November 22, 2010

The gold ring

Ring toss.If you’re like most, your piping and drumming “career” depends heavily on the attitude of your partner towards your hobby-avocation-obsession. I’ve seen my share of players in misery, beaten down by an overbearing spouse who can’t appreciate that there’s more to their life than him/her. They’re “not allowed” to go to certain band practices, competitions or even glorious band trips. They tut-tut and tsk-tsk, and think of your bagpipe or drum as tantamount to you having an affair.

Screw that.

Ideally, as said before, you find a soul-mate who also plays the pipes or drum, or comes from a family of pipers or drummers. He/she already speaks the language of piping and drumming, and understands your affliction. These folks have hit the relationship jackpot but, sadly, that’s a rare situation. Most spouses at best just tolerate it and learn to live with the tension.

The erosion of a relationship can be a slow creep. I’ve seen pipers/drummers’ marriages start out all hunky-dory, their partner hanging out with the band, happily coming to competitions. But gradually things get rocky, and, instead of attending practices or contests, the piper/drummer is pressured to go shopping, or look after the kids, or even (shudder) stay home to do yard work or some other mundane thing. It can get very unpleasant.

But how can we recognize these incompatible people before we get in too deep? With a shout-out to the movie “Diner,” here’s a 10-question quiz that you can administer to your prospective life-partner in the early stages. Keep track of the answers, because at the end you’ll have to tally them to take an ultimate read of who or what you’re dealing with.

Good luck. This could be life-changing.

Our anniversary conflicts with the most important pipe band competition of the year. What do you do?
A) Call the pipe-major to tell him/her that I can’t make it.
B) Demand that I stay home to have a “cozy” night at home watching chick-flicks.
C) Recognize that my pipe band is a passion, too, and suggest we celebrate another time.
D) Invite yourself along on the band trip so that we can “make a weekend of it.”

I walk through the door after a three-day piping/drumming weekend, my uniform stinking of beer and vomit. Your response is:
A) Oh, my God, go somewhere else to clean up before entering my house.
B) It’s your turn to clean the house/take the kids, I’m going out.
C) So, did you have fun?
D) Silence.

My practicing woke up the baby, so you say:
A) How often do you really need to play that?
B) It’s okay, the little one will just have to get used to it.
C) The baby must have heard that missed D-throw in the third part.
D) Maybe we should we soundproof your practice room.

Feeling terrible, I call you to say that it was me who botched the attack in the contest, which made my band lose. Your response:
A) What’s an attack?
B) That’s okay; it’s only a competition.
C) Oh, wow, I’m really sorry that the band lost.
D) Which MSR was it?

I suggest that we have a piper at the wedding, so you say:
A) How much does that cost?
B) But I want a sweet violin sonata as I walk down the aisle.
C) Yes, let’s ask [best piper friend/family member] to play.
D) Do you think we can get someone really good?

I need a new suit for work, and I also need a new kilt for solo competitions, and we can afford only one. Your advice is:
A) Maybe you should get an extra job to support this piping/drumming obsession of yours.
B) Can you not wear a suit in competitions?
C) Get the very best kilt you can – it’s a lifetime investment, after all.
D) Maybe a great business suit will help you get that promotion so we can afford that new kilt.

You show up after practice with the entire band ready to party at your house. What’s your reaction?
A) Chain the doors and call the police.
B) Quickly hide all the breakables.
C) Run to the supermarket for ice and munchies – it’s going to be a great few days!
D) Call your friends to invite them over – in for a penny, in for a pound, after all.

I was away at a competition over the weekend and didn’t call or text you. You say:
A) Is it too much to ask that you call me to say you love me?
B) What, did you drop your phone in your pint again?
C) But I was dying to hear the result!
D) I was worried about you.

Who won the World’s in 1964?
A) The what?
B) How the &^%& should I know?
C) Why, the Edinburgh City Police at Ayr, of course.
D) Let me just check the pipes|drums Big Prizes database . . .

The holidays are approaching fast. What gift are you considering getting me as a gift?
A) Power tools so that you can finally install my new closet shelving system.
B) A “pass” that allows you to go to any competition you like.
C) Not sure, but I’ll ask your piping/drumming friends for suggestions.
D) A gift card for that other hobby of yours.

Now, then, let’s tally up.

For every “C” answer give yourself three points. These indicate that you’ve found an ideal piping/drumming spouse who understands the game and appreciates your passion. You’ll have no trouble with him/her as you merrily continue your avocation.

Score two points for each time you answered “D.” While these aren’t ideal responses, they do indicate someone with compassion and practicality, or who knows enough not to say anything, or takes an interest in what you do.

For each time you answered “B,” you can have one point. These answers are a bit insensitive and uncaring, but they indicate a minimal effort to understand your passion, or at least a sense of humour.

For every “A” answer score zero points. Even one of these horrific answers is an indication that you’re messing with a potential piping sociopath, so out of touch with who you really are, who will be nothing but trouble in the years ahead.

25-30 points = you have found the ideal piping/drumming soul-mate. Marry that person now, rest and be thankful.
15-25 points = definitely worth investing more time with. With training and gentle mind-melding, the right seasoning and a little more blowing-in time, he/she could be a keeper.
Seven-14 points = akin to getting the red light at the Northern Meeting: unnerving, and a serious sign that this just won’t be a good performance and even a breakdown could be a likely event.
Six or fewer points = uh-oh. You’ve got an enemy of piping/drumming on your hands. Either give the person the old, “It’s not you, it’s my pipe band . . .” speech, or steel yourself for a life of hen-peckery.

Of course, the mere act of having to administer this quiz would probably hasten the end of the relationship anyway, so if you’re even considering using it, you probably already know the truth.

Next: revised wedding vows for the piper/drummer.


  1. Nice post. Over the years, you get to see all kinds of relationships come and go in pipe bands, and your Q/As have a solid ring of truth. My own situation has always been ideal, as exemplified after last year’s local games, when Barb said, “You go to the Ceilidh and I’ll put Duncan to bed, but I’ll be really disappointed if a whole whack of people don’t come over after and stay all night.” We did not disappoint. The last to leave got a ride home at 7am, so that he could catch 40 minutes sleep before playing a morning-after round of golf with the band. Bring on the season!

  2. My best friend’s long-suffering and amiable wife came out with a good one a few months ago afer a typical Society meeting which ended up in an arrival home at 5am…. “well, it WOULD be nice if you came home the same day you left”…….

  3. Maybe a topic for another article would be about all those promising young players we have lost to those bad relationships. I know of a couple that come to mind from over the years. Guys you thought had it all and then they show up one day dating the “cheerleader” from their school back home. Sure they look good walking around with at the games but eventually 3 hours of standing in the beer tent talking about “who is using sheepskin bags” gets to them. And before you know it the guy is gone from the front row and all you hear about him is how he is “going to get back into it” every fall.

  4. I cannot complain. Juliana, the missus, is not your common pipe band-type of a burd, but she’s been supportive as can be. Our band travels a lot around Brazil and South America, and she’s always there holding my hands and even holding my pipes when I’m tuning the next feller’s drones or tying my brogues.

    I wasn’t brave enough to hand her the quiz, though…

  5. Neat post, Andrew!

    @ Stephen – And how many talented young women have we lost to unsupportive boyfriends/husbands/significant others who expect them to drop pipe bands because it takes up too much of their time? Or to the expectation to be a so-called “modern woman,” balancing everything with a smile, entirely devoted to partner or family, while simultaneously rocketing up the academic or career ladder, contributing to community and maintaining a vibrant social life – how much support do you think she will get when she wants to fit a pipe band or solos in there somewhere? And what about relationships that start with both parties involved in pipe bands? When something’s gotta give, who gives? When the time comes for children or there is some other major life-event to manage (aging parents, unemployment, etc.), where does the burden often fall? Who often makes the choice/sacrifice to give up on contests? My guess is that it’s not usually going to be the one with XY chromosomes who bows out. (All of this assuming, of course, the narrow, hetero-normative/biased, and totally backward cultural gender roles that seem to be applied in such situations – I guess not much of a stretch when women are being categorized as objects that “look good” walking around a highland games on a man’s arm)

    It’s not just the doodz who get given the gears…

  6. I have to admit that the quiz is quite good. I have seen over the years if your spouse wasn’t interested in the piping/drumming scene, it could usually get pretty rocky eventually.
    Usually if one or the other were in bands etc., they either got dragged along and one was misrable at the games or the one in the games got dragged away from their passion and was miserable themselves.
    Either way seemed to end up in a split.
    I was lucky enought to find a dancer who understood the passion.
    John Recknagel

  7. I found this works ;leaving around copies of “ Sousaphone:How to play manual“ or
    “How to play Zither Music“ or “Yodelling for Health“.A better choice is” Care and Upkeep of your Boa Constrictor”.



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