It has all the hallmarks of a memorable day; bright and dry. Even this early Brian is on the bus handing out fines for various misdemeanours; missing kit, late arrival and forgetting the box to collect the fines in. My good lady drummer and I carry the tea shop paraphernalia plus instruments and associated stuff from the car to the bus, many journeys, while the slack jawed gawkers watch us struggle. With everything loaded it’s time to head to Bathgate for the first Major championship of the year. We played well last year and managed to qualify for the final, no pressure then?
The journey is uneventful, which is unusual enough to merit a mention, but when we get to the venue traffic chaos ensues. I think the announcer from Whacky Races was organising it, buses were pointing every which way with cars and bandsfolk nicking in and out and everyone in hi-vis coats waving radios and gesticulating. The marshals eventually got it sorted and we all decanted from the coach into what looked from inside like a scorching summer day. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I forgot we were in Scotland so the combination of sunny and cold shouldn’t have been a surprise, where did that wind come from? You could smell reindeer burps and Polar Bear poo on it.
The well oiled machine that is KPB quickly set up the tea table then mill about and wander off looking at things. Big Stewart appears with a set of kiddies pipes to hilarious effect and Peppa steals a waistcoat from Yvonne, coz she forgot hers.
The Pipey shouts and we all collect our instruments and he begins the task of turning us into a pipe band. We all have new chanter reeds since Gourock and it doesn’t take too long to get us sounding presentable, Mrs Brown is Drone Monkey and dances round the circle twisting and tuning but I’m struggling and after a particularly flat D decide that this band doesn’t need my bad blowing today and bow out. It’s a major, best not to be too precious when your playing is mince.
At smaller highland games we “play up”, trying our hand at MSR’s and annoying the Grade 3 bands but at the major tournaments you play in your Grade, once in the Qualifier and if you make the top 6 then once in the final. The pressure on the Pipey and his team is huge, as we’re Grade 4B the judges are not too bothered about the odd wrong note but the drones better be in tune and unwavering and the initial “E” better be strong and right on the beat. The drummers have their own cross to bare, rolls n stuff. Oh and everything better stop all together and all at once. No one knows why we put ourselves through this.
In final tuning something has gone horribly wrong with Dougies chanter, it wails mournfully and no amount of tweaking, twisting and swearing will sort it so he joins me on the sidelines. Neil turns up about now, juggles some hats, checks his chanter, tunes his drones and Brian shouts 1… 2.. and the drums roll and they head for the circle.
What’s this? A man from the RSPBA is checking registrations, looking for ringers in the competing bands. Not before time. Now we get to listen to other bands, watch the drum majors or the heavy athletics for a wee while. I head back for a cup of coffee and a sausage roll. And a Topic, when was the last time you had a Topic? Slowly we start to saunter back toward the park and the crowd around arena four begins to grow and we meet old friends and the question is always, “have they announced it yet?” and the tension grows, the crowd talk in whispers, some stuff their faces.
The PA crackles and a voice reads a list of twelve bands, some people cheer but we aren’t mentioned so the despondent trek back to camp begins but half way there a hip flask appears and by the time we reach the bus the Party Band is out and doing it’s thing and people are discovering hidden stashes of Port and Blue Wicked under seats and stuffed inside cape bags. I was discovering that I had left my kerry-oot on the kitchen table. I’m sure it’s just a coping mechanism anyway.
The bus had to stop before we even left Bathgate to stock up on lager and Prosecco, the trip back to Glasgow was entertaining. The bus nearly emptied in Glesga and me a couple of wimmin and some weans had to clear the bus while they partied at the Park Bar and that Prosecco had knocked me over the edge so a couple of wimmin and some weans did all the work. Well done, much appreciated, pass the wine!
Our next parade is for Lilias Day on 6th June, this will be the first time on the street for many of our novice pipers and drummers.