Gourock once again stuck up two fingers to the rain clouds and chill winds of yore. For years Gourock Highland games was a byword for cold, dreich and soggy, we now have players who have never known anything but sunburn and blue skies.
It all began with me waiting for James the Hat in his charabanc to chauffeur my kilted splendour to Inverclyde. Although both resting, (footnote 1) we had decided to dress for the march past and do a bit of basking in reflected glory. The Medic accompanied us on the journey; let me take you on a journey beyond sight and sound..
We got stuck behind Miss Daisy on the high road to Greenock and just as a chance of passing arrived so did a tractor and that was that. We stolidly chugged along in its wake for a few miles right into the town and then with a deft bit of, “he’s going left, go right” we sailed off, right pleased with ourselves. After a bit of cheery traffic avoidance banter we approached the turn off for the hospital and who was in front of us? The tractor, he’d beaten us so we followed him up the hill and down the other side, defeated.
The green domes of Event Shelters were sprouting like mushrooms across Battery Park, how would we find our bandmates? We, the Event Shelter pioneers, were going commando, no shelter. By now I was wishing I’d brought my Hall cupboard as my hat was lying on top of it. I had the factor’ duffle coat’ sunscreen but any bits I missed were in for a scorching. As the band milled about wondering what to do with no Shelter to erect James the Hat and I went in search of coffee to put our Laphroaig into.
Battery Park was magnificent in the sun shine. The whole Firth of Clyde was twinkling and trying it’s damnedest to look like it didn’t even know what rain was, boats bobbed and random bursts of bagpipe music speared the air. Then a band started and then they all started and we were off.
Abbi announced that she was not stalking a lad from Uddingston Strathclyde as she is too lazy. God help the future of the species.
Our group contains the school bands and that’s a worry because they tend to be crammed full of short but talented pipers and drummers who don’t have to go out and work and who can practice all the time. There are strangulated Pipe Major noises coming from our camp so we go and look up Criss and Richiee who have joined Anurra Mob. I watch the 4B competition with Senior as the Hat went to the toilet and never returned. The ranks of the Drappt swell unexpectedly when all the wee folk join us; Wee Rubber, Wee Mel and wee Emily experiencing last minute gremlins. The standard is high across the piece but KPB give a good solid performance, with so many schools the expectation of a top six place is muted across all the 4B bands.
I went to the bank. Beer needed buying. Watched a man tug on his dog’s lead to go right then vanish into the distance on the left as the Dalmatian took off for Largs. After checking out the beer tent and tasting their wares it was back to the Open Air Huddle for a banana. Mags had an orange ’cause she’s twisted.
The end of the day is heralded by the arrival of everyone who sodded off to watch the football and my pipes are assembled, tuned and ready for Hielan Laddie. We stride in picking up the pace from the Centre Bands and swing round and past the podium and tuck in at the back so as not to be trampled by Johnstone. The speeches are a burble in the background as I prime Emily to go and get our prize, I have no anticipation we’ll get a prize so it’s pure mischief on my part and also we do not want a rerun of the jazz hands of Sanquhar if prizes are forthcoming. And it was much as we expected, other than Strathendrick the top 5 were school bands but sixth place was us and after a brief period of rejoicing Emily was dispatched.
That’s the season off and running, the hard work appears to be moving us in the right direction. Hopefully the times are changing but 18th of May is the British Championships in Paisley. No qualifier; it could be a bloodbath.
Footnote 1 —– Drappt