Late starts. Love them!
Pipey wanted us at Ardrossan for sometime about oneish but I got caught up converting pictures, tinkering with websites and playing my mandolin, that when I looked at the clock it was after 12 and we were nowhere near started. Years of practice mean that I can get into my uniform faster than Batman and it looked as though we might be on time but roadworks at Dalry, wrong turns in Ardrossan and then having to park the car miles from the park meant that my wife’s arrival was greeted with cheers from Emma Tenor and I was greeted with, “You’re late, £5 fine, too late to tune your pipes, get the tuner Drone Monkey.” The guys were sounding pretty good I have to say.
But there was something bothering me, no Event Shelter. We were “camped” in the middle of a rugby pitch, a wee pile of pipe cases and some dogs with pipers and drummers marching about. It looked like jerseys for goalposts. The Ardrossan Highland Games is what people from Paisley call, “The Shows” and people from Greenock call “The Fair.” I went to school in Paisley so the shows looked really good, bigger and more gut wrenching than your usual minor competition tombolas and fudge stalls. On the long walk to the park I informed my wife, “Someone’s burning coal.” It took me right back to my Gran’s living room in the 70’s and I got into a wee warm nostalgic bubble and nearly walked into the Traction Engine that was burning the coal.
The final tuning was frantic, me running round listening for anything untoward, Brian calming everyone. Basso even asked me to check the tenor and bass drums were tuned. ? I’m a piper, they went boom boom mate. I nodded and made positive faces.
After the guys marched into the circle and played rather well we were all invited to the Manse for tea and buns by the Reverend Sherratt. Emma Piper told us it was just beside the park and right over the road so after walking for 10 minutes we were giving her torrents of abuse to which she replied, “I never said what road.”
At the Manse, to our surprise, was Lucy Lu and her Gran helping Mrs Sherratt prepare the rolls n square sausage or bacon or both, cups of tea or coffee or cola and lets not forget the cream cakes and fruity loaf. South Beach Baptist Church had invited us in for face painting but the Church of Scotland won. No contest really. Back in the park three drummers approach, Big Stewart swinging a long sweety rope. It’s chillingly like a scene from A Clockwork Orange but in tartan.
My pipes were screeching when we tuned up for the grade 3 competition so I’m Drone Monkey again. With the amount of playing they have done today we have a couple of call offs, Emma Piper has destroyed another reed and Dolomite Dave is blown out. Watson wishes he could call off as he is wearing shoes several sizes too small as punishment for forgetting his own. The pipe sound held up well in the Grade 3 competition and I’m told the drumming was better but we won’t be placed as we aren’t playing a medley, so it’s really just a good experience for the younger players and as we are last on it’s straight out and get tuned up, even me, for the march past.
By now the sun was blazing and as Irvine and District played at Centre Band our two adopted drum majors lead us into the arena. The bands played for the chieftain and he gave an even briefer speech than Subo at Bathgate last year. Best type of speech. We applauded the prize winning dancers and drum majors but were really only cooking slowly in the sunshine waiting for the pipe placings and preparing for our usual disappointment. But what’s this? Second place and a big shiny trophy, which Emma Piper (who had been having saluting lessons to prevent another rerun of The Jazz Hands of Sanquhar) went to collect.
At the end of another enjoyable day there is nothing to do but head back to the Manse to finish those cream cakes.
Bishopton Day on Saturday and Helensburgh on Sunday.