European Champs

Going by the last report of a Major competition this is going to be a short read.

This was going to be the second of our long piping weekends and as such Friday found us eagerly awaiting our bus at the Scout Hut. The three ring circus that accompanies us anywhere looked even bigger than normal with all the suit carriers and overnight bags, once Mags had shouted everything onto the bus and Big Deek had squirmed out from behind the deck chairs we embarked and settled in for a long drive, there would be no stops. Shortly after the doors closed the music boomed into life and the party began. This would be a dry journey for most as Pipey planned to set the chanters when we arrived. James the Hat let the bus pass Paisley before producing the Laphroaig so as not to upset anyone.

A beach party broke out about Perth and resulted in me wearing a large dram.

The good people of Aviemore seemed fairly laid back when a pipe band rocked up and began setting up 10m from their houses. Pipers blew, Drummers tapped, Drone Monkeys twiddled and the rest drank coffee and stood about looking glamorous. Later, at the Premier Inn, beers and bags were unpacked and we set out to track down some food, the restaurant onsite were demanding reservations of which we had none. I don’t know what was going on but everywhere seemed to be closing, surely if a large group of people wander in at 9pm you pay the staff extra and get the friers on. Nope. Most of us got something but it wasn’t very satisfactory. After a couple of beers we headed back to the hotel as Pipey had announced an 11.15 curfew, which was adhered to after a philosophical debate about the sanctity of life with the locals.

Saturday morning was glorious, the hotel redeemed themselves with the all you can eat breakfast. This means something different to younger members of the band one who was spotted putting two hash browns and a spoonful of beans on her plate, come on, play the game. Let us now introduce a new character; James the Socks. Guess who looked rather incongruous at breakfast in shirt, waistcoat and breeks, you can’t wear a kilt without hose and James’s were in Kilbarchan. KAAACHING! Mags was on him like a flash (which he probably forgot as well) and a £5 fine demanded. The local charity shop wanted £300 as you had to buy the whole highland outfit but Big Gav came to the rescue having packed two pairs following a premonition.

The bus journey was most enjoyable when James the Hat, now in kilt and hose, produced the breakfast Laphroaig and Mickey Blue Eyes howled but we were non combatants and brushed his complaints aside. Certain beach ball hurlers were then glared at and murder threatened if I ended up wearing this one.

Scenery, scenery, scenery, tunes, tunes, tunes and then the Venga Bus spotted the park.

Bught park is a fantastic venue, wide and mostly level. It buzzed with all the bands who had already played and those arriving. The big blue house of fun was swiftly erected and then we had a wee blow on the pipes and put them away and rested. Donuts were eaten and coffee drunk. We listened to higher grade bands getting ready and before you knew it we were in final tuning and from out of nowhere a shiver of nervousness ran through the band and we spent a good wee while calming nerves and sorting very minor issues before a very nice man from the RSPBA invited us to play.

James the Socks paying his fine

I habitually don’t write about how we played or what happened in the circle, there are people far better qualified to do that than me, but I’ll make an exception this time.

KPB marched toward the line playing a 6/8 where Pipey halted them and stood them at ease. All familiar so far. The cry goes up, “Band Ready,” they snap to attention, “Quick March'” and they approach the circle in stealth mode accompanied by a tap on a single snare. It was weird and certainly spooked our players because when they started there was a hesitancy and not the usual thunderous rip of the rolls. There are now two timelines 1. I stand listening to the bands on after us, 2. Pipey takes all the pipers back to HQ for new tunes and a masterclass in how to play them. My decision making hasn’t been good since I had Covid.

With nothing to do for several hours James the Hat and I went and waited for 30 minutes at the beer tent for a plastic cup of lager, we actually went for an ice cream but at £4.50 for a cone I decided I’d rather get robbed at the bar. The big blue house of fun was in riotous assembly when we got back with Mamma Mia on bagpipe with male voice choir kicking off the madness. There was Isle of Cumbrae gin to sample and enough donuts to choke a horse and solo performances of popular classics and the slosh and Macarena and Top Gun with aeroplanes and drumming and I never refer to it as a three ring circus lightly.

I think the term exuberant describes the march into the arena, possibly boisterous. Once we had found our berth and been stood down there was the usual laughing and joking until the Centre bands fell silent and the serious stuff started. We always applaud the Drum Majors because they look awesome and a lot of hard work goes into looking immaculate. We also applaud the Juvenile bands because we’ve been brought up right but the nerves are beginning to fray as we hear, ‘Best Corps of Drums…’ Kilbarchan, there is a huge cheer then silence, Lulu is already heading for the stage but we don’t want to miss, ‘In first place…’ Kilbarchan. A huge roar, grown men are crying, everyone is hugging everyone else. Once again I am aware other bands are winning stuff but I really don’t remember. Well done everyone who placed and better luck next time to those who didn’t.

We played off the park, posed for photographs then unleashed the party band. All I can say about the journey back to Aviemore is that the wheels of steel were turning, New York to San Francisco an inter city disco.

Thanks to La Taverna in Aviemore for feeding us some top notch pizza and letting us sit partying at their picnic tables long after they had closed and thanks to the local constabulary for turning a blind eye to line dancing on the road and past midnight singing in the highland twilight. Thanks to the midgies for only eating some of us. I never even tried to keep up with the weans and headed to bed about midnight.

My breakfast was fantastic but as the flotsam of the night before began arriving it became obvious there had been carnage. Some people looked unwell and at least one was bleeding. Pipey decided to hold our departure until 11:30 to let systems rehydrate and some last minute shopping for snacks for the less hungover. The journey home was a lot quieter and every now and then someone raised the energy to hit a desultory beach ball, many slept and had horrible pictures taken of them. A subdued conversation was overheard, “I am so tired.”

“I know it’s exhausting being a European Champion.”

Next up is a local event, the inaugural Renfrew Pipe Band Competition in Robertson Park.

Cannae wait..

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