• Bell Notes April 2017

    Spring has sprung, the hosts of golden daffs have been and gone and it is Easter and it does not seem that long since we were starting a new year .... and yes, we now have a date for the annual lunch (see last month's blog) - no not Christmas, but May! Now Christmas is a time of presents and spending money, that you might be paying off till May. So what is Easter - chocolate of course - Easter eggs and bunnies and lots of them, so let me tell you the relationship of chocolate with St. John's ringers - well you had cake for Christmas in 'bell notes'.

    When I started ringing at a very young age (and no it was not when Noah was parking his boat after his cruise), there were no bottles of water to drink during ringing, so if I may say so, no dreadful plastic throw away bottles that now pollute the oceans. No sweets nor chocolates, for us youngsters even talking was forbidden: in fact all of them were never considered. Have you noticed at Christmas, well October there are all the 'plastic tins' of chocolates for sale, for very little cost. However if you know about these things, and the ringrs do, the weight of these tins of chocolates has reduced over time and the thickness and size of the chocolate has reduced year by year. The ringers know these things and supply most of the 'cake tins' in church as they can go through one of these chocolate tins in a couple of weeks. You might think that is ok, but within two weeks we only meet about four times. We even have ringers, who before they start ringing have to have a chocolate fix and if I suggested they gave up chocolates for Lent then I would be flying from the flagpole! Over the year the ringers have to supplement the 'Christmas tins' by replacing the chocolate varieties and even supplement with boiled sweets - rhubarb and custard is very popular as are jellies and dolly mixtures. We do have one purist who demands that we separate the toffees from the chocolates - just putting a thin smear of chocolate on a toffee does not a chocolate make ... it is still very much a toffee. They bring them back from their holidays and I think some of them could go onto Mastermind with chocolate and chocolate based products as their specialist subject, with boiled sweets for the second round.

    During Holy Week, in most churches there is no ringing, our week is Monday to Friday (we still ring on Sundays and for weddings on Saturdays). So you might see ringers wondering what to do in the evenings of that week, they might even be twitchy from chocolate deprivation but we will be ringing for Easter Sunday. Easter is one of our main Christian celebrations, it moves from a time of desoluation to a time of great celebration and a celebration that goes on forever ... so let's celebrate. If only there was a ringers' Easter egg hunt!

    It is with great sadness that a friend and ringer Sue Ashdown died on Friday 3rd March and her funeral was on Monday 20th March with the burial of ashes at St. John's on Friday 24th March. Her daughter Lorraine and Sue's family are in our prayers. St. John's ringers tribute for Sue will be in next month's blog. May God bless you all this Easter.

    Michael Wareing



  • Bell Notes March 2017

    It started out as a good idea, of having an annual lunch for the ringers and their families. Christmas was suggested but was never acheived as the ringers were all busy. In the last few years it has been the last Sunday in February half-term but this year we have reached a new date; well at this moment we still do not have a date as the ringers are so busy! The ringers seem to be off to India or Japan, or are paying lots of money to break limbs (skiing as some call it). At he moment we are now looking at Sundays in May or June, so perhaps we will be calling it our 'mid summer or later lunch'? We do however have a date for our first ringing outing of the year (we try to have two each year), but that is a Saturday, where we go out and ring bells in other churches. It was suggested that we could both have a lunch and an outing together but then our outings would be lunches with a bit of ringing on either side.

    Our usual dates in the year are around church open days and tower tours which still seem to be popular. They mostly are the Leytonstone Festival, Michaelas Fair and what used to be Car Free Day and perhaps a few others but also this year we have, so far, a Wedding to ring for on 25th March, which we will enjoy ringing for. It is funny how things change as we used to ring almost every Saturday, from about Easter (sometimes before) to about October, so the ringers would meet almost every Saturday, quite often for most of the day, for all the Weddings. The thing about ringing for Weddings is that we ring before and after the service, so during the time of the service you could go out, do a bit of shopping, have a cup of tea, have your lunch, read a book etc. etc. but most of the time we would just chat so it was very sociable. I met Les Porter that way, ringing for Weddings; he had a very good line of stories about him being in 'tanks' during the war .... always funny! But also the misery of being a Leyton Orient supporter! In February he celebrated his 95th birthday, so congratulations and he still supports Leyton Orient. Because of various legal changes, couples can now get married at various wonderful locations, so now in most churches wedding servicces are down to a few each year, which seems a shame as churches are also 'wonderful locations'.

    Ringing outings also seem to be less popular, perhaps because people are more mobile and can visit when they want. Almost every church that had bells and had ringers had an annual outing, going off to ring in far flung places like Rugby, Basingstoke, Evesham or Boston. On some outings you were 'invited', thus reaching a pinnacle of important excellence ... sort of .. well you could dream! Most just needed the numbers to full up a coach ... yes, a coach! But of course there was a big problem as both outings and Weddings always happened on a Saturday and your loyalties were stretched ... sort of. So not finding a date for our 'Christmas Lunch' is a small problem. So this is also the stage where I ask if anyone at St. John's could help us and join us to keep the St. John's bells ringing --- please come and have a go, as we teach people to ring. Although we ring for 'open days', outings and have the odd lunch, the regular time taken is about three hours a week, which is for Sunday Services and a practice night on a Monday evening, which is 'open' to all visiting ringers from anywhere in the country, or beyond.

    We were able to ring for Sue Ashdown's father, as it was Eric's Memorial Service and Burial of his Ashes on Friday 10th February. Eric was a member of St. John's for some years until he was unable to get to church and Sue used to be a loyal ringer until she had to care for Eric. Please pray for Sue as her cancer has returned.

    Now this is a footnote: In the December magazine I was going on ... as I do, about all the ringers who are good at making cakes and I also included a recipe from Lynda of a Welsh Honey Cake. Well both Alasdair and Milene both made it and I got to have some of both, so I am thinking what if Iput in a recipe for a Chocolate Cake? Making cakes at St. John's has always been a tradition, we always could put on 'a good spread' so we were always being told .... it makes people happy.

    Michael Wareing



  • Bell Notes December 2016 / January 2017

    Now let me talk cake!!

    When we 'do' a tower tour on an Open Day, we always try to do a follow up and at the moment we have a 'Cake and Ring' open evening on a Monday for visitors. It's no hardship for us as we are already there on a Monday evening and for us it means we stop halfway through ringing for tea and coffee and try each others cake - well someone has to eat it!

    Nathan is out chilli superstar as he tries it in almost anything and his Cattor Chilli Cake is more than fantastic and he also tries chilli in other cakes. June says her cakes never turn out as she imagines them although she is geting more practice nowadays. She reminds me of Rosemary Finzel - a ringer for many years who made lots of cakes for countless church functions - but for both June and Rosemary, forget the vision and just enjoy the cakes ...... we did and do! Margeret, Rosemary's sister, another ringer, used to make a mean mince pie but can you call them cakes; while Iris Wilson used to treat the ringers on open days to melt in the mouth Eccles Cakes.

    You never know what Sherry will turn up with, in the way of cakes, as she tends to vary her choice but at the moment it seems to be bread pudding, packed with lots of spice and seems to disappear very quickly. Now a jam sponge cake is my weakness and for that it meant Pam Driscoll, all her family were ringers at one time, her jam sponge was like a slice of Heaven and sometimes she made one just for me.... well I did share one slice! I've had a slice of Rachel's jam sponge and it brought back good memories. I know bread does not count as cake but I must include one past ringer Kate Harris, now she decided that making bread was her choice and she supplied many of our church functions, especially at Harvest and her bread would now be called 'craft bread'. Also thinking of two past ringers Bet and Denis Mitchell (see the plaque in the church porch). Bet was a dab hand with various cakes, again she would supply cakes for church functions but Denis would make the Christmas puddings and cake as a family tradition on 'Stir up Sunday'. And then there is Lynda who nawadays seems to make cakes traditional to Wales, the problem being that you cannot pronounce the names of the cakes!

    As I write this I've realised that we seem to be 'Cake and Ring' bellringers both of the past and present and they are all packed with memories after all a cup of tea or coffee and a slice of cake is enjoyable, it's not threatening in any way .... so let's enjoy it.

    Teisen Fel (Honey Cake)

    4 oz / 100g butter

    4 oz / 110 g soft brown sugar

    1 egg (separated)

    4 oz / 110 g honey

    8 oz / 225 g self raising flour

    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

    2 tablespoons milk

    1 oz / 25 g castor sugar

    Bun tins and small cake cases

    1 - Cream the butter and brown sugar, then beat in the egg yolk.

    2 - Gradually add the honey.

    3 - Sift the flour and cinnamon together and add to the honey mixture. (Add a little milk if the mixture is too stiff.)

    4 - Whisk the egg whites until very stiff and fold into the mixture.

    5 - Half fill the small cake cases with the mixture and sprinkle a little castor sugar over the top.

    6 - Bake at 200 C / 180 C fan for 20 minutes.

    It is interesting that I have memories of ringers past and present and of various cakes that I have enjoyed and I am looking forward to lots more memories so if you see our cake and ring evenings, please come along, we can teach you to ring but not to bake cakes!

    As we enjoy our cakes, let's not forget all those who are just strugling to afford any food. Saint John's supports the Leytonstone Food Bank. A lot of the people who use Food Banks are in work but still need help. We were a founding member of the local Christian Church Night Shelters scheme and they also need a lot of support over the winter and lastly may I remind you of the Saint Martin in the Field's charity in London.

    The ringers: Anna, June, Sherry, Lynda, Teresa, Iam, Nathan, Ben, James, Guy and I, wish all of you a joyful Christmas and a good new year.

    Michael Wareing



  • Obituary for Gunner Saffell from the parish magazine dated December 1917

    In Memoriam

    It is with deep regret that the St. Johns ringers have to record the death of one of their members, Gunner H. P. Saffell, who was killed in action on the western front, October 26th, 1917. Deceased learned to ring at the parish church at Wenhaston, Suffolk, and on leaving there, early in 1912, came to reside in the Leytonstone district. Knowing of his love of ringing the rector wrote to our vicar, to ask him to introduce him to the St. Johns ringers, and soon he became a member and made every promise of becoming a first class ringer, considering the limited time he had for practice. The countrys' call for men soon became too strong for him and early in 1915 he joined his majesty's forces in the R.F.A. After a few months training he was sent to the western front, where he was in several hot engagements. Eight weeks ago he was home on a well earned leave, and a practice meeting was held at St Johns on a monday evening for his benefit. He soon showed that he had not forgotton all he had learned of the art he loved so well. Soon after returning to the front he received wounds which caused him to be detained in hospital for a month. He had only rejoined his battery a few days when the sad news arrived to his mother, who resides at 13 Manby road, that her son had been killed by a shell. The enclosed letter to his mother amply describes his true character, and St Johns ringers have lost a true friend and a promising young ringer. The sympathy of St Johns ringers goes out to the whole family who have lost a true son and brother. Deceased was 24 years of age. On Saturday, Nov. 10th, the ringers met and paid their last tribute to a departed comrade and rang, with bells muffled, the usual whole pull and stand and 720 changes of York Surprise, the method that the deceased last rang.

    G Dawson (Secretary)



  • Remembering WW1 - Driver Harry P Saffell - A Leytonstone Ringer

    As there is a great deal in the news about the first world war, we thought we would like to remember Gunner Harry P Saffell who died in 1917.

    He came from Wenhaston in Suffolk originally but moved to London in 1911 to work on the Great Eastern Railway. He had learnt to ring in suffolk and his rector put him in touch with the St Johns band as a capable ringer of Bob Minor. He was a fireman on the trains and this occupation meant that he couldn't always attend practice nights but he soon progressed and was able to ring suprise minor methods.

    He was described in his obiturary as having a fine physique and a natural aptitude for ringing.

    He joined the Essex Association of Change Ringers in 1912.

    In 1915 he joined the Royal Field Artillery and was posted to the frontline. In October 1917 he was killed when a shell landed close to his postition.

    He is buried in the Ruisseau Cemetery in Belgium. He was 24 years of age.



Bellringing at St. John's Leytonstone


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