Another early rise, though not so extremely early as to preclude morning ablutions. The walk to the showers is not as tense at it was a few days ago, we pass each other in tees and pants carrying a towel and there is chitchat from the cubicles, we have all become a wee bit frencher.
In the restaurant we gorge on coffee and pastry but I would kill for a bacon roll and seriously wound for a weetabix and I don’t think I’m alone. I accompany the numpties who carried their instruments all the way to breakfast as the carry them all the way back to the lycée where we board the bus for Bray sur Somme, what awaits us there none can tell. On the way to Bray the countryside becomes tighter, long vistas give way to rolling hills, hedgerows begin to crowd us as the roads become narrower and the bus slows. Someone shouts ‘sheep’, ‘that’s a Sussex by the way.’ We all snore at him.
We begin tuning up beside a gorgeous flower bed and Pompiers come to stare at the northern barbarians with their wild music. Isy and Jo tell Iain from Ringwood they are the joint Pipe Majors for the day and he says, ‘Splendid, you’re doing the solos’ they look horrified but Pipey returns from fixing a chanter just in time and we form up. Peter gives us a roar and we lead off the colour party and pompiers. The 200m march to the Commonwealth Cemetery is hard work, the road climbs and we are all getting a bit red in the face when we arrive. KPB extricate themselves from the band and we enter the graveyard in single file; here we play as a band and Pipey plays the lament before we solemnly rejoin the band for a 200m march to the French Cemetery where P/M St Luke leads the french bands forward. We respectfully reached for water bottles and observe. We then march to the village War Memorial where we play for the ceremony. Bray sur Somme looked about the size of Brookfield but we have marched for miles. As we head through the village to the German Cemetery the heavens open in a biblical downpour and Peter’s feather bonnet becomes a sadder and sadder sight. The bands huddle under trees as Tomas leads Clan up the narrow track, a few hardy souls join them in remembering the German dead in the rain. The German cemetery seemed darker and more sombre, whether this was the black crosses and tree cover or the weather I couldn’t decide.
We were now heading for lunch but stopped to deafen the residents of a Care Home on the way. I thank my German colleague for the nip of whisky that helped stiffen my sinews on the long damp march. We got there a bit early as the food wasn’t quite ready but there was ample beer and wine to keep us occupied until the sausage and chips arrived. The smoke from the BBQ filled the hall as we tucked in, the apple pies were awesome. After lunch we head for the bus but Tweedy and Malcolm spot a 100m sprint track so a challenge is made and accepted and off they sprint, kilts flying. Isy and Jo decide that there should be a ladies race too, Ringwood are placing bets but it’s a put up and they cross the line together.
The town square of Roye is lovely, there is a choir singing as we arrive and a party mood. Peter forms the massed band and leads us a merry dance through the streets before returning to the square for individual performances; we play everything that isn’t Scotland the Brave, Green Hills or Battle of the Somme, it’s a tonic. There is loads of time to meet the locals and Lewis is a big hit with the wee lassies, we pose for pictures and let kids hit drums, drink beer and laugh. After we countermarch in the square as a massed band Peter falls us out and we head for more food and beer. This is a charcutiers delight, tables groan with platters of cured meats and very little else apart from eclairs and rum babas. The Pipeys are presented with hampers by the Deputy Mayor and we give him the whisky, quaich and scarf Renfrewshire Council sent.
The bus to Albert becomes a mobile pub as we start on the wine we liberated from Bray, the singing starts quietly but soon builds in volume and is becoming a smidge rude as we arrive at the lycée.
In the evening we invited the other bands to a cèilidh, a monster cargo has been got and music looked out. When our guests arrived we put on the music for a Gay Gordons but the speaker was so puny you couldn’t hear it over the blethering so Malcolm took up his pipes and played for ‘the dancing’, there is a video of the later Dashing White Sergeant; the boy done good. So what with the dancing, eating, drinking and talking to now good friends it turned into another late night.
Tomorrow is our last day..