It’s pleasant to play local contests, you get a long lie and a short drive. Paisley is only 6 miles to the east of us and as such is our locallest competition. This has grown in the last 5 years into a nice wee gathering, well organised and pleasantly situated in the plaza in front of the station and old Post Office building. We first played at Paisley last year in a tight run dash from Glasgow Day to Paisley, some players joined as the band marched down the street. This year we assembled on School Wynd to tune up and had our first complaint from a resident within 5 minutes, new record. So we moved and actually made it worse for the resident killjoy. At this point the rain was a smirr on the wind but capes were looked out and fastened to belts, “just in case.”
The usual rigmarole got under way, tuning pipes and drums and smartening up players for the street. Neil was in command as Brian had sloped off on his holidays and he tweaked and listened and praised or damned accordingly. Other bands had begun to tune up near at hand and the poor woman who came out to ask us to be quiet headed home in despair when she learned it was an all day competition. The final preparation area is on Paisley High Street and getting there was fraught, down the slippery, cobbled side street. There were a few bands we recognised and they wished us good luck, we reciprocated. A lot of the guys playing here expect to be in the prizes, it was a tough group to play in.
Once again we were under the trees getting dripped on, the rain was now threatening and capes were mooted and as quickly discarded. The constant search for perfect tuning got a wee buzz in the shape of Craig Lawrie who suddenly appeared and tweaked and twisted and made us sound lovely, no excuses this week then? We played the Wee 6/8’s as we marched down the High Street toward the Cross, there are a lot of obstacles to be avoided and my fear for Basso grew as we navigated the street furniture. After another twiddle with the drones we were marching toward the circle and were all totally drookit, the light smirr had developed penetration, however we should be used to competing in the rain.
The march into the circle went off without my early B, roaring drones or any of the other usual wet weather disasters. Neil counted us in and he counted us out, never lost a man. Top commander.
There is now a period of hanging about listening to your peers performances and praying for early E’s and big honks. One thing about Paisley is that everyone talks to you; asks your opinion, “How’dye do?” “What band are you?” “oh Aye!” “What was that tune you played?” “What’s that tartan?” It’s a hoot. My plan for this hiatus was to get somewhere dry and get some coffee inside me. Coffee, not whisky, because we are back on to play Grade 3 soon. Sooner than I guessed as the stragglers around the arena were shoo’d back to School Wynd for further tuning and standing in the rain. Craig gave us the Formula 1 treatment, I’ve never been so tuned, we sounded really good considering the conditions but the downside of this is that if you sound mince there is only you to blame. We sounded good though and my usual nerves were not bothering me, this was going to be a doddle. We discarded our capes and marched proud and damp down the High Street for the second time, not playing this time as an Ambulance had decided to block the street and negotiating our way around it was hard enough just walking. Speaking personally, I have never approached a competition circle so confidently; I’m usually a bag of nerves and shoddy fingerwork. One, two: we’re on.
It’s quite possible that our musical director is just too much of a visionary, years ahead of his time. One Buddy told me he had never heard such an excellent and innovative finish by a pipe band, the way the pipes slowly sank into silence and left the drummers to finish on a crescendo was, to him, the best he had heard all day. I hadn’t the heart to tell him.
I’ve been told that what happens in Paisley stays in Paisley, best place for it.
We are finished for the day so it’s officially coffee time, I hear that some drank beer, I was however starving and parched and Cafe Lusso provided everything I required. The staff were very welcoming to a bunch of drookit musicians who sat munching their scran and gently steaming in the heat. We popped back to the arena after this to hear the last few Grade 3 bands perform their MSR’s and for some inward fortification by Glenlivet. As Milngavie counter-marched out of the circle the heavens opened, the march past had been cancelled earlier in the day due to the weather but the plan of massing the bands in the arena got a big thumbs down from the bandsmen who cooried under any tent or brolly they could find. The Chieftain was called to address the bands and a woman in a big gold chain was escorted from behind us to the podium. It appears that the Lady Provost had been sitting in her tent watching the occasion when she was swamped by people in dripping capes, no sooner had she left when one of our Subo stalkers announced, “We should have asked her for a selfie.” Incorrigible. Neil and StuPo headed off to get our results; 3rd place in the street competition, not so good in the main competition. More hard work required before the Scottish Championship next saturday..