“The bus leaves at 6pm,” we were told and as I didn’t get home til after 5 it was going to be a close run thing to avoid being fined. My youngest son accompanied the band this weekend on our second trip to the European Pipe Band Championship in beautiful Forres.
The mad rush is to get us to Inverness before the bar shuts apparently and it has caught out some unwary souls. Some of you may remember my howler last year when I forgot my pipes and reckoned it would take something fairly idiotic to trump that but I believe forgetting your kit; kilt, jacket, shoes, the works, was more than a blonde moment and a worthy contender. Well done Isy. Luckily she remembered before we left and picked it up enroute, no Lady Godiva moment in Arena 4 thankfully.
The A9 to Inverness is a beautiful road to be driven on, sit back and watch Scotland unfold as the low key cheese and wine party at the back of the bus gathers momentum and sends Big Davey forward in search of lasagne. We had a few civilians with us this trip and they were interrogated mercilessly by the big man until they divulged the whereabouts of the salmon rolls.
As the back of the bus started drinking before the engine started the toilet is getting used frequently and is starting to make it’s presence known. I held off the beer until Perth so I could avoid the horror. Our destination, Premier Inn West, is very smart and the staff manage to get us organised in no time even given our propensity to wander off and stare at things. We are too late for food but Alan has arranged chips and beer and Big Stewart has a chinese takeaway ordered so nothing remains but to soak up the highland evening and take selfies with The Police Service of Northern Ireland Pipe Band.
The following morning is gloriously sunny as all the big heids and drooths head over to the bus, Brian is handing out baseball caps to all and sundry and everything is right with the world until we get onto said bus and the eye watering stench greets us. As we leave Inverness the bus is very busy at the front and back with a desert of seats in the middle, oaft!
The views over the Moray Firth to The Black Isle are stunning on the short drive to Forres and Forres is as always picture perfect, the same friendly greeting at Grant Park, same free hamper and water and the same weather. No sooner were we off the bus then instruments are out and the hard work begins, this leaves the parents and friends to put up the Event Shelter without adult supervision. We tuned chanters, marched to and fro, practiced starts, stops and James the Hat tuned the drones like a man possessed. Neil danced about the circle like a faerie sprite, listening and encouraging. Brian shouted, shook his head in dismay and gingered us up. We were getting the full works. And by the time we reached Final Tuning I was uncharacteristically calm, the bag felt comfortable under my arm, it felt right. I don’t normally relate how we played as I defer to wiser heads. Ladies and Gentlemen we nailed it and everyone in the circle knew it.
Back at the bus Bleary and District were tuning up and Glesga Polis gave us a free concert, I noticed that the Event Shelter wasn’t pegged down and ask Rich, who believes I’d forgotten about his falling asleep on the grass at Ardrossan and nearly being trampled to death by us, to do the needful. There is a couple of hours to fill so I popped into Forres for a Fish Finger sandwich and a brew then back into the park to learn we had qualified before we did the whole tuning up thing again and were suddenly back on a start line staring at a circle. 1 2 we’re off!
Please note that my bottle failed to crash this week and I played in the final. Brian, Neil and Big Stewart are beaming as we head back to the camp via the whisky tasting and the beer tent. The party has begun but we still have the March Past to attend and so we wander back to the park with all the other bands and a small Drum Major of the juvenile persuasion grabs us and leads us into the arena as the Centre Bands play 6/8 medleys for our delight. We hang about and once again bake in the sun applauding every award given and prize won but fail to get a placing. Ochone!
The bus run home saw the toilet emptied to everyone’s relief, us invade McDonalds in Perth, Big Davey do his best Port soaked Elephant Man impression and the ladies at the front maintain decorum.
We have a load of cruise ships in the next few weeks but our next competition is Paisley where we hope not to play Pipe Sergeant Neil MacTaggarts Drum Solo.