August 2005 - An African, Irish, Euro Odyssey/Oddity
South African Irish Regiment Pipes and Drums at the 2005 Edinburgh Tattoo
August 2005 came as a relief, a blessed relief. The Irish (that's us) had been frantically raising funds,
cutting CD`s and doing concerts in an effort to get 26 people to Edinburgh to participate in the Tattoo.
At Johannesburg International Airport we looked around at faces we know and love and realized at that
moment that this was real and we were going! Edinburgh, city of a thousand statues had long been an
elusive dream for the band, but no longer. We were going there and what's more we were going to be
performing in what for pipers and drummers counts as one of the "must do`s" of this particular hobby.
Getting 23 bandsmen and 3 super shoppers (the bands girls) onto a 747 requires lubrication, a lot
of lubrication. The bands relationship with all Southern African brewing establishments continued
on its normal course and by the time the band had got on the plane the smiles were somewhat broader
and the voices a whole lot louder.
Overhead locker capacity on a 747 usually reserved for wheeled travel bags, duty free bags and
ladies travel cases suddenly had to deal with 12 sets of bagpipes one of which came complete with
"timers" which needed to be "set" much to the concern of the aircrafts' engineer and the cabin crew -
one of our pipers is apparently explosive. The flight engineer later established that the only
explosion likely on the plane during the flight was thankfully likely to be less destructive -
although more smelly.
Imagine the excitement in the group especially for the band members who had never left South Africa
before! I admit as many of the "older" band members who had "seen the world" (mostly as part
of the South African "diaspora") would that even for us the excitement was infectious and suddenly
we had opted out of the day-to-day and parachuted directly into the extraordinary. It was fantastic.
Heathrow Airport the "busiest airport" in the world - and the HOTTEST! We arrived early in
the morning to find that on exiting the aeroplane that British air conditioning only occurs in
their cars and not their buildings. This combined with our "corporate" jackets, which we had
procured because "its cold in Scotland" and had been designed for use in winter on Bear Island,
had turned us into walking Turkish baths.
Is immigration a "hot" topic for the Brits? Of course it is, and I think upon seeing this crowd
of nervous sweaty people they rang alarm bells somewhere. We stood in a queue to clear immigration
whilst the time melted away (as did our love handles) along with our chances of catching a connection
to Edinburgh. We did however have a secret weapon..
Greg Reading can be described as well, a little straightforward, and British immigration was to
experience how one operates in Benoni when the queue doesn't move. "Hey man we're a paarp bend from
safrica bru an we're going to va tattoo in Scotland man an yoo okes ees gonna make us miss arr
flart ek se". Before long we were through and on our connection to Edinburgh.