I'm an optimist. I have to be. I support Ipswich Town and work in sales at a time when nobody wants to spend any money. But Suffolk Guild Peal Week is a real test of such optimism. There is so much that could go wrong, so much that I could miss if I'm not on the ball. To make matters worse, the lead-up to this year's extravaganza was dominated by huge snow-storms of the white stuff and over-cautious 'elf n' safety regulations.
I needn't have worried. The week was almost spring-like at times and thanks to the help of many, many people, the week ran almost perfectly.
Of course not everything went right. Peals were lost at Bury St Edmund's, Grundisburgh, Wilby and at Great Yarmouth where I'd dropped out thinking we'd got 11 only to discover that the band met 11 in my absence. As Homer would say, 'D'oh!'
Undoubtedly the highlights of the week were the numerous firsts, not least the seven first-pealers. Well done to all them, especially Philip and Craig the youngsters of the week. Impressively Philip went on to ring his second peal later in the week and went for his first on 8 in the lost attempt at Wilby.
Congratulations also to Gordon Slack on his first as conductor and to the returning peal ringers. David Rogers rang his first peal for 16 years and St John Perry his first after 37 years!
The main point of the week was for the type of achievements above, but for the statisticians (of whom I believe there are many in the ringing fraternity) there are some pretty impressive stats, particularly when compared to previous years.
When I re-introduced Suffolk Guild Peal Week just two years ago, we scored seven peals. This year we scored sixteen peals from twenty attempts. Over the course of the week, twenty different towers were used in those twenty attempts and in total seventy-two ringers partook in attempts, with Jonathan Stevens leading the way on five. Nine different conductors called the peals, With Winston Girling, Stephen Pettman and Jonathan Stevens leading the way with three a piece. And England threw away a test match in the West Indies.
My thanks to all who took part, to those who organised peals, called peals and allowed their bells to be used. My commiserations and apologies to those who lost peals. It was truly wonderful to see so many people have a go and get into the spirit of things.