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Look To - Chairman's Chat

November 2020

Hi, all.

I was a schoolteacher for the first 15 years of my working life, and one day I was teaching a Maths set. We were talking about probability and chance. I got them all to flip a coin for a few minutes and record how many times the coin came down “heads” and how many times it came down “tails”. Then we collated all the results, and, naturally, it was almost exactly 50:50 heads and tails. But there was one little anomaly. The students found that there were “runs” on heads and tails, that is, the coin would fall heads for several consecutive “go’s” and then suddenly tails would turn up, and vice-versa. As we all know, every time you flip a coin it is always 50:50 as to whether it lands “heads”. Yet these “runs” kept turning up; but whatever the run was, say all tails, eventually heads would turn up. This was, as I explained, the mathematical laws of chance; however many times the coin lands “tails”, in the end “heads” MUST turn up.

So, what’s that got to do with anything, you might well ask. Well, you see, with this covid-19 situation, we’ve had a “run” of “tails” so far. Everything has gone “right” for this virus, and “wrong” for us. But, as my Maths set and I saw on that memorable day, in the end the situation will always change; t’ain’t bad or good luck, just the mathematical laws of chance working out as they always do.  So far the situation has been in the virus’s favour but that, eventually, has got to change; that’s the mathematical laws of chance. Suddenly, the coin flips over to “heads” and continues to land “heads”. Everything will turn against the virus; the hunter will become the hunted, and the “luck” will change in our favour. I believe it already has. The breakthrough with the vaccine is a start. And then, things will improve, slowly maybe, but they’ll improve. How we get back to normal, if we do, well, that remains to be seen.

This morning I tried flipping a coin. It landed “heads”. That’s a good omen. Our luck….it changes!


October 2020

Hi, all.

Many, many apologies for not joining you on 3rd October for the AGM. Sadly, ten minutes before we were due to start the meeting, my wife’s 98 year old mother passed peacefully away in her room at Hilton Park Care Centre’s dementia unit. (We’d been with her that morning, and I was planning to return after the meeting…but, it was not to be). This meant frantic phone calls, and I am indebted to Tom for standing in for me at literally five minutes notice, and also to JoAnne who then had to rearrange things slightly. Many grateful thanks, guys!

Sadly, because Carol and I been busy organising the funeral this week, I haven’t as yet caught up with your discussions at the AGM. However, I’d like to say, albeit belatedly, a great thank you to for doing your bit during the lockdown, even if you did “only” self-isolate. Also, my grateful thanks to all of you who are organising and running the Ringing Room practices and Zoom meetings. This is “keeping the flag flying” and at least we’re still doing some sort of ringing! And too, a very warm thank you to all of you who are trying to get back to some sort of normality by ringing for Sunday service where you can.

Just to say, please stay safe over the next few weeks, months, whatever. It’s so easy to not be quite so meticulous with the precautions as we get used to them, but we mustn’t be tempted. You don’t play fast and loose with this virus; anyone can catch it and anyone can spread it. With fears of yet another lockdown (perhaps not quite so comprehensive as the early spring one was), perhaps it’s time to go back to good old Mother Nature!  Carol, my wife, says wrap up warm, put your garden to bed, go on nice walks, and make the best of what you have. As her late mother would have said, “just be content”. There’s still plenty to see in the countryside; starlings murmurating, keeping one’s eyes open for wild-life when walking and appreciating the autumn colours and you’ll be amazed at what you can see. 

Keep safe, and stay ringable,

July 2020

Hi all. I hope you’re all well, it looks as if we might have some good news from the CCCBR shortly about a tentative return to ringing. Let’s hope!

When I was searching on You Tube a few evenings back, I came across a video of the 60’s Australian pop group, The Seekers, singing a Pete Seeger (American folk-singer, very young then, in 1959) song called “Turn, Turn”. It’s based on the first 8 verses of Chapter 3 in the bible’s book Ecclesiastes.

I first heard it during a concert at my school just after I’d finished my A-levels. A party of American High school students were touring British schools giving a concert, and this was in their schedule. A charming girl called Barbara Bach sung it. After the concert, our music master came up to us and said, “Give them tea! Take care of them! They’re exhausted and need some care”. So, grabbing a cup of tea, I looked around for someone to give it to.

And there, on her own a little apart from the melee, was this absolutely beautiful creature. Darkish blonde hair, gorgeous eyes and a smile a guy could kill for. So, Martin in true debonair style, goes up to her and says “I guess you could kind of use this!” She looked at me, smiled sweetly and said “Gee, thanks! That’s real kind of you”. Martin’s heart went boom-bang-a-bang and he was instantly smitten. We got talking. I showed her around the school, not much to show, a small Grammar School where the Netherhall complex is now in Queen Edith’s Way. Her name, it transpired, was Nancie, and she was a sophomore, whatever that meant. She told me about Houston, Texas, her home, and her family. Sadly, only too soon did she have to leave. “Hey, Mar’-un, we’ll write to each other…bye!” were her final words to me. We did for some time exchange letters, but I never saw her again.

I often think about Nancie, even to this day; and yes, I was young once, honestly, I know you’d not believe it to see me now, but I was! I soon got over it.

Let me share this poem with you, and if you’re interested, go on to You Tube and hear it sung.

Personally, I think it appropriate, and indeed, uplifting, under the present circumstances.

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose
Under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
A time to build up
A time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose
Under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rain, a time of sow
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace
I swear it's not too late

To everything turn, turn, turn
There is a season turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose
Under heaven

So, my dear friends, stay safe, stay well and stay ringable!


May 2020

It would seem, they tell us, that things are looking much better. With talk of gradually relaxing the lockdown, it seems things are improving. Now, whilst I wouldn’t want to be thought of as pessimistic, we must remember that, until a cure, or a vaccine at least, for covid-19 is found, the virus will still be with us despite all our optimism. You see, sadly, this may not be the “beginning of the end”, but merely the “end of the beginning”. The things we may still all have to do, such as social distancing, are quite impossible in a ringing chamber, and we have to remember that many of us, myself included, are in the over-70’s and/or underlying health issues sector, and that can’t, and won’t, change. Until the Archbishop of Canterbury gives permission for churches to open again, our ringing will not get back to normal anyway. That doesn’t, of course, mean we can’t make plans for the future; that would be a good thing to do anyway. However, let’s be flexible with the plans, as we don’t know yet how things will pan out. Good luck with them, anyway!

To end on a positive note, I’m well aware of the initiatives being taken to “keep us all ringing” (on line). The webinars, the Ringingroom sessions, the Zoom chats….great stuff. All helping to keep us together, focused and cheerful. I’ve had the good luck to be a partaker of many of these, and indeed have given presentations….again, all great fun. If anyone hasn’t tried any of these out, I seriously recommend that you do. There’s no pressure, no irate conductor screaming at you if you go wrong….can’t be bad! I really am very grateful indeed to all of you who have set up and organised these things. Good on yer!

So, my dear friends, stay safe, stay well and stay ringable!


April 2020

My dear friends,

Now a couple of weeks with no ringing, and this looks like going on for a while, but I was very impressed to see how people are using the on-line features to keep ringing going, at least virtually, and getting people to talk about it rather than actually doing it. Well done to all who are setting up and producing these things. 

To all those of you who are helping as volunteers, helping elderly and vulnerable neighbours, those of you who have key workers as family or relatives, or just helping out by staying at home (they also serve), you guys are heroes; keep it up! It is appreciated, trust me!

It would be foolhardy to think things will return to exactly how they were before. Our lives have been too disrupted for that. No one can tell exactly how things will work. But, we, as bellringers know, are all pragmatic enough to deal with it. For we will, and we will set an example to those non-bellringing folks!

Humankind has always pursued its brothers and sisters, once with a sword, and now with science. Science, that can do so much good….and so much harm. Maybe the current situation is caused by bad science, maybe not.  We may never know the real truth. But, whatever the rights, and whatever the wrongs, we have to deal with the situation. We have sowed the wind, and reaped a whirlwind. The next few weeks will see some kind of a new beginning for all of us. Let  all humankind, insensitive as we can all be at times, often both  proud and defiant in our ruthless pursuit of money and power, resolve to live that new beginning lovingly, for well we know how to do so. And, we can say, once again “truly, the light is sweet,, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun”. For out of this great fire into which we have flung ourselves, and our world, maybe there is a Great Heart out there that cares for us more deeply than we have ever cared for ourselves.

Stay safe, stay well.


March 20th 2020

My dear friends,

These are challenging and somewhat sad times. We are all  travelling in uncharted waters. Facing a shutdown in ringing, and so many of us in the “risk” category, we may all feel a little bewildered, and unsure .

At the end of the very last Sherlock Holmes story called “His Last Bow”, which was set just before the outbreak of war in 1914, Sherlock says
“There’s an east wind coming, Watson”.
Watson: “Oh no, Holmes”, it’s a lovely day”.
Holmes: “Dear old Watson, the one fixed point in a changing universe! But there is an east wind coming, Watson, and one such as never breathed on England before. It may be cold and bitter, and it may be that some of us might wither in it’s blast. But, it is God’s own wind none-the-less, and a better, cleaner, healthier world will emerge from the ashes when the storm has past”.
Pretty apt, I think!(Not an accurate quotation; I’ve modified it a tad!!)

However, although precious few of us have been through two World Wars, we all know how people pulled together and helped each other out. We, as bellringers, must do the same. For we are special people, sharing a unique craft. Let us be the strong ones, upon whom the rest of the world can lean.  Let us be steadfast, cheerful, and have no talk of surrender or worse; for we will fight this unholy thing, and not count the cost. Winnie Churchill’s V-sign for victory comforted and heartened the people of England during WW2., despite the blitz, shortages and uncertainty.  Let’s take that sign to heart, and fight, as our relations did, for victory. We can do it! 

So, enjoy if you can, your time at home, with your family if you have one; walk the countryside, do the garden. Learn a new skill, try a different hobby, one you can safely do at home.  Stay safe by keeping abreast of all new advice. Let us put ourselves into the hands of the Almighty (or whatever we like to say, instead), and come out of this difficult time together. Strengthen the weak, take care of the elderly and infirm, feed and shop for them as needs it if you can, and above all, keep smiling, keep calm and carry on!

I make absolutely no apology for sounding Churchillian. I mean every word.

And for now, as my dear mother used to say, “G’bye and God Bless.”


March 11th 2020

Hello again!

Sorry to have been “unringable” for so long. Unfortunately my wife’s 97 year old mother, diagnosed with advanced vascular dementia and Alzeheimer’s, took a tumble in mid-January necessitating a stay in hospital and a transfer to a Care Home, so life was hectic! I was therefore unable to attend some of the ADMs in January. However, things are improving, so I intend to visit the Hunts and Wisbech District Meetings this month. They do say, though, the way to hell is paved with good intentions……

I was really sorry to hear of the death of David Gilbert. Carol and I used to regularly attend his practice at Burwell until we married and moved away. David was one of the nicest people you could wish to meet.

I would like to hold the Workshop I had planned for last autumn, entitled “What you always wanted to know about ringing but were afraid to ask”. It would include ”The Nature of the Rows” (why we need singles in Grandsire Doubles but not Plain Bob Doubles), simple method construction and any other questions people might have. You won’t need to be a mathematical genius for this, or be an advanced ringer; just a basic knowledge of ringing. Those of us who teach people to ring and then on to changes, may get asked questions like this by their novices….good to have an answer if you can, right? I’ll keep you posted.

Well, with Spring beginning to spring, the daffs are all out, things are looking up…we hope! Let’s enjoy another good year of ringing….Coronavirus permitting!

Happy Ringing!


December 2019

Well, everyone, the festive season is here with us yet again, and with it the opportunities to ring for the Christingles, Crib Services, Midnight Communion and Christmas morning. (Isn’t it great to ring, and hear, the bells on a cold, frosty Christmas Day?)

I thought I’d just say thank you to everyone who has contributed to the ringing in the Association, however large, however small. It is, I assure you, very much appreciated, from the teachers who patiently teach people to ring and improve, to the experienced ringers who ring peals of complicated stuff! Thank you all, and a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New year of ringing in 2020.

(And, as Tiny Tim observed, in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “may God bless us.....every one!”)


October 2019

Hi, everyone. 

Have you ever been in a situation (I know I have) when someone mentions a ringing term, or uses ringing jargon, and you haven’t a clue what they’re on about? And you ask, in all innocence, “what does that mean?” and they look at you pityingly and say, like the Owl said to Thumper in the Disney film Bambi, “Don’t you know?”

Things like why we need singles, why we get an extent of Bob Doubles with bobs only and yet you have to have singles for an extent of Grandsire Doubles, that kind of thing. Everyone thinks everybody knows about these things, but, sadly, we often don’t!

To this end, having consulted with EDA RATO Dee Smith, I’m running a workshop at Stretham REC, near Ely, on Saturday next, October 26th, from 2:00 until 4:00. It’s called “What you’ve always wanted to know about ringing but were afraid to ask”. It’ll include things like “why singles”, “the nature of the rows”, and simple method construction. You don’t need to be an “expert” (anyway, there aren’t any experts in the EDA); however, you may need to know about Plain Bob and Grandsire, but if you don’t, just come along anyway; it won’t be a difficult thing, you won’t get “put on the spot” by being asked awkward questions, and....there will be some ringing afterwards.

So, if you’re interested, let Louise at the REC know (email Louise on strethamrec_at_elyda.org.uk). Maybe see you there on Saturday 26th October at 2:00 at Stretham REC.

Happy ringing!


September 2019

Hi, everybody! Hoping you all had a great summer and good holidays. Now it’s back to the grindstone, sadly!

I just thought I’d mention the fact that there are C2 Safeguarding modules being held on 23rd September at Fordham, 7th October at Histon and 20th January, 2020, at Downham Market.
Remember that ALL Tower Captains need to complete the C0, C1 and C2 modules. C2 is the only one that you can’t, at present, do on-line. You have to go, unfortunately, to the appropriate venue which, if you look on the Diocesan website (NOT the EDA website) you can find out exactly where it is being held. You can also book your place on it. It’s an easy module, no test at the end, and simple to follow. It is a mandatory requirement for all who are involved in teaching, or any activity which is likely to have children, young people or vulnerable adults present. I am of course aware of the robust procedures you have in your districts (well done for that); however these modules need to be completed notwithstanding.

There are loads of opportunities for ringing at this time of the year; Harvest Festivals, Church and Village events, Christmas coming up, to name but a few. Keeps us active, fit and mentally alert (except for me, that is). So…..let’s get ringing!

Happy bellringing!

 “This is all”.


July 2019

Hi, everyone. No, I haven’t disappeared from the face of the Earth; it’s just that what with the AGM, and then heavy periods of examination invigilation at the University during the Summer Term, things have been hectic!
Firstly, thanks to all who made my very first AGM go so smoothly. It was very good to see all of you at St Ives. The 8-bell Striking Competition at Hemingford Grey was enjoyable, too. Beautiful, sitting down there by the river.

With the holidays and outings season upon us, ringing opportunities are increased. Let’s hope the weather is good to us. 

I was thinking, that as I’m an A.R.T. Workshop Leader, if there might be interest in having a theory workshop session, perhaps a morning or afternoon, at Stretham REC. The session would be “things you always wanted to know about ringing but were afraid to ask”. Stuff like:
  • why do you need singles to get a 120 of Grandsire Doubles, but in Bob Doubles you only have bobs
  • why do you need at least two singles to get a full 720 of Bob Minor, but not in Kent or Cambridge
  • what does “in-course” and “out-of-course” mean
  • what is “the nature of the rows”
And, if time, we could do some simple method construction....how you make a method.

In the meantime, have a great summer of ringing, everyone, and enjoy it, whether it’s peals, quarters, outings, practices or service ringing. (And, if you can, encourage others to “come and join us”!)


March 2019

Hi, everybody!

As many of you good people will know, the weekend 2nd-3rd March saw the Association of Ringing Teachers (ART) Annual Conference at Worcester. This was a very successful weekend for the Association, as Lesley Boyle, Ringing Master of the Ely District (and also an ART Tutor) received an award for Inspirational Leadership. Also, a young ringer who is a member of the Suffolk Guild as well as of the Ely DA, received an award for Best Young Achiever. Well done to you both from us all!

ART is, of course, not without its critics, as recent letters in the Ringing World have shown; but most of this criticism, sadly, is based upon inaccurate and misleading information and speculation. I’ve been a member of ART for several years, and have nothing but praise for it. Of course, it doesn’t get things right 100% of the time (none of us do, do we?) and never claims to, but I say to you all that I wish I’d been taught in the “ART way”!

With the springtime nearly upon us (here’s hoping!) we’ve got the summer days and lots of ringing to look forward to, as well as outings and Striking Competitions! O.k., let’s get out there and ring…and enjoy it!

Happy ringing, everyone. “This is all”.


Feb 2019

Hi, everybody!

This is something I’d like to do regularly, and have a brief “chat” with you good people!

Firstly, at long last I’ve managed to get round to all the Districts. My apologies for this having taken nearly two months, but a serious problem with my car meant my wife Carol and I were kind of out of action for nearly a fortnight!  You have all made us so welcome at your Meetings, and it was really good to meet you. Thank you all. It was also very good to be able to give out the long-service certificates.

Next, Carol and I are members of ART (the Association of Ringing Teachers), who contacted us in January to let us know that our DBS certificates were in urgent need of updating. This we’ve done. This has to happen every five years, unless the certificate is automatically updated (you have to arrange for this to happen on-line).  It might be a good idea, for those of you Tower Captains and others, who are teaching bell-handling, to make sure your DBS certificate is up-to-date.  If you go on-line to the Update Service, this will happen automatically, so that means you don’t need to worry about this in five years  time!

Happy ringing, everyone. “This is all”.