Saturday 24th June 2017

Ringing Master's Blog

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New Year's Eve 2008

Last year, with Mr P away, I buggered up the arrangements for the New Year's Eve peal at Grundisburgh. With Stephen around to sort it this time round, we were much more successful, scoring a really quite good peal of Grandsire Cinques, half-muffled as is traditional.

A quickish pint in The Turk's Head and it was back to Edwin Avenue where - with Ruthie back from working at Boots this morning after a text from the boss last night - the three of us set about peeling and chopping vegetables for the feast tonight.

Hollesley New Year's Eve Party 2008, Shottisham Hollesley New Year's Eve Party 2008, ShottishamOnce again, we were in the WI Hall at Shottisham for the bulk of the party and as usual it was a boisterous affair - as the photo's will indicate - with party poppers and even crackers flying amongst normally restrained and reserved (?) folk between courses. Beer had been brought by the Whitby's and others had contributed food for what was a hugely enjoyable and successful evening.


Hollesley New Year's Eve Ringing 2008It was then onto Hollesley for the main part of the night, ringing 2009 in. We were mainly a bit tipsy, but we had a FANTASTIC ring, even managing Grandsire Triples until Mr Harper put a call in!


All that was left was for Kate, Ruthie, Max the dog and myself to return to mine to enjoy a few more beers (we left the sherry for tonight) and call the parents who had had a great night at Sproughton.

And so there we are, 2008 is over. Obvious highlights of the year on a ringing level have included the Guild Dinner, the tremendous turnout for the Guild striking competitions and of course the Guild's first peal on 14. On a more personal level the highlights have been getting settled into my new job at John Catt, the time I have been able to grab with Ruthie in amongst my hectic life and of course seeing Mason grow, learn to walk and garble his first vaguely coherent words. Thanks to everyone who has helped me during the year, most importantly Ruthie!

Tuesday 30th December 2008

Well done to Philip Moyse for his first quarter of Surprise at Blythburgh today. As if that wasn't enough, well done to Tom Britten who conducted the same quarter, his first of Surprise as conductor.

Ruthie and I achieved slightly less today, eventually drinking half a bottle of wine before we realised it was sherry back at mine.

Monday 29th December 2008

John Catt close down over the Christmas period and we don't go back in until next Monday. Whilst this comes out of our holiday allowance thus depriving us of choosing when we have four days of our time off, I don't mind having these few days away from the office. The time between Christmas and New Year is usually quite, boring and quite depressing when stuck in an office.

With Ruthie also not going into work this week, we took advantage by having a lie-in, a severely rare opportunity.

Once we were up though, we sprung into action. Time off work is a good opportunity to get those jobs done you don't typically get the chance to do. Today was blitzing my flat, partly because it needed tidying and partly because it is being used as accommodation after the New Year's Eve party at Shottisham and Hollesley. A great deal was achieved - thanks Ruthie! - and so we returned to Woodbridge for tea before continuing on to St Mary-le-Tower.

I have mentioned in the past that practices in this week can be very hit-and-miss, but it certainly wasn't the case tonight. Despite a shaky start, the last practice of the year turned out to be one of the best with very well-rung Yorkshire Max and some good Stedman and Grandsire Cinques. Admittedly the presence of three Sandersons and the welcome return of Philip Wilding helped, but it's worth noting we still have a lot of people away during this festive week.

One final drink in Mannings and it was 'Happy New Year' to all and on our way home.

Sunday 28th December 2008

The visit of Tina, Peter and James Sanderson of York Minster allowed us to ring Yorkshire Royal for the second Sunday running at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. Tina iwas a regular member of the band here before she moved up north some years ago.

They also visited Grundisburgh, with the addition of Ruth, Peter and Tina's daughter. Like her brother James, Ruth is a more than capable surprise ringer so we were able to ring some very decent Yorkshire Royal here too as well as Stedman Caters. We all admired Mason's developing Suffolk twang too as more words appear from him!

Once I'd dropped the little chap off for the last time this year, it was off to town to meet Ruthie on lunch from her last shift at Boots of 2008. It was a bit busier than it normally is at this time of year (or least compared to last year) and so she was slightly more frazzled than she had expected. Still, it was good to see her.

There was not much time to hang around afterwards though, as I agreed (with pleasure) to ring in a peal at The Folly in Claydon for Jonathan Slack's birthday. A steady but good peal of Grandsire Triples was achieved and so we enjoyed the beer and cake afterwards all the more as we stood agog at the news that Ipswich Town had won - yes, won - 1-0 at Derby whilst we had been inside.

Again there was not much time to loiter as a quick bit of curry back at Ruthie's and we were out for the evening once more. On this occasion we were meeting Ruthie's friends Fergie and Katharine at The Cherrytree and although a possible meeting with Kala, Nick and Toby was dashed by our forgetting the pubs closed at 10.30 (today felt more like Saturday than Saturday did), we still enjoyed ourselves.

Saturday 27th December 2008

An incredibly unextraordinary day as the excitement of the last few days died down to the more mundane period between Christmas and New Year and the distortionate affect it has on the days. It is traditional for a full programme of footy matches to be played on Boxing Day, which of course was yesterday - Ipswich continued their indifferent form with a 1-0 home defeat to Birmingham - so there were no games today. With no Guild or district ringing events on, today didn't feel like a Saturday.

Instead, I watched over Mason whilst reading Richard Hammond's autobiography as the girls dismantled Ruthie's old bed as the grand bedroom renovations continued apace.

It was then back home to Hollesley for the first time in a week to return to some form of normality.

Boxing Day 2008

Christmas Day 3 dawned at Mum and Dad's where we were generously put up last night, allowing Ruthie - as the designated driver yesterday - the chance of a few drinks. Although there was no rush, we had arranged to take Mason round Ruthie's grandparents where we went yesterday dinnertime, so we needed to travel back up to Woodbridge to pick the li'l chap up and make ourselves look decent.

Having done all that, I drove this time to Derek and Janet's for another great meal, especially by Mason who seems to developed a love of parsnips! There were only us three and Kate as visitors this time, the others fulfilling family commitments they couldn't yesterday and Ruthie's nan unable to come over as she usually does on Boxing Day.

Still, a good time was had before we travelled back to Chez Ashcroft for a repeat of yesterday's festivities.

We just caught Unky Chris before headed back to Cambridge and work, but time was pressing and he didn't stay around long enough for the third evening feast mother had prepared in the last three days. The rest of us devoured it though! Thanks again Mum!

The rest of the evening was handed over to Mason opening more presents and then us trying to get the excitable little guy to bed. Phew!

Christmas Day 2008

As I get older I often find myself wondering during the festive season as to why I still get excited by Christmas. All around me there are people who you would think have been weathered by Christmas-after-Christmas if you were to believe what they say. "Oh I'll be glad when it's over", "why do we still have to put up with this", etc. Admittedly Mason's presence has perhaps renewed the magic of the season within me, but I frequently feel that I am in some way flawed by still enjoying this time of year. However, having thought about it, when else do we as a people all (well most of us) celebrate at the same time a message of hope and joy, whether we believe that message to be a Christian one or not. When I worked in Birmingham, there was a Muslim work colleague who I asked what they would be doing with their day off. "The same as you" was the answer. "Spending time with the family, opening presents, eating food." It is a universal celebration. A time to try and relax (as much as those who do the cooking can!) and forget about the normal day-to-day worries. We musn't let others spoil it, even if they are determined not to enjoy it.

Bellringing offers me - and most of you reading this I imagine - the chance to spend the day with friends as well as family, and even though I didn't stop for the service or the Midnight Mass last night, ringing reminds me what the day is all about.

Today was no different, with a better turnout at St Mary-le-Tower, including the normal festive visit of Roger Bailey. We rang Yorkshire Royal and Call Changes on 12 on a crisp, sunny but cold morning.

With no service or ringing at Grundisburgh, it was onto Sproughton where with a good attendance, London Minor was a highlight.

Making my way back towards Woodbridge, I delighted in watching people carrying bags of presents, others getting of cars with Santa hats on, all presumably preparing for a day of festivities with family and friends just as I was. I hope it went well. Mine did.

As last year, my destination - via Edwin Avenue to meet up with Ruthie - was Kate's parents round the corner, where we were served a fantastic turkey dinner with all the trimmings - and more!

Things were slightly different, with Claire up in Scotland for Christmas for the first time, but Ruthe's cousin Poppy kept us charmed on her first ever Christmas.

With the skies darkening outside, Ruthie and I said cheerio before she drove us down to my parents, again like last year. We were to enjoy another fine feast laid on by my mother as Emmerdale cheered us up with murder in the background.

Wallace and Gromit accompanied the final flings of present opening, with myself once again doing very well for beer, as well as clothing. Still not sure what people are trying to tell me...

Christmas Eve 2008

Predictably things were slow at work, but I engineered hero status by guaranteeing the sale that took us over the target Jonathan had set us in order to leave early and so excitedly, we left the office at 1pm.

It enabled me to take some time to relax before a hectic evening and I took advantage by watching Santa Clause: The Movie (critically ridiculed, but a childhood favourite of mine) and The Snowman, both putting me in a jolly mood before I joined Kate in going to Grundisburgh to ring for a service there. We were joined by Gordon and Jonathan Slack (I haven't seen Jonathan for years!), but sadly only then by David Stanford, meaning we had just five. It led to us having a bit of fun by ringing on all three five's, with Stedman on the front five, Grandsire on the middle five and St Simon's on the back five.

It was then back to say hello to Ruthie who had been working all day before I dashed off to Mum and Dad's. As with Christmas Eve last year, I had dropped Mason off there in the morning so he could see Unky Chris. This year it was also an opportunity to see Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric who will be unable to come round on either Christmas Day (as they normally do) or Boxing Day, so there was a very crowded house when I arrived there!

We were treated to a fine spread by Mum before we opened some presents for Christmas Day 1 and then headed into town to ring for the Carol Service at St Mary-le-Tower.

In keeping with the ringing of the last few days, it was a very disappointing turnout, although the ringing was still of a good standard with three leads of Bristol Major on the back 8 the highlight. It is understandable as ringers will be at their own towers at this very busy time of the year, but I'm sure we haven't had this problem in the past. It was good to see Simon Rudd again.

There wasn't much time to dwell on it all as I had to drop the li'l chap off at Kara's, pick Ruthie up and begin our traditional Christmas Eve booze-up. This year we were beginning at The Ship in Blaxhall as Toby was working there tonight. We met up with Kala too before we wished Toby a Merry Christmas and drove down to Woodbridge where the serious drinking got going at The Red Lion. Of course it was heaving with Banana Man, Tigger and Super Woman out in force. Having been met by Jess and her brother Max, we stuck to more normal wear.

As always on this occasion though, we don't like to hang around too long, mindful of tomorrow's excesses and wanting to meet with Aaron in The Mariners, we bade farewell (bumping into Beth, Ele and Paul who we'd been out with last night) and strode across town. We ascertained Aaron was in the toilets and so having negotiated entry with the bouncer on the door, we went in search of him. What he had neglected to mention however was that he was in the toilets of The Bell and Steelyard up the road!

Eventually we met up with him in The B&S and enjoyed one last drink before wandering home to the sound of Woodbridge bells, tired, but ready and raring for tomorrow.

Tuesday 23rd December 2008

Another slow day as we struggled to get hold of anyone as it became increasingly obvious that most people have packed up for Christmas. Goodness knows what it'll be like tomorrow!

The evening was much more enjoyable as we walked to Ruthie's friend Fergie's house nearby before catching a taxi to The Seal in Woodbridge where we were meeting many of Ruthie's other ex-school chums like Vicky, Beth, Mark and Moley and so forth. The food wasn't great (Alan McBurnie wouldn't have been happy about the pie!), but the company and booze was great.

Monday 22nd December 2008

It's one of those limbo weeks as after all the Christmas ringing, carol services, mince pies and mulled wine at the weekend, it was back to work for these three loose days before the big day itself. Predictably things were slow, but we kept on as strictly speaking our campaign doesn't finish until Wednesday, even if there's barely anyone left to call.

Things were a little like that at St Mary-le-Tower with some people already away for Christmas, but we still managed to ring the 12 and it was a useful evening for Anne who seemed to visibly progress in her 10 & 12 bell ringing this evening.

The rest of us rang Yorkshire Royal and then - just for a bit of fun - Cambridge and Yorkshire Royal spliced which went extremely well. Perhaps something to build on after the holidays or even next week as we have another practice as normal then.

Mannings was very busy, to be expected at this time, but not so busy that we had to wait long for drinks or fight for a seat.

Heading home, our attention was grabbed by what looked like a van or minibus on fire outside Tuddenham St Martin Village Hall. It had presumably only just started as there were no fire engines but plenty of residents standing around watching, so we thought we better get out of there!

Sunday 21st December 2008

There was a good turnout at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, but sadly the ringing struggled. For some reason Yorkshire Royal couldn't get past the first half-lead, as far as I could see, purely down to a lack of concentration as the ability of the band was certainly not in question.

Grandsire Cinques went better and it was good to see Arnie Knights, as I've commented before, one of the Guild's finest ringers.

Grundisburgh was a lot quieter as myself, Mason and then Kate arrived to find there was no service and therefore no ringing. It'll be the same on Christmas Day, so like last year I think it'll be Sproughton again on Thursday.

Once Mason and I had popped into Woodbridge to meet Ruthie on her lunch, I dropped the li'l man off and set about present wrapping. I'm not great and this, but I had an exciting game between Arsenal and Liverpool on the TV to keep me occupied and it did set up a very festive afternoon and evening.

After I had joined Kate in heading to Warren Heath in Ipswich to pick up Ruthie's new bed, we headed to Hasketon to ring for their carol service and although we were only joined by David, Beryl and Mr Nigel, we enjoyed some good 5-bell ringing.

I then finally met up with Ruthie again at Shottisham where she was singing in the choir for their carol service. Ironically we had 7 ringers at this 1-bell tower and so the responsibility for chiming the bell before the service went to Anne Buswell. Expertly struck Anne!

From Peter Harper's solo, Ruthie's vital solo in the opening verse of Once in Royal David's City to the kids dressing up for a nativity scene, this was Christmas magic all the way. All the favourites were in there from Come All Ye Faithful through to Hark the Herald Angels Sing (can it be Christmas without it?), all finished off with mulled wine, mince pies and nibbles. I can't wait for Christmas now!

Saturday 20th December 2008

A busy day began with a trip to Claydon to meet our friend Becky who has just moved in with her boyfriend Paul there. Coincidentally, you can see the top of The Folly, home to Gordon and Janet's mini-ring from their living room and indeed her boy's bedroom overlooks the finest 8 in the village.

Having spent some time there, it was a mad dash into Ipswich for the annual Christmas ring in all the ringable towers in the town. Of course I was at St Mary-le-Tower and we rang some good call-changes on 12 before finishing with some Grandsire Cinques, all under the glare of the usual visit of a photographer from the EADT/Evening Star, so look out for that!

As usual it was a fantastic success, with huge credit having to go - quite rightly - to Brian Redgers who organises the 50+ ringers this event requires, year in and year out.

The St Margaret's ringers should also be thanked for feeding and watering us all afterwards as their Church Centre opposite was open to us as usual, as was the playground of the neighbouring school for parking.

It also put us into Ipswich town centre for some last minute Christmas shopping, which was handy, although hard-work for myself, Ruthie and Kate trying to push Mason through what seemed like the whole of Suffolk's population!

Having fought our way back to the car which I'd re-parked down Portman Road - and shown Mason the hallowed turf to cries of wow - we made the short journey to Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric's. They had a lovely surprise for the li'l chap as they produced a box full of Thomas the Tank Engine books. He loves trains at the moment, with his favourite word being 'choo-choo'!

After tea back at Ruthie's, Mason and I returned to Hollesley and having got the boy to bed. Having enjoyed the final of Strictly Come Dancing (I never thought I'd say that!), I settled down to watch Match of the Day and... darkness. Once I'd found the torch (not easy as it was dark) and ascertained that I had paid the bill and it was the whole of Hollesley without light, I resigned myself to missing my favourite footy show and went to bed. Despite this disappointment, I counted my blessings that I had changed Mason and got him to bed before the lights went out. Now that could've been messy...

Friday 19th December 2008

Our generous employers were in their element today as the Christmas meal, with three courses and as much beer as we could get down us before the boss left with the tab was paid for by John Catt Educational and was gratefully received.

Even more gratefully received was Ruthie's agreement to pick me up and take me to Ipswich to pick Mason up so I could partake of this rare opportunity for free beer, before then taking me and the li'l man back home.

The boy was in bed and asleep before I left for Hollesley practice and so I went on my own with Ruthie quite tired and happy to look after any of Mason's needs that might have occurred. With Alan away tonight, we did quite well to ring some Grandsire Triples amongst other things.

Thursday 18th December 2008

The problems with Internet Explorer which has been in the news in the last couple of days prompted some difficulties with the computers at work which meant there was a lot of sitting around in the morning as Jonathan our MD gallantly sorted the problem.

We have to be careful not to wind down too much as we still have a campaign on until Christmas Eve, but this afternoon Jonathan had offered an open invitation to the other companies on the Deben Mill Business Centre where we are now well settled. The last hour was spent eating, drinking and mingling, a lovely occasion although of course I couldn't partake in more than a small glass of wine as I was driving off to pick up Mason.

As mentioned last week I've decided against taking Mason out to practices and so we were back at Hollesley quite early for the li'l chap to be put to bed.

More good PR for the Guild as Bruce was on Radio Suffolk (about 8.45am I think for those wanting to listen again) as he advertised the hugely successful and enjoyable Christmas ring in Ipswich this Saturday.

Also looking to the near future, there is a crib service at St Mary-le-Tower which they would like ringing for. The service is at 3pm on this Monday afternoon, so ringing will be from 2.15pm. If anyone is in the area their help would as always be welcomed.

Wednesday 17th December 2008

Ruthie was really getting into the festive mood today. Whilst I went off to work as usual, she made the short trip from mine to Shottisham church to practice for their carol service on Sunday. Later, following a quarter of Vindaloo Surprise Minor at Pettistree (note the footnote _ very amusing!), she headed back to Shottisham with her mother to join Alan & Mickie and Peter & Jane for door-to-door carol singing around this beautifully secluded village on the far end of the peninsula.

I meanwhile was in rather different surroundings as I rang in a peal of Cambridge Major at The Wolery amongst the tightly knit streets of terraced housing that this part of Ipswich offers. It was absolutely freezing, so I kept my fleece and woolly hat on, but the peal was very enjoyable.

Returning to Edwin Avenue to greet the returning girlie's from their adventures, I amazed them by getting the fire lit. See Ruthie, I can do practical!

Tuesday 16th December 2008

Kate and Ruthie have a couple of days off as the grand redecorating of Chez Eagle picks up pace, so I popped in at lunchtime to lend my support. Well, make the tea. Ruthie put the Christmas tree up too in a less messy form of decorating.

The three of us had been asked by Alan Rogers to ring in a quarter at Marlesford after work, so there wasn't much time to relax once out the office doors. It was to be for the rector there, Reverend Canon Harry Edwards - who is also one of the Guild's vice-presidents - on the occasion of his 60th birthday. Alan was supposed to be calling it, but had to step down today after coming down with this nasty bug that seems to be inflicting so many, including the birthday boy himself who had planned to meet us if he had been well enough.

In the end Peter Harper stepped in - thanks Peter - and I called it. I kept it simple, as Doubles calls come round so quickly and I was rewarded with a well-rung quarter. And someone had sneaked in during the quarter to leave us beer at the bottom of the stairs on Harry's behalf, a gesture gratefully received by us.

Whilst others headed off to Ufford for practice night, Ruthie and I headed back for our last traditional Tuesday night in before Christmas, as next week is looking very busy. It was a late 'un too as I introduced her to Die Hard With A Vengeance. Gotta get some culture into the girl...

Monday 15th December 2008

Like a lot of workdays, I took advantage of having Woodbridge town centre on work's doorstep and went up in my lunch hour to get some things sorted out. It took a while today though, in a nice way as I kept bumping into people I knew. I hadn't walked further than a few yards before seeing Nick, Kala's other half, who was putting the windows in one of the neighbouring offices nearing completion. Having made arrangements for Christmas Eve drinking, I continued my way up to The Thoroughfare where I then bumped into various people from work and then Kate and Hazel, before finally making it to Boots to see Ruthie who was diligently earning money in her Christmas holidays.

Following a call to Uncle Eric to wish him a Happy Birthday, Ruthie - fresh back from a return to Brownies - and I made our way to St Mary-le-Tower where we were greeted by Mitch who was over here having helped put the new treble in at Elmsett. It was a varied evening with Grandsire Caters and Cinques, Rounds and Call Changes on 12 and Plain Hunt on 11 all mixed in with Stedman Cinques, Cambridge and Yorkshire Max (by far the best piece of the evening), although some of the striking is still a bit rusty as still others returned after our enforced break from 12-bell ringing.

Mannings' was getting busy as we left, an indication of how close Christmas is now getting and reminding me there's wrapping to be done!

Sunday 14th December 2008

Things are starting to get back to normal at St Mary-le-Tower. We had enough to ring Grandsire Caters with some regulars away, closer to where we were before the clapper went. I wasn't returning Mason to his mother's until after morning ringing and with Milly up there too, the two them had a great time!

Grundisburgh was a little shorter as we had 7, so Doubles and Minor were the order of the day. Erin was rung, something I haven't rung for a while.

Ruthie had booked the day off to practice for this evening's performance of Handel's Messiah from Scratch at Campsea Ashe. It would be the first time that those who had volunteered will have got together to practice for this event in aid of the bell restoration campaign here, so there was understandable trepidation when everyone turned up to listen to the performance itself in the evening. They needn't have worried. It was a fantastic performance, a joy to listen to and sounded utterly professional. It left us wondering what could have been achieved if they had more than two hours practice! There was a decent turnout of ringers in the huge choir - there were 56 of them - and large audience, with Peter Harper and Suzanne Stevens starring with Ruthie in the choir. Well done to them!

With Kate having rung in the peal at Aldeburgh directly before the concert and Ruthie not having had any tea, we decided to pop into the Bengal Curry House in Wickham Market on the way home. It's a fine establishment which I used regularly when I lived in Tunstall but haven't been to for some time until tonight. The old faces are still there, the food and beer was as good as ever and so was the atmosphere. Hopefully it won't be so long before I get to go there again!

Saturday 13th December 2008

As I mentioned the other day, there were a couple of events going on in the North-East and North-West Districts today. Sadly - and I mean that genuinely - I couldn't go to either, although I would've loved to.

However, with the l'il chap dropped off at Mum and Dad's and Ruthie doing important uni work at home, I was in Stowmarket, where I and other members of the Recruitment and Training Committee were following up the meeting we had at the same venue a few weeks back. One of the most urgent things we felt needed addressing that night was the way our members - and particularly our new learners - were being taught. It is of course impossible to teach all of them ourselves and so today we embarked upon the first stage of our plan to Teach the Teachers.

This involved John Harrison - until recently the Chairman of the Education Committee of the Central Council - coming to Stowmarket to run a course for us. For this course, he needed a couple of non-ringing guinea pigs. Ruth Suggett obliged with a couple of friends Cyril and Peter - thanks to those guys and Ruth - and John showed us how we may teach them how to handle. His way is not necessarily meant to be the way, but it opened up some ideas that I had certainly never considered and yet seem so obvious. The aim is for those of us who were present today to go out and run similar courses at perhaps a district - or even more local level - and impart the same ideas that we have learnt to others who will hopefully take these ideas to their own towers or groups of towers.

John - who incidentally taught the actors how to handle in the famous Midsomer Murders bellringing episode - was extremely good, always prepared to take on ideas himself and to answer questions and we thank him of course for travelling over to Suffolk to help us.

It was then off across the county - via Woodbridge to pick Ruthie up - and to Pettistree. You can tell Christmas is getting close when it is time for the annual Pettistree peal to mark the anniversary of the rededication, but unfortunately it wasn't to be today. We were ringing Peter's Tree Surprise Minor where the back work in particular is very tricky. An unfortunate but understandable miss-call brought it to an end in the second extent and with cold fingers, tired limbs and put-upon grandparents in Ipswich, it was agreed to call it a day.

Picking Mason up from Mum and Dad's - thanks guys! - Ruthie, Mason and I returned home to the warm and had a beer!

Friday 12th December 2008

It was Ruthie's last day at uni before the Christmas holidays and therefore they were doing a concert, not the norm for a Friday. This meant she didn't get back to mine until 9.30pm, thus missing Hollesley practice.

Mason and I had made it, but he was obviously tired and grouchy and we left before 8pm to get him to bed. It confirmed my suspicions from yesterday that with Mason's bedtime getting earlier, it's getting to the point I knew would come at some stage where it is neither practical nor advisable to take him out to practice nights or at least to ones where he can't run around as he can at say, Pettistree.

Thursday 11th December 2008

Picked Mason up for the weekend, but he fell asleep before we could go out to Grundisburgh, so it was home rather than ringing. I suppose it's to be expected I may miss more practices as his bedtime gets earlier, but so long as he's happy and awake (and so am I!) then we'll go out.

Lots of things happening on Saturday, so please go out and support these events. The Carol Service at Little Glemham and Christmas Social at Horringer are too fantastically seasonal events that if you have day free it is possible to go to both. Go on, you know you want to!

Wednesday 10th December 2008

Not a good day for Ruthie on the trains. Not only did it take her two hours to get from Woodbridge to Colchester but then some morons went and vandalised the line, meaning that her train coming back was completely cancelled. She managed to get back to Ipswich, but with a quarter at Pettistree at 6 Kate needed to go and pick her up to ensure the quarter could go ahead.

The quarter itself was of Peter's Tree Minor again in preparation for a peal of it this Saturday and didn't start well, with a couple of false starts meaning we ran slightly into the start of practice, but was scored well in the end.

As it has been for some time now, it was absolutely freezing and whilst part of the beauty of Pettistree practice is having the church and during the summer the churchyard to roam, on nights like this they're not pleasant places to be. Luckily on this occasion we were actually slightly short, even with Ruthie's presence (although we were still 14) and so we crammed into the heated belfry all night.

It was warmer in The Greyhound afterwards and I was further warmed by news of Ipswich's 3-1 win against Bristol City and Naaaaridge's 2-1 defeat to Watford. The normal order is restored...

Tuesday 9th December 2008

Wrote the first draft of my report for the Annual Report. It becomes harder each year to fit everything into a readable report and this year is no exception. There are so many positives from this year. The Guild Dinner, the striking competitions, the peal on 14, the huge number of quarters across the county and the pockets of enthusiasm in various places like Halesworth and Pettistree to name just a few. But I would be neglecting my duty as Master if I was not to point out where things aren't right and more importantly how I think we can help put them right. Attendances at most district events are paltry when you consider the membership total and although better I am still disappointed that this years AGM didn't see more people take advantage of having their say and meeting new and old friends. To get less than 100 members from over 600 at the main event of the year is poor, though it has to be said not a problem unique to the Suffolk Guild. Also how learners are taught needs to be addressed, both with their handling and then how they learn method ringing. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what I would ideally like to impart in my report. This blog is useful (ever so occasionally) for getting both information and my ringing ideals across, but I realise it is far from universal. The Annual Report is,_ I would like to think at least, read by the majority of the membership at one point or another and so represents my best opportunity to give people a shot in the arm.

As it happened, Ruthie was having a similar problem with her essay as we returned to our traditional Tuesday night in. She has completed it, but is 150 odd words over her allowed limit, so she too is struggling to fit everything she wants to say in!

Monday 8th December 2008

St Mary-le-Tower, Ipswich. Wooden ClapperAs I arrived early at St Mary-le-Tower, Owen had already beaten me and was up by the 11th tightening nuts and the like, make your own jokes up, and so I clambered up there to take a closer look at the bit of equipment we have so eagerly been waiting for. The clapper is square rather than round and of course being wooden it all looks very strange. But it's great to see it at last.


Diana was busy hoovering downstairs and with perhaps not everyone having got the message that we now had 12, people trickled in gradually meaning a slow start. However, as I returned having picked Ruthie up from the railway station the 12 were ringing out in their glory to some good sounding Grandsire Cinques. We were still obviously and understandably rusty when it came to Cambridge Max though and the first attempt came to grief in the last lead of the half-course. After a break for some notices and some call-changes on 12, we returned to the subject to finish with. It was still a bit of a struggle at first but got better and we got it round, psychologically important in my view, and we finished bang on 9 o'clock! It's just like being at Birmingham!

A pint in Mannings to welcome back those from distance who were understandably absent whilst we were missing the clapper and then it was home for our tea at last.

Sunday 7th December 2008

At last! Two months and one day after that fateful night, the 11th at St Mary-le-Tower now has a clapper in! As has been well documented, it is a wooden one and having rung Bristol Major on the back 8, Owen, who rang it, declared it went a lot easier, was less odd-struck and sounded marvellous. Unsurprisingly, with Mum and Dad in Lincoln visiting Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick this weekend and having not had all 12 for months, we didn't have enough to ring on 12 today, but for now, the main thing is we have 12 bells available and we can get back on the waggon again.

A great turnout with the visit of Pete Faircloth, Susanne Eddis and Hazel Judge meant we could ring all 12 at Grundisburgh, as well as Stedman Caters and Little Bob Royal.

After a couple of weekends off, Ruthie was back at work today and with the Christmas Street Fair on in Woodbridge, Kate and I went down early to explore and then have lunch with her ladyship. Judging by the heaving crowds alongside the stalls the whole distance of The Thoroughfare and into Cumberland Street, the fair was a huge success and we took advantage of mulled wine, hog-roast and tea before Ruthie returned to work and Kate and I returned to Edwin Avenue for an important televisual event.

Last season I explained in depth the nerves of a local derby day and so I don't need to go into depth here, but unlike last season, and the season before, my worst fears were realised. Ipswich were never at the races with poor passing, a distinct lack of passion compared to their feathered opponents and coupled with what must have been one of Naaaaridge's best performances this season meant there was only ever going to be one result. It was actually so bad that I was fairly relieved to come away with just the 2-0 defeat, an almost complete reverse of the game at Portman Road in April.

Thankfully Alan came and saved Kate and me from this torture just after the first goal as he arrived to pick us up for an early test of the new clapper at SMLT, although we continued listening to the match on the radio more in hope than expectation. However, once the second goal went in, and to be fair a long time before that, our focus was switched to the quarter of Little Bob Royal before us. Peter Harper settled the new clapper in as we rang a quicker and much better effort than our first effort two months ago. Backing up Owen's judgement from earlier, Peter agreed it rang brilliantly now and it felt easier ringing the tenor alongside it. All in all, a very successful evening and Philip was gracious in victory too!

Owen had asked for the keys to be dropped off at his as he intends to go up very early tomorrow morning to tidy up various issues surrounding the new clapper, so a trip via Witnesham was in order before we made it back to Woodbridge and a waiting Ruthie for an evening of beer, Twiglets and essay writing! Now where's that canary voodoo doll?

Saturday 6th December 2008

All Guild projects reaching fruition are met with much joy, but for one reason and another Ixworth has possibly been the most eagerly awaited, for me at least. Having rung a quarter on the grotty old, hard-work 6 last year, I was keen to ring on the newly rehung and augmented 8. Of course, as the Ringing Master I am responsible with Jonathan Stevens for releasing grants that have been allocated to such jobs and so it was with much pleasure that I had my opportunity to ring on Suffolk's newest 8 this morning. A Christmas fair in the church and a good crowd in the belfry greeted Ruthie, Mason and myself when we arrived.

After much single-bell ringing and various other combinations for Jonathan to assess things up amongst the bells, we finally had the chance to ring all 8. Then several pieces, including rounds, plain hunt and a course of Yorkshire were rung and I had a wander outside with the li'l chap as we inspected the go and sound of the bells from as many possible angles as we could. The result is good and well done to everyone involved there for their hard work.

Buoyed by this, we made the journey back to Woodbridge in high spirits, further raised by watching A Muppet's Christmas Carol (always a cockle-warmer) before heading out to Grundisburgh for the South-East District ADM. In my role as Master I think it is important to make it to all the district ADMs and apart from the South-West one (which sadly clashed with our recent trip to Birmingham), today's was the full-set and of course my home one.

Disappointingly the turnout was poor when you consider there was the rare chance to ring on 12 at a tower in the centre of the district and as part of another great social occasion, but there was still enough to keep Kate busy at the ringing beforehand!

There was no service due to an unfortunate misunderstanding over times, so we went straight to the Church Rooms for the tea and meeting. Mason wisely slept through the business side of things, although it was as usual a useful meeting, before Ruthie, Mason and I travelled back to Hollesley to get the boy to sleep, leaving others to man the ringing - at Grundisburgh again - afterwards.

Friday 5th December 2008

With Kate drinking tea with the Salvation Army, Ruthie doing some uni work round mine and various others away, Hollesley was unusually short this evening with the 8 being unused at least until Mason and I left early. Anne did get to have a good go at Cambridge Minor inside though with myself and then Mason pointing her in the right direction on the rare occasion she went adrift!

Thursday 4th December 2008

Took Mason back this morning, but due to work going on a bit longer than usual and Ruthie arriving quite late from Colchester we didn't make it to Grundisburgh. Instead we had our traditional Tuesday night in tonight as we had Mason's company on Tuesday this week having given our best wishes to Kev whose birthday it is today - keeping up?

It did serve quite a useful purpose as we put the the Christmas decorations up at mine, so at least my little corner of Hollesley is in the festive spirit!

Wednesday 3rd December 2008

Unbelievable! Another bump up the back! This time it was as I was coming onto the A12 from Hasketon Road having dropped the li'l chap off at Mum and Dad's for the day. Having found a spot - eventually - to pull into, myself and the lady who hit me were relieved to see there was no damage at all and so once again the idea of involving insurance companies was dismissed. Very lucky, but I'm beginning to wonder if I'm invisible!

Ruthie was stopping in Colchester for some drinks with her uni mates tonight after her concert and as I was ringing a peal at The Wolery it was logical for Mason and I to have our tea at Chez Ashcroft. Then whilst I went to ring, and score, a peal of 19-spliced all-the-work Surprise Minor at David and Katharine's, my boy went with his grandparents to Sproughton practice. We then all met back at Mum and Dad's where we were both stopping the night and I got to try some potent homemade wine that had been found in the garage. If anyone's suffering from insomnia, you could do worse than calling my mother!

Tuesday 2nd December 2008

Ruthie's concert at St Mary-le-Tower went very well with a large crowd there, with a big presence from ringers including many who had travelled some distance. Thank you from Ruthie!

Kara and Danny are going to a funeral tomorrow, so the normal timetable for looking after Mason was changed for this week, with myself and Ruthie having him tonight. With Clare and Kev down too, Edwin Avenue was very crowded this evening before Kate left to run Ufford and Ruthie, Mason and I headed home to Hollesley.

Monday 1st December 2008

The day, week and month started with a bump: from a white van man outside Melton Railway Station to be precise. When the school is in traffic is horrendous from the lights at the crossroads in the rush hour. There's nothing that can be done about it short of moving the school from its current site, but it does cause a lot of potential for accidents, so when a car further ahead of me slammed on their brakes to let a pedestrian across the road, the car in front of me braked sharply as of course I then had had to. The van driver behind me didn't though! However, having pulled over an inspected the damage - my tow-bar was a little bent out of place and his number plate was cracked - we decided we'd got off lightly and not to go through the immense hassle of getting insurance companies involved and go on our merry way.

I returned to Edwin Avenue as I often do after work to be met by Clare and Kev, down for the week to do the Christmas present run. Initial greetings done, we went on a family outing to pick Ruthie up from Ipswich as due to their success yesterday her orchestra had been given the night off and so therefore she was back a lot earlier than normal.

Having got her back to Woodbridge though, I whisked her back to Ipswich for St Mary-le-Tower practice where we finally received a glimmer of hope in regards to our clapper. Owen informed us that it may be back on Thursday and if not then, then on Monday. So we might have a 12-bell practice come next week!

For this week we busied ourselves with 8-bell ringing, with the now norm of Ashtead and London rung, but also Bristol and Double Norwich spliced, a request of Amanda's.

It was then back to the crowds at Edwin Avenue to rest myself and my car, thankfully still both in one piece!

Sunday 30th November 2008

Another Sunday with a difference, although not with as much travelling as the last two.

Ruthie was starring in a national band competition being held conveniently at Colchester Institute. She needed to be down there by 10am for rehearsals, so having taken her down there Kate and I missed our traditional Sabbath morning ringing, meaning St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh had to cope without me again!

To make up for it, Kate and I wandered up North Hill to St Peter's with the intention of joining them for ringing. We could hear the bells ringing as we made the steep climb, encouraging us to keep going. However, once there, a sign telling us a quarter-peal was in progress and with nowhere else in the town centre to ring at we had to go without.

Instead we strolled down the High Street through a fantastic street fair and did a little more Christmas shopping before meeting up with Ruthie again for lunch. For this we drove out to The Rover's Tye, an old haunt of Kate from her days here.

The afternoon was of course dedicated to the competition with teams coming from as far afield as the University of Surrey and Imperial College . Although the judges advice sessions got a bit tedious, an entertaining couple of hours was had by all, with Colchester Institute getting a silver award.

It was then a traditional race against time as we returned to Woodbridge in time for Ruthie and me to then head into Ipswich to ring for the Advent Service at St Mary-le-Tower. With the help of Delia and Rosemary we were able to ring eight, all we can ring with the 11th still clapperless as we move into December.

Still our day was not finished as a dash to Hollesley was then needed for a 7pm quarter at Hollesley. It was duly scored with 5 methods spliced at the half-lead, but the striking left a lot to be desired.

Finally it was hometime and putting our feet up was allowed_

Saturday 29th November 2008

Those of you who follow the blog closely or having seen the What's Ons will be aware that today was the culmination of much preparation for ringing for the White Ribbon Campaign across the county.

Myself and Mason went to St Mary-le-Tower of course, where we were joined by George and Di Pipe, Brian Redgers, Delia Hammerton, Anne Buswell for ringing just after midday. I'm happy to say we were also joined by Charles Jenkin our vicar who read the prayer that was prepared for us and Kathleen Ben Rabha from the White Ribbon Campaign itself and had been responsible for getting us involved in this very worthy cause.

Whilst we rang some Rounds and Call Changes on the middle six, Ruthie and Kate went to Pettistree where they rang a quarter of Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles. Quarters were also rung at Debenham (also Grandsire and Plain Bob Doubles) and Great Finborough (Grandsire Doubles), whilst general ringing was also done at Sproughton, Sweffling, Wickham Market, Woodbridge and hopefully East Bergholt, although I'm yet to hear if that was able to go ahead. Apologies if I've missed anyone off, that's only the places I know of! Let me know if you have done something today.

Kathleen seemed very happy, as I was too and on her and my behalf, thank you very much to everyone who gave up their time for this.

The afternoon was spent with me looking after Mason watching football whilst the ladies began redecorating what is soon to be Ruthie's new bedroom. How very gentlemanly of me!

On the way home we stopped briefly at the Christmas light display in Warwick Avenue, only switched on a couple of days ago but once again well worth looking at if you're in the area.

A quick note to let those who don't know already, Ruthie will be performing with the Colchester Institute Chamber Choir at St Mary-le-Tower this Tuesday in one of their lunchtime concerts from 1.10pm. If you're in Ipswich at that time and have enough time, please pop in and give your support.

Friday 28th November 2008

For months now, Ruthie has had a plastic sword on the back seat of her car, Emily. So it was perhaps no surprise that when she got off the train from Colchester today that the police were waiting for her. A helpful member of the public had walked past her car and seeing the sword, promptly reported it to the authorities. Suffice to say it was sorted out pretty quickly and Ruthie is still free and the 'sword' is now back in the house.

We returned to Hollesley practice tonight feeling much better this week and - once Alan had eventually arrived back from a business trip - helped ring Grandsire Triples and Cambridge Major with Richard Wilson also strongly contributing.

Thursday 27th November 2008

Sanj was in again to give us some training at work. It was our new girl Madeline's chance to meet him, but it was much the same for the rest of us! Still useful though.

Made it to Grundisburgh for the first time for a bit, although sadly not many others did. We had visitors from the village who had been to the crib display downstairs and were able to ring some Superlative and Bristol Major and Stedman Triples before Mason and I headed home early.

Wednesday 26th November 2008

Peter was back at work having become the third person in the office to have to take time off sick. Tis the season.

There was a quarter at Pettistree tonight, but for once I wasn't in it, so I joined the practice at a little later point. There were five learning to handle tonight, a fantastic situation to be in and a predominantly youthful vein about it.

Kate and I left slightly early again to pick Ruthie up from Colchester, providing her with pizza too - don't let it be said we don't treat her well! Although the A12 coming back was closed we still made it to The Greyhound for a drink.

Tuesday 25th November 2008

Well that was a little disappointing wasn't it? About two hours of an evening, dragging Mason over there, a huge amount or organisation and Carl missed out on his tea back in August for - a ding.

Suffice to say Escape To The Country was a huge letdown. There was no mention of the bells and all we heard was a single ding as they showed some camera shots over the south-west Suffolk countryside. Instead some in-depth features on Green King who got some free advertising and some lady making jam. Still, guess that's TV.

Ipswich Town were also a little of a letdown, although their defeat at 2nd place (by some way) Birmingham City was much expected and the only real surprise was we kept the score to 2-1 and actually ended up giving them a bit of a battle.

Monday 24th November 2008

Saw the house Christmas lights on the way to St Mary-le-Tower tonight. Of course the town lights in the county town have been switched on for a week or so, but the fact that these lights in a property down Bolton Lane in Ipswich are on and we are still missing a clapper we lost at the beginning of October gives an indication of how frustrating and yes, annoying this situation is now getting. A peal arranged since we lost the clapper for this Sunday will now have to be moved to Grundisburgh despite the fact that when it was arranged some weeks ago we never envisaged that Taylor's would still be growing the tree for our new wooden clapper or whatever they're doing very slowly.

Still, as with the last near-two months, we were able to offer the best 8-bell practice in Suffolk, with our Ashtead getting better and London completed with aplomb. It was nice to see John Malster visiting too.

Also well done to the band who rang the peal at Palgrave last Sunday and especially to Lesley who was calling her first of Major. The significance of the peal and a report on it are here.

Sunday  23rd November 2008

Sunday morning ringing in Birmingham is a long, variable and brain-testing experience. It starts - as it did for us this morning - at 8.30am at St Philip's Cathedral. I've spent many an hour in this belfry. Until relatively recently it was still my leading peal tower and I learnt a lot on these 12 bells. There was Rounds and Call Changes on 12 and Grandsire Cinques as there would no doubt have been at many other 12 bell towers this morning, but four leads of Bristol Max reminded us we were in Birmingham!

Ruthie and I dashed through the pouring rain to the Bullring Centre to have some hot chocolate in one of the millions of Starbucks that occupy space in the city centre before going on to St Martin's. Ruthie was asked to ring Stedman Cinques, not something that many visitors to here gets asked to do, so despite her reluctance to ring Stedman normally, even she couldn't say no!

Bristol on 12 and 16 was also rung, as was Grandsire Fifteen and three leads of Orion Max with a lead of Bristol 'plonked' on the end underlined just why the Brummies are streets ahead at the 12-bell every year!

As was the tradition in my day, the ringers then headed up to Starbucks (a different one to the branch Ruthie and I went to earlier) for hot refreshment before Ruthie did a little shopping (and I followed) in the Bullring Shopping Centre.

It was then onto St Chad's, the Roman Catholic Cathedral home to a wonderful ring of 8 and a few minutes walk across the city centre, which delighted Ruthie! They ring here after the service as they can't guarantee enough ringers to ring beforehand, so waiting to ring can be a little like waiting for a wedding to finish. Add the Catholic element and the fact it was a civic service today we were waiting until 12.30 to ring for an 11 o'clock service!

Having (finally!) had a ring, we joined Paul Bibilo, Charles Webb and Andrew Stubbs in The Wellington for a pint. It's a fantastic place to spend the whole afternoon as they have a list of 15-20 beers at any one time.

We had to set off though (some 5 and a half hours after we'd started at St Philip's) as we needed to get back to Suffolk for the Pettistree AGM (or Stir-Up Sunday as it's fondly named) in the evening.

Despite briefly stopping for a cuppa and a natter at brother Chris' new home in Bottisham just outside Cambridge, we arrived back in Woodbridge in plenty of time to have some tea before heading to Susan Schurr's for what is a lovely social evening. Much was discussed and highlighted what a fantastically busy band Pettistree are. Much like the Birmingham ringers, they push themselves and find themselves putting in the hours to do so, but certainly reap the rewards. Long may it continue!

Susan was of course the hostess with the mostess and it was as usual a wonderful night. I wasn't half-tired by the time I got back to Ruthie's though...

Saturday 22nd November 2008

The last act for St Edmund's Day connected ringing was a peal at The Norman Tower at Bury St Edmunds. It seemed appropriate given it's status as the epicentre of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, but it was obviously not possible to ring a peal on the big day itself on Thursday.

Therefore, having eventually woken Kara up for her to take Mason back, we headed for Bury, via Ipswich to pick Roger up and arrived in good time to ring a decent peal of Plain Bob Royal as Ruthie shopped in town. It was a nice little composition with 1234568790 keeping Peter and I on our toes!

Having negotiated a lift back with Stephen for Roger, Ruthie and I headed off to Birmingham.

The first peal was rung on the famous bells of St Martin-in-the-Bullring on 19th November 1758 of Grandsire Caters and the current band had arranged a celebration meal to mark the event, inviting former band members and their partners back to join them.

I was privileged to be a member of this prestigious band for four or five years before coming back to Suffolk and was truly honoured to not only ring with people like David and Rod Pipe, Richard Grimmett, John and Stef Warboys, Michael Wilby - to mention just a few - but to ring peals regularly with them, many at St Martin's. Their ethos and attitude to ringing is something I've tried to instil - to a point - in the Suffolk Guild. Whilst not expecting us to be ringing to the same incredible standard that these ringers ring at, their approach to trying new things and the way they are constantly looking to raise their standards is something that I would love to see across our Guild - it is already happening in many parts, let's see if we can get this attitude to spread!

Jonathan and Susan Healy very kindly put us up in their Great Barr home and took us and Mark Eccleston into the city centre for the meal in the hall attached to this historic church. Some of the band had provided the food, there was a bar and tremendous display of old photo's, peal books and newspaper articles set up by Richard Jones. There was also some practically faultless Bristol Max on handbells, rung by 6 slightly tipsy ringers who had spent just five minutes practicing in a side room beforehand!

The night finished late but satisfactorily, well oiled and well fed as Susan drove us back again for some hot chocolate. Rock 'n' roll!

Friday 21st November 2008

Called in sick once more today - again as recommended by work yesterday - and so therefore spent the day with Mason and then Ruthie once she'd returned from Colchester.

Spent the day just completing a band for a peal at Bury St Edmunds tomorrow but primarily sat devoid of any energy - not easy with Mason dashing about!

With the l'il chap and Aunty Ruthie still not feeling great, we decided not to go to Hollesley practice on this freezing evening.

Thursday 20th November 2008

Radio Suffolk - and Mark Murphy in particular - have been running a campaign for the last two years to reinstate St Edmund - the patron saint of Suffolk - as the patron saint of England. As a result they were making a huge thing of St Edmund's Day today and had requested the Guild do some special ringing. I have been busy (very busy!) arranging four simultaneous peals - one in each district - in an attempt to involve all four corners of the county. It has been tough getting four peal bands for a Thursday morning, hampered by dropouts and unpealable towers, but I had succeeded in getting four bands together.

As a result I was invited along with Bishop Nigel - who incidentally was also marking his first year as our Bishop - onto Mark's show to be interviewed about St Edmund and what we were doing to mark it.

The peals at St Matthew's in Ipswich and at Edwardstone were scored, sadly the ones at Barrow and Saxmundham weren't, but despite this the day can only be described as a massive PR success for us!

Helen Price was interviewed last night prior to the quarter at Southwold and Maurice Rose was interviewed following the quarter-peal that was scored after the lost peal at Barrow. Marion Holland also met Michelle - the reporter I had been arranging this with these last two weeks - to ring a single bell at The Norman Tower that started a relay of other bells from bus bells to doorbells being rung to awaken the people of Suffolk to St Edmund's Day.

Clips of these interviews were played repeatedly over the course of the day and much insight into our art was given with very minimal error!

There was another quarter rung at Barrow for this very special day and it is also worth noting that the peal at Edwardstone was John Smith's first peal! Well done John and thank you to everyone who helped with the arrangements, whether it was peal ringers, quarter-peal ringers or those who provided their bells for this occasion.

After the interview I popped to Mum and Dad's to drop Mason's car seat off as they were very kindly picking the l'il chap up as I had to get to work.

Not that I lasted long. I was sent home before midday as my health visibly deteriorated. I had woken up feeling relatively OK, but I got worse and ended up spending the afternoon with Ruthie who had also called in sick. Having picked Mason up I also thought it sensible not to go to Grundisburgh.

So it's an early night, lots of fluid intake, pills and tissues! But one last note to a long day. After some detective work by Ruthie, she discovered that the Escape to the Country edition that we filmed at Kersey back in August is to be shown on BBC2 at 5.15pm on Tuesday. If you're not sick of the sight and sound of me make sure you tune in!

Wednesday 19th November 2008

Felt absolutely terrible this morning, so called in sick for the first time in my six month stint at John Catt, who were very understanding and in fact quite glad that I wasn't coming in to spread my germs at an office that has already had someone call in sick this week!

Still, I hate sitting around being ill, but at least I had Ruthie's company as she too was very poorly. She opted to not go in during the day, but having improved as the day went on she showed some true dedication and jumped on the train to Colchester for her weekly evening concert.

I too improved greatly as the day went on and eventually felt well enough to ring in the pre-practice quarter at Pettistree. We rang a never before named method that we hope to call Peter's Tree Surprise Minor. After a false start and despite my visible and distracting illness we managed a decent effort.

The practice was another lively affair with Peter and two of his daughters having more handling lessons tonight.

Kate and I left slightly early again to pick up Ruthie from Colchester and we were both sufficiently well enough to manage a drink in The Greyhound having travelled back to Pettistree.

Tuesday 18th November 2008

The nasty bug that seems to have hit various people close to me such as Mason and Ruthie has hit me now too. Work was tough, but I survived, making it even harder to motivate myself to get everything that needs organising over the next few weeks - and more immediately this week - sorted during my breaks. Still, I have managed to partially rescue Thursday's peals so hopefully they will be OK and the feature at The Norman Tower at 8.10am is definitely going ahead, so listen out for that and my interview between 7 and 8.30am!

Ruthie and I had our normal night in, but we were both quite poorly and sleepy and more subdued than usual.

Sadly Leiston's long cup run and brief foray into the big time of the FA Cup was ended in their first round replay at Fleetwood Town, losing 2-0. Still, they've done well to get this far and done football on the east coast of Suffolk proud!

Monday 17th November 2008

I took my car down to Ipswich to be serviced today, so Mum and Dad were responsible for getting me to work and back and giving me some tea before practice at St Mary-le-Tower, all of which I was most grateful for as it was just about the only thing that was entirely satisfactory about today.

Had another call from the BBC today. They are happy with how the arrangements for St Edmund's Day are going, but since I spoke to them things have fallen apart a little. I was only three short of completing my four peal bands across the county. However, having had two dropouts since the call to the BBC, it makes the job a lot harder.

Still, on the plus side (?) I will be on Radio Suffolk at 7.10am on Thursday morning and about an hour later the hope is to have a single bell ringing at The Norman Tower to start a feature they call 'Make Some Noise For St Edmund'. This is not confirmed yet, but watch this space.

Word of more delays to the 11th clapper came with a delayed Owen (blame the petrol station!) as Taylor's have no balls. For the clapper you see. It may or may not be in next week. I'm tempted to put it on my wish list to Santa, we might get it sooner...

So we continued with the best 8-bell practice in Suffolk as Ashtead, London and Stedman among other things were rung - and I got to see Ruthie again after her long day in Colchester, so it wasn't all bad!

Hopefully tomorrow will bring better news on many levels.

Sunday 16th November 2008

Ringing wasn't great at St Mary-le-Tower as Cambridge Major - something we ought to be able to ring in our sleep - had to be restarted after several people went wrong. Personally this clapper issue has caused a little disillusionment as my long-term aim of getting Surprise Maximus ringing on Sunday mornings and a variety of Surprise Maximus methods on a Monday gets pushed further and further back the longer we wait for the clapper.

I did manage some 12-bell ringing today though! Not at Grundisburgh as you might expect as I didn't go this morning, but in fact in a garage in the middle of Warwickshire's countryside!

My good friends Mike and Janet Dew have installed a 'small ring' (the tenor is actually 2cwt) in their new double garage in Church Lawford slap bang on the main road between Rugby and Coventry and after much organising this afternoon was to be the first attempt of a peal on them.

The 1pm start meant I didn't have time for my usual stop at Grundisburgh, but the bacon butties beforehand were well worth getting there for as were the bells. The ringing took a while get going as 12-bell ringing at this weight is quite tricky, but we settled down into a good peal in the end, scoring Yorkshire Max in just a just a couple of minutes shy of three hours.

After a team photo and a very quick bit of grub that was put on by our wonderful hosts, I was off again, hotfooting it back to Hollesley. I was due there for a 7pm quarter, but with everything taking a lot longer in Warwickshire than I thought it would I was a bit late.

Still, after a couple of false starts - partly my fault - we scored a quarter of 8-spliced (normal lead-end splicing!) in a workmanlike fashion that most bands would be satisfied with. However, it says a lot of the standards of the band that Alan has gathered that we weren't overly happy with how well we rung. Still it was a result and it's not often that I have rung a peal and quarter on two different sides of the country in one day, so I retired happy!

Saturday 15th November 2008

Cumberland Peal Weekend: so whilst Kate was off ringing a peal at Rendham in the morning and Ruthie was off ringing one at Mindinho in Newmarket in the evening, Mason and I spent the whole day together, taking in the Ipswich game at Doncaster on the TV.

Sadly Mason's quite poorly and so his trademark cheerfulness was punctuated with understandable bouts of grumpiness.

Daddy also suffered understandable bouts of grumpiness as Ipswich somehow managed to lose 1-0 at the bottom club who had not scored for over ten hours at home, but hadn't won at all for twelve games! Whilst it was our first defeat for some time, it is annoying not to get anything from games like this and does make me wonder whether we have enough to go all the way. No doubt it'll bring those who want Jim Magilton sacked out of the woodwork having not had anything to moan about for a while, but I'd rather we stick with him. After all, it could be worse. We could be Naaaridge...

Friday 14th November 2008

My alarm clock didn't go off this morning and neither did Mason, so ran a little late for work, but it was all alright in the end as I soon made it up!

I had a call from Michelle of the BBC, who was contacting me in regards to the St Edmund's campaign they are leading. It may lead to me being on Radio Suffolk again some time next week, so watch this space!

Whilst Ruthie stopped at mine to catch up on work after being a little poorly for the last few days, the li'l chap and me went to Hollesley. With Kate at an event at Pettistree and no Sam, Nigel or Micky at the practice things were a little quieter than usual and we were a little short. With Richard Wilson's help we were able to ring Grandsire Triples though.

Also a good extract of Ringing Chat's discussions on last weeks Inside Out show in the E-Lists in the latest edition of The Ringing World out today.

Good to see the re-hang and augmentation at Ixworth continuing apace, with all the bells - including the two new trebles - re-hung and now just awaiting pulleys, sliders and ropes! Very exciting!

Thursday 13th November 2008

Impressive stuff on handbells in Birmingham last night as four extremely talented ringers (three of whom I know very well) rang the first peal on handbells of Scientific Triples. For those not aware, partly what makes Scientific so difficult is it essentially has various different types of calls in different places along the line and is presumably an incredible feat of concentration.

Picked Mason up this morning in a change to the normal order of things and as a result I just couldn't get to Grundisburgh in time for the practice after travelling from Woodbridge to Ipswich (where the l'il man had spent the day with his grandparents), back to Woodbridge get his tea and sort out other bits and pieces.

Things should be back to normal next week all being well.

Wednesday 12th November 2008

We rang a tricky but new method to us for tonight's pre-practice quarter at Pettistree. Torworth Surprise Minor has lots of 5-6's and places with the same bells, etc which can easily catch people out. However, we were pretty much on the ball and after a false start the quarter tripped around nicely. Well done to Mary who had to leave the practice early not feeling well and yet still put in good performance.

The already lively practice has certainly livened further as we now have a complete band of learners as well as an Austrian girl, living in the village for the next month, who fancied learning. We also now get Sally from Aldeburgh and Jasper and his dog Max, so it's busy days!

Kate and I left early though to pick Ruthie up from Colchester, getting there just as the concert was finishing, before we all returned to Pettistree to have a drink in The Greyhound.

Tuesday 11th November 2008

Peter at work travelled down to Surrey to visit a school in his section today. At one point or another we shall all be expected to do this as part of a project to get to know the schools we serve better. Luckily Woodbridge School is in my section...

In order to keep up the practice of the 8 half-lead spliced Surprise Major and with our usual Sunday's getting very busy at the moment, Alan had organised an attempt at Rendham after work.

Being Remembrance Day the muffles were on and although we always strive to do our best, we particularly wanted to put in good effort. Although we lost the quarter after three attempts, we didn't fail in providing good ringing. Sadly we were victims of collapses that came out of nowhere and often after a day at work and uni it can be very hard to retrieve. Still, it was as usual good practice and thanks to Jonathan Stevens for stepping in at short notice.

Afterwards Ruthie and I returned to Hollesley for our night in whilst others branched out to practices at Marlesford and Halesworth.

Monday 10th November 2008

Lots of stuff going on again as is typical as we approach a busy time of year. The St Edmund's Day celebration is one event, with the most tricky being an attempt to ring simultaneous peals in each district on the morning of Thursday 20th November in an effort to incorporate the whole Guild. I still need a ringer or three, so if you are available your participation is welcomed!

There's also the White Ribbon Campaign which I hope will be a big success. If your tower is ringing for it on Saturday 29th November then let me know. if you don't know what I'm going on about, firstly where have you been (?!) and secondly contact me ASAP and I shall give you details of this potentially great PR exercise for the Guild and the worthy cause we're ringing for.

Peal week, other peals, trips away, Christmas, li'l man - there's lots still to be arranged and squeezed in over the next two or three months.

Another project will be to get 12-bell ringing back up and running again at St Mary-le-Tower - when Taylor's eventually get our clapper to us. Apart from a week or two leading up to the clapper break, we haven't been regularly ringing Surprise Maximus for nearly three months and it's unclear whether we can begin next week either.

We still had a decent 8-bell practice with Ashtead, Bristol and Stedman rung amongst others, all half-muffled after Owen had turned the 6th muffle round.

Having picked Ruthie up from the railway station, I took her home for her tea and sat back and contemplated all the organising that still needs doing...

Sunday 9th November 2008

Mason and I were a little late to St Mary-le-Tower, but arrived as the first touch - Grandsire Triples - was being rung. We were also able to hear the muffle on the 6th turn round, most frustrating after yesterday morning's efforts. It was suggested to me later in the day that gaffer tape perhaps needs using.

On the plus side, Mason was able to see both Milly and then Isabel, his two little girlfriends!

There were no muffles at Grundisburgh - the understandable decision of Claire the vicar there - but the new tenor was used (as the old one always has been in the past) to toll the all important 11 chimes during the two minute silence that is traditionally observed outside at the nearby war memorial on the green.

Once again, Boots were let down by the pharmacist not turning up, so they couldn't open. Ruthie had to stay there all day though and so having dropped lunch off to her, I continued onto Hollesley, where a fine half-muffled peal was rung by a Suffolk and Essex contingent of the College Youths. Although it was primarily organised for the 25th anniversary of David Stanford's election to the superior society (well done that man!), it was of course also dedicated to the millions that have lost their lives to enable us enjoy our freedom to carry out our hobby amongst the other freedoms we enjoy. It appears to me that bells are no more striking than on Remembrance Day, whether muffled or used as part of the commemorations themselves.

Saturday 8th November 2008

It is Remembrance Sunday tomorrow, a sombre and important event to mark, especially as bellringers in charge of the loudest form of communication on the day. At St Mary-le-Tower we haven't done this by the traditional form of half-muffling the bells, purely because that has been the wish of the incumbent Peter Townley. However, with Charles Jenkin now in charge, he has requested we put the muffles on.

This morning, as Ruthie and Mason played and had breakfast in the ringing chamber below, Owen and I were charged with the task of checking the muffles not used for years and set about putting them on after a brief appearance from Charles. Although we aim to serve the church in whatever way they request, we were both glad that on this occasion we didn't have to do all 12!

Apart from myself forgetting to put the slider back on the 8th, leading to a shock for Ruthie when she rang it up, the job was completed with all muffles on the right way round!

After a brief shopping trip to Ipswich and lunch in Woodbridge, Ruthie, Mason and I headed off to the now familiar bells of Fressingfield for the North-East District ADM via a shopping trip to Southwold.

The problems that have dogged their rehanging are not entirely satisfied and nor will they in the near future, but they are a lot better and it was great that they could be used for such an occasion.

The tea was a bring-a-plate-to-share which was a huge success as a massive and diverse spread was laid before us before the meeting got going.

There was a fantastic turnout of new members and learners, particularly from Wenhaston, Huntingfield and Fressingfield itself which was great and Maggie did a top job of making the proceedings clear and inclusive, whilst Mason and young Richard Stevens did really well to behave so well.

After a quick ring of Plain Bob Royal at Stradbroke, we gave Peter Faircloth and Susanne Eddis a lift back to Woodbridge and settled down to a night in after a long day.

Friday 7th November 2008

It's a small world now. Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake are in Australia currently and yesterday rang a quarter on The Swan Bells in Perth. The fact we could see the report of it here in Suffolk just hours afterwards shows how much technology has changed the world of ringing, very topical after our TV appearance earlier in the week!

Talking of which, it was back to the practice night at Hollywood - sorry, Hollesley as the vast majority of the huge cast from the show rang in amongst excited references to the show, including Fred's pants and Nigel Bond's star turn!

We also had a visit from David Stanford which enabled the practice to ring Cambridge Major before and after Mason and I had left.

There was also cake for Peter's birthday yesterday, happy birthday Peter!

Thursday 6th November 2008

Finally got to see last night's feature. It was better than even I thought it was going to be, somehow cramming two and a half days filming and a holiday in Somerset into nine minutes fantastically. I was pleased with my piece but felt George and Alan were the true stars of this piece, both speaking in depth and eloquently. If you haven't seen it already than make your way to the 'East' section of the Inside Out homepage or to BBC iPlayer in the next few days to see it! (A video is available from the Guild library. Webmaster)It received good reviews on Ringing Chat, although Richard Grimmett suggested there wasn't enough sex!

I picked up one of the stars of the show, Mason and met other stars such as Alan, Don and Mike at Grundisburgh practice on an otherwise short attendance despite David and Ann Webb's welcome visit. Sadly Ruthie was quite poorly, so much so that despite going to Colchester today she couldn't partake in her singing lesson. She rather sensibly stayed at home tonight but will hopefully be up and running again soon!

One last note. Happy Birthday Unky Chris. Mason and I had a conversation with him on the phone as it was his turn to creep ever nearer to the thirty mark!

Wednesday 5th November 2008

A day that dawned with a historic election win in the USA ended with my ugly mug on the TV! Yes, for 8 minutes or so, Barack Obama stood aside and allowed myself, Ruthie, Kate, Mason and many more their moment of fame as the Inside Out show was finally broadcast tonight. Sadly, I still haven't seen it though.

My evening was already committed to ringing peal of the 41-Surprise Minor methods at The Wolery. At 1 hour and 42 minutes it is apparently the second quickest peal of the 41 for the Guild (one minute slower than the quickest) and produced some fantastic ringing, even among something falling with a bang upstairs and the sound of fireworks all around this closely huddled community of terrace houses in south-west Ipswich.

Ruthie had missed the show too as she was in Colchester of course, so we met up back at Woodbridge before heading onto The Greyhound at Pettistree to meet the ringers following a practice night that had stopped to watch the televisual feast of earlier on a TV brought in by Chris Garner!

Afterwards, we headed back to Edwin Avenue to watch the show on BBC iPlayer, assuming it would be on there as promised by the presenter. Disappointingly it wasn't though, although other regions were, so we shall have to wait...

Tuesday 4th November 2008

Ruthie comes in handy sometimes. Well more than sometimes obviously. But on this occasion her role at Boots and the discounts she is given in shop as well as her inside knowledge saw myself, Ruthie and Kate at the near deserted Boots store in Ipswich town centre after work for double discounts night. I'm not normally one for doing my Christmas shopping this early (what with it being before Christmas Eve) but I doubt I'll get the opportunity to do it as cheaply as I did today!

Whilst Kate headed on to Ufford to run the practice, Ruthie and I returned to Hollesley for our Tuesday night in.

Hopefully people weren't too disturbed by the picture of Alan McBurnie on the front of the East Anglian Daily Times, but at least Mickie's presence made it more bearable!

Monday 3rd November 2008

Owen returned from holiday to inform us that the clapper for St Mary-le-Tower 11th could still be another two weeks, although that is the most it's going to be, he's been informed. Therefore it was more Ashtead Major at tonight's practice. The situation was triply frustrating. Apart from the obvious disappointment of still not being able to ring on 12, we could've had a number of visitors from Chelmsford Cathedral as they weren't practicing this evening, so we missed out on what could've been a fantastic 12-bell practice. On top of that, we had a visit from our new vicar the Reverend Canon Charles Jenkin. That in itself wasn't a problem of course. He was friendly, interested and not only sat in on the last half hour of our practice but even came down to Mannings to join us for a pint. It would've been nice to ring all 12 for him though...

Look out for an article in Tuesday's EADT (or on their website) in regards to Wednesday's Inside Out show. Hopefully it's the start of a good week of PR for ringing in Suffolk.

Sunday 2nd November 2008

With the visit of the Bullierd family: Margaret, Stephen and their daughter Elizabeth, we had enough to ring some decent Stedman Cinques at SMLT. Sadly for them and us there is still no clapper in the 11th, an increasingly frustrating situation so we had to make do with more 8-bell ringing. After the poor attendances over September, we have rung practically no Surprise Maximus during the past two months and lots of plans have had to be shelved or put on the sidelines.

Our visitors did continue onto Grundisburgh though which enabled us to ring all 12 to call changes for the first time on a Sunday morning for ages.

Ruthie was not only at work today, but she was the store manager. Proud as I was of her, I was rather surprised she had passed up the opportunity to have them all making tea for her. Nonetheless, it made for a (as always) pleasant lunch before I returned on foot to Edwin Avenue. On the way I passed Bruce and Gill Wakefield's house. They were busy gardening out front, but spared the time for a nice chat as we yarned a chilly but dry Sunday lunchtime away.

It was all very relaxing ahead of one of those hectic Sunday evenings that occasionally come along.

No sooner had Ruthie got back from work and then we were out the door again, off to Pettistree for a successful quarter of Double Court Minor. Having rung for evensong, Ruthie and I took Mike Whitby over to Grundisburgh where we were to attempt half-lead spliced in 5 methods for Geoffrey Clement and Peter Harper.

Alan arrived slightly late, understandably captivated by the dramatic end to the Formula One season in Brazil which saw Lewis Hamilton crowned world champion. For what it's worth Lewis me old mucker (I believe he's an avid reader), congratulations!

Despite this good news, the band were not going to let Alan off for failing to make arrangements for the key. Having strung him along for long enough, Ruthie revealed she had got the keys off Gill at Pettistree following some foresight by the Eagle girls.

Unfortunately such high jinx couldn't inspire us to success as we lost this attempt, but as always it was good practice.

Finally, a plea. The North-West District have an outing this Saturday. So far just five people have put their names down which is disappointing to say the least. Come on NW members! A lot of effort is put into phoning towers - normally several times - sending emails, letters, doing research and generally working hard to set up a day in the hope that it will be enjoyed by many and it would be a big shame for it to be cancelled due to lack of numbers. Cambridge is not far to go, so come on, get in touch with Mandy!

Saturday 1st November 2008

A 'brief' trip to Tesco's proved somewhat social as we saw various people including Peter from work and his family and Podge (Mr Christian from Ashbocking for those who don't know!).

It was the first Saturday of the month and therefore the South-East District. Today it was a practice at Earl Stonham, the tower that when we rang our peal there in January was briefly the leading peal tower in the world with two!

Ruthie and I came with Kate, directed by Homer Simpson, or at least a Danish version of him.

In her role as South-East District Ringing Master, Kate was required to be present at the district committee meeting beforehand. With the rotten cold and wet weather particularly unpleasant outside and the church itself very chilly, Ruthie and I joined her in the cosy kitchen under the belfry with Mum, Diana Pipe and the Harpers. It was nothing too gruesome, rather quite essential as they laid out a plan of events for 2009 and the tea and biscuits helped.

Come 3pm, ringers had arrived chomping at the bit and there was a decent turnout of nearly twenty people, not bad for a miserable November afternoon for a district practice!

The weather also put paid to any ideas we had about going to the traditionally fantastic fireworks display at Christchurch Park, but fortunately it had held out last night for the Sproughton display which I often help out at. Never mind, I'm sure we'll see plenty of displays this week whether we want to or not!

Friday 31st October 2008

Rather appropriately for Halloween, we found ourselves watching Vampires Rock, a musical doing the national rounds and tonight showing at The Regent in Ipswich. Ruthie and I went with Kate and Mr and Mrs Nigel and enjoyed every moment of it. The storyline was tenuous but an aside to the music of Meatloaf, Gun's N' Roses, Queen and others that although not entirely my thing had me out of my seat like the thousands of others in the arena. Fantastic!

Thursday 30th October 2008

Not many people ring their first quarter on 8 at the age of 85. But that's just what Susan Schurr achieved at Ufford last night with an apparently good effort of Grandsire Triples on her actual 85th birthday. Congratulations and happy birthday Susan!

Also congratulations to Ian Thompson who rang his first quarter at Kersey last night, hopefully the first of many!

Once Ruthie, Kate and Alan got back to Woodbridge after the quarter, I swapped places with my better half as she took over babysitting duties and I set off with the others to Stowmarket for the Recruitment and Training Meeting. It is two years since the last one and grateful thanks have to go to Alan for convening it and setting the ball rolling on what does seem like a renewed, enthusiastic and concerted effort to get recruitment and training going on a Guild level. There is much good work being done in pockets throughout the Guild, but as yet it hasn't been coordinated across the county and as a result, many are missing out on the help they need to learn and teach.

The meeting had no agenda but was an open discussion on what could be done and although in the hour and a half we met much was spoken about, the nine of us present only skimmed the surface!

Beforehand we had a go on the new simulator in the belfry which has already been well used as a teaching aide and is hopefully the latest in a continuing line of such set-ups. Alan for example has used Hollesley's every day of the week so far to help teach learners, something that obviously couldn't be done without the privacy the simulator offers. Those who shun the idea, think about it carefully. Even better, get in touch with either Alan, Winston or myself and we'll tell you more.

Wednesday 29th October 2008

Having picked Mason up on this cold dark evening, I left him in Aunty Ruthie's capable hands as I nipped off to Pettistree to ring in a quarter of Kelso Minor. The band worked hard to score in one of the most difficult Surprise Minor methods, before I drove back to Woodbridge to grab some tea and pick my favourite boy and girl up for the practice. By the time we did get back we were met by a large crowd, with the Halletts showing a couple round the church, the whole Stevens family and a couple of learners - Milly and Hannah - having their first handling lessons. Busy night!

Tuesday 28th October 2008

As a thank you for the sales team's effort over the last two months, we were treated to lunch in The Cherrytree in Woodbridge by Jonathan the boss. I have to say that - apart from the obvious delight of being well-fed and watered for free - the job is going particularly well and I haven't enjoyed working as much as this for a long time.

It's good to see that once again the Guild has reached 100 peals by the end of October. This year that total includes a number of handbell peals that are truly phenomenal achievements that we should be honoured have been rung on our soil for our Guild by members and will be part of the already proud peal-ringing tradition that our Guild has.

Not so proudly, Ipswich dropped points at home to another struggling team Charlton. However, congratulations to Leiston who - by virtue of a 3-1 replay win at Lewes - have made it to the first round proper of the actual FA Cup. To put this in context, although they have a home draw against Fleetwood Town - hardly giants in the football world - they are now joined by Leeds United - playing Champions League football just 6 or 7 years ago - and Leicester City and are just two games from being at the same stage as the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea and of course Ipswich!

Monday 27th October 2008

The full effects of the clocks being put back in the early hours of yesterday morning were on view today as it was dark by the time we left work. I had walked down from Ruthie's but was glad that she had a study week this week and was in a position to offer me a lift back!

Hopefully this tonight was the last practice without a clapper in the 11th at St Mary-le-Tower. We had fun ringing Ashtead Major which we had asked people to learn and it seemed to encourage more out than in recent weeks. However, I'm desperate for us to get on with 12-bell ringing again as the longer we are away from it the harder it will be for people to get back into it.

Sunday 26th October 2008

We had a decent turnout at St Mary-le-Tower this morning bearing in mind our current restrictions. One the plus points of the loss of clapper in the 11th is the extremely good ringing we've had on 8 and so it was this morning, with well rung Grandsire and Stedman Triples and Cambridge Major. The aim now is to replicate this on higher numbers.

Taking my SMLT Ringing Master's hat off I put my Suffolk Guild Ringing Master's badge on and set off for Campsea Ashe for the ringers service.

Despite having been to a couple of events to raise money for the recasting and augmentation to 6 of this out-of-tune 4 and lowering of the belfry, I was yet to have 'grabbed' this interesting ring. We had great fun trying various Minimus methods out before and after the service, but as I have alluded to before, it is obvious why Glenys, Tim and many other local ringers and residents are so enthusiastic in their desire to reach their goal.

The service itself was a nice occasion with a good Guild representation including four officers and two Central Council reps, not a bad effort bearing in mind many ringers who would've liked to have come couldn't due to ringing commitments at their own towers.

Also, if in need of Christmas present ideas, it's worth contacting the project team in regards to a wonderful range of jewellery made by Phil Marr, with proceeds going to the appeal.

Having said our farewells, Phillip, Mary and myself were reacquainted at Ufford in the evening for another attempt of the half-lead 8-spliced Surprise Major. Sadly it fell apart in the fourth part and having practiced splicing Rutland, Bristol and London randomly afterwards we highlighted what we need to work on!

Saturday 25th October 2008

A rare Saturday in as much we were involved in no ringing! No peals, no training days, no weddings or meetings. We had planned to go on a quarter-peal morning in north Essex and then go on to the South-West district practice at Hadleigh not too far away, but sadly the quarter-peal morning fell through and so the plan to get out to Hadleigh too fell through. Still, I was in email contact with Sue, so I was there in spirit!

Having dropped Mason off at his mother's, Ruthie and I set off for the Middle-East (of Suffolk) and more specifically Middleton Village Hall. We had been invited by our friend Jess to her parents' 35th wedding anniversary, as had a handful of her other close friends including Kala, so having found the hall (rather easier than we had anticipated on a dark October night in deepest rural East Anglia) we enjoyed a fantastic evening.

And so the Master's Blog is a year old today! I've rambled on more than one occasion, but I hope you've still enjoyed reading it as I strive to entertain and inform. In this day and age, we need as a Guild to be using the technology we have available to us as much as possible as we strive to bring members from across this huge county closer together and I hope the blog has and will help to do that.

Friday 24th October 2008

We had a welcome visit from an old friend at Hollesley in the shape of Murial Page who had brought up her friend Peter from Gloucestershire. It was good to see her, still sprightly and still keen to help us achieve Stedman Triples at practice tonight.

Mason meanwhile has found that artwork is to his liking, scribbling furiously on the blackboard in the belfry. Keeps him out of mischief!

Thursday 23rd October 2008

Well done to Angela Packer and Kate Herd on ringing their first quarters on Saturday, a sign of how healthy quarter-peal ringing in the county is currently which is marvellous.

Sadly, due to a late arrival, pickup of Mason and tea, Grundisburgh was not a viable option tonight, so after helping (or hindering?) Ruthie in her essay writing, Mason and I made our way back to Hollesley.

Wednesday 22nd October 2008

An example that ambitions in ringing can be achieved can be seen by the story from Shirenewton in Monmouthshire on the homepage of Campanophile.

It's great to see people pushing themselves and achieving goals that they often think they can't achieve and tonight at Pettistree was one example. The amount of times I've seen Elaine's head in her hands when it comes to Ipswich Minor, muttering about not being able to learn it has been numerous. So it was with a real sense of achievement that she rang her first quarter of it tonight. Well done Elaine, a top effort!

Once practice was over, Kate and I grabbed a brief pint in The Greyhound before travelling down to Colchester to pick Ruthie up from her weekly Wednesday night concert. Such was the speed of pickup, we were able to make it back to The Greyhound where Ruthie was able to have a pint and show off her two flutes!

Tuesday 21st October 2008

Despite a misunderstanding that saw Ruthie at mine and me at hers, we finally met at Hollesley for our traditional Tuesday night in. Part way through the night I got a call from my mate Toby asking if we wanted to meet up for a drink. He'd not been able to come out for my birthday on Friday night as he was working in The Ship at Blaxhall, but wanted to give me my present!

Ruthie and I needed no second invitation, so we were back in Woodbridge to meet him for a couple of drinks at The Mariners. At the end of the evening he presented me with my present - three bottles of beer! They were and will be much appreciated!

It was good to catch up with him and good to hear The Ship is absolutely heaving everyday, a nice reversal of the general state of things with village pubs these days. That plight was highlighted by his revelation that The Elephant and Castle in his home village of Eyke is about to close, at least for the time being. Sad but predictable.

Talking of sad and predictable, Ipswich struggled to a 1-1 draw at bottom club Nottingham Forest with the same excuses being made.

Monday 20th October 2008

Sanj was in again today, seeing more talking about selling than actually selling. Still it was good to see him, he's nice bloke.

More 8-bell ringing at St Mary-le-Tower, Grandsire Triples, Cambridge Major and failed attempts at London and Bristol Major.

The awful weather saw me picking Ruthie up from the station during the practice as she was already drowned from her walk from uni to Colchester station the poor dear!

If you haven't heard already, the Inside Out feature on the Hollesley ringers is finally to be shown on BBC1 at 7.30pm on Wednesday 5th November. Look out for it, hopefully it'll be a good advert for ringing in general.

Sunday 19th October 2008

The lack of an 11th clapper at St Mary-le-Tower continues to hinder us and although it has been sent off for, the new wooden one we are getting won't be with us for at least two weeks, so we'll have to get used to the situation for now.

Mason seemed to quietly appreciate the good ringing we got on 8 though as well-struck Grandsire Triples (twice), Cambridge Major and Rounds and Call Changes were achieved.

We managed Rounds and Call Changes on 10 at Grundisburgh this morning with Stephen ringing 5-6, so a slightly healthier attendance than we've come to expect recently.

Things were not going well in Woodbridge town centre today. Ruthie was at work but due to the pharmacist not coming in (Boots legally cannot open without one) they were shut, which led to a phone call from her telling me lunch was now! Mason and I got in the car as Ruthie's lunch breaks are short and the walk is long, only to be met with gridlock. Melton Hill was closed as had been advertised. For those who don't know Woodbridge, St John's Street would then be the obvious route to go down to get around this. Except - with a lot less advertising - they had shut this road too. I'm not entirely sure who 'they' are - probably the council I imagine - but 'they' don't appear to have a brain-cell between them if they ever thought this combination of road closures (which also takes in the one-way system and the Methodist Church which was surprisingly busy for some reason) was a good idea.

The ensuing chaos meant Mason and I got to spend about 10 minutes with Ruthie before she had to go back as Boots had found a pharmacist and were due to open for the afternoon.

Having dropped Mason off and awaited Ruthie's arrival home, we set off for Hollesley where a quarter of 4-half-lead-spliced Surprise Major was scored for Geoffrey and Peter.

The evening was dedicated to a great love of mine, the pub quiz, tonight held at The Shepherd and Dog round the corner from mine. Being in aid of the Hollesley Tower Appeal, our very own Ken and Helen Yates were the quiz-master/score-'keeper' team, doing a very entertaining job!

Ruthie and I were in a team that included her Uncle Moog, Kate, Chris Garner and Lydia, Ken and Helen's daughter. The result wasn't really important of course, but 'The Eyes Have It' as we had called ourselves, finished a very respectable joint third on what was a good night that raised much needed funds for the appeal.

Saturday 18th October 2008

After dropping Mason off at his mothers for last nights exploits, we then picked him up again and returned to Hollesley for one of the most - if not the most - important dates in the Guild calendar. Yes, it was the Training Day and like last year it was held at Hollesley in the guise of the highly successful listening course. We had a good group of learners and helpers from across the Guild.

We made use of the fantastic hospitality of The Shepherd and Dog who gave us a menu in the morning to make our selections and therefore provided typically fine food efficiently and speedily, enabling us to fully enjoy a relaxed and chatty lunch break.

The afternoon also went well and my thanks again have to go to Alan, Kate and Ruthie for their help in various forms. Alan in particular is very good at presenting the course and like last year I am extremely grateful for him allowing the Guild to use this fantastic facility. Also, thanks to those who travelled long distances (which is everybody when it comes to Hollesley) to truly make it a worthwhile day.

The evening was slightly less entertaining than last night but very important. We moan about the GMC in Old Newton and yes the meetings aren't exciting or brief. The are infrequent though, so get filling those vacant GMC Reps vacancies districts!

Tonight was most notable for healthy debate on the allocation of grants to Helmingham and Grundisburgh.

One raised the issue of ensuring bells are rung once we grant money whilst the other raised a potential precedent for allocating grants after work has been carried out. However, Stephen has been very unlucky with an original donation being withdrawn and rising costs. Bearing in mind the peal fees that have come the Guild's way from Grundisburgh it was felt the relatively small amount we have granted was considered to be the least we could offer in these circumstances. We were all agreed this shouldn't be a green light for all jobs running over budget and like all applications they would be considered on their merits.

Look out for the return of the Guild social in Hadleigh on the 27th June 2009. The South-West district has made big plans and should prove to be a great day!

Friday 17th October 2008

I don't go out boozing all that much these days. In fact it's months since I had a night out in Woodbridge and so when I turned up at The Red Lion where I had arranged to meet people for the climax of my birthday week I considered myself particularly unlucky to find it closed for a wedding function! It didn't spoil a fantastic night however as we all went to The Mariners instead where we were briefly met by Mike Whitby. Ruthie, Unky Chris (who had come over this afternoon) and my mates Rob (Kala's brother) and Nick (her husband to be) finished the boozefest in The King's Head.

Thursday 16th October 2008

Having picked Mason up we left Ruthie at home whilst she worked hard at a forthcoming essay and went to Grundisburgh for practice. A decent turnout, including the surprise visit of Ken and Helen from Hollesley and an appearance from Mr Whitby senior enabled us to ring Yorkshire Royal before I left with the li'l man, Mr P limbering up to ring 1-2 for call changes on 12.

Noticed on Campanophile that young Rosemary Hill called her first quarter of Stedman Cinques at Winchester on Sunday, so well done her. No mean feat. The Hills have close family links up here and regularly visit with Christine a native of these parts.

Also, thank you to those who rang the quarter on Wednesday at Elveden for their footnote - much appreciated!

Wednesday 15th October 2008

Thirty. 30. The big 3-0. Doesn't matter how you say it, it's big landmark and one that I am feeling pretty positive about actually, especially after a lovely day today.

Having opened my prezzies and cards first thing, I was at work as usual, but with Ruthie having a day off uni to do some research for an essay, I popped back to hers where she had prepared a cake and candles.

Once back from work, we were off to Pettistree for a quarter of Return of the Jedi Surprise Minor. This is a tricky little method which involves lots of making 5ths, catching everyone out at various points, but a good quarter was scored.

Having not been here last week, tonight was the first time I had met Daphne, a learner who started handling last week having moved into Wickham Market a couple of months back. Already she seems to have got into the social side of ringing and appears to have a good attitude towards the marathon task ahead of her! She should be just fine.

With no Mason tonight and being my birthday, Ruthie drove tonight, allowing me to have a couple of beers at The Greyhound before we headed home for some tea and to watch the highlights of England's 3-1 win in Belarus, completing a truly memorable day.

Thank you to all the good wishes via texts, guest books, email and Facebook as well as through the medium of song at practice! It's much appreciated.

Tuesday 14th October 2008

With Kate up in Scotland visiting Clare this week, Ruthie and I have been charged with keeping an eye on the house, dog, cats, rabbits and chickens, so our traditional night in was held in the surroundings of Edwin Avenue this week.

And so my 20's are up. Tomorrow I'll be in my 30's. From now on I'm going to have to get used to filling in different boxes on those survey things and am now part of that 'missing' age-group of bellringers!

Monday 13th October 2008

A very different practice at St Mary-le-Tower tonight as with no clapper in the 11th the focus was very much on 8-bell ringing. I'd warned people that this would be the case so there were quite a few less than than I would've expected if we'd had all 12 available, so it felt almost like one of those end of term lessons at school where we had the chance to do something different. Tonight we rang Pudsey, Rutland and Bristol Major and - at Roger Whittell's request - Grandsire Triples with 8, 10 and 12 bonging behind. Interesting.

The plan is to get a wooden clapper put in, but that won't happen by next Monday, so it'll be more of the same.

Sunday 12th October 2008

Frustratingly, we had 12 ringers at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. Of course this would usually be a source of great satisfaction to me, but as you will no doubt be aware, the 11th clapper is out, meaning we limited to front 8 ringing. This will also be the case for practice tomorrow night, although we may experiment with ringing the three remaining back bells.

Grundisburgh meanwhile had 12 bells but only 8 ringers, so Grandsire and Stedman Triples were the order of the day.

Numbers are now steadily coming in for the Guild Training Day at Hollesley on Saturday, with pupils from every district bar one. Come on South-West, put your names forward!

Saturday 11th October 2008

My birthday week - that started with cake at Hollesley last night - continued this morning with a peal of Yorkshire Max at Grundisburgh that I had arranged. It was great to have Arnie, Maggie and Ruthie in particular ringing as these three top ringers have been sadly missing from the peal columns in the last few months - although Maggie claims not to have ever been prolific!

I also felt a little - if not overly significant perhaps - part of history as I became not only the first person to pull the new tenor in to a peal but also the first to ring it to Surprise Maximus at all!

Such a gorgeous autumn day allowed us to sit in the garden at The Turks Head as not only the whole peal band but also Mum, Dad and Mason came to celebrate with me.

After a bit of lunch at Edwin Avenue, Ruthie, Mason and I were off out again, this time to the North-West District ADM at Pakenham. Between us, Philip Gorrod and I are trying to get to all the district ADMs as we feel it is important to see first hand what's happening throughout the Guild and for the Guild to get to know us and hear from us first-hand. Both of us were there this afternoon and enjoyed a great tea, a jovial meeting and good ringing as well as having the chance to catch up with mates.

Ruth Suggett, Mandy Shedden and Maurice Rose are doing fantastic work in perhaps the most innovative districts of the Guild and 2009 doesn't look like it's going to disappoint. The highlights promise to be a trip to Taylor's in Loughbrough and a training day at Worcester Cathedral, both of which will hopefully be well supported.

On the downside, there was a distinct lack of support when it came to filling two of their representative positions on the GMC, although certainly not just a NW problem. This is such an important role as it provides a direct link between the members and officers and therefore the decisions that are made. And all for just three meetings a YEAR!

Friday 10th October 2008

Take note of the new peal attempt announcement page. The idea is to allow those who want, to announce peals attempts, particularly special ones. Then if anyone wants to come along and listen at any point, wants to know if a peal is happening at their local tower or just wants to know why their bells are ringing, there is potentially an opportunity to find out here. If you are organising a peal, do take advantage of it!

Ruthie got back in time to share half of my lunch break which was nice on a gorgeous and warm day in keeping with similar conditions all this week.

Being my birthday next Wednesday and with the plan being to go out for drinks next Friday, I brought a cake up Hollesley practice, a rather fetching sweet recreation of a football pitch. I was also serenaded by the whole band as the first 'Happy Birthday' and card was delivered to me.

On the subject of birthdays, Kara gave birth to Mason's little sister at 9.01am, little Brooke. Stand your ground Mason...

Thursday 9th October 2008

Well done to Tom Britten who rang his first peal last night! As yet another of our youth studying in Sheffield it was rung at Dore and as first peals go Quedgeley Surprise Major is pretty impressive! The Yorkshire Association is doing quite well out of our youngsters and whilst it's shame they can't all be doing it down here, its great to see people like Tom, Claire Monk and Tom Scase before them do so well up there in a vibrant and historical ringing environment.

Having picked Mason up he promptly slept through Grundisburgh practice where a reasonable turnout of 11 at least allowed us to ring Stedman Caters.

It was a big moment in Mason's life when I picked him up - although of course he is not aware of it - as when I  return him on Sunday, he should - all being well - have a sister, with Kara going in for the grand event tomorrow.

Wednesday 8th October 2008

Normally on a Wednesday afternoon, Ruthie has flute choirs practice in Colchester prior to the evening concert. This afternoon it was cancelled. However, she wasn't told of this until she was already on her way down on the train, so she was committed to her afternoon arrival, leaving a very bored Ruthie killing five or six hours in the north Essex town.

I, on the other hand had plenty to occupy myself with work and then a peal at The Wolery in the evening. It was to be another go at the 41, but in Ruthie's absence we rang one of 7 Surprise Minor methods. We had a late start too as we waited for David and Katharine to find the reason the lights weren't working in the shed!

Ruthie had a good night in the end as it turned out. She did the bar (getting a free glass of wine out of it!) and front of house and came back full of beans for someone whose day must have dragged!

Tuesday 7th October 2008

Slowly but surely the numbers are trickling in for the Guild Training Day at Hollesley on 18th, October, but I would still like more. I'm so demanding aren't I? Please do get in touch.

Our night in was uneventful bar Ruthie finally getting on Facebook - another Guild member on there! - and a call from my brother as arrangements for my impending 30th continue apace.

Monday 6th October 2008

After work, Kate and I made a trip out to Hollesley. We had been asked by Alan to come help some of the learners there on the simulator. The beauty of the simulator is just such occasions as this where there was lots of single, 2, 3 and 4 bell ringing and by it's nature not always pretty. However, the one hour+ session was extremely useful and those involved seemed to progress one way or another. Please take note with the Guild Training Day here on the 18th October looming and still needing numbers! Spread the word or even better come along!

It was then on to St Mary-le-Tower and one of our best gatherings of ringers for a few weeks. Sixteen were there, all of them Surprise Maximus ringers! However it wasn't a situation I could take advantage of as one lead from the end of the practice's opening half-course of Cambridge Max there was a huge thud and Owen was silenced on the 11th! The clapper that had been in danger of coming out last week had sheared off tonight. It is the 6th time in recent memory that this has happened on the 11th and frankly it isn't good enough. The rest of the practice saw us ringing on the front 8 as Stedman Triples, 8-spliced Surprise and London Major was rung before Ruthie (having met us up there) and I returned to Woodbridge.

Sunday 5th October 2008

Happy birthday Kate! It is indeed a big day for the 'mother-in-law' and hopefully she enjoyed it as she deserves to after all the tireless work she puts in as Ringing Master of the South-East (not least with yesterdays training day) amongst the work she also puts in for Brownies and Guides outside of ringing.

She was certainly kept busy today.

I went to St Mary-le-Tower, where we rang Grandsire Cinques and then it was onto Grundisburgh where we only had 7.

Having popped into Boots to say hello to Ruthie who was working, Kate and I then returned to Grundisburgh to ring the first peal on the new tenor, a fast paced but well rung peal of Grandsire Caters. It's worth noting this was the 4th Suffolk Guild peal of the weekend after our one at SMLT yesterday and other peals at Nayland (well done to Christine!) and The Wolery.

For us though, the weekend's ringing was not over. A brief stop-off at Edwin Avenue where we met up with Ruthie and Alan and then it was straight off into Ipswich and back to SMLT for a quarter of Little Bob Royal, a McB production. We were a little tentative and too slow on the bells, but we got it and will hopefully have learnt a lot from it.

Now we could relax. A pint in The Cricketers and then Anne and Mickie (who had both come to meet us) myself, Ruthie, Kate and Alan had a celebration Chinese at Temptation on Majors Corner, where you can eat all you can. Fantastic!

Saturday 4th October 2008

Less than a month ago I rang in a peal at St Mary-le-Tower and afterwards we sat sunning ourselves in George and Di's garden. Today I found myself wandering down to SMLT for another peal, but the bitterly cold conditions made it hard to believe it was such a short time since that glorious Saturday.

This didn't make the peal - a 5001 Grandsire and Gainsborough Little Bob Caters spliced - any less enjoyable. It was rung for the 1st birthday of Isabel Potts and included her dad and grandad. The specially composed length required the Gainsborough, but it was a hard thing to fathom for some beforehand, leading to a hilarious dialogue that ended with Nigel (who was bonging behind) asking when he had to double-dodge!

Having spent the afternoon with Mason, Ruthie and I then took him back en route to Stutton. The occasion was the South-East District Training Day, which incorporated ringing on handbells and calling Bob Doubles. Well done to Kate and Peter on organising it and thanks to Winston Girling and Philip Gorrod for coming over to help, especially to Philip who suffered injury for the cause (nothing serious you'll be glad to hear) in an hilarious incident involving Susan Schurr.

It was followed by a lovely tea and short, informal and very jovial meeting, all in the warm lady chapel of the church.

Evening ringing was at Holbrook, a place close to my heart as it is my ancestral manor if you like. The churchyard is full of my great-grandparents, great-great grandparents and many other relatives.

The ringing was noticeable for the presence of both Ruthie and my Mum in a touch of Stedman Doubles!

The only downside was the lack of participation from pretty much 90% of the district, even the Holbrook and Stutton ringers, though of course we were grateful for their wonderful hospitality. I know the weather was pretty nasty and the towers are in the far corner of the district, but this was a really worthwhile opportunity to learn new skills off people you wouldn't usually get the chance to learn off. And of course as always it is a lovely social occasion and chance to meet up with fellow ringers - non of us bite! As I've said several times - perhaps to deaf ears - we are privileged to partake in what is - compared to other activities - a relatively cheap hobby and one where we can go anywhere and join in. Please, please take advantage, especially as it takes a lot of time and effort to organise these events!

Friday 3rd October 2008

Dropped Mason off at and then picked him up from Mum and Dad's on his first visit since their return this week.

In between we were treated to a drink in The Cherrytree pub in Woodbridge in celebration of a brilliant September for the company.

I was doing a 9.30-5.30 so we were slightly late getting to Hollesley for practice but were still in time to ring Grandsire Triples and Cambridge Major as well as partake in some cake in honour of Kate's birthday on Sunday.

Thursday 2nd October 2008

The position Geoffrey left vacant at Hollesley and the surrounding areas got in the East Anglian Daily Times today or rather the man that was supposed to replace him. The Reverend David Matthews, currently and now for the foreseeable future vicar of the Box Rivers parishes near Sudbury seems to find a four bedroom house with a large conservatory isn't big enough for him or more to the point the study. It all seems a little silly and he hasn't done himself any favours with his rather bizarre attitude to it all.

We finally rang the 12 at Grundisburgh for the first time since some of the bells were rehung and the tenor replaced, although the Stedman Cinques we were trying to ring probably didn't do the occasion justice! Still, it was good to get them ringing again and also nice to see Mum and Dad back after their near 4 week trip to Canada. Mason was particularly excited to see them!

Wednesday 1st October 2008

10-6 today and with Ruthie also not having to go to Colchester until later we were afforded a lie-in!

However, with her course she is now involved with concerts every Wednesday, so Pettistree practices starting from tonight aren't possible for her until the Christmas holidays. It is for a very good cause though and as with everything she has undertaken this last week and a half both I and Kate are very proud.

Kate and I went to practice following a successful quarter of Carlisle Minor and prior to leaving a little early to pick Ruthie up. It may seem a little extreme to travel to Colchester to pick her up, but frankly late-night public transport is not a pleasant or indeed overly safe experience.

She'd had a great evening, socialising with friends she has already made and making new ones this evening via the refectory and pub. She's a true student now!

Tuesday 30th September 2008

Typically after last nights key escapades, Owen discovered that a nut and bolt needs replacing on the 11th clapper. It's nothing serious and easily sorted out, but required Owen to have the keys. In the pub afterwards, an elaborate plan involving me dropping the keys off at George and Di's in east Ipswich and then they either taking them to Owen or him coming to them.

I don't know how the second part of the plan has gone, but I did my bit after work, having a brief chat with Di whilst I was there, so I'm covered!

As you know, normally Ruthie and I would have a night in on a Tuesday, but this week we were gladly taken along to The Seckford Theatre in the grounds of Woodbridge School to watch the man in charge of teaching the next generation of doctors from The University of East Anglia. Shamefully I can't remember his name, but he gave a fascinating oversight on the history of surgery. Nice and gory as well as very informative and entertaining.

We went along with Kate, Ron and Kate's brother Moog and his wife Ang providing an enjoyable evening all round.

It was all capped off by both Ipswich winning 2-0 against Barnsley and Norwich losing 2-0 at Southampton. Bet that made for an interesting evening in a certain household in Halesworth...

Monday 29th September 2008

Last night, Ruthie had taken us to St Mary-le-Tower and with Owen not going he had given me the keys in the morning. The keys were then subsequently left in Ruthie's car which was then left at Melton station prior to her catching her train to Colchester.

I didn't realise this until I was driving into Ipswich, on my own, but luckily I just had time to divert to George and Di's and allow the Pipes to save the day again with just a five minute delay. This was fortunate as we had a return to a sense of normality with a healthy turnout and well-rung Cambridge Max despite the absence of a number of regulars. We were also very happy to welcome Peter Faircloth and Susanne Eddis who we were able to give a good go on 12, ringing Grandsire Cinques and Kent and Little Bob Max.

Having enjoyed a pint at Mannings for the first time for a while, we picked up Ruthie's car (and SMLT keys!) and allowed her to put her feet up after a day of running, working and playing music!

Just a couple of points. With Guild Training Day just over two weeks away, nobody has put their name forward! This is an outstanding opportunity and a really enjoyable day out as those who have taken part before (many from huge distances) will testify.

Also, this Saturday the South-East District is holding a very useful training at Stutton, well worth going to if you want to learn the basics of handbell ringing and conducting. Names to Kate Eagle.

Sunday 28th September 2008

Much like last Sunday, the numbers were lacking but the quality was not at St Mary-le-Tower. Although we did have 10 at one point, it wasn't for long enough to ring anything, so we had to be content with some very good Cambridge Major and then some Grandsire Triples on the back 8.

Grundisburgh was similar, which is slightly frustrating as we are yet to hear all 12 in action with the new tenor. It was here it became apparent that God does indeed move in mysterious ways as the actions of a certain reverend saw the bellringers volunteered for doing the flowers on the font next week...

Ruthie was working today as indeed she will be for pretty much every Sunday for the foreseeable future. Whilst it means we don't see as much as each other, it's a necessity with fuel and train travel to Colchester not getting any cheaper. Suffice to say I'm very proud of the way she's equipped herself.

Meeting her for lunch we had a very pleasant cuppa outside the bookshop in the Turban Centre and brief but welcome encounters with both Sarah and James Whitby.

Once Ruthie was back from work though, it was into Ipswich again for the Civic Service at SMLT and the Mayor and his chums. I have to admit I wasn't confident of getting many for this as it was the fourth time in 9 days that I had asked people come in specially and many were understandably unable to make it.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to find enough to ring on 10, with special mention having to go to young George Salter ringing on 10 for the first time on a set of bells this big and doing very well at it too. Thank you very much to everyone who came out.

It was then a dash off to Hollesley for an attempt at half-lead 8-spliced again. The others plus Peter and Geoffrey had successfully scored a quarter of the 4-spliced at Ufford whilst we had been in Ipswich, so a score here would be very impressive. Alas, it was lost in the very last part, agonisingly near to the end. However, I confess to not being too despondent at the losses in these attempts as I really rather enjoy ringing in them whatever the outcome. Despite the abrupt end this evening, the ringing was superb in the main.

A couple of pints in The Shepherd and Dog and it was back to Ruthie's for the tea we had somehow missed out!

Saturday 27th September 2008

Today was the Hollesley outing on the old stomping ground of Anne Buswell, organising her first ringers outing.

Having dropped Mason off and been picked up by Alan, Micky and Anne (closely preceded by the visit of some very confused tilers expecting to do some work at Kate and Ruthie's) we found ourselves safely negotiating the fog and finding ourselves in Danbury.

Alan angrily told Polly the dog off before putting her back in the boot for not doing as he said whilst we wondered if the same punishments could be used with Alan in quarter-peals, before we wandered up to ring this delightful eight. For Kathy and Bruce, this was the first tower of their first ever ringing outing and like everywhere else they subsequently went today, they rang marvellously. They noticeably improved and gained in confidence as the day wore on, further vindicating the theory that all learners should regularly go on outings or least ring at more than one place.

Purleigh, the next tower and a six were not so magical, but the locals were very welcoming. It was here, with the sun now shining brightly that Ruthie and I wandered down to the local post office for drinks, only to be stopped on a couple of occasions by people looking for the village hall. Once telling them that we weren't local, they mumbled something about everyone they had come across being visitors and having spoken to Ron (he off Lundy camping fame) it became apparent why as he too had experienced the same. Whatever was going on at the village hall, I hope they all made it!

Maldon, All Saints - the last tower prior to lunch - was an experience for several of the senses. They frankly sounded awful. An out of tune and slightly bucket-like eight, although I have to admit to not minding rings of bells with the character of these! However, they went really well and they are in the first downstairs, triangular belfry I've ever rung at, so memorable for many reasons!

After a long walk to The Jolly Sailor, tucked between the next church, St Mary's and the riverside, we enjoyed lovely food and good beer, courtesy of the landlady who also doubles up as the tower captain.

They only started learning as a band last November and ringing at St Mary's in February and full credit to them, because these aren't an easy six at all. The floor is also more gap than floorboard, so it was with some relief that we found out that there is a £500k campaign to refurbish the church, tower and bells!

This was also my tower to run, so glad I'd got it out of the way, we sat and waited for Alan and Polly to return from the river. Anne however, was slightly less relaxed and was anxious that we had 10 minutes to get to Goldhanger 15 minutes away.

"It'll be OK Anne," I reassured her.

"So long as the person running the ringing is there."

"Alan is running the ringing."

"Oh."

As it happened, most of us were late to Goldhanger due to the time it took to get out of Maldon and it didn't matter much to the very welcoming locals at this fantastic eight. We were joined by 15-year Liam, a local ringer who had just rung his first quarter and whom we were delighted to help along. Whilst in our company he rang his first ever Triples as most of us sat outside in the sun at this groundfloor ring.

The final tower of the day was Great Totham, a six in a wooden turret and despite tiring minds and limbs, we produced some good ringing here to end the day, including some mixed Doubles and Minor.

Whilst some retired to Saffron for a curry back in Woodbridge, Ruthie and I had a homemade curry and watched the last 15 minutes of the Ipswich game on the TV as they drew 1-1 with Crystal Palace.

Well done and thanks to Anne on a superbly organised day. The only trouble for her now is that we're expecting more of the same!

Thanks as well to Alan and Micky for giving us a lift. After a long day, I was glad it was them and not me driving home!

Friday 26th September 2008

As a sales team and individually, we have met our targets with three weeks of the current campaign to go. The campaign will continue, but as a reward, it had been pre-arranged that we only needed to come in for a half-day today. Combined with an 8am start, it meant leaving work at 11.30, gleefully taken up by us all.

For myself, it enabled me to pick Mason up again and travel down to Colchester with Ruthie for the afternoon. She only needed to be down there for a half-hour health and safety meeting - which actually proved worthwhile as it happened - meaning a lot of hanging around due to the ineptitude's of British public transport, a complete farce. Still, it was an enjoyable afternoon.

Whilst Kate went to attempt a quarter of Ashtead Major at Grundisburgh, Ruthie very kindly drove Mason and myself to Hollesley practice. Practicalities in the circumstances saw Ruthie take Mason home for the last half of practice in a role-reversal of the norm.

However, having lost their quarter, we were joined by Kate and Mary Garner, enabling us to ring Cambridge Major and Stedman Triples even after Ruthie had left with the li'l man. Mr Garner had also pre-empted his wife's entrance, ensuring a healthy number on the peninsula this evening.

Thursday 25th September 2008

After finishing slightly late on my 10-6 shift today, then picking Mason up and feeding him and ourselves, it was too late for the three of us to go to Grundisburgh tonight. It's a shame, but these shifts will be finished soon. It was good to see Mason again though.

Also had a good read of the latest Guild newsletter. It looked a little thin, so I would encourage people to send anything they think might be of interest in, especially for the next edition, the bumper Christmas one! Worth noting Carol's plea for sponsorship if anyone can help out there.

Wednesday 24th September 2008

Another night off ringing, but as I explained in an earlier blog it is that time of year of friends returning from and then preparing to go back to university. Tonight was an opportunity for the latter as many of Ruthie's friends head back to their studies this weekend, so we gathered round Beth's house, handily in walking distance for ourselves. It was a typically lively but enjoyable evening, but sadly the last we'll see of some until nearly Christmas.

Tonight was also the last that Portman Road will see of Carling Cup football this season too, as they were well beaten by Premiership Wigan 4-1. It doesn't bother me overly as  promotion has to be our overriding focus this year, but it would've been nice not to get thrashed!

On a happier note, tonight's quarter was scored at Pettistree and well done to Susanne on her first Surprise Minor!

Tuesday 23rd September 2008

After last night's success from a ringing perspective, I'm now in need of further ringers for another service at St Mary-le-Tower. There's a civic service on Sunday evening, with the Mayor and co in attendance and they want the bells rung. It means trying to bring ringers back into Ipswich less than a week after many gave their time so generously last night. If you are about in the Ipswich area from 5.45 - 6.30pm on Sunday, your help - as always - would be much appreciated.

There is also a tower open day in conjunction with the SMLT Market this Saturday morning from 10am - 1pm, so if you are interested in seeing the bells up close and/or getting a grab, that's a good time!

With all this going on, I was quite relieved at mine and Ruthie's Tuesday night in!

Monday 22nd September 2008

Not your typical Monday - at least for us.

Firstly, it was Ruthie's first day at Colchester Institute, a big step that judging by the big level of involvement in choirs and orchestras, she is taking in her stride.

I was in work at 6am to watch her train pass the offices, although of course the main purpose of the early start was to catch those schools and businesses several hours ahead of us.

The lunchtime finish also enabled me to attend a meeting in regards to The White Ribbon Campaign, held at Suffolk Police HQ in Martlesham. Last year, at very short notice, we had a handful of towers doing special ringing for this very, very worthwhile cause. The plan this year is to do special ringing - be it a peal, quarter or just general ringing - beginning at midday on Saturday 29th November to mark the beginning of the campaign. The plan is for people to be made aware why the bells are ringing and using the bells for their purpose - to make people aware of a good cause. Please make a note of this date and think about what your local band can do. If the plans discussed in the meeting come to fruition, there will be lots of media coverage on this, a real opportunity to show the Guild and your local band in an extremely good light.

Talking of ringers showing themselves in a good light, thank you to everyone who came to St Mary-le-Tower to enable all 12 bells to be rung - well - for the induction of the Reverend Charles Jenkin as vicar. It was much appreciated and as promised, I'll love you forever!

The service was big and spectacular as you would expect from Ipswich's civic church and this huge arena was packed and we ringers were represented by George, Di, Brian, Owen, Ruthie and myself. It was nice to meet up with the Bishop and his wife again, still waxing lyrical over March's Guild Dinner! I also had a chance to have a brief word with the new incumbent, with him keen to be involved with the ringers.

An interesting day indeed...

Sunday 21st September 2008

Low numbers but high quality at both St Mary-le-Tower and Grundisburgh this morning. There were only 8 at SMLT, but the Cambridge Minor and Major was followed by Grandsire Triples on the back 8, all very well struck and few mistakes.

Grundisburgh also enjoyed good ringing although on lower numbers as St Clement's Minor with cover on the back 7 followed spliced Surprise Minor.

It is the 2nd anniversary of Ruthie and me going out and having allowed my better half to  choose what we do, we found ourselves at Riley's Pool Club again, as Ruthie picked up where she left off from our last visit, getting better and better.

We then spent a nice evening in whilst Kate rang in a quarter of Norwich Minor on the back 6 at Hollesley. This was to be something on 8, but there is an awful lot of some nasty illness going round that has affected Mason, Kate, Mike and Pippa to name a few, so it was reduced to 6.

Congratulations to Richard and Julie Rapior, who were married at Aldeburgh yesterday. They really are a lovely couple and I was glad to hear everything went perfectly as they deserved a good day.

Saturday 20th September 2008

With Mason in tow, Ruthie and I were in Ipswich this afternoon, primarily for a wedding at St Mary-le-Tower. Some good ringing by a Surprise Major band ringing call changes was finished with Cambridge Major and seemed appreciated by the awaiting wedding party when we got downstairs afterwards.

We also took the opportunity to pop in and see Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric for a couple of hours as the li'l man explored their living room joyfully and Ipswich Town once again snatched a draw for what should have been a victory at Sheffield Wednesday, watched by brother Chris. Not shouting loud enough Chris, though probably a good result bearing in mind they haven't won for 4 years when he has been watching!

Just a quick plea. There is no practice at SMLT this Monday as it is the induction of the new vicar, Charles Jenkin. However, we are ringing for this important occasion from 6.45-7.30pm, thus making it difficult to get ringers in. If you could possibly help out, I'd love you forever...

Friday 19th September 2008

5am start and then back to Ruthie and a very energetic Mason, making for a very tiring day.

However, held out long enough for Hollesley practice where Ruthie and Kate joined Mason and me again after a successful quarter at Marlesford. Not quite enough for Surprise Major, but we rang some nice Cambridge Minor as Alan regaled us on his trip to Durham and Newcastle this week.

By the way, I've set up a Facebook account. I've tried to find a lot of Guild members so far, but if you have got a page look me up, it could be quite a useful way to keep up with Guild goings on!

Thursday 18th September 2008

After yesterdays 10-6 shift, I was in from 8-4 today on my fourth different shift of the week, playing havoc with my body-clock!

It was the first practice at Grundisburgh since the new tenor had been put in and work done. Having only finished the work today (indeed there's still other little bits like hanging the old tenor as the clock bell to do), everything was a little fresh. The tenor is a little quiet, but of course will settle in and although a little heavier - thus depriving Grundisburgh of it's status as the lightest 12 hung in a tower in the world - it is for the better.

A nice article on one of the Guild's most loyal long-serving ringers, Maurice Rose. He's one of those people who has always been around as long as I can remember and yet never changed and hopefully that will continue for some time to come. Well done on 50 years at Rougham Maurice!

Wednesday 17th September 2008

Had my first and most important review at work today, delayed from the normal three month mark by the move to Woodbridge. The upshot of it was they are delighted with me, especially as I got the trophy for most sales in August, unheard of during a trial period and they have offered me the position permanently with a pay-rise!

This sent me in a jolly mood to The Wolery with Ruthie as we continued our 41-Surprise Minor odyssey. With holidays and illness it had been over three months since we scored our first peal of 41 and it showed as rust became apparent. After a couple of restarts and slightly patchy start, we produced some fine ringing, although with more practice we can do better.

Much the same as the Tractor Boys, who threw away a lead at bottom club Southampton to draw 2-2. Still, it's a point away from home and will keep Maggie happy for now and all in all capped a fairly satisfactory day!

Tuesday 16th September 2008

Back to a normal shift today, which actually felt quite strange.

Ruthie enjoyed her last day at Boots before uni starts properly next week, so she was full of beans as we settled down for our night in, watching football and drinking beer!

I'm already getting requests for Peal Week 2009 in February, but strangely no requests for places on the Guild Training Day on the 18th October! Come on folks, lets get some names!

Monday 15th September 2008

We were following up some of the calls to Australia and the Far East, so another one-off 5am start. After last night's party, I thought it wise to walk into work having stayed over at Ruthie's which also helped me walk off some of the thick head.

There was a wonderful feature on BBC Look East where Albert Driver was recognised for over 80 years of ringing with a certificate presented to him by Maurice Rose. A nice piece on a man that should be seen as an example to us all.

We had 8 Surprise Maximus ringers missing from St Mary-le-Tower, meaning that Cambridge Max was again off the menu, a disappointing scenario, especially as next week there is no practice due to the new vicar's induction service. However, we did ring quite a bit on 12 and the striking was the best it has been for a long time.

Sticking with next weeks induction service, although there is no practice, there is ringing for the 7.30 service starting at 6.45. If anybody is about, available and/or willing to ring then please do come along, it would be great to get all 12 ringing.

Sunday 14th September 2008

Much like yesterday, today was a very social and filling day.

It all started with the christening of Poppy, Ruthie's cousin, at Hollesley. Ruthie was being made her godmother, so whilst I dropped Mason off in Woodbridge, Ruthie was trying for a quarter for the service, which sadly came to grief. I got back too late for ringing but in time for the service where Ruthie proudly stood at the front with the other godparents as Poppy slept right up to being dunked in water, something she seemed quite shocked about! Afterwards we were treated to a huge feast, including a barbecue as little Freddie, Poppy's older brother wowed the crowds!

The evening was another party and another massive feed!

It was David Stanford's 50th birthday on Tuesday and Annie had organised a surprise party for him, to be held at Hasketon Victory Hall this evening. Having sent him off to ring a peal at Offton for the afternoon, he had absolutely no idea that a packed hall of family and friends were waiting for him back in his home village! It is a testament to how popular David is that so many people were prepared to keep Annie's plans secret and come out for him. He is a great ringer to have, not just at SMLT where his experience on 12 and willingness to help is a great aide, but particularly at Burgh where along with Stephen he has created an enthusiastic band that have come on in leaps and bounds since they learnt for the millennium. As well as the ringing he does around the area, it is worth noting that he manages to fit all this in with numerous trips to Bedford for family reasons and his job often involves much travelling, so it was a pleasure to partake in his big night. Well done Annie too for organising it. I know first-hand there was an awful lot of message passing and coded conversations going on over the last few weeks!

All sorts of people were there from Offton, Burgh, Ipswich, Woodbridge, the surrounding areas and beyond, from the Pipes to the Rogers; the Sparlings came up from Essex and we spent a large part of the evening with Steve and Nikki from Kempston in Bedfordshire and we were treated to the sonic abilities of Ted and Josie who you may recall performed at Brian and Peta's barbecue back in July. It was a truly social evening that ended all too soon.

Saturday 13th September 2008

It was autumnal as I came into Ipswich this morning - the browning leaves on trees in Christchurch Park further enhancing this impression - making my decision to wear shorts for this mornings peal seem a little daft.

The peal at St Mary-le-Tower was to mark the 60th anniversary of George Pipe's first peal on 12 at the same tower and in the same method - Stedman Cinques. With a stellar cast of visitors including David Pipe, Philip Earis and Murray Coleman the ringing was predictably and enjoyably top-notch at a decent 3hrs 23mins pace. We were also able to mark it as a 50th birthday compliment to David Stanford for Tuesday just gone by. As it happened it was 15 years ago yesterday since I rang my first peal on 12 - I've got a little catching up to do with George!

We were then invited back to George and Di's - along with Ruthie and Mason and David's Annie - for what proved to be a substantial and wonderful three course lunch. Thank you George and Di! The bright sunshine and hot weather that had broken out whilst we were ringing enabled us to eat outside, the bowlers next door to bask as they played their finals and vindicated my decision to get my legs out!

It was a very enjoyable and interesting lunch - watch out to be astonished by Pipe, Tibbetts and Earis on handbells again next year! - and Mason behaved impeccably.

Ipswich beat Reading 2-0 to further cheer us before we eventually settled at mine to watch the Last Night of The Proms, one of my favourite evenings of the year. Enjoy them whilst they last, no doubt they'll offend somebody in the PC brigade soon... (They've already offended a member of the government!!! Webmaster).

Friday 12th September 2008

Picked Mason for the first time for a week. Missed the little chap and glad to see him again. He seemed happy to see us too and to go to Hollesley practice with us.

Alan had picked up an idea from the Ringing Roadshow last Friday and soon had everyone doing Kaleidoscope ringing. It is where pairs of bells do their own work, whether it be dodging, right or wrong places, Cambridge places, Stedman places - in fact anything you like. The idea is to get learners doing the work they will find in methods a) without having to learn whole lines of methods at this early stage and b) preparing them for these variables of change ringing so they are not taken by surprise by them when they get to say Stedman or Cambridge.

It is in my view far more useful than call changes. The problem in my mind with call changes and after traditional plain hunt is that we encourage learners to ring things by numbers. When it comes to more complicated change-ringing (in fact the moment they try to ring Bob Doubles on the treble) they instantly struggle as they are then being told to ring by counting places. Perhaps if we taught learners to count places from the very beginning through methods such as Alan was employing this evening, we may get somewhere. Food for thought perhaps and please let me know if disagree (or agree!).

Thursday 11th September 2008

With no Mason and still no Grundisburgh practice, Ruthie and I took the rare opportunity to show our face somewhere different. Tonight we went to Kettleburgh, the first time I have been there for years. It was their first practice back after a summer break and like a lot of places at this time of year they were a little short. However, our presence enabled them to not only ring 6 but also St Simon's and Stedman Doubles as well as Bob Minor. It is nice not only to see well known faces like Persephone and Chris' McArthur and Barker, but also new faces like Anne and Jane.

It was a good chance to try and persuade them to come to the Guild Training Day on the 18th October at Hollesley. Haven't I mentioned that yet?

Wednesday 10th September 2008

We're still here!

I celebrated this by sending out confirmation of the Guild Training Day, to be held at Hollesley (all being well with the church) from 10am-4pm on Saturday, 18th, October. It isn't being held there just so I don't have to travel very far (though that is nice!), but primarily because of the facilities. Many of you by now will have heard about the simulator and the listening course that goes with it (for more details see the report on last years Training Day) and many have experienced first hand how good it really is. PLEASE take up this opportunity to train on the course, it WILL help your listening and will go a long way towards helping your striking. It is by far the most useful training course I have come across thus far. If you've been before, please feel free to come again and let others know who may not have heard about it or are wavering. If you haven't been before, I appreciate it is a long journey, but it's very worthwhile. Perhaps come in a group to keep fuel costs down. Either way, contact me! Hopefully we'll have a pub lunch at The Shepherd and Dog in the village like last year, though that isn't 100% confirmed yet - watch this space!

We seem to be making a habit of missing practices lately. It's not on purpose honest, but lately, with Ruthie's friends back from uni and the like it's been a busy period of socialising.

Tonight we met Fergie, Vicky and Verity in the usual haunt, The Cherrytree in Woodbridge with a lot more catching up done.

To complete what turned out to be a good day (what with us still being alive and all that), England managed to shake up the world a little more by not only winning, but winning away at the hardest place in our qualifying group Croatia. In fact, we battered them 4-1! What a strange day...

Tuesday 9th September 2008

Good to see the pictures and reports coming in about The Ringing Roadshow at the weekend. Slightly mixed reviews in some places, perhaps coloured by the truly dismal weather, but in the main another success.

Another late shift, as it will be all this week if all goes to plan. Although apparently it could be the end of the world tomorrow. Scientists are recreating the big bang on the Swiss-French border and there is a possibility of black holes and the destruction of the Earth one way or another coming about. If that is the case, I hope you've enjoyed the blog and it's been nice ringing with you...

Monday 8th September 2008

This week it is our chance to call the America's, so a 10-6 day was called for. A nice lie-in and not inconveniently late, particularly on Mondays when Ruthie is helping run Brownies anyway.

With a number of folk away, ringing at St Mary-le-Tower was again disappointing. Although we rang much on 12, including Grandsire Cinques, Kent Max and Little Bob Max, we didn't have enough to ring Surprise Maximus and the striking was far from the level we had been building up to. We have lots of people who have made progress and have been aided by those more experienced. However, we've got to the stage where we really need a substantial number of experienced ringers to come on a more regular basis in order to move the band on to the next stage, particularly in respect to striking.

With another late start in the morning and Ruthie having her normal Tuesday off, we afforded ourselves a late night to watch Andy Murray play Roger Federer in the final of the US Tennis Open. The skill of both players was phenomenal, but in the end Federer was just too good. I imagine he got a lot of help from those more experienced as he learnt the game...

Sunday 7th September 2008

Low and disappointing turnouts this morning.

We peaked at 7 at St Mary-le-Tower, although those ringers there produced a fine piece of Cambridge Minor on the middle 6 and then Stedman Doubles on the back 6, always a fine sound.

Circumstances at Grundisburgh mean we only need 5 ringers until the new tenor is put in and various bells are re-hung, but with no Stephen (on holiday again!) we couldn't even manage this, mustering 4 eventually, with Dick Waterson judging from outside!

Ruthie volunteered for work today, so I met with her at lunchtime for our usual in Costa and once she had returned we made tracks to Pettistree for a quarter of Grandsire Doubles. The band we had gathered were capable of much more complex things than Grandsire, but the decision to ring this after a dropout was completely vindicated by an extremely well struck quarter, one of the best I've been involved in this year.

We hung on for evensong ringing, Norwich Minor and St Martin's Doubles showing the eclectic mix we manage at Pettistree!

Saturday 6th September 2008

With a free Saturday morning for the first and last time for goodness knows how long, Ruthie and I thought we'd go along to Orford practice. It was a pleasant enough morning (potentially the last one for some time if you believe the weather forecasts!) and so we thought we'd combine our ringing visit with a wander down to the Quay, one of the most pleasant spots in the county.

Things didn't quite go to plan however. Having being blocked by a huge flood between Butley and Chillesford, we were then blocked by another flood on the alternative route via Tunstall Common. Eventually, after about half an hour's driving around with other cars and lorries in the same boat (so to speak), we got to Orford via Butley Mill only to find there was no ringing!

Never mind, we still enjoyed a walk down to the Quay and a cuppa in the Riverside Teashop, so we at least achieved half of our objective!

No Ipswich game today as the focus was on the first qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup (it'll be here before you know it!), which saw England by all accounts perform dismally to only win 2-0 against Andorra, essentially a glorified pub team. Doesn't seem lessons have been learnt there then...

I didn't see the game though as Ruthie and I enjoyed a nice evening round her friend Moley's (I don;'t know either) house at the back of The Wilford Bridge pub. We watched 'Cloverfield', a disaster movie that had a rubbish storyline but good effects, so I enjoyed it!

One last thing I came across. If you are learner trying to learn methods, it's worth taking a quick peak at http://www.changeringing.co.uk/wiki/index.php/Method_Tips. It's not extensive and there are perhaps better sites I don't know about, but any tips should help. Remember, they're not there to confuse you but to help you.

Friday 5th September 2008

A combination of atrocious weather, no Mason and Ruthie feeling ill, we didn't do much this evening bar getting a Chinese in. Kate is also away this weekend, so we were dog-sitting Max the Labrador.

Having seen some photo's and heard partial reports, it seems the first day of the Ringing Roadshow went well, despite the rain!

Thursday 4th September 2008

Whilst Peter and Michael were coming in at 5am still, I had Mason and getting him up so early to take him to Mum and Dad's would've been both unfair and impractical, so work had very kindly allowed me to come in for my normal 9-5 shift today and tomorrow.

Although this meant I missed out on the afternoon off that I had enjoyed everyday so far this week, I felt a lot better and more with it, plus I still got to have lunch at Ruthie's!

Still no Grundisburgh practice of course (another 2 weeks to go) and though I toyed with the idea of popping out somewhere else, having to pick Mason up from Ipswich and then feeding him tea all in time to get to a distant practice only to leave early made this idea a non-starter.

It is my plan to get out to a few towers over the next few months, but with Mason and fuel prices, I hope you'll forgive me if I don't make it out and about as often as I should.

The next two days are of course the Ringing Roadshow and I hope lots of you are taking up this fantastic opportunity to explore the huge potential and long reach that our fabulous hobby has. Sadly, a combination of work, finances and the cancellation of the South-East District's trip there mean Ruthie and I can't make it, though I rather wish we could.

Enjoy and let us know how it goes!

Wednesday 3rd September 2008

My last early for the time being and all of us were feeling it. Tiredness took a grip and yet by this afternoon I felt a little more awake and by the evening when we got a quarter of Carlisle Surprise Minor (Cambridge below, Carlisle above) at Pettistree before the practice I was pretty alert.

Which was lucky as I was picking Mason up between the quarter and practice, enough to tire anyone out, especially someone who had been up since 3.30am!

Having contributed to a decent practice that peaked at spliced Doubles and Minor before I took Mason home, with the little chap left with much more energy than daddy, who it is fair to say was exhausted by the end of the day!

Tuesday 2nd September 2008

As I left Hollesley at 4.30am on another early shift, it felt almost winter-like. Cold, wet, windy and most depressing of all dark. I still enjoyed the 12.30 finish that allowed Ruthie and me to pop into town - to be greeted by a lady whose brakes were so high-pitched that I'm sure I could hear dogs howling - and Tesco's, before enjoying our usual Tuesday night in, although it was little shorter due to my next early start tomorrow.

Monday 1st September 2008

Tragic news from Mildenhall, where details came out of a terrible accident in the tower there that ultimately led to the death of 80-year old Jack Sturgeon. Although the exact cause of the incident is not confirmed yet and it is important to note this wasn't a death involving bellringing but rather a bellringer, this shouldn't detract from the fact that the Mildenhall ringers and church have lost a dedicated and much loved servant. Condolences to Beryl and his family and of course to the ringers who were at the horrifying event.

I had an extremely early start this morning, as I should be for the following two days too. We are starting a campaign that involves phoning schools and companies across the world and as good as emails are, when it comes to countries at the other end of the time zone it is a slow process.

As a result, us in sales were in at 5am to call Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, etc and in the respect we managed to make contact with a lot we wouldn't normally it was a success. It was very strange, especially when two new temps arrived to start half-way through our day, but the 12.30 finish made up for it!

St Mary-le-Tower was disappointing by the standards I am now expecting. We have come a long way and it is of course still the tail-end of holidays, but nothing seemed to go tonight. We practiced lots of Cambridge Max,  but we were missing that extra bit of experience to help those finding their way through the mist of Surprise Max!

Sunday 31st August 2008

Grandsire and Stedman Cinques and a well-rung half-course of Yorkshire Royal were the order of the day at St Mary-le-Tower this morning as a healthy turnout, helped by a visit from Doug Nichols, tower captain at Hobart Cathedral and Alan McBurnie who had a slightly shorter journey but for whom I was just as grateful to see.

With no service at Grundisburgh there was no ringing. Instead it was the benefice service at Burgh. On a lovely morning like this, ringing here can be a sweet and sour experience. The bells can be hard work and in this heat even more so, but being a porch ring we can enjoy the sunshine outside just yards from the toiling band in the compact belfry. The ringing here was a mixed bag but was finished off with a brilliantly struck touch of Stedman Doubles as Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose in-laws the Gurdons ring at Burgh,  took his seat in church.

Ruthie, Kate and I enjoyed a barbecue at theirs and whilst she headed off with Alan to Beccles for a quarter, we stayed in and I had an early night with a very early start in the morning.

Saturday 30th August 2008

A day of weddings after dropping Mason off.

Laura Stoppard will be fairly well known to ringers round the Woodbridge area as a likeable, enthusiastic and good ringer, although her studies to become a doctor and the placements to far off places has meant we haven't had the full benefit of her abilities for the last year or two. However, her wedding at Woodbridge below the grand ring of 8 was a welcome opportunity to see her. She looked radiant on her big day and a number of us were delighted to ring for the occasion on such a gorgeous day. A nice reminder of one of the finest views off a tenor box too as I rang the great bell whilst surveying a bright but hazy River Deben.

The service itself went well, despite the photographer mistaking the door to the belfry steps for the door to the balcony, meaning yours truly had to race up all those stairs to bring her back before any damage was caused!

Whilst Laura, her family and close friends had an afternoon meal at The Abbey School right next door to the church, Ruthie and I headed to Grundisburgh to ring for another wedding. Despite the restriction to 5 bells, we produced some good ringing. However, it didn't seem entirely appreciated as the bride and groom dashed out of the church and into the waiting car in just 2 or 3 minutes in the fastest getaway I've ever witnessed!

It was then back to Laura's wedding celebrations as Ruthie and I joined her and her new husband James at The Abbey School. We followed the example of others by wandering the substantial and beautiful grounds before being introduced to Lucy and Alex, a lovely ringing couple from Oxford with whom we shared a number of acquaintances in another one of those 'small-world' scenarios.

It was a great night of barn dancing, beer, good company, cheese and biscuits and a fitting finale to the day for the new Mr and Mrs Lindley!

Having seen Ipswich Town go 1-0 up on their televised match at Watford, I had hoped to return to news that they had scored another 3 points, but alas they had buggered it up again, coming out 2-1 losers despite several chances to have wrapped it up by half-time. Still, you can't have everything...

Friday 29th August 2008

It was our Karen our receptionists last day at John Catt today, so she took us to a familiar haunt of mine, The Mariners.

Having picked Ruthie up from home, we carried on to Ipswich to pick Mason up from Mum and Dad's who in turn were heading almost immediately to Gordon Slack's mini-ring in Claydon for a quarter.

We meanwhile continued on into the town centre and more specifically the railway station for Ruthie to apply for and receive her railway pass in anticipation for her nearing regular commutes to Colchester. As if to ram home the imminence of this, it was her last contracted day at Boots today, although she shall carry on helping if and when she can.

Hollesley practice went well as usual, with Cambridge Major being rung.

Next Friday you shouldn't be short of something to do. If you aren't coming back from the first day of The Ringing Roadshow in Stoneleigh then George Pipe is giving a talk on Suffolk Churches - Saxon to Victorian  at Bardwell. Those who know George know it will be good, those who don't, it is well worth seeing it for yourself!

Thursday 28th August 2008

A second visit from Sanj - two months on - to motivate us and like last time he was very useful.

Mum and Dad very kindly held onto Mason a little longer as Ruthie and I went to Ufford to try the Half-Lead 8-Spliced Surprise Major. It was some of our best ringing as a band which left us very satisfied despite losing it due to an unfortunate and rare miss-call.

Ruthie and I then raced off to Ipswich to pick Mason up, thus allowing his grandparents to attend St Margaret's practice in the town.

Wednesday 27th August 2008

Another day of settling in at our new offices and I took advantage of their close proximity to Woodbridge town centre to see Ruthie during her last contracted week at Boots.

Mason and I listened outside as Julie Troupe rang her first quarter of treble bob, at Pettistree - well done Julie! She was part of an Aldeburgh quartet visiting tonight, although two of them - Peter and Susanne - have literally moved into Woodbridge this last weekend, so we may see a bit more of them.

The li'l chap and I returned home to watch the comeback of Champions League football on the TV. It feels like it's never been away...

Tuesday 26th August 2008

Another significant day today for different reasons. It was our first day in our new offices in Woodbridge. Everything had been moved in and pretty much set up, but there was still a little more sorting out to do. My computer was missing a lead. Another's box of stuff had gone missing. 'Where are the plants?' another anxiously cried out. All in all a smooth settling in, despite one of the steps already being broken and Derek breaking the lock off the toilet door. And we were given chocolate cake and champagne as part of a welcome meeting. Despite the neighbouring builders, busily constructing mirror offices next door and the noisy sound of trains running past right by our window, it is essentially a lot better than our ramshackle offices in Great Glemham.

Fresh from her wet holiday in Warwickshire, Fergie was back and ready to meet us at The Cherry Tree pub in Woodbridge. A pleasant evening was had by all before we retreated home listening to Ipswich actually winning at home, ableit in the cup against Colchester.

Monday 25th August 2008

Winchester Peal BandA little bit of history was made today. After 85 years, the Suffolk Guild has a fourteen-bell peal to it’s name. This landmark event was achieved at Winchester Cathedral in 3 hours and 42 minutes in Yorkshire Surprise Fourteen and was scored by a motley bunch from Hollesley, Felixstowe, Debenham, Bardwell, Hong Kong and other outposts of Suffolk ringing. Yes, we had some outside help, but with nowhere to practice our ringing on fourteen that was necessary and practical. The core of the band was from Suffolk either now or originally and today’s achievement is something the Guild can be proud of. Well done to all the firsts, particularly Tom and Louis for whom this is hopefully the first of many.

Having arrived at George and Di’s at 6.30am to be picked up by Stephen, who was taking myself George and Tom down to Hampshire and not arriving back until 7.30 in the evening, it was a long day, but well worth it. I was disappointed we couldn’t make a better job of it in places, but everybody worked hard to produce a worthy effort and I have to admit to feeling slightly elated that after months of planning, our goal was achieved.

It also slightly changed my perception of the place, as although I love the city, the cathedral and bells and like the ringers, it has been associated with failures on a personal level. It was the location of the only 12-bell final I wasn’t a winner at and I lost a previous peal attempt here some years ago.

We went for a pint in The Wykeham Arms where we were met by George’s niece and partner and had a group photo before heading back to Suffolk, satisfied but tired.

Sunday 24th August 2008

With Danny and Kara going to Spexhall where he was playing cricket, I had the li’l chap again today. He sat happily up St Mary-le-Tower as the visit of Roger Bailey and Hedley and Hazel (who you may recall visited regularly from Canterbury a couple of months back) allowed us to ring the 12, including Grandsire Cinques.

With four bells out at Grundisburgh, ringing was limited to the front 5 there this morning, the highlight being New Bob, possibly my favourite Doubles method!

Ruthie was working today, so Mason and I met her for lunch at Costa before the boy and I headed off to Nick and Kala’s in Wickham Market for a barbecue. It was the beginning of a logistically tricky afternoon and evening. Having spent a while in Wickham, we left to go and pick Ruthie up from work and then on to Ufford where I was calling a quarter attempt of 4 Half-Lead Spliced Surprise Major, whilst Mum and Dad very kindly came up from Ipswich to look after Mason and enjoy the beer festival at The Crown.

Unfortunately the quarter came to grief, the third attempt being the longest and best, but as usual it was good practice, especially for Geoffrey and Peter.

From here, the day took an uncertain turn. We returned to Nick and Kara’s, this time with Ruthie and where we were greeted by Toby who had arrived in our absence. However, Kara was supposed to be returning at 7ish and so when we were still at Kara’s with Mason at 8.30, with no messages explaining the absence and having tried to ring her and Danny a few times, we headed back to Woodbridge to try and track them down. There was nobody at their house, but her father, who lives a few doors down was in. However, he was in the dark to her whereabouts as well.

With time getting on and a very early start in the morning, I was about to head to Mum and Dad’s for the night so as not to have to wake him at 5.30am. Just then though, I received a call from Kara. They were back, much later than they had envisioned and having left her phone at home had no way of getting in touch.

Drama over, I dropped the li’l man off well past his bedtime but still chirpy and headed for Ruthie’s in anticipation of that early start.

Saturday, 23rd, August, 2008

Two bits of good news well worthy of mention.

Most notably of all, well done to Robert Beavis on ringing his first peal, rung at Ashbocking last night. As someone who rang his first peal at Ashbocking, I can relate to how Robert was and is feeling, although I didn’t have to cope with a lighting issue that threatened to scupper this effort.

Also, the news that Baroness Alison Fowke has donated £25,000 to Dennington for the work they’re doing there is great news and was reported in the East Anglian Daily Times.

Sadly, Ipswich Town couldn’t continue the good news trend by doubling the number of home games they lost last season, losing at Portman Road to Wolverhampton Wanderers, their second home loss already this season.

Friday 22nd August 2008

Another early start, but this time for a rather sombre occasion for we were heading to Leicestershire for Uncle Martin's funeral. It was held at Misterton in the far west of the county and lodged in the corner of the M6 and M1.

There is no band at this delightful 6, so not only was the ground-floor belfry a little full of junk, but Mum had needed to get a couple of 'local' ringers to complement the Munnings 4 that incorporated myself, Mum and Dad and Chris.

In the end it transpired to be Roland Cook and his wife Sylvia who came to ring. I have rung a couple of peals with Roland and he is a Rambling Ringer from before our time, so there was plenty to chat about.

The service went as well as these things can do and whilst Uncle Martin was buried in the churchyard, we rang some more, something that was much appreciated by Aunty Carol (Mum's sister) and cousin Emma.

The wake was held in a pub in a nearby village, before ourselves, Aunty Janet, Uncle Mick, Emma and her boyfriend Mark were invited back to Aunty Carols farm and riding school where Mason was able to enjoy horses, chickens, cats and dogs. With the earlier crowds, let's just say he was in his element!

We were back in time for Hollesley practice, although Aunty Ruthie spent the evening at mine. She wasn't feeling overly well after last night!

Thursday 21st August 2008

A bit of hard labour on my week off this morning as I joined Chris, Mary, Kate and Stephen at Grundisburgh to load headstocks, clappers, sliders and wheels into a van for Mr P to take to Taylors following the removal of the tenor.. Dad came along too, allowing Mason to wander the village under supervision.

Having shifted the 10th off the trapdoor, we were able to open it and lower various heavy equipment safely before heading off after the 8.30 start.

Once I'd met Ruthie after her haircut, the three of us headed to Ipswich to see our mate Becky at hers - after an operation earlier in the week - and then Mum and Dad's where we also met Aunty Marion and Uncle Eric.

With no practice at what was once the lightest ring of 12 in a church tower, we were - with Kate - able to meet Aaron at The Mariners. He's only back from the Navy for a bit, so the drinks in the back garden of this pleasant pub, the top of Woodbridge tower in sight, was a great opportunity to meet up with a much missed friend.

Mason and I had to leave early of course and with an early start tomorrow morning, it was to Mum and Dad's to stop the night.

Wednesday 20th August 2008

Picked Mason up at the end of a very quiet day prior to going to Pettistree practice for the first time for three weeks. A decent evening saw London and Cambridge rung following on from a successful quarter of St Clements.

Tuesday 19th August 2008

Due to Kara's cousin Krystal coming out of hospital, Aunty Roz who would normally look after Mason on a Tuesday had her hands otherwise full, so Ruthie and I gladly looked after the li'l man today.

The highlight was a trip down town on an otherwise quiet day where we bumped into said Aunty Roz racing around and my bank chum Karl, on his last day at HSBC before embarking on a career as a plasterer. With Ele having also left the bank recently, there's now none of the old crew left there!

Having dropped Mason back at Kara's, Ruthie and I enjoyed our usual night in with a cheese and wine evening. Delicious!

Monday 18th August 2008

With my enforced week off beginning and Ruthie at work, I organised a couple of peals to occupy myself, one of the benefits of ringing and peal ringing in particular.

The first one was at Tunstall, a place very dear to my heart after my time living there. I parked up in 'my' space in the lay-by opposite the pink cottage I once had abode in and being early wandered around. The cottage has been done up a lot from my time, at least judging by the outside. The once rotting windows are plastic and double-glazed and they've even added a porchway/conservatory on the back where you enter the quaint home.

The peal itself produced some really good ringing, a real vindication of my preference for peal ringing over other mediums. We were also able to dedicate it to Maggie Dunmore, a former ringer and resident of the village and we enjoyed her two sons tales of her, which they imparted before we began. She was quite a character!

Myself, Tom and Mary D went to The Green Man for a drink afterwards, really evoking memories. At times I spent more time there than at home and had some very enjoyable times there! Indeed, even two years on, I still bumped into many old friends.

Marlesford in the afternoon was a lot tougher. Mary gallantly called her first peal for the Guild, but it was extremely hard work. The tenor is 9cwt going on 20! Still, it's nice to be able to peal these bells and it was worth it in the end as we scored our second peal of the day

St Mary-le-Tower in the evening was hard work after the days exploits and being August we were on the bare bones. The striking wasn't great tonight but in the hot weather and a lot of Maximus 'learners' thrown in together we managed half a course of Cambridge Max, which was important as there being a bank holiday Monday next week it was our last practice for two weeks.

Sunday 17th August 2008

A decent turnout this morning at St Mary-le-Tower, despite getting my legs out in an optimistic attempt to raise some sunshine out of the torrential rain. Some decent Grandsire Caters was followed by a relatively well-struck three leads of Bristol Major on the back 8.

There was a benefice service at Pettistree which meant service ringing was from 10.30-11 and in turn left Grundisburgh very short - down to 4 in fact, although much time was taken up replacing the 11th rope.

Friday night was to have been Stephen's 100th peal on the tenor, but with the unexpected loss and the tenor coming out either tomorrow or Tuesday to be replaced by a new, heavier bell, this afternoon represented his last opportunity to reach what would be an impressive landmark. Sadly, with the unexpected necessity and short notice of this peal attempt, Stephen couldn't raise the numbers and so this morning represented the last time this ancient bell would be rung full circle, although it will continue to be used as the clock bell. The 7th will also be rehung, meaning that ringing will only continue on the front 5 on Sundays with no Thursday practices until the planned first practice back on 18th, September.

As is usual, there was an Alan McBurnie production on this evening. This time it was another attempt of the Half-Lead 8-Spliced Surprise Major at Hollesley. Unfortunately it came to grief, predictably in the London, although it followed some decent ringing. We had a bit more invaluable practice before calling it a night.

Saturday 16th August 2008

Two great results today that made up for previous disappointments.

We scored the 100th anniversary peal of Cambridge Max at St Mary-le-Tower, which went some way to overcoming the frustration of last night's loss at Grundisburgh.

It was kind of humbling ringing the original composition hearing the same music as that pioneering band of ringers rang 100 years ago, but at 5280 changes (they didn't allow singles, big bobs and tones in those days!) it was a long 'un (3 hours, 48 minutes) on a hot day. I think we did the old band justice however and the significance of the anniversary has been highlighted by the huge numbers of peals of Cambridge Max recorded on Campanophile over the last week. George had organised the peals at Great Yarmouth last Saturday, Mancroft on Tuesday and Grundisburgh last night, whilst peals were also scored at Cripplegate, Shoreditch and Aston yesterday and more at Aston (again), St Philip's Cathedral in Birmingham, St Mary-le-Bow and St Martin-in-the-Fields today and on handbells in Maidenhead on Wednesday. A band also rang a peal of Cambridge Major at Leigh in Lancashire to commemorate the event. I'm sure there's others I don't know about too, making this piece of our history something we should be proud of here in Suffolk.

We should also be proud of our biggest football team too after they battered Burnley 3-0 away (how long did we have to wait for an away win last season?!), which more than made up for last weeks bad start!

Friday 15th August 2008

15th August 2008 - a very significant date for two reasons close to my heart.

Firstly, today was the last working day in Great Glemham of John Catt Educational Limited after some 30 years in the old school there. Today we spent the vast majority of working hours packing the last remnants of the companies long period in this building packed full of history.

On Monday, with all of us having the week off, the stuff we've selected to take with us will be moved to the new offices in Woodbridge. Whilst these new offices are fantastic and the old building is slightly dilapidated as a workplace, there was still a tinge of sadness for even myself at leaving here. I've only been there for 3 months, people like Michael have been there for over 10 years, so it's hard to imagine how he feels.

Today is also exactly 100 years since the very first peal of Cambridge Maximus anywhere. Where was this historic and grand achievement hosted? St Paul's Cathedral? York Minster? Birmingham? No, our very own St Mary-le-Tower. We should be very proud of this history and with also the first peals of Yorkshire Max, Superlative Max and Pudsey Max having been rung in Ipswich, we should be doing all we can to not only continue this history of 12-bell peal ringing in Suffolk, but progress it further. Come on folks!

As part of the celebrations for this landmark date, a peal was arranged of Cambridge Max at Grundisburgh this evening and was going along nicely - despite a false start - until 2 hours in when the 11th rope broke (George was pulling too hard!), despite extensive checking by Mr P in the lead-up to the attempt. It's very sad as of course we can't repeat this opportunity, but we still have the big one at SMLT in the morning.

On the plus side, it was good to see James Smith, back from Hong Kong for a couple of weeks and Annie Brechin, up from London for a considerably shorter period.

After this early finish, it was back home where Ruthie was looking after a typically cheerful Mason.

Thursday 14th August 2008

The move really picked up pace today, as we donned casual clothes and mucked in with packing boxes and dumping unwanted rubbish, even including computers, leaving the bare bones for tomorrow. We were treated in The Crown at lunchtime for our efforts.

Having had tea and picked up Ruthie from home on the way, we headed towards Kersey via Mum and Dad's to grab Mason.

Our reason for going to Kersey? Well apart from taking the opportunity to join the practice, the primary reason was to partake in a feature for Escape to the Country, a well-known BBC programme that shows couples who want to escape from cities to the countryside various houses in the area of their choice. This couple had been looking at places in Diss and Palgrave, but had chosen Kersey to come to do the feature that essentially involved them and the presenter Tim Vincent having a go at backstrokes on their own and in rounds on 8.

I was interviewed and having got used to this filming lark for the Inside Out programme earlier in the year, I was prepared for the repetitive but fun nature of filming such a show.

I had expected Tim, a former Blue Peter presenter, actor in Dangerfield and now a regular presenter on US TV, to be a bit aloof. However, he proved to be a lovely chap, taking the time to chat to people and a genuine interest in bellringing. Top bloke and even spared some time to have his picture taken with Mason.

It was a later night than usual for the li'l chap, but hopefully one day he'll appreciate it when he sees the pictures!

Thank you to everyone who helped out, to Neville and his ringers who allowed their practice to be disrupted and to Mary Garner and then Philip Gorrod who set the BBC in the right direction.

They seemed very pleased with it and the programme should be shown in the autumn - watch this space!

Wednesday 13th August 2008

With the move to new offices taking place next week, there have been odd bits and pieces disappearing here and there and a skip just outside our window has been gradually filling up. Today however, things moved up a gear as we were all roped in to make a concerted effort to clear out decades of junk. Even when doing my contracted job I had to strike a balance between not staying still too long for fear of having a sticker slapped on me and not moving too far from my seat in case it got taken away.

Tonight was due to be another attempt of the 41-spliced Surprise Minor at The Wolery as a way of cementing our success two months ago. However, Ruthie fell very ill today at work and made the wise decision not to risk infecting others in the compact shed at the bottom of the Salter's garden nor fall short in the actual peal through illness.

Mary Allum very kindly stepped in at short notice and quite a reasonable peal of 7 Surprise Minor methods was scored before I returned to the patient.

Tuesday 12th August 2008

Terrible rain from about 6.30 this morning meant the country lanes I had to go via to get to work were practically rivers, making for a slow and hairy journey!

Five of us went up in Kate's new monster truck as Ruthie and I returned to New Buckenham just over a week after going there on Ramblers. We rang a very respectable quarter of Half-Lead spliced in 4 methods before helping out at the local practice night.

However, this could be the last one there for a bit as there was an apparently heated meeting that took place in the porch-way between some of the NDA ringers that seem to want to discourage Paul Norris from organising these quarters before the practice. I certainly don't wish to get involved in issues involving a tower I don't ring at regularly, least of all one outside of the Suffolk Guild's control, it is worth noting that the practice tonight would've been short of 7 Surprise Major ringers from Suffolk if Paul hadn't organised tonight's quarter for beforehand.

Received some sad news this evening as Mum informed Uncle Martin, the husband of Aunty Carol, Mum's sister died today. They live over in Leicestershire and what with running a very busy stables, I personally haven't seen either of them for a few years, but it's still very sad.

Monday 11th August 2008

Mason is a star in the making and is trying to get as famous as he could. He is in a national competition that if he wins could be the lucky recipient of many goodies. If you want to vote for him, go to http://www.rockabuybabytv.com/baby-vote.aspx?id=183.

Being holiday time, St Mary-le-Tower is - like most places in August - just about keeping afloat on the bare bones. Although people like Owen, Mum and Dad have returned from holidays, others like Brian Redgers and Simon Griffiths were away tonight. Still, we manged Cambridge Maximus as usual, but it took two attempts tonight.

Sunday 10th August 2008

A return to healthy numbers at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. Eleven came up, allowing us to reach the dizzying heights of Grandsire Caters and Yorkshire Royal, good for a Sunday morning in August.

Grundisburgh was well attended too, with Grandsire and Stedman Triples the order of the day.

A quiet afternoon and evening saw nothing much happen other than seeing Clare and Kev off as they set upon the long journey back to Scotland.

Saturday 9th August 2008

Went for an interview for a part-time job at The Captain's Table, a restaurant in Woodbridge. Things aren't great for restaurants and pubs at the moment, with dining and going out one of the first things to be sacrificed by most in the credit crunch, so Pascal who runs it says he'll probably only be able to offer Saturday nights. That'll still help though as the cost of living goes on sailing up ridiculously whilst wages stubbornly hold the same.

I was very excited about the start of the football season, with Ipswich signing lots of new players of quite high calibre as the millions now made available by Marcus Evans started to show their effect. However, as we lost 2-1 at home to Preston (not considered one of the divisions high-fliers) it seems there's plenty of the 'old' Ipswich hanging around. Still, it's early days, another 9 months and 45 games to go!

With Clare and Kev still in town, they took Ruthie and me down to the cinema in Ipswich to watch The Mummy. It was alright, but not something I would rush to suggest to others.

Friday 8th August 2008

08/08/08. A significant date in it's own right but also the start of the Summer Olympics in Beijing and the eve of the Championship football season and all the ups and downs that go with it.

I didn't catch the opening ceremony of the games and with a desire to enjoy one stress-free evening before Ipswich frustrate all Tractor Boy fans, Ruthie, Mason and I went to Hollesley after Mum and Dad dropped him off on the way back from the last full day of the Ramblers tour.

Despite Alan & Mickie and Ken and Helen being away this evening, a good attendance and a welcome appearance from Richard Wilson fresh from his trip to the West Midlands meant we could ring Plain Bob Major, an extremely useful exercise for Anne, Fred and Nigel.

Thursday 7th August 2008

Sad news about Sir Bobby Robson who has admitted his latest battle with cancer has beaten him. As an Ipswich fan he is of course an absolute legend and the fact that he is so respected by even Norwich fans shows the measure of the man.

A change from the norm tonight - in keeping with this week really - as we went to Campsea Ashe for a Summer Drinks and Canapes evening in the Old Rectory next to the church. As Elaine, Glenys, Ray and Tim rang a quarter of multi-Minimus, Ruthie, Mason and I mingled with ringers, villagers and sponsors alike in the lovely gardens on a very pleasant evening that just about escaped this evenings thunderstorms. Despite the valiant efforts of the quarter-pealers, the performance highlighted just why the work that is being done needs to be done. They're not a pretty sound! Please support them if you can, as I hope people will with all the worthwhile projects ongoing around the county.

Wednesday 6th August 2008

Bad news from Halesworth. Two of the cannons have sheared off the treble there. They can still ring the back 6 and understand that's what they intend to do for the time being, but it's a big blow to 8-bell ringing in that area. It's also a blow for the Rambling Ringers, who were intending to go there on Friday, the penultimate day of their mammoth tour of this part of the world. However, Friday is the only day Halesworth can get someone in to look at it all.

Better news at Pettistree though, where we scored the quarter of 12-spliced Surprise Minor and with some very good striking it has to be said.

Ruthie and I then left for the evening. Although we normally like to and usually do support the practice, tonight was a special occasion as we were meeting Fergie, Ruthie's best mate who was up from Brighton. Being on a nursing course, Fergie finds herself on placements whilst most students have come home for the holidays, so she has only just got back and then goes on holiday on Saturday. With Riley's last night and Campsea Ashe tomorrow night (plus having Mason tomorrow and Friday), tonight was the only night we could really meet up.

Lots of catching up was done in The Cherry Tree in Woodbridge, before I headed back in the most spectacular thunderstorm I've ever seen. It lit up the open skies back to Hollesley magnificently and turned my bedroom into some kind of disco!

Tuesday 5th August 2008

Got sent a fascinating link from Jeremy Spiller last. Go to the link and watch some mesmerising ringing featuring Cherril, Andrew Tibbetts and Jeremy ringing, presumably during one of the many handbell peals they rang in Bacton last week. Whilst you're there on YouTube, check out Maggie Ross ringing Norwich Minor on the back 6 (with 5 others of course!), ably watched by our Guild Chairman in a former life and the brilliantly struck 8-Spliced at Dordrecht. Isn't the internet great!

Monday 4th August 2008

It was a shame to see a peal lost at Reydon yesterday. Not only would it have been a first peal for Tom Britten and Philip Moyes, but an 80th birthday compliment to the driving force behind this charming 6, Helen Price. Happy Birthday anyway Helen.

St Mary-le-Tower was much better attended tonight, which was good for Kathryn and Alan, visitors from south Essex who had come up on their boat! We rang Cambridge Max with the only 12 that could, meaning Peter Trent rang his first Cambridge Max unaided. Well done Peter!

Worth noting a couple of events this weekend that are well worth your support if you can make it. The North-East mini-outing to Debenham, Stonham Aspal and Earl Stonham on Saturday evening should be good fun and very accessible for most in the county, whilst trips to Gordon Slack's mini-ring at Claydon are always a joy (for me anyway) so the open day at The Folly on Sunday afternoon should be well worth a look-in!

Sunday 3rd August 2008

These days, when Mason wakes me up then I'm in trouble. He's developed my preference for laying in and when my mobile - which doubles up as my alarm clock - failed this morning he was the first to wake out of myself, him and Aunty Ruthie. With Hollesley bells within earshot, we hastily got ready, bundled the li'l chap into the car and headed into Ipswich as quickly and safely as possible.

Not that there were many waiting for us at St Mary-le-Tower as we only slightly improved on last weeks numbers with Cambridge Minor proving the pinnacle.

Grundisburgh however, was much better and we rang Stedman Caters.

We were met by Clare and Kev, who had travelled down from Scotland yesterday morning and we joined them for breakfast at the cafe in the caravan by the river-front in Woodbridge, where I was glad to hear of a 100% success rate in the South-East District quarter-peals yesterday. This is a great initiative at a time of year when people go on holiday and thus it's difficult to get a good attendance at a traditional practice, so Kate should be congratulated on the results of the efforts at Ashbocking, Henley and Otley. Also, well done to Philip Mutton and Sam Shannon on ringing their first quarters in these attempts.

The afternoon was put aside to more Rambling Ringers. We were a bit closer today ringing at Covehithe and Wrentham in a far corner of Suffolk I rarely get to.

It's sobering to think that apparently Covehithe church has about 40 years before it succumbs to the sea. Beforehand the three of us went down to the ominously close cliffs, where we bumped into Geoff and Helen Wells, Ramblers from Nottinghamshire.

Covehithe is also the closest ring of bells to the Dutch ring in Dordrecht according to Paul De Kok. Everyday's a school day!

We left Mason with Mum and Dad at Wrentham as we headed back for a quarter at Grundisburgh. This was to be Peter Harper's first of half-lead spliced, but sadly this 4 method attempt came to grief.

Whilst others headed for a curry, I picked the boy up from Ipswich and headed home, ever so slightly exhausted!

Saturday 2nd August 2008

With Mason in tow, it was time to rejoin the Ramblers tour. The weather was the worst it has been, but as is normal with the Ramblers, the numbers and quality were high. Today they were just north-west of Diss, starting at Banham. Tea and cake was served to us here as the li'l chap was in his element attracting the attention of the crowded church and enjoying the huge multiples of toys available, from giant connect-four to model animals.

Sadly, south Norfolk doesn't seem to have got the hang of signposts and this was very much in evidence as we tried to find Kenninghall, the next tower and next village and yet no mention of it on the signposts in Banham bar a sign that points the wrong way.

Still we found this 8 eventually, where we rang the 8th place versions of the standard 8 (although of course Bristol remained unaltered).

On the middle Saturday of each tour, a meeting is held just before lunch. Most years the sunshine allows us to have this outside, but the damp grass from the earlier rain meant we had to hold it inside the church at Kenninghall. It's not a major meeting, just thanks for those have made the tour possible - not least my mother for arranging all the towers - announcements and voting on the destination of next years tour. Even with a choice of 6 destinations and a 3-way tie, the meeting only took just over 10 minutes, the way ringing meetings should be run! Somerset and particularly the area around Minehead was chosen for the 2009 holiday.

After a packed lunch outside Garboldisham church, it was time to ring on this rough 6. If you ever go here, be prepared to exhaust yourself climbing the stairs, rest and then exhaust yourself ringing them!

Quidenham, with a stove in the belfry of this round tower has a long-draft 8 where Chris Woodcock, young whipper-snapper that he is suggested that we could ring 15-spliced Surprise Major by merely splicing the the standard 8 surprise Major methods with their 8th place versions at the half-lead! It was duly rung of course!

New Buckenham was our last tower of the day. This is a superb augmentation job from 2005, when this ground-floor 6 (apparently quite rough) was moved to a balcony and turned into a fantastic 8.

It was then back to Hollesley to rest our weary arms and legs after a lot of ringing and a lot of chasing after Mason!

Friday 1st August 2008

Picked the li'l chap up for what will hopefully be a weekend of fun!

It started at Hollesley, where Kate was showing off her new car, we had a new learner called Nicki and we had a visit from young Tom Britten of Reydon. We also enjoyed teasing Alan for his toilet incident last Saturday!

Of course, Mason and I had to leave early, but thanks to Tom, we were able to ring Yorkshire Major.

Well done to the handbell ringers at Bacton for their efforts this week, peaking at 200 methods. This should be something to aspire to rather than just be dismissed as too hard to do, myself included!

Thursday 31st July 200

Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles joined the Prime Minister and his family in the Southwold area as the upper end of the British establishment continue their invasion of our coast.

Ruthie and I meanwhile set our sights slightly lower and spent the evening in Grundisburgh, Not that we felt any the worse for it as a good crowd ensured we rang Yorkshire and Cambridge Royal, 8-spliced Surprise Major and Little Bob Max.

With not picking Mason up until tomorrow, we were able to stay until the end too, an unusual treat!

Wednesday 30th July 2008

Had a look at a flat to rent in Woodbridge after work. Far from a firm commitment to anything, but although a little more expensive than my current abode it could potentially save me in the region of 400 miles a month and could see me walking to work when John Catt shifts to Woodbridge. Still, there's a lot to take into consideration before I make any firm decisions.

After our successful attempt at the 41-Surprise Minor at The Wolery last month, we were back for more this month as we went for - and scored a peal of 'only' 18 methods all the work. It seemed a lot more relaxed but certainly just as focused as previously and a reasonable peal was scored in the end, despite the heat.

Tuesday 29th July 2008

Great to see the flurry of handbell activity coming out of Bacton this week. Jeremy says they're aiming for three a day, but they had suffered at least one loss when I spoke to him. Hopefully this will encourage others within the county on handbells, an extremely difficult skill that I have to admit I have never grasped!

Monday 28th July 2008

It's that time of year again! Summer holidays have hit and at St Mary-le-Tower they've hit with a vengence! After yesterday's hugely disappointing turnout, we were low on numbers at tonight's practice. On top of those missing on Sunday, we were missing the Brays, Nigel and David Stanford, all of whom would've come up. Only 9 made it tonight and whilst we were able to ring a useful bit of London Major for Peter and three leads of Bristol Major on the back 8, before calling it a day at 8.30. It was hot and sticky and frankly not much use as a 12-bell practice, so there didn't seem much point in hanging around. On the plus side, at least most of those who are away at the moment should be back in the next couple of weeks!

Sunday 27th July 2008

Thank you to Peter Davies, David Potts, Don Price and Brian Redgers. They were the other four who made it to St Mary-le-Tower on a disappointing mornings ringing. I had expected to be short with Mum and Dad, the Pipe’s, Owen and Ralphy all away, but it was still a shame that whilst the five of us put in the miles, others were visibly absent when they may well have been able to help. I can’t force people to come – and I have no desire to do so – but it is very, very frustrating for people to travel from Reydon and Stowmarket to ring Plain Bob Minimus as we were when Brian had to leave early to prepare for service.

Grundisburgh was no better, with Don joining Ruthie, Stephen, Daphne and myself to ring the front, middle and back 5’s to various Doubles methods.

After a brief attack of Kate and Ruthie’s front garden, it was on to one of the highlights of the social calender for me. Brian and Peta’s annual barbecue at Kimberley Hall was something I missed greatly when I was in the Midlands, being as it is the epitome of the perfect Suffolk afternoon. The weather was roasting and as usual the food, beer and company was fantastic, accompanied by singing by Ted, Josie, Sylvia and Janet and a fine pair maraca’s in Doug’s hands. The sound of cricket being played in the neighbouring field on one side and handbells being rung on the other as we played bowls on the Whitings' expansive lawn is still as wonderful as it was when I first experienced it as a child. There was also badminton, albeit with some of the most comedic set of rackets you’re likely to come across and although we had to leave slightly earlier than intended due to Kate needing to pick up a body, we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.

Thank you for driving Ruthie!

Saturday 26th July 2008

As you probably all know, I like – and I suspect many of you too – taking a look at Campanophile fairly regularly to see what’s going on in Suffolk and beyond. Every now and again I spot performances that I hope can inspire our members. I have to admit that the lack of confidence and/or motivation throughout many of our members – especially when it comes to peals can be very frustrating. Many don’t realise how good they are and how useful they can be if only they would push themselves. I’m not talking about people handing over their lives to ringing – indeed I think it’s important to have a good social grounding outside of ringing too – but rather exhibiting some of the spirit that appears to have brought about the peal of Grandsire Caters at Edinburgh. Now I’m no expert on the Scottish ringing scene, but I imagine that it is extremely difficult in an area where towers are often hundreds of miles apart and the membership not quite as vast and varied as ours (I may be wrong) to raise a band for such an effort. I have to admit, I can’t imagine persuading people in Suffolk to ring their first blows in Grandsire Caters to a peal! The number of firsts in this peal perhaps ought to serve as an encouragement to all those who say "I can't".

I was able to check this all out prior to the opening afternoon of the Rambling Ringers tour. As a kid I used to really look forward to my week on Ramblers as it both represented the start of the school holidays and a rare opportunity to catch up with friends from across the country, many my age on this family orientated tour. Although only going today and for next weekend, I have still been eagerly awaiting my first Ramblers tour for three years, not least because it is Ruthie’s first experience of this great ringing adventure.

This year, as I've already mentioned in this blog, the tour is close to home, based in North Suffolk and South Norfolk , the first tower being Pakenham, so having had some lunch we headed over. I was greeted by many old friends. Some I have mentioned before, like Andrew Mills, the Dew’s, etc, but it was nice to catch up with the Pick’s and Nixon’s who I used to ring with at Cannock when I lived in Wolverhampton.

After this anti-clockwise 6, we went on to Bardwell. For those who don’t know, this tricky 6 fall in odd rope ‘circle’ of 1,5,6,2,3,4. To compound the difficulty of these bells some bright spark came up with the idea of doing call changes in Dutch. This was done for the benefit of the De Kok’s, our Dutch ringing family responsible for the ring of 8 recently installed in Dordrecht . With our very own Steve Young – who had opened up for us – calling them, the call changes predictably came to a premature end. Good fun though!

It was then on to Euston, if nothing else to dispel the idea that all our rings were either anti-clockwise or in a random order! We rang some good Westminster Minor in this sauna of a belfry, but it did make us appreciate the cool church even more!

The final tower of the day and the first 8 was Elveden, where we were welcomed by David Bimson. We rang Rutland Major with young Gemma Mills on the treble, a shining example to young ringers and indeed any learners. Her handling is superb and she has benefited from not only being taught by her dad, but also ringing at lots of different towers, not least on Ramblers. If only more would do this.

We left them to retire to their campsite near Diss whilst we headed back to Woodbridge to cool down after a sweltering days ringing!

Friday 25th July 2008

A beautifully sweltering day that I loved, but Mason didn't seem too happy with when I picked him up. He was tired too though, having been with Mum and Dad to Orford to meet the visiting Italian ringers again and then to Burgh for wedding ringing.

I dropped him off at Kara's before Ruthie and I went to Grundisburgh to ring for the Italians' concert. A good turnout of the great and good of Suffolk, including Brian Whiting, Alan Moult, Margaret Lambeth and David Ward - whom I haven't seen for ages. David is responsible for the ringing at Rattlesden, although ringing is sparse whilst fundraising is in progress. They have raised £25k of their £41k target which is great. Hopefully we will hear more from that part of the world in the near future.

We couldn't stay to the concert as we had promised ourselves to Hollesley. We made it late but still in time to celebrate Jess' birthday with cake and her family. Happy Birthday Jess!

Thursday 24th July 2008

There has been a group of young Italian ringers in the county this week being ably transported and entertained by Stephen Pettman. Yesterday, after their arrival, they were shown ringing at Lavenham and St Mary-le-Tower and tomorrow they are performing a concert at Grundisburgh church with ringing beforehand.

Today, Stephen took them down to London on the coach, so was absent from Grundisburgh practice. This left Mason and I in charge until leaving it in the hands of others. Normally this is a quiet week and with Mr P not there I wasn't expecting much. However, we peaked at Yorkshire Max before the boy and I left. It could do with a lot of improvement, but it's rarely easy to ring Surprise Maximus on this light 12 and the fluctuating nature of attendances here mean it's hard to practice it regularly enough for it to sink in.

Wednesday 23rd July 2008

Ringing can be frustrating sometimes. Five leads from the end of a quarter of 12-Spliced Surprise Minor before Pettistree practice, the ringing collapsed irretrievably. It was a shame as it had been going well, but these things happen.

Having gone to Woodbridge and returned with Mason, the practice continued the high quality ringing we had enjoyed in the quarter attempt. Francis Goodwill Delight Minor (Ipswich Surprise below and Oxford Treble Bob above) and a very well rung course of Carlisle Surprise were the highlights as was a visit from Ed Whitby.

Tuesday 2nd July 2008

Another success for Ruthie! She today received news she has passed her Grade 7 Flute. Although a failure wouldn't have made any difference to her going to Colchester Institute, the pass gets her right up to speed and ready to accept the challenges ahead. For the record, she got 127 out of 150, a merit and just 3 short of a distinction!

Monday 21st July 2008

Owen had the keys for St Mary-le-Tower this week, so we were able to make a prompter start than last Monday! A slight miscalculation, late comers and early leavers meant that whilst we had enough for Bristol Max at one point, I was unable to fit it in. Disappointing, especially as people had made the effort to learn it. Impressive however that we could contemplate Bristol Max on a July practice night, traditionally the start of a slow period. We did ring Cambridge Max and Stedman&Cinques twice and whilst the striking needs a lot of improving, the method mistakes have largely disappeared, so we have a platform on which to start working on striking.

I had an email from our esteemed chairman who has received communication from BBC Radio Suffolk. They would like some peals rung to raise the profile of St Edmund on the 20th November. Please take note of the time around then (not just the 20th) as it would be great to all get behind some positive PR after the controversy of the Aldeburgh story. Nothing solid is planned yet - we've only just been contacted - but it would be good to get all four districts involved.

Sunday 20th July 2008

"I'd like to ring Stedman Doubles."

The short numbers at St Mary-le-Tower this morning were a shame, but at least led to this shock request from my mother. She wants to learn the singles before she and Dad go to Canada later this year. Still, with them both away next Sunday, as well as Ralphy and the Pipes, any help available next week would be much appreciated!

There was an interesting reversal of the norm at Grundisburgh this morning as with Stephen ringing 1-2, we were able to ring Call Changes on 12 a couple of times. Jess, who only rang on 12 for the first time on Thursday seemed almost at home with the 12 this morning.

Following some lunch, Ruthie and I paid a visit to her nan in Melton, who is well and chatty, to the extent that we were a bit rushed to get away in the end! Not because we desperately wanted to get out of her company, but because we had a 3.30 date at Hollesley.
Despite our success in getting a quarter of half-lead 8-spliced Surprise Major, we felt no desire to quit the project. Instead we are now going for a new composition and got on quite well, but sadly it collapsed after a couple of attempts. As ever though, all good practice.

On a busy Sunday, this was followed by a brief but useful meeting between Alan, Philip Gorrod and myself to get Recruitment and Training up and running again, held in the very pleasant surroundings of the McBurnies' garden.

All this preceeded a well attended and extremely enjoyable strawberries and wine evening, held in aid of the Hollesley tower and bells appeal at the home of Sam Shannon, one of the local ringers. This appeal has made a strong start, but even more support would be appreciated, especially as there are various different and alternative ways of getting involved! Please contact either Alan McBurnie or Peter Harper to find out more.

Saturday 19th July 2008

Gotta get in early for parking spaces in Wickham Market these days after the short-sighted decision of the council to charge people to park in the once vibrant shopping village. Luckily, we were there very early, 8am to be precise for a 8.15 departure. Today was the Pettistree coach outing to north Essex.

We arrived in plenty of time for the first tower, Ashdon. Mike ran the ringing here, a caged belfry (not as bad as it sounds!) where we rang many things up to Yorkshire Major.

I was in charge at Helions Bumpstead, the following tower, a ground-floor ring where Superlative Major and Stedman Triples were the highlight.

The only 6 of the day, Steeple Bumpstead was also run by Mike and apart from one of his famous sideline touches of spliced Doubles and Minor, we were treated to the ultimate in ringing teamwork as Shirley called 'look to', Kate said 'go Cambridge', Ruthie announced 'that's all' and Mary set them up!

Our large group got a room to ourselves in the picturesque village of Finchingfield, although the rector was disappointed by the lack of lemon and lime cheesecake. It was then onto the parish church just yards away to ring on the quiet but delightful ground-floor 8, culminating in 8-spliced Surprise Major and Bristol, well run by Jonathan.

Ringing at Wethersfield was ably organised by Kate, although the support pillar in the centre of the belfry blocked out the view of at least one other rope for many, making the actual ringing tricky!

Toppesfield was a good example of Taylor's getting things right. The old 5 was augmented to 8 last year and despite the retention of the old frame have turned out brilliantly. Also worth noting that the sound-proofing is marvellous here, with the bells clearly audible outside, but not intrusive. They have recognised that - as I have pointed out before - there is no point in spending large sums of money on a new ring only for them to risk shut-down due to bells that weren't being rung before suddenly shouting out across the community. The right compromise in such circumstances.

The trip back was long, but after a hectic day gave us the opportunity of a bit of rest and we arrived back at about half 7. Well done Mary on your organisation and also to young Jess who rang 14 times and learnt a lot from ringing on different bells with different people and visibly improved over the day - those teaching learners take note.

Whilst Kate went out to a party, Ruthie and I put our feet up.

Friday 18th July 2008

Bit of a shock as at work as at 5pm just as we were preparing to leave, David our boss came round and shook our hand whilst informing us it was his last day. It's a shame to see him go as he's been very helpful in settling me in and was the one who conducted my interview.

With an early start for the Pettistree outing in the morning, Kara and I came to an arrangement to drop Mason off at hers in the early evening.

Whilst always sad to see him go as I enjoy my time with him, but it's easier and better for him than lots of racing about in the morning. It also allowed me to enjoy Hollesley practice through to the end. It was a good turnout and nice to see Mike Warren, a good ringer and nice bloke. Normally he'd be at Felixstowe practice on a Friday night, but apparently they're out of action for 3 or 4 weeks as work is going on up the tower.

Lundy proved expensive, so even though we didn't have the li'l man with us, Ruthie and I chose to sacrifice a pint and instead settle down to watch the first night of the Proms.

Thursday 17th July 2008

The noticeable site of discarded bin bags greeted us down Edwin Avenue as we went to meet Ruthie at hers. Probably the most visible indication of the council strikes. Glad our council tax isn't going to waste.

Due to an event in Christchurch Park, the ringers of St Margaret's in Ipswich were unable to ring this evening, unbeknown to them before they arrived. In a fantastic show of enthusiasm, some of them travelled up to Grundisburgh to an already bulging practice, including a visitor from Leicestershire. The total attendance was 22 and enabled us to ring Yorkshire Max before the boy and I left.

Wednesday 16th July 2008

Happy Birthday Ruthie! Yes, that’s right, it’s a big day for my long-suffering girlfriend and now’s probably a good time to thank her publicly for her help. Not just in with my Ringing Master’s duties, which are often time-consuming and involve a lot of travel, organising and stress that she has deal with, but also with Mason too.

I picked up the li’l man for the first time since returning from Lundy and after a week-and-a-half it was great to see him. Whilst I looked after him, Ruthie went to ring in a quarter of York and Durham Minor at Pettistree as her birthday treat – happy birthday also to Pippa. It had suffered a false start, leading to crowd congestion outside as ringers gathered for the practice night. Mason had a good run round though and there was much cake to be had to celebrate the birthdays, so we all forgave them!

As usual, Mason and I left early, just as Jonathan Stevens was arriving – nothing personal Jonathan! – so we got home ready to prepare a glass of wine for the birthday girl, which she duly enjoyed having stayed on until the end of practice.

Tuesday 15th July 2008

Interesting correspondence in the Ringing World recently that I have only just been able to catch up on today after my time away. I understand there is to be an official reply in the Ringing World from Philip, so there's no need for me to say anything else except I hope this sees the end of correspondence on the issue in our national journal.

Ruthie and I enjoyed our first Tuesday night in since Lundy, As much as getting away from it all on the island was fantastic, it was nice to watch some TV tonight!

Monday 14th July 2008

Back to work to find my computer wasn't working after it's long break. I knew how it felt, so strangely it was quite good that this dead-rubber of a morning was able to ease me back into things.

It was also time to get back to business at St Mary-le-Tower. Yesterday, Owen had been away, so I'd taken charge of the keys, safely depositing them in my car on this occasion. Ruthie very kindly took me to Ipswich. I rather stupidly left the keys in my car. Key incident number 4271 was about to unfold.

The churchwarden living in Church House was away, but I knew that George and Di had keys to the church, but by the time I was able to get hold of them on the phone, Di was already on her way without them. Ruthie and I jumped into the car and head to the Pipe's, getting lost in the process. Even having found it, the farce was not over, George, having searched through Di's drawers, couldn't find the keys and so we needed to contact anyone waiting patiently outside the church to get hold of Di so she could guide George to the keys. Eventually I got through to Tom Scase and George and Di were able to liaise and find the keys.

Of course, all of this led to a very late start (just past 8 to be precise) and ringing was fairly curtailed. We still managed Cambridge Max, Stedman and Grandsire Cinques, but apologies to all who had to hang around - it won't happen again!

Sunday 13th July 2008

Despite the late night - or rather early morning - the timeless nature of Lundy Island was immediately replaced by the need to be at St Mary-le-Tower by 9am for Sunday morning ringing. As much as I love the island and have enjoyed the great times and company I have experienced over the last week and a bit, it's kind of nice to be back and ringing somewhere different! I was pleased by the turnout too, which saw us able to ring Rounds and Call Changes on the 12. Still more to be done on this most important of mornings however as I'd love to see us regularly ringing changes on 12 at this tower steeped in rich 12-bell tradition.

I was grateful though for SMLT's attendance when I arrived at Grundisburgh however as I made up a band of 5. Ruthie's car not starting meant she couldn't make it and instead went to Ufford with Kate, but we still had fun ringing Stedman Doubles on the front 5, 8-spliced on the middle 5 and then Antelope on the back 5. Who needs those expensive brain games eh Don?

I met up with Kate and Ruthie for some breakfast at Tesco's before Ruthie and I headed north to Fressingfield. It was our third visit this year there after the tryout and dedication in February, but since those glorious bright days much as happened in relation to the poor sound outside. Jonathan Stevens has worked hard since then and in his newly acquired roles of Honorary Technical Adviser and Chairman of Belfry Advisory Committee had invited myself back to this pretty village to assess them again.

A healthy crowd of local ringers meant we were able to do everything Jonathan wanted, culminating in the two of us listening carefully outside with John Castro who has worked tirelessly on the finance side, although he doesn't ring himself.

There is a marked improvement and the situation is much more acceptable, but the sound of the treble - a vital part of the ring - is still hidden deep below the other 7 and particularly 2, 3, 5 and 7 which sit on the upper tier. Much more discussion will be needed, but we at least made a good start and John invited us over to his impressive abode, the old rectory directly opposite the church, for a cuppa and a tour. And what a place! I have been amazed at the people I meet and places I'm invited into as a pleb who happens to be a bellringer and particularly in my role as Guild Master, but this has been the peak so far! Wow! John and his wife Pam have worked so hard  on their place to turn it from a heap into a marvellous home and beautiful gardens in 8 years.

We eventually slumped back at Ruthie's for the first time since returning from Devon and then it was finally time for me to return to Hollesley for a sleep in my own bed. That tent seems a long time ago...

Saturday 12th July 2008

Huge disappointment this morning. Winston had to pull out of this morning’s final opportunity to ring a peal on the 10 yesterday as his back was playing up. This was obviously unfortunate for him, especially as he had been very keen to ring a peal here, but I had been relieved that Ruthie had stepped in, despite her reluctance to ring peals these days. When we woke this morning however, Ruthie really wasn’t feeling too well and understandably felt it unwise to ring, something I agreed with. However, at such short notice after a long, long week’s ringing and with people busy booking out of their accommodation, it saw our last chance of getting a peal on the 10 sail over the Bristol Channel. All I wanted to do on a personal level was ring a peal on the 10 and so to leave the island without one after all that organising is a blow.

Once we’d packed our bags and vacated our properties – as we had to by 10am – I met with one or two other band members and we decided not to bother with a peal. I have to admit that I was slightly deflated by the lack of a 10-bell peal and my heart was certainly not in going through the motions of an 8-bell one.

As with the rest of the week though, this opened a door for some more quarters, so we decided to try for a quarter of London Major for Claire. This transpired to be our fourth lost quarter (it felt like more than that), but we were determined not to finish on a low. Over lunch – interrupted by a freak injury incurred to Mr Nigel by a bit of flying broken crockery – we gathered a band for one last effort and scored a very respectable quarter of Little Bob Royal – Anne’s first on 10 – as a huge family party gathered in the sunshine outside the Marisco Tavern.

The bells were rung down and four days after collecting them, the keys and logbook were handed back to reception with a trip next year already in mind. Although the lack of peals was frustrating, it was just one of those things and shouldn't detract from the fact we had a fantastic time.

There was just time for handbells outside the pub, which was steadily going until the local chickens came in for a closer look, before a team photograph was taken.

More photo's down on the jetty for Dick and Gill and the Ruby Wedding quarter peal band, including Peter and Jane who were absent from the team photo through their eagerness to get to the boat!

Everyone on the Oldenburg, although due to packing his ticket away an anxious wait greeted Louis as the crew made sure all the passengers were on before admitting him, we were ready for sailing!

The crossing back is normally much better (something to do with the tides, although I'm not a tideologist) and with much calmer weather everyone returned with their insides intact - even Mrs Nigel.

Goodbyes and farewells done on Ilfracombe quay, a taxi took those of us who had stayed at Mullacott Farm back to our cars whilst a supplied coach took others back to Bideford where we'd left on Tuesday.

It was a predictably long journey back to Suffolk, starting at 6.45pm from the B&B and finishing in Woodbridge at 2am, via Leigh Delamore services on the M4 - where we bumped into Unky Chris - and Kirton to pick up my car.

And thus a long, but enjoyable holiday ended at the exact place and time it had began 8 days earlier. Thank you to all those who put up with my disorganisation on the island and especially to Kate for organising the accommodation. Here's to next year!

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Friday 11th July 2008

This is getting ridiculous! Mary Allum asked for a peal of Lincolnshire Major, something that should’ve been well within our capabilities. After 45 minutes though, we were going through the same old routine of trudging down the belfry steps defeated. It was to be our peal for The Lundy Island Society, a worthy cause that oversees the maintenance and running of the bells here. Somebody did suggest a peal of Minor, but after a much busier week of ringing than intended, even I didn’t have the energy or motivation to go for that! With a number of people snorkeling too, our options were limited anyway, so I chose to head back to the Castle Keep to wake Ruthie from her slumber. Following some breakfast, we took our first walk (not Ruthie’s favourite pastime), wandering round the south end of the island, up the west coast – where we came across some mountain goats straddling the rugged cliff-face – and back across the island at the Old Light to the (where else?) the pub as we took advantage of the first really nice weather of our trip.

Dick Waterson had requested a quarter for his and Gill’s forthcoming Ruby Wedding Anniversary to surprise his wife on an island that their daughter Molly frequently comes to. Sadly we couldn’t persuade Gill herself to ring, but Dick insisted on it remaining a secret from her and so a band of people who regularly ring with her at Pettistree and Grundisburgh rang a quarter of Yorkshire Major for them.

From then on I relaxed for the afternoon. Winston was still determined to get a quarter rung by members of the north-west district and after the young ‘un’s quarter yesterday also wanted to ring an over-60’s equivalent. Both were achieved well on this bright afternoon as Tom, Chris, Ruthie and myself listened from the pub patio overlooking the Bristol Channel and the coasts of Devon and South Wales.

Our final evening saw me become an impromptu quiz-master for first our table but soon the whole pub, offering an opportunity too good to miss for Kate to take the mick out of my remaining Brummy twang when saying 5 and 9! More Pictionary and the delivery of Christmas Cake from Mr Waterson to mark our earlier quarter completed a lovely night.

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Thursday 10th July 2008

One of the perks of organising the ringing on this expedition is that I could arrange a lie-in for myself. Today was my morning. As others attempted – and lost – a quarter of Stedman Caters not too far away, Ruthie and I appreciated our quaint cottage a little more with a quiet smoke detector and no shrew. I hadn’t given us an entirely ringing-free morning though, with a quarter of Grandsire Triples lined up for Anne before lunch. This we scored, with Anne ringing the treble for the first time. Well done Anne.

Lunch in The Marisco Tavern was good as always, though we were slowly running out of games to play. Reduced to a game of Frustration (apt for this weeks ringing) that didn’t work and had bits missing, I was glad to be able to head back to the belfry to attempt the peal of Yorkshire Royal again. Although we got over half-way before losing it this time, it was still a massive disappointment. We agreed to downgrade to Plain and Little Bob Royal, but with tomorrow booked with ringing already, Saturday morning is the only option. In my experience it’s never ideal to go for a peal on the day of departure, with tired limbs and minds half on the journey home, but I’m desperate to get a peal on the 10 – it’s not the easiest of places to come back to to try again!

The lost peal did at least open the door for a quarter of Norwich and Cambridge Minor on the front 6 by an under-30’s band, something I won’t be able to participate in after this year! It was fast – 34 minutes – and needed slowing down slightly to improve the striking, but it was a score!

Whilst we’d been attempting the peal, Ruthie and Claire had been making an apple crumble in the Barn, where many of us returned to after having our first courses in the pub. It was delicious – a top effort girls – and we went back to the tavern well fed. More beer and more of the same games followed, although we did fit in a quiz and a bit of scrabble by last orders. I briefly entered the barn to grab some milk that belonged to Ruthie and me and got to experience first hand the ground-shaking snores that had been inflicted on the suffering residents. They still remain nameless, but flipping ‘eck…

Wednesday 9th July 2008

Lundy has a certain atmospheric value in bad weather. Which is lucky as that is what we got today. The low cloud, rain and wind that enveloped this rock in the middle of the Bristol Channel was eerie as I battled up to the church for our first peal attempt.

This was the big one, the one I am keenest to score, Yorkshire Royal. Last year we only had 10 people, but only 9 peal ringers, so whilst we got a couple of good peals of Major, a peal on the 10 eluded us. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow on this trip as this attempt came to grief in the fourth course, despite a nice composition from our very own Louis and a good band.

I had a cup of tea in The Barn, my home last year and accommodation for a large number of our party this prior to heading back to The Castle where I was confronted by Ruthie coping with a shrew and a dying smoke alarm battery. Once we’d informed the local staff of this, we met some of the others in the pub. Many were looking bleary eyed, some because they’d lost a north-west district quarter on the front 6, but others because they were stopping in the Barn, home this year of a chronic snoring epidemic!

A long-running game of Trivial Pursuit had to be abandoned as I’d arranged further general ringing where we were joined by James Hill, a ringer from Welkombe who happened to be staying on the island too. More Rounds and Call changes on 10 as well as a good-hearted attempt at some half-lead spliced saw us ready for another quarter attempt. This time it was Bristol Major for Jo with Mr Nigel observing, but sadly the result was typical of today’s ringing. It crashed to a halt after a couple of goes, so we retired to the now familiar tavern to partake in a game of Lundy Cluedo based on the islands properties. The dagger in The Barn seemed dangerous in the aftermath of last nights lack of sleep however…

We gave up on that eventually, but after food, a game of darts between my brother and me seemed to develop into a full blown darts competition eventually incorporating Louis, Jane, Anne, Mary G, Claire, Ruthie, Mr Nigel and one of the locals! This was followed by more Pictionary Mania incorporating some of the more ‘adult’ members of the group, more egg games and more giant Jenga.

Tuesday 8th July 2008

An early breakfast and taxi journey to Bideford saw us arrive well on time for our ferry crossing, but we weren't the first there. That honour ironically went to my brother who we'd all been waiting for last year. His risky but ultimately successful policy to not leave Cambridge until 3.30 this morning is not to be recommended however!

Slowly but surely our party arrived and then it was time for boarding.

MS Oldenburg is the traditional ferry for taking people to Lundy Island, much loved by many. However, it is a flat-bottomed river boat that rides every wave on the open seas. Last year I was very ill and with the wind still strong it was with a large dose of trepidation that I stepped on deck. Two hours later though and I had made it! Other's weren't quite so successful...

This is my fifth visit to the island and the steep track to the top has always been a killer, taking you from the jetty, past Milcombe House (the first property I ever stayed in on Lundy) and to the village. However, once to the top, you are greeted by The Marisco Tavern, the only pub on Lundy and just beneath the church of St Helena. It was here we gathered for some lunch and a pint or two along with other travellers who had accompanied us on the ‘SS Chunder’. It is also a good spot to wait whilst the process of preparing our accommodation and taking our bags straight to them progresses. This was where my plan of action – necessary due to our large group – nearly fell almost immediately. Whilst most were sorted out fairly briskly – Ruthie and I included – those staying in the two Old Light properties were left hanging for some time. I had arranged for us to do some general ringing and then a quarter of Grandsire Caters, but with a cut-off time of 6pm for ringing it looked like we might not have time for the quarter. Not that it would have mattered too much. We have the bells from 9am to 6pm until Saturday afternoon, so there’s plenty of time to fit everything in, but I was keen to get something on the board ASAP.

In the end, a group of 6 of us went up (after I’d picked the keys up from reception by the pub) and got things started. Before we knew it ringers were swarming in, enabling us to ring Grandsire Caters, Rounds and Call Changes on 10 and Claire’s first blows of London Major before Mary Garner arrived having finally been settled into the Old Light and we were able to get going. Despite a false start, Louis guided us through a fine quarter of Grandsire Caters – well done to the firsts!

From there it was back to the Tavern for some more beer and food, where Richard Wilson was busy playing with a gadget as he often is. With a delicious looking desert in front of him, he continued inputting info onto it as a girl approached him.
“That looks nice,” she said. “What is it?”
“Oh, it’s like a Blackberry but…”
Before Richard could answer the girl interrupted.
“I know what a Blackberry is, I want to know what your desert is.” Once we stopped crying with laughter she got her desert…

As the evening continued, many weary heads went to bed, leaving us youngsters (including honorary ‘yoof’ such as Anne and Geoffrey playing Pictionary Mania, Pictionary with added rounds and opportunity for intimacy – something Geoffrey enjoyed! This was followed by the ‘Dancing Eggs’ game, an energetic game in which the winner appears to be the one who looks most stupid. The night was finished off by a game of giant Jenga before Ruthie and I made our way to the Castle Keep where we are staying. Our cottage is quaint, full of character and minus modern day distractions such as TV, computers or a phone – as are all the holiday properties on Lundy – but is at the far south end of the island and a little further than most to walk. We made it by midnight when the electricity on the island goes off, but only just!

Monday 7th July 2008

After possibly one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life, I was frankly glad that this morning saw the dismantling of the tent. With the added help of the Nigels and Garners, it was a lot easier to take down than put up. It was at this point that a snapped support explained why a soaking wall had collapsed in on me overnight. In the extreme conditions however, I think the tent withstood everything incredibly well.

We were to spend our last night before sailing in the B&B, with walls that didn't move and a shower and loo just feet away. With eager anticipation we moved our stuff over, before heading out for another day trip.

This time it was to Clovelly, where we briefly met up with Alan McBurnie and Peggy who had come down on the train. I'd been to Clovelly once, but it was when I was catching a ferry over to Lundy in the days when it left there. It was 7am on an October morning and essentially closed. Today was different though, with bright sunshine (at last!) and throngs of tourists meandering up and down this very picturesque coastal village.

It was then onto Bideford for our first ringing of the trip. Alan had organised a quarter of surprise Major. As Kate, Ruthie and I searched for the church though, Kate received a text from three of the band members - Tom, Louis and Claire. They'd been stuck in traffic on the M5 and there was no way they were going to make it in time. From here the spirit of Lundy kicked in. Anne Buswell was kicking around and the Harper's were nearby. As time ticked by, it became apparent that they wouldn't make it, leaving us with 6. There had been a funeral at the church that day for a 46-year old churchgoer that day and both Alan and the 90-year old local, Albert Manning was keen we ring a quarter for it.

As a result, we set off with a quarter of Cambridge Minor, made harder by Mr Manning's insistence we couldn't alter the very short ropes and the entrance of two very excitable pigeons. It was a big distraction as we couldn't stop laughing, but our sprightly host - who was sitting in on the quarter - got rid of them and we got through it. Well done to all though, particularly Anne under trying circumstances.

Our evening was luxury in comparison to previous evenings, as Ron, Kate, Mr and Mrs Nigel, Chris, Mary, Ruthie and I went The Ilfracombe Tandoori. It was extremely slow and extremely hot but also extremely tasty, so a good time was had by all.

The night was finished by pillow fights and three bottles of wine, an appropriate end to our long weekend.

Sunday 6th July 2008

Brighter this morning, a severely welcome break. The long walk down to the amenities was now easier and even a visit to the wash-up area was bearable, enabling us our first chat with others on site.

The better weather also motivated to get out and about, taking us to Barnstable Tesco's for more supplies.

Ron then took us onto his favourite childhood and then adulthood holiday spot, Fremington. This is where his grandparents once lived and a pleasant walk from the River Taw and a beautiful spot by the tearoom in the old railway station.

Having taken advantage of the tea and tasty cake, we drove on to nearby Instow on the River Torridge, just a little down the river from Bideford and along the route the ferry to Lundy will take us on Tuesday.

Here we appreciated Mrs Nigel's crabs and Mr Nigel's giant erection - neither of which are nearly as bad as they sound but would take too long to explain on these pages!

A lack of ice cream and the initial signs the weather was worsening prompted our return to Mullacott Farm, but it had been good to get out.

The evening did indeed see more terrible weather that made every trip out of the tent a massive task. It was brightened however by the arrival of the Garners (who are staying in the B&B), drunken antics of Mrs Nigel and Mrs Eagle and various shenanigans over by the horsebox close to our 'home'.

One bit of bad news was received via a phone call from Bruce Wakefield, due to come to Lundy with us. His father had been rushed into hospital and although not thought to be overly serious, he and Gill felt they couldn't come to the island. It's a shame, particularly as Bruce was one of the peal ringers I'd got pencilled in, but totally understandable.

Saturday 5th July 2008

We were grateful to wake on the same spot, but the conditions were still windy - not perfect camping weather. Making the most of it though, we headed down to the farm's B&B where there were takeaway baguettes available - huge things that filled all the right holes, although the pigs that had been there yesterday were conspicuous by their absence.

The next few hours were spent sheltered in our secure but vulnerable tent as the wind was joined by rain that was consistent if unwelcome.

Mr and Mrs Nigel's arrival was welcome and soon lifted slightly flagging spirits. Going to Ilfracombe's Tesco's with them enabled us to renew the supplies and post Uncle 'Wob's' birthday card - for yesterday!

More food, beer and Jenga followed as we prepared to settle down for what seems is going to be an even rougher night than last night.

Friday 4th July 2008

Ruthie and I went for the no-sleep option. An accompaniment of copious dosages of Have I Got News For You and The Vicar of Dibley saw us through to Kate's awakening at 2am and the beginning of proceedings that should eventually see us through to Lundy Island.

Once the bags had been loaded up, I was responsible for driving the three of us to Kirton to meet up with Kate's workmate Ron, who was to take us down to Devon in his car.

Despite an indicator reminiscent of a hamster in the Physco shower scene, Ruthie and I were able to sleep on most of the way down as Ron and Kate took it in turns to drive. With a trailer on the back, the journey was steady - as it needed to be - and so we arrived at our campsite at Mullacott Farm on the outskirts of Ilfracombe at about 10am, roughly 7 hours after leaving Ron's and with a stop at the Membury services.

I have NO experience at putting tents up and with a rising wind, this was certainly a baptism of fire, especially with a can of Guinness on the go. With Ron's expert guidance and the Eagle girls experience in this field, we soon got it up and stable.

Whilst Ron and Kate had the presence of mind to nip to Tesco's to get beer and food in for the night ahead and go on a walk up to the nearby mast, Ruthie and I slept a bit more - a theme of the day.

Once back, we cooked up a mean spag bol, drunk some beer and tried playing Jenga as the wind got stronger and stronger. As the evening went on, we seriously wondered if we would wake up on Lundy Island a few days early...

Thursday 3rd July 2008

Got stopped by one of the traffic censuses that have been causing such uproar amongst rush hour travellers in Ipswich. Luckily it was on quiet stretch of the Henley Road after I'd dropped Mason off at his grandparents and although it only took a minute, I'm not quite sure what they made of my journey from Hollesley to Ipswich to Great Glemham. I'm sure it'll fit into their figures somehow.

Had a little less luck when I went for a walk at lunchtime in the fields near work, taking a wrong turning and getting lost in a field that didn't seem to have an exit. Not sure how that happened, but got back to work alright!

Whilst many went to the South-East District practice at Dennington this evening, Ruthie and I decided to help out at a thin Grundisburgh practice. It was fairly useful though, as Jess rang behind to Bob Doubles and rang on 10 unassisted for the first time, whilst the more experienced finished with a very nice course of London Major.

Ruthie and I made a detour to Tescos to get some essentials for the long journey tomorrow, before doing chicken hutch duties and contemplating whether to go to sleep or stay up for the 2am start. I'll mull it over with a cup of tea me thinks.

Wednesday 2nd July 2008

A slight change to the normal arrangements and with Kara's other half Danny without a car and needing to be taken to work for 7, it was an early start for Mason and me as I came round to pick up before 6.30 had been reached.

Once dispatched at Mum and Dad's and despite having spent a little time entertaining both him and them, I arrived at work very early. Not that the bosses minded.

It made for a long day in Great Glemham, but I'm still really enjoying this job so I wasn't fussed.

Practicality called for Mason to stop at Mum and Dad's for a tiny bit longer than normal as I had already agreed to ring for Chris and Mary's special quarter at Pettistree first. Although we had the party on Saturday, their actual anniversary - and Chris' birthday - are today. Congratulations guys and well done Chris.

The quarter of mixed Doubles was scored well. I enjoy anything that keeps me on my toes, whether it's Sixteen or Doubles or not even ringing at all, so I enjoyed this a lot.

Afterwards, a dash to Ipswich and back saw me arrive in time to ring in some spliced Doubles and Minor, partake in the quarter-peal band photo - Mason has managed to to be part of a quarter-peal band already! - and have a small glass of wine and some chocolate to celebrate the occasion before returning home. Phew!

Tuesday 1st July 2008

Managed to provide a rough ringing schedule for our trip to Lundy next week. With a party of nearly 30 made up of ringers of varying degrees of abilities and enthusiasms as well as the non-ringers, it is important to try and get the right balance for all. However, the beauty of Lundy is that so long as we ring between 9 and 6 and don't ring more than 2 peals or 4 quarters a day we've got complete freedom and flexibility to ring what we want whenever we want, although I'm keen to put on a good show for the few people on the island that won't be with our party! The large party should ensure we shouldn't get ringing fatigue as we got mildly got last year with just 10 of us.

Monday 30th June 2008

There are four people in our sales team, including myself. As you all know, I had a bit of a mare with my car last week – today it was my colleague Peter’s turn. His car just rolled to a halt over Parham airfield on the way in this morning, leaving Michael and Rhyan – the remainder of the team nervously awaiting whose turn it is next week to be vehicley immobilised.


Twenty-seven people packed into St Mary-le-Tower practice, a huge number when you consider a year ago we were struggling to ring the 12. It was a strange night. Cambridge eventually went well, but crashed to a halt first time round. We rang Bristol Max, with the intention to ring three leads and finish with a lead of Cambridge, but it collapsed after a couple of leads. This was a shame, but perhaps not overly surprising as it’s ages since we rang it on a practice night and is something that needs to be rung week in, week out. What often catches people out is that the dodges are nearly all the ‘wrong’ way round and when things go wrong it’s often difficult to pick out the points, but with a prolonged programme of practice, quarters and peals, the second half of 2008 should hopefully see us make a breakthrough with this.

It was good to see Gerry Bacon visiting, as well as David and Ann Webb.

Having dropped young Mr Suggett off at the railway station, Ruthie and I returned to hers for some homemade curry, saving money for Devon and Lundy, which is getting very close…

Sunday 29th June 2008

Sunday morning on the Garners' lawn resembled Glastonbury without the mud or Amy Winehouse (although there was enough alcohol there to satisfy her). We hadn’t been the only ones to camp over, so there was a large crowd in the early morning sunshine enjoying the breakfast supplied, although nobody seemed overly keen on finishing off all the strawberries left over from the previous night. Ruthie and I couldn’t fully take advantage of the ample feed and relaxed atmosphere as we needed to get down to St Mary-le-Tower for service ringing. I wasn’t expecting much as I knew that Mum, Dad and David Potts were all away (not together you understand) but even so, I was slightly disappointed with the lowly turnout of 8, especially as 12-bell ringing on Sunday mornings have become the norm in recent weeks. Still, we rang some nice Superlative Major (eventually) and to finish with, Stedman Triples on the back 8.

Grundisburgh also had 8 in the end, although until David Stanford appeared we undertook ‘Challenge Don’ which resulted in some Westminster Minor and Boat Race (Cambridge Surprise below and Oxford Treble Bob above) before we once again finished with Stedman Triples on the back 8.

We were to be reacquainted with the gazebos once more in the afternoon, this time in Pettistree churchyard as they provided cover for the stalls of the church fete. Last year I’d brought Mason, who managed to win me a bottle of rum, but without him this year my luck was slightly reduced. I won a bottle, sadly, just of sesame oil. Still, I’m sure it’ll come in handy at some point. There was some ringing for the service, enticing in Joan a former ringer who rang some call changes.

Ruthie and I walked down to The Three Tuns for an hour to see how they were getting on.

We returned to the fete to munch on more BBQ and win nothing in the raffle, but thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.

Ruthie insisted we got back early for the final of Euro 2008, an exciting game that thankfully saw Spain beat Germany 1-0. Not that I’ve got anything against the Germans, it’s just they always win and it’s nice to see someone different win something.

Not in everything though. Birmingham once again won the National 12-Bell Contest at Lincoln Cathedral yesterday, much to my delight. I was very fortunate to be part of the winning Birmingham teams in this competition in 2001 and 2003 and despite it being nearly three years since I left there I still support them as ‘my’ team in the contest. To cap it off the College Youths pipped the Cumberlands to 2nd place, the perfect result!

Saturday 28th June 2008

A boiling hot morning, perfect for ringing a peal at St Mary-le-Tower – not! It was time for the next attempt of a peal of Bristol Maximus and having already lost two attempts in the last two months, people were understandably wary in this one. Whether it was that psychological influence or the hot weather or just not keeping on top of things, we struggled. But we got it! We could’ve done better, but it is just a small tinge of disappointment and an indication of the confidence I have in this bands abilities. We will go for another attempt soon – I don’t know when yet – but with a plan of regular Bristol Max at practices and more quarters over the next couple of months, I think we should score a really decent effort next time. Today though, well done to Mary, Louis and Matthew on getting their first in the method and thank you to Matthew for filling in at the last minute!

Aunty Ruthie very kindly looked after Mason whilst I rung, so whilst some went to The Dove for refreshment, I headed straight back to Woodbridge to spend the day with Mason and Ruthie. We almost immediately set off for Mr and Mrs Garner’s wonderful abode in between Pettistree and Wickham Market. On a beautiful day like today, it is a marvellous place to be, overlooking as it does fields and country lanes, with Wickham and the spire of All Saints in the near distance. The main purpose of our trip was not to enjoy the views however, but rather to help – with an assortment of their family and friends – set up for their party that evening to celebrate their Silver Wedding Anniversary and 25 years since they moved to Thong Hall. I say help. I spent most of the time running around with the li’l man who was well in his element, whilst Ruthie and others did all the hard work of putting up gazebos, tables and chairs.

Everything was well on its way to completion before the three of us left, dropping Mason off at Kara’s before Ruthie and I got ourselves ready for the big event itself.

And what an event! It’s these sort of evenings that you long for over those long winter months, the sun setting late and a huge crowd sprawled across the large garden a reflection of Chris and Mary’s popularity. The barbecue was superb as was the other food, the beer (Victoria – brilliant!) lasted just long enough and the company was great. Their groups of helpers – including Kate - were stars, keeping the food and beer coming and clearing the rubbish to a minimum as well as keeping Mary calm!

I was to spend my first ever night camping on their lawn with Kate, Ruthie and Max the dog too, but Ruthie and I needed to set up the camping beds first – something we didn’t realise until a couple of beers in. Again I wasn’t much help, but Ruthie did receive words of encouragement from the Norris girls, such as “that’ll collapse” and “won’t it tip over?” You can tell they’re their father’s daughters!

Anyway, the night went on late, the last of the revellers departing the house at around midnight as I set about spending the night with two women and a dog. It’s been a while since I’ve had a night like that…

Friday 27th June 2008

In between writing last night's blog and going to bed, I was kept up by my interest in a programme fronted by Suggs, the former frontman of Madness. I'm not sure what it was called (Suggs' Heroes or summit like that) but I was grabbed initially by his presence in front of The House In The Clouds in Thorpeness and then by his visit to Whitechapel Bell Foundry and walk through London following the nursery rhyme of Oranges and Lemons. It was nice to see bells on TV in a good light!

In relation to Aldeburgh, I had a brief chat to Richard Rapior on the phone to see how the PCC meeting went the other night and was pleased to hear that he was supported unanimously. Things have turned out well, but conscious of everything that has happened, Richard is keen to forge closer links with the local community, especially those who have complained and indeed has started making inroads this aim, something we perhaps all ought to think of if we haven't already.

Hollesley went well tonight as it usually does, with Kent Major rung for a change and rung very well, before Mason and I made the short journey home.

Thursday 26th June 2008

I saw my first glance of the list for the two-week Rambling Ringers Tour over the end of July and beginning of August. With Mum currently the secretary and organiser of this mammoth ringing extravaganza, I'm seeing it a little earlier, but I still get a little excited to see it. Although I haven't been for 3 years, this year it is being held in North Suffolk and South Norfolk, beginning at Pakenham on the afternoon of Saturday 26th July, so I thought we might join them for the first two Saturdays. Sadly I can't get the time off to join them in the week, but if all this interests you, it's well worth contacting my Mum about details. The beauty of it is that you can join in as little or much as you like. Some join for a couple of days, some for a particular tower, some make a week of it, whilst the diehards do the whole 15 days, though you need some stamina for that! The standard of ringing is good too. In fact it is demanded, as the Ramblers realise they are privileged to ring on other peoples bells and with such alumni as Andrew Mills, Stuart Hutchieson, George Dawson and many more involved they usually get that good ringing with a good family atmosphere. Hopefully I will get the chance to take Mason along.

Talking of the little chap, he had another good evening running around a churchyard, this time at Grundisburgh as we peaked at Cambridge Royal.

Mason and I caught the second half of the other Euro2008 Semi-Final as Spain joined Germany in Sunday's final by easily beating Russia 3-0. It's nearly time to stop pretending I'm enjoying it!

Wednesday 25th June 2008

Picking Mason up after work, I was very grateful for Hazel looking after the li'l chap whilst Ruthie and I rang a quarter of 12-spliced Surprise Minor at Pettistree before the practice. Duly scored, we picked my son up. He is always extremely happy, but seems particularly chirpy tonight. Perhaps it's the beautiful evening sunshine and the freedom to run round Hazel's spacious garden and then Pettistree churchyard and church! Either way, it's a pleasure as ever.

Got my first proper look at the letters that dominated Friday's Ringing World letters page in regards to the 50% of the Guild subs that automatically go to the Bell Restoration Fund. Both views were offered to varying degrees and John Loveless' in particular well thought out, though and I think probably reflecting the views of the majority of Guild members. Of course if there are people who think differently they are more than welcome (and I genuinely mean that) to raise these views and if they want to put it to the test, use the proper channels. You never know it may bring out a more representative turnout at the next AGM!

Mason and I got home in time to watch the exciting Euro 2008 semi-final between Turkey and Germany. Despite a thrilling finale that saw 3 goals scored in the last 11 minutes, the German's rather predictably won through to the final, despite being very poor. But that's just what they do...

Tuesday 24th June 2008

It must be the start of harvest in Butley. Six tractors as I passed through the village on my way home from work. I didn't see many of those on my commute home when I was in the Midlands!

It was our night off and for once Ruthie and I did have a night off!

Two notable and upbeat pieces of bellringing news today.

Suffolk Coastal Council rather sensibly announced they weren't going to take any action over the peals at Aldeburgh. This is good news and combined with the Aldeburgh PCC meeting taking place tomorrow should see an end to this debate. It has undoubtedly shown the huge support we have, even for peals. Organising peals is based on the local contact being happy that peals won't unreasonably cause a nuisance for the vast majority of the local residents.

I also received an email via my mother from Paul De Kok, a ringer on Rambling Ringers and good friend of mine who hails from and still lives in Holland. He has been behind the installation of a ring of 8, around about 1cwt in The Clockhouse in Dordrecht in his native land and on Sunday they rang the first peal on them, involving many friends of mine. An example of bellringing spreading to other countries, ironically in a week when it was challenged in it's homeland. As far as I'm aware, there have been no complaints from the rather easier going Dutch...

Monday 23rd June 2008

After Friday, where we visited the new offices in Melton and spent the afternoon planning the layout, it was back to real work today!

Last week, we had 11 at St Mary-le-Tower. This week we had 22! As grateful as I am for people turning out, the up-and-down nature of attendance that seems to be repeating is making it hard to plan ahead. We could’ve rung Bristol Max tonight with enough warning, but having asked people to learn it for last Monday I didn’t bother to get people to learn it for this week. We did ring some good Lincolnshire Max, with Kate Eagle doing extremely well. The highlight was probably some really good Stedman Cinques and although the couple of pieces of Cambridge Max didn’t go quite so well, they were still good practice to those coming through and we finished with some quite respectable Plain Hunt on 11 for Anne Buswell.

I am always delighted when we get a good turnout and more importantly good ringing but especially tonight, as we had a visitor - Luca from Italy – who is staying with Stephen Pettman and accompanied Mr P to the practice.

Although not the warmest night of the summer, the large crowd that went to Mannings for a drink afterwards took the decision to sit out the front of the pub on The Cornhill. We are British after all and I think it impressed our visitor from Italy!

Sunday 22nd June 2008

The morning after the night before and I felt surprisingly alright. As usual I headed into Ipswich for ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. Today I made a slight detour to Ipswich Railway Station to drop Clare off in readiness for her long journey back to Perth.

Stedman Cinques was the highlight of a reasonable morning of ringing as was the first visit of little Isabel Potts to the belfry, thoroughly enjoying this new experience.

Grundisburgh would've been a bit short but for the visit of Peter, Christine and Rosemary Hill, enabling us to ring some really nice Stedman Triples.

It was at this point I should've taken the keys for here to get in for a quarter later. However, it wasn't until I met up with Ruthie for lunch at Costa that I realised I had failed in this relatively simple task. Seeing my better half off to another quiet afternoon at work, I made a dash to Dallinghoo to pick the keys up from Gill Waterson.

It needed to be a dash as I was waiting for Peter Harper, who had kindly agreed to give me a lift to the GMC meeting at Old Newton. We needn't have worried as a small mix-up meant we were left standing outside the Methodist Chapel in sunny but very windy conditions. It also appeared we were in the way of preparations for a funeral wake to be held there tomorrow. I don't know, we're still a nuisance even when we're not ringing...

The meeting was uneventful but for Philip stamping his own style - to great success - on proceedings. Typically - and rightly - much was discussed, including a very serious proposition to get a Guild Social as we used to have, up and running again from next year in some form and another.

For some of us it was then back to Grundisburgh for the next attempt at a quarter of Royal, this time Rutland. We didn't score a quarter, but as usual it was good practice. There was some disappointment at the standard of ringing at the beginning and indeed I think we can do a lot better as a band, but we do so little 10-bell ringing as a Guild, we should should be relatively chuffed by our efforts in the end.

It had been a long day for Ruthie and me, with Ruthie also performing in the concert in the church that proceeded our attempt - though unfortunately I couldn't get back in time to see it - so we retired to hers for a Chinese whilst others went for a curry. Returning home I was stopped randomly - along with many other drivers - by the police who were checking for drink-drivers. Of course I was clean, but it served to further prolong a long day and I was very glad to see my bed in the end!

Saturday 21st June 2008

We had the pleasure of Mason's company all morning today rather than dropping him off first thing as we usually do. It was nice as what with work, I don't get to spend much time with him during the day. Kara rather kindly offered him to me all day, but it was Ruthie's grandparents Golden Wedding Anniversary today and we were having a sit-down meal for it at 1pm. Although Derek and Janet (the stars of the show) would undoubtedly have said it would be OK to bring him along, I thought it unfair to ask them at such short notice.

As a result, I dropped the li'l chap off before heading onto the Martlesham Community Centre for what proved a lovely afternoon in the company of many members and friends of Ruthie's family. We enjoyed a good buffet and others knocked back the wine, although as I was driving I couldn't partake! We also experienced an example of how small the world is, especially where George Pipe is concerned. Turns out that one of Derek and Janet's school friends is the brother of Diana's sister's husband. Hope you kept up with that! Around about 70 mingled before many of us went on to their house to continue the celebrations.

Myself, Ruthie and Clare then took the opportunity to do a bit of catching up, choosing The Mariners as our setting.

Before I finish, a word of congratulations to Mary Dunbavin who today rang her 1000th peal, rung at Horringer. Even in this day of faster mass communication and easier travel, 1000 peals is still a big achievement. Keep it up Mary!

Friday 20th June 2008

Hooray! My car is back from the dead! Having feared the worst yesterday, I received a call this morning telling me it was fixed. Even my best case scenario was that I was without a car until next week, so it was an extremely pleasant surprise. It had been just the water pump and had proved easy enough for them to fix.

I still needed picking up from work however and I was very grateful that Ruthie was able to not only pick me up from Great Glemham, but also take me to Ipswich to retrieve both my car and my son. There was nothing wrong with his water pump so it was nice to have him back too.

Ruthie had also brought her sister Clare, down from Scotland for the weekend on the occasion of Kate's parents golden wedding anniversary, which was nice.

We took her to Hollesley too as the practice ranged from handling lessons for our new learners and Jess to Cambridge Major before Mason and I left to watch more football.

Thursday 19th June 2008

Ah, smoke wafting across a sunshine breeze, excited chatter fills the air and the smell of burning enters the nostrils. I love barbecues at this time of year. Except sadly, this wasn't a barbecue. The smoke and burning was coming from my car engine and the excited chatter was coming from Mason.

Fortunately, I had nearly made it to Mum and Dad's, so I struggled on to theirs to drop the li'l man off. An immediate inspection of the damage and we took a calculated risk to get the car to the nearby garage that I have taken it to in the past.

Nick, a man I have got to know well since I got the car two years ago, inspected it briefly and concluded that the water pump was bust, but needed a closer inspection to find out more. It may even need to go to a chap he uses for certain jobs, which would prolong the time off the road. Either way, it looks unlikely it will be fixed before the weekend.

It is undoubtedly a blow, but I'm fortunate I have people who are willing to help out, something I am very grateful for. Mum took me to work, meaning I only got to work half-an-hour late whereas otherwise I probably wouldn't have made it at all and Ruthie came and picked me up.

I was to meet up with Mum, Dad and Mason at Grundisburgh practice, which we did, but sadly not a lot of others did. Stephen also had to leave early for a family engagement in Capel St Mary, leaving us with a peak of 9. It did however prove to be a useful evening for Anne Buswell, who rang the treble to Yorkshire Major very well. Other highlights included Ruthie calling Double Norwich Major and some nice Pudsey (although some may say that's a contradiction in terms).

It was then back to Ashcroft Road for Mason and me for the night as my folks very kindly put me up for the night so they could take me to work in the morning. Another day...

Wednesday 18th June 2008

Picked Mason up for our usual half a week together, before heading on to Edwin Avenue, a bit of tea and then Pettistree practice. There we were joined by David and George Salter.

Mason and I left early of course, but at least with Euro 2008 we aren't devoid of entertainment when we get home. Tonight it was provided by Russia and Sweden in the last group game of the tournament, Russia winning 2-0 to book their place in the quarter-finals.

Tuesday 17th June 2008

It has been asked of me today, 'Why ring peals?' Why indeed. Why go on ringing outings? Why ring quarters? Why ring at all? It isn't for everyone, but for many it is the most enjoyable and best way of progressing in ringing - myself included. Of course it all arose from discussion in relation to Aldeburgh. I think we need to be careful not to let this whole issue become one on peals. Yes, it is the length that has been complained about in this instance, but the principal - and potentially our art - is what is at stake. These peals have been rung regularly at exactly the same time every month for years. They're no secret and for the vast majority are a pleasure to be heard across this beautiful coastal town on a sunny day. And it is essentially six hours over a WHOLE summer that are an issue, if they even fall upon a day that's nice enough to sit out in the garden. And peals go on not that much longer than most practice nights and with (certainly in Aldeburgh's case) a lot better ringing than most practice nights by their nature. We have to be careful not to just say let's stop these peals over the summer. How long - on the same principal - before these people then say, 'let's stop practice nights over the summer?' Whilst not looking to stick two fingers at the complainants, we must be careful not to just bow to their demands.

There is a poll currently running on the East Anglian Daily Times website - www.eadt.co.uk - asking if bells are a nuisance. At the time of asking, over 90% who have participated have said 'no'. Although not exactly scientific and of course not having any bearing on the outcome of proceedings, it is a strong indication of how people - not just ringers - feel. Are - as seems the norm in modern day Britain - the views of the few going to be allowed to override the feelings of the majority? We shall have to wait and see.

Kate was elsewhere this evening, celebrating the Pettmans' Silver Wedding Anniversary in Felixstowe, so Ruthie and I went to Marlesford to help with Ufford practice. Though much appreciated, the hospitality of the Marlesford ringers is happily not needed after this week, with the return of ringing at Ufford from Sunday morning. A good bit of news after a rocky few days.

A pint in The White Lion in Ufford and it was back to Hollesley for Ruthie and me to enjoy our night 'off'. No rest for the wicked...

 

Monday 16th June 2008

More media attention from the BBC at Aldeburgh this morning, this time for the national Breakfast Show. Whilst the opportunity to put our case to an increasingly understanding and supportive public, I was a little uneasy at their desire to ring the bells at 8.30 in the morning. This is why I chose to steer clear, although it may have been a bit tight to get to work anyway. That's certainly not a criticism of those who did take part. As bellringers, we've been placed in a difficult spot, being judged by a small but potentially powerful group of people who have little or no understanding of our hobby, so it's hard to say what are the right or wrong actions. We have to quite literally - if you'll excuse the pun - play it by ear.

An interesting letter in Friday's Ringing World in relation to A.J.Barnfield's assertion that ringing is in decline. His observation that nearly two generations are missing is noticeably correct, but in a hobby that can recruit and teach people of any age, I don't think it is as terminal as he makes out. I'm also not sure that his solution to the problem - disbanding the traditional guilds and associations such as ours - is exactly the answer. Still very interesting.

St Mary-le-Tower practice was probably the most disappointing one since I took over. Despite the visit of David Rogers, a returning ringer from Thetford, we only had 11, with Cambridge Royal the highlight. It's always a shame to have less than 12 - although for the first time for a year - especially as people travel some distance to come to ring Surprise Maximus or at least on the 12. Lets hope we have a return to the heights we had last week.

You might be forgiven after today that it is all doom and gloom in ringing at the moment. But in amongst all the negatives today, a surprise positive came out. I received a call from Robert Wood, a ringer from Yorkshire who works in environmental health, offering his help and advice on the Aldeburgh issue. A top example of the family of ringing pulling together to help out where they can and why - whilst we should be prepared to compromise where appropriate - we should stand up to protect our traditions.

Sunday 15th June 2008

Despite Mum and Dad being away for the weekend, we still had 12 at St Mary-le-Tower, with a visit from Peter Bills from Devon. Some nice Rounds and Call Changes on 12 followed on from some very well struck Yorkshire Royal and Cambridge Major, before a quick lower of the front 8 at the end so Owen, David and Ralph could put new ropes on them.

I couldn't hang around as usual as I had to get to Grundisburgh, where once again we were very short. A disastrous attempt at Orpheus Doubles on the front 5 was redeemed by some Rounds and Call Changes on 6 for Peggy as she continued her good rehabilitation from a broken wrist and then some Annable's London.

A quiet afternoon which saw nothing much happen other than Ruthie and me travelling to Hollesley before I realised I'd left the house keys at her's, belied the excitement of what was to happen that evening. It has been well documented on here and throughout the Guild that we have been working up to a quarter of half-lead 8-spliced Surprise Major for some time at Ufford and Hollesley. Tonight, the latter was the scene of our arrival at this goal. As has often been the way as we've added methods, the successful quarter followed on from some lengthy failures that have merely served to strengthen our resolve and as great practice.

Well done to all, especially to Alan who has been the driving force behind these attempts and thanks to him for offering us the opportunity to ring this really entertaining stuff. This isn't the end though! We may have succeeded in the original aim, but Alan has his eyes set on bigger things as you will see. We could do with as many like Alan as we can get!

We celebrated in The Shepherd and Dog afterwards and although most had some grub, Ruthie and I had a pint before slipping away for some pizza and watching the game that has now usurped the Holland - France game the other night as the most exciting of the tournament. With three minutes to go, Turkey were 2-1 down to the Czech Republic in their final group game, thus meaning the Czechs would go through to the quarters at their expense. They had been 2-0 down and yet by the end of the game, they'd had their goalkeeper sent off and yet won 3-2. Thrilling!

A final word must go to Derek Baldry, who rang his first quarter at Reydon on Thursday evening. Congratulations Derek, the first of many I hope!

Saturday 14th June 2008

Mason happily obliged us with a lay-in this morning, a rare opportunity. We couldn't afford to hang around too long as we had to be Gressenhall in Norfolk by 12.30 for the Ridgman Trophy. Dropping Mason off at Kara's first, we made the near two hour journey and arrived in the village well on time. Finding the church was a different matter, positioned as it is a couple of miles from the village.

We had been aware for some time that we were ringing first as the draw was made a few weeks back, so we were prepared for the eventuality. However, it's still hard to be the openers as there has of course not been anyone else to listen, picking out potential problem areas to avoid. It also means you ring before the judges have had a chance to get there ear in, although good judges won't let this distort the outcomes significantly.

Ruthie and I joined the Girlings and Potts in The Swan back in the village for a bite to eat and some beer as the other four teams took up the ringing baton.

I have to admit by being slightly disappointed by the social aspect of this years contest as the vast majority of people left almost immediately after ringing. Although the locals were very hospitable and served tea and cake in the old school just yards from the church, the remote location and lack of easily accessible entertainment whilst not ringing perhaps contributed to this.

Still, it was nice to catch up with old friends and acquaintances such as John Loveless, Simon Rudd, Martin Whiteley, Jonathan and Becky Dickenson as well taking a cheeky jibe at big Norwich fan David Brown!
If I'm honest, I didn't think we'd rung as well as we could, although by no means badly, so I was pleasantly surprised when the judges Paul Seaman and Michael Purday commented on how wonderful the ringing was. The leading was 'spot on', there was 'good rhythm' and the only thing they could really pick us up on was that we dragged some of the backstrokes out at the back - something that I try to beat out of our ringers!

This was followed by various observations about other teams struggling to cope with their 3-4 places, rhythms not quite being right and going wrong in the first lead, although as usual, Bedfordshire - who are to this Eastern regional competition what Birmingham are to the 12-bell -were described as 'superb'. This raised my hopes of a top-two finish, so I was greatly surprised when we were then placed in 4th, behind the teams that had apparently struggled and even gone wrong! Having not heard the other participants I'm not in position to dispute the result and that's certainly not what I'm doing. In fact, if they'd just said we'd finished 4th, I wouldn't have been surprised by our placing, it's just the results didn't seem to match up with the comments! Well done to Bedfordshire on winning though, deserved winners as usual.

Next year it is to be held on the 20th, June, provisionally in Hertfordshire. There are 10 teams that are eligible to enter from the Eastern region, so the low turn-out this year (including 3 pull-outs this week) was a shame, so we hopefully next year will see a better attendance.

Just a word for our very own Ian Holland, who has organised the contest for the last few years, but has stepped down this year, handing over the job to Alan Winter. Good luck to Alan, but many thanks to Ian for his sterling work in often difficult circumstances.

Following the results and brief committee meeting for myself and other team reps, we headed across to Blythburgh, contender with Iken for most spectacular setting for a ring of bells in Suffolk.

A brisk but well struck quarter of Cambridge Minor was scored after an interesting chat with the local, Peggy, who despite a lack of a band at this delightful 6, has continued to try and improve herself. Keep it up Peggy! Good to see Tom back too.

After that it was homeward bound down the A12 for pizza, beer and a bit more football.

Friday 13th June 2008

Two things caught my eye after I'd completed my blog last night.

One was the sight of Alan Duncan MP, Shadow Cabinet Minister and sometime contestant on Have I Got News For You officially opening the offices at Haven Power where I worked for a few weeks up until last month. Featured on the local news, it was interesting to see many of the old faces that I got to know relatively well in my time there.

This was completely overshadowed by something else that caught my eye and was to dominate this Friday the 13th. Resident Jenny Hunt of Aldeburgh has apparently complained about the peals that - as most Suffolk Guild members and fellow Aldeburgh residents know - have been rung on pretty much every second Sunday afternoon (bar August) on the town's ring of 8 for decades. To top it off, 20 people had by all accounts signed a petition, leading to the possibility of an investigation by the council. This incident had got into the East Anglian Daily Times and come to the attention of the BBC.

As a result, us officers at the top of the Guild shared some correspondence and the BBC had contacted Philip, both to speak on Radio Suffolk and gather a band to ring at Aldeburgh for the cameras of BBC Look East as Kim Riley - their reporter - interviewed the extremely supportive vicar of St Peter & St Paul, the Reverend Nigel Hartley, for whom we should be very grateful as he has paved the way for our case.

In fact, today has turned out a lot better for us than it could've done, although we have to wait to see if it goes any further and to what extent. Perhaps it could be seen as a wake-up call. Not enough seems to go into relaying the lives of ringers and the human side of this wonderful art and therefore when something like this happens the complainants just see a bunch of menaces out to ruin their Sunday afternoon. They don't see the wonderful opportunities it offers youngsters at a time when people consider that kids don't have anything to do and are a menace. The art passed joyfully down from generations of families. The fact that for some people it is their only social outlet. Maybe we should all do more about this.

I couldn't join Philip, Bruce and the others (sorry, I didn't catch everyone that was there) that participated at Aldeburgh for the cameras in the evening as I needed to pick Mason up from Mum and Dad's, repeating yesterdays journeying.

Hollesley practice - aptly and appropriately - showed why we should protect our rights to ring bells as we have done for hundreds of years (not me you understand, although Ruthie might think so!). Anne Buswell brought a friend and her son along to practice as potential recruits and indeed they had their first handling lessons before Mason and I left early - as usual - catching the end of the most exciting game of Euro 2008 I've seen so far as Holland beat France 4 -1. Hopefully we will see more of Anne's friend and her son as we look to secure this fine art that has given most - if not all - of us so much joy.

Thursday 12th June 2008

Picked Mason up from Kara's in Woodbridge to take to Mum and Dad's in Ipswich, before arriving at work in Great Glemham, all by quarter to nine!

I did the journey in reverse after work, meaning there was just time to make some tea for us and Mason before heading out to Grundisburgh for a bit. It's the Ridgeman Trophy at Gressenhall in Norfolk on Saturday, a trophy I think we stand a real chance of winning. However, getting the band together in any number has been an impossible task. It's not anyone's fault as it was always going to be difficult to gather people together from Halesworth, Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket and Ipswich all at the same time, but it has been frustrating. Tonight was a last ditch opportunity to get people together at Grundisburgh - the closest 10 in size we've got to Gressenhall - to ring some Cambridge Royal, the test piece. We did ring some Cambridge Royal, but due to illness and previous engagements, there was only half the band. Still, better than nothing and with the strong band I am confident that the Suffolk Guild can come out victorious. We would welcome cheerleaders, but it is also the Campsea Ashe ringing festival and Don Price's walking and ringing outing, both worthwhile events to support. Indeed at one point the two events are combining. With the Annual Village Weekend at Gislingham, you shouldn't be left short of things to do on Saturday!

Left early with Mason and managed to get back to see the end of the Austria - Poland game in Euro 2008, with Austria getting a last minute equaliser to keep themselves in the tournament. Worth noting that Portugal - my tip - were the first to qualify for the quarter-finals yesterday. Beginning to wish I'd put money on them now...

Wednesday 11th June 2008

We had a sales trainer in today. I feared the worst as normally these sorts of people are oblivious to the real world, trying to teach grannies how to suck eggs, attempting to foist creative ideas that just aren't practical on an experienced workforce that expose their total lack of experience in an actual sales environment. Sanj, the guy who came in was from no such mould however. Sure, there were traits of that 'nothing is impossible', even when you know better - that's his job - but he was down to earth and seemed aware of the difficulties that we and any other salespeople face. We also discovered we had grown up two streets apart and he had gone to Westbourne, where I'd attended 6th Form. His father had also been a pioneer in curry houses in East Anglia, so that's always worth some respect in my book!

It was all very useful, but by far and away not the highlight of the day. For in the evening, it was off to the Salter's and after nearly 18 months of building up to it, time for our first attempt at the 41-Spliced Surprise Minor. After a false start, we launched into it again and despite an occasional hairy moment, a really good peal in just 1 hour 45 minutes was scored. Without sounding big-headed, I've done an awful lot in peal-ringing, having rung peals of spliced Maximus and many on 16 bells, but this achievement - and especially at the speed we did it at and the immense concentration that comes with it - probably ranks as my biggest peal-ringing moment. Everyone in the band played their part, even Mick on the treble. Without a reliable treble ringer, it would be impossible to ring, especially at such pace. Thanks also have to go to George Thoday who filled in for Katharine during her pregnancy for some of the build-up attempts.

It also highlights that the best way - indeed only way - of undertaking such a task is by learning methods properly. Many times I have been howled down for suggesting that Primrose is 6ths place Cambridge or York is merely London below the treble and Cambridge above, accused of making it more complicated, when in fact it makes it easier. What would be easier? Learning 41 different methods or a handful that then make up the 41? And when have any of you ever known me to make things any harder for myself than I have to? My intention is to compile an explanation that will hopefully be relatively easy to understand for elsewhere on this website, but for now, take my word for it - it's not actually as hard as you think!

We were also able to ring it as a birthday compliment for my Dad, a sterling servant to Suffolk ringing and whom - along with my mother amongst others - helped make it possible for me to ring such things. Although we were 22 methods short of ringing an appropriate number, it still feels fitting to give him a nod on this one.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Tuesday 10th June 2008

Reading Ruth Suggett's report on the North-West Striking Competition, it seems that her enthusiasm has won through, with a decent entry when it initially seemed apathy would triumph. Well done to Ruth for organising such a successful event and well done to the Young Ringers for winning it. It is certainly a healthy sign for the future of Suffolk ringing and as I have done before, I strongly encourage people to support this essential group of ringers in any way they can, especially in persuading other youngsters to take advantage of the practices at Tostock on the third Thursday of each month. They more than welcome accompanying 'oldies' and in my experience incorporate Rounds and Call Changes to Surprise Minor. Please contact to find out more.

It was a return of mine and Ruthie's Tuesday night in and we made sure we enjoyed it, taking in much beer and (I suppose more for my enjoyment) football.

Russia effectively took England's place in Euro 2008 and it was their first game this afternoon. After arriving home from work, I caught a bit of the 4-1 battering they took from Spain in the most impressive display so far. We also watched a good performance from Sweden as they beat the holders Greece 2-0. Despite all this, I'm sticking with Portugal as my tip for Championship glory.

Monday 9th June 2008

Radio One has really been annoying me over the last few days. On Friday and Saturday night they hosted two gigs for the Foo Fighters at Wembley Stadium. They're a band I can't stand for no reason other than the fact that I find them incredibly overrated and overhyped, so it was bad enough that my favourite radio station subjected me to these gigs. But they couldn't let it go. Foo Fighter songs every 10 minutes, highlights of the gigs, every DJ spending hours yakking about the atmosphere and proclaiming how sensational it was they filled the stadium twice (with, it should be noted, listeners to the radio station that had hyped the band to death for the last couple of years) and so on and so on. As much as I prefer the station to any other, it does get on my nerves that once they've decided they like something they try to batter us into liking it too and are rather too smug with themselves. Anyhow, got that off my chest...

A few weeks back at St Mary-le-Tower practice, a very polite gentleman knocked on the belfry door after we'd finished ringing some Cambridge Max and entered timidly. He'd come in to ask if he could bring his son, Ryan up for his 7th birthday.

As a result, a healthy number of us - including Andy and Helen, visitors from Wales and part of the Fire Service Guild that had visited over the weekend - gathered at SMLT early. Owen took Ryan and his dad with Peter Trent, Andy and Helen up to the bells as I tolled the tenor.

Once back down, we set about showing them how a 12-bell practice is run. The lovely weather and call for early arrivals for Ryan appeared to encourage a large crowd, making running the practice hard-work but very satisfactory. After last week's disappointing practice, the first piece of Cambridge Maximus (we rang it three times, including once for Peter Davies to ring his first blows in the method - well done Peter!) was fantastic. We also rang some very well rung Lincolnshire Max that got better and better despite a false start due entirely to me rearranging the five-pull dodges! An absolutely great practice night with a packed house, so well done to everyone! The only disappointment was that I felt I couldn't give everyone a decent go, so apologies to anyone who didn't get as much of a go as they'd hoped. I did bring up the possibility of starting at 7pm as we used to, which may alleviate this problem, but I'll give people a chance to have a think about it.

A very satisfactory evening was completed in Mannings and then with grub from our once usual haunt, before watching more football highlights!

Sunday 8th June 2008

AGM's are hard to run in relation to the ringing. Lots of people of differing abilities that you're not entirely sure of as you don't ring with them regularly. This is nothing compared to a dozen strangers appearing at your tower as happened at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. The problem of knowing people's abilities is then extended to not knowing who people were, or even if they were ringers at all. This morning, we were engulfed by ringers from the Fire Service Guild (get it?) who had been on a ringing outing to various towers in Suffolk yesterday, including Lavenham and Stowmarket. Despite the difficulties involved in running such a session, it was of course a pleasure to welcome our visitors and although we rang lots of Rounds and Call Changes on 12, they helped us to ring the best Stedman and Grandsire Cinques that we have managed on a Sunday morning for a long time.

Most of them continued on to St Margarets, but a family of 3 from Hertfordshire did follow Don to Grundisburgh.

With Stephen not quite back and Ruthie working today, they were very welcome, enabling us to ring Stedman and Grandsire Triples as well as Rounds and Call Changes on 10 for their boy, the first time he had rung on 10, doing very well.

After a trip to Tescos, I met Ruthie for lunch at Costa's. It was the first time Boots in Woodbridge had opened on a Sunday and with little advertising done, it proved to be an extremely quiet day for Ruthie and her colleagues. In fact, the only excitement came from a shoplifter who stole four packs of razors. He wasn't caught, making a clean-shaven getaway, but he was clearly captured on CCTV, so they should hopefully catch him.

Whilst Ruthie returned to Ghost Town Boots, I trekked on down to the riverfront to an opposite scenario. It was heaving as people enjoyed the Woodbridge Regatta. No doubt the numbers were boosted considerably by the roasting sunshine, but it was easy to see why it was so busy. With loads of stalls representing local organisations, boat races and copious amounts of beer available, it was an ideal day out for families, youngsters, couples and the elderly alike. Indeed, as I wandered around I bumped into Peter from work and his wife Mel and 3-month old son Jacob. It also struck me as being an ideal event to take a mini-ring to generate some positive PR and maybe do some recruitment.

Having picked Ruthie up from work, it was immediately off to Stowmarket for a quarter-peal of 8-spliced Surprise Major organised by Winston. After a good start, the first attempt suffered from a swap (of which I was one of the guilty parties). We began again before it collapsed again, three-and-a-half leads from the end. A pity, but after the beginning it never really got going satisfactorily.

Retiring to the Queens Head opposite the church, we had an interesting chat on a number of Guild issues, all done thoroughly amicably. Without going into detail, it did highlight to me that if people want their views known, they need to attend Guild events and have their say. In fact, I am keen that people do this as we all have ultimately the same aim - that bells in Suffolk are rung regularly and well. If we are going about this in the wrong way then please do let us know!

Slightly tired but enjoying a lovely summers evening, we returned to Ruthie's to watch more football. Happy days!

Saturday 7th June 2008

Having tidied the house and dropped Mason off, Ruthie and I found ourselves a little on the drag for Great Bentley, the first tower of the South-East Districts mini-outing to North Essex. We further compounded this by missing our turning off the A120 (ironically because we saw Great Bromley on the signs and wanted to avoid it), thus ending up in Colchester, meaning we missed this tower. However, it did mean we were on time for Great Holland, a cracking 8, on which we were able to ring some really stonking Cambridge Major, despite some of the ropes being set to giant height. Not easy for Ruthie...

The third and last tower of the day was Kirby-le-Soken, another fantastic 8 and another place we were able to pull off some cracking Cambridge, amongst other things of course.

Thanks have to go to Kate for organising it (although of course she wasn't able to enjoy the fruits of her labour), Peter for running the ringing and Paul and Anne Bray for letting us into their local towers. Paul and Anne have been great additions to the St Mary-le-Tower band in recent months and were here both as hosts and members of the South-East District through their membership at SMLT.

It was also good to see Lucy Williamson, Jonathan and Sue's daughter joining in and doing very well. It's not easy to ring on strange bells, but bar an initial hiccup at Great Bentley, she was on the ball. Keep it up Lucy.

Most of us enjoyed a nice meal in The Red Lion, directly opposite Kirby-le-Soken church, before people headed off. The majority were going home, but some had to dash back to ring for a wedding at Grundisburgh, Paul and Anne were judging the striking competition of the Essex Association's Northern District and Ruthie and I had to hang around. We were to pick Kate and Mickie up from Stanstead Airport at 6, meaning it wasn't worth going home only to come back again, but also meant it was a long time to hang around.

Both Ruthie and I came up with ideas to pass the hours. I suggested shopping, whilst Ruthie thought it best to go to the pub to watch football. OK, OK, it was the other way round, but we ended up doing both, stopping off first at the Freeport Shopping Outlet on the outskirts of Braintree, before meandering over to The Four Ashes pub in Takeley, just a few miles from the airport. Normally I would be very excited about the opening of a tournament such as Euro 2008, but without England (or even any of the other home nations) in it, it's just not the same. Normally I'd watch bits of most matches and join my mates down a pub with hundreds of others to watch the England games on truly glorious boozy occasions. There won't be any of that this time around though sadly, thanks to Steve McClaren and his army of heavily over-paid 'stars'. Still, I couldn't resist watching the opening ceremony and the first game, Switzerland (featuring a dead ringer for Prince William in 20 years time - look out for their number 3) v Czech Republic (or the Gregory Pecks as Ruthie likes to call them - ask her!) before we got the call from Kate.

Within minutes we were getting lost around the car parks of Stanstead Airport, eventually meeting up with the chatty twosome who regaled us of their tales from France, particularly of a typically playful Alan!

Having let them off at Chez McBurnie's in Shottisham, where Kate had left her car, we returned to Edwin Avenue. The plan had then been to meet up with Aaron in Woodbridge, but it seemed everything had caught up with him and he pulled out. With a 5am start tomorrow it was perhaps sensible although disappointing not to see him one last time before he left. Still, it goes without saying that we wish him the best of luck. The next 9 weeks will, I imagine, be very tough in more than one way, but he'll undoubtedly come out the other end better for it.

The change of plans meant we opted for a night in watching more football, much to Ruthie's delight. We munched on Chinese and drank some welcome beer as Portugal (my tip as winners for the tournament) battered Turkey 2-0. Slowly but surely, I'm getting into this thing...

Friday 6th June 2008

Interesting to read David Salter's report on the Central Council weekend, which has been posted with mine. The great thing about having four reps is that we will all have picked up different things, something that shows in his article, although there is much that we have both picked up. It's also worth seeing it from the perspective of someone that's served the CC well as David has, having been to many meetings and helped out on the committees.

With Ruthie still feeling a little unwell, I decided Mason and I should perhaps stay in to keep her company, something I think she appreciated! As a result we didn't go to Hollesley, but I think we've probably earned a little break!

Thursday 5th June 2008

With Stephen still on holiday and Ruthie still a little unwell (although she gallantly went into work today on her day off to help them out as they were short), it fell to me to run Grundisburgh practice. A slow start that saw not a lot happen other than Mason ringing on the dumb-bell built up as the evening progressed and we rang Grandsire Caters before we left. Although we left them with 9, Mike Whitby was arriving as I was putting Mason in the car, so hopefully they were able to finish the practice well.

Wednesday 4th June 2008

Partook in my first company meeting this morning where the handful of people that make up John Catt gather together and discuss work instead of doing work. I have to admit I'm not a fan of meetings, but like with ringing, they are necessary in some circumstances. However, in ringing, I can't see the point of having meetings for the sake of having meetings when we could be ringing. Similarly, the three-quarters of an hour spent gabbering about stuff that won't affect work, could have been spent working. It's a nice idea I suppose and in company of this size practical too, unlike similar ones I'vef had at places like HSBC and MSC where such meetings were a drop in the ocean and a real waste of time. And they were able to reveal a lot more on the company's move to Melton, which is currently pencilled in for the 18th, August, providing the building has been completed!

Whilst the move is exciting and (for me and most of my colleagues) a lot closer, working in Great Glemham has its perks. One is the amount of nice spots I can retreat to for lunch and often I find myself sat outside the church, munching on my sandwiches. Today was no different, but I had a pleasant surprise as I was greeted by a passing Jonathan and Richard Stevens, a nice break from my break!

Ruthie was a little under the weather tonight, so didn't accompany Mason (whom I had picked up from Kara's new house for the first time this evening) and me to Pettistree. Despite being a little short with no Eagles or Elaine, we still peaked at Chester Minor, which after a couple of false starts was actually rung very well.

Then it was back to Woodbridge to get the li'l man to bed, before finally getting the opportunity to move the chicken hutch (home to Bob, Single and Tone) in the dark. Not easy...

Tuesday 3rd June 2008

With Kate still away, Ruthie and I returned to Marlesford for the Ufford practice. Once again it was a useful evening with Anne getting to grips with an unaffected touch of St Simons (me thinks it's time to get her involved in the action!) and Sally trying Plain Hunt on 6 from the 3rd and 4th after the good job she did of it off the 2nd last week. It annoys me that learners often go on about not being able to ring something off a different bell because they 'only know it off the 2nd' as it shouldn't make any real difference, so I'm trying to make sure Sally doesn't fall into this trap! We also rang some good Cambridge, a plain course and a touch.

Good to see Simon Cottrell return to ringing after an absence of a few months. He leapt straight back into action and rang the treble to Plain Bob Minor as if he'd never been away.

Afterwards, we'd arranged to meet Aaron in The Mariners in Woodbridge as he prepares for his departure this weekend.

We had a nice drink on a quiet night for the pub and were joined by his friends Chris and Stella who had enjoyed a day of cider promotions in Ipswich, so were slightly worse for wear!

Just a quick note on this Saturdays mini South-East District Outing to Essex on Saturday morning. Although correct on the website, it appears some of the What's Ons have quoted the first tower as being Great Bromley when in fact it is Great BENTLEY. If you are going on it please go to the right place or you'll have a long wait for the rest of us! Also, if you know anyone who is or is likely to be going on the outing but won't be reading this blog, please just check with them that they're going to the right place!

Monday 2nd June 2008

England won 3-0 in the end for those were interested. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't, but at least I didn't miss that much after going to bed last night.

There was a good turnout at St Mary-le-Tower for practice tonight, including a visit from Brian Meads as Chelmsford Cathedral are out of action at the moment with the clappers out. The standard of ringing was sadly lacking however, perhaps to be expected after the bank holiday break. I know that normally we are a lot better than that, so I shan't lose too much sleep over it, but it was perhaps a reminder that we can't rest on our laurels. We've made amazing progress over the last year or so, but there's a long way to go still and hopefully it'll be fun and exciting along the way.

A pint in Mannings and then back to Woodbridge through the remnants of the evenings thunderstorm.

Sunday 1st June 2008

Credit where credit is due. A few months back, I was appealing for more people who could to come to St Mary-le-Tower and now we seem to be benefiting. This morning's ringing was great and done on 12, with Kent Max the highlight. Obviously we're short of ringing Surprise Max on a Sunday morning and although that's still the aim, the important thing is that this marvellous 12 is being rung and rung well on the Sabbath.

The situation was a little sadder at Grundisburgh, where there were only 6 of us, one of which was Mason. He drifted off as we rang St Simons and Grandsire Doubles. It was a poor turnout, even taking into account the fact that Stephen, Kate and Alan are on holiday.

I'd made a bit of a mess up with my arrangements this evening as I'd agreed to ring in a quarter of 8-spliced at Rendham. However, I'd not realised that Kara needed me to have the li'l chap until tomorrow morning and with no one available to practically babysit him, I had to regrettably drop out.

We stopped at home watching TV, whilst Aunty Ruthie went along to score a quarter of Yorkshire, with thanks to Jane Harper for stepping in.

I only caught the beginning 15 minutes of the very late kick-off in the Trinidad v England match, but it was long enough to see England go 2-0 up, so it seemed a good time to go to bed!

Saturday 31st May 2008

It's not often I have Mason at the weekend at the moment, but Kara and Danny are moving house this weekend. Not far, just into Woodbridge itself, but obviously they didn't need an intrigued 16-month old explorer walking in between boxes, stacked furniture and breakables normally kept out of his reach, so this weekend was a 'Daddy and Aunty Ruthie Weekend'!

We started it in Ufford, where Taylor's had recently ordered ringing be ceased as many of you will be aware. Alan Moult and Jonathan Stevens were to meet Ruthie, Mason and me there in Kate's absence in order to get a second opinion and a Guild perspective. It's often best I find as understandably, PCC's take on board what the 'professionals' say and it' hard to budge them after that, so it's important we get our experts in to give an opinion. I've always thought it is better to listen to the Guild's experts, who have nothing to benefit from pronouncing bells ringable when they're not and so give an honest opinion. Bellfounders on the hand, could be open to the accusation that they are 'touting for business'. Whilst there is absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that that is the case on this occasion, Jonathan and Alan came to a different conclusion to Taylor's on Ufford. Whilst the gudgeons needs to be regularly checked and monitored, they are certainly not unringable and so ringing should now hopefully resume once the necessary people have been informed.

Just a note of criticism of Taylor's was not the conclusion they came to (which was no doubt made with the best intentions) but how they informed people of it. Kate was given the impression that the bells were still OK to be rung in the immediate aftermath of the first inspection, which she duly relayed to all concerned in good faith. She was then contradicted by the written report, which at the least could've made her look quite foolish and the worst affected her standing amongst the church at Ufford, people she not only deals with on a ringing basis but also on a professional basis. Very disappointing.

Whilst Ruthie was amongst the bells with the lucky chaps, Mason was taking a walk around the village, carefully watched by myself. It's amazing how confident he is on his feet already!

After a quick visit to Woodbridge, where we came across some Morris Dancers (read my notes on the model railway exhibition back in November for what I was thinking as I watched these!), it was on to Great Glemham, now a place very familiar to me. Although we parked up in my work's car park, though we weren't here for work today, but rather to ring before and after a wedding.

I had noticed the other week that a toilet had been built where the ringers were once and have to admit my initial thought was that as usual, no consideration had been given to bellringers. However, it could be a blessing in disguise, as since I was last there, a temporary structure has been built above the toilet, making them a gallery ring now, with a permanent structure apparently in the pipeline. It has made them a lot easier to ring, although still not brilliant to listen to. As Mum commented, 'I don't remember them sounding like they came from different rings of bells'.

It was not ideal for taking Mason up either, so Peter Harper kindly came in to ring, allowing Ruthie to ring before and myself to ring after, with a quick pint in The Crown whilst the wedding was on.

It was nice to see the whole village come out to watch the bride arrive (20 minutes late) in a show of old-style rural community spirit.

The evening saw us go to Aaron's for a farewell BBQ, although Ruthie first had to let a quarter-peal band into Grundisburgh before joining Mason and me there. Aaron leaves to join the Navy next Sunday, so it was a fairly emotional evening for him, with many family and friends there and thankfully Mason behaved impeccably, wowing the crowd as usual before we returned back to Ruthie's.

Friday 30th May 2008

Ruthie has another cousin! The news was relayed to her this morning from France by Kate, whose brother 'Wob' and his wife Stella have become proud parents of Poppy Elizabeth, a little sister to Freddie. Congratulations to all concerned.

Having grabbed fish and chips from the van in Hollesley, Ruthie, Mason (who had spent the day at Chez Ashcroft) and I went to Hollesley practice, bolstering the numbers in Kate, Alan and Mickie's absence. The fact we were able to ring Grandsire Triples in such circumstances was a huge success.

We still had to leave early however and - once we'd dropped a card off for Poppy at her parents house round the corner from mine, it was back to Edwin Avenue.

Thursday 29th May 2008

Well done to Delia Golding on ringing her first quarter! The big event was earned at Buxhall on Sunday. I still remember my first quarter, Bob Doubles on the middle 6 at St Mary-le-Tower in the dark as there was a power cut (that hasn't happened for, urm... well weeks) some years ago, an achievement that I was very proud of and still look back on with much fondness, as Delia will hopefully. If anyone has achievements they want to shout about then let the webmaster, newsletter and myself know so we can shout about it too!

Today was the Queen's birthday. Well as good as and better, for we get two birthdays for the price of one as not only is it the Windy Reverend Geoffrey Clement's birthday, it is also Alan McBurnie's (the main reason he is in France at the moment), so happy, happy birthday to you both!

There was a decent turnout at Grundisburgh bearing in mind it is the traditionally quiet week, Kate and Alan are away and it was pretty wet and miserable outside. Before I left with Mason, I was able to help out with Grandsire Triples, Superlative Major and Grandsire Caters, with Anne Buswell ringing the treble - well done Anne!

Wednesday 28th May 2008

Feeling better, Ruthie drove us both to Pettistree, where we rang an extremely well rung and well struck quarter of Westminster Surprise Minor, one of the few 41 that we didn't drive through, past or near over the weekend!

The practice that followed was also of a high standard as well as varied, culminating in the traditional touch of spliced Doubles and Minor, cramming in Grandsire, Stedman, Plain, Little, Norwich, Cambridge, Beverley and Surfleet - all good fun.

Ruthie and I saved some more money by contenting ourselves with some beers at hers. England beat the USA 2-0 in a friendly at Wembley, but I have to confess that - bar briefly flicking over to check the score - I didn't watch it. With England absent from this summer's festival of football, otherwise known as Euro 2008 I have to admit that I'm less than interested in pointless friendlies with sub-standard opposition. Mind you, with the tournament only a few days away, I expect I'll be brought round by an occasional intrigued glance as the rest get on with it...

Tuesday 27th May 2008

Back to work today, very tired from the weekend and grotty from illness, not helped by wet and cool weather that mirrored my state. Still, nice to be back in a strange kind of way.

With Kate away, Ruthie (who was feeling even worse than me) forsook our normal Tuesday night in to help out at - and in my case run - Ufford practice, which due to the bann on ringing at Ufford is being rather kindly hosted by Marlesford.

A healthy attendance enabled us to cover a spectrum from Rounds and Call Changes to Cambridge Minor and I think everyone got something from the evening which is the whole point of practice night.

Monday 26th May 2008

Still feeling rough, we rose a lot earlier than either of us would've cared for. We were in a deserted Bank Holiday Newcastle by 9.15, where we met the Salters again. Whilst Ruthie headed off with Katharine and the boys to Lindisfarne, David and I joined hundreds of other ringers, of all shapes and sizes and from all areas of the ringing world, in the Centre of Life for my first ever Central Council meeting.

The meeting itself was long and dull, broken up by the half hour Ringing World meeting and the even shorter and inaugural Ringing Foundation meeting, all of which I've decided to compile in a separate account!

It was a fantastic gathering, as I came across ringers from pretty much every aspect of my ringing life, with people like Stef Warboys, the Wilbys and Philip Saddleton from my Birmingham days, Michael Dew (Ellen's dad), Stuart Hutchieson, George Dawson and Andrew Mills from The Rambling Ringers, mingling with folk like David McLean, David Sparling and Brian Meads from closer to home, amongst many, many more. Great stuff.

Us four Suffolk reps made our own lunch arrangements, finding a pub near the railway station, with the old hands of Pettman, Pizzey and Salter taking the mick over the absence of my pen and papers (something that came as no surprise to the legendary Andrew Stubbs!) whilst also covering all aspects of ringing from past Council meetings to present day Suffolk issues.

Come 5 o' clock, the ladies and boys were hovering in the doorway, as was Sharon Mills (Andrew's long-suffering wife) and their girls, which was the cue for David and I to leave with long journeys south to be made and work to go back to in the morning. As Lawrence and Stephen weren't returning to Suffolk until tomorrow, they stayed for the long haul, but we certainly weren't alone in leaving early as others contemplated lengthy trips from this delightful far-flung corner of England.

The journey back was uneventful and quick, hardly any lorries getting in the way (beautiful!) and we were back in Woodbridge bang on 10 o' clock, where we handed the camera over to Kate, who was immediately heading over to Alan's in preparation for their own trip away, to France, tomorrow.

I, in the meantime headed back to Hollesley and so a day that began in a barn in Northumberland finished snuggled up in my own warm bed, tired but satisfied that I had done my bit for the Suffolk Guild!

Sunday 25th May 2008

No lay-in this morning as we decided to 'do' Durham this morning. The long walk up the hill and then the 325 steps was well worth it, as along with the locals and other visitors (including a rep from Cornwall) we rang some nice Rounds and Call Changes on this lovely 10.

Ruthie and I were then kindly guided to St Oswalds by a group, one of whom transpired to be Abi Anthrobus from Bury St Edmunds, currently studying up here. We had an amusing chat about the characters of Suffolk ringing, before reaching this cracking little 8, where we were joined by a large group from the Uni society, including Christopher Crabtree and Ellen Dew. I've known both of these since they were very small through Rambling Ringers, but having not been on the tour, I hadn't seen either of them for ages, so it was nice to catch up. Also interesting to note the ghost of Annie Brechin still lives on up here 3 years on!

Having done our ringing bit and cheerfully bade farewell to new faces and old, we wandered around Durham, a beautiful city that has to be visited if you're in this area. After grabbing a hefty lunch in the Market Tavern, we headed back to base.

It was then our weekend turned slightly sour. Once back at the barn, we both felt quite ill with mild flu-like symptoms that sent us to sleep at one point. With the pub next door not doing any food on Sunday evenings, our original plans were scuppered so we instead journeyed to Hexham to grab a curry, but even this didn't make us feel any better and we were dead to the world by 9 o' clock.

Saturday 24th May 2008

It's not often I get a lay-in, what with Mason, work, ringing, etc, so we took a full opportunity to sleep before heading into Newcastle, primarily for another peal but also to explore a little. As a massive football fan, I was determined to see one of footballs meccas, St James' Park, home of course to Newcastle United Football Club. It was worth the small detour, although we couldn't stop to explore it fully and I did manage to lose my sense of direction, meaning we actually ended up parked further from St Nicholas' Cathedral (host to my second and final peal of the weekend) than we intended.

This didn't stop us doing the sightseeing bit as we crossed the famous Tyne Bridge, just yards from the Cathedral before meeting up with the peal band and hangers on.

We rang a couple of pieces of Rounds on 12 for Ruthie and some chap called Simon Smith from Ely, who was nothing to do with the CC but was welcome nonetheless, to have a grab.

As time ticked by it became increasingly obvious we were meeting one short, worrying Ruthie who feared she may be called upon instead of carrying out her planned shopping exploration of Newcastle. She needn't have worried as David Hird, who had met us, stepped in and a very good peal of Yorkshire Maximus was scored on a peal of bells that - although the front bells are rather dominated by the back bells - are nice ring of 12. It was a good effort from another varied band (as you would expect on a weekend like this) from Essex, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Coventry and Newcastle all pulled together, yet another example of how ringing differs in a positive way from most other hobbies.

Straight after - having met with Ruthie outside - it was straight down to County Durham and a go on the Black Bull Ring, a ring of bells next door to the kitchens of the pub of the same name in Frosterley. We had good ring on them with the Salters, some Thorleys and a father and son from St Albans (once again, what other hobby could be quite so accommodating?) who had come for a grab. Some nice Newcastle Surprise Minor (Wells below, Carlisle above) was rung and although Ruthie and I hadn't booked, we managed to blag a meal from an extremely busy pub!

Leaving after 9 and still in broad daylight (I was driving home with the lights on from Grundisburgh at 8.30 on Thursday), we gently made our way back to Barrasford, where we watched the the farce that is the Eurovision Song Contest (nothing much else on). Why any of the western European countries continue bothering with this now is beyond me - and it appears Terry Wogan - as the eastern Europeans and Scandinavians vote for themselves, leaving countries like the UK, France, Italy and so on with no chance of ever winning it again. Bizarre and pointless.

Friday 23rd May 2008

First port of call on a long day on so many levels was Ipswich to drop Mason off at Mum and Dad's before Ruthie and I set off on the longest journey I have ever dared take my car on! The destination was Newcastle, the reason was my first Central Council meeting. Although the actual meeting isn't until Monday, I was in a peal this evening, so an early start to the Bank Holiday weekend was necessary.

All things considered, the journey up wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, with us reaching our accommodation in Barrasford near Hexham an hour early. However, the long haul cemented my opinion that most people on the road are oblivious to what's around them as they dawdled in the 'fast' lane at 50mph and then showed great grievance when you tried to get round them. Overtaking lorries, another pet hate of mine were highly prevalent too. The sight of The Angel of the North was heartening though as we realised the long trip north was nearly done. Hasn't she got a big bum though?

Having got the keys to the camping barn we were staying in, we were able to survey the basic amenities. No heating, an old TV and toilet and shower facilities across the car park. However, it was cheap, had a pub right next door and as luck would have it, no one else was booked in for the weekend, meaning we had an eight-person room to ourselves, allowing us to spread out!

I left Ruthie in Barrasford as she showered and zonked out after the 5 and a half hour journey, to go into Newcastle itself and more specifically St John's, where I met up with David Salter and others for a peal of Bristol Major. The bells themselves are lovely, an 11cwt 8, although the ceiling is marginally too low, leading to a mild form of Wickham Market Syndrome. However, the peal was - as David himself would put it - WBE (well below expectations) as we struggled to make any real impact until the last few courses. This was perhaps to be expected with a varied band, most of which had made very long journeys today.

I hung around only long enough to say hello to the rest of the Salter clan (Henry gave me a smile this time!) before heading back to base via Tesco's at nearby Hexham to grab some essentials.

With the evening still relatively young, Ruthie and I decided to test the local and neighbouring drinking establishment, The Barrasford Arms. We weren't disappointed, trying out a couple of local brews before heading to bed to rest our weary souls!

Thursday 22nd May 2008

Got my first sale with the new job, well ahead of expectations. It's a promising sign and partly due to the pleasant surroundings. These I explored properly for the first time during my lunch today, wandering up the footpath that takes people behind my workplace and comes out opposite the church. It was open and surrounded by work vans and equipment.

I haven't rung on the 5 at Great Glemham for years - indeed, not many people have - and I wondered what was being done, so I couldn't resist taking a peek inside. It appears that there is a downstairs toilet being put in at the bottom of the tower, just underneath the old rope guides. Not sure if this will make any difference to the availability of the bells - if anyone wanted to have a go - but a peal board recording an 5040 of Bob Doubles from 1986 rung by Messrs Claxton, Earey, Pettman, Knights and Pipe still hangs proudly just to the right of the tower in the church.

Having picked Mason up from Mum and Dad's, we and Ruthie grabbed some quick tea and made our way to Grundisburgh for practice. Despite his injured wrist still giving him trouble and forcing him home early, Stephen (and ourselves with Mason) stuck around long enough to ring Grandsire Cinques. After Mr P leaving and before us 3 leaving, we also managed some Yorkshire Royal.

On the way back to Hollesley we had to take a slight detour via the water tower as a serious looking accident on the home stretch had required several police cars and a tow truck to block the road off. Hopefully everyone is alright, but it does highlight the dangers of a road shrouded in forest and home to marauding deer.

Wednesday 21st May 2008

Chez Eagle isn't having much luck with machines at the moment. Hot on the heels of their microwave dying last week, the washing machine has joined it in white-goods heaven. Luckily I didn't have Mason with me (unusually for a Wednesday night) as the normal mess that comes with removing a faulty washing machine would've just proved too tempting for him!

A lack of child this evening not only meant I got to stay for the whole practice at Pettistree, participating in brilliantly rung pieces of Westminster and Carlisle Minor, but also to go to The Greyhound for a drink afterwards, the first time I've been able to do this since it reopened at the end of last month.

Even a broken rope on the 4th could spoil a lovely evening of ringing, as Geoffrey thankfully left it until the last piece to break it.

Ruthie and I even got back to hers in time to catch the end of the first ever all-English Champion's League final, Manchester United beating Chelsea on penalties in a dramatic game.

Tuesday 20th May 2008

Take a look at Campanophile (14 months old and already on both strokes:) today. Aren't they a good looking pair of boys?!

On the way home this afternoon, saw Mr Pettman dropping pupils off at the water tower crossroads just outside Hollesley, but that's about as exciting as the day got.

It was a lovely evening in with Ruthie however and I did enjoy Philip's report on the striking competitions.

Monday 19th May 2008

Another low turnout at St Mary-le-Tower tonight. We were able to ring Cambridge Maximus, but it was hard work and needed a second attempt - as did most pieces tonight - as we were on the bare bones with people very much on a learning curve. I was determined to ring Surprise Max however, as having not rung it last week and no practice next week, we were facing the prospect of going a month without it, not really acceptable in our circumstances where every opportunity to practice it is valuable.

We did ring some very good London Royal to finish and had a visit from brother Chris, down for a dentist's appointment, so it wasn't a disastrous night by any means, but it shows how much work we still need to do and how much help we still need, especially over the traditionally unpredictable summer months.

On top of that, we got a drink out of Chris to celebrate his promotion and job move from Haverhill back to Cambridge. Well done Chris!

After that, it was back to Ruthie's for fish finger sandwiches as we continue saving for the weekend!

Sunday 18th May 2008

Following last night's vast consumption of Adnam's, the four of us woke to a very breezy flat in Mallard Way. With windows down, myself, Fran and Andrew made our way to St Mary-le-Tower, whilst Ruthie headed to Pettistree.

Both towers had a bit of a bounce after their successes yesterday, as I hope all towers who entered did.

At SMLT, we rang 12 again, now becoming a regular occurrence on a Sunday morning. Whilst we should be wary that this was achieved with the aide of our two visitors from Birmingham and Hedley and Hazel from Canterbury, we were missing some regulars, so I'm looking to those who can help to come if at all possible to keep all 12 ringing on the most important ringing day of the week. Sadly, Hedley and Hazel are returning to Kent for the weekends now that they've helped their daughter with her newborn, but hopefully they'll be back in August. Unfortunately, the Kent Max we attempted to see them off with went horribly awry within moments, but the thought was there!

Stephen gallantly ran ringing at Grundisburgh, despite the wrist injury that kept him out of yesterday's competitions, but we only managed 8 today. Luckily, Fran and Andrew have already sampled the delights of the 12, so they weren't too downhearted...

After a long wait at the Wyevale cafe for a cuppa and some breakfast, we saw our judges off safely. It's been great seeing them again and I am eternally grateful for their efforts yesterday in what must have seemed like a very long day at some points!

With Phil and Maggie away, Alan decided that this evening was a good opportunity for Paul Norris to get his first quarter of half-lead spliced Surprise Major in 5 methods. The setting was Hollesley, the attempt - bar a quickly sorted out blip half-way through - seemed almost effortless, a real credit to the band and to Paul. Well done mate!

Whilst most of the band went to the Wilford Bridge for grub, Ruthie and I continued our budgeting and went back to hers as that was where my car was. It was also a chance to catch a brand new episode of The Simpsons, always a treat...

Saturday 17th May 2008

Phew! What a day!

It all started with Mason and Ruthie helping me to tidy my flat in anticipation of my guests and very good friends this weekend, Fran Dodds and Andrew Ellis, over from Birmingham to judge the Guild Striking Competitions today.

With Mason dropped off and quick bit of lunch grabbed, it was off to Sweffling for the Mitson Shield, the Guild 6-Bell, where I found Fran and Andrew already there, along with a large number of Guild members, chomping at the bit. After raising the bells and a plain course of Bob Minor for the judges to experience the bells for themselves, they were dispatched to a very generous neighbour, a former ringer at Sweffling who had kindly allowed our visitors to do their marking from her summerhouse.

This allowed us to make the draw and get underway, a huge task as 13 teams had entered, forcing us to cut the test pieces in half in order to fit the contest in today! A wide variety of methods were rung, with Cambridge, Kent, Grandsire, Plain Bob Doubles and Minor as well as the call-change bands.

Personally, I rang for four bands - St Mary-le-Tower 'B', Pettistree 'A', Grundisburgh and as the official reserve, for Sweffling.

It was with them I made a complete idiot of myself by going wrong in Grandsire Doubles with fatal results. Although they wouldn't have won, they would have come very high up, so I was - and still am - very sorry for ruining their piece on their home bells, especially Hazel! Suffice to say I have received and probably will receive serious ribbing for some time.

There was a lovely tea put on by the locals and the WI in the village hut and then the big moment arrived.

Fran and Andrew delivered encouraging, expert comments before announcing Pettistree 'A' as the winners, the first time they have ever won it, so well done Pettistree, a massive achievement and well deserved.

Congratulations have to go to Debenham 'O' (The Originals) for winning the Lester Brett Call Change Trophy on it's return, coming 5th out of the whole lot!

Following the draw for the Rose Trophy, it was on to Rendham, where five teams battled it out for the 8-bell. Again, the ringing was of a very high standard and with myself behaving, there were no major calamities! I was well chuffed that SMLT won, allowing us to reclaim a trophy we haven't had for a bit.

Retiring to The White Horse across from the church, we all reflected on a marvellous day of ringing. Although very hard work for the judges, the huge turnout was a joy for all concerned and with Pettistree and Debenham's successes, their surely can't be any greater motivation for bands that don't think they're capable of competing in the competitions. At the end of the day, win, lose or fire-out (again, sorry!), it's a brilliant social event and great ringing experience that can only benefit your tower's ringing.

Thank you very, very much to all concerned, particularly to Jonathan Stevens for providing the bells, those who hosted the judges in their summerhouses and indeed to all for taking part.

Ruthie, Fran, Andrew and myself made our way back to Hollesley for several beers and a lot of catching up.

Friday 16th May 2008

Dropped Mason off at Mum and Dad's again this morning, but not quite as early this time, so not so much hanging around. This was good today as it was fairly cold and wet, but dress-down day (as it is every Friday) cheered the atmosphere.

Ruthie went for a couple of drinks at The Cherry Tree in Woodbridge with her mate Fergie, meaning she missed Hollesley practice, a rare occurrence, although of course she missed last week's and with us both due in Newcastle next Friday we'll both miss next week's practice. With Ruthie driving and Fergie tee-total, there was no alcohol involved, again a rare occurrence.

For those of us at practice, we enjoyed Mason's antics and some good Stedman Triples amongst other useful ringing before we headed home and awaited Aunty Ruthie's arrival.

Thursday 15th May 2008

Picking Mason up was an early affair this morning, both because Kara needed to be in Lowestoft by 8 and because I needed to drop the li'l chap off at Mum and Dad's in Ipswich before driving up to Great Glemham.

In the end, it proved a gentle and pleasant bit of journeying, as after completing a route through the very rural communities of Tuddenham, Clopton, Charsfield and Wickham Market, I arrived at work an hour early, well ahead of anyone else. Although the strong, hot weather of the last couple of weeks had disappeared today, it was still more than nice enough to wander the village and still be waiting on the doorstep for my impressed manager!

The trip back didn't work out quite as well, as a combination of a late departure from work, filling the car up with diesel and getting Ruthie, Mason and myself fed and ready meant there wasn't really enough time to get to Grundisburgh. I'm always disappointed to let practices down and it was an unfortunate turn of events in the circumstances, as Stephen had to leave early due to a bad wrist (make your own comments up), leaving just 6 as the one-week-good, one-week-bad pattern continued here.

Still, I had an enjoyable evening with Ruthie and a very giggly Mason, so it wasn't all bad.

Wednesday 14th May 2008

Still being my first day, there was a little more induction procedure that on this occasion involved visiting everybody in the office (there's only 15/16 work there) and finding out what they do. It was a really useful tour and something that I've never done before, primarily because all the previous organisations I've worked for have been too big for it to be practical. It also highlighted how tight-knit the group was as even the Managing Director mucks in and (in his words) 'generally breaks everything'.

The tour took up the whole morning, but it was soon back to speaking to people worldwide on the telephone and via email, so there was certainly no resting!

In the evening, it was the next stage towards the 41-Spliced Surprise Minor at The Wolery. Tonight we rang 30 methods and although we struggled quite a bit with some of the more complicated ones, we scored the peal in 1 hour and 43 minutes and sufficiently well for David to decree that we would be going for the full 41 next month.

Unfortunately, I don't seem to be little Henry's favourite visitor though, as he screamed and filled his nappy the moment I smiled. I hope I don't have that affect on everyone...

Tuesday 13th May 2008

Enjoyed getting really settled into the job today after yesterday's introduction to the basics. We focused on a campaign involving international school guides and magazines, which meant I found myself speaking to people from the US, Canada, Portugal, India, Spain and so on in order to sell advertising space, an interesting experience!

I met Ruthie at home for our evening in, enjoying the very light evening, but unfortunately there was no football, much to Ruthie's disappointment!

Also, if you're reading this and haven't got an entry into the Guild Striking Competition(s) at Sweffling and Rendham this Saturday, hurry and get in touch with me, especially call change bands!

Monday 12th May 2008

There wasn't much time to recover from the weekends exploits, as I had a very big day today. It was the beginning of a hopefully long and successful career at John Catt Educational Ltd. The gentle and meandering route through places like Butley, Blaxhall and Stratford in the sunshine, got me to work in a laid-back but eager mood.

I was almost immediately thrust into the action, finally using my abilities in a proper job, rather than being the hired help for jobs nobody else had wanted to do in the last 6 months. My responsibilities and the companies expectations are reasonable (take note MSC) and from what I've seen so far, they are an example of how life in the workplace should be - interesting, busy but not pressured and overly stressful.

Even the offices are different, based in the old school in Great Glemham, overlooking brightly coloured fields and country lanes, although the slightly ramshackle and well-used building means that the company is planning on moving in August. Even this is to my advantage though, as they (or perhaps I should say we) are moving to newly built offices behind the council offices in Woodbridge, nicely positioned by the River Deben.

Despite an exhilarating, if slightly tiring day, I could've done with a break, but there is no rest for the wicked and after the called off practice last week and pigeon incident the week before, it was a welcome return to St Mary-le-Tower for practice night. It was a disappointing turnout, but we were still able to ring all 12 for Gerald, a friend of Paul's from Essex, who is planning to come more regularly, which is good. Although we didn't ring at least Surprise Maximus for the first time for months, there was much good practice on 10, particularly for Peter Trent, who was able to refresh his memory on Cambridge Royal. However, I hope we have a return to the higher numbers soon.

With Newcastle looming, Ruthie and I have decided to try and save as much money as possible for the trip, so we headed straight back to Edwin Avenue for some well-deserved tea of both the edible and liquid variety.

Sunday 11th May 2008

For a Sunday, we had a relative lay-in and even had time for some jammy toast sandwiches as provided by Wellsy before driving into Birmingham city centre to ring at St Martin's-in-the Bullring, one of only 3 16's in the world and the only one in Britain. I used to be a band member here and have spent many an hour straining my brain in this famous belfry, but for Ruthie and Mason, it was the first time they had ever visited the home of the 12-Bell Contest holders. Ruthie rang on 16 for the first time, ringing jump changes. It's a complicated way of ringing call changes that can and does see bells jump as many as 15 places in one go, but it is a necessity as calling each change one-by-one would take hours. Ruthie did very well, holding her first backstroke up as other very accomplished ringers such as Philip Saddleton and John Warboys dropped theirs! Mason behaved impeccably, once again impressing people.

There wasn't time to hang around for the traditional post-Bullring cuppa however, as we needed to be changed into our finest and at Yardley church for Bethany's christening by 12.

It was a fantastic service and with what seemed like millions of noisy kids (including Mason!), the vicar did well to control it!

We briefly chatted to Tim Palmer, a young ringer who used to live next door to brother Chris during his time in Birmingham, but now lives in a house in Yardley churchyard, before continuing on to the Blue Plaza Ice Rink in Solihull, the destination for the Christening party. It was a great afternoon, as I caught up with - and Ruthie and Mason met - many more of friends from my uni days in Dudley. Nick and a pregnant Kate came up from Oxford, Nick and Fiona and there son Olly (who is two weeks older than Mason) journeyed over from Corby, Ian and Kelly brought their very young son Benjamin from Leicester and 'Mouse' Mark (too long to explain here!) made the short trip from Redditch. Mason made loads of friends, particularly with Dav's three-year old nephew Harrison - the two of them barely stopped hugging all afternoon.

However, we all had to make our way home, so we made the long journey back to Suffolk, listening to the climax of the Premier League season on Radio 5 as Mason slept. We dropped the li'l chap off at Kara's and then slumped on the new sofa, even treating ourselves to a Chinese.

Saturday 10th May 2008

Striking Competitions in Suffolk as I mainly remember them from my not-too-distant youth, were usually drenched in sunshine, well-attended and held somewhere where I wasn't sure where I was - normally in the middle of beautiful countryside, miles from a main road.

This afternoon's South-East District Striking Competition was almost exactly like this, although as I was driving I had to have some idea where Brandeston - the host tower for this years event - was. Seven teams entered, for which I was in three, although I do try to encourage as many people as is practical and possible to ring for just one tower in an attempt to get a bigger spread of members. St Mary-le-Tower were this year's winners (which I was obviously chuffed with), ringing Cambridge, with special mention having to go to Debenham who came 6th with some quite well-struck Call-Changes. It was a day of high standards and Kate did well to get Michael Clements and his wife to come along and judge. With so many other events on today, such as the North-East Striking Competition (well done to Halesworth in that one!), a training day and meeting in the North-West District and another striking completion in Essex, Mrs Eagle truly had her work cut out to get such high quality judges. I think perhaps next year though, the district needs to revert to having it's competition on the first Saturday in May as is traditional so that it doesn't clash with so many other events.

Ruthie, Mason and I couldn't hang around for the results however, as we had a rendezvous in Birmingham to meet my old university chums. We left straight after ringing for Grundisburgh and made it to Dav and Alison's house in Yardley for a barbecue. We were met by Wellsy and had our first introduction to Dav and Alison's gorgeous daughter Bethany, for whose christening tomorrow we were there. It was also the first time they had met Ruthie and Mason, so lots of fun was had watching the kids as we munched on burgers, sausages and any other meat Dav could fit on the grill, before the three of us went back to Wellsy's flat in Acock's Green for another couple of beers (not for the li'l chap you understand!).

A nice meal

Friday 9th May 2008

Another gorgeous day, more quality time spent with Mason, although I don't think he appreciates the hot weather quite as much as I do! He spends an awful lot of time sleeping and grumbles a lot more than he usually does. It's all relative however, as it's still a pleasure to spend so much time with the lad. He did at least seem to enjoy our little walk down by Wilford Bridge after our lunch with Aunty Ruthie.

Once Ruthie had come home from work though, it was a bit of a rush, as I had to be at Philip Gorrod's abode in Halesworth by 6 for a 'Think Tank' meeting., leaving Ruthie and Kate very kindly looking after Mason for the evening.

The meeting was very informal and was largely an exercise in Philip getting to grips with what he should and could be doing and how things work, but it was a useful get together for myself, Keith Ashton-Jones, Bruce Wakefield, Winston Girling and Chris and Mary Garner. We discussed the need for some appropriate delegation in an unofficial manner, the issue of communication and the area of finances, all aimed towards helping those in office to help the members and all accompanied by a lovely spread of food and cups of tea. A very enjoyable evening and all wrapped up - as promised by Philip - by 8.30, meaning I wasn't very late home at all, finding a relaxed girlfriend watching Have I Got News For You and a sleeping son.

Thursday 8th May 2008

Almost a repeat of yesterday, only with Ruthie with us on her normal day off. Down to Elmhurst Park, where Mason made another new friend, a two-year old called Joe, and a gentle meander back to Ruthie's where the li'l chap promptly slept for most of the afternoon. Not a habit I can afford to get into with my new job starting next week!

A pleasant surprise greeted us when the three of us climbed into the belfry at Grundisburgh for practice, as we were met by about 25 scouts crammed into the room as Stephen explained our art to them. A goodish number of ringers meant we could ring Rounds and Call Changes on 12 for them, with scouts squeezed into every available nook and cranny. If they weren't good friends before this evening, they are now!

As usual, I had to leave early with Mason, but it was good to see so many youngsters taking part in something other than computer games and hanging around on street corners, moaning about having nothing to do. Good on them and you never know, we might see one or two of them back for their Duke of Edinburgh badges in the near future.

Wednesday 7th May 2008

Picked Mason up for a long stint this morning. With a trip to Birmingham in the offing this weekend (all being well after last time we were meant to go!), I've got the li'l chap until Sunday evening.

We immediately took advantage of the tots group held in the Shepherd and Dog that we went to few weeks back, the boy having a great time again, although his mate Harry wasn't there there this time.

After popping to Woodbridge for a lunch meeting with Aunty Ruthie, Mason and I then went down to Elmhurst Park to lap up the warm weather, open spaces and swings. Another little friend for Mason, a girl called Maddy who was also on the swings. Social little chap my son. A brief walk alongside the Deben towards Melton and it was back to Edwin Avenue for some tea before dropping him off at Hazel's in Wickham Market whilst Ruthie and I rang in a very well rung quarter of 8-spliced Surprise Minor at Pettistree. Hazel in the meantime had pushed sleeping beauty over to Pettistree in readiness for the practice, much appreciated.

The practice itself was good and as usual varied with everyone getting something out of it. Even Mason got walking practice before we came home!

Tuesday 6th May 2008

The first workday off for a long time that I have truly felt able to relax for months and what a day! Like yesterday, absolutely roasting. Accompanying Ruthie down to her dentist by Woodbridge Railway Station, I wandered alongside the Deben for a bit, finding a new place, The Tea Hut, just as you head towards Waldringfield. After her escape from the dentist, Ruthie was keen to try this new establishment out, so we had a cup of tea and some chocolate cake. It's well worth having a wander along the riverside for a cuppa here next time you're in Woodbridge in the sun (or even if it isn't sunny!).

It was a nice way to relax before the hard-work started. Ruthie and I had been given the job of clearing up the bottom of the garden the Eagle's Nest, so we covered ourselves with sun cream and set about it. Hard work, but very, very satisfying.

Kate gave us a little bonus for our efforts, so we decided to treat ourselves at The Shepherd and Dog that evening. We were glad we did, the food typically fantastic. After a couple of pints and our day of physical labour, it was an early night.

Monday 5th May 2008

Bank Holidays are usually host appalling weather, but not today. Beautiful sunshine and striking blue skies all day made for a wonderful holiday atmosphere as we headed down to Hollesley church for a rerun of the half-lead 8-Spliced Surprise Major. Alas, despite the healthy donations we could hear being made in the church towards the tower fund as the flower festival entered its last day, we couldn't be spurred on to success. Still, we're not far off at all and as usual it was good practice.

As some went to the top of the tower to admire the views in this gorgeous weather, Ruthie and I returned to my flat where we were met by Richard Wilson. Over the last few days, I've had a hell of a game getting a new broadband connection sorted and after several annoying phone calls to India, I decided to ask Richard if he could come round to see what the problem was. After a bit of investigation, he was able to spot the problem - my computer's too old! He very kindly offered me a new one and so we headed over to his house in Tunstall to collect. Very generous of Richard, particularly with his time on a day like today.

After helping a bit with the garden at Kate and Ruthie's, we then had a barbecue and some beers, a silver lining to the cloud of being unable to have a practice at St Mary-le-Tower tonight.

Sunday 4th May 2008

Star Wars day started with Ruthie and I a little on the drag, but despite passing Kate (on her way to Hollesley) a lot later than we wanted, we still made it to St Mary-le-Tower on time, lucky really as I had the keys in Owen's absence. It was still incredibly gloomy due to the belfry lights fault, but thanks to a large contingent from Sussex and Hazel and Hedley (their daughter finally went into labour this morning) to compliment our usual turnout, we rang some respectable Cambridge Max.

Although none of the Sussex visitors made it to Grundisburgh as they'd been yesterday, there was still a healthy number as we rang 8-Spliced Surprise Major, Grandsire Caters and then - with Stephen ringing 1-2 - Rounds and Call Changes on 12.

Whilst Stephen raced off to St Mary-at-Quay to let in the aforementioned visiting ringers, Ruthie and I made our gentle way back to hers to watch the final day of the Championship season unfold. On the last day they set all the games off at exactly the same time, creating some truly gripping and exciting footballing drama. It also enables Sky TV to show a couple of important games, the decision made at the last moment. Ipswich's game was one, with a play-off place a possibility and our opponents Hull in with a chance of automatic promotion to the Premiership, although both of us were relying on other results going our way. In the end, a 1-0 win for ourselves wasn't good enough for either of us, although it provided plenty of action. With Marcus Evans' money to spend over the summer, it was perhaps always going to be about next season.

Almost immediately after the full-time whistle, Ruthie and I made our way to Pettistree for a 5pm quarter, ironically of Hull Surprise Minor. Despite some trips, the ringing was extremely good and shows what can be done within this Guild when people's minds and abilities are put to the test. Some ringing for evensong and then it was another dash, this time back to Grundisburgh for the next stage of Alan McBurnie's plan for ringing domination. Having nearly conquered the world of half-lead spliced Surprise Major, he has set to doing similar to Royal in the long-run, starting with this quarter of Superlative (No 2) Surprise Royal, got at the very first time of asking. It was a good effort and just reward for Alan's continued standard-setting that has done wonders for ringing in this corner of the county.

Whilst some went for a curry as usual, Ruthie and I went back to mine for a 'Ruthie and Richy Layered Salad', a culinary gem!

Saturday 3rd May 2008

Before dropping Mason off at Kara's this morning, I popped round to the nice couple in the next door flat to wish them luck as they are moving to Kesgrave today. As I left with the little chap, our section of Mallard Way was littered with chairs, shelves, tables and various other bits of furniture - I don't envy them having gone through the same process myself on several occasions!

After dropping little man off, it was off to St Mary-le-Tower for the next Bristol Maximus peal attempt. Although I had to leave Ruthie in bed at mine not feeling well (thank you to Susan Rothera for filling in at very short notice), we had a good, solid and experienced band, who in normal circumstances would've made fairly light work of this. I say in normal circumstances, as when we turned up, we found that the belfry was the only place in the whole church with no lights. Despite the verger checking all the fuses, connections and so on, no obvious fault was found, so we made a decision to go for the peal and see how it went. Unfortunately, after two courses of ringing, most of it pretty settled, the gloom got the better of us as we tried to get through a pile-up. But for the darkness, I think a good peal would've been scored. The knock-on effect from the lack of light is that there shan't now be a practice on Monday night, as being a bank holiday, the church can't get anyone out to fix the problem until Tuesday, which is a little frustrating. As someone suggested to me, perhaps it was the revenge of the pigeons...

I returned to Ruthie's to meet up with her - now feeling better - and see first hand the new sofa that now occupies the living room of chez Eagle. Just in time for tomorrow's football!

On a lovely, sunny May evening we meandered across to The Ship at Blaxhall to meet Kala, Nick and Toby. For some time, The Ship was a victim of a rather short-sighted landlord who had his eye on a quick buck and turning this beautiful establishment into a house, sadly only opening it a handful of hours a week when I lived in neighbouring Tunstall. However, new owners have taken over and judging by the huge numbers eating and enjoying the folk band there, they must be making a killing. Every table was taken or reserved when we got there at 7.30 and so it wasn't until 10 that there was room for us to sit down inside. With the light sticking around until nearly 9 now, we were able to have a pleasant evening outside overlooking the open fields and in the near distance, Blaxhall church. It is a truly wonderful pub in a truly wonderful setting and well worth going out of your way for, open as it is from 12-3 and 6-11 everyday now.

After giving Kala and Nick a lift back to Wickham Market, Ruthie and I settled down to watch the end of Match of the Day and look back on a gorgeous day...

Friday 2nd May 2008

Got some bad news this afternoon. I was informed (although only through Office Angels) that Haven Power didn't want me for next week. I wasn't the only one, as the girl who started with me was also told the same, but it was frustrating news to say the least. Straight away, I jumped on the Internet (I know, I should've been working, but there didn't seem much point at 3pm on a Friday in a job I wasn't coming back to) and within half an hour I had applied for another ten full and part-time jobs (including being a mystery shopper at pubs!). My despair didn't last long as whilst applying for these jobs, I had a call from John Catt Educational Ltd, who I had the interview for on Wednesday. They wanted to give me the job! To say I am relieved is a massive understatement, the pressure was starting to get to me and even more so with no work lined up next week. It's ideal geographically too, as although based in Great Glemham at the moment (quite a nice journey over the summer months), they are moving to larger offices in Melton come August!

It hasn't wiped away my financial worries at a stroke and I am still after a part-time job to supplement this one, but it is what I've been aiming for for nearly six months now and will make a huge difference. They don't want me to start until the 12th so I've got next week to sort stuff out which should help too.

Hollesley church was a hive of activity when Ruthie, Mason and I arrived for practice, with the flower festival on downstairs. Alan took this as a great PR opportunity and as we showed people our art, Mr McBurnie was busy talking ringing up in the church. Great stuff.

I also received my CentralCouncil info today, in the main bulky and incredibly uninteresting, but it had a list of membership totals in each society from 2002, 2005 and 2008. It's worth noting that only the Norwich and Shropshire Associations have had a bigger increase in membership since 2005. We're obviously doing something right...

Thursday 1st May 2008

Thunder and lightning quite literally lit up another truly dull day at work. With still no word from yesterday's interview, I continued my job search with another 15 or so jobs applied for via the internet and post. The search can't be rested until I find permanent work.

A wet day turned into a lovely evening, but couldn't draw enough out to ring all 12 at Grundisburgh. It's strange, as normally the better weather encourages many to work their way through the country lanes to this very useful practice. Bristol Major was the highlight before Mason and I left with daylight still just about guiding us home.

Wednesday 30th April 2008

A slight lay-in and then a cross-country meander this morning as I headed to Great Glemham for my interview. Rather than the crowded A12 and A14 and all the stress that comes with that, it was a leisurely drive through Butley, Tunstall and Snape, barely a soul seen until I crossed the A12.

The interview itself was much the same as last time I went there and actually got the job, speaking to the same people, but I don't know the quality of the others they are interviewing, so we shall have to wait and see.

I hope that I do get this job - as I do with all my interviews - as I'm in desperate need of a lucky break employment-wise. My jobs at the base, Actaris and Haven Power have been good as a means of keeping afloat, but with the cost of everything rising it's becoming increasingly difficult to live. Friends and family are good, but I can't expect them to keep me going and in the last couple of months there can literally be no job vacancy in Suffolk and even beyond that I haven't investigated. I've applied for hundreds of roles, got writers cramp filling out forms, almost living on the internet at times. Even on my days off I haven't been able to truly rest as I've always been conscious that I need to find a proper job (and in reality two), so I am desperately hoping this one comes through.

Mary and Mike were back at Pettistree and we had a visit from Richard Rapier and Julie Troupe, which was nice, before Mason and I made our way home.

On a lower note, it was sad to note the death of Martin Fellows from Stourbridge at just 62. Martin was affectionately nicknamed the 'Fuhrer' due to his moustache and grumpy and officious ways, but he had a wicked sense of humour. He also arranged an awful lot of peals and attempts that I was involved with in Worcestershire, although we normally met one short!

Tuesday 29th April 2008

Our normal night in was further enhanced by watching Manu winning their Champions League Semi-Final 2nd leg against Barcelona (thus confirming the first ever all-English Champions League final) and news that the bomb off the coast at Felixstowe was found and blown up. Picking Mason up from Mum and Dads on the way home from work, he seemed very happy, perhaps because he'd taken that big stone back to the Royal Navy, if you believe the Guestbook!

Monday 28th April 2008

Much the same Monday as last week. I'm at Haven Power again, the Navy are still searching for that bomb off Felixstowe (possibly for weeks) and Jim Magilton's still talking about missed chances in front of goal.

St Mary-le-Tower was where things changed however. We were late starting as when we'd arrived in the belfry it became obvious we had been visited by two pigeons who had been competing with each other to s##t down the 5th hole and rope and onto our carpet. Much cleaning up ensued and by the time we'd finished 12 had arrived and we able to get straight down to business. It was a good night for trying as we were slightly short but still managed two good pieces of Cambridge Max (well done Peter), Stedman Cinques and Lincolnshire Max, although the Lincolnshire came to grief after 3 leads. However, it was with a very scratch band and a number of people were able to have a rare or even first go at this.

Ruthie and I then made a detour to our usual Monday night as we headed straight back to Woodbridge to meet Aaron at The Mariners. Aaron has successfully passed all his tests and interviews to get in the Navy and although it shouldn't be the last time we meet up before he goes down to Plymouth to train in June, it was a good opportunity to catch up.

Sunday 27th April 2008

Hedley and Hazel Basford from Canterbury were at St Mary-le-Tower again, still waiting for their next grandchild! Of course, we don't mind them waiting some more, but even without them, we still had enough to ring all 12, a promising sign and thank you to all for their continuing support.

Grundisburgh was still very short however, although we had fun playing the 'Pick-One-Of-The-41' game, with Norfolk Minor selected and rung well as was spliced Kent and Oxford Minor.

The afternoon saw Ruthie and me blitz my flat, giving it a good tidy up and revealing areas I didn't know existed! It was handy too as we were due at Hollesley church at 4.30 for the first attempt of the half-lead spliced with all the standard 8 in. London was the method added this time, by far the hardest hurdle we've had to surmount on this project, yet despite a predictable collapse the first time we went into it at half-lead, we adjusted brilliantly and on the third attempt went all the way only to suffer a mix-up in the last part and as it should've come round there were a handful of bells swapped. Still, we showed we can do it and should get it next time.

The early start enabled Ruthie, Kate and I to get into Ipswich for another quiz night held in aide of charity by Town 102, this time at Isaac's down by the Waterfront. If you haven't been down there lately, it's a spectacular frontage now, with building work still continuing on flats, offices and the new University Suffolk building. However, I do worry slightly about the plight of some of the rings of bells down there such as St Clements and St Mary-at-Quay. Although not rung regularly at the moment granted, perhaps they should be rung a bit more, just to let developers and residents alike know that they are there, or else these hidden (and admittedly hard-work!) rings might become out-of-bounds to us.

The quiz itself was good fun, with another huge turnout, three teams finishing tied in the lead, a burger van round the corner and a laugh with Kate's old school friend Debs, her husband Sid and their friends. Bob Strong was in good form too!

Saturday 26th April 2008

The hottest and nicest day of the year by far was the perfect time to find myself in one of the most enclosed belfries in the country, Great Yarmouth. Mason dropped off early, I was there for a peal of Bristol Max, rung for the St Martin's Guild, a guild that is like a second home to me after my eight years and regular peals in the Midlands. With attempts of Bristol Max back in Suffolk, it's generally accepted that a bit of time settling in is needed. This bunch is different however. Ringing Bristol Max week in, week out as they do, it's expected that you are on the ball straight away, something I struggled with at first, but I soon picked up the speed and at times it felt like I'd never been away from a scene I was once honoured to be a regular part of.

There were many people that I wanted to chat to more in the pub afterwards, but there was only time for a quick pint before I made the cross-country journey to Stonham Aspal, where a test ring had been arranged after work had been done to the frame to make these ringable again. It certainly seems to have done the job, bringing them back to their normal easy-going selves! Seriously though, it's good that this significant ring of bells are back ringing once more, especially as there are an enthusiastic group of locals ready to take up their practices again.

Having spent most of this gorgeous day either in a belfry or car, I did finally manage to take advantage of the sunshine with Ruthie as we had our first barbeque of 2008 in her garden. Might as well take advantage of whatever summer we do get if last years is anything to go by!

Kate was partaking in a fundraising party for the Hollesley project, which is building up apace with the 200 Club in particular. I know there are a lot of projects going on at the moment, but this one, to keep arguably Suffolk's finest 8 (there may be others who argue with that!) ringing in the long-term is perhaps one of the most daunting, with work to the tower making up the majority of the £40,000 needed.

Ipswich managed to just hold onto a chance of the play-offs with the final games taking place next Sunday, but mainly due to other results going our way as we just scrapped a 2-2 draw at Preston. At least it keeps the excitement up to the very end, but a lot needs to go our way if we are to sneak into the end-of-season lottery!

Friday 25th April 2008

What makes bellringing truly interesting is pushing the boundaries, progressing, even just trying something different. Last night, in the belfry of St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham, four hand-bell ringers drew lots, not for pairs, but for individual bells for a peal, so instead of one person ringing 1-2, another 3-4 and so on, they ended up with random pairings such as 2 and 6. They then rang a peal of Stedman Triples. Now these are clever people, I know that as I've rung with them, am good friends with them, but this is pushing their boundaries. Whilst we in Suffolk don't expect people to start ringing random pairings of hand-bells or even tower bells, these sort of things should surely inspire people to further themselves. Whether it be ringing on 12 for the first time, going Plain Hunt on a different bell or whatever, it is taking risks that will improve your ringing. It is more to do with this risk-taking attitude that the ringers of Birmingham and London, etc reach such astonishing heights than anything else, although a talent for picking things up (some may say listening to the advice you're given) along the way does help.

Buoyed by being told that Haven Power want me back next week, I picked Mason up from Mum and Dad, who had taken him to Colchester Zoo.

A good turnout at Hollesley meant we rang not only Cambridge Major, but also Lincolnshire too before the boy and I left.

Thursday 24th April 2008

Whilst I headed off to work, Mason spent the day with Mum and Dad. They took him down to Felixstowe hoping to see the unexploded bomb finally exploded. Except those responsible for it's destruction aren't sure where it is. They haven't lost it you understand, just misplaced it. It's in the sea. Somewhere.

Still, it seemed to tire him out as he slept from when I picked him up after work until we went to Grundisburgh. Like last night at Pettistree, I ran the practice until Mason and I left, with Stephen and Liz still in Cyprus.

We left the practice in Ruthie's safe hands, with Mum giving two Australian girls an impromptu handling lesson. One of them is stopping with Francis, a ringer at Grundisburgh, Burgh and Hasketon. Although she hadn't rung for 6 months, she quickly picked it up again with some Rounds and Call Changes on 10. Sadly, this and Grandsire Caters were the highlight of the an evening as we were quite short, even bearing in mind Stephen's absence. It was especially a shame for Chris, a ringer from Carmarthen, who through his work regularly comes to Suffolk and on both occasions he's come to Grundisburgh, we've been unable to ring all 12. Never mind, there's always next time!

Wednesday 23rd April 2008

Just half an hour for lunch today as I left at 4.30pm for an interview with a recruitment agency I hadn't come across until they called me yesterday. Based in Claydon, almost directly opposite to Gordon Slack and his mini-ring and closing at 5.30pm meant the early finish at Haven Power was necessary.

It was a good meeting and although nothing concrete was expected to come from it immediately, it came on the back of an email inviting me to an interview next Wednesday. This will be with a company whom I had a job offer from a couple of years back. At the time it didn't seem right for me, but in hindsight I perhaps should've taken it. Perhaps this is my chance to right that now, but we shall see.

With Mike and Mary unable to make Pettistree tonight, I found myself running the practice until Mason and I left, with Kate then taking over. It was a useful evening - as it always is, with methods ranging from Grandsire Doubles and Bob Minor to Cambridge and Carlisle. Mason had a useful evening too, using the wide open space to show off his new found ability to walk on his own.

We didn't ring a quarter, but there are two ringing extremes in Suffolk ringing today, representing both the past and future. Well done to Philip Moyes on ringing his first quarter on 8 at Southwold, the first of many I hope for this young prospect.

Right at the other end of the spectrum, Harold Rogers rang the treble to a peal at Huntingfield, just as he had done for his first peal 70 years ago to the day. Harold has already achieved great things, but - it appears - he still has an awful lot more to offer.

Tuesday 22nd April 2008

It's perhaps lucky I don't work at Actaris anymore. The huge area cordoned off around the unexplored World War Two bomb on Felixstowe beach appears to take in my old place of work and whilst I imagine that they will have found some way of opening (it takes more than the risk of death and injury to stop the rolling monster of business and money these days) it would've been absolute hell to get anywhere near there.

With this in mind, I was actually relatively happy to be in the safe-haven of Haven Power (see what I did there!) on what felt like spring and even a hint of summer. It was gorgeous as I drove home with my windows down for the first time this year.

A beautiful day turned into a beautiful evening as Ruthie and I even contemplated wandering down to The Shepherd and Dog for a pint, but got lazy and chose instead to watch the footy on TV.

Monday 21st April 2008

Quite a good night's work at St Mary-le-Tower. We were frustratingly one short for Lincolnshire Max and London Royal, but this did mean we had plenty of practice at Cambridge Max, ringing three pieces, with the emphasis more on striking than blue-line retention. Stedman Cinques is still causing a major headache though, with people drifting off, something that is fatal in Stedman. When us so called 'experts' give advice and tips on what to look out for in things like Stedman (and indeed anything), we're not trying to be clever or make things complicated - they genuinely make things easier! Still, I was happy with how the practice went and a couple of drinks at Mannings and our return to the usual kebab haunt for the first time for a while kept a smile on my face. Yum.

Sunday 20th April 2008

For the third week running, we rang all 12 for Sunday morning at St Mary-le-Tower. Admittedly it was with Hedley and Hazel, the couple from Canterbury who had previously visited us - they keep visiting us as they're expecting another grandchild to arrive in the local area any day - that we were able to ring the 12, but we were able to ring Cambridge Royal, Grandsire Cinques and Kent Max and all very well struck in the main. Still, we need to ensure we have more back-up and I'd love to see a couple more come up regularly that I know could make it, so that we can achieve this standard of ringing EVERY Sunday, come rain or shine. That said, my sincere thanks goes to those who have contributed towards bringing both the numbers and quality of ringing up in the last few weeks on the most important day of the week for ringing. It's also important to note that this is a message for ALL towers, not just SMLT.

As if to reiterate this point, Grundisburgh was very low on numbers again - although of course Stephen is away at the moment - and instead of ringing all 12, we had to make do with Grandsire Triples and Rounds and Call Changes on 8. That said, that is all we were ringing at SMLT a few months back, so there's hope yet and these things are often swings and roundabouts. It's just a shame we can't get the numbers on a more regular basis at a lot of these towers.

The evening saw us get a very good quarter of London Major scored at Hollesley. It is a mark of how accomplished our squad of ringers in this corner of Suffolk is, that we were able to get this quarter with little trouble and yet know we can still improve things, especially with fine-tuning some the striking. Still, a very good effort in - we shouldn't forget - what is a difficult method.

It was suitably marked with a fine meal and a few pints in The Shepherd and Dog afterwards.

Saturday 19th April 2008

Dropping Mason off at Kara's early on, Ruthie and I headed off for the South-East District Outing, being held in the Cambridge area. Through underestimating the time it would take to get there and a little mis-navigation - both my fault - we got to the first tower, Whittlesford a six. Probably just as well in Ruthie's case as apparently a belfry sign proclaimed the delights of Stedman!

Sawston, the second tower (and the first eight of the day) were nice, although - in the words of one of the locals - the tenor had a tendency to plain hunt down to the front when pulled off!

The pick of the day - in my opinion and probably shared by others - was the next set of bells, Balsham. 'Beautifully hung' - we think Jane was referring to the bells - and no oddstruckness, this heavyish six rang far better than their weight and ground-floor location would suggest.

It was also the perfect village for lunch as the two pubs were able to accommodate our near-20 party between them. Whilst some went in The Bell, we lunched in The Black Bull.

After a wonderfully leisurely lunch and having been joined by brother Chris who lives in Cambridge, we headed for Fulbourn, a nice eight, where we somehow managed to convince Ruthie to call a touch of Stedman after confusing her as to where the tenor was!

Trumpington, the final tower is in the news as a parish as it's vicar has been suspended for allegedly spitting at parishioners and other misdemeanours, but apart from a newspaper article in the belfry about this, there was nothing to distract us from ringing on this lovely and much pealed ring of eight.

Ruthie also done well too as she faced her biggest test of her driving to date. Not only did she drive further than she had ever done, but she also battled the crawling traffic in the terribly managed roads in the south of Cambridge and did her first motorway driving! And all with Max the dog in the back.

It was a fitting end to a fantastic day, with Kate being rewarded for all her hard work and organisation with a decent turnout and lovely towers. I hope everybody takes this on board and continues supporting these sort of great events that take a lot of effort to arrange.

The only thing to take the gloss off the day was the news that after a recent inspection, ringing has been suspended at Ufford due to urgent work needed to be done to the gudgeons. It's a massive blow, not just because Ufford has become an integral part of our spliced quarters, but also a home to a thriving and enthusiastic band grown up by Kate over the last few years. Still, the church itself seems well behind Kate in getting the work done as soon as possible, maybe - with tongue firmly in cheek - a couple of trebles on the front!

Ipswich managed to grab a draw at Wolves with an equaliser with the very last kick of the game. Normally this would be an extremely good result, but with Crystal Palace winning, it's probably not quite enough if we are to stand any chance of getting that final play-off spot, so I was unsure whether to be happy or not. I enjoyed today though.

Friday 18th April 2008

Work was a little more enjoyable as it became a bit clearer what we were supposed to be doing and the computers kept working, unlike yesterday. It's lucky that I am liking it some, as they have asked me to come back next week.

Hollesley practice continued as a home for Surprise Major as we rang Cambridge this week, along with Grandsire and Plain Bob Triples before Mason and I left.

Thursday 17th April 2008

After dropping Mason off at Mum and Dad's - who very kindly agreed to look after him at very short notice - I made my way along the familiar route to Ransomes Europark, home of MSC and also my new employers, Haven Power. The job is complicated and yet still incredibly dull, but the people are nice. We're housed in a brand new building that still manages to look like every other office on these sort of estates, but importantly it's money! For now anyway.

Despite being the traditionally quieter week at Grundisburgh, we still rang Grandsire Cinques before not only Mason and I left, but also Stephen, who had to find his driving licence before he and Liz left for a holiday in Cyprus tomorrow!

Wednesday 16th April 2008

An earlyish start as I picked Mason up until Saturday morning. I have to admit to thinking that I would be spending pretty much three days solid with him, but then I got a call from Office Angels who had once again come up trumps for me. They've got me work starting tomorrow at a place called Haven Power Ltd on the Ransomes Europark just off the A14 and Nacton Road junction on the outskirts of Ipswich. Like my previous two roles at Rock barracks and Actaris, the work is very poorly paid and like the Actaris role it is two days initially with the possibility of next week dependant on workload. However, it is work and if it lasts as long as the Actaris job (providing I don't get anything permanent in the meantime) then I'll be relatively happy. It'll be a shame not to spend the next two days with the li'l man after all, but needs must.

Pettistree was short of Kate and Hazel who had gone to see Singing in the Rain at the theatre tonight, but ringing was still varied from things like St Clements to Norwich (which went rather better than its namesake on Sunday!) and a quarter of London was duly scored beforehand. Mason enjoyed walking around with the aide of Daddy and Auntie Ruthie too!

Good to notice the handbell peal rung for the Guild by Jeremy Spiller, David Pipe and Philip Earis of 120 methods on handbells following on from last week's. Personally, I feel the Guild should feel honoured that these ringers want to use their quite considerable talents in our name and without wishing to open a can of worms, I hope these multi-method peals can be recorded with the due respect they deserve.

Tuesday 15th April 2008

Months ago, Kate bought tickets for herself, Clare and her then boyfriend Aaron to see the Tutankhamen exhibition in London today. Since then, events have changed drastically and with Ruthie's sister now living in Scotland with her new boyfriend Kev, Ruthie and myself found ourselves waiting for a coach with Kate at quarter to nine this morning. It was a nice morning, but the coach was slightly late, resulting in us seeing Stephen Pettman drive past not once, not twice but three times in his coach and car as he seemed to be on a permanent loop past the Deben Swimming Pool in Woodbridge.

I love visiting London, but along with trips back to Birmingham, it really makes me appreciate Suffolk. As you drive into the UK's capital, it is almost instantly stifling, with small flats, roads, walls, shops, ugly warehouses and factories all rammed in tightly for miles and miles. It certainly makes me glad of the freedom, openness, community, space and big open skies that we enjoy in East Anglia.

Our exact destination for the exhibition was the O2 Arena, or the Millennium Dome as most people know it better as. Putting aside the political and financial furore that has always surrounded this structure, it is an impressive building. Now incorporating the arena, a circus show, the exhibition and various shops, bars, cafes and restaurants, most of it was out of bounds, but it is well worth a visit. The only downside is that toilets seemed to have been a bit of an after-thought, particularly for the ladies, so make sure you've been before you go!

The exhibition took us nearly two hours to go round, but was so interesting that it never seemed that long!

With a bit of time to kill we took a short trip up the Thames and back on a 'Thames Cruiser', but typically of British public transport it left over 15 minutes late, so we weren't able to go as far as we would've liked.

It was an extremely enjoyable day with Belle Coaches, but quite tiring as these days are, so Ruthie and I were glad of our normal Tuesday night in once we got back!

Although Ipswich didn't play tonight, it is that time of year where other results are just as important as our own. The race for the final play-off place is essentially between ourselves, Crystal Palace and Wolves, who lost 1-0 to West Brom tonight. With us as the next visitors to my old stomping ground (I used to live next door to Wolves' stadium), it was the perfect result!

Monday 14th April 2008

I don't mind travelling about, in fact I much prefer it to just being stuck in the same place all day, so I had no problem in travelling to The Ramada Inn on the outskirts of Bury St Edmunds. The job I was going for is for a job on the road too, going to the homes on people who would like to take up courses for the Home Learning Centre, so I would think quite satisfying. If I'm successful in this interview then I will be called back for a second interview, although I'm not sure when I'll hear.

St Mary-le-Tower was a slightly different affair to usual tonight due to the first AGM there for years. It was called mainly on the back of the informal meeting at Jeremy Spiller's back in January and it may have seemed to have been set-up reluctantly. However, once it was obvious that there was a desire for meeting (there's no point in having tower meetings if there is no desire for one in my opinion) then I was more than happy to have one and tonight's meeting vindicated this. Much was discussed in a useful and often jolly manner and went very well, or so I thought.

The practice itself was good despite the early 8.30 finish, with 2 pieces of well rung Cambridge Max, some Stedman Cinques and some Grandsire Cinques to finish off the ringing. Once the meeting was completed at 9.30, I took advantage of Ruthie driving to have a couple of beers in Mannings as a group of us discussed elephants in Hollesley. A long story.

Before I finish, it's worth mentioning the achievement of Susanne Eddis, who - after the normal Aldeburgh peal band met short yesterday - rang her first peal at very short notice and apparently very well too. Congratulations Susanne!

Sunday 13th April 2008

Today was most satisfying to say the least! St Mary-le-Tower was relatively packed to the rafters for a Sunday morning, aided by two visitors from Canterbury. Even without them we had a Cambridge Max band, although we were unable to try this as time got the better of us. We did ring Stedman Cinques though.

Grundisburgh was very short however, although we did have Annie Brechin, up from London for yesterdays peal attempt.

Listening to Radio Suffolk briefly for team-news, I was lucky enough to hear Veronica 'Ronnie' Downing on the news speaking about the £40,000 grant for Chediston bells which should be ringing by February 2009, all being well. Another brilliant bit of PR for Suffolk ringing, well done to all concerned, although I know this is only the tip of the iceberg concerning the hard work that has gone and continues to go into this project.

It was all heard in a bit of a rush though as Ruthie and I were rushing to make the noon kick-off for the vital Ipswich-Norwich game (when will they return this fixture to a civilised time!?). I love going to actual Ipswich games, the smell of burgers, the singing, the atmosphere. An Ipswich-Norwich derby match in the North Stand Lower is something else though. As Ipswich and Naaaridge fans we spend the whole year competing against each, goading each other, looking for each others results, trying to avoid being associated with all things yellow and green or blue and white (depending on our persuasion) and generally disliking each other. So when we actually come face-to-face, it is electrifying and difficult to describe. There is no real rational reason why it should mean so much, it just does and we wouldn't' have it any other way. Even though it is a terrible feeling when you lose one of these games, it is an absolutely fantastic feeling when we win them, hence why I'm rambling excitedly at the moment, so I'll stop myself now. Suffice to say we fully deserved our 2-1 win (indeed it should've been 5 or 6) and the satisfying dream of witnessing thousands of despondent Budgies trudging back home was fulfilled. Conversely at this point, I would like to say commiserations to our new Guild Chairman, one of the few Naaaridge fans I like!

It took us 45 minutes to make our next leg of our days travelling, despite it being the shortest. We were popping up to Mum and Dad's where Aunty Janet and Uncle Mick were visiting. Sadly it was only a brief stop as I had to get ready for this afternoon's dedication at Stradishall, although it gave Ruthie an opportunity to meet them for the first time.

The dedication itself was a nice do, with the service well taken by Archdeacon David and an appropriate and entertaining sermon from Bishop Clive of Dunwich. The local ringers seemed happy with the way everything had gone and it's worth encouraging people to come and help this enthusiastic band who are making good progress both here and at Cowlinge.

Ruthie and I stopped off at The Cock Inn in Clare for a toilet break and drink, before finally getting back to hers to put our feet up!

Saturday 12th April 2008

Not everything goes to plan. I had arranged a peal attempt of Bristol Max at Grundisburgh, partly made up of some feeling their way in the method, but predominantly with more experienced ringers to keep it together - or so was the plan. It didn't quite go like that unfortunately. The peal was starting to settle until a mix-up right before a call, which further confused issues, resulted in irretrievable carnage. An attempt to get a quarter actually went slightly worse, perhaps unsurprisingly for reasons I have alluded to in the past regarding quarter attempts after lost peals. Still, it was all really good practice, particularly for Louis Suggett who was ringing his first blows in the method and yet rung brilliantly in the circumstances.

Most of us retired to The Turks Head afterwards and enjoyed a jolly hour or two in a reinvigorated pub.

The afternoon was unusually quiet and laid-back for Ruthie and me, welcoming new chickens for their back garden and keeping an eye on relevant football results in the absence of an Ipswich fixture - that's for tomorrow!

Friday 11th April 2008

An interesting day, although not really for what happened to me. Mason and I spent most of the day in Woodbridge, job-hunting, meeting Ruthie for lunch and printing out posters advertising the South-East District Outing for Kate. These things aren't easy or indeed that much fun to organise in the first place, but Kate has had more stress and grief than most in organising this trip to the Cambridge area on Saturday,19th, April, with unhelpful contacts, particularly those who didn't even answer her requests. I hope that people will reward her efforts by turning out for what should be a really enjoyable day. It's yet another opportunity for people to socialise with fellow ringers in new towers in an interesting area and generally enjoy a very sociable day, so I hope Kate isn't met with a wall of apathy and the anti-social brigade.

It was good to see the welcome return of a handbell peal to the Guild records last night as Cherril Thompson, Jeremy Spiller and Winston Girling scored a peal of 19 Minor methods at Jeremy and Cherril's Bacton home. There's lots of exciting ringing going on on handbells, with much of it being done not that far away. Indeed, the record 24-hour peal, a fantastic feat was done just miles and minutes from our borders and Jeremy and Cherril have been closely linked to this group, so it's good to see our Guild getting in on the action again. Long may it continue.

The other noticeable issue that came to my attention today was Colin Spreadbury's letter to The Ringing World. I believe the tower he is referring to is St Matthew's and I have to say I agree with his general gist, both in relation to St Matthew's and in his tone in relation to the general long-running debate on belfry reform. The gist of the letter that originally lit the debate essentially demanded that all ringers go to church or stop ringing on church bells, a ludicrous suggestion in my personal opinion, although noble and well-meaning. The church needs all the help it can get and in my experience bellringers are some of the keenest and enthusiastic users of the buildings that house many wide-ranging groups, not all religiously based, so it seems a daft suggestion that makes many assumptions on bellringers circumstances. Anyway, in my experience, the vast majority of clergy actually do appreciate our efforts and constant support in many church projects even if we don't all choose to show are support by sitting in church for an hour a week (although many ringers do). Still, that's just my personal opinion.

Hollesley practice was particularly good tonight as we rang not only Cambridge Major (eventually!) but also some very well struck Yorkshire, despite Mason's disapproval!

Thursday 10th April 2008

After a couple of days with Mason, I collected him up for keeps until Saturday. Having picked Ruthie up however, it was almost immediately to Mum and Dad's in Ipswich as I went on to the Holiday Inn for my second interview with the same company in 7 days. However I received an email later in the day informing me I was unsuccessful, so the search continues tomorrow and with an interview on Monday, rescheduled from today. With being short-listed to just 2 from 8 with today's interview, I've reinforced my confidence in my abilities.

After the interview, Ruthie and I went into the town centre, taking in lunch at Mannings (if you ever get the chance, have the beast that is the Mannings Club Sandwich!) and a little shopping round for music and shoes for Ruthie.

It was another good evening at Grundisburgh, although like Monday night at SMLT, Cambridge Max was a bit of a struggle before Mason and I left.

I was kept enthralled as the li'l man fell asleep by the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are?, where celebrities trace their family lines back. This evening it was Barbara Windsor of Carry On and Eastenders fame, who not only has roots in Bures but is even related to John Constable, the famous Suffolk painter. Not to Alfred Munnings another famous Suffolk painter however, so no chance of a family donation...

Wednesday 9th April 2008

I was in the pub at 10.15am today. No, things haven't got that bad, but rather I had Mason and for the first time took advantage of a council run tots group that is held in the Shepherd and Dog every other Wednesday. Mason and Daddy had fun, with the li'l man making a new friend Harry, who also lives on my road.

Having returned the boy back to Kara's, Ruthie and I headed along into Ipswich (along with 20,000 football fans) to participate in the next stage of our attempt to ring the standard 41 Surprise Minor methods in a peal at the Salter's mini-ring. Tonight we scored 30 methods, with the Ipswich going rather better at The Wolery than the Ipswich went at nearby Portman Road who contrived to blow another couple of points just when they need every available one going by merely drawing 1-1 at home to FA Cup finalists Cardiff. I suppose you can't have everything.

Tuesday 8th April 2008

Looked after Mason during the day today, so whilst Ruthie had her haircut, he and I wandered around Woodbridge, taking in the usual haunt of the jobcentre. Bumped into Jack and little 6 month old Caitlin, my mate Rusty's fiancée and daughter, closely followed by my partner in crime from my HSBC days, Karl who is working in the Woodbridge branch these days.

Having taken Mason back to Kara's, our evening off differed slightly this week as we went to Ruthie's mate Beth's at the top of her road to watch a DVD of Stardust (which we watched in the cinema a few months back) and catch up with friends before some of them returned to their respective universities and colleges after the Easter holidays.

Monday 7th April 2008

A familiar scenario as I again found myself unemployed on a Monday, all be it with the fallback of the holiday pay. Once again I took the opportunity of the spare time to sort things out, including accepting two job interviews for Thursday.

St Mary-le-Tower was relatively short on ringers meaning we couldn't do Lincolnshire this week, which was a shame for the visiting Christine Hill, but we still managed Cambridge Maximus. However, the striking wasn't great, but it shows how far we have come that with the band we had there tonight that I considered that a disappointment.

A couple of drinks in Mannings afterwards helped make up for it though!

Sunday 6th April 2008

If in August I'd put a sizeable amount of money on Barnsley playing Cardiff in an FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley in the snow, then I imagine I would've been less fussed over my pending unemployment. In fairness, the snow that had fallen in the morning returned heavily but sporadically, failing to really settle, but makes me continue to wonder when we'll ever get any normal weather in this country!

We were able to ring all 12 at St Mary-le-Tower today for the second Sunday in the last three, in fact having 14 and being able to ring some very well-struck Grandsire Cinques. Again, there was no one who I would consider to be a visitor, lending further weight to my theory that we're not too far away from some really decent 12-bell ringing on a regular basis on Sunday mornings if only we can get everyone together at the same time, all the time.

There were slightly less at Grundisburgh, but we still managed good Grandsire Caters.

For Kate, Ruthie and me, it was then off to the grandparents in Woodbridge for a typically good roast dinner and having spent most of the afternoon there a nice tea too.

It all set us up nicely for a quarter of Lincolnshire Royal at Grundisburgh, as Alan's ambitions moved up a gear to 10. Despite some hairy moments, it was scored comfortably in the end, a good sign for the coming months.

Then it was onto the Saffron Curry House again, where both Ruthie and I regretted that tea we'd had at her grandparents earlier!

Saturday 5th April 2008

Why do we need an AGM? Well I was partly reminded why as Ruthie and I (having dropped Mason off at Kara's) made our way to the most important date in the Suffolk Guild calendar. On our journey, we drove directly past the towers of Grundisburgh, Ashbocking, Coddenham, Barking and Monks Eleigh before finally arriving at our grand destination of Lavenham. All very different rings of bells, all in very different circumstances, but serving a snapshot of the Guild as a whole. There are hundreds of bells of different numbers and sizes and likewise bands that do (and in many cases don't) ring them across this huge county and it's important that we have a Guild to help connect them all together to help with finances, maintenance, teaching, etc Of course there are various meetings throughout the year as the GMC, various committees and of course the districts meet, but I think it's essential that the membership as a whole gets the opportunity to meet together to find out what is happening, quiz the officers, have their say on Guild matters and importantly decide what the Guild does, which is why it is so disappointing to have seen such a small section of the membership take this opportunity. Last year year the attendance was 55, less than 10%, so it was good to see a healthier attendance of 75 for this years meeting, but I'd love to see at least over 100 to convince me that the Guild is reaching a proper proportion of it's members.

The day was a good one though, despite the haphazard and bracing weather, with ringing at Lavenham embracing most things from Rounds and Call Changes to half-lead Spliced Surprise Major at both Lavenham in the afternoon and Long Melford in the evening.

The service was appropriate and the sermon interesting, with the vicar careful not to tread the well-worn and often tedious path that many vicars do at ringers' services with the best of intentions.

We moved on to a nice tea at Long Melford church, before the meeting got underway at the same venue. Although the agenda was long and on the face of it potentially difficult, it went quickly and almost without any unnecessary debate. Philip Gorrod was voted in as the new Chairman with Winston having served his five years in that position. He's done sterling work in the post, showing his face at numerous ringing events and practices at all levels and it's only through people like Winston that the Guild keeps going. Philip was absent as he'd been struck down by illness this week (get well soon Philip), but once he is up and running I know he will endeavour to do the best possible job he can and I foresee a lot of good things happening to the Guild under his stewardship.

I managed to get a Call Changes element included into the Guild 6-bell Striking Competition, which I think will benefit the learning bands of Suffolk (of which there are many) and therefore the Guild as a whole in the long run. Our striking competitions aren't for the glory of the winning bands, but rather the opportunity to improve striking on what is a very enjoyable social day, so I think it's highly appropriate we have call changes as an element in it. Sadly, the healthy debate around the passing of this rule got bogged down with silly issues over wording, something this Guild has a chronic problem with.

It was also strange to note that some people only came to the tea, meeting and service and didn't come ringing. I know there may be various reasons for this, but I think some folk actually forget they are ringers ahead of meeting attendees!

After a pleasant pint in the Rose and Crown just outside Long Melford, it was time for the long journey home after an enjoyable day spoilt only by Ipswich's pitiful efforts at losing 2-0 to bottom club (by miles) Colchester. Looks like that's promotion thrown out the window for another year then...

Friday 4th April2008

Woodbridge had a new ring of 6 today. No, they haven't finally put a ring of bells in St John's church, but rather Tony and Betty Baines had brought down their mini-ring to be shown off on Market Hill in the shadow of St Mary's tower. As many of you will already know, this is all part of Stage 2 of the BBC filming that started at Hollesley on Saturday and like the weekend, today's shooting went as well as I expected. perhaps exceeding expectations. Many people took an interest from the moment we started setting up and over the course of the day many more had a go, including many youngsters. We seemed to have tempted a former ringer back with this display and exchanged details with a couple of others, so it certainly done it's job even before it's role as a BBC prop was fulfilled. The only slight regret was that I thought we could have done some leaflets, something we didn't really get the opportunity to sort for today. However, I hope we will do many more events like this in the future, so we will make sure we have some then. On top of everything else, Mason did very well at backstrokes and even tried handstrokes, although only serving to stop the bell dead! Still, he's showing promise!

I couldn't stay with the mini-ring all day as I then had to go across to the Holiday Inn in Ipswich for a job interview, the primary reason for me having today off. It was with a company who sell educational equipment to teachers.

On the minus side, I had word from Actaris that they didn't need me back on Monday. I've enjoyed my time there, but purposely tried not to get too attached to the place, knowing the job's temporary status. Still, I have now accrued five days holiday, giving me a week's breathing space and they may well do what they did last time and ask for me back. We'll see. For those interested (and even those who aren't), the elastic band ball was left yesterday at the size of a newborn baby's head, though it bounces better.

They were a couple down at Hollesley tonight, but we still managed Grandsire Triples and a couple of handling lessons for Micky's grandchildren, so it was a well used evening.

Thursday 3rd April 2008

Happy Birthday to Mary Garner, our esteemed Guild Secretary! Now seems as good a time as any to mention how much I appreciate Mary's hard work and necessary nagging, particularly in the organisation of the recent highly successful Guild Dinner and in view of the forthcoming AGM. I hope you get time to enjoy your birthday Mary!

Stephen was better and back at the helm at Grundisburgh tonight, though numbers were down on last week (no connection I'm sure!), but we did still ring some Yorkshire Royal before Mason and I left.

Wednesday 2nd April 2008

Mason picked up and a lot happier than he has been after his illness of last week, I made my own way to Pettistree as Ruthie continued to take advantage of being able to drive. Now she is able to drive under her own steam, she can make her own way home once I leave early with the li'l man.

The practice itself was as good as usual, with regular pieces of Surprise Minor interspersed with other bits for those not quite up to that level yet.

The Greyhound looks like it could almost be used now, but the opening date is still the end of this month.

Tuesday 1st April 2008

This morning I rang a hand-bell peal of 2000 Treble-Dodging Minor with Phil Mitchell from Eastenders and Dame Judi Dench on the Orwell Bridge. Yes, it's that morning of the year where everyone's a joker, although having said that I was neither the victim nor perpetrator of any pranks, hence I had to make up the above scenario (yes, I know you all fell for it).

In reality my day was made up of work and in my break sending a mass email to people to encourage them to come to the most important date of the Guild Calendar, the AGM. Last year's attendance was paltry when you consider the 600+ membership and yet people are often quick to comment on how the Guild is run, although not always in a negative way. This year's event is held in the truly spectacular settings of Lavenham and Long Melford, this Saturday, so if you haven't already booked your place then you should now. If you have already booked your place, try and persuade as many of your fellow ringers as is possible/practical to come along.

The evening saw our normal night off. Although Ruthie was still slightly ill, she was a lot better than she had been, particularly on Sunday. We merely slumped in front of the TV and watched Manu's impressive 2-0 win at Roma in the quarter's of the Champion's League.

Monday 31st March 2008

Both Ruthie and I made it to work today, despite still feeling grotty, as I embarked on another week at the kingdom of Actaris.

Ruthie didn't have to help out at Brownies and with the lighter evenings allowing us to travel in daylight to St Mary-le-Tower, the usual Monday night rush was avoided and we arrived in Ipswich feeling slightly less frazzled than normal.

Numbers at the practice were slightly down, the school holidays going against us this time as the absence of both Owen and Amanda was felt. However, we did have Tom Scase there before he returned to Sheffield and although not brilliant striking, we got through Cambridge Maximus with a very scratch band and Kent Max which started badly but got a lot better, providing us with a very satisfying end to the ringing.

Over to Mannings for our well earned pint and back via the kebab house returned Monday nights to a bit more normality after the recent Easter disruption.

Sunday 30th March 2008

Both Ruthie and I woke up feeling very ill. Although Mason and I made it to St Mary-le-Tower for morning ringing where numbers were down again, Ruthie was too unwell to ring at Pettistree.

I took advantage of Grundisburgh not ringing (it being 5th Sunday and no service there), by paying a visit to St Margaret's. Frequently we hear them ringing up as we leave SMLT for Grundisburgh, but haven't normally got time to join them. Along with Di, Mum and Dad, we were able to help them ring Bob Major, even though they were missing some ringers this morning.

Having dropped Mason off at Kara's, Ruthie, Kate and myself went to the Norman Tower for a quarter organised by Kevin Hohl. This is all part of the Hohl's and Gordon Slack and Janet Sheldrake's plan to improve on 10. Along with our very own half-lead spliced band, the Monday night quarters in the North-West, regular quarters by the Halesworth, Offton and Pettistree bands and so many more, I think this is a very encouraging initiative that needs to be supported. With this in mind, Ruthie and I went and rang despite feeling well below par. However, it was only Grandsire Caters and our first attempt at Half-Lead 8-Spliced at Hollesley was a different proposition, so we decided it was sensible to drop out of this evenings attempt in the morning, allowing Alan time to get Pippa Moss and Paul Norris in to attempt a quarter of the Half-Lead 5-Spliced. Sadly this came to grief, but they probably rang better than we would've done in our state as we wrapped up warm at Ruthie's and enjoyed an evening of The Simpsons instead.

Saturday 29th March 2008

Cameras, lights, action! The visit of David Wernham to Hollesley for the first of three filming sessions for our feature on the Inside Out show couldn't have gone much better. In fact, with filming of the Baines' mobile mini-ring in Woodbridge on Friday (in the Market Square from 11-3) and a return to Hollesley to shoot normal service ringing still to come, it's difficult to see how he's going to condense it all down to 8 minutes!

There were deliberately slightly lower numbers on the listening course, the main focus of David's attentions today, as we felt it may be awkward with the filming to have the packed belfry that we usually have for these events. However, we did have George Pipe and Don Price come over to be interviewed on their combined experience of nearing 130 years of ringing. At the other end of the spectrum, we had young Jessica Norris who at just 8 rang so confidently that you might be mistaken for thinking she had 130 years of ringing experience.

All round it was a brilliant day, with people patiently hanging around as David did interviews and asked us to do things again so he could capture the moment from several angles.

As usual, the food in the Shepherd and Dog at dinnertime was welcome and top notch, although Tom almost ended up with three meals!

In the evening we had the pleasure of a visit from Kala, my good, good friend and one of the subjects in the infamous newsletter report of when the parents were in Australia a couple of years back. Her fiancé Nick was a bit battered after a hard rugby game (in one of life's 'small world' moments, he plays for the same club as Dick Waterson, Gill's husband), so he rather sensibly recuperated at home, whilst the three of us chatted for hours as Mason provided entertainment.

Friday 28th March 2008

Interesting to note the huge cock-ups both at the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow and the over-running works on the trains down to London. Along with the Northern Rock debacle and the day-to-day running of companies I have worked with, I am convinced that either the system of selecting employees is fatally flawed or bosses are just being very narrow-minded and/or lazy in their selections. Either way, it's frustrating that I am stuffing envelopes for pittance all day long when there are people, presumably very well paid and probably going unpunished creating the disasters in our transport and banking industries.

At least I know my bellringing abilities aren't wasted as I was once again happy to make up the numbers for Cambridge Major and Stedman Triples at Hollesley tonight before leaving early with Mason.

Thursday 27th March 2008

With Stephen calling in sick, I found myself running my third practice of the week. Once again I had Mason who is a lot better but is still not quite right, so I had to leave early. We had huge numbers there though, so my departure had little impact. We rang Yorkshire Max as well as some Rounds and Call Changes on 12 for our visitors, Tom Britten, Philip Moyes and his Grandad. They all coped admirably and the two youngsters in particular have huge potential.

Ruthie was driving tonight as the car has been fixed, so I was able to leave her running things.

Wednesday 26th March 2008

29 isn't that old, especially in ringing terms when people have been known to ring until they're over 100, but some things - or people more to the point - make me feel older than I actually am. The achievements of the many youngsters we have across Suffolk, most of whom weren't even born when I began ringing have this effect. So does Mark Eccleston. Loads of you will ask 'who'? Mark is an extremely accomplished ringer in his early 20's in Birmingham, who rang in a handbell peal of 729 Minor methods in 13680 changes with Pipe and Earis on Thursday (20th). He seems well and truly ensconced as one of the top ringers in this country and yet I remember him learning to ring as a boy in the Lichfield and Walsall Society. Like all of us he struggled as well as excelled, so the standards he is reaching - and no doubt he isn't finished yet! - can be an encouragement to all on the long and never-ending learning curve in ringing. Never despair!

Apart from catching this performance on Campanophile during my break, Tash and I were summoned to do the rather dull job (even by Actaris' standards!) of sorting all the broken and returned keys yesterday. It did give us access to millions of elastic bands however and as a result we started an elastic band ball that by the end of today was the size of a tennis ball. I shall keep you posted on it's thrilling progress.

No ringing for Ruthie and me tonight as we accompanied Kate (who had earlier lost a quarter at Pettistree) her work colleague Ron and friend Sid at the Town 102 FM quiz night at Paul's Social Club just off Belstead Road in Ipswich. All in aid of a local children's charity, it was hosted by Bob Strong, a popular DJ on the station though I don't really know him as I don't listen to it! The Dead Ringers finished 8th out of a huge entry (not all the teams could get a seat in the large room), although England conspired to lose 1-0 to France on the TV next door.

Tuesday 25th March 2008

25th, March. Nine months til Christmas, this year the end of Easter and every year Stephen Pettman's birthday, so happy birthday Stephen.

Most Tuesday's are fairly sedate come the evening as normally Ruthie and I have a night 'off', but with Kate unable to run Ufford practice tonight due to a quarter-peal commitment in Bungay, we'd said we would run it this week. Having raced back from work, things didn't start well. Ruthie wanted to fill Emily (her car) up with petrol, although the marker was still just below the quarter-full mark. Half-way up Edwin Avenue though and she stuttered to a halt. Ruthie managed to get her started again but she came to a stop at the top of the road, meaning we had to abandon her to the side in Barton Road, as I'm certainly not confident enough to fiddle about under the bonnet. It's a shame for Ruthie as she's just getting used to the freedom that driving gives you, but hopefully it won't be a long-term problem.

Ufford practice was thankfully a lot better supported than when we last went a few weeks back as we peaked at Stedman Triples and fitted all sorts of useful stuff in underneath.

A relaxed pint in The Lion with Geoffrey and Anne and it was back to Hollesley for that night off.

Easter Monday 24th March 2008

What time do you normally get up on a Bank Holiday? About noon is my preference, some may get up at 10ish, some maybe 8 if they want to make the most of a rare nice Bank Holiday! My alarm went off at 4.45am this morning, making a typical workday seem like a lay-in!

The reason for this unnatural rising time was that Stephen and Liz Pettman were picking me up at the Beacon Hill Services on the A14/A140 junction at 6am to take me to Worcester where Stephen and I were to ring a peal at the Cathedral.

Having severely de-iced my car I met with them successfully and we travelled through what seemed like numerous weather-lines, from snow in Suffolk, sun in Cambridgeshire and show again in Northamptonshire before arriving bang on the appointed meeting time of 9.30am below the huge structure housing this 49cwt 12.

It was a real mish-mash of a band, with people from Hampshire, Devon, Lancashire and London as well as ourselves and on these very difficult bells we made a not unexpected start to this peal of Cambridge Max. However, it seemed to be improving and people generally getting to grips with the bells when after an hour and a half, Mark Regan the conductor called a halt to it without warning, claiming it wasn't good enough.

Mason had been extremely unwell yesterday and I had had my reservations about travelling this far with him in that state and indeed, Kara had asked as I climbed the many steps to the belfry if I could have the little man so her and Danny could catch up on the many hours of sleep they had lost last night watching a vomiting Mason. Of course, I had to say no, so it was with much annoyance from my point of view that the peal had been set up so flippantly by Mark who only lives round the corner from this grand ring.

You have to respect the conductor's decision though and few people know what is needed to get through a peal at Worcester Cathedral than Mark, so who am I to question his judgement?

It wasn't a totally wasted journey however, as I was able to catch up with Andy Hartley, an old ringing colleague of mine from Birmingham and Simon Poole, he of Lundy Island Northern Light Tandoori fame who I have rung quite a few peals with around the country as well as with Mark and Alison.

The journey back was fairly straightforward for a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, bar having to stop for Stephen to have an ice-cream and blizzards in Bury, so I was back in Woodbridge for tea.

Ruthie wasn't very well, so choose not to come out to a wintry Ipswich, but I was pleasantly surprised by the number of ringers who came up from Chelmsford, as well as Ruth and Louis Suggett. Sadly there was very few from Ipswich and although it's an earlier and snowier Easter than usual I'm not sure if I'll bother with a practice next year. We'll see. Having not been able to take Mason during the day, I took him for tonight with Kara and Danny still sleep-deprived. It wasn't ideal as he's at that clingy stage and either Mum or I had to look after him for the short time he and I were up SMLT, which meant that we couldn't quite manage Surprise Maximus, which was a shame for our visitors.

Still, I always enjoy my time with my son and even though he wasn't his usual bouncy self, he seemed to be getting better as both he and I had an early night after a long, long day.

Easter Sunday 23rd March 2008

I'm dreaming of a white Easter... Hasn't got the same ring has it? But that's the scene that greeted Mason and I as we made our way into Ipswich, staring as a flurry in Bealings and settling as we left St Mary-le-Tower.

The ringing itself was the best it has been on a Sunday since I took over at SMLT, as we rang on all 12. Apart from my brother, there wasn't anybody unusual up there and indeed we were missing Jim Hollins down in London today and Arnie who has been down on a Sunday, so there doesn't seem any real reason why we can't manage these numbers on a more regular basis.

Suffolk's countryside, villages and small towns are always beautiful in my opinion, but at the two weather extremes of gorgeous sunshine and blues skies and pristine snowfall shows them at their very best. The route out to Grundisburgh resembled Narnia more than anywhere that shares the same nationality as Dudley or inner London. Mason was bemused by it all, seemingly unsure as to what was going on.
Ringing at Grundisburgh saw us experiment with St Clements Minor with cover and Erin Doubles, both with positive results.

After dropping Mason off, dinnertime saw Clare and Kev make their farewells as they set off for her new life in Scotland, complete with chocolate eggs under their arms.

There wasn't much time to dwell on this departure however, as I had a meeting with Alan McBurnie out at his in Shottisham in relation to next weeks BBC filming at Hollesley. I got a lift off Ruthie for the first time and was impressed at how confidently she drives already!

The meeting itself sorted lots out and we were even able to take in some of the big ManU-Liverpool game on the TV, before Ruthie and I returned to mine to have a rest!

Even this was with a deadline however as we were not long before heading to Ufford where we were successful in ringing 7 Half-Lead Spliced Surprise Major, a massive achievement and set up nicely for an attempt at the 8 next Sunday. Alan already has the champagne on ice, which no doubt we'd drink sink or swim!

We did allow ourselves a small celebration at the Saffron Curry House in Woodbridge before retiring!

Easter Saturday 22nd March 2008

It's a cold Easter this year, a combination of it's early position in the calendar this year and some extremely chilly weather even for the backend of March. And at Monewden, the first tower of today's tour for the Bologna ringers, it really showed.

This didn't stop the enthusiasm of the three Italians as they today got to grips on 'proper' tower bells, not only each knocking behind to Bob Doubles but culminating in Rounds on 6 with them on 4,5,6, producing ringing that many bands would be well happy with!

We didn't stay there as long as we planned as the cold eventually overcame us, so we arrived at the next tower, Grundisburgh a little early. In the enclosed belfry here and with the heater on, it was a bit warmer, encouraging our visitors to ring Rounds and Call Changes on 8 and the rest of us to manage Grandsire Cinques and Little Bob Max to show them the 12 in action.

The Turks Head was the next stop with a good spread of lovely sandwiches and hot chips, washed down by traditional English Ale.

After this, we converged on Woodbridge, waiting first for ringing for a wedding to finish. This was the first chance I'd had to ring the bells since the work on the clappers at the beginning of the week and it seems to have worked as we managed very respectable pieces of Bristol Major and Stedman Triples. Merco, Matteo and Nikola had a go here too, an achievement as these bells aren't always easy for those of us used to ringing them!

Brother Chris also arrived here, providing Mason with some more entertainment, although with this being the last tower, our acquaintance with him this week was sadly brief.

Having said our goodbyes to our guests, Ruthie and I headed home for a cuppa and to listen to Ipswich hanging on to a 2-1 at Scunthorpe, keeping the promotion race on a knife-edge!

Whilst many went to the Pettmans' in Felixstowe for a meal, Ruthie, Mason and I had a booking at her friend's Verity in Ufford, where she was celebrating her birthday. The timings all worked well as we left just as their taxi arrived to take them into Ipswich for clubbing.

Ruthie meanwhile, completed her busy day on her sister's leaving do in Woodbridge whilst Mason and I continued home, both exhausted!

Good Friday 21st March 2008

After last night's festivities, Phil and Maggie had very kindly allowed Ruthie and me the use of one of their beds in their lush abode, allowing me to have a couple of drinks. It did mean an early start however, as I needed to pick Mason up at 9 and Ruthie was working today, albeit at the later time of 10.

Mum and Dad looked after Mason for a bit as I headed to the Salters' for a couple of peals at The Wolery and some nosh - I'm doing well the last couple of days! Unfortunately, we lost the first peal of Goldhanger Bob Major after an hour and a half, a long time in mini-bell land. The good spread and the peal of Allendale Surprise Minor that followed more than made up for the loss though and with the arrival of Mum and Dad with the li'l chap, it was busy household as peal band, babysitters and kids all mingled.

No need to pick Ruthie up as she had driven to work today, the first time she had driven completely on her own! There wasn't much time to reflect on this achievement as we and Kate then had to be at The Folly, Gordon Slack's mini-ring in Claydon. The reason for this was the visit of 3 charming Italian men, Merco, Matteo and Nikola (no idea if I've got the spellings right!), bellringers from their native country. As many will know, Stephen Pettman organises a trip to Italy every two years to see the different and yet surprisingly similar styles of ringing over there. Without going into too much detail, it's absolutely fascinating and having been on one such trip in 2005, I'd recommend booking a place on the next visit. The three visitors have helped make many of these trips extremely enjoyable with their overwhelming hospitality, so it's nice to give some back this weekend.

They had already been to East Bergholt today, but here they were able to have a go, quickly progressing to Bob Doubles behind. The highlight for me though was Mason's first handling lesson as he dabbled on these harmless bells.

It was then back to Edwin Avenue for some pizza and champagne with Clare and Kev both to celebrate Ruthie's driving success and to mark her sister's imminent move to Scotland. This is getting quite a social weekend!

Maundy Thursday 20th March 2008

One good bit of good news which seems to recur is that work would like me back on Tuesday after the Easter Bank Holiday. I keep moaning about the low level of skill and responsibility needed for this job and how it is a waste for someone of my experience and qualifications, but the fact is, the good folk at Actaris and Office Angels have kept me afloat with a job that was intended to last just two days, for over a month.

They also allowed me to leave at 5 today after I worked half my lunch so that I could pick Ruthie up on route to Halesworth for a quarter of Stedman Triples. Even though Ruthie can't stand Stedman, even she admitted that she quite enjoyed this good effort with a predominantly local band bar us two. Phil and Maggie have done extremely well to bring the band on, despite the bells not being the easiest (although by no means bad going) due to being a heavy ground-floor 8 and having another of these neighbours that lives next to a church but complains about the noises that emanate from this huge building on their doorstep!

A nice aspect of our experience here this evening was that the bells were Incorporated into the Maundy service as we were asked to ring throughout the Gloria, which we promptly did. Although we couldn't really hear the bells and I'm not sure if the congregation could, it was nice idea.

Afterwards, we were treated to some marvellous hospitality at Phil and Maggie's as the whole band plus the Downings' daughter Sarah enjoyed much grub and drink. Young Tom Britten, a young Halesworth ringer in his second year of uni in Sheffield was a great laugh and with the obvious ringing potential he has, I hope we get to enjoy his company for a long time, though of course many youngsters tend to stay away for a while to experience life outside of Suffolk.

We also listened intently to Maggie's tale of the heady week when she passed her driving test and A-Levels. Well worth asking her about...

Wednesday 19th March 2008

PR can come in the strangest form. Whilst on the way home from work, my usual accompaniment is Scott Mills on Radio One. The bloke is hilarious and whilst it may be considered a bit silly by some I love it. As the show goes on, listeners phone, text and email in about random subjects looking to provoke advice or debate, all in a very light-hearted manner. This afternoon, someone texted in complaining that her mates were taking the mick over the fact she was going out with a bellringer. This prompted Scott to comment that he didn't think anyone under 50 did bellringing. It was heartening to listen as the messages from young ringers across the country flooded in including one from Andy of our very own Young Ringers Group. He spoke on the phone to a learner from Blackmore-on-Ash or similar who frustratingly gave the impression that a Rhianna hit could be played on church bells, but despite that, I thought that ringing came out quite well. It's not often that our hobby gets PR on prime time Radio One!

It was a welcome break from the correspondence between Winston Girling, Alan Moult, Michael Rolph and Jonathan Stevens on the subject of Fressingfield. I don't think that it's any secret that the local ringers there and many of us who visited a few weeks back were disappointed with how the job by Whites turned out, particularly in relation to the sound outside. However, clappers and whether they should be machined down have become the main issue all of a sudden. Without boring you with the technical details, it's important that we as a Guild get this particular decision right and despite the differing views, I'm glad that we have people as technically knowledgeable and - just as importantly - passionate on this subject as the above four working towards a decision.

It was a special quarter at Pettistree tonight as we rang 60th Birthday Treble Place Minor for Gill Waterson's significant day. Gill is a great ringer who has quietly gone about advancing the level of Surprise Major in particular in this part of the world with her Friday night quarters in various different methods. Until we had finished the quarter, she thought we were ringing an unnamed method until it's title was revealed to her much to her delight. Hazel had also brought a cake for the occasion and along with the box of chocolates Gill herself had brought it was sometimes hard to drag ourselves to the ropes.

The evening was complete as she entered the Three Tuns to the tune of Happy Birthday courtesy of the landlord. As Gill said - 'The best 60th birthday I've ever had'!

Tuesday 18th March 2008

Britain has a new driver! Step forward.... Ruth Eagle! Yep, that's right, the girl done good and passed her driving test today at the first attempt, showing what a star she is. She'd kept the exact date of the test a secret from all apart from her dearest and dearest (and me!), but knowing that she started at 11.11am, I nervously spent the morning at work keeping an eye on my phone for any news, until she revealed the great result.

With it being Tuesday, we had our normal night in to celebrate, so no ringing again.

Monday 17th March 2008

Another week at Actaris as this two assignment rumbles on, happily for the moment as it's better than having nothing at all.

Being Holy Week, there was no practice at St Mary-le-Tower tonight. I understand why bells traditionally fall silent in the lead up to Easter, but I think it would make more of an impact if we rang more. I'm not sure people would notice the absence of St Mary-le-Tower bells as much as their added presence. Still, I don't feel so strongly about it to change it and it gives an opportunity for the keen (for whom I'm eternally grateful!) to give the belfry a spring clean. It also gives me a week off from the satisfying but somewhat intense running of the practice, although we shall be back on Easter Monday!

Ruthie and I used our night off to go to The Cherrytree pub in Woodbridge to meet her friends Fergie and Beth who are back from uni for Easter from Brighton and Canterbury respectively. We also had the company of Vicky, another of Ruth's group of friends who still lives in Woodbridge. All in all, a pleasant evening.

Sunday 16th March 2008

Floods caused by the rain that had started on the way to Woolpit last night and were still continuing unabated made the drive into Ipswich a bit of a battle. The country lanes of my usual route were littered with puddles and even lakes that had to be driven through very carefully and the River Fynn at Tuddenham appeared the size of the Orwell rather than the stream it normally is. All this made me thankful that due to a procession, ringing at St Mary-le-Tower was starting at a later 9.45am. The turnout made rather less thankful however as we just about made it up to Grandsire Triples with the aide of my brother and Mary Whittell who was able to hand control of her granddaughter to her daughter Lizzy who had made a trip up the belfry. To be fair though, it's hard to know how numbers will go when the time of ringing changes as some may make it that wouldn't normally but likewise others like my family have to leave early - in their case to make it to Sproughton - or can't
get up there at all.

I had a thorough read of the latest Annual Report today, handed out at last night's Dinner. Although it's never an exciting read, it is interesting, so well done Ruth on getting it out well in time for the AGM (DON'T FORGET, APRIL 5TH AT LAVENHAM!). A general theme from the district secretaries in particular was the low attendance at practices and other events. I keep reiterating how lucky we are to have a hobby where there is ALWAYS somewhere to go and offers us a vast choice of locations set in beautiful spots and interesting people who all share a love of bellringing, so why do so few actually take advantage of this?

Although Alan was away down south at a family do tonight, he had arranged a quarter of Yorkshire Major at Hollesley for Jane, which was promptly scored with no great trouble. Afterwards we journeyed to Saffron Curry House in Woodbridge, with Ruthie and me getting a lift from Peter and Jane despite our insistence we should take them after last night's favour! Still, it was a great way to finish a great weekend.

Saturday 15th March 2008

James Smith paid quite literally a flying visit to Suffolk this weekend, landing in the UK yesterday and then returning to Hong Kong tomorrow. He is here primarily for his father's 80th birthday, but happily this trip has coincided with the Guild Dinner, so he thought it appropriate to go for the peal we lost at Pettistree on the 30th December. Rather sensibly, after a busy week pre-dinner and post-Somerset, it was deemed more realistic to reduce the seven Delight methods to just two, padded out with some more familiar methods. This produced some great ringing, though sprinkled with occasional mistakes and reminded me why I enjoy peal-ringing so much. With all due respect, it's hard to get such settled and consistent ringing with just a quarter, though quarters still have their obvious benefits.

Kate, James, Ruthie and myself enjoyed a pint in the Three Tuns before Ruthie and I headed to Woolpit to help in preparations for the Dinner.

As we laid out the tables and chairs and watched the barman and caterers go about their business, it all seemed to be coming together, with even Mary beginning to relax! With every confidence in everything else falling into place, Ruthie and I returned to Woodbridge to get ready, listening nervously as Ipswich tried to hold onto a 1-0 lead against Charlton which thankfully became a 2-0 lead by full-time, putting me in a very good mood before our big night.

I had my Master's badge, Ruthie looked stunning (although she always does!) and Peter and Jane Harper very kindly drove us back to Woolpit.

Everything about the evening went perfectly to my mind. There was a full house bar two who unfortunately couldn't come due to illness, the food was fantastic and served promptly and hot and the speeches from the Bishop and Charlie Haylock were brilliant. Nigel Stock seems to have a deep appreciation of ringing and ringers and having spent the whole evening sitting next to them, I was impressed with how down-to-earth they are and they seemed to genuinely enjoy their night.

Charlie was brilliant! Even if you are not local to Suffolk, it's well worth getting a ticket to see him if you get the chance. Not only is he hilarious, but very informative.

It was great to catch up with people too as I busied myself chatting to my family - including Uncle Eric and Aunty Marion - Bernard Fairhead, Muriel Page, Mr and Mrs Nigel amongst many, many more.

Not even the constant rain that started as we made our way to Woolpit could dampen our spirits. Although Winston and I played small parts in organising this hugely successful event, most of the credit has to go to Mary who I know has worked very hard, often in adversity to make tonight's Dinner so good. Thank you and well done Mary - you can relax a bit now!

Friday 14th March 2008

Continuing the frequent media attention on bells and their ringers in Suffolk recently, there was a brief piece in the Evening Star and EADT on Carl Melville's departure to Yorkshire, with a picture thrown in for good measure. Although not mentioning ringing, it's good to see that our members are becoming increasingly savvy in using journalists to their benefit.

Picking Mason up from Mum and Dad's didn't leave us with much time to get fish and chips from Melton before Hollesley practice, but we just about made it on time, importantly missing ringing the bells up!

Despite being a tad short, we were able to ring Yorkshire Major with aide of brother Chris. My son and I left early, but were joined at home by Aunty Ruthie and Unky Chris after the practice. Whether it was the presence of his uncle or the long and constant Sport Relief coverage on TV, it took a lot longer than usual to get the excitable li'l man to tire. However, once he was asleep he was well and truly zonked as Chris, Ruthie and myself enjoyed crisps, dips, drink and eventually some decent TV.

Thursday 13th March 2008

Lighter mornings at this time of year make getting up early a lot easier, which was just as well this morning as I picked Mason up from Kara's and took him to Mum and Dad's in Ipswich all before work. On picking him up after work, his Unky Chris had arrived ahead of the Guild Dinner on Saturday, bringing home just how close it's getting!

Despite the rain and cold wind, there was a fair turnout at Grundisburgh, including my brother and Superlative Major and Stedman Caters were rung prior to Ruthie, Mason and me leaving early to get the li'l chap home.

I received my copy of the Guild Newsletter tonight too, Carl's final one as editor before going to Mirfield in West Yorkshire to train in the church, so now seems a good time to say how much I've enjoyed the newsletter under his stewardship. The newsletter is only as good as whatever it's readers send in and Carl's always been good at encouraging people to participate and it plays a huge part in communicating to the Guild. I hope whoever takes over is able to continue his good work.

Finally, it's Aunty Marion's birthday today, so Happy Birthday Aunty Marion!

Wednesday 12th March 2008

Apparently, Ruthie and I have shared a bed with Jonathan and Beccy Dickenson. How drunk did you have to get to forget that you may well ask. I perhaps ought to point out at this juncture that they stayed in The Hayloft in Somerset for their honeymoon two years back and there was no naughty goings on involving our occasional quarter-peal buddies!

I also had an encouraging email from Mandy Sheddon, who is getting better and was glowing about Craig's great result on his Bishop's Chorister Award Exam. Craig is a talented young man, who is not only getting on well in the choir it appears, but has also improved leaps and bounds every time I see him ring!

It was that time of month again, as Ruthie and I filled our heads with Surprise Minor methods in readiness for another peal attempt at The Wolery. There were 17 methods this time, the primary focus being on the trickier methods of the 41 like Warkworth and Kelso. A peal was scored at pace, the ringing being a little uneven and hesitant in the first extents of the methods we were less familiar with, building up to some cracking ringing for the last 2 extents involving the ones we know well and love!

After some cake to celebrate David's birthday, we headed to the Three Tuns in Pettistree to join Mary, Chris and Jane, all that was left standing from the practice! Obviously the last week has taken it out of some...

Tuesday 11th March 2008

Back to Actaris after our weekend away on a typically uneventful day.

I had a phone call from Winston about the work at Stradishall and Fressingfield. The Stradishall restoration should be fine and indeed the dedication is on the 13th April, worth going to if you can to show support to this far corner of Suffolk. Fressingfield may be a little more complicated as I alluded to a couple of weeks back, but after a visit from Whites on Saturday, things are looking a lot clearer, so that should hopefully be sorted very soon.

After feeling almost permanently attached to a bell rope and steering wheel over the last few days, Ruthie and I had a welcome night off, where we relaxed at mine. We'd also bumped into Karl my mate from HSBC in Tescos and also spoken to my brother Chris and my mate Wellsy on the phone before finally settling down to watching bland TV and keeping an eye on the Ipswich score. Although our opponents Barnsley were the FA Cup heros of the weekend, in the league they're actually rather rubbish, so it was disappointing to say the least to get battered 4-1 by them, albeit at their place. It perhaps confirms by worst fears that, although things are too tight to say we have no chance, I don't think we're good enough to make the play-offs this season, let alone go up.

Monday 10th March 2008

Sometimes, touristy places are everything you expect them to be. Bath is one such place, stuffed with the stunning architecture and grand streets you see on holiday programmes and in brochures. We also expected it to be difficult to take the car in and this proved to be the case, leaving us grateful we had left plenty of time to get there, especially as once parked up, we had huge trouble finding St Michael's church where we were due to ring a quarter of Grandsire Triples, with Ruthie calling it. Our directional aversions meant we were late but not by as much as we could've been and even with a bit of a rush on, we rang one of the best quarters of the weekend.

It was then a brief walk to Bathwick in weather that highlighted why the town was called Bath, led by our tour guide Mary.

Here, I called a quarter of Cambridge Royal (at least the compositions are the same as the Major in the diary!) to finish of a hugely successful week for most and weekend for us, of which huge credit must go to Alan.

With not much time left on our parking ticket, Ruthie and I dashed away to begin the journey home. After the huge storm that had caused havoc across southern England still in evidence, it proved to be a long journey home. What I did notice about our journey today and on the way down on Friday is that there are a lot of people who haven't got a clue how to drive on motorways or even dual carriageways. The middle and fast lane sitters are the reason for most of this country's congestion, cutting two, three and even four-lane carriageways right down to just one or two lanes whilst the inside lanes sit empty. Very annoying and that's before I even start on lorries that overtake, another pet hate of mine...

That said, our biggest hold-ups were due to accidents, particularly on the M4/M25 junction where a car had obviously had a very unhealthy collision with the back of a lorry.

By the time we got back to Suffolk, it wasn't worth going back to Woodbridge, so headed straight into Ipswich for the SMLT practice, having a cuppa at McDonalds first as we stretched our weary legs.

On such a dreadful night and with the majority of the tired Somerset crew too far behind to make it, we were quite short, but still rang Cambridge Max and Stedman Cinques, before Ruthie and I returned home, exhausted, but happy.

Sunday 9th March 2008

As I've mentioned in the past, Sundays are no day of rest for bellringers. Alan had selected towers for us to go and help, a nice idea along with going to local practices, as the resident ringers in Somerset (and Wiltshire!) have all been extremely helpful and welcoming, so it's good to be able to do something in return. Ruthie and I were delegated a return to Mells, along with Don, Helen, Geoffrey and Anne, enabling them to ring Yorkshire Major. Anne also rang the tenor behind to Grandsire, at 26cwt, the heaviest bell she has rung, so well done her!

After a relaxed cuppa back at the main HQ, Ruthie and I went on ahead to Chewton Mendip, the destination for the next quarter, though not ours. We instead went to the Waldegrave Arms, the pub at just below the church. The place was packed with both diners and reserved tables and you could see why, as the food was large, tasty and served promptly.

Although we didn't ring, the bells sounded fantastic and were apparently a dream to ring, so well worth a visit.

We were met by Molly at Midsomer Norton (or Midsomer Murders as we had dubbed it!). Most of you will know that Molly is Gill's daughter, but as she lives down this way, we don't see much of her back up in Suffolk, so it was nice to ring this quarter of Grandsire Cinques with her and her boyfriend David. We were also joined by Phil and Maggie's friend Dave Hammonds, or Silly as he is known for reasons unknown to even Phil and Maggie! Neither of us enjoyed the bright sunshine that blinded us and Geoffrey for a large part of the quarter!

Chilcompton, which followed, proved to be a complete nightmare. Having passed a sign telling us we were entering the village we assumed the huge tower just to our left was the church we were aiming for. However, it turned out to be Downside Abbey, an impressive structure but sadly nowhere near the bells of Chilcompton.

Even after we found the church, our - and mine in particular - troubles didn't stop. I'd been asked by Mike at Midsomer Norton to call the quarter of Grandsire Caters at this 10, something I had no problem doing, although I hate calling Grandsire. A look in the Ringing World Diary in the short period of time we had identified an easy looking composition and I set off calling it in good faith. However, as it got darker and the quarter went well past the expected 50-55 minute mark and over an hour, it was obvious something was wrong and when I'd made the final call and there was no sign of it coming round, I had to set it up, much to the frustration of myself and the band. It appears that although the Caters compositions are written in an almost identical layout to the Triples, they are in fact called differently. Why, you may ask? I don't know, it just is and having never been told this anomaly before, I had no reason to question anything before we started. Feeling a bit of a wally and having obviously annoyed some of the band I drove back to base subdued.

The evening chirped me up though, as we went to The Woolpack in nearby Beckington for a meal, driven there by Geoffrey, Anne and their Spanish SatNav!

We had a great meal and Alan was deservedly presented with a Cheese and Biscuit set for organising the whole week. He deserves much praise for not only getting the towers and ringers, but distributing them appropriately and fairly, even when people like Ruthie and I threw spanners in the works by getting to towers late!

We all trundled back to HQ for a boozy - and late - game of Jenga!

Saturday 8th March 2008

The first quarter of the day at Barrow Gurney was  Mike's 1000th quarter. Congratulations Mike! As we were not involved in that, Ruthie and I enjoyed a rare lie-in, despite the noisy and early attempts of Paul, Mitch and Alan!

Refreshed and ready to face the world again, we arrived at Long Ashton - the tower where Nigel Newton learnt to ring - on time. I have to admit that before today I'd had bad memories of this 30cwt 8 as I'd lost a peal of Bristol Major after over 3 hours back in 2001, but having scored today's quarter of London Major, I have rather fonder memories now!

Nailsea, a 6 near Weston Super Mare was brought forward so we could ring for a wedding and also allowed us a quick grab as we weren't in the quarter that was scored afterwards. As is normal though, the bride was late, meaning we were left hanging around in the church extension for some time, during which Alan mistook a hooded Maggie for the local tower captain's wife Pauline, an incident which he won't be allowed to forget for a while!

Chew Magna saw us score a good quarter of Stedman Triples on bells that went well for their weight - round the back anyway - before we moved onto Yatton, where I was to call my first quarter of the weekend. Pudsey was scored, but it was a noticeably tired band and we were glad it was the last of the day!

Whilst most of the group went to Mells for an evening meal, Ruthie, Paul, Mitch and myself saved some money by grabbing essential supplies - beer, pizza and crisps - from Sainsbury's and then enjoying a lads night in watching football, most notably Barnsley's shock 1-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup!

Friday 7th March 2008

An extremely early start as I rose at 5.30am to shower, shave and pack in anticipation of of our trip down to Somerset today. Our first task was to drop Mason off at Mum and Dad's for the day, with Kara picking him up. Our second task was to get to Westbury in - we thought - Somerset by noon.

It went extremely well as the main roads - A12, M25 and M4 - presented us with few problems. However, our troubles started when we switched on the SatNav and allowed John Cleese to direct us. The Westbury we  should've been aiming for was in Wiltshire, but we didn't realise this and as result and having forgotten our mapbook we meandered along towards Westbury near Wells, thinking we had plenty of time. It was only after a phone conversation between Ruthie and her mother that our mistake became apparent and with no time to make it there in time for the quarter, we had to admit defeat and Paul and Mitch filled in for us, scoring Lincolnshire Major. We did get there in time to get a grab afterwards, but it was still a shame that we made it too late to partake in our first quarter of the trip.

We weren't ringing in the quarter at Marston Bigot and after dealing with some business in Shepton Mallet, didn't have time to have a ring there, so we made our way to The Hayloft, our accommodation in Oldford just north of Frome. It's a lovely spot and only a short - but hairy walk along a nearby stream from the others' abode, the main headquarters.

From here, it was to Mells, where the usual half-lead spliced band knocked off a good quarter of 8-Spliced Surprise Major with little trouble, despite only deciding just beforehand that we were going to ring spliced.

A combination of a long day's travelling and ringing and a fantastic meal prepared by Micky and Maggie meant that Ruthie and myself didn't really feel up to helping out at the various practices that others were, so we stopped in with Phil and Maggie who were in a similar scenario. It was a nice evening of beer and Bristol Royal as they've got a peal of that on Monday night, before the others arrived back. It was then back via torchlight on our wet and cold route to be greeted by our housemates Paul and Mitch who had got a quarter at Bath, Lansdown, St Stephen with Molly Waterson. Even they're entertaining drunkenness couldn't keep us awake however and eventually we succumbed to sleep.

Thursday 6th March 2008

Mason spent the day at Mum and Dad's as I went to work for the last time until Tuesday at least as Ruthie and I travel down to Somerset tomorrow and don't return until Monday. Once again, I'm grateful to my folks for looking after the li'l chap, especially as they've got him all of Friday too. However, there just wasn't enough time in the end to go from Felixstowe at 5.30pm to Ipswich to Woodbridge to Grundisburgh in order to be any use at practice, particularly when you take into account feeding Mason and ourselves, so we had to forsake Suffolk's second 12 tonight. It was a shame, as we do like to help out, but the evening was put to good use preparing for the long, early journey in the morning.

Wednesday 5th March 2008

We had a new girl, Shauna, replacing Daniel, who hadn't been back since leaving with his written off car last Wednesday. She seems nice, but is very, very quiet.

With a huge chunk of the normal Pettistree bunch away in Somerset, it was a good opportunity for Anne Buswell to star. And how, getting her first quarter of Plain Bob Minor before practice.

Despite the missing six, we were able to ring a variety of things, including Cambridge, Norwich AND Ipswich. Tonight was a big test of Pettistree's strength in depth and it passed, a big compliment to Mary and Mike's teaching and guidance.

However, having picked Mason up after the quarter, we had to leave the practice early, leaving it in Gill's capable hands.

Tuesday 4th March 2008

A massive hailstorm was about as exciting as it got today, no drama's at the docks, no crashed cars, etc. I was able to do some considerable job searching as I blitzed the internet during my breaks. The internet is an absolute godsend for job-hunting, especially as the bitterly cold wind outside makes it hard to get anything done out and about.

With Kate and the others in Somerset, Ruthie and I had agreed to forsake our usual Tuesday night in to run Ufford practice. Although a substantial amount of the usual crowd are of course on the trip down south, there were still others that could have come and helped, making the turnout of five very disappointing, but I don't like to waste a practice and despite the lack of enthusiasm for a quarter, I'd like to think Anne, Sally and Susan all got something out of the evening.

The only news we heard from that quarter was that one of Norwich Minor was scored at Doulting St Aldhelm, with Kate pulling in the 20cwt tenor, so well done her! Not sure how the other quarter at the lighter 6 at West Cranmore went though.

Ipswich contrived to get away with a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United at Portman Road, perhaps a good sign, but we'll need to play a heck of a lot better as the season comes to it's run-in. Still, a diplomatic draw kept relations between Mitch and me civil!

Monday 3rd March 2008

Several minutes of alarming sounding sirens from the neighbouring docks gave birth to an excitable rumour at work that something major was happening over there, but a quick glance out the window put an end to any theories and the day continued in the customary sameness that has marked out my time at Actaris.

After a brief trip to Tesco with Ruthie's soon to be departed (to Scotland, nothing worse!) sister Clare, Ruthie and I went to St Mary-le-Tower for this week's practice. Despite the absence of a large crowd currently in Somerset, my mother who was ill and David Potts who is injured, leaving us with just 15, we were still able to ring Cambridge and Lincolnshire Max, with Peter Trent (our newest member following his election to the Guild at Hollesley on Saturday) ringing his first blows of Cambridge on 12, so well done Peter. We also had a visitor, Jonathan, who lives in Lincolnshire but works in Ipswich and may well come up more regularly once he's been on a 3 week trip to China. He can already ring Cambridge and Yorkshire Max, so his presence would be an unexpected bonus as we strive to continue the great progress we have made as a band.

Get well soon Mum!

Sunday 2nd March 2008

Last night's evening in The Shepherd and Dog had seen us join in the raffle for the Alderton Bowls Club social evening. Kate and Ruthie won some wine and chocolates and Mum and Dad - having left their tickets with us - won a bottle of wine, allowing me to give Mum a nice Mothers Day surprise as she was greeted by a bottle of Liebfraumilch when she arrived at St Mary-le-Tower this morning. I had already got her some smellies, but the wine was a nice bonus!

Although I would normally have been happy with the Stedman Caters and Cambridge Royal we rang, it was disappointing that we had enough to ring on 12, but because one ringer arrived late and another then immediately left early (not because of the late arrival!),we were unable to ring all 12 bells. Still, we were missing one or two, so it perhaps bodes well for future Sunday morning ringing, especially if we could get everyone there for a significant period of time together.

There were no such problems at Grundisburgh where they also had 12 and were able to ring Rounds and Call Changes on 12 as well as some more Stedman Caters.

Being Mothers Day, Ruthie, Kate, myself and Max their dog walked over to Kate's parents who live nearby in Woodbridge to hand over cards and enjoy a cuppa.

Ruthie and I then went to her Dad's mother, in Melton, which was enjoyable until the visit of her harmless but strange neighbour.

The evening was set aside for TWO quarters at Grundisburgh. One was of Cambridge Royal which was a success, despite my attempts to miss a lead out. It followed on nicely from a quarter at Pettistree of Ipswich Minor involving some of the band and even earlier in the day a quarter of Grandsire Triples at Halesworth, meaning that the last quarter was to be some ringer's third of the day and Phil and Maggie's fourth of the day.

Alas, he latest attempt of the half-lead spliced Surprise Major was not to be as we ran out of time as Mary was trapped at a long-length evensong at Pettistree. However, it was more good practice and with the band all on Alan's trip to Somerset by next weekend, it may well be rung down there.

A pint in The Dog helped quench the thirst of 7 hard-working quarter-peal ringers as those who are travelling to the South-West of England tomorrow prepared themselves for the exciting week ahead.

Saturday 1st March 2008

Mason was a lot better today. Having gone to bed at 7.30 last night, it was perhaps not surprising when he woke up at 5.30am, but it was good to see him so full of beans and back to normal after his bad day yesterday.

After dropping him back off at Kara's, Ruthie and I headed to Woodbridge St Mary's for what proved to be a mammoth morning of ringing up and down. It was all in the name of sorting the oddstruckness out, no easy task on a 25cwt 8 and in the end it took, Michael Tyler, Terry Whale, Kate, Ruthie and me four hours of single bell ringing whilst Bruce Wakefield and Jonathan Stevens worked to adjust the clappers upstairs.

We were entertained by the rich archive of annual reports dating back to 1960 and newsletters going back to 1991. The most startling revelation from these records was that whilst Stephen Pettman was struggling towards his 10th peal and John Loveless was ringing his first peal of Yorkshire Major in the early 70's, my father was ringing in peals of multi-spliced Surprise Major, culminating in 28 methods. And he claims he can't ring this complicated stuff...

The afternoon was put aside for the kind of traditional Saturday afternoon that I grew up with and still rather enjoy as the South-East District Quarterly Meeting came to Hollesley. The pre-meeting ringing was well supported, with 25 attending and the tea was fantastic. Whilst the meeting was fairly brief and straightforward, there was a little exchange afterwards that brought to a head the issue of communication within the Guild, something that some think needs to be looked at with some urgency. Whilst I see their point of view, I think that we communicate fairly well as a Guild to those that are prepared to meet us half-way.

Ringing in the evening wasn't quite as well supported, perhaps due to a lack of a different tower (although I'm not the oracle on these things), but we still rang very creditable pieces of Bristol Major and Stedman Triples amongst other things.

A reasonable turnout at The Shepherd and Dog completed a nice afternoon before Ruthie and I wandered home, a distinct advantage of having such an event in your home village!

Friday 29th February 2008

It's that rare date where women propose to men, 40 year olds claim to be 10 and those desperately trying to ring a peal on every calendar day hastily arrange peals to gobble up this once in four years opportunity. No such shenanigans for myself as neither Ruthie nor I are in a rush to get married, I'm very definitely 29 years old and grabbed my 29th, February peal back in 2000.

My interview at BPM meant I left work at 3pm to get into Ipswich by 4. I was met by a nice chap called David who explained the role. It involved selling under the tutelage of another seller, before progressing to be a tutor and then owner of your own sales company. David was really pleasant and showed such an interest in ringing that it nearly took over the interview and the job looked really exciting. However, as I had suspected, the salary was 100% commission, too big a risk and the hours would be 11.15am to 9pm, not only making ringing during the week impossible, but also looking after Mason. I told David I'd think about it, but I will be responding with a 'no' unfortunately.

Arriving at Mum and Dad's, it was apparent that Mason wasn't very well, sleeping most of the day despite sleeping all through last night and generally being far from his usual perky self. When we went to pick Ruthie up from hers, he then threw up over her, a worrying sign, but in fact he seemed to improve after that and regained a lot of his noisy energy! It was a nasty windy night outside though, so I decided to play it safe and not take him along to Hollesley practice, although Ruthie went along, allowing them to peak at Cambridge Major. On a terrible night like this out on the Hollesley peninsula it's a true testament to Alan's leadership that Surprise Major can be achieved.

Thursday 28th February 2008

No Daniel at Actaris today and there shan't be for the rest of the week as it transpired he'd injured himself more than he thought in yesterday's accident and therefore the doctor had told him not to return to work this week.

I on the other hand, have been offered a place there all of next week as Tash, one of my colleagues is off then, although I can't work next Friday as that's when Ruthie and I leave for Somerset on Alan McBurnies quarter-peal week. I'm mildly impressed from a financial point of view that what started out as a two day assignment is about to go into a fourth week, though the work has got progressively more mind-numbing.

We were a bit late getting to Grundisburgh this evening and with Mason with us, early in leaving so weren't there as long as we would like, but were still able to partake in Bristol Major and Cambridge Maximus before going.

Wednesday 27th February 2008

It was back to Actaris today for the same uninspiring but gainful employment I had carried out for the week and a half previous to the weekend. As with last Wednesday, I found myself with time on my hands having dropped Ruthie off at Boots, so I repeated my journey on another lovely sunny morning.

Despite the dull nature of the work, the day itself was littered with several half-interesting events, not least Daniel (who had also been asked back) driving into the back of a taxi driver at lunchtime, so decided to go back to Ipswich with the pickup truck and his written-off car.

Other news was that James Whitby passed his driving test after numerous attempts and Aaron, Clare's ex boyfriend passed his interview for the navy, so good news all round!

I myself received what is on the face of it good news, but I'm taking it with a large dollop of salt. Having put my CV on a new jobs website I hadn't come across before, a company called BPM called asking if I wanted to come for a first interview for another sales role at 4pm on Friday. I was reluctant after my experience in Norwich yesterday, but it is only in Ipswich and the later time means I should only miss a couple of hours work, so in my circumstances it's worth checking out.

With the 5.30pm finish in Felixstowe, there wasn't much time to get from work to this weeks quarter at Pettistree and indeed Ruthie (whom I hastily picked up from home on the way!) and I arrived late. However, the quarter peal of Cambridge and London Minors was still scored, with a ropey start (almost entirely due to me whose mind was still racing up the A12!) and a patchy finish (a band effort!) sandwiching some very, very good ringing.

After the quarter, I went to pick Mason up to bring him back to Pettistree for part of the practice before bringing him home.

I thought I was getting a bonus when I switched on the TV at home and saw that there was live football, Middlesbrough v Sheffield United in a 5th round FA Cup replay. However, after one of the poorest games of football I've ever seen, separated only by a goal for Middlesbrough 24 minutes into extra-time - bad luck Mitch - I was wishing I had gone to bed like my son!

Tuesday 26th February 2008

It's not often that I enter the boundaries of Carrow Road, home of The Tractor Boyz' arch enemies, Naaaaridge City. Today was one such day as I went for my interview with Eurotel at the Holiday Inn, which is located right on the corner of the football ground in Norfolk's central city. I entered the interview with high hopes, along with two others as the company was unfurled in front of us by Andy Wood the interviewer. However, I had been lured all the way to Norwich by the promise that the job had a basic salary. Well into the 'interview', it was let slip that the first few weeks would be commission only. Unwilling to go into a job where my only earnings would come from how well I catch on in the first weeks of a new job, I left the interview.

It was a shame, as I'd got a good feeling about this job, especially as they'd chased me up. Still, I'm getting interviews and Ruthie and I had a nice day out somewhere different.

After popping to Ashcroft Palace to say 'Happy Birthday' to Mum, we returned to Hollesley for our weekly Tuesday night in, even more enjoyed after the long day travelling.

Monday 25th February 2008

Once more I found myself making use of unemployment, getting lots done, most notably in applying for two more jobs. Despite it's usefulness, I hoping this break is brief. After dealing with all I needed, it just left me enough time to pick Ruthie up from work, take her to her flute lesson, then to Brownies to help out and finally - after a quick cuppa to St Mary-le-Tower.

With the weather much improved on the last couple of weeks, the attendance was back up to a more normal level, enabling us to return to the subject of Lincolnshire Max as well as the usual - and now very well rung - Cambridge Max amongst pieces from the other end of the spectrum such as Rounds and Call Changes on 12, which are still necessary to continue our fantastic progress.

Once again, Ruthie and I shunned the pub, merely grabbing donner meat and chips on the way home to save money.

Sunday 24th February 2008

With my duties as Guild Ringing Master, my duties as St Mary-le-Tower Ringing Master had to be forsaken for this week as it was up to Fressingfield for the 10.30am Dedication service. There was just time to help out with ringing at Pettistree before Ruthie, Mason and I headed north, closely followed by Chris and Mary. The beautiful sunshine, blossoming trees (already!) and fantastic countryside as we travelled up the far north of our wonderful county reminded me why I moved back here from the grim urban mass of the West Midlands.

The service with the Bishop Nigel Stock making an address was nice, with Mason and young Richard Stevens behaving impeccably for the hour and a bit-long duration.

After a little ringing, we were invited across to the Sancroft Hall for some wine and a grand spread. Mason, typically full of confidence and nosiness enjoyed exploring the hundreds of feet, keeping Ruthie and I on ours!

Having dropped Mason back at Kara's and got changed, we then went to Ufford for a early attempt of the half-lead spliced lost last week at Hollesley. Normally we wait a month, but Alan made the decision to try again as soon as possible. It very nearly worked too, as we made the distance, but sadly due to a mix-up near the end, the last two or three leads there was a swap, so quite rightly it was decided not to count it. Still, up till that point it was a very good and accomplished bit of ringing and with plans to go for it again next Sunday, we are confident we will score it for real very soon.

Whilst some went to the Wilford Bridge for a drink and grub, Ruthie and I decided to save some money after much travelling and socialising over this last week!

Saturday 23rd February 2008

After last night's exploits, I stopped over at Ruthie's before heading to nearby Melton to pick Mason up for the weekend. Having popped into Woodbridge to do some bits 'n' pieces, we three made our way to Fressingfield, where the bells are being dedicated tomorrow. The locals are making a weekend of it however, so the morning was put aside to a presentation and then demonstration by Philip Gorrod followed by some fantastic sausage and mash in the Sancroft Hall and a well rung quarter of Yorkshire Major in the afternoon, with quite an audience gathered by the end. The presentation was fantastic with a huge crowd of learners and genuinely interested non-ringing villagers listening, asking questions and watching a extremely good DVD featuring Michael Moreton, John Hughes D'Aeth and Simon Holden as well as ringing at the cathedrals of Exeter, Liverpool and St Paul's.

Whilst the quarter was good, but highlighted some disappointing aspects in the eyes of the local ringers and other more experienced ringers. The back three stick a little and one and four are extremely difficult to hear as are some of the others. However, these are not terminal problems and shouldn't detract from the great work the ringers and people of Fressingfield have done to get these bells ringing again after 15 years out of action. I'm sure Whites of Appleton will iron out the problems and I'm still looking forward to the Dedication Service tomorrow morning with the Bishop!

We headed home listening to Ipswich's 1-0 defeat to league leaders Stoke on the radio and after a rare telephone conversation with my brother Chris (for various reasons we often miss each others calls), we enjoyed watching the England rugby team beat the French 24-15 in their own backyard in the Six Nations! All in all it summed up a day of highs and lows.

Friday 22nd February 2008

A slow day at work as the stream of letters dried up and as a result we were told that unfortunately Daniel and I weren't needed on Monday although if the printer gets busy again we may be called on once more. For my sanity I can't say I'm sorry, though I enjoyed working with the folk there and I realise I need another job very soon. With a decision pending on one interview and another one coming up on Tuesday however, hopefully that job will come quickly.

I sent an email out today asking for people who would be interested in helping with filming of the Inside Out programme at Hollesley on Saturday, 29th, March. We are setting up a Listening Course for the day so that the cameras can follow the progress of some learners on the day. It goes without saying that we're looking for learners predominantly and the BBC are especially keen - as are we - to highlight the extreme age-ranges in ringing so a good sprinkling of youngsters and senior ringers would be appreciated. We are keen to get volunteers for the programme, however, the maximum the course can take is 18 and with the involvement of the TV camera's, the demographics are important, so it is ESSENTIAL that people contact me to let me know of their availability and/or willingness to feature rather than just turning up on the day.

Having dropped Mason off at Mum and Dad's and then picked him up again to take him back to Kara's, Ruthie and I headed via taxi to St Audry's Social Club in Melton for Michaela and Nick's engagement party. It meant missing Hollesley again, although this recent lack of attendance there is a conspiracy of events rather than an deliberate avoidance, so hopefully things will return to normal from next week! The party itself was fantastic and possibly a dry-run for the wedding reception to see who is too embarrassing to invite. I think we should be OK, but there were one or two candidates for the cull! Nonetheless, it was great to see Rusty, Toby, Jess and of course Kala herself, so well worth it!

Thursday 21st February 2008

With no Denise, the atmosphere was more relaxed today and the work returned to a more constant level. To complement this, I received confirmation of another job interview, also for a field sales role, but this time the interview is in Norwich - the Holiday Inn on Carrow Road at that, but I'll grit my teeth and do my best when it comes round on Tuesday afternoon. I still haven't heard back from my recent interview, perhaps indicating that that role has gone begging.

Despite the more laid back arena, work was still incredibly mundane and the only highlight was a brief flurry of debate after it was heard Steve Wright had been found guilty of the murder of five prostitutes back in 2006. With his sentencing tomorrow, hopefully this will draw a line under a tragic and unsavoury episode.

One of my duties as Ringing Master is to give approval for the release of grants on bell projects. It was because of this that Ruthie, Mason and I found ourselves travelling to almost the Cambridgeshire/Essex border to check out the job done by Whites of Appleton at Stradishall. They do appear to have done a good job doing the bells up and in particular welding the tenor, but Alan Moult seems to think that the clappers need machining as they are too heavy for the bells. If I'm honest, I'd admit I have little technological knowledge when it comes to bells, so I'll bow to Alan's in-depth knowledge on this subject, so there will be a bit more discussion before the Guild's grant is released.

It wasn't ideal taking Mason and indeed I wasn't due to have him until a call from Kara that afternoon complaining of being ill, so I decided to help out. Kara is being extra careful at the moment however, as she is pregnant again - nothing to do with me this time! - so all being well, Mason should have a little brother or sister come October!

Wednesday 20th February 2008

Having dropped Ruthie off at Boots in Woodbridge for work at 7am, I found myself with an hour and a half til I had to get to work. Not quite long enough for it to be worth my while going back home, and a little too long to arrive at work and occupy myself. I decided to head to Felixstowe via the scenic route, via villages such as Newbourne and Kirton. I'm glad I did as the hazy, yet bright dawn offered up some splendid views that I've never been able to appreciate before as I've only ever cut through this part of Suffolk whilst in a rush. Despite still getting to work quite early, I enjoyed my little detour and felt quite refreshed as I entered work.

It wasn't to last too long sadly. Denise took over in charge fully after a couple of days learning the ropes and instantly introduced an atmosphere of targets and pressure, the hallmarks of an attitude that spoilt an otherwise great time at HSBC. She's insisted that people work Bank Holidays too, which has lent to an air of resentment and although Daniel and I are largely exempt from these pressures being temps, it's sad to see the happy, hard-working and united team I commented on last week disintegrating into the moaning and divisions that have marked out most other teams I have worked with in the past. Shame.

Pettistree was fast and furious as most things up to spliced Doubles and Minor were rung following the successful quarter of Cambridge Minor.

Work is progressing fast at The Greyhound pub next to the church, but for now we had to content ourselves with chips and drink at The Three Tuns, still a very pleasant pub.

Tuesday 19th February 2008

With Mason going to Mum and Dad's today, I felt it was a good time to leave the car at the usual garage to get the boot fixed (it wouldn't shut) and fix a broken bulb. As a consequence, Dad took me to work and collected me afterwards.

The evening was put aside to Ruthie and me spending our usual Tuesday together and - with the return of Champions League football - watching Liverpool beat Inter Milan 2-0.

Monday 18th February 2008

Having battled dense fog into and out of work, it was time to battle the same blind road conditions into Ipswich for St Mary-le-Tower practice. I wasn't expecting many as even I would've contemplated staying in if I wasn't in charge and knowing the distances many travel on a Monday night I would've understood if many HAD chosen that option. As it happened I needn't have worried too much as people slowly but surely arrived, allowing us eventually to peak at a couple of good pieces of Cambridge Max, one of which was rung extremely well and the other becoming a victim of circumstances as the practice overran and the band tired. Still, it was a good night's ringing although people had to work hard as there wasn't the usual strength in depth due to the difficult conditions outside.

A quick drink in Mannings and a our normal donner meat and chips and it was on the way home, battling more fog as we went...

Sunday 19th February 2008

With Mum and Dad away, it was a disappointing turnout at St Mary-le-Tower this morning, although we did have some very good striking, particularly in the Grandsire Doubles on the back 6 and Cambridge Major. It's hard to know what to do about numbers on Sunday though. We can't of course drag people from their normal and usually local towers so we are left with two options. One is to try and recruit, but in a church such as ours the only realistic pool of recruits is the congregation. However, this is largely elderly and the youngsters that do attend are heavily involved in the choir, which takes up a massive amount of their time already as the choir at SMLT is practically professional! We've tried in the past and found that teaching the elderly volunteers wasn't practical when looking to man a 35cwt 12.

The other option - and the only one available anyway until we could get new recruits up to scratch - is for those that ARE able to make SMLT ringing from 9am-9.45am to come as regularly as they can, particularly members. I would plead to those who can to please come and help out as it's sad that we can't use this magnificent 12 fully on a Sunday morning.

Grundisburgh is suffering from a similar predicament and I'm sure Stephen wouldn't mind me making a similar plea on his behalf. After all Sunday morning ringing is the whole point of our wonderful hobby should be supported where possible.

I don't think I've ever arranged so many peals that I've been unable to ring in myself as has been the case in Peal Week 2008. This afternoon was no exception as I was unable to ring in Richard Moody's first peal attempt at Orford. Unfortunately this was lost after an hour, but no doubt he'll try again and deserves to for all the hard work he does in this true outpost of Suffolk ringing. If anyone has the time, please go and support him and his band on a Saturday morning, 10am to noon.

It also signalled the end of this year's Peal Week which has seen 11 peals scored involving numerous firsts achieved, the whole point of the week after all. A full report will appear very soon, but now seems as good as any time to thank everyone who has taken part, allowed bells to be rung or helped in any way at all.

The reason Ruthie and I couldn't ring in Richard's peal although we would've loved to have been was that we - or more to the point Mason! - had been invited to the 4th birthday of Robson, our mate Becky's youngest son. Despite getting his age wrong - I got him a 5th birthday card - we were allowed to stay! The party was held at Whitton Sports Centre which brought back loads of memories for me as it was where I came every Friday night for years to play football as a kid. I'm glad to say Mason enjoyed the facilities just as much as I had then, although his enjoyment was in the playroom rather than in the football!

After dropping Mason off, it was back to Hollesley for the next attempt of a quarter of half-lead spliced surprise Major. Having succeeded with 6 methods last month, it was our first try at 7, this time incorporating Bristol, so perhaps unsurprisingly we didn't score a quarter peal. As is usual with this group though, we got quite far and used the evening as good practice, hopefully standing us in good stead for successful effort next time out.

We rounded the day off at the Saffron Curry House, with Phil and Maggie rather kindly taking me there and Alan and Mickie bringing me back so I could have a couple of drinks! After this week, I needed them...

Saturday 16th February 2008

When I'd said to Kara that I would have Mason today, I did so without realising that Mum and Dad were at the Ramblers Reunion Dinner all weekend. It left me with extra organisation that I hadn't expected as I was planning on ringing in two peals during the day as well as attending the GMC.

Hazel Judge came to the rescue in the morning, allowing me to ring in Kate's first peal as conductor - well done Kate! - at Pettistree, whilst Mason kept Hazel busy in Wickham Market. I stepped aside for the afternoon peal, so whilst Ruthie and I kept Mason occupied watching the football - with Ipswich beating Blackpool 2-1 - Nigel Smith was scoring his first peal at Monewden. Congratulations Mr Nigel!

Peals were also scored at Bury St Edmunds and Hartest, taking us into double figures for Peal Week 2008 and smashing last years record!

I'm used to the GMC meeting going on, but this evening's meeting, held as usual at the Methodist Chapel in Old Newton took the biscuit. Three hours of admittedly healthy debate just about finished me off and I was fairly tired by the time I got home, but most topics from the project to rehang St Lawrence's in Ipswich to the running order of this year's AGM were covered, so it certainly served its purpose.

Ruthie did a sterling job of looking after Mason at mine whilst I was away, so thankfully I came home to a very peaceful flat as I watched Barnsley's incredible 2-1 win at Liverpool in the FA Cup on Match of the Day. At least I was back in time for that!

Friday 15th February 2008

Daniel and myself found out we will be here until the end of next week. Whilst mentally it promises to be numbing, financially it is relatively good, though still not great. We also got a new team leader, a girl called Denise, who also used to work for HSBC. I'm beginning to wonder if there's anybody other than my mates Karl and Ele that are still working for the bank!

It was the Pettistree dinner, this year held at The Dog in Grundisburgh. Quite as a coincidence, this enabled us to listen to parts of the peal of Grandsire Caters across the road as we arrived and when we popped our heads out the door to check on its progress. Well done particularly to Gordon, Janet and Jason on scoring the peal that has equalled the total of 7 achieved in Peal Week 2007.

The dinner itself was a fantastic event, the food was great and Mary's speech was worthy of the occasion!

Thursday 14th February 2008

I started my new temporary job today, although it appears it's likely to only last today and tomorrow. Having worked in Felixstowe for over 18 months for HSBC, the route to the town is familiar, but the part of town not so. The uninspiring box buildings are overshadowed by mountains of containers, symbolising the close proximity of the country's largest port, whereas before I had been based up in the town centre. The work itself is a production line in comfort, scanning the keys for electricity meters before attaching them to letters. By the end of the day, Daniel (who also started today and also used to work for HSBC) and I had been promoted to putting them in envelopes. Despite the mundane and repetitive nature of the work however, I've never come across a cheerier workforce, perhaps because of the lack of targets and pressure. The job still gets done though, maybe something employers need to take note of. The day went well though, despite dropping my pass down the toilet!

Being Valentine's Day, Ruthie and I opted to have a nice leisurely meal instead of our usual visit to Grundisburgh. However, whilst there was no ringing for us today, congratulations must go to the 8-Spliced band that scored their peal at Offton today, especially Geoffrey whom was ringing it to a peal for the first time.

Wednesday 13th February 2008

Phew, what a day! It started with a visit from one of the producers - David - of the Inside Out show to Hollesley. The main purpose of his trip was to see if the topic of Hollesley's training programme and recruitment and training in the Suffolk Guild in general was worthy of filling a near 8 minute feature on the show. Having set things up and gathered to meet him, Alan, Bruce and myself were delighted that he showed immense enthusiasm for covering our story. Dates and plans for filming have been set in place now with the idea being that it will be shown - all being well - by the end of April.

From there, it was straight to the Premier Inn at Claydon for my job interview with Barry and Kathy from Homebuy. It was an extremely promising interview and I can at least say I did as much as I can.

As soon as I came out of the interview, I had a message from Office Angels saying there was a temporary job starting tomorrow at a company called Actaris in Felixstowe. Like my recent job at the base, it's not going to be well paid and by the sounds of it far from stimulating, but until I hear from Homebuy or any other job it's much appreciated. Again it left me frantically searching for someone to fill my place in a peal at Offton tomorrow. On this occasion my gratitude to Barry Dixon for stepping in.

As exciting as my day was, it wasn't ideal preparation for our attempt at 12 Surprise Minor methods at The Wolery. Although we struggled a little at times with no 'comfort methods' like Cambridge or London, there were prolonged periods of good ringing and in 1 hour 44 minutes we got what we came for. This proved to be peal number 5 of Peal Week after Mary Garner successfully conducted her first peal on 8 at Rendham with Yorkshire Surprise Major, so well done Mary!

Though Ruthie and I didn't make it to Pettistree, we did learn that they scored their quarter of Ipswich Surprise Minor, so all in all a very tidy day!

Tuesday 12th February 2008

As the sun was shining and my job interview on Wednesday confirmed, Ruthie and I decided to take Mason down to Jimmy's Farm, the farm near Wherstead made famous by the TV series over the last few years. Mason loved the array of animals and us adults had a good time too. We particularly liked the guinea pig village with the 'vicar' waiting for other guinea pigs to arrive at the church!

Unfortunately, I had to scrap a planned peal attempt at Saxmundham as I just couldn't get a band, so Peal Week was put on hold for a day, bar some frantic phoning round for a ringer for tomorrow's peal at Rendham. Thanks must go to Kevin Hohl for stepping in.

On the plus side, Ruthie and I were able to enjoy our usual Tuesday night in - having dropped Mason off at Kara's - made even more enjoyable by Ipswich winning 1-0 at Crystal Palace. All of a sudden we seem to have become away-day specialists!

Monday 11th February 2008

No work today due to my unemployment, so I ventured up to Wilby for a peal of Plain Bob Triples being called by Jonathan Stevens, a personal aim of his. As much as I enjoy ringing the more complicated stuff, good ringing is good ringing and that was certainly the case this morning. Unfortunately this proved to be the peal's undoing. Although we shouldn't, if a peal is going really well for a prolonged period as it was at Wilby, it's easy for the mind to wander and even the smallest hesitation can develop into something fatal. We lost this one due to such circumstances nearly at the end of the second part of three - 1 hour and 45 minutes in. These things happen however and the main thing - in the context of Peal Week 2008 - is we tried and will try again in the future.

A bonus was that as we stood outside chatting in the sunshine, Trevor Hughes came by and invited us back to his nearby abode for a cuppa, which Jonathan and I enthusiastically accepted.

As the day progressed, I received some good news. A company called Homebuy want to give me a job interview on Wednesday for a job I recently applied for. The bad news is I need to find another ringer for the peal at Rendham that day! Not that I mind on this occasion!

St Mary-le-Tower was a little short-staffed this evening. I wasn't overly surprised as the distances and roads that many have to negotiate to get to practice were shrouded in thick fog - it took me nearly an hour to get back to Hollesley afterwards instead of half that normally. Mason was with us, so we left early and even though numbers were short, we were still able to ring Cambridge Max twice after the first piece crashed to a halt. Still, I need to cajole a few people back to make sure our standards move onwards and upwards.

Sunday 10th February 2008

Peal Week 2008 has begun in earnest! Three peals scored at Aldeburgh (Nettleden Surprise Major), Grundisburgh (Bristol Surprise Major) and Tostock (Plain Bob Minor), well done to all concerned!

My day began by finally getting to St Mary-le-Tower after the last two Sunday morning drama's involving Mason. There was a minor scare though as he somehow managed to somersault his way out of his cot with a thud. However, after a little comfort he continued on his way as if nothing had happened and no apparent harm done.

With Owen away we had just 9 at SMLT, so we rang entirely on 8. Not any better at Grundisburgh either.
After dropping the li'l man off I left for Grundisburgh the peal there - congratulations to Louis on his first in the method.

Here's hoping the rest of Peal Week goes as well as today's.

Saturday 9th February 2008

It's the start of Peal Week 2008 and like last year it started with a loss. On this occasion, it was Yorkshire Major at Elveden which came to grief, despite Louis Suggett's best efforts in attempting to conduct his first of Surprise Major. I expect it shan't be long before he does succeed in this aim. It probably won't be the last failure over the next nine days as there are another 13 peal attempts lined up that I know of. The plan is to beat the 7 successes of Peal Week 2007 and more importantly help people progress in their ringing. However, there are no plans as yet to hold Suffolk Guild peals at destinations across the world. Maybe Bristol Max in Dubai in the near future though...

With Mason in tow I didn't ring in the peal at Elveden, but I did see many of the participants at the Norman Tower in the afternoon for a North-West District Surprise Major practice on the simulator there. This enabled us to ring on the front 8 perfectly musically and without disturbing Bury's Saturday shoppers! It was a triumph for Ruth Suggett who organised it and Ian Holland who ran it so well done to both of them. Thanks also to Mrs Suggett and Mary Dunbavin for babysitting in Ruthie's absence (she was having a driving lesson) whilst I rang.

Having not developed my ability of being in more than one place at once yet (how much easier would my life be then?), I was unable to go to the North-East District's Education Afternoon and Quarterly Meeting at Reydon, Wenhaston, Blythburgh and Southwold, but it's great seeing two great (and meaningful) events happening in Suffolk, so well done to all concerned. It's just a shame they were on at the same time.

On a sadder note, I was sorry to hear about Mandy Shedden's hospitalisation having collapsed at Rougham's practice. I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say I hope she gets better soon and carries on doing the great work she has been doing as North-East Secretary.

After the practice in Bury St Edmunds, Mary, Mason and I went to the Woolpit Village Hall to do some measurements, get an idea of table arrangement's, etc for the Guild Dinner on Saturday 15th March. I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw, with great facilities and a lovely view of Woolpit church. If you want to appreciate all this however and you haven't already, you do need to get your ticket very soon as well over 100 tickets have been sold and 140 is the very limit we can sell.

Popping back to Woodbridge to see how Ruthie got on with the footie traffic in Ipswich (how ironic that a week after we won our first away match we then lost our first home game today) on her driving lesson, Mason and I then returned to Hollesley for a well deserved rest!

Friday 8th February 2008

A couple of big blows today, both expected to different degrees but blows nonetheless. The first one was that I reached my last day at the MOD Base and despite concerted efforts over the five-week period I've been there, I have had no luck finding a new job to follow it up, so come Monday I shall be unemployed again. It's been an interesting few weeks in some ways, seeing how an army base works behind the secure gates, but the actual work has been a little dull with absolutely no variation!

The second blow was that I had to withdraw the Ipswich entry for this year's National 12-Bell Competition. It's a massive setback as I feel that having an entry in the biggest striking contest in ringing is integral to raising the standard of 12-Bell Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower. Two members had to withdraw leaving me short and with the long distances involved going to Cheltenham didn't feel it would be worth our while starting again. It is my intention to enter a team for the 2009 contest, but certain things have to change up SMLT for this to happen. Although we've made tremendous progress over the last few months, certain issues have been going round in circles for years and this needs to be broken for the long-term good of the 12-bell ringing in Suffolk.

On a happier note, I had a phone call from a researcher from the BBC re Inside Out (sorry, got the name wrong yesterday!) and the possibility of featuring ringing in their September series. It was a very interesting conversation and sounds hopeful for getting us on the show, but they will obviously have other features to consider yet, so we'll see where it goes from here.

It was a long call though and meant I was late picking Mason up for the weekend, although he didn't seem to mind.

We were missing Alan at Hollesley tonight as he's gone down with the lurgy after his recent skiing trip, but Peter Harper ran it well and we still rang Grandsire Triples and Plain Bob Major.

Thursday 7th February 2008

My work this morning my work was accompanied by the constant playing from a brass band as they played for a parade. Good job they had a nice day for it!

Grundisburgh was a little less packed than last week, but we still rang Yorkshire Royal with the visit of Mitch, still in Suffolk after the death of Jayne's grandmother. It was good to have a proper laugh with a ringer that I not only enjoyed the company of as I grew up in Suffolk but also when I was living in the Midlands.

After practice, we once again went to The Mariner, though there is news that someone new is taking over at our usual haunt - The Turks Head - tomorrow, so we shall see what happens there now.

When I was flicking through the EADT from yesterday I noticed an article regarding fund raising for the restoration of Long Melford bells, another good example of how we can get bells into the media in a positive way even if in a brief manner. Talking of bellringing PR, I had an email today from the BBC about the possibility of including ringing on the Inside Story. It's only at the very beginning of planning and not even a definite, but if done in a proper way - and our recent media experiences suggest it will - it could be a massive boost for ringing in Suffolk.

Wednesday 6th February 2008

Got the East Anglian Daily Times again today as the contract at the base finishes on Friday, so the search - that has never stopped even through my employment with the MOD - regains the extra urgency it had at the turn of the year.

Happily, a quarter of Cambridge Surprise Minor for Mike Daniels was scored at Pettistree. These quarter-peals before practice work very well, not only being useful for pushing individuals on in their progression, but also means there is a band from the very start of practice. It is a formula that worked - and is now working again - at Offton, where they regularly ringing Spliced Surprise Major before their practices.

After the quarter, I nipped to Melton before returning with Mason, much to the delight of those present at the practice and Mason himself. The ball and his drum came out to keep him amused, before we left - just as Mitch arrived - to go home and watch the end of the football. Although the match against Switzerland was only a friendly, it was Fabio Capello's first in charge of England, so hopefully the 2-1 victory is a sign of things to come.

Tuesday 5th February 2008

Pancake Day today and Ruthie and I tried our hand at making pancakes. Well Ruthie mainly.

Still it was a nice break from all the organising I am immersed in at the moment. The Guild Dinner is fast approaching (15th March) and at last count 96 tickets have been sold. With only a 140 capacity, it goes without saying that if you want a ticket, you better get in quick!

Peals, striking competitions, time for Mason and Ruthie - it all mounts up, with Guild Peal Week the primary focus. Peal Week 2007 was a phenomenal success and Peal Week 2008 promises to be even bigger. Keeping track of the bands and even those who are unable to help with all sorts of unavoidable reasons getting in the way - work, funerals, holidays and even jury service - is a massive task that has taken months.

Monday 4th February 2008

A strange evening at SMLT as the variety of ringing was the best for a while, with Cambridge Royal, Stedman Cinques, Kent, Cambridge and Lincolnshire Max, amongst other things. However, the striking was the poorest for a while, and one or two pieces coming to grief that we should've gobbled up. Having said that, the fact that we are disappointed with a practice night that included Cambridge and Lincolnshire Max perhaps highlights how far we've come in the last few months.

On the way home we got our traditional donner meat and chips from the usual haunt that was this week looking a little battered as some young, drunken twerp had put his hand through the window on Friday night. A sad indication of why I don't bother going out in Ipswich at the weekend any more.

Sunday 3rd February 2008

Our day began with a journey to hospital as Mason woke up with his left eyelid all puffed up. It wasn't bruised, so we suspected it was all part of the conjunctivitis he has been suffering with in relation to his cold this last week or so, but we still thought it was important to get it checked and being Sunday morning, the best place to go was the A & E at Ipswich Hospital with their children's room. It meant missing ringing at St Mary-le-Tower for the second week running, but as with last Sunday, Mason's well-being was the most important thing.
We came out too late to make it to Grundisburgh too, so with nothing on this afternoon we did no ringing on a Sunday for the first time for a very, very long time.

Mason turned out to need nothing more than some antibiotics and seemed totally unconcerned by the swelling which went down quite a lot over the morning. He was more fussed by the messing about with his eyes by doctors, nurses and then Ruthie and me as we dropped his medicine in his eyes!

Having dropped Mason off to his concerned but reassured mother, we literally did nothing else but relax all afternoon, taking in the bellringers episode of Midsomer Murders. If you've not seen it before, you really must although it is very tongue in cheek and relatively comical as all it's episodes are. The Midsomer team win the local striking competition ringing double-handed as half their band are murdered! As an organiser of many things, often struggling to get bands together for peals, striking competitions and the like, I often wish I could transfer some of their incredible determination and talent to the Suffolk Guild!

Finally, it's well worth noting the huge success of Wednesday's talk by George and Diana Pipe in relation the restoration and augmentation of Ixworth bells. The report is  well worth reading, but suffice to say we ought to applaud such initiatives to incorporate the community into bellringing projects in such a successful way.

Saturday 2nd February 2008

At last! Ten months since they won at Luton Town, the Tractor Boyz have finally won away from home! There were times when I thought it was more likely that I was going to see a female Pope than an Ipswich victory on their travels, but today they managed it with a 2-1 at Sheffield Wednesday. Now back in the play-off places and new signings already doing well, I think we now stand a real chance of promotion - touch wood and all that!

This historic day began with Ruthie and I picking Mason up before we headed to the Black Tiles to meet up with my friend Becky and her two boys Aaron and Robson. They had a great time playing in the sunshine outside whilst Mason enjoyed playing with the cuddly space shuttle, astronauts and alien that Becky and the boys had bought him for his birthday.

We then headed to St Matthew's in Ipswich for the South-East District practice. I think it's really important to support these events whenever possible as they are a really useful sessions for those who don't get to ring with better ringers. Yes, some of the ringing can be a struggle but like all practice nights you need to accept that for learners to progress to better ringers. The problem the master - in this case Kate - can often have (and I certainly suffer from this when running Guild events) is that it's difficult if not impossible to remember who everyone is and more importantly what stage they are up to, so it is hard to make sure they all get as much as they can get out of it. I think in these circumstances, Kate did very well this afternoon.

Friday 1st February 2008

Already February, quite scary really! The weather had changed too with the battering wind, sharp rain and menacing low cloud replaced with the vast open blue skies that East Anglia is so famous for.

Friday afternoon's are extremely useful for sorting things out and no more so today as I attempted to sort out my car insurance. I used gocompare.com, assuming that it would take out the the normal palaver of phoning round all afternoon. Instead, having called the company that came out cheapest, Broker King, I was sent on to Alan and Alan Brokers, then on to Swinton, then Premium Choice, then Call Connection and finally Zenith all without putting the phone down in an hour long call. Eventually it was all sorted, but I was quite exhausted!

Instead of going to Hollesley tonight, Ruthie and I were invited to her friend Verity's house in Ufford for a rare get-together before returning home.

Thursday 31st January 2008

The high winds had an instant affect this morning as I set off to take Mason back to Melton. As I headed off, the usual route to Woodbridge was completely blocked by a fallen tree just past the village hall. There was a van and three men scratching their heads that looked like they had things in hand so I turned around and went via the water tower and Melton Road, leaving me running a little late dropping the li'l chap off.

I wasn't late for work but it wouldn't have made much difference if I had of been as the computers were all down for the first half hour - I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days, but it did improve!

When there are a lot of people at Grundisburgh practices, it was one of the most diverse and useful practices in Suffolk. And so it proved tonight as Stephen managed to fit in Plain Bob Minor and Grandsire Triples right up to Stedman Cinques and Cambridge Maximus via various Surprise Major. It has an advantage over St Mary-le-Tower in as much as the smaller belfry and bells are less intimidating and of course take less time to complete touches on, but I think the two compliment each other when both are being run to their full potential.

We finished the evening in my favourite pub in Woodbridge, The Mariner. Although it is slightly smaller than many other pubs in the town, this lends a cosy atmosphere in a building that is packed full of character.

Wednesday 30th January 2008

An unexpected bonus today as we got sent home from work at lunchtime on full pay. The medical centre closes on Wednesday afternoons in order for admin to be caught up on (although my role is constant admin so it normally makes no difference to me). This afternoon however, Paula our boss - and on this occasion the only key holder - had a meeting so really had no option but to kick us out. Not that we minded one jot! It offered me a welcome opportunity to get bits and pieces sorted out, particularly as it was jobs day in the East Anglian Daily Times.

The early finish also allowed me to pick Ruthie up from work before then collecting Mason as well.

Everyone was quite buoyant at Pettistree after this week's quarter-peal band had been successful with an apparently effortless quarter of Childwall Bob Minor. Mason seemed to pick up on the good vibes too as he crawled around playing with his newly acquired birthday presents, getting involved in a game of football with Team Eagle and then taking a great interest in little Oliver Waterson, still not three months and paying a visit with his mum, dad and grandma for the first time. It's the first time in years that I've seen Ben, but with them understandably arriving quite late and myself leaving early with the li'l man, I didn't really get a chance to catch up with him. Still, it was good to see him and his family.

Worth noting too was a brief article and large photo in the Wickham Market and Pettistree Parish Magazine in relation to the fantastic get together we had at Saska's back in November. The mag also featured Susan's first ringers update since taking over the correspondent's role from Pippa.

I'm beginning to think that ringers are taking over the media...

Tuesday 29th January 2008

The three 'temporaries' from Office Angels in the medical centre had a visit from a couple of the girls from there who hinted that my contract may be extended even further than the 8th February. With the best will in the world though, I can't see where the extra work will come from, so we'll see.

It was mine and Ruthie's weekly Tuesday night in, an evening that I enjoy very much as it's one of the few (if not the only!) evenings that I can relax with Ruthie without having to ring, be anywhere or look after Mason.

It appears that Ipswich Town decided to relax this evening only resulting in a 0-0 draw with Plymouth Argyle. Although still unbeaten at home since last March, as long as we're not winning away, we NEED to be winning as many home games as possible to stay in the promotion hunt.

Monday 28th January 2008

Village Voices, the local magazine that serves Hollesley, Capel, Boyton and Shingle Street, dropped through my door today. Although well put together and fairly interesting to those of us that live in this area, normally nothing particularly stands out. This month's does though as it features a two page article on the bells and ringers as well as a photo featuring Mickie, Ken and Peter, taken on our practice night a few weeks back. Also in the magazine is a full page plea from Alan and Peter asking for around £30,000. This is needed to replace the gudgeons on two of the bells (including the tenor), sound-proofing and work on the tower. If anybody has any fundraising ideas and/or money, please let us know!

Practice night at St Mary-le-Tower was a lot less eventful than last week and therefore much more fruitful, with two well-rung pieces of Cambridge Max, an abortive attempt at Stedman Cinques as well as other pieces including Rounds and Call Changes on 12.

After a couple of drinks in Mannings afterwards and a kebab (healthy as ever!) and it was homeward bound.

Sunday 27th January 2008

I spoke too soon! Having said Mason was getting better, he began getting woken up by his own coughing in the night, having slept through it the previous night. With no immediate prospect of him bedding down, I took him into the living room to allow Ruthie to sleep and to set the l'il man free to crawl around in an attempt to wear him out. It worked - after two-and-a-half hours. With BBC News 24 on an apparently constant loop, I learnt in great detail how the presidential candidate in the US with the strange name is doing very well, a former Palestinian politician has died and Sven Goran Erikson's quite keen to go to Wembley. No mention that today is Mason's birthday though.

Eventually I grabbed another hour's sleep and very tired headed to St Mary-le-Tower for Sunday morning ringing, dropping Mason and then Ruthie off on the way. As I was entering Ipswich however, I received a text message from Kara - I hadn't left his medicine with her. Realising that I'd left it at home and that it was very important that he had it soon, I had no real choice but to do a u-turn to collect it.

Having informed David Potts that I wasn't going to make it, I returned to the flat, accompanied by the sound of Hollesley bells. Once the medicine had been reunited with Mason, I had time on my hands, so I decided to join Ruthie and Kate at Woodbridge for their Sunday ringing, just getting there in time to ring down!

With a shortage of ringers once again at Grundisburgh, we participated in an exercise of picking a Surprise Minor from the peal board there recording the long-length all-the-work 41-Spliced Surprise Minor. Annable's London was chosen and rung very well.

The afternoon was then a little bit of a race. First up, we had a peal of Burgh Surprise Minor, essentially 4th place Beverley with long places on the front in place of the spikier normal frontwork. It was the first peal in the method, which was appropriate as it was rung for Mason and Freddie's first birthday and was also the first on the bells since the tower was made ringable again. On top of that it marked the 40th anniversary of Stephen's first handling lesson and was rung as an engagement compliment to young Katie Hill. Phew! Although not a fan of these methods where you make three blows in 2nds and four blows in lead and stuff like that, I quite enjoyed it and like to think we were offering a nice backdrop to walkers wandering the footpaths surrounding this isolated church on this sunny afternoon.

After that, Ruth, Kate and myself raced to Ufford for a quarter of 8-spliced that was scored with no fuss - a relief to Mary who had lost a quarter at Beccles earlier on!

The main reason for the rush, was that we were off to Mason's first birthday party at Kara's straight afterwards, a huge do, with about 25 people crammed into her flat in Melton. It seems amazing it's already been a year! We had a great time and more importantly so did Mason as he lapped up the attention.

However, by the end, he was exhausted - as was daddy!

Saturday 26th January 2008

In my position as Guild Ringing Master, I sometimes find I would like to ideally be in two places at the same time. This afternoon was one such occasion. The Rounds and Call Changes on 12 at St Mary-le-Tower would be an event that I would be justified in attending, not only in my position as Ringing Master there and also as an experienced hand on 12-bells and - I would like to think - of some use therefore. However, there was likely to be enough there and of many people that know me well and many who are used to seeing me.

As a result, I chose to go to the South-West District practice at Hartest, where they were particularly focusing on Double Court. There were loads of people there, well over twenty and most of them ringers I don't see often enough and some that I don't believe I've met before. I have to admit that when I took over the job of Master, the impression I got of the South-West was one of a flagging district. Having been to a few of their events and hearing reports of others, I am convinced that this is far from the case and that rather very few of the members venture outside the district. Hopefully this can change as there are a lot of enthusiastic and potentially talented ringers in that corner of Suffolk.

It was particularly good to see Christine Knight up and ringing - albeit with the use of a stool - especially as those who have been to Hartest will testify that it's not the easiest belfry to get into!

It was Ruthie's cousin Freddie's first birthday today and with it being Mason's first tomorrow, the three of us went to buy presents for both of them from Ipswich in the morning. Having wrapped up Freddie's gift and with him and his parents living in Hollesley too, we popped round to give it to him and say hello once we'd returned from Hartest. Surrounded by presents, a balloon, cake and an exhausted mum and dad, he'd obviously had a good day!

We were due to finish our day with a visit from our friends Michaela and Nick, but sadly Michaela seems to have come down with what's going round, so our get-together had to be postponed. On the plus side, Mason seems a lot better than he was yesterday (touch wood), a good sign as he prepares for his big day tomorrow.

Friday 25th January 2008

After work it was into Woodbridge and Ipswich town centre - picking Mason up from Mum and Dads on route - to sort out a couple of bits and pieces with my recruitment agency. Whilst I was in Woodbridge, I popped into the Jobcentre. My motives were primarily to see if I can find a full-time job to fill the void when the job at the base finishes in two weeks, but it also seems increasingly likely that I'm going to need a second job to help make ends meet, so I was looking through vacancies for bar work and the like. Whilst I was looking through these I came across an advert for a head chef for The Greyhound in Pettistree. I can't really cook to save my life and I certainly wouldn't subject others to my cuisine, so the job itself was of no interest to me, but what it represented was. The Greyhound has been closed for some time now and people had generally given up hope of it reopening in all seriousness. However, there has been talk recently that it was being reopened, though apparently similar hopes have been dashed in the past. The advert not only fully confirmed it is opening again but also quotes a date of the 28th April for the first day back. At a time that our local village pubs such as The Sorrel Horse at Shottisham, The Plough at Sutton and now The Turks Head at Hasketon have come under threat, it's refreshing that this much-missed pub right in the centre of the village is returning.

Mason isn't feeling very well at the moment, with much snot spewing forth, so we didn't stop long at Hollesley tonight, though we were able to ring Cambridge Major before Mason and I left. The good turnout was nice as we had two visitors, the Locks from Somerset who are visiting their son, a ringer in Halesworth. It's always a shame when visitors come and the practice is short, so I was glad we were able to oblige!

Thursday 24th January 2008

A bright sunny day today, so the sound of pounding rain was replaced by prolonged machine gunfire, presumably as part of the soldiers' training. Although not unexpected as I'm working on an army base, it did bring home a little what these same soldiers will no doubt one day be subjected to for real. I certainly don't envy them.

Numbers peaked at 11 at Grundisburgh this evening, allowing us to ring Double Norwich Major, Grandsire and Stedman Triples and Grandsire Caters. However, with Stephen ringing 1-2, we were also able to ring Rounds and Call Changes on 12.

I was given my survival pack for this year's Central Council Meeting, being hosted by The Durham and Newcastle Diocesan Association on the second Bank Holiday of May. It'll be my first experience of this massive event and having read Philip Earis' famous and extensive article on the Central Council in the Ringing World last year, it'll be interesting to see how useful the whole thing actually is.

Still, the most pressing issue in relation to the weekend for now, seems to be what to have for lunch. Now that's my kind of decision!

Wednesday 23rd January 2008

An unfortunate loss of an attempted quarter-peal of 12-Spliced Surprise Minor nonetheless set up the practice at Pettistree nicely and - as is the norm on a typical Wednesday night - much was rung from Double Court to London to Norwich to spliced Doubles and Minor and most things in between!

The night was finished off deservedly over a drink or two at the normal haunt at The Three Tuns.

Tuesday 22nd January 2008

A very quiet day today. Very little out of the ordinary happened at work, although they told me my finish date in this temporary job is the 8th February, which is two weeks longer than they'd originally contracted me for, so it gives me a little extra breathing space.

No ringing today as Ruthie and I had a night 'off'.

Just a note to advise people to snap up the Dinner tickets as they are going very, very quickly.

Monday 21st January 2008

Being a town centre church, we're used to the occasional oddball coming up to watch the bellringers they often hear us as they wander the streets of Ipswich at night. Normally they're harmless and after the novelty has worn off and they realise there's no magic up there or people sailing to the ceiling they leave. For the first time for a long time (at least since I came back to Suffolk in 2005), we had a troublesome visitor who we had to ask to leave. The gentleman concerned came in confidently as we rang and was well-dressed, so gave no indication of being a problem - indeed I thought he might even be a ringer. However, having got closer to him and from when he opened his mouth it was obvious he was drunk and sure enough, as he sat whilst we rang Rounds and Call Changes on 12, he got a can of Special Brew out of his bag and began rambling on about Jesus changing water to wine. We weren't happy him being there, so Owen and I escorted him from the belfry and with it being after 8, locked the doors, something we haven't had to do for years.

It also held the practice up for quite a while and this coupled with a low turnout meant we didn't ring as much as we normally would, although we still rang Cambridge Max.After a pint with Phil Wilding - a very good ringer from Newmarket way who comes over every now and then when work permits - and the parents, we nipped off to have our traditional Monday night kebab and chips! No Special Brew though.

Sunday 20th January 2008

A little boy wanted a new bike for Christmas. He asked his mother how he could get hold of such a bike. His mother told him he needed to write to Santa. So he sat down and wrote a letter to Santa. "Dear Santa, I've been a good boy, please can I have a new bike?" However, he wasn't satisfied with this. He felt he'd probably get further writing directly to Jesus, so he screwed up the letter and began writing again. "Dear Jesus, I've been a good boy, please can I have a new bike?" He still wasn't pleased though, thinking it wasn't honest enough, so he screwed that one up and started again. "Dear Jesus, I've been a good boy most of the time, please can I a new bike?" Still not honest enough, so he decided to go out for a walk to rethink his tactics. Where better than the local church? Just inside the door, a plan flashed into his head. Grabbing a statue of the Virgin Mary, he ran home and began writing a new letter. "Dear Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again..."

I was able to enjoy this joke from an afternoon in the pub with George Pipe. Sadly, the only reason we were in the Cricketers in Ipswich for so long was we had just lost a peal of Lincolnshire Max at SMLT, a shame as it was for Peter Townley's last service as vicar there this morning.

Because of this occasion, the usual three Sunday services were amalgamated into one, late morning service. The later ringing time contributed to a very low turnout this morning, with Cambridge Minor the most we rang, a shame after the last few good weeks.

It also meant it was too late for Mason and me to make ringing at Grundisburgh, although it had given me an opportunity to drop Ruthie off at Pettistree beforehand.

The peal should've been a breeze with the band we had, especially as we've been practicing Lincolnshire regularly for the last few months, but it was one of those days when it just wouldn't go, so Stephen Pettman rather sensibly set it up after about 1 hour 20.

Thankfully, the monthly attempt of half-lead spliced at Hollesley was much more successful. We scored a quarter of 6 methods, the first we had done so with Rutland included, the biggest achievement of this band so far in my opinion and very well rung too.

We celebrated with a meal in the Shepherd & Dog afterwards much to my delight, as it meant I could stagger home afterwards!

Saturday 19th January 2008

Having nipped over to Melton to pick Mason up and then Woodbridge to hand the handbells back to Gill and Bruce, I returned to Hollesley, where (having awoken Ruthie) we were greeted by a large contingent of visitors from the North-West District. There were many familiar faces, not least the energetic Ringing Master Ruth Suggett, who came to Lundy with us. There were also a lot of unfamiliar faces, which was also nice to see.

The reason they had travelled such a huge distance on another appalling-weather-day was the increasingly popular ringing centre, of which there is more detail in my report about the 2007 Training Day. It was improved even more so by Alan's new software - currently named 'I-Strike' - and as usual, everybody got loads out of it, many stopping longer than they had planned and many enjoying the good food in the Shepherd & Dog at lunchtime. The local seems to be a place for bumping in to unexpected people as I entered to find my friend Lou from Woodbridge, who was there for a funeral. Despite the unfortunate circumstances we still had a good old natter.

As much as we enjoy welcoming groups from across the county, it is a wish of mine, Alan and Winston that others in Suffolk are set up. Plans are already well under way for one at Stowmarket and I have heard there may be one going in at Ixworth. This will of course be a lot easier for the people in the west of the county to get to!

However, Hollesley was the perfect location for Ruthie, Mason and me as we had a short journey home for a quiet evening in of football, snooker and Harry Potter, though not all at the same time. That Potter's good, but not that good...

Friday 18th January 2008

The usual lunchtime finish at work enabled me to ring at an afternoon wedding at Grundisburgh. It seems a strange time of year to have a wedding as it couldn't have taken much to predict the truly dismal weather they had for their big day today. Presumably it had more to do with costs or the holiday rather than the actual marriage ceremony and all that goes with it, maybe a sad indication of the way things are going these days. Still, we did our bit to the best of our abilities and I always like to think that we as bellringers make a very positive impact on occasions such as these.

Tonight saw Ruthie and I forsake Hollesley practice for a bit of PR in Ufford. Ruthie works with a lady called Amanda who helps run the Deben Valley Young Farmers and she had invited us to talk on bellringing to a sizeable group of youngsters aged between 11 and 15 and their parents. Such a do is always quite daunting, but we think it went quite well and who knows, it may lead to some new recruits. Thanks must go to Bruce Wakefield who allowed us to use the handbells from Woodbridge to demonstrate to the group as well as St Mary-le-Tower for the use of their model bell.

After our encounter with this lively bunch, we headed back to the Shepherd and Dog in Hollesley where the ringers were going for their post-practice drink this week, allowing Alan to show off his new bit of bellringing software, something that's well worth asking him about.

I also bumped into my old science teacher Mr Mason, who lives in the village, bringing up a lot of old memories. Quite an interesting night all in all.

Thursday 17th January 2008

A rather significant event that I missed on Campanophile was pointed out to me today. Christine Knight rang her first peal for some time at Polstead on Saturday. As most Suffolk ringers will know, Christine has suffered considerably over the last couple of years and has been unable to walk, let alone ring, so her participation in an 80th birthday compliment to Rolie Whiting - aided by a stool - is a truly fantastic achievement and it's great to see her back.

It was a good practice at Grundisburgh tonight, peaking at Stedman Cinques and Yorkshire Max.

Wednesday 16th January 2008

Trying desperately (and some may say forlornly) to avoid sounding like an anorak, the weather was gorgeous today. Bright sunshine, clear blue skies and very little rain, all in stark contrast to yesterday's abysmal serving. Bizarre, although maybe not to some meteorologically minded folk.

However, I wasn't able to fully appreciate the scene outside as I carefully strove to check and input medical records whilst attempting to get several surprise Minor methods embedded in the brain in anticipation of another spliced attempt at The Wolery this evening. Typhoid - check. Yellow fever - check. Morpeth Surprise Minor - Wells below, 6th place Carlisle above.

Thankfully, I was able to cope with both - aided by the computers breaking down during the afternoon - and we got a peal of 36 Surprise Minor methods in 1 hour and 45. Now where did I put the line of MMR Surprise Minor?

Tuesday 15th January 2008

The medical centre that I work in is a modern building, one-level with a corrugated iron roof, or something similar. Although the base is hidden from Suffolk by Rendlesham Forest, the buildings are set in a wide open space, thus providing a howling wind and a noisy, almost constant driving rain as a rather depressing backdrop to my day's work. Still, it made me grateful to be indoors!

Had a very quiet, but pleasant evening in with Ruthie, keeping half a casual eye on the football. I was mildly amused by Naaaaridge's exit from the FA Cup by Bury from somewhere in the lower depths of league football.

By the way, if you see Ruthie sometime soon, be sure to ask her who offered her a lift at the top of Woods Lane. It's a fascinating tale...

Monday 14th January 2008

Before anything else, a correction. A number of readers have pointed out that I advertised the Guild Dinner on the wrong date (Now corrected in The Blog. Ed.) on my blog the other day. It is in fact on Saturday, 15th, MARCH, NOT February. Tickets are selling fast, so it's important to snap yours up asap - you don't want to miss this dinner!

St Mary-le-Tower practice was once again a big success, though there wasn't quite enough for Bristol Max. However, we are getting closer to that level. Tonight we rang Cambridge Maximus extremely well and Lincolnshire Max with people queuing for a rope! We also did Cambridge and London Royal as we endeavour to incorporate some more Royal in alongside everything else - there just aren't enough hours...

Sunday 13th January 2008

A pleasant surprise this morning as Adrian 'Arnie' Knights came up St Mary-le-Tower. For various reasons, Arnie hasn't been able to come up the Tower, but hopefully this will be the first of a regular visit from one of Suffolk's best ringers.

Mason behaved impeccably as we rang Grandsire Caters and for the second week running, Cambridge Royal. I feel we're making real steps forward on Sunday mornings, but it's still a long way short of where I want to be and would still strongly urge anyone who can make it down to SMLT on the Sabbath to come down and help.

Grundisburgh was also a little short, though we were still able to do Plain Bob Doubles and Minor and Rounds and Call Changes on 8, predominantly for Sarah and Mr Nigel.

Whilst Kate went to ring what turned out to be another successful peal at Aldeburgh, Ruthie and I returned to Ipswich for another practice for the 12-Bell Contest. It was a real credit to Ruthie that she came at all as her conditioned worsened as the day went on, to the extent that she probably shouldn't have come out at all! Thanks also to my Dad who came out at short notice to help even though he wasn't sure about the method, so he did good!

The practice wasn't our best, but I truly feel that at our best we can do ourselves proud. Last year, we saved our best until the competition and with the unfamiliar method this year, who knows...

Saturday 12th January 2008

Not being able to go to Birmingham was a shame, but it did at least have the silver-lining that it meant we could go to Ruthie's grandparents as we did on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, this time to celebrate her Granddad's birthday, which is on Monday. All the family was round, including little Freddie, the first time he and Mason had met. They then proceeded to spend much of the afternoon staring each other out!

Two things to look out for in the future. Firstly, we had a photographer from the local magazine, Village Voices at Hollesley last night in anticipation on an article on the bellringers in the February edition. Although only on a local level, it's still good PR and hopefully worth looking out.

On a much bigger level, tickets for the Guild Dinner at the Woolpit Village Hall on SATURDAY 15TH MARCH 2008 are on sale now at just £15 each. I'd urge people to come as it should be a very special event. Also, please let as many ringers as possible in your area know about it. Look out for the What's Ons and a poster coming to a tower near you for more details!

Friday 11th January 2008

Ruthie was feeling a little better, but with the weather still really wet, windy and generally rotten she rather sensibly choose not to come out tonight. For those who read this blog from very far away - like Hong Kong - I hope you appreciate the better weather you're probably experiencing!

With Ruthie too ill to come out and Kate ringing a quarter of Plain Bob Caters at Grundisburgh, I was slightly worried that Hollesley might be a little short so felt I ought to go up with Mason, despite the weather and not feeling too great myself.

I needn't have been concerned, as a healthy turnout, including a welcome visit from Jim Hollins, enabled us to ring all sorts, including very well struck pieces of Grandsire Triples and Cambridge Major. Another satisfying practice on the peninsula...

Thursday 10th January 2008

Ruthie was still extremely unwell today, so much so, we've had to call off our visit to Birmingham this weekend. It's a disappointing end to a predominately disappointing week, especially as actually finding a weekend that we and my friends in the West Midlands can meet up is more difficult than running the Suffolk Guild at times! Still, it will at least mean a slightly more laid back weekend then normal with of course nothing lined up!

Tonight saw the welcome return of Stephen Pettman from South America after their mammoth trip. Unfortunately, with Mason now picked up I had to leave early, though we still managed Superlative Major before I left.

Wednesday 9th January 2008

I experienced vastly differing degrees of stimulation today. All week, work has been VERY boring, but it sunk to even great depths of boredom. A problem with the passwords meant that I - and the other two starters - had literally nothing to do. It was eventually sorted for the afternoon, but only an hour before we went home! Still, we were paid for it, so that was the main thing.

The evening offered an intense atmosphere, something about as opposite to my day at work as I could have imagined.

Jim Hollins had requested a meeting with myself about St Mary-le-Tower. Jeremy Spiller kindly held the meeting in his house in Bacton and we were joined by Roger and Mary Whittell and Owen Claxton, with Winston chairing the meeting. Although I approached the meeting with some trepidation and I feel there is too much politics involved with the Suffolk Guild and St Mary-le-Tower in particular, we all came away having moved forward. It was generally agreed that there is a need for a tower meeting and other issues appeared to have stepped closer to a resolution, although only time will tell how much by.

After the hour-and-a-half meeting, I returned to Woodbridge, where a very poorly Ruthie was well wrapped up. I looked after her until Kate got back from Pettistree and then completed what felt a very long journey from Bacton to Hollesley.

Tuesday 8th January 2008

Another dull day at work, but at least I was able to go home for lunch, something I've never been able to do from work! I even had time to take Ruthie home after she had a considerable lay-in at mine!

Being the second Tuesday, it was time for someone else to have a rare go at calling a peal. Today it was young Tom Scase's turn before he goes back to uni in Sheffield on Sunday. After calling a peal of Bob Minor in Sheffield, this was his second as conductor and the most methods called, so well done Tom!

Having reunited Louis with his mother in the car park of Tesco's in Stowmarket, I received word that Ruthie and others were in The Crown in Great Glemham, so I hot-footed it over there.

They'd been helping out at Marlesford who have just started holding practice nights on the second Tuesday of each month. Although the second-Tuesday peals preclude me from helping out at least most of the time, I would strongly urge those who can to help out at Marlesford - or indeed any similarly placed towers in your area -as much as you can.

No sooner as had I got to the pub, than we had to leave fairly sharply as Clare, Ruthie's sister had managed to lock herself out of her car AND the house. It seems we have another contender in the Great British Key-Losing Contest...

The best news of the day though, was news that Ruthie had passed her flute exam with a distinction - well done Ruthie!!

Monday 7th January 2008

Day one of my new, temporary job. I say temporary, because I most definitely don't want to be doing this for life! Unless they pay me twice as much money that is! Even then, it would be hard as the work is monotonous and unrewarding. That said, it's work and no matter what the downfalls, I have never given less than 100% to a job and I don't intend to start now. And there are some perks. It's the closest to home I've ever worked, taking two or three minutes to drive there and I was able to easily pop into Woodbridge to see Ruthie and sort some bits and pieces out.

After picking Ruthie up from her flute lesson, it was onto the first St Mary-le-Tower practice of the year and if tonight's is anything to go by, we're in for a good 2008. Alright, a lot of the striking was very rusty and the first piece of Cambridge Max collapsed in a big heap, but the rerun was a heck of a lot better and Stedman Cinques finished the night off nicely. The highlight though was a good half-course of Lincolnshire Max as we had 22 ringers there. Providing pretty much everyone turns up next week, we'll look to do it again then as well as Bristol Max.

Sunday 6th January 2008

Ringing at St Mary-le-Tower is now improving on Sunday mornings as well as Monday nights. Although still just short of 12, we rang Grandsire Caters and Cambridge Royal today.

Numbers weren't so good for Grundisburgh for the first service ringing for some time, but Norwich Minor and Rounds and Call Changes on 8 were rung on top of the usual Bob Doubles and Minor. It should improve a bit from next week however, as Stephen is back, providing he isn't providing food for a large family of cannibals!

A rare afternoon of having nothing much to do allowed cup football to take over again, before we rang a quarter of 8-Spliced Surprise Major at Hollesley. Despite the striking being below our normal standards, it was still impressive that our peninsula-based band were able to turn up and ring this with very little trouble.

Of course it was followed by an Indian at Saffron, with Ruthie and I wondering if curry two nights running was really such a good idea! We shall find out in the morning I suppose...

Saturday 5th January 2008

For the first time in a long, long time on a Saturday, Ruthie and I were able to have a lay-in. I had originally put the morning aside for a peal at St Mary-le-Bow that I was arranging, but that turned out to be a bit of a struggle. Bow bells are far from easy and whilst I could've got a 12-bell band for it, getting a 12-bell band for there was a different matter, so I made the decision a bit back to call it off. I will probably try again in the future, but will get the band first and then the bells!

The afternoon was - much to Ruthie's delight - dominated by football. It's FA Cup 3rd Round weekend, probably the biggest weekend of the year for avid football fans, so it was with much excitement that I followed Ipswich's progress against Premiership Portsmouth. However, the game was spoilt by Liam Trotter's sending-off, a roundly condemned decision and we lost 1-0. I have a lot of sympathy for ref's and don't mind them missing things, but this was a case of a lack of common sense and probably made with getting in the paper's rather than any sense of justice, something that really gets up fans' noses.

In the evening, we had a curry at the Shapla in Woodbridge town centre to celebrate Fergie's birthday, an enjoyable occasion and good chance to chat to Ruthie's best mate before she returned to Brighton tomorrow for her course in nursing (I sit corrected!).

Friday 4th January 2008

Received good news today, as it was confirmed by Office Angels that I would be starting work for the MOD on Monday morning. Whilst not great money, it will still be a wage and still gives me the time to continue my search for a 'real' job, both through the extra hours a 30 hour week presents me with and the close proximity to home and Woodbridge. This is certainly not the end of the job hunt.

Once I had dropped Mason off at Kara's, I met Ruthie at her's after her driving lesson, where she had been over the Orwell Bridge - no mean feat in these wet and windy conditions!

The typical Friday night template - with or without the l'il man - is fish n' chips from the van in Hollesley before practice night. Failing that - as was the case last Friday - we go to the local shop and get something from there.

This week, we had to go to Plan C, which we hadn't actually drawn up. The fish n' chips people were still on their well-earned holiday and the shop was closed due to staff sickness. With the only other options being the Alderton shop (which I wasn't 100% sure would be open) or going all the way back to Woodbridge, we decided to chance the Shepherd and Dog. We weren't disappointed, with properly cooked meals and friendly service in a nice atmosphere.

Although we were slightly late for practice and I had a couple of pints of Adnams down me, we were still able to help in ringing Stedman and Grandsire Triples, Cambridge Major amongst other methods before battling the dreadful weather to walk the half a mile back to mine.

Thursday 3rd January 2008

Today was almost entirely focused on the job interview. It's my first one since MSC dropped me in the proverbial nearly two months ago, so I was keen to make a good impression. Ruthie was a star, not only helping keep an eye on Mason as I made myself look respectable (not a quick process), but also looking after him whilst I went into Ipswich for what turned into a marathon session. Having been given over an hour to do a Mathematics and English assessment, I was then thoroughly grilled by two interviewers. I think I got on ok, though it's always hard to tell and it's not easy to explain away such a long period of unemployment. Nonetheless, I feel I left them with a good impression and it appeared a good place to work if I do get the rub of the green and end up working there, though I won't find out until Monday.

One interview doesn't end the search though, so I popped into Office Angels on the way back to the car, where it seems the search may be - touch wood - partially ended. After a chat with the girls there, they found me a job data inputting at RAF Woodbridge, literally just round the corner from home. It's only temporary and for just 30 hours a week and it certainly doesn't pay very well, but it would be work and I could start on Monday providing the formalities are just that.

Ruthie ended up looking after Mason for nearly four hours before I finally got back to her's, so we had a cuppa, some grub and relaxed for a little. No rest for the wicked though and pretty quickly it was time to go to Grundisburgh, especially as we had the keys tonight. With still no Stephen (last heard in Argentina) and one or two other regulars away, we anticipated a low turnout, but were pleasantly surprised as we had enough for Cambridge Royal and (after Mason and I left) Stedman Caters. All in all a good end to a good day.

Wednesday 2nd January 2008

Although religiously it's still Christmas, today really marks the rejoining of the British race to everyday mundane life after weeks (and even months in some places!) of bright lights, parties, mince pies, cards, presents and everything else that goes with the festive period. So it was with that sense of normality that Ruthie returned to a relatively quiet Boots and I returned to my job-hunting in earnest.

My main New Years resolution is to be more organised and less distracted, to keep on top of things. Today was fairly representative of that as I jumped on the internet to sort out all things pending, both ringing and working related, before heading to a brief meeting at Mary Garner's to tie up the loose ends with the Guild Dinner on the 15th March. Everything is in place, but as we get closer, more precise details need to be sorted out as requested by those involved such as the caterers and price of tickets, so expect final details any day now on the website, What's Ons, posters, etc!

After the briefing, I went to pick up Mason, who was sporting a new pair of trainers. Whilst this might not be exciting to most, for Mason it is as up to this point he hasn't been able to wear shoes due to his operation and subsequent swelling, so it's another step in the right direction if you'll excuse the pun!

Ruthie rang in a successful quarter of Norwich Minor at Pettistree, the first attempt there of 2008 and if 2007 is anything to go by the first of many this year! Although Mike rang in the quarter, he wasn't feeling great, so left almost immediately, leaving Mason and me as the only blokes there for some time. At one point we were outnumbered 11 to 2 by the famous Pettistree Girlies until Peter Harper rescued us!

Despite this, it was the normal procedure and after a good practice to kick off the New Year, we left early to get the l'il man to bed, but not before I'd managed to lose one of his new trainers. Having almost got Pettistree village searching for it, it was found safe and well at Ruthie's in Woodbridge. See, it's not just keys we can lose.

New Years Day 2008

A typical 1st January tends to be rather subdued and very much has the morning-after-the-night-before feel about it. This time though, it felt quite jovial as a hardy group gathered in the WI Hall early in the morning to tidy up the mess we'd created at the party.

Alan and Micky than invited us to their nearby home for coffee and tea, reminiscing first on our festivities and then looked to the future, the next New Year party at the forefront of discussion already!

No peal attempts today for a change, something both Ruthie and I were quite relieved about as last night's alcohol caught up in the afternoon! Notwithstanding this though, we still found time to meet up with Ruthie's best mate Fergie at The Cherry Tree pub, who is back from her course in medicine in Brighton.

Kate hastily arranged a practice at Ufford having gauged people's opinions and was rewarded with a healthy number of ringers, keen to get back to normality after a couple of weeks of indulgence.

And so another year begins...

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