Monday, August 23, 2010

The Cowal Highland Gathering

(I have deliberately skipped my account of the World Pipe Band Championships, so I can finish my recounting of the band's season on an appropriately high note.)

I hate Cowal.

I've been five times now, and never once had a good time. The day is far too long (left home at 6, got back at 11), it's invariably cold, windy and rainy, and there's almost nothing to do. But it's the pinnacle of the piping season, so of course, we have to go. Plus, there was a real sense we might actually win, and that would make it all worthwhile - wouldn't it?

And besides, as an added bonus, the Chieftain this year was Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor. That's got to be good value, no?

So, we went. The journey there was long and annoying, but not too terrible I suppose. The major amusement was when the guy at the dock wouldn't let our bus on the ferry because it didn't have enough clearance... only to discover that the bus was sitting in a hollow, so his measurement was wrong.

Just as we left the bus to go tune up, the rain started. Fortunately, it stopped a bit before we had to play, but it was still pretty miserable. And, as we marched over to the arena, my drones chose that particular point to decide to act up (having been fine to that point). That left me terrified that they'd be a problem on the field.

But they weren't. Fortunately, everything went okay, and we made it through qualification. But only just - this was not the polished performance of earlier in the season.

Anyway, it was 10:30 (ish), we have qualified, and we weren't playing again until 5.

Cue much tedious waiting.

Later, we gathered for the final. At this point, it was hot and sunny, such that when we left the bus, I actually debated whether I should bother taking my cape. I chose to do so.

This proved a good decision soon thereafter, as it started bucketing it down while we waited to go on. But the rain went off, we tuned up, and everything seemed fine.

But it wasn't fine. Once again, when marching to the arena, my drones decided to act up, having seemed fine right up until that point. Only this time, there was no escape on the park. Try as I might, I could not get them to sound correctly.

So much for that.

When we came off, it started raining again. Of course, we'd had to remove our capes to compete, and the person who was carrying them wasn't immediately available, and so we got soaked. (Couldn't even hide under an umbrella - it was that swirly rain that comes from all directions.)

One saving grace of the final being so late was that the march-past came immediately thereafter. So, on we went (now wearing capes), and shivered on the field.

Now, at all these events, the bands play the salute to the chieftain, which is usually "Highland Laddie". However, at Cowal, it's always "Glendaruel Highlanders" (I don't know why). Sadly, the guy who was ordering this mumbled at the key point, and then the drum major was calling the bands to order. The result was a predictable, and sad, shambles. Awful, awful.

(It wasn't even just that half the massed bands were playing one tune and half another; there were also at least three different speeds being played.)

And next would come the inspiring words of the chieftain. At least that should be entertaining - for the first time ever, there was a chieftain who I actually would like to hear from. Well, it wasn't a long speech. Indeed, it can't even be accurately described as "a few words". The chieftain said... nothing.

In the end, the band came tenth. We were seventh and tenth for piping, seventh for drumming and eighth for the ensemble. A poor result all around.

The weather being awful, we then retreated to the bus to head home, where we faced the same complaints as last year for not doing the parade (probably should have made the effort, although I don't think I could have faced it yesterday). Still, nothing close to the same fallout as last year, so that was am improvement at least.

And then home, and to bed. Thank goodness.

Before the day, I had been joking about the possibility of a Dalek invasion. It is a sad indictment of the day that that might actually have improved it.

#62: "Tomb of Horrors", by Ari Marmell and Scott Fitzgerald Gray
#63: "Pathfinder: Sound of a Thousand Screams", by Richard Pett
#64: "Souls for Smuggler's Shiv", by James Jacobs
#65: "Murder in LaMut", by Raymond E. Feist and Joel Rosenberg

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bridge of Allan Highland Games

Another glorious day for a competition, and with this one being on a Sunday, Lady Chocolat was able to join our venture.

It was a good day. Due to the reduced number of bands present, some of the competitions were amalgamated, and due to the nature of the Championship rules, the Grade 4B competition was mixed with the Novice grade. (It's also worth noting that, this being the weekend before the World Championships, there was an unusual number of very good bands present, many over from the USA and Canada for the month.)

We came third. Perhaps also relevant, the two bands that were first and second were from the Novice grade, making us the best Grade 4B band present.

And so our tally for the year reached seven prizes, including three at Championship events.

#57: "Oliver Twist", by Charles Dickens (book eleven from The List)
#58: "Star Wars: Jedi Academy Training Manual", by Rodney Thompson, Eric Cagle, Patrick Stutzman and Robert Wieland
#59: "Unseen Academicals", by Terry Pratchett
#60: "Star Wars: Galaxy at War", by Rodney Thompson, Gary Astleford, Eric Cagle and Daniel Wallace (And so, my reading goal is complete!)
#61: "The White Rose", by Glen Cook (from the "Chronicles of the Black Company" anthology - I had already read the first two books of the trilogy)

Monday, August 02, 2010

The European Championships

We came sixth in our grade, with the pipers narrowly beating the drummers for the first time this season. Given that the competition was in Ireland, against all the Irish bands (many of whom are very good, but don't compete enough to ever be moved out of our grade), and with Irish judges, this was a marvellous result.


So, it was a good competition and a really good result. Sadly, it was not a very good weekend, but I have decided to repress most of my memories of it, and so have nothing more to say here!

#55: "Honoured Enemy", by Raymond E. Feist and William Forstchen
#56: "Star Wars: Legacy Era Campaign Guide", by Rodney Thompson, Sterling Hershey and Gary Astleford