So basically we went to bed closed our eyes and counted to 100 then got up and got dressed. Pipey played his pipes with the chanter in Big Davey’s ear to try and rouse the big chap and we wondered why the lights kept going off; we put them on at 4am and they turned off, we put them on they turned off. We apologise for the rude awakening German guys.
The early rise is to get us fed, over to Arras for security screening and then back to Contalmaison for the McCrae’s Battalion memorial. Breakfast was in the restaurant so Wendy and Hazel had to get dressed, no nipping down in their jammies today. The mood was subdued as we slurped our bowls of coffee and munched on a croissant. Amber, Abbi and Evan need a sleep so they won’t be joining us today.
The bus journey was rather uneventful, the conversations revolving around our national obsession with sticking cutlery in our socks and the chances of not having it confiscated. On arrival we debussed, sgian dubhs were left behind, and we went to be frisked. Big Mick had his solid plastic sgian dubh confiscated and then returned when Security noted it was useless, the drummers fared less well; several had that equally pointless thing the drum tuning key confisqué, there were objections but the guards response, “Il est un tambour de vous faire cogner” silenced them. Once the sniffer dogs had cleared the bus we were speedily driven to Contalmaison with motorcycle outriders to clear the way. It does make one feel important. The final hurdle into the Ring of Steel is a gazebo with some bored looking functionaries; sgian dubhs get through but a camera with a big lens is interdit and Clock is sent back to the bus.
We are here at the invitation of the McCrae’s Battalion people. Their are people everywhere; meeting old friends, visiting the church, taking pictures of everything or slumped in chairs. The service is very moving, we provide a tartan backdrop to the proceedings. Danger Dominos were mooted but there is a sniper on a ridgeline and two guys with sub-machine guns round the back of the church to discourage disrespect, Dylan is a bit freaked out by all the hardware. Hats off to the four soldiers who stood to attention for over an hour, my back was sore watching them. The story of the 16th Royal Scots is heart rending, there is a big contingent here from Heart of Midlothian FC, as well as the McCrae’s and Royal Scots there are a number of high ranking French officials, Ringwood PB and media crews. It is a very sombre occasion but after dinner and our short bagpipe recital (ABA ABA whit?) we went as a band to a small cemetery on a hill where Lance Corporal William Dunne of the Black Watch is buried, he died in 1916 at the age of 20; William Dunne was a Kilbarchan Scout and we had a current Kilbarchan Scout (Eden) lay a wreath on his grave, Pipey played the lament and James the Hat read a poem. All in all we were in pieces, such strong emotions from nowhere.
We were motorcycle outridered back to Albert where I went for a short 20 minute nap for 2 hours before heading out for food and more playing. After a massive ‘will we won’t we’ debate about capes it was decided that I don’t like playing in a cape I’d rather be wet so we’re not wearing them and we played wet. This was another sombre occasion and the massed band lead the colour party, historical pageant, pompiers and local dignitaries to the Albert war memorial before leading them back to the Mairie.
Common sense said, “You have had no sleep my children, go to bed, awake refreshed.” Pipe Band sense said, “It’s James the Hat’s birthday dudes, eat cake, drink beer, plenty time to sleep when you’re dead.”
So we’re having a birthday party and cake and presents have been secretly procured and James the Hat is ‘mortified’ and too much beer is drunk and tomorrow we head to Bray Sur Somme and Roye for some 200m marches and civic hospitality.