So, the last competition of the season. Could it possibly be any worse than the last two years?
This time out, the bus left slightly later than normal. I didn't leave the house until 6:30, which I suppose wasn't too bad. The journey to the competition was likewise fairly quick, getting us there about 9.
At this point we were given some significant freedom. The bus had to travel early because the Development band were playing at 11:50, but the 4A band weren't playing until 3:50, so there was a long wait. I spent the time reading, and then headed down to watch the Development band play in their qualifier.
I thought they were pretty good, to be honest. Frankly, the Development band are a bit better now than the whole band were two years ago, when we recorded our best ever result at Cowal. So, that seemed okay.
Sadly, they didn't qualify, but that was to come later. First, there was the matter of yet more waiting. Again, I spent the bulk of the time reading. And then, just as the 4A band were getting ready to play, we learned the Development band results.
They failed to qualify, coming 12th in their heat: 11th and 10th for piping, 10th for drumming, and 13th for ensemble. I guess the judges just didn't rate them after all.
So, the 4A band went on, and played as well as we have all year. The issues with the reel that we had had at the Worlds and the Europeans seemed to be sorted out, and we came off feeling pretty okay about things.
There was then yet more waiting. I took the opportunity to wander into town to get some food, and then did some more reading. The rest of the band took the opportunity to drink large amounts of alcohol.
The march past was okay. The chieftain was Blythe Duff, who I recall as the rookie cop from Taggart, which I last watched when I was back in school. Surprisingly, she proved a better chieftain than Sylvester McCoy last year.
We didn't win a prize. In fact, we did rather poorly in the contest, coming 12th overall. In piping we came 17th (last) and 10th, 5th in drumming, and 11th in ensemble. All in all, a very disappointing result. Still, I was determined not to get too disheartened by this: we knew, regardless of the result, that the season was basically done, so it was important just to be happy with the performance. We'd achieved that, so who cares about the result, right?
So far, so good. It had actually been a fairly enjoyable day, an oddity for Cowal. Perhaps we might actually get away with it?
We got back to the bus. There were some few rumblings about marching down the street, but I think it's now accepted that we just won't be doing that until we win something at the event. Fair enough, I guess, although I would prefer to do the parade on principle. (That said, some members of the band were in no fit state to do the parade.)
We got on the bus, and waited for the police to clear us to move out. And waited, and waited. We could have done the parade twice over in the time we had to wait. Still, no matter. Eventually, we were off.
And that's when it all kicked off. There was an incident (which I'm not going to recount here; it was that bad!), and then there was almost a fight as a result of the incident (aggravated by alcohol). As the pipe major moved to deal with it, there was then an awful lot of shouting from other people, a lot of pushing and shoving...
As we came off the ferry, there was a strong suspicion that the bus driver would pull over and call the police. Frankly, I would have supported that call; what happened was an absolute disgrace. At length, though, we got everyone sat down, separated the people who needed separated, and made it home.
I got home at 11:45.
As a result of this, I will be surprised if that bus company will accept our business next year. Honestly, I wouldn't blame them if they did not. I will also not be surprised if several people leave the band as a result, including several members of the committee. As things stand, I will not be competing with this band next year (since I'm not travelling on a bus where this can happen, and I'm not paying a monthly sub to cover the bus and then taking my car to competitions).
Frankly, I'm just disgusted with the whole thing. I hate Cowal.
#24: "Pathfinder: Shadows of Gallowspire", by Brandon Hodge