Published: July 31, 2012

Piper’s roulette and a bit of razzmatazz in the Fife highlands

provide “a bit of razzmatazz” (duly provided by a very sporting Mark MacKenzie). I learned a new Fife expression for being drunk: “getting filled up.” One of the secretary’s tents blew over in the wind early in the afternoon, but there were no casualties and it was quickly reinstated.

Apart from that, I’ll have to rely on a story from games past. On observing the very small platform and joking that marching would have to involve a maximum of two steps before each turning, one of the assembled group recalled a wonderful comment from a great piper of old who shall remain nameless. He had been asked how his march performance had gone and, one suspects, being somewhat worse for wear, he had responded (please imagine a Highland accent), “It was going along fine, until I ran out of timber.” The translation provided by the storyteller at Ceres was eloquent: “Aye, he was pished and fell off the board.”

There were no other ridiculous occurrences, only a very cool performance by a band of French Hunting Horn players who had come unexpectedly to Ceres after being left without a gig when the Scottish Game Fair at Perth had been cancelled due to flooding. The piping finished for the day and we retired, as tradition dictates, to the beer tent for a refreshment.

That, it must be said, was a bit bizarre. Having spent the day in a very cheery, family-friendly, gentle and pleasant atmosphere, crossing the threshold into the beer tent was like walking into a completely different place – sort of a cross between a very rowdy stag party and an organized brawl between opposing football supporters. Without any explanation except presumably a day of heavy booze consumption, there was a tangible crackle of tension in the air, and the clear feeling that a fight would not be long in coming. We finished our beer before that eventuality, and hit the road for home.

Cupar – North-East Fife, 46 miles from Edinburgh, 10 miles from St Andrews. Population 8,980.

On Sunday we effectively re-traced our steps back up to north-east Fife, this time to the more substantial settlement (or more accurately, according to the signs, the “historic market town”) of Cupar.

Now, you wouldn’t think it was possible to drive for 15 minutes around seemingly every street in a relatively small town on a Sunday morning, without being able to spot the location of a Highland games. But that’s what we did.

Without the benefit of any signs or directions, we were eventually reduced to asking a passer-by, and thereby found the park, but no indication of parking. We took a guess on a car park at one end of the field, where we and several other arriving pipers were told that was the “trades” car park, and were directed towards a separate entrance up the road. Fortunately the directions given were quite detailed, because the turning we were told to take looked pretty much like a private driveway that would lead to a back garden, with no signage or any other indication to reveal that it was in fact the main entrance to a large sports field hosting a substantial Highland games. (To be fair it was quite early and I did notice later in the day a small sign had been stuck on a post, reading, “To the Games ->>>”.)

Safely arrived, the first person we encountered claimed to be the piping organiser. Thus began a bumper crop of Highland games silliness. If I had been concerned about the lack of amusing material from the day out at Ceres, my worry was unfounded as was quickly revealed during initial discourse with this man, who was very friendly and amusing, but clearly quite severely confused and in a state of some chaos.

The man, whose name I’m sorry to say I never found out, began by asking a few of us whether we were wanting to play in the piobaireachd or the strathspeys. We replied that we would want to play in all the events – piobaireachd, marches, strathspeys and reels, and jigs. He looked alarmed and said,

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