As I'm sure I've mentioned before, the Dunbar Highland Games are considered the 'real' start of the season by many bands. Anything prior to this competition is, effectively, a pre-season friendly, but this is the one where people want to put down a marker for the season to come - this is when things get real.
I had been rather apprehensive about this competition all week, as the weather forecast looked pretty horrible. Fortunately, as the week ended the weather shifted, and it turned out that the day was mostly sunny with a few showers (that didn't hit us). But it was very windy indeed.
We performed twice, once in the Grade 4 (four marches) and once in Grade 4A (march/strathspey/reel, or MSR). The latter is our actual grade, so that's the one we really care about. Just as well, really.
We got ourselves set up and ready to play, and all was looking fine. We marched to the start line, and started our first performance... and it was pretty terrible. It started far too fast, and got faster from there. Plus, there was a lot of bad blowing, which meant the drone frequency wasn't constant and some of the high notes weren't right. All in all, a bad performance.
There was one redeeming feature: one of our young pipers got his first outing at a competition, which was good. And, incidentally, completes that part of my goal. Huzzah!
The second performance was rather better, in that we didn't play so fast, it was much more together, and the blowing was rather better. Unfortunately, this one was hit by three specific, and really quite bad, mistakes - the sort of mistakes that happen, and there's nothing you can do about them, and they're unlikely to happen again in the same way. So, a much better performance, but...
Then there was the traditional wait for the march past. At one point there was a suggestion it might be rained off, but that didn't happen. Instead we waited, then we went, and we didn't win anything. A big shock, obviously.
In the Grade 4 contest we were 8th overall, out of 15: 5th and 7th for piping, 12th for drumming, and 5th for ensemble. So, a solid mid-table result, and probably better than we deserved. But good enough to suggest the season might not suck.
In the Grade 4A contest we were 4th overall, out of 5: 2nd and 4th for piping, 4th for drumming, and 4th for ensemble. That was a somewhat disappointing result, but also a fair one. And given the specific issues, hopefully suggests we'll do better other times.
All in all, it wasn't a bad day, though it could have been better. The big test comes a week on Saturday at our first Major of the year, at Bathgate. We'll only play once at that one, in the Grade 4A contest, and we're hoping to be up close to the prize list. Which, sad to say, is a big ask.
This week's mug: I'm running short of mug anecdotes now, so there will only be a few more entries in this series. This week's chosen mug is a white "Big Bang Theory" mug, one of two, which has the guys on one side and Penny on the other. This was a Christmas present a year or two ago. It's fine, but not exactly my favourite!