At the start of the season, we had hoped that Cowal would not be our last competition of the year. However, we quickly found that those competitions in September didn't include an event in our grade, and so were unsuitable. But then, a few competitions were cancelled, and some rescheduled... in the end, it turns out that Cowal was indeed the end.
Which, to be honest, is A Good Thing. This has been an absolutely brutal season, and being done with it is something of a relief.
Fortunately, Cowal itself was okay this year. Not great, which is too much to hope for in any case, but okay.
With no Development Band this year (boo!) and the 4A band not playing until 14:57, we didn't have to leave until an almost civilised hour - my pick-up was at 8:45 (although the bus was early - I was lucky I caught it!). And then on to the ferry, and on to Dunoon. We were there just after 11, and free until 1pm. So I sought out an early lunch, enjoyed the glorious sunshine, regretted not wearing any sunblock, and read "The Great Gatsby".
At 1pm, we started getting ready. In truth, this was far too early, but it was a necessary step following the Worlds, given all the work that was required on the chanters. Even so, one of our members had to be dropped due to his chanter just breaking down completely. A shame - the Pipe major had hoped not to drop anyone on the last outing.
As we made ready, some spots of light rain fell. Still, it stayed dry while we played. We played well, probably giving our best showing of the season. It wasn't a prize-winning performance, but we'd known that going in. But, still, a decent performance.
And then we waited some more.
Now, as you may well know, there have been controversies in the past at Cowal over the question of whether or not we would march down the street. Had I been in charge at this one, it had been my intention to do the parade. However, the new pipe major was rather less keen. This created an issue; there was one parent in particular for whom the issue meant a huge amount. (And, for various reasons, she was taking things particularly hard at the moment. But that's not for me to relate.)
So, there was a rant, and tears, and the pipe major and lead drummer relented, and we were doing the march. Huzzah.
We went on for the march past, and as we finished our circuit the rain started. And then, just as the chieftain started his speech, the rain really started. And it poured, and poured, and poured. We got utterly, thoroughly soaked. And, naturally, they had chosen a chieftain who decided that now was the time to be particularly chatty. At length, he finished... only for the mic to be handed to the head of the RSPBA... who proved much more chatty than his predecessor in the role. And then, the mic was handed on again, this time to the head of the Cowal organising committee... who proved to be another chatty man.
Then came the prize giving, which went on very, very slowly.
GET ON WITH IT!
Eventually, we learned that we had not, in fact, won a prize. We came 11th - 14th and 11th for piping, 4th fro drumming, and 12th for ensemble, out of 15 in our grade.
And then we went and did the parade. Oddly, despite the rain and general unpleasantness, the parade was quite good fun. True, I could have done without the woman who stepped out of the crownd just long enough to grab my ass, but I guess that's Cowal - come for the piping, stay for the sexual harrassment. We completed the parade, and that was that.
We got back to the bus, and waited for the police to clear us to move out. And waited, and waited. We could have done the parade again in the time we waited, but no matter. Eventually, we were off.
And this year there was no incident. The journey home was long and tedious, and not helped by being too dark to read, but it was uneventful - and then it was over.
I finally arrived home at 11:45, spent a little time peeling off my wet clothes to let them dry, a bit more time winding down, and then got to bed about 12:30.
And that was Cowal, which turned out to be a relatively high note on which to end the season, and a relatively good experience with which to bow out of the band.