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Edinburgh is to Theater as Glasgow is to Bagpipes

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 25 August 2014 | Views [291]

While we were in the area, my sister was interested in the World Pipe Band Championships. She plays bagpipes, and had also gotten a fair number of reactions of “What's in Scotland?” Attempts to explain the Fringe Festival usually fell short, and it wasn't until she mentioned the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow that people went “oh. That makes sense.” Never mind that her attendance there was mostly coincidental.

We parked the car and wandered off in the direction that we believed they would be held. Once we turned off the main road, we started hearing pipes. By that point, it was a simple matter of following the sound and the other people we saw until we found an entrance. There was a nice dry dome (it was raining on and off but mostly on for the entire day) where we bought tickets. There were also bathrooms, though it probably wasn't worth it. There were only three stalls, and the line for the woman's bathroom was atrocious, stretching out and about halfway down the room. There were way more bathrooms once you'd stood in the line to purchase tickets and found them outside.

Once outside, my parents quickly separated from my sister and I. They mentioned later something about watching fresh sushi being made and getting interviewed for television. My sister and I went off to find interesting bands. Grade 1* wasn't competing, or even tuning yet (by “tuning” I mean “practicing in the tuning circle.” They were almost certainly tuning elsewhere.) but other bands were doing things, so we found and watched them.

Because I had moderate amounts of exposure to tenor drumming, I wanted to see some people flourishing. The first band we watched was Grade 3, and they had some flourishing. Nothing too impressive looking, though none of them looked frightened of their mallets, so it was better than I could do. Then we saw a Grade 4 band with highly impressive , and then a Grade 2 with absolutely no flourishing. Unsurprisingly, I liked watching that Grade 4 band more than the other two.

The stovies smelled really good, but there was a long line for them. So my sister and I stood in a much shorter line for soup and ate that, planning to go back for more food around 2 when we hoped the lines would have died down somewhat. In the meantime, Grade 1 bands were starting to do something.

We watched them tune, then followed them towards the competition area. There were many more people there, and it was hard to get a good view. There was a large video screen, and the camera knew enough about piping to spend some time zoomed in on piper's fingers. (It did not know enough about tenor drumming to realize that the fluffy mallets flying thorough the air are more interesting than the face of the drummer) but it wasn't the same as being able to see the band itself play. So after watching one band, we moved back over to the tuning area. We'd soon found a nice place in the front, and settled in there to watch.

There was some rather impressive flourishing. Though a picture can't really do justice to it. And, if you were willing to ignore some terrible starts and stops, it was almost as good as watching them in the competition area.

My sister was perfectly happy with our spot, but I was getting hungry. So I went off to see if the line had died down. It had, so I stood in there and ordered. As I went to pay, I realized with a sinking feeling that I only had 5 pounds and 3 pence. The stovie cost six. The man serving me told me to take the stovie and come back later with another pound. I thanked him and went back to Elishabet. I traded her the meal for one pound.

Framed positively: I found the Highland games, heard several anecdotes about people who liked picking up and throwing very heavy objects, and ran into my parents.

Framed negatively (but also more truthfully): I took a wrong turn, wandered around for 10+ minutes before returning to where my sister was to re-orient myself and finding the food truck again from there. When I arrived, I ignored the much longer line (I had come at the right time, just with the wrong amount of money) and gave the coin to a woman. I tried to explain why, but it basically boiled down to “you should have it.”

I hope at some point she and the man who sold me my food got that straightened out. It was incredibly nice of him, and I want him to realize that I did return with the extra pound.

From there, I had no problem finding the rest of my family where I'd left them and finally enjoying my lunch. We watched piping for a bit more, then, at the per-arranged time of 3:30, went inside and headed back to the car.

And that is my first and last impression of Glasgow.


* To those unfamiliar with the grading system of Pipe and Drum Bands, Grade 1 is the highest. Depending on the country, either Grade 4 or Grade 5 is th most introductory. Common logic can probably determine how Grade 2 and Grade 3 compare.

Tags: bagpipes, kindness of strangers

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