start to Peal Week as Cambridge Royal was lost.

For those not peal-ringing there was always the North-East District Quarterly Meeting at Huntingfield, an event that in other circumstances I would've attended.

I myself had chosen Stowmarket for the North-West District's Training Day. Recruitment and training is a particularly important aspect of the of the Guild and district's roles, so I was naturally drawn to today's event being held on the recently installed simulator. With Mason in tow I wasn't much help, but I like to think I was able to impart some useful tit-bits, perhaps encourage some of the vast number of improvers there, a huge proportion of whom were teenagers or younger! Well done Ruth on another brilliant, useful and varied event in this part of the county.

In between the morning and afternoon sessions some of us went to a cafe for lunch before Mason and I went for a wander and found a park, but soon we had to leave to meet Aunty Ruthie who wanted to go into Ipswich for some 'special' shopping.

It was of course heaving as Ipswich town centre always is on a Saturday, so we were quite glad to make it back to Hollesley, where - with the li'l chap tucked up in bed - we enjoyed our traditional Valentine's curry. Who said romance was dead?

Friday 13th February, 2009

Managed to get through Friday the 13th without anything unlucky happening, though a mis-communication threatened the peal at Bury St Edmund's tomorrow morning. Thankfully that was sorted out pretty sharpish and I was free to enjoy a social occasion I've been looking forward to for some time.

Kara had kindly agreed to take Mason for the night and even went to Mum and Dad's to pick him up, allowing me time to make myself beautiful. Not a quick process as I'm sure you're aware.

Once Kate, Ruthie and I had travelled to Kirton to collect Ron, we were at The Dog in Grundisburgh promptly for the Pettistree dinner.

It was as usual a fantastic evening in the timber framed, candle-lit restaurant section of the pub as 19 of us tucked into good food and mingled with good company. Anne Buswell deservedly received Mary's Star of the Month Plate, but that was as formal as it got on a great night.

Well done to those who scored the first peal of Guild Peal Week at Barsham today. Yes, it's slightly early, but it's in the spirit of things and anyone going for a peal on Friday the 13th deserves to be included in this festival of ringing!

Thursday 12th February, 2009

If you haven't received an email from me today in regards to Guild Peal Week then I've either forgotten you or more likely you're not on my email list. If this is the case then please and I can send you a list. I would really appreciate people's help as there are a few spaces dotted across the week and it is all meant to benefit Guild members.

The snow that fell at the same time as darkness again made it impracticable to get to Grundisburgh as the main focus following tea was to get Mason back to Hollesley and in bed. No doubt the whole of Britain will come to halt again tomorrow, not least the schools. Could be a frustrating day at work...

Wednesday 11th February, 2009

With neither Kate, Ruthie nor myself in the Pettistree quarter tonight, we took advantage by having a little trip out to the B&Q store on Warren Heath on the outskirts of Ipswich followed by grub and drink from neighbouring Pizza Hut. It was packed in there, with no apparent sign of the credit crunch on this cold Wednesday night!

We did make it to practice by 8 as we found everyone huddled into the belfry by both heaters, a familiar sight this freezing winter. It was then we heard of the successful quarter that evening - Anne Buswell's first of Cambridge Minor inside! Well done Anne! She is coming along great guns and it's always satisfying to see learners progress so far.

With Ruthie driving, Kate took a rare opportunity along with me to have a couple of drinks at The Greyhound before we slid home.

Tuesday 10th February 2009

Getting quite excited about Guild Peal Week as things seem (touch wood!) to be falling into place. As far as I know there are 17 peals on, so it could be a record-breaking week! Thank you to all who are helping out.

Ruthie was feeling a lot better although her nasty cough was still a feature of our otherwise typically pleasant Tuesday night in.

Monday 9th February 2009

Another impressive ringing achievement from the Pipe family. It is mentioned in the footnote of Saturday's peal at Willingham in Cambridgeshire (an impressive effort in itself although probably small-fry for David now!) and relates to his eldest son Henry who at just 5 years old rang plain hunt. Ringing has already benefited from and marvelled at three generations of Pipe's, each superseding the previous generation, so it is frightening to imagine what heights young Henry or his younger brother Alfie could reach. David did mention to me that he hoped to get Henry through his first quarter by his 6th birthday, so watch this space!

For the second week running, the weather had a noticeable effect on the turnout at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice. This time is torrential rain and although people did make it from various far-flung corners, including Essex and Norfolk, it was perhaps understandable that many others felt it too treacherous to make it out.

Still, we managed to ring Grandsire Cinques and Little Bob Max and with Jane, Gerald and Melvyn (Mr Potts senior who was visiting his family) all wanting to have a go at Cambridge Royal we had plenty of practice at that! Some successful, some not so successful, but all good practice, the whole point of such occasions.

Sunday 8th February 2009

Probably the best Sunday morning at St Mary‑le‑Tower since I took over as we rang a decent half-course of Cambridge Maximus with an entirely local band. No visitors, just regular Ipswich ringers who showed what can be achieved if everybody is present at the same time and justifying the many good and bad attempts of Surprise Max at practice nights over the last year and a half.

Grundisburgh was a little less well-attended, but we still managed Yorkshire Major, Grandsire Triples and Stedman Triples with the help of visits from Ann Pilgrim and Laura Lindley (Stopard).

I had a minor discussion with a tower correspondent over communication between the Guild and their tower. It was annoying that they seem to view the Guild in the same light as they might view their bank or a double-glazing company. They also seem to dismiss the use of emails and the Internet as a form of communication purely on principal, despite the fact it would be possible and save the Guild money. It is worth noting that the Guild is a charity and presumably the members want what's best for it so that it can help them and their towers out. We also have no ambition to enforce technology on them, but where it is possible and where it can save the Guild money towards things like bell restoration, recruitment and training, we would appreciate if those who are reluctant would meet us half-way rather than rally against us.

That was all forgotten though as - with Mason still with me for reasons too complex and personal to go into on here - the li'l chap and I headed to Birch Farm just outside Hintlesham after lunch with Ruthie. It was for our mate Becky's youngest son's 5th birthday. Young Robson seemed to have a great time - as did Mason and lots of other kids of all sizes - in the sports-hall sized playroom. With slides, tunnels, play kitchens, trains, balls and all sorts, the li'l chap was again in his element.

We returned to Aunty Ruthie, party bag in hand for tea and to give the li'l man a bath - again in his element! - before he retired, very tired, with Ruthie and I able to sit back with a glass of wine watching BAFTAs, football and skiers.

Saturday 7th February 2009

Ruthie valiantly volunteered to cover the lunch shifts at Boots today. Whilst she did her bit, Kate, Mason and myself met up with Aaron - back from sailing the seas for the weekend - and continued on to The Seal. It was a very enjoyable get-together, though they've still got those pies that Mr McB would love so much!

Once finished, we all went our separate ways, with the li'l chap and myself picking Ruthie up from work and setting straight off for Orford. We were ringing for a memorial service in honour of Neville Spinney, who prior to his time in Orford had been the treasurer of the Rendham bell restoration project that saw them augmented to 8 a few years back. Although I didn't know him, he was obviously very popular as the large church was packed, including with the Stevens' who along with Richard Wilson had helped the local ringers produce some very good half-muffled ringing. The tenor being open at both strokes was also very moving.

Despite a generous offer of a cup of tea at the Moody's, there was no time for relaxing as we were then straight off to Ipswich and more specifically St Margaret's for an afternoon South-East district practice on this 8 that holds particular significance to me, being as it was my late Grandad's tower. Indeed the peal board from the 1930's quoting R.J.Munnings' inclusion still draws comments in my general direction!

As with last month's practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower, there was an extremely good turnout, all gratefully enjoying the tea and biscuits provided by John and Shirley. Kate once more did well to ensure everybody got a good go, with most things from rounds and call changes to Surprise Major rung in the two hours there.

When we got back to mine, I found the preparation pack for this years Central Council weekend, being held in Worcester over the second May bank holiday. It looks like it could be another interesting weekend with another packed programme of ringing, food, beer and meetings.

Friday 6th February 2009

Had fish and chips with Mason from the van that visits Hollesley on a Friday and then had a night in with the li'l chap whilst Aunty Ruthie rang in a quarter at Rendham and then represented us at Hollesley practice.

Thursday 5th February 2009

Andrew Ogden from Taylor's was at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning carrying out an inspection. I know Andrew - or Oggy - well from days in the Midlands as I used to ring a fair bit with him in the Lichfield and Walsall Archdeaconry Society so I was in touch with him regularly over the day, initially to arrange help for him in the shape of my parents and Mason and then to get the immediate results of the inspection.

Normally with such an inspection he would do nothing more than check for any glaring problems and generally just make sure everything is running OK, but both Owen and I had expressed our concerns over the go of the 11th which seems to have got slightly worse again after initially improving when we had the new clapper put in, so he closely checked the bearings on the back four. His findings were not cause for alarm, but in the long-term - subject to him reporting back to his boss - we may need to replace them on the back two.

Having picked Ruthie up from Ipswich Railway Station after an afternoon in Colchester, I then picked Mason up from Mum and Dad's and after some tea at Edwin Avenue continued with the li'l chap onto home in Hollesley. Ruthie meanwhile headed back into Ipswich where the Cumberlands were having an East Anglian practice at the newly inspected SMLT.

Simon Rudd organises and runs these at various 12s across the region every two months and whilst of the superior persuasion I'm still impressed at the success he has with these events. Ruthie came back to mine with tales of Bristol Max and Stedman Cinques (well done Jonathan!) and huge crowds.

She also told of the return of Amanda Richmond, out of ringing injured for the last couple of months. Despite her ankle, she is still planning on climbing Mount Everest in a couple of months, all in aid of the British Heart Foundation, a worthy cause. If you want to sponsor her you can go to British Heart Foundation, justgiving and you can follow her progress from 28th March to 7th June on Jagged Globe. Well worth supporting!

Wednesday 4th February 2009

Received an email from Alan Winter, the man who has taken over Ian Holland's role as organiser of The Ridgman Trophy. He confirmed that the competition this year would be held on Saturday 20th June by the Hertford County Association. The tower chosen for this 10-bell event is Rickmansworth, which is about as far as they could send us on this predominantly Eastern counties based contest! With a proposed later start it has set some logistical problems, not least with the GMC which is due to meet that evening. Still, I'm sure something can be sorted. Keep the date free to come and cheer us on if you can!

There were no logistical problems at The Wolery for another freezing cold but very well rung peal, this time of 31 Surprise Minor methods. Although the speed of peals on mini-rings is often criticised, ringing this many methods at that speed is only possible if the ringing is good and frankly the ringing is normally very good on these occasions, a testament to the ringers in them.

After a couple of slices of chocolate roll and a choccy biscuit, I set-off to meet Ruthie at The Greyhound where she and a large number of other Pettistree ringers were gathered in a busy pub following practice and another successful quarter. Happy days!

Tuesday 3rd February 2009

The snow had completely disappeared round here by this morning, washed away and melted, meaning there were no early finishes today. However, it seems the rest of the south-east weren't so lucky (or unlucky depending how you look at it) or are wimps. Perhaps both. We struggled again to get anybody on the phones as school after school announced they were still closed.

Ruthie and I were able to have our traditional Tuesday night in at mine with no weather concerns though.

Monday 2nd February 2009

The snow that had fallen yesterday had continued falling last night, creating a blanket of snow not just over us but the whole of the south-east of England. As luck would have it, we are currently selling for the Which London School? & the South-East Guide and as you can imagine, we weren't having much luck getting hold of any schools. Combined with colleagues having to go back to various places off the beaten track like Easton, Sudbourne, Rendlesham and Snape, Jonathan made the decision to send us all home at lunchtime.

Delighted as I was at this turn of events, it made me wonder how many we were likely to get at St Mary‑le‑Tower tonight. I momentarily considered cancelling it as the snow began falling again, contributing towards what is apparently our heaviest snow-fall for 18 years. However, the problem with cancelling a practice at this late notice is that you run the risk of people not getting the message and with many who make long journey's to Ipswich on a Monday night, I didn't want them making a wasted journey.

Besides, by the time darkness came, the snow had turned to rain and what had settled to slush. Even Edwin Avenue which turns into an ice rink on these occasions had cleared and so I felt there shouldn't be a problem with getting into town on the many gritted roads in the south-east of Suffolk.

I wasn't expecting many though as I could completely understand those who travel from places as far away as Essex and Norfolk not making it, not to mention those who work in London and other far off places and had presumably had a terrible and long day of travelling. As it turned out we had eight surprise Major ringers, allowing us to ring Yorkshire Major on the front eight and three leads of Bristol Major on the back eight before ringing them all down for an inspection on Thursday.

It was then back along the roads that actually turned out to be no worse than you're average wet evening. We were still glad to be back home though!

Sunday 1st February 2009

Grandsire Caters again at St Mary‑le‑Tower this morning. It's always good to get those back bells ringing as they boom across town and in recent weeks we've had some good turnouts. Hopefully we can encourage a couple more to come out and we will be able to ring all 12 regularly.

Grundisburgh was again a little short, although we managed up to Stedman Triples, before I returned Mason, his energy regained after a good nights sleep.

With Guild Peal Week now just a couple of weeks away, Richard Moody had requested a quarter of Grandsire Triples to prepare for a rerun of his first peal, due to take place during Peal Week. I was happy to oblige as were a number of others and so I made the lovely journey out to Orford where a very good quarter was rung. If we ring as well as this on the 22nd, there should be no problems, barring any disasters!

However, things have gained a bit of a limp at this nice 8, with Saturday morning practices now taking on more of a monthly rather than weekly frequency as the older members of the band struggle to make it out in the cold and Sarah - his daughter and a fairly promising young ringer - now carrying out a Saturday job. If anyone can come out and help then please do, but obviously check with Richard first that they're ringing! If nothing else it's a nice morning out as we found a few months back!

A plain course of Stedman Triples for Richard and then he stood some of us a pint in the nearby King's Head (that backs onto the churchyard) where his family were already gathered and I also bumped into Roy and Paul, Kala's uncle and cousin's husband respectively and whom I used to see regularly at The Green Man in Tunstall back in the day.

By the time I'd finished my pint though, the threatened snow that had come in small flurries up until now was falling heavily and settling, so I bade my farewells and headed back to Woodbridge. The conditions caught the driver in front out, who - after a crazy aborted overtaking move - slid off the road and thankfully onto the wide expense of grass verge alongside the road. I briefly stopped to check he was OK, but could see there was no damage bar to his pride and his ears as his passengers ripped into him!

There was only time for a quick cup of tea with the returning Ruthie and painting Kate before my better 'alf and me negotiated the snow-laden lanes to Pettistree for a reasonable quarter of Bourne Surprise Minor and evensong ringing, joined by Jonathan.

After all of that, we agreed that the safest place was back at Edwin Avenue in front of a roaring fire and with a beer in hand. These Sunday's are meant to be a day of rest...

Saturday 31st January 2009

Second time lucky! After last week's unexpected loss, I had managed to gather a group of willing peal-ringers to Monewden for another attempt at Mason and Freddie's birthday peal. The silver-lining was that at least Ruthie could ring in this one for her cousin and the child she so enjoys spending time with (not that she doesn't enjoy spending time with Freddie!) and it was also a good opportunity to ring a peal with Laura Stoppard as was in her first peal in her married name!

We kept it simple and steady and were rewarded for our hard-work with a decent peal to add to the Mason-Freddie Birthday Collection.

Having it this morning hadn't been ideal however. It had meant an unplanned journey to Mum and Dad's to drop Mason off and left us with little time to make final preparations for his party afterwards. However, come 2pm, we were ready at Shottisham WI Hall - where we'd started the month - with a table full of food and a hall full of toys. A whole spectrum of people came, with Jess and Kala there, the Harper's, Micky, Laura and Peter from work came with his little boy Jacob, who wowed the crowds along with Mason.

Thanks to everyone who brought cards and presents, but most of all thanks to Ruthie - who made all the sandwiches - and Mum and Dad for their help. In the end it was great fun, but Ruthie and I weren't half glad to get back to mine with a bottle of wine and the li'l chap exhausted and in bed!

Friday 30th January 2009

Once I'd popped to Tesco's to get stuff for Mason's party tomorrow, we managed to get the li'l chap to bed in time for me to get to Hollesley practice. With Micky back, we were able to ring some decent and some not-so-decent Grandsire Triples, but it was still an impressive practice on a cold night with one or two away.

Thursday 29th January 2009

Arrangements for Guild Peal Week continue apace, with a phenomenal response from Guild members; thank you everyone. There're still spaces, but - touch wood - there doesn't look like there will be the traditional mad scramble to twist people's arms the week before!

Kate has returned from her house-sitting and with Mason in tow it was back to my flat in Hollesley for the first time for a while and so it was impractical for either Ruthie or me to go to Grundisburgh practice this week.

Wednesday 28th January 2009

Sorry news from Woolpit, where it has emerged the tenor there is cracked. What's more, it sounds like it could be years rather than months before anything gets sorted for various reasons out of the ringers control. However, they are still practicing on the front 5 on Monday nights.

I returned to Pettistree practice for the first time since well before Christmas as we scored a reasonable quarter of Hull Minor, before Ruthie went to retrieve her fixed flute. It had been away to repair for a couple of days, meaning the poor girl was suffering from withdrawal symptoms, so she was delighted to have it back.

Practice continued with it's normal range of ringing, this time from Rounds on 4 for the learners to spliced Surprise Minor before our 15-strong group retired to The Greyhound for chips and beer.

Tuesday 27th January 2009

Happy Birthday Mason! I can't quite believe the li'l man is two years old, but sure enough he has reached this grand old age. Ruthie and I love the li'l guy to bits and he has offered us - and many others - much joy, so I was very happy to be able to pop round to see him with his card. I'm arranging a party for him this weekend, so we'll make a bigger deal of it then, but it was good to see him today.

Our night in tonight was made all the more enjoyable by Ipswich winning away again (2-1 at Barnsley) and Naaaridge throwing away a two goal lead to share a diplomat draw against Southampton, a result no doubt appreciated in the Gorrod-Ross household!

Monday 26th January 2009

St Mary‑le‑Tower was a tad disappointing tonight. There was nothing wrong with what we rung, just how we rang it! Yorkshire Max and Grandsire Cinques were attempted with varying degrees of success, the Grandsire going the best. Too many people who should know better go wrong and the familiar problem of those who are right stopping to accommodate those who are going wrong meant that it was a real struggle and brought some pieces to a halt. We were still missing some experienced Surprise Max ringers though, so I'm not too disheartened.

Ruthie had to pop into Colchester for orchestra this evening which meant that not only had I got to pick her up from the station for practice but also she was tired and with both of us feeling quite lazy we got kebab meat and chips for tea for the first time in months.

Sunday 25th January 2009

Grundisburgh was obviously the focus of the day or at least the morning with the dedication of the new tenor. Before that there was the matter of ringing at St Mary‑le‑Tower, with the main event having a small effect even here as we welcomed Helen Price, down with Don so she could go to the county's other 12 later. Her presence helped us towards Grandsire Caters and Little Bob Royal (as well as 3 leads of Bristol Major on the back 8) as we experienced another decent turnout.

Mason and I arrived at Grundisburgh as the family of Phyllis Marriott (to whom the new bell is dedicated) were expertly guided by Stephen up the tower to see the new bell. The large crowd was of huge interest to the li'l man and vice-versa, but it made ringing tricky, especially once we got all 12 going as the ringers of Suffolk answered Stephen's call to arms.

Despite leaving early to drop Mason off at Kara's, I couldn't make it back quite in time to make the start of the service and in particular George Pipe's apparently splendid speech on the occasion. Once there though, I took my place next to the great man and took great pleasure in the wonderful event.

It was all finished off as the numerous ringers and Phyllis' family accompanied Clare the vicar and John Wayne (the Bishop, not the actor) to join those ringers who had come since the start of the service in the belfry for the dedication itself and some rounds on 12. Only one person failed to set their bell. For those not there or who haven't heard about it already, see if you can guess who it was!

A quick burst of Stedman Cinques followed and whilst others then hung around and ultimately partook in the spread very generously laid on at The Dog by the family, I had arranged a peal attempt at 12.30 at Monewden.

For the last two years I've rung a peal for Mason's birthday and with Kate and Ruth ringing too, we've dedicated it to Freddie's birthday too as he was born the day before Mason. It's a nice thing to do and whether he takes up ringing or not, hopefully something my li'l boy will appreciate one day.

It was play it safe today, or so I thought. We'd decided to ring methods well within our capabilities with a band that could've done a lot more. However, after a good first extent of Ipswich before taking on Oxford Treble Bob. The bobs seemed to cause mayhem though and eventually it collapsed. In theory it was easily retrievable, but the speed of collapse and the surprise that it happened at all caught us all out and I had to set it up. The early start was necessary as a couple of the band needed to get away early and so a restart was not possible. We did get a quarter, but it wasn't the same, so I might see if a belated peal can be arranged later in the week or next weekend.

Of course I missed lunch with Ruthie, so I popped in to see her. It wasn't long before we were at Ufford, where a quarter was the ambition. After much conversation about negative petrol and having ascertained that it doesn't fuel disheartened cars, Grandsire Triples was scored with little trouble for Anne Buswell. It doesn't seem that long ago when the concept of Grandsire Triples was completely alien to Anne, so she deserves a lot of credit for her efforts this evening.

Saturday 24th January 2009

If I'm honest, I haven't been out to the South-West District nearly enough. This has never been a deliberate ploy, but merely that their events have often fallen at times when circumstances haven't permitted.

So it was with much gladness that I found myself able to go Preston St Mary for this afternoon's South-West practice, along with Ruthie and Mason. As always seems to be the case in this corner of the Guild, the turnout was good and Richard Knights did a superb job of making sure everyone got a fair go, not easy in such a crowded belfry which meant that at any one time there were a large number of ringers down in the church as there just wasn't room upstairs!

Cambridge and London were rung, but so too was plain hunt and Bob Minor, all very worthwhile paying a visit to and it was good to see so many members take up this opportunity.

Predictably, Ipswich's FA Cup run came to an end at the home of the second best team in Europe, Chelsea. However, we avoided humiliation and the 3-1 result was a decent one in the circumstances.

Just a quick note to say that Great Barton are looking for help on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursday nights as they undertake the worthy task of teaching a band there. I hope to go along myself, circumstances permitting...

Friday 23rd January 2009

Mason had his first curry experience this evening. Well, he picked the rice out and ate that, whilst the onion bhajis were pushed away, the korma eyed suspiciously and the mint sauce used as paint. Still, there were balloons and these definitely went down well, though not literally.

The location was Saffron an old haunt not visited for some time but still just as good as ever. The occasion was Susanne Eddis' birthday and was much enjoyed as a group of us celebrated simultaneously with another group who rather generously shared their birthday cake!

It was already well past the li'l chaps bedtime though - although he was showing no signs of tiredness with everything going on around - and me and him went back to Edwin Avenue whilst the others went down to The Anchor as that was where Ruthie was meeting her old school mates.

Thursday 22nd January 2009

Managed the balancing act at last! Despite a welcome phone call from Toby offering cheap football tickets(!), I'd fed, changed and got Mason peacefully to bed in time to go to Grundisburgh practice and with Ruthie volunteering to look after the li'l chap, I headed off to welcome Stephen back.

Not too many others did unfortunately, but we did have nine surprise Major ringers, enabling us to ring Bristol and London and also a McBurnie tribute touch of Stedman Triples - make of that what you will!

An extra note on Sunday's tenor dedication. The really important ringing is happening at the end of the service about 11.45/12ish, so if people can make it Stephen would love to hear from you.

Wednesday 21st January 2009

The Tim Holmes inspired 'improvers' (great term!) course continued to it's conclusion at Parham tonight. Another cosy evening with Kate this time running things once again and the presence of the Guild Chairman saw the improvers make even more progress before we finished with some wine and cheese straws. Well done Tim and to everyone involved in this great initiative.

Tuesday 20th January 2009

Having been to the doctors last night, Peter was ordered to literally put his feet up, meaning it was up to the remainder of us to carry the baton.

The afternoon got quite crowded upstairs as Jonathan was hosting a number of bigwigs from various organisations representing independent schools and so the rif-raff were ordered to join us out the way!

The evening was far removed from our traditional Tuesday night in watching TV. Whilst Ruthie went to Kesgrave for a work's party at her mate Amanda's house, I went in the opposite direction. Tim Holmes has been fantastically pro-active and this week has arranged a number of 'improvers' courses. The idea is that learners from Campsea Ashe, Hacheston, Parham and the surrounding towers come along and work on something that they're trying to improve on, whether that be handling, plain hunt or Bob Doubles. A number of 'experts' were invited along in what is great idea and a lead I hope others from across the Guild can follow.

Following an introductory session at Campsea Ashe on Saturday, they went to Hacheston last night and tomorrow we'll be at Parham for the last session, but tonight it was Marlesford. For those who know Marlesford belfry, you'll realise that 16 people is cosy, but it was a brilliant night where much was learnt and well done to Glenys Fear for running it so expertly.

Straight afterwards it was time for me to join Ruthie at her party in Kesgrave and once I'd found Amanda's house in the mass of estates and roads that looped back on themselves I was able to enjoy what Ruthie had been enjoying all evening. It was a late 'un, but good fun.

Monday 19th January 2009

Peter came into work in immense pain this morning. For some reason he's got the sports bug, having signed up for Felixstowe Rugby Club and taking up squash. It was his foray into the latter yesterday that saw him tear his ankle ligaments. He was seeing a doctor, but not till after work, so in the meantime he was taking whatever pain-relief he could and getting on with things.

The knock-on effect was that I ended up accompanying Ian over to the company's warehouse near the old offices in Great Glemham to pick up some bits and pieces for a presentation tomorrow. It was strange seeing the old place, but nice to enjoy the ride through Ufford, Wickham and Marlesford as the scenic route was taken.

St Mary‑le‑Tower was a reasonable affair, but hard-work at times. All the normal things that we aim to ring were rung, from Grandsire and Stedman Cinques to Yorkshire Max, but the striking needed to be tidied up. Hopefully if we get regular turnouts like this and perhaps one or two extra experienced 12-bell ringers to help out, we can make real headway to that aim.

Apparently Manning's closes at 8pm on a Monday night now, something that was only found out when those who went to the pub last week tried to get in. Instead, we are reduced to The Cricketers, the local Wetherspoons. It's full of a rougher crowd - indeed someone got thrown out as we were there tonight - and it takes ages to get a drink, but it is cheaper. We may need to find a new local though.

Sunday 18th January 2009

Grandsire Caters and Call-Changes on 12 as we continue with decent attendances at St Mary‑le‑Tower on Sunday mornings.

No such luxury at Grundisburgh unfortunately with Stephen still away, so the six of us there rang Bob Minimus (when we had five at first), Grandsire Doubles and Plain Bob Minor. Next week will be a big morning however, as the morning service will be the dedication of the new tenor and it would be great to be able to ring all 12, so if you can make it to Grundisburgh next Sunday (25th) between 10.15 and 11am, you would be gratefully received.

Apart from lunch with Ruthie at a Boots that seems to get quieter and quieter each week, it was a lazy afternoon until the evening crept along and we found ourselves at Hollesley for a quarter of Superlative Major. It was for Jane Harper, for whom it was her first in the method. All being said and done, she did well and whilst not our best ringing was fairly satisfactory.

Another period in the pub - this time The Shepherd and Dog - followed, with me narrowly beating Ruthie at pool. That girl can play now...

Saturday 17th January 2009

In my experience, it's not often that when you ask a peal-band to meet for a certain start time that you actually start at that time. This is particularly so for Saturday morning peals at St Mary‑le‑Tower. By the time everyone has found somewhere to park (either miles away or at vast expense) because the Social Services car-park we usually use is full of workers and shoppers cars and then someone has unlocked Church House for the band to make the most of the facilities, we're normally quite late in getting under way.

This morning though, despite the fact I had to travel from Woodbridge via Witnesham to pick the keys up off Owen (who was unable to ring due to finger trouble) and Mum and Dad's to drop Mason off, we pulled off bang on 9.30 as I'd requested and a very good peal of Yorkshire Max was scored at a very steady 3 hours and 33 minutes. Well done particularly to Anne who was ringing her first peal of Maximus.

What should've been a quick pint in The Cricketer's was severely held up both by their excruciatingly slow service and their insistence that someone over-18 had to order Louis' food.

It was then back to Edwin Avenue, via Ashcroft Road to pick up the li'l chap before we headed over to Martlesham for logs for the fire and food for us, settling down to a relaxed evening after Ipswich's eye-rubbing 4-1 victory AT Crystal Palace. To cap a strange afternoon of football, even Naaaridge won 4-0.

Friday 16th January 2009

Ruthie had an early exam in Colchester this morning, so Mason, Ruthie and I found ourselves sat in the dark waiting outside Ipswich railway station for the 7.20am train to Liverpool Street to make sure she was on time. Although not the hour of choice for me, it did at least mean that not only had I time to drop Mason off at Mum and Dad's before work but also to have a cup of tea, which was much appreciated.

In the evening we met up with Kala who hadn't seen Mason for ages, so it meant another evening not ringing this week. Though not ideal as I like to show my face and help out wherever and whenever possible, it couldn't be helped this week and it's not the end of the world.

Thursday 15th January 2009

With us still house-sitting for Kate, the intention had once again been to make it to Grundisburgh practice. However, with everything this week, Ruthie was rushing her uni work a bit more than she had intended and it was imperative that she got that completed satisfactorily.

By the time it was done and Mason put to bed, it was just slightly too late to go to our nearest 12. Ruthie got her work done though.

Wednesday 14th January 2009

We awoke after another uncomfortable but thankfully less messy night feeling a little less rough and able to face the world.

Later, as we met up with one of our fellow victims, Kate, we discovered that Aunty Ange (Moog's better half) and Ruthie's gran had gone down with the same infliction. It puts a whole new slant on the phrase 'runs in the family...'

We were meeting Kate (and Ron of Lundy and camping fame) for a trip to The Seckford Theatre to watch an Eastern Angles production called - appropriately enough - 'The Haunted Commode'. Very, very funny and well worth watching if you get the chance.

Quite by chance, Mark Murphy and Lesley Dolphin of Radio Suffolk were there, so I was able to have a quick chat with Mark to thank him for our coverage on St Edmund's Day a couple of months ago. He remarked how much he had enjoyed listening to the peal at St Matthew's just round the corner from the studios and the good news is he hopes to use the bells again next year and possibly even before for other features.

The other thing that took my attention tonight as we got back from The Seckford Theatre was the result of what would normally be an uninteresting Third Round FA Cup Replay. But Chelsea's convincing victory over Southend means that they will be Ipswich's next opponents in the cup on the 24th. Whilst it almost certainly means the end of our cup run (especially as it's away at their place), it will be fun to see us pit our wits against one of the biggest, best and most expensive teams in the world.

Tuesday 13th January 2009

It was a truly horrific night last night, particularly for Ruthie. During the night she was up four or five times being ill, meaning both her and I got little sleep. Come the morning I began feeling a little queasy too, but hoping it may have been psychological from spending the night with someone throwing up every hour and a half, I made my way into work.

I lasted a cup of tea and fifteen minutes before I nearly falling over when I stood up. Having composed myself, I made the short drive back to Ruthie's where my day went along much the same pattern as her night before, being ill and then feeling fine for a while before repeating the cycle. At one stage I was even well enough to walk Max the dog and get a bit of fresh air before I was cut down again.

Soon it emerged what may have been the cause of our discomfort. Kate and Ruthie's Uncle Moog had also gone down with the same messy infliction, pointing to our gathering at Ruthie's grandparents on Sunday and probably poor little Poppy who, despite seeming happy enough, had had an explosion and was not 100%.

By the end of the day, both Ruthie and I were feeling a lot better, though quite knackered. At least we live to fight another day!

Monday 12th January 2009

A much better attendance at St Mary‑le‑Tower practice tonight, but the ringing struggled a bit. Three pieces of Yorkshire Max came to grief as did the first attempt at Grandsire Cinques. However, the second touch was much better and Rosemary got on very well ringing the treble (not an easy bell as all those who have rung it will testify!).

With neither Ruthie or me having had any tea, it was straight back home and - after a brief late-night trip to Tesco's - a curry.

Sunday 11th January 2009

Much like this time last year, things are steadily improving on Sunday mornings at St Mary‑le‑Tower, with a decent touch (apart from mass confusion caused by a lack of concentration at a plain lead!) of Grandsire Cinques mastered. Whether this is something that is just going to happen at the start of each year or is the beginning of some really good attendances on a regular basis is something that time will tell and will largely depend on the help of those who have no other commitments at the same time as we ring!

It seems sad to say that we no longer expect more than a handful at Grundisburgh for Sunday mornings now. Admittedly Stephen was still away on holiday, but it's been a long-running situation now and I'm not sure why it should be. If anyone can help then that would be brilliant. We were only able to ring six today with the help of Mike Whitby and Pippa Moss, but with Mason again calling from the sidelines we were able to produce some fairly good ringing.

With Mason dropped off at Kara's, it was down to Woodbridge town centre to meet an incredibly bored Ruthie for lunch and then after she'd finished work we headed round her grandparents' for Kate's father's birthday, which falls later this week. It was the same location and exactly the same crowd as on Christmas Day and much like that day we were well fed and well looked after, as we always are round there.

There wasn't much time to appreciate it though, as we had agreed to be in a quarter of four-spliced Surprise Major at Ufford at Tom Britten's request. I'd never noticed the plaque that names each bell, but it caused some titillation (that word isn't used nearly enough) as poor Maggie realised the bell named after her had been floored, 'skirted' and with no hope of improvement. I rang Francis, the bell that replaced poor Margaret.

The quarter itself was a good effort and Tom did really well. His enthusiasm and ability bodes well for the future.

An extremely jovial evening in The Greyhound at Pettistree followed with much discussed that couldn't be repeated on a respected website such as ours! All good fun though!

Saturday 10th January 2009

I haven't really set any New Year's resolutions as such this month, but rather I'm aiming to keep (or become if you prefer!) better organised and to make as many district events across the county, circumstances permitting. Obviously I went to SMLT last week, but that wasn't too far to go, so today was the real start of my second aim. It was the North-West quarterly meeting, held as it normally is in January at Bury St Edmunds. It also allowed Ruthie a bit of piece of quiet to get some work done, with Mason - as delightfully energetic as he is - not wholly conducive to concentration on essays!

He didn't seem overly happy in the belfry as I joined in with some call-changes on ten and Stedman Caters, but he cheered up as we dashed up and down the corridors and stairs outside the refectory whilst others went to the service and he was in his element as everyone crowded into the refectory for tea!

However, the meeting didn't start until 7, so I thought it sensible to get Mason back to bed, meaning I couldn't hang around. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable afternoon as it always is and whilst good to see familiar faces such as the Rose's, Abi, Ruth and Louis, Paul Stannard, etc, it was also to good to put names to new faces such as Alex Tatlow, Patricia Larman and others that I didn't get a chance to speak to. Why people find these events such a chore is beyond me.

Friday 9th January 2009

With frost covering leafless branches and every other available surface and fog enveloping almost everything, the journey to Ipswich with Mason this morning was pretty but treacherous as was the return once I'd dropped him off. It got the better of someone as we passed flashing blue lights and crumpled cars and bikes - though no apparent injury thankfully - on the turning to Playford church, a junction I'd always thought capable of catching someone out in the best of conditions.

Mason was tucked up in bed asleep by 7.30 so I decided to brave the fog to Hollesley, leaving Ruthie doing more uni work where we rang some respectable Grandsire Triples. Not bad as we were slightly short with Alan away this week.

Interesting conversations on Ringing-Chat that started as a discussion on whether Morris-dancers decline was happening or would happen to bellringing. It turned into a debate on the merits on peal-ringing. A good point was made that whilst quarters certainly enable you to master a method (in most cases) it is only really regular peal-ringing that can help achieve really good striking, both in the peals themselves and as a knock-on effect in other ringing. A think there is a certain degree of truth in that and is something to think about as we approach Guild Peal Week...

Thursday 8th January 2009

With us house-sitting round Ruthie's, it was a viable option to put Mason to bed there and go to Grundisburgh practice for the first time for ages, as Ruthie was happy to keep an eye on him for that brief while.

However, I received a call from Kala in regards our mate Rusty's 17-month old daughter Caitlin who has been taken to Addenbrookes Hospital today. It was a bit of a shock, but she has been ill for a while and so the diagnosis that she has celiac disease was actually a bit of a relief for them as they knew what they were up against.

Once I got off the phone though, it was well past eight o' clock and not worthwhile going to practice.

Wednesday 7th January 2009

With the freezing conditions gripping us (some parts of Britain were reporting -13 degrees centigrade) and a tyre balder than my brother (only teasing Chris!), I thought today was as good as any to get my tyres checked and those that needed replacing replaced. Luckily there is a place in Melton just a few minutes walk from work, so having got up very early, which isn't easy at this time of year, I dropped the car off there and enjoyed a brisk and strangely refreshing walk up to the Deben Hill Business Centre where John Catt is based. Perhaps I ought to do it more often! It was all sorted by lunchtime, with the balding tyre replaced and a puncture fixed on the spare tyre, so that's one less thing to worry about for now!

Ruthie was in Colchester for the return of the Wednesday night concerts at the Institute. Although it is the only one in January and generally they are far less frequent than they were before the holidays, it still meant she was unable to join me for the first peal of the year at The Wolery, the leading peal tower of 2008.

Tonight we were only ringing seven methods as we eased Tom Scase into the world of mini-ring Minor splicing. I say eased, because it wasn't exactly as easy as it sounds. There was a change of method every lead, 209 in total, the first time the composition had been rung. Tom did well and a decent peal was scored, bearing in mind the starting temperature on the nifty clock in the ringing chamber was 36.6 degrees Fahrenheit, apparently the coldest it's ever been at a start of a peal there.

It was then a welcome, warming cup of tea and cake and up to The Greyhound at Pettistree to meet Ruthie and Kate for an equally welcome pint of Red Santa beer which presumably didn't sell as quickly as they thought it would!

Tuesday 6th January 2009

The icy conditions continued today, making going outside both difficult and undesirable. However, work beckoned as we stepped up the pace again.

With Kate housing-sitting in Shottisham, Ruthie and I are once again charged with keeping an eye on the menagerie of animals at Edwin Avenue, but I thought I better check up on my flat. It's still there and with surprisingly little post I picked up a couple of things and returned to Woodbridge for our traditional Tuesday night in.

Arrangements are picking up apace for Guild Peal Week 2009, running from Saturday 14th February - Sunday 22nd February. It would be great to see each district ring a peal as the South-West did last year and as I believe a couple districts are already planning this time round. First pealers and first as conductor would obviously be particularly satisfying, but the week is for anybody wanting to ring any peal for any reason. Let me know what you're up to or if you need any help getting a band sorted or if you have something you want to do.

Monday 5th January 2009

Awoke to a heavish layering of snow this morning, making for treacherous conditions but looking very pretty. However, it was the first day back at work after the Christmas break so even the festive scene could not stop me considering how long ago it seemed since I was dashing away from work at Christmas Eve lunchtime singing 'Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas' along to the song on the radio.

We had a new girl - Helen - starting today, but she was immediately thrust into moving Jonathan's furniture as the boss was moving upstairs. It certainly blew the cobwebs away! Apart from that it was a gradual easing back into the routine, punctuated by bursts of energy as the decorations came down bit-by-bit.

After last week and anticipating a wave of anticipation and motivation with a new year, I arrived early at St Mary‑le‑Tower for practice as I had the keys. Having picked up the new padlock key off the steps and then gone and picked Ruthie up from the station - it was her first day back in Colchester - I eagerly awaited the crowds. To say the turnout was dismal is an understatement. We peaked at ten, a truly disappointing turnout, even taking into consideration the icy weather - most roads had been treated. Whilst on the one hand it was a useful visit for Robert Beavis, it was also a shame he couldn't follow-up his experience from Saturday night with more 12-bell ringing tonight. It was also a shame for people like Paul and Anne who had travelled - as they usually do - from Essex for the practice.

We still managed London Major and three leads of Bristol Major (on the back 8) before making sure we finished by 9 as we will have to every first Monday as there will now be a service on straight after the practice on these occasions.

Sunday 4th January 2009

We rang on ten at St Mary‑le‑Tower for the third Sunday running and if I had been on time we might have had the opportunity to ring Surprise Royal. Never mind, Hollesley bells were sounding good as Mason and I left home!

Stephen is on holiday again, but we managed to ring Grandsire Triples for Anne with Mason calling it from the sidelines!

With Mason dropped off, I met Ruthie in Woodbridge for her lunch on what was a predictably quiet - some might say dead - day in town.

Once she had returned from work, me and her headed almost immediately to Pettistree to what turned out to be quite an enjoyable quarter of Cambridge, Plain and Little Minor in freezing conditions. Even in those conditions, we hung around to ring for evensong, including some slow Cambridge for Susan.

Back to work tomorrow, so took it easy this evening as my mini-detox kicked in!

Saturday 3rd January 2009

One of my favourite days of the footballing calendar as the Third Round of the FA Cup got under way. Apart from a couple of games where teams were knocked out by lower-league opposition there were no real shocks, including thankfully at Portman Road where we comfortably saw-off Chesterfield from two divisions below 3-0.

It made for a comfortable afternoon, but soon it was off to the first ringing event of 2009 in the Guild. Whether it was the number of bells, the location or the fact that people were chomping at the bit to get out of the house after the festivities, the South-East District Practice at St Mary‑le‑Tower was incredibly well supported with over 30 people attending on a cold night, having negotiated the normal gates being padlocked. Kate did very well to ensure most if not all got to ring what they wanted and a lot of the ringing showed there is more 12-bell talent out there than people give themselves credit for! Hopefully the turnouts will be just as good when we go to other locations this year.

Ruthie had volunteered to look after Mason and incredibly had got him to sleep on his new bed by the time I got home, something I thought we would have real trouble with. Just call her Mary Poppins!

Friday 2nd January 2009

With Ruthie not having to go into Boots and John Catt not reopening until Monday, today was another gentle day until Mum and Dad arrived. They were round with the new bed he got for Christmas, but it required blowing up with a very slow and very noisy electric pump. It was great fun for Mason, not so much for my elderly head still recovering from New Year's Eve or perhaps even that sherry the other night!

It was useful however as some time ago, when January 2nd seemed years away, we had agreed to ring in an evening quarter of Stedman Cinques at Great Yarmouth, followed by a meal. Although I like to avoid foisting the l'il chap on others if I can help it, it was a necessity tonight and Mum and Dad had very kindly agreed to not only look after him whilst we were out but also to put us up for the evening as he would be in bed asleep by the time we got back.

Having negotiated the truly shocking road that is the A12 from Wickham Market upwards, we were a couple of minutes late arriving, but glad just to be there finally!

The quarter was a good effort and great experience for those not so used to ringing on higher numbers.

Afterwards we were taken to the China Diner, predictably enough a Chinese restaurant where Phil and Maggie had booked a table for us all. It involved a strange eat-all-you-can-eat-from-what-we-bring-out-to-you process, but was nonetheless highly enjoyable and nice opportunity to catch up with some people we hadn't seen for some time.

Soon we had to leave though, the journey back to Ipswich being over an hour. However, sure enough, Mum and Dad had worked their magic and the boy was in bed. We weren't far behind him...

New Year's Day 2009

The morning clear-up of the WI Hall was a good way of getting into the swing of things after the night before and with the many helpers to hand it was a case of many hands making light work and we were able to clear the carnage quickly!

Whilst everyone else went for tea and coffee at Micky's, I headed to Woodbridge to pick Mason up. Despite a lack of sleep due to the inevitable midnight fireworks, he was still remarkably chirpy. Daddy was beginning to lose some of the early endeavour he displayed in clearing the hall earlier and so it was straight to Aunty Ruthie's.

The plan for the rest of the day had been to just vegetate as best we could with the li'l man expounding more energy than most of the country put together as the hangover began to kick in a little.

However, we received a request from Mary Garner to step in for her in a couple of quarters that afternoon. Despite an initial reluctance with sore heads, tired limbs and the practicalities of having Mason in tow, it was agreed Ruthie and I would ring in one each. They were being arranged by Robert Beavis in the kind of pro-activeness I wish more members would display and so it would've been a shame to let him down.

TyTypically I drew the short straw for my quarter. Whilst Ruthie and Mason slept in the car outside, I rang in an attempt of Cambridge Minor on the front six at Stonham Aspal. Talk about blowing the cobwebs away! It's good to have these bells ringing again, but they still aren't an easy job by any stretch of the imagination. And I said attempt as sadly that's what it ultimately proved to be. With only a third of the 576 to go following a successful 720, the whole piece collapsed in an unfortunate pile. Still, it was very good experience for Robert.

We were then taken on to Earl Stonham where Ruthie rang this time and Robert called his first quarter. Well done Robert and hopefully a good omen for 2009!

Whilst they rang, myself and a now awake Mason explored the church, briefly accompanied by a three-year-old chum called Edward, doing the same with his grandparents.

However, eventually it was time to return to Hollesley and slump, with even Mason now feeling the pace.