The first “major” of the season and we have been working hard, the disappointment of Gourock has been forgotten and the band as in mellow mood as we embarked for Bathgate. Then the bus driver took us on the school run because that’s the route she knows and we knew it was going to be an eventful day. We visited a housing estate and had to rely on the satnav skills of Mr S McKay to get us to the show on time. An executive decision was made and the legendary Event Shelter was abandoned in favour of using the bus as a base of operations, so without further ado we set up camp and began sunbathing.
Brian, Neil and Stewart swung into action and the tuning and polishing began. As we puffed and marched about in the glorious Lothian sunshine we could see other bands arriving and start their preparations. For those only familiar with pipe band competitions from the BBC coverage of The Worlds a brief explanation of what’s going on should be attempted. In contradiction of what Her Aff the Telly would have you believe there are many grades of Pipe Band, the top bands are in Grade 1 and this slides down to Grade 4B. Easy so far. There are Juvenile bands, novice bands, novice juvenile bands; some of these guys have just started into the pipeband world, others are gifted and practiced experts at their chosen discipline with oodles of experience. Grade 4B is where we play and this is a hotly contested division with usually about 30 plus bands competing to get through the qualifying round and secure a spot in the final. We have never made that cut and even though Neil constantly tells us we can do it, there is a nagging suspicion we can’t.
The walk to the final tuning area adjacent to the arena was under an avenue of chestnut trees beside a gurgling burn, very relaxing. The last few runs through the tunes let Brian, Neil and Stewart polish the sound and calm their players. As the Steward arrived to tell us we were on Neil pronounced, “Play like that and you’ll qualify.” Then it was, band ready, by the right, quick march and we were off. 3 minutes of total concentration later we finished, all together.
Well, that was that and it’s now time to check out the competition because it’s going to be a couple of hours until the results are posted. I managed to catch the bands on after us and some of the Juvenile bands in Arena 1 but the female contingent of the Tenor section had far grander plans, a selfie with Susan Boyle. This story is told 2nd hand but apparently they spied the Chieftain as she retire to refresh herself and managed to attract the attention of her PA who they bullied and cajoled for a wee meeting with the great wummin. The PA being a consummate professional gave them the bums rush. They would try again later.
Back at the Event Shelter Bus a long line of coaches eased into the coach park, the big bands have arrived. The relative calm was shattered as Lomond and Clyde played us a tune or two and then Richard said, ” who are they, they sound quite good,” as Field Marshal Montgomery started up. What a treat, a private concert for us numpties by some of the best bands in the country, it’s lucky we’re world class gawpers.
But, what’s this? Word is seeping through, texts are flying, tweets whispering a wee rumour and then a piper is seen approaching in a cloud of dust, “WE’VE QUALIFIED!” You’d have thought we’d won the world championships, a disgusting display of whooping followed and a wee nip to celebrate. More texts, tweets, facebook status updates and likes were generated by this announcement that all our previous competition outings put together. And rightly so, we had proved Neil right. Bully for us.
But it’s a long time between hearing your through and getting back into the circle so the Tenor ladies went in search of Subo once again. They were stopped by the Army this time. When they returned they had noted that some bands had a chef dishing out gourmand nosh, “We want a chef ,” they whined.
Probably about now people were realising they should have put sunscreen on at the start of the day, I suppose it does some good when applied over sunburn. Graham was heard wondering which part of the day his all day sunscreen worked in as he rubbed red forearms.
It’s a lazy afternoon before tuning and practice when pack lunches are consumed and outrages expressed at the cost of coffee but this must end when the Pipey calls and it’s back to work. It’s fairly stressful for a hobby band to march into the circle and put themselves up for professional scrutiny and the final was too much for us mortals and nerves got the better of some of us, well done those who held it together and to the drummers for another sterling performance.
We now prepared for the march past in proper KPB style with Rusty Nails, good malt Whisky and Cheeky Vimto. There was a bit of a crush entering the arena and we ended up splitting one of the other bands, again. The centre bands were giving it laldy as we entered the arena and I’m sure I saw Susan Boyle’s PA point at us as we marched past with Wendy grinning all over her face. Miss Boyle should give lessons in brevity, her speech was the perfect length. I’ve been going to these affairs for a few years now and I never heard a Chieftain get such a welcome, the place erupted, “Subo, Subo” with our Tenors to the fore. No prizes this time but that was just us being greedy, we gave everyone who did win a prize a rousing cheer
Thanks to everyone who looked us up to congratulate us on qualifying
That’s the hoodoo put to bed now, we know we’re good enough to qualify, just a wee bit of work before our next outing at Helensburgh where we now know we should finish in the prizes.