I vowed to myself last year that I would enjoy Cowal Games this year and when I say ‘enjoy’ I mean ‘remember’.
Everything before the bacon rolls from Bobbins is a blur however, the bus left at 6:30am, only us and the postmen were up. The bus was late by 10 minutes and this pushed the schedule in Pipeys head out, so he fined the driver £3. Like last year the usual frenetic activity on the ferries was missing. The Highland dancing is the biggest part of the games covering three days but the loss of the RSPBA’s championship designation on the Saturday has blown a massive hole in the number of bands and piping aficionados travelling to Dunoon and this is evident in the fact the three boats running could have had a bus each. After the bus had wound its way through the narrowest windingest streets in the town we found ourselves in the old Grade 1 car park again and pitched our Event Shelters (plural) in the same corner again. We got down to the main business right away as we were playing early, StuPo gathered up his drummers and they started banging away off behind the bus, Neil had rejoined us after his holiday and was darting about listening for sloppy blowing and over exuberance. While this was going on the Ladies from the Guild began organising the Event Shelters; tables, chairs, baking, sandwiches and urns proliferated and I’m sure given time they would have managed an Aspidistra on a stand or even lasagne. We love it, who hates to be spoiled?
I would like to announce that I will be playing in the Grades 4 and 3 competition, I will be playing well in the Grade 4 competition but become overwhelmed by the aforementioned exuberance and drop a massive early E in the Grade 3 competition. This was only slightly shorter than the one Richie dropped which was still sounding into the third bar.
We are playing four times today and praying the reeds will hold out and the weather remains fair, we march off from the MAP set and begin tuning for the MSR straight away. We’re on first just before ten and last about three, between the Grade 4 and Grade 3 competitions there is a hiatus and we settle in for a spell of coffee and good living; Susan Sherrit your Mint Aero cake would win Bake Off. A quarter of an hour before we are due back on for my early E the sky opens and we sit looking at the drips and moaning, “we’re no playin in that, moan, moan, greet, greet” til New Michael tells us you get fined if you don’t play, so we all pick up our instruments and don our capes before heading into the monsoon which conveniently stops before we reach Final Tuning where the sun is out making our damp clothes steam.
I’m off duty now, other than as Drone Monkey, and decide that a wee snifter is in order, while procuring this I’m informed that Kerr Senior has never met a pipe bad that drinks so much Port, we are just so very refined although I did see some bad boys mixing Port with Blue Wicked in a 25 litre drum. For later.
There is concern for the reeds so playing is kept to a minimum for our last gig and I run round the drones praying the change in temperature and humidity hasn’t ruined them. We leave the early E’s on the practice field this time. By the time we are back at the camp the Party Band is up to its eyes in Cheeky Vimto and the business of the day can commence. Although we’re here to seriously compete this is our end of season beano and most of the guys are in party mood, I even allow myself a wee Port ‘n’ Brandy; for my stomach. Instrument swapping is now rife and tiny tenors are carry huge bass drums about and then the heavens open and everything scuttles under cover. The cops who have been patrolling this area join us in the Event Shelter and have to swap hats and listen to incoherent stories before we suit up and head for the March Past. The Grade 2 bands are playing centre as we march in preceded by Lewis and salute the chieftain, who turns out to be a level headed man who gives a brief speech. Emma Tenor is dispatched to retrieve the Ballochmyle Shield which we won again then we play Scotland the Brave and scoot back to the bus to get ready.
We crash into the parade like a Grade 1 band of old, bullying our way down Argyll Street and through the bewildered crowd. Gru and the Minions have arrived and we play and dance and march past the cheering throngs. This is what the Cowal Games has always been about for me and it makes the sore feet and early morning worthwhile. Later, after Pipey throws port over his wife (he blames the driver) and takes us on the Magical Mystery Tour to Word Up we debus and find we have more drums than drummers and that Mags is a whiter shade of pale. The 2015 season has been our most successful and we have put it to bed in style although the loss of many players to higher grades tinges this with a hint of loss.
We play for the Habbies on Sunday, cannae wait..