26 July 2011


Apparently Hallmark (or possibly the president of the United States, or maybe Wills and Kate?) has decreed July 27th as Bagpipe Appreciation Day. How appropriate for waxing sentimental about tribal memory. It’s in the DNA. 

Family reunion
... at Finisterre Farm in rural Ontario. A perfect summer day. All the cars were parked in a fallow field. Throughout the day the outdoor throng got busier and noisier as cousins were immersed in intense discussions. The notes of the pipes were faint at first. Unexpected. People paused as music unfurled. Conversation drifted away to awed silence. A magnificent piper in full regalia strode up the driveway onto the lawn. One of my more inspired ideas.

This was no run of the mill piper. Luckily for me, he was not only a neighbour but a talented scion of the famed McCrimmons. Who ...? you ask. Hereditary pipers to the McLeod chiefs of the Isle of Skye. He played several pieces for an engaged audience and bantered back and forth with us. At the urging of wicked little urchins amongst us, he obliged by flashing the big question under his kilt. Boxer shorts. Due to this shameless display, he shall remain nameless. His tradition-minded parents would never forgive him for the underwear. 

A bareboat sail
... in the British Virgins ranks among the world’s best adventure vacations. The holidayers comprised two couples, with but one sailor holding certification papers. That fact allowed our good friend to be captain. One semi-experienced sailor and two female dogsbodies, who almost knew what a jib is, completed the crew. We took possession of the 43' boat on Virgin Gorda and loaded up with grub and refreshments from the island’s limited provisions shop. The captain signed lots of paperwork including instructions from the charter company where and when not to sail in the BVI on pain of death or bankruptcy.

Good, there’s a charcoal barbecue on the deck. There’s only one captain here and he wants barbecue. We were about to learn the Power of Captain.

Feeling his oats, the captain we thought was our friend forced us to sail to Anegada, the biggest do not go there on our instruction list. Anegada is out in the real-time Atlantic ocean, surrounded by shallow wreckedy reefs not to be navigated by dumbass tourists. As we closed in, three of us were spotting by hanging over the gunwales; we might as well have jumped in and towed the boat. By the end of the week, Captain Bligh decided to run Sir Francis Drake Channel. Naturally, he chose a day when the wind and the waves were higher than the do not sail on our list. Overpowering wind. Raging wind. Two protesting voices went unheard—never, ever, question a Captain. The superheroes commenced tacking our suicide course full tilt down (or up?) the channel with the spinnaker taut as a drum. Dogsbodies clutched each other on the back deck screaming their brains out. Bruises sprouted on body parts like black plague boils.

There were compensations. One of them was Peter Island, I think, where we anchored peacefully one evening, being more or less stable underfoot. Labour and leadership had reached a truce. Wrinkled from sensational snorkelling in the transparent waters, we awaited our barbecued steaks. On the clear air came drifting the harmonious, softly-thrilling tones of the pipes. Over there, the sole yacht anchored in the distance. A solitary piper on deck saluting the sunset. Bliss.    

The downtown piper
... sometimes at the corner of Bay and Front, sometimes around the Eaton Centre, sometimes at the LCBO. His knees red and shiny from cold at times but he persists in all weather. Stubborn wee chappie, lifting the spirits around him. Who is he? He gets my loonie or twoonie when I find him.

© Brenda Dougall Merriman, 2011

[Other bits of nostalgia-nonsense-satire will mainly be posted on theFamdamily.]

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