Pipin’ Hot

Sunday smacked of summer. Perhaps it reached twenty degrees! All the Scots in the Meadows rejoiced. Shoes came off, so did some shirts. The air filled up with footballs and frisbees and the sound of Tennent's cans cracking open.

We wandered past them to join the tourists hoardes on the Royal Mile. The bagpipers were out of hibernation, dotted at two-block intervals so no one could escape that Caledonia sound. There were plenty of spare pipers too, all bored and twitchy like footballers on a reserve bench. They leaned against ancient buildings, smoking cigarettes and adjusting their hats in the windows.

I want to know how this piping business works. Is there a Bagpipe Buskers' Union with a daily roster? Or are they independent operators who fight each other for the best spots? I like to think it's the latter, and there's bloody turf wars with much discordant groaning and droning as pipes are shoved where pipes don't fit.

Sunday was our last full day with The Mothership so we'd planned the Ultimate Scottish Experience. It's only the Ultimate if like your Experiences full of cheese and cliche. We do. We took her to the Geoffrey Tailor Tartan Weaving Mill and paid £25 to be strapped into horrible highland costumes and have our photo taken in front of a fake highland stream.

Mum and Rhiannon looked rather sweet in their matching regal tartan frocks and jaunty feathered caps. Somehow I ended up in a brown sack with a floppy felt hat with a flower dangling off it.

"I don't look like part of this family at all!" I complained to the photographer, who was also Australian, like 75% of Royal Mile employees. "Am I meant to be a peasant? Have I come roond to milk the coos?"

"Just take that big sword and stand beside the lady with your hand on her shoulder and SMILE!"

The shoot lasted all of two minutes. We squintied under the lights while American tourists watched us and went "Awww!".

Then Rhi and I switched poses and sat in front of Mum. The photographer scattered cotton reels on our billowing skirts and we pretended to weave some kilts for our wild Scottish blokes out there in the hills.

Our prints came presented in brown cardboard folders, just like PixiFoto. We admired the way the brilliant lighting erased our blemishes, but I couldn't help whinging again that I looked like the bastard child in my Peasant Girl getup. My resemblance to Mum and Rhi is shaky at the best of times but now I looked like the spawn of Clan McAdulterer. And what was going on with my chest? I was so tightly laced into my costume that the girls were squished into a giant rectangular mass.

"What's the deal with the Boob Loaf?" I asked the bekilted sales assistant, "Is my chest that horribly huge?"

She peered for a moment, "Don't worry dear, the dress causes some distortion. They're not that bad."

"And you are not a bastard child," added The Mothership.

We cooked up haggis, neeps and tatties that night to round off the Ultimate Scottish Experience. Which came after a trip to Monster Mash for lunch – who can turn down a giant plate of mash and a tasty sausage for under a fiver?

After all the shitty weather we'd had during the week, trust us to schedule our Carbo Loading Day during a heatwave.

About Shauna Reid

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11 thoughts on “Pipin’ Hot

  1. sorry hen, the portrait is with the mothership who is currently in ireland then she will take it back to australia where i hope never to lay eyes on it again!

  2. “I want to know how this piping business works. Is there a Bagpipe Buskers? Union with a daily roster?”

    Well, I could tell you a thing or two about the cartel they have going there – my brother, a student, belongs to it, but as he’s just started a job now, he only goes out there on Sundays. You’d probably recognise him! 😉 Plus I know a few of the other guys doing it. Believe it or not, it’s all quite friendly!

  3. Monster Mash is indeed fantastic if you need some more carbs in your system. And I love the whole idea of having special sausages of the day.

  4. Great writing once again Miss Shauny!

    The busking business is actually pretty civilised as long as everyone is professional and knows each other. We come to learn each other’s time tables and site preferences. The police and coffee waiters and street cleaners get to know us also. It’s when new kids come in that the trouble starts…

    Of course, in Edinburgh the added problem is that the pipes are so fuckin’ obnoxiously LOUD!!!!!!!!!!!! We have one in the Ramblas in Barcelona. Only one, thankfully.

    And I’m sure your boobs looked just fine in that costume.

  5. Hmm… How envious am I that you can hear bagpipes anytime you wish… And I’m being entirely serious! I think that Canada just might be the one place outside of Scotland that truly loves the ‘pipes too. Why else would our feared and revered Royal Canadian Mounted Police play them? They may not always get their man, but they sure as hell can entertain him!

    I won’t even comment on the sausage, considering the tiny scraps of pork we have to settle for here…

    Keep up the good writing, Shauny…

  6. I tells ya, it’d be worth the drive to BigMerinoLand to get a gander at those photos. heh. Boob loaf.

  7. Truly loves the pipes? What??

    I’m as Scottish as they come, but I’m with whoever it was that said the most beautiful sound on earth was the pipes fading away into the distance…

    And, in addition to living in Edinburgh, I used to be a highland dancer, so I know what I’m talking about.

  8. I’m thinking of going over to Scotland to busk while bagpipes for summer. Back in Nova Scotia, Canada I used to make about 80/hour, . I’m almost positive that this wouldn’t be met, but I would like to try as long as I could get over 15. Does anyone have an idea on how much per hour a good bag-piper could make in Scotland? any suggestions on where to go in scotland?

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