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

Quite an up and down three days, glad to say that it is finishing on the up. Wednesday morning and I was almost excited about going out fishing. Just too long not being on the water. Did not expect many if any prawns but was under instructions to get some for the Inn and some squats as well. Dave, Ryan’s dad managed to catch one on the shore up the coast so needs must. Lovely start to the day with the sun shinning on the stern on the way out,

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an unusual number of gulls on St Island

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and Eagle’s Rock looking resplendent under Bienn Clachan.

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Surprising day on two counts. There were a few prawns and there were very few snagged gear, considering how long since they had been hauled. Lifted one or two from the south ends and found quite a numbers of this years marine growth.

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Always look forward to seeing this regeneration as it tells me that we are not destroying the eco system completely and hopefully there will be a harvest ready for the next year. Unfortunately although I had started the day with a dull headache and thought nothing off it it slowly progressed into a much more severe one to the extent I was for heading home. But displaying a bit of pure Scottish thrawn I kept going to the next fleet, always keeping in mind Dave’s one squat lobster. My misfortune was that I had only about twenty squats on board so I had to head for a 35 fathom fleet of Applecross Head. Very relieved to be rewarded with a basket of squats so kept it together, managed to shoot the fleet back very badly but by this time I was thinking of getting to my couch for a lie down. Tailed and landed the catch and crashed for an hour before heading back to the Inn for a shift. Boss away so knew staff were light on the ground. Still head was not in good shape but no migraine so thought I had worked throughout it not getting one.

Not so. Yesterday morning started bad and deteriorated to just bad. The pain is special, for me it is so bad I cannot lie down as it hurts so much, so the day was spent holding my head throwing up and dozing not always in that order. By 3.20pm I had given up any hope of turning out at the Inn and Caroline stepped in to cover as Judith was not back till half way through. Luckily it was very quiet so did not feel too bad in letting them down, Mind you ten o’clock before I felt slightly human. Bed again with a couple of bananas and a glass of water. Not over yet as a half one and half four painkillers had to be consumed to see the night through and back on the couch. Thinking back it is interesting remembering what you think about, mostly the mundane but in this instance there were two things that came to mind first was a couple of Saturdays ago there were four people in the Inn that night I knew who were in trouble with their health, serious trouble, and they ranged from very young to middle-aged so to some extent that eases the pain as I know in a day or so it is okay for me just a memory. Reading that back sounds really selfish but a migraine is just that it is a migraine. The other thing of comment was I was thinking of the NWMCWCo Ltd having met one of the movers and shakers from the island. Albeit they have good ground and have teen over a well-managed forest but they have taken on a £600,000 debt and paid that off in two-year, established twelve forest crofts, building a Hydro scheme and now are getting stuck into providing affordable housing. Yesterday could not help thinking if only…… They have people in their community who rail against what they do as well as we have. It is just the nature of things, “an armoured back” he said is needed.

Today’s start was a little confused with dregs of painkillers floating about but after a healthy breakfast and some caffeine things got underway. The offer to work a shift tonight was not needed so it was over the Hill to Shieldaig to Sarah’s for much-needed Thai Massage. Been suffering from a very sore neck muscle pull needing a fair bit off attention. Arrived on time but no sign of Sarah so went to Nanny’s for a fine cappuccino and coffee cake and Sarah arrived twenty minutes late….Lynne backed me up on this so Sarah really confused as she thought she was forty minutes early. Turns out she was, don’t know what Lynne’s excuse was, mine was I was in migraine recovery phase. So for at least a couple of hours Sarah was under the impression she had lost one. Cracking workout and not too painful so made it home through the mist and rain with ease. On the way I had stopped to take a shot off how bleak it looked

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but on the way back even on a day like this, dismal and wet, the colours were still there by the roadside.

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The water was racing down every hill you passed, the Bealach looking the at its perfect Highland best. White water appearing out of a glowering mist, a good place to drive up and over to home.

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Stop off at the Inn, shed building progressing,

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to drop off some more calendars, thanks to every one who are buying them, you are helping our community live, and more at the shop before coming in for the dogs and a walk round the Camusterrach/Camusteel circuit. Put the headphones on and for no reason at all stuck Runrig on. Apart from mistiming the walk during the rush hour, must have been passed by more than ten cars in the forty-five minutes, the misty dusk, wind and company of Dougal and Eilidh

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were the final part of the recuperation. Felt as I was returning a favour as they knew I was in trouble yesterday and they tried to help, lying beside me, on me in the case of Dougal,

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and licking my neck and head. Lovely dogs and Jenny has done well by them. With Runrig playing, this completed the day especially when “Every River” came on “Every river I try to cross” the first line of a powerful chorus took me home in no time in the gloom of the west coast, but it is home. All that was left to do was cook off a couple of Grant’s of Dornoch sirloins via the Inn and watch Martyn Bennet’s Documentary about the album Grit, something I have to buy. Brilliant but so poignant. So as usual nothing much to say and signing off with the sonorous,melodic sounds of Sorley Maclean reciting “Hallaig” on Bothy Culture.

Changing Landscape.

Have to start with a wee apology over getting a couple of families mixed up, but in my defence, this involved two Dollys from Camusteel. And having only met one of the Dollys in An Arcasaid in her 90s, well that is my excuse. Dolly Macbeth did indeed live in the ruin on the edge of Camusteel but Alasdair, who only survived the one trip at sea was not her brother but Dolly who lived just along from the other Dolly. It is the same today, the community still has many Donalds, Duncans and a scattering of Alasdairs, Sandys and Alexanders. Not being a genealogist crossovers may be inevitable but certainly not deliberate. Not sure where the slippage came in the tale, but I can still feel that drift back into another era and loved it.

Although the dingy is baled and back on the endless line the forecast put me off today and it was fresh but not really an excuse for not going out. Fine day spent with various people, Tokhiem computer chappie, Kirsteen from CES and Dougal and Eilidh with camera on the road. Did a dip which will now be computerised for the Filling Station and was not too involved with the teaching process concerning the local cards and various techy things to do with the system. One big improvement will be we can reboot remotely and do not have to go up and switch the system back on every time we have a power cut.

So picked up the dogs from the car again and went past the current site works at the Inn

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with the Site Manager keeping everyone in order.

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Judith thinks she is Clerk of Works but Patch has much more hands on experience having spent his life in the Yard. Laying the foundations for the new Sheds has just about finished by the time I passed. Round the corner it was good to see the Hydro river flowing well through the autumnal trees,

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nipping off to the side to let another timber lorry pass.

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One a local fuel source and the other off to Ireland. Made my way up to the Timber works stopping many times

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to look over the Glen at the autumn colours.

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If the weather is in it there is no better time of year, Spring greens does have her moments though. The landscape is changing fast and will certainly be an improvement over time, although to get there it looks like a bomb site in places.

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When coming back up the track, or should I say road, (could have mountain bike racing here)

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watched an impressive display of clear felling in action

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before back down to the Inn for lunch and a progress chat about the Hydro project. A few stops before reaching the Inn to enjoy the views and to give the dogs a break.

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Lots of work still to be done, including getting quotes and grants in place before the Community Share launch next year.

Slightly depressing Survey Monkey missive from Highland Council concerning the next funding gap of £64 million over the next four years has come in. Bit of a shame when you go to all the effort to set up an income generating scheme like the Hydro and all you are doing is replacing Council services, after paying out on rent etc. Just have to build another one. Lots of suggestions like cutting hours kids are at school, everyone taking over their public toilets and changing gritting practices. In the long-term these will actually add to cost but no one is looking that far ahead it seems.

Before going up the road to the Inn for an extra shift Dougal took us out for a wander and so caught a view of a spectacular pre sunset going down over the southern half of Raasay.

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Good shift with plenty to do.

Autumnal Gales

Couple of very lazy days although managed twelve hours at the Inn. The weather has been pretty mixed and leaning towards the very poor,

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lots of rain, wind with the odd blink of sun.

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It does not feel hard work at the Inn as the numbers have tailed off in the last couple of days. Still plenty of people about but not queuing for tables and able to chat for longer with some people. Met an Applecross farmer who had come to see his “farm” on Bienn Bhan, never seen it before but that is the EU CAP mad system of agricultural subsidies for you. That Applecross Trust rent out rough hill land at £12 a hectare to an Orkney farmer so he can keep his herd going in Orkney makes no sense to me at all. But the craic was good especially after getting the Orkney bit straight off, been practicing the accents lately and having an Orcadian in the night before helped. It is the system that is crazy, I’m sure there will not be a landowner in the country that does not rent out their rock and heather for a bit of dosh. Difference would be if it was Community owned all monies generated would be spent in the Community to develop it in a sustainable way. I suppose that is what the Community Company is trying to do, not buy the land but generate income to be spent within the community. It is back to the age old question of why you should pay tax relief to the land owner to plant trees instead of giving a grant to people living on the land to do the same. A question a nineteen year old Andy Wightman asked when doing his degree in Forestry at Aberdeen Uni “many” years ago. Generally people who are living on the land will look after it better than the absentee who only uses it for sport. A bit like the nomad fisherman, as long as it is okay for him once a year rather than the resident who makes his living locally and uses it all year round. It must be difficult for some one who does not live in an area to understand the needs and desires on the ground. An example is the Community Company through AEE promoting a heating system for the local village hall so the Hall can be more viable, common sense and should not be extra work for the committee but strengthens the Hall in the work they do. Back to the local pound being worth six times if spent locally. I get a nice kick knowing that the profits from the calendars stay in Applecross and in a small way help the Company through a difficult period of finding a decent income stream. The cost of legal, insurance and accountancy fees have to be found and as the Company is only providing services that are taken for granted elsewhere the profit margins are tiny.

As well as a wee insight into farming I got some good Yorkshire garden tips and possibly confirming why I had a bit of a disaster this year. Hot manure does seem to have been the problem, helps some vegetables but not the ones I put the manure on. Some vegetables, like leeks and onions you can “butter their a@*@s” as much as you want. Yorkshire folk have a very direct, but colourful, way of describing the obvious. Another shift at the Inn about to start so finish this either later tonight or into tomorrow morning. Not looking forward to the cycle home, wind will be more than fresh and rain if there is any will not be falling straight.

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It is almost dark when I went up the road on Saturday evening and the wind was getting up with quite a swell coming across the Sound.

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Sunday 5.15pm and it’s dark; It was a winter’ evening at the Inn last night with very few venturing out and apart from most residents wanting to sit on top of the fire it all went smoothly, even the couple on honeymoon, she, forgetting to pack just about everything. The most important was the flecainide for her husband. A phone call to the Doc and a visit to the surgery got that all sorted out. It is a good symptom of our community, like when in the shop in the afternoon customer asks for wallpaper paste, none in but the customer behind says he has some, so sorted. Once everyone got their place by the fire things settled down and it was a smooth and quiet shift. The clocks could have had already gone back it was so quiet. Had a good reminisce chat with the Shieldaig Mackenzies, over for a regular meal, unfortunately quite a bit about funerals and illnesses but that is an age thing I suppose. The bike ride home was not too bad and was broken up by a visit to Eagle’s Rock to catch up with a previous Doc, Mark and Damien, up for birthday celebrations. Most of which went on the previous night so things were a bit subdued with a few hangovers scattered around the room, so it was home by eleven. I had taken a snap of a fast flowing Alt na Criche yesterday

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thinking there had been a fair amount of rain but this morning there really had been.

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I am slowly gathering pots for my honey and am just about there and got a wee message from Kyle saying I had left some in the separator which Audrey kindly sorted out for me.

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Dougal and Eilidh are always on the lookout for a walk anywhere and whatever the weather and it is good to get out with them most of the time. You invariably see sights that you would n’t if you were slumped in front of the computer. Sums up the season and the weather.

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Can’t really say telly now as we no longer watch live TV and do not have a licence any more. To be perfectly honest do not miss it in the slightest. Lunch shift was a solo one with back up from the Boss. Again quiet due to the pretty atrocious weather, so quiet that Steve was turning his hand to new dishes, a starter cockle, steamed on a bed of rocket.

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Honey and the Electric Car.

Weather has been as bad as predicted, coming in on Monday afternoon from the south-west and quickly blowing from the north-west. This is the worst direction for the boats in Applecross especially with a high tide as we do not get any shelter from the reefs and the motion rolls in. I arranged a trip to Kyle to take over three frames of honey for extraction. Was a little later than planned as had to wait for the tide to go out to the Varuna, check the bridal and then take the dingy into the shore as it is far too exposed for the forecast. Funny how you miss the obvious and was half way up the Hill before realising that the easiest way to transport them was in a super not the ice cream punnets that I had. Only the one minor tip before wedging them in and driving slower. Arrived about twenty minutes late but the next two hours flew by and learned a huge amount.Depending on how things go this winter plan to have my own extractor for next year. Both hives seem to be in reasonable shape and still flying. Started feeding them this weekend. So the frames were uncapped, put in the extractor

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and spun

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resulting in about six pounds of honey.

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So all loaded up with wax and honey and back over the Hill.

Tuesday was a sheltered day, watching the weather, the boat bouncing around on the mooring and seeing if the dingy was okay on the shore.

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Poor weather but not the worst and everything seems to have survived. Dougal, of course, is always on hand to check things are all in their rightful place.

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So back at the house the only thing to do with the honey today was to drain the honey out of the wax, a good half pound or so, in a bowl above the fire.

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And the wax once drained to be frozen and recycled by the bees next spring. Think I may have a wee holiday on Colonsay around May/June if the Inn will let me. Meeting a real bee keeper only tells me how much I do not know about bees. Rest of day spent looking out the window and watching depressing Scandinavian films. May be moving into the speculation time of year and picking up some criticism of the Company and the Council and how they are too close together. Not sure how to respond to that other than say why not. The sooner all the Community organisations, whether based in the community or absentee, work together the better for the whole community. Some people cannot seem to separate personality from organisation. I, for some strange reason, do not care who is in what but if there is a Community benefit that is enough.

Technology day today, after the butcher came to the front gate, and it was on the Ebike to see the visit of the Ecar which had made it over the Hill with ease and with power to spare.

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Very interesting morning chatting about the potential of changing our transport in the countryside, one of our biggest carbon footprints.

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Although I do not like the supermarket style of presentation before huge waste, the fact that a van comes in instead of five cars going out does make sense. That does not mean I will ever order from the TESCO van but can acknowledge the benefit. I just think the cost outweighs the benefits in the long-term in the possible loss of shop and PO. Calum, now working on Eorpa, alerted the new contact for BBC Alba, Steve, who duly turned up to do a bit of filming.

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Certainly on the cards for the future transport needs of the schoolhouse. Having turned up on the Ebike it was suggested that a wee interview took place after the proper ones. Finished in time for Applecross Ices to get her own back in her wee “media” comment. Group of young chaps from Kyle turned up

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to see what was going on and Steve set off on a little drive in the car. This vehicle has a small petrol driven generator which extends its range by another 60 miles. Huge advantage in these vehicles is there are no moving parts,

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still a bit pricey coming in at £25,000 with the Govt grant of £ 5,000. Seeing nothing under the bonnet reminded me of the old VW Beetle joke, lady broken down lifts the bonnets and finds no engine when another pulls up and a guy jumps out to help. Tells her it is okay he has a spare one in the boot. Ahh the old ones….. Weird watching it head off without a sound. Means I can wear my headphones on the bike when they arrive here in numbers, invest in a couple of mirrors.Other major excitement of the day was to book up several concerts for the Celtic Connections Festival in January. Two weekends booked up with music from The Americas, here, Africa and Asia. Will be a good break from the depths of an Applecross winter.

Sometimes you hit pure gold and that is what the last hour and a bit feels like. We had a visitor Val, who dropped in some posters for the Ecar which is coming to Applecross next Tuesday and information that the Filling Station was not performing as it should. So it was on the bike with Dougal and Eildh a strong southerly on my back, beautiful strong sunshine and fresh feel to the day. Bit apprehensive about the Filling Station but called in at the Inn for the key and with instructions from Alison and another phone call got it up and running in time for a customer leaving town. Not too worried and hope it is just a glitch. Last night for about an hour I could not load a photo on twitter, these things happen, it is just that when it is a Community Service it means, more than a little inconvenience. As I was on the road, came back through Camusteel and picked up a paper for Raymond, up for a couple of days. Ewen was in and mentioned he had been to Broadford and seen my Mum and the conversation quickly went onto Dolly Macdonald, also at An Arcasaid. I knew she was born in Camusteel and asked Ewen where and then it was a journey into the past. I was taken 60 to 80 years back into what was then life in Applecross. Alistair came in then and it continued. Dolly was one of 7 and I knew “Buttons” a brother who lived in Camusluinie on the shore of Loch Long. The story went on to describe the house, three rooms, a kitchen and bedroom with the third room a small bedroom!!. Told where it was and on the way home was drawn to take a snap of it and imagined the family, the lives they lived on the edge of the land overlooking Camusteel Bay, very powerful living oral history. Possibly meaningless to anyone seeing this remnant of a wall but to me it is now a snap shot of Applecross history that stretches across the world.

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One of the stories involved a brother of Dolly’s, Alasdair and Roddy Macbeth, a cousin of Roddy, whose son Rob is putting out the great food at the Inn, were working up at the Walled Garden under the tutelage of Alistair’s father. Anyway they came home one day at the beginning of WW11 and decided they would head off as they did not want to be placed where the country decided to place them. Turned up in Glasgow where they joined the merchant navy, Roddy sailed the world and survived but Alasdair was on his first voyage and coming home on an oil tanker was torpedoed off Africa on his first trip at sea and lost his life. Then it was the turn of a teacher story, Mrs Ross was at the PO when she heard of a local casualty of the war and commented “You just never know who is next” and yes she then received the telegram saying it was her husband. Wee follow-up to this, when I came home I mentioned this to Alison and told her the minister’s wife filled in the teaching role when Mrs Ross found her husband had died. Alison then told me that she has been in contact with the son of a Jewish WW11 refugee practically adopted by the minister,Macleod and his wife. The teacher had taught Alistair and seemingly showed him some numerical tricks to add to his obvious bent towards maths. He ended up as a civil engineer so they must have worked. As I said pure gold and I in a way of thanks said that this is what TESCO is putting in danger. You cannot put a value on what I experienced, it was priceless. And in leaving we all shared the same opinion of the TESCO vans. Feel very fortunate that I do not have to go a genealogy site or a museum to experience a bit of local history. I can just go to my local shop.

So a glitch in The Filling Station turns into listening to tales of the past related by men who were there, little wonder I do not mind volunteering here.

A couple of days of not very much in the production side of things although plenty happening around and about. Wednesday morning saw the first visit of our new travelling van, Kenny Morrison from Gairloch,

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and a fine supply of goods he carries. He is doing this in conjunction  with our local shop. He obviously knows what it is like to be small and rural. TESCO on the other hand are now coming in four days a week and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on our local supplier. I always go on about domino effect and in this case it may well be the PO. If it is deemed too hard to provide a grocer service in the face of the current competition then how will the PO survive. Unless it is tied in to another business it is not worth the hassle of providing this. Conversation today with a resident who said they were nervous at the ramifications for their employment and possibly continued residence as a good postal service was vital to their business. Easy for me to not put my TESCO order in as I have not been in a store for years now and can well do without them but presently secure enough to buy good food and base it on quality and not price. Growing skills this year have been awful and only produced some potatoes, garlic and a few odds and ends. As there was a fairly universal failure I am putting it down to manure being too hot and that has been backed up by talking to other gardeners down at my level. Hoping for better next year….always.

Weather has been wonderful over the last week or so, bright and at times very breezy, lovely skies in the evening

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enjoyed at the start of the evening shifts rather than the end of service. Often have to go out for customers to tell them their food is on the table, dragging them away from the light shows.

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While the seals are with us all the year

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round the autumn arrivals are flying in

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and yesterday it was the swans on Milton loch,

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straight into grazing. Seven in total this year so far with four young ones. Was out at the Varuna today checking her over as the fishing is so sporadic, could have gone out but the thought of the catch meant it was a day ashore. The swans were on the loch this morning as I was on the way up to the toilets which had blocked a couple of days ago. Met Anna and they had cleared themselves once they were shut. Relief but as that is now twice suspect a wee design fault. Should be okay now down to winter levels of use but we may have access to a drain camera which could identify any lips that collect and cause the blockages.Gone are the days when you just phoned up the Cooncil and waited for them to sort it. These bike conversations are like dipping back into the days when people walked and/or worked together and spent far more time discussing problems and solutions or just having a yap.

Work at the Inn keeps going, Wednesday a little quieter but Thursday we made the mistake of thinking around 7pm that it was going to be a winter’s night. By 8pm there were people waiting for tables and the dining room full. Many regulars and a few blog readers whose comments are much appreciated. Great that there is still lots of political chat. Things are still vibrant, and always will be if we continue to keep the Community Company work going. For those that say politics do not affect them, well you get out of bed in the morning and from then on you are affected by politics….no point in complaining. As usual good banter, great food although out of lobster, monkfish and mussels by the end of the night and scallops are rumoured to be in short supply Great comments about the food and also the atmosphere, so good the two guys from Glencoe were setting their tent up at the head of the Bay at midnight….after quite a few Botanists. Aware the weather is changing but the light keeps attracting more snaps and a couple more

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after going back down the road from the “sorted” toilets.

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Electric car coming to Applecross next week but more of that later.

No Danny Macaskill.

A couple of days off, not quite making it out to sea, and enjoying the days without too much guilt. Morning still lovely weather.

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Yesterday’s main event was a wee trip over the Hill to Shieldaig for a much-needed massage, neck especially giving a fair bit of gip. As Alison was not home from the Conference yet took Dougal and mum over with me. Stopped at the Gateway

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for a look to see how things were progressing and they are fairly tramping on with the clear felling. Can’t help but notice the huge amount of wastage in the operation as is usually the case with clear felling. Seeing lots of wood just lying about, enough to keep Applecross fires going for years. And that is not the wood piled ready for transporting out. Impressive road built, hearing that it is a really difficult job, I suppose due to the lack of management carried out from the day it was planted. Lots of blown timber and no thinning makes for hard work harvesting. Also hearing that it will only be the Gateway that will be going out the North Coast road as there are no more grants expected so the remaining plantations are not scheduled for felling at all. Good for the roads but not for the trees. Although Dougal would like to have stayed

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it was off up the road. New venue as Sarah and Paul are now in residence above Nanny’s. Spectacular view from their door.

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Long session as falling to bits after the long season. Always good to catch up with what is happening in the neighbourhood and with plenty of new housing going up the school roll is looking pretty healthy over there. Unlike here, housing and land, same old same old. Left with lots of instructions on how to excercise the old neck. Stopped off on the way out

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to give the dogs a run around, chasing acorns,

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in the water mainly,

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and back home.

Today another non fishing day even although the weather is due to break. Regenerating ready for another blast of work but first it was a trip over to Coillie Ghillie to catch up with the Bucks from Norfolk. Regular visitors but the first time over there. On the way stopped by a car and turned out my Maths teacher Johnny “Nick”and family from Plockton stopped for a chat and catchup. It was a beautiful afternoon and a fine ceilidh finishing up with a bit of camera chat. May be purchasing a couple of new lenses after trying out some variations in the garden.

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Lots of activity with Tridents and otters passing by.

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Late afternoon sun lit up both Coillie Ghillie, see how close to the shore these building were,

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and Ardban and well worth the visit.

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Dougal and Eilidh both thought so. Made it to above Poll Domhainn Beag on the bike and quite relieved as not too energetic today. Unfortunately on the way back, while knowing I am no Danny Macaskill, and taking care on the rough track, bike stops, I fall off , roll down bank grabbing anything I can. It was bracken and a throw back to childhood when I slashed my hand with the stuff. Back on the bike and dripped blood all the way home. Not bad enough to take the rest of week off.

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