Who could say no to a Saturday in Rothesay, the jewel of Argyll and metropolis of Bute. Rothesay always attracts the travelling support and the bus was fairly full as we left the village in the wrong direction, concerns were raised from the rear seats but the driver demurred their interference and on we went. The Ayrshire countryside was beautiful and the sky, although cloud scattered, didn’t look like rain. The big viking statue in Largs had put a traffic cone on his head to salute our passing. The Firth of Clyde is always beautiful but if the light is right it is incomparable, today big beams of sunlight were stalking the landscape.
We disembarked at Wemyss Bay and wandered into the majestic Victorian ferry terminal/train station, there has been a load of work done on this and it is really looking good, all big girders and cool rivets. This should be the easiest part of the day; buy tickets, get on boat. Simple. But various parties have decided to get the train and what with the volume of people queueing and having to wait for pipers toddling down the ramp, Hazel and Richie didn’t get on the boat. However there is a massive overloading of the ferry and for fear that the extra five passengers might sink us we sit by the quay waiting for five people to get off, it was getting quite tense when Dylan and the Dickies made that sacrifice and as the counting by the crew had been so good five off let two on so Hazel and Richie joined us. Carol Vorderman couldn’t have done better.
Band-dog has returned and he liked the ferry better than the bus, more chance to mooch for scraps. Now, Douglas has been very quiet and it slowly dawns on us that he isn’t wearing regulation uniform, we are all resplendent in charcoal grey hose with our new ties and long sleeved shirts, he has the blue non competition uniform and a frankly unconvincing excuse. As we stand around guffawing at his mental lapse a big spot of rain lands on the deck and is quickly joined by its mates, the heavens open and suddenly the decision to leave the Event Shelter in Kilbarchan isn’t looking clever, I’d even forgotten the brolly. It rained all the way over and ruined my plans for photographs of the Clyde coast, it rained all the way up the street to the park, it rained as we marched through a marsh looking for high ground to pitch up on and it stopped as soon as the instruments were out and it held fair all afternoon. On the way into the park a wee wifey informs us that anyone not in uniform has to pay for entry, a voice is heard shouting, “that’ll be you Douglas!”
Pipey lets us loose for tea and buns before the work begins but we are soon paradiddling and skirling like maniacs as we hone our sound. Stupo has stepped in to fill Big Stewarts shoes and Michael lends an ear and we know that we can do this and before you know it the claggy ground of Final Tuning is behind us and we’re in the circle concentrating on Pipey’s fingers and blowing like a bellows.
We’re back on in half an hour so there is a rush to get off and tuned before we’re back on again minus me and Richie for the MSR then back off and re-tuned with a small break to tweek things before we all march on for the Grade 3 competition. It’s a hectic couple of hours and by the time we finish it’s lager o’clock and we march to our camp behind the wall to refresh ourselves and eat sandwiches. The wait until the march past is time spent watching other bands and talking to old cronies, drinking beer and revelling in the atmosphere. Pipey had a better offer and deserted us, he nominated the two least sober people as stand ins before he left. !?
Andy marches us into the arena and does all the right stuff, eyes left etc. We fail to get a placing this year and Michael promises us a hard winter of tachum exercises. The march down the street to the harbour starts in grand form, striding out with Basso leading us but the blowing is starting to get a bit ragged half way down and by the time we are into the second time round of Bonnie Dundee at the foot of the town many pipers can hear the angel choirs and are ready to walk into the light. As we wait for the ferry Evil Heywood arrives to taunt his children with empty chip boxes and Coinneach points to a sign and exclaims, “See that gaelic sign it reads,”Welcome to the beauty of Penis Island.”” This has now gone viral on the internet and news media. The ferry journey was less dramatic than our morning one and only consists of Port and Hazel getting her ears licked. Another fun but frustrating day ends in chips and we begin getting mentally toughened for Cowal next Saturday.