A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

What I have done over the next few posts is write it a bit like a diary as there has been a bit of a break due to dropping yet another camera in the water as I was taking Kirsty ashore. I ordered a second hand one the same day but it only arrived on the 23rd. I have been taking photos with Jack’s but for some reason I have not been able to down load them so waited until that was possible. So cracked this tonight (23rd)…..that was until I lost several photos

Saturday, 19th, Midday; Apart from Monday, which was a recovery day. Although getting better at doing nothing in order to recover from a busy stint I find there is still too much to do to relax properly. Did manage to go back for a catch up kip/doze till mid day or there abouts. Been taking photos through the week with the new second hand camera, even taken it out on the boat but iPhoto is struggling to recognise the card as it is in the different camera. A bit of technology that is beyond me, but that is not hard I suppose. The weather on Monday helped as it got windier  the afternoon. A wee break there and ordered a card reader, so simple if it works. I am missing my own photos and they are building up on the cards. The dogs enjoy this weather.

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Tuesday, the weather improved dramatically and it began up at the Walled Garden with some of the Company Directors and Dave Hollings who was on a tour of the west and some islands.

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Very interesting what he had to say as we are now entering the next stage of the Hydro project, that is raising the money for building works. We also have had to deal with the complication that SSE has given us in saying that our 90kw connection was not what it said, or rather it was what they decided what it said. It turned out that what they meant was 50kw now and 40kw later when they “get round to it”. So this is why we have gone for the more complicated private wire to use our power locally so to get back up to the 90kw originally planned. Feasibility studies so far are all positive and all the macro planning have still to be worked out. The share offers so far for renewable projects both in Scotland and the North of England have been successful and at current bank rates are very attractive. Mainly as a green and community venture for me it is a no brainer, nasty word but simple description. And you are getting more than inflation and certainly more than the banks are offering.

Monday, 22nd, evening; Made it out to fish around half ten and ripped round a 350 creel haul on the Middle Bank before coming in and putting my mooring rope in the propeller.

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I was already out of gear before realising it was in so thought it may have been a turn and could come out with relative ease. No such luck, so it was off ashore to land the prawns, get the dry suit on, and back out to the boat. Decided not to bother with the bottle and just put on the weights and flippers to nip under and untwist the rope. Took a lot longer than expected and a lot of deep breaths, so much so that I was a bit dizzy when I came back on board the dinghy. Managed to free it although the rope cutter had worked and there is now  a big knot in the line waiting for a low tide to splice it in. Came ashore knackered. Best laid plans do not apply when you have your own fishing boat. The calendars are going well with happy customers leaving with them.

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Thursday evening was another lovely cycle home, although at a more sane time. Sunset had just taken place

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and the moon was up over Milton Loch

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and I got home for Nashville, first time for a few weeks…..and Deacon is back in the picture. Just realised that I have resisted Breaking Bad all week, pretty easy I suppose when it has either been work or too tired. A good week in all and Friday continued in that vein when I took the Varuna ashore for a wee clean up. Copper painted bottom has meant that I do not have to worry too much about the hull but noticing a drop of 3/4 knot decided to have a look.

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Always good to check the anodes for replacing anyway. Turned out there was a big growth of mussels on the keel along with German Writing and barnacles on the rudder and propeller.

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To get to this stage became strangely difficult. Coming across the Bay on the dingy I have to remember everything before setting off so the key for the shed was important as I wanted the pressure washer. So back I went, then the extension lead had made its way back to the Inn, so it was across the Bay. When I was retrieving the lead the fuel delivery came in, only 500 litres of UL left so got away with that one. And finally on the way back across the Bay I forgot to take the Lead with me. So three hours later after beaching the Varuna I began work. Washed a fleet and most of the hull and scrapped all the mussels and some of the Writing off, mended and reroped the majority of the fleet and landed some langoustine to the Inn. Home pretty knackered as being under the boat you use mussels you do not use for the rest of the year.

Saturday morning began with a minor sleep in but made it to the dingy before my guest arrived, writer Kirsty Logan. http://www.kirstylogan.com. To be perfectly honest I would have struggled to have gone out as the weather and forecast were not inviting. Finished off the fleet and got it shot off on the Middle Bank before hauling 200 pots. Sinister sight off to the West.

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And we had a larger than usual complement of skuas around the boat probably due to the lack of other boats out.

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Looking back on the day I don’t think we stopped talking all day. Similar lifestyles in that we both spend a lot of time on our own and seem comfortable with it. Kirsty was doing a bit of research in a new project and wanted to find out a bit of the practical side of creel fishing. Good sensible chat about the YES/No debate and is a waiver inching towards YES finding the constant negativity of the BT campaign. We stopped off on the way ashore to watch the seals, some staying on the rocks and others swimming over to tell us we were too close, one calling frantically. Ashore by 2pm but with a slight mishap. Took a couple of photos of some moss just below the tide zone, put the camera back in the back pack, zipped it up, swung it onto my back and plop the camera fell out of the broken zip into the water. Resting without hope in a box of rice and already ordered another second-hand camera. Have Jack’s but really wary of taking out to the boat as that is two in the water now. Managed not to let it affect me too much and after a snooze for ten minutes, power nap to some, the Inn beckoned.

A very busy shift but enough time to make contact with several people, some first timers and many who come back time after time. Pretty hectic hour around eight but every one content by 9.30pm having all been fed. Torrential rain had passed by the time I was on the cycle home after eleven. By the time I had left the Canadians paired with the couple from Fife were getting on like a house on fire. Reminded me of the Waterboys’ lyric I was listening to earlier in the day, “Started off in Fife and ended up in tears” one of the best lyrics of all time from A Bang On the Ear. This morning arriving tired at the Inn I heard that there were one or two absentees for breakfast, maybe doing the job too well for some people’s health. Weather back on and a steady/busy day and a long eight hours before sitting down for a very nice venison burger. Struggling to keep eyes open for the final but will give it a go. A break from the photos as the iPhoto does not recognise the new camera to download, but the good side is that 22 calendars have been sold in the first week with very little effort. Find that somewhat humbling but many thanks to those who have bought them.

Glorious Applecross.

Cycling home from the Inn on Wednesday evening was one of these special occasions. I had a fairly early start and hauled 350 pots for the menu. Only just keeping them on the board, but not getting stressed about it and treating it as a challenge. The evening shift turned out to be full on but not so bad for the front of house, the Boss and myself, as the weather was pretty amazing and a lot of people were eating out in the garden. Only around nine did customers make a beeline for the Bar….midges came out as soon as the strength of the sun waned. A change from the normal plan as well due to friends of No1 son arrived in town so meant a close shift instead of Thursday. New team in the kitchen and they worked a storm, only a couple of comments about time late on and I think that was more due to the midges than anything else. So to the cycle home at 1.30am with no lights but the moon reflecting on the Sound to guide me home. Just chance but I had the perfect music on the iPod, Peatbogs, Faerie Stories. Probably being tired contributed to the amazing scene of a Highland land and sea scape with reflections and a stillness that is physical. It is rare that you find yourself in these situations when you are a tiny and connected part of a wonderful universe, but never forgotten.

So not really surprising that I slept in for the langoustine delivery planned for 7am on Thursday. Made it as far as Milton where we loaded up the Boss’s car before she went off to Drum and I went back out on the Sound for more. Must remember to enjoy this winter and not feel bad when I go through a day without doing something. Weariness has caught up on me tonight so I think I will leave it to the camera to tell the story of the last three days. After posting on Monday I went back down to the dinghy’s new mooring to check that she was lying far enough off the shore. Steep shoreline before hitting the sand so did not want her resting on the rocks and filling up.

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Lovely quiet evening.

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Tuesday did not finish off badly either with a glorious sunset over the Staffin cliffs.

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Love looking 180 degrees to see the soft late lighting on the shores of Applecross.

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The mornings have been glass calm

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and the new position for starting the day off is not too bad and every direction you see colours

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and shapes with the morning sun hitting the buildings

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creating sharp shadows.

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Nothing of great note about the fishing, still relatively poor but “bearable” in this weather.

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Hitting the squats hard just now, so much so I was peeling after ten on Thursday night after Front had finished, out of sympathy really. The weather has been a bit hot for the Dougal.

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Excited my bees are doing really well and are flying from both hives, weather of course has been perfect for them. They are also scoffing the feed as well.

Big downside is No3 thought he was recovering and decided to walk to the Caman in the middle of the night as he was not sleeping. Took him a couple of hours but did not turn out to be a wise move as he has relapsed since. Got more results back and now knows a lot more things it is not. Times like these I am grateful for my migraines. Another busy day today and a writer planning coming out on the Varuna tomorrow but that will all have to wait.

Calendar for Sale.

Yesterday at the Inn Judith went through to see her Dad before lunch kicked off so it was in the hands of those left behind. Back up in the office and not too over staffed out front meant it was a”keep the head day”. After a ferocious shower in the morning the weather was typically Scottish, cool, breezy, sunny with clouds scudding across from the west. Busy but not too bad. Expected a fifteen group of Honda Gold Wings but that was reduced to eleven and only seven ate inside.

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Ice creams going well from the Airstream.Sarah has stopped sleeping as she is still proof reading and now serving on the counter. Mind you Aron must be in the same position as he has to make even more ice creams as well as selling them. Bikes over there as well.

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I wonder if increased employment is on the way here. Could be the start of a new Nardini’s. The Paramor ice cream parlour. Got a ring to it. Half an hour off in the afternoon which seemed enough and knowing there were twenty-one booked in for 8pm plus residents and eighteen for six it promised to be a full on evening shift and did not disappoint. Little bit hectic around seven when one or two waiting for tables and the Filling Station goes down. French Camper vans and needed attention. Quick jog along the road, reboot, appreciation and back into the fray. I find I just do not panic or get overwhelmed any more. The visitors just keep coming, they always get served with stunning food and all you have to do is find them a place to sit and have a craic with them. The kitchen was supreme last night. A lot of tabs on fairly late but communications were good and compliments were top drawer. Met my first other Dougal, that is a dog called Dougal. He stayed in room 8 and they were the first residents to buy the new calendar which is now on sale for a mere £8.50. This is a whole new arena for me to enter and if some told me two years ago I would be selling calendars as a fund-raiser for the Community Company, I would have laughed. I still say I am not a photographer but live in one of the more scenic parts of the world and have my camera with me all the time and that seems to balance out resulting in one or two photos that come out okay.

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First 8 sold without much effort and are being well received, with the promise of more…..great cause anyway. With every one fed and happy, Dougal No2 off for his walk there was a wee light show to finish off a very tiring day.

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Often looking 180 degrees from where the light show is taking place you find softer colours. Not wishing to go on about our now non-existent pier but I have never seen any thing wrong in jetties, slipways and local piers in our landscape. Hearing a friends comments showing me his photos of his trip to Diabeg was describing a picture he took coming into Shieldaig. He said the jetties and pontoons drew the eye and led up to the shore line of the village. And the same at Milton and could have been the same at the Coal Shed.

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A a little contemplation is always good when you are far from home.

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A day that gives you an insight to our remarkable Boss who has done this day in day out for the last 25 years. It is like having a fishing boat riding on the end of a rope in bad weather. You may not be aboard but you are never away from it. Did not really expect to be out today as there was a little breeze forecast and I had prawns hanging ready for todays customers. As it turned out the head acted up, not a migraine but bad enough to head back for a lie down for a couple of hours. No complaints as there are others that have more than headaches to deal with. Now off out to take my dingy across to its new mooring and give me no further excuse for not using my trailer and back to delivering prawns by bike.

Corners.

Thursday after shift; Coming out of Raigmore at eightish on Wednesday and walking toward the crossing, a blue car slowly  going along in the 20 mile an hour zone was passing. Window rolled down and passenger on the phone with elbow on the sill when suddenly he points and shouts Applecross. That was it, a little surreal, as it drove slowly off down to the traffic lights. Wednesday did not turned out as planned and ended up spending eight hours  with No 3 while he got some more tests. Results only being finding out what he did not have, malaria, TB, some African parasite and a strange strain of pneumonia. Looking like it may be some strange form of virus and basically means he can hardly walk. Today it was the Boss’s turn, going through to see her Dad and fearing the worst. Same ward and another all day session. Roger had a breathing problem and was not getting rid of his carbon dioxide. When the family had left by evening time he was back round and reading the paper. He will be in for a wee while but seems there is quite a bit of life left in him yet. All in all it meant that the End of Alps party passed me by. Would have been working so would have added to the list of meetings and events I have missed through working evenings in the summer.  The drive home especially going through Garve was beautiful with the God Fingers over Ben Wyvis and this after seeing the slanting sun catching the farmlands of the Black Isle. Paulo Nutini on the iPod and heading home to Applecross, only the health of No 3 to worry about and all is well.

Sunday morning; Friday began with heavy rain but with an improving forecast. Kept an eye on the weather but it cleared up too late for me to head out for a meaningful haul.By mid afternoon the rain had stopped and the wind died away to nothing.

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Good time to catch up on a bit of video watching an episode of Breaking Bad, rationing it out well, and a film about bees and honey production. http://cosmos-documentaries.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/more-than-honey-hd-documentary-film.html Found this lovely in places,the elderly Alpine man who cared so much about his hives, but was struck by how much the American beekeeper had moved away from being a beekeeper. He had turned it into an industrial unit, transporting bees across the Americas and back again. The scenes where they were making up the new hives, I found appalling, the picture of cleaning the tops of the frames, bees and all will stay with me. Also scooping all the bees of the apex and dumping them into different hives and then slapping the roofs on made me think of my little efforts to increase my bees population. I was feeling bad about splitting the hive making my bees work harder to build up to two hives. Somewhat illogical but I will never convert bees/honey into money. They are worth far more than that and always will be. If they produce excess honey….that’s the bonus. The Alpine beekeeper was distraught when he discovered foul brood and had to put a hive down, the American had crossed the Thin Red Line years ago. The mysteries of technology still puzzles me and photos I had lost when doing my hive splitting reappeared.

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Later on around nine noticed the light show over Raasay

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and on the way in just a little hint of autumn on the sycamore tree at the gate.

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Yesterday after a huge amount of effort I made it out on the boat and enjoyed a fine days fishing, not the only one out.

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Woke at five and heard the inshore forecast for Ardnamurchan to Cape Wrath as S/W 4/5, increasing to 5/6, not inspiring but as it turns out the weather did not turn till evening and a fairly rapid 300 were hauled by 2.30pm.

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Couple of fleets hit the squats hard and there turned out to be a lot of tailing, but nice to see the lemon sole and sea bass being served with squats again.

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Traditional sailing on view in the afternoon

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and only one was not interested in seeing her pass.

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Busy night and the Boss stayed away leaving us to work the floor. Went well and a really busy hour meant we had to be on our toes finding tables and keeping everyone happy. Big birthday party this weekend and the BarBQ did not happen as expected and numbers who wanted food went up. Lots of great food, fair amount of alcohol and lots of banter with some music thrown in made for a community night in the bar. Home by twelve, knowing that Roger is still in his ward, not improving as well as hoped and No3 still struggling on with his ailment. Nice to know so many people are concerned and asking after them, says a lot about where I live. Really do not know what is round the next corner apart from the fact another corner will there.

Two Hives,Five Tyres.

Full on day on Monday. Slightly earlier than usual start and nipped through 350 creels by 2pm. Another glass calm morning and only the occasional bird coming alongside, bonxie

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and then a fulmar.

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Even the gulls have disappeared. Speaking to Dave later in the day he mentioned the same. I am not sure if right but I take this as a good sign. May mean there is easy feeding in the water and they are not reduced to scrapping over bits of rotten bait that I throw back over. Seen small rafts of razor bills as well and that is another good sign.

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Only saw these numbers late on in the summer last year.

Reason for doing an early shift was me off to Broadford to get another foreign body off my back. Over the Bealach in a bit of a rush

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and made it to Kyle in shorter time than wise, bank for the Community Company, and only five minutes late. Managed a couple of pages of the Common Weal before being called in. Quicker than last time and mentioned it, got the comment about better skill. Unfortunately the after pain has made up for the quickness. A stop at Erbusaig, dropping off creels in Plockton

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and a straight-backed drive home in some lovely weather. Always need to stop for the odd snap or two. Lovely spot around and about but it takes a lot to beat the drive into Applecross,

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mountain down to the sea.

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By the time I was home there was little doubt I was going to be fishing yesterday and that was the case, no danger. Whether it was a deeper one to cut out or maybe it was the “skill factor” I was glad this was the second one. Beautiful day and a missed one for the sea but such is life and a few wanders about with the dogs broke the day up. The weather is on the way out and little fishing till the end of the end of the week. New neighbours sheltering in the shade of the tree and seems well contented.

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Bit of football and a final read up about creating an artificial swarm. Scary and would have preferred a more experienced hand by me. The hive has been very busy in the last couple of days although they are taking their time in drawing out the foundation. Was told it takes a lot of energy to do this.

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Followed the instructions and now there are two hives tucked away by the hazel tree. Feed them until they get both established.

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A bit of honey in the super but leave it until I am sure they have enough for the winter.

Landed langoustine for both Inns this morning and when I made it back home decided to try to clean up the kerb that is catching out all the tourists, another two tyres yesterday, Belgiums this time. It has got a bit overgrown and they are not seeing the edge before clipping it and bursting the walls of their tyres. Five in a week. Off to the surgery now with No3, puts my little back twinge into context.

Applecross Weekend.

Lovely day to go fishing on Friday and had a passenger, keen photographer and bookseller from Yorkshire. A fairly brisk east/south-east wind meant that it was an awkward start to the day with a motion on the port quarter. Started the day with some one else’s rope in my prop.

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But with that wind it usually comes and goes and it did settle down during the day, only getting up again on the way in. Again fishing is bearable and the weather beautiful. Fortunate I do not have to go on holiday to enjoy it.

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Uneventful and in by three having hauled 300 creels. Back at the house there were a French couple changing a tyre, yet another car clipping the kerb at the north end of the school, third this week. A chat, a phone call, a trip to DMK’s, organising a new tyre and fitting for Saturday morning and off to leave message at Tina’s, their BandB in Sheildaig. Going there anyway for massage so not too much out of the way. Handshakes and exchange of names and the hope that another couple believe in the Applecross spirit. Maybe if I am ever in France with a puncture……. Massage sore and neck tender due to wheelhouse smack, good chat afterwards and home by seven. Operations have started on the Gateway Woodland project

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and I stopped to take a photo of the before,

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looking down from the Bealach. Evening finishes well.

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Son No3 slowly recovering from his ailments, worrying in the fact that he could hardly walk from the car to house when he arrived home. Blood tests have not revealed any nasty African problems and is on broad spectrum antibiotics. Speaking of which there is a Health Service drop in consultation about the Services on Skye and how they may possibly affect us here. This is taking place at the Surgery between 2pm and 4pm on Monday afternoon. And well worth a visit to hear what is being said. Ironic I will not make it as I will be using the service visiting Broadford for a repeat on my back. Cannot speak highly enough of our own Service, blood tests back on the same day and an offer to phone  anytime if condition of No3 deteriorates.

Weather still holding out and forecast to do so till at least Tuesday,

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so fishing planned next couple of days. Saturday was mainly spent recovering from the massage and the general wear and tear of the week before going back into the Lion’s Den for an evening shift. Did not evolve into a stressed out night, busy but manageable. Seems Friday night was silly and people are starting to comment on how on earth the Inn is coping with the pressure of numbers. Had an interesting conversation with a fisherman friend over with family about what is happening on the North Sea. Fishing has recovered well and boat tied up and by Wednesday as they catch their quota for the week so quickly now. Great position to be in, making enough money, preserving fish stocks for future generations and having time off to live a life, but not good enough for some. Some Scottish whitefish boats are exploiting a loop-hole which means they go over to Norway for the Norwegians to buy into their boats and as a result of cross border agreements are given unquote access to the same waters they were previously retracted to through the quota system. Quick conversation and did not fully grasp the macro side of the arrangement but the result is these boat can and are fishing 24/7 and landing into Peterhead, depressing the prices and creating a huge disadvantage to the fishermen who are working away at a far more sustainable level. Motivation is simple avaristic greed. SFF surely should be petitioning the Scot Govt to close this loophole.

This morning met a very pleasant and interesting New Yorker and the conversation ranged from how impressed he was with our Community run toilets, to his travels in North Eastern India, community life and green energy. Definitely get a buzz from these connected chats and they carry you on to meet up with others good people, today, more Americans, Canadians, Hungarians and Germans everywhere, all pleasant and appreciative of what they see and experience. The Filling Station is still causing problems and four reboots today followed me cycling up with Dougal to sort it out yesterday morning. Always there are chats and people to talk to. Another good community chat and it comes time and again, what you can and can’t say in public when your view is different from the establishment. The thread of deference runs through centuries of being told where one’s place is in the world and in your own community. There is a growing awareness of this conundrum and this thread will inevitably be broken. Dougal, oblivious of the chat, meets his nephew, Scratch, and all is very amicable with Scratch playing submissive. Suits Dougal down to the ground. Also Eric, the cokerpoo from Milton, passed by and there was a lively but friendly passing of views. Photos may follow of Eric later, meanwhile the flowers in the Camusteel ditch are spectacular.

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Also the weekend of the Celtman, an Ironman event which takes place just to the north of us. A swim of just under 4 miles starting at Inverbain and coming out of the water at Shieldaig, then a 120 mile cycle going as far as Gairloch and finishing off with a marathon taking in 2 Munros. Any one of these events on their own……… The reason I mention this is that there was a survivor/competitor in this afternoon and did extremely well. Second in her age group and was walking very gingerly so she got an Aron’s lemon ripple ice cream on the house. Speaking of which the Airstream is slowly coming on stream, so to speak. Hours, coffee and fish and chips are not fully up and running but if the ice cream is any thing to go by it will be a busy addition to the Inn. Joining the fashion of taking photos of people taking photos. Also in the picture is our very own tidy up man John who picks up all the scrap our throw away society spits out.

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