PIPERS' PRICKLY PROBLEM"Picking gorse flowers leaves loads of sharp prickles embedded in the points of your fingers, which is not so good for pipe playing in the days immediately afterwards," Dave Miller, Pipe Major of Kirkwall City Pipe Band, told us in an email from the Orkney Islands.
He had just read a story in last month's edition of this e-book, in which we described how members of the pipe band pick masses of gorse flowers for Britain's most northern winery.
"The gorse wine is pretty potent stuff," said the pipe major. "It doesn't make you play any better - but it makes you think you do. The owners of the Orkney Wine Company, Emile and Marjolein van Schayk, are both members of the band. Our annual trip to pick the gorse flowers has become a regular feature on our events calendar.
"The band has nearly 100 active members, both male and female. The main band consists of 20 pipers and 12 drummers, the No. 2 or junior band is of similar size, and we also have a fledgling novice juvenile band which should make its public debut this year.
"The band performs regularly throughout the year, its main parades being held in front of St Magnus Cathedral, a 12th century building which is the pride of the town.
"Having twice visited Denmark, members of the band are no strangers to foreign travel. Last year they took part in the trip of a lifetime, flying halfway around the world to Japan for a 10-day tour promoting Orkney, Scottish culture and the Great Highland Bagpipe."
Until a few weeks ago we knew next to nothing about the Orkneys, a group of tiny islands off the north coast of Scotland, so we asked Dave Miller about them. He replied: