Tuesday 23rd January 2018

Richy's Blog

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Monday 22nd January 2018

Following yesterday’s trip to The Norman Tower, there was more valuable practice for us as we prepare for the George W Pipe Essex and Suffolk Twelve-Bell Striking Competition being held by our friends in Bury St Edmunds on Saturday 17th February, with a concerted, solid go at the test piece, 396 changes of Grandsire Cinques. It is a long touch, taking the best part of twenty minutes even on the lighter, quicker-running bells of the contest’s hosts and so it takes a sizeable chunk out of our weekly Monday session, but in the context of competition ringing it is so important to become as familiar as possible with the touch you’re going to be ringing to enable you to concentrate as much as possible on the striking on the day. And whilst the long length of the piece gives greater opportunity for loss of concentration, conversely it can allow for the ringing to improve to a greater extent to a normal-length touch (the same argument as one could put forward for quarter-peal and peal-ringing) and that was very much the case this evening as an unsettled piece developed into a very decent performance under the reassuring conductorship of Louis Suggett that would likely be competitive if prolonged throughout in just under four weeks time.

Happily it came amongst a much better night of ringing than a week ago, with some good Yorkshire Surprise Maximus and Stedman Cinques, although – much like a couple of days ago at Grundisburgh – some superb ringing in the latter was brought to its knees by hesitation and a lack of concentration. Hopefully more peals on higher numbers and greater focus on striking as part of working towards competition entries will see greater concentration from all, because we have shown that when on top of things that we can produce some brilliant ringing as a band.

Today saw me start another international campaign at John Catt Educational, meaning alternate weeks of early starts and late finishes for the next four months and on this occasion I woke in the middle of the night to get in touch with schools on the other side of the world, as I am due to do tomorrow as well and thus I returned home immediately after ringing, forgoing The Cricketers.

That early start did – as usual – lead to an early finish and allowed me the chance to listen to Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio Two show this afternoon. Not typical listening for me, but he was featuring the weekend’s story of the poor young learner who was injured ringing at Abingdon, coming thirty minutes into the programme. They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity and that saying was put to the test with this uncomfortable half-an-hour as the host did his best to make the art sound incredibly dangerous, especially for youngsters (perhaps someone should’ve sent him a clip of the magnificent ringing produced by the young band at Melbourne yesterday to knock that one down!) and indeed a number of callers recounted their incidents of rope-burn in dramatic tones, including a chap called Adrian from Sudbury. Yet Central Council President Christopher O’Mahony injected much needed reassurance and perspective for a hobby that statistically must actually be one of the safest around and ultimately this bit of PR passed by largely without too much damage to the exercise’s image. I hope.

God willing we’ll contribute to some more positive PR at The Norman Tower in a few weeks time.

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Sunday 21st January 2018

When I had the good fortune to ring for Birmingham in the National Twelve-Bell, the practice at the competition tower was probably the most important of all the practices. A chance to ring the bell you will be ringing on the day, getting an idea of all its little intricacies and it works with other bells, especially in the test piece. With the Brummies we would also listen back to recordings of our ringing for analysis and have reserves there so they were ready to step in, but also to listen to the ringing from roughly where the judges would be to pick out any discrepancies that we didn’t notice from the ringing chamber.

Our visit to The Norman Tower this afternoon to practice ahead of the St Mary-le-Tower entry in the George W Pipe Essex and Suffolk Twelve-Bell Competition on Saturday 17th February wasn’t exactly like that. After all, due to work commitments and the snowy conditions we were short of the whole band, but thanks to the help of some of our hosts those of us present had the invaluable experience of ringing the 396 of Grandsire Cinques that is to be the test piece on the bells that we are pencilled in to ring on the day. Thank you particularly to Julian Colman who joined us at short notice to aid us.

Ruthie and I took the opportunity to enjoy a drink in The Corn Exchange before returning to Ipswich where Mum and Dad had very kindly been looking after the boys, although with them having looked after them yesterday whilst I was peal-ringing and Wednesday whilst we both worked, Kate looking after them whilst we went to the theatre that evening and my wife’s grandparents looking after them whilst we went to the cinema a week ago, I think we may have used up all our babysitting privileges for now!

Earlier I went to SMLT for service ringing, where I rang more Stedman Cinques on the treble after 2hrs45mins doing the same yesterday and then joined some of the others at Costa Coffee before returning to the scene of Saturday’s loss where the highlight was Call-Changes on Ten.

The highlight for ringing generally today came from Melbourne in Derbyshire, where the ten who were the youngest band to ring a peal on ten in Birmingham a fortnight ago were joined by two others to form the youngest band to ring a peal on twelve bells with a 5042 of Cambridge Surprise Maximus, coming in at an average age of 15 years and 341 days. It is a marvelous achievement, especially on this chancel ring and bodes well for the future of the art.

Meanwhile within our borders, there were an impressive five quarter-peals. Well done to Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge on ringing his first of Reverse Canterbury Pleasure Place Doubles in the 1260 at Great Barton and to the entire band for ringing their first of Spithead Bob Minor in the QP at Pakenham, Xeranthemum Surprise Major in the 1312 at Palgrave and Cors-Goch Glan Teifi Bob Minor in the success at Thurston, whilst Plain Bob Minor was rung at Rougham.
 
All good practice I’m sure!

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Saturday 20th January 2018

Losing this morning’s attempt of 5011 of Stedman Cinques at Grundisburgh was disappointing and frustrating for so many reasons. Losing any peal is a blow of course, but opportunities to ring peals on this number don’t come my way everyday in my current circumstances. With a good band gathered from Essex to Lincolnshire, Norfolk to Warwickshire, it had taken several months of organising, accompanied with the usual worries about everything falling into place (did everyone actually say yes, were they all aware of the change of time, I did tell them the right place didn’t I?) and I was keen to score for the forthcoming eleventh anniversary of Mason’s birth. With our premature end coming after 2hrs45mins with a just a handful of courses to go, it doesn’t feel an understatement to pronounce it one of the low points of my ringing life.

That is always the risk with peal-ringing and especially Stedman, it wouldn’t be an achievement to score otherwise and there were positives. Our merry dozen included some of Suffolk’s own stars, such as Guild Ringing Master Tom Scase, conductor Stephen Pettman, David Stanford, Brian Whiting, Louis Suggett, Laura Davies and my brother Chris, all with a vast amount of experience on twelve, complemented by past Essex Association Ringing Master Brian Meads, former Mancroft and St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd, Rambling Ringers Ringing Master Chris Woodcock and Tom Griffiths, member of that record-breaking peal in Alderney three months ago and this week announced as one of the judges for the National Twelve-Bell eliminator at Southwell on Saturday 24th March. As a result, although there were some unsettled bits, there was also some fantastic ringing, certainly the best I have partaken in here for many years, not only showing how hard ringing here can be (it is telling that having rung the eleventh at Alderney for 25,056 changes over 16hrs7mins pretty much flawlessly, Tom had to work hard on the fourth!), but also that these much-maligned bells can be rung well.

It was great as well to catch up with ringing friends not often see, as well as Tom’s wife Rosie who I haven’t seen for a few years and his daughter Harriet who I was delighted to meet for the first time as they, my three boys and Mum and Dad – who had very kindly looked after them with Ruthie at work - joined the defeated peal-band in The Turks Head in Hasketon.

Eventually we all went our separate ways, although not in an entirely successful manner. The Griffiths family, having made a weekend of their trip to the county, were looking for somewhere nice with shops and so I pointed them in the direction of Woodbridge, only to discover – unbeknown to me – that as well as the Woods Lane closure, the main road through town was blocked this afternoon by flooding, meaning the whole area was at an unedifying standstill.

Meanwhile, Brian Meads and Chris Woodcock headed off to Hitchin to attempt another peal of Stedman Cinques, but there doesn’t seem to be any record of it on BellBoard – in this case the probability is that no news is bad news. If so, it has been a particularly unlucky day for them.

Still, not as unlucky as the poor teenage learner who injured himself after breaking a stay whilst having handling lessons at the 16cwt ten of St Helen’s in Abingdon. Apparently something distracted him and he got caught up in the hopes, was lifted a few feet up and dropped to the floor, although as with the exaggerated coverage of last year’s similar incident at Worcester Cathedral it wasn’t from anywhere near forty feet as quoted in most reports – rather the ringing chamber itself is forty feet up the tower. The rescue was also reported with gleeful sensationalism as – rather normally in such circumstances – he had to be brought down via the hatch that is in many belfry floors, usually to remove bells for maintenance. For all the eye-rolling though, hopefully the lad is OK and people aren’t put off by what is still an extremely rare occurrence, especially when one compares it to driving a car or even crossing the road.

And if nothing else, it put my own disappointments and frustrations into perspective.

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Friday 19th January 2018

Good news for ringing as it appears that policy is going to be put in place to protect bells against complaints from those moving into new developments placed next door. There is a very good article on the legislation in The Telegraph and it is worth noting this isn’t just for bells but for music venues and pubs, but it is ringing that makes the headlines and is very good news!

Ironically there doesn’t seem to have been anyone in Suffolk giving cause to be a nuisance, with quarter-peals and peals at least.

Not that we helped contribute to the numbers on BellBoard with the usual Friday evening collection of the boys being the main focus, but at least when we return to the art we can hopefully do so without as much risk at getting complaints.

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Thursday 18th January 2018

2017 was by far and away the most expensive year of our lives, predominantly due to the purchases of our home and car. However, if 2018 carries on like this, it will be giving last year a run for its vast amount of outlaid money.

Having only paid today for the pricey work on our boiler that required many hours of a plumber fiddling about, several visits and three new parts over Advent, Christmas and New Year in order to restore hot water to our household, this evening saw our washing machine go into meltdown as it struggled to get through the latest batch of washing that is needed in a house of five that includes two messy very young boys. A banging noise accompanied the already menacing sounding spinning and it became clear that this appliance was finished for good as a pile of clothes came out far wetter than one would hope. With repairs likely to run into the hundreds, it seems prudent to invest in a new, full-functioning machine instead.

Still, it was nothing compared to the damage caused by the latest storm to hit our shores. Having dismissed past complaints about the closing of the Orwell Bridge to everyone (unlike other similar sized bridges where only high-sided vehicles are stopped in the same conditions) by saying such crippling closures were a once-in-blue-moon occurrence, the Highways Agency closed the only viable route for mass traffic past Ipswich for the third time in the last few weeks. Even so, these seemed worse than recent gusts and with our route to take the boys to nursery already hampered by the long-term and well-documented closure of Woods Lane, our journey this morning was further elongated by roads blocked by fallen trees and a significant detour around the local area.

Other ringers were made of stern stuff though and able to get through the gales, with the band ringing the Ladies Guild quarter-peal at Gislingham rightly pleased with their efforts in the face of adversity! Well done as well to those who made it to Horringer and Tostock for a 1260 of Plain Bob Minor and 1296 of Allerton Bob Minor respectively and particularly to Joshua Watkins on his first of Minor and Jimmy Yeoman for his first inside in the former performance and Pam Ebsworth and Stephen Dawson for their first in the method in the latter success.

Meanwhile, although she wisely played it safe and stayed at home to do it, well done to Laura Davies on her first QP as conductor in hand.
God willing we'll be out and about joining everyone ringing soon - thank goodness we enjoy a hobby for such a minimal cost, otherwise we wouldn't be able to afford anymore ringing in 2018!

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Wednesday 17th January 2018

Deep in the depths of Woodbridge School's grounds sits one of my favourite places, the Seckford Theatre and one of the highlights of my year is usually the Eastern Angles Christmas performance, typically a humorous take on a film or famous story of some sort. Therefore tonight ticked all the right boxes, not least because it afforded Ruthie and me our second trip out childless in a few days, much as we love them to bits obviously. The play this year is The Ladykillers of Humber Doucy Lane, a take on the well known film The Ladykillers of course. It isn't the West End, the Royal Shakespeare Company or even The Wolsey, but its not meant to be and this was a hilarious night out following a band of prison escapees planning a heist at the same time as performing The Importance of Being Earnest. All along there were topical jokes, such as Ipswich Town manager Mick McCarthy stealing cutlery - "That will be the only silverware he'll get this season" - and risqué references to the name of our rivals' manager up the A140 - "that little Farke from Norwich" - amongst much else. And as also seems the norm for this occasion, we bumped into various people we know such as Bredfield ringer Vince Buckman and local ringers Bruce and Gill Wakefield.

We were grateful to my mother-in-law Kate for not only getting the tickets for us, but also looking after the boys as we gallivanted across town before returning home to catch the efforts of those aforementioned Canaries on TV at Chelsea, which left me with begrudging admiration even in their defeat. It was a funny old night in lots of ways, but one that ticked all the right boxes.

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Tuesday 16th January 2018

It was a day of police chases and a visit from a close friend, but no ringing personally, nor in the BellBoard columns for Suffolk.

The sirens were wailing as I stood chatting to a friend on my way home for lunch, seemingly pursuing a car that didn’t seem to want to pull over despite everybody else doing so, passing Ruthie’s bestie, bridesmaid at our wedding and Godmother to Alfie, Fergie as she made her way to ours for a visit, laden with cakes and happily she was still there when I’d finished work, joining us for some fish ‘n’ chips.

Whilst there were no quarters or peals on the county’s bells todays, there is plenty planned for the rest of January, starting with the Halesworth Triples and Major Practice on this 18cwt ground-floor eight on the evening of Tuesday 23rd, the Leiston Fourth Friday Eight-Bell Practice three days later and the South-West District Practice at Lavenham is pencilled in for Saturday 27th. You could follow that up with a night out in Sproughton at the Burns Night, but you won’t be able to precede it with the ART Module 1 Course in Ipswich. However, there will be opportunities to get involved at a later date and if you would like to then please get in touch with Jonathan Williamson.

Please support what is being put on – it will benefit others and you. Just don’t get chased by the police getting there.

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Monday 15th January 2018

It was a very odd night at St Mary-le-Tower. The ringing was unusually dreadful. As Diana Pipe and I stood waiting at the top of the stairs, Little Bob Maximus crashed to a premature halt. Grandsire Cinques struggled. Cambridge Surprise Maximus collapsed twice barely a lead in. Following on from last week’s superb practice and with a big crowd made up of very decent ringers, there seemed every reason to believe that this Monday would be even better. Concentration and focus appear to have been the biggest culprits and a team-talk from Ringing Master David Potts seemed to make a difference to that and thus the standard of ringing improved from that point.

Yet the excellent two courses of Stedman Cinques that climaxed the session still felt like it came out of nowhere and left us scratching our heads as to why the first half was so dire. However, it also showed us what we are capable of with a strong band, fully focused on every blow and meant we all went on to The Cricketers in high spirits at the end of a very odd night of ringing.

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Sunday 14th January 2018

St Peter Mancroft.From the outset, our friends from Norwich have given ringing a masterclass in PR with the Mancroft Appeal 300. From its launch, to the three hundredth anniversary of the first true peal rung – at Mancroft of course – to the National Twelve-Bell Final being held on the bells, to the work being given the go-ahead, they have got things spot on. They have kept the project and ringing itself in the public eye without saturation, always giving the media something new. That has been the case this weekend with the final ringing there before work actually begins to rehang them, raise the ringing chamber and create a ringing centre below. Friday saw ITV Anglia report on this next chapter in an enthralling story and this evening BBC Look East ran another excellent piece, featuring many familiar faces, such as former St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master Simon Rudd. Well done again to all concerned.

My ringing was very low-key in comparison, but still worthwhile as I helped man the front six at Woodbridge for the morning service, ahead of attending it.

However, that was the extent of my participation in the exercise today as the afternoon was set aside for some rare freedom for Ruthie and me. At Christmas, my wife very kindly bought me the DVD of Life on the Deben, but such was its popularity that it was a difficult thing to get hold off by all accounts and fearing she may not be able to find a physical copy to open on the 25th December, she had bought tickets as an insurance policy for one of the handful of showings at The Riverside Theatre, down by the Deben and this afternoon was our turn to join the masses in a sell-out at this quaint venue. Having already watched the DVD, we knew what to expect in terms of content and who was on it (including local ringer Elaine Townsend’s husband Roger), but watching it on the big screen allowed us to see this wonderfully shot hour-and-a-half film in a different way, picking up on things we didn’t notice the first time round. And of course it was lovely for once for just the two of us to be out, even grabbing a pint in the adjoining bar beforehand.

That we were able to do that was down to the generosity of my wife’s grandparents, who looked after the boys at theirs whilst we were viewing John McCarthy’s production and fed us all afterwards too. With it being my other half’s grandfather’s birthday there were even candles to blow out and a celebratory feel about our visit.

Much as I imagine there will have been at Nayland where the ninetieth anniversary of Rolie Whiting’s birth was again quite rightly celebrated, this time with a quarter-peal of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles at the tower where he was once tower captain. Meanwhile, a 1260 of Grandsire Caters was rung at The Norman Tower, whilst the second-Sunday peals at Aldeburgh got underway for 2018 with the first of Irwell Surprise Major for the entire band and the Guild. Well done to them all.

And well done again to the ringers of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich on some more typically superb PR!

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Saturday 13th January 2018

Ninety-five years into its existence, there are few members who have served the Suffolk Guild with more distinction than Rolie Whiting. Thirty years of service at the top-table of the South-West District, a reassuring presence in that beautiful corner of our county, a part of the SGR for as long as I can remember and a Vice-President of the organisation. Therefore I was delighted to see a peal rung today at Nayland – where he was once tower captain – to celebrate his ninetieth birthday with a band made up of other dedicated servants of the Guild, including current Ringing Master Tom Scase.

Meanwhile, I was able to watch yesterday’s report on ITV Anglia News about the end of ringing at St Peter Mancroft before the start of an exciting new era for our ringing friends in Norwich. Unfortunately I can only find it on Facebook as ITV Hub doesn’t seem to run it, but if you can search it out then the NDA FB page is your best bet if you are able.

That I have had time today to not only make extensive searches for a shareable video of the report sums up my day. Ruthie very diligently stepped in for a poorly work colleague, whilst I looked after a sleepy, clingy Joshua gradually recovering from his illness, as his elder brothers very patiently occupied themselves on an extremely quiet and slow day for us.

Other Suffolk ringers past and present were busier beyond our borders, with George Salter a part of the band that rang a peal of Norman Smith’s twenty-three Surprise Major methods spliced at Weston-super-Mare, his younger brother Colin partaking in the first peal on tower bells of Euximoor Fen Surprise Maximus at Guildford Cathedral and St Mary-le-Tower ringers Laura Davies and Louis Suggett joining one-time SGR resident member John Loveless in the 5080 of Bristol Surprise Royal at St Thomas the Martyr in Oxford.

Well done to them all and Happy Birthday Rolie Whiting!

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Friday 12th January 2018

Well done to our friends from Norwich. On Monday they held the last practice night in the famous old ringing chamber of St Peter Mancroft with the project to move the ringers further upstairs, strengthen the frame and create the Mancroft Ringing Discovery Centre getting underway next week. And tonight they appeared on Anglia News on ITV in a report that received rave reviews. Sadly we missed it and it doesn’t appear to be included in the videos available to watch again online, but keep an eye out, I’m sure it will turn up somewhere!

The reason we failed to catch it was the usual hectic Friday post-work routine of collecting children and then feeding them and getting them all to bed, although on this occasion with Joshua still too poorly to go to nursery, Ruthie swapped roles with me from yesterday and took the day off work to look after him.

No such trouble for the FNQPC as they rang a 1260 of Doubles at the ground-floor six of Tannington, but the headline makers were in Norwich today.

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Thursday 11th January 2018

Ill-health is the theme of today’s blog. Most particularly in our household where Ruthie felt part of the land of the living for the first time for about a week, but Joshua was too unwell to go to nursery, with a very runny nose and eyes to match. That meant one of us taking the day off to not only look after him but also take him to the doctor who – as we expected - diagnosed conjunctivitis, sending him away with some eye-drops that are already immense fun to apply. That parent taking time off was me today with my wife making up the finite number needed at John Ives on this occasion whilst John Catt very kindly allowed me the day to carry out my fatherly duties.

More widely, Australian Deadly Flu has been threatened by the tabloids, but whilst the reality is that the flu situation isn’t anything quite as sensational as the tabloids would like you to believe, there is a lot of nasty illness going around at home and work. And of course in the exercise, as was brought up on a ringing Facebook page where it was asked what ringers were doing to prevent germs spreading on the tailends and sallies that we all share. I had never really thought of that element, but it is worth towers thinking about ways of keeping ringers’ hands clean and help stop the spread of infections throughout ringing chambers whilst still enjoying the art.

Whether strict hygiene guidelines were adhered to or not before and after today’s Ladies Guild quarter-peal at Thornham Magna or yesterday’s 1320 of Doubles at Buxhall, I cannot confirm, but I’m glad that they were all continuing their ringing in these disease-ridden times.

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Wednesday 10th January 2018

A frustrating evening. Ruthie was involved in the pre-practice quarter-peal attempt at Pettistree which on this occasion was twelve Surprise Minor methods spliced but was unfortunately lost four leads from the end, before she returned home early, where our night was mainly made up of attending to the needs of a poorly Joshua.

On a happier note, details were today released on tickets for the Guild’s 95th Anniversary Dinner, due to be held at The Blackbourne in Elmswell on Saturday 3rd March, 7 for 7.30pm and which will set you back just £26 per person for a three course meal in great company. This year the Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich The Right Reverend Martin Seeley (who is also our President), the High Sheriff of Suffolk Geoffrey Probert and our patron George Vestey are all planning on being present.

In the past these have been fantastic occasions, something that can’t be missed and don’t see why this shouldn’t be the same. So please get in touch with the SGR Treasurer Owen Claxton on 01473 785 780 or treasurer@suffolkbells.org.uk and arrange your tickets as soon as possible.

Also on a positive note, a 1270 of Doubles was rung at Hollesley to celebrate the seventieth birthday of local ringer Micky McBurnie – Happy Birthday Micky! And across the seas the first peal at Ypres in Belgium was rung, a significant landmark for English change-ringing and a massive success for the art.

Clearly not as frustrating an evening as we had!

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Tuesday 9th January 2018

Typically for a Tuesday evening we didn’t do any ringing. However, we watched enough to almost feel like we’d been ringing!

It all started with another viewing of Sunday’s Songs of Praise, which just after ten minutes in features a brief interview with fellow Rambling Ringer and Bell Major of Durham Cathedral Chris Crabtree explaining what they were doing as part of the recent Lumiere Light Festival. Superb PR for the art, but fleeting and having not been able to watch the entire episode during its original broadcast two days ago, I wanted to check if there was anymore from the ringers. Alas no, but interesting viewing nonetheless.

Following this appetiser, we tuned into a repeat of the infamous Midsomer Murders episode featuring ringing. For those who haven’t ever seen this sixteen-year old edition of the long-running programme – and if you are one of the few who haven’t you can do so for the paltry sum of £1.99 on YouTube – it essentially sees members of a village striking competition band being killed-off one-by-one, which eventually sees them competing double-handed. Absurd of course, but for me that is the beauty of the earlier series’ of this favourite in our household. Ridiculous characters and storylines all delivered with lashings of humour. And when watching this as a ringer you have to engage your sense of humour. As with nearly all ringing scenes in popular media, these ones are far from convincing and full of errors, although they did go to a lot of effort on them as an article from John Harrison – who worked with them behind the scenes for this – outlines. Sashes for participants, judges knowing who were ringing, the dreadful ‘practising’ – I could go on, but it isn’t meant to be entirely accurate (as a view of any episode will tell you) and was a great couple of hours entertainment to while a cold January evening away.

I did feel the need to exorcise the surreal light our art was put in afterwards though and so I followed up a tip from my father last night and watched a six-minute YouTube clip of the Birmingham National Twelve-Bell Contest team preparing for the 2011 final at Leeds by running through the test piece at Pier Head in Liverpool, bells presumably chosen to practise on due to the similarity to the bells they would end up competing – and winning – on.

As we in Ipswich endeavour to get an entry into ringing’s premier striking competition in the next year or two and prepare to take part in the George W Pipe Twelve-Bell Contest at the Norman Tower next month, those looking to take part would do well to take this superb exhibition of ringing in. They aren’t ringing quickly as such, but keeping the bells tight and close to each other – dragging bells out is where unevenness usually creeps in. Ringing is being done to the tenor’s pace, as after all it is the tenor ringer who normally has the hardest job. Yet ultimately this is teamwork – the team will only be as strong as its weakest member – and so it has to be comfortable for all and consistent. The dedication required is something that also needs noting by our band, with this kind of travel not unusual for the Brummies in their preparation as I can testify and reassuringly those who have committed to our effort seem aware of this and buying into it.

Hopefully all ringers in the county will be encouraged by this video to closely follow this year’s ‘battle’ for the famous Taylor Trophy, especially as the 2018 contest is close to home in more ways than one. Not only is the final on Saturday 23rd June just over the border at Cambridge, but there is strong Suffolk representation in the bands. The hosts typically include Norman Tower regular Philip Wilding, whilst Bristol usually count Molly Waterson – once of this parish – in their numbers and this year also plan to include former St Mary-le-Tower band member George Salter, who will be in direct competition with his brother Colin whose Guildford team are in the same eliminator at Southwell on Saturday 24th March, where they are due to come up against one-time SMLT Ringing Master Simon Rudd with our friends from Norwich. And at the same time across at the Ossett eliminator, former North-East District officer Maggie Ross has been pencilled in to ring for High Wycombe. Good luck to them all!

Sadly the eliminators won’t  be on TV, so we’re unlikely to catch them!

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Monday 8th January 2018

Woods Lane – the vital main route that connects much of Woodbridge and the Sandlings with the rest of the UK - in our community of Melton closed again this morning, this time until April. For those who would usually use the road to get to the eights of Hollesley and Orford to ring, you will have to put a bit more forethought into your journey. For us local residents it will mean weeks of weary frustration, with gridlocked roads leading to more pollution, longer waiting times for emergency vehicles and the simplest of trips being extended considerably. Already the effects have taken hold, with smaller roads being used as dangerous rat-runs and one cut-thru having been restricted to one-way, seemingly without making it clear in which direction! And the morning drop-off of the boys at nursery that usually takes fifteen-twenty minutes took over forty. Indeed pretty much every time we go somewhere in the car during the lengthy closure requires a significant detour of some sort, which included going to St Mary-le-Tower tonight for the first weekly practice there since before Christmas.

As ever, it was completely worth it though with a tremendous return to the normal Monday night routine. An attempt at Stedman Cinques which inexplicably failed twice despite me being out of the way on the tenor bonging behind was more than counteracted by some very well-rung Grandsire Cinques, Little Bob Maximus and Yorkshire Surprise Maximus as a climax.

Elsewhere in Suffolk, a 1260 of Plain Bob Doubles was rung at Tostock, adding to yesterday’s 1296 of Cambridge Surprise Minor at Pettistree in the already decent total for 2018 thus far.

At SMLT, our positive evening continued on to The Cricketers where the conversation veered from vacuum cleaners to owning a percentage of a house. Oh, and that closure of Woods Lane. I can imagine that may come up in conversation a few more times over the next three months.

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Sunday 7th January 2018

This morning's ringing started well with good touches of Stedman Cinques and Doubles at St Mary-le-Tower and St Lawrence respectively, but at Grundisburgh it took a slightly surreal turn. Ringing rounds as we prepared to launch into Grandsire Triples on the back eight, Adrian Craddock decided that he wanted to roll his sleeves up and so attempted just that. Perhaps predictably the rope was dropped as it continued going up and down, but somehow he managed to rescue it and retain control, all the more impressively because conductor Stephen Pettman's instruction to start came about just as this situation began. Despite this and that David Stanford and I couldn't stop laughing for the first few changes, a reasonable piece of ringing was produced, but sadly not many people witnessed it, with this, a truncated attempt at Cambridge Surprise Minor and Plain Bob Doubles with six, seven and eight bonging behind being the limit of our endeavours on the county's lightest twelve.

Whether the ringing was quite as entertaining or not, well done to the band who rang their first quarter-peal of Lee-on-The-Solent Bob Minor in the 1260 rung at Great Finborough today.

The band.And very well done to the youthful ten who rang in the 5040 of Cambridge Surprise Royal at St Paul's in Birmingham this afternoon and in the process became the youngest band to ring a peal on that number at a tender average age of 15 years and 322 days. I have got to know the Riley brothers through their attendance on Rambling Ringers over the last couple of years and wasn't surprised to see that not only did Alex conduct it, but also to his own composition, whilst there was a strong Suffolk connection with George and Diana Pipe's great-nephews Henry and Alfred ringing too. Pleasing as well to see the great ringing names of Hull and Regan also continuing to take the exercise forward. Congratulations to all the youngsters involved!

It is all a bit beyond the young trio in our household and so instead they spent the afternoon playing as Ruthie continues to attempt recovery from an illness so bad it even prevented her from singing in the choir at Woodbridge this morning or joining us boys on the ringing circuit. Although as much as I'm sure she would've enjoyed Mr Craddock's acrobatics, I'm pretty sure she will have been glad to miss the Stedman!

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Saturday 6th January 2018

Super publicity in today’s East Anglian Daily Times with the ringers of Kersey the focus of an article on ringing’s attempts to recruit 1,400 new ringers for the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War on 11th November. Personally I thought it was a pity that some of the otherwise brilliant photos included ones posed with coils, but I don’t expect it will – and nor should it – detract from a great bit of PR.

Regardless of how many recruits Suffolk’s towers have, as the article testifies, the aim is to get as many towers in the county as possible ringing on Armistice Day and to that end Guild Public Relations Officer Neal Dodge would be delighted if you could fill out a straightforward form outlining your plans for 11/11/2018, as it would help arrange for gaps to be filled.

The boys enjoying the Fun Factory. The boys enjoying the Fun Factory.God willing we can help, but there was no ringing for us today, despite this afternoon being the South-East District Practice at Pettistree as in one of those typical diary clashes that happen amongst a sea of empty Saturdays we were otherwise engaged with the boys having been invited to the Fun Factory on the edge of Saxmundham to celebrate the recent birthday of my Goddaughter Maddie. Ruthie was feeling under the weather and keen not to pass her illness to any children – especially the tiny ones expected there – she remained at home and so it was an exhausting couple of hours of keeping tabs on the trio of brothers in the labyrinth of tunnels, slides and padded corridors of the play equipment whilst also catching up with friends like Kala, Toby and Amy.

Earlier my wife was at least able to help us host her best friend Fergie and her chum Rachel for a cuppa or two and a catch-up, but it involved no ringing on a quiet day generally for the art within our borders on BellBoard. 6th January 2018 hasn’t justified any ringing publicity in the county.

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Friday 5th January 2018

There is some debate as to whether it is twelfth night tonight or tomorrow, but in our household it was this evening. Thus the decorations and cards came down, with the tree unceremoniously consigned to the bin, complete with snapped off branches and structurally reinforcing parcel tape after it had suffered dreadfully in the housemove and at the paws of Charlie the cat.

Whilst we were busy deconstructing Christmas, other ringers in Suffolk were ringing out the season with a quarter-peal of Doubles at Earl Stonham. Well more for Muriel Page's birthday. Happy Birthday Muriel.

And for one last time for now, Merry Christmas everyone!

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Thursday 4th January 2018

Notions of fining brides that arrive late to their weddings have long been proposed in ringing circles, not least by my mother who has rung for more than many ringers and as such has often experienced the inconvenience of being holed up in a ringing chamber for longer than expected when she has other things to do afterwards. Well today an article in The Telegraph revealed that the vicar of Bearsted - an 11cwt six - in Kent has done just that, although perhaps in a more encouraging manner by offering couples a £100 refund if their ceremony gets underway within ten minutes of the advertised start time.

Not unexpectedly it generated much debate through ringing's social media platforms from the extreme of those advocating higher penalties and even cancellation of the wedding in such circumstances to those who fear policies like this will discourage even more people from getting married in a church, with numbers long in decline already. "Surprise, surprise" I hear you sigh, but I sit somewhere inbetween. Ringing and the church don't fare too well in the PR stakes where both face an uphill battle to pull people in from a hectic society increasingly tied to the internet and despite our best efforts still largely views what we do as old-fashioned and irrelevant, especially among the younger generations from whom of course the majority of wedding couples will be drawn from. So I am always delighted to help out at weddings where I can, not because of the money - which frankly is a relative pittance in the scheme of things - but because I feel it is one of the few times when us ringers can make a difference to someone's life. On what is for many the biggest day of their life, they request that we ring and even pay for us to do so and it gets noticed. Bells ringing out accompanies just about every reference to weddings in the media and it is what greets the happy couple as they step outside for the first time as a married couple. Knowing from experience how much organisation goes into the occasion, I am happy to bide my time in a ringing chamber if it helps make the day that extra bit special, even if it means occupying three bored young sons. And I usually commit to them knowing that almost certainly the bride will be up to ten-fifteen minutes late and the service anything up to three-quarters of or even a whole hour long and so I factor any other arrangements in accordingly and am pleasantly surprised when if it is over quicker than anticipated.

However, when we're still awaiting the star of the show twenty minutes after the ceremony was due to kick-off and having sometimes already been there for an hour by that point, it starts getting silly. For all that it is the happy couple's big day and for them everything is quite rightly focused on that, for ringers - and choristers, churchwardens and the officiating priest for that matter - it is often just a part of a busy day in its own right. We all have things to be getting on with, sometimes even another wedding to get to and it seems less than considerate for a bride to arrive forty minutes late which isn't entirely uncommon.

Something has to be done therefore just to focus the couple's minds on that and so I applaud Canon John Corbyn's move, especially as - despite the typically sensationalist headline - he has approached it in a sensitive manner and it does appear to be working! Sometimes though, just a polite firmness can work as is the case at many places where the vicar insists that the bride arrives on time, such as at Woodbridge with Kev the Rev where largely it works. Indeed, Ruthie arrived so early for our wedding there that I inadvertently rang for her arrival!

Apart from the usual social norm of getting to work on time, there were no such pressing deadlines for us today, with ringing not possible personally due to the usual Thursday evening combination of children and choir practice preventing us getting out to places like Grundisburgh, but there was ringing in Suffolk today and in quite impressive style as a 1440 of twelve Surprise Minor methods spliced was rung at Tostock. Hopefully no one was late arriving!

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Wednesday 3rd January 2018

My and The Wolery's peal-ringing got underway for 2018 tonight. Already a number of ringers have three peals to their name since fireworks saw out 2017, including one of my fellow participants in this evening's 5152 of Balderstone Surprise Major, Ian Culham, but I was pleased to get going for my twenty-seventh year in the medium, although that is put in the shade by George Thoday's sixty-first. It was a decent start to the year too in this Yorkshire variation and means I am just five shy of my six hundredth 5000+.

Alongside sharing Ian's leaderboard antics and George's longevity in the peal columns, it was also nice to catch-up with Guild PR Officer Neal Dodge following his appearance on Mark Murphy's breakfast show on our local BBC radio station yesterday morning. Primarily it was as part of the launch of Suffolk Day on 21st June and I hope that more towers and ringers can ring for the event than last year, although I appreciate that being on a Thursday that isn't going to be easy. However, it offers tremendous positive publicity and so it would be great come the longest day of the year to report that bells were ringing for the occasion in every corner of the county.

Whilst 21/6/2018 was the main focus of the interview, 11/11/2018 also came up in the form of the national project to recruit 1,400 ringers to symbolically 'replace' the 1,400 ringers lost to fighting in the First World War a century ago. This is a big ask, so towers within our borders will need to be grabbing every opportunity to use this as a tool of recruitment - please do go to the Central Council website to find out more or speak with District and Guild officers about how they or you can help. That it was brought up by the host Mark unprompted was encouraging though - word is clearly getting round!

Elsewhere, it was a significant night at Pettistree, where the 1100th quarter-peal on the bells since their dedication in December 1986 was rung before the weekly practice. These have been and continue to be a useful tool for progression and maintaining high standards here and it is no coincidence I think that this little ground-floor six punches above its weight, continually finishing high in striking competitions, featuring a wide rangeing method repertoire and attracting some very good ringers. Long may it continue - here's to the next 1100!

Like me and The Wolery though, it was a first for this year. God willing much more is to come.

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Tuesday 2nd January 2018

The hot water is fixed! Yay!

My phone screen is cracked after I carelessly dropped it after work. Boo.

You win some and you lose some and such is the return to everyday life as most of the country returned to the drudgery of the office following an enormous amount of family, presents, beer, wine, fizzy, punch, turkey and black forest gateau profiteroles. That last one was perhaps a misjudgment.

As much as I can't claim my job as exciting, I am eternally grateful each year that it is this that I return to with its professional, focused but relaxed atmosphere. Not least because that rather than a delayed and lengthy commute on what must have been a depressing journey this morning for those on public transport, I merely had a short walk to John Catt Educational. I have cherished every moment of the extra time spent with Ruthie and the boys over the last week and a bit, but in the circumstances it was nice to be reunited with workmates and find out how they had spent the festive period.

It still involved no ringing personally, but elsewhere in the county other ringers were ringing, with the pre-practice quarter-peal scored at Offton and pleasingly the first brace of peals in 2018 for the Suffolk Guild were rung as fourteen Surprise Minor methods were successfully negotiated at Rickinghall Superior and seven Treble Dodging Minor methods notched up at Thornham Magna. Congratulations to new South-East District Chairman Mark Ogden on ringing his two hundredth peal in the latter. Only another one hundred and two peals for the SGR to beat its total for 2017...

And at least - unlike me and the appalling Ipswich Town tonight - they had a 100% success-rate today.

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New Year's Day 2018

There is no possible way for us mere mortals to know what lies ahead in 2018. Ipswich Town winning promotion? England winning the World Cup? Unlikely. St Mary-le-Tower considering an entry for next year's National Twelve-Bell Striking Contest? More conceivable and a reasonable aim, especially with the planned Essex & Suffolk Twelve-Bell Contest at The Norman Tower on Saturday 17th February, which is shaping up to be a super day out for all, whether participating or not.

Likewise the other more established striking competitions within our borders, with the District ones being held on 5th May for the South-East, 12th May for the North-East and 23rd June at Cavendish for the South-West, whilst the Guild competitions are being held in the SE on 19th May.

It is not just striking competitions lined up of course. The AGM is due to be held in the NW on 7th April, but the real highlight should be the 95th Anniversary Dinner pencilled in for the evening of 3rd March in Elmswell - please keep the date free and look out for ticket details as these have been wonderful events through the years.

More immediately, in the next few days, if all goes to plan one could join the Beccles Ten-Bell Practice from 7.30pm on Wednesday, the South-East District Practice at Pettistree on Saturday afternoon, the Bungay Eight-Bell Practice in exactly a week and the Second Tuesday Ringing at Henley and Clopton the following day.

Personally though - barring unforessen circumstances - I could come out the other end of 2018 feeling very old! Alfie is due to start primary school in September at the same time as his older brother Mason is supposed to be beginning his education at secondary school, whilst on 15th October it will be precisely forty years since I was born.

From a ringing perspective I am trying to arrange more peal attempts on higher numbers, to reach my 600th peal and generally hope that we can plan our time better and get out to more ringing.

New Year's Day morning in the Melton Munnings household.Who knows how much of this will pan out, but we can at least see how this year has started. And it looks much like many of my blog entries from 2017, as our day was slow, as the morning saw lots of slumping on the sofa and the main 'excitement' being buying a stepladder and a wasted journey to collect a new laptop that wasn't there and as there was no practice at SMLT we failed to start this year with ringing. However, as has so often been the case in recent years, other ringers were active on the end of a bellrope, with quarter-peals of Doubles, Bourne Surprise Minor, Single Oxford Bob Minor and more Doubles rung at Campsea Ashe, Clopton, Earl Soham and Woolpit respectively, whilst a date touch was rung at Offton.

Hopefully it is a sign of a successful 2018 ahead for Suffolk ringing, but who can tell?

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