Gourock, finally

For two years we have tried to put some sort of competition season together; single grade, locked venues or God help us Zoom but the gregarious nature of the participants and the pandemic’s not caring about good intentions closed every avenue. I was looking forward to the Gourock games but I had no idea how much.

Sunday morning found me up at five thirty, making sure I didn’t sleep in for our 11:30 debut. I went back to bed, I’m not a psychopath. Everything was prepared; bagpipes, camera, urns of boiling water and a table. It’s not all sheet music and lisping lyrically. The Medic was picking me up in his stealth car so I had to be on my toes as there was no vibrating of window panes to announce his arrival. We then snuck up to James the Hat’s but he was waiting for us and spoiled the fun.

I spotted the new ‘gazebo’ in all its blue hugeness from the other side of Gourock. Big Deek was still putting it up when we arrived, so we left him to it. Pipers and Drummers then threw there bags thither and yon about the place creating one of the finest health and safety nightmares I’ve ever seen. Slowly other bands began to arrive and the park filled with laughter and greetings and dogs, lots of dogs.

We were first on but before all the heezin and blawin began I went in search of a healthy breakfast, failed and went looking for a roll ‘n’ slice. Failed and went back to the ‘gazebo’. Isy had arrived and fixed me with a gimlet eye, “Go out there and do this for me!” As if I would make excuses to not play, I am a changed man, although Pipey is probably wishing I’d start making excuses again. Around me drones purred into life and the voodoo that makes a pipe band began..

There is nothing funnier than people eating bananas with decorum like it’s not the rudest fruit in the world. I ate my banana but would have liked some whipped cream, sprinkles and chocolate sauce.

A huge crowd watching us at final tuning but Pipey and Mark had got us sounding splendid and it had the air of a street concert. What we need to remember is that we had six players who had never marched into the competition circle before so when Pipey called Quick March anything could have happened. Later as we sat being hypercritical of our performance Pipey strolled by beaming.

Isy I did it for you, we all did.

There is now a game of two halves, both of them good. Pipey and the weans went and did bagpipe stuff and me and James the Hat and Big G went for rolls ‘n’ slice, failed on the fourth attempt so went and had donuts and beer instead. Just one. And maybe a hauf.

I spent a very pleasant afternoon listening to bands tuning, bands performing and bands revelling in the wonderful sunny weather. My wife and son arrived to join the fun just as KPB hit the final tuning area for the MSR, for the uninitiated: March, Strathspey and Reel. This involves changes in time signature and peerless finger work, which I lack, so I got to listen. Sounded good to me.

One of our pipers flung her pipes at Pipey before bolting for the exit where she collapsed totally unobserved by the emergencies team. Mickey Blue Eyes sauntered over and gave them the nod and before you know it wheeled chairs appeared and someone asked is she was tachycardic. (Casualty joke). She’s on the mend.

Now that the hard part of the day was over the Party band was assembled and sent for various cargoes. During the day we were visited by many old friends; Basso was there to check we were doing him proud and Tweedy made an appearance. Andy and Victoria turned up with their new baby who was instantly stolen away by his many Aunties and coo’d over. The place buzzed with chatter and nobody asked me to chip in for the kerry oot but they kept handing me cans. As we began to think about the march past Big G wandered past with a large glass of whisky.

James the Hat , “I’ve got a bigger glass than that.” Me, “er, I drank it”

I’m sure he’ll forgive me one day.

After some hasty ‘saluting and collecting the trophies’ instructions we joined the line of bands marching into the review. A bit of advice to aspiring pipers, learn Highland Laddie but practice it drunk it’ll stand you in good stead. The Chieftain was very gracious and anticipation was growing.

Grade 4B: Best Corps of Drums……………. Kilbarchan, massive cheer. 1st-3rd School bands, meh, 4th place……. Kilbarchan, bigger cheer. Other bands won stuff but I wasn’t listening by then, whisky flowed.

Grade 4A: Best Corps of Drums………….. You’ve guessed it, massiver cheer. 1st Lower Clyde, meh, 3rd place…….Kilbarchan, band going ballistic. Wee Joanne collected the trophy and we nearly had to send out for a bigger head to contain her grin. Pipey, resplendent in Birthday sash and can of lager, was walking about grinning and shaking hands. The march off is a blur, I appear in photos so was presumably there. The party was almost ready to kick into high gear when the School Night Goblin turned up and burst the bubble so we packed up our three ring circus, nearly catching Jean in the mechanism, and headed for home. The Medic had offered the Prof a run home and he and I and a tenor drum crushed ourselves onto the back seat and dreamed of wide open spaces.

Next up is the British Championships back at Gourock which will be a Saturday and it could get messy.

Cannae wait..

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