Busking

The piper in the town centre produced a much sweeter sound than the Highland bagpipe does, so I asked him where his pipes came from, and he stopped to chat. The pipes are Galician- Northern Spain, he explained. I think the last Spanish pipes I saw were Catalonian. He had two drones, and a mouthpiece rather than a bellows.

I wondered if Highland bagpipes were so strident because they were used by the military. Possibly. The reeds in his drones are tight, very close to the barrel. Highland pipers push them apart, and that makes the sound much louder and harsher. It’s not music, it’s lung exercise- or a competitive sport, he says. The reed in the Highland chanter is softer too. Pipers soak it in whisky to soften it, and harden the sound. The softer sound is better for playing with other musicians besides pipers.

Whisky was also used to kill bacteria multiplying in the warm spit in the bag. His has a beautiful bag, of russet velvety stuff. But the whisky would wash out the oils used to make it airtight. The valve in the mouthpiece was not always stiff enough, and if the piper did not cleanse the culture in the bag s/he could get Farmer’s lung, a viral infection, from air blowing back through the mouthpiece.

I like pibrochs, I said. He did not know the word ornament, or crunluath, but volunteered “grace notes”. Though I could not judge the crunluaths, I find them meditative. He did not learn anything like that. He is Gert. I enjoyed the conversation.

Walking in the town I have noticed that if I use a more erect yet relaxed and confident walk, people give me more space. S agrees that others treat you with the respect in which you hold yourself. One problem is that I am in conscious incompetence in this- if I forget, I get less space than I imagine I deserve.

There’s a stone path between lawns by the Tithe barn. I was pushing my bicycle, and was not going to leave the path for a man and his wife. He gave space at the last moment, saying “Christ”. “Fuck you,” I responded- possibly my pacifism needs some practice. “Do you want a smack?” he asked. I turned my back on him and walked on, but heard other people defending me: I had caught his eye, and he had read me as male, but the others had read me as female.

El Greco, Annunciation

Go on, you know you want to

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