July 09, 2010

Please don’t try this at home

God only knows how kids find time to practice today. There’s so much more to do today for everyone. It’s no wonder that every other kid is accused of having attention deficit disorder. Life itself is one giant distraction.

But I’m sure I had – and may well still have – ADD. I not so long ago brought to you a few photos of me as a spotty adolescent regaling strange folk on the pipes. Here are a few more, which serve to underscore the mystery of how on earth I ever survived as a piper.

Life's a lark.As mentioned, my dad would take pictures of everything we kids would do. But, looking at these photos, who can blame him? If he didn’t go and die on me, I would ask him today what might have been going through his head when he saw me doing these things with my practice chanter. A few possibilities:

“I wonder if this is healthy for that boy . . .”

“That can’t be good for posture . . .”

“. . . Is there another instrument that allows such a slacker attitude?”

The image above is pretty self-evident: me twittering away at a crossing-noise-rich rendition of “Highland Laddie” or something. There’s that 1976 commemorative St. Louis Cardinals’ cap again, and you’ll remember the low-rise Converse sneakers. The hairstyle would be courtesy of my mother’s home barber kit – or, rather, a result of me avoiding it.

Stargell's a bum!The photo at left is classic “multitasking” – before the woeful word was ever invented. One can have too many hobbies and, for me, it was and always will be piping and baseball. Note the Cardinals vs. Pirates game on the little black-and-white Magnavox TV. This would most certainly have been on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, since only a handful of games were actually broadcast in 1979, or whenever this was taken. My parents loved cats. They (the cats, that is) had the run of the house, and here one is enjoying my own caterwauling while washing behind her ears, indicating that a rain delay was imminent.

I’m sure that Willie McCallum or Roddy MacLeod never practiced as kids with such an appalling lack of focus, evidenced of course by the difference in the their solo success and mine. I’m certain that their dads never allowed them to merrily do things half-way.

But, there you are. My practiced ability to do several things at once may be my problem, but, as I sit here doing three things at once, I hope it’s to your benefit.


  1. I don’t think the cat’s bored, the paw to the face would seem to indicate disgust with poor execution. What’s really striking though is the reminder that there was a time when people watched the Pirates.

  2. On landing over here in 1952 the first new love I discovered was baseball and my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers lost all significance when they ran off to the coast but baseball will always remain. This added to my first love, the pipes and their music have both added to my life in so many ways. A great combination.

  3. Only two hobbies? Many kids today seem to have no time to practice, even with the TV on. Monday is Irish dance/soccer, Tuesday is gymnastics/hockey, Wed. is pipe band and jazz, Thursday is swimming/solo lesson/hockey again, Friday is dance class and the trip to [insert town name] for hockey, Saturday is always something, and Sunday is a combo pack of family/church and activities. Add to that the increasing levels of homework kids face, and the distractions of being constantly plugged in to something, and…..it’s a wonder there are any pipers learning at all. All that baseball/chantering seems to have worked out for us all.

  4. Another funny article Andrew, you sure something didn’t happen? 🙂 I would agree, kids today multi-task from birth, ADD is an excuse. Three time consuming activities per kid that cost’s a fortune is normal it seems. Our wives tell us the kids need to be busy or they will get into trouble. Not what I had in mind but a happy wife makes a happy life, just drive them around. With all the distractions available to kids today it is up to us, the old timers to encourage and promote the art where/when ever. How’s this for a Gen y, we practiced when ever, my little dude has decided that 6:45 am is a perferct time to practice. Good thing we live in the country. Iain Mac, I think you and I are living the same type of life but add a dance teacher to that mix, once your finished driving kids all over that crazyness awaits you when you return home. Then you have the bedtime ritual. Gosh, before you know it is 10 pm, practice or go to bed, Hm. If only we could get the PPBSO to hold the professional piping events at 10:30 pm, I would have a chance! You touched on this a bit ago Andrew, what are the % differences between the number of kids playing today vs. our youthful days and do they compete? Play in band? Travel? Our parents steered us for some reason to the arts, have we all done our job the same?





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