So, we come to it at last...
I have been with the band for just over three years.
In the year I joined, we were at the tail end of the season, and we played two Majors. At Pitlochry (which I think was the European Championships) we qualified. As I had not mastered the tunes required, I dropped out of the final. We also played at Cowal, but failed to qualify.
The next two years, we only attended one Major, at Cowal. Two years ago, we qualified but came 12th in the final. Last year, we failed to qualify. (Particularly galling about that one was that I messed up the performance pretty badly, and so was largely responsible for the failure.)
As noted before, this year we attended four of the five Majors, coming 10th at the Scottish Championships, failing to qualify at the British, coming 12th in the Europeans, and missing the World Championships.
And so we come to Cowal, the climax of the season. It was also the truth for one of my goals: qualify and we achieve what I wanted to achieve for the season; fail to qualify and there would be no further chances.
It was a miserable day. The bus left at 5, which meant getting up at 3, which meant a shortage of sleep. It was cold, wet, windy, and generally unpleasant.
We went on for our qualifying performance, and played fairly badly. The start was weak, there were a number of mistakes in the first part, and then some trailing drones at the end. The one consolation I could take from it was that I, at least, had played well - it wouldn't be my fault if we failed this year.
Fortunately, despite our concerns, we successfully qualified! In fact, we qualified third out of our heat, which was a major surprise.
So, that was the job done, the minimum acceptable standard reached, and my goal for the season complete. The pressure was off for the final performance (although, there was always the dream...).
We played the final, and it was much much better than the qualifier. That said, the standard of the competition in the final is always higher, since you're playing amongst the twelve best bands there, rather than with a random selection of whoever happens to turn up.
The final result: ninth. Our best performance at a Major since I joined the band.
It would be really nice to end the story there, but alas that was not the end of our day. With the weather being as it was, with us not having anyone amongst us who hadn't done Cowal before, and with several people not having capes (big, bulky waterproofs, to keep the wind and rain off), we decided not to do the big street parade, and instead to head home early.
It was a decision I agreed with. In hindsight, I think it turned out to be the wrong one. A lot of the parents of the band were really keen to see us (or, more particularly, their individual children) doing the parade. So, as we got back to the bus, there was a lot of complaining about this decision.
But it gets worse. After waiting for several people to get back, we were left with a bus missing two. The police at this time instructed us to get moving from our car park down to the ferry. (Very odd decision that...) Anyway, off we went. Our two stragglers were contacted and told that they should not walk a mile up the hill to the car park, but instead walk a mile down the hill to meet us at the ferry (and, of course, we wouldn't board the ferry without them). Unfortunately, one of the two was absolutely livid at this, and had a real go at the bus driver for moving off without them. (While I get why he was angry, I thought this was out of order. Our driver only moved because he was ordered to do so by the police. Besides, the driver is there to do a job; he's not there to take abuse from the people he's giving a lift to.) Sadly, the consequences of this could be quite bad - we may have to exclude people from the buses in future, or we may have to find a new bus company. And, moreover, it's just wrong.
Sigh. It's funny how hindsight works - if we'd only made a decision one way rather than the other, this would have been a banner day for the band. As it was, it was distinctly mixed. Oh well. You make the best decisions you can with the information you have at the time, and if you make a mistake you try really hard not to repeat it. That's all you can do.
#40: "Thunderball", by Ian Fleming
#41: "Nineteen Eighty-Four", by George Orwell
#42: "The Spy Who Loved Me", by Ian Fleming