BootsnAll Travel Network

Edinburgh: Pipefest

Our last weekend in Edinburgh, the middle of the Festival; comedians, music, theatre, we were spoiled for choice of how to celebrate our last few nights. And whilst we were going to see a funny-man on Saturday night, what we were most looking forward to for the weekend was bagpipes.

Yeah, that’s right. Bagpipes. And shitloads of ‘em.

Sunday August 21st was Pipefest in Edinburgh. Holyrood Park at the base of Arthur’s Seat, the 300 foot high cliff just minutes walk from Edinburgh Castle, was being turned into the biggest gathering of bagpipers ever known. 10,000 of the bloody things, being played by folks from many, many different countries, and of all sorts of ages, starting as young as about 5.

The real highlight of our final weekend in Edinburgh, at least for me, actually came before we made it to Pipefest. As Trickey and I were loading up his car out the front of our apartment, I was thoughtfully reminded by the passenger of a passing car exactly who I am. As the hatchback drove by, the lovely chap in the passenger seat hung his head out the window, and from the bottom of his gut, for all to hear, yelled “Rrrrrrrrrrrrusty Nut!!!”

Welcome to my world folks.

But, back to the Pipefest. The main road from the city centre to Holyrood Park was closed off for the bagpipers to march along. People lined the road along its entire length – a good kilometer or two. It was like a marathon, or the end of a Tour de France stage, with people forever cheering the endless stream of bagpipe bands striding proudly along the road, with Arthur’s Seat providing a spectacular backdrop as well as some great vantage points for spectators.

The road eventually lead onto a massive oval, which is where we made our camp. Bec and I were joined by our fantastic housemates Kath and Greg (I don’t think I’ve mentioned them before, but our final month in Edinburgh was spent living with them, more Australians, this time an engaged couple, one from just outside Sydney and one originally from Shepparton) and their friend Verity, as well as our good mates Sarah and Trickey. The seven of us spread out on the grass under beautiful Scottish sunshine and indulged in a wonderful picnic of cheeses, bread, dips, wine and champagne, all the while listening to the bagpipers marching along the road just a few metres away. The march took a good few hours – a pretty nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Each band of bagpipers (and drummers, each band was made up of bagpipes, and snare and bass drums), then assembled on the main field, where they would all attempt to play together. Sure, bagpipes sound like a cat being strangled, but when there’s 10,000 of them all playing at once, and accompanied by thousands of snare and bass drums, you can’t help but get a little tingle. It was pretty bloody cool.

Two days later we left Edinburgh, taking a bus down South into England, where we would stay with Gab and Marr’y. You may remember Gab and Marr’y from such previous literary classics as “The Toilet Wars”. Well, they have taken residence in Manchester, and after about 6 hours on the bus, and a further two and a half hanging out at the bus station with the cream of Manchester’s residents waiting for Gab to finish work, we met them both at their schmicko new apartment in the middle of the city around 5.30pm.

It almost feels like cheating that, at the start of our big backpacking adventure (9 months of no work, you beauty!) we’re staying with friends in an inner-city apartment that’s only six months old. But hey, I’m certainly not complaining, especially when they have a toilet that flushes. No repeats of Edinburgh then.

Our first full day in Manchester, while Gab and Marr’y went off to earn a quid, we strolled around the city for a while, coming to grips with the sheer number of people wandering around. Even after being in Edinburgh for the Festival, it was crazy. I’m guessing that it’s still school holidays here in England, as the streets were filled with kids. The little bastards were everywhere. In our efforts to escape the crowds we found a brilliant building called Urbis – “Exploring urban culture and the cities of today and tomorrow”. As a couple of music lovers who have both done a bit of pop culture studies at university, the feature exhibition, Punk, Sex, Seditionaries and the Sex Pistols, immediately grabbed our attention.

Well, actually, I better just clarify that. In five years of uni, whilst studying Engineering and Business, I somehow managed to squeeze in one solitary subject related to studying pop culture. Bec on the other hand, did an Arts and Sciences degree. But hey, I’m not here to dwell on the merits of our respective educations – this was the Sex Pistols, man.

Original working lyrics sheets, worn old photos from one of their first gigs in Manchester, documentary films, and a variety of gig posters (can you imagine seeing the Sex Pistols, supported by The Clash and The Buzzcocks? For only a pound fifty, or a pound twenty-five if you booked in advance!?!); the exhibition covered much of the Sex Pistols career. It also displayed a number of one-off t-shirt prints from the Sex store (later called Seditionaries) worn by band members on stage. The store was owned and run by the Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, and was largely responsible for the bands’ outlandish outfits. And let me tell you, some of these shirts would push boundaries even in today’s (supposedly) more liberal society.

One of the other highlights was a number of the original animation cells used in the Sex Pistols’ film, The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.

We finished the day by heading to a Lebanese restaurant, for a fill of shish kebabs and falafels. The feed was great, although one dish of lamb kebabs looked just a little like pieces of poo. Not to worry though, with a bit of spicy tomato sauce, they tasted fine. After a couple of beers with dinner, without breaking the seal, I’d filled my bladder to almost bursting, so ventured to the back of the restaurant to find a toilet. I navigated my way up a flight of rickety old stairs, and found a single cubicle in the men’s toilets (I double checked that it was the mens this time). I opened the lid, and OH-MY-GOD-WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-THAT! It looked like one of those lamb kebabs I’d just eaten, but unfortunately, the smell confirmed my worst fears. The floater was back. It was as though our old friend in Edinburgh (described in painful detail in “The Toilet Wars”) had simply been washed down the toilet there, and followed Gab and Marr’y down the M6 to Manchester to lay in wait for us here in this cheap Lebanese restaurant. I let out a heavy, heavy sigh, averted my eyes, held my breath, and used my fast-pee muscles as much as possible, so I could get the hell out of there.

Of course, after cranking the old flush handle and hearing what sounded like a raging waterfall contained entirely within the toilet bowl, my curiosity got the better of me, and I lifted the lid to see if the old boy had finally gone south. Nuh, the defiant bastard was still there. I lowered the lid, shook my head, and trudged out.

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